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Thursday, November 22, 2012

Entry 12: Reflecting on Student Learning Objects from the Syllabus

Throughout the semester, a requirement of LTED 618 was to keep a weekly blog journal where we reflected upon the learned material as well as any new understandings and misunderstandings of the class. Through keeping this blog entry, it helped us adhere to the Student Learning Objectives found on page 1 of the class syllabus. The blog entries had us transact with the text to further develop our understandings of the material as well as a course. We were able to question and answer our understandings. The weekly questions we responded to helped guide our understandings of the material. In the following paragraphs, I will go through and respond to each of the Student Learning Objectives.

 “Students will gain knowledge and competency with regards to the variety of genres that readers and writers use to communicate.” Objective one was followed through in our weekly entries because we often reflected upon the genres in our weekly writing. Many of entries talk about wither my new understandings of the genres or how I am using them in my classroom. Having to write about them also allowed me to assess what I knew about the genres and what I still needed to know.

“Students will gain knowledge and competency with regards to the role of purpose and audience in writing and reading and the rhetorical voices used to address the desired purpose(s) and audience(s).” Objective two was followed in our weekly writings because we always had to remember who are audience is. While this is a weekly blog entry, it was an informal entry where we wrote to ourselves. Our voice and purpose were set to write to a specific audience, and that of our professor. The end of the semester project, our multi genre projects, also taught us voice, purpose, and audience. In those pieces we have to vary our audience, purpose and our voice. Each piece requires us to use different purposes and audiences. When writing I have to stay focused on the idea that I may not be writing as myself and the audience is not the same as it was for the last piece.

“Students will gain knowledge and competency with regards to the historical and contemporary theoretical models of reading and writing, including new literacy theories of reading and writing.” The third objective was evident throughout the course. In the beginning of the blog entries, we focused on the models of reading and writing. We had to understand what writing was before we started learning about the various genres. One important idea I took from the blog entries is when I reassessed my views on revising and editing. I realized that they are two separate stages and processes.

“Students will gain knowledge and competency with regards to the relationship between the writing and reading processes.” This relationship was known before I started writing the weekly blog entries. This concept has been stressed since I took LTED 600 where we learn that oral and written languages are both forms of literacy. Through this course however, I learned more of the relation between writing and reading process. Students will become more engaged as readers if they are better writers. Even through my blog entries I became a better writer and reader. The more I wrote, the more I read. Writing required me to transact with the text for further understandings.

“Students will gain knowledge and competency with regards to the role of metacognition in writing proficiency and reading comprehension.” I am not exactly sure how writing in the blog entries helped me become more aware of metacognition of writing proficiency and reading comprehension. What the blog entries did though was allow me to become more aware of teaching students different types of writing and when to use these types of writings. Graphic organizers are essential for writing and it is important to teach students how and hewn to use them.

“Students will gain knowledge and competency with regards to the types of reading and writing assignments that are developmentally appropriate for learners, including digital reading and writing assignments.” The class in general taught me about the types of reading and writing assessments that are appropriate for leanings. While reading Hicks (2009) I learned of the digital reading and writing assignments I could assign for my students. Due to Hicks (2009) I created writing assessments that were similar to what he had written about. In my second entry I reflected on digital writing and explored my understandings of it as well as what Hicks wrote about it. I like the idea of digital writing, especially using blog entries as a form of expression. While I did not like always having to write the blog entries, especially lengthy ones, it allowed me to reassess what I knew and what I wanted to know. Perhaps in the future if I teach in a school that assigns homework and my student population has access to computers outside of school, I would consider have weekly blog entries for homework.

“Students will gain knowledge and competency with regards to the role of writing assessment and evaluation in determining student writing proficiency and reading comprehension.” I don’t really remember writing too much about writing assessment to determine student writing proficiency and reading comprehension. I do remember writing about assessment in the beginning of the blog entries. Looking back on my blog entries, entry 6 focused on assessing writing, when we went over Rubistar in class. Through this blog entry I wrote about different forms of assessment and when we should use them. I do not recall focusing too much on connecting assessment to writing proficiency and reading comprehension. What my assessment entry was about was when and how to assess students. To me informal assessment is more important as it allows the students to get valuable feedback without the stress of having their rough drafts graded. Assessments are meant to be meaningful so we should tell students in advance when we are collecting a piece of writing to be assessed.

