Cookbook

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Heather Shiveley

ENGL 516

Cookbook

4/23/12

 

 

Frameworks and Standards:

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What does this have to do with Grammars <A> and B? In my Facebook question, which continued to grow since my entry, educators are concerned with the new Common Core State Standards and, as far as I can see, the time issues. And timing is the issue here. I included this into the cookbook because this is, once again, a time for change. It happens, whether we like or it or not. So, In conjunction with Weathers and Rice, I looked at the standards and how we may be able to fit some of what they say into the standards themselves. This is not a forced comparison, but rather an opportunity to begin truly building a curriculum wherein technology informs not only what we teach but wherein we inform technology to suit the needs of students.

When I began thinking about this on a more thoughtful level, I re-read the Framework for Success in Postsecondary Writing as a guide for what constitutes success in college writing. It is appropriate to look at this and the grammars because we can begin to see, or, at least, imagine, a writing “plan” that is inclusive for all peoples. I will discuss this later on as well, but in my blog and the in article, the “Habits for Success” include:

Curiosity

Openness

Engagement

Creativity

Persistence

Responsibility

Flexibility

Metacognition

In the description of how teachers can foster these habits, I began to see parallels between habits and standards and it made me think about the CCSS and the Grammars. At first glimpse, it seems that the grammars  are not applicable to CCSS. But looking more closely, the CCSS is calling for the kind of teaching that Rice and Weathers discuss. Not overtly, mind you, but if the goal is to change (or alter) the habits of mind, then the CCSS has done a fantastic job at altering the habits of teacher’s mind. As Rice illustrates, things are always changing. I think it wise not to look negatively on these new standards, but rather to invent a way for where the habits of mind directly relate to the lessons we teach. Sirc asks us not to “Suck the exploratory nature out of digital media” and the number one habit of mind is Curiosity. Seems to me that this is a psychologically motivational. And what Rice and Weathers talk about is the same sort if thing- exploration, creativity, openness, etc. 

I cannot by experience give certain account of what this looks like in practice, (at this point), but it appears relevant that education, under its new guidelines, is defined by variety and an ability to have a rhetorical voice. I think that motivation is key. The CCSS expects that students will have the ability to write a standard essay, complete with all of the grammar components, but do so in way that is appealing and stylistic and original. Is that what we look for in college composition? Surley! But at the heart is knowing that teaching unconventionally can and does lead to “mainstream” knowledge. In other words, working with crots or double voice is challenging yet it could possibly create and develop one or several of the thoughts of habits discussed in the framework, and be used to address the more conventional.    

 

Praxis and Networking 

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How should we think differently about literacy? Writing as an act of transformation? Yagelski says that writing” can make us aware that we exist” (192). The social act of writing does something to our psyche. if it is true that writing is socially situated, then this comment makes perfect sense. Rice suggests that “Connections, in other words, socialize” (51). Again, it taxes me that writing is thought of by so many as individual process. I do believe that, as Sirc says, nothing is truly creative. Every experience, every encounter, is foregrounded in experience. So how can anything be completely original? It isn’t. The idea here is that one draws from experience to create a reality, based on experience. But, also, to look beyond the parameters of typical English grammars to allow ourselves to explore the who we are. Again, the non- typical grammar comes into play here, Yagelski says that the reason writing doesn’t matter to most students is because it has failed to be “transformative”. 

I think that Weathers and Rice address this in separate ways. There are a lot of identity implications. “Transformation”, as pointed out by Yagelski, comes when there is a realization of self. Weathers and Rice are kin to this. The authors search for variety and change. The emphasis on the change in core standards calls for more non- fiction and especially at the high school level, argumentation. What better way to present an argument than to be able to discuss (argue) your position based on a labyrinthine sentence? To be able how to describe the method behind the madness and argue for it? Weathers continues with the the idea that options are the key to writing well. As is the Framework. 

In my estimation, the point is that to teach mainstream English, we need to look at different and innovative ways to teach it. Build on the psyche- motivation, openness, that leads to engagement, creativity, etc. If we provide our students with opportunities to demonstrate these qualities, without so much emphasis on the test, the “Test” will come naturally, given enough occasion.

