Day 6: Be like Oprah

Due today 

Make sure you turned in your rough draft for “This I Believe” (hard copy of course)

And don’t forget the resources we were supposed to have for today: School Writing Versus Authentic Writing and Ken Lindeblom’s bomb twitter (He tweets back sometimes!) 

For next class 

  • Benko (2012/2013), “Scaffolding: An Ongoing Process”
  • Smagorinsky, Ch. 2 “A Structured Process Approach” 
  • Be sure to start thinking about your First Twitter reflection assignment, it’s due 9/8 (Day 8)

Before I get started on what we did today, let me just say “Good Job!” Cathy Day observed us having an awesome and engaging conversation! 

So what did we do today? 

Today we started off reflecting on our “This I Believe” rough drafts (Any questions or concerns? Not happy with it yet? Totally thrilled with how it turned out? Let Dr. Benko know if you haven’t done so already!)

We did a lot of work with Mi Casa and had a great discussion on how to create an inclusive classroom culture, so that all students felt welcome and comfortable and really PART of the classroom and their learning.  We also analyzed the assignment and decided wether or not the assignment was Intellectual work, what was its’ purpose, does the student have ownership of the assignment, and who is the audience. We pretty much decided that it wasn’t really intellectual work because it didn’t invoke deeper thinking, the purpose was pretty clear but there were a few discrepancies on what the students needed write/who it was for. It scored high on student ownership, but the audience was unclear. (Google Doc here)

As for the news anchor project (This) it was decided that it was busy work (not intellectual), purpose was semi clear (“Jump from step one to step two is unclear/lacking connection and needs explained more.”), it provided a decent amount of ownership, and the audience is clear. One key note brought up that changed it was “Are they researching a story and then creating their own story, or are they recreating an existing story?” As a teacher, this is a good example of the importance of being super specific in your assignments. 



Food for thought: How does Emilie’s task fit into this analysis? 

Our main focus for our discussions can be summed up in the following points:

  • How do we know it’s authentic?
  • Why do we assign writing in school to begin with?
        • You have two kids: Those who write only in one way or those who don’t write at all. Some kids need structure
        • We also need to model and have them practice or they won’t
        • We have standards 
        • We also need to expose students to different types of writing 
This a standard before you come along.


Shifting gears a bit, how do we get students to think about “Authentic” writing as being academic writing? Can the two even mix? We had a great in-class discussion about how we can engage students to write authentically in the classroom. Traditionally, students see academic writing as just for the grade and don’t really get a lot out of the writing. They ask questions like “Can I do this? Is this wrong? Will this count off? Is it for a grade?” and cater to what the school or teacher want. While students who create authentic writing ask questions like: “Will this relate to my audience? Does this make sense? How can I make my character more dynamic?” 

Alivia brought up an excellent point in our discussion: “Authentic writing is so important because the audience is REAL.” She had a writing prompt in High School:”Write to school officials about your thoughts on getting school uniforms (Do you agree or disagree? Why?)” And Alivia said nobody really cared about the topic because they KNEW they would never get uniforms, so the audience isn’t real. So how do we engage our students and get them to write authentically? Well….



Give students some choice, that’s how! You need to get students to take the information you give them, and do something with it! Don’t let them just repeat it back. 

Tom Forrest helps begin this idea of choice and student involvement by allowing his students to bring in decoration for the classroom in a new way. (Here) From this, we discussed the importance of a “Classroom Culture” where students feel comfortable and can be honest.

Key Notes from class discussion:

Intellectual work: Rigorous! Really make students use that higher level thinking. Don’t let students just regurgitate information. And don’t just give them a bunch of busy work. That isn’t stimulating for the mind and frankly nobody likes it. (Not even teachers, you have to grade it all later). 

Purpose:Do I know what I’m writing about? Why am I writing this?” They need to know how to go about it and what they’re doing it. (Always ask “What are you doing and why?” They need to know what they are doing and why. Be a teacher and question like a 3 year old).

Aim for authentic audiences: More than just the teacher should read it. Some alternatives:


Ownership: Let students have choice over their writing because it helps them care more about the assignment and makes it “real” and take “ownership” of their writing. 

Equitable choice: Don’t let one project/assignment choice be too hard and one too easy.

