Saturday, October 30, 2010

Restore My Sanity

Restore my sanity! Live video right now at

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Additional Tips for Eng 92 Departmental Exam

To My Beloved Eng 92 Students,

At this point, you've done day one of the English departmental writing exam (from what I've been told). You are going back on Thursday for day two.

Here are some additional tips (or actually reminders, since I've mentioned them in the past, if you've been listening.) First of all, I hope that you did not forget to use the writing process (or some version of it, such as (1) pre-write/brainstorm on scrap paper, (2) write, (3) revise, reorganize, and proofread.)

Day one of the exam is essentially steps (1) and (2), brainstorm and write the essay. Day two of the exam is where you should do step (3) fill in any ideas you wish to include in your essay, revise and re-organize, and proofread.

Before you go into the second day of the exam, you should go over the reading again and see if you have any additional analyses or reactions. Make sure you have a thesis or main idea to focus your essay. Include the thesis statement in the introductory paragraph. Make sure all the ideas you come up with (for the body paragraphs) are in support of your thesis.

Before going into the second day of the exam, brainstorm some more and see if you want to add any more ideas to your essay. Google if you need to. Since you don't have your essay with you, try to remember what you've written and fill in any gaps. Although you can't take additional notes into the exam, go over your new ideas (notes from brainstorm and reading reactions) until you have them well-remembered. When you get to the test (day two), you should not have to spend a lot of time trying to remember which ideas to add.

The end product of your writing should be clear to the reader. They should be well organized (as much as possible within the time limits). You should do as much revising and proofreading as possible for this desired end-result. However, you should keep an eye on time, as it is limited.

If you finish earlier, that's a bad sign. You should use all the time to keep going over your writing and proofreading, to get your writing to be as clear and as perfect as possible.

God bless.

Copyright: © 2010. This document is the sole property of Amadeo Constanzo. You may use this article for free on your web site, blog, or other publication if and only if you include this entire copyright notice including the following links and statement. Other free teachings from Amadeo Constanzo can be found at and

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Tips for English Departmental Exams

If you are one of my students, everything I’ve been teaching you have trained you to do well in these CUNY English departmental exams (if you’ve been listening and applying everything I’ve been teaching you.) Therefore, these tips are more like review than they are tips.

In the past few years, they may have changed the timing of the test or may have made some small variations in the format. However, the general principles or strategies necessary to do well in these tests have not changed. These are the strategies and principles of which I have always place primary focus in my teachings.

Depending on the English course (04,09,91,92, or 93 in Kingsborough), one of your English departmental exams will provide you with the reading prior to the test. (This is true for only one of the departmental exams, whether it is the one in mid-semester or the other one at the end of the semester. Questions or essay instructions are not provided until you get to the test.)

For the exam where you are given the reading beforehand to take home, here’s what you should do at home before going to the exam:

- Read it at least three times
- Annotate (when reading a second time) the reading to assure an in-depth understanding of the reading. Do this on the pages of the reading. Do not write notes on a separate piece of paper because you are not allowed to take a separate piece of paper to the test. You may make notes on the reading as much as you want, and take that reading to the test. One simple way of annotating is by summing up each paragraph with a phrase or sentence on the side margin next to the paragraph.
- Summarize the reading, starting the first sentence of the summary with the title, author, and the author’s main idea of the reading. (Again, do NOT write a summary on a separate piece of paper. You are not allowed to bring additional pages to the test. Write it on the back of the reading or anywhere on those pages where there’s room.)

Here are some final pointers or reminders:

- If you are given reading questions to answer on the exam, READ THE QUESTIONS CAREFULLY.
- Keep an eye on the clock.
- For reading questions, provide only the information and thoughts from the author. In other words, answer the questions as the author would. Do not include your own opinion or knowledge outside of the reading, if you don’t want to get it wrong.
- Answer questions with complete sentences.
- One of the reading questions may ask you to summarize the reading. (This is common in departmental reading exams.) If so, write the summary including only the author’s information, knowledge, and point of view. (See “summarize the reading” section above.)
- If the exam requires you to write an essay, you should include both the author’s point of view AND your point of view (including your knowledge, opinion, and experiences). You may agree, disagree, or partially agree with the author. You have the freedom to do so in an essay.
- Here’s a final reminder of the difference between an essay and summary. Summary includes only the author's knowledge and point of view from the reading and must not include your own opinion. Essay includes both the author's knowledge and your knowledge and point of view. (I’m re-emphasizing this because you’d be surprised at how many students still didn’t get this in my past experiences, as shown in their exam performance.)
- Here’s another twist. When they ask you to write an essay, they may ask you to include a summary WITHIN your essay. If so, do exactly what they instructed, but the summary should only be a small part of your essay (such as the first BODY paragraph.) If more than 30% of your essay is a summarization of the reading, it’s not good.

