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Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Learning Log Entry # 12

Our last blog entry already?! This is crazy that I'm writing my final blog entry. This course has been so informative for me, as I've stated over and over again in my blog entries. I was a little unsure about keeping a blog because first off, I had never used a blog before and secondly, I thought for sure I'd be terrible at keeping up and actually finding things to write. I've found that this has been a pretty enjoyable assignment for me. I've actually started my own blog outside of this class (although recently I haven't had the time to write in it, I think we all understand why).

The student learning outcomes that were given to use on session one were ones that I gave a quick read and haven't looked at since then. As I look over them and think about my time in this class and my blogging adventure, I realize that as I was writing in my blogs about the topics at hand for that week I started to develop a deeper understanding for that topic. During the free entry weeks I would write about the genre for that week and reflect on my own experiences with that genre and how they shaped my view of the genre.

As I write these blogs each week I keep in mind that I have an audience and a purpose for these blogs. I'm writing not only for my own personal growth but for my fellow classmates and for Dr. Jones as well. We can all learn from each other and just from browsing at everyone else's blogs I've learned so many different strategies and ideas that I would have never thought of on my own.

I learned that as I engaged in the reading process I also engaged in the writing process in my blogging. I would write a little bit in my blog, save it in my draft, go back and revise if needed and I'd usually do this for every blog. I've learned to use the writing process in my own writing and how to reflect on it as well. My blog was a great place for me to reflect on my writing process and how I was growing as a writer.

Each week as we were given a new reading assignment, I learned about all of the different genres and how I can differentiate the activities in Tompkins (2012) in order to fit the needs of the age group and the needs of the learners that I may have in my classroom. The section on accommodating EL writers and struggling readers was especially helpful. Hicks (2009) gave me so much information on a world of digital literacy that I never even knew existed. I can now say that I know how to use blogs in the classroom, how to create a Google Doc and I know what RSS stands for. I had absolutely no idea what that was before. Tompkins (2012) also gave so many different assessment options that I was unaware of. As I wrote each week about any one of these topics I was able to think back to how I used them (or didn't use them) in my student teaching. I realized that I needed to change some of my thinking and that some of the ways I was going about assessing my students could have been done much better.

Through this blogging experience I've been able to share with everyone my struggles and my triumphs as a first time graduate student using the writing process for the first time! It's been an amazing way for me to learn as I go and to be able to keep track of my own writing progress even from the time I wrote my first blog entry. I feel like these blog entries have helped me to grow as a writer and that I've learned how to communicate more effectively in a digital way.

Learning Log Entry # 11

Now that we've finished all of the genre presentations, I've started to look back at all of the handouts that I've received over the past few weeks. There were quite a few genres that I was a little unsure of and yet some I knew more about, but enjoyed learning more about them. I gained a lot of new knowledge from not only the presentations, but from the readings as well. Everyone did an amazing job on the presentations and I learned so much! The best ideas come from fellow teachers (I think so anyway).

I think that up to this point, I've really learned not only the major differences between genres but how some can be interconnected. Narrative and biographies can be connected just as expository and biographies are. The descriptive genre fits in with every genre because a student's writing should always be descriptive. I learned a lot of new poetry formats and more about letter formats as well. With the descriptive genre, I was able to learn how much it connected with poetry and how well the two genres flow together. It was a really great experience to learn so much about a genre that I really enjoyed in the first place. 

At the start of the class I was pretty sure I knew a lot about personal, descriptive, persuasive, and biographical writing. I hadn't really heard the word "expository" before, but I figured it had something to do with nonfiction because the only other genre focusing on nonfiction was biographical. I knew that there were so many different types of poetry and I was so intimidated by that, so I was a little scared about that genre. I had heard of narrative but I wasn't exactly sure what it was, so I was excited to learn more about that genre. 

Through the personal genre presentations I learned that there are many different types of journaling options that students can be used and that they should be used with certain grade levels (which I wasn't really aware of). I had taught a lot of lessons on writing letters during student teaching so I knew a lot about letter writing and the business and friendly letters going into the presentation. I write so many emails in one day so emails were pretty self-explanatory to me as well. I love, love, love the descriptive genre. I am a "vivid verb" teacher and I think that teaching students how to use adjectives and how to avoid "tired" words to spice up their writing is so much fun, so I was so excited when I got to do the presentation on descriptive writing. I knew that descriptive writing encompassed adjectives, verbs, nouns, etc., but I had no idea that it included being descriptive through the way you use your dialogue or using sensory images to be completely detailed in your writing. I had so much fun writing the five senses poem about myself. Moving onto the persuasive genre, every time I thought of persuasive I thought of myself persuading my mother to buy me something or persuading my dad to let me borrow his computer. I understood that it is really easy to persuade someone orally but when it comes to actually writing a persuasive piece it can be tough. Other than poetry, persuasive pieces were my downfall. I really liked learning about the different types of persuasive writing and different teaching techniques to use along with those. I had assumed with biography came autobiography but I was unaware about personal narratives (tying into narrative genre) and memoirs, which I had no idea what that was. I was glad I learned the differences between not only the differences between the two genres (narrative and biography) but the differences between the types of biographies as well.

