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Collaborative Pedagogy Project Thoughts »

For the most part I thought that the Collaborative Pedagogy Project was good and beneficial, but I also did see some room for improvement.

-In a class full of future teachers, any chance to get in front of the group and present something is very beneficial. I feel like there could always be more of these types of things, even if they are more informal, just because it is the best practice for moving on to student teaching and later a real job

-It was very interesting to observe the different trends that happened over the course of the semester, like what we talked about on Thursday. It was understandable, though disappointing (and yes I am guilty of this too) that everyone fell in line on their style of presentation after the first group.  I think this was a good learning opportunity, and it allowed me to think about what ways I might think “outside the box” and where I just take the safe route on assignments.

-Though this opinion clearly wasn’t held throughout the whole class, I did find some value in the peer evaluations. I feel like, because this class is so focused and specialized, everyone in the room is both interested in and qualified to comment on what is going on. I did get some very good things to consider on my peer evaluations.


-The peer evaluations. I also did see some of the negative aspects that my classmates were discussing on Thursday. My biggest problem with it was the lack of constructive criticism. Immediately after our presentation, during the discussion of the assignment as a whole, I sorted Megan and my evaluations into two stacks: those with constructive criticism and those with none/non serious criticisms. The class was split half/half. I don’t think everyone feels this way, but when I get evaluated like that (not for points) I would rather hear more negatives than positives, because that is the best way to help me improve in the future. Also, as I mentioned in class, some of the comments should have been specific to Megan, me, or both.

-The broadness of the topic. I also agreed that this was troublesome for the class because of how big the chapters were and how little time we had to present. That said, I understand that this is the same struggle that the professor must go through, and that we will have to go through when deciding what to cover as teachers. However, I feel that the task is a little more daunting when it is not actually our class, because I know I feel less qualified to determine what the class needs to discuss then say, the professor would be.

Final Thoughts

-I think perhaps a day (or part of one) early in the semester in which students talk about possible approaches to the project as a whole class could help generate a variety of different approaches instead of the standard routine that we went through this semester.
– Some direction on the peer evaluations could possible help to avoid a situation like that which we had on Thursday. I think this direction could possibly come from two fronts. The professor could lay down some specific guidelines for what is expected on the evaluations, and also students, before they present, could request comments on either specific aspects (info, activity, presence) or styles (like how I sad I’d rather be criticized)
 -I think the broadness is something that students will probably just have to learn to contend with. As I said, I think this issue is just as present regardless of who is presenting the information, and as future teachers it is important that we know how to prioritize and figure out what to present. I know that, with our presentation, Megan and I decided the specific area of the chapter that we wanted to focus on, and the professor okayed it in our required meeting. I feel that as long as that meeting remains a required part of the assignment, then these concerns should be able to be eased for the most part.

Hope this helps!

Question For Discussion »

My question is, can Megan and I have an ‘A’ for our presentation, please? Just kidding.

Actually, I’ve been thinking about something that we have been discussing as we prepare to present to the class, on the topic of journals. Neman suggests that teachers should check students journals every so often, which is not necessarily a bad way to do it, but is it necessary? The only time I’ve been required to keep a journal was in my senior English class, and that teacher simply walked around to make sure we were actually writing something, and I felt more comfortable with this. I felt more at ease to write whatever I thought about, instead of just what the teacher might be okay with, and I feel that part of journals is extracting one’s feelings. I’m interested to hear what others think.

Unit Plan Tentative Schedule »

Debate Lesson Plan Schedule

Day 1 – Introduction

       Freewrite activity

o   Prompt: What makes a topic arguable? What are some topics/positions that you would feel strongly arguing about?

       Class Discussion

o   Discuss the qualifications of an arguable topic

o   What are topics that students would want to debate (list on the board)

o   Generate list until there are more than enough topics for students in the class to debate each side in teams of two (three if needed)

o   Teacher should eliminate or lead discussion towards elimination of topics that are inappropriate/not arguable

o   Students should be told to consider the merits of the various topics while discussing elements of a solid argument

§  Ethos, Pathos, Logos

§  Attack the topic, not your classmates

§  Logical causation

§  Oh, that slippery, slippery, slope

       With all things considered, students should turn in a half sheet of paper with their first, second, and third choices on topic AND position on that topic


Day 2 – Debate and Paper Format

       Give students topic/position assignments based on the selections that they had turned in the previous day

       Give handout on debate format and object of the debate (burden of proof on pro, while con wants to maintain status quo)

o   Know what the status quo is!

       Introduce Paper/with handout and explanation

o   Paper should prepare your talking points and provide statistics you intend to use

o   Should prepare you for possible opposing arguments that you may see from the opposing position

o   Prepare you for a rebuttal to those opposing viewpoints

o   A specific length is not required, but the paper should adequately prepare you to speak for the determined amounts of time for the debate

o   Research that you cite in the debate MUST be included in the paper

       HW: Bring 3 possible sources to class on Research Day


Day 3 – Research Day in Library

       Class will meet in the library so that students may have time to conduct their research with guidance from the teacher available

       Before students are set loose, teacher should conduct a brief check that students brought their assigned 3 possible sources

       Teacher should briefly lecture on good sources vs. bad sources

o   Research databases, Encylcopedia, Academic websites, scholarly journals

o   Geocities, blogs, WIKIPEDIA!

