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311 Reflections April 17, 2007

Posted by waldrup49 in English311.

As with my 310 blog it is hard to believe it is the end of the semester and also like 310 I plan on continuing this blog for my own enjoyment and inquiry. 

The main thing I have learned from an academic standpoint is that I have a lot more reading and writing to do before I come up with a thorough, concise philosophy on the methodology of reading both at the beginning stages and for meaning. I have a sneaking suspicion that I will end up with a pretty unique view that might not systematically line up with a current position.

What I enjoyed the most about this blog was being able to focus on the methods of reading and literary theory on my own terms. So many times in my English classes I am one of only a couple student that are not English majors (I am a social studies major) and I feel confused or intimidated while my fellow student seem so well versed and comfortable with the terms and subjects that are being discussed. Being able to research and produce what i am learning in this format makes me feel so much more comfortable. I can’t help but think that some of my students might be able to thrive with this technology also. This is what i posted on my 310 blog and it summarizes where I stand for this blog also.

My plan is to continue to use my blog and my RSS reader to continue this blog (it will probably have different categories then 310 and 311) and I might expand it to include one or two more categories about social studies and the process of becoming a teacher. I will extend my search to include and focus on more scholarly journals. hopefully this will help me develop an ongoing teaching philosophy throughout my career. To me it is the perfect way to express, review, and edit my beliefs while hopefully getting feedback from outside sources.


310 Reflections April 17, 2007

Posted by waldrup49 in English310.

Wow! The end of the semester………………………………………………. but not the end of this blog. I was not sure what I would discover about the use of blogs in teaching writing when I originally started this but I know I don’t want to stop the process.

I know that the use of the RSS along with this blog has been the most interesting part of my education in a long time. I feel as though this has lead to a sense of self discovery in me. Let me clarify that a little bit. My blog involved using certain search terms, newpaper feeds, etc but I would say that I found things that actually pertained to my subject about 3 or 4% of the time. I was amazed to find myself reading most of the other articles that were appearing. I found myself interested in many things that I had not looked at before and in the process learned about so many new things. Through this project I now have started to look at subjects such as the needs for migrant farm workers on a daily basis. I had no idea it would interest me so much. Some of you are probably asking what blogs and the needs of migrant farm workers have to do with each other and the answer is for the most part nothing. A story on migrant farm workers came up in my RSS reader one day and i read it. it then took about 10 seconds to subscribe to a google search feed on that subject. Now i look at them everyday. This has happened to me exactly 6 times this semester with my two blogs and now I have 22 other subscriptions outside of my blog subjects.

The only negative I had with this blog was my own procrastination and time management with the project parameters. I had a little to freedom under the flexable schedule of due dates for posts and comments. I think when conduct my class using blogs I will have more structured due dates for specific posts. This should not be a needed requirement at the college level but should be taken into account at the secondary level. 

 My plan is to continue to use my blog and my RSS reader to continue this blog (it will probably have different categories then 310 and 311) and I might expand it to include one or two more categories about social studies and the process of becoming a teacher. I will extend my search to include and focus on more scholarly journals. hopefully this will help me develop an ongoing teaching philosophy throughout my career. To me it is the perfect way to express, review, and edit my beliefs while hopefully getting feedback from outside sources.

“That was a memorable day to me, for it made great changes in me.” April 17, 2007

Posted by waldrup49 in Bright Ideas Conference.
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The Approach

I went to Bright Ideas with an open mind and to be reluctantly honest, a Christmas like excitement. I looked forward to being in this academic setting with my fellow students and future peers. I think what I looked forward to the most was the chance to learn from educators who are putting their theories into practice in the classroom. I have been to many of these types of conferences in my experience as a football coach and my belief is that you try to take at least one thing from each session that you can use today or will help you in the future. It makes no sense to try and memorize everything that is being presented because you lose parts of it in recollection. So I just try and come away with a concept or technique that I can research later or add to my current philosophy today.  

Keynote: Jacqueline Woodson

Many times when you hear a speaker you get the sense that they are speaking down to you not sharing with you. This was not the case with Ms. Woodson. She not only seemed to be sharing with us but seemed to be connecting with us. As she spoke I found myself nodding my head and thinking, thats how I feel or I know what you mean. I couldn’t know what it was like to be a writer or a African American woman but she just invoked a sense of community into the room where we all felt connected to what she was saying. I am not sure if everyone experienced this same thing but I noticed others around me nodding also and the lady who say next to me at one point said “exactly” as Ms. Wooden was telling a personal experience, which is odd when you think about it.I tried to connect what she was saying to teaching and when she talked about her writing process I was able to think of it in not only her view but personally and how it would help me instruct. She talked about how the basics of a book just start with putting letters together and those letters create words and those word equal sentences. So with that in mind she just focuses on just writing that first paragraph and that the paragraph will lead to others. that sounds so simple but most of us don’t write that way but at least I have heard it and can try and do that when I write and might be able to give that same advice to a student someday.

