July 27, 2011

Science Writing Intensive

In Fall 2011 the Writing Initiative will be piloting two new writing-intensive science courses.

Biology I and Intro to Microbiology will join Biology II and Environmental Science, bringing the total number of science writing-intensive courses to four.

Microbiology, BS 203, is the first 200-level science course to be offered as WI. Prof. Anne Loving, who is developing the course, has said that this new course should be helpful to nursing students in particular, as most of their general education courses focus on math and science.

Biology I is being developed by Prof. Megan Sloan, and will complement Biology II, which was developed and piloted by Prof. Ida Greidanus in Fall 2010.

For more information about BS 203 WI, go to http://pccc.libguides.com/bs203

July 25, 2011

Connections to Area High Schools

One component contained in our Title V writing grant is to make connections with the area high schools that send students to the college and with other New Jersey college writing programs. The high school connection was a focus for us in year 3 (2010).

“Connections,” as we have branded that particular effort, involves collaborating with area schools to share the best practices in teaching writing across disciplines. Our website for the Connections program is at pccc.libguides.com/connection

These connections to other schools could also help PCCC increase general student success by providing coordination prior to and after their PCCC experiences.

Two sessions for high school teachers were held during the summer of 2010 at the Writing Center on the Paterson campus. Alexandra Della Fera coordinated contacting area high schools with a focus on those schools that participate in the PCCC dual enrollment program. Teachers needed to complete an application with information about their current use of writing and how they hoped to expand their use of writing.

Attendees received a stipend of $500 for attendance at the two days and completion of the activities and received professional development hours for their participation.

Though the invitations went to teachers in all disciplines, the majority of applicants were English teachers. In session two, we targeted other disciplines as much as possible and the participants included teachers of social studies, Spanish, and business.

We discussed strategies to address the topics applicants were most interested in and shared approaches and tools that the participants have found effective. The “big ideas” for the two days were the topics we use with our own WI faculty: teachers as writers, the writing process, using critical thinking and information literacy in writing, writing to learn and learning to write, and using technology in the writing process.

Some of the topics on the schedule were: discussing their schools and student populations, a discussion of the results of some pre-seminar questions we asked them to write about, giving feedback to writers, using Wikipedia, using writing prompts, online Microsoft resources, useful grammar web sites, rubrics, holistic scoring, portfolios & reflection, using podcasts, and critical thinking.

The most interesting and longest sessions were devoted to having the teachers share their own “best writing lesson.” These lessons are being archived along with our other resources online.

July 13, 2011

Summer II Workshops

 Below is the list of workshops for the Summer II session at PCCC. Workshops are held in the PCCC Writing Center Annex (A111) on the main Paterson campus (within the library) unless noted otherwise. For more detailed descriptions and updates, check our website

Survival Grammar continues through the summer every Thursday at 1:00 and 5:00.

Reading/Writing Connection
Tue., July 12, 5:00
Wed., July 13, 1:00

Active Reading
Tue., July 19, 1:00
Wed., July 20, 5:00

Proofreading Strategies
Tue., July 26, 5:00
Wed., July 27, 1:00

Studying for Exams
Tue., August 2, 1:00
Wed., August 3, 5:00

July 6, 2011

Mock CWE a Success

On Tuesday, June 28, and Wednesday, June 29, the Writing Center held its most popular Mock CWE workshop yet. The Mock CWE is an intensive, 3-hour workshop designed to help students practice for the College Writing Exam and get immediate feedback on their writing. While a voluntary workshop, students must register in advance in order to attend.

The Writing Center is set up to be as close to real exam conditions as possible. Each student has a computer and all of the materials they would get on test day. In addition, each student receives personalized exam topics based on his/her major and the general question theme for the next exam. (Students are given a choice of 2 questions on the exam.) This mimics the exam itself, as questions are randomly assigned to students within the parameters of their major and the general theme.

The first 2 hours of the workshop consist of students writing the essay. They may handwrite or type it.If they choose to type, the spell check is turned on, but the grammar check is off, just as in the real exam. After students finish writing, typed exams are printed.

In the last hour, we discuss students experiences writing and then turn to the printed essays to evaluate them based on the CWE rubric. Finally, students are encouraged to make one-on-one appointments with a writing consultant to review their own practice papers in depth.

Last week, 18 students attended, and about half had never taken the exam before and wanted to do a "dry run." In addition, most students who attended that workshop also scheduled appointments to work one-on-one with a consultant the following week in preparation for the July exam.

When surveyed, most students reported that they felt their writing had improved and a greater sense of confidence in taking the actual exam. Several students also said they would recommend the workshop to other students.

July 1, 2011

Community Colleges on the Screen

It's a holiday weekend and you will be seeing ads for the new movie with Tom Hanks and Julia Roberts called Larry Crowne. And the only reason for it to appear on this blog is that it concerns a community college.

If you teach, most movies and TV shows about teaching make you cringe. Something in me just won't allow me to go to the movies this weekend to see Bad Teacher, another summer offering.

Community: The Complete Second SeasonI do watch the NBC sitcom Community and though the situations (thankfully) bear little resemblance to PCCC, we are not without our own absurdities.

What that program and Larry Crowne do share is a plot that follows an adult who is forced out of a job and turns to a community college as the way to gain further education as a way to get a better job.

That is a very real situation for many of our students.

Of course, Larry's first teacher is played by Julia Roberts. Ms. Tainot teachers Speech 217: The Art of Informal Remarks. That's a speech course I've never seen in a catalog. Larry connects - with his teacher, and eventually with the course - and he gets to give his speech and even quote the wise words of George Bernard Shaw.

The movie is summer fluff so the very real issue of today’s hard economic realities, which has triggered greater community college enrollments and even increased federal funding, gets no real treatment.

The old movie mogul Samuel Goldwyn once said about an artsy film that he was shown, "If I want to send a message, I'll use Western Union." As reviewers have suggested, this is a film in the Frank Capra/Preston Sturges mold, so don't expect much social commentary. Still, Larry's class is a cross section of the varied community college population found in most urban schools.

Larry also takes an economics course. I hated economics as an undergrad and his overinflated professor, Dr. Matsutani (played by Star Trek's George Takei), is a poke at the teacher who probably thinks he should be at MIT rather than at a two-year college. Does Larry get some practical economic knowledge in the class?

Here's hoping that for those of you in community colleges, you find your connection to the courses, fellow students and teachers.