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Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Oh, yeah, and...

...I forgot to mention yesterday that I already learned something in my 101s about my new ideas and how they'll work. Since I'm sitting here in Advisement, waiting for "customers" (don't get me started), I figured I'd write a little post about it, while it's on my mind.

I had an idea to do what I was calling "the daily 25," in which students would start each class period writing sentences containing words they commonly misuse/misspell, over and over, 25 times. It's complete rote learning, but sometimes rote learning is apropos. I explained the concept of rote learning to them and got the first group started--and very quickly realized that it would take far too long for them to write the sentences 25 times (not to mention that they're so unused to writing by hand that they were trying to shake out cramps after about the second iteration of the sentences I wanted them to copy). I stopped them after a few minutes and took a poll: how many of you got to 10? No one. 9? One person. And so on down the numbers: it seemed like the vast majority got to five.

OK, so it's now the daily five--but five iterations of something are not enough to get the rote memory implanted, so I told them to copy the sentences into their notebooks to keep somewhere, hand in the five (or however many) they'd done--and suggested that they do more copying of the sentences by hand at home.

Along the way, I had a few more realizations:

1) It's important that they write the sentences out as sentences. One guy, to save time, was copying two words multiple times, then the next two words--but that defeats the purpose of seeing them, mentally "hearing" them, as sentences, which is the point. Without the context, the misuse/misspelling will continue.

2) Even though they were--at least ostensibly--copying from the board, a number of them wrote the sentences incorrectly, and obviously they've now reinforced the error instead of un-doing it. I'm going to institute a policy that, if/when that happens, in order to get the three points for the exercise, the student has to take the list home and recopy the sentences, correctly, ten times, not five: five to undo the error and another five to implant the correct use.

But now I think, in the future, I'm going to do this differently. In fact, I may even change the policy for this semester. I still want to start the class with the sentences on the board, but I think I'll have students copy them into their notebooks and then submit them--handwritten 25 times--the next class. That way a) I don't waste class time on their rote learning, b) they still get the reward for being to class on time (once they've copied the sentences into their notebooks, I erase the sentences from the board, so anyone coming to class late doesn't get them), and c) they get enough iterations of the sentences for rote learning to actually take place.

The one problem with that system is the fact, as I now know, that some students will copy the sentences incorrectly--and then the iterations will really implant the error. What do I do then: make them rewrite the sentences correctly 50 times? Only give them one point instead of three?

I actually may check in with the students about this: they may have good ideas--or at least I will hear where their resistance might enter into the equation.

Shifting gears, but I think I may have lost the lone student who was pissed off at the fact that a C is average. Someone withdrew, but I haven't checked the name against my roster to see. I wouldn't be surprised. I am worried about the later of the two sections, I have to say. The earlier section is up to seventeen students--a good, healthy number, and close to optimal for a comp class. The later section has thirteen. That is not really enough; the energy in the room gets diluted, and groups don't gel as well. Of course, each day, more sections fill and close, and as students register late, or have to re-register because they didn't pay their tuition on time and lost their schedules, or shift around--all of which continues through next Monday--the fact that there are so many seats open in that class means some students will of necessity get funneled into it. Not that those are necessarily the students I want, but at this point, I'll take warm bodies. And one never knows when a gem may drop into one's lap.

I know I'll post again after I see the students in Fiction Writing; I'm completely jazzed about that, looking forward to it. I hope they don't feel overwhelmed by the work, but last time they wanted more writing, less reading, so this time that's what they're going to get. More later.

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