Food For thought: 

Whenever you can, let students write in a position of power or write over something they know a lot about! Don’t make them feel like they have to write towards what the teacher knows. Let them write about what they know or what they want to know.

“How do you make learning not in hindsight?” 

        • Reflect on what you’ve written while you’re doing it. Write a reflection over a rough draft, for example. What was easy? What was hard? What can improve? 
        • Don’t confuse fun for learning
        • Ask students to think about their thinking
        • Can we get someone else’s hindsight? 
        • Have students write to the next grade/class

“How can I create a more authentic audience for my students?” Well… here are some resources:

  • Tumblr (Troi and Brittany have a tumblr, it’s linked on their Twitter and now here too!)
  • WordPress ( Rachel and Alyssa both have one! Heck, our 350 blog is here too)
  • Iweb 
  • YouTube
  • Twitter
  • (You can start a petition here and explain it too!)
  • Here’s a neat article about how one teacher got her students to write a little more authentically. Don’t forget that Pinterest is amazing at generating ideas and prompts and just in general teacher stuff!
  • More ideas for encouraging authentic writing 
  • Some cool writing prompts for all tastes!

“Useful” writing resources for those moments when students ask “Why do I need to practice writing?”:

  • Resume writing (complete with the standards that go with it)
  • Email etiquette! (You’d be surprised how many don’t know these things)
  • Sample scholarship questions

And our final thought for class:


Don’t be afraid to ask for feedback from your students! 

Give students the space to be honest (“Well…I didn’t really like this or this.” or “I realize now that hard work sucks at the time, but it can become meaningful later on.”)

Take criticism about the class and lessons and realize they aren’t about you. Let them be honest. Be careful and intentional or else it may get personal. But just keep in mind the importance of creating an open classroom culture where both students and teachers can get feedback to help them improve. 

Don’t forget to sleep this weekend!

– Cassie 


19 – Grammar Introduction

Hey team, here is the post for 3/22/2016.

The only thing due today was the midterm project.

We started off with a discussion about the blog. This was the first year ENG350 used a blog, so it was a kind of experiment for us. We didn’t really know what to expect. The goal of the blog was to have a space to make our learning permanent. Sometimes our discussions or ideas get lost as soon as we leave the classroom. The blog is meant to preserve what happened so, if you did forget everything, you can go back to the blog. It is also a place for resources. The tags and links were meant to connect you to common ideas.

There were lots of opinions about the blog. Your input is defintely valid and valuable! It’ll help us shape the assignment for the future and figure out how to make it better.

Here is a chart summary of our discussion.

reflection (can see what we learned)
extra work for little use
volunteers only
activity review (can see what we did)
gives excuse not to attend class (“you can just look at the blog”)
don’t assess.
(how assess then? or ensure that blog is updated?)
tags help us find information
takes fun into school writing
interactive (comments, twitter, use in class)
looking ahead
(write a question for twitter)
links to readings or resources makes it convenient
too formal (submit draft, long, attentive, revise)
write your own ideas, not just recap what happened in class
practice writing for an authentic audience
put up and never touch again
great for midterm and twitter
good only for tech savvy people/ navigation
inconsistent format

For me, I think this means that the blog met its objective. It was useful in preserving what we learned and in helping you complete assignments. But it also sounds like it wasn’t the most enjoyable task. Some requirements need to be changed so that there is more freedom and interaction.

After talking about the blog, we did a grammar and writing activity.

Here is a link to the powerpoint I used in case you want to check out what we did/use it yourself! In the activity, you guys brainstormed what writing is/is not, wrote a definition of writing, and illustrated that definition as a metaphor or image. Then you did the same for grammar, but, instead, integrated our grammar into the image or metaphor you already made. The goal of the activity was to see how grammar isn’t some sort of add-on at the end of writing. It is interconnected By adding it in the image or metaphor, you could see how grammar has its own special place.

Here are your definitions (I transcribed some because of the glare):

Here are your metaphors and images:

It looks like you guys came up with some great stuff! We have writing as surgery with grammar being the stitches. We have an attic space as writing and the holiday stuff as grammar. Then we have a person thinking of various written works with grammar being tools. I can see in these images how grammar becomes essential.

