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Date: September 14, 2008

blogging on a rainy day

It’s a rainy day Sunday so I thought I’d try to catch up on our blog. After our busy week and the non-stop rain this weekend we are just hanging out at home today.

This past week was a busy one. Aidan and I went on a police station tour at the Joliet Police department. The officer who gave us the tour was the same person who did the safety talk for us a couple of weeks ago. The tour was interesting–we got to see the whole building, including the 911 dispatch area and some lock-up cells. The kids even got to walk through a metal detector (I gave Aidan our umbrella with some metal on it so the alarm would go off on him–he thought that was fun!).

Aidan also had two days of art this week. We also went for a three and a half hour nature day at Iron Oaks in Olympia Fields. It was a program specifically for homeschoolers that focused on insects. Aidan was with about eight other kids between 5-6 years old and we went hiking around the preserve through the prairie where we got to sweep the prairie area for bugs to then examine and observe and try to identify the different ones. We then went through the woodland forest to an area where we had to roll logs and look to see what lived under the logs and rocks. The kids also did a craft project on insects, learned a song, played some games, and read some books. It was a beautiful day to be outside enjoying nature!

On Friday we spent the afternoon at the Science and Industry Museum going through some of our favorite exhibits: the new farm exhibit, the space center, the sub tour, and the trains. We even got slimed while we were there! There was a hands-on demonstration for kids where they got to learn how to make slime (and help to make it). And I was excited to learn that the museum has a number of cool step-by-step science experiments listed on their web site that we can easily do at home (or with our homeschool group).

In addition to all our outings this week, Aidan also did a couple of episodes of Headsprouts (the reading program that we recently started), we visited one day with Grandma and played a few of our new math games with her, Mike and Aidan did some math and had some abacus fun, Aidan wrote a little (including a thank you card to the officer for the police tour), and we have been reading Little House on the Prairie (we just starting Monday and we are almost done with this 330+ page book). While he is sometimes resistant when he thinks he’s being “taught” something, after awhile the barriers break down and he starts inching his way over and covertly listening and absorbing information and it’s so neat seeing (and hearing) him get certain concepts in math. For instance, today he was using the information from the other day with Mike to count by 10’s and to do simply addition and subtraction and he was recognizing the patterns that exist within math–it was awesome!

Well, back to the rainy day and watching rain drops fall on the windows and listening to Elle Fitzgerald and Louis Armstrong.

questioning tradition

Re-vision. Re-seeing. Looking and then looking again. Shifting points-of-view. Repositioning vantage points. Is what we see truth or mere convention? In my composition class, I’ve been introducing students gradually to a deeper understanding of revision as a concept of rethinking, as opposed to simple editing. We’ve been using Adrianne Rich’s essay “When We Dead Awaken: Writing as Re-vision” as the basis for this discussion. I facilitate with these slides. Here’s how we went about it in class last week:

  1. As students walked in, I displayed McArthur’s Universal Corrective Map, pictured below, and asked that they freewrite on what they thought and felt about this map.

    [singlepic=177,375,375]

    As usual, this really bothered some folks, resulting in comments like “that’s just wrong.” Others demonstrated a real misunderstanding of the physical universe, saying things like “that’s not how the world looks from outer space–it’s upside down.” This in itself created some nice discussion, but once I showed this clip from the TV show West Wing, things really heated up.
  2. From here, I paraphrased what Rich says about us being “drenched in assumptions” of the world and our place in it and that we must question those assumptions. Then we did a little group work where groups drafted discussion questions on Rich’s essay “When We Dead Awaken,” swapped questions with other groups, and then dug into the essay (using the discussion question along with other prompts I provided).
  3. After some time, groups shared their insights with the rest of the class, but the discussion didn’t get as deep as I would have liked (due mostly to a lack of preparation on the students’ parts). I’d hoped to get to another activity which would force them to “work” the text a little harder, but we ran out of time. We’ll do that activity next class. Time permitting, it could have been an extension activity for this class meeting. I’ve described it briefly below.
  4. Extension Activity: It’s called “Read, Summarize, Extend, Answer.” Project passages from the essay on the screen at the front of the room, toss a ball to some unsuspecting student and ask him or her to “read” the quote directly from the screen. That student in turn tosses the ball to another student who must “summarize” the quote using words of his or her own. After this, the student tosses the ball again to another person who must “extend” what the previous student said by adding other ideas, insights, connections, etc. Finally, this student tosses the ball again to another student who must answer a question displayed on the screen below the quote. (This question is designed to have the student make a connection between Rich’s essay and other texts and ideas we’ve been discussing in class.)

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