Next comes the genres that I was definitely not a fan of, and the only reason I wasn't a fan of them was because I knew little to nothing about them. A lot has changed now. The narrative and expository genres were the genres I didn't know much about. As they were talking about the narrative genre I realized that it was all about writing stories and it had to do with plot, theme, setting, etc. It didn't really scare me as much as it did before. The expository genre was the genre I didn't really know much about and after learning about it I realized that it encompassed so much and had so many different aspects to it that it was pretty interesting and it wasn't as scary either. 

I'd say that as of right now, the only genres that really intimidate me are persuasive and poetry. I have no problem trying to persuade someone by word of mouth but when it comes time to write a persuasive piece and state my opinion in a way that will change someone's mind about a topic, I'm still a little unsure and not very confident with the end product. With poetry, I know there are so many different types of poems available to write but when I hear the word "poetry" I still get really nervous. I think it's because when I was in high school I was forced to figure out the meanings to poems that I never understood and still don't understand and then I had to write about them. Even now, if you put a poem in front of me I'm not confident in my interpretation of it. 

I feel like these genre presentations have made such a positive impact on me and they were really rewarding. I learned a lot of great information and strategies to use in my future classroom. 

Monday, November 12, 2012

Learning Log Entry # 10

As I was reading through everyone's blogs (once again I was quite overwhelmed with the amount of entries and the amount of really awesome things that were being brought up) I came across a passage in Jaimie M.'s blog. In her seventh blog entry Jaimie writes, "...my job as a hopeful teacher is to take away the frustration that certain lessons bring to students and to bring excitement back into the lessons of even the most boring topics...I needed to kick my habit of showing my feelings about certain topics."

I feel that a lot of the time when I was student teaching and even substitute teaching I would show my negative feelings towards a subject when I was teaching it. If something was boring it was easily shown on my face, so the students weren't very excited about learning the topic. Why would they be? If the teacher wasn't excited about it, why should they be? In this entry Jaimie was talking about the expository genre and finding new ways to teach the expository genre. Going into student teaching and even now I want to make sure that I can make learning fun for every student. I love to have fun in the classroom, while making whatever activity we're doing educational as well, so that students are having fun and learning at the same time. When social studies or science time comes around though, the fun sort of goes out the window for me, just as teaching writing of non-fiction texts. I'm the kind of teacher that likes creativity and I thought that you could only be creative in narrative or descriptive genres, but Jaimie and Gretchen showed all of us ways in which we could be creative in the expository genre as well. 

After reading this particular quote I took a look back at Tompkins' (2012) chapter on expository writing, just to see if I could obtain some new knowledge that maybe I had missed the first time around. I always thought that when teaching the expository genre you would state that it was a nonfiction text and then just go from there. Tompkins (2012) states that teachers should, "...share a collection of nonfiction books, including informational books, almanacs, guidebooks, photo essays, alphabet books, and biographies and guide students as they examine the books to identify the characteristics of the genre" (p. 213). I never realized that you could provide students with such a wide array of texts in order to introduce them to the genre. I would have never thought to introduce them to guidebooks or even an almanac, considering I haven't even opened an almanac since I looked at my grandpa's about 10 years ago!

Keeping in mind that I was apparently not the best at teaching expository writing, I really like how Tompkins (2012) gave me a lot of insight and resources to guide me through my education as a new literacy teacher. I really like how she gives real-life examples of how the strategies are used in classrooms and how they could be used. The "Types of Expository Writing" section on page 207 will really help me to not only use more strategies in the classroom, but it will help me to become more excited when teaching the expository genre, because I really enjoyed the idea of the alphabet books and the "All About..." books. I am so excited to use these new strategies in my future classroom!

