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:

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!

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.


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” 
  • 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:


And a question!


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



Day 5 – A Matter of Habit

Homework for Tuesday 9/6: 

Housekeeping for Tuesday 9/6:

  • All the This I Believe emails have been returned to their senders with some notes from Dr. Benko. No further communication about the project is necessary unless you need any extra help or support with your project; don’t hesitate to email or meet with Dr. Benko during office hours if you have any further questions!
  • A hard copy of our first drafts for the This I Believe projects is due tomorrow (Thursday 9/8) in class. Make sure you get them printed off tonight!
  • Next week’s readings (days 7 and 8 on the schedule) are going to be flipped: if you’re working ahead, make sure you’re reading Smagorinksy Chapter 2 and Dr. Benko’s article on Tuesday and Martin’s Not Every Sentence on Thursday.
  • Upcoming Assignment Alert! Twitter reflection papers are due on Thursday 9/15 (day 8).
  • Bonus housekeeping: Ask Dr. Benko why Katherine got in trouble over Labor Day weekend.

Let’s Form Some Good Habits 

In class we discussed the Frameworks for Success reading and broke into partners to discuss and decide which habits of mind (curiosity, openness, engagement, creativity, persistence, responsibility, metacognition, and flexibility) and experiences with reading, writing, and critical analysis we thought were most important for postsecondary writers. Every group chose either flexible writing processes or critical thinking as their most valued experience. Persistence, metacognition, curiosity, and responsibility were all listed as important habits to instill in our students.

During our discussion, we talked about how these were framed as “habits of mind” instead of “skills”. Dr. Benko highlighted how we were teaching our students “ways of being” instead of life skills. Emily loved the article and spoke to how she believed, “writing can be taught, and those skills are important, but more than that, writing is such a creative and personal thing.” Cassie commented that instead of just teaching new habits, we were “breaking bad habits” as well. Beth added that writing through the lends presented in the article provided a way of becoming a more “well rounded” student and adult. Kaleb built off the idea of personal responsibility and stated that “you have to set yourself up to succeed” and coined a solid phrase of using the habits as a way of “mental conditioning” for our students to build off of. We then started a brief conversation on critical thinking, in which Kayla gave a great quote from her COMM220 class. Her professor told her class that, “critical thinking is taking all available evidence from all perspectives and looking at it.”

So How Can We Use This?

“Erin, you’re throwing a lot of information and quotes from class at me right now, but why should I care?” As future teachers, we can use this framework to help our students form good habits to use for the rest of their writing lives. As a class, we discussed the implications for these frameworks in the classroom and what commitments we must make to our future students.
Brittany stated it was important to continue our education as teachers and to make sure that (through scaffolding) we were breaking apart huge projects into “manageable chunks.”
Emily, Alivia, and Kaleb all spoke on their own experiences in the classroom: teachers writing while narrating their writing process highlighted metacognition, peer evaluation using an “I wonder…” model to address areas of writing that could use more development, and teachers letting students write before going through an editing process.

Resources for continued teacher education:

A Standard Fit?

Our last discussion stemmed from our reading on the Indiana State Standards. The class as a whole seemed to have some questions on creating connections between the reading and writing standards as well as knowing exactly what to teach. Alyssa finally spoke up (stop keeping your good ideas quiet) and commented that she viewed the standards as a list of productivity-methodsskills students needed to possess before going into the next grade, but that, as teachers, we should “be slippery” and treat standards as a sugar cookie we can embellish upon.  In this discussion, we hit the important point that the standards are written for teachers, not for our students. As such, we need to look for ways to sell English to our students as relevant, interesting, and important. Dr. Benko then spoke to how the standards give us the “WHAT?“, but not the “WHY?” or “HOW?“. Those questions are open to our own interpretation and decoration using the habits of mind.

Moving Forward and Finishing Up

There have been advances in federal education standards after the repeal and subsequent replacement of No Child Left Behind, but Indiana led the way to creating individual standards in states that adopted the Common Core standards in 2010. While the new standards are still under some scrutiny by some educators and politicians, many agree that the new standards are better suited to educators and student needs. Using these standards in our classrooms clears the way to dispose of the old “cookie cutter” ways of teaching, and to adopt newer, more open models of teaching in our classroom. Remember, using the standards as your code of conduct is a dangerous game – follow them lightly and utilize your own interpretation!

Finally, we had a long and cyclical discussion on students who can’t versus students who won’t. Some key points are as follows:

  • Some students have a lot going on! It’s not our responsibility as teachers, but as human beings to try to find out what they may be and to help.
  • Blame cannot always be placed somewhere. If it’s not you as the teacher, it may not be the parents or the student either. Sometimes it may just be circumstances.

