Friday, May 1, 2009

Writing Instruction

I see writing instruction being taught and demonstrated to my students in several different formats. Although the 'traditional' writing with pen/pencil and paper is the most prevalent way for students to display their writing abilities - technology is also used for all students. My 2nd graders' do daily journal entries, some of which take advantage of this creative writing platform to express their ideas more freely; and others write just for the sake of completing the assignment.

Initially, the students would write two (or three) loosely based sentences to complete their journal entry. A prompt of, "What is the weather like today? Why do you think it is different from a month ago?" would initiate student responses like, "It is sunny. It is less sunny than last month because of seasons." The students would 'satisfy' the requirements of completing the journal by answering both questions, but only a fraction of the students would go into detail about their response. 

As the school year has progressed, the students have viewed many teacher examples to the journals - as well as in depth literacy instruction as to how they can strengthen their own writing. Students were identifying nouns, verbs, adjectives, and exposed to new vocabulary words daily which has vastly improved their writing skills. The above prompt, may now elicit the student response like, "It is sunny and bright outside, but windy too. It is getting colder and colder outside because it is going to be winter soon. We will still have sunlight in the winter, but it will snow." The student is better able to comprehend and interpret other subject areas (Science...ect) into their writing abilities and are beginning to see that writing instruction is not its own exclusive subject. 

Students have also used their oral skills and computer skills in completing writing assignments. A student may orally dictate (or elaborate upon a written assignment) to my CT, and she types their story to be in print. In doing so, my CT prompts students to elaborate upon their preexisting ideas - and the students are better able to convey their 'story' to the reader. By translating their written ideas onto a word document, the students are then able to view their writing as a book (in which they color and illustrate pages). Students may now feel that their writing and ideas are more meaningful, because they can be viewed by not only their peers and classmates (along with demonstrating their artistic ability), but they can compare text that they read and see that they too can produce a concrete story/book for others to read. 

In my own classroom, I would like to give my students the opportunities to demonstrate their writing abilities using a method in which they feel most comfortable using. For special needs students, they can write an assignment using picture words, using speech-to-text technology software, or any other method that may suit their needs. I also feel that ALL students should be exposed to the various ways in which they can demonstrate their writing abilities. Rather than limiting the students to paper and a writing utensil, they would be able to use computers, voice recorders, concept maps, illustrations...ect to demonstrate their own creative voice in the truest form. 

Friday, April 10, 2009

New Literacies Reflection

Growing up, I thought literacy only meant that you were able to read and write. I had no idea that technology, and visual, cultural, emotional (ect) literacy were also incorporated into what it meant to be 'literate'. Coming from a small town, I thought it would be most beneficial if I choose to explore cultural literacy. But, what 'culture' could I focus on that would be beneficial to all students? In being a Special Education major, I knew what area I too needed more background knowledge on - and that was understanding Autism. 

I occasionally babysit a 7-year old boy who is Autistic. I have been working with him and his family for over a year now, and I have been fortunate enough to see amazing growth in his academic and social life. I don't remember exactly 'what' my preconceived notions were of Autism, but I did not quite understand how it affected each individual and their family. I learned that Autism is more of an 'emotional disorder' that affects the individuals way of communication. The most touching video I viewed while researching Autism, is called My Language  . It allowed me to better understand that even though we may not always be able to communicate and understand how someone is thinking/feeling - it doesn't mean they aren't as 'smart' or as 'capable' as the average John or Jane Doe. 

Originally, I wanted to create a movie that incorporated all the video clips, interviews and statistics I found while researching my topic on Cultural Literacy. However, I quickly found that to import a clip to iMovie, you needed to not only have permission to you the clip, but you also needed to download and save the file... This is one reason why my movie is not only brief, but not as in depth as I would have liked to have gone with this topic. There is so much controversy around 'The Causes of Autism,' and 'Treatments.' Although I wasn't too concerned about the exact cause, or why it was becoming more prevalent - I focused on advocacy and how to better understand and support those with Autism. 

Another 'bump' I ran into while using iMovie (and this whole time I thought I was 'tech-savvy') was that it wasn't user-friendly when trying to import text for informational clips. I could have filled over 5-6 minutes of only textual information - but I didn't think that would be the most appealing to the general audience. Rather, I settled on my final product that I feel best grabs the attention of the audience, draws them into understanding and sympathizing with this culture and how they can help (advocate) for change. 

Even though I came from a small town of mainly white middle-class, I was still exposed to culture in other ways. We went on field trips, did biographical studies and plays on famous people, and volunteered through Girl Scouts.... However, not every child will have those same advantages as I did - so I thought that this movie was a great introduction into better understanding a culture that is so misunderstood. Not only is it beneficial to have an understanding and appreciation for another culture, but in showing students that their way of thinking (and their way of life) isn't how everyone else in the world operates. This allows the student to be less focused and centered around their own ideas (wants and needs), and understand and be accommodating to their peers as well. 