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Learning Log Entry #9

Well, fellow literacy classmates, is it just me or is this semester flying by?? As I begin thinking about this blog entry I think back to Jaimie and Gretchen's presentation on the expository genre. To be completely honest, I wasn't even sure exactly what the expository genre was until I opened up Tompkins (2012) and started reading. I considered it nonfiction writing, I never knew it had the term "expository." It's one of those "you learn something new every day" things I guess. During my student teaching experience, I didn't really have the chance to teach the expository writing genre but during my day-to-day substitute teaching students in the fourth and fifth grade classes would be working on essays which were expository. That's really all they would write, essays. They were practicing for PSSAs (Pennsylvania System of School Assessment), which was Pennsylvania's standardized testing. They were being drilled in writing essay form and it was a mixture of expository, persuasive, and narrative, but one day I remember working on expository with one of the fifth grade classes. The students had no motivation whatsoever because the topic wasn't interesting to them, so they were extremely bored, and they were given a prompt and told to write. I really like using graphic organizers and I definitely think that they have their time and place and I think that students should have had the chance to use a graphic organizer, or even learn how to use one so that come testing day they could use their scrap paper to make their own. It was really frustrating for not just the students but for me as well because I was given instructions to have them write for about 30 minutes and then share. They wrote about five lines because they were so uninterested and I didn't have any ideas for ways to engage them. 

While reading through the chapter in Tompkins (2012) I found a lot of ideas that I really liked. Instead of students just writing in essay form there are so many different options that I had never thought of before. I think that my favorite was the Alphabet Book (p. 211). When I read that the students wrote down ABC and words that start with that letter I thought they were done, but I think it's a really good way for students to not only use expository but descriptive writing as well when they elaborate on the word they chose for the letter. A lot of students are really good at drawing pictures and don't get the chance to show that off so I think this is a really good opportunity to gain student interest by letting them know that they won't just be drawing but they can draw a picture as well. I know a lot of students draw when they're done with work or during indoor recess so they like to express their creativity in the classroom. 

Another emphasis that Tompkins (2012) made was to make sure that when we're teaching the expository text we tell students about plagiarism, what it is and why it's wrong (p. 213). Teaching paraphrasing is a must, and it's something that students will use throughout their educational career so the earlier they learn how to paraphrase the better. A lot of students, when doing expository pieces, take notes and they need to be taught the proper way to take notes in their own words instead of copying it straight from the text. I know that if I would copy notes straight from the text I don't learn anything, I need to put the words from the text into my own to make sure that I comprehend them. I think that the note-taking strategy is also a really good comprehension strategy as well. 

The expository genre has so many different characteristics and there are so many ways to teach it and so many activities to do with it that I wasn't aware of. I can't wait to try some of them out when I have my own classroom. 

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Learning Log Entry #8

As I started looking through everyone's blogs I started to become a little overwhelmed. There are so many blog entries! I hadn't even thought of that. I was reading through some of my followers' blogs and I found a passage from Katie's. She is talking about a personal experience she's had with assigning and assessing her students' writing:

"In my other classes, I assign much of the writing as a grade. I do not critique their actual writing though. Instead I skim through the writing to get the gist and grade them based on the relevance to the assignment. If the student is writing and is missing the main point, I will occasionally write questions back to them, in an attempt to get them to be more thoughtful. Luckily, I have small classes so if I did want to grade every piece of their writing, I could. But what would the point in that be? Students would eventually write to appease me and my demands and not for themselves. Writing should be a form of expression and not always for a grade."

I thought she made a really good point when she said that if she graded every writing piece students are just going to write for the teacher, not for themselves. I can think of this as not only from a teacher's perspective but from a student's perspective as well. When I was in school all of our writing pieces were graded. I hated when we had writing time even if it was just for fifteen minutes out of our eight hour day. We wrote about what the teacher wanted us to write about and how she wanted us to write it. We were writing for her and it was a terrible experience. If students are writing just for the grades, like I did, it's going to create a negative attitude towards writing that won't change, even until you get into college. Writing papers was still my least favorite thing to do.

As a teacher, just like as a student, writing was my least favorite subject to teach and assess. I put my negative attitude aside and tried to make writing as positive as an experience for my students as I could but most of my students were struggling with writing. In college I wasn't taught the writing process or how to effectively teach writing so I felt like I was left in the middle of nowhere. I went back to the age-old "You must grade everything!" and I graded all final copies along with their drafts. It was a pain, not only for me but for the students as well. They were so discouraged and I just felt like I couldn't give them a truly positive attitude towards writing if I didn't have one myself. Reading Katie's blog entry made me realize that mechanics aren't the most important part of the writing, they certainly are important, but making sure that the students are able to comprehend what they're supposed to be writing about and that they are on topic is what's really important.

