Erika Romero

a teacher of children's/young adult literature & multimodal composition

Category: Full Archive (page 1 of 4)

How to Teach Writing without the 5-Paragraph Essay

While teaching the five-paragraph essay might be necessary in high school English courses that seem to (unfortunately) run on standardized testing, college writing instructors could use a more realistic approach when teaching writing. Once outside the school setting, five paragraph essays aren’t exactly in high demand. At ISU, our (award-winning) writing program takes a rhetorical genre studies approach to teaching writing in order to better help prepare our students for their future writing responsibilities and interests.

Rather than focus our courses on writing essays and going through grammar drills, our students practice researching various rhetorical genres. While completing writing projects, they also work to articulate what they’ve learned about these genres, how they’ve learned this information, and how they can use these new skills and knowledge in situations outside the classroom. In today’s post, I describe how I teach writing using a theoretical framework that helps my students analyze the texts around them and their own writing experiences. 

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The BEST Assessment Tool to Use Midway through the Semester?

When checking for written student feedback on end-of-year evaluation opt-scans, I always hope I don’t receive a comment about a small, simple change I could have made that would have made a major difference for a student. At that point, nothing can be done. Of course, that student could have made this suggestion during any of the occasions that I ask students how they are doing with the class activities and if there is any concern they’d like to bring up. Still, as a student and an instructor, I know voluntarily deciding to critique an instructor to their face isn’t exactly an easy thing to do.

Fortunately, I’ve found a way to decrease this type of feedback on my student evals by completing a course assessment midway through the semester. I’ve mentioned this tool before when talking about my various assessment strategies, but today’s post is all about the “Midterm Chat.” This is my top tool for insuring that (a) my students get the most out of my class and (b) my evals are as positive as I can inspire them to be.

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What Class Discussion Designs Work Well in the Literature Classroom?

Finding multiple, engaging, class discussion designs to use in a literature classroom can be a struggle for any discussion-heavy course. With weeks of discussions to lead each semester, keeping students invested in participating in the same types of discussion can be difficult, even if the material under discussion is quite different. I tend to rely pretty heavily on a few of the discussion designs described in today’s post, but I’ve also included a couple that many of my students often haven’t experienced before my course. I’ve had a lot of success with all of these class discussion designs, though I’m always looking for new ideas. 

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5 Invaluable Strategies that Make Grading Easier

Finding the time to grade stacks of student work has long been a task that requires so much mental energy for instructors to accomplish. As such, I am always looking for ways to become a more efficient grader. There’s little point in taking the time to offer feedback to students if you’re not going to actually provide helpful advice on how they can improve their work. Still, the amount of hours it can take to grade major class assignments can be overwhelming, especially when you’re also balancing all your other responsibilities. Over the years I’ve been teaching, I’ve managed to create a few different strategies that make grading easier (and quicker) without shortchanging how much individual feedback my students receive. So today, I’d like to share with you the five best strategies I’ve used to make grading faster and simpler.

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A College Group Project that My Students Actually Enjoy

I’ve never had a whole class of students cheer when I tell them they will complete a group project in our course. Usually, students automatically worry about having to work with peers they don’t know. They wonder how much work they’ll end up being responsible for or how often they’ll have to meet outside of class. In all the courses I’ve used my group project, however, the large majority of students express their enjoyment of the experience and/or how much they learned from the experience. In today’s post, I go through all the details of this project so that you have a basic college group project design ready to be tweaked and brought into your own classroom.

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5 Great Places to Find Inspiration for Class Assignments

Creating innovative classroom assignments can be a struggle when trying to balance all your other responsibilities. It can be easier just to rely on your old faithful assignments, rather than consider how to enliven your syllabus with new assignments that might better engage your students. Today’s post provides a lists of places where you can quickly find inspiration for classroom assignments. It also provides specific examples of my own assignments that have received good results from my students. If you’re looking for new ways to find classroom assignment inspiration, definitely check out this list of five resources.

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4 Tips for Making 2019 Your Best Year Yet

 

To finish up the year, I thought I’d focus today’s post on looking ahead and considering how to make the most of the blank slate that comes with January 1st. In my last post, I created a guiding list of questions for any teacher that wants to reflect on the past semester before the next one begins. Today, I go over my top four tips for leading a healthy and balanced life in the new year. I’ve also created a new digital planner for 2019.

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23 Teaching Reflection Questions for a College Instructor

 

The fall semester has come to an end. I have a few more projects left to grade before I can fully move on to the break. If you’re overwhelmed by all the last-minute semester responsibilities you have, you might find this self-care post helpful. But, once you’re done with your work this semester, I recommend taking some time to go through a teaching reflection process for these past few months. With it being fall semester, the end of the semester coincides with the end of another year. Self-reflection and goal setting tend to be common pastimes during this time of year. For this blog post, I’ve created a Google Slides presentation with a list of questions that can help you end the semester on an introspective note. And, these questions can help provide a foundation for your spring semester lesson planning.

