Monday, May 31, 2010

Newkirk Chapters 1 & 7



Standardization and standards seem so linguistically close that one shades into the other. It may be that there is something aesthetically pleasing in uniform action-the pleasure of watching a drill team, for example. Yet standardization only leads to sameness, not necessarily quality, and rarely to excellence. This book, then, will challenge a growing trend in education that requires teachers to work in preestablished (invariably "research-based") systems that sharply limit their capacity to make decisions about curriculum and students. Schools are not factories; students are not products. (page 9-10)

The history of writing instruction in this country is really a history of writinglike activities (particularly spelling, grammar instruction) taking the place of writing itself.

A related force that works against writing (and to some extent reading) is commodification- the tendency to think of education in terms of products and materials. Schools don't develop programs or create them- they purchase them. From the standpoint of marketability, writing instruction is a poor bet. If, as Donald Murray argued, the main texts in writing classes are the ones students are producing, the only real market is for blank paper. One might argue that these skills materials and workbooks teach the "building blocks" for writing, but too often these building blocks simply substitute for actual writing, displacing it altogether for students in lower tracks (one prominent researcher estimated that some disadvantaged students may write no more than five hundred words of actual writing in a year).

As James Moffett notes, one tactic used by producers of materials is mystification- the implied argument that writing is so technical a subject, so tangled with complex alignments to standards and research, so intricate in its sequence of skills development, so integrated with lessons in punctuation/grammar/genres, so dependent on complex assessments, that no single teacher could possibly construct his or her own system. A teacher would feel naked indeed to presume to teach writing without the support of these systems. (page 137-139)

What writing curriculum materials impact your writing instruction? What are your thoughts on the "mystification" of writing and how you were taught to write or teach writing to others?

20 comments:

  1. Chapter 1 really challenged my perceptions about educational reform. Of course I don’t think that standardized tests comprehensively measure student progress, but I have very frequently talked about using educational research to guide pedagogy. Newkirk says that, “Teaching is profoundly situational” p. 7 and I don’t think anyone would disagree with that, but I really do think that we need something more to guide us than very general standards and our own intuition. There is so much disparity in how and what material reaches students, and, as we all know, much of it results in a significantly inferior education for too many students- usually the students who are already at a tremendous disadvantage because of socioeconomics and everything that that encompasses. Maybe “research based” is just another buzz word that I have been over-eagerly using in hopes of finding some real solutions for our educational conundrums, and I definitely hear that that may not be the panacea that I so desperately want- but then what is??? How do we find parameters and guidelines and instructional techniques and curriculum that actually work and are effective- without having to wait thirty years to amass enough good ideas? –- “ I will also be advocating for a set of ‘good ideas’ that have sustained me as a writing (and sometime reading) teacher for thirty years.” p.10 I spend countless hours on the internet searching for effective and proven practices that other teachers have used, and I just can’t help but think that there must be a better, more efficient way for all of us to be successful teachers.

    I have been frantically searching for best practices for teaching writing since I started teaching high school four years ago after many years at the middle school level. I continually asked for benchmark assessments and curriculum guides or maps - anything that would give me some direction and focus, but no resources ever materialized. I finally figured out that those resources don’t exist, so I started participating in some district wide curriculum writing sessions. We started talking about using benchmark assessments and communicating with each other across grade levels so that we could design a more coherent curriculum. Many teachers balked at the idea of standardizing anything because it would stifle their creativity. I said at that time that we are a profession and there needs to be some protocols. If I go into surgery I want a surgeon who adheres to certain standards and protocols- not someone who says, “Oh, I decided to do it a different way because I want to express myself and my ideas- I don’t want my creativity stifled by silly protocols.” I obviously know that surgery is infinitely more precise than teaching, but can’t we find some general parameters to guide all of us in our teaching practice? It is not okay that we play educational lottery with our students and let the quality of their academic career be completely contingent upon the motivation, drive and competency of each individual teacher (or simply that luck that each particular teacher may have in their search for educational tools.) Maybe I am guilty of having a “…low estimation of teachers” p.156, but that is not my intention and I do not want to disparage teachers- in fact I would like to say the opposite. This task of educating students-especially teaching writing- is so complex and multifaceted and crucial that we need the most expert advice and guidance available.

