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Category Archive for 'my classes'


Originally uploaded by mebertolini.

Picture postcards of fall in Vermont may show turning leaves of all one color, but most trees change gradually, with green, yellow, red, orange and fallen leaves–all from the same tree.

My students write at least three drafts of every formal paper, and I emphasize a different concept for each draft: organization, argument, and macro issues in the earliest drafts, style, grammar and micro issues in the later drafts. I place my point of intervention in draft two, after students have conferred with each other and the tutor. Theoretically, they have moved beyond organization when I meet with them, but that is not always the case. In my meeting on their papers, we could be discussing anything about their work from the finer points of style to addressing the topic.

As I circled the class on Friday, as the class workshopped Paper #3, I saw that they had become familiar with the language of talking about writing. Student who had struggled with organization on their draft twos a few weeks ago now made insightful suggestions to their peers about their organization. The combination of workshops, conferences and revisions manages to hit a number of different learning styles as students do and read and speak and listen and write on their own and their peers

Face to Face

I use on-line resources myself, and I love developing and providing them for the students I teach and faculty with whom I share techniques for teaching writing. Whether they access the resources at 3:00 a.m. student time or 7:00 a.m. faculty time, my thesis development links and our first-year seminar faculty resources will be awake. Despite my increasing use of tech tools, I still believe that as a teaching tool nothing beats face-to-face meetings. My colleague Barbara Ganley, who is pushing against the tech boundaries here at Middlebury, always considers her tech use as merely a part of the important work she and her students do inside the classroom. Update: Barbara discusses the attitude of present and former students to writing on and offline in a recent post.

Recently, I have experienced the importance of face-to-face meetings on two fronts. First, I have met with all my students on the second drafts of their papers. My meeting with them followed meetings with their peers and their peer writing tutor on draft one of their papers. In one-on-one or small meetings, students feel freer to ask questions and be vulnerable, and I can tailor my responses and advice to the individual student and to his or her learning styles. Face to face, I can, also, see the glazed over look that means, not getting it yet, or the aha moment when lightning strikes.

Second, the Director of our First-Year Seminar Program and I have hosted three lunches with members of our FYSE faculty so far this semester. For those who cannot come to lunch, we have posted handouts and links discussed at these lunches. However, one of the great things about attending the lunches is the flow of ideas back and forth across the table when faculty members share with each other and with us the books and assignments that make their classes successful. Couldn�t they share this information on line�probably, if they had the time, but isn�t there something about breaking bread together that lubricates conversation? And though my computer seems to have an abundance of cookies, I have yet to figure out how to download a brownie. brownie.jpg

First Blush

First Blush

Originally uploaded by mebertolini.

As the leaves begin to change here at the end of August, I’m finalizing plans for my first-year seminar. For the first time, I’ve added a summer assignment to my class, and almost all of my student have responded on-line to date. They are also responding to each other and back again. I’ve asked them questions about their knowledge and opinions about Jane Austen and her works and to tell us a bit about themselves and their backgrounds. What a motivated and interesting class they are already!

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