"It turns out that reading and writing narrative texts is very good for you." IMAGINE THAT. I love the full explanation of Shortcoming 1. When I finished with this section, I said "AMEN" aloud, took a deep, cleansing breath, and then continued reading.
I really liked the graphic organizer associated with Shortcoming 3 in order to organize a student's thought process when including anecdotes in expository or persuasive writing. I teach the use of anecdotes but haven't found a great way to lead students to the most effective final product- the argument graphic organizer (p. 110) gives me another tool to try. I also plan to try some writing group work this year as well based on the ideas listed under Shortcoming 4.
My core values as a writing teacher change as I grow as an educator. I am in favor of trying anything that will get students writing on a regular basis. I have longstanding expectations for the continued production of writing homework based in student choice and for some writing to occur every class period. I highly value narrative writing to build fluency of writing, specifically at the start of the school year. I find that inviting student teachers and practicum students to share my classroom has broadened my perspective of what good writing instruction looks like. I love helping an aspiring educator to experiment with the latest and greatest teaching strategies with my students.
Again, I find that writing instruction is where I'd love to have more information and help/suggestions, so this chapter was really beneficial for me. I will use the knowledge from this chapter to give my students more free write time and more choice in their writing throughout the year.
I LOVED his comments that not everything students write has to be graded! Wow, was that a light bulb moment for me! I always do these big writing assignments with multiple drafts and then it takes me a while to plug through 130 papers and get the feedback and grades to my students. The last thing I want to do as I'm grading through 130 papers is assign MORE writing! His comments help me see that I can "let go" of the guilt and feelings that I have to grade everything my students write... and that not every writing has to be a long drawn out multi-draft paper!
I look forward to putting some ideas from this chapter to work next year in the classroom!
Stacie, I agree with your epiphany. I always feel that if students take the time to write it, I should take the time to grade it. Maybe not? I think that acknowledgement that grading isn't the only (or the best) way to legitimize writing is key for me.
Wow. My core writing values--like everything else about me as a teacher--are always "under construction." I've come, lately, to value choice more (I came to that value in reading before writing). I find--strangely, perhaps?--that I'm more willing to embrace choice in my "regular" classes than in my Honors class. Because so many students in English 11 are reluctant readers and writers, I'm willing to do whatever it takes to get them to enjoy both processes. In English 11 Honors, however, I'm assuming (sometimes falsely) that these students value reading and writing. The idea of "prepping for college" definitely holds sway. I'd like to focus, in the upcoming year, on providing more choice in Honors to give them the same chance to find their OWN value as readers and writers.
Jen, I resonate with your comments about assumptions about Honors students (& AP students). I tell them (when they sign up for classes & when they come in for Back-to-School night) that if they don't love reading & writing, they should probably think twice about taking the class.
I loved the argument template (pages 110 & 112). This is something I could quickly adapt to from what I currently use. My hope that I can teach writing was bolstered by this chapter. I found many of his ideas instantly usable in my classroom.
My core values as a writing teacher I guess include the idea that writing is a skill that students will use everyday once they leave my classroom, so it is a skill we should practice everyday in my classroom. As I spend time on the internet, reading blogs & comments & even published articles, I am further impressed by the importance of good writing in the world today. I hope my own emphasis on writing is transmitted in the ways that I approach writing instruction.
I just finished reading Nancie Atwell's *In the Middle*, and it paralleled some of Gallagher's ideas nicely. I think Atwell's more extreme than Gallagher (Gallagher's balanced approach is one reason I love his ideas), but she reminded me--as Gallagher does--how entrenched I become in a few, limited genres rather than trying to broaden students' repertoire. This will be a definite goal for me for next year.
Earlier this year I attended a workshop where a peer presented her approach to writing as part of her Literacy block. I walked away excited about what I had seen and with an appreciation for what students could do when given a model and with appropriate instruction. I also felt more than a little ashamed for not doing more writing – especially considering that this educator was writing with her kindergarteners. (She brought tons of samples. Some of the attendees were skeptical. I tried her methods and oh my gosh, my kinders CAN write like you would not believe.) That being said, my recently evolved core values are to model what I want from students, to write more frequently, and to hold my students to high standards – because they can meet and surpass my expectations.
As I read the book and all of your comments, the big picture for our PreK—12th Grade learners really comes into focus for me. I am reminded of how we are working together and how we are all adding layers to student learning.
I enjoyed this chapter. The research connecting the reading of literary fiction with empathy and reading/writing narrative texts with improved social skills was powerful. The definition of a narrative (as real or imagined) goes along with the emphasis that the writing must be believable. My students often need assurances that it is ok to embellish and modify stories in order to make them more interesting. I was pleased that Gallagher addressed the fact that a piece of writing doesn’t always fall into one neat category and impressed by how he taught his students to integrate a narrative in an argument paper.
I plan to try writing groups this year. My students in the past have liked writing journals and the ability to choose their topics. The choice of bless, address, and press I think will make this activity comfortable for younger students. His suggestions on how to implement writing groups are also helpful.
This chapter particularly resonated with me because I have felt the oppression that “boy books” and “girl books” have placed on my readers for years. I have found reading so crucial in my understanding of the wider world that it seriously frustrates me to have such limits placed. Students who are open minded enough to see the value in reading texts of other cultures, religions, etc. sometimes cannot get over the public “humiliation” of reading a book with an opposite-gendered narrator. It saddens me that this is acceptable and even encouraged by many in the school setting. I find it particularly harmful to young men, many of whom I assume have mothers, sisters, girl friends, female co-workers and some will presumably grow up to have wives and daughters. I wish there was not such a commonly accepted stigma to so many books. Thankfully, many recent YA action books have begun to remedy this- starting with covers free of so-called gendered colors or design.
Additionally, I am excited about the importance of narrative to argumentative writing being stressed, mainly because I find it impossible to state my arguments without my own personal stories inserted, as I am very self centered. I am susceptible to anecdotal evidence every time. ☺
Kimber Tate, Coordinator of English, Reading and Libraries