Days 4 & 5 Practicum (rough draft)

3/27/13  9:45 to 12:15 p.m.

Today when I arrived, the morning teacher had just started her literacy lesson.  First she read out loud from pieces of paper stuck to the smart board with magnets. Each paper had sentences on it.  They read as follows:

–I can ask questions about a text. I can answer questions about a text.

–I can retell stories I have read.

–I can identify characters, setting, and details in a story.

–I can ask and answer questions about words I do not know when I read.

–I can participate in group reading activities.

–I can ask questions about informational text.  I can answer questions about text.

–I can tell the difference between fiction, nonfiction, and poetry.

–I can tell what an author and illustrator do.


She moved back to the chair in front of the rug, and the students were sitting “criss-cross applesauce” in their assigned rectangles on the rug.  First she told them they would be looking for rhyming sounds, then she read them this poem:

Quack, Quack, Quack!

Five little ducks that I once knew,

Big ones, little ones, skinny ones too,

But the one little duck

     with a feather on his back,

He led the others with a

     Quack! Quack! Quack!

After this exercise (that was designed to foster phonemic awareness), she went on to phoneme substitution.  Stretching the words is what she called it.  She made the sounds of b-i-g. then asked what word you’d have if you replaced the b (she made the sounds throughout this part, she didn’t say the letter) with a p (sound).  Then she asked my particular student what would happen if she replaced the p (sound) with the f (sound).  The student was unable to come up with the answer.  She then changed and went on to c-a-t. Giving my student another chance, she asked her what would happen if she replaced the c (sound) with a v (sound).  After contemplating, the student hesitantly guessed “van?”

Then came the story for today’s lesson.  It is called Mouse’s Birthday by Jane Yolen and Bruce Degen.  She talked some about authors and illustrators, and the difference between fiction and nonfiction.  The lesson involved pauses for supporting comprehension points, with the objectives: note important details, identify directionality in print, recognize the use of capitals.  At least, that’s what her lesson book said.  She admitted that she doesn’t follow it precisely, which makes sense.  I am recording these notes as I can’t find the ones I took the day of the event.  Grrr.   Another aspect of the lesson was something called Teacher-Student Modeling.  The concept of cause/effect is built into the story.  The oral language component (according to the book), was the word velise.

The teacher did stop several times to ask the students comprehension questions.  She would ask, for instance, what special day it was for Mouse, who came to his party, what did they bring him, why didn’t they fit, what happened when the candle blew out, will Mouse like his new house, why will Mouse like his new house?

The students were definitely engaged in the story, and paying attention to what was happening.  Nobody that was asked had much trouble answering the questions she posed, though this was obviously a familiar tale.

After the story the kids play the mean Mrs. Thompson game and ask to do the word wall.  In this activity, each student has an opportunity to read all the words on the word wall as Mrs. Thompson points them out, and if they manage to do it they get their clips moved up to the next color. Some of the students get really upset when they get stuck and have to sit down, but all in all it goes fairly well.  My student read all the words with little or no hesitation.

3/28/13 10:15 a.m. to 12:30 p.m.

Being the last day before Spring Break, the energy in the room is more relaxed, and other than reading them a story, the kids are doing mostly fine motor activities.  According to the teacher they are not making progress in that area so a day of cutting, pasting, coloring, and painting will not be wasted.

The teacher does read them a story, though, and makes a point of talking to them again about what fiction is, and what usually happens at the library.  The example the teacher gives: she pretends to be a dragon that is going to use the children to make a big vat of soup.  Then she asks if that is something she would really do.  Of course not, as she loves them all too much is the answer.  But it helps her outline the differences between fiction and nonfiction–what she calls the grown up words for make-believe stories and real stories.  She also poses the question: what do you think happens next?  She’s trying to get them to predict the sequence, which relates to an activity they’ll be doing later at one of the centers.  The teacher points out that the dragon’s claws are sharp, which can hurt the library books.  (I am not sure the title, they were already part of the way through this story–at any rate there is a dragon librarian) The teacher takes time to point out the meaning of words or phrases that the kids may not understand, such as “hot under the collar”, “inflammatory”, “singed”.

Week 13 English 516

Harley Farris, Exploring Digital Humanities: “We always apply our ways of thinking about current technology to new technology and this is one of the reasons it can be hard to adopt new media practices, we almost always need a frame of reference or at least a really good metaphor to understand how a tool could be useful. …are we practicing digital humanities, or are we just digitizing the humanities?”

