Posts Tagged 'philosophyofeducation'

A Selection of Blogs for Reading, Literature, and Writing Teachers

During my first classes of the semester with my preservice teachers, I was upfront: they would not leave my class knowing everything there was to know about literacy education. After their astonishment wore off, I explained that, in my mind, a big part of being a teacher is being an ongoing and insatiable learner. So, I told my students that one of my goals for this semester was to help them develop ways to continue their learning that would last far beyond the semester’s end.

With that in mind, this week I took the plunge and started talking about RSS. All semester I’ve been sharing and using resources that came to me through blogs and twitter, but this week students started developing new spaces and pathways for connecting on their own.

About an hour into my classes, I showed the RSS in Plain English video from Common Craft, then talked through some blogs to start with. Many students were surprised that, as google account holders, they had not known about google reader before. There was some excitement as well as some skepticism, which is to be expected.

The big question for me was, which blogs should I choose?  I follow many literacy-related blogs, but wanted them to start with just a handful. I asked my twitter network for their suggestions a couple of weeks ago, and many in my PLN responded with great ideas. I was also asked to share my lists once they were complete. So, my starter blogs for Language Arts, Kindergarten through 8th grade, are listed below.

Note: This list doesn’t even begin to cover all the great blogs out there.  I chose some blogs that seemed to best reflect the principles of literacy education we’ve discussed this semester. I also included some technology-focused blogs, and blogs by classroom teachers. In class, I talked about how important it is to read blogs that are provocative and even opposed to your own perspective, just to keep you thinking. I need to keep working on this last point.

Writing Workshop by David Stoner

Two Writing Teachers

The Book Whisperer

The English Teacher’s Companion

In For Good

Free Technology for Teachers

Langwitches

Larry Ferlazzo

Grammar Girl

Teri Lesesne – ProfessorNana

The tempered radical

The Reading Zone

A Geekymomma’s Blog

Welcome to NCS-Tech

30 poets 30 days at Gottabook

Raising readers and writers

PlanetEsme

INK

Miss Rumphius Effect

A year of Reading

We will talk in the next couple of weeks about what learning this way is like, and how it might (or might not) be useful. I’ll share their thoughts soon after.

In the mean time, do you have any other favorites that I missed?

What’s the Big Idea?

It’s been a while since I’ve posted.  I’ve been caught up in evaluating the other group of multigenre projects.  I do have more to share about those, and will post examples soon. But in the mean time, classes have been coming along and I wanted to share a few thoughts about what we’ve been doing.

I can’t believe it is only a month until semester’s end. Even though my two classes come from different programs (elementary and middle grades are separate programs in our college), they are both approaching an “end” of sorts.  For my middle school Language Arts group, they are coming to the end of their main semesters studying literacy. Last semester they studied middle grades literature, and this semester they’ve had content area literacy and my writing pedagogy course. As far as required literacy core courses, that is it. Next semester they are back to spending a lot of time in the schools.

My elementary school class is coming into their last month of coursework before student teaching. They’ve had two courses in reading, my language arts course, and children’s literature.

As you might imagine, these endings, along with the hectic rush of this time in the semester, bring up a lot of emotions in the classes – some of them conflicting.  The students seem excited about the end of the semester, but there is also a palpable weariness. They are overwhelmed by all the different approaches and strategies they’ve learned – this is only compacted by the impending awareness that soon they’ll be implementing many of these ideas daily with students. Even though they are overwhelmed by what they’ve learned, they also seem to feel anxious about not knowing enough. I hear, over and over again, “how am I going to DO all this???”

Through all of these emotions and a fair amount of exhaustion, I try to keep the students learning and thinking. A couple of weeks ago, it felt like the right time to start telescoping back out to try to focus on some of their “big ideas” for literacy teaching.  I was inspired by this post about simplicity at Two Writing Teachers. I invited my students to start trying to think about how they will begin their lives as literacy educators. I asked them: What are the simple principles that form the core of your vision for literacy teaching?  How does the way you plan to organize your time and space reflect that vision?  We’ve worked on timelines, maps, and other exercises to try and get the vision to begin to come together on paper.

One reason for this process of developing a vision is to give them a place to start when they get into their classrooms.  But, I admit, there is another reason, too. Sometimes I worry about the future of these young teachers – so bright and full of energy, ideas, and fire. With class sizes growing, resources disappearing, and, most troubling, the thunder of emphasis on test scores and standards, I fear that what we’ve worked on in our courses will quickly be swallowed, perhaps even smothered by the onslaught of the structure of schooling.  So, we are taking a little time to try to develop their vision. I hope they keep their core principles posted somewhere near their desks, as touchstones to refer to and expand upon as they continue to develop as teachers.

As my students thought and wrote, I also took the time to articulate my vision for literacy classrooms. Of course, it is a work in progress, and has changed a lot this year.  I thought I’d share it here, along with this wonder: what “big ideas” you return to again and again as a teacher?

