Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Blog #2 Response to Readings and RTs Week 1

So you have now read the first two chapters in Rief and Lane, you've seen three RTs, and you've experienced a week's worth of Writing Project.

What have you gotten from the readings so far? Share at least one thing from each chapter that you found valuable.

What have you gotten from the RTs so far? Share something you learned and will use in your classroom from each one (Barri, Julie, Haylee).

How has the first day gone in general? Share a success and a struggle...

Post by Sunday at noon. Respond to 2-3 project folks by Monday at noon.


  1. Barry Lane
    -Chapter 1-My main takeaway was the idea of trying not to discourage creativity within the classroom. We need to make sure we let students know what's appropriate/inappropriate without killing their creative drive.
    -Chapter 2-The thing that really stood out to me the most was not so much the content but rather a quite that I found fascinating. "We write to correct life's unfairness." WOW! There is so much that can be said about this quote yet for time's sake I will simply state that this is a way for writers to attempt to make sense of the seemingly randomness of life. Absolutely incredible.
    Linda Rief
    -Chapter 1-What stood out to me in this chapter was one of the goals for her students is to "develop into the strongest writers, readers, and speakers they can be, by showing growth from September to June." This stands out to me because this is probably my primary goal, I just word it as "my goal for my students is to leave my classroom better than when they entered it." It is the idea that I will not be able to churn out perfect students year-after-year, but if I can at least have them show growth, then hopefully that forward progress will continue to increase in the right direction.
    -Chapter 2-I really enjoyed the activity called "The Poetry Challenge" in which she hands her students pieces of a poem and then they are supposed to assemble the poem as best as they can. This is an activity I will consider using in the future.

    Round Tables
    -Barri-The biggest concept I took away from this lesson was the idea of 'seeding.' I feel that this is a great way to take students writing into unexpected places. Kelly Gallagher explained something similar to this called 'looping' in which the seeding continues which lets the writing process branch out even further.
    -Julie-I thought using a ladder of abstraction was an interesting way of explaining the higher levels of language classification. The incorporation of Kenny Chesney into the activity was great.
    -Haylee-I really enjoyed the idea of making writing journals and decorating them with fragments from other books. Blackout poetry is an interesting idea and one that I have yet to participate in.

    First day
    -Success-My success was being able to share my personal writings with a good group of people that seem genuinely interested in everybody's writings.
    -Struggle-The first day I struggled with a couple names but I have them all down now.

    1. Jim- I also enjoyed the poetry challenge! I thought this was a great activity that got the kids up and moving as well as made them think critically. That's awesome that you are able to share your personal writings. I enjoyed listening to your writing on Thursday so I am glad you feel comfortable sharing!

    2. Jim-

      Reflecting on my Round Table, I would really have liked to do some stuff with the altered book. I should have practiced more, been more aware of the time, and maybe cut some of the less important exercises so we would have had time for that! I'm glad you like the idea, though, and if you want any other suggestions on what to do with it, I can definitely show you some more things to do with them outside of class! :)

    3. Jim-

      Reflecting on my Round Table, I would really have liked to do some stuff with the altered book. I should have practiced more, been more aware of the time, and maybe cut some of the less important exercises so we would have had time for that! I'm glad you like the idea, though, and if you want any other suggestions on what to do with it, I can definitely show you some more things to do with them outside of class! :)

    4. Jim-

      Reflecting on my RT, I definitely ran out of time. I should have done that activity earlier on or cut some of the other less important activities of the Round Table. I'm glad you liked the idea of the altered book. That's something I've always loved. If you want any other ideas on what to do with an altered book, let me know!

  2. One thing from Lane: -I found myself underlining the parts where Lane highlights the importance of letting students choose what they want to write about. He talked about this being a time where students should feel the freedom to explore, not the pressure of simply completing another assignment. He encourages teachers to protect that writing time so that students see writing as an oasis, not a burden. I was struck by this because that is exactly what has been modeled in this class so far for us, and I can definitely see the effect it has had on my eagerness to write.

