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Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Entry 12: Student Learning Outcomes

            Throughout this semester, I have had the opportunity to grow as a writer and educator. The use of a learning log has helped me to reflect upon given text, as well as question specific issues/views more thoughtfully and purposefully. The maintaining of the learning log allowed me to visually see my progress throughout the semester, as well as to meet the student learning outcomes outlined in the class syllabus.
            As I reflect upon the time spent in developing a learning log, I feel that it has really helped me in thinking out the given readings, as I read the given text. I was more aware of how I was reading, and what I was reading about. I began to ask myself questions of how I would implement certain instructional techniques in my classroom, as well as how the various genres would help to facilitate my own writing, as well as my students. The learning log was a way to help guide my thinking and questioning as I read, supporting my thinking and questioning. As I began my readings, planning out how I would read the given text/ what I would focus most of my attention on, I also began to notice that I was doing the same with my writing. Prior to my blogs, I would plan out the specific topics/questions that I wanted to address. I not only became aware of my own reading, but also upon my writing as I developed my learning log entries.
            Looking over the student learning outcomes, it is obvious to me that my greatest challenge in the development of my learning log was keeping in mind the role of purpose and audience. I really struggled with this, because I don’t think that I was ever really aware of these two roles throughout past writing pieces. However, as I became more aware of role of purpose and audience in writing, I began to notice a difference in the way I developed my learning log entries. The learning log forced me to identify a reason for my writing, guiding my decisions and questions. Through this, I was also able to identify an audience for whom I was writing for. I had to constantly keep in mind that I was trying to target a specific audience through my writing. This also helped to guide and shape the way I addressed specific topics and questions. As I learned about the various genres used to help writers communicate their idea, I was able to use this knowledge in directing the purpose of my entries. The learning log forced me to think of my audience and what I wanted to say, just as the many mentor texts did through their pieces. Although my entries were not in the form of a poetic verse or letter, I was see the many ways that writers use genre to help them guide what they want to express and communicate to their audience. The learning log was a great way to support and use my personal language in expressing opinions on given topics (Tompkins, 2012, p. 6).  
            Although I had used learning logs in the past for other courses, I don’t think that I ever really understood the importance of using blogging as a way to express yourself, and what you have learned. Blogging allowed me the chance to reflect upon myself and my learning this far. It was an authentic way for me to apply what I learned and relate it to real-world situations. I was no longer just writing for my teacher, or even for myself but for a real audience that extended beyond the classroom. It allowed me to virtually conference with my teacher and peers, while also allowing the chance to self review my own progress.


