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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.

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.

Informal Response – Write in the Middle »

The video defintely had some interesting points on the teaching of writing. From the beginning, I liked the emphasis that they put on giving students a safe environment to do their writing. I agree that this is a very important aspect on the teaching of writing. The process can be quite revealing. Even when not writing about private personal matters, writers put their ideas, and to an extent themselves,  on paper to be looked at and judged by others. For writing to be as good as possible, students need to feel comfortable revealing themselves to at least some extent, which is why this sense of safety is so important.

The idea of a community of learners was also emphasized. I think this is very helpful, too. It gives the students the sense that they are all in it together, through thick and thin, from research papers to poetry. This comraderie is beneficial in couple of ways. Sometimes it is useful to the students as part of the activities that they do. Though I personally don’t care for peer-editing (as I’ve pointed out multiple times), I know that some teachers and students find it to be quite beneficial. Other times it’s just nice to have someone to help clarify an assignment or feel your pain. Either way, the sense of community in the classroom allows these types of interaction to go on more often, so that students can be most helpful towards one another.

A final thing that happened in the video that I really liked was the Monday Meeting that the teacher had with her students, which allowed her the chance to get to know her students better personally, as well as allowing the students to build relationships with one another. This is very good for a couple of reasons. First of all, as we are constantly reminded in education courses, relationships and rapport are crucial to creating a good classroom environment. Secondly, knowing a little bit about the other people in the classroom goes a long way towards building the previously mentioned sense of community.