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CSUN Stretch Composition Instructional Video – Complete Version

October 24, 2019


I feel like stretch has this way of Expanding
beyond what is considered a traditional classroom Composition classroom
and so the students have more of an opportunity to sort of engage in
different kinds of writing instead of just getting to an essay.We talk
a lot in the beginning about the culture shock of coming from high school
into university and actually the stretch program itself has helped
a lot with that because students are coming in with a little more
confidence because they know they’re getting credit for both semesters
in their courses I feel like we’ve gotten rid of the negative connotation
of remediation because these students are are in their composition
course. It’s just section A and in section B so that helps too. Explaining
why the course is set up in the way that it is. Telling them that we’re
all going to be together for the whole entire year I think it really
helped them kind of take more risks than they normally would have in
in the courses before. The most important aspect of Freshman stretch
is the cohort to semester structure of it, in that teachers, supplemental
instructors, and students get to stay together for about thirty-five
weeks instead of fifteen Knowing that I and my students had
an entire year together to get it right I noticed with my students even
their anxiety levels dropped immediately within the first week
because they didn’t feel like Oh my god, I must be a perfect writer at the
end of the semester knowing that we were going to set a foundation in
the first semester and then expand on that in second semester It just
really created and nice tone for the class. Actually my students are already
saying Am I going to have you next semester? Right? Because they
feel, and it’s not just me, it’s the Supplemental Instruction leaders,
it’s the other students and cohorting creates an environment of being
comfortable. Because writing is personal and so you need to feel comfortable
in the environment you’re in to continue and so I think this
cohorting is a great idea. How I handle 1.1 is That’s the first exercise
of the class so I give them a really tough reading uh… something difficult
to read,something that will drive them crazy and then I ask them
to summarize it.We then bring those summaries to class and we have a discussion.
It is really interesting to see how though the summaries
are basically the same students get different things out of those
readings that we assign.They focus on different items in the assignment
and that’s where we get our first lesson. We don’t all read and see the
same things even though we’re reading the same text.Then we can begin
that discussion on rhetoric. The notion of summary is one of
the important parts about critical reading if they understand it then
they can summarize it. So I use summary as a critical reading exercise.
You know we sort of identify like the main arguments. What are the main
points of the topic and then be able to sort of teach my students not how
to identify these things, but at the same time put it in the own words.
If they can put it in their own words then we have something, some
critical reading happening. I actually moved the summary to the last exercise
to prepare them for their essay So that they would have to think
about, okay when I set up my introduction and my essay, how much summary
do I need to give my reader to understand what i’m responding to.
What’s really great about the letter to a friend and let the family
members is it’s really teaching the notion of audience I introduce
my students to rhetoric that way. I use an exercise from John Bean’s rhetorical
reading to introduce the notion of exercise and how you adjust
yourself as you write depending on your audience so that when they
go into letter writing. Letter to a Friend or Family, letter to the
Author. So they understand the moves that they’re making the changes,
the adjustments they are making in terms of the letters because of
who their audience is.That’s the first question they ask is I’ve never
written a letter to an Author I tell them pretend that you’re writing a
letter to a celebrity after you just watched a movie that they made.What
would you say to them? Would you be a fanatical fan who seems to
know sort of stalker-ish? Or are you going to be complimentary and be very
admiring of them what does it feel like to write to someone a letter
to someone you don’t know, and I said, if you had to text someone that you
didn’t know, how would your language be different than if you texting
a friend I think the best way because we were able to get our students to
understand genre and be able to identify what they were in fact doing in
those pieces were when we were having them write, let’s say Letters
to the Author. They knew who their audience was. And they absolutely knew
what they should say in order to get a response from that Author and
maybe you know, what they should not say to that that particular Author.
I do a response paper and this is actually where I introduce the idea
that response is not just yes or no. This is where they need to attempt
to try to really and convince their audience to say maybe, to sort
of To gain a nuance understanding of the world and definitely
that they’re basing it on the response to an essay or to an article that
they’ve picked I think reiterates that it’s an ongoing conversation.They’re
entering a conversation. It’s nothing new but rather
they’re adding on something new to something that’s already ongoing. So
I focus on introduction and concrete thesis statements, clear thesis statements.
I focus on organizing the essay and structures. So I
start there with a very nuts and bolts approach and then later on the second
and third progressions then we can start expanding and playing with
language a little more. So far I have been able to take the progression
exercises and use them quite effectively to scaffold my essay assignments.
