Thursday, November 15, 2007

Professional Writing

One of the most thought provoking session for NWP's annual meeting involved looking at professional writing and publishing. It got me thinking about how many ideas teachers have that are not shared. Now that blogging has gained more popularity with educators, there is more publishing; however, few teachers (including me) feel confident enough to write professional articles for various publications just as the English Journal. Imagine if more teachers went beyond thinking that their ideas were not worth sharing and began to write and submit their writing to publication. Blogging is still new to many teachers - maybe this is a good way to introduce yourself to taking another road to publishing.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Heading to NYC!

I am looking forward to my trip to New York for the National Writing Project's annual meeting and the National Council of Teachers of English annual convention. NWP's conference will aid me and my fellow site members in further improving our site so that more teachers can benefit from the professional development, research, and programs we provide. NCTE's focus is on literacy's of the 21st century. Since my goal for this school year is to provide my students with authentic writing activities that utilize technology, I look forward to many new ideas

Thursday, November 8, 2007

Audience awareness

I just read this post by Dawn Hogue on the benefits of blogging in English class. I have heard many complaints about technology and how it is ruining literacy. I am sure that is the case in a few instances; however, the majority seem to be thriving. Dawn's class writing was described as "prolific" and I have seen this with students on their class wiki. While their wiki has been a bit disjointed, students are starting to link their comments to others and rearrange information on the pages to make sense. So, not only have I seen an increase on the ideas and details in their writing, but I am also starting to see a more attentive look at organization.

Thursday, November 1, 2007

Multigenre Identity Unit

My ninth grade class is currently working on a multi genre identity unit. They have been excited with all the choices involved and have produced some inspiring written work. One aspect is the literature circles with young adult novels. Their novel choices were: Buried Onions by Gary Soto, Touching Spirit Bear by Ben Mikaelsen, Growing an Inch by Stanely Gordon West, Define Normal by Julie Ann Peters, and Monster by Walter Dean Myers. Some students had experience with literature circles prior to this, but for many this is a new adventure. I'll be reflecting more on this as the unit continues. In addition to reading a novel, students are being exposed to a variety of written genre including poetry, news articles, a movie, and even a Dr Seuss book (they hadn't had story time in so was great to see their excitement). Part of the unit is the creation of their own multi genre identity project. They have begun to write poems and dialogs, and in a week, we will venture online to add in a Google my map of places that are important to them. I am enjoying watching them view mentor texts and then apply writing skills to their own pieces. Their personalities are already showing...some poetry and dialog has been hysterical!

Monday, October 29, 2007

So many wikis!

Since my goal this school year is to incorporate much more technology into my classroom, I've been doing quite a bit of exploring online. I found this site which is a wiki full of great units from other English teachers. There is also other subjects included as we as many links. What else is out there?

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Schools and online collaboration

This post by Louann Reid leads to an article that shows how many schools are still reluctant to utilize the online social networking in an educational venue. Since the vandalism on my wiki last week caused some strong reactions, I was concerned that I would not be able to utilize the wiki. However, my administration proved to be the exception to what the article states is the rule. My students are beginning their online collaboration journey again, and when I let them know about the new wiki they were elated. They have ownership and investment and acted like cheerleaders to others about posting intelligent information and making their site amazing. I'm looking forward to the outcome of their work.

Sunday, October 21, 2007

New Lesson

On Thursday I introduced my students to their new wiki for the novel unit Great Expectations. The excitement that was traveling through the computer lab was amazing and inspirational. I noticed a few students who had not engaged in the class much this year become filled with motivation. I left school that day thinking how it was one of my best days of teaching.

Then, at nine that night, my principal called. He had just received a phone call from a parent who said that someone had put some racial and sexual comments on the wiki and signed her son's name to it. I closed off the site to public viewing and changed the password right away. I was crushed. I had taken all kinds of precautions to protect the safety of my students, and then someone in my class (or who someone who got the password from someone in my class) caused another student harm.

The next day in school students were talking in halls and many were as upset as I was. I spent the day working with my administrative staff looking at the histories of editing and listening to some students who had information on who might have committed the act.

