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SCALE, SEQUENCE, SCAFFOLDING: SECRETS TO SUCCESSFUL EVIDENCE-BASED WRITING ASSIGNMENTS Margaret Fiore Independent Literacy Consultant Part-time Associate.

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Presentation on theme: "SCALE, SEQUENCE, SCAFFOLDING: SECRETS TO SUCCESSFUL EVIDENCE-BASED WRITING ASSIGNMENTS Margaret Fiore Independent Literacy Consultant Part-time Associate."— Presentation transcript:

1 SCALE, SEQUENCE, SCAFFOLDING: SECRETS TO SUCCESSFUL EVIDENCE-BASED WRITING ASSIGNMENTS Margaret Fiore Independent Literacy Consultant Part-time Associate Teaching Professor, The New School / New York City

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3 Initial thoughts… Reflect with me about the deeper, more individual, more meaningful evidence-based writing students can produce if we structure assignments with a smaller scale and tighter focus, guiding students to dig more deeply into fewer sources of evidence. More time spent helping students focus on a smaller piece of the pie is rewarded with greater student engagement and more convincing writing. SCALE, SEQUENCE, SCAFFOLDING: SECRETS TO SUCCESSFUL EVIDENCE-BASED WRITING ASSIGNMENTS Margaret Fiore

4 SCALE, SEQUENCE, SCAFFOLDING: SECRETS TO SUCCESSFUL EVIDENCE-BASED WRITING ASSIGNMENTS Margaret Fiore about that smaller slice of the pie… …to know in detail, minutely what I was talking about…. Not to talk in vague categories but to write particularly, as a physician works, upon a patient, upon the thing before him, in the particular to discover the universal (William Carlos Williams The Authobiography of William Carlos Williams 1951: 391). Men who wish to know about the world must learn about it in its particular details (Heraclitus Herakleitos and Diogenes pt. 1, frag. 3, trans. Guy Davenport 1976). William Faulkners advice to writers: You have to write about your postage stamp (qtd. in obituary for Andre Dubus by Mel Gussow The New York Times 26 Feb. 1999: A19). The surest way to hold the attention of the reader is by being specific, definite, and concrete (William Strunk, Jr., and E.B. White, The Elements of Style 3 rd ed. 1979: 21). [sheet with additional quotes about details]

5 SCALE, SEQUENCE, SCAFFOLDING: SECRETS TO SUCCESSFUL EVIDENCE-BASED WRITING ASSIGNMENTS Margaret Fiore REFLECT: write about – A success story with an evidence-based writing assignment (a moment, an insight, an exemplar) – A dilemma or question about an evidence-based writing assignment SHARE: (then save the rest for the parking lot) Ever tried. Ever failed. No matter. Try again. Fail again. Fail better. Samuel Beckett Worstword Ho (1983)

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7 SCALE, SEQUENCE, SCAFFOLDING: SECRETS TO SUCCESSFUL EVIDENCE-BASED WRITING ASSIGNMENTS Margaret Fiore My rationale for this workshop… My own college writing students struggle with focuseven if they are strong writers Their prior research paper experiences … Their stories of prior research paper writing experiences have in common biting off more than they could chew and collecting way more evidence than they could use, feeling that while collecting the evidence, they were working hard Then, having too little time left to make use of the evidence, they rushed to complete the paper at the last minute Barbara Tuchman wrote, Research is endlessly seductive; writing is hard work (21). I think the trap of collecting research evidence is avoidancewe know writing is hard work because writing is thinking. So instead, we collect evidence, and this does give us a sense of something to show for our hard work.

8 SCALE, SEQUENCE, SCAFFOLDING: SECRETS TO SUCCESSFUL EVIDENCE-BASED WRITING ASSIGNMENTS Margaret Fiore So I began thinking about the idea of a smaller focus for a research paper, influenced by many prior thinkers. I have a list of resources at the end. My students spend the first 1/3 of the semester working on ideating and sculpting an idea which genuinely piques their curiosity so that their question is specific, narrow, thus researchable, and in a grammatically correct question structure. Students work with their prior knowledge, no new research, until they have a well sculpted research question. Then, they have a better focused idea of what they know, what they dont know, and what they need to find out. The other key is lots of focused free writing along the way, most of which I dont need to read. The writing is their thinking, for them. Ultimately, they complete interesting papers I enjoy reading, and my students win departmental prizes.

