Tuesday, November 27, 2012


At the beginning of the semester, we were given objectives which were used to guide our learning and give it purpose.  Throughout the duration of the course, we have used this blog as a source for reflection on our learning, which in turn, has helped us meet the objectives.  Using this blog has been an effective way to help me further develop my understanding of everything we have learned about in class, but in a less intimidating way than other, more formal types of assessments.  I believe the use of this blog has helped me reach all seven student learning outcomes, but a few stand out more than others.

First and foremost, the outcomes pertaining to gaining knowledge of the relationship between the writing and reading processes and the role of metacognition in writing proficiency and reading comprehension have been met through many of my entries.  By blogging about the theories and practices we learn about in class and the readings we complete as a part of the course, my comprehension of the material was greatly increased simply because I had several exposures to it.  In addition, I became very aware of my thought and writing processes through brainstorming and reflecting in this blog.  So many times in past courses, all I learned in lectures did not stay with me long-term because I didn't understand it well enough in practice.  However, with this blog, I have been able to metacognitively focus on the course material, reflect on both my and other students' learning, and better understand the research we read through text.

The learning outcome related to gaining knowledge of the variety of genres that readers and writers use to communicate was met through this blog with several of my entries.  Even though we learned about the many reading and writing genres through the Tompkins (2012) text and the genre presentations in class, the reflections done through this blog regarding the genres have helped to substantially deepen my understandings.  Also, the learning outcome focused on gaining knowledge of the types of developmentally appropriate reading and writing assignments has been attained throughout all of my entries.  No matter the topic of each blog, I found myself reflecting on my own classroom experiences, and how that specific theory, instructional technique, or learning strategy could be applied in practice.  Especially when discussing the Hicks (2009) text, I reflected on and collaborated about digital technologies and new, up-and-coming learning tools which we were not always able to discuss in class.  The posts in which we were able to comment and reflect on other classmates' writings also helped to further my understandings of the material and the concepts. 

I have been very appreciative that this blog has been a part of the course requirements.  Writing and reflecting each week has worked to continually further my understandings of the content we learn in class, and learn from others' reflections as well.  I have enjoyed finding my voice through the use of this informal type of writing and look forward to applying it to my own classroom in the future for my students to benefit in the same ways. 

Sunday, November 25, 2012


Since the beginning of the semester, I have learned more than I expected to about all the different writing genres.  Because I have been in school for so many years and have written in all the genres we have learned about in this course, I felt as though I understood them all fairly well.  However, once I read Tompkins (2012) and participated in each of the genre presentations, I was proved very wrong.  I became aware of aspects of each genre and their specific features I didn't know existed, and learned how to apply each genre both in my own writing and in my practice as a teacher.

As I stated, I had a surface level understanding of most of the genres before we researched them this semester.  I understood the general structures of genres such as the narrative writing and biographies; I understood their formats and the basic terminology used within the genres.  However, I did not know the specific aspects of narratives and memoirs, such as the importance of scaffolding theme, or using autobiographies to form detailed writing pieces. 

I was thankful to have learned about both the expository and persuasive genres, two forms of writing which I did not know very much about but have a much better understanding of now.  I use expository texts in practice quite often, but don't usually apply the genre to writing, when it's actually very important.  I learned each of the expository text structures and their importance and learned how to apply expository writing in the classroom, even at the primary level.  With persuasive writing, I did not know anything about the genre itself or how to use it with students.  After researching it thoroughly and presenting the genre to the class, I understand its purpose and function in reading, writing, and speaking, and its importance in students' literacy development. I suppose these two genres still slightly intimidate me because I know the reality of their importance in student writing as they get older.  I teach SAT prep classes to high-schoolers and we work on the essay portion for weeks, which is all persuasion, and every student has difficulty with it.  It is my goal to understand the genres my students must understand in order to help them the best I am able, and this course significantly made a difference.

There were genres I had a significant understanding of, such as the poetry and letter writing genres, in which I did not feel as though I gained too much more integral information from the presentations.  However, from each and every presentation I became much more comfortable with applying the genre in practice at different levels, and was extremely appreciative of each group incorporating text lists into their presentations, creating a reference for each grade level for future use.  I think this was important because many times educators forget to use simple resources like picture books or novels to help explain an idea, when they truly can be very beneficial.


While reading through my followers' blogs, I couldn't help but notice Marsha's entry regarding persuasive writing, since she was my genre group member and we both learned so much about persuasive writing together.  Marsha discussed the important realization that many authors write persuasive genre texts at the primary and middle levels, instead of the upper level where persuasive writing is actually taught.  When doing research for my genre presentation, I too found this to be the case, where many upper level books were either nonexistent in the persuasive genre or were not nearly as helpful as the books written at the primary and middle levels.

The persuasive genre is difficult to teach for many reasons.  For one, students developmentally do not have a heightened awareness of others' perspectives and therefore have difficulty writing a piece according to the audience's reaction.  Yes, students can be taught the importance of having an opinion or can learn how to express why they believe what they do, but is this enough for truly effective persuasive writing? As a beginning stage, sure.  But to completely undertake the persuasive genre to its full potential would require students to write through a completely different perspective, which in my opinion, takes practice.

From an early stage, teachers can use texts to help students better understand the concept of persuasion, no matter the age of the students.  Using P and M level texts, even with older students, is beneficial by helping students learn to hold a position and use strategy to convince others of their position.  However, putting this into writing is much more complex.  Students must learn to understand the perspective of the audience they are writing to, and tailor their language accordingly.  Teachers should work to help students think, talk, brainstorm, read, and write from different perspectives as often as possible, not just to help students become better at persuasive writing from an earlier age, but simply because those skills are good to have in general.  Doing these things though, often causes adults to feel uncomfortable and pushed outside of their comfort zones, let alone students who are not used to it.  It is a very arduous task for students to cognitively grasp let alone apply in practice.  As a teacher, it is important to help students understand difficult concepts until they are independent in practice, and using texts to help support students' understanding is just one tool. 


When reading Tompkins (2012) and his discussion regarding narrative writing in chapter 8, I realized many things about teaching students writing which forced me to reflect on my practice.  Tompkins (2012) discussed the age in which children begin to understand the concept of a story, and how even though this story knowledge is often applied to reading, it also plays a very important role in writing.  Because stories have such unique structural elements, it is crucial for children to understand the different parts so they are able to compose stories and begin to be aware of the format of the narrative genre.  Of course, the amount of information students are given, and to what detail, is dependent on the students' age.  Students in the elementary grades should be taught the importance of sequence and teachers should be aware of the students' ability to retell stories, whereas older students would focus on character development and forming themes.

I think it is important to support students' writing at the level which is developmentally appropriate for them.  So many times, teachers expect more from their students than they are capable of or than is necessary at that time.  Elementary aged students should be helped to develop their ideas and simply put them into writing, with a beginning focus on organization and structure through lessons during writing workshops.  Teachers who feel as though their students' writing isn't very good, is only going to debilitate that student.  Students will all write at different paces, but will be modeling after what their teachers show them.  Writing collaborative stories as a class and having personal conferences with the students will help them understand and gradually allow them to be more independent in their writing.  In addition, helping students form good writing technique will help their literacy skills come full circle; students should become better speakers if they understand sequence well, helping them to orally tell a story in order from beginning to end correctly.

Tompkins (2012) helped me realize how important genre exploration is to students' literacy development and following a specific process is actually what the students need.  Students won't always be "good" at writing stories, and not all students will learn or become better writers at the same rate, but it's important for teachers to be aware of their progress and work to help them the best they can.  Through conferencing, writing workshops, and close assessment, students should be monitored closely enough to make consistent progress.