    One thing from Rief -I found a similar pattern in what I found most interesting in Rief's book. She expanded on giving student's choice and added that you most also give students "time to craft their writing and time to read, and models or examples of the finest writing from a variety of genres, professional writers, and their peers." To me, this concisely put into words how we should structure writing time in the classroom and it just made a lot of sense to me. Choice, time, and models. This is something I will take into the classroom.

    One thing from RT's - I have genuinely learned so much from the Round Tables so far.
    Barri- the idea of mentor texts goes exactly with what Rief said of modeling for students what good writing looks like. I appreciated how you showed us so many different ways to incorporate that modeling into our classroom. I like the idea of using mentor texts for a warm up as a way to immerse them in good writing and then have them do something active with it.

    Julie- I had never thought about the Ladder of Abstraction, so thank you for bringing me up to date! I loved the post it note activity with the Kenny Chesney song. I would do that exact lesson in my class, so thank you for the resources.

    Haylee- Your passion for reclaimed books was amazing. I learned a lot from you. I liked the practical ways of brainstorming that you provided us. But I also was reminded that as teachers, our passion for something rubs off on our students. I found myself getting pumped to decorate some journals - and this is coming from a non crafty person! But I was so into it because you were into it. Your students will surely benefit from this type of attitude!

    First day Success: Telling my writing group about a project I have only told my husband and family about.

    First day struggle: Feeling like I'm not on top of my game in writing right now, feeling out of practice. (All this writing sure has helped since then, though!)

    1. I also agree that students should be able to explore writing. This will help students get a passion for a writing instead of always being told what to write. I'm glad I wasn't the only one who hadn't heard/been taught the ladder of abstraction! I also see myself incorporating this into one of my future lessons. I hope I get to read your project sometime! At the beginning I felt out of practice as well. I hadn't written anything creatively in a long time! I feel like we are all going to be pros by the end of this program though :)

    2. Amanda,

      I find myself on the same page as you about a lot of things. Both the Lane and Rief chapter showed me how important it is to let students find their voice, and a way to do this as a teacher is through modeling. Sometimes, I forget that I need to model and I assume my students will know how to do something on their own. But, modeling makes a significant difference in how students choose to read and write. Also, your biggest struggle so far is mine as well. I love to write, but I have not written for fun in a long time, so it's difficult to find my voice again.

  3. I also found Lane's idea of allowing students to explore to be extremely important. Writing should not always be teachers telling students, write this down exactly this way, but there also needs to be exploratory options as well. I think along with this we need to be cognizant of the types of prompts we provide our students, especially those who don't consider themselves to be writers. A prompt that is too specific can really limit a writer's imagination such as "write a story about a time you have ridden in an airplane." A prompt that is too vague can also prove to be equally as challenging, "write about something, go!" While free-writes and specific prompts are both valid forms of engaging our students in the writing process, I believe that striking the correct balance between the two to be paramount.

    1. Jim,
      I LOVE to hear this. So many times I, myself, have made the mistake of being too direct with student writing. If I were to go back and do it over again, I would focus more on balancing the direction and the freedom like you mention in your post. I think you'll be fantastic at encouraging young writers, especially since you will have so much amazing writing of your own to share.

  4. Barry Lane:
    Chapter One- The thing I found most valuable in this chapter was that students need time to explore their own writing and be given a chance to write what they want to write about. This will reduce the amount of students who don't enjoy writing if they are given time to just freely write in their writer's notebooks.
    Chapter 2- The thing I found most valuable from this chapter was that students need a regular, predictable writing time. This way students feel less ambushed when they are asked to write. I also took from this chapter was that the writing process is a little different for each student but that is okay!

    Linda Rief:
    Chapter 1- The thing I found most valuable from this chapter was that growth happens when we try things that we haven't before. As teachers we need to let our students know it is alright to make mistakes and re try things. Students can solve their problems through speaking and writing.
    Chapter two- One thing I found valuable from this chapter was the activity called the Poem Challenge. I like how this involved movement of students walking around the classroom as well as community building as students got to know one each other. I would love to do this activity with my sixth graders.