Thursday, April 9, 2009

The new technology that I chose to use was called Blurb. Blurb is a website in which you can publish books. To create the books, I used a program called BookSmart. In classrooms that I have been in during the past, I always created books. These books recorded things like apple taste testing, number scavenger hunts, and show’n’share of stuffed pets. The children really enjoy reflecting on their experiences by looking at these books. However, to create these books, I would bind computer paper by staple or binder.

What this new technology did for me was provide a new source for making books. The program was VERY easy to use. Not only was I able to manipulate the layout, style, and appearance of the book, but photos be uploaded with a small click of my mouse. The most complicated aspect of the project was the transfer from BookSmart to Blurb. There are many steps when copyrighting a text, but the site provides scaffolding. Ultimately, the upload time due to graphics was just a matter of patience. In the future, I would definitely use Blurb. In fact, I would actually have the children use the program to publish the work that they had made. They could be the authors and illustrators of the book, which could be developed over a period of time during writer’s workshop times. The book could be published on the web, for their parents and family to see. This also gives them the choice to buy the book if they can afford it (but without feeling the pressure). I feel like this technology fits directly with ideal literacy instruction. The students work to develop a book. They could do research, peer revising, and write to a specific genre. They could present it to others. Essentially, it brings together multiple aspects of literacy: listening, writing, reading, speaking, and technology.

As for the literacy, I chose environmental. When researching the different literacies, I was drawn to environmental. The idea behind it makes so much sense. Environmental literacies consists of real life, environmental issues presented in a way that helps students develop opinions. I am not discrediting any of the other literacy choices. Instead, I found the idea of environmental literacy so natural. I found it very natural in the early childhood portion of education. Children are constantly trying to make sense of the environment. They are exploring and using their senses to discover and interpret the earth’s wonders. In this way, I believe the environmental literacy is imperative to help aid in this discovery.

At the start of the semester, I divided literacy into the following categories: reading, writing, listening, viewing, reading, speaking, and the incorporation of technology within all of them. Now, my interpretation is different. I now believe that literacy is this huge thing that really cannot be defined or categorized. It cannot be broken into a hierarchy, considering some parts more relevant than others. I am not sure if one could accurately define literacy in a 500-page book. If I claim that literacy is something, can someone else argue that my interpretation is wrong? I really do not believe that any of the books that we have read in class could/has provide a definition either, as none of the books is the end all of literacy knowledge.

I think that literacy is directed based on the student’s individual needs and interests. No two children have the same experiences, learning styles, and interest, so as a teacher we need to continue to modify our views on the topic. If we do not, we actually provide a disservice to our students.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Writing Instruction

I rarely see any formal writing instruction. The children do complete DOL every day. However, I feel like there is a vast gap between the writing instruction I see in DOL and the writing I see while reading their writing contracts. When working on DOL, the students will usually place commas in correct locations, capitalize the first letters in sentences and names, and identify proper grammar. When looking at their work, the students will not usually get any of this right. They are unable to transfer their knowledge from one to the other.

When she does a lesson on writing, she provides too much scaffolding. The CT will structure the entire paragraph on the poster paper on how she wants it written. The children have little/no room to expand their creativity because if the children try to go a different direction, she requires them to rewrite their paper.

The earliest writing that I remember is journaling in first grade. I wrote about myself: my favorite thing to eat, what I did on the weekend, and my best friend. The next thing I remember is DOL in fifth grade. In sixth grade we started writing workshops. We could make a rough draft in class and were expected to bring the final copy in the following day as homework. I would write the rough draft, not do the homework, and scramble a horrid rough draft or a couple sentences during the four minutes before class. In HS, we were taught the five power paragraph structure. My freshman year of college, I was told that everything I had previously learned was wrong and taught myself how to get by, in order to get through college.

After spending time in placement, the single most important element that I want to use in writing instruction is enjoyment. When my CT introduces a writing lesson, around ten student’s will automatically place their head in their arms and disengage from the classroom. To make the learning experience authentic and meaningful, the children need to have positive interactions with it. Although there are many things that I envision in my classroom regarding writing, I believe that writing (and learning in general) needs to be enjoyable.

Writing Instruction

Do you see it? How do you remember experiencing it? How do you envision teaching it yourself?

Writing instruction in my class is as my mom would say, "slim-pickings". We occasionally do "writers workshop" but the lesson structure is very slim. The CT tends to read a short story, then says , "see, writing with more _____ words is better. Go ahead, and write." This structure seems to allow the students a lot of time to write, but not very much direct instruction. The students also tend to experience more of the drafting portion of the workshop and not much of the revising/editing aspect. Many of the students create final drafts that still contain spelling errors and grammatical errors ( such as capitalizing). There does not tend to be very much writing in other subject areas, even in math the students struggle with word problems.

