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Rhetoric students promote literacy advancement

By William Vogan ‘16

Hampden-Sydney College

From Oct. 13-27, the students of Dr. Elizabeth Deis’ rhetoric and culture class at Hampden-Sydney College commuted twice a week to Prince Edward County High School to tutor seniors and to help them craft well-worded and well-written argumentative research papers.

The Hampden-Sydney men worked in small groups with the PECHS students in Mrs. Mary Cook’s English 12 class to ensure that all of the students involved received the attention and help that they needed.

Throughout the weeks, the Prince Edward students created working theses, composed outlines for the overall paper and for individual paragraphs, researched for credible sources and compiled a working draft.

During this process, Deis’ class helped encourage and guide the high school students as they created strong and well-researched essays.

Many of the Prince Edward students were thrilled to interact with college students and took advantage of the opportunity for personal help.

The H-SC students encouraged them to find solid supporting evidence for their ideas and to examine and evaluate their own ideas further.

Despite the challenge, many of the students rose to the occasion and were successful in creating good essays and strong arguments.

Rhetoric minor, Bobby George ‘17, discussed his interaction with the students at Prince Edward High School and said the reward from working with the students came when he could see the spark of their ideas light up their face.

Questioning the students’ ideas led to wonderful “eureka” moments as students explained a new idea.

Deis’ students facilitated peer review activities during the writing process, and students willingly shared their essays with friends while carefully reading the essays that others had written.

It took time and encouragement for the high school students to open up.

At the beginning of the writing workshop, they were timid and had trouble voicing their opinions with confidence; however, they demonstrated tremendous growth in only a few weeks.

Hampden-Sydney students’ interactions with Cook’s English 12 class provided a superb learning opportunity for both the collegiate tutors and the high school students.

The Prince Edward County students gained confidence in their literary skills, while the Hampden-Sydney students were able to utilize the rhetorical skills The Hill is known for.

After the conclusion of the tutoring sessions, Deis’ class presented their observations regarding the students’ literacy and ability to transfer critical thinking into a successful argumentative essay and examined whether these skills differed among the girls and boys.