The English and Foreign Languages Department requires students in English 095 to attend at least eight tutoring sessions during the quarter. English 096 students are sometimes directed into this program on the basis of need. The Writing Center serves these students in 50-minute group tutorials called English Writing Groups. Each Writing Group meets once a week for 10 weeks and contains up to eight students. Our primary reason for offering group tutorials is efficiency, because in fall quarter we typically have more than 450 students involved and there is no other way we could serve them all. However, we also believe that the weekly group meetings offer some other advantages over one-on-one sessions for this student population.
We have developed a “handout of the week” curriculum for these groups. The handouts are in spiral bound class sets and in single sheet form with a plastic cover. Individual copies are also available for students who want to take home their very own copy.
You will be given a roster with the names of the students who have signed up for your group. They will not usually be from the same section, and in fact they may be in different courses. It is important to make sure that the course names and section numbers on the roster are correct so that the final report on the students’ participation will be correct. Mark a diagonal slash through the appropriate box to indicate that the student was present. The deskperson will put in another slash, to complete an “X” when the attendance is input into the computer. A student who misses 15 minutes or more of a meeting, either by showing up late or leaving early, should be marked absent. Most instructors require at least eight meetings. Missed group meetings can be made up with one-on-one appointments, but no make-ups will be counted after Friday of the tenth week, because the final attendance report goes to the instructors on Monday morning of finals week. We usually submit attendance reports to the instructors in the second week, the sixth week, and right after the tenth week.
If a holiday causes some students to get behind on their eight visits you can schedule a makeup session at an alternative time. Talk to the front desk about making this arrangement.
On the first day, make sure everyone has filled out the pink student information form, and give the students the “Welcome to the English Writing Group” handout. Introduce yourself and have each participant give his or her name, major, and other information such as languages he or she speaks, hobbies or other interesting facts. The main purpose is to let the participants get to know each other, so other ice-breaking activities may be appropriate. We have found that it is a good idea to repeat these introductions in the fourth or fifth week, because by that time they are more interested in each other, but often have forgotten who is who.
Each student is also required to share two drafts of paragraphs or essays with the group during the quarter, so there are boxes on the roster sheet labeled “D1” and “D2” to check these assignments off. Start out each meeting by asking if anyone has a draft to share. If so, collect these and make enough copies that each member can look on while the draft is discussed, usually one copy for every two students. Give out the handout of the day for students to look at while you are making the copies. Drafts and writing topics should be shared and discussed with the whole group. If some or all of the students claim that they have nothing to do you can spend extra time on the handout, or give them a writing assignment or a sentence combining exercise. You can’t assign homework, but you can certainly make assignments to be done in the group meeting. Often, merely the threat of assigning work will cause students to remember work they have to do.
Any activity that improves writing ability or will help a student succeed in his or her writing course is a potential group activity. Some possibilities:
Sharing drafts of paragraphs, essays, and other writing is probably the most important activity in the English Writing Group. When students give you drafts to share, make just enough copies so that each student can look on. Give the group about 10 minutes to read the draft you are going to work on. Then begin your discussion by reminding them that the goal is constructive feedback. Positive comments are welcome, but insincere praise is not very useful in helping someone improve. Constructive suggestions are useful, but negative comments without suggestions for improvement are not.
In the first week or so, some of the participants will be a bit resentful. They are unhappy that they tested into a remedial course, and then doubly unhappy to learn that they have a weekly tutoring appointment. This is natural. We have found that by the third or fourth week, most participants are enjoying the group. By the end of the quarter, the evaluations for all groups have been very good. They enjoy the interaction with their peers and value the feedback they get on their work. However, on occasion there are individuals who continue to resent the group long after the others have adjusted, and sometimes these students disrupt the group activities. If you have such a student, there are a number of possible strategies. You can try taking the student aside and talking to him or her separately. You can arrange one-on-one appointments for the student for a few weeks, or for the rest of the quarter, and excuse him or her from the group meetings. Or, you can send the student to talk to the director.
