March 2010

There have been a lot of interesting suggestions of how we should spend the rest of our semester. The overriding consensus, it seems, is that we need to spend our time figuring out a combination of three things that are interrelated. The first is knowing and figuring out the Michigan Content Standards (AKA GLECs), figuring out exactly how a year long syllabus would work, and also trying out our own assignments for goals of understanding what works and how this will help students learn. Matt Phelps also very convincingly proposed watching a movie about how a teacher handled a group of misfits and then turning them into good writers. We have all given great reasons for what we want to learn, and together this may all work.

The winner of the, “What should we learn sweepstakes”, is a combination of learning the standards of Michigan and conducting a year long syllabus. I personally think that is a great way to finish the year. A lot of us, including myself, will be student assisting and student teaching next year, and I think learning this bit of information will enhance our learning and comprehension of some basic things teachers have to deal with every single day. As Sara Kiel and Stephen Foutz allude to, this is how teachers will be assessed and keeps their jobs. If we as teachers do not follow the standards we will not have a job. It would be great to learn this task in class without being evaluated by administrators, principals, and other teachers. While many of us have talked about standards and the importance of them, I think Rebekka Olson gives a good example of what we should do as a class. She says we should spend time getting to know the general standards, do a workshop for a syllabus, turn in a draft to look at, and then turn it in and write about the process for the exam. Knowing the content standards does coincide with conducting a year long syllabus.

However, I would suspect that writing a yearlong syllabus during the end of the semester seems like a heavy heavy responsibility. Just from prior experience of writing a two-week unit plan, it takes TIME. Luckily, I took a lot of time in the couple weeks prior to work on it, but just for a two week plan it takes a lot of time, effort, research, and thinking just to get a good presentable draft. Melissa Anderson has a good idea of tapping into our teacher’s knowledge about this type of experience. I am sure that planning an entire years worth of instruction takes weeks of planning. I’m not sure if we could really do that. What I think we should do is spend a day tapping into the teacher’s knowledge and have her give us mentor texts and instruction of how one would begin to think and fill out a one year and discuss as a class how that would work. I am all for trying one out for ourselves and turning it in, but I am not sure how long that would take. Therefore discussing how it is done and keying in on the instructor’s knowledge is a good bet for what this class is trying to accomplish.

Another important topic mentioned is the need to learn how to assess papers as well as trying out activities on our own. Dan Slane brought up some interesting points about the need for assessment. One important aspect of this profession is our busy work grading the assignments we give. If we do not take into account the work that is needed and the strategies to correct papers, we may be in a longer couple years than expected. He also gives a great reason for doing this, “need to understand assessment as a form of instruction instead of a fruititive act by the teacher after instruction ends”. This is a very interesting concept to think about and to incorporate in our classrooms. If we can do as Dan suggests and look at case studies to show that assessment is not just a final thing and something that happens throughout the entire process, the students should be in better shape. We can get at this by perhaps grading our own writing for practice in grading papers, and looking at studies showing how to continually assess students without it being something done at the end.

In class it was discussed that we should try out some assignments in class. Melanie Rabine thinks that doing this will help in deciding what assignments work and which will not. It gives us a chance to play teacher and make us prepared for what could work and what could not.

Finally Matt Phelps idea to watch “Freedom Writers” is a good idea that was backed up tremendously with great persuasion. Remember WWSD and that she is a TWO time Academy Award winner. Also there’s that guy from Grey’s Anatomy, who my girlfriend just referenced as, “McDreamy”. So it must be a good movie. This could be an entertaining way to end the semester while also keeping in mind the issues at hand as we become teachers of writing.

In conclusion this is my syllabus (I’m still not exactly sure how to make them so here is something really general) for the last four class periods marked “TBD” on the ENG 310 syllabus.

