Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Entry #12

  • Review page 1 of the syllabus. In what ways did keeping a blog this semester help you to meet the Student Learning Outcomes of this course? Is there anything else you learned that is not represented in the Student Learning Outcomes for this course?
Looking at the Learning Outcomes on the syllabus and thinking back over the semester makes me realize how much this blog has truly helped me to achieve the goals and objectives set out for us at the beginning of the course. It provided me with a space to think and to organize my thoughts, to pose questions that I had, or to discuss ideas from class readings, discussions, or presentations that were of particular interest to me. This blog helped take my reading to the next level and I feel as if I got a much deeper and richer understanding of both the texts that we used in class, Hicks (2009) and Tompkins (2012), because I was able to really explore the ideas and information from the texts and merge these together with my own background knowledge and experiences in the classroom. While reading strategies such as underlining and note-taking are certainly effective, I think in order to truly understand information one needs to be able to synthesize ideas and make text-to-self connections.This blog presented me with these opportunities and I became much more self-aware about how the texts we read relate to my own life and to my own experiences. I believe this reflects the 5th Student Learning Outcome -- "the role of metacognition in writing proficiency and reading comprehension."   

These skills that I have developed also specifically relate to the 4th Student Learning Outcome: "the relationship between the writing and reading process." Through this blog I have discovered that writing down specific ideas from a reading and expanding on them in detail really does work to build comprehension. After reading, I went through and would pick out a few quotes from the text that either intrigued or confused me, as well as ideas that I felt were central to the main idea or argument the author was trying to make. This helped me to think critically about our readings and construct an understanding that was much deeper and more profound because I could look at small and specific quotes/ideas from the text, expand on them, and then go on to view it as a whole, cohesive text to get the "big picture."

Another one of the Learning Outcomes that this blog helped me achieved was #2: "the role of purpose and audience in writing and reading and the rhetorical voices used to address the desired purpose(s) and audience(s)." Each of these blog entries generally followed the same format and were written in my voice as a sort of journal or notebook. However, while writing I had to be cognizant of who my audience was (Dr. Jones, as well as my classmates) and adjust the way that I was writing in order to make it appropriate for my specific audience. For example, I wouldn't write these blog entries in the same voice as I would for a personal "just for fun" blog, so I had to constantly be aware of word choice, terminology, colloquialisms, etc. Also, making sure that I had a clear purpose for each blog entry and that I was adhering to the main points/ideas of each particular entry, without diverging off on wild tangents. This was especially challenging when the blog entries were open-ended, but these forced me to take a more proactive step in my own education because I had to not only think about what I had read, but I had to think about which particular part might have interested me the most and which parts I really wanted to discuss or think about further.

I feel as if this blog helped me successfully meet all of the Learning Outcomes outlined in the syllabus, but these are just a few specific examples of way that it did. I'm a bit surprised that the Learning Outcomes didn't include anything about communicating with peers or evaluating their work/ideas because I feel as if we did a good deal of that with our "Bless, Address, or Press" entries.

Overall, this blog has taught me a great deal and I have learned that blogging can be an easy and creative way to motivate students, incorporate digital technologies as well as new literacies, while engaging with the reading and writing process. 

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Entry #11

As you reflect on all of the genres we have explored this semester, what have you learned about thus far about the specific features of texts (i.e., the specific features of the genres)? Which genres did you think you knew well at the start of this class, but you now have developed a deeper, more principled understanding of? Which genres did you not know much about, but now you do? Which, if any, still intimidate you as a reader and a writer and why?

Over the course of this semester, I have learned so much about the different forms of genres and how each type can be valuable in the classroom. I can't believe the semester is coming to an end! We've already discussed the persuasive genre, the expository, poetry, narrative, biographical, letter-writing, and descriptive genre. I have come to realize that all of these genres share many similar features, even though the purpose and format for each may vary widely. For example, every genre can successfully engage students in the writing process if implemented correctly, and every genre can be used in a fun and creative way. Also, I have learned that the characteristics of each specific genre should be explicitly taught to students, and that graphic organizers are incredibly helpful for students who may struggle with writing to overcome their fears and be successful.

