Mid Semester Reflective Essay Introduction

        When I am writing an essay, I am talking to the reader; I want to reach the reader. I used to ask myself, why would I have to use what someone else is saying to show that my point is right? What I am saying should be enough. This was my attitude about writing ever since I have begun writing essays. I would always hate using quotes because I thought that it was my paper, and my paper should have only one author. This was my constant attitude towards citing sources. Half of it had to do with selfishness and the other half in laziness. When I say selfish I mean that I wanted the reader all to myself. I wanted the reader to recognize how good a writer I am, and not how good a writer someone else was. I always knew that this was going to become a problem for me in college, but I didn't know it was going to become as important as it did.
        MThe result of this was a decrease in my grade. My essay "Paradise" was a very good essay, but it hardly used any quotes and for that reason I did not receive the grade I was aiming for. I knew that it was a good essay, but I was a bit upset at the fact that the essay didn't get a grade for what it really was. I felt that the essay was powerful and it didn't matter if I hadn't used any quotes. I felt that I didn't need any quotes because the essay was an essay about the images of beaches and the effect that they have had in my life. There was no need for me to bring another persons opinion when I am talking about my life. But the fact was that my grade was on the line, and I was not going to jeopardize that for anything
        This is an excerpt from my third essay called "Gangsters and Thugs" about the way that gangsters and thugs say and do everything we want to but can not, and the effect of the gangster being from another country.

Warshaw explains that "the gangster speaks for us, expressing that part of the American psyche which rejects the qualities and demands of modern life or 'Americanism itself'" (344). The gangster expresses what we can not express in our everyday lives because we would be considered somewhat crazy by American society.

I was just beginning to learn how to incorporate another person's quote into my essay. This quote was one that I would have been completely against before because it is one of those I would have felt stole the reader from me. This quote seemed to fit in perfectly with what I was trying to say in my essay. In the end I realized that the gangster topic was one that required a lot of quotations because there are so many perspectives and opinions that my paper would not be complete without them. I also realized that topics that have more perspectives and opinions make the best essays because they arouse conflict.
        After the midterm portfolio I promised myself that I would always use a quote from someone else. And ever since then I can not imagine a paper without a quote. When I look back and compare my essay "Paradise" with my essay "Gangsters and Thugs" it seems as if two completely different persons wrote them. While working on "Gangsters and Thugs" I started to begin to explore with the citing technique and I actually found out that I could be very useful. Citing sources has become such an important factor in all of my essays after the Mid-Term portfolio that I can even remember how was it possible that I wrote a whole paper without challenging or agreeing with someone else's idea. The essay right after the Midterm portfolio included quotes, and the goes to show that I was willing to try this new technique immediately, and I worked pretty well. When I compare essay 2 to 3, I feel as if different people wrote the essays. Then after I began to use quotes I began to play with it a little bit and see how I could challenge what someone else was saying like in essay 4.

        This essay was on the whole concept of branding and the effects that it has on society today. This quote was about The Economist newspaper and their opinion on consumers being hard to reach with advertising.

"The Economist also argues "Consumers are also harder to reach. They are busier; more distracted and have more media to choose from". One can see the truth in this statement considering all the ads, billboards, commercials and even internet Pop-Ups. But the fact is that our space is almost always being taken over by the same images, and they are usually the wealthiest companies who can afford this space"

