Sunday, April 7, 2013

Week 11: Writing and Grammar

I was particularly interested in the presentations on this week's topic, writing and grammar.  Since I'm currently teaching writing, it's nice to be able to consider the literature in light of my current teaching context.

I was a little skeptical when Nour said he would be presenting on Wordle.  When I think of Wordle, I think of people making word clouds with their social media posts to see what they talk about most.  It's a cool fun little tool, but it doesn't actually give too much information.  However, as Nour presented the example Wordle and explained that it could be used to point out when students are overusing a word, I thought about how Wordle, though possibly simple, can help students "see" what otherwise might be hard for a teacher to explain.  Occasionally I point out words that are used too frequently in students' papers during conferences, but Wordle may allow students to carry out their own investigations and start thinking about whether or not they are using a variety of words.  It's also something they can do on their own in their other classes.  It was brought up in class that there is no data on the exact ratio of frequency to size.  I'm also curious if this type of activity would put forth the idea that there is a way a Wordle "should" look.  Isn't it natural for some words to be larger than others?  Is it possible that students could look for synonyms that are not appropriate for the genre?

Katie's presentation about using blogs, as well as our reading for this week on blogs' potential to help learners become regular readers and writers, made me think about ways to successfully incorporate blogs into the classroom.  Katie said using blogs instead of BBLearn submissions has drastically improved the reading responses in her writing class.   While a blog is "published" and public, it still allows for a lot of freedom, depending on how the teacher structures the assignment.  For me, this blog serves as a place to list and reflect on the ideas that stood out to me from the week.  I usually do not have a plan for writing before I sit down and write.  I think, at the end of the semester, I'll appreciate having a few thoughts from each week to look back on and think about the semester as a whole.  I also like to see what catches my classmates' attention throughout the week.  However, I'm a grad student studying something I enjoy, so I'm already motivated.  If blogs are to give students freedom of expression, then they must have parameters that are wide enough to allow them freedom to explore ideas and topics that are interesting to them.  If students are to blog about class content, then perhaps teachers should model how to connect class content to other areas of life.

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