Wednesday, July 12, 2006

A lot of this stuff is meaningless

I'm happy to report that my AC is fixed.

Class tonight was an endless parade of handout and pop quizzes. The quizzes assessed our ability to identify spelling "levels" by writing sample. So, for instance, squiggly lines are, naturally, indicative of the scribbling stage; a drawing with a letter or two underneath is called the drawing stage; several letters strung together with no indication of any phonetic knowledge is called the letter string stage; and so on through the phonetic stages and finally to real spelling with its striations: within-word, syllable juncture, and meaning derivation errors.

Okay. My first problem with all this is that, obviously, this list is not an formal hierarchy. Spelling, like all learning and development, is a continuum. So to say that a drawing with one or two letters is the "drawing" stage but three or four letters and a drawing is somehow now the "letter string" stage is not only useless, it's misleading. If a kid makes, say, six within-word errors and seven syllable juncture errors in a passage, she's at the latter stage? But what if the next day she makes ten within-word errors and one syllable juncture error? Why is everything so stage-centered, anyway?

But my main problem with the quizzes is, honestly, who cares? No, seriously, I want to know. Are teachers in the actual classroom going around identifying kids by the kind of spelling errors they make and labelling them at the "syllable juncture" or "surrounding sound" stages? If so, why? How does that help? Shouldn't we, as aspiring teachers, simply be familiar with how writing develops without putting all these labels, stages and jargon on it? To put it another way, isn't the "skill" of identifying the stages of emergent writing useful only in this here class I am in, and unlikely ever to come up elsewhere?

I dunno. The Reading II final on Thursday, so best just go with the flow instead of kicking against the pricks, eh?


After class, I went to the Hangout. The Friar and I are planning a live trivia night there quite soon. We joined Mr. Hangout and Girl Barfly Whose Name I Never Really Bothered To Learn, and the four of us had a riotous time brainstorming ideas for the name of the trivia game we were going to have, which should give you an idea of the current status of our preparation. Some of the names were quite salacious and I shall refrain from fouling the Internets with examples, but my personal favorite was "Come Answer These God Damned Questions Trivia Night" (happily, overruled). Another possibility, likely prescient, was "Hangout's First and Final Weekly Trivia Night." I mean, Friar's a terrific guy, but a slacker par excellence, and I'm not exactly a dynamo myself. We shall see?

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