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Here are a few things you may want to check out if you are interested in some of the successful practices at our school.

Our Basic Skills Library Component

Our Skills for Success Program

Our Math Center Component

Our Writing Center Component



Recent Posts:

BSI Institute

Study Circles

Study Circles

Promising Practices in Adult ESL Literacy by the Writing Study Circle

Using journals to teach writing and build self confidence

Social Identity and the Adult ESL Classroom by Pat Davidson

Leveling The Playing Field by John Tashima

A Fieldtrip for Every Class! by Malena Copeland

The Sensitivity Jazz Chant by Thomas Gault

Culture: Ways of Understanding Our Students and Ourselves by Thomas Gault

The Adult ESL Writer : The Process and the Context – Rita Serretti

An Effective Way to Teach, Compliments of Brain Research – Malena Copeland

Developing Writing Skills for the New Language by Jayshree Lederman

Watch Videos of Grace Tanaka, Karen Dennis, Stewart Case, Sue Mendizza, Jennifer Feeney, Rob Jenkins and Nilo Lipiz being interviewed about basic skills in the ESL classroom



BSI Summer Institute



Several representatives from Santa Ana College School of Continuing Education went to the Basic Skills Summer Institute August 10-13. This institute was offered by the California State Academic Senate. Just under 300 instructors, 4 of 5 adjunct, participated in general sessions and several very productive breakout sessions. Our team consisting of Rob Jenkins, Malena Copeland, Carlos Perez, Dorothy Hoyt, and John Tashima are all very excited about what we learned and the implications to our program.

I-Best Washington State

Isreal David Mendoza and a team representing schools and instructors from Washington discussed the Career Technical Education plan of the state. I was very impressed with the statistical data about the improvement in the programs that are incorporating this model. The state saw the very low literacy needs and poor performance of graduates in their programs and the fact that many vocational positions in the state were not being filled because of the lack of qualified applicants. They designed i-Best programs in different pilot schools

Perhaps in an oversimplification, the program is “team teaching”. The state pays i-Best courses at 1.75 times the regular FTE rate to help pay for the additional instructor in the room. It is designed with the assumption that you don’t need to wait to put students on a career path. You have one teacher in the class that is a content teacher for a career path like say accounting. Then your other teacher in the room is an ESL teacher. This isn’t tutoring or supplemental instruction and the second instructor shares the lime light. They team teach. Statistically, they showed how CASAS scores and all benchmarks were remarkably improved in all basic skills with these classes when compared to others. I spoke to John Lindem who is the BSI coordinator for continiung education in San Diego. They have sent many people to see the Washington program and they have done something similar in their program. This team teaching can take many different forms. I will invite others to describe the different types of team teaching styles.

I see great potentential for courses like this in our school. We have been struggling to figure out how we might include Vocational Ed, Office Prep, Parenting Ed, Older Adult, etc. in basic skills. This would be a great way to include more instructors and students and add additional support to our students. Another thought would be to offer college courses at CEC when we get our new facilities and create a team teaching circumstance with our instructors. Or we could supply the second instructor for courses at SAC. We have a lot of additional information on this program and we need to investigate its merits.

Learning Communities

Barbara Illowsky and Anniqua Rana walked us through learning communities. To synthesize several ideas from several workshops, I see three different ways to support instruction:

Team Teaching (See discussion)
Learning Communities
Supplemental Instruction

All of these have benefits. The learning communities are two or more classes that have the same students in all of them forming a community of learners. The different courses can be very related or slightly related. The obvious connection would be any content course combined with an ESL or Basic Skills course. For us, I think that forming communities taking BSI reading, writing, and math would be an easy thing to arrange. However, we could form communities with Business Skills, Vocational classes, Older Adult, and/or Parenting Ed with BSI courses. The BSI courses would carry some of the content of the content course and share some of the curriculum. This is harder than the team teaching idea in some ways because the instructors have to coordinate more to make sure they know what each of them are doing. Julia, I spoke to Shelley from LA Valley for doing this with noncredit. Since you know so much about htis already, you might ant to talk to her personally.

