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Monday, August 22, 2011

Composition Ideas?

Help me by giving me your best tricks or hacks for teaching composition, in the comments to this post. I am planning my course syllabus and need to get some inspiration. Keep in mind that I am teaching composition in Spanish, not English.

One idea I had is to give a separate grade for revisions. In other words, students have to revise a paper completely and the grade for this will have no necessary relation to the original grade. In fact, the standard for revision is higher, so a student could even fail to match the original grade.

Anyway, I thank you in advance for your suggestions; even if I don't use a particular suggestion I still appreciate your giving me one.


Shedding Khawatir said...

I have done this (separate grade for revisions) in Arabic classes (although they were not specifically focused on composition). It worked best when I gave very specific guidelines for revisions (in addition to correcting your mistakes you must also incorporate new vocabulary and expressions, expand upon your ideas, etc). This year I am trying one grade over multiple revisions where part of the grade is improvement between the revisions. I'll see how that goes.

matt said...

As someone who's still immersed in teaching composition (English) regularly, I can say that I think your impulse towards revision is a good impulse. For me the key is sequencing, sequencing, sequencing.

I have students work on essays in small increments over a couple weeks before they workshop a complete draft, and only after revisions made as a result of the peer workshop do I take up and assess a draft of the essay. In our university, all 101 students then make further revisions for an end-of-course portfolio, meaning that they revise again based on my comments.

The other thing to drive home is audience, audience, audience. Students more often than not write in a vacuum when it comes to classroom assignments. They need to find an audience!

Rose said...

I give a grade for revisions, separate from the first grade. And my standard is higher, as you say in your message. I think it's a good way to go, but it disappoints me that more students don't put in the effort to revise.

Jonathan said...

Either that, or they don't put effort in the first draft because they know they get to revise later. My separation of the two assignments will make it so that they have to revise. If they turn in the identical paper with only a few things corrected they will get a lower grade.

Professor Zero said...

I have actually found that revisions only really work when they're writing in their native language and when they are very advanced / very good students.

I am teaching Portuguese composition this semester and we will see how that goes. We're going to do a lot of well done paragraphs and then one page essays.

Believe it or not, my most successful composition topic ever was: "Do your thoughts and your actions ever coincide perfectly in time?" I came up with it because the idea had arisen in class and they really thought about it and wrote paragraphs that were poetic, almost Camoens-like.

Two I remember: "Yes, my thoughts and actions coincide perfectly when I fall or dive from a high dive" ... and then built on that. The other: "No, they never do, because I never do anything without observing myself or commenting upon myself to myself, and I see therefore that although I think of myself as headstrong, I am a weak personality by some standards..."

Also: have them read their paragraphs aloud. Emphasize focus, zeroing in on something.

Jonathan said...

I'm going to do that "actions coincide with thoughts" topic. That's absolutely brilliant.

profacero said...

Your prompt could be Vallejo, "El momento en que el tenista..." I thought of it and would have used it had it been a Spanish class.