March 30, 2008

CI 5461: reflecting on the highlights


As I finish up teaching CI 5461: Methods for Teaching Secondary Composition, I am left with still more questions about teaching and learning.

Having taught the course before, I felt that this second time around, I'd be able to better present the material in a thorough and provocative way. As a result I decided to cut my reading load almost in half, in order to promote a more in depth engagement with the ideas. While we "covered" less material, I wonder how much we actually "uncovered" ideas.

Course Highlights:

Post-Production Reflection Paper
I'm working hard to find the right balance between learning to write via study of methods, theory, and actual practice of writing. Being a big believer of learning to write through learning about your own writing process, this year I choose to assign a reflective piece for the final paper instead of curriculum lesson planning paper. I am very happy with this decision in that the paper reflected actual thinking about the ideas of digital composing as writers rather than just assigning digital writing. It took me hours to grade the papers. I filled the margins with comments and questions, not because I had so many suggestions for improvement, but because their writing engaged me in a meaningful discussion that had me thinking about these ideas in new way. I learned so much from reading through/grading those papers, making them one of my most meaningful grading experiences. My question now would be...does my enjoyment in grading the papers reflect at all the meaningfulness of the task for them?

Digital Literacy Project
For a final presentation project the students made video compositions using either iMovie or Movie Maker. I was so impressed with these projects. They really took the idea of digital storytelling and video composition to heart creating personal narratives, memoir pieces, documentaries, and digital renditions of short stories (Check them out.). What I found most interesting was how heightened the students' awareness was of their audience. In knowing that these videos would be shown to their peers, they seemed highly motivated to create a quality product. Some of the final products were absolutely phenomenal making me laugh at loud, while others made me cry.

Professional Blogging
Unlike the two projects above, which were new this year, the blogging component was carry over from last year. I have to say, that I really value the blogging as an informal space for thinking about ideas yet with an audience in mind. Furthermore, the ability to connect and apply the ideas of writing to various multimodal sources online, such as YouTube videos, art galleries, and music, added so many dimensions to their reflection on the ideas. Blogging is a definite keeper for future classes. Read some of the blogs for yourself.

While I could go on more, I'll close with this one last highlight...

The Cohort Cupcakes (see photo above)
The cupcakes, along with many of the other final-celebration goodies, were delicious. I am always surprised how food brings such a festive and collective spirit to an event. Perhaps its the carnival aspect of feasting that food and celebrations bring out in us. In seeing that we all need to eat, and that we all have cravings for celebration, we are able to let go of other traditional classroom dynamics. Then again, maybe it's just my love of chocolate that moves mountains.

October 8, 2007

wiki as a pedagogical tool: problems and possibilities (ci.5410.5b)

As I prepare to work with preservice English teachers this coming spring, I've been thinking a lot about how I want to use different interactive software such as blogs and wikis.

I have a pretty good idea how I plan to use blogs. Last year I had students create and maintain indivual professional blogs. Some students told me that visiting and comment on each others' blogs was the first time that they were able to interact with their classmates ideas. So, I plan to do something very similar to the profressional weblogs.

My concern in writing now is to explore the wiki as a writing tool. I used the wiki this past summer with practicing teachers as part of the Minnesota Writing Project's Summer Invitational Institute. We used the wiki as a space to collaborative engage and write about books that we were reading in small groups. While collaboration was the goal of the wiki, I don't know how much this actually happened. My hope was that the groups would use the wiki to gather and link online resources and perhaps post comments and questions about the book. Then, I thought they'd actually sit down to collaboratively write, making decisions together on content, voice, and examples. From the feedback I gained, it seemed that most groups just devided the task among people. So rather than working collaboratively to create meaning, the group members worked individually on similar content.

What was a beautifly example of collaborative work were the final projects that the teachers presented about their book's. As a group, they needed to decide on what ideas to focus and how to present the material in an engaging way for the rest of the institute participants.

With this is mind, I'm trying to think about how I can restructure the book club reading responsibilities in a way to promote this collective problem solving. What are my goals, and how does the wiki meet these goals? These are the questions I need to think about.

to be continued...

March 16, 2007

CI 5461: Sharing Lessons

high five.JPEG
Team "Comma-Semicolon Sensation" congratulate each other for making it to campus last Thursday (3/1), in near-blizzard conditions, to present their conventions mini-lesson.

Below is a list of the 6Traits minilessons presented in class and your various Mini-Units (3 parts = writing assignment sheet, minilesson & rubric). Feel free to share comments about what works well, preparation pointers, ect. Thank you again for getting us to write and not just "talk about" writing.