Non-Credit Consortiuum

After running into John Lindem of San Diego Community College Continuing Education, Shelly Baseri of LA Valley College, and Candace Lynch-Thompson of North Orange County Non Credit, we all agreed that there should be some kind of communication with non-credit on our unique issues and BSI. I spoke with Mark Lieu who will be sending me all the non-credit programs who are participating and we will attempt to put together a non-credit BSI consortiuum. I am excited by the response of those non-credit people I talked to at the conference.

SLO and Rubrics

Bob Pacheco really clarified a lot about SLO’s for me. I am happy to report that I finally understand what I never quite understood before. I feel very comfortable (finally) in discussing it although I still have a few questions that he has promised to help me with. What was very important from his workshop and our 45 minute discussion afterward is the purpose of SLO’s. The WASC concern before 2002 was that grades were becoming meaningless because people were graduating and still not achieving the basic skills necessary to function in many jobs they supposedly qualified for. Grades are often inflated or don’t really reflect proficiency. Some teachers have gotten into the habit of giving extra points for a variety of things like attending a school football game or doing some task that isn’t directly related to the objectives of the course. Hence the establishment of SLO’s.

SLO’s or Student Learning Outcomes are NOT evaluations and SHOULD NOT be used to help give a grade to a student or identify the skill or ability of the teacher. It is NOT an assessment. SLO’s are to help us become better teachers. We have a rubric. We help students know what the rubric is. We establish a baseline or benchmark based on a 15 minute task at the beginning of the course. We do “intervention” (instruction) and near the middle of the course, we do another sample and check the task with the rubric. Then we do a final one. We don’t do this with all of our SLO’s every semester. We do it with one or maybe two as a sample. We take what we learn from it and change instruction. The students also participate in completing a rubric for themselves and then meet with the instructor to compare notes. This is how the instructor learns. The objective is not to have all perfect points on the rubric. There is no pressure from management to “cook” the books or to “teach to the test”. This is not used to generate a grade. It seems that it should be removed from the “assessment” realm and placed in the “professional development” and the “program improvement” realm because its purpose is to initiate change, not issue grades.

I also learned there are three layers to SLO’s. 1) Course SLO’s. There are only 2-4 per course. These are not objectives. They are overreaching outcomes. I am thinking they relate more to the CASAS Performance Indicators type language. 2) Program SLO’s. These are SLO’s that relate to all courses in the program and 3) Institution SLO’s. These are SLO’s that go across the curriculum no mattrer the discipline. These are more like SCANS or EFF standards like working on a team or using technology. I still have trouble understanding the clear difference between an SLO and course objectives. Bob is sending me various examples and activities to help me better understand this. I will share what he sends to me.

Faculty Development

An idea came to me while participating in the coordinator meeting on Monday. I think it would be a great idea in fall to concentrate on a BSI Mentor Certification which would be a series of workshops (maybe like On Course) that instructors complete over September, October, and November. When they complete all the trainings (as many as 6) they qualify to be trainers in the spring for all faculty. Some schools have this type of certificate but it isn’t to qualify mentors. They pay anywhere form $1000-$1500 or give step salary credit, or give flex credit. I love this idea. We could train 20 in spring who in turn would be available to train all disciplines and also do special modules or series of modules for instructors.

Question of the Week:

What resources do you use in your classroom other than your textbooks? What are some of the best materials that you have used to supplement your curriculum? Talk about specific activities you have done with your class.

(click here to respond and read comments from other instructors)


Why Blog?

…………………………………………………

The purpose of this blog is to facilitate the implementation of a program that prepares students to matriculate successfully to ABE, GED, HSS and credit courses by emphasizing basic skills (reading, writing and math). This will be realized through the discussion and explanation of research and study of best practices. For more about the blog click here.



Study Circles

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Find the answers!

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28 Responses to “Home Page”

  1. Mary Polychrome says:

    Regarding the discussion of fittng in curriculum, casas and el civics, it seems to me in the workshops and research I’ve read on the basic skills project that the issue is more about teaching style than curriculum. It’s not that we add more material to learn but that we change how we transmit the material. The 26 best practices recommend a more student initiated, collaborative style of teaching which may be a difficult change for teachers who have a different style of teaching. I guess that is what the blog is for. To begin to self-teach ourselves what it is we need to do to change our teaching style to a more effective and efficient style. We will learn that in a collaborative and communicative way by talking about it on the Blog. I think the change is exciting and interesting. It will mean more work, not to squish in more content but to expand and freshen our teaching styles.