Entry 11: Prompt

As I reflect on all the genres we have explored this semester, I have found that I have grown so much in not only my knowledge in the various genres, but also as a writer in developing genre pieces. This class has really helped me open up as a writer, allowing me to express myself in ways I could not see possible.
            This class really helped me as a writer to discover the various text features within the different genres. I was already aware that within the expository genre and nonfictional text, readers will find specific text features helpful in guiding them throughout their reading and writing (Tompkins, 2006, p.206). Such features entail marginal notes, glossaries to assist readers in understanding key words, as well as how to properly pronounce such words, headings and footnotes to direct the readers attention, as well as an index to help readers locate specific information within the text. The expository genre entails such features to make the given text easier to read and comprehend (Tompkins, 2006, p.206). Such features are rare to find when it comes to the genre of poetry. Within this genre, the authors incorporate such text features as alliteration, metaphors, onomatopoeia, rhyme, repetition, as well as personification (p.170). Such devises not only provide structure to the reading, but also enable the reader to paint a vivid picture inside their head of what they are reading (p.168-170). Although I had already been aware of the given text features/genre features of expository text from my own experiences in reading nonfiction, I was not fully aware of the text structures within the genre of poetry. Poetry is a genre that has been very intimidating for me and has been something that I kept at an arms length throughout much of my young adult life.
            In revealing my prior hesitance towards the poetry genre, I have found that I have now become less timid. As a writer, my pieces have always fit in the expository genre mold. In my undergraduate career, the majority of my writing was focused on research papers, while the majority of my reading was researched based. Through such exposure, I found that I lost part of my creativity in expressing myself and interests through the use of poetry and personal narratives. It became increasingly more difficult to let my guard down in order to create more descriptive pieces. This overall fear even stopped me from expressing my personal insights and feelings towards our individual genre project. I was really nervous and scared to let go and just write what I felt. This became especially true for my poem on vegan athletes. However, it wasn’t until I had read Tompkins, chapter seven on poetry writing, as well as the poetry group presentation that I became excited. I found that I could be given the structure I needed, yet still express my creativity through the use of the I Am poem.
            I think that as a teacher, we can help eliminate such fear and stress for our students when developing poems by allowing them the chance to experiment with poetic form (p. 172). The teacher could begin the unit of poetry by scaffolding the steps to completing a poem. Teachers may want to begin by creating a whole-class poem on a given topic as a way to give students practice (p.172). In connecting this to the Poetry Group Presentation from last week, it really helped me when we were broken up into pairs to create the I Am poem. This supported my learning, because it became less intimidating having someone to work with. It gave me the confidence I needed in knowing that I could do it on my own.
            At the start of class, I really believed that I knew a lot about descriptive writing. Although I was afraid to use descriptive writing, I thought that it was really easy to understand and use…if I wanted to. However, after being assigned the descriptive genre as part of the group genre project, I found that like any other genre, there was a lot more to it than just using adjectives in a sentence. Descriptive writing involves using words to paint a vivid picture in the reader’s head. It brings to mind a distinctive mood (p. 136). I did not realize that as we write descriptive pieces, that we still need to be aware of our choice in words, making sure not to over use words/not to ass too many adjectives in a sentence as to make sure that our voice is not lost. As we write descriptively, we also need to keep in mind the role of purpose and audience. Like other genres, this will help to guide our writing so that our target audience can be met. Although I learned so much regarding this genre, the one thing that I take away as the most monumental learning point was that descriptive writing is not separate from other genres. It is embedded in all of our writings (p.153). However, as teachers, we must understand that teaching students how to write descriptively is the most important thing. We cannot assign students to write a poem or a descriptive piece without having hem first comprehend the genre as well as in understanding and identifying the purpose for their descriptive piece (p.153).
            As I continue to grow in my writing, I still feel that I lack the most confidence in developing personal narratives. I find that as I take the time to sit down and write, I often draw a blank. I am so used to having structure in my writing, that it is difficult to just let go and express myself. Hopefully I can conquer this challenge and be able to let my creative juices flow.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Entry 10: “Bless, Address, or Press”

While looking/reading through my peers blogs, I couldn’t help but to focus in on Katie Mason’s blog entry for Entry 9. Throughout past classes with Katie, she has often brought up her struggles in trying to actively engage her students in the writing process. Using this information, I found it particularly important in her blog entry when she stated, “Make writing not only purposeful, but also engaging.” Knowing the difficulties that Katie has had in trying to get her students to read and write, I believe that keeping this statement in mind, in that through motivation, students can do anything. Tompkins (2006) notes that oftentimes, students who are unmotivated, usually do the bare minimum, becoming uninterested in a writing topic or project that does not interest them (p.253).  As teachers, we can help to improve these problems by allowing students to work together on collaborative compositions, or even to allow students to choose their own topics to write about Incorporating both into the classroom will not only engage students in the writing process, but also help to improve their confidence and interest in reading and writing (p.253). As teachers, we can still add a little bit of structure to the assignment if necessary, by allowing students to choose a topic from an array of choices, as well as asking students to check in with you prior to developing their pieces to make sure that their choice is appropriate as well as challenging enough for them.
Choice is intrinsically motivating for students, and I think that it was a terrific idea for Katie to allow her students to choose a topic to write about, based on something they were interested in. Although his topic on legalizing marijuana for medicinal purposes may be an issue that is controversial, it is an authentic and relevant topic that is being discussed in many states right now. Katie’s student can expand and dive deep into this topic in many ways. Using this topic as a persuasive piece will help him to think critically, analyze arguments, and use written language effectively in his petition. However, I think that as an educator, Katie should make it aware to her students the differences between persuasion and propaganda, as well as to keep their selected audience in mind before and during the writing process.
Throughout Katie’s blog entry, she had mentioned that this particular student had become so enthralled in the development of his piece, that he completely ignored the instructional components of the assignment. Maybe Katie could have a conference with him on the side explaining to him that in order to develop a strong case; he must listen and understand the persuasive genre. To help students stay engaged, it might be helpful to teach students this genre through a series of mini-lessons, in which students become familiar with how to construct an argument, as well as how to persuade people. Katie could also assign students to groups/partners, using such to hold discussions on whether a given piece/book is a form of propaganda or persuasive piece and why. Such groups/pairs could also look through examples of persuasive pieces, discussing what makes such pieces a strong or weak argument and why, coming back as a whole class to discuss their findings. Each group/pair could even be assigned different pieces. Looking back to my own high school career, I found it extremely motivating and engaging when my teacher allowed each of us to choose a controversial topic to argue for/against. After developing our pieces, we had to argue for/against our pieces in front of the class, and then the class got to vote for or against my topic based on my petition. This helped me gain confidence, express myself and opinion based on something that was important to me, as well as practice my public speaking skills. It was also authentic, because my peers were my audience. I was not developing my argument for my teacher, but for a real group of people.    
Overall, it sounds like Katie is on the right track. It is essential to keep in mind the importance of interest when working with students. I think that as Katie builds that trust with her students, she will be able to knock down their walls. By creating engaging activities, students will build up their confidence, becoming better readers and writers. I believe that motivation and purpose go hand in hand. If students are given a real purpose for their writing, then they will be more motivated in developing a stronger writing piece, ultimately becoming more engaged in the learning process  

