The Girl Who Still Refuses an E-Reader But Who Has Opened Up Her Mind (FOKI-Post)

For as long as I can remember, I have always loved a good book. Growing up, I really did not care what kind of book I read, as long as it took me away. That was how I knew a book was ‘good’. I got lost in it. I felt like I was in it, interacting with the characters, like I was a part of their lives. After reading all of the books my parents had, I remember asking for my first library card. I was like a kid in a candy store! I loved reading Accelerated Reading books and always read more than I had to. I can remember reading under the covers of my bed with a flashlight when I was supposed to be asleep. I just could never get enough.

I tried writing poetry when I was younger, but never really got into journaling. Perhaps that is why I enjoy reading so much; because I do not see myself as a creative person but yet I crave creativity. Being able to delve into the minds and stories of other people has always fascinated me. Connecting to a book on a personal level is so rewarding for me.

Although I have only been in this class for a short period of time, I have learned quite a bit. I have learned about technology tools that I did not even know existed and made a bookcast using Windows Live Movie Maker that I thought turned out pretty nice! Finally, I learned about a genre of literature that I had no idea could be so important and vital in my profession as a teacher.

Well, it is that time. The end of the semester and time to reflect back on what I have learned. And I must admit, I learned a great deal more from this class than I thought I would!

Professional Self

I received my Bachelor of Arts in Political Science and English from North Carolina State University in 2011. I had all intentions of going to law school and becoming a family lawyer because that was what I had ‘always wanted to be’ and therefore what my family expected. But I quickly began to realize that I was not passionate about this field, and would much rather do something that involved something I enjoyed. I would rather have a job that I enjoy even if pays little! So I applied for the Master of Arts in Teaching Secondary English program at North Carolina State University in hopes of one day eventually teaching Romantic Literature at the college level.

I took a year off in between undergraduate and graduate school, but not to work. I got custody of my then 2-month old nephew and spent the year learning how to be a mother (which I quickly found out is a full-time job in itself)! Before my undergraduate experience, I worked mostly as a waitress or hostess or receptionist. Working in the customer service field I learned a lot about people; sometimes much more than I wanted to know! When I enter the teaching field, it will be my first ‘real’ job!

I begin observing the class of my future cooperating teacher this semester. Next semester, I will begin student teaching, and get my first experience of a ‘real’ job. Reading the Young Adult Literature novels in this class has reaffirmed my desire to be a teacher. The knowledge, the connection, the relatable of books to students’ lives is overwhelming. I cannot wait to show them how to get the most of a book, and to not just read it because the teacher said so.

As the semester draws to a close, I am looking forward to starting my Spring semester of student teaching. I will finally have the opportunity to use the knowledge I have gained this past semester and put into practice the new techniques I have discovered. Although I am excited, I am also scared to death! Although I feel prepared content wise and pedagogically, I do not think anything can prepare us for that first time standing in front of all those students and teaching them!!

Literate Self

Reading continued to be a passion of mine in my later adolescent years. Unfortunately, with the increasing amount of school work I had, I read less for fun and more for school. Luckily, I am not a picky reader and the books assigned satiated my hunger just fine. In high school, I began forming a favorite genre: Romantic Literature. When a teacher assigned Emily Bronte’s Wuthering Heights, I fell in love. This genre, which placed an emphasis on feelings and emotion, made me feel at home. I had always read for the aesthetic pleasure of the story and this genre seemed to understand that and fulfill that desire for me.

Now, I read a mixture of all genres and authors. I read the love stories of Nicholas Sparks, the fiction of Stephen King, and, of course, the Romantic classics like Wuthering Heights!

Through this class, I realize that students must given time in class to free read. As I stated in my FOKI-Pre, the increasing amounts of school work assigned reduce my time for reading strictly to the books assigned. I have realized the importance of allowing students to have some say in the books they read and the Young Adult Literature can offer them choices that they can relate to.