I was upset all day and thought how I had learned a tough lesson about trusting my students. Then I started thinking more. By the time I had gotten to the website after my principal's call the night before, a few students had already "cleaned up" the site. As my students were talking about the vandalism they were demonstrating ownership of the site and let me know that they still wanted work with it.

I will have the site up again as soon as we upgrade to add more access control. One thing that my students were excited about was that their wiki could be read by many people around the world - I do not want one or two students to ruin that authentic writing opportunity for the rest.

Monday, October 15, 2007

A classroom experiment

Tomorrow I will venture into the world of using a wiki in my classroom. I've been excited as I set up my wiki and thought of assignments to incorporate. My students will be introduced to this tomorrow as we start Great Expectations. With patience and perseverance, we will figure this new frontier together. I hope that students enjoy the authentic writing that is involved and that they utilize the wiki as a study guide and a resource for their analysis of the novel. Please have a look at our site . I wanted to extend a special thanks to Dana Huff, whose blog post insipred this. Also another thanks to Mr. Bariexca's class wiki

Friday, October 12, 2007

student teacher

This semester I have had the privilege of working with a student teacher from Colorado State University. I have been filled with admiration for this pre-service teacher whose enthusiasm and work ethic is incredible.

I remember my pre-service work with various teachers and have been thinking a lot lately about their influence.'s a special thanks to a few teachers who inspired me to be the best teacher I can be! Thanks to Carol Hill, Gretchen Payne, and Shawnee Cowan - you have helped more students than you will ever know!

Without my mentors, I don't know how I could have survived the early years of teaching. Most important, though, was their willingness to always grow and learn. Those lessons are the ones that I remember. They taught me that there is never a perfect teacher - there is always more to learn and more ways to challenge myself and my students. I hope this is a lesson my student teacher will learn.

Friday, June 22, 2007


I've been taking a break from blogging but have still been reading other teacher blogs. I'm impressed that so many teachers keep up their blogs during the summer. I am starting my plans for next school, specifically how to incorporate more modes of literacy/literature into my classroom. I hope to continue to use this blog for my reflections. I look forward to reading more blogs and getting many more ideas on how to improve my practice.

Saturday, April 21, 2007

Media, Technology, and Teaching

I was listening to NPR last week and was intrigued with a story on blogging - so much so that I have to blog on it. As someone who has found blogging (especially reading other teacher blogs) to be beneficial and as a student in Louann's Visual Texts Class I am curious about news stories focusing on new technologies and the integration of old and new. This story shows that it isn't always the old means of distributing information going to the new. An Icelandic based publication is piloting a newspaper in Boston that uses bloggers for some of thier news.

I am most interested in teaching implications. Take the idea of publishing student writing... Is blogging considered publishing? If so, why does a blogger in this story who focuses on her life's attempt to get publish comment on wanting to see her name in print? (Money is not a factor as the newspaper is not currently providing financial compensation) This lead me to thinking about the value of various media forms and how educators place value on a genre or writing form based on habit or history. Blogging may be a great step in a student's writing path, or, if the blogging newspaper catches on, maybe a step into a career.

Another thought that I've had with teaching and blogging is in the areana of cooperative learning. This is a new medium of encouraging cooperative learning. I'm wondering how blogging might level the playing field for students who are too shy to speak up in class or in small groups. Also, are there different leaders that emerge as a result of this type of discussion? I've been reading other blogs and perusing student blogs, but I'd like to know what changes, if any, teachers have noticed when adding blogs to the class discussion.

Monday, April 16, 2007

Wiki Help!?

I'm moving through the stages of fear in terms of incorporating more and more technology into my classroom this post by Dana Huff has inspired me to learn more about wikis. I like the classroom examples and ideas that she provided, and plan to use some of those in the future. What I need first is some guidance. I have found this site (PBWiki). Are there any other suggestions?

Saturday, April 14, 2007

View of the future?

