CUNY Hostos Community College (UNITED STATES)
About this paper:
Appears in: INTED2016 Proceedings
Publication year: 2016
Pages: 4280-4286
ISBN: 978-84-608-5617-7
ISSN: 2340-1079
doi: 10.21125/inted.2016.2065
Conference name: 10th International Technology, Education and Development Conference
Dates: 7-9 March, 2016
Location: Valencia, Spain
Colleges around the U.S. are finding creative ways of promoting success in basic composition for students whose first language is not English and who may also be struggling with developmental challenges. A new course provides scaffolded composition instruction based on non-fiction texts that provide the impetus for studying a wide array of topics. It emphasizes reading and vocabulary skills, focused writing practice, and research practices. Results from the course are very promising and show that students on the cusp of passing required writing exams respond extremely favorably to demanding course material that capitalizes on their reading abilities and exposes them to new material.

The presentation will demonstrate the materials developed using Jared Diamond's book "The World Until Yesterday." The five topics selected - approaches to wealth and happiness, childrearing, health and diet, care for the elderly, and language use - proved exciting and approachable, even though students struggled with the academic tone and reading level. They were able to use their own knowledge and compare the information they learned to write summary and response assignments and opinion papers. They learned quickly how to apply MLA citation to their work and were then prepared to conduct their own research on related topics of their choice. In addition, they made class presentations on topics covered in the material, such as the growing threat of obesity, the importance of exercise, controversies surrounding bilingual education, and parental approaches to discipline.

As a result of the students' high level of engagement with the material and commitment to the class and their peers, results on external writing exams far exceeded expectations. Plans are now underway to devise similar curricula based on other non-fiction texts. The presenter will demonstrate how providing demanding content and allowing students to actively engage with it can be a catalyst for progress.
Developmental writing, non-fiction reading, English as a Second Language.