Day 7–What are we building?

I don’t know about the rest of you, but I have a horrible sense of direction.  To get from point A to point B, even if I’ve been there before, even if it’s in my hometown or in Muncie, I need step by step directions. My friends make fun of me for how clueless I am and I’ve  gotten hopelessly lost too many times to count just for turning the wrong way out of the parking lot.  Needless to say, my phone is always in my cupholder giving step by step directions in its obnoxiously fake voice.

But recently I’ve noticed that when the GPS is giving directions to a familiar place,  I can anticipate what it’s going to say. I still need the support in case I turn left instead of right or miss a street and get confused, but I don’t fully lean on that crutch as much as I did the first time I went there. For many places in my hometown I leave the GPS off altogether, no longer dependent on it.  My engineer dad, who can navigate his own hometown 30-some years later, rarely uses a GPS at all.

This is obviously an imperfect example but my own learning to drive and the external support I need to do that (a GPS) reminds me of students learning to write, and the external support we provide them to do that: Scaffolding.

For class today we did two readings: Chapter 2 of Smagorinsky, in which he explains his own Structured Process Approach to teaching writing and gives an example assignment. We also read a piece about the importance of scaffolding by our very own Dr. Benko.

We began the class in groups deepening our understanding of both readings and finding connections between the two. Here are some highlights of what we discussed:

  • Scaffolding is a beneficial process when combined with other tools/methods. (Beth, Cassie, and Makayla)
  • Teachers highlight elements of a task that might be confusing or difficult and teaches mini-lessons (one-on-one, small group, or whole class) focuses on that particular element.   (Me, Brittany, and Alyssa)
  • Not just the tools are important in scaffolding, but it is the useful and thoughtful utilization of those tools. (Benji, Kaleb, and Kayla)
  • makayla
  • Smag’s assignment to write a letter to the couple recommending which restaurant would best meet their family’s needs and wants for their desired budget–and the need to prioritize some of those factors over others–demands a level of critical thinking that many writing assignments don’t have.  It reminded me of brain teasers you’d see in a children’s magazine.
  • kayla1 Math isn’t scary! (Just kidding it definitely still totally is)
  • Student ownership allows them to be more invested in their own learning
  • Individualized attention for students. Teachers should be mindful of their own attitude and processes, and be willing to tweak their teaching in order for students to “get it”
  • Models serve as a demonstration of the writing process and as a reference to help achieve the final process.  Models can be work by other students, work by the teacher, or professional authors. 
  • Brittany, Alyssa, Dr. Benko, and I debated about the authenticity of Smag’s assignment: A fake list of people with needs and wants, a fake audience (the couple the letter is going to), random restaurants.  After some back and forth, we concluded that while we could tweak this assignment (using local restaurants or writing the letter directly to the teacher instead of a fake couple), not every single assignment is going to be totally authentic and personal to the students. It’s just not possible. But the logic and group work aspects of this task are so stellar, it’s still a worthwhile assignment. For me, this conversation was a good reminder that not every element of a writing task (intellectual merit, purpose, audience, ownership) has to be “High” for it to be a great task.

 

We also took a few minutes to discuss some questions related to scaffolding.  

 

How does modeling fit into Smag’s process? (Several of us were surprised and even a little upset that he said “Models for students to follow in their writing are minimized or discarded.” –page 23)

Beth expressed concern that models may lead to students copying the style of the author too closely and not finding their own voice.  In our small group, Alyssa recognized that too many models can be overwhelming–leading to information overload.  This goes back to the idea of models and scaffolding being used alongside other tools. As Benko pointed out, as we all nodded along, any of the elements of scaffolding in isolation is not scaffolding.

Alivia and I pointed out that the genre of the work matters:  It’s a problem if all creative writing pieces sound the same, but resumes and letters have a set structures and similar language.

We discussed that sometimes working closely with a text can be a helpful starting point or exercise. Dr. Benko shared that while studying abroad in England as an undergrad, she wrote a poem in the style of Dr. Seuss, paying attention to his unique rhyme and rhythm. I’d love to read that!

We established that in general, the role of models is to start close and then move away.

 

How much influence did the teacher actually have in Smag’s task?

