Who Teaches Who?

Listen is a verb that is defined by the following four criteria from Dictionary.com;

1. to give attention with the ear; attend closely for the purpose of hearing; give ear.
2. to pay attention; heed; obey (often followed by to  ): Children don’t always listen to their parents.
3. to wait attentively for a sound (usually followed by for  ): to listen for sounds of their return.
4. Informal. to convey a particular impression to the hearer; sound: The new recording doesn’t listen as well as the old one.
Let’s examine the first two:
1. to give attention with the ear; attend closely for the purpose of hearing; give ear.
2. to pay attention; head; obey.
A teacher, and really anyone who has had experience working with a child or group of children knows how hard it is to grab their attention. Whether you are trying to show a child something, or teach them a basic formula for the Math test on Friday, children and teens struggle with the ability to pay attention. This is not something that has just developed, but rather it is something that has been going on in the schools for years. Teachers often ask; “why aren’t my students paying attention to my awesome lesson plan?” or “why aren’t my students interested in what I am saying?”
4005631298_50241b41abThere is a big problem that is occurring in our schools today and the problem is listening.  The students however, are not the only ones guilty of the crime. Sadly, the teachers also share some of the guilt. If you are a teacher or have had some experience working with a children or teens in a school setting I want you to ask yourself, do you listen to your students? If the answer is yes, then I am sure you have no difficulties in your classroom and should probably stop reading this post. If you’re not sure of the answer, consider this. If you aren’t listening to the wants and needs of your students, why should they listen to you? Teachers are paid to stand in front of the room and deliver lectures and present lessons to the entire class, but the students aren’t getting paid to go to school. Why would they listen to someone who doesn’t take the time to understand their educational needs and desires? Why listen to someone who doesn’t take the time to get to know them?
This my friends, is what I want to fix in my classroom, and I might have a solution to the problem.
I believe that learning is an individualized process for every student, and not all students learn the same way. Even though I am eventually going to be paid for standing in front of my own classroom and talk about my lesson plans, I will be talking to a brick wall if my students have no interest or desire to learn anything from me because there is no teacher-student connection and they are doing the same exact things over and over again every year. Once that occurs, why teach? What is the point of teaching if all we do is follow in our ancestors foot steps having them complete the same assignments, and delivering the same lectures?
Last time I checked, brick walls don’t have ears,
Through all the lesson plans that I have built, the units I have put together and all ideas that flash through my head at night before bed, one question remains the most important. How do I get my students to like me and the way I teach? How do I get them to like learning? The answer: choice, encouragement, acceptance, and a developed professional relationship with each student in my classroom. If my students are able to choose what that want to learn, and are given a variety of options on how to learn that material, who knows what they will be capable of.
Writing Inspiration, Sheet 1

Writing Inspiration, Sheet 1

This is why I value the ideas and structures of a Writing Workshop when it comes to teaching my students about writing and English. When talking about the “terms and conditions” of teaching writing, there is no set rulebook on how to make all your students the best writers in the world (although how awesome would that be!). Teachers think on their feet, know who their students are, and teach at the level that their students would benefit the most from, in all areas of education. We are not going to create a world where everyone loves English and Literature and Writing; this would be unreal. What we can create is a world full of medical doctors who were able to complete medical school because their medical essays got them the degree, or we can create lawyers who can read case files four hours, making detailed notes as they go along. Writing is not just for English, it is a skill that can be used in all areas of life.
I want my students to have the skills that will provide them with the ability to be flexible writers. Having my students write numerous amounts of book reports, and maybe a biography about themselves and calling that good does not meet Ms. Becca’s teaching standards. If we want our students to be successful writers, then we must give them conditions to where they are writing for a variety of purposes. The book reports, the essays, the letters, poems, journal entries, etc. are all important types of writing that I want to explore with my students in workshop, but those are not the only reasons someone would want to write. The purposes of writing are large; why not take advantage of that and search for those purposes with my students?
Our students are tired of writing poems and essays and book reports. The purposes of writing are becoming so narrow that as teachers, we are not listening to our students and forcing them to have a negative relationship with writing and with learning. I want to avoid this problem in my classroom.
Mr. Becca’s classroom will recognize that learning is fun because I will make it fun! Routine is necessary, and the content will remain somewhat similar, but how I choose to teach the content can be something both new and exciting for my Elementary students. Book reports can become short, fictional stories, analysis papers can become poems, and research papers can become letters if we so desire. Learning doesn’t have to be a negative, boring journey. Learning can be fun, exciting and thrilling if we as teachers can make it happen!

A Theory on Teaching Writing

I can’t tell when, where or how old I was when I said my first words. According to my mother, the first word that I ever said to my father and her was “mom;” a popular first word for a lot of toddlers. At such a young age, my communication skills were very limited, but the fact is that I was able to recognize what the word “mom” meant and give it meaning of my own. My first word experience, along with all other toddlers who communicate for the first is an example of the significant importance of human language.

