Our Final Project Together

As I have been reading and commenting on these articles, I have also been trying to get a handle on our project. I think I am very interested in the idea of using music or some type of pop culture to solidify a lesson and I think the anti-theory of teaching a process is very exciting. Unfortunately, the more ideas we come up with, the further away from a book about writing we grow, and I had been quite delighted at the prospect of that. Still, all these ideas sound wonderful so I am ready for whatever we all agree on, and cannot wait to get started, once we get it ironed out! Hopefully we can get a clearer idea of our design tomorrow night and begin moving forward together!




Our Final Project Together

As I have been reading and commenting on these articles, I have also been trying to get a handle on our project. I think I am very interested in the idea of using music or some type of pop culture to solidify a lesson and I think the anti-theory of teaching a process is very exciting. Unfortunately, the more ideas we come up with, the further away from a book about writing we grow, and I had been quite delighted at the prospect of that. Still, all these ideas sound wonderful so I am ready for whatever we all agree on, and cannot wait to get started, once we get it ironed out! Hopefully we can get a clearer idea of our design tomorrow night and begin moving forward together!




Ranking, Evaluating, and Liking: Sorting Out Three Forms of Writing by Peter Elbow and Grammar, Grammars, and the Teaching of Grammar by Patrick Hartwell

My first response to Peter Elbow’s “Ranking, Evaluating, and Liking: Sorting Out Three Forms of Writing” was a five star rating and the words Best Paper Yet next to its title! This piece was simple, direct and spoke to the reader about something that he--the author--finds troublesome. The humanity of this man shines through and speaks volumes as he discusses the unreliability of ranking or grading a student’s work—his disdain is well-grounded and supported by his findings and various teaching experiences. Elbow’s straightforward approach to this sensitive topic is refreshing as well as his definition of evaluation: “Evaluation means looking hard and thoughtfully at a piece of writing in order to make distinctions as to the quality of different features or dimensions.” (191). He believes, and I wholeheartedly agree, that by ranking, those delightful distinctions, which make every piece of writing unique, become only a number, and one that might decide a student’s future. I was intrigued by his discussion of Evergreen State College where he taught for nine years in an environment free of ranking; the written evaluations fostered a successful teacher-student experience and was evidently a large influence on Elbow. The portfolio system he discusses sounds promising as does the grid but I felt his “added categories” evidence his generous nature as it allowed students a greater opportunity to excel and find greater confidence in their other skills. My favorite section was on “liking.” The idea of liking one’s own writing and being comfortable enough to say so is so basic and yet quite powerful. Once we take ownership it becomes our responsibility to improve on the initial work without losing that important idea our uncut version expresses. Every writing task should and usually does take on that identity, but some are always more critical than others. The desire to keep working on each piece one writes is a huge step towards writing maturity.About his interaction with students, Elbow emphasizes an obvious but extremely relevant point; if you begin to know and understand your students as people it becomes easier to “like” their writing. As parents we read our children’s work and positively influence their writing; in much the same way, Elbow recommends getting to know students through non-graded free writing and reciprocate through a letter to them, constructed on a more personal level. This sharing of self creates an atmosphere of openness and enables the students to feel confident in their self-expression while allowing the teacher the necessary insight as to why they write as they do. I really enjoyed the entire paper, particularly his astute ideas about taking that extra step with students in an effort to like their writing better and thus, make the teacher’s job less tedious.
Patrick Hartwell’s “Grammar, Grammars, and the Teaching of Grammar” clearly defines his opinion on what he stolidly believes--the idea of teaching “grammar” to aid a student’s ability to write well is both ridiculous and unnecessary. I agree to a point, that these types of classes do not belong in a university, however, students need to have been taught the basics well enough to be able to write effectively and get their point across clearly, concisely, and with the correct mechanics of punctuation, sentence structure, and so on. Because language is ever-changing, as illustrated by Hartwell’s expansion of grammar from three to five meanings, forcing students to always be up on these nuances seems counter-productive when they are trying to master the ability to write well and prove their thesis on any given point. An excellent proficiency in grammar, though helpful on other levels, unfortunately, cannot provide those skills. But, in grammar’s defense, a working knowledge of its specifics can make the writing experience much less threatening, and proofreading a far less tedious task. In truth, I enjoyed this essay and lean more towards Hartwell’s camp on the grammar topic, despite my naïve impression
 it should be ingrained by the time a student reaches the college level!

