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Reflective Synthesis #1

Organizing and Managing the Language Arts Workshop: A matter of motion
– Douglass Kaufman
Traditional vs. Progressive classrooms, this was an interesting article because both
options have many pros and cons. At some points I considered myself to be more on the
traditional side than the progressive then I changed my mind and vice versa. The article
begins with a short anecdote of Linda Rief’s middle school language arts classroom in
which her students work independently and everything seems to be going well. This is an
example of a progressive classroom organization in which the students are allowed to
move around and research material on their own; the teacher serves as a “guide”. On the
other hand, traditional classrooms are based on rules. Students must face the teacher,
stay in their seats at all times and raise their hands if they need to ask a question or speak.
The teacher is the main speaker and curriculum and instruction are based mostly on
explanation.
Kaufman’s study focuses mainly on the organization and procedures that the
teacher used in order to have a successful Progressive Classroom. I believe that Linda’s
procedure required a lot of invested time which most teachers to not want to risk.
Everything from the arrangement of desks, designated areas, activities and materials are
key components for a successful and working environment. From my experience, middle

school students can be very tough to teach so after reading some of the results of this
study I think a progressive program like this should be incorporated into language arts
classes everywhere. Students are old enough to share and discuss ideas that will help
them expand their knowledge. This study has not yet reached complete results due to the
challenges it faces but I believe that it can be successful if procedures and limits are made
clear from the beginning and they are checked on with frequency.
Succeeding with Latino students through and empowerment pedagogy of living
language
We have heard many times that teaching has become very test oriented. Lessons
and activities are taught with the purposes of aiming towards those high scores that
students should be getting on their standardized tests. Language arts needs to be a
subject that transmits a deep and relevant meaning to our lives. This is why this article
explains an “engaging” pedagogy for teachers, with the finality of succeeding with Latino
students specifically, in this area of school. One of the strategies to get students engaged
in their writing is the “Living Language Workshop.” It is important for both teachers and
students to bring their own experiences into the classroom, and I agree that this activity
includes several dimensions, learning language, learning about language and learning
through language. Instead of following a rubric that includes vocabulary and grammar, this
strategy is a good way to combine these skills and students will benefit deeply from it
because it is something that they can relate to and enjoy. Language arts needs to become
more appealing and I believe these strategies can be applied and succeed in our
classrooms today.

Reflective Synthesis #2

Teaching for Joy and Justice- Chapter 2: Narrative Writing
Teaching narrative writing is very important to have within our curriculum. One of the
reasons that the text gives us is that readers who learn skillfully to employ the elements of
fiction in their narrative writing come to the study of literature with a better
understanding of how the authors construct stories and use literary tools. (P. 60) As a
class, the students begin to build stories that connect to their lives and past experiences.
They each begin to open up and share these experiences to later on question and
challenge what life offers us on a daily basis. Many of these things can be myths and with
these real stories in mind, narratives serve as tools to help us discover reality, they serve
as the “heart” of the class. In some of the language art lessons I have attended, I have
noticed that it is easier to get kids writing when it means writing about something they
can relate to their lives: a passion, family or dreams. Students actually enjoy writing
narratives because they are about something meaningful for them. One of the strategies
that I liked from the reading was the guided visualization. Even though it might not work
for all students across the board, it is a way to get the writers mind to work and avoid the
typical writer’s block that we encounter sometimes.
I attended private schools through my years of Kindergarten through high school
and we were required to wear uniforms, it was something that was the obvious and
normal thing to do. But even if we had to wear uniforms I still did experience in one way

or another “class markers.” Things like backpacks, accessories, shoes and supplies can also
be subject to judgment. The story of Langston Hughes is a great example to examine
because there are common factors that students can relate to; this brings up a topic of
conversation about what students think about clothing, shoes and haircuts in their lives.
At first, the term “writing for justice” was difficult for me to understand. In this
section of the chapter it is explained in a way that we can teach our students to write for
justice. Even if they are not aware, throughout their lives they have been involved in an
act of justice or injustice, either as an ally, target, perpetrator or bystander. First of all, it is
important for students to understand the meaning of each of these terms. Then again,
narrative writing is incorporated. One of the strategies that I analyzed and agreed with
was charting our stories. It is a perfect example of how to teach students that it is okay to
write about tragedies as well. There is no shame in writing these but on the contrary, it is
good to open up, share and relate to other’s stories as well. After these exercises comes
the moment when ideas come in to place. We find out ways to intervene and make
changes to act and reach for justice.
The section of Lessons from Our lives provides many handouts that can be helpful
such as for establishing criteria I agree that many lessons can be taught and learned from
stories, it is very important to have patience and not push kids to write their stories, but to
support them and they will find their passion.

