Workshop on Assisting ESL Writers: THURSDAY 3/31!


At WAC, we often tell our faculty not to focus on lower-order concerns when grading first draft or low-stakes writing: small grammatical mistakes, using the wrong word, subject/verb agreement. Our philosophy, which is backed by a number of studies, dictates that if we help our students grasp the higher-order concerns (argument, organization, use of evidence, following a thesis) then the lower-order mistakes will start to correct themselves.

The question we often hear from faculty, though, is “what about my ESL students?”

The truth is, over two-thirds of CityTech’s undergraduates did not learn English as their first language. Consider that many of them didn’t even learn it as their second language.

Our workshop this Thursday  offers concrete tips and techniques for helping ESL students become better writers without leaving you feeling that you have to “teach English.” Come join us for lunch, coffee, and pedagogy!

Workshop Recap: The Creative Classroom (12/10)

Last week we wrapped up the semester with a workshop on using non-traditional activities in the classroom to incorporate more active learning into our courses – and to have more fun! If you missed the workshop, read on to find out what we talked about, and check out the PowerPoint Slides and Handout.

WAC Fellow Emily Crandall and I started off with an active learning game that encourages student interaction: “The Snowball” (or, as WAC Coordinator Rebecca Devers likes to call it, “The Hungry Hungry Hippo” activity). Each person gets a piece of paper with a question at the top – here, “What is one concern you have about incorporating non-traditional (i.e. not lecture/discussion) activities into your classroom?” After writing down a response, each person crumples up the paper and throws it to the front of the room, which just about guarantees some looks of amazement and some hilarity when people’s aim goes astray. After collecting and redistributing the papers, each person opens up the one they’ve been given and some are read aloud. Then each person writes a response to the concern expressed on their paper. The papers are crumpled, thrown, and redistributed again, and the answers are discussed. This activity is a great way to loosen students up and get them interacting, in addition to providing a way for them to raise questions anonymously, without feeling self-conscious.


I then talked about active learning, which is an idea underpinning not just the workshop, but the WAC philosophy as a whole. Active learning, which can be defined as “any instructional method that engages students in the learning process” (Prince 2004), is typically juxtaposed with more traditional passive absorption of information in a lecture format. Of course, we all lecture sometimes, but incorporating active learning has a lot of benefits for your students and for you as a professor. Research shows that students learn better when they engage in a variety of activities (listening, talking, writing, etc); what’s more, having fun actually increases attentiveness, which in turn makes higher-level learning and deeper connections more likely. As a professor, coming up with innovative and engaging student activities can improve your teaching portfolio or even result in a publication in a pedagogy journal.

Moving on to no-tech activities, we focused on small group activities. Most of us have used small groups at some point in our classrooms, but it’s easy for them to feel like a waste of time. We gave some examples of fun and productive small group activities (see the handout for details), and then Emily described ways to make them more effective. For example, it’s a good idea to require groups to generate a written product that they will have to present, so that group conversations stay on track. Ask students to persuade the class when they present those written products, rather than simply summarize. And research shows that groups of 5-6 produce the most conducive environment for interactive learning.

Using multimedia inside or outside the classroom also offer exciting ways to enliven lessons and promote more engaged learning. This can be as simple as showing a video clip and asking students to write for a few minutes in response before discussing those responses in class – a great way to incorporate low-stakes writing into the classroom. Or you can get a little fancier with only minimal extra effort, trying out some instant feedback techniques. Instant feedback can be used to gauge student comprehension, gather questions, provoke discussion, or even take attendance. We demonstrated an instant poll in the workshop using, a great resource that lets you set up a multiple-choice or free-response poll, have your students respond via cell phone or laptop, and display the results instantly as they come in. Our poll – based on a question WAC Fellow Wilson uses in her Intro to Sociology classes – started off with a strong lead for Beyonce’s alienation, but a late surge of “Who is Karl Marx?” responses made for a close finish.

Screenshot 2015-12-14 12.11.17

Clickers, which some departments have (and if not, you can use technology fee money to help buy them), can be used for similar purposes, or you can even set up a hashtag for your class and have students tweet questions or responses for instant in-class feedback.

Finally, there are some great ways to use technology outside the classroom. OpenLab is a City Tech resource for setting up a course website, where you can post a dynamic course syllabus, run a class blog, or even create a multimedia class project, like this English/Communications class did. They even offer workshops to get you started; you can find schedules on their website.

