Friday, September 07, 2012

Just a little writing based on your exit passes from Thursday, September 6, 2012.

What's my definition of good writing?

Well, I don't know if you will believe me. But, anytime someone puts words on paper (or a computer) (or anywhere for that matter), I think writing is good. I do believe that everyone can write. Everyone has stories to tell about all kinds of things.

After reading a lot of writing, I think that writing that moves from concrete to abstract and back again really helps ground the reader (with the concrete) and then back out to big ideas and thoughts (abstract). As Hayakawa writes, it's like a monkey in a tree. Writing should move up and down, swinging back and forth from concrete to abstract.

I like complicated ideas in clear writing. My Ph.D advisor said that writing in a clear way is sometimes looked down upon, but in actuality, it's the most difficult writing to do--to write about something so everyone can understand. I think there is a misunderstanding that big ideas need long sentences and big words. (But it also depends on your audience--and the technical vocabulary of what you are writing about).

These are just personal thoughts, but I like a sense of humor. I like reading about things I don't know about and I like to read things that give me ideas or extend my own thinking.

My necklace
Thanks for noticing my necklace. It's called Sarah Coventry. I just googled it. I've never done that before. It's my mom's, and I was thinking she got it in the early 50s, but I think it may be late 50s early 60s. So, it's pretty old. I don't have much jewelry, and I am always losing earrings but I love wearing my mom's necklaces.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Five Frame Story

I made my Five Frame Story in iPhoto. That part was easy! I looked through my existing pictures, and especially with my daughter since she is moving so fast, and especially when I take pictures with my iPad, I tend to take series of pictures. So, I glanced through my pics and chose this series from McDonald's because it seemed fairly easy to turn in to a short story.

The technology part was easy. It was merely choosing some pics and a little music. Here's what is interesting:

As I was choosing pictures, I had to decide on what a good beginning was. I decided on a picture of her sleeping, the next picture was of her sticking her head into a Happy Meal box. I knew this was immediately recognizable and would move the story forward. I then had to take the pics out of order for the sake of the story. The next picture I chose was of her happy face with the toy. There were many cute pictures which I had to to cut. Being a cute picture of my beloved daughter was not enough. What moved the story forward? I thought about what Rob did with his podcast--beginning and ending with the music, and since I started with a picture or her sleeping I decided to end with a different picture of her sleeping. The second to the last picture showed her eating her sandwich (which I thought moved the story forward the amount I needed).

It seems so simple, but so much thinking had to go in to that. It's our job as writing teachers to draw out the thinking behind the choices our students make as writers, right?

Monday, July 16, 2012

Leveling the Digital Playing Field in Career and Technical Centers: Podcast with Amy Knowles, Co-Director of the Ozarks Writing Project

Our first day of the Digital Writing Institute, we created a podcast. Our goal was to talk about digital writing. I paired with Amy who was thinking about incorporating digital writing into Career and Technical Centers for some professional development work that Ozarks Writing Project is doing with an area Career Tech Center. My link to the podcast is below. We created the podcast using GarageBand. We recorded and saved the podcast. I couldn't seem to upload it into Blogger, so Kathy suggested saving it to the Wiki and then linking to my blog.

Here's the unedited version of the podcast.
Amy's Podcast

It had been awhile since I used GarageBand, and I couldn't remember how to edit. Kathy showed me how to select and then splice the audio so I could delete the part that Amy and I didn't want to include.

As far as the writing, I typed out my introduction, "My name is Keri Franklin...I'll be interviewing Amy Knowles..." In my mind, I was imagining NPR's Fresh Air and thinking about what Teri Gross would do if she were to introduce someone. This also makes me think of trying this in my own class. I might want to have them listen to some podcasts at first to get an idea about what is required for a podcast. What does a listener need? What's an appealing intro? What do people want to listen to?

Where does writing fit into this? What kinds of rhetorical decisions do we have to make?

After Kathy explained what we were going to do, it seemed like the room got very quiet.

What did Amy and I learn?

After we finished the blog

Amy's questions:
1. How do you add music?
2. Once you cut that mistake out, does it automatically fill that in? [in GarageBand, you have to take the empty out and 'close the gap."]

Ideas from Megan
1. Talking with a friend. Save it and listen to it in the future. After done with the writing process to go back and do another podcast.
2. Record family stories and gather images.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Throwing Out the Trash

Maybe you just can't know if you don't write.

It was my idea to bring the professional organizer in to help clean up the office. It's Aaron's home base since his company is headquartered in Wisconsin. I knew neither he nor I wanted to work up there anymore. There was just so much stuff on the desk.

Before the organizer came, I knew I needed to "purge"--in the parlance of the professional organizer. I went through boxes of papers. I had already spent last summer throwing pages and pages of dissertation drafts, old student work that needed to be shredded, and more. But, each time I dive into one of those boxes, I am filled with memories.

Since I'm not an organized filer, I sat with her and my husband going through stuff yesterday feeling her insistence--which I paid her for--to throw things away. Especially papers. I've thought for over 24 hours about this. Why did this bother me so much?

