Teaching Demonstration

I hope everyone will be able to take something away the presentation. After this past year I understood scaffolding and chunking in ways I really hadn’t ever before. Like Lisa commented below, the images helped me show how it looks to me. If your takeaway was more philosophical, I hope it is now more informed and inspired to create scaffolds that are meaningful and instructive and informative.

Condensed Version of the PowerPoint

Model Introductions 

Student Sample

Jeff Anderson (Platitudes and All)

 

Teaching Demo Reflection:

Presenting gets easier the more you do it, and I’m getting to the point where I feel comfortable really no matter what the group. I’m happy with the delivery of my presentation, and for what I had at the time and what I knew then, I’m content with the content. I think the visuals enhanced the experience and  the audience was left with memorable lines (the form of the form should inform; teaching is a weak verb) that will hopefully challenge and remind them as they move on.

I had some goals for the presentation. I wanted teachers to:

  • Wrestle with the necessary evils of form and structure and the ugliness that must sometimes be a part of our teaching
  • Experience students’ frustrations with writing
  • Evaluate whether we, in our teaching, are teaching the form or a form
  • Think in terms of the actual use and usefulness of a form
  • Rethink teaching into more fundamental chunks

Looking back and reviewing demo responses, I think I met, if not exceeded, these goals.

Forgetting time constraints, I would like to have explored more forms, maybe for body paragraphs or other structures, beyond the one I did. I guess the really big idea I’d like to have presented (and would like to explore more), is:

How to get graphic organizers (and more generally form and structure) to get students to think, to clarify and refine their thinking, and to translate that thinking into coherent written expression.

One simple way of doing this, and something I’d therefore maybe do differently, is gotten the audience involved in sharing forms they’ve used and some of their successes/frustrations.

23 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. lcboyle
    Jul 01, 2013 @ 15:19:56

    Woo hoo! (BEEP BEEP) You’re done! Success — and congrats 🙂
    Immediately, what stood out to me was your humor — which left me engaged throughout your presentation. Thank you.

    I really enjoyed all of your quotes, especially those by Jeff Anderson.

    You ‘structured’ your demo very well. It was easy to follow. Getting us to brainstorm/think of writing success vs. struggles was a great way to warm up my brain.

    In particular, what I’ll take away from your presentation is your Funnel Form approach. While I use this approach this well, calling a “Funnel” and using the diagram is a powerful/useful visual for our students.

    The question I am left with, is wanting to know how you teach writing the rest of the essay? Do you use other ‘forms’? Also, how do you assess? Writing or Content? Do you use a rubric? What does it look like? Are you assessing growth or product? What role does grammar play in light of structure?

    Overall, great insight/discussion to “form” vs. “forms”. What is our purpose? What product are we hoping to achieve? Important questions not only for us to grapple, but for our students as well.

    P.S. Thank you for sharing your published work. You’re like, kind of a ‘big deal.’ 😉

    Reply

    • Greg Schreur
      Jul 01, 2013 @ 20:45:13

      I AM kind of like a big deal, even if my wife and my mother are usually the only ones to notice.

      Reply

  2. nortonlmwp
    Jul 01, 2013 @ 15:20:43

    Greg, Right on and in so many ways! Thanks for introducing me to Jeff Anderson. You have affirmed that we must work with what we have; the Taj Majal was not built with mud bricks, but with mud bricks the pyramids were constructed, so no excuses for us, we must use our resources so that not only does the form originate from function but also from the wise utilization of resources!
    You mention purpose briefly, and purposeful writing motivates writers in determining the form and how well it (the essay) will function. A larger question is about function – “what will I say and why?’ – once this is answered by the writer’s, the struggles diminish, so maybe more on this idea.
    I really enjoyed your examples – I am impressed with your credentials (especially a 2nd place recognition- I keep trying and missing) and that you are a “filter” for Memoir, sssoooo you’re that Greg S! j/k keep tooting that horn – and the time provided to consider the ideas your presentation generated within me!