4/6 -Tap into Dr. Ellis’ knowledge of how to conduct a yearlong syllabus

-Look at the GLECs

4/8 -Discuss the GLECs as a class, and take different parts of the standards and discuss how they can be achieved

-Assign a project where we have to do a certain number of lesson plans to achieve a certain number of standards (DUE exam day)

-Read some case studies about assessment and the things Dan Slane talked about

4/13 -Discuss the readings in class

-Grade some student papers, and classmates papers while trying to key in on how they contribute to the standards of the state

4/15 -Look through our old lesson plans and do some selected activities in class
4/20 -Continue doing selected activities and discuss how they work

-Begin Freedom Writers

4/22 Watch Freedom Writers

Ashley Gwinn

Proposal: Conduction of a yearlong syllabus


  • Help us to diagram our year so that we know which examples we need to make, and it will teach us a vital piece of writing that all teachers need to know how to do.
  • to think about the long term, and plan how to incorporate the ideas that we have learned thus far
  • shows us how to handle everything in a semester

What to do:

Day One: sampling of example syllabi, and break into small groups (each with a syllabus) and make a collaborative list of the components of the syllabus that we would like to mimic.

Day Two: study the Michigan educational requirements for secondary education in our majors, discussion about how to pace our class to meet all of these, and to accomplish our goals

Exam:  polished draft of our potential syllabi, and then present those syllabi to one another so that everyone’s great ideas can be shared and learned from

Final at the end thingy: Wouldn’t it be great if we had a leg up on the other beginning teachers, if we could take one more thing off of our worry list, and if we could enter the doors of our new place of work feeling prepared?

Daniel Slane

Proposal: further reconciling assessment with encouragement and instruction


  • need to understand assessment as a form of instruction instead of a fruititive act by the teacher after instruction ends
    • further research, reading case studies of those teacher researchers that focus their attention on assessment
    • We need to try grading on actual student papers
    • Assign letter grades
    • Grade our own papers

Desiree Brown

Proposal: Need to do more with lesson plans and get the whole picture


  • learn how to map out a whole year of writing instruction
    • This would help us all to see how our one lesson plan fits into the bigger picture; were and when it should be taught
    • look at the Michigan GLECs and some district course guides
      • would have a basic idea of what is expected, both by the state and by individual districts
      • Discuss time management

Jacob McDougall

Proposal: need to be able to read, interpret, discuss, formulate their own ideas, then to write them out with clarity


  • look at our GLICEs and expectations of different districts and perhaps even go through a set of curriculum brainstorming and hashing out ways to effectively reach our students
  • Have our final exam be a short essay that expresses our most important value
  • Take action, not talk things to death

Jamie Linari

Proposal: Look at the big picture


  • Look at yearlong plans
  • Look at standards

Kaitlynn Hill

Proposal: Focus on creative individualist writing


  • have diverse writing assignments that make us better writers
  • write a personal essay about something that we are interested in
  • make it a completion grade
  • no exam

Katie Reilly

Proposal: Need to see the whole picture


  • form a class plan, we will be able to look at activities presented in the readings and class more closely and two we can see where the activities and lessons fit together in a classroom

It’s a lengthy project but will get everybody together to struggle and put in ideas for a year long plan

Kelly Gordon

Proposal: explore how one creates a curriculum map for the year

  • Look at a 7th grade year
  • Do a revision session
  • Revisit our blog through works of dialogue
  • Post important literacy ideas
  • Finalize our classroom community

Kendra Woody
Proposal: Get an actual lesson plan and see how it would be used in the classroom and see how they meet the standards

  • Have our teacher guide her knowledge and experience for us to learn

Kyristal Olson

Proposals: Keep journal writing, free write, create and try out assignments

Kyra Harris

Proposal: Making writing fun


  • Emotional writing topics
  • Discussion of English topics, and what makes a good writer
  • Small and large group activities build community

Matt Phelps

Proposal: Watch Freedom Writers


  • It will inspire us
  • It has the guy from Grey’s Anatomy
  • It has a two time academy award winner
  • It will teach us some of the worst case possible stuff that can happen in a classroom

Melanie Rabine

Proposal: practicing good teaching methods to prepare ourselves to be more confident


  • activities and assignments with response give us some insight on what works
  • what type of writing do we want to teach and focus on
  • practice this type of writing
  • play teacher
  • prepare for the actual classroom

Melissa Anderson

Proposal: tackle a multi-cultural project, ideas for an entire year syllabus, GLECs, tap into teacher’s knowledge of what works and her experiences

Guiding question and timed writing for exam

Mike Coon

Proposal: foundation of writing instruction

Also issues in what is appropriate for what grade level, and doing an entire year of instruction

Ways to resolve:

  • Dive more deeply with Inside Out and relate it to uses in the classroom
  • Find best foundation of writing
  • Decide what grade fits which topics
  • Year long syllabus

Nicholas Assaf

Proposal: Grading secondary assignments

  • Assessment along with standards helps us grade
  • Complete writing project

Nicole Baniukaitis

Proposal: find conducive approaches to teaching writing


  • Continue writing prompts
  • Figure out the fluency of grammar instruction in lesson plans
  • Figure out what the vast array of writing options and learning how to teach the students the skills needed to be a good writer in anything

Nicole Bronkema

Proposal: introduce mentor texts and know importance of practicing, thinking, basically the stuff in the syllabus.