9 SCALE, SEQUENCE, SCAFFOLDING: SECRETS TO SUCCESSFUL EVIDENCE-BASED WRITING ASSIGNMENTS Margaret Fiore SCALE We often think about and design curricula in terms of topics, which tend to be large in scale and general, so our assignments are often topic-based whole pies. I draw a whole pie on the board when I teach this concept, then a smaller slice of the pie. Early in the steps of a research-based assignment, before I liberate any student to begin looking for research evidence, we work on finding that smaller slice of the pie. Any pie has multiple slices, so students can find one that holds greater interest or is better suited to their abilities or zone of proximal development. Could your question ask about – fewer people or beings or entities? (not film but one film, etc.) – a smaller time span? (not the XXth c. but 1963 or 1914 or 1989, etc.) – a smaller geographical slice? (not northern Europe, but Amsterdams canal houses) – not a category but one event (not unequal pay for women but the Lily Ledbetter Act)

10 SCALE, contd Once individual research assignments are completed, students need to put their smaller slices of the pie back together into a whole pie to grasp the full meaning of the unit of learning. This has multiple advantagesstudents can learn a part from their individual or paired projects, but then learn the whole collaboratively from everyones efforts. The collaborative learning can include – oral presentations or poster talks – a final collaborative step or part to complete, synthesizing evidence from classmates presentations – a gallery walk students circulate and immerse themselves in each others posted presentations, write about what they see, ask each other questions, and ultimately create a new piece of writing which integrates learning from other students presentations Answering the units essential questions with evidence from everyones project – A class publication/video/website, YouTube video, civic engagement project, etc. A sequence, by grade, from a 2-source/2-page paper to a 3-source/3-page paper, etc., so that students gain confidence and skill in reasonable steps

11 SCALE, SEQUENCE, SCAFFOLDING: SECRETS TO SUCCESSFUL EVIDENCE-BASED WRITING ASSIGNMENTS Margaret Fiore SEQUENCE A curriculum unit lends itself to an evidence- based assignment Teacher can assign topics or research questions, OR Class work can focus on students learning how to move through this sequence: Itch or curiosity topic question Specific, narrow, researchable question specific, narrow, researchable question

12 SEQUENCE, contd Sculpting a question so that its – Specific, because specific is more convincing than general – Narrow, because narrow allows us to dig more deeply instead of staying on a broad, shallow surface – Thus researchable, or feasible as a focus, – A question, in grammatically correct question for, since questions have magnetic power to pull us toward answering them. – The FFWing work of sculpting…

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14 SCALE, SEQUENCE, SCAFFOLDING: SECRETS TO SUCCESSFUL EVIDENCE-BASED WRITING ASSIGNMENTS Margaret Fiore Examples of itches to SNRQs: – WWII naval battles; whether my grandfather was a hero or a villain when he disobeyed orders at the Pacific battle of X and brought his submarine up to the surface – Online dating; how unreasonable expectations affect college students online dating experiences – Sports; how current knowledge of football concussion injuries is affecting the regulations for high school football games – Immigration; my parents rationale for leaving Jamaica and how its affected the educational achievements of my generation in comparison to theirs and to those of my cousins whose parents didnt immigrate to the U.S.

15 SCAFFOLDING Each step is challengingits easier, for the teacher and the student, for us to use our expertise to think of relevant, researchable questions and assign them to students. But how did we develop this expertise? Shouldnt we give students the same sequenced, age-appropriate opportunities to develop question focusing skills? College and career readiness requires students to think independently, be able to make choices, and be able to focus their learning The more all of us include question-finding and choosing work in evidence-based assignments, the stronger students skills will grow. Writing and talking (Peter Elbows new book, Vernacular Eloquence[2012], about not neglecting the power of talking in the process of creating writing) WAITING to begin looking for research resourcesmining prior knowledge to the fullest first to focus the search SCALE, SEQUENCE, SCAFFOLDING: SECRETS TO SUCCESSFUL EVIDENCE-BASED WRITING ASSIGNMENTS Margaret Fiore

