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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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