And as I continue teaching the stretch program I expect that
those connections will be made stronger, I’m always learning things
from my own methods from the responses I get back from students, and looking
for ways that I can make those assignments more effective. So far I’m
exceptionally pleased with the results.o again like progression one is
more about summary and critical reading which of course they can
use in any class. And I always take it out and do what I call the outside
conversation, the bigger picture. What are we learning here that applies
to other classes and the world in general. And then second progression,
visual literacy. Ok now we have textual literacy, lets take it out
to visual literacy. Now lets start really arguing about it. Lets start
having really hard line positions and see if we can defend them. So
what I do is I put up a PowerPoint and I shoot up a picture of Norman
Rockwells classic painting Thanksgiving where you got Grandma and Grandpa
and the big turkey and I ask them what does this say about life in
America you know in the 1935-1940 right after the Depression? And
they go oh you know life is good. Everyone is fed, everyone is happy,
theres no worries. And then I hop to another image of Norman Rockwells painting
of Ruby Bridges where you see the very young African American girl
being escorted to school by federal marshals. Theyre throwing tomatoes
at her. I go this is by the same artist, one that just celebrated the
greatness and richness and the wealth of America, one that 20 years later
suddenly changed his opinion about what America is. And we see how he uses
visual and text. What does Norman Rockwell now believe about America,
you know 20 years later? Well with Progression 2 I think this was point
in the semester I sorta made it a little more fun for the students. I gave
them some topics and they got to choose their image. And what we did
in class was, the students would write a description, a brief description
and they could get creative about their picture without revealing
what the actual picture is. The group would present their description
and the rest of the class would have to guess what their picture was.
After that we revealed their picture were able to compare, so which one
was more powerful? Was the words more powerful or the image? And in some
cases it really differed on how the description was written. So I think
that sorta iterated the whole notion rhetoric does exist visual and
textual,but it all depends on how you are treating the audience. From
the word picture they go to the scene and they are creating a scene around
this image that they had done and then from there they go to the Ethnography
so everything is related.This semester we had them go to gyms
since the new SRC Student Recreation Center opened up so they get to
go there for free. They are there to exercise, but also to watch what
happens in gyms. The actions of people at the SRC becomes their text.You
know getting the students outside of the classroom was the main point.
Because yes they can read and often they have very theoretically based
ideas, or ideal ideas in their head because its from readings. But
when they go outside the observations really opens up their understand
of whatever their topic is and at the same time they are able to see
how other people react to a certain thing. Thats also I think that you
know that Ethnography is an important component in terms of visual rhetoric.
And in creating word picture in the scene and isolating those two
aspects I think it really helps to give them more of an understanding
about description, and theyll be able to take that then into the
next progression where I talk about argument and understand when you are
looking at problems, you need to describe problems. And theyll be able to
take that understanding of objective and subjective and then look at
what they are reading and think about what they are creating.And in
fact just today which was the last day of class we kinda did just like a
little review of the class, and I asked them what were you favorite readings,
what were your favorite assignments. In A they really liked
Visual Literacy, they said it was difficult because it was a brand new
concept to them, but they said I wish I had been taught this when I
was growing up because it gave me a new prospective on the world. And they
said I can see how it made my writing deeper because I was thinking about
writing from a different prospective.One of my favorite progressions
in the A section is arguing through text, it is the third progression,
and actually the second exercise we do for that progression is a dialog.
We ask the students to write a dialog based on some of the readings
they have been doing. And what was great their essay was about Facebook
and how it affects identity, so I had given them some readings
from either psychology journals or from the news about that topic.