    Fortunately, I feel like the writing project has given me the guidance and support that I have been searching for throughout my educational career. It makes sense, it works, and I am so relieved to be working with a group of people who know what they are doing. I feel like I have found the holy grail of education - and I am tremendously relieved and profoundly grateful-but I do want to know why I had to accidently stumble upon this group to find what I have been searching for all these years. How do we give all teachers access to these resources?

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  2. As someone who teaches at the college/university level, I find that standardized curriculum materials substantially impact my writing instruction. Each of the college-level courses I teach is standards-oriented, so I find myself having to deal with students who have experienced more than a decade of standardized approaches to teaching writing, and helping incoming college freshmen make that transition from producing writing that adheres to certain standardized criteria to creating writing that meets particular standards (i.e., course learning objectives similar to those that guide students at Eagle Rock School in Estes Park, Colorado) is one of the greatest challenges I face as an instructor.

    Regarding the mystification of teaching writing, I am certainly aware that this concept is prevalent amongst college instructors and textbook publishers (e.g., an impending version of a textbook I last used eight years ago is now almost 1,000 pages in length, costs nearly 93 dollars, and claims to offer a comprehensive manual for instructing the collegiate writer), I honestly don’t know how much this impacts my own teaching methods. I would say that I attempt to demystify the mystification argument very early in the semester by introducing my students to texts produced by writers who come from vastly different academic disciplines and who occupy various positions within society (e.g., college students, executives of Fortune 500 companies, servers in diners in remote Southern cities).

    I would like to think that this pedagogical decision helps students start to understand that writing, especially writing effectively for an academic audience, isn’t some mystical process that one stumbles upon; rather, learning to write effectively is something that can be accomplished by people, not just students and/or graduates, from different backgrounds and walks of life.

    Of course, the method employed by one of my colleagues may be just as effective in combating the mystification argument. At the beginning of the first writing project, she simply announces that any essays turned in that follow the conventional five-paragraph essay format will automatically receive a failing grade. She is happy to report that not many students fail the first assignment.

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  3. At the elementary school level, there are textbooks and a variety of resources for reading, math, social studies, science, health, and art. However, there are only a few meager pages of writing instruction hidden in the reading series. Is that surprising? Probably not! There are no simple steps to teach writing and it isn't easy to test on a scantron. Some subjects, like P.E., have required instruction minutes, but writing doesn't. Therefore some teachers fit it in their schedule and others don't. Should we have this haphazard approach to writing instruction and hope that each student will be lucky enough to be instructed by a teacher who values writing, finds resources that work for his her students, and makes time to fit writing instruction into the class schedule?

    "Classrooms are often places where everything is rushed, where teachers are bombarded with expectations with so much to juggle. Time is chopped into shorter and shorter units. Depth gives way to breadth. Time-intensive activities like writing and revising fall by the wayside." Newkirk obviously observed what goes on in an elementary classroom. I also felt that his statement, "The school curriculum becomes a wonder of physics where material can continually be added with nothing removed," happens all the time in elementary school. As teachers, we are constantly struggling to focus our attention and effort on what we feel in essential.

    My writing instruction drastically changed when I team-taught a Writer's Workshop with Writing Project fellow, Mayla Guth, and joined a Writing Cohort led by Judy Leff, another Writing Project fellow. I became hooked on teaching writing and my students were hooked on writing! There actually were many books that provide wonderful writing instruction like Katie Wood Ray's Writing Workshop model, Ralph Fletcher's A Writer's Notebook, Mechanically Inclined by Jeff Anderson, and Geogia Heard's The Revision Toolbox, to name a few.

