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Posts from the ‘Reflective Practice’ Category

Wet Paint

Writing prompts to incite sparks to start a writer’s engine is a challenging teacher’s task. Too narrow of a prompt, and the engine remains cold. Too broad of a prompt…and the engine remains cold. 

Recently, I needed a prompt to transition students from writing a personal memoir to writing narrative nonfiction (aka creative nonfiction). In an effort to be clear, I kept the prompt lean: Write a true story as story

Turns out, clarity is contextual. The same prompt can be a springboard for some and an abyss for others. Part of our work is to meet students where they are–adjust the task, the prompt, the context to fit the need.

In my case, mentor texts and discussion clarified the prompt for some. However, narrative nonfiction isn’t fiction conjured up inside our heads. It turns out, tapping into lived experiences or research is only a piece of the process. Yes, we can list and accumulate pieces in our writer’s notebooks; however, converting those experiential fragments or bits of research into a story is challenging! 

Neither my prompt, class discussion nor mentor texts fed into one student’s particular strengths as a writer. Conferring with Jane (pseudonym),  she opened her draft and shared that she gathered a lot of information about Mary Shelly, but she did not know how to convert the information into a story.

In other words, Jane took steps forward under the guidance of the prompt and by reading a couple of books about Mary Shelley, but she still could not convert all of the amassed information into a story, and then THIS happened:

In the middle of conferring, Jane asked, “I made an OC this weekend. Want to see it?”

IMG_3600

“Whats an O.C.?”

“An original character.”

Jane retrieved her private journal–filled with sketches–and explained the O.C., named Autumn. Jane knew a lot about Autumn’s “story” just from a sketch. She has yet to write any words about Autumn.

This moment sparked me to make the decision to revise the prompt for Jane. Until now, I had been trying to adjust Jane’s thinking to work within my prompt, the class discussion, the mentor texts,  rather than adjust the prompt so that it worked for her thinking. So, I asked Jane if I could revise the prompt right inside her Google Doc:

 

What makes Mary Shelley a likable person? What does she do that makes us want to keep watching her, listening to her? Could you bring that to life in a sketch? Could you sketch a scene with Mary in it (and then write it as a story).

 

Jane read as I typed and she nodded with enthusiasm.

“I can do that.”

IMG_3599After ten minutes, I circled back to Jane.

“I drew Mary tough–in boys’ clothes. She’s really tough and has to be to stand up for women’s rights.”

“Could you write a scene? A moment that brings this sketch to life too?”

“I can do that.”

I hadn’t explicitly thought of prompts as fluid or permutable. So often, prompts in education feel fixed and I wonder how much I have contributed to that feeling in my classes. At the very least, today, I am grateful that my mentors (in person and in text) have given me the guidance and confidence to learn to be responsive to the writer while the paint is still wet. And maybe that is the best way, for me, to think of writing prompts–wet paint as opposed to chiseled stone.

 

When Rubrics Reign is it Time for a Coup?

By Mary Buckelew

41G46TubLhL._SS500_“Rubrics make powerful promises. They promise to save time. They promise to boil a messy process down to four to six rows of nice neat, organized little boxes. Who can resist their wiles? They seduce us with their appearance of simplicity and objectivity and then secure their place in our repertoire of assessment techniques with their claim to help us to clarify our goals and guide students through the difficult and complex task of writing” (2). Rethinking Rubrics in Writing Assessment (2007), by Maja Wilson

How many points is this assignment worth? How many lines do I need to write? How many pages? Where’s the rubric? Why did I get a 3 in organization? Why didn’t I get full credit? How do I get an A?

Students enter my college freshman writing classes with the above litany of questions, sometimes spoken, sometimes unspoken, but ever present. These questions are as natural as breathing and begin early in students’ K-12 school careers. Read more

Snorkeling and Scuba Diving in an Undergraduate General Education Literature Course: Diving into the Educational Theory Behind “Next” Practices*

 by Mary Buckelew

Student Voices
“Before choosing
The Glorious Heresies by Lisa McInerney for my self-selected book, I figured that I’d be reading aesthetically as I wanted to read for entertainment.  After reading, I can say I read mostly with an aesthetic lens, but I did read efferently at times to soak in new information regarding my major.” (Ethan, undergraduate criminal justice major)

“I wish I’d known about the different stances of reading long before this, and I wish my high school teachers hadn’t focused solely on the efferent aspects of reading and books. I only read books in high school to pass tests, write required papers, and other test oriented stuff . . . I don’t think my teachers knew that the aesthetic stance existed. Even summer reading was always selected for us and then we were tested – efferent all the way.” (Sarah, undergraduate biology pre-med major)

“I now like to think about how I am reading, why I am reading, and I even apply efferent and aesthetic to other classes and life in general.” (“Honest Anonymous Feedback” from the end of the semester evaluations, Lit. 165 2:00)

Sarah, Ethan, and the anonymous student were enrolled in my Literature 165 classes this past spring semester. They shared these ideas in their final reflections and in final evaluations. 

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The Struggle Can Be Wonderful

Here is our truth. Students need our help. We need help. We need each another--everyone in the classroom and everyone in our buildings. And we need the humility to know that our best teaching years may never be realized because of the hundreds and thousands of unreported moments that matter to the young people we mentor.

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Guest Post: Is reabhloideach mise.

by Meg Clementi

b4ce9c74625bfa28595da719e6f32686.jpg-2.gifIs reabhloideach mise.  I am a revolutionary.

As a math teacher, I am questioned by peers as to why I have my students write.  What is
my purpose in asking students to explain their thinking?  Why have I attended conferences, courses and programs whose attendees are comprised of 99% English teachers and Elementary reading and writing teachers?  I stand at the edges, accepting the shaken heads and wonderings of my peers.


Is reabhloideach mise
.  I am a revolutionary.

I have my students write because their ability to explain their thinking is important to me.   Their ability to justify their processes and answers is critical.  Their depth of knowledge is essential.  My students write because as their teacher, I demand this level of participation, performance and comprehension from them.  I am not satisfied with them simply renting knowledge and discarding what they have learned as they place their hands on the doorknob and walk out of my classroom for the last time.  I want them to own knowledge.

Is reabhloideach mise.  I am a revolutionary. Read more

From the Classroom: Reimagining Learning Spaces—The Third Teacher

A few years ago, I started to rethink my classroom space. I wondered, What does this room say about me as a teacher, or my students as learners? Is the space working in the best ways it can? Here are 16 ways we can reimagine our learning spaces - with pictures!

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