Category Archives: @WritingAtLaneCC

Wonder Woman Visits WR 121!

Have you seen the TED Talk on the link between body language and confidence/success? I had my students practice this in class on Thursday, before I gave them a small group activity to conduct and then “teach” to the rest of the class–all on the 2nd day of the term! It functioned as an awesome “icebreaker” exercise (which Igenerally hate and strenuously avoid, but sometimes magic happens if people don’t actually know they’re doing “icebreakers”), and the reigning impression was that it worked really well.

After striking the Superhero (aka the “Wonder Woman”) and Victory poses for 1 minute each, in small groups they read, analyzed, and presented totally new information on literacy to the whole class: a group of people who, for all intents and purposes, were total strangers when they walked in the door that day. And they did a GREAT job. Not only that, after reading and teaching the handout on shifting definitions of literacy, the students had the best understanding of the content, far better than any previous group of students with whom I’ve shared the same handout (which is the starting point for their first formal essay assignment, the Critical Literacy Narrative). Afterward I explained some of the research in psychology around the posing exercises, and they seemed to appreciate and enjoy that as well. The related TED video is now on our Moodle course page, and you can watch it at the link below.

Some examples of how power posing can actually boost your confidence

Reading Instruction for ALL Students: A New Policy Brief from the NCTE

A new policy brief from the NCTE outlines the importance of reading instruction at every level of students’ education. The following passage, on approaches to reading that aid in the comprehension of challenging texts, may be of partticular interest to college faculty:

research shows that reading comprehension depends on a more complex approach [than “close reading”]. Specifically, reading comprehension results from the integration of two models, text-based and situation-based. The text-based model focuses on the way words are organized into sentences, paragraphs, and whole texts. The situation model refers to the meaning that results from integration of the text-based approach with the reader’s prior knowledge and goals. Close reading is aligned with the text-based approach, and it encourages students to see meaning as one right answer to be extracted from the text. Close reading is often conflated with providing textual evidence for making a claim about a text, but any approach to reading can insist on warrants for interpretations of texts. By itself, then, close reading cannot ensure that students will develop deep understandings of what they read.

In addition, the brief includes a nice list of “Implications for Instructional Policy” that offers practical suggestions and proven strategies that “support students’ learning to read complex texts across grade levels and disciplines” (16).

A free PDF of the entire policy brief can be downloaded at:

Field Notes: A Glimpse Inside Great Explorers’ Notebooks | Brain Pickings

Here’s a wonderful link for faculty members who might be using Barry Lopez’s work this year. Lopez, the author of Arctic Dreams, Of Wolves and Men, and “A Dark Light in the West: Racism and Reconciliation” (among many others), is the Lane Community College Reading Together author for 2011-2012. Especially for those who may be reading “The Naturalist,”  included in Vintage Lopez, our selected collection of some of his most famous essays, you’ll find this wonderful array of notebook entries fascinating as well as instructive. They include drawings, prose, watercolors, and photographs that focus a multifaceted lens on the naturalist’s curious, curious mind.

Field Notes: A Glimpse Inside Great Explorers’ Notebooks | Brain Pickings.

College Completion: Graduation Rates and Data for 3,800 Colleges

Yes, our own Lane CC makes an appearance in the data. We outstrip other institutions by FAR in per-completion spending, but this is likely tied to the fact that our rate of student “completion” is so very, very low. That, of course, is based on an incredibly narrow definition of “completion,” which doesn’t include part-time students, students who transfer for completion, students who stop-out, and students who’ve attended college before, ever. (And yes, that’s pretty much Lane’s entire student body.) Still, the data are interesting, particularly in light of the move toward “achievement compacts” (away from FTE) and emphasis on college “completion” that was recently endorsed by Governor Kitzhaber–a plan that is currently being promoted across the state by the OEIB. You can do side-by-side comparisons by institution or by state, and did I mention that the graphics are awesome? It’s definitely worth taking a look:

College Completion: Graduation Rates and Data for 3,800 Colleges.

