English 102 is a required course for almost all LaGuardia students. While most students enroll in the course in their second semester, there are some advanced students who take the course later. It is recommended that Composition I and II be taken in sequence since the latter builds upon skills acquired in the first composition course. Composition II is a process-based writing course. Students further develop the critical thinking, writing, and research skills they acquired in ENG 101. They learn close-reading techniques and study diverse texts in at least three genres (poetry, drama, and fiction). Students are required to write three out-of-class essays and one in class final exam.
The paper assignment allows students to practice all the dimensions of the IPS rubric and the writing and research skills they have been learning over the course of the semester. It prepares them for writing and researching essays for all future college courses that require low-stakes and high-stakes writing assignments. It also prepares them for writing and problem solving tasks in professional contexts. Allowing them to recognize how the dimensions of the IPS rubric that we have practiced in ENG 102 can transfer to other non-writing tasks can also be useful and is something I need to think about implementing into my lesson. One way to do this might be to review the IPS rubric with students and discuss how each dimension relates to our course work.
I have taught ENG 102 for several semesters and each semester I revise assignments and lessons to meet the requirements of the course and to better engage student learning. In this last semester, I revised these assignments in two significant ways: 1) by linking the two assignments and having them focus on the same text; and 2) by using key words from the rubric in the paper assignment guidelines.
The presentation and research paper assignments on Sherman Alexie’s short story collection, The Lone Ranger and Tonto Fistfight in Heaven, require that students use close reading skills to identify and analyze major themes and literary devices used in Alexie’s writing. The collection presents stories set in the 1990s on a Spokane reservation in Washington State. The paper requires that students compose an argument based essay using evidence from the story and from outside sources (one scholarly article and one other credible source). The outside sources allow students to frame the historical context of the stories and to read the issues presented in the text in their cultural context. They also enrich students’ analysis of the story’s characters, themes, language, and structure. Through literature students further understand and draw conclusions about U.S. history, reservation experiences, stereotypes of Native Americans, and historical and contemporary struggles of Native Americans as a marginalized group.
Challenges students have with the presentation include working in teams and navigating group dynamics outside of the classroom. This includes time-management, coordinating schedules of groups members, and ensuring all group members do their portion of the assignment prior to the in-class presentation. In general, most groups work well and group leaders naturally emerge. To address some of the above challenges, I ask students to use google.doc and google.slide so that students can keep track of each other’s progress and work. I have also implemented evaluation sheets that students complete after the presentation. These encourage accountability by allowing students to evaluate themselves and each group member, and give me a sense of each student’s contribution to the presentation.
In regards to the research paper, students experience few challenges with the assignment because the presentation helps to prepare them for the paper. Since students complete this assignment at the end of the semester, time-management does seem to be an issue. Students sometimes get overwhelmed and are unable to spend as much time as they need to produce a polished, revised version of the paper.
Through the research they conduct as a group (using the secondary sources given to them and some they find on their own), students are able to meet most of the dimensions of the IPS rubric, mostly on a novice or developing level. The last dimension of the rubric seems to be the most challenging. While they are able to “[draw] conclusions supported by evidence,” some students have difficulty “[identifying] implications and limitations.” I believe this challenge is in part linked to the difficulty some students have with writing the conclusions of their papers. In future courses, I will spend more time discussing conclusions and review several model conclusion paragraphs throughout the semester. In addition, I believe this may also be a challenge of using literary texts (fiction) rather than nonfiction and data-driven resources as sources of evidence. This dimension will also develop as students continue to engage critically in advanced courses that require analytic thinking and writing.
Main Course Learning Objectives:
- Further develop the critical thinking, writing, and research skills they acquired in ENG 101
- Learn close-reading techniques and study diverse texts in at least three genres (poetry, drama, and fiction)
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