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.

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