One of the best time-savers when it comes to English composition I and II lesson prep is to make your PowerPoints (PPs), assignment sheets, and supplemental handouts/PDF documents as interchangeable as possible. And because the development of effective and useful PP presentations can be a huge time-suck, it’s best to make assignments and related PPs/materials that can be plunked down into a comp. I or a comp. II course.
For example, our Writing Process Assignments Package intro PP, assignments, grading rubrics, and reflection assignment just like our Peer Review Package handouts, grading rubrics, and reflection assignment can be used in any English comp. I or II course; you can make a few updates to any of the forms if you have specific expectations you want included, but each is otherwise ready to be implemented in your semester. Note we also have a combined General Writing Process and Peer Review Combo-Package.
Consider that most newbie adjuncts, however, are so busy building a course for the first time (or rebuilding it after a semester that was too lack-luster) and reacting to student need/department expectation, that it’s too difficult to build flexible materials. Not to mention, newbies are less likely to know what the go-to materials and content of an English comp. I or II course are in order to make those items inter-changeable.
If that resonates with you as a newbie English adjunct or a veteran adjunct whose only had the opportunity to develop materials as a reaction rather than an executable plan and no matter what the learning objectives/outcomes your institution’s department includes on its course master outline/syllabus, there are always a few things you’ll need to include in every course that can become the instructional backbone of your content:
- The Writing Process: freewriting, outline, drafting, proofreading.
- Essay and body paragraph structure.
- Language/expression expectation.
- MLA Stye formatting, citation and documentation.
Unfortunately, building interchangeable PPs is much easier in concept than in practice, just prepare yourself right now. But it’s an important goal to set for yourself because it will pay you back semester after semester once you get it right. Once you’re aware of the concept and have a few classes under your belt, you’ll get a feel of the way a the way a semester progresses and how each class can take on its own needs and strengths–over time it gets easier to anticipate is a universal need and what will change based on course and class need.
This post will first discuss the challenges most adjuncts face when it comes to building reusable lesson content, the way in which many of us develop those skills through adjunct to full-time work, and then some of the strategies you can use when you’re developing your next PP presentations.
Some English departments have a literature focus in their English comp. I course, some have the literature focus in comp. II., and some don’t require literary analysis at all. No matter if you’re focus is literary analysis or not, it doesn’t have to inform your Writing Process lessons, your essay structure expectation lessons, nor your language/expression expectation.
It’ll make a difference with how you introduce MLA Style citation and documentation, but there are ways to quickly update PowerPoints rather than build an entire presentation around the concept of literary analysis or not.
But that doesn’t even bring up the idea of Universal Design for Learning Principles (UDL), perhaps the most important concept to consider when working in the community college setting. The unique challenges impacting a community college classroom all stem from its student body; some students are:
- right out of high school and capable of high-level college work: probably going to transfer to a 4-year college with ease.
- testing into developmental/remedial work: 30% chance of not making it to a 2-year degree much less transfering to a 4-year .
- returning to college for a career change while leading successful professional careers: organized with leadership skills but often with college-level essay expectations and/or struggle to following directions.
- starting college at 40, 50 or 60 because they were downsized: usually very scared of writing, writing a billion drafts but don’t in a final essay; are either scared to ask questions or ask so many questions they confuse themselves and impede progress.
- taking classes just for fun: any possible mix of 1-4 above; usually drive class discussions (for good or bad) and can often be great leaders in the classroom.
Teaching that range of student interest, ability, and academic goal takes a lot of flexibility. As a newbie adjunct, I learned about UDL during a faculty in-service (my institution invited part-timers to the full-time in-service days–I was lucky) and it immediately changed the way I planned my lesson materials. I learned much more after earning a Master Online Teacher certificate through the Illinois Online Network via the University of Illinois. A number of the classes afforded me the opportunity to research more about UDL at the community college level and a chance to get instructor feedback on course materials.
But creating flexible yet specific (yes, that’s a thing) course materials took experience and the privilege of working full-time before I realized how time-effective it was to build reusable (easy to tweak and update) PPs.
Perhaps it seems obvious (okay, I know it sounds obvious to build reusable and easy to update presentations), but it is a complex task–I think my experience teaching at 4 different institutions in 3 different states forced me to figure this out.
