Friday, January 26, 2007

Two birds with one analogy

I rather enjoyed the analogy of the two starlings compared with the teaching of basic writing from The Discovery of Competence by Eleanor Kutz, Suzy Q. Groden, and Vivian Zamel (1-6). I thought the situations worked very well together to illustrate Groden's point. One similarity between the two situations of helping frightened birds and teaching basic writing students that struck me the most is the sheer awkwardness for all who are involved in both matters. I believe that might be one of the biggest obstacles to teaching basic writing. The same I think is true for helping frightened birds. The awkwardness for myself as a teacher is knowing the best way to start the class. The students' feelings of awkwardness might stem from knowing that English is not a subject in which they are strongly competent. That is why I think it would be key to start off the class by putting the students at ease a bit. I think that was demonstrated by the part of the starling analogy where Suzy Groden was asking the birds questions in futility (1). As Groden puts it about beginning to try to catch the birds, "I found this thought rather daunting (2)." I must admit the thought of teaching my first basic writing class is the same. I hope to attain the tools I need to start my first class off in the right direction in this class. I certainly do not want my students to have to keep flying into glass by mistake. Rather I would prefer them to write with flying colors, but one must be realistic that there will mistakes made by them and myself from learning. However one of the keys to it is to keep in mind mistakes are natural and part of the learning process for all.

Kutz, Eleanor, Suzy Q. Groden, and Vivian Zamel. The Discovery of Competence. Portsmouth,
NH: Boynton/Cook, 1993.

Thursday, January 25, 2007

What is basic writing

From the different sources we heard from in class on Monday night I started to get a sense of what basic writing is. Basic writing seems to be a style of English that does not focus on aesthetic or any fancy language usage. Its main focus is to be writing that communicates. Grammar and usage are important to writing, but they are not the most important. From what the GAs Janell and Ian and the video of Mike Rose seemed to be saying that getting your students to feel confident about writing is the number one thing. This makes sense if you think about it, because you can not really help someone with their writing if you do not have samples of it. I believe writing is something one becomes more comfortable with, and often better at, the more the practice doing it. So it makes sense to try to find the best ways to get students to commit words to page. Naturally this often differs from student to student. Which I believe Janell mentioned when she said certain students preferred writing about personal experiences and others preferred writing on a subject of interest to them. Another interesting example of this was the story Mike Rose told Bill Moyers on the PBS video about the young boy who was a student of his and a fan of rap music. That he was able to get the boy to start writing by using rap lyrics was great example of how there are many ways to get a student to write. Which getting the student to write in any style is the key to making them more comfortable and therefore more forthcoming with their writing. That is vital for students being able to learn basic writing.