Friday, February 29, 2008

God, I've Missed Noel

So I think we've established that I like Oasis a lot. But it's not just the music; it's the foul mouth that Noel Gallagher had at any given moment during the peak of their popularity. I loved how he wasn't afraid to insult someone on national TV or have every other word "bleeped" out because it was too crude for television. Unfortunately, it seems as though he'd cleaned up his act to a fair degree in recent years.

Yesterday I read that Noel has said that he is selling his summer home because James Blunt has moved in next door and Gallagher doesn't want to live someplace where he knows bad music is being made. Unfortunately I read it while I was in my ESL/ELL class...and once again laughed inapproprately in class.

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

I Heart Rick Beach

I couldn't wait to read the article on digital literacy. I apparently wanted to relive my fond memories of last semester with the now dearly missed Rick Beach. And just so you know, it's Rick Beach. Not Rick, and not Dr. Beach: Rick Beach. Sadly, I found his editor was put to much better use this time so it was not quite the same experience.

I must also admit that I'm not the most objective person when it comes to digital literacy in the classroom. To some extent I think I always planned on using a good deal of Youtube, movies and TV shows to supplement my lessons. I felt like there was so much relevance to these kinds of media outlets even when I was in high school that could have been brought into the classroom and just weren't. Not only do I think this can be an extremely engaging tool, it's also becoming a necessity in our society. Most news is received through online websites and blogs. Entertainment is quickly shifting from the power companies in Hollywood to individuals with camcorders (see my sidebar of entertaining videos--although some are clips of TV shows). It's just not suitable to leave technology out of the classroom anymore since so much of our society depends on it and most jobs require some familiarity with it.

One problem I do see with it is the more informal attitude on such things like blogs and videos. Like the article said, this needs to be highly structured. Something else that made me laugh while I was reading was the teacher reflecting on using the original Oregon Trail game. I too remember playing the original version in school. But as much as everyone wants to say that it was for educational purposes I don't really think I gained all that much playing it. Let’s be honest here. I mean, it's pretty obvious it was a contest to see who could name their characters the most unusual names and write the funniest things on their tombstones. It was also fun to kill off everyone in the wagon. And, once you found out what it was, you laughed yourself to tears when a friend got dysentery, didn't you? YOU'RE LYING IF YOU SAID "NO."

Resource links this week are examples of the digital literacy projects I've worked on in various classes. The possibilities are endless!

VG: Voices from the Gaps (I worked on Audre Lorde and Zee Edgell)
Final Project for Rick Beach's Class (I don't personally recommend Wikis yet, it was frustrating and a little time consuming setting up a simple page even like this)
GooglePages (A collaborative effort with David and Nathan...yay for George's class)
Teaching Media Literacy (I miss Rick Beach's class)

Also, just for Nick:
Here is my shameless plug for Second Life. I'm still not quite sure how I will be incorporating it into my classroom. But I will be doing it. I think this would be a great way to encourage student discussion in an anonymous virtual setting in which students can work on building a public identity in an internet based environment as well as have open discussions in interactive locations that are relevant to both present and past topics in're right, Lisa.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008


It has been relatively warm in recent days. Today I got in my car and it was warm. Not warm as in "slightly warmer than -1,000,000 because there's no wind," but warm as in "hey, I probably don't need to turn the heat on." It was a beautiful feeling.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

0h Hai!!1!! (Brushing up on my l33t speak..wait, is that l33t speak??)

Reading chapter six of Dialects in Schools and Communities gave me the same feeling I had in my linguistics class [you all know the class I'm talking about: the worst class in the English education program that (almost) each and every one of us had to suffer through with you-know-who]. It gave me the feeling of confusion and a loss of answers.

Should we or shouldn't we accommodate for a dialect? The problem is not in acknowledging the dialect itself. Rather, it is addressing and dealing with a dialect that interferes with a student's formal writing abilities. The issue is that there are so many factors influencing learning and writing beyond dialect, that I really wonder if a dialect alone is entirely to blame. A red flag for this, to me, was when the book willingly admitted research is "limited in terms of the role that a student's dialect background plays in the writing process." While I do understand that I grew up with a dialect much closer to standard English than some, I never used my family's Scandinavian "uffdah!" in any of my formal writings. Ever. I was able to see the difference between formal and informal writing and work with it. The fact that we are treating other dialects like it is hindering a student from understanding and seeing the apparent visual differences is a little insulting. I think most, if not all students, regardless of their speech, can see the differences in tones and styles of writing. Like the chapter said, it's simply important to catch this early and show them a mode of filtering and monitoring their writing for the audience.