I remember doing many of the same procedures for writing, writing many short stories in class. I thought this was enjoyable, but that was because I enjoyed writing. I also feel that writing was incorporated into many more of my subjects throughout the day than in my field placement. It seems that in my field placement we essentially do bellwork, some abstract lesson in the morning, silent reading after lunch, math, recess and then sometimes a spelling lesson. The day does not have much academic content. I also do not remember having much direct instruction, especially on grammar and grammatical skills, which I think is a negative aspect of schools.

In seeing that my CT's day does not have much academic content makes me worried about my classroom and the time I will have for academic content. I like the idea of having a classroom blog, which my CT has but uses sparatically. I also hope to use writing and reading in all of the subject areas in my classroom, and helping students connect to content areas through writing and journaling. I hope to teach more about grammatical skills, such as verb tenses, punctuation and capitalization. I also want to work on spelling, but in a way that is not so much as a spelling test but more of a 'real world application'. I hope to incorporate writing into much of my academic day.

New Literacies Reflection

For my new technologies project, I created a set of digital books and then created a webpage to store my digital books. My website creation got very exciting and now contains resources for special and general education, things I have created and a blog for my thoughts. I presented my digital books to my students in field placement (4th grade) and they seemed intrigued. They paid more attention to this presentation than they usually do, and they shared very animated responses to how I could create this. Even though the website is more teacher-oriented, the website can be used in the classroom by the teacher to further develop his/her classroom.
I have come to understand that my knowledge of literacy has grown immensely. At the beginning of the semester, I viewed literacy as mere reading and writing. Reading happens from books and periodicals and that was it. But, as the semester has progressed, I have come to love the ideas of different subheadings of literacy (Cultural Literacy, Digital/Information/Media Literacy, Emotional Literacy, Environmental Literacy, Numeracy Print Literacy, Social Literacy, Visual Literacy).I feel that throughout this semester I have become more comfortable with using technology to present and teach literacy/language arts skills, and using technology as a medium for assessment of students. When I took the digital natives quiz, I found that I am not a native with as many digital tools as I had thought, but was introduced to many new tools.
In creating my digital books, I worked very hard to accommodate the student’s individual needs. I had originally created the books as movies that flowed through the pages as it read. But, as I played with the creation of this, I found that having the computer roll through the pages was a negative aspect because it determined how long the students could look at illustrations and text on the pages. As I created my webpage for storage of the digital books, I became enthralled with the creation and included lots of additional resources and even a page for me to blog not only on literacy but my education and classroom experience as a whole. As I developed this website and project for my class assignment and the digital books for my students, I found this to be very beneficial and useful for myself, and think I will continue working on my website, updating resources as my career continues.
I believe there are many possibilities of ways to incorporate technology into your classroom and literacy instruction, and I have found that out in a first person manner. In the classroom I am in now, there is not much of a student connection with the technology. The teacher presents power points and uses a smart board, but the students do not have much interaction with it. Also, the classroom has a “class blog” but is not updated regularly and appears to not be structured. Had the blog been set up like our blogs in this class where the students are grouped our have designated days to write, or blogging is a center, the blog could have been more authentic and useful for the students. There is also not much diversity in reading and writing instruction which I think turns the students off from reading and writing as a whole. IF the teacher would incorporate more of the new literacies that we had discussed in class, the students would have more of a connection with their instruction and their education.

Reflection Prompt

· How has your conceptual understanding of literacy changed since beginning this class and how does the technology you explored inform your thinking? Describe your growth in what you understand to be literacy (or literacies) and how that growth has altered your conception of learning in English language arts. You may choose to offer a reflective commentary or a chronological account of "this is where I was when I started, here is where I am now, and these are the readings, events, or experiences from this course that got me there." Alternatively, you may decide to organize your discussion around themes, issues or other 'big ideas'.

· What does it mean to provide “effective literacy instruction” to diverse learners and how does the particular technology you explored inform your thinking? To help you think about these questions, review your Noteblog posted on September 10 providing your definition of literacy and the conditions for literacy learning. Also access the Grade Level Content Expectations you worked with to plan your language arts lesson. If students at that grade level were learning to use the technology you explored, what knowledge, capacities and commitments in reading, writing, speaking, listening and viewing would they need to develop in order to be successful? How could you incorporate that learning in your language arts curriculum and instruction?

Be sure to include:

  • a clear description and/or introduction to the new technology, and explain what was “new” for you compared with using more traditional literacies
  • examples of the knowledge, capacities and commitments you needed to develop in order to use the new technology to create your product.
  • your thoughts on the knowledge, capacities and commitments required of K-8 students (as outlined in the GLCEs) to use the technology successfully for authentic purposes
  • how learning to use a technology like this fits with (or not) your current conceptual understanding of literacy, and your ideas of effective literacy instruction

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Which came first, comprehension or fluency?