Many state that with all the new technology, we are always connected whether it is by phone, IM, email, blogging, etc. There are many who state the dangers involved in this. I read an interesting book last summer about the downfalls of this prospect. It is called Feed by M.T. Anderson. In his post, Troy Hicks gives an excellent summary and raises some questions. While I'm an advocate for the benefits of technology that we have, it is important to think about the downfalls. This book (hopefully) exaggerates the future of our society. While it was not an uplifting book, I felt better about only having to contend with cell phones and texting while I am teaching.

Thursday, March 29, 2007

The Internet and Iraq

In my previous post, I mused on the use of the Internet to authentically explore cultures. As I was driving home from work today, I heard this NPR story.

Here's a link (that you can get to through the story) that I found particularly interesting.

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Poetic Inspiration

It's been awhile since I've posted last...but the topic of this post has been calling to me for a few weeks now....

I say the poet Naomi Shihab Nye at the recent Colorado Language Arts Society Spring Conference. She was an inspiration - a humble one, which made her even more inspiring. Her poems were intriguing, heartbreaking, and amusing. And, while they were an important part of her presentation, I was more struck with her commentary on human beings. We are at the point in our lives where many cultures are being "forced" to get to know each other. However, we often get acquainted via news reports or word of mouth stereotypes. Poetry is one way, Nye suggested, that we get to really know our fellow humans. Many poems she read were about issues that were universal, even though they were based on people in the Middle East. With each poem, she inspired me to continue to promote beauty and creativity in the classroom. It is what we do as teachers, no matter the content area or age that we teach. Beauty and creativity are universal languages. She urged us, through her poems, to let our students know this.

It got me thinking as I left the reading, and much since then, about what I can do in my classroom. Technology has gifted us with a miraculous tool - the Internet. Nye mentioned how high schools in Australia are requiring their seniors to read and reflect on a blog from an Iraqi in order to graduate. I hear the debate about graduation requirements often, some of which include the requirement to perform some amount of volunteer work. But this idea has consumed me since I heard Nye speak three weeks ago. What a wonderful way to bring technology into the classroom, but to also spark some thought within the generation that we are educating. Knowledge is power - a cliche, I know, but a true one. Giving the gift of cultural knowledge is a powerful thing.

I'd like to hear about suggestions on blogs or other ideas so that I may begin to incorporate this into my own classroom.

Saturday, March 10, 2007 answer on how to teach grammar in context

For some reason, the idea of teaching grammar in context was a complete enigma. I heard much about it, and I knew I needed to do it. BUT, I just didn't get it. This relates quite well to my students who are studying grammar: they've heard about it (over and over and over again) and they knew they needed to do it. BUT, they just didn't get it.

This morning at the CLAS conference Jeff Anderson was the keynote speaker. He gave an enlightening and humorous speech on how to look at teaching grammar in a new light. These wonderful ideas are in his book Mechanically Inclined: Building Grammar, Usage, and Style into Writer's Workshop.

There were a few key parts of his speech that spoke to me and my needs in the classroom.
  • Examine what the students reveal with their errors. The great its/it's struggle is one example. I need to ask myself a few questions: Why do students misunderstand this concept? How can I help them erase their misconceptions? By knowing why they think a certain way is correct (when it is actually wrong) can lead to authentic discussions on those pesky rules.
  • Use correct sentences to teach instead of incorrect sentences. I abandoned the DOL idea a few years ago when I realized that it was only a way to get students working right off the bat (I've since discovered more useful strategies for this). I have never seen a replacement that works for me. Here's what Jeff suggested...Put up a "great" sentence from a published author and use inquiry to discover patterns. Students can notice why things are capitalized in the middle of the sentence, or why there are commas where they are. The beauty of this is that I can look at style as well. Students can emulate the sentence using the correct grammar, but also the style they were shown. The key to this is questioning and letting students figure out patterns and rules. Then...I love this part...students can go into their literature (independent reading or whole class assignments) and find "great" sentences of their own. As a class we can explore them together. So....this fits into reader's and writer's workshop, and it is a quick way to bring in grammar and style instruction more often.

