Search This Blog

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Entry #12

As I look back at the syllabus and take a look at the objectives, I realize how much this course helped me to grow as a learner.
I have definitely learned a great deal about the variety of genres readers and writers use to communicate.  I have also learned the flexibility in these genres.  I have gained insight on how these genres overlap to meet the needs of the writer.  Reading each genre is approached in a slightly different way, which is something I had not thought about before this class. 
Before class I had not thought deeply about the role of purpose and audience when writing.  I must admit that I now consciously think about my purpose and audience before writing a piece.  This helps me to determine the genre I will use as I write, as well as the voice I will write in.  This was a major learning point for me, as I do not recall focusing on purpose and audience in my own schooling as a child.  I feel this has helped me grow as a writer, as well as make writing easier for me. 
I had not thought about the idea of new literacy theories before this class.  I had just seen new literacies as a way of the education world evolving.  This is the area that I would like to explore more of, as I enjoy learning about the theories of literacy.  Comparing the new to the old theories is of interest to me. 
The relationship between the reading and writing process was a huge eye opener on the first night of class.  I had never thought of readers and writers going through the same process.  I am now much more conscious of this both as a reader and a writer.  I feel this connection between the two has helped me to understand students in classrooms from a teacher perspective.  I hope this information will someday help me as I am teaching students in my own classroom to be readers and writers.  Personally I feel that students should know the connection between reading and writing more than the fact they both involve words, and one is creating text while the other is interpreting the text.  
I was introduced to many types of reading and writing assignments in this class that could be used at a wide variety of age levels.  I was impressed by the variety that we discussed.  Technology has become so prevalent in our society that we need to be able to make use of it in the classroom.   Before class I had only thought of a writing assignment with technology to be typing a piece in a word processor.  I was exposed to so many new writing activities that I never would have thought of on my own.  This idea of being able to use technology in new innovative ways in the classroom has excited me as a teacher.  I now know that I can have fun with writing and teach my students to show their creativity in other ways than just words in electronic writing pieces.  There is much more to writing when it comes to technology than forming sentences.   Creativity with pictures, podcasts, and movies are all new ideas that I am excited to bring into a classroom some day.  Although technology is generally used more extensively in higher grades, assignments can be tailored to fit students of younger grades.  The earlier they are exposed to these types of reading and writing I believe the more excited and better writers they will become. 
Writing assessment and evaluation was always a sore topic for me.  I would become very uneasy when it came to assessing a student’s writing.  The biggest shift in my thinking with assessment was realizing it is not always just taking a look at the final product, but paying attention to the student as they are using the writing process is important as well.  Although I have grown tremendously with my comfort in writing assessment, I feel that this is an area I still need to grow in.  I think this is something that will come with time and practice in a classroom of my own.  I feel as though I can assess students work fairly now, but will become more comfortable and confident in doing so as time goes on. 

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Entry #11

When class first began I had a felt overwhelmed thinking about all the genres and how little I knew.  Literacy was always something that made me uneasy, especially learning about different genres.  I was always intimidated to walk into a library to find a book.  I could hardly pinpoint a genre if I tried.  As this class began I wondered how I was going to remember all of the genres and be able to tell them apart let alone know characteristics of each.  I quickly began to be amazed at how much I was retaining and how easy it all was to figure out.  Although there are many different genre names, I learned that many of them can overlap.  This put my mind at ease, knowing there is not always a single right answer.   As I was learning about each genre, I also realized that they are not always in a specific format as I had previously thought.  There is a large amount of flexibility within each genre.  For example, an expository text is not always an essay. It can also be in the form of a textbook, or even a poem.  If an expository text is a poem, then it includes two genres which is the overlapping I was introduced to.  
At the start of this class I felt as though I had an understanding of each genre, but not necessarily a deep understanding.  I knew what a poem looked like, or could pick out an expository text, but I wasn’t sure that I could create one of my own and feel confident. Once I was introduced to the endless formats and uses of poems, I felt as though creating one would be more manageable.  I think this was my largest growth throughout the semester.  That being said, I can't necessarily pinpoint a single genre I grew in.  Overall my eyes were opened to the variety that I had not previously been exposed to.  I now feel more confident in each genre, that I can mold it to what I need and express myself without feeling restrained.  I hope to teach my students to feel this way as well.
Just like my growth, there isn’t a particular genre that still intimidates me.  Descriptive writing is my weakest point still, but this is incorporated in all genres.  As a writer I do not easily convey my message with descriptors.  I often leave too much to the reader to infer, as I leave out the details in my writing.   This is a part of my writing that I have always struggled with, no matter what genre I am writing.  I tend to get to the point and not elaborate as much as I could.  This is my goal as I continue to grow as a writer, to incorporate descriptive writing more prevalently within any genre I write.  