At the start of this class, I thought that I had a solid understanding of the poetry genre. I wasn't really a fan of poetry because I was intimidated by it and found it utterly boring, but I still felt like I had a fairly decent knowledge of the genre. After reading Tompkins (2012) and researching this genre for my group's Expert Share presentation, I have realized that there are so many more different types and forms of poetry than I had imagined. Before this class, I wasn't aware that poetry was broken up into different types (within the genre) and then broken down further into different formats/formulas within those different types. For example, the "I Am" poem is a specific type of formula poem and has its own "rules" and structure that differ from the other types of formula poems. I feel that, now I have a better understanding of the different types of poems as well as all of the different categories within the genre of poetry.

One genre that I didn't really know too much about was the expository genre. I wasn't quite sure what the term 'expository' encompassed -- I always thought it was just newspaper articles and textbook writing. However, after the expository genre presentation, I now understand that the expository genre encompasses so much more and can be used for science books, real-life stories, learning about fun topics, and magazine articles. I absolutely loved the graphic organizer that the group gave out and had us use with the tradebooks that we brought in. Also, the cause/effect graphic organizer would be really useful in the classroom when dealing with expository texts.

One genre that I still don't feel very knowledgeable about is the descriptive genre. It still confuses me somewhat because I feel as if descriptive writing is seen in every single genre, and should be included in every piece of writing (one characteristic of good writing is that it's highly descriptive). That's why I'm still not quite sure how or why it would be considered one specific genre, because I think this quality is seen throughout every genre.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Entry #10: "Bless, Address, or Press"

When searching through my classmates' blogs for this week's entry, I came across a lot of very insightful writing. Jamie S.'s blog entry #9 particularly interested me, and I thought she discussed some great ways to use the expository genre in the classroom. She talked about how her current classroom combined the science and writing units together. The students had to research the topic of weather (focusing specifically on one topic that interested them that had to do with weather) and collect data to put into a graphic organizer. Jamie said: "I found that students who struggled with writing really enjoyed this expository writing because it was really scaffolded to their needs. So often students whine that they have nothing to write about or that they have writer's block. This unit on weather allowed students to do their own exploration through reading, formulate ideas, record, and then transfer the facts they'd learned into writing."  I thought the use of the graphic organizer was an excellent way to focus their attention and help to scaffold instruction. I encounter this issue nearly every day with my students -- they insist that they have nothing to write about and nothing to say. If you provide them with a graphic organizer to fill up with data that they collect, then they already have ideas written down  before they even begin writing. All they have to do is transfer those facts into writing. It's a very structured way for them to learn about a particular topic, as well as to engage in the expository genre. 

Jamie also brought up some interesting ways to expose students to different genres. She discussed the differences between the expository and biographical genres -- the two are very similar, but they still have some varying characteristics which may confuse students. The fact is, students are not exposed to a wide variety of genres and explicitly taught what each one is. Jamie says: "One way to teach this is to use multiple sources that allow students to compare and contrast different versions of expository texts with one another, and the same with the biography genre. If students are able to explore the differences between one genre, they will be able to better understand the multi-dimensionality of it and come to grasp the defining characteristics that differentiate it from other genres."  These are great ideas, and I really loved how she used the term "multi-dimensionality" to describe the genre. The best way for students to learn the different characteristics of each is to look at different versions of the same genre and see which characteristics are always present, and which are not. Once students have a good grasp on the characteristics of each individual genre, then they can start comparing/contrasting to how each one relates to others. I truly think that exposing them to a wide variety of genres and texts will benefit students greatly -- even just seeing it and being able to physically look at it would be helpful, and would add to their understanding. 

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Entry #9

In this week's blog entry, I wanted to think about and discuss the two genres that have been presented on in class so far -- the persuasive and expository genres. I believe that these are two valuable genres that can be effectively used in classrooms to expose students to more than just "fiction" and "non-fiction". By introducing a wide variety of genres to students and teaching them the nuances and characteristics of each respective genre, it helps improve their ability to interact with and analyze a text. Ultimately, this will set them up to become better readers and writers.

