Category Archives: Summer Institute

FYW PD: Pre-Meeting Reflection and Introduction

My apologies for posting after the 6pm deadline; my power was out for most of the day due to the storm and thus using my laptop and the internet was somewhat difficult.


Hello, I am Adrienne. I have been teaching within CUNY since 2013. The college where I have been teaching the longest is at BMCC. As I worked within the college even before I began teaching, many of my ideas about teaching and the readings that I use have been colored by my experiences with the students and faculty there. A lot of my teaching has been at the community college level which means that I am used to dealing with students that are newer to the demands of college and sometimes to the skills and mindsets that enable one to succeed at the college level. I have taught literature courses, composition courses, creative writing courses, gender study focused classes, and research centered courses.

This past semester was my first time teaching online. I found that it was overall a successful experience for the students and I. However, as other participants previously noted, students need to possess a level of self-motivation and independence in order to successfully complete coursework online. Sometimes I have found that this means they need more assistance and more leniency in terms of deadlines (of course this was also happening during a pandemic and an economic recession, so the students were experiencing unprecedented upheaval in their lives). One thing that concerns me is how I can make sure that students are staying engaged and staying caught up with the readings. Many of my younger students told me that they struggle to read on their own and/or that their home environments are too noisy for them to focus when completing assigned readings.

Engagement Online

This past semester in my online courses (which were in person courses that suddenly had to transition to online courses) I tried to maintain some of the feel of an in person class by having discussions with the students in regards to the readings over Zoom. By having lively discussions related to the readings the students were able to gain a greater understanding of them and maintain a sense of normalcy during a disruptive transition in their lives. (I even attempted having the students act out a short play via Zoom, and this seemed to be an experience that helped maintain engagement and morale during a challenging time.) As some of the students said that they had trouble reading the assigned texts at home by themselves, I had the students read some of the texts out loud during the weekly one hour synchronous Zoom sessions to help the students with their reading comprehension. I believe that this helped the students stay engaged with the class, especially the freshmen students who were fresh out of high school and new to college. I also made use of weekly discussion board assignments to make sure students who could not attend the synchronous meetings were still engaged and discussing the readings with one another.

A Writing Genre 

One genre I am familiar with is that of the journalistic arts review, particularly those related to books, music, and theater. As I have been doing this type of writing since high school, I have become familiar with the standard expectations and rules in regards to this form of professional writing. Typically, a book review will begin with an opening statement about the book’s topic and/or author and the lead into summary of the plot (without giving away the ending or too much detail) and then transition into a critique of the book’s writing. Reviews for certain publications like Kirkus Reviews will always end with one sentence that encapsulates the entire opinion of the review/i.e. the thesis. Meanwhile, if one is reviewing music you must use descriptive language to give the reader an idea of how the music sounds, sometimes using musical terms, or emotions, or references to environments that provoke feelings similar to those which the music provokes (a sunny day at the beach is a common one). Typically, you are expected to quote at least one song lyric in the review, but more than two quotes might be excessive. Many writers will begin a music review with an anecdote before they transition to a discussion of the actual music. I began learning the rules for this genre of writing by reading my parents’ magazines and alternative weeklies as a child in the ‘90s. Typically before I begin writing a review for a particular publication, I will read reviews that the publication has published prior to gain an understanding of the proper tone and format as this can vary. Sometimes though, the best reviews are the ones that throw the templates and rules out the window and try to surprise the reader with the unexpected.

FYW PD: Pre-Meeting Reflection and Introduction

Hello! I have taught first year writing since 2003, in addition to teaching developmental writing, creative writing, and professional writing at City Tech. I was trained to do online learning a few years back, and I appreciate how resources available to us have changed and improved. Last semester, I was surprised by how effective discussion boards can be when designed well.

However, I am concerned about student engagement, in particular with designing asynchronous course materials. I am currently trying to improve my skills in making short videos and other “live” course components that will make students feel a sense of being in a dynamic learning environment. 

On Community and Engagement

I have taught many sections of ENG1101 as a Learning Community. One reason I like these courses is that students get to know each other better, and they tend to be more expressive in the classroom as the semester moves forward. During the first week of class, I’ve had students pair up and introduce each other; that introduction often includes a detail geared to our learning community. For the past two years, I’ve had students identify a life goal that considers a different aspect of their life than money or career.  My students also participate in an “Our Stories” project that asks students to write about their experience with transitioning to college. We discuss answers in class, but the conversation continues via posts and comments on the OpenLab. This activities gives students a chance to speak publicly about an aspect of their lives that does not have to be personally revealing, which sometimes intimidates students the first week or so. 

