Author Archives: motreat

English & Photography: an interesting pair

I have recently come across an article posted on the WBFO News website entitled “English learners gain confidence using photography”.  The article talks about a program that a school in Buffalo, NY instilled called Writing with Light that lets students “work with words, poetry, and photography” to better tell stories and help them learn the English language.  The articles discusses how this program is especially beneficial to students learning English as a second language.

Noah Falck, a former ELA teacher in Ohio that now works with this program in Buffalo said, “These projects brought professional writers, book artists and photographers into schools across the city, working with a total of 707 students and 34 classroom teachers,”  Noah works alongside CEPA gallery, a gallery which presents some of the students’ work when they complete them.

Barbara Cole, Just Buffalo Artistic Director said, “We wish that you could you all witness the power in seeing an English Language Learner hesitant at first to read in front of the microphone but finding the courage to confidently proclaim her words.”  This specifically stood out to me, because I think it is so important for schools to challenge the normal means of educating the English language, especially to ESL students, and presenting them with new means to incorporate their new language in with art.

This idea of incorporating art with a new language can really help and encourage a student to step out of their comfort zone, and be able to express themselves without the fear of a language barrier, meanwhile at the same time, learning that new language in a fresh, new way.  Perhaps combining an art form with English can help students to feel more inspired to learn this new language, while sparking a creative interest alongside it.

Do you agree that using an art form, or a new style of teaching, can truly help a student who is perhaps struggling? The school’s superintendent Pamela Brown stated, “It’s a source of motivation, I think, for them to be exposed to photography and to be able to combine that with learning to write. It’s a very, very complex skill. And so, the more that we can motivate children to want to do it and to appreciate their own writing, the more successful they will be,”

What are your thoughts?


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National Day on Writing

Just yesterday, the NCTE posted the article “Celebreate NCTE’s Fourth Annual National Day on Writing.”  While this articles does not present an upfront or confrontational issue, I thought it was really important to highlight this article, considering this ‘issue’ is actually very important! 

The U.S. Senate has officially declared October 20, 2012, as National Day on Writing.  The article states, “On October 19-20, tweet out your compositions of all sorts and post them to Twitter using the hashtag #whatIwrite and, if space allows, #dayonwriting. Our goals are to share writings publicly while we get #whatIwrite as a trending topic on Twitter this year just as #WhyIWrite was a trending topic next year.”

I think it’s really important and incredibly encouraging that a day like this has been made a National event. It is so important for people, especially students, to realize the important of learning, reading, and writing.  It is especially great that they are using such a popular and teen-oriented device (Twitter) to spread the word about it. I personally think that this could lead students to not only be drawn to it initially, but it could lead them to look into it and realize that there are thousands of others involved, and could inspire them to take a part in it.  It is so rare now-a-days to see such positive events being presented in a “teen” way, and this breaks that mold, and inspires everyone to participate.  

Lastly, the aritcle states: 

  • They write through text messages and IMs, they use video cameras and cell phones, and, yes, even traditional pen and paper.
  • The social nature of writing invites people in every walk of life, in every kind of work, and at every age to make meaning through composing.

Overall, I think this event is a great opportunity for students to see that reaching out and taking part in public writing and educational National events, and it is especially great that it is being done in a way that reaches out to teenagers, and presents it in such a positive way. This brings people of all ages and walks of life to one place, and shows others how they think and what they believe through their writing.  I would encourage every teacher to use this day to their and their students’ advantages, and also use this to show students’ the importance of not only participating in community and national educational events, but also branching out in their writing and showing others what they are capable of.


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No cellphones allowed! …..maybe?

Cellphones: They seem to be the booming problem of the 21st century and the younger generation according to society.  I don’t remember one day in high school that went by without a teacher or faculty member telling me or a fellow student to put away our cellphones.  I personally believe they had a just reason for doing so. After all, no teacher wants their students texting while they should be paying attention in class. Furthermore, I believe that the idea of cellphones in school has gotten such a negative connotation, that implementing them into the learning system may be a long shot.

However, in the article  “Enriching literacy with cellphones: 3 ideas to get started”,  the author Lisa Nielsen, discusses the positive use of cellphones in the classroom in order to enhance learning.  While many educators may still be against this idea, after reading the article, I believe these ideas could be a great way to get students actively interested in learning.  As the title states, the author discusses three individual ways that teachers can implement cellphones into their everyday lessons.  The first method she discusses is the use of texting.  While most teachers would immediately leap of their chairs when hearing this idea, I believe the author made several good points on why this may very well work.   She mentions that the increase of text messaging in teens and tweens has aided in their reading, but most importantly, writing skills (Nielsen).  I personally agree with the benefits of texting, considering I feel that I benefited from the use of social media, specifically texting, when it comes to writing.  Even though many teens may use texting “lingo” opposed to full, correct English words, Nielsen uses that fact to implement her first idea.  She suggests letting students use their cellphones or even computers, along with their texting “lingo”, to write their first drafts and ideas of whatever assignment they are responsible for writing.  She believes this can help the students to have a  quick, free flow of ideas just as their text messages, and can therefore, lead to an edited version that will be in standard English.  I find this to be not only a positive idea for the students, who may even learn to enjoy writing assignments, but may lead the teacher to feel a stronger connection with her students, and lead her to receive better papers.

Nielsen’s second idea is incorporating the use of Google Voice to capture students’ voices in order to aid in oral reports.  Instead of students having to dread oral reports (which is exactly what happened to me in high school), Nielsen suggests the use of Google Voice for recording and sending oral reports instead of delivering them live.  This idea provides students a relief from the agonizing dread of giving an oral presentation, and could even lead to higher grades due to the elimination of mistakes.  Along with the texting idea, I  believe this would not only help students to feel less pressure, but can lead to a great opportunity for fun in the classroom.

Nielsen’s third idea is the use of video on their cellphones for recording themselves or others reciting or delivering speeches.  This idea is perhaps my favorite, due to the fact that Nielsen suggests students using their cellphones to record themselves and classmates acting out scenes from the story or novel they are currently reading in the classroom.  This, to me, seems like a fantastic idea, because it can not only provide the students with a more effective way of understanding what they are reading, but it can be used and shown in the classroom for other to watch and compare.  It could even lead to laughs and entertainment!

Nielsen wraps us her article with the comment, “Children deserve nothing less than for their teachers to embrace the power of this technology and support them in becoming learners who can use the powerful computing tools to which they already have access to soar to new heights.”  This is a very powerful and true statement that I believe every teacher should read and be aware of.  Most of us are aware that even with these great ideas, the challenges of bringing in cellphones to the learning environment could be harder than they look.  However, I believe that with determination, Nielsen’s ideas could lead to an increase in both enjoyment and learning, engaging students while using their well-known devices which they hold so near and dear to their <3.

Therefore, having gotten a grasp on Nielsen’s ideas of incorporating cellphones, do you think these ideas could be effective in a classroom environment? Or is this simply too far fetched of an idea?


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