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Transylvania University New International Student Orientation

Summer Preparation Program 2015

Module #5:

Say What? Ways to Participate in Class

Whoa! This Is Different: Asking for Help, Adjusting Expectations


Complete the module and on your blog post your answers to the pre-reading and
post-reading questions by 5:00pm EDT on Wednesday, July 29.

Instructions: Complete this module by following the directions in each step below.

Step One: Pre-Reading Questions

Answer the pre-reading questions below on your blog. Make sure to respond in complete
sentences and whole paragraphs:

In what ways are you used to learning in academic environments? For example, do you
have more experience with lectures, group/collaborative work, open discussions with
classmates and teachers, or other approaches to learning?

Which of these approaches to learning do you prefer? Why?

What strategies have you used to participate actively in classes you have completed in
your home countryor in the United States, if you have attended school here?
Step Two: Vocabulary

From the handouts and online readings, choose a list of ten terms and phrases with which you
are unfamiliar. Use the Oxford Learners Dictionary to define five of the terms. Copy and paste
the sentence in which you found each term or phrase. Explain the meaning and use of the term
in each sentence, drawing on the definition you discover in the online dictionary. Make sure to
explain what the terms or phrases mean in those specific contexts in the readings and explain
why you think the author chose to use those specific terms or phrases rather than other
synonyms or related terms or phrases. Here is a good question to consider, too: Do you agree
or disagree with the authors use of the term? If you agree, explain why you agree. If you
disagree, explain which term or phrase you would choose instead.
Step Three: Cultural Considerations

Write a few paragraphs about any cultural similarities and differences you notice between the
ways in which you are expected to participate in courses in your home country and the ways in
which you are expected to participate in courses in the United States and Transy. As you write
about these differences and similarities, offer clear examples to illustrate your points. Also,
explain which of the cultural approaches you prefer and why your prefer them. Then, point out a
few of the approaches in the United States that intrigue youthat sound interesting or exciting
to you. Explain what about these approaches make you feel this way.
If you have attended school in the United States, point out some of the challenges and
successes you have experienced as a learner here. How have U.S. classrooms and schools
met your expectations as a multilingual and international learner? How have they fallen short of
your expectations? What advice can you give new international studentsyour classmatesfor
adjusting to the new learning environmentwhile at the same time maintaining your authentic,
individual voice and identity.
Step Four: Tips for Participating in Class Discussions
Study the tips in the checklist below.
Participating in Lectures and Discussions
Before the lecture or discussion

Take care of yourself: getting daily exercise, sleeping for long enough each night, and
eating a balanced, healthy diet will allow you to concentrate.

Read, annotate, and discuss with a classmate or a group of classmates all assigned
texts before you attend class: being prepared will help you know the topics and concepts
for the lecture or discussion. Make sure that your annotations include questions that you
can ask the class and your instructor during discussions.

Look back at notes and reading from earlier class discussions and lectures: returning to
these notes and reading will help you understand how each class adds to or shifts the
direction of the course.

If you have been distracted by your cell phone or computer in previous class meetings,
dont bring them or turn them off: writing your notes by hand is an effective way to learn
as you listen.

Consider recording: if you feel lost during lectures and discussions, you might benefit
from recording class discussions and lectures. Always ask your instructor before
recording, however. If you record a discussion or lecture without permission, the
consequences can be serious.

During the lecture or discussion

Do not miss the first day of class: it is your chance to learn how your instructor speaks,
and to identify the patterns and expectations that you must follow for the entire course.

Reduce distractions and sit at the front of the classroom: if you distract yourself with your
cell phone or computer in the back of the classroom, you wont learn much in the course.

Study your instructor: during discussions and lectures, listen for key words or phrases
that are repeated, references to the assigned reading, or changes in tone or the speed
of the instructors voice. If your instructor slows down, says something like This is
important, repeats something, or writes something on the board, always record these
things in your notes. They are important!

After the lecture or discussion

Look back at discussion and lecture notes, recordings, or online material: dont just write
down the notes and never assume that recording a class session excuses you from
taking notes. Write notesalways.

Thoroughly review your notes and materials after class: write down anything you need to
elaborate on. Compare notes with a classmate and with any recordings you have made.
You can find information that you might have left out, and at the same time, learn to take
more effective notes. Always ask the instructor for any hard copy or online lecture notes
he or she has prepared. Make sure to ask politely. Again, be careful if you ask your
instructor if you can record the lectures and discussions. Some instructors are willing to
allow recording, others are not.

Remember to take advantage of academic support services: you can work with the ESL
specialist, James Wright (jwright@transy.edu); Greg Strouse (gstrouse@transy.edu), the
Learning Skills Program coordinator; and your ACE/FYSE Academic Peer Mentors to
develop and improve your approaches to lectures and class discussions.

Taking Notes
Before the discussion or lecture

Read any material (lecture notes, online material, Moodle posts, etc.) that your instructor
might have posted before class: this material will help you learn as much as possible
about the upcoming discussion or lecture.