    Although I may still be taking baby steps, I feel that teaching writing is like embarking on a new adventurous journey. With our eyes wide open, my students and I may trip and tumble, or head in the wrong direction, as we explore our writing. Fortified with mentor texts, the Writing Project, writing colleagues, and whatever we can find, we will continue to write daily as well as study the craft and process of improve our writing.

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  4. I've been running around covering things for the last week of school and I'm helping with the Prom tonight; I will post my response very early tomorrow morning! I'm sorry for the delay!

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  5. Arrgh- my comment was just deleted! My back is killing me so I'll write something new tomorrow!

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  6. One thing I’ve learned about myself is that when I am faced with a loaded question, such as the one posed, I find it difficult to articulate my thoughts and beliefs. I’ve also discovered that the ways in which I can begin to think about my beliefs is to ask others what their thoughts are on the subject. Chances are, I will disagree with what others are saying, thus bringing my own personal convictions into sight.

    In regards to the role in writing instruction in our schools today , I do not agree with teachers who pose the Houghton Mifflin writing prompt each day as their only means of writing instruction. I do not agree with the belief that writing instruction is simply making students write for 20 minutes each day. I do not think that writing instruction can be described as giving students a writing project that “takes up time”. I do not agree with teachers who are satisfied with giving students a sentence frame to fill in as a means of writing instruction. I also very much disagree with teachers who know better, but continue to not do better (ie: giving students Daily Oral Language (DOL) activities when they know the research regarding students successes with DOL).
    What I do know is that writing is complex, and therefore writing instruction is very complex. My writing instruction comes from conversations I have with people from the SDAWP, other educators, questionable things online, and things that happen in life. Rarely does my writing instruction come from some sort of scripted, color-coded, store-bought program. I must admit that I sometimes wish my life as a writing teacher was a simple as a five paragraph essay. It’s not…so I evolve, I read, I try, I attempt, I stretch my thinking as an educator daily and continuously try to make my writing instruction stronger.

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  7. My school and my district are in Program Improvement because of our Language Arts scores on the CST. Thus, the emphasis in our Language Arts program has become unbalanced towards reading comprehension, and only the technique of writing ("In lines 5 and 6 of the above passage, what would be a better way to combine those two sentences? .... ), the type of questions asked on the CST. On the Language Arts pacing guide for our elementary schools, the writing assignments from the Houghton Mifflin program is listed as an after thought. I do assign the six writing genres from Houghton Mifflin throughout the year as a way to introduce them to my students, and for my students to explore which they are best at writing, or which they enjoy more.

    Because it is the nature of school administrators to look for the "magic bullet" in purchased programs, and because administrators often add curriculum without taking away something else (page 132), Newkirk wisely observes that the school day is chopped into smaller and smaller chunks (page 11). And students notice this. Just as teachers will wait out new curriculum trends - Newkirk gives the example of a teacher who waits until he's asked three times to change before he actually does it - some elementary students will wait out the chopped-up blocks of time during the school day. If they go through the motions during our writing time, they can get to math, which they like better.

    Going back to the point of administration adding in curriculum without removing something, the trend I've noticed is history is often the sacrificial subject - because it's not tested on the CST in elementary school. We've been instructed to teach 24 "high usage" academic vocabulary words to better prepare students for the CST. On the other hand, fifth grade history focuses on the colonies and Revolutionary War, and I have to believe that reading, discussing and writing about things like the Bill of Rights is going to help our students approach the CST Language Arts test than 24 disjointed words.

    Writing for me has never been a "mystery." I've loved writing since I was very young and I remember that when I wanted to improve my writing, I would mimic the writing of authors I enjoyed reading. (Now that I've learned about mentor text, it makes even more sense.) I was NEVER taught how to teach writing until I became involved in SDAWP, but I do remember immediate feedback from my teachers. That's a habit I have not developed with my students, and I appreciate Newkirk's ideas about it as part of his four categories on the theory of writing. It's one of my pledges for next year - more student conferences about their writing.

