I’m in the process of posting some new content to the DIG Co-lab Moodle site that comes from my first OER adventure, an attempt to move Writing 90 to a textbook-less class. Some of these assignments and resources were shared before via Merlot; I also talked about the process of creating this class in my Prezi screencast from last summer, visible here.
In actually teaching the class the following fall, I found that I didn’t actually have enough resources to cover everything, and my in-person lectures started to really feel the weight of the textbook “absence.” In essence, I was trying to cover an entire book’s worth of materials on some mornings, and that wasn’t working for the students (who had only about 2 hours a week to take notes over and absorb everything on a certain topic, like Definition writing) and it wasn’t working for me.
So, I developed new hands-on activities for some of the lessons and online texts for others. I ended up creating a handout about comparison writing that I extended into a handout I now use in Writing 95 and sometimes even in Writing 121 to explain pre-writing and citations (and to work with some students’ love of vampires). While I was at it, I created a Powerpoint presentation to stand in place of my current Writing 95 lecture about the 5 Paragraph Essay format, and this is now available on Moodle, too!
One of the assignments I uploaded became one of my favorites to use in class. It requires students to visit the National Portrait Gallery web site and its gallery of presidential portraits. As many of our presidents look very much alike, superficially (older white guys), I used these paintings to get my students working on descriptive writing that goes beyond just the surface of what they see. I asked them to choose a painting but not tell anyone in class whose painting they were describing. Then, each student wrote a “mystery draft” of a descriptive paragraph about a president, and the class was invited to guess who they might be describing. (Content was posted to the Moodle forums for this, though now, I think I’d do it on a blog). We then reviewed the paragraphs in class and the authors announced who they had been describing, and we discussed what details in the existing draft could be changed/improved to give a reader a clearer picture of the president even without using his name.
I also uploaded what I’ll call my “frustration” quiz, which is an online reviewing quiz I gave my Writing 90 class to make sure they were attempting the online readings. It’s nearly impossible to quantify the skills involved in writing, but this quiz attempts to have students recognize a few small patterns from their readings. I don’t know if I count it as a pedagogical success, but it did improve the reading rate in my class, at least temporarily.
I’ll be sharing more links and resources next term as I try to move Writing 95 more fully into OER territory!