The book points out how we should not condemn a dialect used in formal writing...but we shouldn't let it go either. I'm sort of at a loss here. I'm not sure how to handle this if we should do something but not do something either. The chapter argues that each dialect has its own system and grammatical rules that we should recognize, however it also does not deny that students should be taught standard English. It even goes on to say that using a dialect in a formal writing is not necessarily wrong either. This is the part where I make a mental note that I was completely wrong for going into English instead of Math. In math there is no "well, I don't know, 2 + 2 could equal 3." An obvious oversimplification, but valid no less. The answer is either right or wrong. But with English, so much is influenced by society and it is always changing, always. I have a friend in medical research that continues to berate me because he was marked down on two separate papers for grammatical errors: in the first, he was marked down for having a comma in a list of things before the "and insert-final-object-here" and in the second was again corrected for not having one before the "and." I have tried to explain to him that language is always changing and right now, the comma at the end of a list is in transition. He insists I cannot give him this answer as it can only be right or wrong. If he only knew...

So, the point? I guess I still don't know where to stand on this. I don't feel convinced that dialect alone influences the quality of a student's writing and I still don't really know how to address this...or not address this.

My resource link is Reflection's Edge. The archived article talks about dialects, its uses and importance, in creative writing and literature. I thought this would be an interesting discussion in class when reading Huck Finn or Dickens.

Saturday, February 16, 2008

Get Well Soon, Jetta

My car is in the shop until Wednesday. Mike has made me promise not to vomit in his car this time. I tried to explain to him once again that last time was due to a nasty side effect of the antibiotic I was on, and that spewing all over his car was not intentional, as much as he might think it was. For some reason he needs reassuring.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

My Weekly Rant Posted on the Internet

I enjoyed the Fulwiler article because it really provided a clear purpose for revising. It gave activities to help generate a productive environment for students at this stage in the writing process and I also liked that it showed several papers written over the course of three or four drafts.

However, I feel like some of these articles on multigenre, or creative expository writing are getting a little Freedom Writers-ish on me. By that, I mean they are becoming somewhat cliche and over dramatic. Talk about ironic. In their desperate attempt to plead for their case in expressing the inner student writer, they have become what they are struggling to fight against. The problem with this, of course, is that it shows that all forms of writing may become redundant and overdone, regardless of the style. Don't get me wrong, I think it's great if teachers can promote a creative way of telling a narrative, and encourage this. But I can see how this may get old as well. You will still be limited in the techniques that you teach the student, and thus, the student will only be able to produce so many different creative styles. In a decade, there will be a shift back to the bland and personality-less writing that is to the point and spares the details...maybe.

Anyway, I think there are some issues regarding this article that are clearly avoided, but really need to be addressed. First, the samples were all college level. Motivation in high school and college are very different. I think there are very few students willing to spend as much time on one piece as the students were in the article, much less is there time to actually do so in a realistic setting. Second, I still think there is a difference between creative writing and expository writing. I feel like this was an unfair article because a narrative is considered both creative and expository. In an argumentative and research paper, it is much more difficult to use "descriptive" language. Third, and most importantly, this kind of writing will not likely pass a student on the MCAs or GRAD...or whatever they are called now. I think promoting this writing may work in a class after these tests are administered. But until then, I think it will be difficult to teach this writing and then back track to a basic essay format. Students will not understand why this is necessary and the government will not want to listen to why your students are so smart for forming such complex essays.

Finally, I don't think the problem of summarizing the essay in the introduction is purely that of essay writing. Look at the young adult fiction we are encouraged to read. After reading the book Speak, a young adult novel I actually liked, I read the back cover out of curiousity. It states in a neat little paragraph what happens and how her life has changed since the event. I kick myself for actually reading the entire book when I could have read that one paragraph. The film industry is much worse. I hate watching most movie previews because they give away so much of the plot. The movie industry wants people to be sure they will enjoy the film so much that they give away the best parts in the previews. People are trained to want to know the ending before they see it. Worse yet, is the summarizing at the end of a book or movie. I love the movie Bridget Jones' Diary...until the very end in which she has to spend two minutes summarizing the conflicts of her life and what they have made her see in herself and other men. My skin crawls at that part. If the writers, creators, directors, or whoever, feel that this is necessary by the end of the movie, then the movie is not good enough to represent an artistic statement. I strongly feel this is why Napoleon Dynamite is looked at as a pointless movie. There was no introduction to the characters, and there wasn't a concluding summary about them. People are not able to see how this is a story of a lonely boy coming of age unless they are explicitly told. Students are exposed to this formulaic writing not necessarily because it is taught in school, but because they are raised in a society that believes art does not stand on its own without some sort of explanation.

Overused, I know, but my resource link this week is OWL. It has a lot of paper writing suggestions for all parts of the writing process. The link takes you directly to the revision section.

On a side note, I have been listening to a lot of Mika, which is ridiculously happy music, so perhaps my attitude will change in the near future.