Visit your instructor during office hours: your instructor wants to see and talk with you, so
visit him or her to discuss the upcoming lectures and discussions. Its always a good
idea to visit your instructor early in the week and then discuss the weeks plan for the

Annotate every assigned reading: the more effectively and thoroughly you annotate, the
more you prepare yourself for discussions and lectures. Make sure to circle and
underline key words and phrases, commenting on their importance to your
understanding of the text. Mark and make notes about any cultural references and
otherwise unfamiliar terms. Also as part of your annotations, include questions that you
can ask in class, and when you study for exams or quizzes, compare your annotations
with your in-class notes. Note: While technology does allow you to annotate
electronically, you might find that the formats limit your ability to develop your own style

of annotating. Please use the technology if you like, but continue to develop your own,
personalized interaction with paper-based texts.

Consolidate your notes: in other words, keep one notebook for each course. Some
research shows that taking notes by hand on paper is a very effective way to learn in
part because you can write freely, use the entire page, and develop your own style of
note-taking, including doodling, drawing directional arrows, marking out words, and
making corrections quickly. While technology does allow you to write and keep notes
electronically, keep in mind that some instructors will not allow you to use laptops or
other devices in class. So, develop your skills with handwritten notes now. Be efficient.
Keep handwritten notes in a single notebook for each course.

Date your notes: make sure to write the day, time, course number, and any other
relevant information at the top of each page of your notes. If you do so, you can keep
your notes organized chronologically and can match them to the course calendar in the
syllabus when you study for exams and quizzes.

Learn the format of the tests and exams: visit your instructor during office hours and
askvery politelyif you can discuss the format of the exams in the class. You might
also ask students who were in class in previous terms about the exam format. Learning
the exam will help you understand how to study, what to learnand importantly, what
information to keep in your notes.

During the discussion or lecture

Develop your own symbol system: place an asterisk (*) or some other symbol (^,#, ~, )
next to information that you both hear in the lecture or discussion and read in the
assigned texts. Any information that is repeated is very important!

Use abbreviations as often as you can: your notes are not graded for clarity, grammar,
spelling, or mechanics, so have a blast! Dont try to write out every word you hear; use
short versions of the words that you can understand, and spell words as you hear them.
Never worry about spelling everything correctly. You can find the correct spellings later,
and if you need help, ask the instructor to clarify terms that you could not understand
during the lecture or discussion.

Skip what you miss: in other words, if you get lost, dont panic. Just leave empty space
in your notes and that will indicate the information you need to get from a classmates
notes or from your instructor during office hours.

After the discussion or lecture

Review the reading and your notes within 24 hours after the class: you can then add
information that you left out, clarify or rewrite the notes that are unclear, and identify
difficult information that you need to ask you professor or classmates about. Remember,
reviewing your notes within 24 hours after taking them, according to research, improves
your recall significantly!

Make extra notes about information you think will appear on the exam: for example, you
can make lists of important vocabulary and definitions in your notebook, write brief
explanations of how the discussion or lecture relates to what youve already learned in
the class (using concept maps or comparison charts to illustrate), and develop flash
cards for important terms and concepts.

Make reviewing your notes a weekly habit: again, research shows that consistent review
of notes soon after a discussion or lecture allows you to remember the information much
more readily.

Speaking Up During Class Discussions

Be honest about your concerns: its easy for many of us who are not international
students to just advise you to Speak up! Your voice matters! But in reality, speaking up
can be a difficult cultural and personal challenge. If you feel uncomfortable with speaking
up in class, dont panic or worry. Its ok. It might take you some time to learn how you
can and why you should speak up in class discussions. Go to your course instructor
during office hours and be honest about how you feel. Ask if you can work out
alternatives to supplement your class participation. Some instructors might be willing to
allow you to post your thoughts in writing before and/or after class discussions and
lectures. As always, please visit your ESL instructor, James Wright, to talk about your

Come to class prepared: in other words, come to class having read the required texts,
studied all the required material, and thought deeply about the content. Open your
notebook and always have a few questions from your annotations ready to read directly
to the instructor or class. This will show the class and the instructor that you are
engaged and thinking carefully about the material. Dont worry about the grammar,
spelling, or mechanics of your questions. Note: Talking with your FSYE/FYS Academic
Peer Mentors is a great way to prepare for class. When you meet with them, discuss
reading assignments in any course, develop sensible questions that you can ask during
class discussions, and identify passages in assigned texts that you can turn to for
support when making comments during class discussions.

Show enthusiasm: the most damaging thing you can do is to slouch down in your chair
or put your head on your desk during a discussion or lecture. This shows that you dont
care about whats happening, even if you dont mean to show such disregard. Sit up in
your chair, take notes, and follow your instructors directions and requests. Show that
you are listening and that you care about the discussion. On the Module #5 page of
our program blog, read the one-page tips handout for active listening created by
the City College of San Francisco.

*Adapted from Listening and Note-Taking in Lectures Simon Fraser University Library. 7 June, 2012.
Web. 16 July, 2014.

Step Five: Post-Reading Questions

Write three of your own questions about the content of Module #5. Send these questions to your
classmates via email and to me. Then, answer one of your classmates questions as your
official response to this section of Module #5.