 

 

Really? 

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This is a nice segue into “The Really?” part of my cookbook. The original post contained inquiry of politics and oppression in education and specifically literacy, which has haunted me for the last two years. Weathers and Rice inadvertently (?) address this. The idea is that educational oppression derives from a predetermined set of norms for the English language. English “A”, developed, according to Rice, was a Harvard set of ideals for the written language. Namely, the writing and grammar “rules” created by the economically advantaged white male left people with 2 options: master the rules or fail. Where does that leave the rest of the Americans who come from a “non- Harvard” background? I think that new “grammars” can indeed inform the old. 

The reason this interests me is because I plan to do my master’s project on women’s prison literacy. The statistics on women in prison in regards to demographics, education, and literacy testify that most of the prisoners are considered at a disadvantage before they were imprisoned. Although not surprising, it is no less disturbing. Also, a majority of female inmates have experienced some type of abuse prior to their incarceration. I am increasingly curious about new styles and techniques in literacy education, particularly because it seems logical to me that something new is required, based on the fact that in many cases, the traditional system failed. New grammars, especially grammar B, call for variety and creativity- “options in style”. This could provide the students with small pieces of success, possibly unfamiliar successes at this point, therefore encouraging and motivating them to continue. If an instructor initially employed Weathers’s originality to the writing curriculum, then initial assessments would be non- traditional. Ideally, this leads into a creative approach to typical classroom writing assignments and genres while giving them the transformative power that Yagelski discusses in his article. I am not insinuating that grammar B is less sophisticated than A, or that it is unstructured. I think the opposite is true. Grammar B suggests a complexity which results in critical thinking that, when continually built, makes the task of traditional writing less formidable.   

For a long time I wrestled with the notion that these authors (these being most of authors I have read in this program) asked educators to make impossible leaps and bounds that would change the entire system and inevitably reshape political structures. I  kept questioning, “How in the world am I supposed to do this?” I realize now that, although there is nothing wrong with wanting to improve education, baby steps are necessary and more easily achieved when we work with the system instead of against it. Applying new ways of teaching and maintaining open minds can help students succeed in a world of traditional testing. 

 

Logic Outside of the Box

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I return again to my favorite reading this semester- Sirc’s “Box Logic”, and my new favorite quote, DON’T “suck the playful, exploratory spirit out of digital media” (121). The concept is so basic and yet underestimated, or at least underutilized. Weathers and Rice encourage exploration in writing. For them, it is not about moving in a linear fashion from point a to point b as syntax instruction often does. Rather, they want students to explore and engage in natural curiosities with writing and the digital in a manner that promotes writing as a dynamic social act. Students seek to make connections and the exploration makes them, in sense, their own teachers. Grammar <A>, Rice tells us, eliminates the individualism of Grammar A and stimulates students to view writing collaboratively, taking all of the components into consideration. Rice also tells us that the “Network could be the basis of an educational practice” (59), advocating that teachers examine the potential learning benefits of “a new media educational system”(60). Sirc alludes to this as well. It’s all about relationships.

In the blog, I comment that box- logic activities require rhetorical capability and creativity. I find many connections between box- logic and the habits of mind and although I have not actually experimented with the box, I think that Sirc’s idea inspires all eight habits, just as Rice and Weathers. It would be interesting to create a chart of some sort that depicts the interconnectivity of it all.

Frameworks and Standards

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I was prepared to write about the reading this week, but this morning I posed a question on facebook about the CCSS to some of my teacher friends. This is the feedback I received so far this morning and my response, which has me asking more questions:

Reader 1
It is reasonable to have every kid in America to know certain things. Particularly in a country with so much student movement from school to school. State standards can be vague and poorly written and nobody knows what is going on.
17 minutes ago · Like

