Odd Thing I Tried in Class Today

by Dr Davis on January 27, 2015

While research appears to show that learning styles do not exist, my students still insist on having learning styles. In an attempt to get students to remember when to use italics and when to use quotation marks, I appealed to their learning styles.

italics quotation marks

I faux yelled ITALICS! and whispered quotation marks.

I told them I wasn’t sure how to do this for kinesthetics. Then I jumped up and spread my arms and legs saying “italics.” Then I pulled my arms and legs in tight, slightly raised my hands and made two teeny-tiny air quotes “quotation marks.”

We’ll see if it worked.


DWme: It’s the small things that…

by Dr Davis on January 27, 2015

It’s the little things that…
Keep you up and happy. People smiling at you. The opportunity to see a baby or an older couple holding hands. A kiss in the morning or the evening. A hug from your father or your son. Little things make such a difference.

I would like to do the little things that make a difference in other people’s lives. What little things can I do? What can I keep up with that would be a blessing in folks’ lives and be something they would smile about and that would make their day a little peppier?

What little things have people done recently for me? Karen C brought me a stomper-onner for my light in my office. While that’s not really a little thing, she probably thought of it that way. My son gave me a hug and introduced me to his friend Sarah, who I had not previously met. Asia posted on Facebook about the “points” that she gave out to students who were participating in class and that I actually rewarded those points. Ron texted me from Vegas to tell me that he had arrived.

I really appreciated all those little things. I appreciate the students who say hello to me in the classroom when they come in or I do. I appreciate the smiles. I appreciate the appearance of listening. I appreciate the respect that people show by not talking over me or while I am talking or while someone else is talking in class.


Personal Literacy Digital Narrative

by Dr Davis on January 25, 2015

While traditionally literacy has meant reading and writing, we have begun to discuss math literacy, digital literacy, and research literacy.

The first composition in one of the fyc classes I am teaching culminates in a personal literacy digital narrative. Students are allowed to choose to present on anything they remember learning, though I recommend having it be something that they learned vocabulary for as well.

These can be quite well done. I have received excellent videos on such diverse topics as learning to sight-read music and moving to a new country. One student did one on how she learned to enjoy reading and another did one on how to train Pokemon (which you would have to have learned how to do in order to provide an instructional video).

While I had quite an interesting collection of examples to show, I somehow managed to misplace the main USB file the digital narratives were in. Because of that, and time constraints, I only showed three examples before asking the students to think about topics for their own videos. Unfortunately, the topics they have come up with all follow the examples fairly closely. That means they won’t be particularly good or varied, I think.

I am trying to find the other videos and sending emails to last semester’s students, asking if they would mind sharing their videos again.

I am also going to put up a list of potential topics, including the two that I considered for my own video last semester.


Email Etiquette Reminder

by Dr Davis on January 23, 2015

Every semester I review email etiquette with my freshmen. Then I require an assignment that has them send me an email and I grade both the assignment and their email etiquette. Throughout the semester I pick at least two other emails to assign grades to regarding email etiquette. (I do more if the students are not doing well with the email etiquette–and I let them know I am going to.)

Here is a review I sent for a student who was not in class for the email etiquette:

1. Pick a good subject title. (Don’t just respond to an email I wrote, usually. When you are asking a question about something specific I wrote in an email, you can respond to that email. Otherwise start a new email.) Something like “topic for 106″ or “question on 106 homework” will let me know how important it is to read the email as soon as I see it.

2. Address the email with a salutation. For school, that would mean “Dear Dr. Davis” or “Dear Dr. Lynn.” If you don’t know if a professor has a doctorate, assume they do. No one is insulted by being presumed to have more education than they do.

3. Make sure all the information needed is in your email and write in the best English you can. Don’t use things like u for you or b4 for before.

4. Sign your email with the name you use in class, both your called name and your family/last name.

5. Somewhere make sure you indicate the class you are in (and the time if the professor might have more than one class of that kind). For 106 this semester I only have one class. As long as 106 is in your email, after your name or in the subject line, then you are good. However, last semester I had two 106 classes, so those students had to write either the section number or the time that the class met as well as 106.

These are good tips for writing emails to professors in any department. Using them show respect for the instructor and the course, which enhances your credibility and lets your discussion with your professor start off well.


