Thursday, November 15, 2012

Entry 12

I cannot believe that this semester is coming to an end already. I feel as though it was just the beginning of the semester and I was trying to feel out the boundaries of graduate school. As I reflect back on this semester and this class in particular, I have learned so much!

As I review the syllabus and see if I gained knowledge in all the specific areas this course was supposed to encompass, I noticed that I achieved all the learning goals or outcomes and then some. I have gained an in depth knowledge of the various genres that people read, write and communicate in. I am not less intimidated by a lot of the more difficult genres that I was not comfortable teaching and writing in. I know see the importance that each genre has and why students need to learn specifically about each genre. Modeling and scaffolding the process of reading and writing each genre is key to a students success.

Also, I have been made aware of the importance of the role of the audience and purpose that each writing piece should take on. I believe that through the writing process and completion of my Genre Pieces Project, I have become even more aware of this aspect of writing. I always just thought of my writing as being for my teacher and only my teacher, so that was the constant audience that I was writing for and the purpose was just to complete the assigned task at hand.

This semester has opened my eyes to the connection that reading and writing truly have together. I do believe that both a teacher and student is better able to write a specific genre after they have been exposed and taught how to read a genre. When a student has been made aware of the characteristics of a genre they are better able to adapt them into their writing of that genre. The mentor texts used to display a genre are very valuable tools to be used in a classroom as both modeling tools and exploration for students. By having students explore genre texts, they will become curious and hopefully want to write with the characteristics of the genre they are learning about.

Finally, I have reinforced my previous knowledge on scaffolding and differentiation throughout this semester. I believe that each genre of reading and writing can be taught to every grade and developmental level of students as long as it is differentiated to meet the needs of the students and is at a level at which they are able to comprehend and apply the knowledge they are gaining. For example, some students may be able to handle more individual work while others may need the teacher to walk them through each step of the writing process. Also, some students in your classroom may need to be challenged or need to go through the writing process in a different way so they could be publishing their works through some type of word processing system. Technology can be implemented into your classroom to aid in the writing process but only when it is developmentally appropriate for your students. I believe that differentiation truly is the answer to reaching each student in your classroom no matter what content area you are teaching.

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Entry 11

When I began this class, I knew that I did not know everything about every single genre of reading and writing, which made me excited to learn about each genre specifically. I was nervous to explore and present on the expository genre since I did not like it as a child or even now as a teacher. After exploring the genre and learning multiple ways to make it exciting to teach and learn about, I began to really enjoy the genre. I learned that you can really make any genre of reading and writing fun just by the methods you teach about it and the materials you use throughout your instruction.

So when I began this exploration of the expository genre, I was not looking forward to reading about it since I had a feeling it was going to be boring. I had many misconceptions about this genre and one being that it is very boring. Another misconception that I had was that it can only be taught in one way with the same materials that were used when I was a student. But after reading Tompkins (2012), my eyes were opened to the many different ways that it can be taught in an exciting way. I learned that exposure to expository texts should be early on in order for students to be able to read, comprehend and write fluently within this genre. So with this early exposure to expository texts and their specific features, students are better able to read and write within the expository genre. This exposure is so crucial since everyone is expected to read and write within the expository genre throughout their whole life so they will need these skills that begin to be acquired early on for the rest of their lives. Expository texts are what we all learn from, whether we know it or not.

Another genre that I thought I did not know a lot about at the beginning of the semester was poetry, but after the presentation on poetry I began to see that I really do know a lot about it. Also, poetry seemed to intimidate me both as a student and teacher since there are so many forms and interpretations that a poem can take on. Once again, after the presentation on poetry I was able to wrap my head around the genre and see that it truly is not as intimidating as I thought it was.

One genre that still seems a little difficult for me to wrap my head around is the persuasive genre. I do understand the concept of it and why it is important, but the one aspect of this genre that I struggle with is personally writing persuasively. I feel as though I am not a persuasive person in general, so when I go to write it, I am a bit lost. I know with more practice with reading and writing persuasively, I will be able to wrap my head around it more.