Giving students an education in persuasive writing is often overlooked; it is rarely explicitly taught in the classroom. Students may be able to write proficiently in the persuasive genre, but I think teachers need to be more proactive about explicitly teaching what should be included in a persuasive writing piece, and its typical characteristics. Persuasive writing can be used across content areas, but can be especially useful in an ELA classroom when discussing the topic of language and how to effectively use both oral and written language to tailor to one specific audience. Tompkins (2012) states that "when students have a clear purpose and a plausible reason for writing, they can adapt their writing to meet the needs of their readers" (pp. 252). This is an important skill for students to learn because persuasive language and writing is used in everyday real-life situations, even outside of the classroom. Tompkins (2012) does a good job of summarizing what students learn with the persuasive genre: "they learn to think critically, differentiate between persuasion and propaganda, analyze arguments, and use oral and written language effectively in their appeals" (pp. 252). These are all valuable and necessary skills for students to have and can be used with almost any text, theme, or idea in the classroom. My students just finished reading 1984 by George Orwell and are currently discussing the idea of government/politics and whether censorship is a good thing or if it is a violation of our privacy. After reading and hearing about the persuasive genre, I think it would be useful for them to stage a debate and critically analyze current event articles dealing with these issues. They would have to persuade other students that their view on the matter is correct and use findings/evidence from articles to support the points that they were making. This is just one example of the many different ways that I could implement the persuasive writing genre into my classroom.

The expository genre is also extremely valuable but often gets a bad reputation among students for being boring. By exposing students to fun and exciting information that's conveyed through the expository genre, it can open their eyes to the many positive aspects of expository writing. Tompkins (2012) describes expository writing as "used to explain something, provide instruction, or present information" (pp. 202). I don't think students realize how much they're actually exposed to the expository genre; for example, magazine or newspaper articles are considered expository. Incorporating magazines or newspapers into the classroom to learn about this genre would be a good way to motivate students and get them interested in writing.  

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Entry #8 : "Bless, Address, or Press"

It was very hard to choose just one blog to respond to because everyone was bringing up really excellent points. However, Caitlin's blog entry #6 really sparked my interest when she discussed how we, as teachers, should assess our students' writing. Caitlin talks about how teachers tend to focus too much on conventions of a writing piece, and don't focus enough on the content and meaning. When a student gets a paper back with red pen all over it, it is disheartening and even if they got a good grade the sight of that red pen just screams "HORRIBLE!" As a result, many students' confidence in their writing plummets and they start worrying too much on what the teacher wants them to say rather than on what they want to say. I thought Caitlin put it nicely when she said: "Writing should be a creative and personal activity. When students begin to rely less on what they want to say, and more on what they think they should say, then the piece loses a voice. It then becomes the teacher's voice instead of the student." It's very unfortunate when this happens because writing pieces are generally supposed to be reflective and personal; teachers are supposed to encourage this, not hinder it. I know, personally, it is hard to draw the line between what should be assessed in students' writing and what shouldn't be. I don't want to discourage students from writing, but at the same time, it's not helping them at all if I don't correct spelling and grammar mistakes because they won't know what they're doing is wrong, and they'll continue to make the same mistakes. I need to find a balance between assessing conventions as well as meaning and content.

Another point that Caitlin brought up was the type of comments that we make on students' writing pieces. I think a lot of times we're too focused on just getting through the stack of papers, and we don't really take the time to write thoughtful and specific comments. Caitlin writes: "We want our students to be able to understand our comments/questions, and not feel overwhelmed or confused." While it's true that writing specific and thoughtful comments would take much longer, it is also much more beneficial to the student. Caitlin discusses the idea of assessment conferences to clarify or expand on comments that the teacher made.Taking the time to have individual conferences about students' writing would be ideal -- it might not always be a realistic option but for important writing assignments I think it would be an essential component that would help the student grow as a writer.    

