Composing a Class for Freshmen (Rather Than the Teacher)

These main principles are fundamental to the Freshman Composition course I teach: learner-centeredness, high expectations, flexibility, and, most importantly, authentic audience and purpose. Learner-centeredness is an idea that made immediate sense to me when I was getting a certificate to teach English as a Second Language. If learning is to happen, then the student must be an active participant. Throughout the years, I have seen the effectiveness of this approach. In the composition classroom, the learner centered approach is realized in community building and warm-up exercises, frequent pair and group work, classroom activities, peer review sessions, and the Socratic method of teaching through questioning.

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Express Yourself . . . in a Composition Class?

At the beginning of each semester, I give my students a questionnaire, asking them, among other things, what they like and dislike about writing. About 70% respond that they like writing because they can express themselves, their ideas, their opinions, and their feelings. About 40%, however, say that they don’t like writing about topics that don’t interest them. One student wrote, “I like writing when it’s not boring or on a boring topic. I don’t like writing long essays on a random book or a topic not interesting. I have to be interested in my writing and reading.”

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