6Traits Mini-Lessons:
VOICE: Download file (Joe L., Dan, Sarah T., Justin, Kerry)
WORD CHOICE: Download file (LeShon, Aaron, Katie, Nate, Tess, Emily)
SENTENCE FLUENCY: Download file (Jeff, Jodi, Kari, Jacob, Matt)
CONVENTIONS: "The Punctathalon" Download file (Sara, Jaimee, Steph, Rob, Andi) (POWER POINT: Download file)

Mini Writing Units:

Characters Writing Letters to Characters:

Letter Writing using voice with The Great Gatsby Download file
Writing Letters with Frankenstein Download file

Shakespeare Inspired Writing Assignments:
Twelfth Night: Download file
Macbeth: Download file
The Merchant of Venice: Download file

Persuasive Writing:
Writing a letter to Parents: Download file
Persuasive editorial about a favorite place: Download file
Women in the military: Download file
Persuasive letter writing in To Kill a Mockingbird: Download file
Choose or Lose--a Position Paper: Download file

Creative/Narrative Writing:
Rewriting scenes in The Odyssey: Download file
Personal object narrative: Download file
Writing short fiction: Download file

March 15, 2007

CI 5461: MultiGenre Metaphor Presentations


Click on the link below to view all snaps from the MultiGenre Presentations.

Below are the print and/or slide-show texts of the MultiGenre Metaphor presentations we saw in class. These texts alone do not fully convey what was communicated through the various modes of drama, song, and images in the presentations. They do, however, presents a story of their own. There is some really good writing in these pieces. Check them out.

Writing Instructor as Hockey Mom
Download file
Excerpt from "Josh Newstrom's Journal Entry"

I think my mom and Mrs. Penny must be a lot alike cause they always say the same stuff to me. Mom says, I’ll buy you your skates and take you to practice, but it’s up to you to work hard and succeed. Mrs. Penny says, I’ll give you suggestions and try to help you get where you’re going with your writing, but you need to give it your all.

I love the voice in this piece. It captures the enthusiasm we bring into our work, whether it be hockey, writing, or teaching, when we feel that someone believes in our abilities. I hope to bring that encouragement to the students, teachers, and colleagues I work with in the future, and especially to my son who reminds me daily to never underestimate his abilities.

Teachers as Trainers: Let's Get Physical
This multigenre project uses the blog platform as repository for the various pieces of the whole.

Excerpt from MGMM Press Release:

ELA Educators Announces the Release of the New Personal Trainer for Writing.

Mpls, March 8, 2007. For years students have felt they are stagnating in their writing throughout their K-12 years. Research has shown that most students (85%) do not get the recommended daily 30 minutes of writing exercise that the National Writing Project (NWP) recommends. Many students actually exercise more that they write!

Now there is a solution to this pandemic that is sweeping our country: the Writing Personal Trainer (WPT). The job of the WPT is to stretch students’ writing abilities and comfort zones in a non-threatening way. Every day WPT leads students through numerous aspects of writing including: freewriting, drafting, editing, peer review, mini-lessons, sustained writing time and sharing of writing and techniques.

Whether intended or not, the satirical voice of this press release describes well some of the educational programs and gimmicks that are presented to administrators, teachers, and the public in general as panacea for education's ill.

Writing Instructor as Water

Excerpt from Preface to Water

We believe our teaching methods, and the craft of writing itself, is fluid like water and, therefore, often changes states, takes on different meanings, and plays many different roles. both writing and teaching can be mercurial subjects that resist containment, explanation, labeling, and/or exact definition.

Writing as Travel: Teacher as Guide
Sonnet 21--Writer's Guild Motto

Come writers, let us guide your journey.
When confronted with a choice between
words you must keep the goals of your story
in mind. Always decide what you mean
to say. Write clear like a Canadian night,
strong and bold like the rivers of old.
Thoughts as beautiful as the twilight
of a bucolic landscape. Untold
success should come if you structure your
thoughts like a German railway station,
orderly and smooth, never an obscure
phrase to disjoint like a drought in Scotland.
these tips will take writing to new places;
through problems of old, to brand new vistas.

Writing, and the Teaching of writing as Agriculture
"sowing, cultivating, harvesting, and reaping"

Excerpt from Letter to Reader:

We are a group of idealistic teachers who believe that what we do matters. We are also, however, aware of the challenges that face us: the blights, droughts, and early frost of despair, indifference, and cynicism. We only have our bare hands and the simplest of tools at our disposal, but we are determined to make a difference so that the next generation does not starve.

Let the planting season begin.

While many of the students in the class voiced criticism of the multigenre project, stating that group work was the last thing they wanted to do, I can't help but be drawn to assign this project again. The final products often reflect such thoughtful consideration of their roles as teachers. I wish that as a preservice teacher, I would have reflected more deeply on the "droughts," "frosts of despair," and "cynicism" that I was to encounter in my new career. Was this reflection a result of the group work? the multigenre writing? or a combination of both?