As you worked, I think the hardest part was coming up with something all-inclusive. There were some different opinions about grammar and writing that made it difficult to define. This included whether spoken performances or art could be considered writing and whether grammar was cultural. I think this means our challenge in learning about grammar and writing is that we need to be open to other interpretations and see the two as constantly changing, but still constantly interconnected.

Looking ahead, your readings are Anderson’s chapters 1, 2, and 3 (for the text Mechanically Inclined). If you haven’t already, you should buy the text.

As an outside resource, I recommend LingSpace! It is one of my favorite video channels. It’s all about linguistics. Here is the video about descriptive vs. prescriptive grammar. A lot of our discussion relates well to this.  It also might answer some of your questions about what can be considered grammar.

Day 5—Task Design

Hi folks! Here is the recap for class on 1/26/2016.

Our readings for class were Indiana Standards for Writing and Ken Lindblom’s blog post titled, “School Writing Vs. Authentic Writing.” Reading these two texts together generated a lot of discussion about implementing standards and authentic writing in the classroom. Hopefully, this blog post can refresh your memory and keep the ball rolling!

Class started with a bit of “housekeeping.”

  • We were reminded of our upcoming due dates:This I Believe draft 1 – Thursday 1/28 (Next class!)
    • Don’t forget to make this your best first draft!
  • Twitter reflection #1 – Thursday 2/4
    • Remember to put your thoughts out there!
    • Don’t forget that you can use #BSU350 and #bsuenglish

We also turned over responsibility of our blog-post writing to students in the class (thanks for kicking us off, Emilie!), and an interesting question was asked.

When it is my turn to write the blog post, can I use information about other people or myself from class? We discussed the pros and cons of this as a group. One suggestion was to tag the speaker with the their Twitter handle. It is nice to give nods to people and credit to the knowledge being build in class. However, using a person’s name or their Twitter handle may put information on the blog, e.g. a person’s last name, that they would prefer not to have publicized. Ryan suggested that we request permission to use people’s names (Thank you for permission to use your name, Ryan!). In conclusion, simply make sure that you have been given consent to use people’s names and information they may have shared in class.

*This also means that people are responsible for answering the appointed blogger when they ask to use your name or quote you!

The next order of business was to reflect on Ken Lindblom’s main points. Together, we made a list of key points made in the blog “School Writing Vs. Authentic Writing” and reflected on what they might mean for a classroom.  Here’s what we came up with!

  • We talked about how students may not be getting the type of practice that they need for “real-world” environments. When decided that when we only ask students to only write a five paragraph essay, we could deprive them of ways to practice and learn skills that will be pertinent later in life. Lindblom added to this by saying, “Auhentic writing not only helps students learn more about writing in the real world, it’s also more fun for them, for their teachers, and for their families, who can appreciate seeing their children making a difference in some aspect of their world.”
  • We also discussed on where we place value when we look at written works from students. we concluded that maybe the focus should be more heavily rested on content (which is not the way that it is currently for most). Lindblom called attention to the importance of content by saying, “Because young people are now constantly engaged in real-world, social-media writing, it’s more important than ever that they learn how to write effectively, intelligently, and ethically.”
  • School writing is almost always focused on the teacher as an audience. It was interesting to see that when asked how many of us had previously taken a class that allowed us to write to an authentic audience, only a few of us raised our hands!

When our thoughts on Lindblom were collected, we moved on to discussing the Indiana Standards for Writing.

In case you need a recap on how to read the way the standards are written, here is a key: W = writing, first number = standard, second number = indicator for specific standard

After reading the standards across grade levels, the class made some excellent observations on how standards might help or create difficulty in the classroom.

At first, I found the standards and the idea of authentic writing to be relatively simple. However, after the class discussed it, I realized that combining the two in writing tasks could present a great challenge.

Here are some concerns and questions that the class came up with:

Class impressions of the criteria for creating a writing task.

Important take aways from our conversation were that we need to keep authenticity as our first priority and that frameworks are only dangerous when they become our only focus.

Looking ahead, we should be mindful of opportunities for authentic writing for our students! Grant Wiggins wrote an article called “Real-World Writing: Making Purpose and Audience Matter,”in which, you can find ideas about helping students find what they want to say and putting it into an authentic and strongly impacting form. After our discussions in class, it is also clear that we should strive to be transparent with our students about goals and standards that we want them to be able to accomplish. Grant Wiggins wrote a post about authentic teaching that might help you understand ways to be open with your students about goals that you are aiming for them to achieve!