    Round Tables:
    Barri- I personally love using mentor text in lessons so I got a bunch of good ideas from this lesson. I like the idea of the use of mentor texts for warm ups and the idea of imitation writing which I could see valuable for those students who have a hard time coming up with ideas on their own.
    Julie- I never have had a lesson on the ladder of abstraction so I learned a lot about this concept. I would love to use this lesson with my students. I think the use of song lyrics is a good idea!
    Haylee- I learned some new ideas on how to get students to generate ideas for their writing. I like the idea of using seed lists as well as showing them a music video to get them thinking on topics. I see myself implementing the use of writer's notebooks with my sixth graders.

    First day:
    Success- A success I had with the first day is getting to know my writing group. I feel comfortable sharing my writings with my group which is awesome!
    Struggle- A struggle I had with the first day was writing for a straight hour. I especially had a hard time with an idea to write about.

    1. I also share your success! Our writing group is so kind and open. Love it.

    2. Taylour,

      Your successes and struggles thus far are easy for me to relate to. I'm a writer that likes structure and direction, so this is different for me to choose what I want to write about and how. But, having you, Haylee and Christy by my side through the writing process has been great!

  5. What have you gotten from the readings so far? Share at least one thing from each chapter that you found valuable..

    I enjoyed Rief’s section detailing her “Beliefs about Writing.” I especially want to take her belief #2 to some of my former English departments: “Writers learn to write by writing, not by filling in worksheets or taking notes about writing” (17). It’s such a simple, brilliant statement that legitimizes free writing and creative writing—something that my former principals (math teachers, all of them) struggled to see merit in.

    Lane’s book is so incredibly practical that I struggled finding one valuable thing to talk about. I think, though, that I like his Try This on page 17—rooting out the voices in the margins. Lately, I’ve been doing research on commenting on student writing. I was never taught to make “conversational comments,” but that’s all I make now. I love to dialogue with my students through writing. Lane’s section on commenting made me want to have my own English Ed students pull out some papers from their past courses and create a response writing from the instructors’ margin comments. I think it would be a powerful illustration of how much impact we have when we comment on student writing.

    What have you gotten from the RTs so far? Share something you learned and will use in your classroom from each one (Barri, Julie, Haylee).

    From Barri’s RT, I got some great ideas on how to encourage the use of mentor texts in non-English classrooms. Also, I plan to try out her content area reading/writing lesson where students read an excerpt from a bunch of different texts to feel the overwhelming nature of all the texts students have to read throughout the day.

    Though I am pretty familiar with Hayakawa and the Ladder of Abstraction, I LOVED Julie’s RT because it was so practical. Before her RT, I didn’t know how to apply the ladder to high school teaching. I can totally see this working, especially in a composition class. I’m excited to try it out.

    I think Haylee is the guru of writing notebooks, and I learned so much from her. I really liked the text she shared with us, and after seeing her beautiful writing notebooks, I decorated one of my own this weekend in the hopes that it will encourage me to write more often!

    How has the first day gone in general? Share a success and a struggle...

    After a rough start with my illness (I can finally breathe through my nose again!), I have loved the first week of class. I am surprised to see how much I actually like writing when it’s about something I like to write. Though I still mostly embody the old Mark Twain-ism “I don’t like writing; I like having written,” the process itself is becoming less painful. I’m also shocked at how slowly I move because I want the details to be just right. For example, from an hour of writing, I only gain about two pages of my memoir. But I’m really happy with those pages, so I guess that’s okay!

    Like others, my biggest struggle is finding time to write at home. I *want* to write, but it always seems like something else is more urgent. I’m going to work on making more time to write (in my new pretty writer’s notebook!) this week.

    1. I enjoyed the Mark Twain reference and am in agreement with you pertaining to the idea of possessing the struggle of writing, but taking satisfaction in the finished product. Writing is definitely a process and just like you said, sometimes it can be a difficult thing to make time for. However, I believe that most of us are discovering that writing is something that we need to make time for and we will benefit because we took the time to write, even if only for 2 pages of progress.

