Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Blog # 8: Bless, Address, or Press

Throughout the semester I have found myself checking out my classmates’ blogs, I have had the opportunity to learn about what they are thinking in response to some of the prompts and I am able to see what they are thinking when it is a free write. That being said, I found myself drawn to one specific blog post, it was Rianna’s first entry, where she discussed her experiences working with teaching writing in classrooms. One quote stood out to me, “...I have found that no matter the age or ability level that the biggest factor is making the students feel comfortable [sharing] ideas and asking for help.This idea never really struck me as one of the most important facts behind teaching writing, that is, until I really started to think about it. I know that growing up I was a very timid student who never would voluntarily raise my hand to share an idea or to ask for help. I just would sit there and hope to god that I would somehow figure it out. Luckily for me, I somehow made it! Unfortunately, I cannot help but think about the many students who are probably not as lucky. I even think about my students at Jamison, many of them would never ask for help if they needed it, instead, they would make up answers and not even try to get any of the work correct. Many of my students were just trying to coast through the year. That was a very common theme for Jamison students I had been told. Moving students on just seemed like the easy way out for much of the confusion that happened in this failing school. 
I cannot help but wonder, how can you make students feel comfortable enough to share their ideas or to ask questions? Especially being a student who falls victim to this scenario that seems to happen every day in every classroom. I can honestly say that the same students participate in even my college courses whereas the timid students still are not sharing their ideas on topics for the fear of being judged or even being wrong. I know that is my reason for still not being the first to share in a classroom setting. I know that because I am one of these types of students that I can somehow be able to make my students feel comfortable enough to share...but how? 
This has been an idea I have been struggling with. Instead of always having to share ideas aloud, I will have my students write their ideas on post-it notes anonymously and hand them in for the teacher to share aloud. I believe if the fear of speaking aloud and being judge is taken away, students would be more willing to write their true thoughts down. This type of activity was given in a college course I took, I know that I personally wrote my true feelings on the topic without fearing I could be wrong. Rianna’s quote is going to continue to keep me thinking about different ways I could improve the comfort in my future classroom. 

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Entry # 7: Expository Genre

When I was first assigned the Expository Genre for my genre presentation, I found myself feeling unreasonably worried. I remember thinking back to elementary school when I struggled with expository text. I couldn’t help but feel the same frustration when I was teaching expository text for the first time in one of my placements. I remember noticing most of the students also struggling with the idea of expository text and how there was a lack of excitement surrounding the idea of this genre of text. I couldn’t help but blame myself, for the lack of excitement in the classroom when it came to discussing expository text. I knew I let my own personal bias affect my teaching on the topic. I knew I had to work on this aspect of my teaching.
That being said, my job as a hopeful teacher is to take away the frustration that certain lessons bring to students and to bring excitement back into the lessons of even the most boring topics (as you can see my excitement for expository genre is still growing). I needed to kick my habit of showing my feelings about certain topics. I knew that by researching the expository text I was going to be forced to think about this genre and was going to be forced to think about how to properly teach the genre in a more exciting manner. 
I finally began to face the most dreaded genre to me. I had to really think about how to make it exciting. Gretchen and I worked hard on finding certain articles that helped support our cause of making expository texts fun. One of the most important aspects of teaching this genre is to start exposing students to expository text at a young age. By exposing them to an expository text it causes them to think about topics in a different manner. Young children are always asking questions, because of that, exposing them to expository texts will only allow children learn about more topics that they were once unfamiliar with. I feel that as a child I was not exposed to expository text as much as I could have been. I only remember reading and hearing fiction books. I cannot help but wonder if I was exposed to expository text throughout my childhood would my feelings on the genre be different. 
After completing our research on the genre, I realized that it was not as scary of a genre that I imagined it to be. I let my fear from childhood affect a large portion of my exposure to the genre. Now that I finally have a new and unbiased opinion on this genre, I feel that my ability to teach and enjoy this genre will improve. I hope to one day be able to change a student’s opinion on a genre of reading or writing and to help them appreciate each genre they will be working with. I hope to help eliminate the frustration that may come along with some of the genres and help open their minds to learning about what each genre has to offer. 

