All posts by Tobey Martinez

Tobey’s Writing Theory Thoughts 2015-12-06 20:29:00

Yancey and Selfe

I can't believe this is our last blog! Time sure does fly. Thanks for a great semester everyone.

As I read both of the pieces this week, one main theme stood out to me: the need to incorporate multi-modalities within the traditional composition classroom. 

Although Selfe focuses on aurality and Yancey discusses technologies in general, both women share the concern that the look and feel of a composition classroom, its students, and methods of teaching how to write and what constitutes as writing, needs to be addressed. There are many questions surrounding the definition of writing as we move forward.

Another similarity both articles address is that the use of traditional writing combined with the inclusion of multimedia, can enhance the message and creativity of compositions. Selfe demonstrated this with the examples she included (I read this article a while back for another class and was able to check out her links-some very impressive work), and Yancey with her sidebar explanations of how she enhanced her own speech with visuals and lighting. Both again, share the belief that teaching writing in this manner has the ability to reach out to populations of students who normally struggle or do not do well in composition classes. 

As with any new shifts in education, there are complications. Teacher training, or lack there of, is a main concern. How do teachers learn about all of these wonderful tools at their fingertips? Training needs to be provided for them, and it often is not. Therefore, many students do not gain or benefit from the use of working with multi modalities. In addition, there may be time constraints due to curriculum guidelines. Yancey calls for curriculum reform. This would allow for jam-packed curricula to be updated to allow for new writing opportunities.

As I read these articles, I couldn't help thinking about our own class and the pieces that we are constructing for our final project. This project is coming to life with the use of technology, aurality, many types of visuals, and written text. I think we provide a great model for the points Yancey and Selfe are addressing.


Tobey’s Writing Theory Thoughts 2015-12-06 20:29:00

Yancey and Selfe

I can't believe this is our last blog! Time sure does fly. Thanks for a great semester everyone.

As I read both of the pieces this week, one main theme stood out to me: the need to incorporate multi-modalities within the traditional composition classroom. 

Although Selfe focuses on aurality and Yancey discusses technologies in general, both women share the concern that the look and feel of a composition classroom, its students, and methods of teaching how to write and what constitutes as writing, needs to be addressed. There are many questions surrounding the definition of writing as we move forward.

Another similarity both articles address is that the use of traditional writing combined with the inclusion of multimedia, can enhance the message and creativity of compositions. Selfe demonstrated this with the examples she included (I read this article a while back for another class and was able to check out her links-some very impressive work), and Yancey with her sidebar explanations of how she enhanced her own speech with visuals and lighting. Both again, share the belief that teaching writing in this manner has the ability to reach out to populations of students who normally struggle or do not do well in composition classes. 

As with any new shifts in education, there are complications. Teacher training, or lack there of, is a main concern. How do teachers learn about all of these wonderful tools at their fingertips? Training needs to be provided for them, and it often is not. Therefore, many students do not gain or benefit from the use of working with multi modalities. In addition, there may be time constraints due to curriculum guidelines. Yancey calls for curriculum reform. This would allow for jam-packed curricula to be updated to allow for new writing opportunities.

As I read these articles, I couldn't help thinking about our own class and the pieces that we are constructing for our final project. This project is coming to life with the use of technology, aurality, many types of visuals, and written text. I think we provide a great model for the points Yancey and Selfe are addressing.


Tobey’s Writing Theory Thoughts 2015-11-27 15:55:00

Why the Research Paper is not Working- Fister  and The Popularity of Formulaic Writing- Wiley

I enjoyed reading two very interesting articles this week. First, Fister clearly tries to make a case as to why we should abandon the research paper. Her points being: that there is a messiness with citation rules, that students do a great job finding sources but do not know how to evaluate those sources, that students simply "skim the surface" when looking for valuable support for their topic, and that it strips away original thought as students often abandon good topics because sources to substantiate their points are limited. All of her reasons feel true, yet I still find value in the work behind creating a research paper. I think it teaches kids to understand the importance of supporting their thoughts and arguments. It also shows the importance of searching for scholars and experts who can "back you up." The problem with "skimming the surface" sounds to me like laziness. Students need to be taught that they have to actually read sources fully and evaluate the information presented within the text.

