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Assessing Reading and Writing

March 15, 2010

Teacher Musings:
Well, my brain has not been fully teacher engaged recently. After a month away from the classroom, I can already feel my teacher sense atrophying as it did when I was a literacy coach – only now it is more so since I am not in a school at all. However, I did, finally, get to read through some work e-mails this weekend and give some feedback on a possible writing prompt we would use to assess student writing in grades 9-12. The prompt uses a few quotes from articles in it, but also gives students the choice of using their own experience as evidence to write about social networking in the internet age. For me this brought up one of the issues I grapple with constantly as an English teacher. When we are trying to teach students how to develop their ideas in writing, often we are asking them to write about things they have read. Obviously this is important, since the majority of the writing they will do, both in college and in professional settings, will be based on some text they have read. While I might take issue with teaching them literary analysis as an isolated skill, I do recognize the importance of being able to craft an argument in an essay based on a text (or several texts). However, when I read the students’ writing, and they seem to be struggling, sometimes I don’t know if there struggle is in the writing itself (i.e. they need to be better taught how to craft an argument, etc.) or is based on the fact that they really didn’t understand the text that they read. Sometimes I have assumed that students have a “writing problem” only to find out that if I ask them to write about a text that they read and understood the write fairly well. Interestingly enough, I have also found that when I “explain” a text to them (i.e. they didn’t really get it on their own and I force fed the ideas from it to them) their writing about that text still seems problematic. So, while I do find it useful to assess some aspects of writing independent of reading, the two still are so inextricably linked, and it is impossible to teach one without detail with the other in the day-to-day teaching. As someone who likes things organized and compartmentalized, this has been difficult for me both comprehend, and figure out what to do. I still don’t know, but I do have ideas for how to better integrate the two next year, starting with using writing to help them understand their reading (both through annotation – which I already teach – and short written responses to reading, which I started to do this year and found very useful).

Yummy Stuff:
With a new baby in the house, I have not done much cooking at all, and G-man has only done a bit more. Luckily we have amazing friends who know we are vegan and are still willing (and often excited!) to cook with us! Just a side note – babies are supposed to gain their birth weight back by the time their two weeks old – if they are not on track to do that they may not be getting enough to eat. My son gained all but one ounce of his birth weight back by one week after been breastfed exclusively by his vegan mom. Not enough protein my butt!! My point is that both me and my son are thriving on our whole-foods plant-based vegan diet and loving it!

Now, with not having a lot of time to cook, we had to strategies our meals a bit. This included getting some “easy to make” options from the store. I thought I would share some of the things we made last week (while G-man was home) for anyone else out there with limited time or energy on their hands.

  • Trader Joe’s frozen pizza (veggies without cheese!)
  • Trader Joe’s black bean enchiladas (again, no cheese and with yummy tofu and veggies!)
  • Trader Joe’s 17 bean soup (comes in a pack with dried beans – you need some celery, onions and bell pepper with it, and I recommend adding some spices, but it is easy and really good!)
  • Homemade chili (beans pre-made before the baby and ready to go in the fridge)
  • Tofu scramble with Trader Joe’s frozen stir-fry veggies (to minimize chopping time)
  • Pre-made and frozen mushroom and rice casserole (recipe from Vegetarian Times)
  • And of course whatever your friends bring you (we got some amazing dal and several rounds of Darwin’s sandwiches – thank god for that! Also some friends brought us frozen cookie dough and bags of spinach – the spinach helped me build my iron stores back up and the cookies were so comforting on this last rainy weekend!)
  1. >Nice list! We shop Trader Joe's too, but make most of our veggie meals from scratch.

  2. >Thanks for the comment! I didn't really plan on making a plug for Trader Joe's, but it kind of worked that way 🙂 I normally make our veggies meals from scratch too – its so much better that way – but with the baby frozen meals have become a temporary godsend.

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