       Allow students the rest of the period for research while remaining available for any questions that students have

       Try conferencing with any students that appear to lack focus or be struggling to make sure they are on the right track

       HW: An outline of their paper to be completed by the Peer Collaboration Day


Day 4 – Explanation of Debate Day/Conferencing

       Give the students a thorough understanding of what is to come on debate day so that they can come in and immediately get started

o   Topics will randomly be selected out of a hat, so everyone needs to be ready to go at the very beginning

o   Refresh students on the format of the debate

o   Explain the audience scoring process/factor in grade

o   Talk about presenting – Notecards are okay, and encouraged – you won’t remember every stat. Reading your paper to us is NOT okay.

o   Catch our attention and leave us wanting more – DO NOT IGNORE YOUR INTRODUCTION AND CONCLUSION

       Use the remainder of the class for conferencing with each group, while allowing the groups to continue working on their project together. Questions should include

o   How is it going? (just to get them started)

o   Do you feel like you are finding an adequate amount of information for your position and the opposing side?

o   Do you have credible quotations or statistics to back up the claims you will make?

       HW: Have Paper finished and be ready for debate on Day 5


Day 5 – Debate Day

       Draw the random order

       Pass out the peer evaluation forms


       HW: Reflection – Answer the following questions:

o   In your own debate, what did you think went well? What could have gone better?

o   What is something that another group did that you found particularly effective? What was something else that could have been improved upon?

o   Were your feelings changed on any issues? Describe why or why not


Still Needed

Determining the times for each section of the debate

Debate Format Handout

Paper Handout

Peer Evaluation Form

Length of time between days (they will not be consecutive)

Unit Plan Idea – Debating! »

Erich Koerner

Informal Unit Plan – Debate

·         I would like to teach this lesson in the second quarter of an 11th grade English class. I feel that the reasoning and writing skills that will be addressed over the course of this unit will be beneficial to students as they work on their college applications and move closer to graduating.

·         Working Title: Junior Debate

·         Goals/Purposes:

o   Students will be able to identify a topic that is arguable and be able to rationally examine both sides of the argument via extensive research.

o   Students will be able to address the class orally with prepared information based on their research, as well as with rebuttals of opposing position’s arguments during debates.

o   Students should understand the elements of a strong argument and be able to apply them to their own presentation as well as a critique of other presentations.

o   Students should be able to communicate through writing their position on a given issue, possible counterarguments, and by briefly evaluating other group’s arguments for content, logic and emotionally appeal.

·         Expectations

o   Students will brainstorm debatable topics with the teacher and the class will decide what topics will be best used for debate

o   Students choose their top choices of the given topics (and positions on them) to debate on. (Debates will be done in groups of 2)

o   The teacher will explain the debate format, and that their research and ensuing papers should be geared towards preparing them to speak for the determined amounts of time

o   After topic assignments, students will research in the library for the paper that their arguments will be based off of.

o   Papers will be due the day of the debates and students will then go ahead and debate in front of the class

o   Audience members of the class will given a score sheet based on the requirements of the debate and will be expected to critically evaluate numerically and briefly in writing each debate to determine who won. (Students evaluation will be a % of the debate grade)

·         Key Texts/Assignments

o   School Library/Computer Access

o   Paper

o   Evaluations

·         Challenges

o   What to do in case of an odd number of students?

o   Preventing kids from making arguments personal instead of about topic.

o   Preventing students peer scores from being a popularity contest instead of being based on merit.

Less Than Formal »

Erich Koerner

Lee Nickoson-Massey

English 484

17 March 2009

Informal Response – Audience and Voice

            One interesting section the chapter is where Neman talks about simulating an audience and finding an actual audience (198-200). This is something that I always struggled with conceptualizing as a student of writing. Many times I have been asked to complete a prewriting or post-writing activity that included what my audience would be for the paper. Though I always put a different answer, because I knew that this is what was expected of me, I usually just wanted to write, “My audience is you since you are about to give me a grade.” I like some of the practical ideas that Neman offers up for this dilemma. Letters to the editor can be nice if they are truly inspired by the student’s desire to make their voice heard. It can be difficult when students feel forced to write these, however, because I think that it will come through in their writing that they are doing it because it is their assignment and not because personal desire. I really like the idea of writing for publication, because it sets a lofty goal for the students. One downside is that it is unlikely that every student’s writing could ever be published, but it good because it conveys high expectations and the sight of one’s own work in print could be very rewarding. I also like Neman’s idea of making use of the natural classroom audience. The best thing about that is that it offers a chance for real live feedback from classmates. It is important that a teacher manage such a scenario well so that students stay focused and on task, but I believe that a good fairly easy exercise in audience would be one like this that has the audience right there in front of the writer.