    Reply

    • Greg Schreur
      Jul 01, 2013 @ 20:39:59

      The reading is all purely anonymous. Although I have my ways…

      Reply

  3. Susan
    Jul 01, 2013 @ 15:21:18

    Greg, working with an at-risk population AND having as part of your teaching load helping students write assignments you have not shaped or in which you might not actually believe . . . a difficult position, surely. I think I could have more quickly appreciated why you were embracing form to urge these reluctant writers forward if I had understood more clearly your teaching situation. How true that we do use forms to write; when I looked at my MacBeth introduction, the funnel-shape was quickly discernible. Offering students tools to accomplish standardized writing tasks is sort of a necessary evil. You’re teaching students how to survive academia, students who are finding it hard to simply survive their lives. They need forms to achieve within the “system.” We all do.

    Reply

  4. rblutwic
    Jul 01, 2013 @ 15:27:36

    Thank you, Greg. It was a really thought provoking presentation. I appreciate that you both challenged and validated the use of scaffolding.
    I’m curious about Jeff Anderson. I haven’t been familiar with his work, and in his video he seems to say a lot of generic stuff (writing is waiting for a place to happen? what does that mean?). I’m going to take a look at his book to see what more practical things come out of it.
    One thing that I’ll definitely use in my teaching is the professional intros that echo the “basic scaffolding” of an introduction.
    I was also struck by your spotlight on the tension between evaluating writing and evaluating what students know. I’m fortunate to teach a more traditional writing class that does not put a lot of emphasis on content. Traditional high school English classes that teach literature may struggle more with that tension.
    Congrats on an engaging presentation.

    Reply

  5. tmeinzer
    Jul 01, 2013 @ 15:27:40

    Nice work Greg….you had my mind so deep in thought the clapping startled me! -I now send you many loud claps in this comment 🙂
    Personally, I have a serious resistance to forms and graphic organizers. As I mentioned, in my experience they merely led to a bunch of boring papers that I had to grade, each almost identical to the next. They were the end instead of a means to the end. I have been determined never to use them. Now I am reconsidering.
    Things like graphic organizers obviously have a purpose and can be useful. I need to remember that nothing is evil in and of itself. It is all about how things are used. If the form is analyzed so that students understand why it exists, if it is paired with other forms that meet the same purpose, if it is used as a stepping stone, I can see that there is great potential there. Thank you for forcing me to pause and reconsider. Instead of how to avoid using forms and graphic organizers my question for myself is now how can I use them in a powerful way?

    Reply

    • Greg Schreur
      Jul 02, 2013 @ 00:10:28

      Necessary evils. Unfortunate realities. Less than ideal circumstances. True in life. True in teaching.

      Reply

  6. kimolsen2013
    Jul 01, 2013 @ 15:28:36

    Dear Greg,
    I loved your humor and honesty. You have a lot expression and your enthusiasm for teaching is evident. I appreciate your taking on a relevant topic: the introduction. Your funnel approach is similar to my approach. I especially enjoyed our sharing of our written comments on Devion’s introduction. So many times how we respond to students’ papers/writing is a hidden art, which I don’t think us or our students much good.

    You raised a controversial issue of form. I tend to gravitate towards form. I like to think of it as a springboard, but as Erica brought up, it is hard to get students to see certain forms as genres for a specific audience. Practically, usually I am fine with students who can copy a form. I think their second step is to use depth of thought and/or evidence. As Charles and Lindsay brought up the audience expectation must be considered.

    I also like to use mentor texts as an example of the specific genre/assignment. I used Susan’s protocol for my research paper assignment this spring with great success. I’ll show you that during my demo.

    Kudos on publishing your short story. I loved your “horn tooting.”

    Sincerely,
    Kim

    Reply

    • Greg Schreur
      Jul 01, 2013 @ 20:43:26

      Kim, I’m from a Dutch Calvinist background, which frowns upon such tooting as base glory-grubbing. Bah humbug, I’m learning to say to all that.

      Reply

  7. Erica Beaton
    Jul 01, 2013 @ 15:30:54

    Thank you, Greg! I think within the classroom it’s so difficult to find the balance between form and free expression. So many of us either abandon the idea of form or fully embrace it, without wavering in its approach. We want students to be original and creative, yet–because they are so often not ready for this independence–we have to scaffold the process for them. Ahha! We have to teach (as a verb)! I really appreciate your willingness to approach academic writing within the Summer Institute, especially because your driving questions are ones that I struggle with myself.

