Day Ten – The Midterm is Coming! The Midterm is Coming!

Prior Mentions

Originally, we were to read the Smagorinsky chapter that we chose for our midterm before class. However, since Dr. Benko could not be present, the schedule had been changed. We chose to pick our chapter in class today!

What Went Down Today?

The lecture…Dun Dun Dun!

Today in ENG 350 we spent the entirety of the time on the topic of the dreaded, yet exciting, midterm assignment. I put it that way because the task seemed daunting, yet fun at the same time. About half of the time spent was Dr. Benko explaining the assignment in more detail (actually I think it’s the most I’ve seen Dr. Benko lecture in a class). While going through the Midterm in more detail, Dr. Benko made reference to the “ENG 350 Midterm Tank Handout & Rubric” (which can be found under the “Assignments” tab in Blackboard), pointing out the key points of the assignment as the class followed along.

Some may say that the first half of the class was a boring lecture, but that could not be further from the truth! Upon discussion of the midterm, important references were made to tools that will aid in the completion of the assignment. For instance, Dr. Benko mentioned that information in this very blog could help us. Having a database of our daily work could come in handy indeed!

Furthermore, Dr. Benko was kind enough to provide a suggested schedule to aid us in the completion of the assignment (under the “Assignments” tab on Blackboard). Here is what it entails:

Suggested schedule: 

Week 6:  Get midterm, draft task

Week 7:  Work on outline + reflection

Week 8:  Work on rubric

Week 9:  Polish reflection

By no means do we have to follow this schedule, but as Dr. Benko put it, “I’m not your mom.” We are adults people! Plan it out! However, I would have to agree with Liv when she said, “If you were I’d get better grades.” Somehow I think we could all agree to that.

With the closing of the lecture, emphasis was made on generating our own ideas for the assignment, rather than googling lessons or task for inspiration. Since many of us have not had much experience with this type of assignment that was surprising. However, Rachel made the point that “you are getting practice to generate your own ideas in the future.” We need to look to ourselves for inspiration, rather than others for this assignment. There will always be time to enhance our ideas, through collaboration with others, after we develop our own skills. I doubt this will be an easy task, but I know we can do it!

Time for Individual Group Work!

Suddenly the clouds had parted and the lecture came to an end. It was time to act! We moved into groups categorized by the topics of our midterm. The topics (from Smagorinsky)  were as followed:

  1. 4 Personal Experience Narratives (p. 56); connects to Writing Standard 3.3, narrative)
  2. 5 Argument (p. 79); connects to IN Writing Standard 3.1, argument)
  3. 8 Research (p. 139); connects to IN Writing Standard W5)

Within our groups we used huddle boards to brainstorm real world applications of the topics. Through this process each group could come together to work on ideas for their own individual assignment (Also, here is a link to the Indiana State Standards, which may be helpful with this assignment). Here is what each group came up with, as well as, some examples I found:

Personal Experience Narratives: Beth, Makayla, Livimage3(Here is a compilation of essays that I found that may be helpful!)
Argument: Benji, Kaleb, Brittany, Cassie image1 (Here is a link to some argumentative papers that may be useful!)
Research: Emily, Erin, Alyssa, Kayla image2 (Here is a link to a MLA research paper that I believe will be useful. This link has side-notes covering many aspects of a research papers!)

Through working together, each group was able to come up with ideas they could use individually. These huddle boards signify the beginning of our process on the midterm assignment. It was not an easy first step by any means, but look at those lists! I’d say we did okay.

       What To Keep In Mind For Next Time

The TIB essay’s written feedback for our peer groups is due before class in the Google docs folder. Instructions for that can be found in the Google Docs folder.

Furthermore, we are to read Elbow’s “Options for responding to student writing,” and Straub’s “The concept of control in teacher response” for next time (located under the “Readings” tab on Blackboard). It is recommended by Dr. Benko to read these articles before providing feedback on the TIB essays, so I would do that first.

I hope you all have an amazing weekend, and I will see you on Tuesday!

– Kaleb Andrew Weiler


Day 8 – A Day Without Benko

Hey there!

It’s Day 8 blog post time with your girl, Alyssa.

What’s Due (September 15th):

  • Smagorinsky, Chapter 3 over “Teaching Fictional Narrative”
  • Twitter Collection #1 (by the end of class)

Unfortunately, our lovely lady of the hour (and 15 minutes), Dr. Benko, was unable to be with us. Well, she tweeted and typed on our Google Doc:


What a hoot.

