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A Get To Know You Poetry Activity: TWO-TONE POETRY

leaves-fall-colors-rainbowBy Elizabeth Jorgensen

Most English teachers have heard of the Where I’m From poem activity based on George Ella Lyon’s professional example. I begin my Creative Writing class with this exercise each year. But as the school year progresses and students become more comfortable sharing, I encourage them to try Two-Tone Poetry.

I start by discussing how we all have multiple sides to our personalities. I am, of course, different with my friends than I am with my students. And I’m different at parent teacher conferences than I am at The Band Perry concerts.

“Most of us are at least two-tone,” I tell my classes. Then, I encourage my students to talk about the different sides of their personalities.

We also discuss how colors can trigger feelings or moods. Moods—like colors—can be warm or cool; they can attract attention or blend in. I tell my students how we interpret and analyze colors, combined with our self-knowledge, can be a good place to start a Two-Tone poem.

I ask students to write a Two-Tone poem that speaks of their two tones and at least two different sides of their personality. In these drafts, I ask for stylistic devices, action verbs, a purposeful structure and original names for the colors (elephant grey, sunset pink, pickle green). I tell my students they could also choose to work with a pattern (chevron, argyle, plaid) instead of a color.

Here are three student examples:

Most of the time, I am eggshell white—

whispered answers hidden beneath books,

innocent gazes given from across rooms.

I am invisible:

blended behind schoolhouse walls,

left unused in paperback Crayola boxes.

But when she sees me, I am electric blue—

squeals of laughter spew in heartbeats,

and secret adventures hide in memories.

I am both eggshell white and electric blue:

swimming through a sea of wonder,

gabbing jaws beneath black knit stars.

~

Part of me is lemonade yellow—

sporadic and spunky,

loud and lively, and

in people’s faces.

But deep within, there’s another side no one sees—

ash black, like the tip of a charred marshmallow,

hurt and resentful,

damaged and filled with hate.

My heart screams, telling me to hang on to the yellow.

But, they both are who I am.

Both…oh…

so me.

~

Most days, I am amethyst purple—

            go with the flow,

            under the rainbow,

            unnoticed like a shadow.

I go about the same routine,

            wake, work, watch, repeat,

            riding down the road of life from the backseat.

            My spunk…it’s obsolete.

But on some days, I am ruby red—

            rebelling against reality,

            laughing carefree,

            swinging from the fruit tree,

            drinking iced tea,

            singing like a bumblebee.

That’s when my spunk returns

to me.

Flashback to Peru

IMG_4375Last summer, Sara Douvalakis and six other College of Education students participated in the College’s first faculty-led study abroad trip to Peru. Led by Drs. Melissa Gibson and Jeff LaBelle, S.J., the students wrote about their experience. For this #ThrowbackThursday, we aren’t going too far back in time– just to May 2017!
My name is Sara and I am a senior at Marquette University in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. I am originally from a suburb of Chicago, and in the fall I will be a senior in the College of Ed with a double major in Psychology and Elementary Education. My hobbies include cooking, online shopping, grabbing coffee with friends, and of course eating!

I am traveling to Peru as part of a first time study abroad program  for education majors. This is the first time that the College of Education at MU has offered a study abroad program. While in Peru, I will be taking two courses for a total of 6 credits; the courses focus on Critical Issues in Education and Philosophy of Education. The courses will examine the philosophical underpinnings of various educational approaches in the US and Peru, as well as the key issues, policies, and practices that are part of global debate about what constitutes a high quality and equitable education.

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Day 1:
After two long flights from Chicago to Panama City and then to Lima Peru, we finally made it. Although my legs felt like Jell-O from sitting for almost nine hours in the plane, all of my luggage arrived and I am forever grateful for that. Phew! After weaving through late night Peruvian traffic, we arrived at our host family’s home. The home belongs to a family of four; MariLuz, her husband, Jose (our tour guide) and his sister Carla, who is currently in Columbia.

In the morning we were served fresh rolls and jelly for breakfast. Once our tummies were full, we headed out for our first of many walking tours. Our host brother, Jose, took us through the neighborhoods to the Jesuit University that is hosting us. We spent the day meeting locals, students, and other education students at Universidad Antonio Ruiz De Montoya (UARM). We walked around the beautiful outdoor campus, which was bustling with students from all over Peru.