Entry 11: Reflecting on the Different Genres

From these genre projects, I have learned a great deal about the different writing genres that I can apply into my classroom. Whether I had an understanding of a topic or not, these presentations helped further my understanding.

One of the genres that I really enjoyed was the poetry genre. I remember discussing the fact that I am required to teach poetry to my students at some point this year, with another teacher friend. He told me he just taught to basics of poetry and didn’t dwell too much into it. This friend also teaches in a 6:1:1 program so he is limited on the depth he teaches it. After reading Tompkins (2012), I think he can still teach poetry other than the basics. Since I have fully realize the altitude of which I need to teach poetry, how and when I am going to teach it has been a constant worry. But now after the genre presentation, I am less worried about how to teach it. Poetry doesn’t have to be what I learned back in high school- Wadsworth, Shakespeare, Keats, etc. Between Tompkins’ (chapter) and the presentation, I know I can teach any kind of poem. Slam poetry might be a great form of poetry to use with my students. One of the best poem books I am going to use as a resource is “A Rose Grew from the Concrete” by Tupak. This will allow me to teach important literary techniques using a writer that my students will enjoy. From the chapter, my favorite type of poem was the “I am…” poems (Tompkins, 2012, p. 158). These poems can be incorporated throughout any unit as the students can write about either a central character/person or an idea. Caitlin and I thoroughly enjoyed writing ours on leaves. How the poetry group had us draw topics was a fun and creative way to fill out the poem. Another poem format I plan on incorporating into my classroom is the “I used to…But Now…” poems (Tompkins, 2012, p. 159). I can see my students using this as a way to organize their perceptions before a topic and after they learned about a topic. My 7th grader and I just finished reading Sherman Alexie’s Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian. Before reading the novel, I activated his background knowledge by assessing what he already knew about Native Americans. After accessing it, I started to build more background knowledge by reading articles and histories on the Spokane Indians. This poem would have been a great way to tie poetry in to the unit.
Another genre of writing that taught me a new insight was expository writing. These types of texts are growing more and more important in the Common Core. One of my bigger struggles is trying to figure out how to incorporate these types of texts in the classroom while making it engaging and fun for the students. After reading chapter 9 from Tompkins (2012), I realized I can incorporate these texts before reading a fiction text of the same topic in order to build background knowledge. When teaching my 7th grader Sherman Alexie’s Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian, I used “a wide variety of compositions, including magazine articles” and websites to build my student’s background knowledge (Tompkins, 2012, p 202). Looking back upon that now, I wish I had found a expository book that was brief, and taught my student more background knowledge. While the article and website was helpful, a book would have been better. Since the book was about Spokane Indians, I used it as a comparison to compare my student’s prior conceptions of Native Americans to what the text stated. Although I had not read the chapter at that point, my comparison chart was very similar to that on p 205 (Tompkins, 2012). In the future I am going to take away from this chapter is the information from the “Preparing for Writing Tests” section on p 224 as well as the “Assessing Expository Writing section on pp 224-226 (Tompkins, 2012). This writing test section would be great tool to copy and put on a poster board in my room, when I have my older students write an informative piece. By knowing the common mistakes writers make, such as including few details, I know what to make sure I reinforce and check for. The other section helps me create a checklist for my students on what they need to include in their writing. Checklists are great because “students understand what’s expected of them and assume responsibility for completing each step of the assignment” (Tompkins, 2012, p 224).

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Entry 10: “Bless, Address, or Press”

Looking through some of the blogs this week, what Kayla wrote in her 9th entry, which focused on expository writing, caught my eye. Kayla wrote:

The students had no motivation whatsoever because the topic wasn't interesting to them, so they were extremely bored, and they were given a prompt and told to write. I really like using graphic organizers and I definitely think that they have their time and place and I think that students should have had the chance to use a graphic organizer, or even learn how to use one so that come testing day they could use their scrap paper to make their own.

In this exert, Kayla was writing about her struggles to get students engaged in expository writing. I agree with Kayla on the importance of graphic organizers. Many students do not use graphic organizers because they not only do not understand the importance of them, but how to use them.  Reflecting back to my years in school, I vaguely remember using graphic organizers. If I used graphic organizers, I used them because the teacher handed me a worksheet and expected me to use it for that moment. In undergraduate school I was taught various graphic organizers, but even though I failed to understand the importance of them. Not understanding why graphic organizers are essential is not a good concept for a teacher.

