I think the power words have is often underestimated. I think because they’re so easy to say and so small and casual when printed that people forget how much weight and power words have. But the truth is, in my opinion, words are the most powerful thing out there. Words are everything. Let’s think about the enormity of this for a minute:
- Words are how we communicate. We might not all speak the same language, but we all communicate using the same foundation – words. Without words there would be a lot less communication, sharing of ideas, and collaborating.
- Words are how we share stories. They’re how we share fiction and non-fiction. Think about how sad a place the world would be without stories.
- Words are how we connect with other people. Words can lift someone up or break someone down. We have an enormous amount of power with our words, and we choose on a regular basis if we’ll use that power for good or evil.
Words have power, but that power is often underestimated or undervalued. I think it’s time we do something to change that. We need to teach our students about the power of words.
I’ve been working on reading the Lucy Calkins Writing Program materials lately. It’s the writing program that’s in place at my school, and I’ve been working on familiarizing myself with it. So far I’ve read the seventh grade argumentative writing book, and there are several other books for me to read. I haven’t read any of the books that are associated with any of the other grade levels, but there’s always time.
When I read the argumentative writing book, I took notes. I wanted to make note of all the things I thought would be usable for me in the future, whether I am in a district that uses the Lucy Calkins program or not. I wrote down checklists and ideas and a lot of quotes that really spoke to me. Like this one:
“Argumentation leads to active questioning, deeper considerations of other perspectives, and an understanding that lots of issues are complicated, nuanced, and open to considerable debate.”
I thought that it was a really interesting perspective on argumentative writing. I forget sometimes that writing really connects to so much outside of the classroom. It really impacts how my students are going to communicate in general. And to me, that’s pretty amazing.
There are people in the world who like books. There are people in the world who like movies. And there are people in the world who like both. I’m the kind of person who likes both.
It’s great to like both if you can understand that books and movies are not the same. They are never going to be the same. It simply isn’t possible. But people who like books and who like movies often struggle because they do not always like movie adaptations. It can be hard to separate a beloved book from its big screen counterpart. People who love books and movies claim that plot lines are altered, characters vanish, it just wasn’t as good as the book. These opinions are not always wrong. I just think there’s more to it than those simple opinions.
Let’s remember that movies aren’t claiming to be books. They’re interpretations of the books. They’re reimaginings of the story the book told. Sometimes they give viewers a fresh perspective or a scene not in the book because it didn’t quite fit. It’s a new way for readers to understand the story; readers should embrace and appreciate that.
Sometimes the beauty lies in comparing books and movies. Were the story lines the same? Was the point of view the same? Were there new characters or different twists and turns? Compare and analyze the two versions of the story and see what the results are.
Remember to be open to change, to different interpretations, to reimaginations of stories. A book and a movie not matching perfectly isn’t the end of the world. It’s an opportunity to embrace a new perspective, learn something new, and see a familiar story in a new life.
I think I long ago established that I think it’s important to read. And I do. Books have been, are, and will continue to be an important part of my life. Not only do I think it’s important to read, but I genuinely love to read. I love immersing myself in stories and meeting new characters and going on new journeys and adventures. My parents, especially my mom, have fostered a love of reading in me, and over the years it has completely bloomed and blossomed.
With my love of reading pronounced, it might be easy to assume that I like to read everything and anything. That’s not true. I do try to be open about reading new things. I think as a young teacher it’s important to read often and to read a wide variety of texts. I won’t always get to handpick the texts I teach, and I also want to be able to talk with my students about what they’re reading, even if it isn’t necessarily something I would have chosen for myself. At the same time there are things I love to read and things I have very little interest in reading. I love young adult literature and children’s books and fairy tales. I have very little interest in most non-fiction.
I think it’s really important to know what you like to read. I had to read texts in school that I had very little genuine interest in reading. Not every text is interesting to every reader. That’s just not the way the world works. And if those texts were all I’d ever taken the time to read, I probably wouldn’t love reading as much as I do.