The way in which I comprehend and interpret text may be quite different from that of my peers. Thompkin's discusses the differences in comprehension by noting the 'Reader Factors.' The overall goal of literacy instruction is to build comprehension - and in building comprehension, understanding the other elements of literature begin to fall into place. However, in our classroom discussions, we were asked to determine which element came first in development: comprehension or fluency? 

It is quite apparent that without adequate fluency, comprehension can not flourish. Thompkin's explains fluency relates to comprehension, "Children have adequate cognitive resources available to understand what they are reading when they read quickly, expressively, and with little effort," pg 200. In my own placement, my coordinating teacher emphasises with all her students the importance of fluency. In guided reading groups, the students chorally read a given text, and their peers help students pronounce and understand any unfamiliar words. This builds the student's fluency as well as their ability to understand the text and make inferences, conclusions , and personal connections to the text. 

Students who are struggling to read, are (more often than not) lacking the ability to make personal text to self, text to text and text to world connections. They may come across a slew of unfamiliar words, and without proper context clues - be unable to comprehend the material. This sequence of 'passing over' unfamiliar words or passages of the text disables the student to fully comprehend the material before them. 

To facilitate all students success in reading comprehension, my CT engages the students in various comprehension strategies. First, the students predict what will occur in the story - either through illustrations, cover analysis of the book, or referencing previous readings. This facilitates comprehension by setting a purpose for reading and engages the students in the reading experience (pg 203 Thompkins). While engaging in predicting, the students are also visualizing, connecting and questioning the text for further clues to help them understand the text. The students are:
  • Making mental images to remember the text 
  • Relating their prior knowledge to the text
  • Asking questions, clarifying confusions within the text and making inferences (Thompkins pg 203) 
By activating the above strategies, students are better equipped to identify the main ideas of the text. This is especially important for students are are English as a Second Language Learners, to not only build community among students (sharing information and engaging in discussions), but also build readers confidence in reading by giving them a foundation to build meaning of the text from. Students with various learning abilities can also benefit from these scaffolding strategies. Students can generate lists of important facts, ideas or questions they may have about the text. By reviewing these strategies with students, they can then modify and apply these strategies to their future encounters with text in the various subject matters (for science, and social studies - identifying key points, supporting facts... ect). 

Saturday, February 28, 2009

Do you comprehend what I'm saying?

In class, we had mentioned that certain parts of language arts needed to be concentrated on within a week or even within a day. These included phonics, comprehension, fluency, vocabulary, etc. Even my CT emphasized that comprehension is something that is incredibly important for second graders to be practicing. However, when going through the Thompkins text, I was surprised. This feeling was because of all of the elements to comprehension. There isn’t just a basic level of comprehension, but instead we have to focus on nonfiction, text structures, and literary devices.

My CT has stood firmly that comprehension is important. However, I don’t see any of the strategies used in Thompkins to help aid in this. I have seen her test comprehension in a formal way, such as given a reading level test. But part of me worries that maybe she isn’t doing enough to teach the students strategies in comprehending text. As adults, it is kind of a difficult concept to gather: Not only do we have to teach children how read, but also how to understand what it is that they are reading. It comes so natural for us that it is probably something that most don’t even recognize the importance of.

On the other hand, within the duration of the school year, I have seen her lead brief discussions with the class as a whole, talking about text to text, text to self, and text to world connections. I feel as if this is a great example of practicing comprehension skills. My only concern is that maybe some aren’t capable of practicing the skills that they have yet to develop.

On the first day of class, Erin asked if we first remembered learning to read. I was not a person who remembered. But I always remember being very fluid and having good comprehension skills. This was never a problem for me. I consistently read a text as if I was watching it play out on a movie screen. When entering college, I was introduced to text of a different level. Things like poetry, theory, and some scholarly non-fiction never seemed to click when I read them. But after reading Thompkins, I realize that maybe I only learned how to comprehend a specific type of material. My strategy of playing out the movie in my head fails if there isn’t a movie when Carl Jung is talking about the collective unconscious.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009


How do today's readings and discussion help you understand your own reading comprehension processes? What are you seeing in the field related to comprehension processes and literacy instruction? Make sure to reference the readings and our class discussions.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Shannon, I'm so glad that you noted Tompkins's 10 pieces of literacy.  I think this is very valuable information for classroom teachers to be aware of.  I also think the three of you recognize how powerful, motivationally, technology is to students.  Using technology to display knowledge (like a powerpoint presentation or website) is interesting and often an performance based and authentic assessment of student comprehension.  And, students get to be creative!  Don't limit "technology" to computers-- think music, leap frogs, digital cameras, digital voice recorders, etc.  These "learning tools" are becoming popular in many elementary level classrooms.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Technology and Literacy

I have a blog, a facebook account, do my banking and bill-paying online, I can buy an entire outfit online for less than $30... so I'd say I can do most things online that I do in my everyday life. Even in the classroom, I am finding more ways to incorporate technology to help all learners succeed. I guess you could say I am a digital native. But, I can't take all the credit for teaching myself. Through my special education courses, and elementary education courses I have learned the many advantages to using technology in the classroom. As Gail Thompkin's definition of 'emergent literacy' encompasses the perspective on how children learn to read and write, my own definition would be much broader. 

