It is so hard to believe that I am going in my sixth week of classes. Every year, I am surprised at how quickly the spring semester goes by. I am really enjoying this class. While I do feel frequently challenged, I am having so much fun that I never feel defeated or “in over my head.” I love being able to read about strategies and activities, and then actually participate in them during class. It helps me understand the process and “get the kinks out” so that I may use them in my future classroom.
At the beginning of the semester, I saw a connection between reading and writing, but nothing more than the fact that students frequently read and then write about what they read. Being a few weeks into the class, I feel a much stronger connection between writing and reading, especially when both are done actively. Writing is much more than simply responding to what was read, or summarizing what was read. The way that we use writing in this class is to encourage an in-depth thought process that provokes individual questioning and connections. I understand that if I can learn to hone in on these skills, then writing and, subsequently, reading, become much more useful and transactional.
I can’t help but mention that my deeper understanding of texts this semester can only be matched with the fact that I have been writing more. Blogging about what I read, responding and questioning with peers about what I read, and engaging in writing activities in class have only increased my ability to retain information. For other classes, I frequently find myself questioning readings as I take notes, something that I rarely did in previous semesters. This being said, I definitely think much more when I write; they have become a fluid process, where one almost always happens with the other. I think that I choose to engage in this kind of thinking because it helps me to retain information and actually enjoy what I am reading. If I can think and connect to what I read, then it is much more meaningful. I think one of the only things that I could change to better my understanding of what I read and write is to try to distance myself from distractions. I tend to start a reading or writing piece, then find sixteen other things to do in conjunction with that reading or writing. Obviously, this is not the most effective way to learn, and I need to work on focusing more.
One of the learning activities that I can definitely see myself using as a future educator is the card strategy we used last class. I was completely amazed at how many other things I managed to think of for my writing project that I had never thought of before. I had my mind set on a few different topics related to the Adirondacks, but after the card strategy, I realized that I can write about experiences with the Adirondacks that are unique and interesting to me. If something could be that valuable for me, then I can only imagine how valuable it would be for my future students, especially those who struggle with writing. I like the way that this activity can be modified for any student in any situation, which is exactly what I am looking for.
One instructional strategy (or group of strategies) that I would definitely like to improve upon more so that I can utilize them in the classroom is the usage of online sources for student work. I can see myself teaching students to interact online in the future, as I would really like to establish places for students to brainstorm, peer conference, draft, and finalize their work like Hicks suggests. I love the idea of blogging to publish different copies of work, so that peers may comment their suggestions. I think that with a growing population of students who constantly engage in online conversations (via texting, Facebook, Twitter, blogs, etc.), as a teacher, I should be playing off of their strongest suits. The innovative publishing techniques and author’s craft ideas that Hicks mentions (i.e. podcasts, wikis, photo-essays, etc.) make me realize that there are so many ways to get students excited about writing (Hicks, 2009, p. 61-73, 89-93).
At this point in the class, the only real struggle that I am having is the fact that I would really like to explore online writing all the time. I tell myself that I can look at blogs, wikis, and other sources mentioned in Hicks’ book for a short amount of time, and before I know it, much more time has passed! There is so much out there, and I find that I am trying to consume all of it at once because it is so interesting.
I am excited to continue with this semester, and I am even more excited to start using my ideas for the Adirondacks in my writing project. I see a great deal of active learning taking place in the future, and I can’t wait!