Wow! Before taking this class, I thought I knew a lot about literature, and I suppose I do, but I found out I knew much less than I thought about teaching it. Although nothing can replace my favorite genre of Romantic Literature, I have opened my mind to a number of other genres. For example, before this class, I naively thought that all graphic novels were essentially akin to comic books, and certainly had no place in the classroom. Thankfully, this class has taught me that they are nothing like “traditional” comic books but instead are books that provide students with an alternative to reading simple text. They offer pictures that aid visual learners in comprehending texts. I have also learned to accept nonfiction as a valuable and even sometimes interesting genre. Marc Aronson showed me through his books, Sugar Changed the World, and Sir Walter Ralegh, that not all nonfiction has to be bland and drab; nonfiction can be just as rupturing as Romantic literature!

Virtual Self

Although I am considered by my mother to be a technology genius, in reality, I am far from it. I can easily navigate my way around a computer and the internet, but when it comes to blogging and tweeting, I am at a loss! I have never been a blogger and never had a Twitter account until this class. In fact, the only reason I really have a Facebook is to be nosy! I am old-fashioned in the sense that I would much prefer to have an actual book in my hands than to read off of a screen. In fact, I refuse to have an e-reader and I always print reading material from the web so that I can hold it in my hands and flip through the pages, highlighting and making notes as necessary. Through classes at North Carolina State University, I have learned about many different technology tools such as Google Docs, Wikis, Webquest, Diigo, Voice thread, and Toon Doon and have used them a few times but am by no means an expert on these tools!

My virtual self has grown tremendously in this class, while at the same time being road blocked. A novice blogger and tweeter, I am learning to appreciate the opportunity to get out my feelings on certain topics. Tweeting seems like a good way to notify people of blog posts, but the fact that I cannot post a link still frustrates me. When others post that their blog is up and do not provide a link, it is pretty annoying because I have to go search for their blog page. So I am sure that it annoys my fellow classmates!

I still would rather have an actual book in my hands rather than an e-reader. Although I have learned how to use many new technology tools in this class, such as Diigo and Windows Live Movie Maker, as well as Sound Cloud, I have also reaffirmed how absolutely frustrating and mind-numbing technology can be. My experience with Second Life thus far has been far from [leasing. I dread each Thursday class session because I know I will have to deal with the frustrating program!

Oh my virtual self! Thankfully, my Second Life decided to act a little better the last part of the semester, and I am glad because I was finally able to participate to my fullest. Tweeting has grown on me a little bit, but I still have my doubts about using something like that in the classroom (mostly because I worry about those students who do not have access to phones, etc.). I am no expert in Windows Live Movie Maker, but I feel confident using it to create videos. I actually enjoyed it quite a bit! And my blog. I never really understood why people “blogged” but after being required to create and use one in this class, I have a new appreciation for this type of technology. It is a great way to get your feels out and to be able to share those feelings with others. I can certainly see myself using this technology tool in the classroom, for instance, for journal writing. The bottom line and most important thing is that I have become more open-minded about technology and finding ways to use these tools in the classroom.

My Goals for this Course

Professional Self

Finally figuring out that being an attorney is not for me, and that ‘what I want to be when I grow up’ is an English teacher is relieving. Not only do I want to read and analyze literature, but I want to help students to do the same. I want to make the English class as rewarding for them as it was for me. I want to create the possibility for them to have a powerful emotional connection to a book, as I did with Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl by Harriet Jacobs. I want them to read not because they have to, but because they want to. Through the Master of Arts in Teaching Secondary English program at North Carolina State University, I hope to gain the knowledge that I need to be a successful teacher and to make a difference in the lives of my students.

As a high school English teacher, I hope to be able to select a variety of Young Adult literature novels that will appeal to my students; that they will want to read and that they can connect to. I plan to create a personal class bookshelf in my classroom where students can feel free to borrow books. I also plan to set aside some time once a week for students to read on their own in class, a book of their choosing. I want to make it possible for my students to enjoy reading, and to continue to do it after they graduate!!

One of my goals for my professional self at the beginning of this course was to make the English class as rewarding for my students as it was for me; to find that one book that they can make a powerful emotional connection to. I want them to read because they want to, not because they have to. I feel as though, through this class, I have gained the knowledge to implement strategies that will enable me to accomplish this goal in my classroom. I know now that there is true value in giving students some choice in what they read. Independent reading, which I was unsure of before this class, has really began to make a lot of sense to me. If this is one way I can encourage my students to read, and to really get something out of it, then I am all for it!!