National Grammar Day 2010: Ten More Common Grammar Myths, Debunked « Motivated Grammar

Happy Grammar Day! National Grammar Day 2010: Ten More Common Grammar Myths, Debunked « Motivated Grammar.

Storytelling for Social Justice: Lakota Students Reject Stereotypes

Recently I’ve given a few presentations around campus discussing my work on diversity and a pedagogy of/for social justice. One focus of those presentations has been the role of rhetoric and ideology, through what education theorist Lee Anne Bell calls “stock stories,” in either preserving or disrupting historical patterns of racism, sexism, heterosexism, and other forms of discrimination that operate along the axes of difference.

Following along those lines, I wanted to share this multimedia project by Lakota students of the Rosebud Sioux Reservation in South Dakota, created in response to ABC’s reductive representation of Native Americans in the recent 20/20 special “A Hidden America: Children of the Plains.” One of the reasons I find this video so compelling is that it demonstrates how students themselves can use storytelling to make their own interventions for social justice–in this case, a multimodal “transforming” story, to once again draw upon Bell’s framework:

More Than That

You can also listen to an NPR story about the students and their project here: Through Video, Lakota Students Reject Stereotypes : NPR.

This will make you smarter (really)

A fascinating new contribution from the folks over at Edge is now available. This year’s collection centers on the question: “What scientific concept will improve everybody’s cognitive toolkit?”

Last week I was talking to my WR 115 class about “reflective learning” as one kind of meta-cognition, and this book could potentially help expand our metacognitive abilities–both students’ and teachers’–in a big way. In terms of writing and especially the teaching of writing, we ask our students to get metacognitive every time we put them together to workshop drafts of their essays, when they think/write about their own writing experiences and practices (in postwrites, revision plans, self-assessment, etc), and when they reflect back on their work in our composition courses as they prepare final portfolios, just to name a few.

Those of you thinking about Lane’s core abilities (which are currently under revision) and/or considering undertaking a critical thinking assessment project will find this book especially timely and, at least from what I’ve seen so far, a pleasure to read, to boot. You can find a description and some wonderful excepts from the text over at Brainpickings (a personal favorite and fabulous resource for all things “cultural” for the curious mind):

This will make you smarter (really).

Write to Learn in Energy Management

Yesterday I gave a brief presentation on how to improve student writing for our Energy Management program. I included the main points below under the broader rubric of “sometimes less is more”–both in teaching as well as in writing. In looking at a few additional resources that I could recommend for the EM faculty, I found this related journal article on using microthemes in fish and wildlife management courses, including a thoughtful rubric (another topic I touched on in the presentation). I’ll continue to add to this post as I build a Teaching/Writing Toolbox for for Energy Management at Lane.

Improving Student Writing: How to Do More with Less

For Starters:

  • make your own assumptions about writing and your expectations of students explicit
  • identify learning goals or outcomes for each assignment
  • use a rubric to assess student writing
  • share the rubric with students
  • give students an assignment sheet, and include the above in it

Middle of the Road:

  • low stakes writing—more small assignments (e.g., muddiest point / clearest point; microthemes): increases comprehension and fluency in writing about content
  • use multiple drafts for high stakes assignments
  • use a portfolio / delayed grading model
  • have students keep an error log for technical and mechanical issues in writing (punctuation, sentence boundaries, etc)
  • don’t “correct” student error; identify it, explain its rhetorical impact, and offer a few suggestions for how the student can address the issue
  • have students assess themselves using the rubric before submitting an assignment

Wrapping it Up:

  • keep it simple (less is often more when it comes to commenting on student writing as well)
  • don’t mark everything
  • spend the most time commenting on the issues in student writing that REALLY matter to you


Visions of Students Today

Visions of Students Today. (A Michael Wesch remix)

Citation Obsession? Get Over It! – Commentary – The Chronicle of Higher Education

Citation Obsession? Get Over It! – Commentary – The Chronicle of Higher Education.