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 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.


Day 6-Task Design

Hey everyone! Here is recap of 1/28/2016 class period.

Prior to class, we were asked to write an “I Believe” essay, which was due today. When class began, Dr. Benko had the class answer two questions on the back of our essays to help her get a better feel for our individual work and help her give us better feedback.  She wanted to know how you felt about the piece you were turning in and what kind of feedback would be most beneficial to you as an individual.

Afterwards Dr. Benko divided the class into groups to discuss two writing assignments and to discuss if the assignments could answer four important question.


  • Is the intellectual work of the task challenging and meaningful to students?
  • Is the purpose of the task clear?
  • Is the audience of the task clear?
  • Do students have opportunities for ownership of their work?

This sparked a lot a discussion during class. During this discussion some of the class members agreed that giving all assignments purpose from a students point of view is hard. It requires teachers to know what our students value and find to be important. Jacob even Tweeted…

Screen Shot 2016-01-28 at 7.08.13 PM

The First assignment we looked at is called “Mi Casa”. This assignment had students bring in and picture or a poster and write a personal narrative about how the subject matter of the image is special to him/her. Below is what the teams had to say…

During the discussion on “Mi Casa” the class had a debate on wether this assignment could be used for all grades with some changes and if this assignment was like “show & tell”. The class came to an agreement that the assignment could be used for all grades with some changes per grade. For younger grades it would be kind of like a “show & tell”. During this discussion we also talked about how intellectual this project was.Would it challenge students? The class seem to think that this project wouldn’t challenge most students, but its a great way for students to get to know one another and a great way for students to do some narrative writing.

Below are the teaching standard the team thought the assignment could fit with. We wrote not the standard to become more familiar with them. As educators its important to remember how our assignments might meet a standard and its important to meet those standards. Each standard has its place and we have to remember to get to each one.

The second assignment we looked at is called “Student News Story”, written by Miss Emilie our lovely teaching assistant. This assignment had students research a current news story, then write and script, then record it like news broad cast. Below is what the teams had to say…

One of my favorite things mentioned during this time was the fact that this assignment gave students a chance to teach their peers. As an educator I feel that it is important to build a community in the classroom were students can learn from one another and feel comfortable to share their thoughts and ideas. In order to do that you must give them the chance to share their work.

Than we came back into a big group and discussed our little group discussions.

As a community we decide on some key points to keep in mind when creating writing assignments.


  • As educators not all of our assignments will answer all 4 questions.
  • Its good to focus on one or two standards when creating an assignment and than after it’s created its okay to add more if they work.
  • The goal is to create well balanced writers not well balanced assignments every time.
  • Get feedback from other teachers to improve your assignments.
  • It’s important to remember not to give our students “busy work”, but to give them work that matters!

I think its important to take away from our conversation that not every every assignment is going to answer all 4 questions, but it should always have purpose!

Thinking Ahead…

Looking ahead I want to encourage everyone to think about what kind of writing assignments you want to share with your future class. Here is a link to some more helpful tips on creating assignments. This link gives you some great check lists and goals to help create well rounded assignments.

I also want to suggest following on Twitter @RWTnow. They post awesome and creative writing ideas and topics for teachers and students.

Another great resource for educations is “Education World”. This site has great articles that help with creating lesson plans, homework, classroom organization, and much more more. As an educator I feel its important to remember that we have a whole team of people that have been in our positions and want to watch us be successful in our field. This link helps share past teachers experiences and helps give new teachers a heads up.

Don’t forget about your twitter reflections and good luck. “Let the odd be ever in out favor”.


-Cammie M

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!)