Ranking, Evaluating, and Liking: Sorting Out Three Forms of Writing by Peter Elbow and Grammar, Grammars, and the Teaching of Grammar by Patrick Hartwell

My first response to Peter Elbow’s “Ranking, Evaluating, and Liking: Sorting Out Three Forms of Writing” was a five star rating and the words Best Paper Yet next to its title! This piece was simple, direct and spoke to the reader about something that he--the author--finds troublesome. The humanity of this man shines through and speaks volumes as he discusses the unreliability of ranking or grading a student’s work—his disdain is well-grounded and supported by his findings and various teaching experiences. Elbow’s straightforward approach to this sensitive topic is refreshing as well as his definition of evaluation: “Evaluation means looking hard and thoughtfully at a piece of writing in order to make distinctions as to the quality of different features or dimensions.” (191). He believes, and I wholeheartedly agree, that by ranking, those delightful distinctions, which make every piece of writing unique, become only a number, and one that might decide a student’s future. I was intrigued by his discussion of Evergreen State College where he taught for nine years in an environment free of ranking; the written evaluations fostered a successful teacher-student experience and was evidently a large influence on Elbow. The portfolio system he discusses sounds promising as does the grid but I felt his “added categories” evidence his generous nature as it allowed students a greater opportunity to excel and find greater confidence in their other skills. My favorite section was on “liking.” The idea of liking one’s own writing and being comfortable enough to say so is so basic and yet quite powerful. Once we take ownership it becomes our responsibility to improve on the initial work without losing that important idea our uncut version expresses. Every writing task should and usually does take on that identity, but some are always more critical than others. The desire to keep working on each piece one writes is a huge step towards writing maturity.About his interaction with students, Elbow emphasizes an obvious but extremely relevant point; if you begin to know and understand your students as people it becomes easier to “like” their writing. As parents we read our children’s work and positively influence their writing; in much the same way, Elbow recommends getting to know students through non-graded free writing and reciprocate through a letter to them, constructed on a more personal level. This sharing of self creates an atmosphere of openness and enables the students to feel confident in their self-expression while allowing the teacher the necessary insight as to why they write as they do. I really enjoyed the entire paper, particularly his astute ideas about taking that extra step with students in an effort to like their writing better and thus, make the teacher’s job less tedious.
Patrick Hartwell’s “Grammar, Grammars, and the Teaching of Grammar” clearly defines his opinion on what he stolidly believes--the idea of teaching “grammar” to aid a student’s ability to write well is both ridiculous and unnecessary. I agree to a point, that these types of classes do not belong in a university, however, students need to have been taught the basics well enough to be able to write effectively and get their point across clearly, concisely, and with the correct mechanics of punctuation, sentence structure, and so on. Because language is ever-changing, as illustrated by Hartwell’s expansion of grammar from three to five meanings, forcing students to always be up on these nuances seems counter-productive when they are trying to master the ability to write well and prove their thesis on any given point. An excellent proficiency in grammar, though helpful on other levels, unfortunately, cannot provide those skills. But, in grammar’s defense, a working knowledge of its specifics can make the writing experience much less threatening, and proofreading a far less tedious task. In truth, I enjoyed this essay and lean more towards Hartwell’s camp on the grammar topic, despite my naïve impression
 it should be ingrained by the time a student reaches the college level!

Tobey’s Writing Theory Thoughts 2015-10-11 18:21:00

Ranking, Evaluating, and Liking: Sorting Out Three Forms of Judgement: Peter Elbow &     Grammar, Grammars, and the Teaching of Grammar: Patrick Hartwell

Peter Elbow really puts into perspective the harm that can be caused by over assessing and assigning grades. Teachers, students, and parents, have become very reliant on individual grades. In his piece, he addresses the distinct problems with ranking students and the harm it causes. The one issue that I relate to the most is number three, " Ranking leads to students to get so hung up on these oversimple quantitative verdicts that they care more about scores than about learning-more about the grade we put onto paper than about the comment we have written on it." It made me think about Nancy Sommers and our discussion from last week. So, we finally change our ways of commenting to make them stronger and meaningful, but the kids could care less because they just want to see the number and letter the paper received. Alas, we all know that grades are a part of our educational world. And, I would be a big liar if I said that I didn't want to know how I was doing based on grades. I get just as anxious when I turn in an assignment and know that I am being evaluated by my professors as my students are when they turn work into me. I am also pleased and feel good about myself if I receive a good grade. However, I think this is Elbow's point, the final product and letter grade that accompanies it, should not define how we feel about ourselves as learners.

He goes on to discuss using evaluation as a much more promising method to teach writers how to improve their work. He calls evaluation, "looking hard and thoughtfully at a piece of writing in order to make distinctions as to the quality of different features or dimensions." This allows a teacher to truly read a piece and give the kinds of feedback we discussed last week. It opens dialogue between the teacher and student, and provides an opportunity for the student writer to make changes he feels will truly strengthen his work. I definitely feel that Nancy Sommers would agree with Peter Elbow's method here. There feels like a marriage between their thinking. 