Literate Self

Although I read many different genres and authors ranging from Stephen King to Nicholas Sparks, I regret to say I have not read as much Young Adult Literature as I want to. Of course I have read the obvious teenage sensational series The Hunger Games, but not much more than that. I hope to find the time to read the Twilight series in the near future. I have seen all of the movies, of course, but I want to read the books too as they usually offer so much more! Through this class I hope to read and explore more Young Adult Literature and expand my knowledge of the genre and the authors so that I can understand the types of books that my future high school students will relate to.

I have only read three Young Adult literature novels thus far in this class, and yet, I have fallen in love with the genre. I am beginning to see its importance in high school classes and how much more relatable it can be for students. But it is not just how relatable they are that attracts me; it is the fact that they can be so relatable and yet deal with such serious and important issues and topics that classic literature does.

Completing my Action Learning Project reassured me that adding young adult novels to my reading list for my future classroom is an absolute must! These books are about students their same age, going through the same situations, dealing with the same issues. They can relate to these books and that motivates them to read. Now that I can feel confident that most of these books offer the same important topics and themes that the classical canon does and that they encourage deep analytical thinking, I have no problem adding a slew of them.

Virtual Self

Through this course I hope to create a true virtual self and refine it. In the 21st century, being able to use and implement technology, especially in the classroom as an aid to learning, is invaluable. Although I understand that, the amount of technology tools out there that I am unfamiliar with and even some of the ones that we will be using in this class, such as Twitter, can be intimidating and overwhelming at times. However, I am excited to learn how these new tools can be used in the classroom to facilitate teaching and learning.

I hope to get even more comfortable using a blog, tweeting, and making movies. I want to learn about as many technological tools that I can in order to use them in my classroom to further my students’ instruction. I will, however, not force my students to endure programs or software that have too many flaws. I want them to concentrate on the usefulness of technology and the content rather than on how they are going to make the tool work properly!!

I set a goal at the beginning of this course to get even more comfortable using blog, tweeting, and making movies. Mission accomplished! I have really taken to blogging and can see how useful it can be in the classroom, especially for journaling purposes. Although I was unimpressed with the technical errors I encountered using Twitter, I did get more comfortable using it and even found it ‘fun’ to try to stay within the 140 character limit. And making movies? I may be no professional, but I must say I am pretty darn proud of the products I have created for this class! Each time I used the program, I got more comfortable with it, learned new features, and thus produced a better end-product. In viewing my colleague’s technological products, I learned about a number of other technological tools that I am eager to explore and experiment with to see if they are useable in the classroom.

Synthesis

Through writing this FOKI-Pre, I was able to delve into my past and future and learn new things about myself that I had not realized before. First, my relationship with literature goes back further than I ever really considered. Remembering the times I stayed up late to read made me smile, and made me realize how much I wish every child felt the same passion as I did for reading. This made me realize that perhaps I do not want to teach simply to educate our children of the future, but more so to pass on to them the joys of reading.

Second, I have always considered myself to be a fairly technologically savvy person until I wrote this. Thinking about all of the different technology tools that I have only used once or twice or the numerous ones I have not even heard of, made me realize that maybe I am not as technologically advanced as I once thought! Although I have always preferred old-fashioned teaching where I can hold an actual book in my hand and flip through the pages and have face-to-face discussions about the material with the teacher and students, I realize that technology is being integrated into teaching at a rapid pace and I need to be up-to-date on the different tools and strategies that it provides.

I have found it surprisingly helpful to go back and read over my FOKI-Pre to see where my ideas, beliefs, and experiences have changed. More than that, it is amazing to see how refined my goals are now. I have learned that Young Adult Literature is a genre that is necessary to the high school English classroom. Not only does it offer students books they can relate to on a more personal level, but at the same time it offers them important issues they must deal with. I have also learned that although technology is crucial, necessary, and, for the most part, helpful in the classroom, it does have its flaws! It is important that I do not let these flaws overrun the technology. If the flaws are too numerous and distract from the purpose and helpfulness of the tool, then out it goes!!

I have never really considered how useful it can be to reflect back on what you have learned in a class, but I see now that it really does make a difference. Not only do you get to summarize what you have discovered on one page, explore your own thoughts and opinions on certain topics, but you also get to see what areas you still need to delve further into and learn more about. Reading my past responses (the FOKI-Pre and -Mid) in order to create my FOKI-Post, I was truly astonished at how far I had come in such a short period of time. My thinking, beliefs, values, and reasoning had all changed in some way or another. I had learned new theories, tools, ideas and built upon old ones to create a newly formed self. I have grown, and it is truly amazing to be able to witness that about yourself!