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Entry 9: Open Entry- Expository Text

Looking back to my years as an elementary student, I found that much of my reading and writing experiences revolved around fictional pieces. In fact, while currently working at the elementary level, I still see this taking place. It usually isn’t until students are at the middle/high school level, that they begin to incorporate and encounter a greater amount of expository text/writing experiences. Although many teachers may believe that students are more comfortable using and writing nonfiction, researchers argue that students, as young at five, can write expository text (Tompkins, 2012, p.202).
Expository writing is utilized by many as a way to explain something, provide instruction, as well as supply information regarding something (p.202). Tompkins (2012) notes that the expository genre offers students, of all ages, a way to convey information about the world (p.202).  It allows students the opportunity to engage with others in understanding and explaining factual information (p. 202). Students can find such expository information in magazines, textbooks, directions, as well as in newspaper articles.
As students begin to learn and incorporate expository writing in the classroom, it is often at the secondary level. However, it is important to note that younger students can and should incorporate the use of expository writing in their classrooms. Because there are many patterns in using expository writing, it is critical that teachers explain and model how to use each expository text structure, especially when instructing younger students. Such expository text structure patters include, description, sequence, compromise, cause and effect, as well as problem and solution. To help my students remember each pattern, I would use an acronym. I would then go on to scaffold each text structure through a series of mini lessons, beginning with an introduction of the topic of study. I would help students comprehend each pattern by modeling it, as well as incorporating expository text into our daily read-aloud. Students would also read mentor expository texts as part of their independent reading time. This would help students become more familiar with expository text, as well as in identifying the various patterns used in the text.  After each reading, students could go on to create a quick write on what they learned, or even what types of patterns the author used in the text read. This would give me an idea of what students have learned, as well as which students still need additional support in their understanding of expository text patterns. Once students have comprehended each text structure, they can then move on to applying it to create nonfictional pieces. Prior to the development of expository paragraphs and essays, students can begin their writing pieces with the use of a graphic organizer or data chart to help brainstorm and gather vital information (p. 204-205). Students just beginning to use of expository text, can start by incorporating such writing into the classroom through the creation of “All About Me” books, in which students use to explain and present information about themselves (p.207). This is a great way to incorporate the use of expository text in the primary classroom, because at such a young age, students are very egocentric. Therefore, it meets their developmental stage and needs.
As a whole class, expository text lessons can also include compare and contrast activities, in which student’s record similarities and differences between a non fiction text, and a fictional text. This will give teachers the opportunity to identify the various features that stories and poetry normally don’t have, such as technical vocabulary, a glossary, or index to help readers better understand the text. (pg. 206 and 216).
As an educator, it is essential that expository text be used in the classroom to help increase student’s literacy development. Too often, expository reading and writing is left for Middle and High school students. Yet, expository writing is an authentic skill to have. As students begin to interact with the world around them, they will need to be able to evaluate, support, and develop ideas, all which fall under expository writing. Students will use expository writing on standardized and school related tests as well as on college entrance exams. Therefore, by incorporating the use of expository writing in the classroom at an early age, students will be more likely to further their academic careers. However, expository writing should not be the sole writing experience that students encompass. There needs to be balance between non fiction and fictional writing to help students become well rounded individuals.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Entry 8: "Bless, Address, or Press,

