The Pumpkin Queen (wheeker) wrote,
The Pumpkin Queen

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Random fluff and an observation

Weather in Oregon: I love spring in Oregon. Wind and rain. Yummy.

Awkward moment: Running into your (most excellent) therapist in the grocery store is far too much of a meta-moment. My brain still hurts.

Banal, yet still helpful epiphany: No need to be embarassed that books I read to escape the intensity of my "new" job -- which is trying to consume me in a disturbingly Danielewskian manner -- are not "classics". A pleasureful, pulp novel is a good escape. Most recently finished: Bone-Crossed by Patricia Briggs. Great series b/c of her fascinating, secondary characters and the multiple supers.

Wistful for: MUSHing (speaking of supers). Not for the time and silly rules. But for the people and the stories we created together.

Food worth trying: Starbucks' Artisan Breakfast Sandwich

Obscure Movie Recc: The Secret of Roan Inish

Educator Note: Barry Lane is my hero. Learning to teach writing. No. Not that, simply. Learning to teach writing WELL has been a huge undertaking this year.

OBSERVATION: I've noticed recently, and struggled with, different folks' purposes for LJ. And while I respect the choices people make, I have found that posting my own (note I'm referring to myself and not you -- if you're on my friends list, there is a reason why) daily ... how do you say? ... crap, will only contribute to the general crappiness of my day. Oh, don't you worry, my little dandelions. There WILL still be crap. It simply won't be the majority of my (admittedly sporadic) posts.
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Tell me more about this 'teaching writing' thing you speak of. Writing in general? 'Creative' writing? I am in need of educational wisdom.
I teach 12-13 year-olds this year (7th grade) and follow the group to 8th next year (lucky little chickadees that they are). I've taught this level since '94 (taught 3rd grade the two years previous). But I've never been a full-out "Language Arts" teacher. Nor am I now. I teach the wondrous subject of Humanities. "What?", you ask. "You must teach all subjects from all points in time and all points of view to adolescents (a la pheremone years)?" Apparently.

More practically, this is a combination of traditional "Social Studies" and "Language Arts". So I am mandated to teach the beginning of History through the Renaissance(put very simply) along with all students need to learn about Reading, Writing, Listening and Speaking with in the confines of a period/day. Not gonna happen.

I've taught the historical side (I refuse to push them further than the ancient Greeks in the course of one year) for many years. I've also taught reading strategies and literature to this age. What I haven't taught is the writing process. Per district mandate: 6th grade focuses on the imaginative mode, 7th grade focuses on the expository mode, and 8th grade's focus is persuasive.

How to teach what I was never taught? That's been my boulder to heft this year. I've attended workshops and read pedagogical theory and am part of several "hosted conversations" groups in my district (unpaid, mind you). But it's an enormous undertaking. There are several, prevailing philosophies of how one ought to teach writing. I'm still stuffing different paradigms down my throat in order to try to determine my own philosophy whilst trying to teach my little koala bears the process and strategies therein. Cart. Horse.

Have I even answered your question? Have I answered it excessively? Not sure. But I can say it means something to have someone interested in what I do and what I'm trying to do.

When you find the educational wisdom you seek, could you share a bit?


That is as good an explanation as any -- initially I didn't even ask any questions, then I realised that "tell me more" might be a little too general. So I made up some questions but not because I want them answered, particularly, just so you might have somewhere to start if you needed it.

(Is that a writing strategy? I would not want to explain it to a 12 year old.)

Since I am seriously considering becoming an English teacher (high school) believe me I am interested in what you are trying to do -- since it would eventually be what I was trying to do, and I have barely even thought about how to actually do it. (Plus of course you are doing it, which makes it interesting in of itself.)

I run a creative writing club that is mostly full of grade 8s but that is hardly the same as trying to teach writing in a structured manner. I am constantly perplexed & surprised by the things they do and do not know about writing, and in any case it is a club not a classroom so lecturing them about paragraphs seems out of place.

I will be happy to share any wisdom I come across but I suspect you are many, many years ahead of my particular curve. The idea of teaching students how to be rhetorically persuasive sounds daunting.

Can I be a member of your creative writing club? :) I love the way your mind works and think you'd be a terrific educator if you find you have that affinity with "kids". I'm pretty wiped today, so I'm just going to splah what comes to mind out here and you can ask for clarification if you choose.

Writing tends to be assessed via 6 traits:
Sentence Fluency
Ideas & Content
Word Choice

Students need to explicitly understand these traits. They need to see the process modeled. Then they need a multitude of strategies that draw them through the (recursive) writing process. They need the process to be modeled. They need to recognize the traits in writing and use them for their own purposes. Modeling the process is important.

One highly recognized model is the Writing Workshop. 'In the Middle' by Nancie Atwell outlines a pretty popular version of this. From what I have gathered, it involves mini-lessons, student writing every day, one-on-one teacher-student conferencing, peer conferencing, and lots of reading of many genres.

I have my students write everyday, but I haven't yet found a way to incorporate the particularly zealous Writer's Workshop successfully. I'm not sure, at this point, that it will work for me in its most pure form. I've worked on teaching them different strategies for organizing their ideas (the only memory I have of direct teaching from my own education is using an outline format -- ugh!).

Some resources/workshops I've recently attended/perused:

Write to Learn
Step Up to Writing
Write Source 2000

These, along with Atwell and Lane (But How Do You Teach Writing, The Reviser's Toolbox, After the End: Teaching and Learning Creative Revision), have been my springboard. I'm planning on attending an intensive class this summer - The Oregon Writing Project. I think they're pretty workshop-intensive as well.

As far as persuasive writing goes, I have a general grasp for the basic framework to draw them through, but none of it feels organic yet. I'm hoping that something grows from the seeds I'm planting.

think you'd be a terrific educator if you find you have that affinity with "kids".

Ha, well, I guess that is the crux. I'm not even sure what that affinity would look like -- sometimes it seems like what people mean by getting along with kids is just whether you can interact with them without being a jerk or getting impatient or bored. I seem to be able to manage that alright -- but I mostly do that by pretending they are adults, and so I wonder really how much I am actually teaching, whether any of it is sinking in. And presumably what you mean by affinity is more than or different than just not being condescending.

I wrote some other stuff then noticed that none of it made any sense -- though it's clear to me that I need to find more actual-teachers to talk to about this stuff because really I just haven't a clue. And everything everyone tells me about the Education/Teaching Certificate programs around here seems to suggest that they aren't actually going to help much with that.

The stuff about writing was interesting & I will have to look up some of those sources. The emphasis on reading is something I've been going back and forth with in the creative writing club -- it feels more appropriate to include a lot of reading/analysis in an actual class, but less so in a club, where the main goal is really just to give the kids as much time & space as possible in which to write. At the same time I am occasionally reminded how many of the basics they don't really understand (point of view being the most recent example) and obviously reading & modelling seem to be the best way to get at that.

It has also surprised me how important/useful modelling is as a general teaching method (I don't know why it surprised me. It seems kind of obvious in retrospect. Like obvious to the point of 'how ELSE does anyone learn anything, silly!' But oh well.)

I mean really I don't even know what a pedagogical theory looks like. I mean, besides Plato talking about how everyone needs to spend fifteen years studying math before they are ready to be philosophers -- which is not exactly concrete, on-the-ground stuff.
Oh, don't you worry, my little dandelions. There WILL still be crap. It simply won't be the majority of my (admittedly sporadic) posts. will post, right? I miss you!
I'm trying. My job is trying to kill me this year, but I shall overcome! :) Thanks for your kindness. And for noticing.

This Dandelion needs to be watered by TPQ posts. The more the merrier. :)