While rereading through Tompkins' (2012) chapter on assessing writing I found two measures of assessment that I really liked: checklists and assessment conferences. Checklists can be used at any point in the writing process, both to keep the students on task and afterwards, to make sure that they've completed everything. I  think this is a good idea for students to fill out so that they become responsible for their own writing and just to make sure that they're using the process in order to produce better results. Tompkins (2012) states that, "Writing process checklists can also be used in conjunction with product assessment; teachers can base a percentage of students' grades on how well they used the writing process and the remaining percentage on the quality of the writing" (p. 89). I think this is really important. It will let students know that the writing process is really effective and that if they use it correctly and if they use it (period) it will increase their grade. I think assessment conferences are an awesome way for teachers and students to work collaboratively in order to come to a conclusion on a student's grade. It also gives the student a chance to know what he needs to work on and what his strengths are as well instead of just receiving a grade with no explanation. Tompkins (2012) states, "Atwell (1998) keeps these conferences brief, and at the end of the meeting, she and the student develop a set of goals for the following writing project or grading period" (p. 90). One downfall of these conferences is that they may take a lot of time, which is why I think I'd have a hard time fitting them into a scheduled time period.

There are so many ways to assess writing and so many different opinions and stemming off of Katie's response this is what I found and how I feel. I think that the way that she conducts her assessments is a very efficient and effective way to assess writing so that students are not only writing what they're supposed to be writing but they're writing for themselves as well.

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Learning Log Entry #7

Getting back into the "groove of things" has been extremely difficult. It seems like I've become a stranger to blog writing in the past few days! I've been thinking a lot about the projects that we have coming up and the progress that not only I'm making in this course but that my writing/expert share group and I are coming as well. As an individual I think I've grown so much as a writer. I've learned what each stage of the writing process is, what it entails, how to teach it, and now, how to use it. I've been in each stage of the writing process except for editing, revising, and publishing and the amount of time it takes to get a quality product is awhile but the time is definitely worth it. I feel like the process is necessary when writing, and if it's helpful to me it will definitely be helpful to students. I've been working on my first genre piece and I'm ready for it to be edited and I can actually say for once in my life that I'm proud of my writing piece. Learning and implementing the process has made me feel that way and this course has helped me to realize how beneficial it is intrinsically.

As far as our expert share goes, after meeting with my group I'm really excited for our presentation. I had never met Caitlin or Katie and I really think that we are going to work well together. All three of us have a passion for teaching and we had really amazing ideas for our presentation. I've worked with some groups where some members haven't meshed and if group members disagreed it was chaos. The three of us all seemed to be on the same page and we are really excited about our interactive activities for the class. I think that the expert shares are a really great idea and will be really informational, especially for me since there are some genres that I'm not very knowledgeable in. I'm really looking forward to hearing everyone's presentations and doing all of the interactive activities that everyone has planned (those are my favorite). I accidentally read the chapter on the persuasive genre a week early (I guess I was getting ahead of myself, I wasn't really back into "graduate school mode"). I was never very good at writing persuasive pieces and I'm still not very persuasive, even when I'm speaking. At my job at New York & Company I have to persuade people to sign up for credit cards and I'm not very good at that. I figure if I can't even convince someone verbally how can I do it in writing? I'm looking forward to hearing the persuasive genre's group presentation and learning a little bit more about the genre and how to teach it. I think it's going to be a really fun class!

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Learning Log Entry # 6

This week has been totally crazy for me, so I figured I better get going while I'm ahead. Is that the saying? Let me get back on topic. While I was reading Tompkins (2012) this week there was one section that really stood out to me because it's the type of assessment that I have the most experience with. Rubrics have been a part of everyone's lives since we were younger and they've continued to be an assessment tool that we became familiar with throughout our entire schooling career including undergraduate and now graduate classes. During one of my classroom assessment courses at Bloomsburg University in PA we spent an entire two weeks focusing on how to create your own rubric. We were graded (using a rubric) on how well we could create our own rubric. As Tompkins (2012) states, "Rubrics can have 3 to 6 levels, with descriptors at each level." (p. 95) One of the elements we were graded on was whether or not our professor thought we chose the right number of levels for the grade level we chose and that our descriptor words were clearly thought out and could be given to students without questioning from them. I was baffled because I'd seen rubrics, been graded by them, but NEVER did I have to create my own. I had no idea how to create my own. I didn't even know what subject to choose. It was awful. I finally finished (at the last minute because I couldn't figure out exactly what to do because the professor's descriptors weren't very clearly thought out) and luckily I got an A but it was one of the hardest assignments I've ever had to do in my college career.

When I finally got to student teaching it was time to grade a writing assignment where the students had written a letter and were able to type it on the computer (which I had described a couple blog posts earlier) and for some reason I thought, "Hmm, I think that a rubric would be a great idea for this!" I thought I was outside of my mind to go about making another rubric. I found that making a rubric when I wasn't being graded for every little thing was so much easier and way less stressful. Tompkins (2012) explains that, "Some rubrics are general and can be used for almost any writing assignment, but others are designed for specific writing projects." (p. 95) Thinking back, I think that my rubric was a little too general for the project. I should have been a bit more specific with what I was assessing, but now that I have more knowledge on assessing writing, I think that I'll be able to do that once I get my own classroom.

