Tuesday, July 10, 2007
Monday, March 05, 2007
However, Mindworks gives us a cautionary tale about dig lit gone too far. Here is the text of an article in March 5th Source/People section:
What if you asked a question and nobody answered?
Unfortunately, that's what happened with the March Mindworks. We've been experimenting to make Mindworks more interactive and interdisciplinary. The March assignment was for students to record themselves making music with found objects or handmade instruments. Their submissions would have been shown in a YouTube.com-style online feature.
We did not get a single submission, possibly a first in 25 years of Mindworks. In an unscientific e-mail poll, several teachers wrote that they liked the idea behind the prompt, but that the logistics of making instruments, composing or choosing music and finally recording it and sending it in were too much in an era of high-stakes testing and standardized curriculum. Others wrote that as teachers of English and language arts, the idea of suddenly orchestrating and producing a music recording was just too much of a stretch.
The dig lit we assign must purposefully connect meaningful learning and literacies with the student and the medium we choose. Kids are smart, they smell an assignment that wants to be "interactive and interdisciplinary" for its own sake and not for the sake of meaningful learning.
My website for this unit is Rick's teachingmedialiteracy.com - a great site for all of us to bookmark
Thursday, February 22, 2007
My 10th grader is doing the dumbest grammar in his LA class. It's based on Latin roots and is vocabulary with virtually no context. It's hard for me and impossible for him to make sense of. That's one reason my mind was blown when I found out why. "English is a Teutonic language and is not based in Latin, which raises one of the more troubling difficulties with traditional grammar- it doesn't fit English very well." I just can't understand why schools continue to push traditional grammar when it seems clear from years and years of research that it doesn't work.
Dean comes to the same conclusion as Williams, that asking students to name the parts of speech or their functions doesn't matter. However, Dean and Petit show just how difficult teaching grammar is. Neither offer even a glimmer of a suggestion that makes any sense, on how to teach grammar or usage.
Thursday, February 15, 2007
Okay, I can’t say that reading about assessing writing has actually made how to assess writing any more clear. In fact, the more I read about assessing writing, the more it seems to me that teachers develop assessments, through experience, that works best for them and their style of teaching. This got me thinking about how I think I will assess the writing of my students and I’ve come up with a basic plan that steals from Wyngaard, Spandel, and (gasp!) Williams.
First of all, I think it’s important to have assessment going on throughout the writing unit. Some ideas I found useful for assessing throughout the unit were Spandel’s check lists for students, Wyngaard’s worksheets, and the good ‘ole peer review, which everyone thinks is a good idea. Since I’m a tool belt gal, I’m going to ask my students to use the 5 tools I talked about in my last blog as they workshop and peer review each other’s writing. All of these assessments will be worth points that will factor into the final grade for the paper. I’ll do this so the paper is not only graded on its final form but is assessed for the process as well. The final paper does need to be evaluated – like it or not. I especially loved Spanel’s ideas of grading with perception, compassion, and with an eye for what is useful for the student. I liked Williams’ idea – and Wynagaard talked about it too – of reading all papers quickly and putting them on a continuum. Then it’s important to go back and read papers carefully within the context of the continuum. Spandel’s rubric made sense to me too – beginning, developing, and strong with the focus always being on helping the student become a better writer, not fixing a grade on a paper. I’ll even take Spandel one step further and let students with a B or below redo their paper and turn it in again in order to get a better grade.
I’ll close with Samantha – as teachers we need to “meet me [Samantha], the writer where I am!”
Friday, February 09, 2007
Barron and Spandel are into the modeling, which I think is cool. In a way, I think my inexperience as a writer is a good thing because I’m struggling with many of the same issues as the students and can model how to move from phase to phase of writing. Spandel’s idea of modeling the entire process of writing, including sharing and revision is spot on. You’re either in it for the long haul or you’re not! I did chuckle at Barron’s telling us that 4 is the right number for a group. Let’s get Williams and Barron in a cage match over group number!
I don’t agree with Spandel’s that you can teach voice. Our class discussion on voice was interesting –and got me thinking about it. I think voice can be manipulated by asking students to write from different character’s point of view – like Jeff and Jacob writing from their student’s pov. But voice is such a soulful, personal, beautiful part of a person that just can’t be taught. What I do really like in the chapter is Spandel’s suggestion to open students’ ears to the wide range of voices in literature and in our lives.
Monday, February 05, 2007
There were too many cooks in the kitchen, so to speak, with this week’s reading. Dean, Nunnally, and Novick agree in principle that the FPT is a useful recipe for students to know and if taught with “creativity and variety” like adding genre or with a “train of thought” as a unifying ingredient, can push the boundaries of the FPT. After all, is writing just using formula and convention in creative ways? We know a sonnet, a haiku, dialogue, etc. by its formula and conventions – it is the writer who stirs the ingredients together to make the formula work – or not work. A stinky sonnet isn’t rotten because its formula is a sonnet; it reeks because the writer didn’t mix it together properly. It’s not the FPT that is at fault, it’s the cook!
There are so many situations when a student must know and be able to cook up a very basic and uninspired FPT. Standardized testing does not reward “rhetorical analysis” it rewards “declarative knowledge” and as the scoring of these test becomes more automated, students who can organize and declare what they know in a formula easy to recognize and grade will be rewarded with higher scores. Whether or not we agree with the way standardized testing penalizes creativity and critical thinking, it is our responsibility, as teachers, to teach students how to write for these tests. To mix a metaphor, we need to play the cards we’re dealt. In addition, many teachers in other disciplines do not value creative FPT’s. But, if we teach our students the basics of the FTP and then teach them to add spices and zesty ingredients; they might even be able to, as Baron says, “deploy sesquipedalian words appropriately.” (Oh puleeeeeze – just say long! – and when have sesquipedalian words made a paragraph good?)
Replacing a basic recipe that has worked for years and years with a crazy new one that is more complicated and just as formulaic seems crazy to me. A formula is a formula and maybe, just maybe, we use the FPT because it works. That’s how Julia felt about her basic recipes and who would I be to argue with Julia?
The web site I'm listing is a U of St. Thomas website that gives the basic formula for FPT, compare and contrast and content driven and chronilogical essays. I know our cohort is creative enough to take these basic formulas and turn them into a delicious dish! The site is: http://www.stu.edu/organizing---structuring-your-writing-article-2119.html
Monday, January 29, 2007
Students are multigenre kids living in a multigenre world. They see people use different genres to unite a theme all the time. For example, comedian Sarah Silverman mixes comedy, music, and animation in the writing of her show. Students use their Myspace page to showoff their poetry and rap lyrics while using photographs to tell people who they are. As they take notes in class they draw, doodle, and write notes that may or may not be on topic. The world is muligenre, why not writing? I appreciate the step by step “how to” that makes incorporating multigenre papers into the classroom possible. I got a good chuckle when I read the more analytic science and math heads have a harder time with the multigenre paper. Oh well, they have lots of opportunities to write formulaic essays on the standardized tests and college applications. The quest for higher test scores just might be the multigenre paper’s demise. With larger class sizes and less instructional time, teachers may find it necessary to teach a more formulaic process and not have the time to give the students the pleasure of working on a multigenre paper. For me, I’m game to give a multigenre paper a try and may just work on my own along with my students.