At first, many people reacted to this question with “The book doesn’t tell us how this task worked in practice. We can’t guess or assume.”    Kaleb then clarified that they were asking how much teacher involvement we might typically see Smag’s structured process approach, not necessarily for the restaurant task specifically.  

We realized we couldn’t know very much about the teacher’s role in Smag’s model, but Dr. Benko said something thought provoking about a teacher’s role in a the classroom more generally:

Peek into any middle school or high school classroom and notice just one thing: How are all of the desks arranged?  

Is the teacher the ultimate giver of knowledge, with their desk taking up the front of the room, students in rows listening to the information being delivered? Are student desks in small groups so they can interact and share with each other, with the teacher acting more as a facilitator of learning than a deliverer of information? Are all the desks–Teacher included–in a circle to promote discussion and a level playing field?  

Classroom culture and the physical classroom environment is important.

No one really commented on this idea in class, but on Twitter, we exploded in appreciation for student empowerment.

 

Since we all seemed pumped about this idea of classroom design relating to student ownership, here’s a neat article with all kinds of resources and information about how the physical environment of a classroom affects our relationship with students and their relationships with each other: http://www.edutopia.org/blog/the-physical-environment-of-classrooms-mark-phillips

As promised, we had a fun activity involving drawing. We tried to represent how scaffolding, SPA, and writing tasks in pictures.  More on that next class!
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This was my group. We’re so creative we drew literal scaffolding to represent scaffolding.  We also have the Meta roof: Asking questions about like why did you do this? how did you do you this? what was hard? what was easy? what’s your favorite part?  As a creative writing minor, I almost always have to reflect on drafts I turn in. It’s the best and worst part for the same reason: it makes me think long and hard about what I put on the page.

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I love how many different ways we chose to represent these ideas.

 

Some friendly reminders:

  • Tweaked schedule: Rachel is leading class Thursday so Dr. Benko can celebrate her kid’s awesomeness. Looks like we’ll be doing an activity based on Smag chapter 3 “Teaching Fictional Narrative” so get your imaginations warmed up.  
  • Coffee does not equal food
  • Have y’all read this article by NCTE? Really funny and timely with what we’ve been talking about  “My Anti-Five Paragraph Essay Five Paragraph Essay”  http://blogs.ncte.org/index.php/2016/09/anti-five-paragraph-essay-five-paragraph-essay/ 
  • This weekend–Saturday September 17th–is the Indiana Teachers of Writing Conference at Marion University in Indianapolis. Inexpensive for students, lunch included, a great opportunity to meet real life teachers doing really cool things with real students,  and Dr. Jones is presenting about teaching writers on the Autism Spectrum.  And your Ball State friends will be there.
    Check it out  here: http://www.indianateachersofwriting.com/2016-itw-conference

 

And a question!

writerswrite

What are you writing this week? How’s it going?

 

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.

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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!

-Rachel

Day 20 – Grammar Pseudo-Concepts

Hey team! This is the post for 3/24/2016.

*I’m trying a new thing where I add possible Twitter discussion questions. These are in blue. Feel free to post and answer them on Twitter!

Prior to class, you need to read chapters 1, 2, and 3 of Anderson’s Mechanically Inclined.

We started with a Grammar Pre-Assessment. We are all at different places with our knowledge of Grammar. Regardless of our understanding, we are expected to teach grammar. This assessment will be useful as it will help show what you need to work on. How did the pre-test make you guys feel? Was it easy or difficult? What does this tell you?

After that, we moved on to a discussion of the text. The discussion focuses on several main points.

Pseudo-Concepts

  • Page 4 is the definition.
  • Pseudo-concepts provide a reason why students use grammar. Can you think of any pseudo-concepts you guys had in high school? 
  • This is like getting a paper with lots of grammar errors and, instead of marking it all over in red and failing it, you find a pattern and teach to the student.
  • Students are smarter than we think. They come with useful knowledge.

Context

  • Page 11 is the definition.
  • Context gives meaning.
  • We need to use models, break things down, and reach multiple levels.
  • Context is connected to craft, audience, form, and meaning.
  • Worksheets don’t have context. Students don’t learn by just following directions/fixing sentences. These ‘errors’ are too simple. Students need sophisticated and authentic grammar.

