Friday, July 31, 2015

Dr. C's Academic Online Cruise, Part 2: Week 12 – Narrative or Poem & Narrative

Captain's Log: July 27, 2015

In the advanced cruise, my superiors require that I only focus on expository and argumentative writing. Throughout this cruise with my advanced crewmembers, I have done this. However, I find that, with all the discussion and reading about the importance of improving their Standard English Dialect and how it can positively or negatively affect the total quality of their verbal and written discourse, they still are not implementing what they seem to understand actually in their prose. So, for this week I have assigned a different kind of assignment—a narrative or choice of doing a poem and narrative.

Everyone of my crew has submitted this one, many ahead of the deadline. Yes, for many this is what they are used to writing in high school. It is fun and really taps in their creative spirit. Unfortunately, very few of the jobs that are out there will pay for one’s ability to write a creative short story or poem. And none of my crew has shared a plan to become professional writers or advertisers, professions that will cultivate their ability to write that provocative story or poem. Of course, even those in those professions need to have command of grammar and punctuation. Unfortunately, it seems as the article by Witherspoon notes, focus on these items is lacking in the high schools. And so, when my crew comes to the college online cruises, they are not prepared. Yes, they can spin a tale, but not one that has few grammatical and punctuation errors. They are not prepared to write any paper, descriptive, narrative, expository, or argumentative demonstrating a strong command of the Standard English Dialect. 

For this assignment I give two grades; one is for the content presentation; the other is for the grammar/punctuation. I do not attach an evaluation sheet. Instead, I do the calculating at the end of the work. And throughout the work, I indicate every grammatical/punctuation error. Yes, this takes time (oh, does it take a lot of time ). However, this is a stark indication of how much they will need to “get together” in order to submit a quality college paper. The code switching must occur. And the markings throughout at this point of the cruise is a blunt slap of reality demonstrating each has a lot of work to do before each submits the final exam, which is due Week Fourteen.

I have re-emphasized to each of my crew on their work that I am more than willing to work with them individually. I encourage them to ask me questions via e-mail or post in a forum I have placed on Blackboard.  I do not want them to feel discouraged, but, if I do not note the grammatical errors, it is tantamount to being a liar and leading them down the same false road that has landed them in this situation.

Let me digress. I was talking to a very dear friend who has been retired for about seven years. I said to her, “Am I expecting too much? Most definitely, I am not winning the popularity contest among captain/professors. Surely, I cut down on hours of checking a paper if I just ignored the grammatical errors and not expect structured content presentation, kind of let ‘em go “east, west, north, south” with no direction. Geezo, it seems my efforts are not really appreciated at times.”

Her response, “I would tell my crew/students, ‘I would rather you hate me now than hate me later.’ ” And hearing that comment, I realize this is what I have to remember as I keep the bar high, the expectations to exceed what my crew/students don’t even know they need to know in the future. Yes, this is why I try so hard. This is why I cannot give up. And this is why I began serving as a captain/teacher for these many years.

Dr. C's Academic Online Cruise, Part 2: Week 11 – It's Just An Allusion

Captain's Log: July 20, 2015

During this week the crewmembers have an option. They can earn up to ten (10) extra credit points. They are to read the various prose and poetry in the August 2005 International Journal for the Teachers of English Writing Skills. This is another publication that is on Pass-Protected Site #1 for the text, Bare Essentials. The journal gives the crew enough variety of literature for them to identify the work, author, and the figure of speech it is representing:

 3 similes
 3 metaphors
 1 personification
 1 analogy
 2 allusions

On Pass-Protected Site #1, I provide explanations for each of the figures of speech in a file. 

Some have had difficulty with previous assignments. I want to give them an opportunity to improve their grades. They cannot lose. Some who have done this extra credit assignment have thanked me for the opportunity.

Now, I am perplexed that everyone has not taken advantage of this opportunity.

Next, I see that most have difficulty with identifying the allusion. Why is that? This particular figure of speech depends on a person’s knowledge of various events that have occurred in history and popular culture. Also, knowledge of different pieces of literature is helpful. Unfortunately, many of our crew of today are not well-read. Also, many of our crew of today do not keep up with current events. 