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For Teachers: Self-Care Activities as the Semester Ends

 

The fall 2018 semester is coming to an end. I have one more week of teaching left before the final exam period. As I don’t meet with my students during finals week, I have one more week of campus activities to complete and then a week of grading final projects and miscellaneous activities. November’s shift into December tends to be an extremely stressful time for teachers, especially college instructors whose courses are coming to an end. January is a time to start fresh with new students and new or revised lesson plans. But, we’re not there yet. In today’s post, I’d like to share a few self-care activities specifically for teachers that are wrapping up their classes in preparation for winter break.

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5 Extra Credit Activities That Promote Engaged Learning

 

The end of the semester is approaching quickly. Only two more weeks of coursework before finals week arrives. At this point of the semester, it’s not uncommon to receive requests for extra credit opportunities. I’ve never received an extra credit request from a student, though, because I build in multiple opportunities into the semester. There’s a lot of debate over whether extra credit should be an option in the classroom. Personally, I believe that if students are willing to put in extra effort to complete additional work, then they should have that opportunity. I’m more than willing to allow students to increase their project grades by a few points by completing additional activities that require students to deepen their understanding and abilities to apply what they’ve learned. Here are five forms of extra credit activities I offer in my various courses.

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8 Diverse Assessment Strategies for the College Classroom

 

We’ve reached November, which means assignments to grade are starting to pile up higher and higher. It also means some students’ anxieties about their grades are increasing and some students are just starting to pay attention to the work they need to accomplish by the end of the semester. I keep my grading pile pretty small by scaffolding my deadlines very carefully (a practice I’ll write about more soon, but for now, you can check out my major assignment designs by checking out the pages linked here). While this practice keeps me from feeling too overwhelmed and keeps my students informed on how they are doing in class from a grade perspective, in this post, I’d like to focus on the more important element of grading assignments: the feedback that goes along with it. I use a lot of different approaches when providing students with individual feedback on their work. I believe this variety helps students actually absorb at least a basic understanding of what they are doing well, what still needs some work, and how an outside observer perceives their work differently than they do. If you still have room in your lesson plans to add in some new forms of assessment, or are looking for ideas for next semester, then you can read all about my strategies in the rest of this post.

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Top 5 Online Resources for Teachers

 

I focused last week’s post on the top tool all college instructors should be using in their learning management system (LMS). In today’s post, I broaden my advice to some amazing resources I’ve come across while searching online for ways to improve my courses. My list doesn’t focus on online tools like Trello or Kahoot, but rather websites with plenty to offer teachers who want to create innovative and engaging course content. If you’re interested in learning more about useful tools rather than online resources, here are a few blog posts I’ve written that are all about that topic (post 1, post 2). Once you check out those, though, I still recommend giving this post a read, as well! Here’s a teaser: there’s a huge catalog of college courses with all their materials listed just waiting for you to explore…

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The BEST Tool in Your Learning Management System (LMS)

 

As a graduate teaching assistant (GTA), I’m a big believer in taking advantage of the university tools available to me as an instructor. I’ve never taught a fully online course, for example, but I’ve always used my university’s learning management system (LMS) when designing my courses and lesson plans. At ISU, we use “ReggieNet” (our mascot is Reggie Redbird), which is a version of the Sakai LMS.  Of course, I don’t use every LMS tool possible, as there are over a dozen and not all are necessary for the types of content I teach. I also believe you should only use a tool if it’s actually beneficial to the teaching/learning experience, rather than just because it’s available or the cool, new thing-to-do. I use my course website every day that I teach, even if I’m not in a computer lab classroom. In today’s post, I share the one tool I feel every instructor should use if they have access to a LMS at their college/university. To find out what it is, just keep reading…

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Keep Organized: The Top 5 Benefits of a Teaching Journal

 

In my last post, I described the eight steps I’m taking to organize all my teaching, research, and service digital files. Today, I’m narrowing down my organization advice to teaching responsibilities. Since I began my teaching assistantship as ISU, I’ve kept a teaching journal every semester. My teaching journal isn’t for writing down my feelings about teaching, though that’s one type of writing you can do in it if you want. For me, I use a teaching journal to keep track of my classes each semester. My lesson planning, class notes, and schedule information are all written out in my journal. In today’s post, I’m describing my top five benefits of keeping a teaching journal. If you’re new to teaching or feel frazzled rather than organized when it comes to keeping your teaching responsibilities in check, this post is for you. If you just want more general teaching advice, I suggest checking out this post.

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Keep Organized: Creating Your Ideal Digital Filing System

Fall semester has officially begun. We’ve found and created tons of resources for our students, and we keep finding more to potentially use in our courses. We’re working on multiple research projects, and we’ve compiled a giant list of resources to read through and potentially cite. We’re getting ready to download student assignment submissions from our LMS’s assignment tab, so that we can access them without needing access to the internet. And, if you’re in the coursework phase of your graduate degree, you also have documents from those classes to keep organized. All-in-all, we’re all likely drowning in .docx, PDFs, .jpegs, and other file types. What we need is to create our ideal digital filing system, so we never have to worry about losing vital documents and we can always know where to find what we’re looking for. In today’s post, I share the steps I’m taking to create my ideal digital filing system, so that you can perhaps adapt them to best fit your own needs. At the end of the post, I provide information about a PDF I created that has six templates designed to help with creating your new system.

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