A-kid-drawing-or-writingLanguage is a big deal.

From the moment we are first brought into the world until the final days of our life, human beings have a need to communicate with others. Whether it is through sign language, oral communication, letters, texting, e-mail, etc., communication is a large part of who we are as people, how we communicate our needs and thoughts, and how we are to be accepted among others. Language is as necessary for the individual to live a long healthy and happy life, as is food, water or shelter. As proven by toddlers all over the globe from babbling sentences to drawing pictures and making marks on the walls of your home, language is a large part of what makes us different from all other living creatures.

If you don’t believe me, let’s take a look at what life would be without the ability to communicate.

We have all been in confrontation situations where one person is angry or upset with the other (*cough* the male in the relationship does something wrong, just one example). In intimate relationships, the need to communicate with each other is a huge element to a successful marriage or partnership as it is will all other relationships. If you can’t talk to the person your upset with, there is no solution to be found.


Yes, this is what usually happens.

What if you wanted to write your girlfriend a love note to express you deepest thoughts and feelings? Or write your husband a quick note to remind him to do the dishes because he always seems to forget that they are sitting in the sink? Or (for the men) your wife or girlfriend takes too long to get ready for a dinner party; how are you going to tell her that she needs to hurry up (tread carefully)?

The point that I want to address first as part of my theory of teaching writing is the importance of communicating and language in a person’s life. Long story short, you can’t live without the ability to communicate. In order to communicate, you need some form of language!

Language can be expressed in many different ways, the two main ways being written and spoken. Anyone that knows me personally can tell you that I love to talk, not only for their own amusement, but I like to share my stories and experiences with others. My writing is a bit different. Sometimes I write to escape and get away from a bad experience, other times I document my feelings and emotions in my writing so that I can deal with difficult situations in a positive way. Writing itself serves different purposes for everyone.

photo(2)In the elementary classroom that I hope to one day be teaching in, writing serves a different purpose for those groups of children than it would for me. The purposes of writing can range from when you are first learning how to form letters in Kindergarten to writing a response to a book that you read in 5th grade; it all varies on the age or development level of your students. However, despite some of the age differences between kindergarten and 5th grade, I believe that I can still show my students the values of written language and how it is necessary for them to become not only better students, but to become good people once their educational journey has ended.

Here are my views:

Writing is a way of thinking. When you write, you are reflecting your own views and beliefs.

Ranging from what my students have learned from their parents to what they are learning on the playground and from me, they will reflect their own beliefs and thoughts in the way that they write.

Writing is personalized.

Every writer is different. Every student is unique in their own ways based on what they think and how they choose to express their individuality. A piece of writing is very much personalized to the author who wrote it.

Writing helps to create who we are as people, even if we are still growing and developing.

I think I will always be a little immature when it comes to certain things. BUT, as a future teacher I do have to acknowledge that my students rely on me to guide them on their journey to becoming an adult, even if it is only for a year. Focusing on every student in my class and how they write will only benefit them in the long run. Writing challenges the individual to rethink, regroup and organize their thoughts in such a way that it makes sense to their audience. When I write an issue that brings to account my personal beliefs and morals, I question myself and what I hold to be true. I expect my students to go through a similar experience that questions who they are as people and what they truly are thinking.

Writing allows room for self-expression.

Because writing is personalized and sometimes brings one’s morals and beliefs into the picture, writing can be a place where a student can express who they are. Both the paper and pen have the power to help students express themselves in a safe, non-judgmental environment away from the world.

Writing, a way of understanding.

Reading and writing work as a pair. What you read, say or write allows you to gain a better understanding of who you are, what you believe, and what you think of the world. Sometimes writing in your personal journal or even taking notes from a class lecture reinforces understanding.


“Becca, how can we create such a passion within or students? How do we teach them the values of writing? How do we motivate them?”

What a great question! After reading Penny Kittle’s Write Beside Them (I highly recommend), I found that I loved almost all of her ideas on how to motive students to love writing.

photo(1)Here is a few tips on what I believe can inspire students to read and write and actually love doing it. These ideas were all inspired from Penny Kittle’s Write Beside Them.

  • Give your students FREEDOM. Give them CHOICES and TRUST them! For too long we have been assigning research papers and book reports, and we expect students to become better writers after writing about topics that they honestly don’t care about. Just let them write.
  • I do understand that grammar is important, but avoid over correcting them too. Kittle does a nice job explaining the damages of over correcting drafts in her book.
  • Give students a variety; let them write poems or essays or short stories.
  • Give them time!
  • Give feedback and allow them to edit/revise their own work. Show them how that can make their pieces better, then trust them to do it.
  • Writing workshop, need I say more?
  • Communicate with your students; ask them questions about their writing. Point out both strengths and weaknesses of their piece.

More than often do we not give our students enough credit for their own intelligence. Even at the younger grade levels.

Don't underestimate your students!

Don’t underestimate your students!