Many times, I hear crewmembers say they are not interested in the news because there is so much depressing news. Yes, they have smartphones, tablets, and computers, but many do not use these technical tools to keep up what is happening internationally, nationally, or locally. Others have mentally tossed aside what they were taught in their history or civics courses. And so, there is much that they just miss or never comprehend. For example, in a previous cruise, I made this statement:

 If we are office workers and I make the statement: “There is a Watergate taking place here.”  

Then, I asked, “What do you think is going to occur?” Several crewmembers did not know. They were not aware of this significant historical event. Also, I gave another example:

Dr. C's Academic Online Cruise, Part 2: Week 10 – The Research Proposal

Captain's Log: July 13, 2015

A major assignment is due this week, the research proposal. This proposal is to provide as specified on the syllabus the following with these headings and answers to follow:
  1. major thesis [for the research paper]
  2. intended audience
  3. title of paper
  4. paper’s purpose (the “soul sentence”)
  5. works cited format for five (5) of the nine (9) required sources
  6. mini thesis for each body theme [there are to be three body themes]
  7. mini thesis for the conclusion theme (if you do not plan to write a conclusion theme but prefer to write one paragraph, then, write: “I am writing on paragraph”)
  8. body theme 1 (this means there should be an introductory paragraph, two or three body paragraphs, and a concluding paragraph
Also, the syllabus specifies there will be two grades for this assignment, one for how well the crewmember/student follows directions and the other for the points earned for body theme one. As you may recall, I have shared the assessment form I use for the themes. This is what I use to assess the theme.

Now, the crewmembers have written themes throughout their tour on the online cruise. So, the notation I provide on the syllabus (item h) is just to reiterate what they have been writing. There should be no lack of understanding what a theme is; they have written them and the syllabus reiterates what is expected. Wrong! I am totally surprised that a few write only a paragraph. Oh, Oh, I have posted on the handbook’s pass-protected site a sample of how the proposal should be set up and a sample of body theme one. I am so very surprised that several have not done well. It is as if I have not provided any sample or made any postings on Blackboard (these, also, give more textual explanations).

This proposal is the basis for the writer and for me to see how each crewmember plans to develop his/her research paper. 

Crewmembers who have earned a C- or higher have the choice to write an argumentation research paper or write a research paper on a different topic. Anyone who has earned less than a C- must write an argumentation research paper.

As I have shared, I have placed more than one posting outlining this assignment’s requirements. Below you will see the last posting I put up so to make certain everyone would be very clear about what is expected:

Dr. C's Academic Online Cruise, Part 2: Week 9– The Issue is Mechanics

Captain's Log: July 6, 2015

For most of the crewmembers, they do very well with the content presentation. The discussion that they have had on the Discussion Board has proven to be quite helpful. It has helped them articulate about this subject. 

Those, who choose to write about the power of words that Akassi and Witherspoon and Shafer discuss, use some of each other’s comments about the essays. Definitely, my having them share ideas on the Discussion Board has helped. Also, I see that my podcasts have helped. So, using these different methods of working to make these somewhat very sophisticate works understandable is successful for the content presentation.

However, the issue of the mechanics presentation is another thing. No matter how many times I have marked these items, the errors still remain. There are podcasts that are on the handbook’s (Bare Essentials: A Handbook for Beginner Writers, 15th ed. by Hayes-Scott) pass-protected site. There are podcasts that focus on pronoun errors (many have problem with this category), verb errors, punctuation errors, and sentence structure errors. I provide verbal explanations. So, why do my crewmembers still make these errors? Even though they read essays and discussions that clearly indicate the need for mastery of these Standard English dialect grammatical points. Yes, they realize in theory the importance; however, in reality they have not transferred the importance in their work. Now, learning how to avoid these grammatical errors takes hard work of strong concentration.  Unfortunately, these Standard English dialect issues, as has been mentioned in the past, have not been emphasized. So, now on the college cruise, it is difficult for them really to accept that these issues are important. And as I say to them, proverbially: “You are not in K-12 Kansas anymore.”

So, since the Evaluation Sheet shows the number of points earned for the both content and mechanics presentations. It is very apparent that for this assignment, they lost most points in the mechanics section. My comments reiterated what they already know: if they want their papers to reflect more quality, they will have to work on eliminating those errors. 

So, let’s see what the next assignment brings. 

Dr. C's Academic Online Cruise, Part 2: Week 8 – It's Evaluation Time!