Rebekka Olson

Proposal: Year long lesson plan

(we never do ones longer than a couple weeks or so)

How to do this:

  1. Know general standards
  2. workshop for syllabus
  3. turn in a draft to be looked at
  4. turn in and write about the process

Robert Coffey

Proposal: Learn the GLECs

Figure out what they are

Ross Daniels

Proposal: new syllabus of sacred writing time, focus on writing activities, exam be one of our projects

Sara Kiel


  • Provide context
  • We lose our job if it we don’t follow them
  • Defends classroom activities
  • Grade papers according to standards

Sara Vruggink

Proposal: year long plan

  • How do you make them, and the process of it
  • How do you synthesize everything we learn for our future students?

Sarah Ponce

Position: Ways to teach everybody and challenge students at the same time. Figure out and perhaps debate what strategies we can use to put our knowledge to the test.

Sean Haak

Proposal: Michigan Content Standards, Writing across curriculums, learn to keep writing fresh

Stephen Foutz

Proposal: STANDARDS, what are they, how do we follow them?

Organizing and planning is something that I have heard is a major aspect of being a good teacher. Not only is it a major aspect of being a good teacher, but it is something that is probably the bare minimum of what it means to be a good teacher. Having poor skills in these areas seems like a death trap for young teachers who would like to keep their jobs and their sanity.

Unit planning is an enormous responsibility for teachers to do well and follow. Not only do teachers have to plan every single day, but they have to plan units as well as the entire year. All of which involve a lot of time, organization, and planning. If our class tackles these issues and is given advice and instruction of how to plan a trimester, semester, or even an entire year, I think it will give us a good start going into or semester of student assisting and student teaching.

So far in this class, ENG 311 with Dr. Rozema, and in my SST 310 (Strategies for Social Studies Teachers) class, we have all dealt with lesson plans, and different theories of how a classroom should be taught. In ENG 311 we made about two weeks worth of lesson plans of a specific unit we wanted to teach. Our topics were basically whatever we wanted to teach through literature. In this class we did a weeks worth of lesson plans about a certain writing style and how we can teach it in an English class. The three were poetry, literature writing, and essays. In my SST 310 class we took four different lesson plans from economics, government, world, and American history and taught one lesson plan in front of the class. Not one of them really had us practice a large block of classes.  We all know the issue of time, and the stress of following the Michigan Content Standards. Since Dr. Ellis has experience with all of these areas I think some of her advice, readings, activities, etc. could greatly benefit anyone in class. In all honesty I have no clue how I would even start planning out an entire year.

One of the things I think we could tackle is actually looking at the content standards for a certain grade in the secondary level, and have us learn the steps it takes to try and conquer all of these goals. I know that is a stressful thing to try and do. Dr. Rozema had an old student of his come to our class that used to teach in California, and she told us about her experiences with content standards. She said that in California they had to follow the content standards very strictly to the point of having to write the content standard on the board every morning for any school official to see throughout the day. One debate we could have in class is how to adhere to the standards of the state and country, while trying to promote books and issues that aren’t necessarily in the statewide curriculum but could bring out teachable moments in students. I think this is an issue many of us will have to deal with for the rest of our teaching careers, and having a teacher that has been through this can be a big benefit for everybody in class.

When we, future teachers, start our assisting and actual teaching I think we can benefit by learning how to plan and more specifically when to plan. Should our planning start the summer before we teach, or is it a week by week or month by month basis? Another thing that should be addressed is what to do when a teacher’s plan does not go to plan. What is the process for teachers when something they planned for twenty minutes lasts ten minutes or when something they plan for a week takes multiple weeks? These are all issues with organization and planning that I think will be very beneficial for our class to learn these last few weeks of class. Learning how to plan for an entire month, year, etc. and how to adhere to the content standards are some of the biggest issues I think we will face once we are in the teaching world.