” These events were subsequently discussed in a series of cross-postings and conversations that spilled across Twitter and the blogosphere for several weeks after the convention ended. Many seemed to feel that the connection to wider academic issues was not incidental or accidental and that digital humanities, with a culture that values collaboration, openness, nonhierarchical relations, and agility, might be an instrument for real resistance or reform.” -Matthew Kirschenbaum, What Is Digital Humanities and What’s It Doing in English Departments?

” these debates can be most productive if we understand them as a means of opening ourselves to the kinds of conversations that true interdisciplinarity can support. While disciplinarity is often institutionally useful, after all—allowing for the development of centers, departments, and tenure lines—it can also be turned against its adherents, restricting their movement and disciplining, literally, the knowledge they produce” – The Humanities, Done Digitally by Kathleen Fitzpatrick

“The digital world is replete. It resists any efforts to be colonized by the postcolonialists. We cannot escape it by holing up in Berkeley waiting for the taurus of time to roll around to 1968. It will find us and it will videotape our kittens…It’s not the digital that marks the future of the humanities—it’s what things digital point to: a great outdoors. A real world. A world of humans, things, and ideas. A world of the commonplace. A world that prepares jello salads. A world that litigates, that chews gum, that mixes cement. A world that rusts, that photosynthesizes, that ebbs. The philosophy of tomorrow should not be digital democracy but a democracy of objects” -Ian Bogost, The Turtlenecked Hairshirt

In these quotes, I’ve tried to sort of outline the trajectory of my overall thoughts.  No, I didn’t actually try to do that, but I like the flow they have together.  At any rate, it’s this transition from the beginning of adopting new media to a democracy of objects I found fascinating about these pieces.  Are we relinquishing more control than is advisable to our technological tools in the disciplines related to the humanities, or are our technological tools allowing us to have better global communities?  Two different things, but I think the latter is definitely true.

Week 12 English 516

“From a High-Tech to a Low-Tech Writing Classroom: “You Can’t Go Home Again””


This was an interesting piece, and reminded me of when Dr. Krause mentioned changing classrooms when he found himself in a similar position and immediately switched to a computer-equipped room.  I confess I know very little about teaching (of anything), so I was intrigued by the idea of it being harder to build a sense of community in the face-to-face classroom.  Obviously, there’s the whole aspect of it being difficult to make such a drastic change in the teaching environment, which is stressful regardless.  But the fundamental difference that seemed to weigh on Professor Moran was the lack in the ability to share and have copies of students’ writing.  There were other concerns, of course, mostly related to available space and the logistics of group work.  I have spent way more time in classrooms without computers, and frankly I confess to not understanding some of these concerns at all.  Do groups work better when plugged in to their own station and interacting with group members through an online platform?  I’m having a hard time imagining this to be the case.  I always felt it was weird trying to cram around one computer station, and weirder yet to be doing group work in a situation where eye contact with one’s fellow group members is virtually nonexistent.  Being practical, I have to admit that the objections to having so many copies of papers ring true for editing/peer-reviewing drafts.  At the same time, I feel like a paper copy that is looked at by one or a few individuals in a face-to-face environment is going to garner more attention than if the access is only online.  I have no idea what the numbers look like on that, but I find it difficult to properly review people’s work when it’s all online.  I’m thinking there are many reasons for this (some of which come up in The Shallows), but it recalls to mind Professor Krause’s advice to print all the readings for class.  Certainly, the experiences of reading print on paper and print on screen are not the same.  Not that anyone is suggesting it, but it does seem that in the world of writing, the general feeling is to be happy with digital reading/writing in opposition to the laborious and limited format of paper and ink.  I think it’s a matter of situation and personal familiarity with the relevant technologies.  Maybe some year soon, we’ll all be doing all of our writing online, with no need for pen and paper.  I find that both difficult and disheartening to believe.  After all, we still have books and magazines and newspapers (though they’re in decline).