A final note for my students. Do not approach me to help you with the specific reading of the exam. It is against CUNY policy for me to explain the reading to you (probably because of fairness issues for all students, in terms of the big picture.) If you open-mindedly practice and apply what I’ve been teaching you, you will do better. On the other hand, if you still cling to your old ways that do not work and you are still going down the same street, don't be surprised if you fall into a hole again (like the story I've told in class.) However, it seems to me that most of my students this semester get it. Most of you have been practicing and applying the various strategies and will continue to do so for the departmental exams.

Copyright: © 2010. This document is the sole property of Amadeo Constanzo. You may use this article for free on your web site, blog, or other publication if and only if you include this entire copyright notice including the following links and statement. Other free teachings from Amadeo Constanzo can be found at and

KCC Schedule Change On Tuesday

For Kingsborough students, there is a schedule variation this coming Tuesday, Oct 24. It will be a Friday schedule. In other words, you should attend your Friday classes this Tuesday, Oct 24. Tuesday (Oct 24) is a Friday schedule. You could double check on the academic calendar at

This is only a courtesy reminder. Do not expect to see these reminders in the future. You should always keep an eye on the academic calendar and enter all changes (relevant to you) on your calendar.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Don't Live Someone Else's Life - Follow Your Heart

A speech by Steve Jobs given at Stanford University teaches us important life lessons. Follow your heart and don't live someone else's life. If necessary, get off the "well-worn path". "Remembering that you are going to die is the best way... to avoid the trap of thinking that you have something to lose..." Don't settle for less than what you're meant for.

This 15 minute talk by Steve Jobs can be found at -

Monday, October 4, 2010

CATW and "Nagging" Students

The following is part of an email I've sent to an English 92 professor

Prof. Parisi reminded us not to be spending much time (especially in the beginning of the semester) in ACT prep (which I agree). I usually spend two labs or so toward the end of the semester on ACT practice. It’s good that we’ve been reminded because there have been pressure from students to practice or talk about the new CATW exam.

One incident from your class stands out when two students kept asking about the new ACT, or CATW, exam. I provided the analogy of Iron Chef (a show and cooking competition on the Food Channel where 2 chefs compete to prepare a five course meal with an hour in Kitchen Stadium). I told the students that it would not help a contestant to just learn and practice for the format of that competition if they do not first learn to cook and be able to produce tasty food with pleasant presentation. If one is to just get familiar with the format of the Iron Chef competition and of Kitchen Stadium without the foundation of knowing how to cook, they would end up losing (because of horrible tasting food.) I told the students that it is the same with the CATW exam.

Although most of the students in your class understood this analogy, two of them persisted in continuously asking me about the exam and would not let me go on with the lesson I had planned for them. I was thinking that these two must be the worst cases of the “nagging mother” or the “nagging wife”, but I of course did not say that out loud. Anyway, I ended up telling them a bit more about the format of the CATW than I wanted to, but I emphasized in the end that they should first focus on improving their reading comprehension, critical thinking skills, and ability to write about what they’ve read. This satisfied them and I was allowed to move on.

To the credit of the two students, they have not given me a hard time ever since. In fact, they have been very cooperative and have frequently participated in class discussions. This reminds me that I just need to feed the children a piece of candy sometimes, because these two are now very pleasant to work with.

Regarding my plans for the lab, I generally try to cover all the common concentrations for English 92 including reading comprehension (practice in annotating, summarizing,…) and writing exercises (such as free writing, concept webs, revising, paraphrasing,…) Feel free to let me know if you want me to put more focus on any specific area. Feel free to provide me with materials, but I also have lots of material from the Writing Center and from my own collection.

Copyright: © 2010. This document is the sole property of Amadeo Constanzo. You may use this article for free on your web site, blog, or other publication if and only if you include this entire copyright notice including the following links and statement. Other free teachings from Amadeo Constanzo can be found at and