Elbow also goes on to state how he knows he can't have his way one hundred percent, and that there is a compromise to be made between ranking and evaluating. His use of portfolios, contract grading, a holistic grid, and student magazines give the students the ranking they want. In addition, he provides "evaluation free zones" where students participate in free writing and create non evaluative assignments, where his only comment is "thank you." I agree that students can grow through these non-evaluative activities. Free writing permits a writer freedom to experiment with choice, voice, and technique. Knowing that the piece doesn't have to be shared opens the writer up to taking risks. Daily practice is invaluable. 

Finally, Elbow addresses the importance of writers liking their work. I never really thought about this before, but makes such sense to me. "It's not improvement that leads to liking, but liking that leads to improvement." What a simplistic and genius statement. If a writer doesn't buy into their piece, doesn't care about it to start with, then why would they care to invest the time and energy working on it? Liking, doesn't mean that a piece is perfect and that it doesn't need to be rework and revised, it means that there is great potential and drive to do the reworking. It's important to teach our students this notion. 



Onto grammar! Hartwell certainly let's the grammarians have it. He starts off by basically stating that grammarians are never really satisfied with any research that is done because it doesn't fall in their favor. They seem to always find excuses as to why the studies can be picked apart. They even find excuses as to why their own research failed to fall on their side. It seems that grammarians and anti-grammarians simply don't trust each other. He goes onto state that this piece will put it all to rest because he is going to look at the grammar issues in a whole new light. He addresses four specific questions that hopes are answered and will lay any debate to rest.

I actually enjoyed his point of view. He makes a very strong case for why we should not teach formal, skills-centered grammar in isolation. By providing the five definitions of grammar and plucking apart each one, he must leave grammarians with their mouths agape. (As a side note, if  I was instructed to teach my class grammar as Kolln and Neuleib stressed, I would quit. I can't think of anything more dull, joyless, and tedious. )

The examples he provides are powerful and true. How many times do I hear teachers say, my kids can't name a preposition or a linking verb? However, the kid can create a correct sentence. I'm not saying that there are not students out there who have true deficiencies. Who are not constructing sentences and don't know how to punctuate and capitalize correctly. I know there are. They are in my classroom. What I do know, is that cramming a bunch of grammar rules down their throats is not going to fix the problem. These students who have writing deficiencies are also my students who are not at appropriate reading level. Hartwell makes that distinction in his text as well. there is a connection to writing and literacy. The problems low achieving students are experiencing, are far beyond not knowing the rules for commas. Besides, as he states, once students learn a set of rules there are thirty exceptions to those rules that mess things up!

Grammar instruction is important. It needs to be taught and is often overlooked. However, Kolln's and Neuleib's vision is not only out dated (this piece is written in 1985) and boring, but it is useless. 
We truly need some new and innovative ways to address the area of teaching grammar in a writing classroom.








Thoughts on the Shared Project

I really enjoyed hashing things out more last week. I think we are headed somewhere. As we were talking things through, my wheels started spinning, and I was able to think how I could contribute to any of the ideas we had listed. I really like the idea of creating a list of innovative lessons that any writing teacher can use. Incorporating things like an "anti" lesson, music, or pop culture is a great way to pull students in and keep their interest. I also like thinking of ways that we can create writing pieces that may not be traditional. Having a bank like this is something teachers would love to go to. I know I would. I think back, once again, to KUWP and how we were all inspired by each others lessons, and couldn't wait to try them in our own classrooms. Having resources from other educators is amazing. My concern is the age group, I don't want anyone to feel that they are creating lessons for a group they aren't interested in or to feel uncomfortable. Many lessons can be tweaked for different ages, so we can probably work out this issue.  

Tobey’s Writing Theory Thoughts 2015-10-11 18:21:00

Ranking, Evaluating, and Liking: Sorting Out Three Forms of Judgement: Peter Elbow &     Grammar, Grammars, and the Teaching of Grammar: Patrick Hartwell

Peter Elbow really puts into perspective the harm that can be caused by over assessing and assigning grades. Teachers, students, and parents, have become very reliant on individual grades. In his piece, he addresses the distinct problems with ranking students and the harm it causes. The one issue that I relate to the most is number three, " Ranking leads to students to get so hung up on these oversimple quantitative verdicts that they care more about scores than about learning-more about the grade we put onto paper than about the comment we have written on it." It made me think about Nancy Sommers and our discussion from last week. So, we finally change our ways of commenting to make them stronger and meaningful, but the kids could care less because they just want to see the number and letter the paper received. Alas, we all know that grades are a part of our educational world. And, I would be a big liar if I said that I didn't want to know how I was doing based on grades. I get just as anxious when I turn in an assignment and know that I am being evaluated by my professors as my students are when they turn work into me. I am also pleased and feel good about myself if I receive a good grade. However, I think this is Elbow's point, the final product and letter grade that accompanies it, should not define how we feel about ourselves as learners.