  2. Joyce Basch says:

    The Basic Skills Initiative provides our students many opportunities to expand their learning experience and prepare for higher education. We’re lucky to be able to offer our students so many avenues for learning.

  3. A long time ago, and in my case a very long time ago, I was a reading teacher for a private school. This school had developed a system whereby we would teach the students combinations of vowel sounds and have them repeat those sounds over and over. This would prepare them to say those combinations more easily when they encountered them in words. I think it would be good to develop some lessons around this concept. Greg Whitman – CEC – Interm. 1

  4. Dorothy Hoyt says:

    Phonics is an important element in the teaching of reading. Eighty-five percent of the English words can be decoded by using the phonetic approach. I feel it is a necessary tool to teach our students this word attack skills and the ” interior vowel” sounds.

  5. Karen Martin says:

    I’m interested in brain research and it was interesting at our Basic Skills Workshop to learn things like standing up brings more oxygen to your brain which encourages more learning; and that flourescent lights inhibit learning.

  6. Tim Vo says:

    For both of my Beg 2 and Beg 1 classes, I always try to reserve about 15 minutes at the end of class for spelling and dictation. After the dictation, we look at the sentence structure and grammar to familiarize the students with writing concepts and make them feel more comfortable with writing. As the semester progresses, I give them longer and more complicated sentences. The students enjoy this activity and it’s also a good way to keep some of them in the classroom till the end who would otherwise leave early.

  7. Rita Seretti says:

    Karen Dennis gave a great overview of the Basic Skills project. I can now see the whole picture. Having taught at the community college level, Basic Skills proficiency is lacking across the county in all ethnic groups in both English only language speakers and second language speakers. I am so happy to be involved in this project.
    I see writing is lacking in all classes that I have subbed in and my own class. I like the idea of Read, Discuss, Write for each theme taught. I’m teaching both ESL 2 and 3 right now. I am teaching them to write 5 sentences for ESL 2 and a paragraph for ESL 3 in this way. I title the writing, My Health, My Neighborhood, My Family, etc. I’m surprised how they do like to write about themselves. We also flip to pictures so they can also practice third person as needed in the testing.
    There is much anxiety in writing. I acknowledge their feelings and compare it to oral communication. When they make a mistake when speaking, it is corrected and gone. In writing it is always there in their notebook. I’m trying to show them how to proof and to see writing as a process. I never use a red pen when correcting their work. In fact I don’t use a pen at all. I use a pencil. I then tell them to rewrite with the corrections.

  8. Malena Copeland says:

    Here are a few things that I felt particularly inspired by:
    1. All of the articles on brain research, that talk about how we learn. I will definitely incorporate more physical activity into my lessons, and make my lectures much shorter. I will also incorporate more group activities.
    2. I will find more ways to incorporate math into my lessons. Thomas Gault’s article, They Need Math too! was particularly informative.
    3. I will create more lesson plans that focus on writing. In Citizenship there are many opportunities to incorporate writing into the curriculum. I learned a lot about creating these opportunities at multiple levels, and got some great ideas from Jayshree Lederman and Rita Serretti about this.
    4. I will incorporate goal setting into the core curriculum. I was first motivated by Tim Vo’s interview with Rob Jenkins about this, and then later pushed by Claudia Lamb’s Basic Skills Workshop and some of the writings by Carlos Perez.

    I would love to know about the things that you are have learned, how you have been inspired and what changes you intend to make because of this project.

  9. J. Mendoza says:

    I think the most sucessful activity I have seen, is the one where students are assigned to talk in small groups. The key is to separate them for nationalities, having at least a foreign language as Vietnamese in a group of three or two Spanish speakers; and to place them in some way that friends-classmates do not sit one beside other, so they are forced to practice English and get to know their classmates.

  10. Denise Dowling says:

    J.,
    I agree. I think this also opens the door for students of other cultures to get to know each other, as sometimes students shy away from making the first move to talk to someone of a different culture. In a class I taught last semester at my other campus, half the students were Latino and the other half Vietnamese. I don’t think they noticed it or that it was intentional, but on the first day they seated themselves by culture . . . Vietnamese on the left and Latino on the right. When it was time for partner work, I told them to partner with someone on the opposite side of the room. They were happy to do it, and their curiosity about each other’s country, language etc is a great conversation avenue. And yes, if possible I try to have a mix of cultures in group work. It challenges students for sure, drives them to speak English, breaks down stereo types some students carry, and makes the classroom environment more relaxed.

