Monday, July 26, 2010

Hand-Me-Down Baby

I've heard the same comments so many times recently that I'm starting to repeat them.

“No need for new clothes. After all, they'll be the same season.” “Oh, how nice, you won't have to redecorate. You can just use your first son's nursery items.” “It makes it so easy and so affordable to have two boys instead of one of each.”

I feel like this is what I should say, what everyone expects me to say. But it saddens me to think that I will be raising a hand-me-down baby.

I'm expecting my second son in a few short weeks, two boys, a little less than two years apart in age. I imagine them running the neighborhood together as they grow: the older boy gregariously greeting all our neighbors with his little brother in tow. When I start to write down some of these hopes in my newest pregnancy journal, I realize that everything I am writing is tied to my first son. “When we first learned that you would be joining our family, we started to teach your older brother how to say 'baby.'" "At the first ultrasound, your older brother giggled when he saw your little shape moving on the screen.”

Prior to my first son's birth, I journaled weekly, posting my reflections on a blog for long-distance family and friends to follow. I reflected on my changing roles, my changing identity. I spent hours planning and painting the new nursery, picking out just the right organic bedding set, scouring through Craigslist for gently used cribs and rockers, strollers and gates, changing tables and toy boxes. The monitor was hooked up long before the baby's arrival. The new clothes, freshly washed and folded, were neatly stacked in the little dresser months before his arrival. And all of this is meticulously recorded in my first son's pregnancy journal, pictures, cards, ultrasound print-outs, and all.

And although I'm already 35 weeks along, I have very few pictures of my belly, of this pregnancy. My newest little one's pregnancy journal sits safely tucked away in our bedroom bookcase, a thin layer of dust on its binding. I pulled it out last around 22 weeks to record my weight and the date of the most recent appointment with our midwife. I've brought the old baby clothes out of a rubber tub in the basement. No need to wash them again. I did that before packing them away. No need to get a new car seat. The old one will do. Our new little baby boy will fit right in to his older brother's model. My hand-me-down baby will fit right in.

And that's when I started to worry. How do I make sure this new little life grows into his own person and not into the mold of his older brother?

But when I watch my nearly two year old son excitedly gobble down green beans, splash in the tub, contentedly sleep, I am reminded of just how unique we each are. My son did not learn to be gregarious from me or my husband. I'm pretty sure he was just born friendly. As much as I coaxed him to say “mama” or “dada” as his first word, he clear as day declared “cat!” soon followed by “bus” and “skkrrrl” (squirrel). He seemed to born with his own unique perspective on the world.

So although his younger brother will grow into the clothes his older brother now wears, I will find ways to honor our new little boy's unique personality and perspective. There would be no hand-me-downs if it weren't for this new little life, no one to hand down to. My first son would not be a brother without him. And so I honor this new little person by handing down what I learned from parenting his older brother. I learn from my mistakes. I hand-down my wisdom, my patience. I hand down my love and respect. I create spaces for him to share his unique view of the world. And I hand down my open heart to his open hands. I hand down the best of myself.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

More Links for Writing for an Audience

  • S.O.A.P.S: FOR-PD Reading Strategy of the Month - November 2008
    The SOAPS strategy can be used to teach students how to read and understand narrative and expository texts. Each text structure has unique characteristics and students can benefit from instruction on how "to read" and understand text. This becomes particularly important with implicit text and messages as many students have underdeveloped inferential skills. The SOAPS comprehension strategy includes the following: SOAPS- Speaker; Occasion; Audience; Purpose; and, Subject.
  • "The Structure of Advanced Composition" (article)
    Students must learn to distinguish between three separate operations: analyzing the audience, determining the effect they want to achieve with that audience, and taking the steps necessary to achieve that effect.
  • Audience Analysis.pdf (application/pdf Object)
    R.E.A.D. Your Audience
    Relationship: What is your relationship to them? What is their relationship to each other? What is their relationship with the topic?
    Event: How many people will you be addressing? Where will you be speaking? What part are you playing?
    Attitudes: What are the attitudes toward the topic? Do they want to be there?
    Demographics: What is their age? What is their gender? What is their ethnicity? Do they belong to any groups? What is their economic status?
  • How to Conduct Audience Analysis - wikiHow
    Follow this acronym and answer the resulting questions. Just remember the AUDIENCE.