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Entry #7

While researching the genre of poetry for my "Genre Pieces Project" I came across so many forms that I had no idea existed in Tompkin's (2009) chapter on poetry. I found it extremely helpful the way that she broke up the different types of poems and then sub-categorized them into different examples and forms. Throughout the chapter, Tompkins continually insists that students have an unfortunate misconception about poetry -- most students have the antiquated idea that all poetry needs to rhyme in order to be considered poetry (pg. 171). This misconception turns most students off to this particular genre because they don't believe they have the capabilities to come up with a rhyme scheme on par with Shakespeare or any of the other typical poets that are usually studied in school. However, Tompkins believes "the poem's message is always more important than adhering to a formula" (pg. 165). Tompkins stresses the importance of "sharing a wide variety of poems written by children and adults...it's important to include poems that don't rhyme" (pg. 171). By exposing students to a wide variety of forms (some that are as simple as turning a list into a poem!), you can broaden their definition of poetry and hopefully erase all of those negative connotations. That is the first obstacle that teachers have to work to overcome, is the negative connotation that poetry elicits from students (especially at the secondary level). To overcome this, Tompkins believes it is necessary to first ensure that your students have a basic understanding of the genre and suggests starting with a formula poem because it generally "makes writing easier for students who don't think they can write poetry" (pg. 171). I agree with her suggestion here because, in my experience, breaking  the poetry process up into smaller, structured pieces seems to ease students' fears a little bit. If I were to simply tell them to write a poem in free verse, they wouldn't know where to start or what to talk about. In my classroom, I would start by going through the formula of one type of structured poem and then model the formula and thinking process by constructing a poem together as a class. This would show students that poetry doesn't have to be hard or stressful; it is a creative and fun way that they can express themselves.

I think the "I Am..." poems and the Acrostic poems would be particularly useful at the secondary level to discuss and explore characters or themes during different units. I'm actually doing a unit on Harper Lee's book To Kill a Mockingbird and after reading this chapter, I'm thinking about having the students do an "I Am....Atticus Finch" poem to discuss his character traits and have students write from his perspective, which will also give them a lesson in point of view and how that can change between different characters.

One of the concerns that Tompkins acknowledges at the end of the chapter is how to assess poetry and I think this is one of the most important points of the chapter. Tompkins is adamant that students should not be tested or quizzed on their knowledge of particular formulas because "knowing, for example, that a haiku is a Japanese form composed of 17 syllables arranged in three lines doesn't make a child a poet" (pg. 176). Instead, assess students on a few basic criteria and try to avoid giving a grade for the quality of a child's poem because it may steer them away from ever experimenting with poetry again. I agree with Tompkins that portfolios or allowing the student to choose several poems from their writing folder to turn in for a grade would be the most effective and informative way to assess their skill and knowledge about the genre of poetry.

Friday, October 5, 2012

Entry #6

In this week's reading from Tompkins (2012), we start thinking about how to assess students' writing in a way that is not only valuable, but reliable as well. Tompkins stresses the importance of using multiple informal  procedures throughout the year to monitor and assess students' writing (pg. 84). I agree with this stance on writing, and believe that it is the most thorough and accurate way to assess progress, because you're not simply looking at one piece of writing and grading that with a sort of tunnel vision. Instead you're taking into account all of the writing that the student has done and how that one particular piece fits in and compares with all of their other pieces. This is helpful because every piece of writing that a student does showcases their ability and improvement (or lack thereof). By monitoring and mentally keeping track of how each student is progressing throughout the course of the year, it will be easier to notice when a student may not be at the level they should be, and consequently easier to provide supplemental instruction for that individual student.

I think that many teachers shy away from student portfolios or similar assessments because they believe that portfolios are not as valuable as having the student complete a final essay. While it is true that essays are the more traditional assessment, I believe that portfolios provide more insight into the student's actual ability than an essay does. With portfolios, you are giving the student multiple chances to showcase their writing ability and express themselves, rather than just one opportunity as you would with a traditional essay. Also, as mentioned previously, it is much easier to see the student's progress when it is in a portfolio.