I disagreed with the economist in a respectful way and carefully stated how I didn't necessarily disagree, but mentioned factors that play a big part in proving what he said not so accurate. This shows that I have a fair minded ethos. Showing that I have a fair minded ethos will actually allow the reader to realize that I am a fair minded writer, and that will actually gain me a type of respect from the reader that will allow him/her to feel that they aren't reading a bias essay. I also learned how I can agree with my opinion without having to put someone else's opinion down. I have realized that by disagreeing with someone else's opinion you can actually make yourself a better writer, and the readers will notice it. I realized that when I use quotes, I am not lending the paper to another author, I am just showing another persons perspective and what I think about it. By then adding on and saying what I think about the other person's perspective, I am keeping the focus of the essay on my opinion. I take the reader back from the author whose work I cited, and the paper remains "mine". I found that not only learning to use quotes, but using quotes that are relevant to the topic can be a deciding factor between an A paper and a C paper. I feel that this has been a very important step in English for me because now it seems to me as if I can not write a paper without using any quotes; it has completely changed my writing style. The irony of the story is that now I have found myself addicted to bringing in other peoples opinions to give my paper some other perspectives, when in the beginning all I wanted was to keep the focus on myself and my own opinions.
        When I really come to think of it, I believe that the writer I used to be was a selfish and lazy writer. I say selfish because I would not allow my essays to include anyone else's words. I felt that if the reader has chosen to read my essay, they should get my essay and my opinions only. I also believe that I did not use quotes because of laziness. I did not want to go through the whole process of looking for a quote, adding the quote and then citing my quote at the end of my paper. In the end I found out that the laziness and selfishness were indeed like writing sins. The greed and sloth were keeping me from getting the types of grades that I deserved, it is a good thing that I realized the terrible mistake I was committing in time to be able to show my professor what I am capable of doing. I also learned that one can not say he/she likes or dislikes something without trying it first.

Introduction sets the reader up for a story of discovery (not the only way to begin). 

 

 

 

 

 Notice the reflection on the problem of using sources

 

  

 

 

Notice that in order to make a point about his use of sources, he cites his own writing and explains its significance.

 

 

 

 

 

  

 

Here the writer makes a claim about his growth in dealing with sources.

 

 

 

Here he provides evidence for his claim.

 

Here the writer discusses the meaning of the evidence that he has presented.

 

 

 

 

 

 
Notice that the conclusion is an elaboration on the material in the introduction.  There’s a clear focus on a thesis.

 

Self-assessment would have stronger if he’d dealt with more of the Outcomes Statements.

I did this prompted by a conversation with Scott Dennis , and I've crossposted in my Teaching with Canvas blog; updates will appear there. Meanwhile, if you are interested in this kind of topic, I'm shamelessly asking people to vote up my request to create a Connected Learning group as a place to share ideas and strategies for creating connected learning environments... kind of like what we have going on here with the Community! :-)

 

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In an earlier post, I outlined my mid-semester feedback/evaluation process, and now the mid-semester week is here. I really enjoy getting this feedback from students. When they are happy, I am happy... and when they are not happy, that gives me challenges to work on in future semesters. And there is never a shortage of challenges. But that's good: we all get to keep on learning!

On Monday, students finished up the first part of the process, which is a general Reflections post. You can see the prompt here. There's no word-count minimum or maximum; some students write a lot, others not so much. I learn things from every post, partly just from the contents of the post itself, but even more so from seeing that in the context of each student's class project, etc. 

I read the posts in Inoreader, but it's also possible to use Inroeader to share a live stream of the posts in other spaces, so I create that live stream to share with Scott Dennis here: Blog Network RSS (with Inoreader): Reflections Posts. That's a Canvas page, as you can see in this screenshot. Scott was interested in some quotes about #connectedlearning from students, so I've also highlighted some quotes below, along with a step by step for anybody who's curious about the amazing powers of Inoreader.

What follows are selected quotes about connected learning with class-as-community; as you can see, the students are writing stories every week that are inspired by the reading, and they are also reading and commenting on each other's stories. I don't want them to just be waiting for my reactions to their writing; I want them to all be reacting and learning from each other all the time: that's how massive learning happens. For a typical week's assignments, see Week 7 (the week before this one). Meanwhile, here are some student comments where they are remarking on what they learn from in each other's stories:

I think what I have enjoyed most about this class so far is reading other people’s stories and getting to enjoy such a wide range of writing styles. It has given me inspiration for my own writing, and it has been a great tool to see just how differently people might choose to interpret a story.