16 The social aspect of collaborating to find and sculpt an idea (text-on-text, etc.) FFWs to test out the idea and see if it holds your interest and is researchable OR needs further sculpting Writing is thinking – Start-now -why-wait draft in class – Is this question still asking what you itch to discover? – Does it need further sculpting? ANY of this FFWing can be multi-media SCAFFOLDING, contd SCALE, SEQUENCE, SCAFFOLDING: SECRETS TO SUCCESSFUL EVIDENCE-BASED WRITING ASSIGNMENTS Margaret Fiore

17 SCAFFOLDING, contd Commit to a research question (dont stop at topic) Writeor make a podcast, blogpost, film/photo collage, etc.as you proceed K-W-L chart as a tool to write as you go Recognize that as your initial prior knowledge base expands, it might be necessary to further sculpt the research questionits alive Find one research resource at a time, WRITE ABOUT IT, and let it tell you what you need to know next and possibly whereliterallyto look Create your list of sources as you go, each time you find one Annotated bibliography Mark McBeths scripted interview assignment FFW (or multi-media) progress reports along the way (show example)the news to share about progress youre making Begin drafting your answer to your research question, using evidence, sentence by sentence, paragraph by paragraph (write from the middle, …)

18 SCALE, SEQUENCE, SCAFFOLDING: SECRETS TO SUCCESSFUL EVIDENCE-BASED WRITING ASSIGNMENTS Margaret Fiore SCAFFOLDING, contd REVISE as you proceedget feedback on one paragraph at a time, or the exploration of the evidence in one source at a time. Construct the project in pieces or source by source or pages, one chunk at a time (teacher gives feedback to one chunk at a time when it still matterswhile the student is genuinely figuring things out, sharpening her focus, trying out evidence and organization) WRITE progress reports to keep the violin strings vibrating Elbows cutting ideaslices of text, then move them around on a table to see what goes together Lets WRITE: then SHARE a story about giving feedback on an evidence-based writing assignment

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20 Relevant Resources: Bean, John C. Engaging Ideas. 2 nd ed. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass, Print. Elbow, Peter and Pat Belanoff. Ruminations and Theory: The Ongoing Conversation. A Community of Writers. 2 nd ed. New York: McGraw-Hill, Print. Elbow, Peter and Mary Deane Sorcelli. How to Enhance Learning by Using High- Stakes and Low-Stakes Writing Web. QFjAB&url=http%3A%2F%2Fscholarworks.umass.edu%2Fcontext%2Fpeter_elbo w%2Farticle%2F1004%2Ftype%2Fnative%2Fviewcontent&ei=x7GjULLZDufG0QG RmICYCg&usg=AFQjCNE78LGHWiyENRaVL20dPMIiI5_kpA Frick, Jane. Book Review: Retracing the Journey: Teaching and Learning in an American High School. 17 May nwp.org. Web. 16 Nov Tuchman, Barbara. In Search of History. Practicing History. New York: Knopf, Print. Vilardi, Teresa and Mary Chang. Writing-based Teaching. Albany: State U of New York P, Print. project/documents/Schulten_TeachertoTeacher1.pdf

21 SCALE, SEQUENCE, SCAFFOLDING: SECRETS TO SUCCESSFUL EVIDENCE-BASED WRITING ASSIGNMENTS Margaret Fiore Closing thoughts… Handout--quotes about what research is According to Peter Elbow and Pat Belanoff, …a conversation with ourselves and others across history and geography… By your evidence-based assignment design, help students join such a conversation and feel comfortable there

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23 SCALE, SEQUENCE, SCAFFOLDING: SECRETS TO SUCCESSFUL EVIDENCE-BASED WRITING ASSIGNMENTS Margaret Fiore The Parking Lot: Your Questions Reflect: Please look again at your initial reflectionis there any dilemma youd like to discuss? Write: Imagine one of your students for whom this SNRQ-focusing method sounds most helpful...which step(s) would s/he find most challenging?

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