I'd love to hear more grammar in context ideas.

Friday, March 9, 2007

Colorado Language Arts Society (CLAS) Conference

I'm at one of my favorite events - the CLAS regional spring conference and once again I am reminded of how proud I am to be a part of an organization and profession that continually works for improvement. When I was first exposed to this conference five years ago, I was a second year teacher and was uncertain about how a weekend could impact me. Now, five years later, this is an event I look forward to months ahead.

What this conference means to me:

  • Chance to reconnect with colleagues - I have had the honor of visiting with a teacher who I knew at my first teaching job. It was wonderful to discuss what has happened in the few years that I have been gone. I love hearing that the principal who gave me a chance as a first year teacher was still thriving in her position. I also liked hearing that some teachers who I was inspired by were still teaching strong. Many of them probably do not realize their impact on me as a first and second year teacher. However, my standard of what a teacher who is also a coach should be was set high by teachers who cared deeply about both and never sacrificed teaching for coaching.
  • Chance to learn from others - I have been to a few sessions today that have provided tools that I can use in my classroom within days or weeks. I learned how to refine my literature circles, how to inspire students with archetypes and the hero's quest, and how to help students revise their argumentative research thesis. This is my true inspiration. I love seeing how other teachers think and love being able to take their inspiration from their classroom to my own.
  • Chance to learn from professional authors - Richard Peck and Nikki Grimes were two speakers that I heard today. Both inspired me to be a better teacher and a better writer. I love hearing their enthusiasm for telling stories through poetry and prose.
  • Chance to spoil myself - As participants at this conference we get special rates at one of the most amazing hotels, The Broadmoor in Colorado Springs. This is a chance for teachers to spoil themselves by staying in a place that many would not normally be able to afford. I'm looking around my room in amazement now because it is so much nicer than my condominium. I guess one thing that could define the room the best is the fact that I have a plasma TV in the bathroom. As I sit in the extra deep bathtub, I can watch channels that I don't subscribe to at home. I feel completely spoiled.

Most importantly....I feel a rush when I realize that each person who attends this conference will positively affect the lives of a hundred or more students. There is immense power in being a part of that energy.

Tomorrow I will experience more sessions and reflect more with newly met colleagues and old friends. I truly wish all English teachers from my state would be here to revive themselves and learn more ways to inspire their students. I will be posting some of my more specific learnings in the next few days.

Saturday, March 3, 2007

Recharge Needed

I seem to fall into a little rut at this time of the year, and I notice that other teachers in my building feel this too. I have always made it through - though sometimes with more stress than I should experience. So, as I sit here in my favorite coffee shop I'm thinking about what I need to do to avoid getting too caught up in feeling burnt out. Here are some of my promises to myself. I'd also love to here what others do to keep their chins up at this time of the year.

  • Promise 1 - Prioritize! Teaching is a passion of mine, but not my only passion. I need to think about and enjoy my other loves and spend time doing activities that refresh me. This is difficult time wise with teaching and working on my masters, but it is not only possible, but necessary. I need to spend time with my creative writing, my reading for pleasure, and being outdoors moving my body.
  • Promise 2 - Be forgiving. One reason I'm feel frustrated is that I feel that I am not as far in my curriculum this year as in the past - I just don't feel like I've taught what I usually have by this point in the year. However, I've tried several new things this year and many have been successful. So, I need to see it as a fair trade.
  • Promise 3 - Communicate. Talking positively with colleagues helps remind me that even if I'm going through a rough period, I am still part of an amazing profession. I'll be attending the CLAS spring conference this coming weekend, and this will be an opportunity to learn from other teachers and share time and space with others who want to improve themselves. Reading and commenting on teacher blogs has been a positive experience as well.

Friday, March 2, 2007

New Visual Element to AP exam

I wonder if getting more visual literature into the English classroom will become easier with the addition of the new visual element to the AP exam... If The College Board feels it is important enough to have on one of their essay questions, will districts be more willing to spend money on visual texts such as graphic novels?