When reading other's stories, I love looking at the different styles and vocabulary that people use in order to get their message across. Everyone writes differently and seeing those differences manifest themselves into great stories is awesome! I enjoy seeing all the creativity. I have been receiving lots of great feedback on my stories and I have been doing my best to give the same kind of valuable feedback to other students in this class.

I love reading all the different stories and seeing all the different writing styles that we have in this class. I have also enjoyed getting to read peoples introductions, I think that these posts give people the opportunity to express themselves in a way a typical in class introduction would not let you. I have also learned so much more about my classmates through the online introductions than I feel like I ever would have learned in a classroom setting.

When I read other people's stories I often find myself amazed at how well other people can write. My skill level in writing is not the highest so it is nice to read something that is done by a better writer than myself. It helps me to study their writing style a bit and then add it to my own.

When I read other people’s stories, I am blown away. People do such an amazing job and are so experienced. The creativity in this class is honestly amazing. I think I have been so amazed I forget to be constructive so I will focus on being more constructive as well these next few weeks.

I really enjoy looking at other's blogs and reading their work. It is cool to see how someone can take the same original story I have read and interpret it in a completely different way in their own story. I also admire those in this class who are technologically gifted and have truly made their blogs a work of art.

When I look at other people's story I love how majority of them use a lot of dialogue. Dialogue is one of the things that I struggle the most with so I would love to be able to incorporate it more in my own stories.

I have been liking everyone’s stories so far. They are all so different and unique, that I get a new perspective on story writing every time I go to someone’s blog. I think that I need to use dialogue more in my stories. I read a lot of great stories where the author used dialogue really well, and that is something I struggle with.

I think one of the best ways to develop my writing skills is simply to practice, read others’ stories, and get feedback- all things we do in this class!

I saw a story one of my peers wrote and was amazed. He made me think about the different ways I could write a story for this class and the future. He spoke through to the reader breaking the 4th wall, so to speak. I felt like he really captivated the reader instantly and kept their attention. 

Each week as I read unique and wonderfully written stories, I am amazed on how people can create so many different stories from different perspectives, inspirations, and characters all derived from the same story. After reading their stories, I became more determined to enhance my storytelling, and judging by my writing since the beginning of the semester, I can honestly say that I've noticeably improved!

I really like reading others' stories simply to see the wide array of storytelling techniques and styles people have.

I think my fellow students are very talented. I like reading their work because they bring different perspectives and insights to the same readings. I have noticed that the other students have no problem making their stories short and to the point. This is something that I need to work on, so it helps for me to read their work and to understand how they think and write. I love a cliff hanger, but I definitely need to work on bringing my stories to a close without going way over the word count.

I so admire the creativity of so many of the other students in this class. I am blown away by how they have written their stories and how they have made them their own.

I love the imagery that some people have used in their stories. I feel like I am there with the character and not just reading about him or her. I am definitely working on that especially with my storybook.

When I read other peoples stories, I admire a lot of the different qualities that people use. I like the dialogue and description. I think that my stories could use more of that.

I really like everybody’s creative ideas. I’m always amazed by what everybody comes up with about the stories! We don’t all read the same ones, too, and I really like seeing what everybody else chooses to read.

I really enjoy good stories. There are so many people in class with amazing writing skills and there are some that are about average. Some people have the tendency to make their stories a huge wall of text that makes it hard to digest the story. That is something I would like to avoid in my writing. 

As far as other people, I really enjoy reading my classmates stories. I love seeing how we all interpret things differently, and how our creativity comes out in different ways as well.

I admire the variety of people in this class. We have professional writers, engineers, nurses, and a crazy active mom. Everyone is so unique in their own special way. Its great seeing the different approaches they have to writing as well.