  11. Malena Copeland says:

    J.,
    I agree with everything you said except for the part about dividing up students who are friends. When students develop friendships, it keeps them coming back to class, and helps them to have a positive emotional association with the class, content and everything linked with their friendship. I strive to help students build strong friendships. I like to think of my class as a room full of friends. Of course, they sometimes start speaking in their native language with their friends, but I just walk up to them and encourage them to return to speaking English. They always do. Then, they forget the next time, so I repeatedly remind them. That’s alright, because they are enjoying themselves and learning a lot in my class, regardless of the fact that they throw in a Spanish word here and there. I was never absent to classes that were filled with my good friends. Were you? Who did you like to sit by?

  12. Malena Copeland says:

    Thach,
    I have really enjoyed reading all of your entries, and though your last entry was provacative, it was a perfectly valid comment and did not hurt anyone, because it was just your opinion. A blog is a place for free expresson. I want everyone to feel free to express themselves. We, as teachers should try to promote as much freedom of thought as possible. So please keep contributing, and know that what you say has value and should certainly be heard, even if people don’t always agree (which I did not). P.S. You can keep the gas card, if you win it. :)

  13. Jayshree Lederman says:

    This is a very good activity, because the students love it. I don’t necessarily call it the best activity, but I find it very rewarding, as it covers a broad spectrum of learning.
    The series ‘Very Easy True Stories’ is good material for overall comprenhsion – Reading, Writing and speaking.
    The objective of the story is to enhance vocabulary, by creating a story from the picture given as a pre-reading exercise. The students work in a group for a few minutes and give their version of what the story is about. Vocabulary words pertinent to the story are written on the board. As this turns out to be individual creation, there is lot of enthusiasm about the story. Next, the acutal story in picture form with short easy sentences written under each picture is read. At this point, since they are aware of most of the vocabulary words, reading is easy. Ease of comprenhension makes it fun reading.
    Question answer session follows the reading. This is one activity. Another could be some grammar components of the story that they have studied that week or recently. Also, there are good activities at the end of the story.
    One form of assessment is, they are required to write their opinions about some aspect of the story. As beginning students, this is for expression of ideas and opinions. Grammar, spellings are not stressed here. The results are very good. One gets the idea about the individual student/group from this writing. By the way, the students are very happy when reading these stories, as they know they are true.

  14. Thach Pham says:

    Talking about math, I don’t think it’s a good idea to have a separate Math course. May be I am wrong, but I guess math lessons should be incorporated into the curriculum.

    The problem is we must have a new text book with math in the lessons. Hopefully, some day some instructors can compile new text books (and work books, too) .

    I am confident that new lessons with real life math will be very interesting, and our students will enjoy it. I used to have some math lessons for my students. For example:
    MONEY MONEY MONEY
    Jose makes $10 per hour. He works full time. This week he works 4 hours overtime. How much does he get this week?

    Then, I change it, and make it harder. Like Jose gets his paycheck every two weeks. This week, he has 6 hours overtime. He pays 10 percent for Federal and State taxes. What is his net pay?
    They can practice reading; then, compare the results with their classmates.
    Thach

  15. Michael Ha says:

    Math is a basic skill for ESL students. As we all know, math can be use in our daily lives. Students can use math skills to get most of their shopping dollars. Students definitely need to use math skills when they go to a bank or a restaurant. Math is useful for a lot more than balancing their checkbooks. It is necessary for ESL students to learn math lessons since they start learning ESL. A purpose of education is to prepare students for employment. There are many different kinds of jobs that require some basic knowledge of math. People use math skills at restaurants, banks, shopping malls, and working places all the times. Students need to have some basic knowledge of math to obtain and maintain their jobs. It is a good idea for ESL students to learn math skills in the ESL classes.