Emily showed the workshop her own class blog (which is private, so no link here – but you can see another WAC Fellow’s class blog here as an example) and talked about the ways to use a blog and the benefits of doing so. It’s a great place to practice low-stakes writing; you can ask students to post once a week before class to ensure that they come to class prepared, but also to promote student interaction online. Requiring students to comment on each other’s posts – or offering extra credit for doing so – can generate discussions that you can continue in class. This is particularly useful for students who might feel intimidated or shy in class; it gives them a different way to participate, and it also can give them the confidence to then do so in the classroom after trying it out online. By asking students to post several hours before class, you can read their responses beforehand, which lets you identify and better address the concepts or issues students were most interested in or confused by.

The tasks you assign for blog posts could be the same each week, or you could change it up and use it as a scaffolding tool, according to course objectives. You could ask them to summarize and analyze of the week’s readings, identify a thesis or evidence, argue for or against the author’s position, connect the readings to personal experience, explain key concepts in plain English, or generate discussion questions. Be sure to give specific tasks for posting comments on other’s blog posts, too!

To wrap it up, Emily talked about a couple of ways to tie all of these ideas together. Of course, you certainly don’t have to incorporate everything into the same class, but if you’re wondering how you’re going to have time to use any of them, thinking about a flipped classroom model could be useful. In the flipped classroom, activities we typically do in class – primarily lecture – are done outside (via existing video content you find, such as TED talks or documentaries, or lectures you record of yourself), and activities typically done outside of class – the application of the lecture material – are done in class. So you essentially make room for in-class activities by shifting lectures out.

That’s it for this semester, but we’ll be back in the spring with several workshops for students, a faculty workshop on applying WAC principles with ESL students in the classroom, and a symposium in May to present all writing certification participants’ work from the year. Keep an eye out for the final schedule!

Utilizing WAC Pedagogy to Support Your Professional Development

Learn and Lead

Faculty introduced to Writing Across the Curriculum (WAC) principles often note how implementing WAC practices may support their students’ academic development.

What teachers may not immediately realize is that WAC pedagogy can also support their own professional development in the following ways:

  1. Be More Productive

In their article Enhancing Pedagogical Productivity, Walvoort and Pool (1998) discuss how implementing WAC techniques can reduce costs in relation to outcomes. The authors argue that by varying the modes of content delivery (e.g., journal writing, group activities, and peer review), faculty can free up time previously devoted to delivering class content through lecture. Additionally, by designing scaffolded assignments and implementing WAC best-practices for grading, faculty can further free up time while improving learning outcomes. By becoming more pedagogically productive, faculty can devote more time to research, publications and other important aspects of their professional development.

  1. Expand Your Research and Publications

In conjunction to freeing up time to devote to research and writing, your experiences with WAC pedagogy can itself be the focus of your research and writing. You could examine several outcomes related to implementing WAC practices, including student interest in class topics, pass/fail rates, exam grades, writing quality, etc.

Several journals are devoted specifically to WAC pedagogy. For example:

  • Writing Across the Curriculum
  • Language connections: Writing and reading across the curriculum
  • Language and Learning Across the Disciplines

Other journals that publish WAC-related research:

  • American journal of Education
  • Assessing Writing
  • College Teaching
  • Research in the Teaching of English
  • Communication Education
  1. Be a Stronger Collaborator

Faculty often collaborate with their colleagues on projects. In the same way that WAC principles help improve student critical thinking and writing skills, applying these principles to your own work can have the same effect. For example, you may realize that it’s helpful to scaffold your own group projects, with due dates for outlines, drafts and peer reviews. Further, your feedback to collaborators may improve when you focus on higher order concerns and provide forward-looking feedback, without copy-editing your colleagues’ work.

  1. Improve Your Teacher Evaluations

Improved teaching performance is related to a teacher’s sense of satisfaction and commitment to teaching (Hughes, 2006; Peterson and White, 1992). Research further supports that student achievement is closely tied to the quality and training of the teacher (Darling-Hammond, 2000). By completing WAC training and implementing WAC pedagogy, teachers are better prepared and often increase their performance and sense of satisfaction, which in turn translates to more positive evaluations from both colleagues and students.

For example, one study by Blakeslee, Hayes and Young (1994) provides support that faculty who participated in WAC training differed significantly from non-participating faculty on attitude and teaching behavior. Specifically, participating faculty were more likely to view writing as a means for learning rather than testing, developed stronger writing assignments, and spent significantly more time answering student questions.

Positive teacher evaluations are associated with several professional development factors, including increased publication record and improved job opportunities (Feldman, 1987).



