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The Weekly Blast: March 13, 2009

This week Emma Howes has searched the database for an exercise to help students think about word choice in terms of audience. "Students' Academic Discourse” is that exercise. Emma tells us that this exercise “asks students to translate "academic discourse" (aka Thesaurus sentences) to less formal language. It may be a nice Writer's Notebook assignment to introduce a discussion about shifting context and audience, as well as thinking about what it actually means to write to other scholars, working towards making that language more transparent and clear as opposed to just stuffy and ‘formal.’” To see a full description of the exercise click here.

All TO’s Welcome!

Diversity will not meet over Spring Break but will resume:

Thursday, March 26 at 8:00, the Diversity Tap will meet at

Wiggins Tavern in Northampton

Join members of the Diversity Committee to discuss issues related to writing and the classroom every Thursday evening! Bring questions, concerns, and classroom situations and enjoy a lively discussion!

The last day students can drop classes and receive a “W” is Tuesday, March 24. Please provide feedback to the students before spring break on their performance. Mid-Term Grade reports (D/F) are due in the office by Monday, March 23 if not sooner. You can print the form from our website or pick one up at the office.

On March 24 we will reach the mid-point of the semester. Although the students will do final course evaluations at the end of the semester it is useful to receive some feedback when we can actually make some changes during the semester. Generally students can give us some useful responses that enable us to make improvements – small or large – for the remainder of the class. It is also important for students to see how they experience the structure of the course, the activities, the assignments, and our teaching. It enables them to see that they are a part of the class and that we are trying to teach to their needs.

There are many ways to do these evaluations. I think we would all agree that asking the students questions such as “Am I doing okay?” or “Do you like me?” is not useful. As with reflection letters and peer response, students will need some questions/prompts to guide their responses. Included here are sample questions. You may want to use all of these questions or adapt them. It is important to keep in mind you want to ask questions that will elicit the information that will enable you to gauge how the class is going. It is also important to keep in mind that you need to ask questions about things you are actually willing to change.

Please remember these mid-semester evaluations are for your use only. They won’t be turned into the Writing Program Office or read by anyone other than you. However, I would encourage you to show them to your Resource Staff mentors and/or course directors. Sometimes someone outside of the class can help us interpret our students’ comments and brainstorm with us for ways to make changes in the class.


1. Describe our typical class.
2. Describe our classroom community.
3. What are the main things you have been learning or getting out of the course so far?
4. During the semester we have been doing various forms of writing and activities. Select one of these and suggest ways we could make it more useful. Is there any activity you would like to do more often?
5. Do you have any other suggestions and/or comments about the class?

All College Writing instructors need to introduce their students to the research resources, print and electronic, available through UMass Libraries. This is a key part of Unit III: Adding to a Conversation. We recommend that you do this soon after students return from spring recess. For MWF sections, we’re suggesting sometime around Friday, March 27; for MW sections, Wednesday, March 25; for TuTh sections, Thursday, March 26. You can reserve a computer lab in Du Bois Library by going to the librarians’ blog for College Writing: and clicking on “Reserving a Library Instruction Classroom.” Do this as soon as possible so you’ll be sure to get a computer lab when you want it.

JOB ANNOUNCEMENT: Writing Center Tutor:
The university's Writing Center has an opening for two graduate student writing
tutors, whose appointments will begin in fall semester 2009. The Writing
Center, housed in the UMass Amherst Learning Commons, is a place where students,
faculty, and staff can talk with a knowledgeable writing tutor about
writing-in-process. The new writing tutors will join a staff of over 40
undergraduate and graduate tutors, undergraduate tutor interns (who work for
course credit), and administrative assistants. These tutors can work up to five
hours per week and must be willing to work either a Sunday or evening shift; the
pay rate for graduate student writing tutors is $19.10 per hour.

Applicants must be registered UMass Amherst graduate students during the
2009-2010 academic year. Required qualifications include coursework and/or
teacher-training in composition pedagogy; experience tutoring or teaching
college student writers; and a desire to participate in tutor workshops on
composition pedagogy. Preference will be given to applicants who have, more
specifically, prepared for one-on-one writing education in a university course
on composition pedagogy (e.g., English 329H) or an equivalent teacher practicum
(e.g., the Writing Program's practicum on individualized conferencing with

To apply, please send the following to by April 1,
2009: (1) a letter of interest that discusses your interest in writing education
and your relevant experience, (2) a curriculum vita, and (3) the name and email
address of a course director or professor who can speak to your potential as a
writing tutor. Select applicants will be invited to an interview with the
Assistant Director, Chris DiBiase, and Director, Haivan Hoang, in early April.

The office will be open limited hours during spring break. It is best to call or email first to make sure someone is here before you come in. Enjoy your week off

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