To-Do List

I am having some trouble with my computer, so until I can get it checked out, I have to share with my husband.  We don’t have a history of being able to share very well!  We’ll see how it works out.  Unfortunately, if my hunch about the computer is right, it won’t be a cheap repair.

That said, my to-do list for tomorrow is to catch up in Write Beside Them, and when it’s my turn on the computer, I’ll try to post all my thoughts on the discussions at the wiki.

One benefit of having more restricted access to a computer is that I won’t be as distracted by the computer, so perhaps I can get more reading done.  However, if the computer can’t be fixed, I’ll need to purchase one for my IT program because there is no way we will be able to share if I have to do school work.  Ugh.

Anyway, if posting is even more spotty than it already is, well, you know why.

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Write Beside Them: It’s a Wonderful Life

I began Penny Kittle’s Write Beside Them, and even though I am posting at the Learners4Life wiki, I wanted to keep my own reading journal here.  In this chapter, I felt Kittle outlined some of her core beliefs:

  • Standardized testing does not rule how she teaches writing in her classroom.
  • The single greatest influence on a child’s learning is the effectiveness of a teacher.
  • We don’t tap into our students’ passions; therefore, they don’t care about what they write.
  • Students try to figure out what we want and deliver it — they believe there is a correct way to write.

In some ways I am fortunate that my school does not used standardized testing to dictate curriculum.  It is important for our students to do well on the SAT and AP tests, but we do not have to contend with testing requirements of NCLB as a private school.  I am, however, glad to see that Kittle, who does have to contend with standardized testing, doesn’t let tests determine all of her instructional decisions.  I would argue, however, that if a good teacher makes sound instructional decisions that truly teach her students what they need to know to be critical readers and effective writers, then the standardized test scores will follow.  I think perhaps Kittle included these thoughts to appeal to teachers who might be afraid to try her methods and are used to teaching to whatever test they have to worry about.

Kittle echoes research I have read elsewhere regarding the influence of a teacher in a student’s learning.  It is both empowering and daunting to know that teachers can have such an impact.  Teachers have a lot of responsibility, and I think sometimes we feel helpless in the face of all the problems our students have, testing, and other constraints.

Why aren’t students motivated?  Why won’t they revise?  How come after all the time I put into commenting on that paper, he just turns to the last page to find the grade?

If you ask them, they’ll tell you.  We aren’t tapping into their passions. (3)

I could have written the first three sentences.  In fact, I have often lamented about the fact that students don’t read my copious comments and focus on the grades.  My students are motivated, all right, but too often it’s a grade that motivated them instead of a desire to be a good writer or to learn.  In fact, one of the reasons I was attracted to this book is that I hoped I might be able to learn how to tap into my students’ passions so that grades will no longer be the motivator.

Kittle quotes the literacy biography of one of her former students — a man who entered university to major in writing:

My childhood love of books fizzled when I entered junior high — all of a sudden I was in an environment where I had hours and hours of required reading, so much homework about boring subjects that I had no time to read what I wanted to read.  With this went the writing — we never had “freewrite” time anymore, I always had to write what the teacher wanted, the “right” thing, what needed to be done for the grade.  Creativity was gone. (4)

His comments could have been written by any number of high school students who once loved school and enjoyed what they were learning only to discover at a certain point that they had to basically play a game — figure out what the teacher wants so she’ll give me an A.

I don’t want my students to feel that way.  I want them to enjoy writing, but also learn how to do it well at the same time.

I have created pages for each chapter and student focus in Kittle’s book over at the Learners4Life wiki.  It’s not too late to join us.  If you want to go ahead and start reading, like I did, feel free.  I have posted a tentative reading schedule that allows for members to obtain copies of Kittle’s book and still finish before school begins again.

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Write Beside Them: Reading Schedule

Write Beside ThemI created a tentative reading schedule for parties interested in reading Penny Kittle’s Write Beside Them at the Learners4Life wiki.  It’s not too late to join us if you are interested in participating.

I received my copy of the book today, and it looks really good.  I am feeling kind of tired, so I don’t think I’ll get started on it until tomorrow or Friday, but I’m really excited to get going.  It looks like this summer might be as good as last summer for professional development.  Speaking of last summer’s professional development, I would still love to have more folks, particularly active folks (no offense to lurkers, but it’s been kind of quiet over there) at the UbD Educators wiki.

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Write Beside Them: Summer PD Update

Write Beside ThemAs you may recall, I am reading Penny Kittle’s Write Beside Them as part of a professional development project along with several other teachers this summer.  I am very excited about this project.  Using my experience with the UbD Educators’ wiki coupled with this upcoming experience, I plan to present a session at the next GISA convention in November on using blogs and wikis for professional development.  It is not too late to join us in reading Write Beside Them.  Just come on over to the wiki and follow the instructions Lisa Huff provided.

I encouraged visitors to order their copies of Write Beside Them from Amazon because the book qualifies for free shipping, which would save buyers about $8.  However, after two weeks with no word on when the book would ship or even when Amazon would consider a book that was released on May 1 as “released” (the button still says “preorder”), I decided that if I wanted to be sure of receiving my book before the reading begins, I had better cancel my order with Amazon and order the book directly from Heinemann, which is what I did just yesterday.  I will let you all know when I receive the book so you can decide whether you need to do the same thing (links to Heinemann’s product information for the book are provided above).  Amazon is generally really good about orders, and I don’t really think this problem is their fault.  I suspect it might be Heinemann’s.  I can’t recall the particulars, but I seem to remember having trouble ordering new Heinemann titles from Amazon before.  I don’t know what the reason for the delay is, so I won’t speculate.

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Learners4Life

Lisa Huff has created a wiki called Learners4Life where those of us interested in exploring Write Beside Them (which I mentioned in my last post) can gather, discuss, question, journal, interact, respond, and all the other million things you can do with a wiki. In order to join up, all you have to do is

  1. Pick up a copy of the book. My order is being shipped Monday, according to Amazon, but your mileage may vary.
  2. Join us over the wiki, and follow Lisa’s directions there.

That’s it! I like love it that Lisa set it up so that we can use the wiki to discuss future books.

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