In conclusion, by allowing them to see what they should be able to accomplish, giving them an authentic audience, and the opportunity to write on a topic they feel passionately about, we will be setting students up to be successful students!

Go forth and inspire students to write!

(And start writing yourselves!)


Day 4 – Teachers as Writers

Hey everyone. Here is the recap for 1/21/2016.

Before class, we read Cutler’s “To Teach Effective Writing, Model Effective Writing” and Kittle’s “Writing Giants, Columbine, and the Queen of Route 16”. Both of these readings expanded on the idea of mentor texts/writing models and on teachers as writers.

At the start of class, we had a good discussion about the blog. I noticed a few questions in particular that we focused on.

  • Why do we have a ‘looking ahead’ portion in our blog posts? The looking ahead portion is to connect us to materials outside of class. These have been articles, but they can be videos, news, and quotes (from other courses or readings). By looking for the articles, you are developing a good practice of building a repertoire of professional materials. By reading them, you are able to think about your future classroom, participate in a larger educational community, and develop a deeper understanding of what you covered in class.
  • What are the benefits of having a blog in a secondary school? We talked about how having a blog in one place gathers information together, making it easier to look through. It also prevents information from being ‘lost’. Sometimes, when we leave class, we forget the little things- like what we wrote on whiteboards or our small group discussions. A blog would be useful for students to hold onto their learning. We also saw how blog writing fulfilled tothe need for writing to be shared and for students to be writing. The shared space creates a community and provides an audience for students.
  • I know. That sounds too perfect. There were several issues we thought we might face. Student privacy was a big issue. How can teachers maintain student privacy in a public space? We also considered students who could abuse a blog by exploiting access or by not pulling their weight. If a student doesn’t do their work or if a student takes over the site, then the rest of the students lose out on a learning opportunity. How can a teacher control the website while also allowing student ownership?

I think the take away from this was that we are still working out the details on the blog. It is something I expect we will discuss often throughout the semester.

Moving away from the blog and to our readings, we discussed how seeing teachers as writers is still ‘new’. Not everyone has had a teacher who modeled the struggles, process, and successes of writing. Benko asked us to think about if we would complete our own assignments. Are you willing to do what you assign your students? Modeling the writing process might make the difference.

To continue our conversation on this, Benko proposed three questions about the Dean, Cutler, and Kittle readings. You tweeted your responses.

How does the Cutler reading add to the Dean reading from Tuesday? How is it different?

How did Penny Kittle’s “real life” connect to her teaching life? What does this mean for us as teachers, and as teacher-writers?


6C22419D-CFFE-40FF-8095-3BD157DD96BB.pngWhat do these readings (Cutler & Kittle) mean for us as teachers? What will we have to DO in our classrooms? What will people SEE when they watch us teach if we are living out the recommendations of these two authors?



It looks like we have a good understanding of what we need to do: WRITE!

Instead of just reading about teachers are writers, the importance of models, and writing to be shared, we are going to do it. The This I Believe assignment is a good example of applying these three beliefs.

For the assignment today, we look at the similarities between the three This I Believe essays from earlier this week. We noticed that all essays:

  • have authors who were inspired/ are inspiring
  • describes stories over time
  • have a  grander meaning/ message
  • are personal/ in a unique voice
  • give a sense of value
  • express discomfort
  • express change
  • are relatable to an audience
  • are written as narratives

What is bolded are the things we agreed were the necessary parts to a This I Believe essay. By studying models, we have a better understanding of what is expected of us. (Hey! Dean said this would happen!)

Now we just need to write. Remember when Benko said that starting is sometimes the hardest part of writing? That was when we did our Writing Territories activity! We listed our writing territories to show that we do have things we are comfortable about writing. You can use these to start your drafts.

Looking ahead, I wanted to give you some links about successful blogs in the classroom. Especially since we talked a lot about blogs in classrooms today.

Here is an edutopia article “Blogging in the 21st Century Classroom” and a busyteacher article “Considerations on Blogging in the ESL Classroom”. I know some of you aren’t concentrating in ESL, but the article can still prepare you for ESL students you will likely have in your classrooms. That article also looks into student privacy and provides a set of rules for students.

Good luck with your This I Believes! I look forward to hearing about them.