Author Archives: sfarah19

Atwell’s Afterword

It seems that Nancie Atwell summed up the most important lesson I learned in my classes this semester:  as teachers we must provide a model of student learning, one that allows for an apprenticeship between student and teacher.  I wrote and presented on this idea for Kennedy’s class and most of you heard me speak about this.  I believe that Atwell is right in saying that one of the most important strategies for teachers to use is to show them examples of our own writing process.  Of course, creating a model that students will want to apprentice themselves to is of significance.  Atwell states, and I agree, that “we must read, write, and teach our literate experiences and literary passions (313).”  Students want to feel like the work they are doing is significant now and we, as teachers, want our lessons to be significant to them now not ten years down the road (although leaving a lasting impression is always satisfying!)  So the questions that we need to ask ourselves now and always as teachers should always include:  “Who are our students?  What do they care about?  What will they respond to (314)?” These questions seem to reappear in both of our studies on literacy and teaching writing.



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Appleman and The Reader Response Theory

I found Appleman’s chapters on teaching our students theory interesting.  I never studied theory when I was a student in high school.  I didn’t even attempt theory until I was a sophomore in college!  I, of course, found it trying at first but later learned its importance as a reader.  In high school, there were typically only two types of English classrooms:  those in which the teacher’s version and interpretation of the text was the only reading, and the classroom that was based around reader response.  I obviously enjoyed the reader response environment much better because it is always more fun to read something and then try to relate your own life to it.  I never thought of this, however, as theory.  Appleman brings up some interesting problems with the reader response theory as the only theory we are teaching our students to interpret texts with.

I agree with Appleman in that reader response can be problematic when we allow our students to only find meaning in a text if they can relate to it personally.  This becomes an issue when we try to introduce different types of texts, like multi-cultural literature, to our students.  Appleman’s example of the teacher who had her advanced placement, suburban, mainly middle class students read “The Native Son” was a good example of how to make reader response an effective form of studying and interpret texts with out making it all about how the reader can relate the texts to their personal lives.  Many of the students initially responded by saying they could not relate to the protagonist’s encounters with discrimination and poverty because they were mainly white and middle class.  The reader response only became effective when the teacher integrated other forms of literary theory (Marxism and Feminist theory) as an alternate lens to read the story with.  This opened up the students to multiple readings of the same text with out eliminating reader response.

I feel that by limiting our classrooms to personal experience we create an enviornment that encourages we limit ourselves and knowledge to that which we already know.  I feel that its extremely important we incorporate multicultural literature into our classrooms and give our students multiple ways to read these texts in order to expose them to what takes place in the world outside their classroom walls or living environment.  So, yes, I agree that teaching multiple theories to our students is important.


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sequence of instruction question

Hi All!

I hope everyone had a nice weekend.  Mine went by way to quick, as usual!  All weekend I have been racking my brain trying to think about this question I will base my sequence of instruction around.  I guess I’m having trouble focusing and narrowing in on just one specific topic.  I, like Mandy, have always been interested in gender issues and this idea of “equality in our schools.”  I am also, however, interested in how minorities are treated in our public school systems.  Included in both these topics are the issues of tracking, and high stakes testing as tools to keep certain members of our society down.  Does anyone have ideas on how to narrow this down to one specific question to work around??? Am I even on the right track?  Any ideas or help will be greatly appreciated!!



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Passionate Contracts- Kelly Reading

“English is not a construct, not a given or an essence; and the construct of English is not monolithic.” ~Ursula Kelly 

Hello All!  I read Ursula Kelly’s reading on the begining secondary english teacher educational programs.  This reading tied into a number of other readings (Apple, Gee) and discussions we had in the last class about issues such as identity, discourse and power, and political and economical issues in our schools.  The difference in this reading is that it focuses more on these issues and how they effect future teachers of secondary english (ourselves). 

Kelly discusses the inner conflict most begining teachers of secondary english feel as they attempt to find themselves and their purpose as teachers in the classroom.  Kelly discusses how many begining teachers each have different notions of what knowledge of english is most important and how this should be taught.  How invested and to what degree these teachers are invested in this knowlege shapes how the future teacher invisions him/herself as a future facilitator.  This disucussion can be closely related to Gee and Apple’s ideas on discourse and education and how these discourses relationships to power can be reiterated through the subject of English.  Kelly describes the discourses of knowledge as “deeply political” and “extremely competitive” and therefore it is important for the begining teacher to examine and challange these discourses functions in the classroom.  This can prove to be difficult, however, as most teachers when placed in a school to student teach are assigned mentors who have time rather than interest in guiding them.  Also, many begining teachers are worried about “rocking the boat” and often feel compelled to, as Kelly puts it, “ride the normative wave” of what the supervising mentor assigns as important knowledge.  Kelly calls this coping strategy “splitting-off.”  This manuever helps the future teacher feel they belong among their collegues and peers but is problematic because it forces them to put aside their own convictions and teaches them to step down and reside to the given discourse. 

Kelly states that the only way to prevent future teachers from falling into this trap of “splitting-off” is to examine, alongside their mentors, our old relationships with knowledge and form a “new premise for pedagogy.”  Kelly asks us to think about what beliefs about knowlege, we as future teachers, hold sacred and think about these beliefs in terms of whether or not they are our own or we are just an embodiement of discourse. Finally,  are these beliefs worthy of reproduction?



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Apple’s Ideology & Curriculum

Hey guys!  Apple’s reading on the nature of ideology and its roots in education was a bit intense but very interesting and extremely thought provoking.  I found it similar to Gee’s reading on Discourse.  Apple defines ideology as having three distinctive features:  legitimation, power conflict, and a special style of argument.  He then uses these features to discuss how the characteristics of ideology effect the curriculum field (education).

Like Gee, Apple believes that schools function as “mini” societies that serve as a “reproductive force in an unequal society.”  Apple states that our curriculum has a kind- of hidden agenda with it’s roots and organization centered around a more political and economical agenda rather than a strictly knowledge based focus.  He goes on to discuss how the academic achievement model accepted by our schools allows us to make comparisons among different social groups due to it’s neutralization and its acceptance as the “given” form of knowledge.  This then allows for the differentiation and stratification of certain social groups.  This is an example of power conflict in our schools.  This, however, is not spoken about or is it acknowledged as actually being a part of our curriculum.

Apple discusses the idea of “knowledge as a commodity”in our society.  The relative status of knowledge and its accessibility is a part of how schools work to process people and keep them in certain social or economic groups.  He discusses how cultural institutions “naturally generate levels of poor achievement” by only allowing access to higher statuses of knowledge to students who fit the model of academic achievement.

This is only a very small piece of what Apple discusses in his reading.  He has much to say about what type of curriculum finds its way into our schools and how it gets there.  In summery, Apple believes our society to be one that focuses much of its importance on “the benefits of maximizing the production of scientific and technical knowledge” because they are teachable and testable, unlike the arts and humanities.  Our schools then use this knowledge as a “filter for economic stratification” because this knowledge is reserved for only the finer students and schools (hence the lack of educational resources in most inner-city minority based schools).  Apple believes our society relies on this unequal social order and our schools are where our students “learn” to stay in their roles.

Like I said, this is only a tiny and very brief summary of a reading that is very dense.  I hope, however, that I’ve touched on some of the important pieces of Apple’s reading.  See you all in class!!!

Suzanne Farah

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