Years ago, my school taught the research paper. We began with the "mini-paper" in sixth grade. This is where they were introduced to research and the process. Then in seventh grade they completed their first paper through an interdisciplinary collaboration between language arts and social studies. And by eighth grade they were to choose their own topics and fly on their own. I even helped create our Research Style Guide during summer PD. I felt that this was an important process and really helped the students for their entrance into high school. However, with Common Core take over, the research paper has been abandoned in our middle school language arts curriculum. I felt that teaching students of a younger age how to begin this process was beneficial and set them up for success when they reached higher grades.


Formulaic writing...I will admit as a sixth grade teacher that I am guilty of teaching my students the five-paragraph essay "formula." When coming over from the elementary schools, they often have never written formal essays before, or if they did they come with limited knowledge. However, within this "formula" my students are not taught to count sentences and I am not looking for proper ratios! They may be taught where a thesis sentence goes and that you begin with topic sentences, but what goes into those paragraphs are their ideas. They make decisions about what they are saying and how to say it. Needless to say, I was blown away by the Schaffer Model and it's formula that strips away true writing. I also couldn't believe that the article states that this model was designed for ninth and tenth graders! By the time kids reach those grades they should be long gone from following formulas.

Now I know that there are many struggling writers who need more support with organization, and a formula can often benefit those students. However, one size does not fit all. Are we supposed to teach this formula to our advanced students? Such a structure would hold them back. I like how Wiley states that we should use our formulaic writing ideas as strategies not as a structure.

He states that what is easy fro teachers is not necessarily good fro the students. This is so true.



Tobey’s Writing Theory Thoughts 2015-11-27 15:55:00

Why the Research Paper is not Working- Fister  and The Popularity of Formulaic Writing- Wiley

I enjoyed reading two very interesting articles this week. First, Fister clearly tries to make a case as to why we should abandon the research paper. Her points being: that there is a messiness with citation rules, that students do a great job finding sources but do not know how to evaluate those sources, that students simply "skim the surface" when looking for valuable support for their topic, and that it strips away original thought as students often abandon good topics because sources to substantiate their points are limited. All of her reasons feel true, yet I still find value in the work behind creating a research paper. I think it teaches kids to understand the importance of supporting their thoughts and arguments. It also shows the importance of searching for scholars and experts who can "back you up." The problem with "skimming the surface" sounds to me like laziness. Students need to be taught that they have to actually read sources fully and evaluate the information presented within the text.

Years ago, my school taught the research paper. We began with the "mini-paper" in sixth grade. This is where they were introduced to research and the process. Then in seventh grade they completed their first paper through an interdisciplinary collaboration between language arts and social studies. And by eighth grade they were to choose their own topics and fly on their own. I even helped create our Research Style Guide during summer PD. I felt that this was an important process and really helped the students for their entrance into high school. However, with Common Core take over, the research paper has been abandoned in our middle school language arts curriculum. I felt that teaching students of a younger age how to begin this process was beneficial and set them up for success when they reached higher grades.


Formulaic writing...I will admit as a sixth grade teacher that I am guilty of teaching my students the five-paragraph essay "formula." When coming over from the elementary schools, they often have never written formal essays before, or if they did they come with limited knowledge. However, within this "formula" my students are not taught to count sentences and I am not looking for proper ratios! They may be taught where a thesis sentence goes and that you begin with topic sentences, but what goes into those paragraphs are their ideas. They make decisions about what they are saying and how to say it. Needless to say, I was blown away by the Schaffer Model and it's formula that strips away true writing. I also couldn't believe that the article states that this model was designed for ninth and tenth graders! By the time kids reach those grades they should be long gone from following formulas.

Now I know that there are many struggling writers who need more support with organization, and a formula can often benefit those students. However, one size does not fit all. Are we supposed to teach this formula to our advanced students? Such a structure would hold them back. I like how Wiley states that we should use our formulaic writing ideas as strategies not as a structure.

He states that what is easy fro teachers is not necessarily good fro the students. This is so true.



