Sunday, January 31, 2010

Shibaura Institute of Technology Writing 1B: Students write about life at Shibaura

Shibaura Institute of Technology Higashi Omiya Campus

Today I'm beginning a series of posts displaying the work of the students in the Writing 1B course at Shibaura Institute of Technology. The paragraphs below are examples of the first writing task, "My Life at Shibaura". Following the students' work I've written a note for teachers about the students and the course.

Daichi H.

My life is simple and commonplace, but some days are massive. My day starts with a loud alarm clock. Almost always, my wake up-time is late for the first class, so always I hurry to SIT. SIT's class content is more professional than high school’s class content. Classes are fun for me, because I have an interest in the computer, the Internet and space technology. Once I go to home, it’s music time. I am absorbed in DTM (Desk Top Music). So, I compose music in my spare time, but I'm still inexperienced. I hope that I can compose music that impresses another person as soon as I possibly can. That’s all my daily life.

Atsumu O.

Since I entered this school, my life has changed dramatically. First, I began to live alone, so there were many first experiences for me. Now I enjoy and make an effort to cook. I cook as often as I can, so I rarely eat out. I really want to become able to cook well. Second, on my days off, I often spend time on my hobby, Japanese archery, and reading books. I don’t belong to any club, but I sometimes go to the gym, and enjoy Japanese archery. After I came here, I bought new equipment to do it near here. Also, I often buy books. I read them. Recently I like Kotaro Isaka. He is a great writer, I think. Last, in school, I have many friends, although I haven’t had many friends before. They are so funny, and we always warm up when we are together. Especially when I am there, we really come to life, they say, so I want to keep this atmosphere as a mood maker.

Hiroki Y.

At first my student life was very boring. Why? Because I had no friends at Shibaura. I felt really sad and I cried. I wanted to make friends soon, but I couldn’t speak to anybody. I was a little shy. May came. It was important for me to come to a turning point. It came during group work. I talked much in group work. I had much fun. Since this time, I've felt really very excited. Now I have many friends at Shibaura. I'm always active in group work. Group work classes are enjoyable and exciting classes. That was a wish come true for me.

Fumihisa T.

I’m registered in the Department of Mechanical Engineering. My studies are hard. I have a struggle keeping up with my studies. Especially drafting is so hard because it has delicate works, but drafting is fun because through the class, we can communicate with our classmates a lot. My club activities are also fun. I have such good friends. My student life at Shibaura is so great.

Hiroaki K.

I belong to the handball club and the fishing circle. I like fishing. I go fishing sometimes skipping lectures. When I am not in class I go fishing. I am a student of Applied Chemistry. However, I am not so interested in chemistry. I entered this school because there is a fishing circle. I came to this school to fish.

Kaori S.

I entered Shibaura, and half a year has passed. I belong to the Department of Engineering, Applied Chemistry section, because of I love chemistry. That’s why, I decided that I would go to Shibaura, but I had a big problem. I worried about whether I would have many friends. I thought Shibaura has many boy students and some girls. It was unusual for me. I was at a girls' school for 6 years. Of course, my friends were only girls. I had had no chance to talk to boys since I was 12 years old. Since I entered Shibaura, my friends are not only girls, but also boys. My problem was solved. I feel happy and enjoy my student life every day.

Hiroshi O.

I enjoy student life at Shibaura. I live in Chigasaki City in Kanagawa. I take two hours to come to Shibaura University, so I get up early every morning. I always feel sleepy. I go to Shibaura University by train. I always sleep in the train. I have many friends. I chat with them when I arrive at the school. We talk about baseball games. I like the Giants. I enjoy talking on the day after the Giants win.

Hiroki T.

My student life at Shibaura is hard, because I want to get on to the Japan Accreditation Board for Engineering Education (JABEE) course. It is offered in some departments at Shibaura Institute of Technology. To complete the JABEE course, we need to take more classes than those who want to graduate normally. If we complete the course, we are treated the same as a person who passes the primary Professional Engineer (P.Eng) examination. This means that we get a P.Eng qualification easier. If we get the qualification, we may get more wages. I will try my best to complete the JABEE course.

Yuya S.

I live near this school, so I come to school by bike. I take a teacher-training course, so, I’m in school longer than my friends. At lunchtime, I eat my lunch, which I make every morning, because I like cooking. I enjoy lunchtime in front of the clubroom’s building with my friends. I have studied karate since I was a child, so, I belong to the karate club and enjoy it at Shibaura after school. On Wednesday, Friday and Saturday, I work part-time after the club activity. This work is to teach math to junior high school students. On other days, I often go out with my friends. I enjoy student life very much.