During some presentations shown to us by administrators from UARM, we listened to a panel of students and professors who introduced us to some of the issues in education. The thing that most caught my attention was the fact that education is very centralized in Lima. Many people in the country do not have access to education like we do in the United States. Many of the people in the jungle and in the mountains are not able to travel hours a day for access to education. During the panel, there was a student who received the Beca (scholarship) 18, which is for students in very high poverty areas, and it provides them the opportunity to go to college on a full ride. This particular student was from the mountains of Peru without the opportunity to go to college; however, with this scholarship she is able to attend school for four years for absolutely no cost. While she was speaking it was clear that she had come great lengths to travel to the city of Lima and attend college in her non-native language. Stories like this are what motivate and excite me to be a teacher.

Once the presentations were over, Jose picked us back up at UARM, and we were off to another tour. This time he led us through the neighborhood/district, which we are staying in called Jesus Maria. Lima is split into districts and neighborhoods each with historical names. The streets are lined with panaderías and cevicherías. As well as shoe stores, hair dressers and nail salons (so many nail salons). We then made our way to the plaza of Jesus Maria where locals gather around in the town square. After a quick stop for ice cream, we made our way back to the house where we were served a traditional Peruvian dinner of garlic rice and meat stew with potatoes.

Overall today was a whirlwind. I quickly learned that my Spanish is nowhere near where I thought it was and that winter in Peru is actually nicer than most days in Milwaukee. It is past 10 pm here and tomorrow breakfast is being served at 6 am…. yikes!

Day 2:
Day two began with our alarm going off at 5:30 am (thank goodness for Peruvian coffee). After a sit down breakfast of freshly blended jugo de papaya y piña and pan we were off to MLK Socio Deportivo School to play futból with local children who live in the district of EL Agustino. This is one of the 49 districts of Lima; it was filled with abundant markets and hustle and bustle at every corner. MLK is a program founded by ex-gang members who are trying to enrich the community and provide opportunities for children growing up in this district. Although this is one of the poorer districts, it was my favorite location so far. Right away, I noticed friendly locals welcoming us, and beautifully colored homes lining the streets. Wild dogs and cats joined us on our walks through the neighborhoods, and even on the futból field.

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The children of el Agustino made us feel welcome right away and were so curious about different English words and toys that we have in America. The boys were fascinated with my light eyes and blonde hair, since many Peruvians have darker hair and eyes. We were split into soccer teams and played short scrimmages against each other. I even scored a goal! Through this activity the children are taught sportsmanship, respect, and conflict/resolution. MLK Socio Deportivo School is working with the community to bring families and children together in a positive way.

IMG_4351Now for the best part of the day…lunch! The lunch we were served today was a lunch for the gods, no joke. We had fresh ceviche (which I wanted to take home in my backpack), fried fish, rice with seafood and different corn salads. El Agustino is like no place I have ever been, and I was absolutely fascinated with all of the sights before me. I could have walked up and down those streets forever.

After a long and nauseating car ride in Peruvian traffic, we went back to the host university for our first official seminar. Here we talked about our readings, reflected on our first impressions, and talked about the big ideas for our courses (don’t forget I am here for school after all). And now here I am, in the living room of my homestay writing my first blog ever with my six amigas. Soon dinner will be served to us by MariLuz, and we will finish up our very first blog posts for all the world to enjoy (or mostly my mom). I am so blessed to be here and have loved every minute; although my body and brain are exhausted, I cannot wait to wake up the next morning and have a new set of incredible experiences.

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Today’s lessons:

  • “Children are seeds, who have the potential to grow into beautiful flowers and teachers are the sunlight that can get them there” –Rodrigo from the UARM Student panel
  • Do NOT flush toilet paper. It must be thrown into the trash…yeah, it is an adjustment.
  • Winter in Peru is interesting. Wear layers because one minute you are sweating and another minute you are “freezing.”