And then they were able to do a discussion between themselves and two
of the authors from one of those readings and it was great. The students
got so creative about it, they were hosting talk shows, or doing it
through a radio lens, or having everybody meet in a coffee shop. So
that they set up the setting then did the dialog. But I think the best
part of that is then I actually saw them address a counter argument
within their essays and this was the first semester within their second
draft, every single one of my students actually attempted at getting
to a counter argument, and I really attribute that to the dialog exercise
they had to do.This semester we are coming to this right now and
it is based sorta after a Socratic dialog, and where you know you are
engaging discussions, and they can choose, they can choose whether they
want two of these authors to be involved in a discussion or they can
choose, imagine a person who is arguing or just engaging in discussion
with one of these authors on the topic.I do not permit figures from popular
culture, but I have my students look at the essays I have provided
basically for progression 3 they are working with literacy narratives,
and they will be writing their own literacy narrative, so from the
selection of literacy narratives I provide I have them picture these
writers together in a discussion on Facebook and what they might
be writing on each others Walls, what they would disagree about, so
we are using New Media, but not figures from pop culture.You know there
is what you are going to be arguing, what is the kinds of things, what
is the methods you will be using. I actually use this for the 115 in
the project as well. They write a proposal project and they write a
proposal for the third progression because its a different genre
of writing and they might have to do proposals in their different disciplines
that they go to after this class so it is an argumentative proposal
that they are stating their point they are making their argument
as a whole about their topic that might change, which is fine, which happens
in a proposal.I find this reflection paper very significant especially
as the students are moving from semester A to semester B because
this is a process driven curriculum and this gives the students the
opportunity to reflect on their own writing process, what they have
learned and essentially they can work towards transferring what they have
learned to the next semester.As they write their reflective essay
and they look back at their portfolio, it helps them write a stronger
reflective essay. And they also get the idea of audience, you know
I tell them its not just me, I am not your audience, and then they
get a realistic sense of audience, and they say oh other professors
are reading my essays, and its like yeah I am just the representative
of this audience you are writing to. You are also in this academic
community as students right so then it becomes sort of a community learning
experience. Of course its for instructors to instructors too, so we
can see what they are learning in the classroom. But most importantly its
a real ego boosting moment for them when they realize when I came in
here sixteen weeks ago I was terrified of this class, and now that we have
done these exercises together, I have learned X, Y and Z. And I
tell them when they write this letter dont tell me if you had fun or
if you thought supplemental instruction was cool, but really what did
you learn. Articulate three or four things you didnt know before you came
into this class, and it makes them proud of themselves.I do do formal lessons
on library research, I touch on web research and we use a lot the
databases that the university provides, but I do limit them to a number
of sources, so I do the bulk of the research, and then I give them choices.
The Oviatt Library has a program there and I send my students, we make
an appointment, and we send them to the library and the librarians
there, the teaching librarians are excellent, it takes a load
off of teachers, and there they are told how to do online research and
how to do hands on books research in the library. I recommend it to
all of the instructors, its a resource for us, use it.I do ask my students
to work with MLA format throughout the whole semester, but I do not
grade their ability to use MLA format. Basically I have them focus on
their ideas and communicating to an audience using a rhetorical approach.I
do use MLA but I have in the past introduced both MLA and APA because
when I looked at my roster none of my students were anywhere close to
the humanities, so I gave them a choice if they wanted to use APA, and
I went over both in class. If they wanted to use APA they could use APA.
Grading is always an issue for instructors, its a lot of grading to do.
I find that allowing students, since we are forming a community
anyway, to not grade each others work but provide feedback. Im pretty
lenient, I like if you do the work, youll get credit for it, Im grading
only your final draft of your essays. If you do progressions 1.1 and
1.2, 1.3 youll get full credit for that, I am not going to go A,B,C,
D. I tell them to hand it off to a peer, have them read it, and give
you feed back. And they dont mind providing that feedback for each other.That’s
especially what I noticed in section B that works really well.
Because in section A they’re still nervous. They’re still not sure
what’s expected of them in academic writing. By the end of that semester
they feel like okay I am an academic writer. Now in B they can really
started flying with it and really start to dig deeper into critical thinking
and critical reading and take some risks in their writing which
some of them did. They wrote about some pretty controversial topics or
they chose a hard concept to argue I love P reject Web and in project web
it’s asking the students to make a blog. So what I did was I molded a
problem solution paper into becoming an advocacy blog for that problem
and the students love it because it’s a medium they know and that they
like and I remember in one of his reflections one of my students talked
about how they not only got to write paper. They got to share it with
the world. I do not require or assign them to read anything about this, they
were born into this thing we call new media. It’s been here since the
day they were born. We talk about the abuses of media and how media can
be used to distort the truth in reality and they’re very aware of that
because of Facebook. “No one is telling the truth.” So we do have that
discussion about the ethics of using media. In my class we read about the
Importance of Being Literate Which is an article I found on a student journal
I found online. I Also have them read the article on Is Google Making
Us Stupid by Nicholas Carr.We started talking about media literacy
in our class and you know why is it important? Why is the notion of
literacy changing in this world and why is technology changing the way
we think as a society? I have them reading, we do this in the first
semester as well, about visual rhetoric. So they’re using a lot of
what they learned about visual rhetoric to play with ethos, pathos,
and logos visually in their blogs and I think advocacy blogs really work
towards that. I hear them say, “Oh, we really need a picture of a very
sad puppy for our animal abuse advocacy blogger or whatever it was
that they were looking at What I found to be the the mostn productive was
actually switching over to strictly blogs and having students actually
comment on the essay or that piece of writing immediately so there’s this
sense of the immediacy So, you could go back even as an instructor and
take a look and see what the other students were thinking as opposed to
you know having them simply fill out a sheet you know that you would eventually
get back, so everything was happening in real-time as opposed
to this stagnated workflow, that I think doesn’t necessarily
need to be there and longer I think that we can get to the point of letting
students know exactly what’s going on. Even as instructors ourselves
go in and get them immediate feedback so that they themselves
are going “Alright, this is what I’m doing right this is what I’m doing
wrong.”And there isn’t this waiting any longer. There’s a sense of, “Alright,
let’s do this!” Because that’s the world they live there.For
my students what they did was fieldwork. A lot of them did a lot of
creative things. I had one group compare Forever Twenty One and the Black
Market White House which is a women’s store.They didn’t just compare
the clothing. They starting comparing the ideology behind these two stores
in terms of societal expectations. Why do women of a specific age
have to dress in a specific way? Why is this priced a certain way? They
starting thinking of socioeconomics of the space itself. Because
they had already been taught some ways of looking at things using certain
visual principles. Then with Project Space, they had to look at not
just a picture, but space using logos, ethos, pathos. How does the space
create a rhetorical triangle, and how does it affect you as an
occupant of the space. I used Convergences,it’s a Bedford St. Martin’s book.