He goes on to discuss using evaluation as a much more promising method to teach writers how to improve their work. He calls evaluation, "looking hard and thoughtfully at a piece of writing in order to make distinctions as to the quality of different features or dimensions." This allows a teacher to truly read a piece and give the kinds of feedback we discussed last week. It opens dialogue between the teacher and student, and provides an opportunity for the student writer to make changes he feels will truly strengthen his work. I definitely feel that Nancy Sommers would agree with Peter Elbow's method here. There feels like a marriage between their thinking. 

Elbow also goes on to state how he knows he can't have his way one hundred percent, and that there is a compromise to be made between ranking and evaluating. His use of portfolios, contract grading, a holistic grid, and student magazines give the students the ranking they want. In addition, he provides "evaluation free zones" where students participate in free writing and create non evaluative assignments, where his only comment is "thank you." I agree that students can grow through these non-evaluative activities. Free writing permits a writer freedom to experiment with choice, voice, and technique. Knowing that the piece doesn't have to be shared opens the writer up to taking risks. Daily practice is invaluable. 

Finally, Elbow addresses the importance of writers liking their work. I never really thought about this before, but makes such sense to me. "It's not improvement that leads to liking, but liking that leads to improvement." What a simplistic and genius statement. If a writer doesn't buy into their piece, doesn't care about it to start with, then why would they care to invest the time and energy working on it? Liking, doesn't mean that a piece is perfect and that it doesn't need to be rework and revised, it means that there is great potential and drive to do the reworking. It's important to teach our students this notion. 



Onto grammar! Hartwell certainly let's the grammarians have it. He starts off by basically stating that grammarians are never really satisfied with any research that is done because it doesn't fall in their favor. They seem to always find excuses as to why the studies can be picked apart. They even find excuses as to why their own research failed to fall on their side. It seems that grammarians and anti-grammarians simply don't trust each other. He goes onto state that this piece will put it all to rest because he is going to look at the grammar issues in a whole new light. He addresses four specific questions that hopes are answered and will lay any debate to rest.

I actually enjoyed his point of view. He makes a very strong case for why we should not teach formal, skills-centered grammar in isolation. By providing the five definitions of grammar and plucking apart each one, he must leave grammarians with their mouths agape. (As a side note, if  I was instructed to teach my class grammar as Kolln and Neuleib stressed, I would quit. I can't think of anything more dull, joyless, and tedious. )

The examples he provides are powerful and true. How many times do I hear teachers say, my kids can't name a preposition or a linking verb? However, the kid can create a correct sentence. I'm not saying that there are not students out there who have true deficiencies. Who are not constructing sentences and don't know how to punctuate and capitalize correctly. I know there are. They are in my classroom. What I do know, is that cramming a bunch of grammar rules down their throats is not going to fix the problem. These students who have writing deficiencies are also my students who are not at appropriate reading level. Hartwell makes that distinction in his text as well. there is a connection to writing and literacy. The problems low achieving students are experiencing, are far beyond not knowing the rules for commas. Besides, as he states, once students learn a set of rules there are thirty exceptions to those rules that mess things up!

Grammar instruction is important. It needs to be taught and is often overlooked. However, Kolln's and Neuleib's vision is not only out dated (this piece is written in 1985) and boring, but it is useless. 
We truly need some new and innovative ways to address the area of teaching grammar in a writing classroom.








Thoughts on the Shared Project

I really enjoyed hashing things out more last week. I think we are headed somewhere. As we were talking things through, my wheels started spinning, and I was able to think how I could contribute to any of the ideas we had listed. I really like the idea of creating a list of innovative lessons that any writing teacher can use. Incorporating things like an "anti" lesson, music, or pop culture is a great way to pull students in and keep their interest. I also like thinking of ways that we can create writing pieces that may not be traditional. Having a bank like this is something teachers would love to go to. I know I would. I think back, once again, to KUWP and how we were all inspired by each others lessons, and couldn't wait to try them in our own classrooms. Having resources from other educators is amazing. My concern is the age group, I don't want anyone to feel that they are creating lessons for a group they aren't interested in or to feel uncomfortable. Many lessons can be tweaked for different ages, so we can probably work out this issue.