Wednesday, July 07, 2010

Reflecting on the first chapter of journal articles

Our class wants to know more about...
1. how to prepare students for testing AND critical thinking
2. how to assign authentic writing pieces that are related to my curriculum
3. how to handle the paper load
4. writing for thinking/learning vs. writinng for communication/assessment
5. how to modify/differentiate instruction for diverse learners
6. how to encourage & make time for good revising
7. how to make peer-editing work
8. how to utilize technology for feedback/collaboration
9. the benefits of reading out loud
10. the role of grammar in writing

Pardon me if 
I wear my brain
on the
of my head

"Teachers should learn the way children should learn, in the mutual effort of writing with a purpose- the primary initial purpose being one's own joy and satisfaction with what is written- and in the delight of reading widely from a writer's perspective. The easiest way for teachers to learn these things in order to teach children in this way is to learn them with children, to share the writing activities with the children themselves." ~Frank Smith

Even as an undergrad, I began believing that process is more meaningful that product. Product may or may not affect an audience, but process always transforms the author.

I once had a collegue describe me as "transparent." They didn't mean invisible, they meant open. The poem, 'Pardon Me' which I wrote yeasterday is certainly about personal expression. Some cultures, and some individuals are more expressive than others and this poem addresses the issues that arise when one's personal expression encroaches either on other people's comfort zones or runs counter to their opinions.

But that poem also has to do with my teaching philosophy- the value of metacognition, that is thinking about thinking and thinking outloud.

"Thinking is a spectator sport" ~Rod Cameron

I've believed for years in teaching students to draw, not so that they can become famous artists, but because the act of drawing and the perceptual skills involved are useful for thinking and processing, for problem solving and as catalyst for shifting perspectives, broadening perspectives, creativity and even catharsis and therapy. Even just plain mental hygiene.

Why it hadn't occurred to me that writing is useful in precisely the same ways confounds me. I see it now.

It also occurs to me that it's easy to say that reading makes you a better writer, but it is just as likely that writing makes one a better reader.

What I've started reading of Karen Ernst's book 'A Teacher's Sketch Journal' (Heinemann, 1997) leads me to believe that writing and drawing can compliment each other as learning and though-processing tools. I'd like to work at utilizing them together both for myself and in my classes.

I imagine that trying to do this will end up effecting and involving issues like critical thinking skills, differentiation, and revision. Once student become comfortable with this it would only be natural to share sketches and writing pieces and then these words and pictures will also be useful for collaboration, peer-editing and feedback.

Thomas Jefferson and Lewis and Clark, Van Gogh, and Da Vinci are all historical examples of writers, explorers, scientists, inventors and engineers who used drawing and sketching to supplement their writing or artists, designers, and painters who used writing to supplement their work. In their times it was hard to say when something was a sketchbook and when it was a journal.

English speakers only know Michelangelo as a painter and sculptor, but to those who speak Romance languages, he is as important a poet as Shakespeare.

All through high school and college I identified myself as a cartoonist. I felt inadequate as either a draftsman/painter or as a writer. Perhaps that's okay. The marriage of words and pictures is as natural as words and music.

What separates us from other animals is not just our ability to create, it's the ways we process experiences and information and writing and drawing are two of the most sophisticated ways of processing.

We as teachers owe it to our children to operate more in the dirty, messy, spontaneous, improvisational model of community, family and democracy instead of the rigid, sterile, homogenized, anxious, cut-through model of finance and industry. We need to worry more about depth than breadth. More about quality than quantity. More about immeasurable values than the measurable data. More about process than product. More about how to ask questions than which answers to supply. More about how to think than how to perform.

This marriage of words and pictures is perfect for this blog in particular. It's not a journal or a photo log, it's both.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Thank you, that was extremely valuable and interesting...I will be back again to read more on this topic.