Monday, December 1, 2008

Ethnography Paper: One Pager

Ethnography Learning Paper: One- Pager
I. In this case study investigation I have chosen to explore the question of how a teacher should decide when students must speak in Standard English and when they might be allowed to speak in their primary discourse.

II. Primary Sources:
Naomi Schemm, High School English Teacher Survey
Beth Ferguson, High School English Teacher Survey
Samples of High School English Class Syllabi
First Pass Coding Sheet on Schemm’s Survey
First Pass Coding Sheet on Ferguson’s Survey

III. Major Findings: The major findings in this investigation were the following 3 themes that emerged from my primary sources:
1. Requirements for Standard English in the form of writing seem to be much stronger than in speech or informal communication, but the emphasis teachers put on standard English seems to be a personal choice and correlated to the classes they teach and the amount of teaching experience they have.
2. The most effective way of correcting students appears to be by constantly incorporating grammar lessons into at lest 40% of the curriculum. This limits the amount of the correction teachers have to do verbally for individual students and limits singling them out in class.
3. The demographics of a school and/or classroom will greatly affect the issues you have to deal with in regards to Standard English and any possible resistance or struggles from parents or students.

IV. Implications/ Future Questions: The implications of my findings are that a teacher must set principles for when and how often students must speak Standard English and then stick to them consistently. I also feel that the higher these are the better as along as you are not interfering with the value system of the student. I have many future questions that stemmed from this investigation, the most pressing: What is the result of not having a unified answer to this question on any level from departmental to school-wide? Also, how different would y conclusions have been if I had provided my survey to a school with opposite demographics?

V. Secondary Sources:
Delpit, Lisa (1995). Other People’s Children: Cultural Conflict in the Classroom. New
York: New Press.
Gee, James Paul (1989). Literacy, Discourse, and Linguistics: Introduction and What is
Literacy?. Journal of Education. 171.1,5-25.
Johnson, Maeetta B. “Communication in the Classroom.” Educational Resources
Information Center 1999 1-15.31 Oct 2008 .
Wheeler, Rebecca S. (May 2005). Code Switch to Teach Standard English. English Journal. 94, 108-112.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Have Your Say

Many of my secondary sources in regard to my question of: “Where do you draw the line for when it is appropriate for students to speak in their primary discourse versus Secondary English?” disagree on where to draw that line as well as what the reasons are that back up their opinions. Some say that the students should be able to explore this issue and decide for themselves, others that it is the teachers job to be sure the students are exposed to both sides and are able to “code-switch” at will. I feel like I would allow my students to speak their primary discourse only when in conversation with peers. I think that papers, presentations and addressing teacher should all be done in Standard English. A gap still exists, however, in how to correct, or address students about this issue and the many oppositions that exist on viewpoints I have yet to explore.

Friday, October 24, 2008

Diverse Classroom Curriculum

How can you teach a classroom full of multiple primary Discourses?

I think the best way to teach a group of diverse students and to keep all of them engaged is to do a curriculum based on the main races and backgrounds that make of your classroom. It may not be possible to include every nationality and home discourse but at least hitting five or more of the most prominent ones will make the majority of the class feel included as well as letting the entire class know that it is an open and diverse classroom and that white American standard English is not better than any other forms.

I think that it would be very easy in an English classroom to choose books that are not only written by authors of different backgrounds and ethnicities but also ones who include authentic terms and dialogue in their work. I like the Feccho article showing how students can examine their discourse versus the primary discourse and what their views are in comparison with the collective views of others.

By teaching and preaching awareness in the classroom of how these multiple discourses interact you can teach students to both value their own discourse and see it in play in major works of literature and articles as well as understand how they will fit their needs and experiences and primary discourse into the standard dialect and way of speaking in their larger world.

Friday, October 17, 2008

Responding to Gee and Delpit

Gee and Delpit in their article on Discourse, present to different sides to the argument of whether a student can easily enter a discourse that is not their primary one when they are simply learning in a classroom setting. Gee’s argument is about how students are or are not able to learn secondary discourses and dominant/ non-dominant literatures. This is important in education because it is important to understand that a student’s Primary Discourse may differ from that used in the classroom. It is important to provide tactics for acquisition and apprenticeship in the classroom to help assimilate children into that particular discourse. However, Gee argues that a student’s identity kit so to speak may keep him or her from being able to participate in subsequent secondary discourses.