“Make It Do or Do Without: Transitioning from a Tech-Heavy to a Tech-Light Institution: A Cautionary Tale”
Erin Karper

As with the previous article, I am struck by how “tech-heavy” I would characterize EMU.  I mean, we not only have many computer labs, I think I’ve only taken a single graduate writing class in a room that wasn’t a computer lab.   While not being what I would call tech-savvy, I just assumed all writing programs were much like this.  Classic inductive reasoning.  And I still don’t know how it works in undergraduate courses in writing. I was curious about the details of some of Karper’s work across departments, as it’s impossible to imagine constructing and teaching courses in writing on the web without input from Communications, IT, and English departments.  I shouldn’t say impossible, as obviously many have done great work without any sort of collaboration.  There’s no escaping the digital nature of our communication in our technology-laden world, but it seems that academia is taking a while to reflect that concept in its pedagogies.  This is again a generalization, of course.  If asked, I would say that one of the biggest hurdles facing teachers of writing working to integrate more computer technology into their classroom is education.  In other words, it’s going to be hard to integrate technologies into a classroom effectively if you have a significant number of students that are unfamiliar with the technologies you propose to use.  This is a gap that will probably become less and less noticeable as people grow more and more conversant with digital technologies, but with more and more adults returning to school, it’s not a problem that’s resolved itself as of now.  Karper seemed to be better than Moran at adapting to her “new” tech-free environment, and found herself coming up with new strategies for both online and offline teaching.  I can’t help but think that a combination of technology-driven and technology-free work is a great way of teaching writing.  After all, for some, the use of computers will ultimately be a huge part of their future career, while others will only become familiar with a program or two.  Still, technology will be a growing part of writing, and it makes sense to have connections between departments, and perhaps classes with names like, “Introduction to Writing Technologies”.  I would totally take that class.  And probably the one that followed.

HALR Chapters 15 & 22, Writing and Sharing our Funds of Knowledge

Writing and Sharing our Funds of Knowledge

This piece focuses on the knowledge we can bring from our homes to our practices at schools.   These include  experiential, informal, cultural, and people-based “funds of knowledge”.  In the paper, we see how to make a map that looks like webs used for any number of academic pre-writing exercises.  They draw connections, in this case, between all the types of knowledge brought from outside school into school.  It will be interesting to see if we do this in class…

Chapter 15

The section titled “Cultural Foundation of Tracking” could just as easily be labeled “The Effects of Political Ideologies on Education”.  It is not surprising to find cultural ideals reflected in our educational practices.  Politics in this system have created classes, and this stratification probably happens more often than we realize considering the ideals touted by the group with the most power.  Naturally, the group with the most power will wield the most influence on policy, which in this system means the rich and/ or the social elite.  When their discourse revolves around the idea that people are not adversely affected by socioeconomic differences, they are conveniently “forgetting” that their misguided notion of poverty as genetic is still entrenched in our culture to this day.  Well, they aren’t forgetting so much as practicing willful ignorance of it. Tracking is just another manifestation of this piece of nonsense (that we inherit our social status via our blood) that we are all still suffering under. It falls in nicely with the whole 3/5 of a person mentality that was itself a further embodiment of slavery justified by the idea of inferior genetics.  All of which is compounded with this notion of the American ideal: “Pull yourself up by your bootstraps”,  “Anyone can do it”.  Sure, and the best response I’ve seen to that yet: “That’s a really good way to fall flat on your face”.  The response outlined, “beliefs and values grounded in low expectations held by parents, teachers, students, administration, and community members must be challenged for the strategy to succeed” is one I’d love to see outlined (not to mention practiced) in more detail (perhaps I should read the rest of the chapter). Whatever happened to tabula rasa?  Granted that was inaccurate as well, but we’ve gone quite a ways in the opposite direction.

I’m wondering how difficult the idea of better curriculum for all students, what is essentially (if arguing in political jargon) a Marxist redistribution of resources, would play out on the national stage.  How do we combat the idea that localities should only get the money the taxpayers in the area have put into the local coffers, strengthening and solidifying the class structure and ignoring mountains of research that show that equalized opportunity means equalized academic achievement, when the paradigm of standardized testing and the subsequent grouping further causes the stratification to manifest itself?  In short, how does this work when so much of the country’s political capital is spent telling us that detracking is the wrong way to educate, and that resources should depend on the hard work of the taxpayers in a certain area and the abilities and skills displayed by individual students?  How do you fight people that obviously don’t like any kids that aren’t their own (that are already benefiting from higher levels of education in most cases)?