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Blog # 6: revisiting post # 4

After revisiting entry # 4 written about assessment. I found that I left many unanswered questions and many undeveloped thoughts about ideas that I posed. In this blog post I am going to be taking a deeper look at two of the ideas I discussed in my previous blog post.  
Disclaimer: all of my responses are given with early childhood students in mind (K-2)
Is there a time when a teacher should not correct a student?
When a student is working in their journal or creating a draft of some sort i feel that a student should not be corrected. i feel that if a student is not being graded on their correctness of the work, the teacher should not correct them. this might encourage students to try and push themselves to work harder or try something different without the fear of being wrong or getting a low grade. 
I recall many times when my students were working in their journals and they would just stare off into space because they did not know how to properly spell a word...the fear of being wrong is something that I feel students struggle with day in and day out. The idea of just trying their best or sounding out the word or even using their inventive spelling scared my students. They feared being wrong would lead to failure. 
This is another reason why students need to be pushed to try new things. Students trying new things would push them to reach outside their comfort zone. When a student knows they will not be graded or corrected on their journal or note taking maybe they will be encourage to finally reach outside their zone of comfort. 
The next problem that rises after that would be when do you start correcting students? 
I feel that if an assignment is given the student should knowingly be working their best on it. That being said, I feel that a student should have the opportunity to have many different drafts of their writing. Their reading should not be graded based on the correctness until the end. The students could be graded on their steps taken throughout the assignment or the students could be graded on their ability to stay on track. However, having the students being graded on correctness should not be done until the final product. 
Depending on the grade of the students, I feel that even during a test if a student spells a word wrong, they should not be punished unless of course it is a spelling test. I want my students to feel comfortable to reach for the stars and to reach for success. I want them to be comfortable to try anything and to reach out of their comfort zones without the fear of being wrong or worse failure. 
What about using assessment over technology? 
Using assessment over technology is a completely new idea to me as a hopeful teacher, However, I feel that this type of assessment could done correctly. I feel that the use of rubrics might be the best way to go about assessing over technology. Rubrics give the students guidelines to follow when completing an assignment. A rubric also gives the student an idea of what the teacher is looking for. This would help the students organize their work. That being said, I cannot think of any other assessment tools that would work for an assignment over technology. This is an idea I hope to learn more about during the semester. 

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Blog # 5

October 2, 2012
Dear Dr. Jones,

Reflecting back on how this class is going thus far in the semester, a few words come to mind: educational, helpful, and enjoyment! I have really enjoyed this class thus far. I really did not know what to expect coming into the my first semester as a grad student as well as one of my first electives. The course caught my attention from the name, I am not a great writing and at times I have difficulty reading. The fact that the course said Improving Reading through Writing incorporated both of the skills I wanted to improve on, it seemed to be a course that would not only help me as a student but also as a future teacher.

The other words I used to describe this class were helpful and educational. I am learning different techniques that are helping me as a student improve my reading. During one of our first classes we discussed using a found poem to help with comprehension of our text. This was a completely new take on a found poem for me, I had only used it with lyrics from a song never with a book. It opened my eyes to topics in the book that I seemed to have over looked, those little details that slip through the cracks when I read began popping out to me and giving me a better understanding of what I was reading. All the different techniques and skills being taught to me are really helping my writing and reading improve as a student. When we received our genre pieces project, I was not sure what to expect, however, I have learned so many different ways to work with the topic that I never expected to use. Through all the group/partner work we do in class I find myself learning with an open mind and accepting others ideas and welcoming change into my thoughts. 

I have never been much of a writing or a reading, after beginning this class I find myself writing more often, I found my passion for poetry again! I had never thought it would come back. Although recently I have been writing more, I don’t truly allow myself to think as much as  I could. My writing recently has been a therapeutic way of dealing with things. I don't believe there is really any reason why I am not choosing to engage in thinking much when I am writing. If I work on engaging my mind more in writing I feel it will improve the overall feel of my work. I feel it will add a more meaningful voice, I will get myself to dig deeper and push myself to use a more engaging voice. 

