Structuring a College English Class

The way that I structure a College Composition Class is the same whether the class meets 50 minutes,  3 times a week or 1 hour and 15 minutes twice a week.  Each class in your semester should be structured more or less the same. It’s important that your students know what to expect during each class. You want your class structure to be predictable.

Post an Agenda

I have taught in different kinds of classrooms. In high tech classrooms I have uploaded PowerPoint presentations for each course. The first or second slide in that presentation would always be an Agenda. I have also taught in schools where I have had to write the Agenda on the blackboard or the dry erase board.  You can also print out your Agenda and hand it out to your students at the beginning of each class. If you’re going to do that I would recommend that you include an Exit Ticket* at the bottom of the sheet.    Your agenda doesn’t have to be detailed, it just needs to let your students know what they can expect during the class. Here’s a sample agenda from one my classes:


1.Attendance & Questions

2.One Poem- “Daddy” by Sylvia Plath

3.Discuss the arguments of both essays, “Academic Motivation” + “Athletics & Academics”

4. Prewriting Strategies

5. Focused 10 minute Freewrite

6. Draft your first essay

*Exit Tickets- If you are going to print out an Agenda, I would include an Exit Ticket at the bottom of the page. Exit Tickets are a way to check a student’s understanding at the end of each class. They also allow students to ask questions privately. You can give your students 5 minutes at the end of each class to complete their Exit Tickets and then turn them in to you.  My Exit Tickets are pretty basic and only contain 2 questions:

  • Write 1 thing that you learned in today’s class.
  • Write 1 thing that you still have questions about.


Some Rules of Thumb

Rule #1: In each and every class your students should do 3 things:

  1. Students should read something
  2. Students should write something
  3. Students should respond to something

Simply put, there should be 3 types of activities incorporated into every college English class. If you look at the above agenda you will see that I had my students read the poem, “Daddy,” by Sylvia Plath (Read Something). I had them complete a focused freewrite (Write Something).  Also I had them discuss two essays that we read previously (Respond to Something).

Rule #2: An hour long class should have 3 shifts.

Think of a shift as a change in topic or beginning a new activity. As you see in my example Agenda there are 5 shifts in this particular class:

  • One Poem- “Daddy” by Sylvia Plath
  • Discuss the arguments of both essays, “Academic Motivation” + “Athletics & Academics”
  • Prewriting Strategies
  • Focused 10 minute Freewrite
  • Draft your first essay

These rules are not set in stone. In your classroom you can do what you want.  These are just some guidelines that will help you to structure each class in your course.  If you would like more guidance planning each class you can purchase my Daily Planning Sheet from my Teachers Pay Teachers Store.

F*#$ Homework!!!

I don’t believe in assigning homework as part of the Freshman English curriculum. I’ve tried homework for years. For years I would assign readings to students and when it came time to discuss that reading at the next class, 80% of my class would not have done the reading. I wound up frustrated and angry. So my advice is to forget about homework. Don’t even bother with it.

In My Next Post

I will discuss why I have my students read a poem at the beginning of each class as well as the importance of guided reading in the college classroom. If you have any questions please leave a comment below and I will do my best to answer it.

Thanks for Reading,

Professor Karen


Plan, Plan, Plan

You need to plan on three levels: the semester/monthly, weekly, daily

Now as a college professor you will present your students with a syllabus at the beginning of the semester. As you know from your own college days the syllabus outlines your policies for the course, including your attendance and grading policy. It will also give your students a schedule of assignments so they know what is due and when. Now as you know the syllabus is not written in stone. You should let your students know in the beginning that you are at liberty to change the syllabus whenever you need to.   I have an editable syllabus that you can purchase at my Teachers Pay Teachers store.

You should also use the the academic calendar, weekly planning sheet, and daily planning sheet that are also available in my store. Your plans do not have to be perfect. Nothing is set in stone, but it will alleviate so much anxiety to at least have rough plans about what you will teach in each class.

Until next time, breathe deep and know that you will survive college teaching,

Thanks for Reading,

Professor Karen


The Journey Begins

Thanks for joining me!

Good company in a journey makes the way seem shorter. — Izaak Walton


Maybe you’re a graduate student and you were awarded a Teaching Assistantship as part of your your Financial Aid Package. Or maybe you want to try your hand at teaching and you landed a gig as an Adjunct Instructor. Whatever lead you to teaching college, you’re currently panicking because you’ve never taught college before.


You will survive teaching college. You may even enjoy yourself. You just need to plan, plan, plan.

This blog will feature daily posts until the end of August 2018. I taught college level English at a few different colleges since 2002. I have a lot of experience teaching college and I will be sharing what I’ve learned.

Also check out my store on Teachers Pay Teachers:

Professor Karen on Teachers Pay Teachers

Thanks and I’ll see you tomorrow,


Professor Karen