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Entry #10

When reading through peer’s blogs I came across and entry that Jaimie M wrote.  In this entry she asked three questions and gave her response.  The questions caught my attention as they are things I feel every teacher should think about.  The first question was “Is there a type of genre writing a teacher should focus on?”
I agree with Jaimie when answering this question.  I too feel that each of the genre presentations have been helpful in learning the specifics of each genre.  As we have watched and participated in the various presentations each genre seems as though it is of utmost importance to teach to children.  I agree that each genre should be taught explicitly, but as Jaimie asked, to what extent should they each be taught and used in the classroom?  I also agree with Jaimie that thinking back to my own schooling, narrative and expository texts were the most commonly used.  I rarely was asked to write a poem or a letter when in school, even in the later years.   I feel that this lack of creativity and variety needs to be changed in a classroom.  I think students should learn about each genre of writing and be expected to be able to write in each genre.  As students are creating writing I feel there should be a wide variety of genres, rather than an overwhelming emphasis on expository, or essay, writing.  Students’ creativity should be expanded, rather than facts being regurgitated in their own words.  With this being said I would like to also answer Jaimie’s second question. 
The second question Jaimie raises is “Is it necessary to master the genres?”
I feel that students, once they are ready to graduate, should feel confident that they could write in any genre they were asked to.  This does not mean the students need to feel comfortable writing in every genre.  With anything in life there are things everyone has to do and can complete, but is not necessarily comfortable doing.  An interview is an example, I cannot think of someone that enjoys interviewing and is overly confident, but everyone is able to complete an interview and get through it.  I feel as teachers it is our duty to teach our students the life skills they may need.  With this I am thinking of the lack of letter writing in school, and how it is an everyday skill for some people, but definitely a skill that almost anyone in society needs to have.  Poetry is a different idea, as it is more of a creative and expressive genre for most people.  Teaching this to students introduces a new avenue for students to get their ideas out.  As teachers I feel we need to introduce as many genres and topics as we can in an organized manor for students to be able to find what interest them.  This does not mean students need to become a master in everything we teach, including genres.  This leads to Jaimie’s third question.
The third and final question is “Should teachers be able pick and choose what they teach?”
I feel that teachers should have guidelines for what needs to be taught in each grade level, to be sure students are being introduced to each genre.  I do also feel that there should be an outline of what students need to know about each genre, but the way teachers choose to introduce the genre and key points should be up to the teacher.  If a teacher wants to use trade books of their choosing I feel they should be allowed to.  I feel that with the education and professional development each teacher has had to have, they should be trusted with at least picking out trade books.  Teachers have very little say in how they teach topics trade books is one area that teachers should be able to choose books that fit the genre and relate to their students level and interests. If administration is concerned there can be a policy in place for books to be approved before used in the classroom.  Overall I feel that teachers should be able to decide, within a general outline, how and what they teach in their classrooms as far as reading and writing in the many  genres.  

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Entry #9

As I have been learning about the different genres in class I have begun to reflect on my schooling as a child. I do not recall explicitly learning about a number of the genres that have been introduced in class.  Even as I student taught and been subbing in classrooms, I have not seen genres taught in the way we have in class.  In general I have seen students learning fiction vs. non-fiction as well as poetry.  Beyond this, genres are not really introduced from what I have experienced.  With this experience, and the influence of class I plan to change this.
In my classroom I want to teach each genre explicitly.  I would like for my students to know the characteristics for each genre and how they differ from each other.  I would like my students to be able to feel comfortable in writing each genre.  Not only should students know the characteristics that are specific to each genre, but they should also understand how the genre is flexible.  An example is poetry.  As we talked this week, many students see poetry to take a very structured form, which is not the case with the genre as a whole.  There is room for creativity within poetry as well as any genre.  We have also talked about persuasive writing in a previous class.  This genre can also take a wide variety of forms, ranging from a video to an essay.  This week we discovered the narrative and biography genres.   I was asked to present on the narrative genre, but paired it with biography.  It was a learning experience for me, as I was very unsure of how to mesh the two genres, let alone know enough about each.  Prior to creating the presentation I had always seen the biography genre as a research project.  This idea is far from the truth.  I learned that biographies, like the other genres, can also take many different forms.  The ideas I have learned from the presentations thus far will be extremely helpful in the classroom one day. 
Not only have I learned the characteristics that set each genre apart from the others, but I was also forced to find how the narrative and biography genres overlap.  This was an interesting finding for me, as I had not seen these two genres as similar before.  The major overlap is the personal narrative, which is a story about an even that happened to you.  After this presentation I began to think about the overlap that other genres have.  An example is biographies can take the form of poems, as well as resemble an expository text format.  I want my students to see these overlaps within the genres and not to see them as completely separate.  I feel that this will help them to become stronger writers.
As teachers we are expected to teach cross curriculum and have our students understand that writing and reading do not only take place during ELA time, and math is not only needed in math class.  With this in mind I feel that students need to be able to mesh different genres together.  Students will be required to choose the genre(s) and format they choose to write in that is the best way to get their message across.  Writing is not only the words that are written on the page, but also how they are formatted and used with each other.  Once my students have an understanding of the characteristics of each genre the use of the genres together will be a main focus in my classroom to make my students stronger writers.  I was never introduced to this idea as a student, but I feel it would be helpful to my students to have this knowledge. 