A Writing Genre I Know Well

Fiction. I like to think know I know the fiction genre well, but as soon as I state this, I recognize the challenge or futility of identifying the “rules” of a creative genre. Perhaps this speaks to Dirk’s suggestion that the purpose of trying to understand a genre is to find tools that may be employed, in addition to applying broader rules. Two “rules” I find essential in successful fiction are:  a sense of placement in or creation of a singular world or atmosphere; and, secondly, enough movement forward (suspense, wonder and/or action) to keep the reader reading.  In a month or so, I will probably revise these rules or scrap what’s here altogether and replace them with others.

How did I learn these “rules”? By continuing to read or re-read fiction by writers that excite me for any number of reasons. Just today, I finished The Maytrees by Annie Dillard. Her descriptions of place and the cycles of nature and character create movement that is utterly unique to her style. I’ve learned and will learn more about plot from other writers after I recover from the beauty of Dillard’s book. I also learn the possible rules or tools for writing fiction by reading work by those trying new techniques, even if I don’t think those techniques are always successful. I also like reading books on craft. But I mostly learn the rules of writing fiction by trying, writing a lot, and typically failing more than succeeding.

Reflecting here on the “rules” of good fiction emphasizes for me the importance of helping students recognize the genres they already enjoy reading, writing, and—I’ll hope—developing further, in order to connect these to the tools they need to acquire and to the broader expectations for college writing.

Steve Rosenstein pre-1st Meeting Intro

Hi, all, my name’s Steve Rosenstein. I’ve been teaching at City Tech for the past four years, Binghamton University before that while I was getting my PhD, and at City College before that while I was getting my MFA. I’ve also been teaching online for Monroe College for the past six years, which went a long way toward preparing me for the switch over to all-online, all the time.

I’m finishing my first City Tech summer course, and I have to say that I’ve been tremendously impressed with the level of engagement and attentiveness shown by almost all of the students; after finishing the spring semester online, I was concerned about the continued instability of the current mess having an averse effect on the students’ ability to participate actively and find the means to complete their work. But I’ve been thrilled by how active the students have been, in aggressively completing their assignments, seeking out my assistance, and just being present, during lectures, office hours, and in the discussion forums. So, I’m optimistic for the fall.

In the first week of online classes, I find that the best way to motivate student involvement is to humanize the proceedings as much as possible as soon as possible. So, in the first week’s Content folder, I’ll have various recordings available – a welcome, an introduction/explanation of key assignments, etc. – where they hear me being self-deprecating, but hopefully authoritative enough so they feel like their future is not in the hands of an idiot. After giving everyone a day or two to settle (and resolve whatever administrative/technical issues they may be having), I schedule an online session which functions both as an introduction to course requirements and expectations and a sort of meet-and-greet, and draw their attention to the first week’s Discussion Forum, where they are asked to introduce themselves and to offer a ‘fun fact’ or two about their lives – some opt not to, and most of the facts aren’t all that much fun, but it tends to generate interaction and good will, as well as starting to establish a sense of camaraderie.

A genre of writing I’m come to know well in the past couple of years is the conference abstract. What I love about the genre is there are always strict word counts to operate within, which requires me to be succinct, to be attentive to every word, and provides a great opportunity to clarify what I’m trying to achieve with a conference paper, both for myself and the recipient. The form is somewhat flexible, but some of the common points to be addressed in the abstract include the specific topic to be pursued, gaps in other critical work/critical approaches to the topic that you’re seeking to fill, your methods of research/exploration, and what has been concluded through this research. I learned the form by checking the guidelines of the conferences I wanted to attend, googling a few templates, and then writing, revising, revising, revising, etc.

Reflection for First Meeting on August 5th

Introduce yourself! Who are you, what is your teaching experience, how do you feel about teaching online?

Hi, I’m Lisa Cole, an adjunct lecturer with the English department at both City Tech and LaGuardia Community College.  I have been teaching since January 2011, primarily composition l & ll, as well as basic writing and The Research Paper courses.  Additionally, I’ve taught upper-level courses such as The Woman Writer, The Novel, Intro to Poetry, The Short Story, and Cultural Identity in American Literature.  Teaching is a second career for me.  My first career was as a legal secretary for 25 years.