    * Analysis- Who is the audience?
    * Understanding- What is the audience's knowledge of the subject?
    * Demographics- What is their age, gender, education background etc.?
    * Interest- Why are they reading your document?
    * Environment- Where will this document be sent/viewed?
    * Needs- What are the audience's needs associated with your document topic?
    * Customization- What specific needs/interests should you the writer address relating to the specific audience?
    * Expectations- What does the audience expect to learn from your document? The audience should walk away having their initial questions answered and explained.
  • English Composition 1: Audience Analysis
    Writing to your audience may have a lot to do with in-born talent, intuition, and even mystery. But there are some controls you can use to have a better chance to connect with your readers. The following "controls" allow any writer a better chance of communicating with the audience:
  • Writing for an Audience
    Once you know your audience, you are ready to begin writing. Knowing your audience enables you to select or reject details for that specific audience. In addition, different audiences expect different types or formats for texts. Readers of Environmental Impact Statements don't want to read rhyming poetry extolling the virtues of nature. Mothers getting letters from children don't want to read a laboratory report about the events of the past month.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

I am a Hypocrite

It started as an inspired idea.

For their final writing assignment, I would have my tenth grade English students write an essay describing their writing process and how they had addressed their personal writing goals over the course of our semester together. What I expected were essays loaded with metaphors: “My process is like a trip on the tilt-a-whirl,” “I draft like an architect,” “I write like I’m trapped in a snow globe.” I imagined my own essay.

I am shoveling snow in the middle of a blizzard. The storm begins slowly, a few misshaped snowflakes land on the sidewalk and quickly melt away. Suddenly the skies open, and the ideas swirl and gather like a mid-February storm in Michigan. In its midst, I am trying to shovel, clearing away chunky, frostbitten language while new ideas are gathering on my sidewalks. I am attempting to carve out a shape and structure mid-thought, mid-process. It is a futile effort, I know this.

What I hoped to see in my students’ essay were revelations about how they made progress toward their goals over the course of our semester: “Ms. Ward, I had an ‘ah-ha’ moment and realized that I needed to further explain quotations in order to show analysis” or “I learned how to infuse my voice into even academic writing through my diction and stance toward my topic.”

This did not happen.

Instead, essays were loaded with nearly list-like descriptions of how I had taught the writing process throughout the semester: I brainstorm, outline, draft, and revise. Some students attempted hesitating honesty and declared their propensity toward procrastination. For the most part, the essays lacked voice, weighed down by formal diction and predictable sentence structure. In short, their writing lacked life.

This is when the disconnect between the way I teach the writing process and the way that I approach writing personally became abundantly clear. How come I was able to come up with a metaphor for my writing process, but it was such a struggle for my students? It was then that I realized I am a hypocrite. If I don’t practice what I preach, if I don’t brainstorm, outline, draft, and revise in that order each time I write, how could I expect my students to follow the very linear model of writing that I had taught throughout the semester? I can picture my students slapping high-five’s and pumping fists over this revelation. I have been passing on an unrealistic model for writing, or at least one that does not work for every writer. It forced me reconsider how I teach writing process.


Ralph Fletcher writes in his book What a Writer Needs, “…no element of writing can exist in isolation.” When writing teachers compartmentalize the writing process into discrete steps, we suffocate the craft and the art that writing involves. Writing is recursive. We brainstorm, draft, and revise simultaneously. We elicit feedback and start again. We revise and rewrite again and again and again. As I heard writer James McBride say, “Writing is rewriting.” Very few writers find that they are finished with a piece once they have brainstormed, outlined, drafted, and revised just once. As a result, writing teachers, myself included, need to explode the writing process in our classrooms, giving students the opportunity to explore and find their own best practices. “Research on writing, and the words of writers themselves, suggest a far stranger, far less logical writing process than that. Less neat. It turns out that many writers actually discover what they have to say in the process of writing it,” suggests Fletcher. Instead of teaching a lock-step approach to writing, teachers need to focus on sharing a variety of strategies for thinking about and engaging in the writing process.