Now that I am in the graduate program, I understand why we need to emphasize graphic organizers in the classroom. In Dr. Hopkin’s LTED 625 class, we are reading a text that has what appears to be hundreds of them. The text, Teaching Reading in the Content Area by Urquhart & Frazee (2012) not only gives you the strategy, it tells you when and how to use it in the classroom. If I know I want to teach my students a certain strategy, I can refer back to this text. For example, I am trying to have my 7th grader learn good study skills, especially for vocabulary words. He told me he does not study so I know my role is to find various study strategies that I think would work for him, until he finds one that works. Even with Tompkins (2012) I learn various organizers. This text focuses more on the writing process and genres, but still provides me with various organizers. In the letter Personal Writing chapter, Tompkins (2012) supplies the reader with various writing outlines that we can use in our classroom. I am teaching my students how to write persuasive letters so Tompkins’ (2012) “Forms for Friendly and Business Letters” found on p. 118 provides me a generic outline to use for my students. What I enjoy about Tompkins’ (2012) is that she provides me with real life examples of how I can incorporate them into the classroom. Informational texts are great because they provide a vast amount of knowledge but, narrative texts dwells into a more personal level. You see what worked and how/why it worked. In the end of a informational text, all I want to really know is if the strategy actually works and how one gets it to be successful in the classroom.

Another exert I enjoyed from one of my classmate’s blog entry was Jaimie M’s blog entry 7: “Expository Genre.” The exert I pulled from her entry is:

One of the most important aspects of teaching this genre is to start exposing students to expository text at a young age. By exposing them to an expository text it causes them to think about topics in a different manner. Young children are always asking questions, because of that, exposing them to expository texts will only allow children learn about more topics that they were once unfamiliar with.

After reading this, I could not agree anymore. As a teacher, I am constantly reflecting on the thought of “What if my students have been exposed to this sooner?” By familiarizing children with a variety of texts, especially expository, students will have an easier time not only understanding how to read the texts, but also enjoying them. In the program we read that exposure at a young age to vocabulary and language (written and oral) is a predictor for comprehension. With the common core, we are expected to start exposing our young students to this type of text in order for them to become more familiar with it and have an easier time comprehending the material.

People may argue that expository texts are uninteresting more young children as they might be too ‘dry’ or too ‘boring.’ But to combat these common arguments, Tompkins (2012) provides a list of expository children’s books on p. 203. I do agree that they are not always interesting, but that’s why we have to find ones that are. What we need to do is simply survey our students and find out what topics they find interesting. I would much rather read a fiction text over a expository text. But once I do find an expository text that peeks my interest, I will divulge straight into it and any other books like it. This summed up my 10th grade year of high school. I became obsessed with reading texts about the Kings and Queens of England to the point where I knew more about Lady Jane Grey, the ‘nine day queen,’ than my global teacher did. I even got to do a brief summary to the class about her. As a teacher, it would be great to have a student so interested in an expository text that they knew more than me.

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Week 9: Reflections on incorporating genre writing in the classroom

One of the most useful parts of this course has been Tompkins’ (2012) book, Teaching Writing: Balancing Process and Product. As I spend much of time lesson planning trying to make writing not only purposeful but also engaging, Tompkins (2012) has really helped along during this process. After about 7 weeks, I have (hopefully) found a type of writing that my students will fully engage in. I have started teaching persuasive writing to my 9th graders. Well have started to introduce the writing at least. I wanted to start off with transitions first, in order to help them with their writing at a later time. My one student is really intrigued by this writing and the writings we will be creating to go with them. This great because what teacher does not want a student excited about a project. The only problem is, he has started to work on the writing already but I have not only yet to assign the writing assignment, I have not even started teaching the unit. The past three classes he has come into the room and started working on his writing. But he is first starting off with creating a persuasive PowerPoint. I love his excitement but I do not love how he started to ignore what he class was doing and not actively participate in class time. Especially when he put in his ear buds in when I was trying to go over notes. He has officially placed his priorities within that assignment. My decision to get around this was to hide the laptop in my friend’s room across the hall until we actually need it. I also think he is excited about this assignment because he has picked his topic on why marijuana should be legalized for medicinal purposes. He was so excited about this topic that he actually left class to go get permission from the principal; I thought he was going to the bathroom. I am just hoping that he pays enough attention to how to write a persuasive piece when I start going over it this week instead of focusing too much on creating the writing.