Beth’s Vision for the Literacy Classroom

My students will know that I care about them.
I will know them and their lives and what matters to them.
I believe that my students have important things to say and I value their voices.
I am committed to helping them find ways to express themselves and their insights in a manner that allows them to be heard and understood by others.
I encourage my students to take risks and make mistakes in my classroom and in the world at large. I believe this is one of the main ways that we learn. I strive to model risk taking, and reflecting, rethinking, redoing, and renewing practice in my role as a teacher/co-learner.
I want my students to love reading and writing (broadly defined) and learning, and to know that engaging in reading, writing, and learning can enable them to grow as teachers and as people.

Beth Friese – 4.1.10

On Their Turf: Making the Change To Student Blogging

This semester I’m teaching two courses for prospective teachers – Writing Pedagogy (4th-8th grade) and Language and Literacy (PreK – 5th grade). I’ve never taught the middle grades course and have taught the elementary course just once before. I’ve also never taught two groups at the same time – much less different courses (although I’ll admit that some of the content overlaps). Needless to say, here in week 2 it is already an adventure.

I am experimenting with many new approaches and activities in these courses this semester. I’ll be sharing more about these as time goes on, but for the moment I want to talk about blogging.

First, a bit of history. My students write weekly in my courses (after all, they are writing courses), and post their thoughts electronically. I read every word they write, and try to respond to each post. I enjoy the chance to keep up with their thinking this way, but after three semesters reading discussion threads in a course management system (CMS), I was tired. I wanted to make a change but just hadn’t done it for a number of reasons, until my university changed the CMS this year. One of the first things I found out about this new system was that students in my courses would automatically be wiped out of the system at the end of each semester. I guess this was supposed to make my life easy – hey, I didn’t even have to copy and reload the content (since, of course, I would be using the same content over and over and over again, right?) Just add a new set of names and away we go. (a joke.)

With the old system, students had access to courses for as long as the professor left us in the system (often years). Considering that I’ve been a student myself in graduate school for 5 years now, you can imagine how much information I had access to through that system. I referred to it often, even though I had downloaded much of the content elsewhere.

So, the new system and the default to purge students each semester bothered me, but I wasn’t sure why. After all, students could download content just as I had, as long as they did it before the end of the semester. What was the problem? Then, I figured it out. Wiping my students out of the courses represented something completely against my growing philosophy of education. In the past year or two, I’ve realized that my job as a teacher educator is not to cram my students’ heads full of all the knowledge they will need to be a great teacher for their entire (hopefully lengthy) careers. Instead, my job is to offer them the chance to engage with important experiences and ideas, to help them get to know themselves as writing teachers (both as teachers who write and as teachers of writing), and to start them on a path where they can continue to learn about language, literacy, and teaching long after my course is in the rear view mirror. As I told them on the first day of classes, the best teachers are learners, always.

Erasing my students from my course once the semester is over, then, didn’t line up with my ideas about my job as a teacher educator. I wanted to give them ideas and experiences that continued with them into the future. So, considering all of this, I made many changes this semester (basically circumventing the course management system in most regards). The one that has been the most obvious (and exciting) is the switch from posting their weekly writing on the course management system to posting on student blogs. I encouraged each of my students to start their own blogs. I gave them a range of sites to choose from – blogger, wordpress, posterous, edublogs, and the students also used tumblr of their own initiative – and had them link their blogs to our course wiki.

Why do blogs make a difference? Now, when I read my students’ weekly posts, instead of reading paragraph after paragraph on the gray, bland course management system screen, I go to each students’ personal writing space. Many of the students have chosen interesting, colorful designs for their blogs. Some have added photos and quotes. (By the end of the semester, they will each develop a blogroll as well, as part of creating their learning networks). Even at this early stage in the semester, each blog is already unique.

I realized last night that I was having the same reaction to the old CMS that my students often have toward textbooks. We know what a textbook looks like – it has a genre all its own, no matter how hard textbook publishers try to change it. The content, the pictures, the writing can be wonderful, but we still can spot a textbook a mile off, and get that same revulsion. My students were writing great things over the last semesters, but dealing with the system still made me impatient while reading their work. The container just didn’t appeal to me. It was a disservice to the writing my students were producing.

Now, reading their blogs, I feel like I am personally connected to each of my students – I am “on their turf” when I comment. I am the visitor in their writing space, not them the visitors in my CMS space, and I like that. I hope that this practice will encourage them to develop an online presence for themselves as writing teachers, as well as a web presence for their classrooms and students in the future. I also feel like their writing is improved. Is that just because I am more attentive? Are they really doing a better job? It’s hard to say just yet. But with their blogs, they have a chance to build their writing and work over time. And, it won’t disappear come summer semester.

I’ll admit, it was a scary risk to take to leave the security of the CMS behind for blogs (and the semester is still young), but it seems to be paying off so far. Sometime soon I’ll share my students’ thoughts on blogging. If you blog with your students (at any level), I hope you’ll share your thoughts and impressions. Or, I wonder, what have you done to give students their own educational turf?


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