Here are a couple other comments from ms. Woodson that I felt were important:

– Student need to understand the importance of reading when it comes to their writing. That you can’t write well if you don’t read often.
– That when the story falls apart is an important part of the process because it reveals where your writing needs work.
– When giving feedback to students or peers instead of using negative criticism, emphasize the positive and ask questions about the work. It will have the same affect.

Breakout Sessions

* Engaging Literature Lovers and Reluctant Readers Through Literature Circles

The emphasis in this session was to use literature circles and supplemented texts in a reader response influenced methodology to engage readers to view texts with a critical eye. This session was broken down into two parts. The first part delt with using books that are chosen by the student to supplement books that are part of the traditional canon. These books are viewed, interpreted, and criticised through prompted review sheets and theme related literature circles. I felt as though this would be a great tool in a larger learning unit. My concern would be the time constraints involved in doing it. The one thing I took from this session was that students and learn to view works that they are reading for pleasure in the same way they might interpret a classic and thus be able to discern the quality of different books. the second part of the session involved literature circles outside the classroom for Literature lovers. The presenter brought three high school students up front and asked them question about their dislikes and likes when it comes to reading. They discussed what they like about their literature circle and the processes they use when reading and writing. It was evident that these were very high achieving students that had talents for both writing and interpreting text. They all seemed to have an overall distain for the texts they are forced to read at school and when asked about whether they felt as though they would be able to learn from literature circles in their actual classroom they expressed a negative feeling about it. It was hard for me to see practical application of using these students as examples of the literature circle. To me they might even create problems in that environment.

* macBeth: Using Technology to Enhance the Teaching of Shakespeare 

I was very interested in this part of the conference but was a little disappointed with this presentation. The general concept was using technology as an approach to get students to embody and contextualize literature. The presentation offered two examples on how to do this. The first was using video equipment to have the the students create modern TV shows as a textual intervention method. The second was using powerpoint to create a social network, much like myspace, using the characters from the literature. Both of these ideas, in my opinion, are great approaches to having the students understand and internalize the text. The problem came in the implementation of the video project and the presentation. The video projects premise is a good one but it must be carried out in an organized, structured way. When examples were shown it was obvious that this project was a throw in to take up class periods at the end of a learning unit. The teacher gave vague guidelines and what seemed like little supervision. The end result was poor in quality and did not display understanding of the text. I would definitely use this in my classroom but would do it in a way that was much more curriculum oriented and classroom managed while still being student focused. what I really liked about this session was the use of PowerPoint as  social networking of the characters. The students were assigned their character at the beginning of the book and are given assignments when to post “blogs” or “comments” to there page. It gives them an opportunity to use technology they understand to display their view of the text. I was very impressed with this and will probably use a variation of it in my classroom.


I found this conference to be an extremely positive experience. While I might not have always agreed or understood what was being presented I was still able to think of how I could use parts of these sessions in my classroom. It made me really hopeful for my future experience as a teacher. I find these presenters inspirational in their enthusiasm and desire to reach and impact their students. I plan on joining NCTE as soon as possible based off of this experience and hope to get involved in some way in the future.      

Reader Response in the Classroom April 17, 2007

Posted by waldrup49 in English311.

Here is another excerpt from the Anneburg Online Workshop.

Over the last several decades, reader-response techniques have become firmly established in American classrooms. Language arts teachers at all levels now widely accept central tenets of the theory, particularly the notion that learning is a constructive and dynamic process in which students extract meaning from texts through experiencing, hypothesizing, exploring, and synthesizing. Most importantly, teaching reader response encourages students to be aware of what they bring to texts as readers; it helps them to recognize the specificity of their own cultural backgrounds and to work to understand the cultural background of others.

Using reader response in the classroom can have a profound impact on how students view texts and how they see their role as readers. Rather than relying on a teacher or critic to give them a single, standard interpretation of a text, students learn to construct their own meaning by connecting the textual material to issues in their lives and describing what they experience as they read. Because there is no one “right” answer or “correct” interpretation, the diverse responses of individual readers are key to discovering the variety of possible meanings a poem, story, essay, or other text can evoke.