Connors and Lunsford Errors

  • Page 7.
  • The text has varying terminology (restrictive elements vs. interrupters). Why is that?
  • Papers are a someone’s work. You can’t just tear it a part; that’d be devastating for a student. In our feedback about grammar, we need to focus on teachable moments or concrete patterns rather.
  • Bench shared Barb’s grammar grading strategy. Barb reads the first paragraph or so and identifies as many errors as possible. Then student’s look for how to fix these errors in that paragraph and the rest of the paper. This places more responsibility on the students. It’s also authentic; students need to know how to edit their own papers.

Mentor Sentences/Daily Doses

  • Pages 19-21.
  • Students should manipulate familiar sentences, interpret possible meanings, and learn new concepts/adapt previous concepts.
  • Anderson uses several strategies, such as Take Apart, Imitation, and Compare. Which one do you think is best? 
  • Mentor sentences in daily doses influence concept development by letting students figure out THE WHY, by moving beyond the rules, and connecting to prior knowledge.
  • Anderson was in the middle about technical langauge. What do students gain? What do they lose? It seems use is based on class/student.

Practice time! We read a college application essay and looked at patterns of error and possible pseudo-concepts. Here are a few examples of what we covered.

  • Commas after random words (“I pause when I talk, so I have to put a comma there…right?”)
  • Commas when talking about two things (“If it is more than one thing, then it is a list, and lists have commas.”)
  • Semicolons (“I need to separate these things, but I don’t really know how. It’s not a period, so I just used a semicolon!”)

We also looked at Benko’s response. This is a good model for feedback! She highlights step positives, lists the types of mistakes, and then teaches. She also includes links to outside resources and has mentor sentences.

Looking ahead, you guys need to read Anderson’s chapter 4 and Section 1 of Part II: The Sentence. This is grammar heavy. To help, here are some grammar links that can supplement your understanding.

The Punctuation Guide

Grammar Infographic

I also HIGHLY recommend the handouts from our Writing Center. These handouts are currently being updated (so not all of them are available on the WC website), but here are two examples: Commas (my personal favorite) and Articles (which isn’t something from Anderson’s text, but is really good for ESL).

Hope this helps!

-Emilie

February 16: Hicks and Turner

Hey friends, it’s Christian this time, and I’m going to recount what we did in class on Tuesday, February 16.

But first, housekeeping:

In case you missed it, the Twitter Reflections were due by class time. If you accidentally emailed Dr. Benko your reflection—that’s OK, but take the time to upload it in Box now.

We talked briefly about revising our TIBs. Continue to work on these, and incorporate revisions based on feedback you have so far. The next step will be creating podcasts, which we’ll work on next week. Dr. Benko reminded us that, though we’re about to start our midterms (more on this in a minute), we’ll soon be done juggling these TIBs.

Finally, in preparation for today’s discussion (and pop quiz), we needed to read Chapters 1 and 2 of Crafting Digital Writing, by Troy Hicks (one of those other books we bought for this class) and “No Longer a Luxury: Digital Literacy Can’t Wait” by Hicks and Turner (available on BB).

The Midterm

“Get ready, we’re going to start working our faces off”—reassuring words from Dr. Benko concerning the midtermGif2

We took over half of our class time to review the assignment and discuss Dr. Benko’s expectations. The assignment is split into four parts, listed in depth as follows:

1. Create a standards based writing task:

This task will be inspired by the tasks presented in the Smagorinsky chapter we are each assigned (see Who’s Reading What). We should look at Smagorinsky’s tasks for inspiration, but ultimately, we are creating our own writing task. This assignment should be (1) geared towards 6-12 grader, (2) very clearly relate to specific standards, (3) be inspired by your Smagorinsky chapter, and (4) meet the four criteria of good task design (purpose, audience, rigorous intellectual work, and opportunities for ownership).