Taking the time to consider and investigate cultural differences in education and the value our global community places on education today can also grant us a more complete and deeper understanding of students who may not be motivated in the classroom. For further reading in this area, I’ve linked to an article on using encouragement in the classroom as a motivator as well as a blog post on how student engagement and motivation has an impact on learning and behavior.

Afterward this last discussion, the class broke the last few minutes of our time together down for individual time to fill out another exit ticket about our future teacher commitments before heading out for the day.

Due for Thursday 9/8:

(If you’d like some bonus reading; Anne Whitney’s essay on the schoolishness of school is not required, but comes highly recommended by our own Dr. Benko.)


Have a great day!

– Erin

February 18th: Smagorinsky Chapters


For next week:

Bring two developed writing tasks to class. These do not have to be fully completed, but they have to reflect a well thought out plan and effort. Everyone should also bring in a draft of their TIB that you have been working on and bring headphones so we can listen to example podcasts. Required reading for this week is Crafting Digital Writing by Troy Hicks, chapter five. This chapter refers to creating digital audio.

For anyone who hasn’t signed up for the midterm meet up with Emilie, make sure you do that as soon as possible and stayed tuned for an email from Dr. Benko regarding iCare. We might be meeting in iCare corner to learn about how to make podcasts.

Now onto what we did!

We started off the day by using jig-sawing to summarize, share, and explain how each of the chapters fit into a structured process approach to teaching.

Chapter Four: Personal Narrative

Chapter four’s main objectives included being able to write a descriptive, personal narrative that will elicit an emotional response from your students. One of the key features of this text was being able to come up with sensory words to describe smell and moving student’s writing from general descriptions to specific.

As a group, we decided this specific piece of writing was a really good example of the Structured Process Approach to teaching. It had activities that clearly built off each other, it involved group and individual work which are important to the Structured Process Approach. But, we also wondered as a group if the purpose of the activities was clear enough to the students.

I have a question for you, in this type of activity how would you make the goals clear to students? Given that the tasks are repetitive; do you think that the goal or final result needs to be very clear so that students don’t lose interest?

As a group, we also discussed how we would create activities for the personal narrative chapter and the focus was shifted to how personal of topics should be selected. One idea proposed was the concept of having students discuss being bullied or related experiences. This can be a hard decision to make as a teacher; what is the line between pushing our students to be engaged and relate their personal lives to writing and what is too far or too demanding? While looking through sources, I found an article discussing how writing is healing.  Roberta Gardner really brings up some important points and it changed my perspective a little about how much we should push students to write personal details about their lives. I recommend that everyone take the time to read it.

Chapter Five: Argumentation

The purpose of this chapter was focused on students to examine bodies of evidence and be able to write an effective and persuasive argument with the claim, data, and a warrant.

The chapter included a sticky note activity which would help students learn how to categorize data and questions about what that data represented, a small lesson on coordinating conjunctions, and had a letter as an end product that required students to use claim, data, and a warrant.

This chapter followed the Structured Process Approach because it also required some of the same elements as above such as group and individual work, discussions, sharing, but the large reason we really thought this fit that concept is because it required the teacher to become less and less involved.

When discussing this chapter, it was also important to think about what type of writing was required for the final product. In some ways, there was some back and forth on whether the assignment was not we expected for this type of content. One group member mentioned how they preferred to have a more serious topic like something along the lines of a debate or covering current topics in the news, but some other group members thought the assignment was a really good idea and enjoyed a more cheerful or fun assignment.

I want to know what you think, would you as a teacher want to demand or do more serious of topics using the claim, data, warrant approach or do you think it is important for students to have fun topics that demand the same skill sets. Also, did you think this assignment had practical uses and was something that students could apply outside the classroom?

This also made me think a lot about the idea of authentic writing and how students can apply authentic writing to genres where it seems tp be a one, two, three format. Brad Currie wrote an article titled Authentic Writing Across the Curriculum. In this article, it talks about writing letters to athletes and I think even though it is not fully applicable, I think it is worth the read

Chapter 8: Research

This chapter was also focused on the claim, date, warrant but involved a research paper.

Stage one had a preplanned debate, a discussion outlining the strengths, and weaknesses Students dissected the parts of the debate, current new topics were then introduced, several drafting days were utilized, and the final assignment was a bibliography.

This chapter followed the structured Process Approach because it also used strategies that built off of each other, it had group work and individual work and taught student’s essential everyday skills that will be needed for their future.