Reader 2
I don’t think they’re reasonable at all, especially at the high school level. I also think until we see the assessment, that it’s going to be a major issue. The final assessment could honestly be a semester-long project, and students will be expected to complete it in a matter of hours. I think the ideas are great, but I think they don’t take into account the developmental levels of students and will leave behind many readers and thinkers feeling lost, confused, and unsupported. I do agree with Robert, though, they do provide a continuity with students moving from school-to-school and state-to-state.
13 minutes ago · Like

Reader 1
To continue… national standards mean new textbooks, new training argh.. and more impetus to testing mania.. argh.. what happens to kids that fail in grade one and will never catch up to the rigors of the standards for grade 4. They get left behind again. And who drafted the National Standards? Teacher input? I heard there was much secrecy about them. I don’t know. Diane Ravitch indicated that they leave behind kids outside of lang. arts and math. Some things kids learn are not quantifiable. (Her Death and Life of Amer. Schools book) You can check Edutopia’s site for a ton of information. And blogs.
11 minutes ago · Like · 1

Reader 2
Bill Gates is behind the entire push for the National Standards, and behind the test that will be administered.
10 minutes ago · Like
Liz Sheets Anderson I guess if you can design a computer, you can get a president to buy into your ideas of education also.
10 minutes ago · Like

Heather Shiveley
I just re- read “Framework for Success in Postsecondary Schools” and after looking at the common core, a lot of connections can be made. I wonder specifically, what do you think makes them unattainable- is it student differentiation and/ or time factors? I am having a hard time reconciling what I think might be a good thing (CCSS) and the fact that the motivation is on the test, which seems to contradict much of what the standards are aimed at. Is there any place to go and view what this elusive test is going to like?

(End of conversation on facebook). I am curious to see others’ responses.

So can anyone answer the question about who designed the standards? I am thinking back to an online viewing regarding the CCSS and seem to recall that the group included teachers, professors, administration, test designers, etc. It seems reasonable to me that in an effort for students to be prepared for college writing, a transformation is needed. Which would also imply that schools must provide the time and additional “training” to expect teachers to implement new curricula and lessons, ensuring that they understand what the CCSS are and what they are required to do. On the surface, it appears positive

I do have a problem with the fact the CCSS do not address those that are NOT college bound- and so where is the call to alternative educations and tests for the students whose goals/ interests do not include college? It seems as though we set them up for failure. If the students experience this, especially recurring failure, we know from research that many of them will cease trying altogether and self- esteem issues arise/ increase. And what about low SES students who do not have access to certain technologies?

I can’t imagine that the dilemma will ever be fully solved. Teachers will always struggle with these questions and depending on each experience, react differently. One thing is clear to me. The framework suggests that the habits of mind for success include:
Curiosity
Openness
Engagement
Creativity
Persistence
Responsibility
Flexibility
Metacognition

These “habits” we are asking the students formulate need to be exercised by those in the profession. If these habits aid in student success, it is reasonable to conclude that it aids in “teacher success”.

Logic outside of the box

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I truly enjoyed Sirc’s essay, including the activities supporting his ideas. Activity one is an excellent example of the discussion we had in class last about rhetorical choices and creativity; the students don’t create the art, nor do they write the words, but they are asked to make something fresh from the already existing. This would demonstrate both rhetorical capability and creativity. I did seem strange to me though that a box was chosen to objectify writing clearly outside of the proverbial box, when his point is, I think, writing is not fix. I don’t know, a box seems…conforming. Anyhow-

Most of the authors we have read call writing teachers to think about language and composition in non- traditional ways and some more understandble than others. Sirc’s “logic of the box as compositional grammar” (126) clearly resonated other works we have read, including the grammars of Rice and Weathers. 

Some key ideas:

Writing as linking

Writing with haitus

Writing as pictures and pictures as writing (visual)

Writing as auditory

Writing as raw

Writing as truth

Writing as static   

Writing as collaboration

Writing as experiment

Writing as “craving” (117)

Teachers are encouraged not to “suck the playful, exploratory spirit out of digital media” (121). Isn’t that central to motivation theory? If we want to motivate students we should strive for fun and foster the natural curiosities of the things that interest them. Perhaps this sounds idealistic and time consuming for the instructor, but I think the point is that if we can provide meaningful learning opportunities it is worth the effort. I am feeling more optimistic and confident about including other media in the writing classroom after reading the pratical applications (activities) at the end of each chapter.

