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GETTING STARTED:
A CUNY START APPROACH FOR STRUGGLING WRITERS
Sarah Eisenstein, Professional Developer, College Transition Teaching Initiative
Thomas Dieter, Lead Instructor, CUNY Start
City University of New York
ALP Conference
Baltimore, MD, 2014
Sarah Eisenstein
[email protected]
Thomas Dieter
[email protected]
PRE-WORKSHOP ANALYSIS
Welcome! Please read the student essay on your seat and make some
notes while considering the following questions:
 What do you observe about this student’s writing?
 What strengths and weaknesses do you notice?
Some context: This is an intake essay written by a CUNY Start student
in response to an article about a couple who won the lottery but gave
away their winnings.
CUNY Assessment Test of Writing (CATW) Directions:
Read the passage above and write an essay responding to the ideas it presents. In your essay, be sure to
summarize the passage in your own words, stating the author’s most important ideas. Develop your essay by
identifying one idea in the passage that you feel is especially significant, and explain its significance. Support
your claims with evidence or examples drawn from what you have read, learned in school, and/or personally
experienced.
Remember to review your essay and make any changes or corrections that will help your reader follow your
thinking. You will have 90 minutes to complete your essay.
Sarah Eisenstein
[email protected]
Thomas Dieter
[email protected]
WORKSHOP AGENDA
 CTTI & CUNY Start: A Brief
Introduction
 Characteristics of Developmental
Writers
 Approaches to Scaffolding Writing
 Cognitive Apprenticeship: Modeling,
Scaffolding, Fading and Coaching
 Closing: Personal Reflection
Sarah Eisenstein
[email protected]
Thomas Dieter
[email protected]
CUNY COLLEGE TRANSITION
TEACHING INITIATIVE (CTTI)
 CTTI provides research-based
professional development and
curriculum development for
college transition.
 CTTI has worked with a range of
programs and faculty, most
notably helping to create and
develop CUNY Start.
Sarah Eisenstein
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Thomas Dieter
[email protected]
A television still from a recent NY1 story.
Sarah Eisenstein
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Robert Stolarik for The New York Times
Thomas Dieter
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CUNY START
A BRIEF HISTORY
 CUNY Start began in 2007 as an
intervention for GED recipients at
two community colleges in the CUNY
system.
 Today, the program has expanded to
eight CUNY campuses and now
serves both GED recipients and HS
graduates.
 Total students served to date: 3,400
Sarah Eisenstein
[email protected]
Thomas Dieter
[email protected]
CUNY START
RESULTS
Outcomes: Fall 2009 – Fall 2013
 Most students in the full-time
program enter with remedial
needs in all three skills areas.
 After one semester, 49% of
students become fully proficient.
 Those who don’t become fully
proficient make significant
gains.
Sarah Eisenstein
[email protected]
Thomas Dieter
[email protected]
CUNY START
PROGRAM STRUCTURE & TRAINING
 15-18 week program with two opportunities
to retake CUNY Assessment Tests
 $75 student fee; no financial-aid drawdown
 Intensive study:
- Full-time Program: 25 hours/week, or
- Part-time Program: 12 hours/week
 Rigorous instruction by highly trained
teachers and advisors using a model of
cognitive apprenticeship.
Sarah Eisenstein
[email protected]
Thomas Dieter
[email protected]
CHARACTERISTICS OF
DEVELOPMENTAL WRITERS
 Developmental writers need support in many ways, including:
Sarah Eisenstein
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Thomas Dieter
[email protected]
CHARACTERISTICS OF
DEVELOPMENTAL WRITERS
 Developmental writers need support in many ways, including:
 Development
 Organization
 Analysis
 Clarity
 Control
Sarah Eisenstein
[email protected]
Thomas Dieter
[email protected]
APPROACHES TO SCAFFOLDING WRITING
Using the writing process to
support students to develop
their own voices:
 Brainstorming
 Free-writing
 Drafting and revising
Sarah Eisenstein
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Thomas Dieter
[email protected]
APPROACHES TO SCAFFOLDING WRITING
Essay plan
Before you write your essay, plan the points you want to make, and find evidence to
back up your ideas. Try using T.E.E.L. to help you structure each paragraph.