However, in slight opposition to this idea is Delpit’s argument. She is arguing that students can indeed acquire discourses that are not the dominant ones they grew up with. She uses these terms to describe how they can accomplish that whether by transformation or “cheating” she also expresses the problems on the part of the teachers and students that may prevent them from doing so in both not-teaching and not-learning. Her biggest problem with Gee is on the subject of whether a student can master a secondary discourse that they have not been exposed to simply by learning it in the classroom versus their primary discourse which they have years to acquire and be fully surrounded by in a comfortable setting. This debate is relevant to teachers because there comes a point when you have to set expectations for students about what they can accomplish and what you as a teacher are going to teach and require from them.
I strongly agree with Delpit’s argument, that students should be taught the dominant discourse ceaselessly by teachers from any approach that will allow them to see the importance of learning what is dominant. I think that in order for students to succeed they must have a grasp of the language required to succeed whether they agree with it or not. It is our job as teacher to prepare them to succeed, not let them down by being too cautious.

With the widening gap of backgrounds that come into an English classroom, these debates grow more and more significant on whether it is okay to challenge the discourse that a child grew up with and force them to learn another way that may go against their beliefs, and at the very least their way of life. It raises questions of whose right is it to say what they dominate discourse is? Who has the authority to threaten a student’s background by imposing new and daunting ideas and language? Will a teacher get in trouble for expressing their ideas about applying dominant discourse lessons to all students, and finally to go back to Gee’s argument, can students from more diverse backgrounds even be expected to learn a different discourse from their primary one? All of these areas seem important to have more information on as well as knowing specific techniques of how to counter student and parent resistance if I am a teacher who insists on teaching all students the dominant discourse of education.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Warm Up #2

Here are the questions:

1. What kinds of reading and writing did you see students doing in school? Why do you think Rose chose these assignments?

2. What “rules and regulations” did students appear to be following as they read and wrote? In light of the students’ overall schooling experiences, did these seem useful or not? Speculate about how they might have influenced students’ literacy development.

1) I found that the students that Rose describes in his anecdotes usually were the ones who were pulled out of the regular reading and writing classes. These regular classes catered strongly to standardized testing and the breakdown of the components within reading and writings such as circling the correct verb forms, picking out the parts of speech, filling in the blanks within sentences, etc. When Rose pulled his students out, he started with the basics of simply getting them interested in writing again and took a completely backwards approach to how he was influencing them to write. He allowed them to express themselves creatively and worrying about grammar, spelling, and syntax after they were finished simply conveying their thoughts. He found through this that many of the students who had been labeled as unable to string coherent sentence together could truly express themselves with a little extra time and attention.
2) I think the students had many rules and regulations to follow, they learned in one specific way and if they were not successful in that way they were labeled as outsider s to the rest of the class and placed in special categories. The rules placed on students that Rose was not working with seemed to have been rules that limited the students he had a chance to be one on one with. Once they were allowed to write about pictures, feelings, their own thoughts, then their creativity and ability began to shine rather than relying on a structured curriculum in which the y felt so lost. I think that strict classroom regulations that pertained to the mastery of complex items before the writing process even began limited these students and pushed their progress even further away from their grasp. Especially once these students were labeled, they knew it, and felt like they were separated form the group at large which in turn led them down the spiraling path of either believing their label or succumbing to, both a sever inhabitant on their later literary progress.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Language Investigation #3

I feel like my early education years were basically split into two areas regarding reading and writing strategies and requirements. The first half through 8th grade I feel like my teachers were really drill sergeants, demanding constant practice with numerous activities and daily involvement with reading and writing in every subject. By high school, however, it was more of a sink or swim approach. You got the grade you deserved based on the effort you put into an assignment.

Until high school, reading was seen as a daily requirement. We had planners that had to be signed nightly by our parents verifying that we had read for at least half an hour each day as well as a strong emphasis on the Accelerated Reader Program (this has many names in different schools) which were basic online reading quizzes synonymous for points and prizes. Reading outside of school was mostly pleasure based, though required, while reading in-school was always tested and analyzed. We would have daily questions to answer from our textbook reading, quizzes, and lots of busy work. Nearly every chapter we covered in all subjects but math had to be reviewed with Venn diagrams, summaries, character maps, timelines, etc. Close reading was always stressed.

