March 8, 2007

Spandel against all odds

I loved her chapter 4 writings. I saw it as a realistic approach to teaching literature and writing. This hands on approach allows the students the options of choice and self-discovery. It makes me think of the new changes that have occurred at Minseapolis South High School since I did my observation hours there last year. They used to have vending machines that allowed the students to buy candy and pop. Recently though, they have replaced these machines with water, juice and fruits. By doing this, they were making the point that they want the students to have healthier habiti, but the result is a rebelion. This being the fact that the students were forced into the change rather than able to figure it out for themselves. This forcible learning ignores the students' needs to create personal schemas. I feel that this is Spandel's point throughout this chapter. Her lis of what they learn on page 44, includes both the good lessons and the tough ones. This realization that not everything will be an easy or perfect discovery for all learners. This is an important life lesson.

This is a web page that discusses online learning

February 28, 2007

Grammarians revolt me

II wrote this whole entire blog and then my computer freaked out and it is lost. My original entry was witty, forward, and relevant, but because this situation has pissed me off (as I'm sure you all know it does), this blog will be direct and humorless. I hate computers and hope I do not set off an alarm with the steam that is shooting out of my ears. Grammar and grammar lessons are unneeded and irrelevant. I was never taught grammar in school, and found that by reading and going through editing processes as a class, I learned to write just fine. In fact, I find myself enjoying the writing, which I could not guarantee would have been the results if I would have had diagramed sentences shoved down my throats in the process. Who needs to know the mechanics of a microwave in order to heat your food? No one wants to know all the cogs or bolts of anything (unless you are an IT kid, and look how they all interact.) Writing needs to be fun and inventive. The students need to see it as an outlet for conveying a story, creating an argument, evoking or displaying emotions, or discovering a deeper context to an issue. When you force mechanics over ideas, students will lose their creativities, adventurism, or even care for writing. Sure, Williams opted to let us know how Latin evolved into the grammar for that we use in today's world, but who really cares.
If you are all for grammar, more power to you, but when you are busy trying to explain what a predicate nominative is, and how to understand the pompous and overblown definitions provided by grammarians; I will be helping the students take chances in their writings and allowing them to fail in their first couple drafts as a means for them to understand what works and what does not. I want the students to want to write, and I want them to read because with reading comes better writing, I could care less if grammar is taught to them at all. I think I turned out pretty well.

Here is a web site full of fun grammar things, cause if you do intend to teach it, you should at least make it fun

February 21, 2007

Assessment fever

Is anyone else getting sick of hearing about assessments. I feel as though I am again trapped in Caroline's class. Do not get me wrong, I understand the importance of making valid and reliable assessment. I understand the benifits and varieties of formative assessments, but I am sick of hearing hacks like Williams discussing their inexperienced opinions of what an assessment should cover, or where an assessment derives from. I am sick of the government's propaganda about the importance of "THE TEST" and teaching to "THE TEST." I mean, give me a break. I do, however, think Spandel is on to something. How could you rightfully disagree with someone who acknowledges how "THE TEST" wastes the teacher's time (six weeks), and that such tests need to change to fit the learners.
Out of all the gold that comes from Spandel's Midas like fingertips, I thought that the best portion was her three things that must be included to be assessed in the world of writing (94-96). She claims that the three components are as follows: the assessment must be perspective, the assessment must be compassionate, and the assessment must be usefull. Sure, your first response is, "NO DUH!?!" yet, these three practices are not often taught directly to us, nor are they practiced in the world. As for perspective, she claims that not all answers have a definate correct response, thus the teacher needs to closely and open-mindedly read a piece of writing in order to derive what the writer is trying to convey. As for the compassionate assessments, this I found to be the most widely forgotten principle. The assessment is there to help the students, and to help the lesson. They are not to point out or create failure, but rather to motivate and focus on all of the students' success. The final, and most important is that the assessment should be useful to the students, therefore lets make tests that are relevant and help identify the students needs to help advance their abilities.
OK, there is all I have left to say about assessments, now feel free to eityher grade this with a check, rubric, or include it on the final exam to assess me!!! ;-)

here is a web site that is drowning in rubric formats that can easily be used or addapted.

February 13, 2007

The 9 rights for every one period.

Vicki Spandel is onto something much more monumental than just "a Guide for Teachers." Spandel is writing a guide for life in general. In this week's readings, we get to venture into the rights to writer badly, see others write, and find your own voice. Yes, these rights are extremely important for the classroom, but they should be added as metaphors for everyone to embrace in life.

