Monday, December 8, 2008

ethnography learning paper

I. Framework for the InvestigationThe overall purpose of my project was to give teachers who are teaching or beginning to teach a broad perspective on what life is like for students who do not know Standard English, and to give them insight into how to teach this group of students.

II. Context of the InvestigationThe context for my investigation was a middle school in Greeley whose student population is made up mostly of ELL students. Alongside of this I conducted two interviews. One with a teacher from Mead Middle School and one with a student who has learned three different power discourses.

III. Research MethodsI observed two classrooms at the middle school in Greeley and I interviewed two teachers from that school as well. This combined the interviews I have already mentioned is what my data consisted of. I analyzed my data through reflection and by looking of patterns between my different sources.

IV. ResultsI found that students who are on the outside of a power discourse, know that they are on the outside and they frequently want to learn about the power discourse if they can use it in order to become successful in some way.There is something about power discourses that can sometimes be characterized as exclusionist. If teachers are going to have any level of success with this group of students, we need to value their home discourse as we teach them when to use Standard English.

V. ReflectionStudents who make up this group of "outsiders" are a challenge. They need a lot of support in order to succeed in their education.

VI. List of Secondary SourcesEhrenworth, Mary and Vicki Vinton. The Power of Grammar. Portsmouth, NH: Heiniemann, 2005.Landsman, Julie. A White Teacher Talks About Race. Lanham, MY: Rowan and Littlefield Education, 2001.Lyman, Huntington, and Margo A. Figgins. “Democracy, Dialect, and the Power of Every Voice.” English Journal. 94.5 (2005): 40-47.Smith, Ernie. “Ebonics: A Case Study.” The Skin That We Speak. Ed. Lisa Delpit and Joanne Kilgour Dowdy. New York: The New Press, 2002.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

having my say

I am really interested in looking at how teachers broach the issue of code switching in their classrooms, if they do at all, and the implications of this such as: How do students feel from dom. and non-dom. discoruses when issues of code swtiching are discussed? My secondary sources discuss the "why" of different discoureses and sometimes the "how", but not so much the "who." Meaning how code switching affects a student's sense of identity and their conception of themselves as individuals and as part of a group in the class. This is the subject matter I want to focus on, namely- how do students deal with code switching? How can the teacher handle it so that students always retain their sense of identity and competance while at the same time challenging them to see the world through a more complicated lens (meaning that there is not just ONE right way to speak or write). My research will fill this gap by getting one on one face time with teachers and studnets who deal with this everyday.

Friday, October 24, 2008

10-24 Code switching

How do we define standard English? Why do we define it that way? As the article that we read for tpday states, how come standard English can't be something that is more inclusive? That contains certain elements of other dialects? Why can't standard English assimilate into other dialects? How come it is always the speakers of a nondominat form of English, that have to assimilate into standard English? Isn't asking some people to learn and use a new dialect, while retaining their primary discourse, while others don't have to, somewhat oppressive to the former group? No matter which way you spin it, teaching Standard English is teaching that this one type of English is "better" than all the rest because that is the only discourse which will be graded in school. I wish this wasn't the case because it automatically sets up a center and a marginalized discourse. I feel like teaching standard English has the potential of silencing different kinds of voices. How should/can standard English be taught so that it can seem no more important than any other dialect of English? How can classrooms be linguistically inclusive? What messages are students getting when their papers are filled with Standard English corrections? How are they going to learn to code switch? How should the idea of code switching be presented to a student when you give them a paper that is covered in red? How can classrooms celebrate other dialects? How can classes critique all English dialects?