    Newkirk's point about about publishers creating mystification by writing programs that emphasize a "sequence of skills developments, so integrated with lessons in punctuation/grammar/genres" (page 139) is well made. While writing is not only punctuation and grammar, let me make an argument that we shouldn't drop those skills all together and swing to the other extreme of whole language's "just write whatever you feel like and don't worry about the rules." An icon we use in GATE strategies is "Language of the Discipline" - that you need to know the vocabulary of the subject to discuss it with others. I do want my students to write more, and be more comfortable with writing, but I also want us to share a common language about writing so when I suggest they add a comma after a prepositional phrase that we both know what that means.

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  8. Wow. My greatest challenges as a teacher just came to light in these two chapters. I am continually plagued by the question, "How in the world can I possibly fit everything I'm supposed to teach in a single school year and still find time to nurture my beginning writers??" As I read these chapters I couldn't help but feel like Mr. Newkirk wrote them specifically for me!

    My favorite quote: "The school curriculum becomes a wonder of physics, where material can continually be added, with nothing removed." I am baffled by this. In the six years I spent teaching in Colorado, the End of the Year Reading Assessment in 1st grade moved up in level 3 TIMES! Our poor teachers were dumbfounded! Where do we begin? How in the world can we do this? Help!!! You could literally "feel" the desperation in the air. I couldn’t agree more with Newkirk’s argument that with all the push for research-based teaching, writing is the first thing to get “crowded out.”

    I grew up in a time where there was no such thing as Writer's Workshop. It was skill-n-drill and worksheets galore. And yes, I was in a 3rd grade class where my teacher, God love her, had us copy countless definitions out of the dictionary. (My only significant memory of that entire year was when a fly flew up her nose one afternoon). As Janet mentioned, there are no textbooks or TE’s for teaching writing so many teachers just don’t do it. Or, as Jamie said, they take the easy road and fall back to the scripted paragraphs and fill-in-the-blank sentence frames.
    I try to do anything and everything I can to be a better teacher. I base much of my writing instruction on gurus like Ray, Calkins, Fletcher and others. I talk and plan with colleagues. I model my own writing. I use mentor texts to teach author’s craft. I read and research and take classes to learn more. And oftentimes, I fail miserably and wish it wasn’t so hard. I think the bottom line is we need to “fight for good ideas” and “swim against the tide” and continue to learn and grow with our students.

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  9. Well I'll try this again and try not to delete it! It's gratifying to see so many comments acknowledge the experienced complexity of writing and the teaching of writing. The more we write and teach writing the more we experience, see and articulate the layers of processes and audiences and purposes and subskills. That doesn't mean, however, that it can all be "tested," although I do think growth in writing can be demonstrated. Isolate skills, the kinds that are worksheeted and scripted and "sequenced" and tested keep reappearing. I was disheartened this time last spring when a district literacy person assured me that in fact many teachers "really want the binders, really want the scripts."
    By contrast, I'm about to open a mess: asking my students to list what they've earned, with their portfolios as evidence, then take on two assignments, parallel in purpose to two early pieces, then compare their own writing. Show me what you've learned! The pieces and their assessments will - as they love to say- "count." I had a large handful of kids this year who were utterly resistant to writing; I'm still not sure why. It will be interesting to see what they've learned and acquired, in spite of themselves and such minimal practice. I no longer believe I can turn around a resistant attitude in a year. The belief systems and self-beliefs run too deep.
    Back in DC. at the NWP Annual Meeting, I was able to attend a rountable on the new Common Core standards, and was pleased to see how open-ended they were. Not developed by teachers, "because they'd take forever," if adopted it'll be to teachers, individually and by dept. and by district, to develop greater specificity and anchor pieces and strategies and assignments. It worked well when we did the ESL/ELD Standards a decade ago, but now it almost feels like the qustion has been begged - but in a promising way. Because I do believe that writing can be taught, and that teachers should write, and that a deeper understanding of "the mental space to work" is understood and valued. The traditional worksheet and formula classrooms so devastatingly "strip teachers of agency and ownership of craft," (7) how will we develop the insights teachers need to be effective and to engage students in this shifting landscape?
    BTW, there were some very interesting letters, in defense of teachers and the enormous complexity of what we do, in today's NYT Magazine:
    This is in response to the piece contrasting public and charter schools.
    I'm so looking forward to having these conversations this summer; from the comments it looks like there's tons of experience, frustration, experimentation and motivation. This is going to be a terrific Summer Institute!

