Monday, 16 March 2015


The two and a half months spent in this course have opened me up to the value of teaching as a formative profession. I noticed how much value you can bring to a student’s academia but also their personal development as well. At first I was rather resigned regarding the mentoring portion of this course. I have realized over the course of the first semester that teaching may not be my vocation… yet. By this I mean that I am certain that I will not become a teacher in the near-future though am unsure about my long-term career objective. At this point I can say with certainty that I will not be jumping right into this profession. While afflicted by this hesitation over for Christmas holidays and the first weeks in January, there was a feeling inside of me that drove me to pursue the degree regardless. 

I found the mentoring experience was enlightening and gratifying. I was able to develop a meaningful relationship with the student and he seems to have incorporated much of my insight into his writing processes. On a personal level I found the experience built up my confidence as an individual as well as my voice as a mentor/teacher. It made me realize that instead of seeing a difficult situation and shying away from it, viewing every challenge as an opportunity for growth will inevitably make the experience positive, rewarding, and meaningful. 

The entire journey through this course, as well as the program as a whole, as been a humbling experience. 

Friday, 20 February 2015

Mentoring Student Writers

My first encounter with my student writer allowed me to touch base with him and discover where his writing is situated. He had three pieces of writing that were "completed" which I have since read.

About my student:
In order to break the ice, my student and I discussed our hobbies and interests. I discovered that he was an avid reader (400-500 pages a week) as well as a sports fan (baseball mainly). When asked about his weaknesses in writing he mentioned that he didn't quite know what to reply. This meant that I had to investigate and discover his strengths and weaknesses through his written work.

My observations:
I found the major strengths of my student were in his ideas and his research abilities. Once he had defined his topic of interest, he hashed out essential points which he then complimented with his research. I also liked that he included visual supports for his writing (graphs and or images). On the other hand I noticed that his organization (structure of ideas) and presentation (paragraph length) needed guidance and fine-tuning. Added to these concerns were his use of editing skills; following our discussion I understood that his editing consisted of proofreading rather than reorganizing ideas and reworking the whole piece.

In order to improve my student's written products, I developed various templates to assist him in the pre-writing and post-writing process. Given that we each have our own writing processes I sought to develop suggestions that could assist in both instances as to provide the student the ability to adopt the method which is most effective for him.

Pre-writing Essay Template
This is a malleable template which is to serve as a guideline rather than requiring strict adherence. The amount of main points, and sub points within each, is malleable and up to the student to determine.
                Hook –
                Topic –
                Thesis –
                Ideas Outlined –
                Idea 1 –
                Supporting Arguments –
                Idea 2 –
                Supporting Arguments –
                Idea 3 –
                Supporting Arguments
Summary of ideas/arguments:
Thesis confirmed:

Post-Writing Checklist

This checklist is intended as a guidepost and set of reminders for the student to use while editing his paper. The list is not exhaustive and can be changed according to the students needs and concerns. 
         You can tell what my main idea is
         I spoke of what was important
         My ideas are clear and specific
         I support and expand the main idea with evidence, examples, facts, or explanations
         My lead gets you hooked
         My paper is easy to follow, like a good map
         I used transitions to lead the reader through my ideas
         I linked ideas with word bridges
         Each paragraph discusses a whole idea
         I ended my paper with some final thoughts
         This writing sounds like Me!
         I “talk” to the reader in my writing
         This is a paper you would enjoy sharing aloud
         I bring my readers “inside” the paper by asking – What do they already know? What would they like to know? What will they find interesting
Word Choice
         My words make sense and are used correctly
         My words go with my topic and audience
         I was careful not to use one word too many times and instead used synonyms
         I did not use big words just to show off
         I avoided vague words
Sentence Fluency
         I read this aloud and like how it sounds
         Many sentences begin in different ways
         Some sentences are long, some short
         I have proofread my whole paper
         I have checked my
o   Spelling
o   Grammar
o   Punctuation
o   Paragraphing
o   Capitals
         My paper is neat and looks good on the page
         This paper is ready to publish    
         My use of visual or graphics is well integrated
         My paragraphs are approximately of equal length             

Quotes and Thoughts

 “And those who were seen dancing were thought to be insane by those who could not hear the music.” - Friedrich Nietzsche 

Upon first having encountered this quotation I realized that each of us in this world need to act and be who they are - remaining true to themselves. Often we suppress our behaviors for fear of how others will view and judge us. There is always a rationale for everyone's behavior and one should always dance to their music regardless of the stares or judgments of others. 