    Like you, I use the “funnel formal,” but I feel you’ve confirmed this instructional approach for me in terms of on-demand writing. The form helps the reader predict the flow, and without some level of prediction the writer’s ideas are lost. I love how you said, if you put crap into a good form, you’ve still got crap. If you put something of quality into the form, you’ve got a good start. I have to remember this, because so often my students have great ideas; however, they’re stifled by blank page start or lack of organizational structure.

    Reply

  8. bbailey7744
    Jul 01, 2013 @ 15:31:11

    Greg,
    Your presentation was as entertaining as it was educational.
    Your use of real-life situations, time to reflect, and time to share made this applicable for your audience.
    I will try to use your funnel idea. I will be aware I am using it as a craft lesson and not just a fill-in-the-blank organizer. I do think that showing this form is as good as showing non-traditional forms. Students need to know the building blocks of writing. A traditional essay has things that need to be addressed by the writer, and things the reader needs to know. If you frame a graphic organizer in those terms and develop meaning for those pieces, I think the writer can apply these needs to other writing.
    Thanks for sharing.

    Reply

  9. hoatlinr
    Jul 01, 2013 @ 15:31:19

    Greg: Wonderful job! You have given me a lot to think about in my own classroom. Like Tracy, I also have a hard time with knowing where teaching “formula” or form needs to come in. In college level writing, I am trying so hard to push against the forms that were often instilled in them in high school, but I appreciate that you showed that form can be useful in its rightful place.

    I often get formulaic introductions that begin broad and move to specific. However, my students are often not moving from broad to specific in a meaningful way. They are usually just trying to play word association and going from there, i.e.: power. What is power? Power can be seen blah, blah, blah. Because of this broad, boring style of writing, I am usually trying to push them away from that formula. I loved what you said though about how that “hook” needs to be leading somewhere–this is something I plan to point out to my students.

    There is also something to be said about form creating writer control. If students have a form to follow, they might feel that they have more control over their writing and this could then lead them down the path of taking ownership and creativity. I struggle with my students not understanding that they are in control of their writing. This idea of form used with purpose though could not only lead to that ownership, but could also lead to creativity within that claimed writing.

    One of the things that we were sort of talking about at the end was how form fits expectations. Having thought about genre a lot, I am always wondering about which comes first. Do readers read things because they fit expectation? Or do writers create new genres that readers will then read? Obviously, there are genres that might not change too much, but postmodernism has pushed the bounds of genre expectation quite a bit and I am unsure of how much it will keep pushing those genre bounds.

    As you can tell, you have given me a lot to think about. I am going to have to wrestle with exactly how to incorporate it into my own teaching, but I loved your quote: form of the form should inform. Thanks for the great perspective.

    Reply

  10. dtheune
    Jul 01, 2013 @ 15:31:25

    Greg–Bravo! I’ve been battling with this form v. formula v. free choice all year. It’s a fascinating debate and you gave it to us in fascinating fashion. I actually mean that: your PowerPoint abilities are stellar. Well timed, fun–it draws us in quite well.

    For me, this formula has to be constructed (as Lindsay more eloquently put it) from the students’ minds and through mentor texts–similar to the ones you gave us. They DEFINITELY fit a a form–a form that drives us to the meaning of their work–but it is hardly given to us in form.

    I guess the question becomes this: if we teach form, how do we guarantee VOICE within that form? If form exists, voice becomes that much more important.

    You made me think about the challenges that YOU face which I do not–your students. It brings up another fascinating debate: why IS MACBETH important to my students? I work in a different demographic and I wonder how that changes the art of teaching.

    Which leads me to this, my favorite quote of your presentation: “Teaching is a weak verb.” That’s beautiful and it gives validation to the educators like yourself who do SO much more than that–like therapize.

    I love your sense of humor, Greg. It’s the kind that jives well in a presentation. You should be proud of what you have given us. You made me think deeply about my current practices and their value.

    Thanks, also, for introducing me to some new authors. I will certainly be looking into them.