When thinking about other people's stories, a couple things come to mind. First, there are a lot of good writers out there! At least that's what I've noticed when reading other people's stories. Some good habits that they have is their use of detail and imagery, both things that I am trying to improve upon. Second, is their grammatical errors in their stories. For the most part this doesn't really bother me, but if I'm reading along and there's a trip up in the writing, it throws off my groove and that can be a little annoying. I think that people just get excited when writing their stories and they forget to go back and edit their stories afterwards. I guess that's where feedback comes in.

One of my favorite parts of each weeks assignments is to read other peoples stories. I like to see how creative people can get. We all read the same thing each week, so it is really interesting to see how they interpreted it and how they think about the content that was assigned. Reading these stories also allows me to see what to avoid. I try to stay away from too much dialogue. I also try to stay away from really long paragraphs. When I read stories that have big chunks for paragraphs, it gets tiring and draining for the reader. Either add some pictures to divide it up or make smaller paragraphs! This class is able to allow the readers and writer to grow every week, and I really admire that!

I enjoy the weekly commenting so much more than I would've expected to. It's so interesting seeing how the same source material can end up becoming so many different things once different people start approaching it, and how sometimes you can see the interests mentioned in people's intro posts end up influencing what they do in their stories.

I think another interesting facet of this class is being able to read the other student's posts because it not only shows their creativity but helps me gain some inspiration as well! 

I have enjoyed reading my classmate's stories so far this semester and I am often inspired by their creativity and unique approaches to stories that I never would have thought of! Sometimes, I am intimidated by reading them because I feel like my stories are far inferior, but it it still enjoyable and inspiring for me.

I definitely aspire to write more like some of the people in their class. I wish I could easily write funny stories that flow well. Some of my classmates are fantastic writers.

When I look at other people's stories, I admire the details. Again, with my background in journalism and nonfiction writing, I have lost my creative mind, in my opinion. I don't feel like I have gotten back into touch with a way to create vivid details. I could do it with nonfiction/journalism, but it took a while to master that because I had to create vivid words (not details) using the actual details the source had given me. So there wasn't much leeway given to me. So I truly enjoy seeing the creativity of the students and hopefully I can force my brain into letting it be more creative.

In other people’s stories, I most admire creativity. I wonder how people came up with the storylines, and what motivates them.

Looking at writings from other students, I think the biggest thing I notice is other people's ability to write descriptively. I can often see something vividly in my head but it doesn't translate to paper like I'd like it to. So, I'm envious of others that can do it and I always aspire to improve that area of my writing.

I most admire some people innate ability to write stories that just flow perfectly. It seems like they can just think of a topic and write a story without even thinking much. That most likely isn't the case, but there are a few writers in our class who I can tell are on another level when it comes to storytelling and their posts overall.

I dread dialogue, and will do everything in my power to avoid writing it. It so happens that that is exactly what I love the most about other peoples stories. So many of my fellow classmates can write dialogue, and they are amazing at it, and it makes me envious of that ability. Conversely, I feel like they end up missing part of the stories because they focus on the dialogue so much that there is not space for descriptions or support. To much dialogue and the story feels superficial. Oh well, maybe I should stop shying away from the dreaded conversation.

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The Amazing Powers of Inoreader

And if you are interested in the amazing way Inoreader makes that possible in just a few minutes, here's a quick run-down:

Subscribe to blogs. I've subscribed to my students' blogs and put those subscriptions in a folder in Inoreader. Details here

Rule. I create a rule to automatically assign a tag to incoming posts with the word "Reflections" in the title. (That's part of the assignment instructions.) You can create a rule before any posts have come in for an assignment, or you can create it after the fact and Inoreader will run the rule retroactively on the last 1000 posts in the folder:

Turn on syndication. I then turn on syndication for that tag.

HTML clippings. I then configure the HTML clippings, and I remember (!!!) to change the http to https. Thanks to Alexis for reminding me about that yesterday! (I do it automatically and sometimes I forget to mention it when I give instructions like this.)

Paste the iframe in Canvas. You see the results here: Blog Network RSS (with Inoreader): Reflections Posts.

And of course there must be a cat:

Look for patterns in the feedback.

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