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

I'm on UR Internets Reading UR Blawgs

The three articles were interesting to me, so I will be discussing those instead of 6 + 1 Traits. While I don't advocate a strict five paragraph essay format in writing, I do think it provides a solid foundation that does not take a lot of time to comprehend when first being introduced to the concept. I will also stand by the argument I made in class that not all students are going to be the next Mark Twain, nor will most students want to be (I'm not being cruel; I'm being realistic). It's also unfair to expect students to be as such. Students that have no interest in writing, regardless of the project/topic you set before them (and yes, there are students like that) are not going to put forth desire or effort to do an imaginative job. I can say that while I was in high school I put forth as little effort as possible, and I enjoyed reading and writing. It was still homework and I didn't want to spend time doing it. Students need something like the five paragraph format to organize and clearly communicate their thoughts. Not only that, but this is a format that students can take into their future jobs and education. Our job is not to turn all students into award winning essayists. It is to provide them with tools and concepts they will need to take with them into their lives.

However, the final article on multigenre writing was, at times, ridiculous to me. I got some good ideas out of it, especially the table listing different types of genres to assign. It was also interesting to hear feedback on how the students felt about their projects and why they chose it. But the list was also the part I didn't like, namely when they suggested things such as obituaries and greeting cards. I honestly laughed when I read those suggestions. I understand that the reflection was the main purpose of these activities, but it didn't really address evaluating differences in a student writing a biography versus...a greeting card. And really, students at the high school level should not need to be at a stage in their lives where crayons and markers are necessary. High school should be preparing them for college or post-secondary training. Maybe it was just me, but I did not make greeting cards in any of my college level classes, or in high school for that matter. I worry that in our attempt to keep, or get, students interested, we are losing sight of what the students should be learning. Options may be nice, but options may not be a reality. College bound students almost shouldn't be allowed a wide variety of project choices because of this. I seriously doubt the student going into a science will be able to choose to do a comic strip instead of research paper. Just a guess though. And going back to my original point in the first paragraph: options do not always mean creativity and originality. For many students it will not matter what you assign or how many options you give. Why? Because it's still homework! Wrapping carrots in candy wrappers does not make them less of a vegetable.

My resource link is Web English Teacher. It has a lot of links to websites suggesting different types of multigenre writing. They are broken down by prompts and exercises and topics, such as the Holocaust, history and fairy tales.

Saturday, February 2, 2008

Obama Your Mama

Friday, February 1

6:30 PM: Nathan and I discuss plans for the rally over the phone. Decide to get to the Target Center around 12:00-12:30. We are mocked by Nathan's friend because we are obviously too excited.

Saturday, February 2

12:30 PM: Arrive at Target Center. Not really surprised the line runs to the end of the block. We decide to get in line right away instead of going for drinks/coffee. Perks of the day thus far are:
-opting for a small parking lot further away to avoid traffic (a very wise choice)
-landing only $5 parking in said lot
-weather is relatively mild for what it has been in the past weeks

12:35 PM: Shocked to find the line runs clear around the Target Center, down 7th St. and over the 394 bridge. No worries, we still get in line.

Here Nathan and I are walking up 7th St. The new Twins stadium is to the right.

12:50 PM: Utterly shocked to find we have to walk into north Minneapolis to get to the end of the line. Our spot is across the street from Mary's place and Sharing and Caring Hands--in case we get hungry and need some free soup. We resolve that all is not lost as we can still sort of see the Target Center.

Nathan and I holding our tickets up. There's no way there could be 15,000 people in front of us; Nathan counted.

1:30 PM: Beyond utterly shocked to find the line has now wound almost all the way up to Lyndale Ave., around the trash incinerator and far past our line of vision. The doors were supposed to open now. We have no way of knowing if they actually did. Receive a text message from Elizabeth that reads, "Obama your mama." During this time we see:
- a boy wearing shorts
- a cute little girl wearing pink cowboy boots
- a group of students wearing only sweatshirts, clearly underdressed to be standing in the cold for two hours
- an overall very pleasant and excited crowd
- masses of people still walking towards the back of the line

1:40 PM: We take two steps towards the Target Center. Nathan and I do a happy dance.

That white thing is the Target Center. We took two steps towards the 5th Ave. N. sign. Also, the street sign in the middle of the picture is separating the people already waiting in line from the people walking to the end of it.

2:15 PM: We traveled up 7th St. and have finally made it to the back of the Target Center. We have also lost feeling in our toes.

2:25 PM: We stand under a heating duct for about 2 minutes. I have not known much pleasure greater than at this moment.

2:40 PM: We have finally left the cold, have been frisked and are in the process of finding seats.

4:00 PM: Obama finally takes the stage. I nearly faint...twice. During this time:
-I finally eat something so my arm no longer looks tempting (I eat the only thing left: nachos and Mountain Dew)
-Nathan and I sing along to some 60s music
-a band plays music I've never heard
-R.T. Rybak speaks. I'm too excited to listen to much. I choose to save myself for Obama.

5:00 PM: Nathan and I conclude that we would like to have Obama's children.


I have no voice from screaming. My hands hurt from clapping. I'm absolutely exhausted. Hands down one of my favorite experiences.

Friday, February 1, 2008

Cloud Cult

I am posting this because I know my mom would love this and cry. I hope you like it! I really did.

Thanks, Nathan, in advance for the best of mix!