Tobey’s Writing Theory Thoughts 2015-11-22 00:03:00

The Concept of Control in Teacher Responses: Straub and Looking Back as We Look Forward: Yancey

Straub's article deals with the important topic of teacher's comments on student's writing pieces. He stresses the importance that these comments have on the writer and how teachers need to be thoughtful and careful about their approaches. The goal is to ultimately have students develop their pieces and stand up and take responsibility for what they create. Too often, teacher comments are too controlling and judgmental. He emphasizes the point that writing instructors need to evaluate their commenting style and determine what and how they comment. There are many ways of looking at a piece, and many approaches to making commentary. It is sometimes difficult, but there should be a resistance to taking over control of the paper by guiding or instructing specific changes. The teacher should try to instill a feeling of collaborator.

Straub analyzes five different teacher comments on a paper and found many different methods used. He found teachers who focused solely on surface changes such as grammar and sentence structure, others who did not ask questions about the content but rather lead the student to make certain changes, and finally others who were less judgmental and provided comments that allowed the student to think about certain content driven points where she will be able to decide whether to make changes or not. He also shared an example from Peter Elbow where Elbow provides more of a summary of what he experienced as a reader. Elbow's comments felt very genuine and authentic.

We have discussed this topic at length during our semester and I feel that it is an important issue. Through the personal stories shared, we have heard that there have been those of us in class, who felt helped by strong commentary from teachers and those of us who have felt frustrated. There is  a lot of talk in education right now about the importance of feedback. I can only hope that it is important enough to provide some training or at least perhaps in house focus during school meetings. As always, things won't change unless we first acknowledge and second educate to strength or better the issue.

Yancey's piece this week was very similar to last week's reading of hers. It once again, looked back at the progression of the use of assessment in composition studies in higher education. I did enjoy this article more as she explained how the three waves overlapped and built upon one another. She shows the need for movement in this area and how the old methods of assessment become stagnant or how they simply didn't fit the dynamics of newer populations entering college.

The transition from multiple choice tests that focused on vocabulary and grammar skills in the 1950s to a portfolio assessment used today shows how compositional studies has come leaps and bounds over the years. The progression of how students are assessed highlights the value that there is on the content of writing over the correctness of grammar only. It also focuses on how instructors have become experts in the field.

As I stated last week, I'm sure that Yancey is happy with the progression that has been made thus far. However, where are we headed from here?

Tobey’s Writing Theory Thoughts 2015-11-22 00:03:00

The Concept of Control in Teacher Responses: Straub and Looking Back as We Look Forward: Yancey

Straub's article deals with the important topic of teacher's comments on student's writing pieces. He stresses the importance that these comments have on the writer and how teachers need to be thoughtful and careful about their approaches. The goal is to ultimately have students develop their pieces and stand up and take responsibility for what they create. Too often, teacher comments are too controlling and judgmental. He emphasizes the point that writing instructors need to evaluate their commenting style and determine what and how they comment. There are many ways of looking at a piece, and many approaches to making commentary. It is sometimes difficult, but there should be a resistance to taking over control of the paper by guiding or instructing specific changes. The teacher should try to instill a feeling of collaborator.

Straub analyzes five different teacher comments on a paper and found many different methods used. He found teachers who focused solely on surface changes such as grammar and sentence structure, others who did not ask questions about the content but rather lead the student to make certain changes, and finally others who were less judgmental and provided comments that allowed the student to think about certain content driven points where she will be able to decide whether to make changes or not. He also shared an example from Peter Elbow where Elbow provides more of a summary of what he experienced as a reader. Elbow's comments felt very genuine and authentic.

We have discussed this topic at length during our semester and I feel that it is an important issue. Through the personal stories shared, we have heard that there have been those of us in class, who felt helped by strong commentary from teachers and those of us who have felt frustrated. There is  a lot of talk in education right now about the importance of feedback. I can only hope that it is important enough to provide some training or at least perhaps in house focus during school meetings. As always, things won't change unless we first acknowledge and second educate to strength or better the issue.

Yancey's piece this week was very similar to last week's reading of hers. It once again, looked back at the progression of the use of assessment in composition studies in higher education. I did enjoy this article more as she explained how the three waves overlapped and built upon one another. She shows the need for movement in this area and how the old methods of assessment become stagnant or how they simply didn't fit the dynamics of newer populations entering college.

