ETAP 655L: Perspectives on Teaching Composition in the Secondary School
Spring, 2008
Information About Collaborative Groups









In this course you will be assigned to two groups:

Each is described below.

Writing Groups

Much of the work of this course, most importantly the two major writing assignments, will be done in writing groups consisting of 3 or 4 students. During the first or second week of class, you will be assigned to a writing group, and you will work with that group throughout the semester. The primary purpose of the writing group is to provide a forum for discussion of your writing and for inquiry into issues related to writing and writing instruction.

Writing groups will meet for about an hour during most class meetings. Your group will use that time to share and respond to drafts of course writing assignments, to support each other's research and inquiry into the course topics, and to facilitate the completion of the final unit plan.

Groups will determine for themselves how best to use their time together, and each student has a responsibility for helping his or her group function effectively and for coming to each class meeting fully prepared for the work your group will be doing together. The writing groups will not work well if group members do not take each other's work seriously, set and meet goals for each other, and respect each other. We will discuss some of these expectations in class before the writing groups convene for the first time, but please approach the work of your writing group with a sense of commitment and possibility.

Each writing group will develop its own procedures and style of working together, but here are a few guidelines to keep in mind at the outset:

  • For most class meetings the writing groups will have only an hour or so to work with. Given that most groups will have four members, you will have to decide carefully how to use that hour so that each group member has opportunities to share his or her writing. It is likely that each member of the group will not be able to share a draft and receive feedback in an hour, unless your group plans carefully and limits discussion of each draft to 15 minutes. So you may want to schedule the dates when specific group members will share their drafts. For example, your group may decide that two drafts are discussed each week. In that case, each group member will have the opportunity to have his or her draft discussed every other week.

  • Keep an eye on the course schedule. Deadlines for assignments are spaced out throughout the semester, but they will arrive quickly. So it may be a good idea for your group to set a general schedule for discussing drafts for the entire semester and make adjustments accordingly.

  • Keep in mind that writing groups will also be responsible for helping group members with their research for their English Journal article as well as for providing feedback on the unit plan. So you will need to make time for that work as the semester progresses.

  • There is no magic for making writing groups work. Communicate openly and honestly, be respectful and tolerant, and be willing to work hard together. Having a sense of humor also helps. Remember that you're all in the same boat: you are English teachers who are also writers. Use the writing groups to help each group member complete the assignments successfully and to grow as a writer.

    Roundtable Groups

    Each student in ETAP 655L will also be assigned to a roundtable group, which will consist of 4-6 students. The purpose and role of the roundtable groups are narrow: they serve as a vehicle for discussion of assigned course readings to support our shared inquiry into the teaching of writing. Roundtable groups also provide a forum for discussion of the summary/response paper.

    Roundtable groups will convene during five class meetings over the course of the semester. (See the course schedule for specific dates.) For each roundtable session, one student in the group will lead discussion of one of the assigned readings based on that student's summary/response paper. The procedures and guidelines for this process are explained in detail in The Guidelines for Summary/Response Paper and Roundtable Discussion. Please review those guidelines carefully.