Erika Romero

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

Category: Teaching Tips

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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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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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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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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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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10 Teaching Tips for the New College Instructor

 

If you’re a graduate student teaching for the first time as part of your assistantship (aka, a GTA), today’s post is for you. If you’re a new adjunct who hasn’t been in the college classroom for a while, I also suggest checking out these ten teaching tips. Finally, if you’re an experienced college instructor wondering what your students might find most important about some of your teaching decisions, check out this list. I’ve focused my advice on course elements that heavily affected me as a student and/or affect me now as an instructor.

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Classroom Resource: My Experience with Assigning a Literary Autobiography Project

 

I’m three weeks into the spring semester, and I uploaded my feedback on my students’ first major assignment a few days ago. I’ve never assigned this project (a literary autobiography) before, so I didn’t know what to expect from it. It’s pretty small stakes, in comparison to the other major assignments, but it was something I decided I wanted to try this semester for multiple reasons. In today’s post, I thought I’d describe the assignment and my reasons for creating it, just in case someone reading this is looking for some classroom inspiration. I think this assignment would work well across many education levels, in case any high school or even middle school teachers have stumbled across this post.

 

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Lesson Planning: Designing My First Young Adult (YA) Literature Course

 

 

It’s that time of the semester. No, not the drowning in final exams and papers time. That’s still three weeks away. Nor is it the can’t-see-any-surface-in-my-house because-of-all-the-books time. That happens way earlier on in the semester. No, the time I’m talking about is when you receive an email letting you know what course(s) you’re teaching next semester, and asking you to submit your textbook request form ASAP. As half of my graduate assistantship is currently devoted to my work for our Writing Program, this next semester is likely the last one in which I’ll only be teaching one course. I’ve been assigned my top choice, ENG 125: Literary Narrative, and I’ve decided to use a different design than the one I used last year. Instead of a ChYALit adaptations course, my new 125 class will be a YA literary narratives course. [Update: Here’s the page all about this course.]

 

 
 

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How to Teach the Writing of Literary Analysis? My Approach to This Challenge

It’s been over a month since my fall semester began. The introductory material for my ENG 170 class – background information on the always-changing and fluid concept of “childhood,” the history of children’s literature, some basic literary terminology – have all been covered, though not to the extent that I would like. Introductory courses call for so much material to be covered and sixteen weeks is never enough time to accomplish that task to the degree I would wish for my students. Nevertheless, my class has moved on to the next major section of my course design: learning how to write literary analysis. Of course, this assumes we are also working on another primary goal: learning how to analyze children’s literature in any mental, verbal, and/or written form.

 

As I’m about two weeks into this second unit of my course, with two more weeks ahead devoted to this specific skill, I thought I’d break down my approach to teaching the writing of literary analysis. I’d really love to hear back from any teachers and students reading this post. Teachers, how do your approaches to teaching this task differ from my own? Students, what was the most effective learning experience you’ve had in relation to learning literary analysis? I’d love to hear from all of you, but I’ll start by sharing my own process.

 

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