A Reflection on Capstone | Part One

A blog written by a current Resident, Beth Warner, Class of 2017 | A Reflection on Capstone

The topic I have been researching for my Capstone paper is how employing culturally relevant teaching helps to build student self-efficacy (or belief that they can do something well) and how that can increase students’ ability to write fluently and proficiently. Basically, I’m looking at how to help kids build confidence and get their ideas out of their brains and onto paper better that values all the ways they represent those ideas.

I chose my Capstone topic for two reasons:

1) I am passionate about allowing students to use their voices and to find confidence in doing that. Students using their authentic voices in the classroom means that teachers must create space for students to employ the language they communicate in most often. That could mean allowing students to use a different language at moments or it could mean allowing our African American students to use AAVE and not to worry about their use of “standard” English constantly. I wanted to find research that I could site to support my passion and to protect that space for my students if at any point I needed to defend it.

2) The second reason is more practical. I am currently teaching 6th grade writing, so I am reading student writing and working with student writers every day. The inspiration for this topic came from one of my students. When we discuss readings or ideas in class, he has brilliant, insightful things to say. I am consistently blown away by how well he understands and analyzes our world. However, the writing he produces is extremely difficult to follow and comprehend. He lacks the ability to translate the perceptive things he knows and understands in his brain onto paper. My research has been driven by him and figuring out what it could look like for me to help him develop his ideas confidently and coherently in writing.

I’m hoping that because of this research, I will be able to take concrete solutions and research-backed ideas into my classroom that will help students to feel that their voices—in every form—are valued and important. I anticipate using the results of this paper to inform the creation of a classroom culture around writing that develops confidence in my students. I have been learning new strategies that think outside the box of typical writing instruction by employing culturally relevant techniques that I think will help my students to understand what it looks like code switch on paper and to do so more effectively.

Through reading a LOT of journal articles and research studies, I have found that the struggle of figuring out how to teach writing well is one that I do not carry alone. A lack of writing proficiency is a common problem, not just in urban schools and districts, but in most schools—rural, suburban, affluent, and everything in between— in the United States. Teaching writing is just difficult to do. I hope that through my research, I will be able to offer concrete techniques to try when it comes to helping our students represent the exceptional things they have to say about our world on paper in a way that others will be able to understand and value.

If I can offer information that adds a few more strategies to the teaching writing tool belt and ultimately results in students developing confidence in using their voices, that would be a huge win in my book and time well spent in research.

To hear from Beth and others, join us on April 18th from 5:00 PM – 7:00 PM in the Classrooms at Crosstown for our Resident Exhibit Night.