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ALP-The Value of Choice

In my Action Learning Project, I explore the value of giving students some choice in what they read. Related to this, I also explore whether Young Adult novels, which many teens can relate to and therefore many students would probably enjoy, provide important themes and topics and require deep analytical thinking like the Classical canon does. Finally, students were able to use Google Drive to respond to Journal Prompts, where all of their responses were collected in one place.

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Adopting a Fiction Writer’s Philosophy to Write Nonfiction

 

This week, I thoroughly enjoyed having Marc Aronson in the Bookhenge to talk about a genre of literature that I have recently become interested in: nonfiction. I had the opportunity to ask him the one question I was most eager to learn the answer to and that was how he wrote his nonfiction texts to read so much like narratives, be so interesting, and yet still be factual. He answered that his first task in writing a nonfiction book is to decide what should come first. What true piece of related history would be most effective in portraying a particular theme or atmosphere or emotion? What will really get his readers interested and wanting to learn more? When he was describing the amount of time that he put into this idea and decision for the first chapter, I was truly amazed. But then I thought, well duh, that makes sense! I mean, that is what fiction writers do is it not? They know how crucial it is to begin a novel or piece of fiction in a way that will catch the reader’s attention and encourage them to continue to turn the pages. They spend an agonizing amount of time working on the first sentence, the first paragraph, the first chapter. So Aronson said, why not with nonfiction too?! Why does nonfiction have to be so boring? And I love the idea…because it works! I think when young students read nonfiction works that follow Aronson’s philosophy of how to write an interesting piece of nonfiction, they will be eager to continue reading books such as these. And that should really be our ultimate goal should it not?

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Nonfiction’s Not So Bad

This week, in searching for information about Sir Walter Ralegh for our CCI, I realized that there is a lot of information that students do not learn. Of course I am not naive enough to think that there is time for them to learn everything, but seeing as how we live in North Carolina, I feel that Sir Walter Ralegh’s story is one that needs to be told. Not only does it give students an idea about how America was founded, but it shows them the dichotomy between the Old World and the New World, forces them to think about issues of social justice, and makes them contemplate whether we were destroying a beautiful untouched world, or making progress as humans.

 

MarcAronson.com

I know I have said this multiple times, but I cannot get over how well Aronson wrote this book. Because the narrative is so interesting and unlike most nonfiction books laden with facts, I really believe that students will enjoy it. I think it presents many themes and topics that are relevant to students’ lives. Before this class, I was fiction all the way! I love fictional literature, because although it is usually made up, the issues and themes are real. But that was before I knew nonfiction could offer the same interesting plots. So I guess adding more nonfiction into the curriculum does not have to be a bad thing!

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Nonfiction Captivating? Is It Possible?

So, I never really realized how boring I thought the whole genre of nonfiction was until after this week. In fact, I came to the surpising realization that I have read only a small number of nonfiction books, and probably only a few for the simple pleasure of it. Yet, I do not think it is necessarily the content that makes them so unappealing to me. For example, I enjoy television shows that depict real world events, facts, and all of that good stuff that nonfiction works do. So, I am pretty sure it is not the content. I think it is the delivery. For me personally, all of the nonfiction books I have read so far are, well for lack of a better word, boring!

Sure, Aronson’s Sugar Changed the World was pretty interesting, but that had to be a fluke right? But then I read his non fiction book Sir Walter Ralegh and it read almost like a fiction (in the sense that it was capitvating and kept me wanting to read more to find out what happened next!). So now I am curious: could there be some hope for nonfiction or is just Aronson who has discovered the secret to writing nonfiction in an interesting, captivating way that our students will actually want to read? Unfortuanately, I do not know the answer. I suppose I will have to read more nonfiction works to find out. It is a path that I have not walked very often, but one I look forward to trodding along.

