Day 2 – Writing Beliefs

Hey team! Here is what we did for 1/14/2016.

Before I go into detail, here are a few quick reminders.

  • Don’t forget to follow @slbenko on twitter.
  • Also, my twitter is @heyemmateach and not my full name. Don’t be freaked out if you don’t recognize the name/photo if I reply or tweet.
  • We are looking for help with the blog. Do you have an idea for the title? Or how we can make posts more connected and reflective? We look forward to hearing your ideas 🙂

For today’s class, we read Smagorinsky’s first chapter and the NCTE Beliefs about Teaching Writing. Our focus today was on writing territories and writing beliefs.

Writing territories are topics, genres, or areas of writing. As Benko explained, sometimes the scariest part of writing is the beginning. If students are able to list or think about their own writing territories, they feel confident and capable. (If you want to look into more about Writing Territories, you can check out the twowritingteachers blog post “Give Heart Maps a Rest! Try Writing Territory Maps” or Nancie Atwell’s book In the Middle: A Lifetime of Learning about Writing, Reading, and Adolescents).  

To understand this, there was a quick write about topics you write, genres you want to write, and audiences you want to write for. Before the quick write, though, Benko did some really important things. First, she modeled her own answers. Modeling is something you are going to hear a lot about in this class (because it is super important!). Second, she showed that she is a writer. Teachers need to write, too. Why do you think it is important to model both writing and being a writer?  

Looking back at the quick write, I think we noticed that we all have a lot of things we are comfortable or interested in writing about. Benko told us that kids have great ideas and lot to say, but they may not be able to. Students need space to write (hey, that could be your classroom!). The quick write proved that all students have writing potential. 

After that, we broke into groups to look at the scenarios in Smagorinsky’s text. It seems like each scenario had good and bad. I heard lots of great thoughts like –

  • Who determines what great writing is?
  • How important is grammar?
  • How do we represent ourselves and our community in writing?
  • Should writing be focused on process or product?
  • How do we let students have control and choice over their writing (while still being educational)?

I think these questions will be answered as the semester goes on, but this shows some great thinking. I’m glad you are asking the tough questions.

Here are our boards which describe the scenario, list the tension, and then connect to the NCTE beliefs.

Thinking ahead, I recommend bookmarking the NCTE Beliefs. These had a big impact on my ideas and plans for the projects. The beliefs made me ask myself, “How can I achieve these in my teaching?” I know at some tables that the idea of accomplishing these beliefs felt overwhelming or confusing. One concern was connecting students to real-world audience writing projects. I think this is can be tough (especially if you don’t have the resources or connections), but I found some resources/great examples. 

Here is a link to the Indiana Writers Center. Their outreach programs are good examples of how students can connect with their community through writing. 

And here is a link to the National Writing Project. This site has a good list of projects that can inspire you.

 You’ll be introduced to more models and examples in the class about all the beliefs, but these links might be a good source to come back to when you work on your projects.



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