“Persuasive writing is extremely important in the development of students writing skills (Danielle Weaver, Entry 7, 2012). “

While learning about persuasive writing, and reading through my peers blogs, I found Danielle’s statement extremely important. I not only found this significant as an educator, but also as a writer. Persuasion is a life skill. It is used by everyone at one point or another. Although Tompkins notes that many researchers believe that children’s persuasive writing skills develop more slowly than their abilities to produce other genre pieces, I would have to disagree with such researchers. Children can write persuasively, and even use their persuasive skills at a very young age to get what they want.
            As writers, the use of persuasion is a powerful tool, if used appropriately. When developing a persuasive piece, students must be aware of who their audience is, and the purpose of their writing. That is, who are they trying to target, and how can their writing meet that targeted audience (Tompkins, p.252). They must tailor their writing to fit their desired audience. Doing so requires that students keep in mind that their piece needs to be purposeful, clear, and organized in such a way that grabs the reader (p.252). Students must write
 Meta-cognitively.  Once students begin to construct persuasive writing, and become familiar with how to do so appropriately, they then learn to think critically, differentiate between the use of persuasion and propaganda (which unlike persuasion, suggests something shady or underhanded), examine arguments, and use both oral and written language to petition their ideas (p.252 and 253).
            In order to support students development in writing persuasively, students must first be taught the three ways to persuade and audience. The first plea is based on reason that is the writer must construct logical generalizations, drawing a cause-and-effect conclusion (p.252). For example, for my genre project, I plan on using medical research to persuade my audience to stop drinking dairy milk, switching to alternative milk sources instead. I hope that by providing medical research, my audience will agree with my augment. Another way to persuade an audience is through an appeal to character (p.252). Students need to understand that their audience will be more apt to agree with the argument, if the writer used facts and claims by those who are trust worthy (doctors, sports stars, and scientists). For example, for my persuasive piece, I would need to use research and claims from those who understand and study the heath, nutrition, and the dairy industry. The final way to persuade is through an emotional appeal. For students, it is critical to help them understand that as a society; we support and ignore arguments regarding what is ethical and socially responsible to ourselves and others (p.253). Therefore, the augment needs to be personal or meaningful to the writer. If I were to write about something that did not apply to me or was something I did not think find important, it would most likely result in a poor argument, not persuading many. This is also why when using persuasive writing in the classroom, we try to allow students choice in their topics, or connect the writing to student’s lives (ethical, school related, real-world, ect) (p.253).
            To help students improve their persuasive writing skills/to introduce students to persuasive writing, it is imperative to do so through direct instruction. As teachers, we could apply the use of direct instruction to a series of mini-lessons in which students study persuasive techniques, applying what they learned to the construction of persuasive letters and essays. Mini-lessons are a great tool to use, because it uses scaffolding to teach students how to develop a persuasive piece. Tompkins (2012) discloses that educators can teach persuasion through three mini-lessons (p.261). The first lesson being how to organize an argument, the second being how to develop a graphic organizer, and the third being how to refute counterarguments. The use of a graphic organizer is an excellent way to help students organize their piece. A great prewriting strategy is to use the graphic organizer to help students explain their argument, as well as present and discuss their argument with peers (p. 255). Through the use of such instruction and lessons, students will develop into better writers. It will teach them to increase their awareness for the power of persuasion, and why it is used everyday (p.261).
            As I begin to write my own persuasion piece, I have come to learn not only why persuasion is an important aspect to writing, but also how to use is appropriately. As in any piece, I must be aware of my purpose, as well as whom my targeted audience is. I must also keep in mind the three ways of persuading an audience. To help me construct a well throughout argument, I plan on using a graphic organizer to support my thinking process. I think that doing so will greatly improve my writing. However, I must remember to include counter arguments to support why my reasons are more concrete. Overall, I am excited to begin writing my persuasive piece, as well as helping my future students become better persuasive writers.