Another thing that Tompkins (2012) chapter showed me was that I really didn't know a lot about assessing writing. In my first grade student teaching classroom my cooperating teacher graded solely on conventions of grammar and spelling, so that's what I did. Now, I know that that's not the best way to go to assess a student's writing. I feel like I would have had a lot more assessment opportunities if I would have been assessing the students during their writing. Taking notes while they were doing writing and while I was talking to them about their writing really would have helped me when we were starting new projects or talking about what they wanted to work on next. I never knew that that part of writing could even be assessed. I thought that writing was assessed on conventions, not the process.

One piece of advice that you receive as a teacher is to do self-assessments of yourself or reflections of your teaching. I think that Tompkins (2012) idea of students doing self-assessments of their writing is a great idea for not only them to assess their writings but for us as teachers to get an idea of where they think they stand and how we can combine our informal assessments with their self-reflections about their writing.

Going completely off topic I want to point out something else I read in Tompkins (2012) that I thought was really interesting. She states that, "Most teachers spend too much time practicing for writing tests, not too little." (p. 103) I actually agree with that. When it is time to take Pennsylvania's state assessments writing is drilled into the students' heads and they practice prompt after prompt until they are so sick of it. It's even boring to teach writing. They don't focus on writing at any other point in the year except for about a month before the state assessments. Teachers spend over an hour a day straight just focused on writing prompt after prompt. It's exhausting for both the students and the teachers.

I just want to thank everyone so much for all of your support and your congratulations! I'll see you all in two weeks :)

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Learning Log Entry # 5

Dear Dr. Jones,

Overall I think the class is going really well. It's been very informative and I've really enjoyed it. I've learned so much about not only handwritten writing but digital writing as well, which is a new concept for me. Before this class I had thought of reading and writing as two different subjects. They are graded separately so, I never really considered them interrelated in that they feed off of one another. I believe that having good reading strategies accelerates writing strategies. Being able to understand parts of a text help a student when they are writing. They know that they should be writing from top to bottom, left to right, and they know how paragraphs are formed. Eckoff (1983) states that "...children may learn structures from their reading and use them in their writing." (607) I find that that is especially true when they are studying a specific type of text over a long period of time.

I feel as though when I'm writing I'm doing it almost unconsciously. I just write to get it done and don't really think about it. During class though I am forced to think about it, which I think is a great thing. It gives me ideas and engages me wholly in the writing process. When we do specific writing activities not only does it engage me and make me think about what I'm doing (which makes me a better writer), it gives me strategies that I can use in my classroom. I know that out of the list that you mentioned: to question, to reconsider, to imagine, to discover, to clarify, to refine, to synthesize, the only one I can really see myself doing is refining. I go back to make sure that all of my grammar is correct and that all of the conventions are okay before I turn it in. It's not to say that I don't take my writing seriously or that I don't spend a lot of time when I'm writing papers for presentations, but I don't go through the stages of the writing process and honestly, I never have. I think that it's been a great help thus far and I think it's really going to help as I start my midterm in my theory class! One major reading/writing habit that I have to change would be my prewriting stage. I don't spend any time prewriting, I just go right into writing. I would really like to spend more time figuring out exactly what I'd like to write and jot some ideas down and get an idea of where my writing is going instead of staring at a blank page for hours until I finally come up with something. I actually write my piece on paper and then type it (which I know a lot of people think is an extra step) but it really helps me to figure out my mistakes when I'm transferring from paper to screen.

I feel like a lot of the instructional strategies I've learned come from Tompkins (2012) and the article by Towle (2000) on the reading process. From Tompkins (2012) I've learned that I need to model the skills in the writing process for students until they become familiar with them. I can't just model it once and expect them to understand and automatically know what they're doing. It takes time, so I need to be patient. With reading workshop, I've learned that that also takes time and that it should be a routine. It has many components that students are actively engaged in, so I need to make sure that students are involved in the learning activities and are able to work together and that I can use one-on-one instruction effectively.

The only struggle I'm really having is just being so overwhelmed at this point with the amount of "stuff" I have going on. It's not just in this class but in my life as well. Trying to juggle three classes with huge projects, moving into an apartment as well as preparing to get married is a HUGE amount of stress on me. I've not been myself lately and I'm hoping that once I'm married (on October 13) and the wedding planning is OVER that my stress level will go down and that I will be back to normal and back on track. You're doing a great job as a professor and I really enjoy this class.