Blakeslee, A., Hayes, J., & Young, R. (1994). Evaluating training workshops in a writing across the curriculum program: method and analysis. Language and Learning Across the Disciplines, 1(2), 5-34.

Darling-Hammond, L. (2000). Teacher quality and student achievement. Education policy analysis archives, 8, 1.

Feldman, K. A. (1987). Research productivity and scholarly accomplishment of college teachers as related to their instructional effectiveness: A review and exploration. Research in higher education, 26(3), 227-298.

Hughes, V. M. (2006). Teacher evaluation practices and teacher job satisfaction (Doctoral dissertation, University of Missouri–Columbia).

Walvoord, B. E., & Pool, K. J. (1998). Enhancing pedagogical productivity. New Directions for Higher Education, 1998(103), 35-48.

Technology in the Classroom

Our last faculty workshop of the semester is approaching, where we will be discussing strategies for implementing more creativity in the classroom. An aspect of this workshop involves the use of technology. But whether and how to use technology in the classroom is certainly not a settled debate.

There are broad disagreements over whether any sort of active learning (including technology) detracts from student development of the comprehension and reasoning skills required to digest a lecture. There are also disagreements about the extent to which technology can effectively be used to deliver course content. In particular, the trend toward “flipping the classroom” is largely premised upon taking advantage of available technologies for the explicit purpose of increasing student engagement with course materials. In a flipped classroom, lectures are delivered electronically outside of class, and in-class time is reserved for student synthesis, application, and discussion. Some faculty have even attempted the flip in large lecture hall situations, encouraging student accountability for completing required readings. Proponents of the flipped classroom model have developed many different types of resources for using technology outside the classroom in order to facilitate more active learning before, after, and during class. Ted-ed is one example.

But what about technology in the classroom itself? This can take either the form of technology used by the instructor (e.g. powerpoint, video clips), or technology used by the students, namely laptops. There are many elements to consider when deciding whether to allow students to use laptops. On one hand, research suggests that students demonstrate better understanding of concepts and applications when they take notes by hand. On the other hand, permitting the use of technology may foster a more inclusive learning environment, allowing for more alternatives to the traditional lecture. Chris Buddle at McGill, for example, allows students to use the internet to fact check him during class, which often leads to spontaneous discussions and new avenues for student engagement. It can also expand accessibility for students who require accommodations for varying sorts of disabilities.

WAC philosophy and pedagogy offers a robust defense of active learning. That said, it can be overwhelming to try and integrate so many new and different strategies and resources into a classroom. It may certainly be the case that using technology in new ways does not immediately yield the expected outcome. That need not be a reason, however, to shy away from it. It does not mean that you have to drastically change your curriculum to make it more fun or accessible. But it does mean that there may be ways to deepen student engagement with both your course, and with the pursuit of knowledge more broadly, which might fall outside the traditional lecture format, and may involve writing and reading in more creative styles and venues.

Workshop Recap: Effective Grading and Minimal Marking (11/19)

Our semester rolls on as we held the third of four faculty professional development workshops dealing with Writing Across the Curriculum (WAC) teaching and planning strategies. If you missed our workshop last Thursday on Effective Grading and Minimal Marking, read our recap below to learn about strategies that not only can save you time in the grading process, but will help to produce better student work. Follow along with the PowerPoint and Handout.

WAC fellows Pamela Thielman, Drew Fleming, and Emily Crandall led an informative and diverse workshop that covered many aspects of the grading process, from planning assignments and grading structures in advance to how to reduce the sometimes-daunting paper load once those assignments have been turned in.

Emily began by outlining that the most effective grading requires two steps: 1) planning before the assignment is given, and 2) practicing efficient marking techniques once the papers come in. We identified a variety of kinds of “higher-order” concerns (those dealing with content, organization, argument, evidence, and other “big picture” issues) and “lower-order” concerns (those dealing with spelling, grammar, citation style, sentence structure, word choice), and noted how students will respond to whatever we as instructors mark on their paper. So, if we mark twenty lower-order issues on a page but only one higher-order issue such as organization or argument, it’s likely that students will only focus on those grammatical issues in revision, rather than the oftentimes more important problem of organization.

Emily then discussed how laying a good foundation before the papers come in can be beneficial to the instructor after the papers come in and it’s time to grade. Scaffolding an assignment into its constituent parts and other good assignment design practices are crucial at this step, as is transparency in the grading criteria. By letting students know what we’re grading for (either by using a rubric or by having class discussions about expectations), we can expect better results.