While she was enjoying Kathryn’s Student of the Month ceremony, we were all enjoying Rachel’s day as instructor! You go, girl. (Sorry for the poor picture, but I wanted to be sneaky)


We then proceeded to take an incredibly adorable #BSU350 class picture (minus Dr. Benko…csakhoywcaakq5z

Now, onto the day in class:

We began actual class discussing our white/hover board drawings from Day 7 where we got into groups to try and represent scaffolding through image. This process is creatively titled “concept mapping” where our class illustrated the relationship between a. tasks, b. structured process approach to teaching writing, and c. scaffolding through the writing process. Whew! It’s a rather large love triangle to take in as a pre-service teacher AND illustrate with a dry erase drawing. Nonetheless, all of the groups successfully created a dutiful representation. This concept mapping was an awesome example of how to get our own classroom kiddos to react and respond to some of our own lesson plans in the future. It’s a refreshing way to get students involved in group work and participating in actively thinking work. To refresh all of you, these are the groups and their main drawing ideas:

  • Erin and Liv: a basketball scenario
  • Beth, Cassie, and Makayla: Driver’s Education
  • Alyssa (me), Brittany, and Emily: a house (being built)
  • Benji, Kaleb, and Kayla: Spa HQ

We did begin discussing these concept maps on Day 7, but our final thoughts were given on Day 8.

Our second main task of the day was discussing and working with the Smag Chapter 3 reading entitled “Fictional Narrative”. Yikes, something I am not entirely fond of, but must work with in the coming years as an English teacher. The activity conducted on a Google Doc ( was in conjunction with a specific example used in the chapter involving Ms. Alva’s “Stages” of instruction. Each group of people within our class was to summarize each stage and episode of Ms. Alva’s instruction and then connect the SPA (structured process approach) parts that we felt suited Ms. Alva’s instruction techniques. Easy enough, right?

Then came the meaningful part of this hashing-out of Smag. Everyone was extremely engaged with the reading for Day 8, which meant that some profound things were to be said. Kaleb immediately lead the class into a serious discussion of how people learn to write through not only practice, but discussion/talking as well. Kaleb went on to say, “I don’t think I’ve ever heard ‘people learn to write by talking, as well as by writing.’ That’s fascinating…” That is some deep and meaningful stuff right there. We don’t always think of the process that we all go through to learn how to write, but it’s so very true that talking is essential in how we go about writing. This very fact is demonstrated through parents talking to children, teachers discussing rather than barking, and so on. Rachel then shared a bit of insight on Smagorinsky claiming, “Smag is big on the process, not the product.” We then delved into creating areas – classrooms – and occasions – assigned writing time, free writing, etc. – in which our students would be able to participate in some authentic writing and a more authentic writing setting to be involved in. Beth suggested using music, dimming the lighting, etc. to help create more authentic writing spaces for students. Brittany chuckled and brought up turning on some Celtic/Irish music, dimming the lights, and squirting water at students to help them feel at home in the writing setting of West Ireland. In creating these awesome situations and classrooms where students are able to do some authentic writing, a writing teacher is able to find their joy. After all, teaching writing is all about helping kiddos become well equipped for the writing process they may or may not venture into whenever they please or are required to do so.

The rest of our time was spent on the Twitter Reflection assignment that was to be uploaded to the Google Doc folder ( This Twitter Reflection was the first one of the semester, and I gotta say that I think we are all getting the hang of tweeting for our class. Being able to create short snippets of thought in 140 characters or less is basically a lesson on understanding main ideas and concepts in a brief, meaningful way. I personally struggle with tweeting because I take a long time to explain and hash things out verbally and written! Though this is true, I found that my first Twitter Reflection was pretty darn good. Not only were my tweets meaningful to my learning experience, but also my mini reflections on each tweet were just as meaningful for me.

After we finished our Twitter Reflections, we were to take a step back through tweet. Here are some of the awesome mini take aways that people had:


UGH. I just love our class’s tweets. They are BY FAR the best tweets for a course I have ever seen.

Just a few reminders/tips/Alyssa Thoughts for ya’ll:

  1. Write everyday. (Thanks, Jill Christman, for getting this lodged into my head in ENG 406)
  2. Try doing half black tea and half black coffee for an extra caffeinated drink when you feel like death.
  3. Remember to let yourself enjoy something at least once a day. I don’t care what it is. Find a little joy each day that you can relish in.
  4. DO YOUR READING AND HOMEWORK. (This is really for myself, but I’m reminding ya’ll)
  5. Take a deep breathe…fall is in the air. With this in mind, keep yourself and your stuff clean. Wash your hands constantly.

Here’s some fun, recent stuff involving #bsuenglish:

September 14th was the first call-out meeting for the Alliance of Black and Latino Teachers. I have been a part of the club since my second semester of my freshman year. You definitely learn a lot of diversification within the teaching and education fields of work. It is a wonderful place where all people are welcomed and accepted. As of now, there

Pictured from left to right: Alyssa Huckaby – me (junior), Kayla Veal – Co-president (junior), Troi Genders – Co-president (senior), Jay Coles – Treasurer (junior)

are more people interested in the club than ever before. We have a lot of support from some English, education, and other departments…let’s keep the momentum going! The next call-out is on September 21st. Look out for emails and reminders online.