Sincerely,

Kayla Goss 

Monday, October 1, 2012

Learning Log Entry # 4

Free entries are so difficult for me. You would think they'd be so easy because you can write about whatever comes to your mind, but there's just so much that comes to my mind when it comes to the field of literacy that I don't know where to begin. My first thought, though, goes back to the Kucer & Rhodes's (1986) article and the two different strategies that they suggested to use when writing. I'm one of those "writer's block" kind of girls and it just comes so easily to me. I've been staring at this blank page for a day just wondering what to write, because I'm at a loss for words. I decided to look back at the strategies, and focus on my views on those, and how I think I could use them in my classroom.

When I first read about the card strategy I thought it was a pretty cool idea. I got the main idea of it from the detailed description of it, but Kucer & Rhodes (1986) suggested only giving three to four index cards to start out with. I didn't think that was a sufficient amount, especially since you need more "meat" in your paragraph to make it a good one. Anyway, I kept my mind open and continued reading. After I figured out what it was and how it worked I thought it was a really awesome strategy that a lot of students, especially students that struggle with writing could benefit from. My topic for my genre piece project is planning my wedding and I had no idea where to begin. I know what I did but to actually WRITE about it was a completely different story. I was so excited when we actually did the card strategy in class on Wednesday! I went through eighteen cards (just ask Lindsey M, she was a trooper). After doing the activity I realized that 3-4 cards is definitely not enough for students, but handing them a huge amount of index cards could be really intimidating for them, so I'd probably give them about six or seven to start out with. Then once we started writing (I chose one of my genres as a blog entry) I went to town! I couldn't stop writing, I knew exactly what my topics were, what I should be writing about, and my creativity flowed from there. I was really proud of my writing and I think it's going to show when it's published. I think students will really enjoy this activity and being able to receive other students' inputs on the order of events and doing the same to their peers I think is a really cool idea. It gives them a fresh perspective on their writing. Lindsey actually helped me realize that some of my elements should go in a different order, it just made better sense.

The second strategy, the puzzle strategy, is a little different. The students are given a text, something totally different than what they've read. A completely new piece of text to them (which I think is a great idea so that students don't know exactly what's going on). Kucer & Rhodes (1986) state that, "...The text should have some structural similarities to others they have read, the concepts should be easily understood, and the text should not be too lengthy." (192) In other words, don't give them a four page text that they will look at and think it's in a completely different language. Until they get used to the puzzle strategy, as teachers, we need to stick to text structures that the students are used to working with and are used to reading. Don't throw them a curve ball! Then the text is cut into different parts and the students will put the parts together in the order that they think they belong. Cutting in the middle of paragraphs is too confusing, so I thought it was really good advice when Kucer & Rhodes (1986) said that we should cut the parts in a "natural order." (192) This is a small group assignment which I think is great. Once everyone is finished they will compare their answers with each other or they could compare it with the original text.

Personally, if I had to choose one of the two strategies to use in my classroom it would be the CARD STRATEGY! It just seems so much more useful and it is really fun to do. It also creates peer interactions and it get students involved in each others' writing. I think it's such a good brainstorming activity and any age group would enjoy it. 

Friday, September 21, 2012

Learning Log Entry #3

Hello fellow literacy classmates! I hope everyone's having a good start to their weekend!! When I saw that this week was a free entry I was a little bit stumped. When you see/hear "free entry," you get really excited because you can write about anything, but my mind went completely blank! Since this week's topic is about journal writing, I think that's probably the topic I'm going to stick to.

When I think about journal writing I think about the, "Dear Diary," journal entries that only you write for yourself. I had no idea there were so many other options for journal writing. Tompkins (2012) made me think back to not just my elementary school years, but my middle school and high school as well. I was thinking about my journal writing experience. Did I even have any?

Going all the way back to when I was in elementary school I can think of two types of journals that I used: personal journals and simulated journals. Tompkins (2012) says that personal journals should focus on meaning, not so much on mechanics, but even now I can remember being graded on spelling and grammar in my personal journal entries. We didn't do personal journal entries every day and I don't think we started them until about fourth grade, which now, after reading Tompkins (2012), I think is interesting, because she says that personal journals are best for young children. In third grade I remember studying the presidents and as one of our writing projects we had to write a diary entry as if we were that president, describing what was going on while we were president. We were able to research (with what we had back then, which was our social studies books and encyclopedias) and then put it all together into our diary entry. We did this for a week, not near enough time for an effective writing workshop to take place, in my opinion, but we did it none-the-less. I just think it's interesting how back then journal writing wasn't a huge genre that we practiced, almost like it either wasn't important, or it didn't exist.