Friday, November 2, 2012

Entry 10

"How can we use it with the younger students?"

As I was going through many of my peers blog posts, I came across this question in Rihanna's blog. I have been thinking the same exact thing as I have worked my way through this class and the readings that we have done for it. I find that there are so many great ways to implement technology into the classroom and the writing process, but I struggle to see the way in which it can be adapted for the primary grades.

I know that many of my students have computers at home and have grown up using them, but there are still many obstacles that I am faced with on an everyday basis when it comes to technology and my second graders. First off, they struggle to even log onto the computer since their typing skills are so poor. I know that they are still young and trying to perfect their fine motor skills, which will come with time, but it makes it difficult to implement many of the strategies that we have read about. I know that in computer class they are slowly gaining more of a tech savvy ability by learning to type a couple sentences and using power point. So hopefully with time they will be able to handle some of the more technology based strategies throughout the writing process. 

I do believe that once my students gain more of a confidence and typing ability they will be able to type final drafts of writing pieces to be published while adding graphics to them. I could also see my students using some type of googledoc or blog to keep track of all of their writing pieces, so that I would be able to conference or even check in with every student on a daily basis by going to their blog or googledoc to read what they have written so far. With these ideas, comes many challenges. First of all, by teaching a private school the funds are very minimal. I am lucky to have a smartboard and two computers in my classroom. Ideally, for my plans to implement more technology based strategies into the writing process, I would need a computer for every student to use throughout writing time. I know this will never happen, or at least, not any time soon. So I could see my idea working if I had a roatating schedule, somewhat like centers, where some students would be working on the computers on their writing pieces while others were doing other writing/ reading/ phonics activities. So that way hopefully each student would be able to use a computer during writing time at least once a day. Then at the end of the week I would be able to go onto googledocs or their blogs to check in with their writing progress. In order for this plan to work, I believe that it would take a lot of my time to model, support, guide and scaffold the process for it to work the way that I would want it to. So hopefully by the New Year in the school year my students would be able to somewhat independently work through the writing process on either a google doc or blog. I know that there may be other hurdles that I am not intending for throughout this process, but with trial and error I believe this could work. Also, the blog or other program you decide to use would have to be simplified with specific directions as to how to use it so each student would be able to navigate through it on their own or with the help of a buddy.

Ideally, I would love to be able to implement this idea with my class and see how well they move through the writing process while using technology. I am still trying to refine my idea for implementing this, so hopefully I will be able to start taking the baby steps towards this idea very soon.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Entry 9

When I was doing research on the expository genre for my genre presentation next week, I found myself questioning if I did enough instruction concerning expository reading and writing in my own classroom. Did my students even know what the word expository meant? Did they know what type of books would be considered expository? Have they ever read an expository text? Have they ever written an expository piece before?

I assumed that the answer to many of my questions was yes to some extent. But once I learned more about the expository genre myself, I felt compelled to teach my students more about it and implement it more into our daily reading and writing activities. I thought I would start small by introducing what a non-fiction or expository text is. I gave every one of my students a weekly reader that they are all very familiar with from this year and last year as first graders. They knew that the information that they would be reading about was true but they were uncertain of what the specific genre was. After we discussed the similarities and differences between fiction and non-fiction, as a class we slowly went through the weekly reader together. As we read along, I began to point out some of the non-fiction text features that could be seen throughout the weekly reader. Many of the students were already familiar with the features but were somewhat uncertain of the purpose of each. So I explain why we need each specific text feature to help us understand and read expository text. When we were done reading the weekly reader, I had the students take a few post- its and write three things they learned from the reading and three things that they had questions about or were still wondering about. I wanted my students to see that you can still make a lot of connections from expository books or readings as well as from fiction stories that we read. After I had them put their post- its into columns depending on if it was an "I learned" statement or an "I wonder" statement. I began to think that these post-its could lead to an expository writing piece from having many of their ideas and facts on a certain topic down on paper and easy to organize. With these post-its the students could decide to write a report on the topic that we read about and could broaden their knowledge of the topic with doing research of their "I wonder" statements. This idea then led me to thinking about how to teach my second graders about basic research skills through books and the internet. I believe that with my support and guidance that they would be able to complete their research and find the answers to their questions. Once the answers are found, we could then write reports to inform people about a certain topic that we have been studying in school.

