Wednesday, November 7, 2012

What to Read? - Blog #9

When we first had the chance to choose the topic to write about for our blogs, I didn't have a clue where to start. Now, I am overflowing with ideas that I want to write about. I have become addicted to blogging! Not too long ago, I even started a blog for my genre pieces project that would allow me to document my journey into the world of paranormal investigation. I can't wait to have the chance to use blogging or something similar when I have my own classroom. This has truly shown me the power of motivation and choice that Hicks, Kucer, and many other well-known researchers have previously researched and discussed (Hicks, 2009 & Kucer,2009).

I am choosing to write about the genre presentation experienced. I always cringed when there were group projects when I first returned to college. There always seemed to be "floaters" which is what I called the students that did the minimum or just enough to say they did it, and there were others that didn't help at all.

Since I have been at Nazareth I have never had to relive any of those negative group experiences. I have also noticed as a graduate student, being more focused on a specific topic is more intriguing and all of my peers which I have done group projects have been absolutely amazing (and my group for this presentation - Danielle and Shawna - were totally awesome! I know very 80's to say, but they really are).

When it came to the presentation that my own group did on persuasive writing, I was stunned by the amount of information I didn't know about persuasive writing! As an English major for my undergrad and a graduate student in the Literacy program, I felt as though I should have known some of the concepts and components, and those concepts and literary devices I was familiar with, I should have had a more substantial understanding  of them.

After deliberating with my group regarding the information we had all consumed through our readings, it was apparent I had the background knowledge and schema to comprehend and apply my new knowledge (eg. all propaganda should be considered biased, underhanded or  shady and we should use these cases to model and demonstrate bias for the students).
I thought it was very interesting how much we actually engage in persuasive actions and writing as adults in our everyday lives. It could be through e-mail, text messaging, facebook, twitter, and some use the mode of friendly conversation, debate, reading, and writing as their career choice, but I personally also found I engage in persuasive conversation daily (if not hourly depending on my mood and my daughters actions).

There is still one question that I am pondering and which is one of the reasons I chose to write about my genre presentation for this open entry. I wanted to do the "U" level book for our group project because most of my teaching experiences (as well as my dream job) are at the middle school level. Tompkins (2012) had some recommendations, but nothing that really stood out to me or that I could get my hands on. As I asked around for some reading suggestions, I found and read a wonderful book titled, One Crazy Summer by Rita Williams-Garcia.

In most of the "U" leveled texts I have read, persuasion was not "in your face" or clearly evident as in the case of many of the "P" leveled texts. An example would be Click, Clack, Moo by D. Cronin (2000). It followed the typical formula in which a position statement is presented (by the animals), the reasons and steps they took to make their position known and/or rectified (to the farmer), and then reverting back to the original position statement at the end.  The "U" leveled books had underlying tones which indicated the position that was being taken, and many of the reasons and counter-arguments were implied rather than clearly stated.

I also discussed my observation with Dr.Jones and she mentioned that most books contain some form of persuasion within them and many are considered multi-genre. In many books, the reader needs to be persuaded in some way. If you are reading this, think about anything you have read for your own enjoyment lately. Did it contain any persuasive literary devices?

Here is my confusion and main question; if persuasive reading/writing is considered to be one of the most difficult genres to teach students, why are there so many persuasive books at the P and M levels? I understand the process of persuasive writing is more difficult than reading and requires a different skill set and the ability to take understand multiple perspectives, but can we begin to teach our students at younger ages through the reading of these books (either aloud or independently) and the conversation that ensues after the reading is completed?  We can also use natural conversation with younger students to enhance their understanding of a two-sided issue in which they are defending a position. How young is too young and with the younger students, what is the best way to start them thinking, reading, and writing persuasively?


  1. This may be hard for me to explain succinctly here, but I will give it a try. The challenge is "audience awareness."
    To write persuasively (or speak persuasively) requires the writer to see the "point" or "position" through the eyes of his/her audience. It is not enough to simply say this is true or this is right because I believe it so. The writer has to approach the discussion from the position of those whom she wishes to persuade. The writer has to be able to use language, draw upon experiences, and relay information that the audience will relate to.

    At the same time, becoming a sophisticated consumer or reader of persuasive texts is also challenging because it requires the reader to develop an actively critical level of engagement. The reader can never stop questioning the author and what his or her motives are. To be honest, this kind of stance can become exhausting. After all sometimes human beings just want to be entertained and don't want to have question "why" or "is this true."

    I could go on here, but hopefully I am making sense?

  2. PS Marsha, where are your blogs #7 and #8? I have noticed you have been posting comments on others blogs which is FANTASTIC and I commend you for it. On the other hand, don't shortchange your own opportunities to use these posts to conduct your own personal reflections on the weekly readings.

  3. Dr. Jones, I agree with your point that persuasive writing can be exhausting. Unlike other genres which can easily find an "end" point, the discussions and questions that come out in persuasive writing could be endless. For students to take on the task of understanding the reader's reaction to their writing beforehand is quite difficult for most students, and something that takes practice rather than simple instruction. I agree with Marsha that it seems curious for authors to write so many persuasive texts at the P and M levels, yet it is not taught in depth until higher grades. However, I think it's quite purposeful; not only can teachers use lower level texts to help older students understand a complex genre, but teachers can use simple picture books to help younger students grasp an unusual style of thinking. I shall continue this brainstorming in my post, just figured I'd give some input here as well.