Friday, May 30, 2008

Breakthroughs response

I wasn't even interested in reading the Breakthroughs chapter "Let's Take Another Look at the Fish" until I saw it listed under the theme of Writing Across the Curriculum in the alternative list of contents, Another Way to Use This Book, in the Preface.

I was intrigued that this chapter was written by a science teacher. My writing center staff and I have put in a request to present a workshop to the entire C of O faculty at the beginning of the fall 2008-2009 semester. I particularly want to reach teachers (like the science faculty) who generally avoid sending their students to the Center for Writing and Thinking (CWT). The proposed topic of our workshop is How to Incorporate the Writing Center into Your Classes--or something to that effect.

I love the aphorism "A pencil is one of the best eyes." (For some reason, it reminds me of Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance.) I also agree with Agassiz's approach to teaching--teachers being facilitators of learning. He was patient--which is what teachers of writing need to be in order to teach the process effectively. Too many teachers are in a hurry to get an essay graded and another assigned.

I have often wanted to teach grammar employing this method, but who has the luxury of letting students "look at a fish" for three days? Especially public school teachers who must teach the standards and The Test.

Agassiz's approach to teaching is the foundation of the writing center method. We, like Agassiz, don't "give students facts": we ask questions. Like Tierney, we "talk to the student" and "coach each student, one on one," using questions that--as one of my writing assistants so aptly describes it--"get students thinking about their papers."

I think I can use these ideas in our upcoming faculty workshop to draw in the science teachers , to help them understand how the writing center can support their teaching and benefit their students.

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Reading the Right to Write

While I browsed the table of contents in The Right to Write this evening, exhausted from seven hours of field day and looking for tonight's inspiration to leap off the page, my nine year old daughter, who was pretending to be my professor, said, "Write a poem, Mom, and make it thick."
Thick... I'd not thought of poetry as thick... So, I took the page she offered and wrote:

My poems
remind me of Grandma Patti's potato soup.
Unmeasured thick, chunky words ladled
into WalMart Correll.
An occasional onion, discovered too late
to be pushed to the bowl's rim.
Hints of celery, carrot,
blended words, nearly invisible
that paint images
of thick potato soup.

After writing the poem, I read the chapter titled Connections. Tomorrow, I'll write that piece.


Wednesday, May 28, 2008

OWP Youth Writing Camp Update

Hello TCs and Fellows! It's an exciting time as our site launches its first Youth Writing Camp. The students arrive Thursday morning (May 29th) at 8:00 am, with 39 campers expected to dive into the world of their own miniature writing project!

We will be journaling, reading articles, sharing, responding, producing daily minutes of our work, working in small writing groups, learning new writing skills, practicing those new skills, and producing a written anthology of our work! Along with that, we will create camp t-shirts to commemorate our unity, and host a reception for district administrators, parents, and local media. All in 10 days!

We have set up a student blog for the campers to "Post" some writing on a daily basis. Please do not post any comments to this blog, but do feel free to email me if you would like to make any comments that you know would help me with the blog, or that would be an encouraging word to the campers. Our blog link is if you would like to see what the 4th - 8th graders have to say!

Much thanks to Keri, Casey, and Larry who were very helpful as we got this camp in motion. Also, thank you to Prairie Lands Writing Project, who were super supportive in helping with organization and structure. I'll post occassionally to update our youth writing camp's progress. Future OWP TCs in the doubt about it!

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Orientation for Ozarks Writing Project

Most novels come with a nice, canned study guide with vocabulary, review questions and a test. This year I took a new approach to teaching The House of Dies Drear and my students responded with varied, divergent presentations that included their choice of about 15 different assignments during the novel reading.

My English as a Second Language students showed a marked improvement of comprehension and extension as a result of this educational approach.

One of my focuses for the OWP will be how neurological breakdown can be identified and compensated for by strengthening a student's strengths and weakening his or her weaknesses. Student affinities included within major units will also be explored in my research.

Loved the first day and look forward to growing as a professional educator and strengthening my own writing!