Many different activities that we have worked on in class have influenced the way I will teach in my future classroom. I really enjoyed learning about the different journal entries, and how to get students to think deeper in their writing. I also really like the card strategy activity, it really allowed me to see my thoughts from a different perspective and it allowed me to think deeper as to why I thought the way I did. Being exposed to writing a blog is also something that is new to me. It has allowed me to use technology more and think about using it in my future classroom. I like that I can view my classmates blogs and I can see how they feel about certain topics they choose to write about. Overall I feel this class has given me so much and I look forward to continued learning in this course throughout the semester! 


Monday, October 1, 2012

Blog # 4: Types of Assessment

When I think of assessment tools, formal assessments such as test are naturally the first to come to mind, however there are many more tools used for assessing young students. During my student teaching experience I was able to work with many of the different types and I was able to see which types of assessment worked best with certain types of students. Before learning about different assessment types I was filled with questions... what type of assessment should I use with my second graders? Should I focus more on informal or formal assessments? When do you start to correct your students? Is there ever a time when a teacher should not correct a student? What about using assessments over technology? So many questions filled my head about the topic. I was a tad overwhelmed to say the least.  Some of these questions seemed to have disappeared once I began teaching and they were not thought about again until reading Gail E. Tomkins’ Teaching Writing: Balancing Process and Product. In Chapter 4 of this book it discusses the many different ways to assess writing. 

I always conferenced with my students, it was one of the beginning, middle and ends points of our writing process. After reading Tomkins’ book I realized he describes many more types of conferences. According to Tomkins (2012) there was not just one type of conferencing to use with students. Tomkins talks about eight different types:  on the spot conferences, prewriting conferences, drafting conferences, revising conferences, editing conferences, instructional conferences, assessment conferences, and portfolio conferences. Each of these conferences have something special about them. Below are differences between each of them:
On the spot conferences are described as brief visits with the students to monitor different aspects of the writing process
Prewriting conferences are meeting between the teacher and student when planning a topic occurs.
Drafting conferences are for the students to address any trouble areas they find during the writing process
Revising conferences are for small groups to meet with an audience to get feedback on their writing 
Editing conferences are for students to work with teaching on any errors they might have such as spelling, punctuation or any other errors
Instructional conferences are for small group of students to work with they teacher on a topic they are struggling with
Assessment conferences this is for the students to meet about their growth as writers, this also is for students to set new goals for writing
Portfolio conferences is for students to meet with the teachers to look and pieces of writing found in their portfolio and discuss it with the teacher.  (p.84-85)

After reading about each of the types of conferences I was determined to incorporate more conferencing my future classroom. I feel that one on one time with a student is extremely helpful, the student feels more comfortable to share their writing and to try different types of writing when they do not feel threatened by a whole class sharing time. 

I feel it is important for a student to learn different self monitoring techniques, checklists being one of them. I have also used a checklist with my students, the checklist I provide for my student is much like the checklist found in Tomkins’ book in figure 4.3 (p. 88). I feel that it helps the students to slow down and to think about all the writing skills they sometimes over look, does the student have a period at the end of each sentence? What about a capital letter at the beginning of each? These are the skills the student knows how to do however often times are over looked because the student is rushing to get all of their thoughts down on the page. This checklist can also be used as a form of assessment for during writing. This will help the student to monitor themselves to ensure they are using their best quality of writing. 

The type of assessment that I used most in my classroom would be rubrics, I feel that a rubric can be used for really any grade, starting with first grade moving through college. In my case I used a rubric for my second graders. We used the common core standards for my school in Cleveland, because of that I followed a strict scope and sequence provided to me by the school district. This told me what needed to be taught and by what time of the year it needed to be done. This would help me organized my rubric. All of standards that were being assessed were put on the rubric, to get a score of five the student would need mastery of the skill being taught. By having the standards written down on the rubric it helped not only me to see if I reached my goal of teaching the skill to the students but also gave the parents some knowledge on what was being expected of their children on a certain assignment.  It really helped to see if all the objectives were met for a given subject.      

Tomkins, G. E. (2012). Teaching Writing: Balancing Process and Product. Boston, MA: Pearson Education, INC.