Monday, July 9, 2007

I really appreciate the comment from "Letter" in which the author states that "significant expertise resides in the hands of K-12 teachers. I am convinced that this is absolutely true. Teachers have wonderful insight and ideas on how to reach their students. That is one reason I am so grateful to be a part of this writing project.

The author also talks about the Quarterly as a place for teachers to share their expertise. I look forward to reading the comments of other teachers and gleaning ideas to use in my classroom.

I was especially struck by the comment that teachers who want to understand how to teach writing must write. I do write--quite a lot--but I have not usually written the assignments I give to my students. I plan to begin doing that this year and sharing my work with them.

In the "20 minutes" article, I was impressed with the author's assertion that students are becoming more fluent. Our work appears to be paying off. However, as he says, we must now work on moving students from generalized, rather vague writing, to specific, clear writing filled with examples and vivid images. In myAP classes, I work to help my students analyze rhetoric. They want to stay with the generalized, "The author repeated this statement to emphasize its importance" kind of writing, and I am continually trying to move them further, to get them to explain not only what the author did, but why it worked (or did not work) and what effect it created for the reader. I want them to grasp the author's purpose in writing and then see how the author uses language to create the meaning. This is high level thinking, difficult to do and difficult to teach.

I have also spent some time pondering two questions posed by these writers: Can you teach voice? and how can a teacher work successfully with a student whose ideas violate her values? I have contemplated both before and I have some ideas, but no definitive answers. I also found a question that I may research. I'm wondering how the teaching of vocabulary impacts writing. Does teaching vocabulary improve writing? What methods work best? I'm very curious because many of my students have fairly limited vocabularies and they struggle with some of the very sophisticated writing that we read simply because they do not know the words.

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