Common Core + Intro to College Writing

While reading these articles and reflecting on my experience as a high school student in AP English classes, I cannot help but feel the same anxiety that, I myself, now inflict on my students. The same pressure I felt to receive 4’s and 5’s on essays, along with with having to spew out what I had just written is exactly what I preach and nag to my students now. However, as much as I find that these laws and mantras are the rites of passages to receiving A’s on essays and getting an approval from me after they turn in first drafts, I can’t help but feel guilty that I may be taking away the appeal of writing and learning at a college level. Thus far in the semester, I do find that my students writing has improved drastically from that very first month that they entered the classroom, yet, I cannot help but feel as though they will not retain what they learned for very long after they leave. A similar effect of crash coursing; remember what you have to know for the moment, and then decompress and forget once it’s all done.

Looking at the grid of Common Core State Standards for English Language Arts & Literacy, I can now understand why my feelings and sentiments add up and justify. Students are being taught how to retain, write, analyze, theorize, and support the minute they enter junior high school. They are learning to the test and writing for the grade. Simply put, they begin to write at advanced levels beginning in Grade 6 while simply adding on to what they have already learned as they advance grades. By the time they complete Grade 12, they should be prepped and primed for First Year Writing College English. However, as beneficial as this is for a college instructor to be able to refresh, lecture, and collect gems, it is almost impossible for students to not be burned out by the time they enter college. In addition, I find it challenging to believe that the same learning standards are the same from Grade 6 to Grade 12; “They must have the flexibility, concentration, and fluency to produce high-quality first draft text under a tight deadline as well as the capacity to revisit and make improvements to a piece of writing over multiple drafts when circumstances encourage or require it” (1). As optimistic as this is, to expect this caliber of writing or retention from a sixth grader is almost impossible. This is a skill that is never truly perfected, even at college level; it simply becomes easier to acknowledge and function under the rigid timelines. Contrarily, I think simply teaching young students to find texts that they find appealing, challenging, and worthy of dissection is where you begin to find the makings for success. Students find themselves struggling mainly because they do not have the pleasures of finding enjoyability in what they are learning or how they are learning it.

Ultimately, as naive as this may sound, I think it is my job as an instructor, to guide students to write about things that move them, challenge them, and test their mental endurance, while inflicting timelines, and goals. In setting benchmark goals rather then “writing standards”, I think I have found my students to be more receptive in meeting my goals and standards of writing.

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4 Responses to Common Core + Intro to College Writing

  1. Daisy Atterbury says:

    I wanted to follow up on Magen’s closing notes about “setting benchmark goals” rather than “writing standards,” which is something I’d like to think about next year as I design my course. Rereading the Queens College “Goals for Student Writing” this week, I noticed that the pedagogical strategies suggested by the QC department of English are worded in terms of goal-setting. Conceptually, I’ve been working a lot more with strategy in my thinking, and I believe that shifting my focus to several concrete goals might increase my chances of providing practical help to my students next year. For example, “Goals for Student Writing” mentions discipline and profession-specific techniques, which, of course, do not emerge all at once in a Freshman classroom. Still, I feel out of my depth in terms of teaching writing for writers of disciplines other than the humanities, and I can’t ignore that most of my students are interested in the sciences. As Common Core indicates (and as memory serves), high school doesn’t teach writing as related to discipline, one reason students may come away with so much apathy about the practice. As Stephano pointed out earlier, most feel ambivalent at best about writing as a tool that can be used outside of classroom assignments. Asking students to write without considering how they may way to use writing as a practice in the future may be like asking them to continue in the rote learning they’re often asked to do in high school. I’d like to find some balance between the content I feel is important for students to learn and the content they may find interesting or useful for future research. Certain skills, like writing a professional email, may also seem banal or besides the point in a composition classroom — but these are often skills our students need the most, and these are writing skills they may be very eager to learn.

  2. While reading these articles and reflecting on my experience as a high school student

  3. Hi.. I have a website teaching advanced English words giving 10 example sentences. Could you please share the link on your webpage… http://www.word-in-sentence.com

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