Overall, the projects have moved me in ways unexpected. Reading through these projects reminds me once again of how we can never fully know our students, nor do we know ourselves. Rather it is our words, written, spoken, or visualized, that continually reveal to us new ways of knowing.

January 31, 2007

5 Paragraph Essay Forum


Click below to connect to the 5 Paragraph Essay Debate Forum

The more I think back on the role-play debate we had in class today, the more I feel frustrated. The experience overall was educational in terms of planning for technical difficulties and the learning curves of all those involved. Beyond that, I feel unsatisfied with my level of engagement. My own participation was minimal considering that I spent most of the time dealing with technological details or helping others. In a way this shouldn't bother me, because as the instructor of the course, I should expect to have those responsibilities, but I guess I still have unresolved issues related to the FPT.

So here goes.

If anybody should feel the desire to push back or vent their own views on this issue I welcome them to use this space to do so.

As a high school student, I liked the 5 paragraph form. It was a quick and easy way to package opinions and whip out papers. In fact, I remember having to write 12 FTPs to get an A in one of my social studies classes. Although high school never really equipped we with any other form besides the FTP, I graduated high school believing that I was ready for college. Well, needless to say, college writing was a wake up call for me and continues to be as graduate school presents ever new ways of writing and thinking.

I guess my point that I'm taking a long time to make is that the FTP does have its place in the writing curriculum. It establishes a foundational writing genre that promotes organization and can be built upon with more sophisticated writing techniques. My key point when I say this, however, is that it is one of many diverse writing genres. What happens too often is that the FPT is the only genre that is taught. Moreover, it is often "over-taught" to the extent that we have students fill in boxes in a chart (like the one above). Although these charts may work as effective brainstorming techniques, when overused, they present writing, and thinking for that matter, as linear processes that are singular in nature.

So my solution, which isn't anything avant garde, would be to keep the FPT as a fundamental format in writing instruction, but teach it as one of many genres, each genre having its specific effect and audience. Then, the FTP is seen not as a meta-form to fit all thought into, but rather one of many forms that can be strategically chosen to deliver a message.

I understand that all of this is easier said than done.

Now that I've effectively paraphrased the views of everyone else, I can go to bed.

January 19, 2007

Job search goodies

This entry is a work in progess, as all my entries are. I plan to add more ideas and resources to this entry as I come by them. I start this entry, because I heard some students in my CI 5461 course discussing the daunting task of looking for a job.



The link below has four different resumes to look over for format and presentation options.



January 16, 2007

Online Writing Resources a'la Muriel


I'd like to take this opportunity to thank (in advance) Muriel Thompson for coming to visit my CI 5461 class. Below are direct links to the websites she plans to mention in class.

An organization devoted to improving writing instruction through teachers helping teachers. Click on the "RESOURCES" link for lists full of writer-friendly teaching lessons.

"Where getting your daily writing 'fix' is more important than fixing your writing. "
This writer-centered site, sponsored by the Nevada Writing Project, focuses on improving writing through writing every day. There are many prompts, games, and activities devoted to making writing fun. NOTE: There is also much information about the 6Traits

MN LEARNING LOOP: Teacher Resource Center
This site lists many important links for MN educators such as the Department of Education and MN Language Arts Standards. ALSO NOTEWORTHY is that this site contains a search engine that allows for advance searches of a variety of online writing resources. Click on "Language Arts" to access the search engine.

Feel free to comment on the helpfulness of these sites or others that are similar.

January 12, 2007

blogging goodies

red blog.jpg

Below is a fledgling list of blog resources. I hope to expand this list as I become more familiar with the blogging craft myself. I welcome any suggestions or references to other sites worthy of linking.


UThink UofMN blogs:
Sponsored by UMN library, this blog service has no advertisements and features Movable Type software.
User guide for Movable Type

Edublog Blog resource for teachers and students:
I’ve read about many teachers using this service, but I’ve never used it myself.

Blogger start up page:
This service, although filled with advertisements, offers many template/presentation options.


Famous blogger Rebecca Blood’s guide to all things blogging:

About Blogs: Blog writing tips and style:
Site highlights include: "3 cardinal sins of blogging" and "How to write a better blog"

January 11, 2007

CI 5461: professional blogs (Spring 2007)


This entry can be used as a portal to others' blogs. Feel free to bypass my blog by linking others' blogs to your individual blog for easy access.

CI 5461 course WebCT link:

For those of you interested in the research and philosophy behind my decision to use professional blogs in our course check out the links below. Happy blogging.

Blogs and Self Regulated Learning (SRL)

Weblogs in Scholarship and Teaching

"Experience, Share, & Reflect" David Ernst's blog (director of academic computing)

CI 5461 BLOGGERS (added as received):












Sarah S. :











Sarah T.:


Rob DuBois: