English Department Co-Sponsors Education Conference

The English Department is co-sponsoring a one-day conference, Our Mutual Estate, on Tuesday, May 17th. This year’s conference is entitled Eight Ways of Looking at Writing. Our co-sponsor is NYCAAPSE, an organization of high school teachers and APs and the conference will be focusing on writing practice and pedagogy. Willie Perdomo and Keith Gilyard are the plenary speakers and workshops will be very hands-on. This should be a terrific networking opportunity in addition to being fun.

Registration is free. Contact the English Department for further information (718-488-1050).

Click image to see larger version of flyer for this event.

The Conference Workshops Are as Follows:

1. Teaching English Grammar and Syntax (GRS)

The aim of this workshop is to provide useful techniques for teachers at the high school and college level who work with students tackling the grammar-syntax conundrum. Motivated English Language Learners (ELLs), although they are frequently “fluent” in spoken English, regularly find themselves stymied by English grammar and syntax when writing, often long after they have been mainstreamed. Since writing full of grammatical errors can impede the ability to adequately convey meaning, their academic work across the curriculum is affected. Students may be acutely sensitive to these deficits but at a loss to offset them.

In order to address these concerns and promote student success, workshop participants will consider classroom methods and techniques for responding to written work and brainstorm new approaches. After a brief look at the context within which such writing is attempted, we will analyze the nature of ELL writing issues using authentic pieces of student work and projects from high school and college students.

NOTE: Although the main focus of this workshop is the ELL student, it may be useful for all teachers whose students experience writing difficulties related to grammar and syntax.

2. Teaching the Research Essay: Challenges and Prospects (REP)

The claim has often been made that teaching research skills and research writing is fraught with difficulties for both teachers and students at the high school and college levels. One major cause of the difficulties is the excessive attention that is given to the information-gathering stage of the research process, which often causes writing teachers to neglect teaching research writing as a rhetorical and process-oriented activity. Research, then, seems to be false: students take a predetermined position on issues and formulate thesis statements about them--a mere attempt to argue issues in favor of their own “prejudiced” positions. Thus, they fail to use research as a “learning tool.” How should we teach the whole research process to account for these challenges and how can we scaffold student learning to equip them with the requisite skills they need for their academic pursuits as well as their life’s pursuits? This workshop will explore some answers to these questions in the form of a range of activities designed to engage students in research from the first year of high school through college.

3. Beyond the Classroom: Research, Writing, and Learning in the Community (BC)

I feel and see and hear, Harlem, I hear you:
hear you, hear me--we two--you, me, talk on this page.
(I hear New York, too.) Me--who?

--Langston Hughes, from “Theme for English B”

This workshop explores the goals, methods, and outcomes of assigning students to work on research and writing projects beyond the classroom. As New Yorkers, we could not ask for a richer field in which to send students to research and write about places, people, and events. Through sampling a variety of projects and getting hands-on experience in methods, including oral history, ethnography, and archival research, workshop participants will learn how to develop and implement small and larger scale community-based projects.

4. Enter the Poem: Teaching Creative Writing (PCW)

“Poetry existed before writing. Essentially it is a verbal art that enters us not only through your eyes and understanding but through our ears as well…Poetry is something spoken and heard. It is also something we see and write…Poetry always uses all the means of communication the age offers it.” -- Octavio Paz

This workshop is an introduction to the poet’s craft, an exploration of the poet’s craft, and ideally, an application of the poet’s craft. How do we understand poetry and the spoken word? We will use text and other forms of media to develop our view of poetry as a communicative art. Any discipline requires practice, but it should also make room for error and improvisation. In this workshop, participants will utilize writing prompts, discussion models, and journals to develop greater understanding of craft and the creative process.

5. Going Online to Share and Comment on Student Writing (GO)

Using Google Docs, students can conveniently share drafts with audiences of their classmates and teachers, co-author drafts, and comment on each other's drafts. In this hands-on workshop, participants will use computers to practice each of these activities with their colleagues and explore their pedagogical potential.

6. Moving Beyond Theme: Teaching the Literary Essay (TLE)

This workshop will offer practical strategies to help students move beyond the categorization of broad common themes (man vs man, man vs nature, etc.) to an analysis of the language of the text. The emphasis will be on the appropriate choice and integration of quotations, common errors and pitfalls for student writers of the academic essay, and strategies to enable students to focus on craft versus plot. We will look at assignments that have been used successfully in the classroom as well as brainstorm ways to design creative and enriching assignments for literary analysis.

7. Teaching the Academic Essay (and making rhetorical arguments) (AE)

Although “essay” is derived from the French essayer, “to try,” readers expect a finished and coherent analysis when they read an academic essay. More specifically, when our students write about literature they are judged on their ability to articulate a thesis, support it with evidence, and interpret that evidence accurately. Ideally, the essayist also takes some risks, explores new territory, and speaks with a distinctive voice. How then do we bridge the gaps between text and analysis, structure and risk, form and content? This workshop explores the academic essay as, first and foremost, an act of communication. We will pay particular attention to text, audience, and purpose. Finally, we hope to explore the various expectations for students writing in the high school context—-classroom exams/projects/activities, Regents, SATs, AP exams--and in college classes. Participants will be asked both to write collaboratively and to reflect upon the writing process, from the initial encounter with text to recursive editing and polishing. We will finish by sharing ways in which writerly practices might be translated into classroom protocols and by reflecting on their usefulness for our own writing.

8. Assessing Writing as a Core Standard (AWCS)

This workshop will present an overview of the Common Core Standards as they apply to writing and reading and will discuss some of the critiques of them. Once this background is established, we will explore some successful assessment practices—establishing curriculum guidelines, goals, and objective; creating rubrics; developing syllabi; working with faculty—in light of the Core Standards and, perhaps more importantly, in light of the kinds of writing and reading skills entering college students are expected to possess. In addition, we will workshop sample student writing and writing assignments as we develop strategies to create assignments and rubrics that facilitate student learning in reading and writing.

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