Writing process checklists and assessment conferences are also beneficial (pg. 89). Students like structure and organization, so providing them with a specific checklist that they can gradually move through and "check" off when they accomplish a task would benefit them in keeping them structured. It also ensures that students are being cognizant and aware of where they are in the writing process, where they should be, and where they are going. It teaches them to recognize specific stages in the process, so that eventually they might not need to have the teacher or themselves physically check off a stage of the writing process, they will be able to mentally and automatically do it.

Assessment conferences would benefit students because it invites and encourages them to have an active hand in grading their own performance and ability. Tompkins describes these conferences on pg. 89, "teachers meet with individual students, and together they discuss the student's writing, identify strengths and weaknesses, and decide on a grade based on their goals for the writing project." By conferencing with the teacher and discussing their strengths and weaknesses, it will ensure that students are more aware of what they need to work on for next time through specific and personal feedback from the teacher.

In the future, I will definitely try to incorporate student portfolios, writing process checklists, and assessment conferences in my classroom and make an attempt to move away from the more traditional summative assessments such as essays.

Friday, September 28, 2012

Entry #5

Dr. Jones,

I feel as if this class is going well so far. I am learning a lot about the power of digital technology and the influences it can have on students' writing. I am also forming a new understanding of the benefits of having students engage in a structured reading/writing workshop, and how journaling can be a therapeutic expression of ideas for students which helps them interact with their thoughts and responses to texts they read. I came to this realization during your sample presentation on the journal genre when we each worked independently with a book that was written in that particular genre. You gave us the option of completing either a reading log, double entry journal, or a simulated journal/diary entry in response to our reading. Responding to the specific questions that you provided helped break up the text and made me think about it in a new way, and because of this I ultimately got more out of it. Also, I feel as if the information in the text and the specific questions that I answered will stay with me much longer than if I had simply read the text and moved on. This activity showed me that having students interact with and respond to texts they read through writing will make the information more meaningful to them, and will actively engage them in constructing meaning for themselves through guided questioning.

The weekly blog posts and forum discussions have kept me fully engaged in an active and thoughtful process of writing. Every time I go to post on one of these sites I have to think about what I'm going to write, how I'm going to say it, go back and revise what I previously wrote, include sources as well as my own personal experiences and thoughts, and proof read for mistakes or confusion before publishing it. I choose to engage in this kind of writing because I believe all of these steps are necessary to produce a thoughtful, well-constructed piece of writing. If I were to just pour my thoughts out into a blog post about anything and everything then publish without going back to consider what I've written, it would be an incoherent mess and people would get too caught up on the poor mechanics or sentence structure to be able to focus on the actual content. As of right now, I don't think I really need to change any of my reading or writing habits because I believe I am fully engaged while writing. Perhaps taking a little more time to organize what I'm going to say, or create a short but structured outline of my thoughts would be helpful. Also, maybe searching outside of our course textbooks for ideas or inspiration would keep me even more engaged in my writing.

As I mentioned previously, the reading log, double entry journal, and simulation journal/diary entry responses really opened my eyes as to how writing can influence meaning and engage students in what they're reading. I will definitely work to include these as instructional activities in my classroom. Also, Scott and Vitale's "Writing Wheel" was concise and structured and would definitely benefit students during the writing process; it also provides students with a visual representation of the writing workshop and what they should be working on during different stages of the process. This is a strategy I could see myself using in the future.

The only thing that I'm struggling with in this class are the projects -- they just seem very daunting and a little overwhelming at this stage because I haven't really gotten into them yet. I'm sure that once I start really working on them and putting 100% of my focus on them, I'll find that they're very manageable.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Entry #4