  16. I.V says:

    The President’s Panel Urges More for Math
    Brown, Alan
    Mechanical Engineering; May2008, Vol. 130 Issue 5, p9-10, 2p
    http://libnet1.sac.edu:2142/ehost/detail?vid=4&hid=13&sid=39b67b5d-7f19-464b-be97-91df17816953%40sessionmgr3

    In regards to the math topic, I found this article and I thought this helps. The article, The President’s Panel Urges More for Math reports a study on math subject. After two years of study, the panel found that students at an early age should focus on a fewer topics of math and learn them very well in a great length before they move on to the next ones. They also found that students must learn to do fraction well because it is a foundation to do math.
    Hope you enjoy this article!

  17. Sol Knipp says:

    Hi Thach,

    I think you hit something with your comment of incorporating math in our current textbooks.

    We are doing just that in the Math Study Group. I don’t know if I can mention the name of the book here so I won’t.

    The first part of our assignment is to go through the book and list as many small changes that the future edition could include or that a teacher using the book could incorporate. These ideas could also help the teacher using other textbooks.

    The second part of the assignment is very interesting albeit harder. That is, we are to write math lessons to compliment/supplement the chapters/units in the series. The current lessons already have the vocabulary, stories, grammar, etc. All that we have to do is tweak them to include math. What a great idea! We are also hoping to include more texts (math) written or audio into the added math lessons.

    Can the study circles meet at some point to share and discuss all the wonderful ideas they are working on?

    Sol Knipp

  18. Carlos Perez says:

    There were several wonderful suggestions for enhancement, as teachers, that I gathered from Malena Copeland’s reflections on brain research. First of all, I found Malena’s synopsis to be fascinating and inspiring. I will definitely continue to have students work in small groups, use learning games, and encourage class discussions base on short readings. When I get most excited is when I witness students learning specific content and progressing toward language proficiency, even if it takes an extended period of time to notice the progress. What I find most challenging is that it usually takes a long time to see students’ development of English language proficiency, and many times the teacher might not see such proficiency, especially if the students exit out of the course, indefinitely. Overall, I am both motivated and challenged to continue implementing strategies that may foster basic skills development in our students.

  19. Carlos Perez says:

    I prefer to guide my students to develop their reading, writing, vocabulary, and grammar knowledge within specific subject content. My preference in teaching this way is corroborated by the research of Wingate (2006) who found that “learning how to study effectively…cannot be separated from subject content and the process of learning”. Furthermore, the focus should be on encouraging students to be cognizant of their learning processes, and helping students learn how to learn. In other words, helping them uncover what is their best way of learning as individuals, to find their own learning style(s).

    Reference:
    Wingate, U. (2006). Doing away with ‘study skills’. Teaching in Higher Education, 11, 457-469.

  20. ESL Teacher says:

    Apparently the research has shown that teaching certain skills in the students’ native language is far more effective.

    While it might not be more effective in teaching English, it is more effective in teaching basic skills and other specific curriculum. So, if you are an ESL teacher, your main goal should be to provide an immersion type setting, but when you are teaching skills like reading, writing, math, science or history, then incorporating some of the native language is more effective.

    I think that many of you are putting your emotions into your notions of what is best for our students. This is very easy to do. Nevertheless, the facts show that you are wrong in your assumption that pure English is best for our students in every situation.

    Think about your own language learning experiences. Do you think that if you went to a French school(providing that you don’t speak French) and you were being taught math, you would learn better if they included English here and there? Of course you would. The same can be said for any subject matter in every area for any language. Being taught purely in French would be best for learning French, but nothing else. The purpose of the basic skills initiative is to incorporate basic skills like math, reading and writing because they will improve our students’ lives as well as their ability to learn in any language. Our students will master these subjects faster and better if their native language is incorporated into the lessons.

  21. Denise Dowling says:

    ESL Teacher: That sounds like a balanced view. And I’m on the same blog page as you (ha). When you mention emotions, it is the lack of balance that bothers me. I’m talking about ESL classes presented in Spanish. In a couple of off site schools where the walls are barely walls, I’ve heard just as much Spanish as English spoken in a couple of classes by THE TEACHER! This may be at CEC too, but we have regular walls so who knows. I have heard Int. 1 students complain to me that there has been too much Spanish spoken by their ESL instructor, and they want a high degree of English without translation breaking down the challenge of learning.

    Certainly, if this is happening, it is a helpful gesture from the teacher to insure everyone understands, but I believe it is hurtful to the learning English process when it becomes a regular practice.