Captain's Log: June 29, 2015

As we begin the eighth week on this online cruise, every crewmember knows his/her midterm grade. S/he knows that s/he is not doomed, and by no means is failure even a probability. As I shared last week, the midterm grade will be only 1/5 of the course grade. So, there are more weeks to learn, improve their writing skills, and improve to a point of raising or, at least, maintaining a passing grade. 

However, this is not an assurance for every crewmember. One crewmember is not comfortable with the midterm exam grade. Yes, he has received a C for his midterm grade. Still, the fact that he has received a very low grade on this one paper is very disturbing for him. The impression I receive is that he is not used to receiving a low grade. Now, I have written thorough comments on his exam paper and an evaluation sheet is attached that serves as a rubric that reinforces the comments. Let me share with you the kind of rubric I use:



How to Use This Evaluation Sheet? A student should look at the number; if checked “no,” then, s/he should look at the sample of the correct way of writing the item. To earn points for each item in the Content Presentation, the writer MUST fulfill ALL of the requirements for that item. The sample sentences are from the theme on pp. 170-171. These sentences demonstrate how to follow the guidelines for one way to present a quality content presentation for the introductory and concluding paragraphs. 

Dr. C's Academic Online Cruise, Part 2: Week 7-Time For Midterms

Captain's Log: June 22, 2015

This week the midterm exams were due. If you recall I was surprised and slightly discouraged that one asked what topics he could write on and the other wanted to know how to set up the assignment. Yet, a good captain is not supposed to show her or his discouragement. And that is what continues to encourage a crewmember to do his/her best.

So, what were the results when these crewmembers submitted their midterm exam papers? They both submitted their assignments. Unfortunately, they did not do well. This midterm was not one that a person could do in just two days and expect to do well. Still, both did earn a C or above for midterm grades. They both have potential to be solid advanced writers. And I am determined to do all I can to make certain they live up to that potential. No, I am no miracle worker. But I am a hard workin’ academic captain who has never given up on a crewmember, and I am not going to start on this cruise.

Now, this is the time for me to digress. I know of teachers who are devoted and work intensely to do the best for their students. However, they cannot do it alone. They need for their students to pay attention, for the parents to make sure their youngsters do their homework, for the parents to come to parent-teachers meetings, for administrators to support their efforts, and boards of education to provide the up-to-date school materials. They, also, need not to worry about their jobs if their students do not score high on a test, when it is not totally the teacher’s “fault.” My heart goes out to my K-12 colleagues. They have so many people criticizing them, people who have not prepared to become teachers or have ever been in a classroom teaching against the odds that I have mentioned in this paragraph. I am fortunate; I am blessed. I am a captain of college crewmembers. Captains of college cruises do not have to deal with what my K-12 captains have to cope with, and that is why we have more leverage to work with our students, demand the best from them, and not deal with the interference of folks who know little to nothing about what is really is needed for one to be an effective academic captain.

And this is why I want to provide support to teachers. This is why I want to be a writer’s coach for teachers, writers, and parents who really want to help their children and support teachers. Now, I wonder will there be people who will want what I can give? Time will tell. Let me know, those of you who are reading this blog. Let me know what you feel writers, teachers of writers, and parents need. I am committed to give all I got and more.

Dr. C's Academic Online Cruise, Part 2: Week 6 - Preparing for Midterms

Captain's Log: June 15, 2015

I have decided not to give any writing assignments. I want my online crew to have time to prepare for next week’s assignment—midterm exam/argumentation paper. Research is necessary. So, I want to make certain they have time to focus totally on doing the research and setting up the paper.

Last week, they had the opportunity to take the digital quizzes. And this week I have set up a forum on the discussion board of Blackboard for crew to post any sentences they have made mechanics errors. I suggest to them to post any error that I have pointed out an error, try to correct it, and ask if the correction is accurate. Also, they can write a sentence and inquire if it is written correctly. I can explain why or why not. As of this writing no one has taken advantage of this extra help from me in the mechanics forum.

Now, this is something that perplexes me. Why do they not use the opportunity that this forum offers? They can even write me personally if they prefer. They do not. Why not? And this is the question that many academic captains wonder. When we offer to our crew opportunities to receive individual help, many crewmembers do not take advantage. 

There is an old saying: “You can lead a horse to water, but you cannot make him drink it.” No, I do not see my crew as equines. However, this issue of their taking advantage of different ways I am offering to help them improve their command of Standard English dialect. Um, I need to put my thinking cap on to develop methods to get my crew to “drink the academic water."

