Monday, November 12, 2018

Using the handbook in class: Reading assignments and peer groups

August 23, 2010 by  
Filed under BLOG

My classes, including a section of Comp 1, start on August 31. This semester I’ll be doing something I never have before: I’ll be giving no whole-chapter reading assignments in the handbook. I’m doing that because I’ve had to acknowledge over the past several years that most of my students simply aren’t reading these assignments, and if they are, they’re not understanding or retaining much.

I will be making handbook assignments, though. I’ll be dividing up the material I want them to engage, and assigning groups of students in the class to study specific parts of it and teach it to the rest of the class. On Tuesday, let’s say, one group gets section 8a; another, 8b; another, 8c; and another, 8d. On Thursday they come into class and I put them into groups with the others who read their section. That group gets about 10 minutes’ planning time, and then they stand up and teach the material to the rest of the class. It’s true that this way, each student actually reads only one section of chapter 8. But at least they do really read and really understand that section. And when their group’s presentation ends, I ask the rest of the class to repeat what they just heard. If the class can’t say what they were just taught, the group does it again. This way the group not only really learns their material, but the class really listens to them, asks questions, and comes to understand the material, too.

This all works best, of course, if it’s anchored in a paper that the students are working on. I’ll talk about that in a separate post.


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    1. […] • Composition instructors know it can be difficult to teach using a handbook. How do we approach the text as a useful resource for students? All too often it’s easy to assign pages from a handbook for students to read, or to provide links to online resources and move on, assuming students are going to go there on their own. Rebecca Moore Howard provides ten principles of teaching with a handbook, a useful list that stresses teaching how to use the handbook—a lifelong skill for writers. She has more on what she’s doing in class with the handbook. […]


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