Drew then built on Emily’s points by going into detail about how scaffolding an assignment into smaller parts can ensure that you are spreading out the grading workload over the course of the semester. You can also address student issues earlier in the process as you catch them, so that the final product has already gone through a number of revision steps and is therefore a more polished paper (and therefore easier to grade!).

Peer review is another useful tool to alleviate the grading load, because you are “outsourcing” some of the assessment process onto the students. We included a number of peer review templates in the handout for this workshop, which as Drew pointed out are crucial to a successful peer review, giving the students structure and specific criteria for which to grade.

Finally, to help remember what it’s like for our students to receive a paper filled with tons of red ink corrections, we watched a short video made by students at Bunker Hill Community College in Boston, MA, that really hits home the effect that our grading can have on our students. Even though we are often trying to be helpful, we forget that students often take our markings as negative criticism, and that it discourages them from wanting to revise and do better. Faculty in attendance seemed to get a lot from this video that reminds us of the power we have when we grade.

In this respect, we’re reminded that our role as instructors when grading a paper is not just to evaluate the students, which is the traditional role of grading, but also to communicate with our students and to motivate them. We should think of ourselves more as a coach than a judge, since the goal of writing a paper should not only be for students to convey what they have learned, but to improve their writing and organizational skills over the course of the semester. As their writing improves, so too does their mastery of course material, and so we should remember to take an active role in helping that progression.

Finally, Pamela covered a variety of specific strategies for minimal marking, a process that seeks to reduce the overall amount of marking on students’ work while increasing the potency of specific comments and annotations. In other words, write more less often. She stressed that as instructors, we shouldn’t feel the need to necessarily have to do all of these minimal marking techniques, but to pick and choose as suits the assignment and your style.

For low-stakes assignments, Pamela recommended either no grade or check grading. As we’ve covered in previous workshops, simply getting students to write helps them in the learning process, and so we don’t need to grade everything we assign. She recommended also putting the pen down on your first read through a student’s paper. This way, rather than feeling the need to mark every misplaced comma or subject/verb disagreement, you can concentrate on bigger picture issues. Then, at the end, we can comment on global patterns of error in lower-order concerns.

We also discussed selective line edits, for those instructors who want to make sure that they are pointing out specific lower-order problems. Rather than covering an entire paper in markings and corrections, consider only doing one paragraph, or one page. This way, the student sees their mistakes but is not overwhelmed by them, and the onus of correcting falls on them. Frequently, when we mark a student’s paper up completely, the student will only make the corrections that we suggest! This encourages the student to take it upon themselves to identify their errors.

Finally, as Pamela noted in her blog post last week, use any color pen except red!

Above all, we stressed supportive responding that not only assesses the student’s work, but motivates them towards revision and communicates new ideas or questions to them. Asking questions in margins or end comments is a great way to both communicate and motivate students further without “giving them the answer.”

Join us for our last workshop of the semester, “The Creative Classroom” on December 10, 2015, in Namm 1005. WAC Fellows Emily Crandall and Julie Hollar will cover ways to incorporate non-traditional and technological assignments and activities into the classroom that combine with writing assignments to make class time dynamic, varied, and fun.

Recapping: Avoiding Plagiarism Workshop

Last Thursday’s workshop on “Avoiding Plagiarism” brought out a fantastic showing of professors, for one of our most attended workshops yet! Thank you to all those who were able to make it, for those of you who weren’t, here’s a little recap:

No professor wants to deal with plagiarism (the disappointment! The bureaucracy! The uncomfortable conversations with a student!), this workshop takes as its premise that it is possible for professors to take steps to prevent plagiarism before it occurs! In particular, here at WAC we believe that often plagiarism occurs because a student hasn’t fully understood what counts as plagiarism (and we saw during our workshop that there is a lot of gray area that even professors can disagree on!).

City Tech has a particularly notable policy on academic misconduct, that emphasizes the professor’s responsibility in informing students about plagiarism. It states:

“Students and all others who work with information, ideas, texts, images, music, inventions, and other intellectual property owe their audience and sources accuracy and honesty in using, crediting, and citing sources. As a community of intellectual and professional workers, the College recognizes its responsibility for providing instruction in information literacy and academic integrity, offering models of good practice, and responding vigilantly and appropriately to infractions of academic integrity.” – NYCCT statement on academic integrity (emphasis added)

With this responsibility in mind, the first part of the workshop included a number of activities and handouts that professors can use to assist them in raising awareness about plagiarism in their classrooms. Many of us have used these strategies in our own classes and have found them particularly helpful.