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  10. The questions related to this post are the questions that inspired my desire to be apart of the SDAWP. When I first started teaching, I relied a lot on what some co-workers were doing (which, upon reflection I decided wasn’t necessarily my style) and upon what I remembered working well for me as a student when I was in my best classes. What was frustrating then was the simple fact that I could not come up with any memories of explicitly being taught to write. I remember assignments I liked, but no instruction. I’m not implying that this writing instruction didn’t happen, only that I couldn’t recall any specific times.

    I believe that writing is often considered as an afterthought in the textbooks I have for use at my school, but writing is not an afterthought at my site as a whole. The units are packed with texts and then some short, often misplaced writing genre is placed at the end of the unit to be used as part of some assessment. Luckily, we are encouraged to develop our own resources and use the text as we see fit. Our school offers a creative writing course and our department emphasizes writing as an integral part of the learning in English courses.

    I don’t know that I have ever considered textbooks creators dubiously ignoring writing because it lacks materials they can give us for a profit. Nor had I considered the idea that writing is so mysterious it is too complex for an individual to develop a proper system. I’m still questioning these ideas. I’ve never wanted to use my textbook as the one and only teaching tool in my classroom so I suppose I’ve never asked myself why it is lacking. If anything, I think I assumed that textbook creators were in the business to compile the works of others, to decide what is worth teaching in the classroom, and to make a profit while doing so. In considering those things, it is sensible to infer that writing indeed has been left out with a very obvious purpose in mind.
    Writing is also the major mode of assessment in my class; it is in this practice that I see the commodification trying to take over. Parents want to see their children “writing more” instead of developing or improving his/her skills as writers. Students want immediate grades on assignments rather than useful, deliberate feedback. At some point during the year, much to my dismay, there was talk about perhaps exploring an essay-grading program for the department. Everything has become a standardized machine where efficiency replaces quality.

    All of this makes me grateful to be apart of the Writing Project. I am glad to have this forum for these discussions and I am eager to collaborate on ways to keep quality writing practices alive in a time where cheap and easy writing-like substitutes are starting to prevail.

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  11. I don't remember being taught to write. I remember cursive pages and grammar worksheets but not writing itself. In fact, one of the biggest complaints by older brother had and has with education is the fact that he had to self teach many of the concepts of writing to himself. He had to go out and read grammar books to see what appositives were and what they have to do with writing. I also had to enlighten myself on many writing concepts when I got into teaching. As a student teacher, I realized how lacking my knowledge base was and this was after graduating college!

    I have a huge problem with our district adopted material for language arts instruction. I do not believe that teaching from an anthology provides authentic reading and writing experiences and hardly fosters a love for reading and writing. Based on the fact that I, as others as stated before, teach at a PI (program improvement) school, there is not much I can do as far as the reading. However, I do try do work student choice novel reading in on the side. I have a bit more freedom when it come to writing and pull ideas from a variety of outside texts from Jeff Anderson, Kathy Wood Ray, Lucy Calkins, and Ralph Fletcher. My successes this year have gone beyond what I thought possible. Part of this is due to the fact that I am learning to enjoy writing as much as my students are. There isn't an activity or writing assignment I give my students that I have not tried the weekend before. This allows me to not only have a sample to provide the students, but I am able to break it up into teachable chunks and I know what obstacles my students will run into. Trust me...whatever problem they will have, I had that same problem over the weekend.

