Monthly Archives: November 2007

Thought competitions

Hi everyone,

I was surprised by this article from the Wall Street Journal. It tells how some schools discourage or do not allow students to compete in academic competitions such as science fairs or creative writing contests. I was shocked because my interest in creative writing spurs from competitions and writing fairs that I remember from my elementary and especially my high school years. Contests and publication were always a major motivation for me. I think the same goes for many students. It seems that some of the reading we have done in 541 and 505 encourage such positive purposes for writing. What does everyone else think?



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Beers Ch. 15

Donna and I are scheduled to fascilitate the Beers Ch. 15 discussion in class, and I know Donna has a lot to say about the topic of flow during this discussion.  Just in case we do not have time to touch upon this chapter in our last class on Tuesday, I want to call out some pieces of the chapter that I found most resonating:

  • This chapter by Wilhelm and Smith addresses the study done on adolescent male readers entitled “Reading Don’t Fix No Chevys.”  Catchy title, isn’t it? 
  • The meat of this article comes from a quote by a boy in this Chevy study named Buda.  Buda says, “School teaches you how you are dumb, not how you are smart.”  After reading this, I was struck by how well this chapter discusses expanded notions of text, competence, and the celebration of knowledge.  More importantly, I was struck by how well this article combats the idea that kids should feel “dumb” and dwell on what they don’t know. 
  • Next, I realized how this idea of expanding our whole notion of what to teach and how to teach it is a recap of the Understanding by Design template, isn’t it?  In fact, the entire chapter here in Beers is a confirmation of all that we have learned about the UbD model.  Start with a question and work that question instead of fitting a question to pre-selected texts. 
  • Another example of the UbD model at work in this chapter comes around page 239, where Wilhem discusses his daughter’s lack of interest in history after receiving a mere B in Social Studies Class.  Wilhem writes, “What might happen instead if Fiona’s teacher recast his job as helping develop skills a historian needs rather than as providing her with historical information?”  I find that the best way to meet this challenge is through the overarching understandings of the UbD model.  This way, kids walk away with the big picture instead of little sentences of information on a narrow topic, don’t they? 

I was so happy to read in this chapter that kids should select some of their own texts, that pictures count as real texts, too, and that great learning comes from reading things NOT taught in school.  All of these points have been stressed throughout our semester in 541, and here they come full circle in Beers.  I think this was an excellent choice for an end-of-semester reading assignment, especially because it captures the last three months into one neatly presented essay. 



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Post Colonial feedback; the Absence of the Irish!

Tyson mentions many ethnicities when she discusses Post Colonial Theory in her book Critical Theory Today. Although African

Americans were one of the more popular groups mentioned,  many groups have experienced various types of oppression throughout the world.

Native Americans lost their land to England Colonial powers; they still continue to struggle for freedom to this day as do Africans.

 In fact, many Native Americans fought along side African slaves so that African

Americans could break free of American Colonial powers in 1800’s. Many African Americans made

high rank in Native American nations (or the more inappropriate term often used “tribe”)

and led many warriors in battle. It’s hard to give a history lesson on Native Americans and not mention Africans if you know your history! Puerto Rico is another country which is still controlled by

the United States and so are the people of Hawaii who were also conquered but now are one

of the 50 “states” in the U.S.

However, we should be careful not to mix “apples with oranges” when talking about the

Irish.  The Irish were colonized and forced to leave their land because of the potato faminine. However, it is hard to

compare this with other forms of colonizations that were of a far more brutal nature and that still exists to this day.

There were millions of Irish people who died of starvation and they opted to come to the

United States for a better life. However, Tyson’s primary model for post colonialism

(African Americans) were kidnapped from a continent in which they did not want to leave.