Dr. C's Academic Online Cruise, Part 2: Week 5-"Like A Fly On The Wall"

Captain's Log: June 15, 2015

Oh, first, I must apologize. I made a mistake. You may recall during my Week Three post I shared an essay written by a crewmember on the Creative Writing Cruise. Then, after re-checking, I see that this essay is not by the same writer as a short story that will be posted in the June edition of The MANA SUNSET, a newsletter for writers. So, before I discuss this past week’s occurrences on the Online Cruise, I prefer to share with you the actual work by this writer, Ms. Hannah Jackson.

You may remember that she expresses so openly her pleasure in seeing how supportive her crewmates have been regarding her work:

Throughout the course of this class/cruise, I learned a lot. I learned the way in which

someone should go about writing a piece of creative work. I learned that not everything has to be perfect to get positive feedback, but, most importantly, I learned that, no matter how strange or out there an idea for a story is, people will more than likely be supportive of it.

So, let me share her story, “Like A Fly On The Wall”:

It‘s really quite astonishing what people will say when they think no one is listening. It’s as if they think the beings around them can no longer hear just because they aren’t a part of their conversation. I also find that when you are small it’s easy for people to look right past you as if you aren’t even there. I get that a lot. People tend not to notice me when I’m in a room. I’ve gotten used to it, though. I just go about my business, buzzing from here to there. Being nearly invisible to most people does have its advantages. I am able to enjoy myself a little more thoroughly, knowing people won’t be asking my opinion of things or counting on me to contribute to conversations. 
I don’t have a job, which means I am able to travel whenever and wherever I want. I pick up odds and ends here and there that allow me to sustain myself pretty well, but sleeping arrangements can be tricky sometimes. I can usually find a nice room to stay in with people who don’t mind my being there for a night or two. There really are some very hospitable people left in the world. The only trick is finding them. My size does help in that aspect as well. I don’t take up much space at all, and I am quiet and keep to myself. That’s probably why I’m so easily forgotten, like the time I was in North Carolina staying in the living room of this lovely young couple. I had just arrived earlier in the day and decided to make myself comfortable near the sofa in the living room. I don’t like to sit in a single place for very long unless I’m sleeping, so I picked a spot near the sofa to land and look out the window. 
I  was there, well, it had to have been only about a half an hour when I overheard the couple arguing from the kitchen. It started off like any standard argument does, with things like how he didn’t take the garbage out, escalating to his not having cleaned his dirty dishes, you know, the usual. Then, then things took a turn for the worse. They started yelling back and forth about their bills and how much money they have. Then, about how much their mortgage payment was each month and how she thought he would have found a job by now, and so on. I was shocked! Completely frozen in place! I didn’t know whether to stay put or just up and try to fly away!

Dr. C's Academic Online Cruise, Part 2: Week 4-Cause, Effects and Solutions

Captain's Log: June 1

As Captain, I am supposed to expose the crew to the cause and effect method. Whatever way I want to expose my crew to this type of writing is my choice. I really like the fact that I can approach this type of writing in any way I wish, as long as I deal with this method of writing.

I feel very strongly about this method of approaching a subject. It is crucial that every crewmember develops his/her critical thinking skills. Without strong critical thinking skills, a crewmember, no matter his/her future role, the ability to analyze situations and determine how to improve one’s ability to modify behavior for the benefit of himself/herself as well as to others s/he meets is a must.

They have a choice for this assignment:

• Write about the causes, effects, and solutions of a personal challenge you are currently facing. In addition, to what you personally think are the causes, effects, and solutions, you need to provide at least ONE parenthetical citation to support your discussion regarding the causes, effects, and solutions. Thus, there should be at least three parenthetical citations, one for a cause, one for an effect, and one for a solution. 

• Write about the causes, effects, and possible solutions to the serious situations that have occurred at Newtown, CT, Aurora, CO, and near Tucson, AZ. You will need to provide three documented causes, effects, and possible solutions to these violent acts.

There are fourteen (14) crewmembers in this online. The majority chooses to write about a personal challenge. I am touched that most choose to write the paper about personal challenges. I am pleased that, for such a short period of time, I have been able to establish such a rapport that several choose to write about serious challenges that are quite personal.