The transition from multiple choice tests that focused on vocabulary and grammar skills in the 1950s to a portfolio assessment used today shows how compositional studies has come leaps and bounds over the years. The progression of how students are assessed highlights the value that there is on the content of writing over the correctness of grammar only. It also focuses on how instructors have become experts in the field.

As I stated last week, I'm sure that Yancey is happy with the progression that has been made thus far. However, where are we headed from here?

Tobey’s Writing Theory Thoughts 2015-11-14 18:44:00

Using Rubrics to Apply Grading Criteria: Bean & Writing Assessment in the Early 21st Century: Yancey

As I was reading Bean's piece I was trying to remember how I graded my student's pieces before we started using rubrics. I couldn't really remember too much. I kind of remember red penned papers with comments and a random grade on top. I'm not really sure how I came up with the grade. This seems ludicrous to me. I think I then moved on to just giving a number 1-6 based on the ideas from one of the state testing rubrics, (GEPA at the time) but I never created the rubric. I also remember using checklists. How did I get away with this? How did parents not call me up and make me explain my every grade? They never did. Was this just the standard that was going on throughout schools everywhere? I am happy to say that rubrics make so much sense to me now. They have been life changing in grading my student's writing pieces. I do think that they still leave room for subjectivity, but they make our jobs, as writing teacher's so much easier. I also think that teaching younger students certain skills makes the creation of rubrics manageable for me, as those specific skills make their way into my rubrics. I like how Bean pointed out that there are so many types of rubrics out there and that teachers can make the rubric fit who they are and what they expect of their students.

Yancey's piece explains that writing assessment in higher education is sticky business. Over the years the different methods have been deemed conflicted, unfair, culturally biased, and purposefully questionable. There has been progress made to make writing assessments more open and productive for students. She discusses the use of portfolios as one way method. Student response to using portfolios has been very positive. They show growth as well as areas of difficulties. Students are able to reflect on themselves as writers. However, even portfolios can be used in different ways by different teachers making their reliability as a writing assessment unclear. The entire article for me sounded as though, there is this struggle to finding a well balanced assessment. I'm not sure if one exists. I think that there should be an emphasis on several assessments to determine the growth of a writer and analyze a program. Formative and summative assessments are both valuable. Clearly there is still a lot of work to be done in this area.

Tobey’s Writing Theory Thoughts 2015-11-14 18:44:00

Using Rubrics to Apply Grading Criteria: Bean & Writing Assessment in the Early 21st Century: Yancey

As I was reading Bean's piece I was trying to remember how I graded my student's pieces before we started using rubrics. I couldn't really remember too much. I kind of remember red penned papers with comments and a random grade on top. I'm not really sure how I came up with the grade. This seems ludicrous to me. I think I then moved on to just giving a number 1-6 based on the ideas from one of the state testing rubrics, (GEPA at the time) but I never created the rubric. I also remember using checklists. How did I get away with this? How did parents not call me up and make me explain my every grade? They never did. Was this just the standard that was going on throughout schools everywhere? I am happy to say that rubrics make so much sense to me now. They have been life changing in grading my student's writing pieces. I do think that they still leave room for subjectivity, but they make our jobs, as writing teacher's so much easier. I also think that teaching younger students certain skills makes the creation of rubrics manageable for me, as those specific skills make their way into my rubrics. I like how Bean pointed out that there are so many types of rubrics out there and that teachers can make the rubric fit who they are and what they expect of their students.

Yancey's piece explains that writing assessment in higher education is sticky business. Over the years the different methods have been deemed conflicted, unfair, culturally biased, and purposefully questionable. There has been progress made to make writing assessments more open and productive for students. She discusses the use of portfolios as one way method. Student response to using portfolios has been very positive. They show growth as well as areas of difficulties. Students are able to reflect on themselves as writers. However, even portfolios can be used in different ways by different teachers making their reliability as a writing assessment unclear. The entire article for me sounded as though, there is this struggle to finding a well balanced assessment. I'm not sure if one exists. I think that there should be an emphasis on several assessments to determine the growth of a writer and analyze a program. Formative and summative assessments are both valuable. Clearly there is still a lot of work to be done in this area.