Giving Thanks.

tgiving

A Creative (Writing) Approach to Assessment

bubbleBy Elizabeth Jorgensen

Assessment and grades in my creative writing class reflect progress, improvement and growth. Over the course of each assignment, students complete at least three drafts. After each draft, I provide students with feedback, suggestions and corrections. To complete this, I use the “suggesting mode” on Google Docs.

After each draft, students receive points (which reflect the student’s ability to address my feedback and elevate language choices, the plot or writing quality). For a grade, I look for improvement, specifically assessing if today’s draft is better than yesterday’s. Grades in my   creative writing class reflect the work a student does to update his or her draft and make intentional and purposeful choices.

Each assignment, task or draft is worth four points. I remind our students—through words, practice and assessment—that each part of the writing process has equal importance. In my classroom, the brainstorm is worth as much as the first, second, third and final drafts, and is worth as much as peer editing or submitting a piece to a writers’ market. Through this grading system, I encourage students to value each part of the writing process.

I expect each student to hand in something (anything!) each day. I remind students that writing is not about being perfect on the first try—and that if they put something (anything!) down on paper, they will receive not only feedback, but also points. This system allows for not only differentiation and personalization, but also student success in developing writing skills and confidence.

Here are two screenshots of feedback I provided students:

EJ 1

 

Jorgensen sijo presentation

In the classroom, I focus on building confidence through affirmation and skill development. Mini lessons encourage students to implement stylistic devices or action verbs or varied sentence structures. Peer editing provides an additional resource. Because my students are juniors and seniors, I encourage them to assume ownership of their writing, grade and performance.

There are, of course, students who fail to complete daily work. In these instances, a conference is the first step. Often, this initial contact propels the student into action. Losing four points day after day can also motivate (as students see how quickly not doing daily work can dig an academic grave they can’t escape). If the student remains resistant, a phone call or email home can be the impetus needed. If a student continues to refuse, connecting with a previous teacher or guidance counselor can provide insight (what motivated a student to work in a previous class can often continue to be a motivating factor in creative writing). Additionally, everything students do in creative writing is sent to a writers’ market. This authentic writing—with hard deadlines and strict requirements—works to motivate students through the allure of purpose, publication and monetary awards.

This blog was taken from an article I wrote (“Accommodating All Students: A Co-Teaching Approach to Creative Writing”) for the Wisconsin English Journal’s Creative Writing issue.

Advice for New Teachers

Community-ImageBy Elizabeth Jorgensen

Throughout the past 13 years, I’ve taught English at Arrowhead Union High School. During this time, I’ve taught nearly 4,000 students in my Composition, Advanced Composition, Creative Writing, College Strategies, and Journalism classes (in person, online and hybrid form). After all of those students, all of those sections, and all of those years, what have I learned?

 

  1. Teaching gets easier. It does. Just hang in there. Connect with your school and students. And have fun. When I coached track and cross country and advised the literary magazine and school newspaper, I not only learned more about my students, the community and our school, but I also began to love and appreciate being a part of my school. And each year, it really did get easier.
  2. Communicate with parents. Focus early in the year on creating positive interactions. When students know their teacher and parents communicate—and that you are all on the same team—they will respond positively to your united front. After students share a piece in class or help a classmate, I’ll send a quick email home. This builds trust and the students (and their parents) will thank you. Your students (like you) will respond better to positivity than criticism, nagging and negativity.
  3. Make friends. When the copy machine jams or when you accidently hit “reply all,” your teacher friends will be there to not only pick you up, but also encourage you to keep going. Be nice, show gratitude and have fun.
  4. Stay connected. I am part of several professional organizations and through these, I’ve had opportunities to speak at conventions and publish articles. Keep yourself professionally active and connected. It will energize you and remind you why became a teacher.
  5. Share your passion. During your first year of teaching, expect to be bombarded with lessons, videos, ideas, printouts, articles and plans. Take your colleagues’ suggestions and be thankful. But then find a way to infuse your curriculum with things you’re passionate about. Make each lesson, assignment and activity your own. Copying what someone else has done will feel inauthentic to your students (and you). If you’re excited to teach each day, your students will be excited to learn. One of my co-workers has this posted in his cubicle: “You can only expect your students to be as excited as you are.”
  6. Learn with your students. Cindy O’Donnell-Allen wrote in “The Best Writing Teachers are Writers Themselves” that “The best writing teachers are writers themselves. Why? Because we know the writing process inside out [and] we can support our students’ work in authentic ways.” This goes for reading and physical education and art and music. Whatever your students do, do the same alongside them. You are your students’ model. The more you do, the more they will. Share your love of learning with them and they’ll love learning with you.