    The "mystification", I believe has been brought about by teachers and students fear of writing. I believe it has been reverse taught. Go up to any child, including a English Language Learner, and ask them about their favorite ride or what they did at the park yesterday, and you will get an ear full. A complete story with details and dialogue. Now ask that student to go write down what they just told you...5 sentences if you're lucky. Why the change? Fear. Fear because they know they can't write all those sentences and especially not dialogue correctly. Imagine trying to put oil in your car with the funnel turned upside down and the narrow end facing up. You know if you just pour a little you will get it in. The same goes our students. We teach students the narrow side - capital, punctuation, grammar first with one or two sentences - first. Then, as they get older we expect them to be able to expand their writing. The result...a few sentences fairly well constructed. We need to let children experiment with language. Turn the funnel around and give them some room to try things and get their story down first. Then, start to narrow their focus and show them how a well placed comma can add to their writing. How a period helps the reader better understand the story. The technical side definitely needs to be taught but not to the extent that we stifle our students voices. After all, writing is putting our thoughts on paper...once you do that then you can work on making it better.

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  13. I think programs have their place. The challenge is that 99.5% of programs are junk. I can say that because I've tried most of them. There are a few out there that are good though. And for a struggling teacher like I was, it can give the guidance and structure one needs to find some much needed success. Once your confidence is built up a bit, one can slowly ween themselves of these programs.

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  14. Like many of you have mentioned above, I too cannot remember how I first learned to write. While in elementary school, I have vague memories of writing stories about Rudolph at Christmas time, and journal entries about what I did over the weekend. I also remember doing mini-research reports on famous people, the California Mission, and the state of Georgia. Once in high school, most of the writing I did was based around literary analysis. It was not until college that I truly felt I was given the freedom to develop my own writing style.

    So the question arises, what can today’s teachers do to help our students develop a passion for writing early on and to give them the foundational skills they will need to become successful writers now and in the future? As Newkirk mentions, there is a tendency to teach the way were taught. However, when it comes to today’s generation and the needs of our students, it is time for teachers to look outside the box.

    I love this quote; “ Standardization only leads to sameness, not necessarily quality, and rarely to excellence.” What a powerful statement. The fact is that not every program, skill, or strategy is going to work for every student. Therefore, it is important that teachers expose students a variety. Like Heather, I feel extremely privileged to be a part of the writing project this summer and I cannot wait to learn from you all. Excited for the summer institute to begin!

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  15. Sorry to be late—crazy work week, crazy weekend— I will spare you all the details, but it was related to student writing— 50 poems, in final states of revision on Google docs, waiting to be edited and published by eager 4th graders. And then. . . SD Unified blocks Google from our school computers for the rest of the year! So, after many long days running back and forth from home computer to school, I am happy to say we had a fabulous publishing party, and the poems are finally in route by UPS to be bound into student anthologies. Whew.

    Now, to Newkirk and all the great responses here. I love Jason’s comment about his colleague; how refreshing to know that students are being unburdened of the 5 paragraph essay!

    The idea of "educational clutter," and the quote "a wonder of physics where material can continually be added with nothing removed," resonated with many of us. I, too, felt like Newkirk was eavesdropping on my classroom and writing just for me! I appreciate his attempt to add some historical context and perspective, which I think is often lacking.

    Chapter 7 gave me a lot to think about—and I’m still sorting out my thoughts. I guess my biggest insecurity is that I came to writing long before I came to teaching, and while I have a lot of experience with how adult writers write, I didn’t know what was transferable to 8-10 year olds. So, I sort of swallowed whole, all the methods, materials, and rubrics that were available at my school. Over the past 3 years, I am still sorting out how to teach writing as I know it, with what works in my classroom. I am very happy to say all that I’ve learned from the SDAWP has made me feel like I’m on the right track, and have “permission” to try teaching in the way that feels more natural to me.