As previously discussed, literacy is more than just the ability to read and write - it also includes the ability to implement and use technology to be a successful, contributing member to society. With technology advancing at such a rate, we, as educators need to keep up with the changes and understand how our students are learning and interacting outside of the classroom. One speaker who came to my special education course last semester, showed us how she uses a chat-room based web site to engage her learners outside of the classroom. The students are using the site to further their knowledge in mathematics and required to discuss a solution to a given problem, comment on another student's solution, and offer an example problem. Not only are they reading, comprehending, expanding their vocabulary, writing/typing and applying their understanding of English spelling, they are interacting in a discussion with their peers! 

Just like we need a balanced diet - Thompkins' has 10 categories that should be satisfied for a child's literacy development. 
  • Reading (text, books on tape, websites, closed captions...ect
  • Phonics (phonemic awareness, print concepts...ect)
  • Strategies (identification of words, comprehension, and spelling as they learn to read and write)
  • Vocabulary (understanding and expanding on their own orally and written) 
  • Comprehension (understanding, applying and predicting - based on material)
  • Literature (reading a variety of books, chapter books, picture books, magazines)
  • Content-Area Study (applying their understanding and knowledge of 'language arts' to their other subject areas in school - ex: social studies and science)
  • Oral Language (Talking with peers, discussing ideas, expanding vocabulary)
  • Writing (handwriting, spelling, conveying ideas... ect)
  • Spelling (reflecting their phonics knowledge, and applying the rules of English language)
Although students may not be conscious of it, all 10 of these items (or most of them) are satisfied when the students are interacting in the chat-room based website. Not only are they interacting and building social relationships with their peers, they are also engaging in learning! 

Technology is a useful tool in helping our students build and shape their own knowledge. As teachers - we need to help bridge the gap between our students environment inside the classroom and their outside life. One way we can do this is through the use and implementation of technology within our own classrooms. 

Monday, February 16, 2009

Also a Digital Immigrant

Nichole, I too am a Digital Immigrant! I also have a facebook, and just recently deleted my myspace page. I finally realized I don't need TWO social networking pages..... at least not at the moment. I too do my banking online, and can not remember the last check I wrote. I pay all my bills online, and prefer to talk to my friends via text messaging. I also have a phone that connects me to the internet and sends 2 of my 3 email accounts to me, and updates every 20 minutes. Even with all this technology integrated into my life, I still consider myself a digital immigrant.....maybe I have an educational visa?! :)

I can not create a webpage, but did figure out a blog. I still prefer to take notes with paper and pencil, and read articles from class in a paper format. I still do not quite understand what the Wiki is, although I am huge fan of wikipeida. I was unfamiliar with terms like Smart Mob, and modding and did not know what this was. I also agree with you Nicole in that using scaffolding is the best way to introduce myself and my students to digital literacy tools.

I really like the idea of the new literacies project as well because I love to experiment with new techniques to keep my students engaged and participating. In one of my special education ( my major) classes last semester, I made a digital book using power point. In using power point I was able to record my voice so the student only had to click on the icon and hear me read the text. In using power point the students were able to move from page to page with ease and at their own pace. I would like to create more of these books ( over summer break?) and compile them on a CD and have that available in my classroom. I showed the power point book to my 5-9 year old siblings and they loved it. Every time they see my laptop, they ask me to turn it on and play it for them. I am still thinking about the new literacies project because I want to create something that I will use again and again, especially in my first year teaching, so I have not decided which tool to use. any suggestions?

I think that as new professionals we should view digital literacies as an amazing tool that will help our students develop and be ready to join our ever so technologically savvy community.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Digital Immigrant

I have a FaceBook page. I do my banking online. I can play Scrabble on my cell phone. But does that really mean anything... NO! I was born in 1987 so I have seen the rise in technology such as computers, IPods, and Blackberry's. However, I feel so illitterate when it comes to technology most of the time. It makes me wonder how my parents are even surviving with the lack of knowledge of even turing on a computer or using the internet.

When I took the digital natives quiz, I was definitely a digital immigrant. I had knowledge of terms like Wiki and Blog, but beyond that, I didn't know too much. Tompkins talks frequently about Emergent Literacy in the readings. I believe that Tompkin's emergent literacy and my own digital emergent literacy are incredibly the same. On the most basic level of this similarity is the relationship they share to Vgotsky. The only way that children can pass through the stages of literacy development, is the same way that I will be able to pass through this digital emergent literacy: SCAFFOLDING. You can't expect a child to have knowledge of phonics, just as you can't expect for me to make my own Wiki-Site without any guidance.

