Friday, February 20, 2015

Processing the Family Culture & Heritage Blogs

16th century, Islamic Calligraphy
Projecting the classroom blog on a wall, I started today by asking students, "Point out context among yesterday's writing." However, most are content to follow along with me until they grasp what I am asking them to look for.

Even though they used context yesterday, it doesn't mean they can see context today. Everything is time and practice for them, and modeling and patience for us.

For students struggling with the word "context" I'll ask, "Which lines or phrases [in this blog] define the setting or background so that we can understand the people and the circumstance better?"

Phrased another way, "Which details make you feel closer, more connected to the writing, and not left at an arm's length in understanding?"

Phrased again, "Are there places in the writing that you 'get' better than others?"

After assessing that they have a better grasp of context, I ask the following questions:

  • "Does context apply just to narrative? "
  • "Could you envision context in an informational piece?"
  • "What are some differences between narrative and informational writing?"
  • "Can narrative and informational writing blend effectively?"

I then show students a draft with only two of the three sections filled out: Three Ways My History & Culture Shapes Me.

We discuss the two I have in place, and then I type out in front of them, the third paragraph. By third period I know it so well it just flows out of me, but I still make sure to stop and explain my thinking and ask them to determine where the context exists. I ask how is this piece different than our earlier narratives? 

Leaving a block of fifteen to twenty minutes to start writing, I ask students to follow my format and to write their own three-segment piece with context. Some can do this rather quickly since they already have a lot of information to pull from. The reality is that students are using the same family history, the same stories, the cultural references over and over but they are simply thinking about them in different ways. Yet, I do have students who struggle with this stage as well...

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