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  16. I can’t recall ever receiving writing instruction in the classroom. I remember spelling tests (not always honestly taken) and DOL every morning in 6th grade, but never writing instruction. And so when people ask me how I learned to write I tell them the truth: I read. A lot. At the time I didn’t know the term ‘mentor text’ but I knew that if Steinbeck could move me, as a reader, from anger to tears by the time I moved from a comma to a period, then I wanted to write like him. So I would copy and change, copy and change, copy and change, until my words were inspiring enough to be copied and changed. The more I read, the more I unintentionally learned about writing. So now, as a teacher, I can clearly see the power behind using literature and other mentor texts to intentionally teach writing. Essentially, my curriculum is a combination of literature and various forms of expression in society.
    I think I am somewhat of an opportunist when it comes to creating writing curriculum. I am lucky enough to not have to follow a mandated curriculum. I love texts-usually recommended by SDAWP, but most of my inspiration comes from things I see that inspire me to question. I create writing assignments based on billboard signs, commercials, song lyrics, sentences from my husband’s X-Box magazines, even conversations overheard in Costco. In my classroom, I draw on many different modes of literacy to engage my students in writing. However, all forms are variations of using mentor texts. I think the most important part of the writing curriculum is the inclusion of my students and their opinions. Before each session I gather a group of students and ask them to review the curriculum I have created. More often than not, we end up revamping at least 70% of it, and more often than not, they use my ideas to inspire their even better ideas. I would say that the best parts of the curriculum are the parts we created together—I can directly hear what they feel they need as writers, and what type of literacies would work as mentor texts, etc. In the end, they learn that they don’t always need me when it comes to writing instruction. They can ask their other mentors for guidance: texts, peers, previous writing, music, advertizing….the list is infinite.

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  17. I remember my first "learning to write" experience quite clearly. I was in first grade, and given one of those huge brownish pieces of paper. The top had a huge space to draw, and the bottom was filled with solid and dashed green lines to help focus my upper and lower case letter construction (very important to have good handwriting...yet I still don't today).

    I recall my teacher modeling what to write on a huge green chalk board, and at the end of every single line, she happened to use a period. At the time, I did not realize that each line she had written happened to be a complete sentence...I just visually saw that at the end of each line, she put a period.

    So, off I went. I wrote a story about a snowman, dutifully drew the picture of said snowman, and put a period at the end of every line, whether my sentence was complete or not.

    I was a little surprised to see all the red pen marks when I got my snowman story back...but I learned at very young age, one does not merely put periods at the end of lines...and that my teacher had trouble reading my handwriting. Oh...and I couldn't draw well either.

    Otherwise, this was a very valuable activity.

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  18. The materials that impact my writing instruction come from everywhere. I am very fortunate to work with amazing colleagues. A lot of what I use comes from what I learn from them. In addition I am not scares of experimenting with my own instruction. I use what I see and tweak it to work for my students and myself. It is also great to be able to share with others your successes and failures, and be able to bounce ideas off one another. I would definitely, have to say what impacts my writing instruction is what I learn other and experiment with.

    As for the mystification of writing, I think many students have a hard time connecting their favorite books with authors who took a lot of time and put forth a lot of effort to craft something of quality. There seems to be this mystification of what it takes to become a great writer. The hard work, countless revisions, peer edits and reorganization of a piece seems to get ignored. I know in my own classroom there is nothing more than my students want to do than write a piece and just be done. There seems to be a serious disconnect between the ideas of what make a good writer. The impression I get is that my students either like it or don’t, think their good at it or not, and are either willing to put forth effort or don’t care. This is probably what I struggle with the most.

    As for my own education, I definitely fell into some of the above categories. I knew I was a bad writer and therefore I hated writing, but I don’t remember anyone explaining to me what I needed to do to get better. It wasn’t until college that I started to get it. Ohhh, it takes a lot of practice, a willingness to fail in order to improve, and someone that will point out not just the things that need work but the things that were successful. It was once I started to feel a little successful, that writing felt worth doing. This above all is what I have worked on in my own classroom. Building my students up so that they will feel successful in everything they do as to get them to continuously improve. Nothing that is easy is worth doing ;)

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