In my mind, a love of reading comes from having choices. It’s great to be able to grow up in a house full of books with parents who love and encourage reading. But even if that’s not the situation of your students, you can still do your part to foster a love of reading with your students. Build an expansive class library if you can. Take your students to the library at school or arrange a field trip to a local library. Let students explore books and find what they love and what they’re interested in. Talk with them about books, and have honest conversations about them. Let them know it’s OK to not like something, but they need to be able to explain why. Work to help your students find books that make their hearts sing, whatever those books may be.
First, a simple update. I have finished grad school! My certification paperwork is in the works. I am moving into the next chapter of life, and I am very excited about all of that. I am currently substitute teaching and looking for jobs. I am also very excited about the holidays and everything the future holds.
Now to move onto the pondering. I have a journal where I keep notes for this blog, teaching ideas, teaching resources, professional development notes, and all sorts of other job related things. This journal goes to work with me every day. And sometimes when I’m at work I just sit and think. Today I started thinking about technology and the classroom and how the two relate and all sorts of other related things. And as I thought I came up with a list of questions. I thought that here would be a great place to share those questions and see what all of you thought.
- What are good ways to use cell phones in the classroom?
- What are good ways to bring technology into the classroom?
- How can technology be used for differentiation?
- How can social media connect to English class?
- How can students connect with English class?
- How can writing be made fun and accessible?
- What are ways students can connect with older/classic texts?
- What are students reading and how can that be brought into the classroom?
- How can grammar be fun?
- How can I get my students to read on their own and on a regular basis?
- How can I make a great class library?
- What are good ways to connect texts to today’s world?
- How can I make reading and writing relevant?
I’m sure that with time I’ll add more questions to the list. And please feel free to share your own questions with me or give me your thoughts on my questions.
I’ve written about annotation already. I think it’s a really important skill to have and to teach regardless of what the subject matter is. I think it’s an especially important skill to teach if you’re teaching English, because so much of English revolves around analyzing and talking about texts. And at the end of the day I like to consider myself a pretty decent annotator. I’ve had a lot of practice, and I’ve come up with techniques that definitely work for me. But there’s one pretty massive thing I struggle with. I don’t like writing in books.
As an English major and a future English teacher, this is kind of a big deal. In these areas of life we annotate our books to remember what we felt and what we thought so we can share it with others. And I don’t like to do that.
I have no problem with putting sticky notes in my books. Nor do I have any problems with writing on articles and print outs. But I have a really hard time actually writing in a book.
I think it stems from growing up an absolute book lover. Writing in books has always kind of seemed like defacing them. It’s always made me cringe and squirm.
I’m working on it. I have certain books I allow myself to annotate in. Maybe one day I’ll be a full fledged annotator.
What’s your stance on annotating?
Everyone has different writing styles. It’s part of what makes the world such an interesting place. No two people tell the same story the same way which I think is important. The world would be boring if everyone had the same writing style.
My writing style is vignettes. I like fitting different vignettes together and creating a story or essay that way. It’s what I’ve found through trial and error and a lot of writing works best for me. This isn’t the writing style I’m always able to write in, but it’s my preferred style and the one I naturally gravitate towards.
I talk about this because I believe that each and every students has their own unique writing style. Unfortunately, the school environment doesn’t always allow for students to discover and explore this. Writing in middle school and high school often has a lot of rules and structure surrounding it. Students are expected to write in MLA format, to write 5 paragraph essays, to learn the rules, follow the rules, and never ever break the rules.
Don’t get me wrong. The rules which often surround writing are important. Knowing these rules is important. Following the rules is important.
But they aren’t the be all end all of writing, and sometimes I wonder if these rules stifle creativity. It can be really difficult to always follow the rules of writing and they don’t allow for a lot of creative freedom. They don’t allow students to develop their voice, and everyone should at least have the option to develop their voice. Maybe we as teachers need to look for a way to provide more creative opportunities.
It’s just something to think about. Academic writing is really important and lays a good foundation for all future writing. I just think it’s also really important to allow students some time for soul searching and discovery through writing.