Foter.com

And that is amazing, because before this week, I would never have picked up a nonfiction book over a fiction book for personal reading. But as I have learned with this class, there is always that one book that can change a person. Sir Walter Ralegh changed my pessimistic views about nonfiction. At least, for now…

On a different note, the Bittersweet project was really moving to me. Social equality is so important. Too often people only rememeber the outcomes of protests and movements, but it is vital that we continue to remember the struggles these idnviduals went through as well; the struggles that led to our freedoms. It was a great topic to think about during election week. So many people do not practice their right to go out and vote, but they need to. We need to cherish the fact that we even have that freedom. Because without certain groups’ struggles, we would not and so I feel that we need to embrace these freedoms, give meaning and purpose to those who struggled to attain them, and not take them for granted.

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Long Live Nonfiction!

Aronson states that nonfiction has become a sort-of ‘neglected step-child’ when it comes to young readers. I would agree. When I was in high school, we only found use for nonfiction works when we were assigned a book report or a research paper. We never used them in the classroom as primary sources, or secondary sources really for that matter. They were always passed off as “informational” texts, not to be used over ‘better’ classic literature. However, the Common Core State standards are beginning to push for greater use of these ‘informational’ texts in classrooms, and that is great news for students.

Kaplan states that that the personal reading of most individuals is composed mainly of nonfiction, yet, the literature curricula for most secondary schools is dominated by fiction (2003, p. 91). That begs that question: why the disconnect? Too often, people assume that young readers would prefer fiction over nonfiction, but that tends not to be the case. A perfect example is my eleven year old sister. The other day she brought home a nonfiction book for her Accelerated Reading program and absolutely ate it up. She talked about it with such excitement!! Children crave facts, new ideas, truths. Yet, teachers only bring up nonfiction when a book report or research paper is due. What is up with that?

Kaplan brought up another good point about nonfiction: many of the reading passages on standardized tests are nonfiction (2003, p. 91). So it only makes sense to encourage students to read more nonfiction texts so that they can begin to familiarize themselves with the types of questions on the tests we expect them to pass. Right?

Contrary to seeming popular belief, nonfiction does not have to be dull! Case in point: I am reading Aronson’s nonfiction text, Sir Walter Ralegh, for the Bittersweet Change project. Never have I read a more interesting nonfiction book! Honestly. It is an ‘informational’ text geared toward young readers and he tells it in such a creative, exciting, easy to understand way. Of course it contains numbers, dates, years, all of those statistical facts, but they are interwoven into a narrative about his life- an interesting yet true narrative might I add!

So I say the standards are moving in the right direction. More nonfiction texts in the classroom are a positive thing that can offer students so many different benefits. Long live Nonfiction!

References:

Kaplan, J. F. (2003). Bold books for innovative teaching: Nonfiction books in the classroom: Undervalued, underused, and oversimplified. The English Journal, 93 (2), pp. 91-94.

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Someone, Somewhere, will always find fault in Something

“Someone, somewhere, will always find fault in something.

That is my motto for the week.

I have not previously given censorship or the students’ right to read much thought. However, after this week, I realize just how important these issues are. I also realize just how important and necessary it is for me stand up as a teacher for my students. Censorship allows a particular group, with a specific set of ideas and beliefs, to influence our students. Now don’t get me wrong. I’m not saying that all censorship is bad. In fact, it is very necessary in some instances. The example from the Bookhenge about Judy Bloom’s book being wrongly placed in elementary libraries is a perfect example. But, and it’s a big but, there has to be a formal process involved when a teacher or parent or anybody else complains about a book a teacher has selected to teach. We must follow guidelines so that we know when a book is removed, it is for a good reason and not simply because someone had a problem with it. Heck, if we removed every book that someone complained about, we would not have any books left to teach!!

All pictures from foter.com

The bottom line is that we simply do not give our students enough credit. I personally believe that with the right guidance and support, students can handle a whole lot more than we think they can.  In my group tonight, Jill pointed out that kids have a different way of thinking; a way of thinking that allows them to understand certain things in a different way. It is so important to give these students access to books that grapple with real-world issues, hard, difficult topics, and true experiences. Not only can they relate to these books, but they can learn from them. They can provide students with essential skills and ways to deal with issues that they are bound to face in the ‘real-world’. Why are we so keen on keeping them so sheltered? So unprepared for reality? Teachers should provide students with the opportunity to adventure through literature; to explore different topics and issues through different perspectives. We must prepare them, for the good and the bad.

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