Writing was also a daily activity. I remember having some sort of journal entry for many of my classes even up through high school. The writing prompts varied in many classes, but the format was always the same: the five paragraph essay aided by pre-writing strategies, several drafts, and peer editing before a final copy was submitted. Writing skills were aided by grammar lessons, spelling tests, dictionary activities, etc. Words like “hook,” “thesis,” “main points,” “introduction and conclusion” were used and understood by everyone in class by the fourth grade, or earlier. I would classify those earlier years as a constant training program; daily drilling and feedback and interaction with writing and reading in every class.

High school, however, was quite different. Planners detailing what our homework was for the night and the mandatory reading and writing everyday were well… no longer mandatory. I don’t know how many times I heard conversations about how many students passed a test about "To Kill A Mockingbird" without every picking up the book. “Sparks Notes” and other online materials replaced reading entirely for many people. For myself, I found that I had been so well trained in earlier years to pick important parts of the text for analysis that skimming a few pages of each chapter was sufficient enough to write a whole term paper. The vigilance exhibited by previous teachers was lacking in the last four years, instead it was up to the student to put in the effort on their own when it came to reading.

Writing styles and requirements changed drastically as well. Many of my teachers cringed at a five paragraph essay saying it lacked imagination and voice. It was the first time I had ever drifted away from that structure, which was a learning experience all in itself. Writing in high school not only became more involved, but it seemed to serve more of a purpose. We were no longer having to suffer from writing what seemed like pointless summaries on every chapter of our novels and analyzing each character with charts and drawings, we began to write persuasively and about topics of our choosing.

Because of this, I feel like by the time I started my freshman year of college I was very well versed in all types of writing, and had begun ( I don’t know if you ever really finish) to develop a writing voice of my own. Reading in college has led to many flashbacks of activities and study skills that, shockingly, were learned in primary grades. I feel like each successive year of school built on one another (as they should) but also pushed me as a student to become more and more independent. I moved from being required to write and read in certain ways and think critically in certain ways to having to know those methods instinctively and use them on my own terms.

Monday, September 8, 2008

Language Investigation #2: RMCF

RMCF- The World of Chocolate

I work at the Rocky Mountain Chocolate Factory, which as I realized after doing the post card activity has many words that I would not have any clue what they mean, but gradually over time the register of the chocolate world has come to involve nicknames, candy definitions, cooking terms, and processes that are so familiar I sometimes forget how awkward it must sound to hear someone say “Stock the dark bears and temper the dipper.”

The first thing every employee learns is the definition of the word “BEAR.” This large chocolate, caramel, and nut mixture is also synonymous with a “turtle.” But, since we are the rocky mountain chocolate factory, we call it a bear (as there are limited times when you may see a turtle in the Rocky Mountains). This is one of those terms that not only marks insider status for the employees but for frequent customers as well who refer to all of our candies by their franchise name and have no hesitation in asking for “6 milk pecan bears.” New customers totally give themselves away when they come in still looking for turtles.

Another unfamiliar phrase is “tempering the dippers.” This simply means that the chocolate in our giant revolving bowls that we use to dip things in must be cooled down to 89 degrees. Otherwise (and here’s another term) the chocolate will “bloom” or turn white. It’s like when you accidentally get that really old candy from the grocery store or from the old lady on Halloween who has kept her free chocolates from the previous year and it is all white and splotchy… If the chocolate is at any other temperature than 89 degrees, this will be the result.

With so many chocolates in the store, there has to be some way to tell them all apart. Each chocolate has something called a signature, which contrary to the everyday definition of signing your name, also means that there is a swirl, design or distinct shape that a piece of chocolate has in order to tell it apart. Each employee has to know the signature for each piece of chocolate in the store.

The more I write this piece, the more I see that when I am trying to describe an unfamiliar word or phrase I am tempted to use more unfamiliar words in the attempt to define the first words. It’s crazy to me to think that something as simple as a chocolate store has so many words that seem so strange when taken out of context, but if you’re here, it sounds stupid if you use any other sort of description. It’s like when I go to a foreign restaurant, even just Chinese or Italian, and I see something on the menu that I know I would never be able to pronounce.

I usually don’t try to; I point or say “that pompadora thing,” or “the sesame thingy with the chicken.” I now realize that those people are probably laughing at me the minute I turn around because they are so used to the words,. It is similar to when I laugh at people when I ask them if they want milk, white, or dark chocolate and they reply “light” which is none of the above, yet for some reason they feel more comfortable saying “light.” It’s very interesting to me how quickly you can become an insider or an outsider even when we all seemingly speak the same language.