Students in reader-response classrooms become active learners. Because their personal responses are valued, they begin to see themselves as having both the authority and the responsibility to make judgments about what they read. (This process is evident in the video programs, when students are asked to choose a line of poetry and explain why it is important to them.) The responses of fellow students also play a pivotal role: Through interaction with their peers, students move beyond their initial individual reaction to take into account a multiplicity of ideas and interpretations, thus broadening their perspective.

Incorporating reader response in the classroom
As increasing numbers of elementary, middle, and secondary school language arts teachers have come to accept reader-response theory over the last 25 years, the instructional techniques that support it have become more common in classrooms: Literature circles, journal writing, and peer writing groups all grew out of the reader-response movement. These teaching strategies value student-initiated analysis over teacher-led instruction, promote open-ended discussion, and encourage students to explore their own thinking and trust their own response.

Growing up I was a veracious reader. I would read everything I could get my hands on. I might become disinterested soon after starting to read something but I would just move on to the next thing to read. Reading is not all that I did. I played sports, talked on the phone with girls, or hung out with friends but all the other time I had was spent reading. I would wake up in the morning and grab a book, before school sitting at the kitchen table I would read the newspaper back to front, and before I went to bed I would read until my eyes……just………….couldn’t………………………..stay………………………….. open ………………………………….. anymore. I loved to read and I was a horrible student, especially in English. (Brakes squaking) Wait a minute you are saying you were a porr student? That’s not the way its supposed to work. What was wrong with your school, you ask? Well i wish I could tell you that it was because they made me read the Great Gatsby and then gave me tests on it instead of putting me in a literature circle but that wouldn’t be true. I was just apathetic about my education and there wasn’t really a method that was going to get me to buy into doing homework or studying. My point is I loved to read, so I read and this developed my ability, my knowledge, and in the long run my achievement but most students are not me. They have no interest in reading and cannot see the importance of it to their long run success. They are like the kid who wants to play in the NBA but hates to practice or even play pickup games. They good players are the gym rats and the achieving student at least needs to sharpen his reading skills if not become a book rat.

As you read the above excerpt, did it makes sense to  you? It makes perfect sense to me. The idea of getting students to use tools such as reading circles allows te reluctant reader to approach a text from there own point of view but then shows them other points of view or gives them a window into other perspectives of the story. A student then is able to approach his next time reading with a different way of looking at the text along with his initial reaction. Take a student thatis reading 10 pages about the civil war from their history text for homework. The reluctant reader might just read it and look for facts to memorize but the same student who has been engaged in a language arts class that uses reader response techniques might approach this homework from an entirely different course in a different way. They might look at the major events as important but also think about what this meant for the townspeople living close to a battle or the confederate soldier who was captured, or the family of the union soldier who was killed. That same student might start to think of the connections to other parts of the book by making predictions of the ramifications. By using reader response you are able to get the student to use higher level thinking and teach them to find interest in reading because of their new ability to internalize and reconstruct what the text is telling them. I will use the following example of some of what I am talking about:

An innovative reading program held at the Woodstown Middle School was thrust into the limelight last week as Public Television cameras and boom microphones descended upon sixth-graders inside the cafeteria.

With colorful poster boards and costumed kids taking up the expanse of the room, “Classroom Close-up, NJ,” weaved in and out of the displays, recording the outcome of this six-week project.

The program, brainchild of teachers Gina Donahue and Shelly Ortman, allows students to actively participate in small groups in an effort to teach one another about a shared novel.

“It offers something different than the traditional paper and pencil test,” said Donahue, an 11-year veteran of teaching. “These literature circles give kids the opportunity to work together toward a common understanding of the book.”

The circles were composed mostly of three to four people, and put together students who would best compliment one another’s particular strengths. The final group projects were required to include a display of the book’s key story elements and a skit of some sort.

And not even a fire alarm on the last half-day before a long vacation last Thursday could derail the efforts of the students, leaving teachers reason to be proud.

“I was particularly impressed with the way they refocused (after the fire alarm), they are really involved and it’s great to see,” said Rich Fiolkowski, another sixth-grade teacher at the school.

Donahue added, “At first the whole project was a little overwhelming for them, but they took it piece by piece and I am extremely proud of the outcomes here today.”

As one student conveyed, it was a great chance to break out of the norm of your average school day.

“You get to interact and get so many other opinions,” said student Gabe Woodside. “It’s something different than just listening to the teacher all the time though take nothing away from Mrs. Donahue, she’s a great teacher.”

By offering reading in this way to students they baght into it. Now sixth graders aren’t 10th graders but I am not looking for a 10thgrader to get excited about making a poster board cut out but if i can use a literature circle to get him/her thinking about what the text means and to see other perspectives then I believe it is a good tool. By using this tool I think we can get students to view reading as something they own.