    I don’t advocate sink or swim. But I think the use of students’ native language in an ESL class should be minor, even for Beg. 1. However, if it is a Basic Skills class, I agree with ESL teacher.

  22. E Glicker says:

    Denise: I agree with both of you regarding the necessity to stick with English use in our classes; but I don’t advocate the “sink or swim” philosophy either. My training emphasized the communicative approach to ESL instruction; we work at “comprehensible input” as Krashen (2007) would say. In my Intermediate class at Centennial, I have a diversity of languages present. In my Beginning courses, I avoid the use of Spanish for instruction. The previous commenter mentioned use of the native language for basic skills instruction: I would prefer to use a sheltered subject-matter instructional method instead. I believe that like me, many teachers grew up in bilingual households; however, we learned academic English at school just as the students in our ESL programs do. They read with their children and gradually move to higher literacy levels. New academic and vocational opportunities open up for them as a result of their hard work and persistence. Our students’ high motivation to learn English is truly admirable.

    REFERENCE: http://www.sdkrashen.com/articles/Krashen_Brown_ALP.pdf

  23. Denise Dowling says:

    Special thanks to my dear friend Malena Copeland for her tireless efforts in creating and maintaining the Blog, her constant encouragement, sense of humor and friendship. I could not ask for a better partner to work with!

  24. Malena Copeland says:

    Thanks Denise! Right back at you. This was a fantastic project! It was wonderful working with you. All of the work that was contributed by you and your team was top-notch material. The research that you found and your team studied and explored with us was very enlightening. I think it provided an amazing resource to our community. What a fabulous ride this has been! I had fun and learned a lot.

  25. Jayshree Lederman says:

    I am commenting on Thach’s blog on math: whether it should be part of an ESL class or taught separately. From what I have observed over time, students like to learn Math very much. There is a small percentage who couldn’t care less about Math. With an open entry/exit system in place, I think (I could be totally wrong), we might lose a lot of students. They have a mind set about learning English, not necessarily math. They are ready to devote x time to go to English classes. I don’t know how Math, taught separately, would be received. On the other hand, math taught as part of an ESL class would be better received. If we do it in small doses, they can take it. In most of our curriculum competencies, math could be included. An example, bus schedues/fares, travel time, all includes numbers.
    I really would like some comments on this. I feel I am looking into a mirror and just talking to myself. Hello, anyone there?
    As to bringing a positive attitude in our low level students, I think, nothing works better than a real upbeat and positive attitude in the teacher. This does make a difference in the learning process. Instead of just writing some numbers on the board and telling the students to do the math, even in groups, it would be so interesting if the teacher participated in a few examples along with the students. Phrases like, “Now, what would be the next step?” “What function are we going to use?” “How do you think this is going to be useful in your daily lives?” would elicit wonderful responses from the students. More math problems would be done with a lot more willingness. Generally there is a queue to have their answers checked. Maybe teaching math separately could depend on different levels of ESL. Higher levels are more ready to go separate.
    We are bringing in math learning as part of the Basic Skills Initiative program. I have been doing it over the years

  26. Malena Copeland says:

    I agree with you Jayshree, I think that incorporating small math lessons in every ESL class is a good way to ensure that all of our students are learning Basic Skills. In some schools they have separate tracts for students who want to transfer to the credit side, but perhaps a student doesn’t know that this is their destiny. Some may start out thinking small and will attain bigger goals later in their studies. If we all prepare our students with math, reading and writing our students will be ready for whatever academic or even employment based challenges that they may encounter in life.

  27. Heather Grethe says:

    I attended the learner centered workshop last week, and one of the quotes discussed was relevant teaching. How can I make my teaching relevant when I do not design the curriculum? We brain-stormed some ideas, so I am going to try the first idea tonight. I will be teaching a group lesson, so I am going to come prepared with several different power-point presentations. I have noticed that my students struggle with subject verb agreement, clauses, run-on sentences, and misplaced commas. I am going to ask the students which lessons they prefer. Wish me luck!

  28. Heather Grethe says:

    After attending the rubrics workshop, I decided to teach a lesson using our rubric for composition 1. The students always receive a copy of the rubric, but we had some very valuable discussions as we deconstructed the rubrics. We worked as groups and generated examples of of a mastered paragraph, skilled, able, developing, and basic. Students enjoyed working together and have a greater understanding of what is expected in composition 1.

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