I don't take a lot of pictures, and I have tons of writing in a variety of notebooks, each of those notebooks filled not just with journaling but with notes and to do lists. I'm not throwing those away. I'm sure to an outsider these just seem like junky mead notebooks and composition notebooks of different sizes and colors. When I open them, I see a page from my life. Freewriting that I did during class with high school students I taught. Snippets of poems. Notes to myself. When I see old assignments, even handouts from classes, I see handwriting from professors that truly impacted my life. If I throw that piece of paper away, I'm not sure I'll have that memory anymore. The visual of that signature. That note makes me recall a time that I have forgotten.

So, I won't throw it away.

It just felt hard to explain how much those written words matter. Will Josie look at these some day with me? One day maybe she will and then I will throw them away. Those words to me are more important than pictures.

It took me five years to write an article published in 2010 on an idea that began in 2003. As I looked through boxes yesterday, I found writing that related to a book that I am trying to write. So, it's hard for me to let go of my written words when so often I refer to those snippets of paper that look like trash and clutter. I can throw away magazines, old tax returns, and in fact, I could probably throw away pictures more easily than some things that I have written--even just scratched notes. It's really all I have of who I was.

Thursday, March 01, 2012

Aesthetic Response and Literary Cloze

I’m at a conference, and I was talking to my friend and fellow teacher, Julie Sheerman from Marceline High School, about the literary cloze activity we did in class today.

In a semester, she does Literary Cloze early in the semester. For her, the best part of the activity is the fact that it always works—there is always a marked central tendency among the writing that the students do. Most interesting, and I think, important, is her observation that typically students who are more disengaged or resistant seem to do better than traditionally successful students. Julie thought the real lesson is getting a gut reaction from students. And, it’s something to help them shift their thinking about finding the THE answer. “Good” students have a harder time with it because they are inhibited. They have a hard time with the individuality of it.

I think this lesson is about building confidence. We all have an almost inherent, aesthetic response to a poem (and research show across ages). Oh, and Julie pointed out—that aesthetic response could be complete apathy—you might hate it, and that’s okay too. We didn’t talk about that today.

I was just thinking about this and had to share it with you. What do you think?  

Saturday, March 19, 2011

What the National Writing Project Means to Me

I'm always struck by the conversations. How powerful and simple. To sit at a table and talk about our teaching. How does this not happen more at our schools?

We sat in the Siceluff Hall library at Missouri State. I looked around the table on Tuesday night and wondered why conversations like this didn't happen more. Ten teachers sat around the table talking about their classrooms. We had written for ten minutes, and we started with the question, "What brought you here?" This simple question engaged everyone. We took turns sharing parts of our writing, which, in turn, led us to discuss our teaching and our classrooms.

Unfortunately, I don't think this is a common experience in schools. But in National Writing Project sites around the United States, these conversations are the norm. One young teacher, with so much to share, described how she rarely has the opportunity to share what she does in her classroom. And, when she does, no one listens: "I wish sometimes when I shared things it helped others." When I heard her say this, I thought, "You're in the right place." Why does writing project matter? It goes back to the National Writing Project model--teachers teach teachers, teachers write, and we all come into it knowing there is no one correct way to teach writing. We support our work with theory, research, and inquiry into our practices. These three simple "rules" guide us in our summer work and then guide us as we return to our classrooms.

Our work is proven. Administrators and legislators want data--cold, hard facts. We have the cold, hard facts that teachers who participate in National Writing Project professional development have higher test scores than teachers who have not participated in NWP. NWP teachers stay in the profession. NWP is an improvement model that develops teacher leaders. More important to people like me, we have stories. We know personally, emphatically, that the National Writing Project changed our lives. NWP taught me how to be a researcher. NWP teaches me how to write, share, and lead.

What brought me to this place? Books about the teaching of writing. Teachers. Students. Colleagues. It all started in my classroom, just hoping to do things better. To figure things out slowly. What has brought me here? Long drives to Columbia to learn more. Supportive colleagues. People that believe in the importance of teachers teaching teachers. People who see the power in writing. People who like to challenge each other. Amazing people have brought me here and taught me so much.

What has brought me here? Writing. Sharing writing. Talking about writing. Then writing some more.

What brought me here? A crazy goal--not even my goal. I saw a need as I sat in the Wyndham Hotel in Columbia, Missouri in August 2004. I raised my hand and said, "I want to start a writing project in southwest Missouri." I started my own breakout group and Melanie Burdick and Joyce Finch joined me. Why did they do that? They believed in teachers, too. And, that's how it began.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

New York City Schools, Testing, and Missouri

Shael Polakow-Suransky is the new second in command with NYC schools. A New York Times article today discusses discusses the fact that Mr. Polakow-Suransky grew up attending very progressive schools and now supports testing and assessment. I was curious about this contradiction, and I read on. Here's a quote that stuck out to me:
Until we start seeing assessments that ask kids to write research papers, ask them to solve unfamiliar problems, ask them to defend their ideas, ask them to engage with both fiction and nonfiction texts; until those kinds of assessments are our state assessments, all we’re measuring are basic skills,” Mr. Polakow-Suransky said in an interview."
I actually agree with him. Multiple choice tests are focused on basic skills (mostly). What's funny about this is that Missouri had the MAP test and the End-of-Course Exam and, as of this semester, they no longer administer the performance event, or writing prompt. And, whatever people say about the MAP, it did ask students to engage with fiction and non-fiction texts that they had no seen before. Even constructed responses ask students to solve problems and defend ideas. 

I don't know. I guess I'm getting to the age where I am seeing trends begin to come full circle. So many mixed messages.