I’m currently teaching on Blackboard, and given the choice, I would prefer to teach F2F.  Teaching F2F is a totally different experience for both me and my students.  I can get to know my students better.  With online learning, the whole vibe and energy of the classroom is missing.  Students learn quicker and have a more intense experience live.  It feels like there is a wall between us even during synchronous class meetings as I can’t see everyone.  Nothing can replace the classroom when it comes to learning.  We learn so much by interacting with each other in a classroom environment.  We learn so much just by listening.  I feel students are more inspired to contribute to live classroom conversations than on a discussion board.  Although I must say, having to type up responses on the discussion board helps students to generate lengthier responses than in the classroom and sharpen their writing skills.

Tell us one thing you do in the first weeks of online class to create a sense of engagement and community. 

One of the things I do in the first weeks of an online course to create a sense of engagement and community is to have a synchronous class meeting for the first class meeting to introduce themselves and discuss what their major is and why.  I let them know that I am a graduate of the CUNY, discussing my major/graduate degree and why I decided to major in English.  We also go over the syllabus and course description where I have an introduction to the course and why this particular course is important to their success in college and beyond.  I also say that I am available via Zoom or email to discuss any problems or concerns they may have during and outside of the official office hour.

What is a genre of writing you know well? What are the rules of that genre? How did you learn them?

The genre of writing that I know well is essay writing.  The rules for this genre are easily understood as Dirk details on page 258 of her essay, and even though the rules turned out badly for Dirk, these rules actually turn out to be the perfect vehicle for my students in English 1101 to begin to understand just how an academic essay should be structured.   My students have expressed that once they get the basic structure down, they feel they are free to explore variations in form and style in more advanced writing.

I learned this structure as an undergrad in CUNY (LaGuardia, and Hunter) and it has served me well because by knowing this structure, I was able to write essays on the spot for midterms and finals in class (and beyond), and that is what I tell my students they can do too.  I think it helps that I came through CUNY even as they are going through it now.  I suspect it shows them that someone who began in CUNY taking courses similar to theirs, can become an English professor and writer.  While the essay has only recently gained prominence as one of the major literary genres (following poetry, drama, and fiction), it can be used for the exploration of a variety of ideas.  This can be shown with increased interest in collections of essays as well as magazines like The New Yorker or The Sun, which predominantly use essay form.

Having started by modeling examples in rhetorical textbooks that I was given, as I went further in my student experience, I found myself more involved in reading longer essays for pleasure.  I was enamored with Wollstonecraft’s A Vindication of the Rights of Woman as well as Woolf’s musings on “Shakespeare’s Sister.”  Readings such as these led me into my specialization in Victorian Literature with a focus on women writers.  Presently, I am catching up on the essays of James Baldwin comparing them to the essays of Ta-Nehisi Coates, which are incredibly relevant in considering the racial unrest that presently faces our country and which I comment on in my classes (utilizing some of the essays) in order to make the classes both contemporary and involving for my students using issues that concern them.

Reflection before our first meeting

Hi all! My name is Katie and I’ve taught in CUNY since 2003. It’s been quite a journey teaching between two schools. I’ve taught a variety of courses, starting with composition courses, short stories and novellas, drama, intro to literature, writing in the workplace and, more recently, intro to journalism and technical writing. I taught hybrid and fully online courses before the pandemic and I believe that they can be made to work well. I also believe that they are not suitable for all students. There is a certain level of self-discipline that is required. What I have done with fully online courses has been to take the first couple of weeks to ease them into the class. I start by explaining how the course is structured, what are the expectations and how they can be successful in the class.

Students respond well if they get to hear from the other students in the class. I’ve used the Discussion board to let students introduce themselves (exactly what we’re doing here.) I also start a thread on questions or concerns they might have. My prompt asks them to introduce themselves, their writing experiences and their expectations for the class. I also add a thread on  their understanding of whatever the course is about. For instance, if it’s intro to journalism, I ask them to write a paragraph on what they think it is, where do they see it, what’s its significance in society and how they feel about its practitioners, namely journalists.

    • Respond to the following questions from Kerry Dirk (approx 300 words): What is a genre of writing you know well? What are the rules of that genre? How did you learn them?