2. Draft a Rubric:

9efd21499399b5143d737f7cec67dfd9876334ebaac218ff0cebed43ac280795Dr. Benko wants us to craft our own rubric from scratch in this assignment; in other words we can’t use Rubistar or other rubric generators. When crafting our rubrics she suggests asking ourselves these questions: What does it mean to meet my expectations? What are my expectations? What does a good rubric do? What are the five points of this assignment that I value most—these are the categories that should be included.

3. An outline of activity:

54497413This is not a full on lesson plan. Dr. Benko wants us to think about how we would scaffold this writing task and create an outline to map that process. Questions we should ask ourselves when thinking about activities that could accompany our writing task include: What is the task that I’m doing? What activities do the students need to do to be prepared for this task? What mentor text could accompany this task? How can I incorporate technology? What kind of grammatical lessons can be incorporated in this lesson? This should include enough detail so that Dr. Benko understands our intentions, but is not a detailed unit plan. It should definitely include the utilization of a mentor text and technology.

4. A short paper

This short paper is actually longer than what you’re thinking, Dr. Benko says, but we can talk about length later. The point is that this paper connects our task with all of the readings we’ve done so far, so “quote like crazy”. Also, the blog is going to become more helpful as we reflect on what we’ve already talked about and tie it into this short paper.

Things to remember when crafting this task:

Begin with the end in mind. What do I want students to do at the end of this task? Is it a paper, project, etc.? (Remember, it doesn’t have to be a traditional academic paper.) What do I want them to learn? By starting at the end, we are designing this topic with our goal in mind.

Dr. Benko recommended gearing this assignment toward middle school students because we can’t make the same assumptions about their prior knowledge, like we can about high school students. Word of warning: do not gear this toward 12th grade AP students. Dr. Benko isn’t sugar coating the reality; those aren’t going to be our students for a looooong time.

Most important: this is a writing task. Students are producing something written. Oral presentations and group work can be part scaffolding and included in the outline, but the final assessment should be individual and written.

The final is a going to be a revision of this midterm. Dr. Benko promises that this will be helpful in our construction of lessons in the future.

“Don’t be discouraged” Emilie says, “I really loved this task!”

Emilie created an assignment around building evidence for a crime in her Clue-based assignment, which is a great example of not being tied to creating that traditional argumentative assignment.

Who’s Reading What:

Chapter 4 (personal narrative) Hailey, Christian, Cammie, Cate

Chapter 5 (argumentation) Katie, Jacob, Ryan, Hannah

Chapter 8 (research) Troi, Jill, Maverick, Seth

To Do List:

  • cat-to-do-listRead your chapter for next time (see Who’s Reading What)
  • Set up a thirty minute one-on-one with Emilie before Spring Break (3/7-11!!) here; this should be set up after you have made a decision about your midterm writing task and have an idea about your outline.
  • Entire draft due for peer review on 3/15
  • Final draft due the Thursday after spring break, 3/17.

 Finally, Hicks and Turner

With not too much time left in class, we turned to our readings for the day. Ultimately, we determined that only two of us were confident about how to define craft, so Dr. Benko split us into groups to create a definition. We looked at “The 7 Lessons Every Writer Must Learn” and tables 2.1 and 2.2 in Creating Digital Writing. My group talked about how the Huff Post article’s definition of craft was centered on narrative writing. From this, Jill R. articulated that craft consists of the little things that go into making writing unique, be it narrative, argumentative, or research-based. With no time for a combined group discussion, Dr. Benko asked us to tweet our definitions of craft:

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One Final Note:

We talked briefly about Cathy Day’s Middletown project as a researched story; I found her blog and the Middletown project. It’s a really interesting crossover genre of narrative fiction and research-based composition, and worth looking into for some creative inspiration. Additionally, I was talking to one of my teacher-coworkers at the high school about this unit plan, and she told me that she likes to use Teachers Pay Teachers when she has to create a unit on material she’s never taught. While we can’t use this for our midterm assignment, it looks like a really valuable resource for our future classrooms; the material is reasonably priced (think $3-$15 for reproducible pdfs), it supports actual teachers, and if you come up with something phenomenal, you can sell it, too.

Don’t forget to work on your TIB revisions and read your Smagorinsky chapter. See you Thursday!

Christian S.

 

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

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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?

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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.

-Emilie

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.

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

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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.

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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.
-Emilie