Semester Schedule (Thurs)

For tomorrow (Thurs, 5/23) I’d like you to sketch out a tentative, working schedule for your R&C course. I deliberately use the term sketch —since this is something you may find it easier to work out on graph paper than to try to format in Word or WordPress.

For me the key issue in designing a schedule is pacing. I encourage you to”plan backwards” in the way I talked about on Monday in my presentation on Course Design. Figure out what the main projects are that you want students to do as writers, and identify the dates their final versions will be due. Then decide how many drafts you want students to do of each of those projects, and figure out when those drafts (or proposals) are due. Then decide whether you want to workshop those drafts in class, or confer one-on-one with students about them, or write comments on them. Mark out time to do that work (and for students to make use of the feedback they get). Then, having done all that, you can think about what texts students will need to read (or view or listen to) in order to do this writing.

Another related way of thinking about all this is in terms of scaffolding, or how doing a certain task helps prepare students to do the next. In a writing class, the most common kinds of scaffolding tend to involve moving

  • From reading (or talk) to writing,
  • From short to long,
  • From proposal (or brainstorming) to draft,
  • From draft to revision,
  • From revision to editing,
  • From peer- to teacher-response,
  • From informal to formal,
  • From private to public.

This is not a list of requirements, or a recipe. I would actually want to advocate for an approach to scaffolding that is as open, intuitive, and flexible as possible. For me, a good response to the question, How are you going to scaffold this project?, might be something as simple as:

After we’re done talking about the reading, I’ll ask students to brainstorm ideas about ways to respond to the author. Next they’ll write drafts and workshop them in small groups. Based on that feedback, they’ll revise, and I’ll comment on their second drafts. Then they’ll write third drafts, which we’ll copy edit in class. Finally I’ll ask them to post versions of their pieces to I’ll grade those.

Which brings me back to pacing: How much time will students need to work through this series of steps, of drafts and revisions? How much time will I need to respond to and grade their work? As you think through the answers to such questions, the architecture of your course should begin to take shape.

For tomorrow, then, I’d like you to try to create a manageable schedule of work for your course. If you can, try to diagram the work of the semester on a single page—or two at most. Try not to create one of those sprawling, unreadable five-page lists of authors, titles, and due dates. Aim instead to create document that your readers can view as a whole, and offer you some advice about. Bring two copies with you to seminar.