    Finally, because I’m proud of where I’m going with this introduction, I want to share it with you. No need to respond, but after hearing a bit from you about God our Hot Girl, I thought you might get a kick out of this:

    You’ve all seen seductresses at work: they slink around, throwing their venom in the shape of perfectly rounded bosoms. Think Jessica from Who Framed Roger Rabbit? or (Fill in blank here). They fill you with fantastical words of power and how YOU should have it when, really, it’s all a manipulation for their own personal gain. Well–that’s our Lady Macbeth. She’s a seductress of all sorts and it keeps Macbeth from his rightful claim to the throne.

    Toot that horn, Greg. I was doing some powerful deep thinking.

    David

    Reply

    • Greg Schreur
      Jul 02, 2013 @ 00:21:38

      Hm. Just Googled “Hottest Cartoon Characters” and now I know there’s a Striperella. Not sure I’m glad about that.

      Reply

  11. lmwpblog36
    Jul 01, 2013 @ 15:33:47

    Thank you Greg for your thoughtful presentation. I appreciated your humor as you poked fun at me for looking at people’s presentation posts while they’re presenting, and thanks for making me wait. I’ve been teaching writing in GRPS middle schools for 7 years now. It’s always my goal that by the time they leave middle school they know how to write a 5 paragraph essay. That way I figure they can perform will in high school, and their high school teachers can teach them how to write outside of form. Thanks again for your presentation. I promise to continue to use form when I teach writing.

    Reply

  12. lpalczew
    Jul 01, 2013 @ 15:34:45

    Greg—Thank you for presenting a lively, engaging teaching demo! I agree with your method of teaching/encouraging the production of introductions. I use the funnel (egg timer, margarita glass) image to show the form, also. I agree with the statement that forms allow students to be free to write. I teach the students you taught. Many of the developmental students at GRCC have no tools (or they don’t know they have tools) for writing, so the forms, formulas, and graphic planners are a must. I tend to save them, though, until I see the student needs the tool… like what you did with your one-on-one sessions. I love your use of graphics and audio clips to enhance your message. The scaffolding images, for example, help me understand how that word relates to learning a new concept or skill. I am a visual learner, so I like graphics, pictures, forms. I know I have students who are also visual learners. I do wonder about your use of “topic sentence” at the end of the introduction. I wonder if you have another term for the sentence in a body/supporting paragraph that tells the topic for that unit. Semantics, probably. I plan to use mentor texts with my students along with the funnel diagram. I have relied on student examples to illustrate the form, but I see that more complex examples will help students see beyond the classroom.

    Reply

  13. Lindsay E.
    Jul 01, 2013 @ 15:38:07

    Dear Greg,

    You have gotten me thinking. Form and Formula. Process and Product. Why do we write and how best do we teach? Thanks for sparking several thoughts. During this hour, you have reaffirmed the need to teaching forms. Yes, business letters, classified ads, and police reports all have forms. They have a structure to their content that enables clear communication that meets the audience’s expectation. This allows the reader to find what he or she is looking for in the piece. (This reminds me actually of our discussion of grocery stores. It would be frustrating if every grocery store had an entirely different organization of their content. We want to be able to find what we are looking for.) Readers of the student recommendations that I write will want to find the bottom line easily: should we admit this candidate or not?
    How, then, do we teach these forms, these organizational structures, in ways that students will understand and remember. Understand and remember. I think that these two go together (we remember best those things that we really understand.) If we give the formula, I think students may not remember the formula. Also, they won’t be able to discern the structure of new genres that we haven’t yet taught them. We need to teach them how to study and discern structures so that they can write unfamiliar genres. (I didn’t make that up, it’s in the book Teaching Unfamiliar Genres by Cathy Fleisher in the back of the room.) So, I’m not anti-structure. I’m anti “telling” rather than “showing” or creating experiences through which students construct an understanding of that structure for themselves. That’s because I think humans don’t remember what they are “told.” We only remember the knowledge that we somehow build for ourselves. We each have to construct the schemas in our brains. So, your demonstration got me thinking about all of this, and clarifying my ideas about form and formula. I’m so glad. Thanks for being so honest and personable. This lent you great credibility as a speaker. I was also impressed with your visuals. I wondered how much time you spent creating your slides. They were better than any I know how to make.

    Reply

    • Greg Schreur
      Jul 02, 2013 @ 00:28:26

      Probably more time on the visuals than I should but it helps me and hopefully adds interest. It actually isn’t that hard if you’re willing to steal. And “screenshot” was a nice discovery.

