Applause Shouldn’t Matter

Yet, when I walked into the classroom this morning and students erupted into hoots and hollers of welcome, I felt as if I’d done something right with at least this M/W section of ENG 098. Later on, after we’d completed a sample of the table on achieving their career goals, the student who volunteered to serve as Oracle for the week (this individual takes notes during class and posts them online for absentees et al.) slipped to the front of the room and into the seat I’d just abandoned. She copied notes from the board as I asked the class in how many of their other classes would sharing the space reserved for the professor be possible. When it came time for their quiz on paragraphing using PREP (point, reason, example, point – the public speaking tool I picked up years ago at a United Way Speaker’s Bureau training), I wrote the following:

Creating a democratic classroom requires the teacher to create a vacuum for students to fill. Once students fill the vacuum behavior changes and accountability increases. Student A moved to my seat to take notes in her role as Oracle. This is evidence that I have created the vacuum necessary for democratic education.

During yesterday’s PREP quiz on freewriting, my PREP was:

Freewriting is a tool anyone can use to improve their thinking and actions. Freewriting is a self-directed training ground. The person doing the daily writing practice chooses the topics and then analyzes their own work to make changes as needed. Taking charge of the practice and improvement improves accountability in both thinking and action.

The practice two-minute PREP in each class was on the topic of the grade each wanted to obtain in this class and what each was willing to do to obtain it. My PREP reads as follows:

I want a five (the highest score on the PT evaluation form). To get a five at year’s end I will have to make myself understood. I will have to slow down and get each learning style engaged. I can get a five if I include every kind of mind as I teach.

Of course, the quiz had been announced in the revised assignment schedule I posted while keeping watch over Auntie’s recovery in Jamaica. Of course I knew not everyone had checked online to see what might be there in my week-long absence, so I allayed possible fears by reassuring them that had they been completing the weekly freewriting analysis they would be as prepared as possible.

In today’s class I decided how to grade these micro quizzes. Forty points would be awarded for use of complete sentences – those containing a subject, predicate, capitalization and punctuation. Another 4o points would be earned for having four sentences in correct PREP order. The remaining 20 points, what separates, in my opinion, students going through the motions from students in it to win it, would be earned for voice, evidence of an authentic perspective, effort at word choice or intentional sentence variety.

I settled on this method when asking students to peer edit the practice quiz. The scores from one class were as follows: 1-55, 2-60, 2-65, 4-70, 4-75, 3 80, and 1-85. That makes for 12 of 17 passing the quiz on how to write a coherent two-minute paragraph. A fail rate of but 29% in Week 5 is nice work if you can get it. I’ll take it!

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