Last week I thought I had to go to advisement with Dr. Erdmann for the program. Turns out I did not actually have to go but it turns out that it was worth the drive as we talked briefly about the program and my job. We talked about the usefulness of using children’s books in the classroom at a secondary level. Until this program I would have never thought to use it. After the persuasive writings presentation, I plan on using the book I brought in, Click, Clack, Moo, as an example of persuasive writing to show my 9th graders. When I mentioned this to Dr. Erdmann, she gave me other books to use alongside Click, Clack, Moo. I might actually read the book to the kids and show them how it is a persuasive piece. Then give them other books and have them practice it on their own. This will highlight the features of a persuasive piece.

So far we only have had two groups present their genre to the class. Between reading the chapter about persuasive writing and watching the presentation about it in class, I have learned a great deal about teaching the genre to my students. I am looking forward to watching all the other genre presentations and learning the groups input on how to teach them in the classroom. Just from the research I have done so far on descriptive writing, I have learned many useful ways to incorporate it in the classroom. Now that I know what it is I have been noticing more and more that my students’ writing lack descriptive words. Descriptive writing may be its own chapter in the book, but it serves just as much importance in being incorporated in other genres of writing.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Entry 8: Bless, Address, or Press

After listening to Shawna, Marsha, and Danielle’s presentation Wednesday night about the persuasive writing genre, I felt the importance of teaching this genre to my students. My 9th graders enjoy debating and I figured this would be a great way to lead into persuasive writing. After listening to their presentation and reading Shawna’s blog entry, perhaps it will not be as easy as I think. Shawn wrote in her blog: “They agree that persuasion is used everyday regardless of age or where one lives. Even young children use verbal persuasion to prove to their parents they should be able to stay up later” (blog entry 7). This statement tied into my earlier thinking that this will be an effective writing genre to teach as my students love to argue and persuade. But after the presentation and reading the blog, I started to agree with how Shawna felt about teaching adolescents the genre.
“I learned that I was correct when thinking that persuasive writing is a challenging form of communication, and not a natural form of writing or speaking. Students and adults alike must understand the problem, form an opinion based on that understanding, and most importantly understand the opposing argument” (Shawn, blog entry 7).
Why all students love to argue and debate, that does not mean that will automatically be good writers. Students need to still be taught the necessary skills of good writing that leads up to writing a strong persuasion paper. It is easy to argue their side of an argument, but if they do not see the other side’s argument, are they understanding how to actually persuade?

            Today at work I decided to start scaffolding the concept of seeing the opposing side’s viewpoint. While my three students were getting ready for their debate, I started talking to them about how they need to listen and learn about their opponent’s view point. In order to truly ‘win an argument,’ you need to have evidence that supports every part of your opinion. In order to do so, you need to understand the others side so you can have evidence disproving them. For today’s debate, I used the graphic organizer from p. 254 of Tompkin’s (2012) text. I had students fill out their points for the debate using the organizer so when they start using it for persuasive writing, they will already be familiar with the organizer. 

            While I introduce the persuasive genre to the students next week, I am trying to decide what is the best way to approach the genre. My students are hesitant writers so my initial approach will either make or break the unit. I plan on hooking my students with the concept that persuasive writing is similar to debates, except it is a more formal written text. Instead of starting to teach persuasive essays right away, I am going to start off with something smaller, such as writing letters. The letters would pertain to a topic that is important to the students, making it a more fun and personal assignment for them. 

            Through Wednesday’s night class, I realized I could use children’s books to initially hook the students into the unit. Since I borrowed Click, Clack, Moo: Cows That Type by Doreen Cronin from the library, I will read that to the students. While Tompkins (2012) suggest using texts such as these for introducing the topic to kindergarten and first graders, I can easily see how it would be effective in introducing the concept to older students. The book is a simplified version of persuasive writing, allowing students to not be overwhelmed. Through this text I can have my students brainstorm and identify the most important pieces of the story. From there they can start brainstorming their own persuasive topics.