Todays Sunbeam
reading program puts kids in sunlight
by Randall Clark
April 9, 2007

Annenburg Media Online
The Expanding Canon: Teaching Multicultural Literature in High School
Reader Resonse – Theory Overview
By Pat Mora and James Welch

Blogs and the RSS – The Digital PB and J! April 16, 2007

Posted by waldrup49 in English310.

David Perry of the University of Albany writes in Blogs for Learning- 

Although in the past few years there has been a marked growth in the number of higher education classrooms that utilize an on-line writing component, adapting the teaching of writing to digital spaces has met with resistance on the part of both students and professors. While there are many hurdles to address in navigating technological changes in writing practices, I would like to suggest that part of the problem has been a lack of understanding about the ways that information is disseminated and archived in these spaces. We need to begin by framing the approach in a new way to contextualize writing better, and, more importantly, to make classroom blogging (and even more broadly writing in digital spaces) more productive for the students and professors. In particular, I want to show how the technology of RSS is crucial both from a theoretical and a practical standpoint to any digital writing, but especially to any blogging classroom.

If you were to tell high school teachers that you had a way to get their students to aggressively research for a paper and enjoy doing it they would be very interested and a little excited. Tell them that this same method would teach or improve those students ability to cite that research and they might be a little skeptical. Add the fact that the students will really enjoy it and those teachers will probably walk away thinking you have some crazy new untested theory and won’t sit by you in the teachers lounge anymore, but that is exactly what blogging while using a RSS reader can accomplish.

Today’s high school students are digital natives that naturally have the ability to multi-task using technology in ways that  their teachers have a hard time catching up with. If we bring these abilities to the classroom for use in positive way there should be no reason that the academic abilities of the student won’t increase while achieving the standards set forth by the curriculum. By using RSS in tandem with blogs we allow these students to use their digital culture to meet our academic expectations. In the process they are exposed to many different points of view, journalistic and literary genre, and writing role models. When used properly the RSS will give students a base knowledge of all aspects of a project and in depth knowledge of specific focused areas. they are then able to process this information and create informed pieces of writing for an audience using blogs. This combination when presented the right way can accomplish a conceptualization of material while also improving writing skills.

Many people in the education field feel as though this type of project is to clumsy or awkward to be used in a classroom where teachers are expected to teach students material to prepare them for standardized tests. i say this could not be farther from the truth. Like any other  assignment the success and efficiency of it will depend on the preparation, organization, management, and follow through of the educator. The difference being that once this system is set up for a given classroom then the transition between different assignments and writing topics will go much easier then they would in a traditional class where the teacher starts over with each assignment. Classroom time will not be wasted going over bulky instructions and unnecessary time used for researching in the traditional ways. The subject will be given, the type of writing clarified, and prompts for searches in the aggregater given. the students will spend half the time researching and have much more time writing leading to more polished results and a more invested student.

Toward the end of of his article Mr. Parry writes:

Finally, as a related concern, utilizing RSS on the professor’s end can help you to keep a handle on all of your students’ postings and comments. Having a robust RSS reader enables all of the student posts to be delivered to your reader, instead of requiring that you visit each individual blog. This makes it much easier to asses student work, and, perhaps more importantly, much easier to comment on and provide feedback about students’ blogs.

What better argument then to say it will make the teachers job easier while also helping improve students writing?    

Blogs for Learning
The Technology of Reading and Writing in the Digital Space: Why RSS is crucial for a Blogging Classroom
By David Perry

Moving On and Up: A Look at Reader Response Theory April 16, 2007

Posted by waldrup49 in English311.
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Reader response stresses the importance of the reader’s role in interpreting texts. Rejecting the idea that there is a single, fixed meaning inherent in every literary work, this theory holds that the individual creates his or her own meaning through a “transaction” with the text based on personal associations. Because all readers bring their own emotions, concerns, life experiences, and knowledge to their reading, each interpretation is subjective and unique.
Many trace the beginning of reader-response theory to scholar Louise Rosenblatt’s influential 1938 work Literature As Exploration. Rosenblatt’s ideas were a reaction to the formalist theories of the New Critics, who promoted “close readings” of literature, a practice which advocated rigid scholarly detachment in the study of texts and rejected all forms of personal interpretation by the reader. According to Rosenblatt, the New Critics treated the text as “an autonomous entity that could be objectively analyzed” using clear-cut technical criteria. Rosenblatt believed instead that “the reading of any work of literature is, of necessity, an individual and unique occurrence involving the mind and emotions of some particular reader and a particular text at a particular time under particular circumstances.”