DWme: Music

by Dr Davis on January 22, 2015

While I like music, I often don’t listen to it.

I haven’t made a whole playlist of songs I enjoy and could just call up on my computer or phone. Perhaps I should. I might enjoy it.

My husband actually has a specific playlist of “happy” songs. He plays it in the morning while he is getting dressed for work and it helps him to start the day off with a positive attitude. I think that is an excellent idea, but I have not gotten around to doing it. At the rate this semester is going, I won’t, either.

Maybe I’ll ask him to create a set for my birthday. Or not. It probably wouldn’t be hard to do it myself.

Yesterday I needed some music while I was grading the fyc papers. So I pulled up my reggae collection and listened to that. I need more reggae, because on my computer I only have one album and that music quickly finished.

Usually when I am driving around in the car I listen to country-western music. However, as I mentioned in class, lately all the songs have been about bars and cheating. I don’t really want that kind of music to get in my head and stay there. I am not an alcoholic and am happily married, but no one needs those ideas in their heads.

I am not as fond of alternative as my husband but I do like rock, so maybe I need to temporarily (at least) reset my radio buttons to rock.


Using the Smiley Face Pain Scale to Discuss Communication Mediums

by Dr Davis on January 21, 2015

I heard a speaker talk about the difficulty of communication mediums and he said how they get more difficult when the communication is not face-to-face. He suggested using the smiley face pain scale (created for children) to say how positively or negatively you generally interpret communication f2f and then move down the scale three or so for how you will interpret online communication like emails.

I think it is an interesting idea and a good thing for students to think about for their audiences.

This image is from The Atlantic: http://www.theatlantic.com/health/archive/2015/01/beyond-the-smiley-face-pain-scale/384049/

This image is from The Atlantic.


DWme: After the first week of school, I…

by Dr Davis on January 20, 2015

I have rearranged my office twice. We got new furniture because D left and C’s desk is now outside in the vestibule, mine is back in my office, and C has D’s nice desk. Her office looks better–even though it looked good and mine looks way better because KC helped me figure out how to rearrange and improve it. I still have to put up the saris for drapes and the picture that fell down, but it is back to being useful, functional, and gorgeous. Always a good thing in an office.

Spending time with my dad and not working at home is cutting into my class preparation and grading time. I will need to be far more careful about getting the work done, even if it means coming back to the office after dinner. I am glad Dad is here and I am glad I have a chance to spend time with him again; I missed those lunch dates these last three and a half years. HCC had me spoiled for that.

I really am enjoying my students and the classes, though just like me some of the students are having trouble getting back into the swing of school. I never like to dock points at the beginning of a course, so I am letting some things still get full credit right now. By next week that will not be happening.


DWme: The Writing Experience

by Dr Davis on January 19, 2015

While I have not in the past done these daily writing exercises with my students, this semester I plan to do that and share them with the students (and any readers of TCE). These will all be identified as DWme in the post title. However, mine will be written originally on computer and not by hand, because I will not keep it up if I have to write it by hand and transcribe it.

This first one I did not write down ahead of time and I am attempting to recreate the answers I gave in response to a student asking if I would share my own answers with the class. Therefore the answers will be incomplete and may have a focus I would not give to thoughtful, integrated writing. However, since part of the point of the Daily Writing exercises is to get the brain moving, they aren’t usually complete and thoughtful, so that means that these immediate responses are probably more like my students’ answers than the future DWme posts will be.

What kinds of writing have you done? What kind was most enjoyable?
For some reason, perhaps because I was thinking of their Daily Writing, I was thinking of this as more as assigned writing. I did not consciously do that, but there is no mention here of the complete novel and two partial novels I have written. I also didn’t mention letters, though for several years i wrote hundreds, perhaps even thousands of letters a year.
syllabi and assignments
I told them I have lots of publications.
blog posts
poems, including video poems

What habits of writing do you have? A trick? A place? A medium (pen or computer)? Background music? Time?
I usually write first with a pen, thinking through things and getting ideas. Then, once I’ve primed the pump so to speak, I pull out my computer and start writing.

If I really can’t think of anything, I will start on my computer and begin with “I can’t figure out what to write about xx. I know this and this…”

What scares you most about writing?
I am most afraid that I don’t do it well, that my writing won’t be good enough.