The idea of being able to write badly is, simply put, the rights to make mistakes; the right to work your way to a goal; the right to not be perfect. Let's face it, we are not going to do everything perfect in life (unless you think like Eugene, but who else stumbled across reading the Illiad while still in diapers ;-) Just messing with you Eugene!), this right as told by Spandel acknowledges that students need not feel that they need to produce gold the second their pen hits the page (or finger's hit the key board; for you more modern types [no pun intended]). She explains that if you do not guide the students through their efforts of writing, and embrace when they produce even their worst first drafts, students will not feel comfortable writing, taking risks, or consequently doing drafts. I like how she suggests that teachers should model their own drafts as a means to show that all people go through the process of revision.

This example leads into the student's rights to see others write. This is very important, because without examples, how are the students supposed to know what to do. I love, love, love Spandel's metaphors, especially the one about the swimming teacher, but I feel in this chapter that the teacher needs to work as the true model for writing. Anytime a teacher allows themselves to be viewed through a process, it not only allows the students to have a model for their own works, but it further allows the teacher to be seen as more human. I don't ever want the students to feel like it is them and me, rather I want the class to work as a whole, and by being viewed doing their types of assignments (even when modeling), I feel that the students' understand that mindset even more.

lastly, Spandel says that students need the opportunity to find their own voice. This makes you understand that there is no right answer to every question, and that sometimes the act of getting them to write is an accomplishment within itself. Yes, prescribed English is more widely used and appreciated in the greater good of life, but that does not mean they cannot use their own voice to get there. Me, personally, I sound completely different on paper than when I speak (except of course for blogs), but does that mean I speak wrong? Or is it that by speaking "normally" it guides me towards becoming a better writer with a more unique voice.

Check out this website for ideas about finding a writer's voice. Includes suggested activities.

February 7, 2007

Romano, I want to have your babies!

Just when you thinj teaching has become redundant, along comes a great mind like Romano!!! Seriously, though, Romano has some fantastic ideas and exercised that would be very easy to add into any classroom format. I love his section on poetry (especially the multiple vouice poem). He has some strong ideas that create very relevant, personal, and powerful pieces. I think that poetry does need to be a bigger part of the class, so it does not intimidate the students as much. Does this mean I intend to start every class out with a reading of a poem? I can't say that I like the sound of my own voice that much, but I might allow that option for the students if they would like to bring in a favorite poem or lyric. I also enjoyed how he broke down the Haiku's. I feel like stressing on the conventions of a poem take away the importance of the feelings and meanings of a poem. Call me Bohemian (which I am), but it should all be about the raw emotion, because raw emotion is what encourages students to be excited to write.
This ties into the next set of readings. Yes I love creative writing and raw emotion that destroys all formulas, but I totally side with the teachers that support the five-part essay. I believe teaching the elements of such a writing form allows the students to learn the importances of structure and cohesion, but I do not agree that such a formulqa should be taught as the endall of writing. I too struggled the first time I had to write a paper with more than three points. It was on that day that my father sat me down and said, "Son (as he was opt to call me), life does not fit within the means of a mandatory structure. All rules are meant to be stretched all black and white contain a grey, and not every paper will fit in the five part essay structure."
I answered, "But dad, the five-part essay is all I know. Without it I am lost! Sinking deeper and deeper into this quicksand of vulnerability. Have my teacher's led me astray? left me alone in a wolf's den wearing T-bone steaks? How could I have been so misguided. I trusted them, and they have betrayed me!"
To which my father said, " Aaron, quit being so melodramatic."
Such is the story, but it did teach me that there need to be multple methods taught, but without the five-part essay being taught to me, my papers would be as well structured as... this blog and it's ramblings. Therefore, go five-part essays, but go also creativity and Romano

Who would have known that there is so many poetry styles. I recommend checking out this web site to learn more about the style you could teach.

January 30, 2007


First off, I would like to state that I love the concept of multi-genre papers, I believe that they allow students of all strengths an opportunity to succeed and even showoff their talents and abilities. I further love how the idea allows for a writer to take multiple perspectives on a topic and even personalize different elements that they otherwise would not have. My only skepticism is how do you grade a multi-genre paper against a more traditional paper? Would they both stand up to the same rubric? Do you make a multi-genre paper an acceptible response to any assignment? These are the questions that have haunted me since the reading.

With modern technology being ever present in the educational field, I was able to see a multi-genre paper as a very similar assignment to a power-point presentation. I feel that both can display similar results. Both break away from a traditional paper. Both tie many forms to a similar theme (thesis?). Both use more descriptive words and pictures as a means of representing what they hope to say. I see this as many unique and convenient similarities. By introducing the presentation of a multi-genre assignment as a power point possibility, I feel it would allow the students even more room to express themselves(music, video, and sound).