The above is an excerpt from an Annenburg Media online workshop explaining Reader Response theory. As I have gone through my college education trying to figure out what I believe when it comes to literature and what is important when teaching literature it has become more and more evident that what is important is getting the students to read with a connection to the text. I had never known what this was called or even that my belief would have a name. Then I started to learn this very belief and what I understood had been put into text. It just struck me that what they were saying in these texts is very important in teaching the average student to get meaning from reading.

Let me say for the record that the average student is not the future English major. I believe the knowledge of literary terms and being able to use critical thinking is important but most middle and high school teachers have trouble just getting their students to read let alone move to the point of reading with a critical eye. Many teachers believe that literature should be looked at from a New Critical stance. I am not going to delve too deep into the debate but from my point of view this does not get the student to invest in the process of reading. It does not teach the student to love reading or even like reading. It doesn’t develop an ability in the student to connect to the reading thus creating a desire to read independently, with purpose, and with a personal understanding of books outside of the academic environment. Author Scott Tinsley says in an interview for BlogCritics magazine:

Any text, regardless of its form, can be an opportunity for communicative action. In writing a very personal book such as this, I’ve felt like I’ve done my part in sharing. But I would not ask a reader to, as I said, to “compare, contrast or critique.” That misses the point of reader response theory. The beauty of plurality in reading is that the text can take you where you let it, not where it’s supposed to take you. The best example in the book is the last chapter, a very true story, a letter to my daughter as she left home for college. I’ve had numerous parents write and tell me it just broke them up. And I’ve had students respond with, “How could you embarrass your daughter like that?” They’ve allowed the story to both reflect on their own circumstances but also create a political site; a momentary struggle within their own psyche.”

Mr. Tinsley’s point is an important one because he alludes to the fact that the reader has an important role in the product of literature. What makes a text valid in one person’s eyes could invalidate it anothers. To ask a reluctant reader to view a work of literature from a critical perspective would be the same as expecting a biological breakdown when asking them what they appreciate about their loved ones. Its cold, harsh, and has a negative influence on their view of reading. If we can use reader response techniques to get the reader to engage in the reading process and start to read on their own at some point they will be able to view quality works from poor writing and be able to tell you why they feel this way. We need to be able to get them to buy into reading as worth while first. We don’t expect children to go from throwing a ball, to playing T-ball, to managing the New York Yankees so why would we expect them to go from learning the alphabet, to learning to read, to interpreting literature without the proper foundations. In my mind Reader response is the methodology that follows phonetic awareness to set the foundation for students to not only become readers but critical readers. 

Annenburg Media Online
The Expanding Canon: Teaching Multicultural Literature in High School
Reader Response- Theory Overview
By Pat Mora and James Welch

Blog Critics Magazine
Interview with Scott Tinley, Author of Things To Be Survived
By Scott Butki
March 28, 2007

Is it the Change in Method or the Change in Culture? April 15, 2007

Posted by waldrup49 in English311.

At both schools, CHAMPs, a program that sets boundaries for behavior in classrooms and during class activities, has cut discipline problems. At Highland, suspensions in 2005-06 numbered 19, down from 25 the year before. This year so far, six students have been suspended.

Highland’s focus on discipline can be seen everywhere, even on the floors. Two years ago the school painted lines of red arrows in the hallways. Now, students must follow the arrows as they travel throughout the school. There is no meandering. If they stray, teachers quickly point them back to the arrows.

“My first year here, the students ran the school,” said Ivan Brown, a fifth-grade teacher at Highland. “Once we got that shared vision, everybody got on board and said this is what we have to do, that’s what turned the school around.”

Last year, Highland’s reading score on CATS climbed from a 54.2 to a 66.2. School officials attribute the jump to the Reading Mastery program, which focuses on phonics, spelling and comprehension, and includes 90 minutes of reading instruction a day. Students are grouped by skill level, and their progress is tracked weekly.

“It wasn’t random acts of improvement. We moved from that to a much more laser-like focus,” said McCloud. “In other words, we calmed the chaos.”

A stable environment

Before these changes, school wasn’t as exciting, students say. Now students say they look forward to being rewarded for doing well on assignments and don’t act up in fear that these incentives will be taken away.

Daja Wheeler, 10, and Carah Rucks, 9, both fourth-graders, enjoy the constant praise and feedback they get from teachers.

“She kept on complimenting us for just doing good,” said Carah about her reading teacher. “We were better than all the other classes, she said.”