Dr. C's Academic Online Cruise, Part 2: Week 3-Seeing From Another's Perspective

Captain's Log: May 26, 2015

I have been toying with the name of this cruise. I recognize that all writing does require creativity. However, the requirements for composition are quite different than for creative writing short stories, poems, or plays. This tends to be frustrating for writers in college courses who are more used to writing short stories, poems, or plays. 

When writing an expository and argumentative prose, a writer must provide a clearly written or implied thesis sentence, an introductory paragraph that contains the stated thesis, body paragraphs, and a concluding paragraph. The work must be very tightly controlled and focused. And so, with these points I have decided that this cruise is better called “Composition Writing Blog—Online Cruise” than “Creative Writing Blog—Online Cruise.” And so, for the next weeks to come, “Composition Writing Blog—Online Cruise” will be the name of this academic sea adventure.

Now, let me discuss what has occurred during the third week. The crewmembers submit their paragraphs via an attachment to my e-mail address. The writing topic is the following:

 Write one well-developed paragraph that you respond to the reading assign-
 ments that you read on May 12. You are to explain how, based on what you
 have read and personal experiences, an individual’s background influences
 one’s interpretation of literature, acceptance of different people, and reactions
 in important relationships.

The readings are from the text by Dr. Gregory Shafer, Linguistics for College Freshmen and Sophomores (Robbie Dean Press). Also, there is an excerpt from one of the pass-protected sites, One Split Second by Suzan Hoppe. Both provide ample academic fodder to help them write their paragraphs.

For the most part, the crewmembers’ paragraphs did well in addressing the topic. 

In an advanced composition cruise/course, one of its purposes is to help its crew use critical thinking skills. Members need to begin to analyze how experiences have shaped their perceptions. This assignment ties in with the previous inductive/deductive/definition theme. It is important that they understand the extent a broad range of experiences influence how they interpret literature, are or are not open-minded to new ideas and people whom they meet, and, most importantly, blend in very close relationships, for example, love relationships.  

Dr. C's Academic Online Cruise, Part 2 : Week 2-The First Assignment

Captain's Log: May 18, 2015

As I shared in the first posting of this blog, my online crew has to take an orientation test. I added the requirement of having to earn at least 80% on the test. They would have to take the test several times to attain this grade. This test assesses each crewmember’s understanding of the directions and policies of this cruise and me as Captain. Placing this requirement just confirms what I have always felt—a crew will do as well as the Captain expects. Some only had to take this digital test once and earned higher than the 80% required score. When an instructor sets expectations, the crew/students will meet and usually surpass those expectations.

In addition to having to complete the Orientation Test, a theme is due this week, too. Now, let me explain that the cruise line requires that every captain covers different types of themes: induction/deduction, definition, argumentation, and diction. And in this advanced writing cruise, also, captains should make certain their crewmembers write a research paper. How captains cover these different kinds of themes and the research paper is their prerogative. 

So, the first assignment is for them to do the following:

 Write a five-paragraph well-developed theme answering the question:
 What characteristics make an individual a good parent?

 To write this theme, you are to use as justification for your three-part 
 thesis sentence the following sources:

  1. The parenting scenarios in Parents Imparting Discipline & Heritage on the Pass-Protected (PP) Site #1
  2. Your personal observances or experiences;
  3. Any other sources that can be documented.
Due: May 13

Why did I choose this topic? Whenever I teach on a composition-writing cruise, always I say to my crew: “You may not write all of your life, but you will live.” And a major part of living is functioning as a parent, literally or circumstances may call one to that role. Quite honestly, if more persons realize they are all parents and are part of a village that should make children feel safe, so many children should have to live in abusive situations or live in fear. For this reason I have chosen this as the topic. 

Welcome Aboard The "Writer's Sunrise" Academic Cruise Ship!

I am starting another cruise/course with my crew/students. The current cruise/course is online. (You can read about my first academic cruise HERE). 

I have taken my crew and moved to a different "ship." The former ship needed some repairs that could not wait. The online cruise continues but just on a more modern vessel. 

So, in the spirit of the new ship, its name is "Writer's Sunrise." And just as in the life of any writer, the image that is its new logo illustrates, "The Dawning of the Writer's Experience." It is ever-changing but the stability of wanting to discover and grow should never change. 

Welcome to the Academic Cruise Line's newest writer's ship, "Writer's Sunrise!"  



Get free download of Dr. C.'s Paragraph and Themes!