"The only way to deal with an unfree world is to become so absolutely free that your very existence is an act of rebellion.” - Albert Camus

During my undergraduate degree I took a seminar on Marxism. This course opened my mind to the philosophical concept of communism and provided me with an intellectual foundation upon which to criticize capitalist society. I believe that modelling behavior that challenges the status quo is the best way to teach others to live freely. I used to abide fully by this saying, though with the challenges I have recently encountered I have found it difficult to uphold this in my day-to-day. As I continue through my recovery and rediscover my self, I constantly reiterate this saying in my mind as a reminder of the purpose of being on this earth and in this day and age.

“Be the change that you wish to see in the world.”- Mahatma Gandhi

This iteration is another tenant of my philosophy. The best way to challenge the "system" in our world is to live in a different way than it demands. In terms of teaching, this quotation speaks to the modelling role played by teachers. In general terms, it means living against the grain; eating natural foods (not commercialized junk), developing a home grown vegetable garden to keep in touch with the earth and self-sustenance, being social and empathetic (not closed off, compartmentalized and individualized as consumer society dictates). The way commercial society is moving is unsustainable and unnatural; grassroots change is the only means of resistance and being a part of that change is essential for purposeful existence.



Thursday, 29 January 2015

The Essay in English/History - Typical structure and a discussion of differentiation

In both of my teachable subjects (English/History) I believe that the essay is the predominant writing form. In English the essay is the basic format through which students engage with their readings and express their thoughts about a given topic. In History the essay is used to develop historical narrative by building on evidence they have gathered. In both subjects, there is a standard structure required for the essay, which I would describe as the following:

1. Introduction
Hook – grab the reader’s attention
Funnel approach (general toward the specific)
Thesis statement
Enunciation of the structure/plan in the body of the essay (first we will discuss… then we will… finally)

2. Body
Composition of the body can vary depending on the topic and approach taken by the student.
I would suggest below:
a. 3 main points with 2-3 supporting arguments
Depending on the student’s level of apprehension of a subject, the format could be modified accordingly. For instance if the student only has 2 main points to make, then the body would be adjusted accordingly and if possible they could work to provide more supporting arguments if necessary.
b. I would suggest that they argue both sides of an issue (for/against) and then provide a brief synthesis of each point before proceeding to the next element of the body.
c. Students would be encouraged to incorporate citations in their essays as a way to build their arguments towards their stated thesis.

3. Conclusion
A complete synthesis of the body is made.
The thesis is restated and affirmed.
An opening to further thought can be provided.

I would try to convey this structure of the essay as a living organism which needs all its parts in order to function properly. 

Differentiating instruction:

To support differentiation of instruction in writing the essay I would introduce students to the 6+1 traits of “good” writing. I would teach the students about the various aspects discussed therein (ideas, organization, voice, word choice, sentence fluency, conventions, and presentation). Then I would provide them with the continuum so that they may self-assess their writing abilities in each of these categories. To compliment this I would set up student-teacher conferences as well as peer-to-peer feedback sessions. The focus of these sessions would be to focus instruction on one key weakness so that they may develop effective strategies in order to address these.

One of the principal needs for students with learning disabilities would be to implement effective Planning, production, and revision techniques. For “good” writing to emerge, students must have effective organization. It was noted that planning was often overlooked by students with learning disabilities just as their revision techniques often came down to proofreading rather than a critical analysis of their final product.

To address these needs, I would develop mini-lessons tailored on the needs of the students (as determined by their self-assessments and my assessment of the class as a whole). As needed, methods for planning would be discussed (graphic organizers: fishbone, mind maps) and students would be encouraged to use them for the planning process in order to focus their ideas. Additionally, given the challenge in text production, students would be taught the various conventions of the texts they would be assigned to write; checklists would be provided so that they may ensure that they are meeting all the expectations. It is important for students to know the direction and work with this goal in mind.

Given some students do not put the effort into the writing task, this motivational barrier could be curbed by showing students the value of writing and the ability for improvement. If they can see their writing ability progress, they will be more apt to develop the craft. Most importantly of all would be to develop authentic writing tasks that speak to the students interest; if the passion can be ignited then the students will develop a passion for the power of the written word.