However, I remain (always still) unable to fully reconcile which is a more important skill- traditional essay writing or non- traditional (what we may think of as creative) writing? Like anything, I believe in balance, but I am wondering if the authors imply that the non- traditional is not designed to replace the essay, but can be used as a starting point to help students realize their feelings and thoughts about writing? Allow them to “play” and “explore” with writing and media, which is a natural beginning to anything we learn as kids,  Essentially, this would need to become part of the curriculum throughout schooling, not just in the high school or college classrooms. And, thinking more about the exploratory nature of writing, this would likely appeal to students who are considered math and science oriented as well as visual and kinesthetic learners. Maybe even auditory learners. Maybe if students viewed writing in Sirc’s way, the interest and appeal would increase, inevitably enhancing creativity, skills, and the “functionality” parts of writing? Worthwhile to examine further, I think.

Based on Sirc’s lesson, I am eventually going to try to recreate a Plath poem using music and a range of artistic choices (color, formatting, font) to gain a better understanding of her work and see if meaning and tone become more clear through (or with) the aesthetic choices. This should be fun.       

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This is great

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How do you inspire happiness? Some find it easy to do so by stringing together beautiful sentences with words that fall into place and fill gaps in our minds. Others create magic by strumming a few notes on their guitar that can instantly lift your spirit. Then there are those who mix the stunning worlds of writing and design to form the best of both worlds.

In this case – Citizens for Optimism; a col­lab­o­ra­tion of 17 design­ers who created posters inspiring optimism.  There are 17 posters in all, inspired by 17 words.

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Johnson- Eiola

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“Texts no longer function as discrete objects, but as contingent, fragmented objects in circulation, as elements within constantly configured and shifting networks” (208).

I remember seeing a video about cultures and writing and how some of the more collectivist cultures are expected and encouraged to “borrow” others’ ideas in their own writing without having to cite it. Could you imagine the uproar of English teachers across America, so ingrained in individualism, if students were to turn in copy-and-paste papers, adding their own transitions for sense- making purposes. An out cry of burning the cheaters at the stake would ensue. 

I don’t think was the point of Johnson- Eiola’s essay. But in re-defining writing and how we view writing, wouldn’t writing itself have to change in the classroom, and what teachers deem acceptable? On page 212 he tells teachers to consider :

1. Economics influences writing and teachers need to broaden their concepts of writing

2. “Collection is a social and political act”

Keeping in mind these two ideas, teachers can move beyond the “traditional” classroom and foster critical and analytical skills students need to be knowledgable, responsible users of technologies and participants in community. 

I have never thought of text this way and it challenges my notion of text as original and unchanging, once published.  He makes connections between shifts in IP laws and how we define writing- no longer as 1 creative person expressing himself. I appreciate the practical applications in this section (and the book in general).

 

 

Article: Dear Student

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I received this via email from a friend and thought it was an interesting read. There are some religious references, fyi.