During a recent morning at Highland, students barely made a peep while eating breakfast. They then sat in neat rows waiting for their cue to stand. A few students took the stage with microphones and led the school in an animated recitation of the Pledge of Allegiance and the school’s mission statement. Energy filled the cafeteria when students shrilled the school song — “Tell me how you spell success? Everybody now!”

An awards ceremony was the highlight of the morning assembly. Students climbed onto the stage and received applause and a strand of colored beads for doing well on practice test questions.

Fourth-grader Brodrick White, 9, was one of a dozen students who received a silver beaded necklace for scoring high on a writing assessment. He wore the necklace all day and hoped to earn another one. If students earn 10 necklaces, they receive a special prize.

“It makes it more fun, and then the students, they like to have more fun, so they try to work harder … to get better stuff,” said Devon Averitt, 10, a fifth-grader, who earned a necklace.

At this point in my reading about the methodology of teaching reading it seems like it has come down to a pretty one sided debate between phonics and whole language. It is hard to ignore the chronological history of this debate and the system-wide failures of whole language. While phonics based curriculum has its share of failure, those are instances of individual students or small portions of the student body. The truth of the matter that as an educator in literacy its is impossible to ignore the success of phonics.

That being said I think that it is important to comment on a couple of important points that need to be recognized to contextualize the argument. In every article I have read where a phonics based curriculum, such as the Reading Mastery program cited in the article above, has replaced whole language or a derivative of whole language it has been accompanied by two identical variables that must be taken into account. First, in every single one of these cases the change in curriculum was accompanied by policy that mandated an effort to increase discipline and improved classroom management. In most cases this policy was implemented by a new administrative change whether it was a principal or new superintendent or overhaul of a school-board. The second correlative is the use of some sort of token reinforcement system where by students are given prizes or rewards for improvement and or good behavior. 

The fact that there was an emphasis placed on discipline through written policy and followed through with a concerted effert by the staff of these schools cannot be overlooked. I am sure that the test scores would not have improved as greatly without the change to phonics but also believe that just by increasing discipline and taking control of educational situation that the culture was changed in these schools. Through this change academics were again put in focus and alot of the outside distraction was eliminated. We must also state that most of the phonics based curriculum is backed with an proganizational plan that forces and carries proped classroom management. In other words lesson are more planned, more structured and teachers become better managers of there classroom. Whether you choose to believe this or not it has been my experience that when a group of students is disciplined and lead by an individual who is organized, prepared, and “with it” in the educational setting, they have better moral and thus are in a frame of mind better suited to learn and achieve.

The other issue of token reinforcement must be taken into account when looking at results and the correlation involved in the change to phonics. It is easy to see how token reinforcement could be viewed as only a positive. Children are learning as a result of it, their grades are improving, the classroom is much more manageable, and schools results on standardized tests are being affected in a positive way.  When we look at this system through a more critical lens is when we see the flaws. One problem with token reinforcement is that hide or camouflages the poor skills and management of some of the teachers using it. The teachers don’t have the benefit to see how the curriculum, material, and lesson is truly reaching the student and thus these things aren’t tweaked, improved, or eliminated. Another problem is this leads to learning that is extrinsically motivated in nature. The students are not fostering a genuine interest in learning, developing strategies to solve problems, or gaining the proper intention of the life skills of respect, discipline, or understanding. They are instead just trying to earn the tokens, rewards or prizes accompanied with good grades and behavior. If and when these prizes are removed from the equation then many of these students will regress back to bad behavior and/or stagnate at the current academic ability.  

Most often in the current educational culture of standardized testing we look at what method is being used or what the curriculum includes but what is being overlooked are basic fundamentals of teaching. Terms such as management, discipline, and bearing are overlooked. These characteristics lead to a withitness the teacher possesses. To be able take control of a classroom and lead students through a lesson in a stable and organized way are skills and traits that need to be acknowledged and emphasized as much as the pedagogy being used.  

Brandenton Herald
Exemplary elementary
By Raviya H. Ismail
March 11, 2007

Technology – You Better Find Room for It April 13, 2007

Posted by waldrup49 in English310.

What role does technology play in the classroom? I would like to talk about this question today even though it doesn’t specifically concern blogs. I just feel as though it is important to discuss and come to some sort of position as individual educators belief on technology in general while looking at blogs specifically.