 

In-Class Brainstorms Can Prevent Writer’s Block

Veteran_and_FlagBy Elizabeth Jorgensen

Every year, the Fleet Reserve Association asks students to compose an essay (in 350 words or less) on an Americanism theme. This year, the topic was “What Patriotism Means to Me.” This topic could have been daunting or overwhelming to my juniors and seniors. But I used a brainstorm over several days to excite students about both about the topic and writing about it.

I’ve found a thorough brainstorm—including videos, discussions, and music—prevents students from saying “I don’t know what to write” or “I have writer’s block.”

As we began our brainstorm, I told students about StoryCorps. Its mission (according to their website) “is to preserve and share humanity’s stories in order to build connections between people and create a more just and compassionate world…to remind one another of our shared humanity, to strengthen and build the connections between people, to teach the value of listening, and to weave into the fabric of our culture the understanding that everyone’s story matters.” I found a variety of StoryCorps videos featuring veterans. After each clip, we discussed what the video suggested about patriotism or what the students thought patriotism meant to the veteran featured.

Then, students watched country music videos, noting references to American culture. After each video, I asked “How did this video show support for our country?” and “What does this video suggest [insert the singer] loves about our country?” and “What iconic American references did you notice?”

In our discussion, students shared stories about family members in the military, about Fourth of July celebrations and about freedom.

I then had students brainstorm a list of what patriotism could mean. We talked about how patriotism’s meaning could be expressed literally or metaphorically. Students came up with 50-plus words including freedom, peace, opportunity, protection, liberty, unity, sacrifice, bravery, honor, perseverance and prosperity.

During our brainstorm, students also referenced American moments that reflected patriotism. We discussed both inspiring and tragic events.

My junior and senior students—born in 1999 and 2000—were too young to experience the emotions, devastation and patriotism 9/11 triggered. I shared with them my 9/11 experiences and memories, and then students made connections to recent events and their own patriotism. Students referenced the feelings football players kneeling (or linking arms) during the National Anthem stirred in them. They talked about the shooting in Las Vegas. As an English teacher, I encourage students write about what they are interested in or what triggers their emotions. This often means helping them process and make sense of the world around them.

Our discussion spanned several days and although this may sound like a long time, each student left empowered and ready to write. In the end, all of my students composed a creative, personal and specific essay—and all were able to define what patriotism meant to them.

To conclude the unit, we sent student essays to the Fleet Reserve Association, Teen Ink (a national teen publication) and our school’s literary magazine—and now we wait to see the results. I am optimistic the creative, personal and specific essays will be rewarded with publication and prizes.

Assessments, Assessments, Assessments!

parker-big-red-duofoldBy Stephanie Nicoletti

Assessment is a major component of teaching and learning but in order for the assessment to be productive in terms of student achievement, the teacher needs to think about the purpose of the assessment. A summative assessment is considered assessment of learning and is given to identify what students have learned. In an interdisciplinary approach the assessment could be performance based, or in more traditional settings, a general end of unit test.

Education has shifted over the years to assessment for learning and assessment as learning. These types of assessments have increased student test scores but challenged teacher practices over the years. Assessment for learning allows the teacher to screen the specific skills students need and determine what the next steps should be. Assessment as learning puts the students in charge of their learning through self-reflection and self-assessment. When teachers think about the reason for their assessments, student learning is much more successful.

All three assessment types can be crucial to student achievement when done correctly. After reading our text and other outside sources, what I am finding is that it does not seem that one type of assessment process, whether it be as, of, or for learning, is better than the other, but what the teacher does after or during the assessment process is most important. After research and reflection, these three types of assessments can work off one another to provide ample student success.

 


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