Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Student Led Book Discussions

The community college I work at started a common reading program this semester. Professors in all disciplines were invited to try to incorporate the book in their class.  Being an English teacher made that easy for me.

Part of the program involves getting the campus community, as a whole, involved with the book.  So we decided to do book talks that anyone could attend.  However, we had some of our classes host them.  Since 3 of my classes would be hosting public book talks I wanted to have them be student led and meaningful.

In order to accomplish this I decided to rely on our friend, Bloom.  Using Bloom's taxonomy, I created three "levels" of questions that I needed my students to write.  I asked them to write one question per level.  They then had to respond to their own question, provide a justification for why the question was relevant, and had to list page numbers and follow up questions that they could use to keep the conversation going.

The students are divided into groups of 3-7 depending on class size  (I have one class with 13 students and another with 28!) that lead the discussion for that section of the book.  I have told the students my goal is to not speak what-so-ever. (This is a major challenge for me! I was voted most talkative in high school out of a class of over 400...)

Well, we had our first round of discussions last week and... they were a success! I stayed quiet, and in general students warmed up and got interested in discussing the book.  My one class had so many visitors we ended up with 40 people in the room.

In order to make this work for you don't forget to go over proper discussion protocol.  I told my students to follow the "3 before me" rule (or in my small classes, 2), to make eye contact, to speak loudly, to watch for cues to speak or not speak, and to be respectful.  My participants knew that I had marked down where each one of them was sitting and would be tracking the flow of discussion and marking who had spoken and who hadn't.

In the future, I'd probably model more questions and answers for my students.  I might also create an exit ticket for students to fill out with a brief reflection before leaving the discussion.

Sometime in the next few weeks I'll list the materials I created for this assignment and you to can get your students talking about books!

Thanks for reading! 

Friday, September 11, 2015

Teaching Writing: There's an App for That

My students love technology but rarely seem to understand how they can use it to help with their schoolwork.  Since I am teaching only writing classes this semester I've been focusing on finding a variety of apps and websites that can help my students improve their writing skills.  Here are 6 that I found.

The Hemmingway App helps point out areas that a student can strengthen.  I find it works best a paragraph at a time.  It can help them see if they're writing at a sufficient level for their grade as well as it gives a readability score.  To use the app students just go to the website and paste in their text.  Different concepts are highlighted in different colors.  The app tries to coach students on word choice, passive voice and more.  It does not edit their papers for them.  Great tool during the revision stage of writing.  (I am not sure if this is a phone app but it is readily available on laptop and desktop computers.)

The Merriam Webster Dictionary App can help students find different words or to define words they don't know.  I think it's really important that we start helping our students understand that their phones can be used for more than just Snapchat, texts, and KIK.

Focus Writer is great for students who are easily distracted by the internet etc when using the computer.  What it does is takes up the entire screen and blocks out everything else.  It is a very simple text editor that can then be copied and pasted into Word or Google Drive.  Now, if it could lock up their phones while they're typing it'd be perfect.

I Write Like is just a fun website that allows you to paste some of your text in a box to be analyzed.  The site will then tell you which famous author it is written like!

Video Not.es connects with google drive and allows students to take notes on their computer while they watch a youtube video simultaneously.  The notes are then saved to drive.  This is a great tool if you're requiring students to use a variety of sources for a research project.

Kaizena I've written about before and works with google drive to allow you, the teacher, to provide verbal feedback and more on your students' writing.  Students can also leave verbal comments, reply to your comments, and access lessons that you've programmed in through Kaizena.

Thanks for reading! 

Sunday, September 6, 2015

Rhetoric in the Real World: A Drumline Director Shares his process

Welcome to the 2nd edition of my Rhetoric in the Real World series.  This time I'm bringing to you a percussion advisor's take on writing music.  Read on to find out how he used the concepts of the rhetorical situation while composing. 

If you missed my first post you can check it out HERE.

Here are Tim Hampton's responses:

1.  What type of composition did you create?

[I] Wrote a cadence for a high school drumline.

2.  Audience:  Did you consider who your audience was?  Who was your audience?  How did that impact your choices?

The audience is spectators at a high school football game, especially the parents of the kids performing, their peers, and other kids in the marching band and the opposing marching band.

3.  Purpose:  When you began what was your purpose?  How did your purpose influence your choices when creating your work?

I had three main purposes:
1. Write a piece that sounded good, was fun to listen to, and grooved (i.e. was easy to march to).
2. Write a piece that was challenging to play and idiomatic, giving the students in the drumline a chance to hone their skills as drummers.
3. Write a piece that was developmentally appropriate for high school drummers, hard enough to be challenging but not so hard they would have too much trouble learning it.

4. What is the subject matter of your piece?  Does it take a stance on the subject?  If so what?  How did you portray that in your work?

The piece uses Brazilian rhythms that I am interested in as a musician. As a white American working with Brazilian rhythms outside of the originally intended orchestration, I felt it wouldn't be possible or particularly helpful to worry about authenticity. I just used elements I liked in conjunction with traditional rudimental marching percussion elements. It doesn't take a stance on anything, it's utilitarian.

5.  Strategy/Genre: What strategy did you use to compose this piece?  What genre do you consider it?  Why did you choose this strategy/genre instead of another?

I started with material traditional to another ensemble and adapted it for the ensemble I was using. I chose this strategy of writing because I write many cadences, and I like some place to start from instead of just writing wholly original material in the style of a cadence. I'm under time constraints, and this takes less time. I also think it ends up more interesting to listen to. I suppose the genre is a drumline cadence. I used this genre because it is the only one available for the ensemble I was writing for and the piece needed to be useful. I wasn't getting paid to stretch boundaries or be radical. Also, since it was to be used for education as well as performance, I thought the students needed to learn the traditional ways of playing first at this point in their development as musicians.

6.  Media/Design: What about the media/design of your piece?  What elements add to your work?

I used traditional media, a drumline of tonal bass drums, snare drums, tenor drums, and cymbals. I used no additional elements.

7.  What area do you start with when creating?  Audience? Purpose? Genre? etc.

I start with purpose-educate and entertain.

8.  In your field are there other words you'd use to describe these categories?  What are they?

There aren't really "genres" in marching band. The genre is innate to the ensemble. The music played can be inspired by any other style of music, but it is always in the context of marching band, with it's given instrumentation, musical structures, style, tempos, and time constraints.

My takeaways....

I think it is telling that in this professional position Tim has to focus on his purpose first.  I think that when you are creating for a job or a class you often need to start with purpose rather than just writing or composing what you feel like for fun. 

It's also important for students to see that sometimes they can choose genre, and sometimes the genre is already chosen for them because it is so innate to their situation.

I'm going to have to pop up to the high school some Friday night so I can hear this cadence in action!

If you'd like to be a part of this series let me know by emailing me at missfuller at gmail dot com!

Thanks for reading!

Thanks for reading!