In fall almost all of the students in the groups are first time freshmen who are new to Cal Poly Pomona. Interacting with a small group of peers on a weekly basis is a valuable experience for students in this situation, and most tutors enjoy working with their groups. If you have questions of any kind regarding your group please don’t hesitate to ask the director.
English 002 is designed to supplement English 104 (or IGE 120). The students in your English 002 groups have EPT scores from 147-150, and in the past would have been placed into English 096. This year they have been given the option to enroll in English 104 (or IGE 120), with the provision that they also attend supplemental tutoring groups in the writing center. The English 104 instructors will not know which of their students are also in 002. Each group will (ideally) be from the same 104 class, and will be groups of eight or fewer.
Eng 002 is designed around argumentative writing skills, but it is important to realize that even if the 104 instructor is not teaching argumentation, the skills students develop in the tutoring groups will apply to any type of writing for any class they take in which they have to write. The weekly plans will work best if followed in order; however, it is also possible to change the order and still make the sessions successful. The tutor has the option to adjust these guidelines according to specific classroom dynamics of the students.
Before you meet each week, carefully read over the weekly plan and make sure you know ahead of time what the session entails. Some sessions do not require any handouts or supplements and some sessions do. It is important that you are prepared and know ahead of time what you will need for each session, as one hour goes by quickly. There will be no homework given, so tutors are expected to complete each week’s presentation in the time allotted.
Each weekly session is designed with a handout for the tutor and a handout for the student, indicated at the bottom of each page. You will need to give each student their own handout and follow the instructions on the tutor handout. Each week has an Introduction, which you will read aloud as students follow along, an Assignment, which you will guide the students through (following the instructions on your handout), and a Conclusion, which you will also read aloud to the students. The Introduction provides a context for the skill being taught, the Assignment allows the student to use the skill, and the Conclusion reiterates the importance of the skill. It is important that you do not skip any of these three aspects. The only difference between your handout and theirs is that there are no instructions for tutors on theirs, and the Assignments are described only briefly, whereas your handout has clear steps for you to follow.
The only work that is to be done outside of the sessions is the weekly quiz, which students will be required to take on their own time, on Blackboard. Students are obviously allowed to use their notes and handouts when they take the quiz. Quizzes are meant to reinforce the ideas presented at the sessions and ensure that students are showing up and paying attention. They will get credit for each week’s session by taking the accompanying quiz, so students should be reminded each week that taking the quiz is a mandatory part of the class, and tutors should advise individual students who miss class or do not take the quiz that their successful completion of English 002 will be compromised. Tutors should check Blackboard weekly to ensure student compliance with these guidelines, and should encourage students to take notes during the sessions.
Some students may feel that what you are doing in the sessions does not relate to their 104 class; remind these students that the skills they are learning can be applied to any class for which they are assigned a writing task; virtually every college-level writing class is an exercise in persuasion, and requires that they make a claim and support it with valid evidence. Most importantly, the skills they learn in English 002 are skills they can also use in their everyday lives!
Above all else, HAVE FUN with the material and the class, roll with the punches, be flexible, and keep a positive attitude. Both you and your group will come out of the class feeling a sense of accomplishment and with a greater understanding of the persuasive process, which leads to a greater understanding of the people and the world around you.
Jeff Carman & Nikki Capps, English 002 Curriculum Designers
Outline of weekly sessions:
Week 1: Intro / freewriting / acknowledging the opposition when making a point
Week 2: Reading to understand: annotating and note-taking strategies
Week 3: Reading strategies: reading with and against the grain
Week 4: Audience: focusing on appropriate tone and language in your writing
Week 5: Modes of Persuasion: 3 ways to persuade: Pathos, Ethos and Logos
Week 6: Fallacies recognizing errors in logic in ads and written claims
Week 7: Writing your own argument: stating a claim and backing it up, writing a clear thesis
Week 8: Rewriting your Week 1 freewrite using your new tools
Week 9: Conducting Research: In the library and on the internet
Week 10: Documenting sources: MLA and APA and other forms