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Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Entry 12: Learning Outcomes

I have learned a tremendous amount this semester.  It is nice to take time to look back and reflect on the Learning Outcomes listed in our syllabus.  Reading through the seven outcomes, the one that stands out to me the most is “…the variety of genres that readers and writers use to communicate” (Jones, Fall 2012).  I have gained a deeper and thorough understanding of each of the different types of genres, and I look forward to teaching them in my future classroom.  However it is imperative that I take time to teach the purpose, audience and voice in writing, because students need to know how to write the basics before they can grow and develop as more complex writers. 
As an educator, it is imperative that I research and stay up-to-date on contemporary models of reading and writing, including new literacy theories.  I have learned many different historical theories in my other classes, but this class has allowed me the opportunity to explore technology as a way to develop my writing.  This blog, for example, is a great tool to use with students to reflect on their learning’s.  There is an array of digital technologies, such as wikis, word processors, online-portfolios that teachers can utilize with their students.  Although they need to be adapted and scaffolded in order to meet the learning needs of your students; don’t be afraid to introduce them to early learners.  This blog has been a great way for me to keep track of me learning this semester and read and reflect on my peers’ thoughts.

It is important to keep in mind that reading and writing processes go hand and hand.  The more students read the better the writers they will become and vice versa.  Teaching the different genres is a beneficial way to introduce students to different texts and become comfortable writing in different forms.  This class has given me the confidence and knowledge to teach the variety of genres to my future students.  However, it is imperative I utilize different writing assessment tools when evaluating my students work.  I will use both informal and formal assessments to monitor my students learning; for example, keeping anecdotal record in a notebook and using rubrics or checklists to grade their writing.  I look forward to using Rubistar in my future classroom to develop my own rubrics.

One thing I did learn this semester that is not represented in the identified Learning Outcomes for this course, is the importance of modeling and conferring with others.  Modeling is essential for teachers to utilize in order to teach about the different genres and break down the learning process for students.  Also, I believe it is essential for teachers to make time to conference with students once a week to go over their writing and answer any questions they have.  I really enjoyed using our peer writings groups we made in class in order to get feedback on my writing and discuss my ideas.

Overall I have learned more than I can imagine this semester!  I will definitely hold on to the books we used and refer back to them in the future!  They are great resources to have.

Entry 11: Genre Reflection

 I never realized how many genres there are in writing! Through taking time to read about and explore each one, I have developed a deeper understanding of the different types of genres I use in my daily life.  Each genre has specific features that differentiate it from another; for example, letter writing uses a specific format whereas poems can take on any form the author chooses to use.  However, some genres intertwine with one another; for example, you could use persuasive writing in a letter or descriptive writing in a journal entry.  Gail Tompkins discusses each type of genre in depth in her book, Teaching Writing: Balancing Process and Product.  As a result of engaging in her text, I feel more confident in teaching my students about the many different types of genres they can use in their writing.

At the start of class I thought journal writing meant students only reflected on a topic and wrote in a journal.  However I now know journal writing goes beyond this simple definition, and I have a more principled understanding of it.  There are so many types of journal writing you can utilize with students, such as double entry journals, reading logs, simulated journals, dialogue journals, etc.  These journals allow students to reflect on their learning from concrete texts.  In my future classroom, I would love to utilize some of the trade books Tompkins recommends to introduce journal writing to my students.  I really enjoyed reading Doreen Cronin’s books, and have to have them on my shelves for my students to read!  I will also gather some of the other trade books to utilize with the different types of journal writings.  It is a great way to assess and see what my students have learned through their reading.

The only genre I was intimidated by was poetry, and it was the one I was assigned to present to my peers.  I was uncomfortable teaching poetry because I, myself, was not comfortable writing it.  Poetry always seemed like a free write and there was no format to it; however after reading chapter 7 in Tompkins and several journal articles, I learned poetry can be taught in structured ways.  There are so many types of poems that go beyond “free verse” which makes me less intimidated with teaching it; for example, you can give students a topic, have them fill out a graphic organizer, and have them fill in the skeleton of a poem.  This type of poetry writing is used for “formula poems”.  Through learning about this genre and having the opportunity to teach it to my peers, I am less intimated and look forward to utilizing it in my future classroom.

Overall, I feel this class has given me the opportunity to become a better writing teacher.  I feel I am an expert on the many different genres we learned about and explored this semester.  In my future classroom, my goal is provide meaningful writing experiences to my students and have them feel comfortable writing in the different genres as well.  I think it would be neat to introduce and focus on a new type of genre each month.  I know I will definitely be referring back to Tompkins to refresh my memory, design activities, and pick out trade books. 

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Entry 10: "Bless, Adress, and Press" Teaching about Genres

I have learned a lot through reading my peers’ blogs and hearing their own ideas based on our class readings and discussions.  It was hard to pick only one quote for this entry, but Jennifer’s entry about genre’s really caught my eye and got me thinking.  She said…