In middle school is when we started using reading logs. We were reading "The Black Pearl," a book that I wasn't really that crazy about, and every day our teacher would give us a topic and we had to write about it in our reading logs. I think I would have enjoyed doing that more if I liked the book, and I wonder if that hinders children today when doing reading logs. Do they do a better job on their reading logs if they enjoy the book that they're reading? We also did some personal journals but it wasn't a daily occurance.

Next comes high school, where no one wanted to do personal journals and I think that the teachers knew that, therefore, they weren't a part of our classes. We still did reading logs in our classes, and to be honest, I think I liked doing them better in high school than I did in middle school. I'm not sure if it was the books we were reading or if I was just becoming a stronger writer. I had never heard of a double entry journal until I read about it in Tompkins (2012).

I came in contact with journal writing a lot more during my two years of substitute teaching. Even as a substitute you learn so much about teaching styles and get so many different teaching ideas. During my substitute teaching is when I came in contact with dialogue journals. This was in a second grade classroom and it was one of the morning activities that the students did. As soon as they came in they did this. Another type I did, which I'm not sure you would count as a dialogue journal or a contact log with the parents was this: the student would write about their day and then how they thought they did, then the teacher would write back and their response to the parent as well, then the student would take it home for the parent to sign and the parent would write something back as well. This wasn't done with every student, only students who the teacher thought it was necessary. When I was substitute teaching in kindergarten and first grade a lot of their kid writing was done in journal form. It was so interesting to hear the students' stories after they would bring them up to you. They might have written three words on the page and give you a mile long sentence.

It still seems to me that journal writing is one of the lesser used genres in classrooms today and I think that dialogue journals are something that I'd really like to use in my classroom, especially at the beginning of the year, as Tompkins (2012) suggested. I think that journal writing is an effective way to gain writing fluency and more teachers should use it in the classroom.

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Learning Log Entry #2


                During my student teaching experience, I worked with a class of fifteen fourth graders, some of who were really fast and efficient when using the computers and keyboard and others who had a really hard time. The only time they really used technology or even went to the computer lab was for standardized test preparation and for educational games. They had little knowledge of word processors, Power Point, or browsing the internet. When writing, a lot of them would write like they would text message. They would use “lol” or “omg” in their writing and found nothing wrong with that. Their reading curriculum was a basal reader and it gave writing prompts to go along with the story. My cooperating teacher just told me to use those prompts for my writing time. There wasn’t a writer’s workshop set in place, just a half an hour a day for the students to work on their writing. On this particular story their writing assignment was to write a letter to someone they admire. Since some of them had never used Microsoft Word, I decided that for their final drafts I would take them to the computer lab and let them publish their work and print it out. I showed them through the steps and when they were finished typing their letters they could choose a font and add a picture. They had never done that before and really liked it and if they had time at the end of other writing assignments, they had permission to go to the computer lab to print out and publish their work.
                As I stated, the school that I was teaching in followed a basal reading curriculum and the writing topics were always chosen. The students never got a choice. My cooperating teacher said that since the Pennsylvania System of School Assessments (PSSAs) were coming up, they needed to know what it was like to write about things they might not necessarily want to. It was really hard to hear that because I could see that the students didn’t like the topics and weren’t having any fun with their writing. The topics didn’t interest them (and they didn’t really interest me). I would have really liked to see if there was a change in their writing if they could have chosen what they wanted to write about.
                In the elementary school where I student taught there were two computer labs and four computers in the classroom (which the students never used). The computers in the classroom were set up right beside each other so that students could talk to each other IF they were to work together. Once I started taking over if the students had free time they would work on a group project that I had assigned.  The two computer labs were set up exactly the same: in rows like desks in a classroom facing a chalkboard. There was a walkway in the middle that separated two sections but it would have been hard for students to work in groups or to move around.  Hicks (2009) states that we should, “...attempt to create as open a classroom as possible. Having small pods of computers or tables along the outside walls where computers sit allows for easy movement and communication.” The computer labs definitely didn’t have that flow and it didn’t have an open feeling.
                Going into student teaching, I wasn’t quite sure what writer’s workshop was. I had heard the terms before, but even throughout student teaching, it wasn’t really put into action. Now that I know what exactly writer’s workshop is and how it works, I am excited to use it both manually and digitally when I am teaching in my own classroom. I think that the only thing that was in place for my digital writing workshop was my students. Hicks (2009) challenges you to question: “Overall, in what ways do you view your students, and their uses of technology-positively, negatively, or neutrally? Do you see them as capable, na├»ve, or more advanced than yourself?” A lot of my students didn’t have a computer, and if they did, they couldn’t afford the internet, so they knew how to play the standard games and could use paint but that’s about all. As I taught my first lesson to them on using Microsoft Word, I viewed all of them equally and on neutral terms because it was fairly new to most of them. At fourth grade, I had expected them to be pros at Word. I went in with a positive attitude and answered a LOT of questions and it was probably one of the most exhausting lessons I’ve taught. Since the room was set up in a way where I had to weave in and out of people, I wasn’t just mentally exhausted, I was physically exhausted too, but my positive attitude paid off. They loved it and they did a great job at publishing on Word. I think at the beginning they viewed digital writing as a scary, unknown thing and now it was a little less scary and a little more fun, which meant that writing, could become more fun.
                What needed to be put in order was the subject of writing and the spaces that we write in. Hicks (2009) states that, “Digital writing changes the contexts and purposes for writing.” When I think of the purposes for writing I think of PIE: persuade, inform, entertain. Going along with that is Hicks’ (2009) critical question, “In what ways can we transfer our understandings of good print-based writing into ideas about what constitutes good digital writing?” That takes me back to the purposes.  We need a clear, concise vision of where we are going with our writing, and when we can do that when we are manually writing, I think that we can transfer that over to our digital writing as well. I think that good digital writing is professional, doesn’t use slang, and is something that you can understand, just as print-based writing should be. I loved Hicks’ (2009) advice: “Craft a variety of modes using one digital writing tool.” Instead of using a blog for a fiction piece and a wiki for nonfiction, just use one blog with separate blog posts. I think that’s an awesome idea.
                Lastly are the spaces we write in. The computer lab I was in was not a productive environment for learning and collaborating in a digital writing environment. Hicks (2009) states that, “We teach digital writing in both face-to-face as well as virtual spaces.” Students couldn’t interact with each other because of the set-up of the room and there’s no way they could ever do a group project. It was just the wrong set-up.  I wasn’t really quite sure what a virtual space was when I started reading the book, but I thought it was really cool how students can interact over the internet, just as we did as a class in Google Docs. Hicks (2009) says to, “Create a central space for your digital writing workshop, most likely a blog or wiki.” I think that’s a great idea. Everything is in one spot so they don’t have to look at two or three different places searching. They just know exactly where they need to be.
                Hicks (2009) gives so much great advice on how to set up a digital writing workshop; things I didn’t even think to consider. I think that it’s a great start for me and I can’t wait to put them in place.
*A little side note: I read the book on my Kindle, which doesn’t have page numbers, so I wasn’t able to put page numbers beside the quotes, but they can all be found in Hicks (2009) Chapter 7.

