Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Bubble Maps and Office Hours

Yesterday, we spent the whole class working on thesis statements on the board, and making bubble maps for the essays. I think just under half the class got help on the board, and hopefully everyone learned and thought about things.

Doing thesis statements on the board is one of those difficult things early in the semester. In my regular classes (the ones I usually teach with native speakers of English), students are shy about criticizing, uncertain about what makes a good thesis statement, and less certain about what makes an ineffective thesis statement. The class here had the additional difficulty of having to try to speak English at the same time, so you'll understand that they were pretty silent. After a few examples, one or two students did pipe up to say when a thesis statement did a good job being specific about the assignment, so I was encouraged.

I think most (maybe all) of the students have been taught bubble mapping in the past; some said they had, and they seemed comfortable with the basic idea.

I held the beginning of a week of extensive office hour appointments today, and was happy to see that every student who came in had at least a bubble map for the essay. I'm not claiming I taught them how to do it, but they were all using bubble maps effectively, and I was able to help several focus their essay in more depth.

I spent a lot of time trying to explain why giving examples is important and effective, so I need to talk more about that in class, and also talk more explicitly about how direct American style essays are compared to essays in Japan (and some other countries; I think of French essays as being spirally, getting to their point after circling it a bit).

All in all, very fun office hours; the students who signed up (I didn't require them this time) seemed enthusiastic and willing to try hard to make their essay better.

I'll meet with students all week, and then they'll do peer editing on Friday. The essay is due for real next Tuesday (it's a 2 day a week class, very strange!). I'm thinking I'll probably have extended hours on Monday to help with last minute worries and such. And then proofreading on Tuesday in class! (I wonder if students have sticky pads here?)


  1. I think of French essays as being spirally, getting to their point after circling it a bit.

    Oh that's so true! French essays are like mystery novels -- you don't find out the point/murderer until the end!

  2. I think you are doing these students a great service--thesis statements on the board IS hard but I committed myself to doing it it at the beginning of every semester. The learning curve is hard to resist--the student critiqued gets a better thesis statement and the others learn that they can say x doesn't work and still be civil human beings and--gasp!--helpful to each other. I also feel you on the week of conferences. They are SO good for students though exhausting for the teacher.

    I had all native speakers but had some students, often from strict and religious households, who had a very difficult time creating a statement, much less an argument. In their homes, what was said went and that was all there was to it so they were unnerved by 'argument,' feeling that it was a fight with authority rather than self-assertion and independent thinking. I hope that I was able to foster a little rebellion and self-assurance in those students of mine.