For these questions I’m going to focus on nonfiction. When I met with the MFA program director, it was made clear to me that fiction is not non-fiction. I had just gotten a graduate degree in non-fiction and she wanted to clear any misconceptions. So, as I went through the program, I focused more and more on what makes fiction, fiction. Of course, there have been memoirs that have been passed for non-fiction and have brought their writer to their knees when found out. So, what is non-fiction? It’s a big umbrella that encompasses writing that passes the truth test, not truthiness. For something to be nonfiction, it has to be real, it has to have happened, it has to have been lived in real life. The audience expects it so and if it’s not, then the audience is misled and deluded. Like Dirk extrapolated, writing is situational. A memoir can have a number of motivations. The writer might be trapped in the past and turns to the memoir as scriptotherapy. The writer might want to leave a legacy for their loved ones. Virginia Woolf fits both scenarios. The writer might want to shock the audience like Mary Karr or relate to a particular audience or is asking for their empathy. The rules are pretty simple. Just like in a card game, rule #1 is don’t cheat. Reading has definitely been instrumental in my learning process. No two writers approach their life story alike. There was a time in the past when a good memoir was a collection of personal letters sent to family, friends and acquaintances, or received from them. Even going through my MFA program, there was no class that taught rules of writing. We learned by reading, analyzing, reflecting and trying to understand the options the writer had and the choices he or she made. You don’t assume, period. There are techniques for specific effects. Philip Lopate has built a theory of writing as both show and tell. In non-fiction, you have the story, it’s pre-fabricated, ready-made, the challenge is what you do with it.

Getting ready for Weds, Aug 5

Hi everyone!  Remember that our first meeting is Weds Aug 5 at 10 AM– I sent you a zoom link, but prefer not to post it publicly, so if you’ve misplaced the email (look, we’ve all done it!) you can email me at:, and I will send it again no problem.

We will also meet Thursday, Aug 6 at 1:30 PM and Monday Aug 10 at 10 AM.

If you haven’t already, please do the blog post assignment described below, in my previous post.  If you don’t know how to post a blog on Open Lab, you will first need to be signed in to this site (you will have to accept my invitation to join) and then follow these directions:

You will be asked to choose a category. Please choose “summer institute.”

Lastly, it seems we have finally finished our Model Site!  We’ll be going over this together on Weds, but you may want to take a look around the “hub” :, which explains how the project works.

  • Under the 1101 dropdown menu, in “materials and site links” you will see a link to a Google Drive folder.  Please download this file, which has all the curricular materials for the course. Again, we will be going over this on Weds, but if you want to look over them, go ahead!

Day One Response


Hi! My name is Caitlin McDonnell. I’ve been teaching English in different capacities for 25 years, from undergraduates at NYU while I was in graduate school, to teaching as a teaching artist (poetry), to getting certified and teaching high school, to returning to college teaching for the past seven years. As for teaching online, I have mixed feelings. I appreciate the flexibility it opens up in my schedule. I miss my students a lot. I think my inner standup comedian is fulfilled by classroom teaching and I have not been able to figure out how to regain that in virtual instruction. I currently teach at both Baruch and City Tech. I also have concerns about adjunct work exploitation, and worry that online teaching might even increase the workload.


In the face-to-face classroom, I always started with having students generate a list of words that they can use to interview one another and write poems or descriptive paragraphs about one another to present to the class. They laugh; they talk to one another; they feel dorky; they either show off or try something new. I find it really breaks us in. I don’t see a way to effectively replicate this online, but plan to add a similar kind of twist the discussion board introductions.


I’m a poet and an essayist, but I’m also, for better or worse, a fairly frequent Facebook poster. Because Facebook has the “on this day” memory feature where you can see what you posted years ago, I can see how my skills writing in this genre have actually developed. I’d say there are different kinds of Facebook posts, almost all of which I’ve participated in at some juncture, (the mysterious (I can’t tell you what but something big is happening).  the rant, the overshare, the cute thing my kid said, and the sharing of political or artistic articles with a commentary attached.

Summer 2020 PD Participants

Hi everyone!  So, for our Zoom meeting on Aug 5, please do the following by 6 pm on August 4. Please note I prefer not to post the Zoom link publicly, so please email me ( if you need the zoom link:

  2. Watch THIS video of me talking you through the intro to the curriculum.  Link to the pictured slideshow is HERE
  3. Write a blog post on this site in which you:
    • Introduce yourself! Who are you, what is your teaching experience, how do you feel about teaching online?
    • Tell us one thing you do in the first weeks of online class to create a sense of engagement and community.  If you have not taught online, please let us know something that has worked for you in F2F classes
    • Respond to the following questions from Kerry Dirk (approx 300 words): What is a genre of writing you know well? What are the rules of that genre? How did you learn them?

You will need to be signed in to the FYW PD site to post!

I will send you information about the model site ASAP.