      Reply

    • Lindsay E.
      Jul 02, 2013 @ 17:10:04

      Dear Greg,

      Thanks for your excellent teaching demonstration. Well done teaching us with confidence and ease. I’m also appreciative that you have gotten me thinking deeply about form and formula, process and product. Why do we write and how best do we teach? Thanks for sparking several thoughts. During this hour, you have reaffirmed that I do need to teach forms. Yes, business letters, classified ads, and police reports all have forms. They have a structure to their content that enables clear communication that meets the audience’s expectation. This allows the reader to find what he or she is looking for in the piece. (This reminds me actually of our discussion of grocery stores. It would be frustrating if every grocery store had an entirely different organization of their content. We want to be able to find what we are looking for.) Readers of the student recommendations that I write want to find the bottom line easily: should we admit this candidate or not?
      How, then, do we teach these forms, these organizational structures, in ways that students will understand and remember? Understand and remember. I think that these two go together (i.e. we remember best those things that we really understand). If I give the formula, then I worry that students may not remember the formula. Also, they won’t be able to discern the structure of new genres that I haven’t yet taught them. I believe that I need to teach them how to study and discern structures so that they can write unfamiliar genres (I’m thinking of the book Teaching Unfamiliar Genres by Cathy Fleisher in the back of the room.) So, I’m not anti-structure. I’m anti “telling” rather than “showing” or creating experiences through which students construct an understanding of that structure for themselves. That’s because I think humans don’t remember what they are “told.” We only remember the knowledge that we somehow build for ourselves. We each have to construct the schemas in our brains. So, your demonstration got me thinking about all of this, and clarifying my ideas about form and formula. I’m so glad. Thanks for being so honest and personable. This lent you great credibility as a speaker. I was also impressed with your visuals. I wondered how much time you spent creating your slides. They were better than any I know how to make. Congratulations on successfully teaching teachers.

      Reply

  14. colleenblaszak
    Jul 02, 2013 @ 22:49:08

    Greg,

    I wrote a comment for yours the day of your demo, but it looks like it either didn’t post or it is in moderation purgatory! Anyway, I don’t want to miss the opportunity to tell you congrats on a great presentation.

    I loved the humor you included, and I think the conversation around forms that you encouraged us to have was great. I also loved that we had to place ourselves in the shoes of learners/students and try to remember what it feels like to write an introduction on a topic we may or may not care about. It’s been awhile since I have had to do that, and it’s a great refresher.

    Thank you for including the introductions from anthologized works; they provided great mentor text to look at and to think about.

    The questions that I am grappling with personally are just around making sure that students know when to use what form, just like they know how to pick the right audience and understand the right purpose. There are just so many decisions to make in deciding to write something 🙂 How can students become — and stay — confident and secure in their individual abilities to make all those choices to create what they wish to?

    Thanks again for your presentation.

    PS I wanted to know if you’d be willing to post the link to that piece you started to share with us about God as a popular hot girl? I’d love to read the rest of it. Thanks!

    Reply

  15. Tom Mulder
    Jul 03, 2013 @ 00:37:39

    Hi, Greg!
    Yes, I appreciated all the insights and your liberal sprinkles of humor. I, too, am a Richard Lederer fan, but more about this tomor–well, earlier today…I’m still running a day behind….
    “The form of the form should inform” got me thinking about purposeful instructions, crafting activities and directions that guide logically and clearly. This whole idea of using form and structure to free students’ ideas and writings without constricting or stifling resonates with me. Would you limit their use to individual developmental learners, or do you teach a whole class a form like The Funnel?
    Finally, I’m still enjoying your juxtapositions this evening: “In the zone is zoned,” “Instruction shares the root of structure,” and “Macbeth: a royal mess”–whose “mess,” actually was it: that teacher’s? Shakespeare’s? yours? yes to all?
    One question back at you: What is your “take” on your question–should we assess content or form, or both in some proportion?

    Reply

    • Greg Schreur
      Jul 03, 2013 @ 01:03:08

      The quick response is writing, by which to say their ability to apply and express ideas. But the ideas must come from somewhere, so content has its place. My thinking though in this instance was to equip them with the content.

      Reply

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