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The Classroom

The Classroom is a podcast by a middle school writing teacher conferring with students about the books they read and issues in writing. The podcast strives to give students a voice about the impact of choice in the classroom and the reality of what works for them in the teaching of reading and writing.
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Jul 14, 2016

A student shared that writing a book in 3rd grade was a big deal. The more I listened, the more I came to understand that it really was a big deal. Jordan tells me that she and a friend collaborated on a story outside of school. She worked on it for several years and then something happened.

And I hear this a lot from adolescents.

They stop writing.

Sometimes, adolescents stop writing because other activities interfere. Sometimes, writing in school becomes so rule-driven that children fall out of love. Most of my kids tell me that the end arrives somewhere around that 5th or 6th grade window.

They stop writing.

I imagine if we wedge enough TDAs, DQBs, correction, and Study Island down their throats students feel the possibilities slip away. We narrow the conditions of writing. We squeeze them out so much that they no longer feel as though they have anything to contribute on their own. So they stop.

They stop writing.

I offer this podcast as an opportunity to reflect about our classrooms. What role do the conditions of our classrooms play for our adolescents? I'm completely absorbed by what Jordan shares with me here. She and her friends were on the cusp of creating their own writing community.

That is, indeed, a very big deal.

May 9, 2016

Repeatedly, my students tell me that they do not talk about their books with one another. Even if they struggle with a text, their impulse is not to turn to a classmate or even a teacher. When I polled my students about their reading strategies, they report that they slow down, find a quiet place, and re-reading as their top three moves. As a matter of fact, of the eleven reading strategies that students identified as something that they do, "asking someone" came in last behind "staying stuck." Students reported acquiescing to the struggle before they would ask someone.

I was happy that our podcast conversation drifted back into this topic today. It reinforces not only the responsibility we bear to teach strategies but also using talking and conferring as an avenue for understanding. 

To be honest, I am still wrestling with this revelation. After 22 years in the classroom I am still making assumptions. I assumed my students would ask me or ask a classmate if they found themselves stuck in their reading. But as some students report in this podcast, they believe "there is nothing to talk about."

Teaching strategies is one thing. But where do our students go when the strategies fall short with a piece of text?

Do they know how to talk about their struggles? Do they think of reading as a search for right answers? Have we reduced academic reading into a series of transactions? Have we turned some reading into a commodity to be exchanged for a score instead of an idea to be explored...including our basic struggles with that ideas?

Nov 4, 2015

A young writer with roots in China discusses writing.

 

Music: When the Wind Hits the Water by bensmithsongs at SoundCloud

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