Crafting Assignments to Avoid Temptation to Plagarize

Student plagiarism can have many different causes. Another prominent one we’ve found- that can easily be targeted!- is a lack of confidence, or difficulty with time management. The pedagogical tool of scaffolding can be an invaluable resource for creating assignments that develop students’ confidence and encouraging time management skills. Scaffolding, as many of you know, emphasizes building towards larger projects, step by step. This graduated nature of scaffolded assignments helps students from feeling overwhelmed by a large term paper, and feeling tempted to go online and download a preexisting one.

In the workshop we examined how a scaffolded assignment schedule helps both develop students confidence and promotes working in increments rather than leaving everything for the night before.

In addition to scaffolded assignments, designing assignments with a unique or contemporary twist can help students develop an interest in the work, and also mitigates the temptation to hand in something they found online.


For example- one sociology professor has her students write an analysis of Marx’s notion of estranged labor, but asks students to argue whether or not Beyonce could be considered “alienated”. An English professor teaches The Crucible and has students create a podcast in the style of the extremely popular “Serial”.


Both Marx’s notion of “estranged labor” and The Crucible are certainly topics which students could find a wealth of prefabricated, rote essays to pilfer from on the internet, but these alternative assignments seek to engage students’ interests, and avoid the temptation to hand in a preexisting essay by shaking things up a bit. As an extra bonus for professors , these types of assignments can be more interesting to read and grade as students really can let their passions shine through!!


Professors in attendance were encouraged to think up some different and unique assignments they could design to get students thinking through the core concepts of their class. One electrical engineering professor designed an assignment where students would have to calculate the amount of electricity needed to power a Beyonce concert!

concert 2

Do you have any unique assignments that have been particularly successful? We’d love to hear see in the comments below!

Of course, not all assignments have to be unique and scaffolded, we encourage professors to try out a variety of different tactics that might work best for their needs.

Be sure not to miss our next workshop:

  • Effective Grading and Minimal Marking
    • Thursday, November 19, 2015
      • 1:00-2:15pm
    • Room: Namm 1005
    • Free lunch and coffee!


*If you would like to see the full workshop, slides are available for download here

Workshop Recap: Effective Assignment Design

Last Thursday WAC kicked off the fall semester with our first workshop, Effective Assignment Design. For those who couldn’t make it, or those who want to refresh their memories, here’s a quick recap:

Writing Fellows Claire Hoogendoorn and Drew Fleming began by explaining the difference between formal and informal writing. Many of us are familiar with formal student writing, end-of semester term papers are a classic example, which can be categorized as writing to communicate. Informal writing is writing to learn and it can take any number of forms, including:

  • Notetaking
  • Paraphrase or summary
  • Generating questions
  • Reflection or response

What informal writing tasks have in common is that they are not focused on grammar or organization, and they are low-stakes (they are ungraded or have a minimal impact on the course grade).

An effectively designed formal assignment should include a number of smaller informal or semi-formal assignments that help students develop the required skills to achieve the grade they want. This is called scaffolding, and all high-stakes assignments can benefit from it.

Scaffolding will look different for each assignment and each instructor, the point is to put steps in place so that students practice the skills they will need to succeed before the final assignment comes due. This may mean giving informal assignments in which they defend a thesis, write out methodology, explain a key concept, or paraphrase a source. Again, the number and type will vary.

The workshop wrapped up with a reminder of how important it is to give students typed assignment handouts. Handouts minimize student confusion by providing all of the details of the assignment, such as:

  • The specific task(s)
  • The assignment requirements (such as formatting and citation)
  • The audience for the assignment
  • Grading criteria
  • How many required drafts

The workshop PowerPoint and handout can be found here:

PowerPoint Slides


Remember that this is workshop one of four offered this semester. Workshops are open to all faculty, regardless of whether they are going through the WAC certification process. If you are interested in hearing more about the WAC certification process (there are still some open spots in the program this semester) or if you have further questions about WAC, feel free to email a WAC Fellow or leave a comment below!

Welcome Back! First workshop this week!!

Welcome back CityTech faculty for the 2015-16 year! We in the Writing Across the Curriculum program are excited for another year of working with you to incorporate stronger writing assignments into your classes and help to foster an environment where students learn about their subject through the process of writing. Whether you teach math, engineering, architectural technology, dental hygiene, hospitality, history, or English, the WAC program can help you foster a culture of writing in your classroom that will get students engaged and still deliver all the course content you need teach this semester.