    2. I think it is awesome that you went home and decorated a journal of your own this weekend, Christy! You and I are definitely the Mod-Podge queens! :)

  6. Linda Rief:
    I really enjoyed Chapter 1 in Read, Write, Teach by Rief. At the beginning of the chapter, Rief poses a question that I've always had a difficult time finding an answer to: "How do I convince all kids that reading and writing well will matter to them" (pg. 1)? As a language arts teacher, it's hard for me to fathom the idea that students dislike these subjects so much. Students are told from teachers on many occasions that both reading and writing are skills that they must use in all content areas and professions. Yet, students view reading and writing as two separate subjects that only exist inside a language arts classroom. Before reading Rief's work, this aspect of teaching language arts is what intimated me the most. While I still don't fully know the answer to her question, I feel more confident in showing students that reading and writing matter, and that doing well in these fields is crucial for their success. I believe the best way of achieving this is knowing who my students are, where they come from and what they are capable of. When students find a topic that they are passionate about, any student, no matter the gender, age or ability, can write well in my opinion. Each student has a unique voice and I think Rief does a great job of supporting this notion and backing it up with ways to find that voice.

    Barry Lane:
    Lane’s chapter was a little less meaningful to me than Rief’s, but this is most likely the case because it’s setting up the rest of the book. However, the writing activities included in the chapter did teach me something new about myself as a writer, and I would use them with students. The first one, “When I write, I…”, was my favorite. I’m beginning to realize that I’m a perfectionist when it comes to all areas in life, especially writing. I edit as a write, which prevents me from practicing free writing, a vital skill. I need to learn that making mistakes is okay when writing and good writing does not happen in one draft. More importantly, I need my students to realize this as well.

    I’ve loved the RTs so far. Each one has raised an important concept that I’ve never thought to cover in the classroom. My favorite aspect of Barri’s RT were the writing prompts included in the lesson, such as the paintbrush and scar activity. Both of these will teach students a lot about themselves, as they did for me. Julie’s RT was extremely eye opening. I had never heard of Hayakawa’s latter activity, and I now realize how important it is to cover word choice and to switch between concrete and abstract rather than staying at one level. Haylee’s RT was very influential. I loved the book she read from about a writer’s notebook and the various activities you can use the notebook for. I plan on using a lot from Haylee’s lesson during the first couple of weeks of school.

    My biggest success so far has been gathering resources and ideas from the books and discussions to use while teaching. I feel much more prepared to teach my students about writing. My biggest struggle so far has been finding something meaningful to write about. I ended up “abandoning” the first piece I started with because I felt no connection to it.

    1. Leanne, I echo your sentiments about the scar and paintbrush prompts from Dr. Bumgarner's roundtable. What I appreciated about those were not only that they teach writers about themselves, but they also offer us as teachers an inside look into the lives and inner workings of the kids. One of the aspect of teaching English that I most cherish is our unique ability to see the inner workings of the students. This is a privilege not allowed to other content teachers, save for the select few who have knacks for making connections. There were several times this past school year when I would share a piece of writing with my colleagues from a student we all have in class. These often brought about paradigm shift in us all.

  7. Rief
    1 - I enjoyed the simple line, "if we want children to become adults who are articulate, literate, and thoughtful citizens of the world, they must learn to think deeply and widely as both readers and writers". In high school classrooms we have students who demand to be treated as adults but do not behave or think as such. We have students who already have jobs, maybe live on their own, or are independent from their parents, but they still fail many times to truly think or behave like adults. By having students realize the balance in life of adult-like behavior (jobs, paying for things, etc.), and actual adult-like thinking it will encourage them to truly consider what they are reading and how they are expressing themselves in writing. I know I want my students to become positive contributors to society, so if I can make them see how books and reading and writing help them become better adults, it is my hope they will learn to love and care about these things.
    2 - I enjoyed the poetry activity. I am always trying to find way to make my classroom more of a community and it is activities such as this one that make the bonding appropriate for classroom learning as well. I have done games and such at camps, but a classroom is different because the students want to know the 'why' and by relating poetry back to class and collaboration, it is a win-win.

