And Now? We Close.

photo of street sign that says end school zone

Some other great instructor will be taking over ENGL3043 at Prairie View A&M, since I have left the university for another position.

For all my eMedia alum, I hope you remember something useful for your professional goals!


Canva Convert

When I first started using Canva a few years ago, I was, well, rather meh about the whole experience. I wanted to make YouTube channel art for my professional writing course, and I muddled through with a series of free icons in complementary colors.

This semester, however, I’m making new graphics every week! I change out the header for my online freshman writing class with important reminders:

Exercise deadline reminder

Midterm Exam reminder

Week 10 topic announcement with activity reminder

Week 11 topic

I also have turned to Canva to create graphics for Kahoot! review quizzes for my capstone English majors and minors. Students need to recognize specific passages from major works of American and British literature, and it’s easy to paste in the text I need with some labeled-for-reuse images:

quote from Waiting for Godot

Who wrote it? Samuel Beckett, Waiting for Godot

first four lines of The Negro Speaks of Rivers

Who wrote it? Langston Hughes, “The Negro Speaks of Rivers”


What’s the best way to put together an upper-level, undergraduate course on Shakespeare?

shakespeare digital app

CC licensed image from Samsung Newsroom,

Here’s what I have linked so far for nine different plays:

Discussions will emphasize synthesizing all of these different materials. We also would spend a week on several sonnets, with other poems introduced in tandem with plays (I like doing Sonnet 57 with Caliban in The Tempest, for example).

What am I missing?

MOOCs for Writing Remediation

I am intrigued by research into non-credit developmental English MOOCs as a means of reducing the need for remediation.

The article linked above raises a very important point at the very beginning: “a large percentage of students who require remedial education become mired in courses that are taught using the same deficit-based pedagogy that contributed to their failure to master the curriculum in high school” (Whitmer, Schiorring, James, and Miley 1). If that’s the case, then why not try something very different, like the five-module MOOC called Crafting an Effective Writer: Tools for the Trade.

The study found that while only 8% of the enrolled students earned a passing grade for this non-credit course, 23% actively engaged with the materials and therefore may have gotten something valuable out of the experience. Engagement could be with instructional videos, discussion forums, quizzes, assignments, and surveys — a spectrum of ways for learners to pick up information about improving writing skills.

Probably the most interesting finding, to me, is this:

The act of taking the entry survey or participating in the online learning readiness quiz were both significantly related to participation (p < .001).

Note that it doesn’t say passing the quiz. Students who weren’t ready for online learning still participated in the MOOC at relatively high rates.

How can I use these data in my own, drastically smaller class? I give an optional “getting to know you” survey that I ask students to complete during the first week of a new term; I need to reach out more aggressively than I already do, perhaps, to those learners who haven’t done the short Google form questionnaire by the middle of week 2.

Attempting eDifferentiation

I have blogged quite a bit about the online course, Professional Writing for eMedia, that inspired this site. It’s in its nth iteration this term and still focused on career-based uses for various sites, tools, and apps.

colorful cloud of social media logos

For the first time, students get to choose what they want to learn, to a great extent.

  • Three projects, worth around 1/3 of the course grade, are required.
  • Everything else is optional: students decide how they want to spend their time and earn their points.
    • They can do part of a project or all of it.
    • Some projects are relatively easy, while others are more involved (and consequently worth more points).
  • There are enough options that students can skip entire projects that aren’t appealing.

Students also can tackle projects with the comforting knowledge that if the end results aren’t perfect, there’s always something else to try. I am hopeful that this will minimize some of the grade-based anxiety.

Differentiated assessment is a go…


Giveaways for My Future Teachers!

I really did try to do this via Instagram, but my phone was having none of it. I’m clearing out my collection of workbooks, and rather than get $0.07 at the used bookstore or try to make a buck on Craigslist, I’m giving away everything pictured below for FREE.

First 3043 student to claim an item, via the comments, gets it. Please request no more than 2 items to start — if things are left over, I’ll let the class know.

You need to come to my office, Hilliard 213, during my office hours between Nov. 16 and Dec. 4 to pick up your goodies.

Multicultural stories, perfect for diversity TEKS

Multicultural stories, perfect for diversity TEKS


Elementary grades reading workbooks


Grades 1-2 “All About Me” options to photocopy


More multicultural tales to read to your class!


Sturdy dry-erase cards for number practice. 3 pens included.


Sturdy dry-erase cards for letters practice. 3 pens included.


Complete kindergarten curriculum


4 books, actually, with answers to common how? when? why? where? questions


Colorful writing strategies (maps, clustering) in a hard-back book


Story Cubes: throw a certain number of dice, then invent a story using all the items pictured.

K8 Writing

Writing lesson ideas for K-8

Designing an online humanities course

A relatively new course at my university is Introduction to Humanities, and it’s proving pretty popular, perhaps because it has no prerequisites and fulfills a core curriculum / general education requirement. Because the Dean of the College asked that all core classes be approved for online delivery, I have been working on building a complete, 15-week syllabus centered on fairy tales, one of my research specialties. We will look at different versions of several tales, from a variety of cultures, alongside illustrations, songs, ballets, cartoons, and films.

Illustration of "Sleeping Beauty" by Jennie Harbour

Illustration of “Sleeping Beauty” by Jennie Harbour

So far, I’m taking advantage of the online environment in some of the following ways:

I’m also trying to mix structure with choice. The course starts with five sequential weeks focused on a handful of folklore theories (Propp’s 31 functions and Jung’s archetypes), writing about illustrations, and setting up compare-contrast analyses. Students will get used to reading short selections, watching video clips, and participating in online discussion forums as they work up to their first major graded assignment.

Once I post the first essay grade, students will gain access to three modules that they can do in any order; one must be completed every three weeks, however. Modules introduce additional cultural and ethical analysis, in keeping with student learning outcomes for this particular area of the core curriculum, and students will write a paper or create a presentation for the module’s big assessment. For example, the ethical analysis module explores Hans Christian Andersen’s “The Little Mermaid” and the Brothers Grimm version of “The Brave Little Tailor,” particularly

I am planning to make the final exam available from day one, since students will be writing an original fairy tale with an accompanying explanation of their inspirations, the Propp functions and Jungian archetypes consciously used, etc.

Given that the class has no prerequisites and therefore is likely to have a high proportion of freshmen, I hope that this approach can ease the transition into online learning!