            If I may go on a brief rant, I take some issue with the way that #1 is presented in Student Guidelines to Avoid Sexist Language (206).  I do not believe that using plurals is the solution to this issue.  I know that this is not the widely agreed upon solution, but personally I prefer to use “his or her.”  While it is important to discourage sexist language, it is also important to encourage number agreement in sentences. Though awkward sounding, this takes care of both of these needs.

Informal Responsification »

In watching the video, I definitely enjoyed a couple of the things that I saw Jack Wilde do. It seemed like he had an effective approach, and what he did worked well for both him and his students, which is the most important aspect in deterimining a strategy for teaching ANYTHING.

The first thing that I saw him do that I liked was the way that he worked with the girl individually  to help her improve her writing by asking questions and making small suggestions, but not actually telling he what to do. This is good because it causes her to reflect on her writing and think about what effects that her revisions might have on it, without him just spelling out what to do and her not learning from the process. Also, by not being overly forceful in his suggestions he allows the student to maintain ownership of the writing that she did. Sometimes, if a teacher really marks up and corrects a student’s writing, it can begin to feel like it isn’t his work anymore. This is not an issue with Wilde’s approach.

Another thing that I liked was the fact that he requires some revision, without giving students the option not to. I think that this is a good thing because students will frequently choose to just be done with their work if given the option, but going back, reflecting on and revising writing is an excellent way to learn skills and understand what someone’s strenghts and weaknesses are as a writer. Fortunately, Wilde balances that fact that the revisions he asks students to do are somewhat of a forced march with the fact that he only requires a minimum of three things that the students work could improve on. This is good because this does not overwhelm students with the process of finding and adjusting the writing, but at the same time it (according to Wilde) opens to door to improvements beyond just those three things as they realize what they are doing well and what needs improvement.

This method of operation clearly woks for Wilde, and I definitely plan on considering his strategies when my students are revising their work, even if I have to make them like he does.

? for Discussion »

I have a question that would probably annoy myself if I was the teacher and I was teaching prewriting: Do you HAVE to prewrite. I am not saying that ignoring this stage of the process is the way to go for every student, but honestly I have produced some work off the cuff that was pretty darn good. As I said, I would probably discourage students from doing this, and it doesn’t always work for me – only if the muse is really working on that day. However, it is a question that we will likely get from students at some point and one that we should, as teachers, be prepared to answer.

You Mean I Actually Have to Say Something!?!?! »

A section of Chapter 2 that really had a lot of meaning to me was the section on page 44 titled “But Why Must the Organizing Idea Be Arguable?”. This is something that I struggled with greatly as I got into high school and had to start writing research papers. As Neman states, “Our students may be relectant to accept the rhetorical – persuasive – function of an organizing idea.” She may as well have been writing about my ninth grade self. Generally all writing done at earlier grades is focused on being informative, not persuasive. It was difficult for me, and I’m certain I wasn’t alone, to go from talking about something to actually saying something about it, if that makes sense. I know I resisted this, and it wasn’t until my junior year of high school that I really felt any comfort with the persuasive paper. I guess my question is then, how do I make students like me more comfortable with this transition earlier in their career as writers?

Good Class Setting »

My one sentence statement was: “I think the best setting for any class, especially one for writing, is one where students can feel comfortable openly sharing and debating ideas.”

I feel that this is extremely important, especially in English. With other subjects, students  may  feel that they open themselves up for embarassment, perhaps if they don’t answer a question correctly. The risk is even higher in English, where students are asked not to just recite what they have read, but to share their thoughts on it, or how it makes them feel. Because this setting can be a lot more personally revealing than most other classroom settings, I feel that my previously mentioned statement is quite important. Sharing ideas, and debating them, is an integral part of the English classroom, and one which I hope to promote in great depth. I think it is important that students know how to share their ideas, and how to be able to disagree with other people while remaining respectful and getting their points across. These are skills that students can take with them well past high school and into any professional or academic setting.

One activity which I have seen used in my own classes at times is debate. I enjoy these very much, because I think it is great to see a lot of different viewpoints that students, with their variety in backgrounds, will bring to the classroom. One wrinkle in this assignment that I have especially found interesting in the past is choosing students sides for them, or making them debate both sides of an issue, as this forces students to think about issues from another’s perspective and see both sides of the arguement. I think that this is a very valuable skill to have, and one that I want to encourage students to take with them past my class.

Graves Interview Questions for Discussion »

Why don’t we call it “writing process” anymore? Is that just a reference to the strictly regimented steps that many of us went through as students? As teachers of writers, should we be moving away from these steps? What confuses me about this statement is what exactly is being described when we say “writing process,” and is calling it “writing” just a change in terminology or is it moving towards actions more helpful in the teaching of writing?