There are just so many options that can happen when using expository text within your classroom. My presentation has got me thinking so many possibilities! I will keep you posted on how this little endeavor goes!

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Entry 8

After I read through a good number of my classmates blog entries, I began to see different aspects of this class in a new light. I love how after reading or hearing another person's thoughts they begin to trigger something inside of you that springs a new thought or way to view things in your own mind.

When I was reading through my peer, Jaimie's blog, I stopped and read her post about writing conferences. I recalled the chapter on writing conferences that we had read a number of weeks about in Tompkins (2012). After reading Jaimie's post about writing conferences, many new thoughts came into my mind about how I could incorporate more writing conferences into my own classroom and how I am already using writing conferences but just in different ways.  The statement from Jaimie's blogged that triggered my new thoughts was: "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." I had completely forgotten about Tompkins (2012) discussion on the eight different types of writing conferences that a teacher can have with his/ her students. So I was glad to read this portion of her blog and be able to reflect on that particular point that Tompkins (2012) makes. 

When I began to think about each different writing conference style, I noticed that I do use a number of them but there are also some that I could try implementing within my classroom starting next week when we begin a new writing piece. I realized that I conduct on the spot conferences with my students on a daily basis, whether it is during writing, reading, or math time. I feel as though a teacher should always be prepared to hold an on the spot conference with a student if they feel it is necessarily or especially if a student has a misconception that could hinder their learning. I feel as though I could work harder in holding pre-writing conferences. I do hold them with my students but they are not structured and they are sometimes in a whole group setting after I have introduced the writing assignment. With such a time crunch these days to get everything covered in such a short amount of time, I feel as though a whole group pre-writing conference where I ask each individual student about their ideas for their new writing piece, may have to do for the time being. I do make a conscious effort to go around and talk with each one of my students during pre-writing so they are able to get on the right track, tell me all of their ideas and then begin their writing piece. I definitely hold both drafting and revising conferences with my students. I have created a sign up sheet for my students to put their names on when they have either completed a draft or are ready to sit with my and revise their writing. I feel as these conferences are extremely important and the students learn so much from that one on  one time with the teacher. When I think about editing conferences, I believe that I do lump those in with the revising conference. But I am going to try harder to also implement just editing conferences into our writing time. I feel as though I am constantly holding instructional conferences either one on one, small group or even whole group when I am introducing a writing style or a new writing piece that they will be working on. Once again there are extremely important to teach about new styles, genres and writing strategies. The last 2 types of conference that I do need to be better about holding are assessment and portfolio conferences. I believe those conferences are also extremely important but can be left out very easily just like I have done the past couple weeks.

 I do believe it is very important for a teacher to have the one on one time with a student to discuss all the various stages of their writing as they are working through all of the steps of writing. These conferences make that one on one time happen and allows a teacher to bond with their students.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Entry 7

There has been some difficult moments in my classroom lately with one particular student who has touched my heart from day one. She is a very eager and happy student who has a passion for pleasing the teacher. But the one difficult aspect of this child is that she is below grade level and struggles with the simplest task in the classroom. She only benefits from one on one instruction, whether that instruction is coming from me or an AIS aid who is in my classroom for a short period of time each day to work with students like her.