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Learning Log Entry #1

As I think back to my experience student teaching, which is when I did a majority of my writing instruction, I think about what I have learned about the writing process and what I did and didn't do. What felt comfortable for me was giving the students a day or two to work on their rough drafts while correcting their mistakes as they finished, because that's what was done with my writing instruction when I was in elementary school. I also took advice from my cooperating teacher and she had three stages: drafting, revising, and publishing.

I was very strict with grammar and spelling, especially with my fourth grade students, because at that point they were able to use larger words and could use reference materials to use synonyms for smaller words and I challenged them with that. They knew simple grammar and spelling rules and most did a really good job during the drafting stage but then once some of them started seeing a lot of their mistakes marked in red, they almost lost hope. It's like they just gave up and checked out.

Now, I realize that a core principle that I'd like to enact in my future classroom is a major emphasis on writing. Students need to be given an adequate amount of time for writing and they need to be shown each step in the writing process. Students also need to be given a choice of topics, whereas when I was teaching, they were told what to write, which hindered their creativity. I am a very creative person and I think that in my future classroom I will give my students a lot of opportunity to choose their own writing topics. I think that every day there needs to be time for writing, whether it's writing as a class or independently, students need to be writing every day so that they get practice, especially using the stages of writing.

I know that since I started using Microsoft Word and the internet everything has been so much easier. Microsoft Word fixes most of my mistakes automatically and capitalizes everything that needs to be capitalized, so I don't have to worry if I make a simple mistake, I know I won't have to take the time to go back and fix it. I think that my familiarity with Word will help with giving my students the opportunity to use that form of technology for all steps in the writing process, which will cut down the time dramatically. Unfortunately I'm not very familiar with digital audio or blogs/wikis so I'm hoping to become more familiar with those so that when I have my own classroom I can have a classroom blog and update it so that parents and students can see what is going on in the classroom.

Starting a blog was very new and foreign to me and it actually worried me a little, especially in class, I had so many questions, I thought for sure I'd never get it right. I think my main concern is whether or not my writing in the blog is going to be formal enough, or in some cases, will it be too formal. I'm not sure whether or not I have to site every single detail that I mention in my responses either. Another thing I'm worried about is APA formatting, I'm not really familiar with it, so it's something that I'm going to have to familiarize myself with.

My First Post

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