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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. 

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Entry #5

Dr Jones,

Overall I am very pleased with this class.  It has pushed me to step out of my comfort zone.  Before this class I was very timid to make my writing public.  I am still nervous to do so, but I am slowly becoming more comfortable with it.  I have seen public writing as similar to public speaking, in which I feel very judged as I am doing it.

My understanding for the connection between reading and writing has grown tremendously.  Before class I had a close minded view of how the two were connected.  Even in the first class session we had my eyes were widely opened.  I had never thought about the strategies that writers use as being comparable to readers and visa versa.  I now see writing as a way to think and learn.  I have grown to be more comfortable just letting my thoughts flow out rather than plan and organize to an extreme.  This has led me to be able to fully transact as I write.  I now am able to have a conversation with myself as I write to discover new ideas and reconsider old ones.  I now question my own thoughts as I am writing in a new way. Previously I would question whether I was "doing it right", now I question my own ideas and thoughts.  This has pushed me to a different level of thinking, and in turn like I said, use writing as a tool to think.  The only habits that I feel I need to change is writing more often.  Although I have grown to be more comfortable with writing, I still don't feel comfortable enough to do it leisurely.  This is something I hope I can do someday.  I find writing to be a way to clear my head and get my thoughts out quickly and easily.

The first instructional strategy that I have learned and I feel will help me as a literacy teacher is to see the connection between reading and writing.  I want to show my students that these are not two separate activities, but in fact there are many overlaps. Strategies that writers use can and should also be used to be good readers.  The discussion we had on the first night sticks in my head.  It was about rereading, and how many times students see those that have to reread as "poor readers" rather than readers that are looking to clarify or find a new idea in the text.  I also want to be able to show my students that writing is not simply done with pen and paper.  I addressed this in my previous blog, as I discussed how my eyes have been open to the wide range of genres.  Many of which I had never even thought of as writing activities.

Overall I am very please with what I have learned from this class.  I have many new ideas that I had never even considered before.  Prior to this class I was nervous to be a teacher of literacy, hence why I chose the literacy program.  This class alone has built my confidence and excitement for teaching literacy some day.  The ideas are intriguing for me and I can't wait to pass them on to my students.

I do not have any concerns about class at this time. I feel it is all going very smoothly.   Expectations and standards are clear and reachable.  Thank you for such a great learning experience.

Jennie Krolak

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Entry #4

The more I read Tompkins (2012) the more my eyes are opened.  I am enjoying reading this textbook, which is something I never thought I would say.  I can not believe how many new ideas are presented in the text each week. The idea that sparks my most interest is the large number of genres that are described.  I have never thought of half of these genres.  For me personally this makes writing a much more enjoyable task to think about the creativity that can be used.  Prior to this class I would say I had a very close minded view of writing.  I saw it as the traditional pen and paper writing top to bottom.  If I worked on it long enough I would publish it using Word on a computer.  Never had I thought of using pictures and videos to help tell my story, unless I was ambitious enough to create a children's book.  These ideas not only excite me for my personal use, but even more so to use in my future classroom.  I feel that with these ideas I will be much more enthusiastic about teaching writing to my students.
The wide range of genres that is presented, especially in the list on page 287 makes it more obvious to me that writing is not just a pen and paper activity.  These ideas are also very exciting to someday be able to use in all subjects, with creativity.  As I look at the list some unique ideas stand out such as advertisements, cartoons, greeting cards, and post cards. Ideas like these are were never writing activities in my mind before, but I am excited to see how they can be use as such.  These are smaller projects that can be used in countless ways.  When projects such as these are presented it is less obvious to students they are working on writing, unless pointed out by the teacher.  Social studies writing assessment no longer needs to be an essay, but could be a letter or timeline.  Students are incorporating all of the important strategies of writing but are focusing on the content of social studies.
To address the wide range of technology used, I am impressed.  The genre that sticks out the most is the digital story telling.  I had never heard of this before, so I went to youtube and checked one out.  It was impressive, but by no means something a child couldn't do.  It was such a unique way of telling a story and had more emotion and impact than simply writing on paper and drawing the pictures.
The whole idea of a Multigenre project that we have been presented in class is something I can see myself using in my future classroom.  I would love to introduce my students to as many of these genres as I see fit for the grade level.  I think it would be interesting to keep a portfolio for students for each unit and have them create a multigenre portfolio with the information they have learned as the unit progressed.  At the end of the unit the students would get their portfolio back and see all the work they did and how it fit together.
I plan to show my students that writing is not a boring activity that involves just sitting at a desk and writing on paper.  I am much more excited to teach my students about the new genres I have discovered, and hopefully they will become as excited and interested in writing as I now am.