Business
1/12/2012 @ 4:18PM |124,267 views
Dear Student: I Don’t Lie Awake At Night Thinking of Ways to Ruin Your Life
“When I was a child, I spake as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child: but when I became a man, I put away childish things.” 1 Corinthians 13:11 (KJV)
One of the popular myths of higher education is that professors are sadists who live to inflict psychological trauma on undergraduates. Perhaps you believe that we pick students at random and then schedule all our assignments in such a way as to make those students’ lives as difficult as possible. The older I get and the longer I do this, the more I recognize that we (the professors) need to be more transparent about our philosophies of evaluation. How does this work? Let’s clarify a few things.
First, I do not “take off” points. You earn them. The difference is not merely rhetorical, nor is it trivial. In other words, you start with zero points and earn your way to a grade. You earn a grade in (say) Econ 100 for demonstrating that you have gained a degree of competence in economics ranging from being able to articulate the basic principles (enough to earn a C) to mastery and the ability to apply these principles to day-to-day affairs (which will earn an A). I’ve hurt my own grades before by confusing my own incompetence with competence and my own (bare) competence with mastery, so trust me: I’ve been there, and I understand.
Second, this means that the burden of proof is on you to demonstrate that you have mastered the material. It is not on me to demonstrate that you have not. My assumption at the beginning of each class is that you know somewhere between nothing and very little about basic economics unless you were lucky enough to have an exceptional high school economics course. Otherwise, why are you here? You might say that the course is a prerequisite for other things you want to do, but if that it is the case and you know the material, you’re more than welcome to simply show up for the exams, ace them, and be on your way.
In this light, consider this: the fact that you “don’t understand” why you didn’t earn full points for a particular question might itself help explain why you didn’t earn full points. Don’t take this personally or interpret it as a sneer. See it as a learning opportunity. If you understood the material–and do note that there is a large difference between really understanding the material and being able to reproduce a graph or definition you might remember from class–you would have answered the question flawlessly. I recommend (as I have recommended to many others) that you go back, take another crack at it, and see if you can find where you have gone wrong. Then bring it by my office, and we will talk.
Finally, I’m here to be a mentor and instructor. This means that our relationship differs from the relationships that you have with your friends and family. Please don’t infer from this that I don’t care about you, because I do. A lot. I want to see you make good choices. I want to see you understand basic economics because I hope it will rock your world as it continues to rock mine and because the human consequences of lousy economic policy are enormous. That said, you should never take grades personally. I don’t think you’re stupid because you tank an exam, an assignment, or even an entire course. Economics is hard. A D or an F on an economics exam does not diminish your value in God’s eyes (or in mine) or indicate that economics just isn’t for you. It probably means you need to work smarter, and I’m here to help you with that.
Dear student, I once thought as you do. I once carried about the same misconceptions, the same litany of cognitive biases, and the same adolescent desire to blame others for my errors. I was (and remain) very poorly served by my immaturity. As shocking as it may seem, I still cling to a lot of it, even after four years of college, five years of graduate school, and now five-and-a-half years as a professor. Economics is hard, but becoming a responsible member of a free society is very, very, very hard. I’m still learning to put aside childish things. I hope you will do the same. Start now. The effort is daunting, but the rewards are substantial.
This article was inspired by periodic discussions of evaluation in the academy that crop up on the website of the Chronicle of Higher Education and on InsideHigherEd.com. A former colleague used to quote the verse above at the top of his Economics 101 syllabus. I thank Rachel Smith for comments and suggestions.

Random thoughts

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The most interesting quote in our reading for this week is on pg 7, where the authors discuss materiality and identity: “…people in class who rarely spoke in face-toface discussions contributed to the online discussions.” They go on to say that identity could be hidden or shifted online, unlike with physical interaction. However, they go on to illustrate the point that, “…new technologies are always designed out of existing technologies and out of existing material economies, patterns, and habits” (8). And I thought, right back to the “politics of language”. I think the authors are trying to say that new media would eliminate the embrace only to Grammar A, therefore creating an environment free from those limitations.

This made me think about what I do (or would do) online with a hidden identity. For example, I am not involved in any public blogs or chats with people who do not know me. I bet I would be willing to take more risks- with both content and style for an audience who has no idea who I am. I wonder what that would like. I can’t say that I would even know how to create outside of what I have been schooled.

“How would a text look, for example, that embodied the values of generosity, or slow rumination, or full hearted justice- and what might we learn about ourselves in the process of making and learning to read such texts?” (15). I have returned to this question all week, considering possibilities for what this really might look like. I wish that I had an answer, but I fail to conceptualize a text such as the authors speak of. A text that embodied generosity? I think that this would look different to everyone, depending on aspects such as culture and belief. Could a text embody generosity for all people? The people contributing to that space or text would have to be themselves generous people, right? It is boggling me.

“Such composers design texts that make as overtly visible as possible the values they embody” (15). Does this mean that stating directly, through words or pictures or sound that, for example, the authors of this text value mainstream “standard” English and therefore all of its political implications?

The more I learn, the less I know.

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