Friday, October 17, 2008

Delpit v Gee and what I think

The problem that Delpit has with Gee is that he is too linear and finite in the way he sees literacy and understanding. Her main critique is that Gee sees the acquiring of a discourse, different from a student’s home discourse, as nearly impossible. Whereas Delpit believes it to be not only possible, but necessary for many student to acquire new discourses (dominant discourses) so that they can “cheat”, or learn a new discourse so that they can have the power to critique it. Overall, Delpit sees literacy and learning as more fluid than Gee. Yes, there are dominant discourses but there is also learning! A piece that Gee de-emphasizes when he characterizes certain dominant discourses as in accessible to students, whose home discourses are not compatible with dominant discourses.
I tend to lean toward what Gee has to say. Yes, there are differences in what people know when they enter a classroom, and yes these gaps do give some students an advantage, while they disadvantage other students, but that’s life. I am not saying that to be a cop out. I think the intersection of what Gee and Delpit have to say is an invaluable perspective for teachers to consider. The fact is that one teacher, who himself or herself has a specific type of literacy, is supposed to be able to gage an array of student literacy levels and then be able teach to those differing levels, with the overall goal that all students will be challenged in their learning and that all students will be capable of operating within the dominant discourse. This is the problem that faces all teachers, how do we help the students who do not yet know how to run (so to speak), learn to jog, while at the same time teaching the amateur runners how to improve their race times? It is a conundrum because teachers aren’t psychic and they cannot instantaneously know what conflicts a student's literacy development. I guess this whole discussion points in a way to the importance of student and teacher communication. Teachers need to talk to students so that they can help them with the student’s individual problems with learning, however, this is impossible to do on a regular basis for all of a teacher’s students. So a teacher has to get creative, I guess, but employing other energies than his or her own, such as peer revision.
Bottomline, there are dominat discourses and power stuctures in the world, teachers one of the few types of people who try to level the literacy playing field.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Language Inv. 3

In primary school, I was asked to read chapter books, books from the library, and my textbooks. I was asked to write summaries, answer questions, and write a multitude of five paragraph essays. In secondary, I was asked to read longer book and I was required to read more non-fiction. Also, I had to write papers that had strong thesis statements and that were well organized, informed, and cited.
The implicit rules I experienced during my schooling included the following: don’t give one word answers to any question, never start a sentence with “and”, always try to avoid starting a sentence with “first” or “secondly”, do not write in run on sentences, don’t use too many commas, use credible sources, don’t cite sources wrong, use pronouns instead of proper nouns repeatedly, try to grab your reader, don’t write with a personal voice (write “professionally”), etc…
These conventions have helped and they have guided my college writing. I don’t think any of the above conventions are bad, necessarily. They definitely can be argued as being legitimate or not, but I don’t think they negatively affected my growth into a writer. Overall conventions helped me because they gave me guidelines. You need to know how to do something “right” before you can start breaking the rules. For example, you need to learn how to write sentences before you can insert the occasional fragment into a paragraph.
When I was in sixth grade, we wrote a five paragraph essay every week. Yes, they became tiresome, but they pounded into my head the need for an essay to have a clear organization. In the latter part of my high school career, the focus was put on thesis statements. No matter what, you needed to have a strong thesis statement. Even if the rest of the essay was clumsy and hard to understand, as long as you had a strong thesis, the teacher would smile kindly upon your paper. I think this emphasis was good; however, it took me a long time to be able to write a good thesis statement. To me a convention can only be negative if it either prevents a student from being creative, or if it somehow impedes a student from being able to even start an essay or paper.
Conventions can be scary and hard to master; particularly if you don’t understand them. I remember the first paper I wrote for AP American History was a brilliant anecdotal piece on the Revolutionary War in which I concluded with a brilliantly insightful flourish of a figurative ending. I wrote a speculative piece that was more interested in exploring than making a point- that was a problem to say the least. I had to learn to write thesis statements, and to be honest, I still struggle with forming a thesis that is concise and that will stretch throughout my whole paper.
Even though I found thesis writing hard to master, the standard was still there. It was still a firm wall which I could measure myself against. I think that is the point of conventions- they give students a measuring rod. A specific trait they can focus on in order to improve their writing. They are there to help students pin point areas where they are struggling or need improvement.
Only up until this current semester have I begun to conquer my fear of thesis statements and paper in general. I have actually begun to enjoy writing them because they allow you to synthesize your own ideas about a particular literary work or topic.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

9-17 warm up

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

Rose had the students respond to pictures of famous people and of themselves. I think that Rose chose these assignments in order to get the students interested. English is kind of a 2-dimensional subject (a lot of stuff written down on paper). Pictures were a good way to grab students’ attention, especially students who struggle with English because it gives them something else to look at other than the daunting blank piece of paper. Also, writing about pictures of yourself and the people you know makes writing feel relevant. Writing can sometimes feel very far off because it is housed in old hard cover books that seem stagnant and centuries old.