Reflective Synthesis #3

Many people tend to judge themselves on their writing skills when they find it very
difficult to get their thoughts on paper. But really, what we need is an arts-based literacy
program that can serve as a bridge to connect out visual thought to our writing. I agree
that image-making within the writing process can be for students of any age and even
adults. There are so many picture books out there that are based on this strategy.
A young third grader explains that she always does the drawings first, that way she
is inspired to write because she has a base that she can go off of and describe in detail.
This makes children want to write on and on about something. I would definitely use an
art-based literacy program in my classroom because as I think about my years in early
education, I gave up very easily when it came to writing, I thought I had no ideas and no
talent in this area. Students feel this way most of the time, but if teach them that even
from the most spontaneous image there can be writing, then they take a different
approach. Research states that few children can refuse this invitation to literacy when
presented as art-based and I agree.
I like that the author mentions the most-discouraged of learners because she is
saying that these art-based programs are not only for good and encouraged writers but
also for those who have difficulty. As teachers we should always fin strategies that find the
best out in our students and that will make them feel like they are successful and abstract

painting is a good idea because you do not really have to be a good artist to draw your
ideas down in this way. Children’s literacy needs to become more exciting for students as
well as for teachers and image-making is taking on the right path to writing success.
Olshansky stated, "Your stories are hidden inside your textured papers. It is your
job as author/illustrators to discover them." Sometimes we are not even aware of this, but
it is true. Words and pictures are equally valued in this program, some children decide to
use images first and some children decide to start with the words followed by images but
the majority have found it better to start with the images that way they have so much
more to write about, and they can include a lot more detail. We always comment on how
every child is different and I think that this program gives every student the opportunity to
develop their ideas in their own personal way.
From reading all of Olshansky’s articles I am convinced that art can play an
important role in literacy learning. I can also see how this art-based program can help
students with learning disabilities. It facilitates the pathway between the writer and what
is to become their final product. I also think that by using and art-based literacy program
there would be no time wasted because students get to work right away, even though
they might not go straight in to writing they start to draw and develop their ideas. In the
future, I would like to try this activity in an elementary level classroom as well as a high
school classroom and see the student’s reactions.

Reflective Synthesis #4

Module Articles
When I first read the titles of the articles assigned for this week, I did not really
know what they would be about. The word tableau did not seem familiar at all. After
reading all about it and getting to understand it through examples, I really wish my
teachers had used a strategy like this when I was in elementary school.
Understanding literature can be a tough challenge for many students, especially for
E.L.L. students. Patricia Wilson states that Tableau supports student thinking and that she
found it to be very efficient among young students.
I really liked the article on Building Communities through Drama; it was basically a
hand book with strategies that teachers can implement in their classrooms. We are always
aware of material and topics that should be taught in a classroom but it is hard to find the
exact ways to introduce these new strategies. This workshop provides us with effective
activities that we can put in to practice right away. The importance of these activities is
that they integrate many skills in one. Students learn to work as a team, to communicate,
to think outside the box and be very creative. One of the things that I find the most
satisfying is to see your students building a learning environment while having fun and
enjoying.

Stress is always a main factor in our classroom; it can definitely be transmitted and
felt and we have to find ways to eliminate this vibe. And these articles claim that a great
way to manage these conditions is through drama, peer support, games, exercise,
discussions, and celebrations. After reading about the activities, I would like to point out
the one about working in a circle. A quote by Roxann Kriete states, “A circle creates an
open and inviting space which allows for a group activity and encourages a comfortable
but attentive attitude.” I feel like many teachers try to avoid working in circles and outside
the normal classroom setting because it might cause distraction or sailing away from a
topic and specific learning goals. But this phrase states otherwise and I agree with it.
Students learn to share ideas and be attentive to others. One thing I found important is
that each activity always includes a reflection at the end; this way the students will
discover if and how they completed their learning objectives through a dynamic activity.
The last article explained very well that there is a difference between drama and
theatre. We are implementing drama in our classrooms as a tool for critical thinking, social
growth and communication skills. Although the responses and benefits all seem positive it
is hard to introduce tableau in the classroom when all students are used to are traditional
activities. In my practicum classroom there are thirty students and the teacher would
need at least another teacher in the room in order for things to function correctly and not
get out of hand. Some of the activities are age appropriate. This is why I like the idea of
Solo Tableau as an introduction for younger students.