September 17th was the annual Indiana Teachers of Writing conference where teachers of writing gather and discuss the annual topic. This year’s topic was “What is essential in the teaching of writing?”. This topic allowed for some serious openness and rawness from some very talented writers and educators. There were three sessions in which educators

Pictured from left to right: Jacob Hudgins (senior), Emily Mack (junior), Audrey Bowers (sophomore), Alyssa Huckaby – me (junior)

were able to share some of their own ideas through presentations and round table discussions. The final presentation was about neuroscience and the act of learning writing on the spectrum. All in all, it was an incredible time and I highly recommend this conference to everyone!

A Resource for Writing:

So, I have been struggling with some authenticity in my own writing lately. I have been feeling down about my process and how I go about beginning, getting through, and ending my work with an essay or blog post. Nothing ever feels quite write; I feel like I’m always missing little flecks of golden thoughts from earlier in the day or in the middle of the night. Chances are that many of you do not have a notebook – not a diary or journal – where you keep thoughts and bits of you throughout the days. I, for one, have tried to do so, but have failed time and time again. I guess I just never realized that all I have to do is have the notebook and pen close by to capture some of my thoughts. I find this idea to be crazy-authentic for writers trying to capture every bit of their own thoughts versus struggling to grasp them at one writing moment.

I found this essay on Brevity – because I am obsessed with Brevity – that really captures this idea and brings it to life. The essayist, Randon Biggins Noble, shares her ideas and take-aways from taking part in this authentic writing process. (click on the linked Brevity in this paragraph to view)

Be prepared for Day 9:

  • Martin, C. N. (2013). Not every sentence can be great, but every sentence must be good.
  • Bring back three TIB essays and your draft of your own
  • You should each have around 20 tweets for #BSU350 by now

I’m sending you all hugs and signing out from this blog post.

See you in class!

— Alyssa Huckaby

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

Day 2 — Twitter, Territories, and Beliefs, Oh My!

Hello, all! I see you Tweeting already, and it just warms my heart. Keep up the good work!

Here’s a summary of what we did in preparation for and on Thursday (08/25/16):

-In preparation for class, we read chapter 1 of Smagorinsky as well as NCTE Beliefs about Teaching Writing (now referred to as “Professional Knowledge for the Teaching of Writing”).
-We started class with reminders about Twitter and a breakdown of how to use Twitter (using formative assessment to determine everyone’s comfort levels with Twitter). If Twitter isn’t your preferred social media and you can’t remember what we went over, here’s a a recap video about some of its features:

-After our Twitter recap, we dove into writing about our writing territories (taken from Nancie Atwell’s book In the Middle). Our writing territories were divided into three: topics we’d like to write about, genres we’d like to try, and audiences we’d like to write for. Dr. Benko showed us her own lists, and we got to work on our own, afterwards discussing that this activity is absolutely something we can do with our future students. These kinds of lists give students ownership over and choice in their writing. We can let them be the experts in this way, but it’s also important to remember that even we got stuck writing these lists – our students will too, and we can tell them this and give them strategies for how to keep writing (e.g., some of us reread what we had written, some of us went back to old ideas, etc.).
-We then broke up into groups to go over our readings for the day. Each group was to summarize two scenarios from Smag., identify which tensions were present in each scenario (e.g., freedom vs. control, etc.), and identify which of the NCTE beliefs were present in each scenario. The notes from this group work can be found on the Google Doc! If you didn’t understand a particular scenario, see how another group summarized it on the document.
-In our groups, it was pretty clear to all of us that some of these scenarios seemed more preferable than others – beginning with a writing activity sounds way more exciting than studying the sentence, right? What Smag. and the other authors are not telling us about these scenarios, though, is that these are just mini-cases; the teachers described don’t only teach in this way, and neither will we in our own classrooms!
-The last idea from class that we discussed was a question that was brought up – when showing our own writing to students, what do we do if a kid says that they can’t write like that? The answer? Show our first drafts. Show our crappy work! Let our kids see what we can write in a specific amount of time (Emily mentioned doing this with Dr. Jones and the Indiana Writers Center). Let’s write with our students and be honest about our own ability levels, because let’s face it – words are hard, even for us as educators.

Thinking ahead:

Our five (5) weekly tweets start this week, so don’t forget to tweet as you’re reading/tweet in-class comments/etc. Use #BSU350 or it will be much more difficult to find them!
-Think about the beliefs, scenarios, and tensions we talked about – how do we find balance between these, how can we work towards these?
-Readings you’ll need to have done for Tuesday are Dean’s “Study of Models,” Marchetti and O’Dell’s “Writing with Mentors,” and these three TIB essays (1, 2, 3).
-Dr. Benko didn’t mention this at the end of class, but Thursday’s lesson plan asks for us to continue to free write about our beliefs (the exact prompts can be found on the LP). Last fall, this writing was helpful for me both to get me working as a writer and to get me used to self-reflection, which will be key for this course.
Dr. Benko also hinted that we might have a quiz on Tuesday, so make sure you’ve done the readings!


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





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:

Screen Shot 2016-02-16 at 10.57.12 PMScreen Shot 2016-02-16 at 10.56.51 PMScreen Shot 2016-02-16 at 10.57.32 PMScreen Shot 2016-02-16 at 10.58.09 PM

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.