Monday, November 26, 2012

Entry #12 - Student Learning Outcomes

This blog served as a direct learning opportunity for me over the past few months. Looking back at the Student Learning Outcomes given to us on the first day of class, many jumped out at me…

Students will gain knowledge and competency with regards to:

1. the variety of genres that readers and writers use to communicate

2. the role of purpose and audience in writing and reading and the rhetorical voices used to address the desired purpose(s) and audience(s).

3. the historical and contemporary theoretical models of reading and writing, including new literacy theories of reading and writing.

4. the relationship between the writing and reading process.

5. the role of metacognition in writing proficiency and reading comprehension

This blog served as a learning experience with a very specific audience and purpose. Most writing tasks I have participated in are formal, with only my professor as my audience. This writing task allowed me to take on my own role as a learner and speak informally while reflecting within that role. My audience was also my peers, which was directed by the bless, address, and press posts we did as well as commenting on others’ blogs. This is my most natural voice and purpose, and although at the surface level these posts seemed like easy tasks, I put more thoughts, effort, and reflection into them than I have most essays, reflections, papers, etc. it was a way for me to take surface level responses and reflect on many modes of reading and writing as well as make connections between others, my classroom, texts we were reading, presentations we were part of, etc. this blog served as a well rounded approach for me to make connections beyond this course itself as well as my current teaching position. The metacognition I used while creating this blog was not necessarily a new task, but connecting those thoughts to produce writing was. I often spend time reflecting on what I have learned and how I can relate it to other aspects of my life, however, this if the first time I was forced to make those connections and then go the extra step and publish them with a personal, natural voice.

I was also able to meet the student learning outcomes by experimenting with my knowledge of genres that are used to communicate through writing. Almost every week, I engaged in the reading process to keep up on reading assignments, and then used the writing process to make connections between concepts understood while reading. If I was not writing to make those connections and form new relationships between genres the information would not be as concrete and relatable as it is right now. I honestly feel I am able to take every piece of information we have engaged in during this course and relate it to my 5 and 6 year old students! Never before have I been able to use everything, or tailor everything, to meet the needs of myself, my classroom, and my students.

Although when I first started writing this post (as noted above) I felt that the first 5 objectives really stood out to me and I have made gains in my understanding of them. However, rereading the last 2, I realize that this blog has also helped me to better understand how to assess reading and writing assignments that are ‘less traditional’ or that incorporate more technology than I am used to. I learned that assessment can be student or peer driven, such as the post I am completing right now. I am assessing my own understandings by rereading posts, going back to student outcomes, and reading and reflecting on student comments. This post probably serves Dr. Jones as STRONG indicator in determining student writing proficiency. I have been able to assess my own reflection, as well as peers have been able to read and press my writing, all with a natural, personable voice. This blog has opened my eyes to a whole new world of writing, and has allowed me to make connections and reflect on things I would have never even noticed otherwise.


Sunday, November 25, 2012

Entry #11 - Genre Reflection

I have learned more about genres in the past 5 weeks in this course than I have my lifetime. During this course specifically, I was able to take the new knowledge I was learning and directly relate it to previous notions and many times misconceptions I had to develop a clearer, deeper understanding of each.

During presentations and through reading Tompkins, I have learned about many text structures that were never explicitly discussed elsewhere in my education career. For example, although I had previous notions regarding the text structure of a letter (whether personal or business), and I understood text structures we find in most narrative writing such as plot, setting, etc, I had no idea that biographical writing included specific text structures as well. I learned that biographical writing contains different structures that each have very specific characteristics. For example, personal narratives, memoirs, and autobiographies all have different characteristics however they are all considered biographical writing. 

Most of the genre’s discussed I had a surface level understanding of, but gained a deeper understanding as I read and participated in presentations. My own presentation, for example, was on persuasive writing. Before research, I knew the basics about persuasive writing, such as persuasive writing has a beginning (stating belief), middle (reasons why you believe it), and end (repeat what you believe). However, I learned that the above example of the structure of a persuasive writing piece can be easily manipulated. For example, a more complex student may choose to include the other side of the argument and why that side is not reasonable. Although I had the baseline understanding of what persuasive writing is, what I failed to realize, is that persuasion is a part of my everyday life. Not a day goes by that I do not try to persuade someone in my life (including myself!) one thing or another. That is the umbrella idea that really hit home while learning about each genre:  We were not just learning about reading and writing genres, we were learning about how they are a part of our everyday lives. 

Letter writing is another genre I assumed I knew what I needed to know about it to teach it, however I was drastically wrong. I knew the basic text structures of a letter, and how they may change slightly to become tailored to the specific audience they are meant. I learned that not a day goes by that I do not write a letter, whether it is a text message, email, etc. I learned that each text structure needs to be explicitly taught and modeled, and no two types of letters should be taught on the very same day. In fact, I think many of my misconceptions came from the fact that when I was introduced to this genre as a child, it was all introduced at once. I learned about personal letters, business letters, post cards, etc in one lesson, which lent me to believe the different types of letters are more similar than they truly are. These presentations not only helped clear up any misconceptions I had to begin with, but they also gave me hands on methods I can use when educating my own children on each specific genre. 

