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Hello, and welcome to my faculty website! I teach Composition and Creative Writing at NOVA’s Annandale campus.

Drop-in office hours have ended for the spring 2016 semester, but if you would like to get in touch with me, you can use the contact information below.

• Call 703-323-3461 (voicemails will be forwarded to me via email)
• E-mail sferrara@nvcc.edu

Please note: From mid-May to mid-August, it may take me up to a week to return your message, but I’ll get back to you as quickly as possible.

last update: April 27, 2016

Inspiration from Reading Like a Writer by Francine Prose

I am listening to this audiobook, and Prose has just brought up Tim O’Brien’s book, The Things They Carried, which I discovered when teaching developmental reading at NOVA’s Loudoun campus several years ago. In the same period of teaching, I also had my English 111 students read John Hersey’s Hiroshima. Several of my students in both classes told me they had already read these books in high school, and I started to question  how I should be choosing book length works for my community college freshman composition students. I have read arguments that it is more pedagogically sound to stick to shorter works; I have also read points in favor of longer readings. As much as I enjoy teaching the long works, I eventually took a break and shifted over to shorter pieces from anthologies. 

Now, though, I am thinking carefully about how to introduce grammar in such a way that is appropriate for college level students. I do not like teaching the basics of grammar because not all students need it, and these lessons take a precious time from activities that promote much higher order thinking. Now, listening to Prose’s book, I think it might actually be the right thing to have college freshman reread texts they may have already been exposed to in high school. This way, their experience will be more ripe for critical thinking, and it will not seem like a waste of time to go in depth on matters of style, diction, sentence construction, etc. if students are already largely familiar with the content of what they are reading, then we can actually study how the writing works.

Acquiring Empathy through Essays

“I know, I know. I’ve probably lost you. Everyone hates essays” writes William Bradley in Utne Reader piece “Acquiring Empathy Through Essays.”
But just look at the title!  Don’t we all need a little help in the empathy department?  Would it help motivate student writers to create clearer, more precisely details works if they knew it would generate increased understanding of their position on subjects they care about from people they wish really cared?  Yet another reason to revise the curriculum for “real life writing.”

Challenges of Hybrid Learning :: Northern Virginia Community College

Today is my first day back in the classroom.  I’m so excited to meet my Wednesday Composition group!  We are definitely going to talk about this list of challenges, and I hope by confronting possible pitfalls TODAY, we can find coping mechanisms for sidestepping them in the weeks to come.

Challenges of Hybrid Learning :: Northern Virginia Community College.