          “In general I have seen students learning fiction vs. non-fiction as well as poetry.  Beyond this, genres are not really introduced from what I have experienced.  With this experience, and the influence of class I plan to change this.”
Looking back on my own educational career and my experiences in the classroom, I can honestly say I do not remember teachers explicitly teaching about genres.  I believe Jennifer has the right idea as she plans to change this, and I am right on board with her!  As an educator, I think it is important to expose students to various genres and explore each one individually.  I agree with Jennifer that it is important for students to know and understand the characteristics of each type of genre, and also be able to write in their different forms.  There are so many exciting and engaging ways you can teach genres explicitly. Moreover, my main goal is to have students feel comfortable and confident when writing in each different style.
If I could teach any grade level, it would be first grade. I believe they are just as capable at learning about the various genres as upper level students.  Tompkins is a great and reliable resource to use because she provides books and writing ideas across different grade levels.  My students would learn to expect a new genre at the beginning of each month; for example, poetry would be our theme for September, and everything we read and wrote during this month would revolve around this central theme.  When working with younger students, I strongly believe in utilizing read-alouds to introduce a new topic.  I would perform many poetic read-alouds and whole group lessons to explicitly explore the characteristics of this genre.  We would read poetry books during our morning reading groups, and later in the day we would work on writing poems.  Tompkins presents many appropriate poems for early learners, such as formula poems; this would allow me to give students a topic, and provide a skeleton for them to fill in with their own writing.  By the end of the month my goal would be for each student to feel comfortable when working with poetry and be able to tell me about the poetry genre.  Then come October, we would start a new genre!

I think it is imperative, when working with young learners, to take a slower pace.  You have to keep in mind that they may not have any background knowledge and it could be up to you create it.  Focusing on one genre a month would be a great way for students to explicitly learn about each one.  They could even keep a binder with different easy-to-read genre pieces that they could refer back to and read independently.  This would also aid in their fluency and provide a fun way to engage them in reading on their own.       

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Entry 9: Persuasive Writing at an Early Age

Before I started writing this blog, I took a few minutes to reflect on all of the genres I have learned about thus far.  Persuasion is one genre that I do not have a lot of familiarity with and have never taught to students.  I tend to work mostly with elementary students, and I wonder how I can integrate persuasive writing at an early age? 

After reading Tompkins and hearing my peers’ presentation on Persuasion, I have developed a deeper understanding and am better able to explore how to utilize it with first and second graders.  I believe it is best to introduce a new topic to young learners by performing a read-aloud.  This allows time for the students to raise questions and take the reading at a slower pace.  (Tompkins offers many great persuasive books for the primary level that are appropriate to use with first and second graders!) I would choose a fun and interesting book to read aloud as a whole group and then fill out a graphic organizer together.  I think it would be difficult for younger students to understand the concept of a counterargument, so I would adapt my graphic organizer to include the main position of the story, three supporting reasons, and a conclusion.  Then we would practice filling out a few more similar graphic organizers using simple topics; for example, as a class we would decide we wanted pizza for lunch every day…this would be our position, and then we would come up with three reasons for having pizza for lunch every day and a conclusion.  Next, I would have students create their own persuasive writing by choosing a person they see as “the best super hero”, giving me three supporting reasons and a conclusion.  They would start their writing by completing a graphic organizer to organize their ideas.  Once they’re finished, I would meet with them one-on-one to hear their ideas and go over their writing.  Lastly, students would write their final draft on a sheet of “super-power” paper.

There are so many ways you can use persuasion with younger students.   Through writing this blog, I was able to explore one way I would utilize it in my own classroom.  As an educator, it is important to keep in mind that students are capable of anything.  It is all in how you teach it! Every student believes in something, and it is imperative for teachers to provide outlets for students to express themselves creatively.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Entry 8: "Bless, Adress, and Press" Expository Writing

Lately I have been feeling extremely overwhelmed between my three classes.  It seems that all my projects and papers were due within the past two weeks.  However, I have taken this past weekend to re-group and get back on track with my blog.  It was nice to take time to read through my peers’ blogs; they have so many interesting stories and ideas to take in and think about.  After reading several entries, I was hooked into Caitlin’s blog about expository texts. Her opening sentence drew me right in…

            “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” (Entry 9, 2012).

            This statement inspired me to reflect on my own experiences with expository texts.  Like Caitlin, much of my reading and writing in elementary school revolved around fiction.  I cannot name one expository text that I read when I was little, but I can name many fictional pieces.  This could be due to the fact that I enjoy reading and writing fiction more than non-fiction.  As a result, I find myself more comfortable utilizing fictional pieces in the classroom.  I feel students are more engaged and able to relate to these types of stories.  However now after reading Caitlin’s blog and listening to the presentation on expository text, I am more comfortable and better equipped to utilize it in my instruction.

Primary students are just as able to read and write non-fiction as middle and upper-level students; it is all in how you teach it.  There are several ways students can organize the information they have learned through reading an expository text.  This can be achieved through writing descriptions, sequence, compromise, cause and effect, and problem and solution of a text.  In order to utilize these expository texts structures with elementary students, I would introduce one structure a month to focus on.  For example, let’s take the pumpkin cycle as way to teach sequence writing.  First, I would introduce a nonfiction text based on the pumpkin cycle and read it aloud as a whole group.  As I read, I would ask many engaging and probing questions to spark students’ background knowledge.  Together, we would take the reading slow and explore each page of the text critically.  Then we would review what we’ve learned from the text by filling out a graphic organizer.  I would model how to put the stages of the pumpkin cycle in order.  We would continue reading about the pumpkin cycle and practicing these steps in smaller reading groups.  At the end of the month, students would be assessed on what they’ve learned about the sequence of the pumpkin cycle.  They would need to write each stage of the cycle in order, tell what takes place, and draw an illustration to go along with it.  This could be differentiated based on the learning needs of a student.

The next month, we would start a new expository structure with a new common core topic.  I think these types of lessons, like the one I described, would be best for 1st, 2nd, and 3rd graders because they break down the reading and writing process into steps.  The more practice students have interacting with and writing expository texts, the more interested in and comfortable they become with them.