    1 - As simple as it may seem, when Lane talked about sharing our writing with students to make them better writers it finally stuck. I am always hesitant to share my writing with students because either I feel it is not worthy or I simply don't have an example. A big reason why I took this course, although I claim to not be a natural writer, is so that I am trying and learning, just as my students. How can I expect them to put forth the effort if I choose to sit back and let the writing skills pass me by? It encourages me to keep trying and to hold on to my work, just in case.
    2 - I think a lot of what Lane says in chapter 2 is stuff we have already discussed in class, which is great! I like the idea of having students write about why they cannot write. I wrote an entire short story of metafiction about how I cannot write a creative story. I took this a scapegoat route, but it may actually be beneficial to students to get out all the negativity and bad vibes before they really jump into writing.

    Bum - Model, model, model. As your undergrad student I have experienced this first hand but now I am getting tools to really incorporate it into my future classroom. I think having the freedom to use picture books as mentor texts in high school will be great for my reading students!

    Julie - I had never looked at concrete vs. abstract concepts before and I am glad we did this activity. I think this activity, like you stated, could be spread out over a few lessons with multiple activities. It can be great for creative writing as well as purely academic writing. My honors students, I think, will especially love this activity and it will help them with creative assignments that also incorporate real life events.

    Haylee - I have never been a huge fan of the writers notebook but you have brought me to the dark side (just kidding, sort of...) I love the idea of giving students ownership and creativity over their notebooks because I believe that will motivate even the most hesitant of students. I am trying to think of prompts to even use this in my reading course. The two go hand-in-hand and although I want students to focus on reading skills, a writing notebook may spark some ideas and engagement!

    First day (week?)
    Positive: Feeling comfortable and happy with my writing group. They seem to genuinely care about my writing and my thought process. I am enjoying hearing their amazing stories.

    Struggle: Not finding the time to write. To me, reading seems simpler and easier so when I have to choose I choose not to write. I am enjoying the writing somewhat so far, but need to find more time and muster up some motivation.

    1. Ali, I like your idea of using the concrete and abstract language lesson with honors students. I'm going to have an honors section for the first time this year, and that may be a concept they can grasp easier at an eighth grade level. On the other hand, I would like for my regular English kids to be exposed to that concept as well. We'll see what I do with that. I definitely identify with your struggle. I am always capable of cranking out some kind of writing, but getting in the habit of putting together an hour a day is a real chore sometimes. Once I do write, I am always glad I did, but getting started is always the hardest part for me.

  8. What have you gotten from the readings so far? Share at least one thing from each chapter that you found valuable.
    From Lane: I have learned to bring my own passions into the classroom and allow the students to bring their passions in as well because that will give them more motivation and relevance and more of a connection to their work. From Reif: I have learned that to become a better reader and writer (because the two go hand-in-hand), one must practice the two skills. We cannot become better readers if we do not read and write, and we cannot become better writers if we do not read and write.

    What have you gotten from the RTs so far? Share something you learned and will use in your classroom from each one (Barri, Julie, Haylee).
    From Barri's RT: I love the idea of using mentor texts to help the students relate to content being covered. It was very beneficial for me to think about using other texts to supplement lessons as well as for modeling purposes.
    From Julie's RT: I love the idea of the "Ladder of Abstraction." It is important for students to use higher order thinking and develop those skills. The ability to think broad to narrow and abstract to concrete and also to go back and forth between the two is something that they will be able to use throughout their life. I think it will need to be much more simplified when I use it with my 7th grade students, but I still really love the idea.
    My RT reflection: I wish I had had more time. I never thought that I would run out of time during my Round Table, and thinking back on it now, I would have cut a few of the exercises to be able to develop the seeds list (which was going to be the main idea of the lesson) and the altered book. If I ever give this RT/lesson again, I think writer's notebook, seeds list, and altered book will be my main focuses. Thanks everyone for listening and contributing to the conversations.

    How has the first day gone in general? Share a success and a struggle...
    The first day was a little intimidating, but I have gotten more used to it in the last week. I love having time to write in class and share my work with my writing group. Their opinions and critiques are so valuable to me.