A Note for Teachers

First, I need to tell you that the paragraphs above were edited by me. I edited them for two reasons. First, the students wouldn't permit me to post them with mistakes. Second, I hope that the students will compare the edited versions with their original drafts, notice the differences, and use what they learn from this to become better writers. Nevertheless, you'll notice that in some cases the writing doesn't appear natural to a native English speaker. I thought that the students' voices would be lost if I edited too much. Sometimes the editing choices I made were difficult. For example, I explicitly taught the students that it was wrong to start a sentence with "because". I did this because Japanese learners of English often start a sentence with "because" incorrectly. Sentences like this are common: "I eat chocolate every day. Because it is delicious." However, I thought it would be wrong to rewrite the first three sentences of Hiroki Y's paragraph. To do so would remove his voice, so I left it as it was written. Now I'll tell you about the Writing 1B course.

Writing 1B is an elective course at Shibaura Institute of Technology (SIT) open to first and second year students. The course is 15 weeks long. The syllabus and lesson plans were written by Dave Rear, a professor at SIT. SIT is in the process of obtaining accreditation from JABEE. JABEE was mentioned in Hiroki T's paragraph above. The acceditation process is the reason why the syllabus and lesson plans were written by Dave. JABEE requires the university to ensure that courses are consistent regardless of the instructor. However, Dave allowed me to make some adjustments to the syllabus. The textbook for the course is Ready to Write. The syllabus calls for students to complete 10 writing tasks (9 one-paragraph tasks and 1 two-paragraph task), and a four-paragraph essay. The course begins by introducing students to the form of a paragraph. The first task is assessed according to how well the students' paragraphs conform to the paragraph form, so for example, they receive credit for indenting. From there the tasks become increasingly complex, and the assessment criteria are adjusted accordingly. The writing tasks in this course introduce students to a variety of genres including: narrative, descriptive, expository, and persuasive writing. Grammar is taught in context. In other words I teach the students the grammar required to complete the task. A typical lesson begins with an introduction to the type of paragraph the students will be writing and the target language the students will need to use in order to complete the task at hand. The textbook describes this target language as "signal words". Following the introduction, the students work through exercises in the textbook. Finally, if time permits, they started their writing task. The students finish their writing tasks at home and e-mail them to me. Before the next lesson I print the students' tasks, error code them and write comments. At the beginning of the next class the students look over their first drafts and start their second drafts. I circulate around the classroom and give individual assistance to students as needed. After that we start the next task. The syllabus only calls for the students to write one draft. In essence it's based on a product approach. The students are given models from which they can base their own paragraphs. This was the second time I'd taught this course, so I was able to show the students paragraphs written by their peers in the previous class. For the most part, this approach works with these students, and most of the tasks require the students to write about their own experiences. Therefore, they can't merely copy the model. Nevertheless, I think that process is important, and I think the students benefit from learning how to review and edit their writing, so I require them to write 2 drafts of every task. Also, based on my experience with the class I taught last year, I wanted to spend more time on the final essay. The students wrote the essay one step at a time. First they wrote the introduction. Next they reviewed and edited the introduction, and wrote the two body paragraphs, then they reviewed and edited the introduction and the body and wrote the conclusion. Finally they reviewed the whole essay and wrote a final draft. All in all they wrote 4 drafts.
If you would like a copy of the bilingual English-Japanese error code handout I use, and or the assessment forms for each task, please post a comment below giving me your contact details.
In the I'll post more examples of this class' work. I think you'll enjoy them.


  1. This is the first writing task? Great work! I've never been to Shibaura and really enjoyed creating a picture based on your writing.

    I look forward to reading more from you!

  2. Michael,
    Great post. We just finished the second semester at our school, where I also had a writing class.

    We organize our class similarly, and I would really like to publish their work somewhere as you have done, but I think there are some ethical issues that need to be considered. I'm not saying you shouldn't publish these. I'm asking for advice.

    I would like to publish their work. They can compare their work, and we can do activities where they cooperate to improve each other's writing. It would also be a resourse that you and your students could use, for example. But when I asked them about publishing their work online, they refused. We took the low tech option, publishing on paper and only to other class members.

    How did your students feel about having their work published on your blog?

  3. Great writings and insight to life! Thank you for sharing your days with the "blogosphere"!
    Shonah :-)

  4. I love what your students have said! It's a true testiment to your teaching. I have myself published corrected materials because the students do read the published material and I want them to feel encouraged to continue posting. I believe if they are embarrassed by the mistakes then this might make them shy to post again.

  5. i being a art student always think this is thebest place for me, but my dad had forced me to get into science and be a software engg. i am glad i dint agree

  6. I tried to post on this subject two days ago, but evidently did not complete the process properly, so I will give it another try.

    I really liked reading about how you approach your writing class. I am using the simpler "Get Ready to Write" textbook in that series, and also take advantage of the computer lab to have students generate their own material on a variety of topics covered in the text. I am interested in how you handle the error correction process, as I am surely spending too much time showing them what is wrong. I have them create their work in Word and attach the document to an email message. I use my Google mail account to handle student work, and they send me all drafts until the final printed document is placed in their portfolio. I'm also interested in how you assess their work. At the university where I conduct this class they are marine biology first year students, who come twice a week for one semester.

    Hokkaido Ken