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Entry #8

When taking the time to read through classmates blogs I found a number of topics that struck my attention.  The one that stuck out the most was in Jaimie M.'s blog in Entry #2.  In this blog she talks about working in a school in Cleveland, Ohio in a second grade students.  She gives a brief description of the make-up of the class.  It sounds as though the class could be quite a challenge with the varying levels of student, as she states ranging from reading at a 2.5 level to not being able to write the alphabet.  Jaimie needed to find a way to reach all of her students.  What stood out to me was how she made it a point to find out the strengths and weaknesses of each child.  This is what great teachers do!  As Jaimie was discovering what her students could do well and what they struggled with she points out a couple interesting findings.  The students in her class that were struggling with letter and sound relationships were the students that had wild imaginations for creating stories, and the students that were able to read at higher levels had a harder time with creating their own stories.
To me this is a great example of a teacher taking the time to actually get to know their students personally.  Taking the time to see where each student is academically with many different skills.  Looking at what level a student can read or write at is not the tell all for their overall academic ability.  In fact, a student’s reading level does not necessarily correlate with his or her writing level.  This is something that has been a learning experience to me prior to working in the literacy program.  I had always thought reading and writing went hand in hand.
Getting back to Jaimie’s example of her second grade students, I think back to when I was in elementary school, and even today.  When I am asked to read I am successful, I am able to read the material, on pretty much any level, and comprehend it.  When I am asked to write a story, either about something that happened to me, or to create one myself, I struggle.  I do not see myself as a descriptive writer.  I write down the minimum to get the point across and I feel I have completed the task.  When it comes to having an imagination to create a story, my work becomes even weaker.  I have always felt as a child that I did not have an imagination! I could talk to someone all day long in person about real life events, but to make up a story still makes me nervous today.  With this in mind it makes me wonder how much we should really force our students to have an imagination.  If the teacher is taking the time to get to know their students, which every good teacher will do, should story writing be necessary?  What skills does this creativity in writing work on for students’ futures?  I found this especially troubling in my mind because I am presenting on the narrative genre next week.  This genre has always given me trouble, and still does today.  Taking this back to Jaimie’s post, how far should we push our students out of their comfort zone?  Are there some academic areas that students should be pushed further out than others?  Should future life skills be taken into consideration or just assignments for class, as in what is assigned is what needs to be done and that’s the end of it?  These are just some questions I think about myself and struggle with when thinking about my teaching style and morals.  In the end my goal is to have my students become successful citizens in society.  Not all aspects of school are a good representation of the outside world.  I will discuss this topic in another blog as I has been yet another surprising discovery for me.  