Thursday, March 1, 2007

Last Game in the Standardized Practice Series

I finished the last in my series of games gearing my students up to the extended written response question on the upcoming CSAP exams. (See my post on the third round). Both of my English 9 classes won (one just barely)their competition with SAP, and I was amused at how personally they had taken this four week battle. They came into class with a vengeance after losing last week and were ecstatic when they won. What I am more proud of are the students who have transferred their knowledge to their writing. I've given them some pushes here and there to apply what they have learned from each other in their own writing. I wish I could say that all have done this without prompting, but that is not the case; however, some students improved their writing with this being the only "formal" writing instruction on refining details. Next week I will urge the students to apply this to their standardized test answers.

While I started this activity with the intention of helping my students do better on the extended written response of CSAP (these being our "trouble" scores for our building), I have found this to be an effective teaching tool for writing in general. I'm going to work on incorporating more aspects of writing and the framework of the game.

I think that this was successful because of a few factors. I will do a quick survey in class to see what my students think, but here are my initial observations/perceptions:
1. There were two levels of competition - students were in small teams, but also were a part of the class team as a whole. This lead to more encouragement between teams.
2. Because the game became increasingly more difficult, students were not bored each week (which was my biggest fear) and needed to use what they did before, but take it to a higher level
3. They liked having a set, attainable goal to beat

I'd like to hear from other teachers on their comments on what I have done, their use of competition or unique ideas to practice for standardized tests.

Sunday, February 25, 2007

Saturday, February 24, 2007

conversations on leadership

I've been thinking about the ways that blogging encourages communication. Louann's post brought this question into focus for me. As I continue to explore teacher blogs, I've been focusing on how people communicate with each other and how effective I feel these communications have been. I came across a few examples of what I thought were interesting conversations happening through a variety of blogs. Here's one. Here's another. Both posts deal with qualities of leadership. What I liked is that people "tag" others (not sure how this works yet - help anyone?) and have them create a list that shows how they are leaders. What other examples have people seen of successful (or unsuccessful) conversations?

Friday, February 23, 2007

Successful? Standardized Practice Part 3

I completed the third of four weeks of "Beat SAP" , and as I planned, I followed Gee's principles on video games and learning. This meant that today's round was more challenging than the last. Both classes lost today's game, meaning that they have to win next week. I was worried that they'd be discouraged after loosing, even though last week's win was by a smaller margin. They still came up with good answers and were on task 99% of the time, but they were unable to win due in part to more difficult prompts and to less time. They were eerily quiet at the end of the game, but one (usually cynical) student said, "We'll get him next time." Some others responded by stating something along the lines of "he'll go down" next week. This made me think of a few things - first, they are still motivated (at least some of them) and second, they personalized the "enemy" and are taking the mission to beat "him" seriously. Another student, who was the last left in class after the bell, stated "I still like Fridays in this class, but I wish we would have won." So, they do have some investment in this four part activity, and that investment (as far as I can tell) has not waned. The big question is: will they be motivated to use their creativity as strongly on the tests which are coming up in two weeks?

Thursday, February 22, 2007

SSR and blogs!

I was exploring some teacher blogs and came across this post. I find it interesting to see SSR time spend reading blogs. The last comment (as of today) by rolandod mentioned seeing where students are lead as a result of viewing blogs. The idea of an endless text is interesting. It is equally interesting to me to think about how our interests intertwine and how they can be explored in thie medium.

...another thought...
It is great that blogging has lead me to these wonderful ideas, can't it do this for our students too? What kind of modeling, if any would they need?

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Graphic Novels in the Classroom

I found an article on Education World which included several links for teaching graphic novels. I liked seeing my thoughts on using comics to teach inference skills (read between the lines/panels). But, I was especially interested in the following quote:" Nancy Frey added, "We'd also like to acknowledge the importance of critical literacy -- the ability of a reader to understand his or her role in the transaction that occurs between the reader and the text." Critical literacy has always been important, but educators need to expand their definition of literacy. There is power in the "visual transaction" that occurs in graphic novels, advertisements, as well as local and national news. I've heard many students in the past say that there is no transaction when they read or even view texts. Graphic novels or shorter comics could be a stepping stone to this. The literacy of reading images juxtaposed with words and the literacy of reading images alone is crucial in our current and future world. I'm interested in hearing what others may find in this article and/or links.

