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.