Post Your Podcast Here

Post your podcast here…


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Emily Dickinson Podcast Activity

Here’s a link to a podcast activity using Emily Dickinson’s poetry:

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O Captain! My Captain!

As we get ready for our podcasting activity, I created a version, somewhat silly, of Whitman’s O Captain! My Captain!

A resource for class poems can be found here.

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Standardized Language, Standardized Childhood

In their 2009 Children Language and Literacy, Celia Genishi and Anne Haas Dyson show us how we all use language to suit particular situations. Our standards, then, are never constant, but always tied to the situation at hand. On processes of standardization, they write, “institutions like schools work to suppress the inherent variability of language by authorizing uniformity” (13). Since schools consists of such diverse learners, from a variety of social and economic boundaries, they ask if this makes sense. “Would abandoning that norm and acknowleging the normalcy of difference threaten standards in our schools?” Their answer is no. Yet, as I write this, I find myself thinking about standards and the potential good they can serve. After all, here I am, at another UIWP, and standards are here: not always present, but often a piece of our demos.

Dyson and Genishi make clear that they don’t have anything against standards per se: nothing wrong with setting reasonable goals. But the problem, as they rightly see it, is that there is a tendency to imagine a generic child who speaks a generic language (and somehow I don’t think that child speaks with an accent, from Brooklyn or anywhere else). Their generic child is likely middle class and white. Diversity obfuscation….

I like this point because it recognizes the varied histories and backgrounds that kids bring to class. All kids do not begin in the same place. It seems so obvious to appreciate context, no? Thank you Genishi and Dyson for bringing this point to the fore, especially now when the pursuit of generic standards seems ever rampant.

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Are You a Bad Teacher?

Every few years we get another film about a superhero teacher who saves the day. I’m drawn to these stories while knowing full well how unrealistic they are. This summer, another teacher movie hits theaters. Bad Teacher, starring Cameron Diaz and Justin Timberlake, tells a different type of teaching story: the story of a bad teacher.

This reminds me of a New York article that I read a few months back–“Mrs. Grundy was Fired Today” that notes how representations of teachers are changing: “Once deified, now demonized, teachers are under assault from union-busting Republicans on the right and wealthy liberals on the left.” For more visit this link:

The website for Bad Teacher asks viewers: I can’t say that I think this shift in thinking is an improvement. When I did my demo a few years back, I found myself thinking about what type of movies do teachers want to see of themselves. Not deified. Not demonized. Ordinary teachers? Sounds like a box office hit.

Below is a preview of Bad Teacher along with a few other clips teachers:

This one is from Mad TV’s video about the nice white lady:

You may recognize Freedom Writers in the Mad TV clip:

And an old one: 1989’s Dead Poets Society, which contains the line, “He began by teaching English. Now he’s changing lives.”

1989 was also the year that Mike Rose wrote Lives on the Boundary–a classic about teacher and students who defy the odds.


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Multiple Modes of Production

In Alanna Frost, Julie Myatt, and Stephen Smiths’s chapter on mulitple modes of production (in Herington, Hodgson, and Moran’s edited collection), the theme is simple. Why should we teach only alphabetic literacy? If we want our students to explore rhetorical possibilities, they need to use all the semiotic resources available. This means going beyond writing, going beyond print.

On the job market this year, I saw many schools interested in going beyond print. Yet, at the same time, I also saw many colleges worried about what that would mean for students. Would they be losing something with all this multimedia? I don’t know the answer this question. But I do know that we cannot ignore digital literacies.

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Describing Oneself as a Writer

During Becca Woodard’s excellent demo this morning, we were asked to think about ourselves as writers. What words would we use to describe ourselves as writers? How does our vision of ourselves as writers connect (or not) with what we expect from our students? Below is a piece of my morning writing:

When I’m asked to identify words that describe myself as a writer, I find myself thinking about how I would describe myself in terms of some other activity—say, eating. I eat a lot, sometimes too much, but I’m always striving for satisfaction. Maybe satisfied is a good word to describe myself as a writer. While I don’t do it too much (not everyone will agree), I find myself generally satisfied.

As I write this, I’m thinking that this sounds egotistical. To say I’m satisfied might suggest that I think I’m a good writer. How many people feel comfortable saying this? I make mistakes, of course. Yet even with the flaws, I’m satisfied. I believe that you need to be willing to make mistakes to write well. You need to be able to take chances to fail–as Sir Ken Robinson notes.

I want my students to be comfortable with the messy way that writing begins, continues, and sometimes ends. I want them to not be afraid to write down that thought that is risky, to inquire, to take a chance. When I assess their writing, I need to remember this. Does my assessment measures allow for this type of exploration.

Another word that I’d use to describe myself as a writer is receptive. I typically like getting feedback, even critical feedback, although sometimes not at first. I want my students to be receptive too, to really listen as they write and receive responses about their writing.


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