3. What did you notice about the language schools used to refer to the students Rose featured in this chapter? How did this language mark students as “insiders” or “outsiders” to school? How do you think these labels might have influenced students’ literacy development later on?

If you are tracked into a lower class, you know that you are in the “stupid class.” Schools don’t fool anyone- everyone in that school knows who the smart students are and who the dumb students are. This dividing line does just that, it divides people into groups- the smart and the dumb (and by implication the good and the bad). Although teachers don’t say so, students know that teachers would rather teach the smart students. This makes the students in the lower tracks resent school because the teachers (not all, but many) resent having to teach them. So why try? The school admins have already labeled the low track students as being not as intelligent, so why try if the school has already made up its mind? This affects literacy development because knowing that you are in a low track automatically de-motivates you-this has an effect on literacy development for obvious reasons.

Sunday, September 7, 2008

L-Inv #2

Alright, so…there are two types of people in this world. Those that know what the difference is between a latte and a cappuccino, and those who do not. What happens many a shift at my place of employment (the coffee cart in the Morgan Library) is that a customer will order a cappuccino, and then they will complain that the drink they have received does not have enough steamed milk in it. To clarify once and for all, a latte has a considerably larger amount of steamed milk than a cappuccino; additionally, a cappuccino has an extra shot of espresso that a latte does not have. The reason why I bring this up is that the clarification between these two drinks and the need to repeat this drink distinction to customers, are both routine job responsibilities that everyone who works at the coffee cart is aware of.

Okay, let me get off of my barista snob box and lay out what a typical barista-customer conversation looks like:
B: “Hey what’s up?”
C: “Nothing much…um…can I get a large white mocha, with no foam, and whip cream?”
B: “Yeah sure.” (Internal voice: Okay, write “WM” for white mocha, “F” for flat, and “W” for whip on the cup, then put three pumps of white mocha in the cup and place it on the bar)
C: “Can I also have a bagel with cream cheese?”
B: “Yeah, sure, would you like plain or strawberry?”
C: “Plain.”
B: “Would you like one or two.”
C: “One.”

Phrases like “pot’s out” is used quite often at work; it just means that one of the coffee pots has dispensed its final spit of coffee and that the dead pot needs to be exchanged for a full pot. “I’m going on a run” means that some lucky person gets to push a cart across the plaza to the student center in order to re-fill coffee and get other stuff that the cart may need. “Wet or dry?” is a question that refers to cappuccinos again; a wet cappuccino has more steamed milk than a dry cappuccino (but not as much as a latte). “Can I get ____?” is a question the cashier often asks one of the other employees who are working, so that the cashier herself does not have to walk over to the fridge in order to get OJ, or cream cheese, or whatever the customer has ordered. “The binder” is the book that contains all inside jokes/ pleas for stuff like an extra stool to be bought so that all workers who are clocked in at one time can have a place to sit, or perhaps a bright pink sharpie which could be used to inscribe drink orders on cups.

Besides these basic terms, the name of the cart “Cram a Latte” takes on many different meanings if you work there. As an employee, you often have to “cram” for a test in between making drinks (which are often “lattes”) or operating the cash register. If there is nothing to do, employees can just make a latte and chill, then you guessed it, we become “Chill a Latte”- which is kind of confusing because we can’t make cold drinks (it’s a health code thing/ another thing we had to repeatedly explain to many disappointed, sweating customers this summer).