Thursday, December 31, 2009

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An alternative-school teacher links writers from very diverse backgrounds.

Matthew T.V. Pawlak, Hamilton Alternative School, South Bend, Indiana:

I have the opportunity to teach college writing at a maximum-security Indiana state prison. Working with writers in my alternative high school and those incarcerated, I came up with a journal assignment to assist both sets of students with editing and commenting appropriately on other writers' work. Students at the correctional facility ended up looking forward to receiving "their" kids' journals and the high school students liked reading the comments from the offenders, although the high-schoolers were reticent to comment for various reasons.

All in all, this has been a unique opportunity for all of us, and the high school students looked forward to the next day's comments from their fellow students. The offenders thoroughly enjoyed feeling they were making a difference in high school students' lives in writing. Following is the assignment as given.

Reflective Responses: Our Universe requires us to connect. Here is our chance. Students at Hamilton Alternative School and Michigan City State Prison will share their thoughts and feelings through their hand-written, reflective responses. This is NOT a pen-pal milieu nor is this meant to traffick information (the teacher will be previewing ALL writing). This assignment is only for you to establish your thoughts in writing and share those thoughts with someone else, a complete stranger in essence, who may share your vision and belief (or who may not, which is fine as well), who may comment, AND who may find and correct errors in grammar, spelling and sentence structure. This assignment is educational in many ways and should be viewed in this manner.

Each Tuesday and Thursday, students will write a reflective response to the statement, question, quote or comment of the day; for example, Thich Nhat Hanh, Vietnamese Buddhist monk, said, "It is not until we have a toothache that we realize that not having a toothache is happiness"; or from an Indian yogi, "Before speaking, consider whether it is an improvement upon silence." These reflective responses will be shared by students in another classroom, and comments (be they grammatical or informational) will be provided by the student reader/editor.

You are not expected to "grade" this response, although your comments could be helpful to the writer. Practice makes permanent and this assignment will assist you in your writing skills and in your editorial ways. Good luck to each of you and write from your heart. Our Universe desires us to connect. Here is our chance.

Encouraging readers with book picks

An Accelerated Reading teacher shares an activity for any reading program.

Carol Molz, Clark Davidson School, Goddard, Kansas:

We do an "A.R. Book Pick of the Month," which helps in reaching many different levels of readers. After tryouts and consideration of other factors, the top readers in class are chosen at the beginning of the year to read to other classes. Some criteria in choosing students are:

* Reading with feeling and expression

* Staying current on class work and assignments

* Enthusiasm and desire

Additional students may try out during the year to join the reading team.

Readers take the book home for two nights to not only practice reading orally, but to make up four questions about the book and include four multiple-choice answers. They take the book home again to practice before their assigned reading day. After everyone in this group has practiced the book and returned their questions, I make up an A.R. test. I make 10 to 12 questions, and of those questions, five are on the test.

Everyone in the class will do a book report and art project on our chosen book. We use a hallway wall to display our book jacket, reports and accompanying art project. As a class we'll write the beginning of the report together. Then each student finishes individually, explaining what they like or dislike about the book. This allows the more proficient readers/writers to express themselves, as well as giving less proficient students a non-threatening environment to write what they are able.

After the book jacket, reports and art project have been displayed, the readers go to assigned classes throughout the building to read our book. This year we are reading and sharing with 15 second- and third-grade classes. This program has served well both the competent reader and the struggling reader. It has been enthusiastically received since inception by both the students and their parents.

Source Citation
"We hear from readers." Curriculum Review May 2001: 2. Academic OneFile. Web. 31 Dec. 2009. .

Gale Document Number:A75088211

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