This week's focus has been on using digital technology such as blogs and wikis to motivate and engage students in the writing process. Throughout chapters 2 and 3, Hicks (2009) maintains that these types of technologies are considered "new literacies" and are re-designing classroom settings and reading/writing workshops (pgs. 27-28). Rather than striving to create a teacher-led classroom as was traditionally done in the past, Hicks argues that we should be working to create a student-led classroom where the students are allowed to choose what they want to write about and how they want to write it (with some structure and guidance, of course!).  I agree with Hicks, and I believe that teachers do a disservice to students if they do not try to incorporate technology and digital media into the curriculum. One of the specific goals of the Common Core Learning Standards is to effectively "prepare students to compete successfully in a global economy". If we do not teach students how to become literate in digital technology and collaborate with others using online tools and resources, then we are setting students up to fail in today's 21st century society. While students in today's modern day and age may be proficient in browsing the web, it is the teacher's responsibility to teach them specific tools that will help them pick through and critically examine what is oftentimes an overload of information available on the World Wide Web. Hicks (2009) discusses the use of RSS (Really Simple Syndication -- or Rich Site Summary) as a great tool that students can use to automatically have relevant information on a certain topic emailed regularly to their accounts (pg. 19). I think that this is extremely helpful and would provide students with trustworthy and quality websites to keep in mind, even for future research for a different class or topic.

One of the greatest aspects of tools such as blogs/wikis is the ability to be interactive, yet informative. Teachers can use blogs in the classroom to have students collaborate and engage in the writing process, but we can also use them as informational texts on topics that are relevant to today's students. One instance of a blog that generated so much interest and energy from the current generation of students was the Kony 2012 Invisible Children blog (http://blog.invisiblechildren.com/tag/kony-2012/). Blogs have the power to kick-off an entire movement, and get today's students interested and involved in politics and current events. Through the use of blogs and wikis, teachers can easily incorporate news, current events, and politics in the classroom and have students interact with and add to these types of blogs -- generating interest in global issues, while still engaging in the writing process and with digital technology. 

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Entry #3

In this week's reading, Tompkins discusses the advantages of personal writing. Tompkins begins the chapter by giving us the scenario of Mrs. Wheatley's sixth grade class that is reading Tuck Everlasting. In this scenario, the teacher emphasizes that she would like her students to relate the story to their own personal lives because this will increase their comprehension and provide them with a deeper connection to the text (pg. 106). I agree 100% with this stance on personal writing -- I believe that there is no better way for students to build meaning than to have them relate the text to their own lives. During my undergraduate studies at Geneseo, I took a class that required me to find strategies that would help improve students' reading comprehension using a particular young adult novel to illustrate my examples. I chose to use the YA novel The Giver by Lois Lowry (which is one of my favorite books!) because the story is told through Jonas's perspective; students could see Jonas's thought process and better understand his motives. I found that there was a lot of research supporting Personal Reader Response Journals -- particularly William Brozo (1989) states that it is through a personal connection that a text becomes meaningful and memorable. In my "imaginary classroom," I had students keep a journal while reading The Giver. At certain points in the text when there was an important event that occurred, students would put themselves into Jonas's shoes and write about what they would do if they were in that situation. For example, after Jonas began seeing color and feeling emotions such as love, students were asked "Would you be able to continue living in The Community which is predictable and comfortable, knowing that in doing so you would be missing out on all of the wonderful things that life has to offer? Why, or why not? Would you stay, or would you go off into unknown territory, leaving behind all of your friends and family?" When students write responses to questions such as these, they are interacting with the story because they are placing themselves within that story and thinking about how they would react, compared to how the actual characters reacted. In this way they are simultaneously engaging in character analysis, personal reflection, character motivation, and perspective/point of view.

Personal writing can also be helpful in simply gauging student's reactions or thoughts to certain events in the book and allowing them to express their opinions. Tompkins briefly discusses involvement responses in which students express their thoughts on the ending of The Giver (pg. 113).

Overall, I think that personal writing and reader response journals provide a multitude of benefits to students. It connects the process of reading with the process of writing and allows students to explore their thoughts on certain events in a story. Also, it allows students to respond to specific parts in a text rather than responding to the text as a whole. Breaking the text up like this will result in the students creating a deeper meaning and understanding the text on a more personal level.

