End of Term

Sorry, you guys: I keep meaning to post more often here, but I’ve been busy.

It’s the end of the term at TCC. My last class is Thursday, then we’re off until the second week in January, when I’ll teach a hybrid composition class and a traditional literature class. I’ve spent the last several days grading final portfolios and “research” papers from my composition class; the lit. students deliver their final projects on Thursday.

The quotation marks around “research” aren’t because I want to be entered in the “Blog” of “Unnecessary” Quotation Marks; they’re there because, out of my 13 students, only three of them actually turned in something that even resembles a research paper. Most of the papers were abysmal; poorly cited (if at all), sloppily organized and lazily written. One student, I swear it’s the truth, wrote an introduction that went something like “So, I’m writing this paper on rally racing because you told me I couldn’t do my paper on my first love which, as you know, is skateboarding. I was really mad at you for a while, but then I realized that it might be good for me to expand my horizons, so the amazing Conrad convinced me to look into the fascinating world of rally racing.” (note; the “amazing Conrad” in question is the boy who sits with this student during class. This student earned a 43 for his “research” paper).

Most of them did EXACTLY what I told them NOT to do. They used personal pronouns in their papers, they failed to include internal citations, and some didn’t even bother to include a works cited page. They referred to people by their first names, they wrote things like “they say that the increase in crime is because of the decrease in police pay,” and they wrote sentences that made almost no sense at all: one student, whose paper was actually pretty good, wrote a sentence that essentially said that bacteria and organisms in the soil were planting crops that were depleting the soil’s nutrients (do you remember last term, when a student wrote – and I’m quoting here – that “while mating, the researchers noticed that hamsters were very aggressive”? Same sort of thing).

Only a few of them had the nerve to be upset by the grades they received for their papers; I use rubrics to grade and the criteria for the scores are very clear.  Of the class of 13 students, only two failed the course, though; I consider that a pretty darned good term.

My lit students are presenting their final projects on Thursday.  A couple of them are doing some really interesting things – I’m looking forward to them and I’ll share with you after I’ve had a chance to synthesize.

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6 Comments

Filed under reading, writing, Yikes!

6 responses to “End of Term

  1. So it sounds like both A) the students didn’t internalize the rubric. Is there any way to have them practice grading their own or each others sample papers using the rubric and B) they’re not motivated to write even when they’re writing about their favorite subjects…skateboarding.

    Do they do any free writing or creative writing to help them find some authentic reason to write?

  2. I recently finished my stack of research papers. The bad papers did not bother me nearly as much as the 3 students with A averages who opted not to turn them in at all. It was 15% of the total grade. So, now they have Cs.

  3. Matthew, getting them to write isn’t really that big of a problem. The problem is getting them to write anything BESIDES personal narratives. They haven’t learned to write with any kind of narrative distance, and their professional voices are pretty much nonexistent. The point of this particular class isn’t so much teaching them to write, but teaching them to write with a variety of registers. They’ve got the personal register down pretty well – some of them even do “funny” tolerably well – but writing with any kind of professional, detached register is next to impossible.

    Seester, I hear you. Though none of my students opted out of doing the papers, a couple of them may as well have. A lot of grades took a pretty big hit because the students failed to follow the instructions I gave them, and all I could do was stand aside and watch them go down in flames.

  4. LOL!

    So, is Grammar Wednesday going to be about misplaced modifiers?! :D

    PS: I darn near choked on my cereal! Teehee :D

  5. redroach

    Try teaching writing in a History Class.
    I turned the Pre-AP classes over to another teacher because I got tired of screaming “I DON”T CARE WHAT YOU FEEL, IT IS JUST THE FACTS IN HISTORY AND TO HELL WITH YOUR FEELINGS.”

    I just about stroked out when one kid wrote in his essay that Benjamin Franklin wrote the Declaration of Independence.

    TV

  6. fermat

    I sympathize with you Mrs. Chili. Not that it matters now, but how about asking them to write in the voice of one of the characters you’ve covered? If they can only write in personal narratives, it could be the personal narrative of a fictional character.

    Good luck with your next term.

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