Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Entry #1

Perhaps one of the more exciting aspects about engaging in writing via a blog in class is the fact that it runs similar to the human brain. Blogs are not so much meant to be "perfect" bodies of text, but rather, a living, breathing document that engages its readers as the writer so chooses. Because of this, when I consider how to teach writing, I think of it in the same manner as blog writing.

Growing up, I was always a reader. I found comfort in reading non-traditional texts that generally called the reader's attention to the speaker directly. (I am reminded most of Salinger's Catcher in the Rye.) This being said, I always struggled with strict writing guidelines, as being gushy and all over the place was not exactly condoned. Keeping this in mind, I entered English for my second major in hopes of encouraging students that not all writing has to be long-winded and unnecessary. Writing can be fun. What a concept!

As I am almost finished with my four years of undergraduate work, I find little discomfort with a professional, all-encompassing style of writing. Of course, I am not sure that this would be the case had I not chosen English as my major. This being said, all types of writing are comfortable to me (although, arguably some more than others). But how did I arrive at this point? It was years of practice. When it comes to teaching writing, or writing to teach, I take the same stance as I did emerging as a writer. I think that students must be exposed to non-traditional writing in order to find their love for it. If all students presume that when we write, we must write correctly, maintain a proper focus on one thing, and write/type until we can no longer think, then how can we possibly create a population of involved, engaged students?

I had the pleasure of working at the same school with the same cooperating teacher for my practicum and student teaching placements. The difference between these two placements, however, was the desire to engage in any kind of activities involving reading or writing. My practicum class struggled with reading as well as their writing. Although not all students fell into the category of a "struggling reader/writer," many read at a Kindergarten and first grade level. (I use the quotes around struggling reader/writer, as I do not see the point in labeling a child as such. Not all writers need to employ the task of putting letters on the page. All students are writers because they all have brains and unique styles of thinking.) Engaging a group of students who consistently maintain the idea that they are "stupid" for being unable to read or write at grade level is nearly impossible. This caused me to create unique ways that got them engaging in both aspects of literacy.

One of the greatest ways to do this was employing flash fiction as a reading and writing teaching style. Flash fiction is a manner of writing that generally uses less than fifty words in a story, but still uses the "who," "what," "where," "when," and "why" that any story has. The moment I passed out a single sentence story to my students, the eyebrows started to go up. "Miss Herbert, what do you mean this is a story?" "Yeah, how can this be a story when it is not even that long?" "This looks so easy, Miss Herbert. I bet I could have written this." That last comment was one of the best things to hear, as that student would soon come to write his own flash fiction. Common misconceptions, even at an early age, that all writing needs to be long, is one of the reasons students are so quick to dismiss reading/writing as an enjoyable activity. As the lesson progressed, and subsequent lessons progressed, my students grew fond of the flash fiction writing style. We started writing flash fiction in carousel activities where each group decided on a topic, and each additional group wrote a sentence. We analyzed flash fiction through reading by identifying the five Ws. In a short amount of time, my students were reading and writing with smiles on their faces.

Taking this into account, the only roadblock that I see with teaching writing is the fact that a teacher is unwilling to see it as an enjoyable experience. Take this blog for example: it could easily be written in a way that cites impossible theories, or it could just as easily be written in text style language (vry dfclt 2 git). In either manner, the writer is saying something. Isn't this the most important aspect of writing? We do not focus on grammar and punctuation first, we look at content. When we encourage students of any age to write these long-winded, semicolon rampant sentences, they lose the most important aspect: content. Further, when I look at how well-versed I am in the various writing technologies out there, I do not see a discomfort in encouraging students to use them, but rather, a lack of time. This is thanks to APPR and NYS standards issues. But, I digress.

It is my hope that through this blog, I may be able to address the important ways that we may bring back the "you are never wrong" style of writing, the "go with it" style of writing, and even the "I've never thought of styling it that way" style of writing. The more students experiment, the more they see value in the works they read, as well as in their own work.

1 comment:

  1. This is an exceptional first entry Lauren. I agree with you that a blog is like a "living, breathing document that engages its readers as the writer so chooses." I have no doubt you will find this an engaging mode to explore and refine your own principles of writing and teaching writing. If there is one suggestion I can make, it is to be "selfish" and keep the focus on you (I-voice) consistently throughout your entries (rather than switching to a "we" voice).

    The best way to influence other teachers is by being a clear model yourself. If you use these entries to focus on you and your professional standards, others will most certainly benefit from your insights.

    I look forward to reading your next entries and learning along with you. Dr. Jones