I think that is why I like the idea of the New Literacies Project. With all the new technologies available, I can choose how far I want to go with it. But that isn't saying that I will never make a classroom Wiki-Site. First, I may fully understand what I'm doing on Blogger. Eventually, I will make an awesome Digital Story-Book. One day, I may be a full-on contributor to Wikipedia. If I need guidance, I can ask my classmates, Erin, or any of the ITECS. Just like the ITEC who visited us said, the project is really about exploring. First, find a technology. Second, play around with it. In the long run, all of these new opportunities are really more helping us provide different means of technology within our classroom.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Literature-Based Discussion & Assessment

I feel like I need to preface this blog by saying I DO agree that children need to be reading at their own appropriate level - however, in my classroom I feel that these 'reading groups' are what is causing the classroom to not be able to hold discussions based on their texts. 

The students in my classroom are well aware of who is 'smart' and who is one of the 'struggling' students - and this causes separation among groups. The students are blocked into 5-6 different reading groups, ranging from below first grade reading level, to middle to end of fourth grade reading levels (mind you this is a second grade classroom). Therefor, the students read their books aloud in their groups, but the discussions end within their reading circle. Perhaps the teacher could extend the discussion by asking students to briefly explain to their classmates what book they are reading and a brief synopysis of the plot. Then, the teacher could facilitate discussion by asking the students how the plot of the discussed book is the same/different than the book the students are reading in their own groups. 

In assessing student's literacy development, educators need to keep in mind the age of the students. For instance, I do not believe that a child's writing is the best way to analyze their literacy development. This is for several reasons; (and maybe I feel this way because I am also looking through the lens of a special educator) but what if the student has motor skill delay and is unable to compose sentences with legible handwriting? Perhaps you have a student who is dyslexic, or (like me) a student who is not the best speller... Does that mean that the student is lacking in their overall ideas and sense of story? No! I do understand and value the ability to use puncuation correctly, and the ability to write an 'appropriate title,' but these examples are only a small portion of being able to view a student's literacy development. 

Now, I'm not agreeing with the 'wait-to-fail' model of intervention - however, I do understand and appreciate that all students mature at different stages with their learning. As long as a teacher keeps a 'good' running record of the students progress (and areas of improvement) and checks in with the student through conferencing - I feel that students shouldn't feel as pressured to 'keep up' with the grade level. (Again, I'm not advocating that students be permitted to 'fall behind' but I think we DO need to alleviate of the pressure off of them to keep up with a given standard). 

Literacy encompasess several areas and ideas ranging from fluency to the ability to use technology in our evolving society. Therefore, I think we, as educators, also need to appreciate and celebrate the areas in which a student excells in a given subject area.  

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

First, I have to say that I LOVED this week’s readings, primarily because this is the area that I am most comfortable in. Many of my personal examples come from my experience student teaching in a 21 month old classroom last semester, in addition to my teaching in other preschool classrooms for other Child Development Courses. This is my disclaimer.
In the Gibbon’s reading, I immediately thought of a child I had last semester. I will refer to him as S. S was a two year old child, whose parents moved from Pakistan years earlier. Although fluent in English, the parents speak Urdu in home. Unlike his classmates, S has not started using any English in the classroom yet. He hadn’t used any Urdu in home either. With S, when speaking, we had to accompany it with physical action. When S put his trash away after snack, I reflected, “You put trash away. That makes me happy (while pointing at my large smile).” At this point, he would smile back and nod. I had never dealt with an English Language Learner at such an early stage. The way we interacted with S was completely appropriate considering that he was so young. However, if interacted the same way with a fourth grader in the same situation, it would be inappropriate. Many of the strategies that Gibbons’ provided could be modified to be used in a developmentally appropriate way. Gibbons’ mentioned that you have to scaffold the English Language Learners understanding, following on Vgotsky’s theory. I feel like this is fairly obvious. All learners, regardless of age, ability, and prior knowledge, need information to be built up. You can’t hope that a house stands without a foundation. I wonder if it is problematic to make so many strategies up for ELL, perhaps making a distinction and setting a norm. I feel like many of the strategies used are similar to what we would do, just modified, similar to all instruction that we do.
As for the Tompkin’s reading, I have previously mentioned what I have done in my preschool placement for emergent literacy. For another paper, I argued the existence of a pre-emergent stage. This is the stage where I would see my younger children. At this point, it is mostly the adult’s responsibility to present a text-rich environment. There is no distinguishing characteristic between writing and drawing. Children are mostly getting experience developing their small motor skills, holding a pencil and making marks on paper. The foundation of the “pre-emergent stage” is EXPERIENCE with literacy. Unlike the younger children, the children in my TE placement class are all pretty much in the fluent stage of reading and writing. They are able to make their own paragraphs, while editing their spelling, punctuation, and grammatical errors. I feel like they are so knowledgeable, but understand that they have much farther to go. Therefore, I look forward to learning more about the fluent stage.