Although I feel much better about each genre specifically, I worry I may be using the wrong educational techniques to teach the genre’s in my own classroom. For example, just this week in clinic I was told that compare and contrast graphic organizers, as well as specific concept maps and KWL charts, should not be used with narrative text. It makes sense now that these organizers require specific information that a student cannot correctly obtain from a narrative writing piece simply because they need concrete details. I student taught, taught my own classroom, and worked with students in clinic over the past years with that misconception that plays a large role in student understanding. My biggest fear is that I am going to teach ‘wrong’, without having the correct knowledge on a specific topic. Therefore, these genre presentations aided in my understanding of writing drastically. I now feel confident I can make decisions in my own classroom regarding teaching these genres accurately and appropriately, and aid in students understandings of each.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Entry #10 - Bless, Address of Press

When reviewing the blogs of peers, I found a sentence in Post #9 by J.Kerouac that stopped me in my tracks. The quote read...

"The use of this expository reading and writing provides limitless possibilities for the ways students can access new information and learn content. In my current classroom, we’ve combined our science and writing unit"

The first sentence in the above quote is something I am recently becoming familiar with. During my undergrad and graduate work I have learned the benefits of expository text and how to use it appropriately, but I have never been given specific examples of how to provide opportunities for student growth through expository text. It is limiting to think that I have settled in my own room using mainly fictional text simply because it is what I am most comfortable with AS WELL AS what my students are most comfortable with. But isn't my job to balance those students on the edge of their very own comfort zone?

Kerouac proved she is doing just that by going on to state that she has combined science and writing units in her own classroom. Five years ago I would've looked at her like she had 3 heads. Although my eyes widened initially, after thinking about this concept, I realized all of the benefits that come from it.

Right now I am struggling with science in general, specifically, with how to add it into my classroom across other subject matter rather than in isolation. Pairing it with writing, or making writing a large part of science, would cause for a smoother transition as well as help to make connections across the curriculum. I also love the idea that using expository text to introduce topics in science give students specific, concrete examples of what certain types of expository text look like.  “Through instruction and reading and writing experiences, children grow in their ability to differentiate among genres” (Tompkins, 2012, p. 202). Using writing in science curriculum is the perfect opportunity to help students grow in their ability to identify specific genres.

Teaching across the curriculum is a concept I learned early on in my education at Nazareth, however it is one that really causes the teacher to stop and think. In order to appropriately teach like this, I must first understand how topics relate, compare, overlap, and how I can think about them in a variety of ways. I must understand this before I ask any child to understand and make those connections as well. Kerouac's post was a great example of how as educators, we can take concepts that to most do not seem to relate on the outside, and make connections between them to deepen our understandings of them both!

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Entry #9 - Open Entry

While preparing my genre pieces project, I have been working diligently on my poetic piece which is an acrostic poem. Since my topic is my wedding, it evokes an emotional response when I think and/or write about it. I decided that one of my individual pieces was going to be written in my own personal voice, and I wanted it to be emotional yet light and funny as well. For that reason, I decided to use the poetry genre to voice to my audience my emotions on the topic.

When I began thinking about this piece, I realized quickly that there were many forms poetry can take. I started researching acrostic poems, simply because I was most familiar with them. When I was in elementary school I remember learning about poetry, but for some reason none of the other poetic forms really stuck with me. Because of this, I knew I wanted to research acrostic poetry by reading mentor texts but search for complex, emotional driven acrostics. Once this was established, I found myself turning to the writing process that Tompkin's (2012) described in chapter one.

After researching I used a variety of different methods to prewrite. On 4 different occasions, I opened a microsoft word page and just wrote. I wrote words, sentences, and phrases, some that made sense and some that absolutely did not. I used different colored fonts to differentiate between events and/or time periods, and I used bold font to distinguish between the ideas I wanted to use in my actual piece and those I did not. This process was extremely time consuming, but during it, I changed my writing piece drastically for the better.

Once I had ideas written down, I was able to better organize them. I drafted 3 different acrostic poems, each varying slightly structurally and emotionally. These drafts did not use standard conventions, rather they took my previous prewriting ideas and organized them into the form I wanted for my final piece. This was the easiest part of the process for me, since the original thoughts were already written down elsewhere. During the time spent on this task, I realized the importance of prewriting and how informal it can be. My organized chaos helped me to create first drafts that were the beginning of the individual piece.

Back before we were asked the read the very first chapter of Tompkins (2012), I never distinguished the difference between revising and editing. I grouped the editing into the revising stage, and used revision time to look at grammar, mechanics, and spelling as well. Because of this, I often did not have a specific purpose for editing my own text. It was unclear as to what exactly I was looking for, since I was attempting to accomplish so much at once. While working in this course with my poem, for the first time I was very conscious of what I was looking for each time I reread my piece. I was able to revise with my writing group, as well as with friends and family at home. My fiance's input was extremely helpful to aide in my own reflection and discussions. Before I began the editing process, I realized that the people I revise with and the people I edit my writing piece with may be very different. For example, my fiance was perfect to aide in revisions for my project where as he would make an awful editor! I honestly cannot believe I thought of these two processes as one.

During the publishing stage, I contemplated form many times. Dr. Jones' voice came into my head often, since form and format were the very first things I wanted to think about before this project was even fully developed. I was told specifically to save form until the very end, and I learned why... the hard way. I pictured this piece being published electronically, or at the very least typed and printed, however once I wrote it I got a very different feeling. With a trip to JoAnn Fabrics I was able to publish a piece that was completely unique, and VERY different than what I had originally anticipated. The learning I have gained in this project alone are indescribable. Thinking back now I cannot believe I had so many misconceptions on what I thought was a seemingly simple task!