Sunday, July 15, 2012

What Was I Thinking?

Last week, I started a blog about our school's transformation to becoming a 4C's school.  I read that blogging is the new persuasive essay and I was inspired to step out of my comfort zone and commit to documenting our learning experiences at Hale Kula via a blog/persuasive essay.   It is now 11:00 p.m. on a Saturday evening, and I'm sitting here wondering what I was thinking when I made a personal goal to start a blog.

Let me digress.  Since I made the commitment a little over a week ago, I published my first two posts.  I thought it would be a challenge, but I never expected it to be THAT challenging!  I spent hours writing, reviewing, and revising before I finally had the courage to click "publish."  Even then, I kept going back to edit - replacing words, adding or deleting sentences, changing the order of paragraphs.  I read Heather Wolpert-Gawron's blog and checked to see if my blogs qualified as "persuasive writing."  (I'm still setting the stage, so no, not yet.)

What is going to keep me motivated to continue?  Well, first, I want to experience, first-hand, what we will be expecting our students to do.  I'm finding that it will take time and a commitment to teach persuasive writing because initially, it will be a challenge, not just for students, but for teachers as well.

A few years ago, writing was a focus at our school.  District resource teachers worked with our staff to go through the writing process, culminating in an open-mike session where individuals voluntarily shared their final piece, a personal narrative.  The idea was to get us to write with our students and to make a conscientious effort to set aside time for writing every day. (I admit that I journaled every day for a few months, but I wasn't writing anything "substantive" so I gave it up.)

 After that, we  utilized the Standards-Based Change Process and worked with SchoolRise to address writing at Hale Kula.  Unfortunately, and I am rather embarrassed to admit it, writing took a back seat to reading and math when No Child Left Behind Adequate Yearly Progress indicators did not include writing proficiency. Shortly thereafter, the State determined that writing would no longer be assessed statewide.  Teachers were encouraged to embed writing throughout the curriculum, but we no longer analyzed data or agreed on instructional strategies for teaching writing in a grade level.

With the adoption of the Common Core State Standards with an emphasis on persuasive and argumentative writing rather than just personal journaling, the expectations have changed.  No longer can we expect our students to understand and be able to use the art of persuasion in their speaking or writing if they are only journaling or researching and regurgitating information they have discovered.  Persuasive writing needs to take place in every content area.  Does an answer to a math problem make sense?  Why or why not?  What is a problem in our school, and how can we make a difference in addressing this problem?  Which book would you recommend to your classmates?  Why?  How much homework and what kind of homework should teachers assign to students?

Before we can expect students to understand how to write effective persuasive essays, however, we need our teachers to understand that persuasive writing is all around us.  Take a look at this video.  I think I'll use it with our teachers (that is, if we can find it on a site that's not blocked by our Department).

You Tube video

This video opens up so many possibilities for our teachers and students.  I have confidence that they will realize that technology and web2.0 tools are perfect for sharing persuasive writing pieces. I hope to share some examples during the school year.

Until my next post, aloha!

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