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Entry #2

  • Given the three elements of the framework Hicks (2009) notes in Chapter 7 -- your students, the subject of writing, and the spaces in which we write -- how would you describe these elements as they are currently present in your classroom and school? What did you already have in place to begin your digital writing workshop? What else did you need to develop in order to make your digital writing workshop successful?
Throughout Chapter 7, Hicks (2009) frequently mentions the fact that it is important for students to understand the audience and purpose for which they are writing (p. 127). Digital technology makes it possible for students to consider and work with an audience outside of the classroom, and to explore different subjects or perspectives based on who their audience is going to be. Similarly, the internet and digital technology makes it much easier for students to broaden their scope of reference, easily find new information or opinions to discuss in writing pieces, collaborate with others, and share their message with a broad spectrum of people. In my opinion, Google Docs is an essential digital tool that should be utilized in every curriculum. I had the opportunity while student teaching to experiment with Google Docs and found that it can easily encompass all three elements of Hicks' framework -- especially improving on the spaces in which we write. Using Google Docs, students had the opportunity to digitally collaborate with one another, going through the processes of peer-review, editing, revising, drafting, and publishing. It was a bit of a process getting started, because each student needed to create their own Google profile which can become confusing in a class of 20 or so students.  However, once everyone was familiar with the site and how it worked, they became quickly proficient in applying the writing process to cyber-space. It also eliminated the necessity of creating a physical learning space for students to collaborate because they could each do so from their own computer, no matter where they were in the room.

I was also able to implement Hicks' subject of writing through the use of digital technology. Most 21st century students are so experienced and literate when it comes to digital technology, using this sort of technology in the classroom is exciting and familiar to them. With tools such as blogs and wikis, I have seen students become more intrinsically motivated to accomplish writing tasks because they view the subject of writing differently; this element of intrigue is also due to the fact that students are now able to produce something that can be shared with the world -- not just with their peers and teachers. Publishing their work on blogs or wikis gives them a new sense of purpose, so they have more motivation to complete it. One of the most frequently asked questions that I got from my students was: "Why do we have to do this?" ("why do we have to write this essay?", "why do we have to write this poem?" etc., etc.). When I found a way to implement digital technologies into the writing process, the students were excited to work on their blogs because they could put so much more creativity and "features" into their writing (such as hyperlinks, pictures, video/audio clips, etc.) -- Of course I knew that the students were still engaging in the same writing process, but the students were so preoccupied with making their blog the best that it could be, that they didn't even realize how much writing they were actually doing. 

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Entry #1

  • As you reflect on your experiences teaching writing, consider what "feels comfortable": what core principles do you value and enact in your classroom? Time for writing? Conferring with students?  How have  those practices remained constant over time?
I believe that students need to feel a sense of consistency when being taught how to write in the secondary levels. As a teacher, it is essential that you first model what you expect from students before sending them off to work independently on what may seem like a daunting task to inexperienced and unsure writers. It is important to first lay out a consistent model in order to give students a frame work and guidelines within which to begin writing an essay or expository piece. In my experience, a handout that can be kept as a reference for students is very useful. There should be clear steps and a process from which to work off of; this will make it easier for students to visualize what their piece should look like, which will ultimately make it easier to get started and stay organized. As we discussed today in class, pre-writing is also a core principle which students should be required to experiment with. There should be a large portion of class dedicated only to pre-writing and getting their ideas down on paper, before beginning any sort of organization or thought for conventions. The downfall of presenting a model and clear format for students is that it definitely constricts their ability to be creative or try new things. This is something that I would like to work on in the future in order to improve my students confidence and sense of creative writing.

  • Consider your familiarity with a variety of technologies including word processors, digital audio and video editors, and online writing spaces such as blogs and wikis. What are some of the challenges you anticipate in trying to blend the principles of the writing workshop with these technologies?
The biggest challenge that I could foresee in trying to blend the writing process with digital technologies is that some students may be extremely literate when it comes to writing, however, they may lack proficiency in digital technology. This lack of digital literacy may restrict students who are more comfortable using the traditional pen and paper. Also, some students may get lost or distracted by the digital aspect of their writing (looking up images to go with it, using emoticons, playing with fonts) and lose focus on what is actually important -- the "meat", or content of what they're saying.