Day 6: Be like Oprah

Due today 

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

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

For next class 

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

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

So what did we do today? 

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

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

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



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

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

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


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

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



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

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

Key Notes from class discussion:

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

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

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


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

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

Food For thought: 

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

“How do you make learning not in hindsight?” 

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

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

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

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

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

And our final thought for class:


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

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

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

Don’t forget to sleep this weekend!

– Cassie 


Day 1 – Introductions and First Steps

Welcome back to Ball State and welcome to English 350! I can tell already that it’s going to be a great semester and I hope you all are excited for what’s to come!

Here’s a summary of what we did today in class (08/23/2016) followed by a more detailed breakdown:

We discussed the significance of our online presences and digital footprints as educators, as well as looked over the syllabus. 
-There was no required reading for our first day, but “Informal and Shared: Writing to Create Community” by Dean and Warren is optional and is also linked on the schedule.
-Class started with completing the survey from the Office of Educational Excellence — we’ll fill out another one of these at the end of the semester!
-We had a brief free-write on what we would tell our dream principal about ourselves as teachers and discussed this with a partner.
-With the same partner, we looked online for whatever we could find about our partner. We introduced this parter with an approved fact we found and discussed whether or not what we found matched up with what we would tell that dream principal.
-Employers (and future students!) will absolutely Google us; having an online presence and professional digital footprint allows us control over the message they receive. Did your current online message match up with what you would want that principal to know? If you wanted that principal to know how passionate you are about reading, are you a literary citizen online? If you want to keep your professional and personal lives completely separate, does your current online presence keep them separate, or is there overlap? (We opened this specific topic up at the end of class: What do we do with blogs that go back and forth between personal and professional?)
-The rest of class was spent talking about the syllabus (namely the foundations for the course, as well as major assignments and classroom policies) — if you have any additional questions about the syllabus, feel free to ask me or Dr. Benko! You can DM me on Twitter for my email (@rachellauve).

Thinking ahead:

Make sure to setup a professional Twitter account — you’ll need to tweet weekly for class, and you have to have a Twitter account in order to do that!
     -Use #BSU350 for all class-related tweets
     -Try using #bsuenglish so we can show the whole department what we’re doing, too!
     -Follow everyone from class and other educators on Twitter (big names like Troy Hicks and Kelly Gallagher are there, as well as others that we’ll be reading this semester! Google “educators to follow on Twitter” if you’re stumped — you’ll find tons of recommendations just like this list).
     -If an @ mention is at the beginning of a tweet, adding a period (e.g., .@ncte) will allow for the tweet to appear in others’ feeds, rather than showing up as a conversation!
     -Brevity is a killer on Twitter — this will be good practice for keeping things nice and concise, but consider how this will affect what you want to convey!
-At some point, we will have a mini-lesson on Box, but until then, remember to be conscious of where assignments will need to be turned in.
-The first chapter of Smagorinsky is on Blackboard, but you’ll need to get this book as soon as possible! (I recommend buying this and the other books — I rented mine initially but ended up buying!)


P.S. For fun, here’s a matching game of everyone’s fun facts and names! If you complete this and get it back to me, I’ll try to remember to bring in a treat of some kind for you!

Day 1 – Introductions

Hi everyone! Here is a summary of what we did on 1/12/2016.

Summary: We looked at how technology, writing, and teaching will work together in this class. We also talked about the reading “Informal and Shared: Writing to Create Community” by Deborah Dean and Adrienne Warren.

What we did today:

  • Quick Write (“What do you want someone to know about you as a teacher?”) and Info Search (‘Google Stalking’ using name). What did we learn?
    • We can find out a lot about people on social media (more personal than a quick conversation)
    • Sometimes our internet selves are not our teacher selves (how do we balance these?)
    • The internet can be used as a professional space (interviews, schools, curious students might look at you)
    • Think about audience. You don’t want to be invisible; you want to be part of the community!
  • Discussion of Dean & Warren – Community Highlights:
    • We learn about ourselves in a community
    • We need to work together in a community
    • We need to do tasks that are meaningful
    • We need to write to share
  • Syllabus
    • Motto = Writing is learnable and teachable
    • Goal = End semester feeling like you have a foundation to teach writing – “well started beginners” who are reading to continue learning!
    • This course is about juggling projects and readings. Don’t panic!

Thinking Ahead: