Writing@CSU: Composition Teaching Resources

Some Helpful Advice

From the beginning, you will have to make some decisions about "paperwork" so that you don't realize later you need information you don't have. Here are some suggestions:

Attendance: You should take roll at the beginning of every class. Devise a system to mark absences and excused absences, if you will allow them. Many of us use "A" for absent, and "X" for excused with a check-mark for those present.

Late Policy: Particularly in early morning classes, students will push the envelope by coming in late. You can handle this through talking to the offenders, devising a policy where more than a specific amount o minutes equals an absence, whatever. Once you have policy, though, stick to it.

Collecting Homework: You have two choices here, and both methods have their merits. First, you can collect homework and WTL activities everyday. This obviously creates work for YOU everyday, but it also allows you to recognize right away who is having difficulty with the skills, whether everyone really understood the reading, and how they're succeeding at accurate summary and developing support, for a few examples. Bear in mind that you are not commenting extensively here -- just a word or two of encouragement and/or suggestions and put an "S" (satisfactory work) or "U" (unsatisfactory -- missed the point of the assignment) at the top. An "M" goes in the grade book if they didn't hand in anything (and they lose a point).

The second method is to collect homework and WTLS randomly and periodically, working under the same theory that governed the Pearl Harbor attack -- they'll never know when it will hit them, so they always have to do the homework and in-class writing. This saves you having to read every single thing they commit to paper, which has its obvious advantages.

We advocate the former method, though most people use the second. We find it helps us get to know the students better earlier, allows us to foresee problems, and students trust us more if we ask them to do something and then collect it faithfully. Some students will try to get away with doing as little as possible, and those students can get left behind if you're not keeping up with their work (or lack thereof).

The compromise is to collect homework everyday at first, to get them used to being responsible for it, and give it a quick read and a sentence or two. You can slack off after that (especially once you've got their papers to read!)

Reading Quizzes: You do not need to give these; in fact, the syllabus doesn't include any. But, you may find students stop reading after a certain point. Feel free to provide short quizzes but decide beforehand how they will count: will they be part of the homework percentage? will they be part of participation?

Recording Grades: You will need to keep track of everything you take in since undoubtedly at the end of the semester a student will question you when you inform them they missed "X" homework or "Y" assignment. Construct a system to record not only paper grades but also homeworks, write-to-learns, workshop days, any quizzes you might give, etc. No matter what system you devise, be sure to label the assignments, papers, homeworks, etc. clearly enough so that 2 months later you'll know what it refers to.