Day 3 — M&Ms (Mentor Texts and Memeories)

Before diving in to what we did on Tuesday, here is the link to the Google Doc that I emailed out! You’ll need to sign up here for your first blog post (and I’ll post this again in the thinking ahead section); a big thank you to whoever pointed out that the 11th is fall break — this has been fixed in the document!

Here’s a summary of what we did in preparation for and on Tuesday (8/30):

-In preparation for class, we read Dean’s “Study of Models,” Marchetti and O’Dell’s “Writing with Mentors,” and three This I Believe essays (1, 2, 3). The first two texts were our first looks at the modeling and mentor texts in the classroom, and the TIB essays will serve as models for our own writing!
-We kicked off class by talking about the blog — the very same blog you’re reading! Dr. Benko went over the rubric (available on BB) and I went over my process when it came to writing the first few blog posts. I mentioned that I stressed a bit over writing the first blog post so that it could be a good model for you all, but denied you all the opportunity to see my crappy first draft. If you want to see that first draft, though, click here and try comparing it to the version on the blog! What differences can you see, and how does each seem to line up with the rubric?
-We also looked very briefly at the memes and reflection letters left to us by last semester’s 350 class, so if you want to read them all and see what advice they’ve left you, here they all are!
-We each then found a golden line from either the Dean reading or Marchetti/O’Dell reading, and posted them in this Google Doc, explaining why these lines were important in the context of the arguments. Following this, we broke up into pairs/groups of three to discuss our golden lines. I floated during this, and I overheard comments about how the vignettes show us instead of tell us about the effects of mentor texts (at multiple different points of the writing process), about how we need to be explicit about what’s working in mentor texts (showing and telling our students these things; e.g, “‘I think you should read this because…’ and not just ‘Go read this.'”), and about how, as teachers, we’re not the only ones teaching — our students also learn from the authors they’re reading.
-We also discussed the choice we can provide in the classroom — in Marchetti’s vignette, the students had choices in what they were writing, how they were writing it  (e.g, podcasts vs. print book reviews), and in the mentor texts themselves (the students weren’t pigeonholed in what they were reading); while Marchetti read more like field work, many of us pointed out that Marchetti was missing the how and practical application that Dean had.

Screen Shot 2016-08-31 at 3.38.41 PM
Kittle, who we’re reading for tomorrow, has a whole page of mentor texts on her website. What kinds of mentor texts do we already have in our mental filing cabinets or folders?

-In order to combat some of the concerns Dean brings up (e.g, emphasis on product, formula, and the possibility of copying, the latter of which Emily and I started discussing in the hashtag), we labelled mentor texts as tools in a toolbox, rather than end goals.
-After talking about these aspects of mentor texts, we broke up into different groups and, in the same Google Doc as before, began looking at the TIB essays as mentor texts, looking at the craft rather than the content (“envisioning” is missing from our chart in the document, but this is as it seems — envisioning how we might employ this element of craft in our own writing).

-As we were going over each author’s belief statement, I thought of something Silas Hansen said in my online class this summer (English 306, which is creative nonfiction; I can’t recommend taking CW classes here at Ball State enough), and it’s certainly advice that has stuck with me — remember to show, but also remember to tell; the point of a personal essay or memoir is not what happened, but how the writer feels about what happened, or how the writer makes sense of what happened. These belief statements are the part of the piece that tell and make the authors’ beliefs explicit.

Thinking ahead:

-Keep tweeting! We’re off to such a good start with this, and don’t be afraid to reply to one another if you’re struggling to come up with a tweet of your own. Twitter naturally invites conversation!
-Readings you’ll need to have done for Thursday are Cutler’s “To Teach Effective Writing, Model Effective Writing” and Kittle’s “Writing Giants, Columbine, and the Queen of Route 16.”
-In addition to bringing these readings, make sure to bring back the TIB essays we read for Tuesday, as we’re going to be starting work on idea generation for our own TIB essays.
-Make sure to sign up for your first blog post, too!



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.


Day 3 – Mentor Texts

Hey squad. Here is the recap about 1/19/2016.

Before this class, we read Deborah Dean’s “What Works in Writing Instruction” and listened to three This I Believe podcasts. At start of class, we did some brief discussion about Twitter.

Is your Twitter profile professional? Look at your  profile picture and bio. We liked when bios linked to portfolios. If a school found this, they would be able to see your artifacts and beliefs. I also thought you could  link to a LinkedIN account or to a project you are part of. We also thought bios that identified us as learners, teachers, and students were good. If students found this, they could see who you are as a person.

Are you tweeting? Reminder that we need to be tweeting throughout the week and tweeting under #bsu350. Check out blackboard for ideas of what to tweet. Some ideas are quotes from the readings, big ideas or takeaways, general topics you want to discuss. questions, connections to class or readings, replies to each other, and ideas for applying these ideas to a future classroom.

Next up was looking at the blog and reviewing/discussing last class. We saw that our boards highlighted important tensions. Some scenarios seemed like extremes while others were more reasonable/ you could see yourself teaching like that. It made us think:

  • How can be balance structure with freedom?
  • How do we let tensions guide/modify/or influence our instruction?
  • When do we assess tensions? along the way? before planning?

We want students to learn specific skills that are all important to writing, but we also know from Dean that structure can stifle students. The takeaway is that these tensions are a continuum. We need to move along and vary tensions. The more we teach, the more we will be able to understand tensions in our teaching or planning.  If you can recognize these tensions, you can adjust and choose, but if you ignore tensions or don’t look for tensions, your teaching will leave room for problems. Control doesn’t come from strict obedience to structure. Both sides of the tensions can be helpful.

How does this connect to Dean and Mentor texts? I think the tension between structure and freedom comes into play when using models. Does it limit students if we show that something that is a good or perfect example of a finished product? Or does it help them to see ways they can write?

We tweeted some ‘one-sentence’ summaries of Dean’s text. These tweets led us to discuss how we model product and process.

Screen Shot 2016-01-19 at 1.07.15 PM.png

We saw that models can be a good balance between structure and freedom.

Screen Shot 2016-01-19 at 1.08.07 PM.png
Screen Shot 2016-01-19 at 1.12.36 PM.png

We learned that it is important to use multiple models to make sure students don’t see only one right way to write. It also helps students explore writing. We want students to write individual and unique pieces, not write the same essay.

Screen Shot 2016-01-19 at 1.08.51 PM.png
Screen Shot 2016-01-19 at 1.10.31 PM.png

We connected it to reading and the community. The NCTE beliefs described how critical it is to connect these. It creates purposeful activities and builds applicable skills.

Now that we know some stuff about models, let’s check out some models! We listed to some This I Believe podcasts before class. Why? These essays are a model for your assignment. When reading, we looked for “What makes these essays a This I Believe essay? What makes a This I Believe statement?  Why do people write a This I Believe essays? What is strong about them? They are all This I Believe, but how are they different?”

Here are our answers to those questions. Next time we will look at pinpointing this as a genre, craft, and model.

By looking at these models, we saw how choice matters. Each group picked different essays. It shows that we connected to different things. This might shape how we write our own This I Believe.

Looking ahead, I encourage looking for possible mentor texts. When do you see yourself modeling a writing process? Did you explain something to a friend? Did your teacher share a model? What types of things can be mentor texts? Can comic strips, email, or tweets be mentor texts?  Look for these things and ask yourself, “How could I use this text to highlight something important about writing?”
For connections, I tried to find some real-life examples of modeling writing in a secondary classroom. I found an example from the NWP title “Working With Beginning Writers” that was interesting.