Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Seeking Diversity

Another summary as I work my way through assigned Abydos Learning Trainee program readings

You may recall I briefly shared this quote from her book in the last two weeks:

In her book, Seeking DiversityLinda Rief makes a statement that connects with me, like the time I--at 20 years of age--accidentally shocked myself and was hurled backward into the wall when working on the innards of a Leading Edge computer. She writes:
When students live in confusion about what I want, they too become blind to learning. I want them to be fully aware of what we are about as learners day after day. No hidden agendas. No crafty games.

Here's my summary of her book:

Teachers, like their students, must engage in the scaffolded activities that yield multi-literate learning experiences.
Linda Rief reminds readers that teaching is ineffective unless the learner can make sense of the teacher’s expectations, and the learning. Teachers have to be a learner in and out of their classrooms so that they may stay in touch with learning is like for their students. Teachers need to model their own process as a learner, writing and reading with students. The workshop approach models for students the importance of being a lifelong learner, experiencing frustration and achievement as par for the course.
Using language makes us think, and writing makes us use language,” says Tom Ramano as cited in Linda Rief.  A failure to use this language is a sacrifice that schools cannot afford to make.  The teacher’s role is to guide students beyond what they can already do; students, not textbooks and readers from vendors, are the curriculum. That “curriculum” can best be explored in a safe, learning environment where everybody is student and teacher. Avoiding hidden agendas, crafty games that cloud learning possibilities opens our eyes to learning. Inviting students to “Tell me more” and asking them questions like, “How can I help you?” invites learning conversations. Writing teachers can ask themselves, “What works for learners? What doesn’t work? What can we do to make the classroom a richer learning environment?”
An organized learning environment translates to success in reading and writing workshop. Rief offers specific suggestions for materials and supplies for reading and writing, including tracking book titles in a classroom computer database, building and maintaining a classroom library, ample writing materials (e.g. paper, pens, bookmarks), notebooks for journals. She also suggested various magazines and books as reference materials, suggestions on binding books (e.g. center-binding and outer-binding), where students can publish their work. Since publishing is important, Rief defines it as “taking a piece to finished product, making it the best it can be for the writer first, and then deciding if the piece goes to a wider audience.” Rief also explores--in schedules and in detail--the structure of the reading-writing workshop, as well as the importance of keeping parents informed. Reading and writing together. When reading, some of the writing students try their hand at include impressions, personality portraits (description), experience, persuasive piece or research papers. Each helps deepen the connection with what is being read or thought about.
Activating students’ prior knowledge may not be the same as inviting students to that knowledge in school. For Rief, inviting students involves students participating in writing exercises that get them thinking about themselves and who they are. Some of the exercises include filling out an anecdotal card, a writing-reading survey, in-class interview, visual representation of their lives, reader’s-writer’s log, identifying important goals (what they would like to do better), books they want to read, and topics they want to write about. Students are also able to create positive-negative graphs, plotting the twenty-one best things that have ever happened to them, seventeen of the worst in a line graph.  
These invitations help readers understand the value of time, choice, response, organizational structure, helping them build a relationship between their lives and a connection to their writing and what they are reading. Since students reflect on their reading in a log, Rief offers suggestions on how to limit the amount of content she has to work through as a teacher. This often involves students selecting particular log entries for her to read as Reading Workshop teacher.
I want students,” writes Linda Rief, “to see learning as connected to situations beyond our classroom walls. I want them to listen to, think about, and interact with people outside the classroom about real issues.” One of the ways which she accomplishes this is by getting adolescents to connect (e.g. interviews) with the elderly. Making connections with what is being read is important as well. Some of her chapters focus on showing how students have connecting with literature.
One of Rief’s insights into evaluation is that students immersed in writing are as effective at identifying effective writing and the criteria that made them good as the most experienced writing teachers. Some of the approaches Rief takes in evaluating student writing include conferences with students, final product evaluations (e.g. process grades based on attitude, effort and good faith participation), content grade, mechanics grade.  
Another approach includes taking advantage of portfolios--”students’ stories of who they are as readers and writers.” Portfolio-creation, a reflective act, can help students become aware of their writing and reading, enabling them to learn from themselves. Art work and murals can also serve as a source for insight and evaluation, a way of tapping into the multi-literacies that, together, reflect who we are as human beings.

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Everything posted on Miguel Guhlin's blogs/wikis are his personal opinion and do not necessarily represent the views of his employer(s) or its clients. Read Full Disclosure

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