    1. Haylee,
      You are so right--when you bring your own passions into the classroom, students can't help but get excited. For example, I LOVE Fahrenheit 451 and most of my students didn't care a bit about the book, but they read it and got into it because I was so excited about it. That's worth something, right?

      I totally agree about the first day being intimidating. I had no idea what I was walking into (and the first day of any class/conference/institute stresses me out), but it has turned out to be such a positive experience. I'm excited to go back tomorrow!

  9. Readings:
    Rief – I appreciated most Linda Rief’s student writing samples and discussions of them as people. For instance, a student named Alden wrote a snarky piece on the 1994-95 NHL Lockout. He loved to read the sports writer Rick Reilly’s stuff, and he composed a piece that mimicked Reilly’s sarcastic tone. Rick Reilly has always been one of my personal heroes, and part of the reason I came to Mizzou in the first place, to become a sports writer. Knowing that it is not only okay but encouraged to have students read and imitate him introduces a new element of fun for me. Though her lengthy lists of personal constitutions grew tiresome after a while, I did garner some wisdom from them for my personal teaching philosophy. For instance, her simple statement, “Writers learn to write by writing, not by filling in worksheets or taking notes about writing,” seems obvious to me now, but it apparently was not nine months ago because I had students do far too many worksheets. This is the type of advice that is priceless coming from seasoned educators.

    Lane – I like the way the Barry Lane presents information. For me, it is accessible, quick, and practical. At this stage in my teaching career, which is young, I only value the applicable tips for teaching. Every few pages Lane has a “Try This” section. More often than not, these are writing activities I could implement day one if I so chose. From chapter one, I most appreciated the activity in which students write a letter to their inner critic. Middle school kids, boys especially, seem to already have such a negative disposition toward composition. Writing this letter may exorcise some of their writing demons. It is also helpful for them to think through why they are so critical of themselves and to know that I, as their teacher, am not there to criticize but to help. Sometimes students mistake feedback for a reprimand when it is intended to be beneficial for them.

    Dr. Bumgarner – It was relieving for me to hear that the mentor texts I use in class should be ones that I love and know well. I will probably buy Mentor Texts by Ralph Fletcher, which Dr. Bumgarner showed us, to find exemplary ones for different types of writing I teach. This was also the lesson when I first learned about a Seeds List, which is when students circle words or ideas from their last piece of writing to use in future writings. I am definitely going to implement that next year.

    Ms. Sheerman – This lesson clarified some ideas I have had swimming around in my mind for some time now. Almost everyday during my informative writing unit I would plead with students to include “more evidence.” A mini-lesson on concrete versus abstract language should clarify for some the need to find a balance between the two.

    Haylee – Haylee fit several ideas into a short amount of time. Though it was subtle, my biggest takeaway from her roundtable was to have students spend a day decorating their writer’s notebooks. I used notebooks this past year. Many students lost these or did not keep them organized. I think personalizing them in this way could instill more of a sense of ownership, though I would have to get over the fact that the classroom would be a chaotic mess for one day.

    First Week:
    Success – I have accumulated a wealth of teaching ideas in a mere four days. I also am eager about my project. Fortunately, I had an obvious choice staring me in the face, so I am taking advantage of it. The writing has flowed naturally thus far.

    Struggle – Honestly, my biggest struggle in life in general for the time being, and this carries over into the writing project, is being in the moment. My wife and I are on the verge of so many life changes: kid, move, finishing grad school, new job, etc. that it is hard to not look ahead. Our apartment is full of boxes. All we want to discuss is the future since it was so challenging to reach this point, so I have to make a conscious effort to be here now. If I fail to do so, I know I will miss out on a once in a lifetime opportunity.

    1. Clayton,
      I also put the Fletcher text on my Amazon wish list. I hadn't heard of that book before Barri's RT, and I think my future English Ed pre-service teachers will find it so useful.

      Wow! No wonder you are struggling with "being in the moment." You have so much going on--exciting stuff! Don't be afraid to ask us for any support you need. We've all been there. :)