Tomorrow, myself and some of my classmates will be going to The Bright Ideas , a conference for English language art/literacy educators at Michigan State University, and much of we will hear will have to do with technology. So again I will ask the question but in a different way, what role should technology play in the classroom? Some educators are very intimidated by technology. While others feel as though technology get in the way of the connection between an individual student and the teacher. Still others have some unknown reason to resist any change in there chosen profession where they are the expert and see the change as losing some of this expertise. Before discussing this further please read this excerpt from an article in The Roanoke Times:

Dylan Holcomb’s 10th-grade English students shouted the names of Shakespeare’s plays as they identified them while watching a YouTube clip of “Jeopardy!”

Earlier, Holcomb used Google Earth to show his Del Oro High School students the distance between Venice and Cyprus, where the play “Othello” is set, and had them calculate the distance.

“When you use a YouTube clip of a guy doing Shakespeare in England, they’re impressed,” Holcomb said. “It speaks to them a little more because that’s their generation. They live in that world. They live in the Internet.”

Holcomb is among a growing number of teachers using Internet tools, programs and Web sites to enhance curriculum. The trend is being noticed by Internet companies, such as Google, which makes its products readily available to educators.

“There is definitely a trend in the educational community at large of using the Internet in the classroom,” said Bart O’Brien, superintendent of the Placer Union High School District.

As Mr. O’Brien says the use of the Internet is definitely a trend in education but so are most technologies. The key to this is how it is used. Opponents of technology will say that to many educators are using technology as the main focus in the classroom and bending the curriculum to it. They say this detracts from the purpose of the class and that core material is not being learned and academic ability is not being served. In my opinion this is a cop out. I agree that the curriculum should be the main focus and technology should be used to support and enhance the learning of the material being taught. But to use the improper use of technology in the classroom as an excuse not use it to me in ridiculous. The fault does not lie in the technology bitin the philosophy and poor teaching methods of the instructor. It seems to me that with the ever increasing use of technology in the world around us that the use of it in the classroom should not be some sort of decision of preference but a mandatory inclusion into the curriculum. With all the different aspects  of media including things like social networking sites, blogs, you-tube, etc that we should be able to find some sort of technology to support our curriculum. This is the world the students of today are en-wrapped in and we as educators need to use it as a vehicle to teaching our students.

Online learning earns a net gain in classroom
By Niesha Lofing
April 2007

The Attack on Whole Language April 13, 2007

Posted by waldrup49 in English311.

Anyone who is an language arts educator or student preparing to be one could tell you the pendulum in methodology is constantly swinging. During the late 80’s that pendulum had swung in the direction of whole language in ways many could not have predicted just 20 years earlier. California had forced schools within the state to move to a whole language based curriculum that totally abandoned phonics. 

This approach gained thousands of acolytes during the 1980s. The nation’s colleges of education produced a new crop of teachers weaned solely on whole-language philosophy, while influential professional associations such as the National Council of Teachers of English and the International Reading Association (http://www.ira.org/) embraced its basic premises. At the state level, California spearheaded a virtual reading revolution. The state department of education rewrote its entire curriculum in 1987, ditching phonics for a literature-based, whole-language approach. Teachers were told to throw out their old methods and embrace the cutting edge. Other states and local school districts soon followed. “All the major publishers moved to whole-language readers once California implemented it,” says Bonnie Grossen of the National Center to Improve the Tools of Educators, at the University of Oregon. “They had no sequenced instruction, just pretty pictures and poetry. It has taken hold in all 50 states.”

Soon the pendulum had started to sway in the direction with attacks on whole language mounting. Scores were dropping and the whole language was to blame. The above excerpt is from an article in late 1997. While the article is old and some what dated in its arguments I include it here to give context to the criticism at the time. The mid to late 90’s were a time that whole language was under attack and people were jumping off the bandwagon. The article goes on to read:   

Most damaging to whole language’s adherents, last year California punted its whole-language curriculum altogether, stressing the need for systematic, explicit phonics instruction in the early grades. The state reversed course in response to a wave of public criticism after California’s poor performance in the 1994 NAEP, when it tied Louisiana for last place. Janet Nicholas, a member of the California State Board of Education, recently told the U.S. House Committee on Education and the Workforce: “Unfortunately for California children, the unsubstantiated claims and enthusiastic visions of whole-language ideologues proved to be disastrous when applied to real children.”

The reaction to California’s actions was predictable. “Whole language is being used as a scapegoat for dropping scores, when California has many minorities and high immigration,” says University of Arizona education professor Ken Goodman, regarded by many as the godfather of whole-language theory. It is true that whites are a minority in California and a large portion of its Hispanic population are recent immigrants who speak bare-bones English. Yet apologists for whole language ignore the fact that scores dropped equally among children whose parents graduated from college.