So when I next enter the classroom, I want to teach my students to shovel their own snow.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Links for Teaching Writing with the Audience in Mind

  • Getting Real: Authenticity in Writing Prompts - National Writing Project
    Summary: Teachers often strive to develop exercises in which students write "authentic" pieces for an audience beyond the teacher. Here Slagle demonstrates the next step: sending student writing to people outside the classroom.
  • Teach How to Write to Different Audiences: Students Learn to Adjust Vocabulary or Language for Specific Reader
    Writing to an Audience: The reason it is important to know the audience is because the writer needs to know how much explanation to give in a piece of writing. Depending on the expertise of the audience, a writer can use jargon of the topic with or without explanation.
  • JSTOR: Reading Research Quarterly, Vol. 36, No. 2 (Apr. - May - Jun., 2001), pp. 184-201
    Understanding how writers address and invoke audience may simultaneously enhance children's growth as readers and writers. Most research on student writers' sense of audience has focused on secondary and college writers. This study examines first graders' demonstrations of audience awareness in the context of Family Message Journal writing. In Family Message Journals children write a message to their families and receive a written family reply each day. These journals provide a fertile context for the study of audience awareness because of the existence of an authentic, responsive audience for children's messages.
  • ReadWriteThink: Lesson Plan: Teaching Audience Through Interactive Writing
    One of the most difficult aspects of writing is keeping audience in mind throughout the writing process. Developing lessons that support this strategy for writing is essential in the elementary classroom. This lesson supports first-grade students in learning about audience. Through interactive writing, students work together to create a genuine invitation letter for a group of their peers. In addition to the interactive writing experience, students work independently to create invitation letters for their families. Extension activities include conducting additional interactive writing experiences, reading books with samples of letters, and creating invitations at a learning center.
  • Audience Awareness: When and How Does It Develop?
    Many theorists contend that the purpose of writing is to communicate with an audience, which can be defined as actual readers or as the writer himself. Scholars also seem to agree on another point: "no matter who/what the audience is (from real people to fictional construct), writers adjust their discourse to their audiences. In other words, writers do things to bring their readers into their texts, to establish a community that includes themselves and their reader" (Wildeman, 1988). A strong case can be made for teachers to use audience-oriented teaching strategies that encourage children to write for a wide range of readers.
  • Educational Leadership:Giving Students Ownership of Learning:The Power of Audience
    When student work culminates in a genuine product for an authentic audience, it makes a world of difference.
  • A Collection of Online Publishing Opportunities for Student Writing - National Writing Project
    Writing Project teachers have always found authentic ways to propel their students toward writing to an audience beyond the classroom. This collection focuses on online publishing opportunities for students of all ages—including literary magazines, book review sites, and even jokes and riddles.
  • Lesson Plan: Writing for Purpose and Audience. Teach Students How to Write and Revise with Purpose and Audience in Mind.
    Cover the following points about writing for purpose and audience: 1) Your audience determines what you write, what examples and details to include, what to emphasize, word choice and tone. 2) Your purpose for writing determines what you write, the point of your writing, and how you will make your point. 3) Knowing audience and purpose gives your writing focus.
  • audience_purpose_classroom_activities_2009-04-14.pdf (application/pdf Object)
  • EJ0985Focus.pdf (application/pdf Object)
    Wiggin's English Journal article on Real-World Writing: Making Purpose and Audience Matter
  • Strategic Writing: The Writing Process and Beyond in the Secondary English Classroom
  • Learning Through Listening | R.A.F.T. Strategy
  • Exploring Audience and Purpose with a Single Issue - ReadWriteThink
    Students explore the rhetorical concept of audience and purpose by focusing on an issue that divided Americans in 1925, the debate of evolution versus creationism raised by the Scopes Monkey Trial. Students first become familiar with the case by reviewing a newspaper article and other resources with details about the trial. They then identify the purpose and audience of a newspaper article about the trial, and explain how the purpose and audience for the article shaped the text. Then, students brainstorm a list of positions someone writing about the trial might take and the audience they might address as they consider how audience and purpose might shape other communication on the issue using an online Audience Analysis Inventory tool.
  • Engaging Audience: Writing in an Age of New Literacies
  • 50 Useful Blogging Tools for Teachers
    Blogging is becoming more and more popular in the classroom. Teachers can blog to stay in touch with parents and students or they can incorporate blogs from all of the students as a learning tool. The beauty of the student blog is that children from Kindergarten to high school can blog. No matter how you use blogs in your classroom, these tools will help you get started, enhance your experience, or bring the students into the fun.
  • Welcome to Great Source iwrite!
    Welcome to Great Source iwrite!
    Everything educators, students, and parents need to make the writing process work in the classroom and at home
  • Elements of Literature: Writing Resources
    Holt Writing Resources
    Interactive Writer's Models
    Analyze the elements of good writing with these interactive writer's models. Each model includes annotations and tips to help you be a good writer yourself.
  • 21stCenturyConcepts - 70 Tools in 70 Minutes
    A great presentation on Web 2.0 tools for teaching

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