Posted in Regular Update

Almost Time

If you weren’t aware, it’s almost time for the school year to start. I’m excited for the school year to start; I always am. I love taking new classes and buying new school supplies. I genuinely enjoy writing papers and making note cards and completing projects. Maybe that’s a little weird, but it’s genuinely me, and genuine is important.

This year is a little different. This year I’m on the other side of the desk. I’m finishing grad school and student teaching this fall. Then I’ll be a certified teacher and able to go get a big girl job. And that’s kind of a big deal.

I’m really excited for student teaching. I have seventh and eighth graders which is exciting. And I know for a fact that I’ll get to teach them narrative writing in October which is really exciting for me because I love writing.

I love reading when I get to be the reader. But I’m finding that I love both sides of writing. I love actually writing, and I love teaching writing. I think it’s great to get to teach students about writing and help them find their voice.

School starts next week in my neck of the woods, and I’m really looking forward to it. What about all of you?


Posted in Food for Thought

Annotating in Books

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?


Posted in Classroom Ideas, Food for Thought, Teaching Techniques

The 5 Paragraph Essay and a Complicated Relationship

I have a love/hate relationship with the 5 paragraph essay. Before I continue, you have to know that it wasn’t always this way. I used to give the 5 paragraph essay about zero thoughts. It was what I had always known, always used, and it worked well. It was, and still is, a great basic format to use when writing a literature analysis essay. It’s a great first essay structure to teach students who are just learning about writing essays and need a solid form to work with. Even though my thoughts on the 5 paragraph are more complicated now, these basic facts haven’t changed, and I doubt they ever will.

My thoughts on the 5 paragraph essay changed slowly and all at once. Remember, for about 12 years it was all I had really known. Then my last semester of undergrad I took a class called “Advanced Expository Writing.” I wasn’t sure what to expect from the class, but it turned out to be a great class. It was taught by a professor who became one of my favorite professors, and it was absolutely a class I learned a lot from. And on the first day of class my professor told us that we wouldn’t be writing 5 paragraph essays.

This was a class that was all about writing essays. And we weren’t supposed to use the 5 paragraph essay format.

I almost cried. There was definitely a shock factor involved. I really wanted to curl up and give up. I’m not a quitter by any means, but how is one supposed to write an essay and not use the 5 paragraph format? All I knew was the 5 paragraph essay format. I thought that was the only essay format, and that it was just modified depending on how many things I wanted to say in my essay. I love to write, and I hate unexpected change.  I wasn’t sure what kind of combination this scenario was.

But I’m not a quitter. Especially when it comes to writing. Writing is a big part of who I am; I’m not about to walk away from a challenge. So in the beginning I struggled. I wrote some really bad drafts for my first essay. I got a lot of good feedback. But then I began to find my style, which turns out isn’t really a 5 paragraph style. It’s more of a vignette, put the puzzle pieces together, style. Writing got better and writing these “nontraditional” essays became a lot easier.

The point of this anecdote isn’t to ramble on about undergrad. I learned a lot from that class. It taught me more than I could have imagined about writing and about myself. (I find that I can learn a lot about myself through writing.) I learned that the 5 paragraph essay isn’t the only way to structure an essay. I learned that it isn’t always the right way to write an essay. This is information that I want to be able to teach my students so that they can go forth and determine for themselves how they might want to write some of their essays. Because remember, sometimes the 5 paragraph essay is best.