Monday, February 9, 2009

Discussion in the Classroom....or not......

In my CT's classroom, we use a writer's workshop and a reader's workshop idea for language arts instruction. He also does a spelling lesson for about 10-15 minutes everyday in the afternoon. The workshops occur about twice a week and are very unstructured. The CT does not lead discussions, even in other subject lessons. He teaches from the book answers any questions for clarification and then sends the children to work. When I observed A writer's workshop lesson, the teacher read a short story from his manual about noun use, and then instructed the students to write a story using more descriptive nouns other than "stuff" and "thing". There was no discussion in this lesson. I have not seen an official "reading" lesson in the whole time I have been in his class, including last semester.
I did tell the CT that I need to focus on Language Arts and math this semester, so he has given me the whole language arts block twice a week to instruct the students in book clubs. I picked the books we will use, created the project packets, created the ideas for how the projects and instruction time will be used and how assignments will be graded. I also rearranged the student's desks so that they wil sit in their book club groups. Although I am happy that the CT let me take this over, I would have liked to have seen HIM complete some structured reading lessons and have some discussions with the students.

I hope that as the CT sees me working with the students and how the discussions I have planned for book clubs work, he will be more inclined to incorporate discussion with the groups.

Diversity in the Classroom

How could you, as a teacher, learn about the diversity in your classroom and get to know your students from multiple perspectives? Make sure to reference the readings and our class discussions.

I have thought about this long and hard, for many days, especially recently in light of this class and our discussions. To learn about the diversity within your class, you have to show a true interest in your students and the families that they come from. The teacher must be willing to share things about themselves that make them unique and embrace every student's uniqueness and treat it as a treasure to the class. To learn about the diversity in the classroom, teachers must be willing to let the students share what is on their minds, delve into readings and assignments on a personal level, and connect school to home life. If the techer makes the classroom monotone and one dimensional, the students feel less compelled to engage and interact with the classroom, teacher and academics.

I have noticed in my current field placement, that my students bring a lot of diversity to the classroom. I feel that the CT does not embrace and use the diversity in his classroom to his advantage, which frusterates me...ALOT. The CT determines how his class and students should be and he goes by that. For example, there are two students in our class from other countries ( Cuba and Pakistan). Instead of using the knowledge that these students hold to further our class discussions and understandings, he puts these students in the lowest reading groups and almost passes the children off. I wish that the CT would engage the information that the children bring to the classroom in a more positive way.

When I become a teacher, I hope to begin the school year with the students creating autobiographies, and investigating what/who makes up each student's family. I hope that in doing this we can read books about families and heritages to enhance our classroom environment. I hope that within the first week of school, the students realize that I value diversity and thus our classroom is a safe place. I am not worried about incorporating diversity in my classroom because it is something that is personally very valuable to me.

Saturday, February 7, 2009

Understanding Student Diversity

As I continue my work in an 'urban' school system, I've learned just how important a student's background and family life is in affecting their classroom experience. I talked with my coordinating teacher last Friday, and she began to help me 'fill in the gaps' in understanding the classroom diversity. A handful of students come from a single-parent household, in which cases the parents are still children themselves. One student, who is 7 years old, is living with a grandmother because her mother recently lost custody of her and has been back and forth between homes all her life. I can not tell you how much this girl craves attention in the classroom, from raising her hand for every question (even if she doesn't have an answer) to acting out in front of her peers for attention. I also learned that several of the 'behavior problems' from specifically two of the boys stems from domestic abuse they have witnessed in the household. 

We are all human, therefore our life outside the classroom greatly affects how we perceive and behave in an educational setting. For many students, we are their ONLY safe-haven where they feel loved and respected. Therefore, we have to create a supportive classroom environment for all students. It is important to understand not only the ethnic diversity of the classroom, but also the economic diversity of each individual and their experiences. We can help our students open up and share their own backgrounds in several ways using literacy. 

One of my favorite ways to express my own experiences and feelings with others it through poetry. The example of "Where I'm From," poem has students incorporate significant quotes, events and people into their writing. This allows the students to make connections to their peers through their similarities. 

by Lealonnie Blake

I am from get-togethers
and Bar-B-Ques
K-Mart special and matching shoes.
Baseball bats and BB guns,
a violent family is where I'm from.

I am from "get it girl"
and "shake it to the ground."
From a strict dad named Lumb
sayin' "sit you' fass self down."

I am from the smell of soul food
cooking in Lelinna's kitchen.
From my Pampa's war stories
to my granny's cotton pickin'.