Persuasion is Power– Understanding Rhetoric

I recently went to one of my favorite clothing stores to pick out a new dress for my friend’s wedding that is coming up, and me being who I am, I have to make sure that I have the perfect outfit for this specific occasion. When I go to Maurices, I’m usually the one you see taking a few dresses, a couple nice shirts, four or five pairs of pants and maybe a pair of shoes to the dressing room.

I firmly believe in taking as many items as you want into the dressing room–you don’t have to buy all the items you take in, but you can sure try them on for free!


After trying on outfit after outfit, I just could not decide what to wear, and if you have never been to Maurices, here are two things that you should know;

  1. You need to go and check it out
  2. The people who work there are very…persuasive.

If you have been to Maurices you will know that it didn’t take long for an associate to come and help me. I couldn’t decide what dress to buy, and I had narrowed my choices down to two. The associate, who was very nice, agreed that I had a tough decision to make, but that she liked both dresses. I explained to her my budget and how much I wanted to spend, and her response to me was something like this;

“Don’t worry, buying both dresses will keep you under your budget with this coupon that you have with you.”

Here is another thing you should also know about Maurices

       3. Always bring coupons.

As you can guess, I bought both dresses….and two shirts…and a new pair of shorts. When I got someone else’s opinion on how I looked when I was wearing these items, I was able to make a decision that benefited both the store and myself.

Sadly, my wallet was the only one who suffered.

DCF 1.0 My experience shopping at Maurices is a mild example of what the Greeks, Romans, and even the Americans in todays generation fear when talking about rhetoric. Starting all the way during the time of the Ancient Greece until now, rhetoric has been viewed as powerful, useful, necessary and dangerous. Rhetoric, defined by the Merriam-Webster online dictionary, has two definitions:

  1. : language that is intended to influence people and that may not be honest or reasonable
  2. : the art or skill of speaking or writing formally and effectively especially as a way to persuade or influence people

For the longest time, creating a persuasive argument, written or orally delivered was considered a highly desired skill. Even today, despite that there is time dedicated to studying language and grammar in the school systems, most students refer to public speaking, or being a good writer as a skill or talent. One of the first things that I have come to understand about learning language, proper grammar, and being able to create good quality writing involves much more than just skill or talent in the area. Being a good writer, understanding your language and being able to be a “persuader” involves exposure and practice; exposure to the content, and practice, practice, practice.

Like the Greeks who first held this belief, I agree that rhetoric has a large influence of one’s education. From the first couple of weeks in my Theory and Practice of Teaching Writing course, there are a few things that I have learned about writing, language, and rhetoric; CourtGavel

  • The power of public speaking has a large influence on the individual and the society that the individual is a part of.
  • Rhetoric can be both beneficial and dangerous—on one hand it can create an intelligent individual who fights for justice, or it can result in a one who fights for power instead of justice. THE COURTS —->
  • Knowing ones language, the rules of that language (grammar), and understanding rhetoric allows you to develop a deeper understanding of all other areas of study.

Above all of these things that I have learned in the best couple of weeks, I have grasped a better understanding of how rhetoric can shape the individual and a society. This has become one of the biggest things that I have discovered about rhetoric. Referring back to my shopping experience; I didn’t have to buy two dresses or anything at all for that matter. What was the deciding factor for my final purchases at the store results in several things (I really liked both of the dresses), but I probably would not have bought both if the associate who was helping told me that I looked good in both of the items. In other words, the associate told me what I wanted to hear so that I would get two nice dresses, and she would make money for her company.

TGreek philosophershis is how the art of persuasion works. What the Greeks hope to achieve was to have citizens who would deliver persuasive speeches that seek justice and explore moral truth, yet they soon discovered that sometimes that was not the case. Along with teaching language, grammar, public speaking and all other elements that come into educating others about rhetoric, there seems to be this necessary demand for teaching a values system among our students. The question is, how can we do that without causing problems, following state standards, and creating highly literate students?

With hopes of becoming a future elementary teacher, I want my students to not just be familiar with their language and the grammar involved, but to have the rules embedded in their deepest pools of knowledge and long term memory.  I think that the more our students practice getting to know their language, the better they will understand it. Plus, I need to prepare my students for the literature they will read in high school, and how will they be able to read and grow from the literature they read if they do not understand the history of their own language?

At the same time, teachers need to be more creative with the assignments that they are giving students. The typical written book report or essay is not something that promotes writing. Giving students options about how they learn and understand the content only enhances their ability to remember and store that new information in their minds.

Here are a few ideas that I want to use in my classroom;

  • Writing note books
  • Personal journals
  • Personalized Grammar resource book, hand made
  • Memorization games- tests grammar
  • Both oral and written exercises
  • Grammar puzzles and flash cards

Teach your students about rhetoric, about language, about writing and make them see why it is important. Having students who are know how to create a persuasive argument is rewarding to the teacher, unless of course you shop at Maurices and your students work there.

Final tip for your next shopping trip to Maurices:

4. Do not go into Maurices if your students work there and understand rhetoric.