While discussing this chapter, I noticed that group work is a part of every class and is essential for any unit. I found a blog post by Elizabeth Moore where provides some great tips for managing small groups.

Wow, that was a lot of stuff!

Impromptu Questions:

What can we generalize about the structured process approach based on three different examples?

One of the biggest points made is that material has to build on itself. Also, the teacher’s participation should become less and less and the final product or goal always hast to be made clear to students.

What parts of this approach are epically important?

We mentioned that the most important parts are having group work, individual work, sharing is essential, peer groups are vital.

What we want to work to include in our own teaching (and in the midterm)?

For this question, you can think about on your own some more and remember to look back at the tweets for some more ideas and insight.

Sorry for the long post but we covered a lot! I hope this helps!

Haley Crane





Day 7 – Scaffolding

Hey guys,

So, here’s the recap for Tuesday, February 2nd.

Required reading: Smagorinsky Ch. 2 and Benko “Scaffolding: An Ongoing Process to Support Adolescent Writing Developement”

Class started off a little rocky. Some of us got the email about the flipped schedule; some of us didn’t. So, to kick off class, we split into two groups: those who got through the correct reading and those who did not.

Those who hadn’t had a chance to read the new piece were able to do so.

Those who had already read the pieces discussed the worksheet that would have been a quiz.

In the discussion (from group 2):

To start off the discussion about the readings we looked at the components of Smagorinsky’s approach to scaffolding in teaching writing (a shortened list of these are available in your text on page 21).


Components #14 and #15 talk about modeling. As a group we talked about the fact that modeling is a good thing, but modeling a process rather than a form is the best. When modeling, we aren’t just modeling what we want our students’ work to look like, but how we want our students thought process to go. According to Smagorinsky, ideas and content should come before modeling. For instance, a student should know the basic form of a haiku and what you are expecting to see when they write one before you show them examples of traditional haikus. We also made it clear that modeling can be very vulnerable moments for teachers (especially us new teachers), because when we model for our students we are modeling our thought process. Our models are not the work that we produce for our students, but the thoughts that we go through as we do it. Understanding that line can be a hard thing to get.

Components #5 and #7 deal with students sharing their work. According to Smagorinsky’s approach, students should share with each other often. In order to facilitate this, the teacher “orchestrates” activities for students to do together without being led too much. Guided questions can be used to keep students on track, but generally it helps if the teacher is as hands-off as possible. As Benko put it, “The person doing the work is the person doing the learning.”

Benko Piece:

The main takeaway from this piece was that scaffolding does not equal helping. Helping is when we simply show our students how to do what we want them to do and give them assistance when they can’t do it. Scaffolding is when we see a student strugling and we give them the tools to succeed, but we don’t necessarily give them a right or wrong answer. For scaffolding to be done the way Benko describes it, the student must eventually be able to do it by themselves. One good way that this can be done is by giving students increasing degrees of freedom with each task and occasionally demonstrating possible ways to complete the task. Overall, the Benko piece showed us how scaffolding is not just a method of teaching, but it’s an approach to thinking of the different ways we can help our students succeed. The picture below is straight out of the reading, and it describes the process of scaffolding.  2016-02-02 (1)

For image source, please visit:

Benko, Susanna L. “Scaffolding: An Ongoing Process to Support Adolescent Writing Development.” Journal of Adolescent & Adult Literacy 56.4 (2012): 291-300. Web



After discussing the texts we were asked to create a visual illustration to demonstrate our thinking about the relationship between these things:

  1. Tasks
  2. Structured Process Approach to teaching writing
  3. Scaffolding through the writing process

We will discuss these visuals in class Thursday. Till then, here they are with no additional context.


Looking ahead:

For Thursday, please read Not Every Sentence Can be Great but Every Sentence Must be Good by Cynthia Martin, and bring back the three This I Believe essays that we read for class. Our first drafts of our own essays should be returned then.

Also don’t forget your 5 tweets for the week.


Some other good blog pages and resources :

For more information (in a slightly less academic format) check out this blog post by Rebecca Alber titled 6 Scaffolding Strategies to Use with Your Students.

And also, here are a few more examples of This I Believe essays. I found these ones interesting because the first has to do with a dedication to education, and the second has to do with reading (which I think we all enjoy, to an extent). If you’re interested, I would recommend browsing the website a bit. I also included a link to the topic section titled education and knowledge. Quite a few of those essays are worth a read.

Standing Up for Our Children (a This I Believe essay)

The Joy and Enthusiasm of Reading (a This I Believe essay)

Education & Knowledge section


Thanks for reading guys.

Until next time,

Katie E.

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.


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.