Spring 2018 Semester Reflection

July 8, 2018

For their final exam, I usually have my students complete a reflection. It’s time for me to do the same now that the spring semester has officially wrapped, and my brain has calmed down enough for me to focus on these things.

So, first, what went well:

1. Generally speaking, I felt way less overwhelmed this semester because I knew what to expect. Even the 7 a.m. start time was less brutal. That’s something to keep in mind with my first-year students as well. Going to college for the first time is a lot!

2. Stamp/participation sheet: I adopted a coworker’s stamp sheet for participation, and it was magical. One of my students said it helped him (her?) stay organized. I know I want my students to just do the work because I say so, but they are still learning and if working for points helps them understand that the readings and skills build on each other, then so be it. I am done fighting with what I want students to be vs. meeting them exactly where they are.

(Also, real talk, I was on the fence about using the stamp sheet until a colleague who was taking a course said she stopped doing the readings once her teacher stopped checking their reading questions or whatever. So why should I expect my students who are baby learners to behave any differently than a seasoned professional?)

3. Movie poster assignment: The assignments were pretty successful overall, especially having my developmental students create a movie poster for one of the books they read. I learned last semester that a lot of them didn’t get the point of the outside reading (to build fluency) even though I told them AND it already had an assignment attached (book reviews). They found the reviews (and the reading) to be busy work. So, the movie poster assignment helped the students who were less engaged with reading the novels by giving them something more meaningful, and they were then less likely to think reading the books was pointless. (Reading is never pointless, but they think so.) Anyway, I’ll be doing this in both of my comp classes next semester.

4. Group projects: I posted about the group projects before, but that was just how I set up the groups. The follow up is that most of the students really liked doing it (even if they weren’t satisfied with their grade) because it gave them a chance to get to know their classmates and make friends. So I’m going to try to have one in all of my classes next semester.

Now, onto what didn’t work/what needs more work:

1. Twitter: Twitter was a disaster. This was mostly my fault. I told the students to post about their readings and most of them just complained about their homework. I also scrapped the assignment I was connecting it to, which meant the students didn’t get the point (even though I explained it to them AND told them that we were going to do a final assignment that I decided against). Next time, I’ll make sure to give them specific prompts so they are a little more guided and a little less themselves (by which I mean complainers). I did let them do an extra credit assignment with Twitter, but they were still like, “But why Twitter though?” Sigh.

Two points of clarification here: (1) Though it was a disaster, it wasn’t a waste. One of my students did say it helped her writing so she was glad we did it. (2) I think the assignment I planned would have worked better with upper-level students.

2. Blogging: Overall, blogging is always a winner. However, I figured out about halfway through how to clarify two of the requirements that kept stumping students (using links and putting captions/credit on their pictures). I also need to do a better job of introducing the assignments since they felt a little rushed at times.

3. Grammar: I tend to not do direct grammar instruction but several students (in both level classes) said they wish I had. So. I’ll incorporate this next semester.

4. Grading: I still spend too much time on this, but! I did have students do more self-grading, which worked out well, so they will definitely do more of that. Also, my rubrics are very thorough (which is good!) but I need to simplify them just a little more. So, the grading struggle continues.

All in all, though, a really good semester. So of course I’m changing almost everything next semester. Of course.

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  1. Ally Bean

    I sometimes wonder how much students get from a teacher, then I read an assessment like yours and realize that it’s not always the book learning that sticks with them. The variety of ways in which you engage with your students is wonderful. No one was doing anything like this when I was in college… back when desiccated old dinosaurs taught college classes.

    • Akilah

      I wonder, too, hahahaha. Having them do reflections helps me see pretty clearly what works and doesn’t. Most of the students learn more about their own processes and what works for them and doesn’t re: managing their school load.

      “The variety of ways in which you engage with your students is wonderful.” — Thank you! I try to make it interesting for me. I was a highly motivated student but also easily bored, so I try to keep students like me in mind as well as the students who really hate English as well. Also, years of trial and error have helped me figure out some of what types of assignments work well (or don’t).


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