Friday, February 16, 2007

Successful Standardized Test Practice Part 2

This was my second week of the "beat sap" game. I wasn't sure going in how students would react to the same game for the second week. I continued to think of what Gee's says in What Video Games Have to Teach Us About Literacy and Learning about why video games are educational. One emphasis he makes is the increasing difficulty as the player's proficiency increases. So, this week, since my students were familiar with the game, I changed a few minor rules. I allowed a few less points possible per group per prompt and as we went through each prompt, I decreased their allotted time by 30 seconds.

Students were excited to play it again, and I saw some advancement in their answers. They were not happy when I said it would be harder, but judging from their actions when they played, it was not a bad thing in their eyes. They were ready to go, and as the time decreased, their energy did as well. The first two rounds left the students just off pace to reach their goal points, and when they noticed this, they stepped up. I heard wonderful details and answers for some boring prompts. While students did not "beat sap" by as many points as last week, they were proud of their work. One student asked if I would make it harder next week. I replied "yes" and he left the room saying they'd still be able to win. Not bad for a group who was discouraged by the thought of having to come up with responses to prompts. Next week is week three of four. They need to win three out of the four games. I'll report again next week. In the meantime, I welcome any comments, suggestions, or questions.

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Movies as Writing Tools Part 2

I created a lesson using movie clips to help students focus on important details for description. I received the descriptive writing papers today. While I have not explored most of their writing, I have reviewed the writer memos that I have my students attach. Two of my questions (What helped you in your revision? What class activity helped you understand the genre the best?) sparked answers that related to the movies - some direct and some indirect. One student stated how she didn't understand how to "zoom in on an object and explain it with more detail than just telling about it." She stated, "The movie scenes and discussion showed how I can look at something from a different angle and from a different distance." I had another student share that he enjoyed the conversations around the movies because they helped him think of ways to improve his piece. Others stated that they were able to take boring sentences and look at what specifically needed to be changed - using movie terminology was more helpful because "I'm used to that type of talk."

I'm interested in other ways that teachers have used movies to help with specific writing skills.

Sunday, February 11, 2007

Successful Standarized Test Practice

While I'm not a supporter of teaching to the test, there is some value in preparing students for standardized tests such as CSAP. We are encouraged to do some work to prepare students and despite teacher opinion on the test, it is a reality that we are judged by the test.

My question has always been: how can I make this preparation applicable to learning beyond the test? I've been thinking about what Gee has said in his book What Video games Have to Teach us about Literacy and Learning. Specifically, I'm trying to incorporate his learning principles (based on what he has observed on learning and video games) into my classroom. I like what he says about having a challenge that is obtainable yet takes thought. Also, he states that video games have increasingly more difficult tasks as the player becomes proficient. One of the biggest challenges in our school has been the scores on the extended written response section of the CSAP. I talked with my students about this and the majority say that they are bored with the prompt so they don't care to write much on it. My students are used to writing on their own topics, and often in a genre of their choice, so they feel constrained when they are given a prompt in a situation that they have to sit in silence, not confer with peers or their teacher, and answer a question they don't care about. Here is my attempt at helping students be a bit more motivated on this section of the test AND learn more about authentic writing:

Beat SAP...(cheesy pun I know....see sap give you a test, see sap give you a boring prompt)
Students are grouped into four teams per class. They work as both small teams and as a whole class team. Their goal is to beat SAP for 3 out 4 weeks. In order to beet SAP the class has to earn 100 points each week.
The class is given four prompts that I have either found on CDE's assessment page or on other prompt resources. Each group needs to think of details to answer the prompt. I encourage "creative elaboration" (Lying). After a certain time (I will shorten this as the weeks progress) the teams share out four of their best details. I give them a score for each details from 1-3 depending on originality, use of sensory or figurative details (which are listed on the rubric as an advanced skill). Teams cannot repeat details and will lose points if they go off topic. After four prompts, I tally the class score and the individual team scores. The winning team gets some candy (I know...I know...internal motivation should be enough, but they get excited about a simple piece of candy....) We are discussing a reward if they beat SAP for three weeks.