Topic Sentence – this is a statement about what point your paragraph will make.
Example – this is evidence to back up your point.
Explanation – this is where you demonstrate that you understand your example, and
explain how it supports your point.
Link – this is where you sum-up your point, and then introduce your next idea.
Essay question
Sarah Eisenstein
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Paragraph 1
Paragraph 2
Paragraph 3
Topic sentence
Topic sentence
Topic sentence
Example
Example
Example
Source:
Source:
Source:
Explanation
Explanation
Explanation
Link
Link
Link
Thomas Dieter
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WITHOUT MENTAL MODELS OF ESSAYS,
STUDENTS MAY:
 Get overwhelmed and not know
how to get started
 Not understand the rationale for
teachers’ feedback; revisions can
be rote and not carry over to the
next essay
 Misuse scaffolds
Sarah Eisenstein
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Thomas Dieter
[email protected]
COGNITIVE APPRENTICESHIP
 Modeling
 Scaffolding
 Fading
 Coaching
Sarah Eisenstein
[email protected]
Thomas Dieter
[email protected]
COGNITIVE APPRENTICESHIP
 MODELING
 Scaffolding
 Fading
 Coaching
Sarah Eisenstein
[email protected]
Thomas Dieter
[email protected]
MODEL ESSAY ANALYSIS
& STUDENT SAMPLE
 Please read the model essay in response to the “What Are
Friends For?” CATW prompt, then fill out the model essay
analysis sheet.
 As you read, make notes on the following:
 What benefits do you see to starting with this kind of
model essay analysis activity?
 How do you anticipate students will struggle with this
activity?
Sarah Eisenstein
[email protected]
Thomas Dieter
[email protected]
STARTING WITH FULLY-WRITTEN MODELS
 In a traditional shoe-making apprenticeship, apprentices could see the
master make the whole shoe. Seeing how it looked as a complete whole
was necessary for beginning to start work on even one piece of the shoe.
 Similarly, students need a mental model of a fully developed, coherent
essay because having the big picture enables them to work meaningfully
on any particular part. Model essays should be fully written and coherent
to give a complete picture. (Collins, Brown & Holum, 1991).
Sarah Eisenstein
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Thomas Dieter
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STRUCTURED ANALYSIS OF ACCESSIBLE
MODELS
 For models to work, students need to be able to see how they’re
constructed.
 Students should interact with models in structured ways, so that
they can easily identify and reproduce salient features.
(Macbeth, 2010; Ponsot & Deen, 1982)
Sarah Eisenstein
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Thomas Dieter
[email protected]
REFLECTIONS ON THE USE OF MODELS
 Model Essay Analysis gives teachers and
students a grounded starting place.
 Over time, weaker students become
more comfortable using the model-essay
structure, and teachers can begin
coaching them to strengthen sub-skills.
 Some students’ essays may become
formulaic after a while; students need
support and coaching to infuse their own
voices into their writing.
Sarah Eisenstein
[email protected]
Thomas Dieter
[email protected]
CLOSING
PERSONAL REFLECTION
 How is the model analysis from this workshop similar to and/or
different from the scaffolds and models teachers use in your program?
 How do you imagine you might be able to adapt or use model analysis
in your program?
Sarah Eisenstein
[email protected]
Thomas Dieter
[email protected]
THANK YOU!
Sarah Eisenstein
[email protected]
Thomas Dieter
[email protected]
WORKS CITED
Collins, Allan, John Seely Brown & Ann Holum. “Cognitive Apprenticeship:
Making Thinking Visible.” American Educator Winter (1991): 1-18. Web.
Grubb, W. Norton & Robert Gabriner. Basic Skills Education in Community
Colleges: Inside and Outside of Classrooms. New York: Routledge, 2013.
Print.
Macbeth, Karen. “Deliberate False Provisions: The Use and Usefulness of
Models in Learning Academic Writing.” Journal of Second Language
Writing 19(2010): 33-48. Web.
Ponsot, Marie & Rosemary Deen. Beat Not the Poor Desk: Writing: What to
Teach, How to Teach It and Why. Portsmouth: Boynton/Cook Publishers
1982. Print.
Sarah Eisenstein
[email protected]
Thomas Dieter
[email protected]
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