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Entry #7

The open blog entries are becoming harder and harder for me to write, as I was always that student that never knew what to write about.  I do much better when I have a specified topic at hand.  Determining my own topic is the hardest part of writing for me.  This week as I reflected on class I decided the class topic of Persuasive Writing would suffice for my blog entry.  
As I read and listened in class I learned quite a bit about the persuasive genre.  i had never thought about how often every day we are persuaded to do things.  This is usually done in the media, commercials, as described by the presenting group.  I was thinking on my way home and realized that all that junk mail from banks and credit card companies is persuasive writing in itself. The purpose of the mail is to convince you that you need the services they offer.   As I thought about all of the persuasion we encounter daily I wondered to my self if we become immune to it and eventually begin to tune it out. Also while thinking about all the different ways we are persuaded each day, I began to think about the countless ways we can teach children about persuasion and implement it in our classroom.  Many of the real life persuasion we encounter begins as a written piece.  A commercial is not just filmed on the fly, much planning and editing needs to take place before the cameras can be brought out.  We can mimic this in our classrooms.  Advertisements in the mail and newspaper are also writing pieces we can have our children create.  The options are endless when it comes to the persuasive genre.  This was a new idea to me, as I had seen persuasive writing mainly as a letter.   
In our Tompkins (2012) textbook persuasive writing is broken down into three types of writing, posters, letters and essays.  With this versatility, persuasive writing can be used in almost any subject in the classroom.  I was never aware of the correct or most useful format of a persuasive piece of writing.  Tompkins (2012) introduced these to me in the chapter.  This was helpful to see how to create a strong writing piece that is convincing to the reader.  These outlines are simple enough for young children (second grade) to use, but also can be helpful for older students. 
Grading, as I have discussed before, is a worry for me.  Tompkins (2012) described that persuasive writing should be graded in a similar manor to any other piece of writing students create. 
Not only is persuasion used in writing, but it is also a powerful speaking tool and skill for students to learn.  We want our students to be able to justify their ideas in the real world.  This is where persuasion comes in.  Most commonly, I have seen verbal persuasion used in activities resembling debates.  This is a powerful skill, because not all children are able to be debating for their own true beliefs, some may need to switch to the other side for sake of numbers.  This forces students to think from a different point of view which is a higher level thinking than we generally force our students to do.  I have always enjoyed debates and plan to bring them into my classroom along with persuasive writing.  I want my students to be able to feel as though they have a voice and can defend what they feel and believe, although they need to understand just because they have good ideas, they may not always be able to get what they are persuading for.
It was ironic that persuasion was our class topic, because when I was in a fourth grade classroom subbing the day after class I encountered a time of persuasion.   The students were asked to persuade the teacher to allow them to be able to pick their own partners.  They needed to work as a class and come up with their reasons, then present them to the teacher.  This was not a planned activity, nor was it long.  It only took about five minutes while the teacher was actually stalling the class.  Although stalls are not generally a good idea, this was a productive activity.  I was impressed with the thinking these students did and how their demeanor changed when they were trying to persuade the teacher.  They were professional as they stood tall and sounded confident.  Overall the activity was interesting as I had just learned more about the persuasive genre the night before.  Needless to say, the students were allowed to work in partners.  They had a sense of accomplishment in achieving what they wanted.  

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Entry #6

I have not been in class the past couple weeks due to family commitments, therefore this blog post is going to be harder to write.  The readings have been my main source of learning due to the circumstances.  I particularly would like to talk about chapter 4 in our Tompkins (2012) textbook.  This chapter is about writing assessments, which happens to be a struggle for me as a teacher.  When I was student teaching in fifth grade, I found that the hardest part of being an ELA teacher was assessing my students writing.  I had always thought having a rubric ready before I even introduced the assignment to the students would make the assessment process fool proof.  I quickly learned I was wrong.  I created my own rubric, which is probably the first wrong step as a new unexperienced teacher.  What I thought made complete sense and was clear as day when I created the rubric proved to be blurry and arguable when I sat down to grade the papers.  Not only was my misconception of creating a rubric wrong, but my overall idea of how to assess writing was narrow and skewed. 
First, I had the idea that only final drafts of students’ work were to be looked at for grading.  This according to Tompkins (2012) is wrong.  Students work should be looked at all stages throughout the entire writing process.  Conferences are not only used to help a student edit and revise a writing piece, but they should also be used to monitor a student’s progress.  Observations as students are working on their pieces are helpful for at teacher as they assess the students writing.  Anecdotal notes can be written down to track a students progress as well as their use of the writing strategies. 
Not only should the teacher assess the student’s work, but the student themselves should also assess what they have created and their steps in the process.  With this being said, the writing piece should not only be looked at for a grade, but also as an indication of the student’s writing level.
There are several reasons why assessments are used with writing pieces.  Most commonly is to tag the writing with a grade to be able to explain the students’ achievement to a parent or the student themselves.  This also is a way for teachers to determine if students have met the grade level standards.  Assessments are also used to document the students’ growth as a writer and as a mean for guiding instruction.  The current piece of writing gives the teacher a good indication of where the student is at and what to focus on next.  When looking at all of the students’ writings within the class, a teacher is able to assess whether or not the instructional methods being used are effective in that assignment or in the class as a whole.  These uses for assessment are much broader and more useful than what I had previously thought about, simply labeling with a grade to determine if the student met standards.  
Taking this chapter into consideration, I now have a better idea of assessing students’ writing.  I see that it is not done just at the end of an assignment after one short conference to revise and edit.  (Although revising and editing are two different stages in the writing process.) Conferences are a helpful tool for teachers to use to get the general idea of where their students are at and to address any specific points that student may need help or reteaching with.  When looking at Tompkins (2012) view of assessment, I now see it as a tool of guidance for the teacher rather than to indicate the students level of writing.  I feel that anecdotal notes over time will be more helpful to me in the classroom to see a students growth rather than a line of grades in a grade book.  Basic letter grades do not show the areas in which a student has grown or needs assistance in the way anecdotal notes can.  I have changed my view of writing assessments greatly after reading this chapter.  I hope the next time I am in the position to grade students written work I feel more confident in doing so.