Reflective Synthesis #5
Chapters 4 & 5 – Christensen
A big focus on teaching history was given in chapter four of Teaching for Joy and
Justice. History is a subject that is hard to teach in a way that appeals to students.
Christensen provides many strategies that can be applied in the classroom when teaching
history to students. Although I felt the focus was mainly on middle school or high school
students, there are ways that they can also be applied to elementary education.
Christensen writes about choosing books that connect to our lives. This can be a
challenge when it comes to changing the curriculum around a bit but it is important to
have students engaged from the beginning. They need to understand that the decisions
made in the past are also relevant to their present.
Interior monologues and character silhouettes are activities that I found interesting
a useful because they can apply to different subjects like history and literature. It is always
a good idea for students to explore inside a characters mind, identifying their emotions
and thoughts in certain situations.
Christensen also mentions that she does not use reading quizzes or tests. I agree
50/50 on this because content is also a very important factor for students to know, but it
is hard when we get into the discussion of memorizing not being the best way to learn
things. She also mentions that some of the strategies that she incorporates are not only
for students who are engaged in class but for those who have fallen behind.

I had the opportunity to observe a history lesson in my practicum classroom. I felt
like I was back in my fifth grade classroom, history was never my favorite subject and the
students did not seem motivated at all. The class was basically a lecture. They read
through the chapter and answered questions at the end of the unit; I did not really see
any type of strategy being implemented.
Diverse languages in the classroom are also something the text talks about. Many
find that in schools we are discriminating against certain ethnic groups when it comes to
their language because it is not being incorporated and in some ways seen as ignored,
language inequality. In what ways can we incorporate a student’s ethnic language in the
classroom?
Quality of ideas is something that I liked as well. The author mentions that she asks
her students to create a visual representation of language and power then she tells them
not to worry about their drawing abilities but on the quality of their ideas. In this way the
students are not set back by their drawing skills but being a complement to their ideas.
This idea brings me to think about my future classroom. I really want to incorporate art in
the language arts field even if students are not the best of artists.

Reflective Synthesis #6
Vazquez Chapters 5 & 6
I really like how the author in chapter five sets the tone by providing a realistic
setting in a classroom. A quote that I liked from the chapter about social practices was,
“since different people have different life experiences it follows that social practices are
differentially available to various individuals and groups of people.” (p 68) Not everyone
has the same opportunity to access literacy.
The what if theme was used to start a conversation in the classroom leading to
different choices and proposals that the students had for their end-of-the-year outing. We
have been focusing on purpose during this language arts course, we always will want to
avoid teaching writing for the sake of writing, their always has to be a better purpose,
something important and transcendental. In this case, the students are coming up with
ideas for their math journals that can connect to a possible field trip to an amusement
park. One example is learning the angles of a roller coaster, another is learning about
money, how and why it is used in an amusement park. Along with writing in their math
journals students also engaged in letter writing to the school principal supporting claims
and arguments on their proposal of going to an amusement park. After those ideas do not
work out, the teacher uses children’s literature. It is not easy to choose a book to work for
a particular setting and the author lists a few suggestions that are definitely helpful for
teachers. For example: Choose books that are accessible and meaningful to your student
experiences. (p 78)

Chapter five connects critical literacy to mathematics while chapter six focuses on
relating critical literacy to the Science Curriculum. It is always important to know that
children learn best when they are learning about something that has relevance in their
lives. “I realized that this was something that was meaningful and important to them.
They saw something that needed to be changed, and they wanted to follow through.” (p
83) The weather song is an example that the authors used. The students rewrite the song
based on prior knowledge and experience with weather but also including their own
research on fictions and nonfiction books. A quote that summarizes students experience
and work is : “When given a chance to bring to the fore their fund of knowledge children
are better able to connect more readily to the curriculum. “(p 85) The teacher
incorporated brainstorming with drawing and music, in my opinion, a form of poetry. I
really like how the teacher chose a simple topic like weather and spread it out with many
projects from a song all the way to a weather graph. The students gained much knowledge
in at once, drawing, designing, graphing, writing, etc.
Following the exact curriculum is always a challenge for teachers because it does
not always contain the most interesting things. The text suggests that we attend to the
children we attend to and be open to their ideas and use them as alternatives as well!