Many have failed to do research and educate themselves concerning the horrors of the

Trans Atlantic slave trade where tens (maybe even hundreds) of millions of Africans were

taken as slaves and many were thrown overboard as extra cargo. The land they were snatched from was colonized so the families

 that were left behind were slaves in their own communities. No, they didn’t have to pay “unfair taxes” on their land-

these people were “property”. They had no say in how their government was run and due

to not having permission to farm on their own land, many Africans also died of starvation

and they still continue to do so as we speak! African are still feeling the effects of Post

Colonialism and even though many countries in Africa are supposedly “independent” European Colonial

powers still have their hands on the continent. They continue to take from the continent

while failing to give anything back (even the Irish), primarily through the diamond trade. Africans produce the resource

and see no currency in return! People are ignorant to say that the Irish

were colonized longer than the Africans when the colonization has never stopped in Africa!

It’s the poorest continent in the world with a 60% poverty rate.

In addition, the Irish were not persecuted in America like the Native Americans and

African Americans. African Americans were slaves in Africa and they were slaves in

America as well. Almost every county in Europe and across the world has had black African

slaves which have done their labor for them. This can not be said for any other race of people on the face of the earth! In

fact, many of the Irish were slave masters who helped the trade advance at a very fast

pace. The Irish also had there own black slaves! The Irish were apart of the KKK, 

they were overseer’s and masters, and members of the government who helped create laws that

help keep slavery going long after it was suppose to be over. If one watches the movie

Roots (based on the true life history and ancestry of Alex Haley, author of the Auto biography of

Malcolm X) one can see an Irish slave master whipping a slave until he repeats the name

in which the master gave him!!

Long after the European slave trade had ended, there were laws stating that blacks did

not have the freedoms of other Americans. This is also one of the reasons for the

turbulant 60’s because Blacks, Native Americans, and Latinos were still being treated as

second class citizens. The Irish were not apart of the civil rights movement or AIM

(American Indian Movement) because it was without a doubt that they were on the side

of the colonizer.

I do understand the point that the Irish make concerning the trouble of their people but

Tyson chose the “best” example of post colonialism. She might of also taken into

consideration the victimized that people endured abroad as well as here in the United

States. The Irish were not victimized here in the

United States and this may be part of the reason why she chose other groups.

In addition many would like to believe that everything is fine with everyone (especially African Americans) but Native

Americans and Blacks still face trouble in this country despite our popular

belief in Affirmative Action. These groups still have to work “twice as hard” as others to reap the same rewards as everyone else.

 This topic (Post Colonialism) should be taught in high school English classrooms so that the youth can be educated on all aspects of American history.

Ray C.


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Some Fun with Theory

Take a look at how we might use a simple fruit to help our students play with theory. This is fun. KES


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More on strategies

Hi everyone,

Since I couldn’t make it to class tonight (I am sick and do not have a voice to speak with anyway) I thought I would post a little more about my strategies on here. I have particularly developed my strategy for dealing with the poem, which I blogged about earlier. As I said before, The stragegy asks students to read the poem from the perspective of readers different from themselves. This can be modeled with a think-aloud by the teacher. (This may allow you to briefly touch upon a critical theory. In my example, a feminist lens would be applicable for my “think aloud perspective” and an african american lens for the poem itself. After examining the poem, the students may then write their own poems, revising by considering how different audiences may respond to it, or the different perspectives that different people might take on the same subject.

I am attaching a sample think-aloud and a sheet with a few sample poems, which could be used as an example for the students before they create their own poems think-aloud sample poems


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Reading for Book Club (10/27)

The book I read for this week’s book club is Growing Up Asian American. It is a collection of short stories or excerpts written by authors identified as Asian American—from the second to the fifth immigrant groups. It is divided by three sections: memories, identity, and growing up. I have read some stories from the second and third sections, and found they are thought-provoking. Even though these stories are about Asian teens, yet they are representing the universal themes and events that similar to those of American youngsters in many ways. I strongly recommend this book.   Posted by L. L.


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One Strategy

I’ve decided to use sociograms as one of my reading strategies for my seminar; this is also the one that I will talk about tonight.  I’m really just writing this post to give you this link.  This is a very comprehensive site on the topic, and it is great for learning about reading strategies in general.

I also wanted to post this example of two sociograms that I think are done well.  I’m not going to do too much explaining here, as I want to save this information for tonight, but I did want to post the example and the link for further information.

See you folks tonight.

Ray H.


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