Here's what I observed:
First, when my fourth hour came in they all asked "Are we going to play the game that 2nd hour played?" This let me know that there was some conversation in the hallways about what I had done during class, and that they were wanting to give it a try. Now, the academic observations. By not leaving the students "alone" with the prompt, and by encouraging them to be creative, they were motivated even after they released a collective groan when I revealed each prompt. Their ideas were creative, on topic, and showed an application of writing skills that we have explored this school year. They were showing pride in their individual teams, but what I enjoyed most was seeing them encourage other teams since they are all the battle to beat a single foe together.

What I plan to do next week for round two:
I'm going to shorted the amount of time they have for each prompt to make it a bit more challenging. For the following week (depending on their level in week two) I will make the scoring a bit more difficult. We'll see if their motivation stays strong the next few weeks. I know I'm enjoying this more than other prep work I have done with students.

Saturday, February 10, 2007

poetry comics

After reading some more of Scott McCloud's book Understanding Comics I decided to explore his website a bit more. I came across a comic that he created based on Robert Browning's poem "Porphyria". I was looking at how the simple images work harmoniously with the poem. As I look at some other ways to write and explore poetry with my class, I'm going to bring this in and open it to student experimentation. I have enjoyed seeing my students challenge themselves with different ways to write and respond to poetry.

Friday, February 9, 2007

Transferring skills from visual to writing

I have been very interested in Scott McCloud's Understanding Comics. My main question, and one of my near future classroom applications, is how to transfer knowledge of writing skills (such as organization or style) from observing less threatening genres (comics, for example) into writing. I started this with the movie - see my last post - and working with content. Here's my idea. I want to discuss the art and literature of comics with students. Specifically, I'd like to focus on organization to start. With organization, I don't just mean beginning, middle, and end, I'm looking more at the idea of pacing and transitions. If we study the organization of comics, looking at pacing and transition, could we transfer some of that knowledge to prose writing? I'm noticing the difficulty with organization to be especially prominent the past few years. Our district scores show this to be more prevalent with boys. I'm curious about the response to this - both in class discussion and in their writing. Has anyone tried this? Any ideas on transferring these skills from the different genres? I will be looking for articles on this topic - hopefully I can include information on this in future posts.

Thursday, February 1, 2007

Movies as writing tools

I just finished one of those successful teaching days! I worked with my 9th grade English class on enhancing description. After some discussion on tools that movies use to "describe" (or show) their setting, we watched a few scenes from A River Runs Through It and Big Fish. We had great conversations on what the mood of the setting was and how the movie brought out that mood. We discussed issues as lighting, camera angle, sound, repeated images, and time spent on images. Then, using Barry Lane's magic camera technique, we discussed what important images were zoomed in on and why. After showing four scenes, students worked in small groups to determine which details should be enhanced in their own descriptive writing. Some conversations included the addition of light (or lack there of), others offered suggestions about what images could be repeated. I enjoyed walking around and hearing "This is important, zoom in on this." I think their intimidation level was reduced after the discussion. They will be turning in their second draft of their place description on Tuesday. Their task is to think like the movie makers and make revisions. I'm excited to see what improvements are made.

Sunday, January 28, 2007

Working with students and Internet issues

I am curious about how teachers have worked with students online. While I know a majority of my students have myspace accounts, I have heard several parents' concern about their children talking with others online. I would like to know how secondary teachers have worked with this issue. Publications or personal accounts on this topic would be helpful.

Saturday, January 27, 2007


Here goes....This is my first blog. While this is a class requirement, I am excited to experiment with this. I'm curious about two things. What are possible classroom applications? How many people are responding to blogs? I look forward to developing my blog and exploring other people's blogs.