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The Weekly Blast: March 5, 2010

This week’s exercise comes to us from Airlie Sattler Rose via the Writing Studio at Duke University. As an instructor in that program Airlie helped develop the “Reverse Outline.” This is a great revision exercise that enables students to see what they have already written. To see the full details, visit the Writing Studio at Duke:

Tyler Meier, Managing Editor of the Kenyon Review will be speaking to Zach Savich’s College Writing class on April 22 at 7:00pm. Zack is inviting all Basic Writing and College Writing students and instructors to his class that evening to participate in this event. Meier will be speaking about Kenyon Review’s recent expansion into the digital world and his work as an editor. If you would like your students to take advantage of this opportunity, please contact either Peggy (pmwoods@acad.umass) or Zack ( by April 5. (This will enable us to get the appropriate size room.) Any questions please contact either Peggy or Zack.

The last day students can drop classes and receive a “W” is Tuesday, March 23. Since this date is after spring break it is important that you provide students feedback on their performance before they leave for break. Mid-Term Grade reports (D/F) are due in the office by Friday, March 12 if not sooner. You can print the form from our website or pick one up at the office.

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. The mid-semester point is a good time to do the evaluations. 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. We would all agree that asking questions such as “Am I doing okay?” or “Do you like me?” are not useful. As with reflection letters and peer response, students will need some questions/prompts to guide their responses. You can find sample questions at: 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, we 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.

What makes a good teacher? How can we get our students to see writing in broader terms? What to do for Unit 4? Add your thoughts to the Resource Center staff teaching blog at:

The final deadline for the Writing Program’s Best Text Contest is April 7. This deadline is fro students who are currently enrolled in Basic or College Writing and for students who took Basic of College Writing in Fall 2009. For more information see:

We have begun accepting applications for undergraduate tutor interns for 2010-2011. Please tell your students about this great opportunity to learn more about writing and writing education. Interested students can find more information by visiting our website ( and clicking on "Become a Tutor". If you have a student who is a strong writer and a thoughtful peer editor, please encourage them to apply. Applications are due April 10. Contact the Writing Center if you have any questions.

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. In the standard calendar for spring, we are recommending that you hold this meeting either right before or right after spring recess. For MWF sections, we’re suggesting sometime around Friday, March 12; for MW sections, Wednesday, March 10; and for TuTh sections, Tuesday, March 23. To learn more about the library visit, go to . This page will be updated by the librarians for spring semester; but you can click now on “Reserving a Library Instruction Classroom” and reserve a computer classroom there. We recommend that you do this as soon as possible so you’ll be sure to get a room when you want it and so you can include that date in the calendar you give your students.

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