I turned in a chapter for a book that I really want to be published in, but I am nervous about the chapter. What if the editor hates it? These particular chapters are supposed to come back to the submitters with R&R instructions. What if mine is so bad, that she doesn’t even offer me the opportunity to rewrite it?

I was in bed the evening of the day the R&R instructions were supposed to arrive and I couldn’t go to sleep without getting back up to check my computer and see if something had come from the editor.

Even professional writers, and I am a professional writer because part of my job is to write and because I have been paid for some of my publications, feel inadequate and worry about their writing.

What (potential) benefits do you see to writing?
Obviously I am an English teacher and I think that good writing is essential to succeed in college and in the work world. In fact, if you are an accounting major and are thinking you won’t have to write, I was recently informed that one of the internships in accounting that a student here did requires writing. After the first assigned writing, if the intern does a good job, the responsibilities of the intern are increased and they are given “real” work, work that is more in line with what they are actually hoping to do in the future full-time. If the first assigned writing is not done well, the intern is relegated to grunt work for the internship (which used to be the best an intern could hope for anyway).

However, I also know of another benefit that you may not have considered. When I first met my future husband, we had a long conversation about some interesting things, but then we were interrupted, finals happened and we left school. I wrote him a letter telling him what other things I had intended to say about our conversation topics and then he wrote me back the longest writing he had ever done, giving me his responses to the topics we had conversed on that he hadn’t finished with.

Eventually we were married.

So sometimes writing gets you romance.

Skipped questions
I realized while typing these out that I did not answer all the questions. However students won’t tell me everything they know in a few minutes either and even a fast writer might not get it all done, so I am okay with that.


DW: The First Daily Writing

by Dr Davis on January 18, 2015

The second day of class I had students write about their own experiences with writing. For this particular daily writing, I took about ten minutes.

boy surrounded by question marksQuestions
What kinds of writing have you done? What kind was most enjoyable?

What habits of writing do you have? A trick? A place? A medium (pen or computer)? Background music? Time?

What scares you most about writing?

What (potential) benefits do you see to writing?

Verbal Interpolations
For the first question, I mention that most enjoyable could be interpreted as least unpleasant.

For the second question, I ask them if they use a particular motivator or gimmick to get started,for instance. Do they always write just before the paper is due? Do they begin with the “I don’t have anything to say” answer to writer’s block?

High School student at deskAfter Life
Though usually I simply take up the Daily Writing and go on, for this day, I tell the students to meet the folks around them–exchanging names and introducing themselves– and share their answers. (Two of the classes meet in a classroom that I set up into table groupings, so they have 3-5 people at a table.)

I gave the students in my Tuesday-Thursday classes 15 minutes to talk about their answers with each other.

Then, just before I took up the papers, I called for silence and asked the students to write the names of the other people at their table on the bottoms of their papers.

:) Having already told students that I know a big part of college is getting to know people and that their fyc colleagues have great networking potential, as most will not be rivals for the jobs they want to pursue in the future, this little “pop Quiz” helps them see that I am serious about having them get to know each others’ names.

(FYI I also give a naming quiz, after putting pictures into a video for the students to review first. This usually takes place during the third week of class.)


Beginning Class with Writing

by Dr Davis on January 17, 2015

One of the things I like to do in my writing classes is have the students start each day with writing. I usually assign a topic, but say they can write about other things if they wish. Then I set the timer on my phone and let them write for four minutes.

This exercise does several very helpful things. These are in no particular order.

1. For this generation, who are unused to handwriting, it helps them to build physical muscles for intense writing–which is required during the final exam.

2. It encourages students to arrive on time.

3. It gives them an opportunity, albeit in short bursts, to reflect on their lives at college.

4. It lets me continue to access their writing. (I don’t always attempt to do this, but it does let me know if students are able to consistently write.)

5. It gives a daily grade that encourages attendance.

6. It starts class out with the focus for the class.

7. Late students are far less disruptive, as they attempt to get enough writing done to qualify for the daily grade.

I keep these together in a folder and about once a week I go through them all putting them in alphabetical order and then recording the grades.

At the end of the semester, I hand all the papers back to the individual students. I encourage them to hold on to them, to give them to a parent or put them in the attic (or some equivalent), explaining that they are a small “slice of life” picture that will help remind them of their freshman year at college in some distant future, which is another benefit.