We are once again running our Writing Intensive Certification program this fall. This program, started last year, is a way for faculty who are teaching WI courses or who would like to teach WI courses to get some professional development and hands-on training in writing pedagogy, and includes a course release if the program is completed (pending department approval). Our first workshop, on Designing Effective Assignments, is this week, Thursday September 24, from 1-2:15pm in Namm 521 (with FREE lunch). Open to all faculty, it is a requirement if you are participating in the WI certification program. Not sure if you’d like to participate? Come to our workshop and talk with our fellows and coordinators about the program.

We are also available for one-on-one help or to come in and give a workshop presentation to your classes. Browse our workshops page to get an idea of what we do, scroll through the Fellow’s Corner blog to be inspired by some innovative writing ideas, and learn more about who we are. As we update the site over the next few weeks, come back often to find a weekly blog post on writing pedagogy written by our fellows, and check for updates on our events!

Our Fall 2015 workshops are listed below, all are on Thursdays, 1:00-2:15pm, room TBA:

  • “Designing Effective Assignments” – September 24
  • “Avoiding Plagiarism” – October 22
  • “Effective Grading and Minimal Marking” – November 19
  • “The Creative Classroom” – December 10

We hope to see you there! And feel free to leave questions below in the comments or email us.

Student note-taking workshop: Recap

Last week on February 10th two of our WAC fellows, Jake Cohen and Louis Lipani offered a free CityTech-wide student workshop regarding effective note taking strategies which can be found HERE. They introduced the Cornell Method to students and thoroughly explained the reasoning why this method is so useful to many people. Often students are not taught how to take notes, though this is a learned skill that is clearly pertinent to their success within the educational context. We view note taking as one of the many necessary skills college students need initial guidance on and which they can eventually master throughout their undergraduate careers. Therefore, feel free to provide the information offered here based on Jake and Louis’ efforts to your students. Better yet, take a little time within your own classrooms to discuss the importance of note taking and the empirically-based strategies mentioned in this blog. Doing this will likely allow students to realize they are not alone in being concerned about note taking or that they have not been taught this information in the past. We hope that offering this information to them will give them an understanding of how to best utilize note taking towards better comprehension and ultimately better grades in their courses. For us instructors, note taking is one more way to implement informal writing into our classrooms, which is a strategy towards increasing the amount of low-pressure writing students are doing in order to have them better learn and internalize the material.

Note taking “best practices”:

  1. Write it down: Empirical evidence based on neuroscience research suggests handwriting notes allows for better retention of information and a higher-level of understanding for the content (Jacobs 2008; James & Englehardt 2012; Mueller & Oppenheimer 2014).
  • Differentiate important from non-important information
  • Summarize and paraphrase (students should do so in their own words)
  • Use symbols, abbreviations, lines, etc. in order to show importance and speed up the writing process for notes (whatever key or style works best for an individual student)
  1. Question/Context: Questioning and putting information into context is a way to ensure deeper critical thinking. Students that feel comfortable acknowledging their questions on course content and who attempt to put the information into context will likely understand the material at a higher level later.
  • Write down questions but also your own thoughts about the material that are supplementary from the instructor’s lecture
  • In order to have better recall course information later, indicate your feelings, opinions, or simply what is occurring around you during a specific portion of the class
  1. Reflect/Summary: Reflection is a way to ensure you remind yourself about the content a second or third time and summarizing ensures you can grasp the most important parts of the class and piece them together.
  • Fit content into your previous knowledge related to it
  • Attempt to identify the themes of the lecture (overarching important aspects)
  • Reflect and attempt to summarize the class content after the class but before going to sleep that night

Technological advances to support students in handwriting notes or annotating readings:

  • Styluses and smart pens now allow for handwriting on our beloved digital devices to help bridge the gap between students’ tablet/laptop usage and the beneficial effects of handwriting (see Stern 2015 for more information on this technology which is the last link in this blog below)
  • The GoodReader App is an inexpensive ($5) way to organize PDFs and take notes on them, make annotations, and write comments

Helpful links to additional relevant sources

Cornell method of note-taking:

Relevant studies:



Missed our creative classroom workshop?

We had a great workshop today on active learning, technology, and innovative ideas to use in the classroom, thanks to all who attended. If you missed it, be sure to check our workshops page for the PowerPoint Presentation and Handout, full of excellent sources and ideas to implement in your classroom. Questions? Contact Pam or Jake, the workshop leaders, who can help you out.