“These data [from the NAEP] underscore the fact that reading failure is a serious national problem and cannot be attributed to poverty, immigration, or the learning of English as a second language,” says Reid Lyon, who has directed the NIH reading studies for the past six years.

By showing this part of the articles you can see why educators would be frustrated in the process of researched based curriculum and selection. Many people believe educators don’t want to use a methodolgy in the curriculum that is backed by research because of a belief that their profession is an art. This belief does not seem to hold water when we look a little closer at the situation. The fact is the pendulum keeps swinging as education boards and administrators keep jumping on new or sometimes old curriculum methods in the hopes of improving test scores. These new methods might be based on research but have not went through the process of having the research replicated and thereby verified. This was the case in California moving to a whole language based curriculum. This was compounded by the state not backing this curricular change wioth training for its educators that would implement the change. I would like to end this post with an excerpt from an article I wrote from another class.

It is also evident from going through the process of becoming an educator that there is a belief that teaching is an art acquired through years of experience and a natural calling. This art is the ability to adapt to the context of an individual classroom. Most educators seem to believe that science based research is only feasible in the controlled environment of an experiment or test but is to rigidly defined for the ever changing classroom. I cannot see any reason that science based research cannot be used as the cornerstone to methodology that is creative, flexible and honed through experience. In other words, science can be art, when used correctly by an expert professional which is what we as educators are supposed to be.

Hoover Institution-Policy Review
See Dick Flunk
By Tyce Palmaffy
November/December 1997

Does Teaching Writing with a Blog Teach More Then Writing? February 28, 2007

Posted by waldrup49 in English310.

As I was searching the Internet in this sometimes frustrating quest for information on using Blogs to teach writing I stumbled across this article title: “Moderating and Ethics for the Classroom Instructional Blog”. The subject matter this title alludes is obviously interesting to me in and of itself but what struck me instantly was the simple notion that using a blog in a writing class might lend itself to teach more then writing fundamentals. I thought back to my writing classes in high school and even recently in college and realized that while there is academic integrity involved, I wasn’t really learning more then just the essentials of writing and the subject matter that I was writing about. Does using a blog in the classroom teach more then that?

Lets take the article and its subject I mentioned earlier as a way to begin answering that question. The article talks about ethics. By merely stating that a classroom blog is going to need ethical consideration in its implementation insinuates that ethics (blog or otherwise) will be addressed with the students. Patricia Deubel writes:

 A blog is still a public forum, even in the gated environment of a password-protected class account you might have created with services such as Class BlogMeister or Edublogs.org. Martin Kuhn (2005) suggested that any valid code of blogging ethics needs to consider values both unique to and shared among those in the blogging culture. The ethics debate goes on, and there is still no agreement about best practices, nor how to enforce a code should one be developed (e.g., Bloggers Code Imminent?). However, as educators, we are charged with keeping our students safe and instilling ethical considerations in them. As you monitor a blog, will you delete comments that don’t meet your standards or appear to hurt others? How much free expression should you permit in the K-12 blog? Should learners define their own blogging rules? According to Kuhn, “Any workable code of blog ethics would need to strike a balance between [‘factual truth’ and ‘free expression’] and encourage practices that would enhance both” (p. 6). In general, the rules of engagement in blogs appear to include the need for truth, accuracy, and accountability for what you say, as well as respect for others even when you might disagree with them. There is also need to ensure that bloggers keep private issues private to minimize potential harm to others.

We can now say that blogs have the potential in a very specific context to teach students about ethics. Now that doesn’t mean that students will learn about ethics but this medium (the Blog) lends itself to that outcome in ways that more traditional writing cannot.  Ms. Deubel also mentions “truth, accuracy, and accountability” or ‘factual proof’ and ‘free expression’. Many will say that a traditional writing classroom is also supposed to teach that. I can’t help but think that the publishing to classmates that blogs incorporate would make the individual student much more aware of these issues. It is one thing to write a paper for the eyes of a teacher that is reading 25-100 of the same type paper and quite another to write to your peers who are going to have the opportunity to critique your work in an open forum. Students are forced to back up their “free expression’ with ‘factual truth’ if they are to retain credibility amongst their academic peers. Once this credibility is established one would think that the individual student will also attain self-esteem and intellectual pride in a way that normal writing class couldn’t provide. Some of the critics of blogs will say that the good writers do get those things from the traditional methods whether their work is published or not. This is true but my answer to that is in the form of a question: What’s wrong with using a different methodology that comprises writing distinct skills along with academic and social awareness to help other students to become better writers who might not otherwise do so?         

Moderating and Ethics for the Classroom Instructional Blog
by Patricia Deubel, Ph.D.
The Journal
February 2007