How to teach academic writing in 160 pages or less…


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Here’s another thing that I’ve been reluctant to throw out until now…

Twenty years ago I took over coordinating an academic writing course for speakers of English as a second language at the university where I had just been employed.

The academic writing course they had was OK, but it was kind of hard to teach. And because I didn’t know any better I spent all my time rewriting the entire course so that I could teach it.

And then because I didn’t know any better I created a system to make it easy to mark including avoiding plagiarism without high-tech software.

Then I rolled this out to the half dozen or so other tutors who delivered the programme.

I prepared all the lessons. Standardised the delivery. And wrote the exams. Everyone seemed pretty happy and the students figured out how to write university-style essays.

Eventually, I just compiled everything and put it in a book. That turned out to be around 160 pages.

I think it’s still a pretty good course. Anything topical in the examples are now 20 years out of date, but the teaching ideas and structure still works.

I’d probably do things a bit differently if I got the chance to do this over again. Like a one-page poster, for example.

But I think I’m OK posting it here for free for anyone who wants it. If not, I’ll wait for the cease and desist letters.

I’ve taken the name of my former employer off the front.

Mostly, this is my work. It remained unchanged as the course book for at least 5 or 6 years after I left, at which point I lost track of things.

And while it is my work it does draw on a whole bunch of other stuff that others have done. Some of this is referenced. Some of it is not.

If I’ve missed something, sorry. I’m not going back to fix it. I just want to release it into the wild.

If you’re looking for a basic text on how to teach academic writing there are probably lots of good ones out there now.

If not, feel free to use and adapt this one. With or without citations.

 

 

 

 

How Do I develop Maths Thinking At Home Or In My Class?


Damon says joy

Recently my friend Damon Whitten has been posting some very cool ideas for encouraging kids to develop mathematical thinking at home. I think the same ideas and processes apply to adults and these can work in classroom situations as well.

I reposted his video here on my blog but you might want to head over to his place to watch in full or check out his Youtube channel.

Here’s the update: There are several whiteboard problems that Damon has posted as a follow up to his video. If you liked the video you might want to check these out:

 

How Do I Help My Kids Develop Maths Skills At Home



If you have kids and you want to help them with maths you need to watch this short video. Actually, if you know someone who has kids you probably need to watch this.

It’s 11 minutes long. You might have to watch it a couple of times. And you might need to share this with your significant other.

The idea is that family culture matters the most when it comes to encouraging and developing maths skills in your kids. Or any kids. So we all better get started now.

As someone who is really interested in my kids’ education, I think I’ve done a good job of encouraging them to read. We all love reading at my house.

However, I’ve done an average to crap job of this when it comes to maths. Damon has the solution.

Here’s a summary of Damon’s tips from the video:

  1. Get a whiteboard and put it in the kitchen or other family area. If you have to, use your nice white Fisher & Paykel refrigerator (my idea not Damon’s).
  2. Don’t do arithmetic. E.g. don’t put up a bunch of + – / x problems. That stuff is boring.
  3. Make it easy at first.
  4. Get them talking. If they’re not talking then they’re not learning.
  5. Learning happens in the process of solving the problem. Learning ends when the problem is solved. Keep it going.

There are a bunch of ideas for five different kinds of engaging maths and numeracy problems that you can use starting at about 5 minutes in. You need to watch and listen for these.

But check out the whole clip here or here for his blog post.

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How To Develop Great Teaching Materials In 5 Steps


Screenshot 2015-08-25 22.11.00

It’s no secret that I love the process of developing new resources. That’s something that hasn’t changed over quite a few years of teaching and training.

My process for materials development has changed quite a lot of the last few years though.

I have 5 rules for myself for this process. Well, they’re more like guidelines.

  1. Solve a problem. My students tend to drive new resource creation. They just don’t know it. Most of my resource creation happens as a reaction to common problems in the learning process.
    • At the moment, many of my students are stuck on Assessment 4 in the course that I teach. In this assignment they have to collate several different kinds of evidence. I have a checklist, but I wanted to create something visual. Here’s the checklist. For my poster though, I’m only interested in the far left hand side.
      Screenshot 2015-08-25 21.56.19
  2. Start analog. I make a point of starting with my non digital tools first. I like to get the shape of the idea sketched out on the white board or in my journal. Or usually both.
    • Here’s my first draft of a poster for Assessment 4 on the white board. I started portrait and then redrew it in landscape on the left.
      WB
    • Here’s my second draft. I want people to see the different kinds of evidence they have to collect. And then make the links to their Study Guide and Assessment Guide. This time I’ve redrawn the poster in my notebook.
      Journal 2
  3. Finish digital. From the white board and journal, I move on to the digital tools. Currently, I’m learning to use Adobe Illustrator. This is a new tool for me and I’m still figuring it out.
    • Here’s a couple of printouts from early versions of the handout that I was working on.
      printouts
  4. Iterate as fast as possible. I go through many different versions before I’m happy with the final product.
    • Here’s the current version in Illustrator.
      Screenshot 2015-08-25 14.27.52
  5. Realise that it’s never finished. One of the things I realised early on in my teaching career was that my resources needed to be dynamic. The content needs to evolve, rather than remain static.
    • Here’s a screen shot of the PDF of the resource (for now anyway).
      Screenshot 2015-08-25 22.11.00