Today, my students were given a new writing assignment to begin in their writing journals. After giving the instructions, going over examples and modeling different writing strategies that they may want to try to use through this writing piece process, this particular student just sat at her desk with a blank stare on her face. I struggle with always guiding her through each writing process step with me telling her each little thing she needs to write about. I do not want to leave her to fend for herself, but I also want to see some of her own creative in her writing. So today, I decided to let her think for a few moments about what she wanted to write about before I went over to her desk to check in on her. When I went over to her, she explicitly told me that she needed help. I decided that I would make sure the rest of my class was under way with the prewriting and drafting of their writing pieces before I moved with the student to the back table to guide her through this writing.

When I brought the student back to the table with her journal, word journal and pencil. We talked about what she needed to write about and some of the things she wanted to include in her piece of writing. I thought it would be a good idea to brainstorm some of her ideas and organize them on a white board so we would be able to easily rearrange her ideas if need be. Since this student is one that does benefit from one on one instruction and verbally communicating her thoughts before she writes them down, I believe that using this technique of the white board would be very beneficial. Once we completed our prewriting together on the white board, I guided her to writing a topic sentence to begin her writing piece. Once she had her topic sentence down, I moved her to look back at the organizer we created to see what she should write about first. I noticed that once she had an organizer of some sort in front of her that she was better able to self direct her writing and stay on topic since that is one thing she does struggle with.

This whole situation made me think about differentiation and how important it truly is to differentiate in every aspect of learning if possible. This particular student of mine definitely benefits from differentiation since the majority of my students are able to free write while they are drafting while this paricular student needs some guidance to get her ideas down in an organizer before she moves on to drafting her writing piece.

Differentiation is always the answer!

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Entry 6

Before reading Tompkins (2012), I struggled with finding a balance when it came to assessing my students' work. For being a new teacher, I feel as though I am still learning the best ways to complete certain tasks as a teacher. One task I have been struggling with is what is the best way to assess my students' writing pieces. Throughout my student teaching places, I had two teachers who had completely different views on writing but they both had similar conventions that were used with their students. Both of my cooperating teachers taught their students to go through the writing process and steps, but the way they went about it was different from each other. One of my cooperating teachers thought it was best to model, use mini lessons and walk students through the process, while the other one just did mini lessons on different writing styles and genres and then had their students go through the writing process. I am not sure which one I believe was the best strategy. I would like to think that I use a little bit of both in my own classroom.

I do not feel as though I am struggling with how to teach my students how to write or how to guide them through the process of writing; what stumps me is how much to assess and how to assess a students writing. I am afraid of being too critical with my second graders writing abilities and stifling their writing passions. So I believe that I am still trying to find the balance of how to exactly assess my students work the correct way. I am still not sure there is a correct way to assess a writing piece. Do I correct all spelling and grammar mistakes? Do I work with them to revise their writing so they are learning their mistakes having to do with grammar and spelling? There are just so many questions that come to mind when thinking about assessing a student's writing. I know that certain writing pieces should be assess based upon a rubric to make sure they are meeting the standards and requirements for a particular writing style or assignment and that a teacher should not assess every piece of writing a student produces since students will be producing more writing than a teacher will have the time to look at. Also, I know that as a teacher, we should be constantly observing and performing informal assessments on our students to gage their understanding of a certain topic or concept which then helps to guide our instruction.

So after reading Tompkins (2012) about assessing writing, I have gained a little more clarity on the topic of assessing students' writing, but I still see to have a lot of questions. I believe that if I follow Tompkins (2012) suggestions on how to assess students' writing then I will be on the right track and better able to guide my students in learning how to become better writers. After reading Tompkins (2012) I think I am going to try to implement more time to have assessment conferences with my students. This way I can be constantly monitoring my students' progress on certain writing pieces and see what strategies they may be struggling with and need some reinforcing with. Through these assessment conferences that I am going to implement with my students, I also think I will get a better sense of what type of writer each one of my students is and better able to support them in their writing while getting to know them on a more personal level by reading their writing.