Lastly, I would love to figure out how to make a multi-genre paper an acceptable response to any assignment, but am not sure the best way to do so. I can see an easy similarity to writing about a book or a character/writer, but what about when the assignments are more about rhetoric and persuasion? If anyone reads this blog and has any recommendations, pleas do tell.
This website gives a step-by-step approach to teaching multi-genre literacy, with very good examples. Check it out, you'll like it.

January 23, 2007

My views on the readings for 1/25/07

I delved deep into the thoughts and ideas of James D. Williams, and his philosophies on the best practices for teaching. I say to you James (can I call you James?), I think you may be onto something. These two chapters we have read are very insightful to the needs of the evolving educational process. By acknowledging that the old ways worked for some, but not for all, James has re-sod the playing field with the "process approach." At first, I was insulted by the fact that James viewed the education methods that led all of us to the intellectual self-renaissance that we have all embraced through our in-depth readings, poetic expression, witty banter, and our magical abilities to bore an entire group of Un-English-major-outsiders by delving into the subtext of a movie plot. Had not such educational methods of "[a]pplying rigid rules, studying grammar or composition topics, or reading works of literature," created are abilities? Are we, then, considered failures? At first I wondered if the evolution of video games, coupled with the Mtv-generation-over-caffeinated-ADHD-poster-children-reality-tv-worshiping-
internet-addicted-students lacked the ability to take the elements of the lessons I was taught and piece them together in a self-efferent way to create good writing. Maybe we are just smarter, more focused, problem solving types than those who only communicate through computer characters.
Through further reading of James' text, I learned that my assumptions, though astutely defensive, were irrational and wrong. His discussion of the process model just made sense (for the most part). By creating the steps of Invention, Planning, Drafting, PAusing, Reading, Revising, Editing, and Publishing; while equally acknowledging the universal ordering of each, James creates a blue-print for a better writing process.
James openly embraces writer workshops as though it were his only child. I am a fan of such methods, but I do not agree with all of his regulations. I like that he thinks there needs to be a step-by-step phase of creating comfort and trust among the group, to make them "friends" in order to receive each student's best writing and editing abilities, but I do not like how he argues that the groups must never be divided. I feel that keeping a group together may create more trust, but by separating the groups periodically (two or three times a semester) and restarting the process, provided the students with multiple perspectives.
James' goal seems to be to create a more constructivism based classroom, which I am all for. I would love to be more of a coach or facilitator, rather than a lecturer or know-it-all, but I wonder how long something this good could last for. In an ideal world, the teacher can implement to perfect writer work shopping groups of five students whom can excel through Vygotsky's Zone of Proximal Development, respect each other's opinion, write fantastic papers, and remain on task in doing so; but in the real world, such things do not exist. Sure, you could go with Barbara Atwell and just speak louder than the bustling of the mass of students, rather than quiet them down, but to what avail? I am worried that doing such work shopping activities would be short lived when the students fail to find their niche in the group, are insulted by comments made, laugh at each other's work, do not speak English well enough to comprehend or express, or do not do their required assignments. As a teacher who intends to work in an inner-city school, those are the students I am more likely to get. I feel like James is getting us all ready to work in either a private school or idealistic suburban setting, but the harsh realities of the majority of moderns schools would not be able to do these workshops without the teacher playing an active role.
I do like his step-by-step model though. I feel that you can implement his methods in any writing assignment, and I agree that multiple drafts will help students learn to write better. I like the concepts of freewriting and journaling the most, because they do not have the pressures of being graded to scare the students into creating works that are made to appease the teacher, rather things that can be self beneficial.
Although I praise the stages, I think James is way off on the publishing stage. I do not think that publicly displaying, reading, or making a class binder are good ways to motivate the less competent writers. James points out earlier that creating a competitive atmosphere is a great way to get a group of students to bond, but it only works because students have a competitive nature about them. Therefore, this public use of the publishing phase will have some students feeling their writing is not as good as others, and that can lead to them feeling as though they are failures, not motivate themselves to write better. I think the idea of turning in a completed paper, on-time, after following the steps and working in a writer's workshop will give the students the feeling of accomplishment enough. No need to throw it in everyone's faces. If anything, the teacher can compile some quotes or sections they enjoyed in the papers to show the class.
This web page talks about using post-it notes as a way of editing papers and setting goals. It may come in handy if a whole group has to use one copy of a paper to edit.