I presented at the California Association of Teachers of English (CATE) conference on Friday with two of my former grad students, Alberta (Albie) Miranda and Amanda Thomason. CATE is a great conference. It is just big enough and the attendees are all enthusiastic about teaching and learning.
As the ERWC matures, we are beginning to emphasize module creation by individual teachers rather than a prescribed set of official modules. My part of the session was designed to introduce participants to some of the concepts and tools used to create modules. I distributed the following handouts:
- ERWC Quick Facts
- The ERWC Arc
- The Lydia Davis Micro Module
- An Outline of the ERWC Template with Questions for the Module Writer.
The micro module is designed to demonstrate how an ERWC-style module works in a very short format in which it is easy to grasp the whole arc of the module. Lydia Davis writes “stories” that may be only a few sentences long. The prereading section offers quotations from reviews that give the participant some idea of what kind of stories they are about to encounter. Before reading the stories, the participant is instructed to think about “relationships.” After reading, the participant is giving Davis’s definition of a “story” and asked to reread to determine if indeed these short pieces really are stories. These activities form the “Preparing,” “Understanding,” and “Questioning” stages of the ERWC arc. It is typical of ERWC modules to include activities that cause the student to read and reread the texts multiple times from different perspectives.
Students are then given a writing prompt, which initiates the “Responding” stage:
Write an essay in which you explore the problems of relationships as presented in these stories. Define the problems and the implied solutions, supporting your ideas with quotations from the stories and examples from your own experience.
The students then compose drafts, get feedback, and revise. At the end they are asked, “Do you think that your essay about relationship problems might actually help someone who was having problems in a relationship? It might, if it is easy to read and understand.”
Amanda and Albie both wrote the initial versions of their modules as projects for my English 589 “Pedagogies of Reading” course. Both are now writing instructors in our department. Amanda says in the introduction to her module
This module, “Learning to Dream: Dreaming to Learn,” was created for use in first-year college composition classes during the end of the year (once students have already been exposed to the ERWC style module). It takes several weeks to complete. It was developed to introduce students to the topics of dreaming, lucid dreaming, dream interpretation, and whether or not dreams can be harnessed to improve learning. Students are introduced to several different types of texts of varying purposes, styles, and difficulty levels (including web pages, articles, and a research paper) that will allow them to develop and defend an opinion on whether or not dreams are useful – and if so, how. As the final writing assignment, students are asked to either write an argumentative essay or a personal narrative and interpretation of a dream. Depending on the class and teacher, the final paper can be modified to take a more academic or creative slant.
Albie describes her “Romeo and Juliet” module as follows:
This module was develop for use in a ninth grade English class. The module is designed to guide students through their first experience with the works of William Shakespeare. The module will also help students understand why drama must be read differently than poetry or prose; students will work with genre-specific strategies that they will then be able to apply to other dramatic texts. At the end of the project, students will compose a two-part essay: in the first part they will explore one of the major thematic concerns in the play; in the second, they will reflect on their development as readers of drama.
I would guess that there were about 35 people at the session. I had 28 handouts, and I ran out. Nearly all of the attendees had some experience with ERWC and I think the session was well-received. Albie and Amanda gave very professional presentations, there were good questions, and I had fun.