And most adjuncts can agree that we don’t often get the chance to teach at one institution and focus on building one course at a time: usually we start at one place (1-2 courses at a time), begin simultaneously working at a second place, and if we don’t have to move for a spouse/partner or additional education, we may get a full-time job a third place.
First off, you will always have a student in your course that struggles with learning for any number of reasons. Statistically, one and every three students who enters community college today will have a learning barrier (not always diagnosed and not always one that qualifies for reasonable accommodations). That said, it’s important to assume you’ll face a student (at some point, but usually sooner than you think) who is dyslexic, dealing with social or test anxiety, visual or hearing impaired, has ADD/ADHD, or a combination of that or other barriers. Plus, most community college students are also working 20-40 hours a week, care-taking for parents or children, dealing with transportation difficulty, and/or living paycheck-to-paycheck. One of my current students has to take morning classes because his father gives him a ride (he can’t afford his own car) and is usually drunk by the afternoon. Yes, yes that is real…
And second, how many of us have been assigned a comp. I class in November, spent a good few weeks prepping for that class during the holiday break and were then given a comp. II class instead–and just few days before the semester began. *You get a new class, you get a new class, you get a new class.*
To combat this for the good of the students and your sanity, we put together this list of resources and tips. It refers specifically to PPs but can be utilized for any other type of supplemental or assignment materials.
PowerPoint Best Practices
- Use shared language in your PPs, process assignments, essay assignment sheets, and rubrics.
- Prep these items together or have each in front of you while making the next. If you are going to grade for “strong content development” on your assignment sheet, use that phrase when you introduce your structure expectations and where you point out argument/body paragraph development expectations on your assignment sheet.
- For example, our MLA Citation and Documentation Packages (available here, here, and here) include PPs that introduce MLA Style direct quotes and paraphrase citation and use shared language with the essay assignment sheets, process assignments (freewrite, outline, drafting, etc.), and grading rubrics in our Writing Process and Peer Review Combo-Package so any of the materials can be plopped into a course. But each is also customizable so you can update the expectations as you or your department expectation needs.
- Always plan ample time to teach and reinforce the Writing Process.
- If you’re teaching 4 or 5 formal essays, no matter the essay length or mode/form/expectation, you will save yourself a ton of lesson planning if you assign a graded freewrite, thesis development, outline, rough draft, peer review sessions, peer review reflection response, and writing process reflection response (where students reflect on their entire performance during the week(s) leading up to an essay’s final draft).
- This will also make for faster weekly calendar building since your framework can be in place quickly and you plan additional content around that.
- Our Weekly Calendar Template includes the writing process assignments as part of the backbone of your initial planning; plus, check out our Syllabus and Course Calendar Development post for most info on that.
- Incorporate these common UDL principles so you’re not scrambling to make changes to all your PPs when you get an accomodations notification from your institutions disability/learning services office:
- utilize color to focus student attention.
- incorporate bulleted or numbered lists to minimize copy/words.
- put the main idea on the slides and add to it during your lecture/presentation.
- use a readable-font such as Times New Roman or Arial rather than something script or loopy.
- use medium to large sized.
- punctuation lists and have them read like sentences (parallel language).
- Make your embedded links or tables accessible:
- Students utilizing a reading program for a learning disability or visual impairment will need those links or table to be accessible to that program. Every time you embed a link you can either 1) copy/paste the entire link so that student could then type it out in it entirely in a web browser 2) add a “screen tip” to the “edit hyperlink” screen when you initially embed the link. We have a post coming soon that will discuss this in more depth.
- All of our products are accessible in this way and if you’d like to see a sample, you can sign up for one free download of any individual course material in our store.
- Post PPs to your Blackboard/Canvas LMS shell at the start of the class period:
- This is part of UDL principles because it allows students to view that materials on their own time as many times as needed while in a quiet and comfortable environment. Yes, there are faculty who frown upon this, thinking it allows or encourages students to skip class, but having a clear attendance policy in your syllabus as a best practice will nip that in the bud.
- You can also “pre-set” when materials in your Blackboard/Canvas course shell become available, so this doesn’t have to be part of your before class prep.
To help you get a feel for how our course materials can help you get more done in less time, we offer a free download of any individual course material of your choice. Sign up here to take advantage of this opportunity.
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