Tuesday, July 14, 2015

My Soapbox

This week I was going to attempt some meaningful piece that insightfully wove my assigned reading for the week together in some way that would really cause someone to take pause and notice. However, before I could even finish reading the first article I had already composed an angry rant in my head that simply had to be written down on paper, or well screen, for all the world to read. Pardon me while I stand on my soapbox.
In the piece, ""I'll speak in proper slang": Language ideologies in a daily editing activity," the authors conducted research in a classroom where the educator worked with her learners daily to edit a sentence that she had written on the board. Learners are supposed to read the sentence and then work to make the necessary changes to the sentence in order to make it grammatically correct. As a learner, I feared the activity, as a teacher I hated the activity, and as a administrator I despise the activity. 

As a learner, nothing would rush fear through my veins faster than watching my teacher writing one of those incorrect sentences on the board when I came into class. I immediately started getting anxious and plotting out how I would respond should she "randomly" call on me. If I had been able to I would have bought a lottery ticket because I was the most lucky "random" student in her class. From my stand point, I was never good at being able to guess what she wanted me to say. 

As an educator,  I did use this model of instruction when I first started, everyone was doing it after all, but I quickly discovered my students pretty sophisticated scheme. I would write  the sentence on the board and then would ask what needed to be fixed and seemingly on cue every time the first respondent would yell out, "It needs a capital letter!" The second respondent would then shout out, "It needs a punctuation mark!" And then nothing... no more answers shouted out, no one raising their hand nothing. The silence was deafening really. After way too many days of sentence editing I finally realized that they didn't know what to say, they were just guessing. In fact, weren't my students acting exactly as I had done all those years ago. While I did not know the research behind what I was experiencing, that is when I abandoned the daily sentences in hopes of finding something better. 

As an administrator, I am more aware of the research and other practices that would better support the same goals as I had for my learners with the sentences, so I find myself becoming frustrated when educators are doing the same old same old with no evidence to show me that it is being successful. When questioned, the educator in the article explained that the reason she was using a particular resource was because she was more comfortable with it. Not that it was better. Not that it aligned to her goals. But rather, she chose to use the resource that she was comfortable with. Too often I am finding educators making decisions without being able to articulate their goals and that is frustrating to me. 

Ok, enough of my soapbox... 

I did find the article to be quite interesting and one thing I want to further think about is how we are communicating our expectations to learners for a given task. While we currently live in a day and age where we are bound, to some degree, to the standards, what are things we can do within the classroom to not only value the identity of each learner, and also be more intentional about articulating the kind of language necessary in context.


  1. Heather, I remember walking that tight rope of curricular standards and meeting the cultural needs of my students. It seemed to often get watered down to that special day or month that celebrated a specific group. Even as I would bring in what I believed to be socially and culturally relevant, it could miss the mark. But, as I read and research, it is pointed out the importance of learning who are students are, what knowledge they bring with them and then teachers working collaboratively to help students navigate learning standards and their skills. I feel it is also important to explore all possible avenues of the student to be sure that I am making the best choices in how to best affirm and assist for academic achievement.

  2. Findings suggest that daily editing activities provide limited opportunities for students to learn about language in ways that build off their existing linguistic resources and that could enhance their literacy learning (Godley, 2004). Students need to be taught the English language skills. Daily Oral Language should used to reinforce skills that have been previously taught. When skills consistently show up that are not mastered this is the time for teachers to reteach. Students will be able to demonstrate mastery by applying the skills mastered in their writing.