It has a chapter in their on space. So that helped me a lot. They do
whatever they choose. For example this semester I had a student redesign
a movie theater. He hated Movie theater spaces.So he actually created
a model of the theater space.Another student was upset that in Washington
D.C. they decided that homeless people couldn’t go to the library
so she went to the library and observed homeless people in the
library and wrote a letter to the president about how we should handle
this new law that says If you’re homeless you can’t use a public library
For my B section this year I knew that my students weren’t quite
ready to open up “space” to a bigger interpretation So what I did was, I
chose a graphic novel for that project. So we were actually looking
at the space of the page and why the graphic novel is set up the way it
is.By the second semester they’re are taking classes, obviously taking
four classes. And so they’re taking political science and taking
sociology and I tell them…take some of the things that you’re
learning in your other classes and bring them here and integrate
them into your project I’d say my favorite would be project SpaceI felt that
I went really deep analyzing Facebook and like how advertisers
and how Mark Zuckerburg uses all this information and how he personalizes
our online experience.For Project Space, the way I wanted to push them
was Think of this is not just as a writing class. You’re doing an anthropological
study. You’re studying some sort of culture out there and
you have to pretend you’re a scientist out there doing the study and I
thought that was fun. The biggest comment I got at the end of this year
is that they loved being with the same students and the same teacher
throughout the whole entire year One because it meant that we got to start
right away. In B we were up and running after our break and 2 because
since we do so much peer review and revision in in their learning that
writing is a recursive process it’s good for them to be comfortable
with their classmates and who they’re working with in something that
is a little scary it’s hard to showing someone else you work but since
they’ve been working with the same students all year they know each other
strengths and weaknesses. They can say, “I’m having trouble with my
thesis but I know Adrian’s really good with the thesis, so Im going to
go talk to him.” and a lot of that was happening outside of class. I
assign a lot of novels for them to read and they get really mad, “Why
so many novels?” And then we get to project text, Now this is why you read
all those novels.So this semester they’re going to be analyzing three
novels from three different writers from three different historical and
racial background and I asked them find the commonalities in these
3 writers.Then they start having fun. That’s the purpose. Even novels
link to each other even poems link to each other. For project text
they had a choice of three different texts. We read Persepolis which
is a graphic novel. We did the Watchmen which is a graphic novel. They could
also read the Hunger Games. And I let them choose from about five
or six texts that I brought in. And what they did was as a class I put
them into reading groups according to the text they were reading and
they had to find for themselves what with the themes and what were
the common patterns. Students are already telling me, “This essay
my history class I remembered the progression 1 from last semester
and that’s how they drafted out their paper. They’re transferring
what theyre learning a lot better than before when we had them for
only one semester.We studied Water for Elephants by Sara Grue. I really
liked this novel because we got to talk about the circus the Carnival
space. And I introduced them to Mikhail Bakhtin. So I introduced theory,
but what was even more interesting was I divided the students into
groups and each group was assigned 5 chapters. They had to present on
the chapters. They had to do a character analysis a plot summary a textual
analysis and they also had to present for the class different themes
that might be within those chapters and they had to present outside sources.
Project text is traditional if an instructor decides that
they want a literary analysis essay at the end. It’s not traditional if
you allow them to use the other ways to do their work. For example a
student is writing a play where the writers of these three different
novels are having a conversation with one another so it can be
non-traditional too. As soon as we start reading those progressions in
that language we start interpreting it.Whatever we interpret that
into our assignments our students are going to have another level of
interpretation and I always look at it like I recognize the limitation
of my perspective. There are always some unique angle to take and I
know that, and I invite that so that I feel like we wrote stretch together.
That they really helped give me a sense of what was possible.

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