I am from Kunta Kinte's strength,
Harriet Tubman's escapes.
Phyllis Wheatley's poems,
and Sojourner Truth's faith.

If you did family research,
and dug deep into my genes.
You'll find Sylvester and Ora, Geneva and Doc,
My African Kings and Queens.
That's where I'm from.

Another way students could share their own background with their peers could be through fictional writing. Students can create a ficticious character that shares experiences that the student has experienced in their own life. By allowing them to create a fictional character, the student feels less threatened and exposed by putting another 'face' and 'name' to their experience. 

I feel that it is important not only to teachers, but also the student's peers to understand the diversity that exists in the classroom. Rather than ignore, or assume all students bring the same experiences to the classroom - we should explore these experiences and celebrate the uniqueness of each student in the classroom. 

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

How could you, as a teacher, learn about the diversity in your classroom and get to know your students from multiple perspectives? Make sure to reference the readings and our class discussions.

When I did my student teaching at the Child Development Laboratory, learning about the diversity within my classroom was one of the things I tried to do the most. Because my classroom was a 21 month class, I was left to learn about my students by my individual interaction with the child, the child's parents, the child's interaction with each other. When learning about diversity, I really used the parents as a resource. We went on homevisits, had the parents fill out informational forms, and used school led, family functions to further develop relationships. My classroom had twelve students. Two children were English Language Learners, a family from Pakistan and a family from India. We had a child who had been adopted less than a year earlier from Guatamala. In a previous class, we read a lot from Ladson-Billings. In these readings, they refer to an insider-outsider perspective. This perspective refers to who is credible to talk about a certain group of people. I feel like it is problematic, by setting a "norm," for all people in generall.But that wasn't the only diversity and if we limit it to an insider/outsider perspective, we are doing ourselves and the children a disadvantage. We had working mothers and stay at home fathers. A single mother was an emergency room physician. Families with pets to share, nannies from other countries, and newborn babies. I emphasized these individual differences and had parents involved in many of the things we did in the classroom, because they have experiences we may never have known.

Fast forward to now. The problem comes when I step out of the lab school and enter the real world. Without the opportunities for some of the teacher/parent interactions, it would be more difficult to realize those wonderful differences between everyone. In addition, although sad, can we always trust the parents as the ONLY resource? Our daily interactions expand our knowledge of the diversity of all children in our classroom.

Honestly, I am nervous about how this will turn out in my own classroom. I am very curious and interested to see how everyone else sees this happening. I'm looking forward to reading everyone's blog :)

Saturday, January 31, 2009

Wow- Nichole, what an interesting experience you and Becca had.  I'm wondering what your colleagues think about this?  I agree that things were wrong with the experience you observed. Sometimes the folks we work alongside do not share our definition of literacy or learning... Sometimes parents don't share our definitions, either.  Remember your locus of control.  While you may not be able to control what happens when your students are away from your room, you can control the experience they have in your room, and whether or not they have additional trips to the library where you are supervising. Just thoughts for the future.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

What does it mean to be 'literate?'

When my group was asked to define what it meant to be 'literate' we came up with several ideas:

  • First, we determined it meant being able to have a multicultural understanding of the world. The means being able to take into consideration other points of view from different cultures when making a decision. 
  • Next, we felt it was important to be an informed and participating citizen in society.   
  • Another portion to this definition is visual and audial reading and understanding. We feel that by including audial reading, this includes those with visual impairments or other cognitive impairments that limits them to only printed text. 
  • Comprehension and interpretation of a given subject matter is also vital for literacy. Not only is the 'traditional' idea of comprehension important, but being able to take in a given idea and make it into your own unique interpretation is also important in understanding. 
  • Oral communication – or visual communication is also an important part of being literate. Individuals need to share their ideas, and thoughts with their peers to help contribute to the future of literacy .  
  • Finally, in our ever developing world it is vital to understand and impliment use of the techonologies of our time.

Monday, January 26, 2009

Entry #2

Similar to what Erin said, I broke up literacy into categories, which were broken up in my developmentally appropriate curriculum book. The categories are interrelated, but sequential at the same time. Literacy is listening, speaking, writing, reading, and viewing. After class today, I have changed my view on the topic. I think that some sort of technological category needs to be emphasized in literacy. The internet relates to every category of literacy and I feel that with today’s time, it needs to be emphasized more.
I hope to make my classroom somewhat of a literacy haven. I want print to be everywhere. Everyhing should be labeled with a word and a picture to help with word recognition. Familiar words, such as the children’s name, can be placed in many locations and be used to daily activity. Books should be anti-bias, and feature children of different cultures, genders, race, and abilities. Writing materials should be placed around the classroom for the children to use. In pretend play, items like grocery lists can be used to help develop of genre knowledge. Interactive prompts should be placed around the classroom. For example, in the book area I would place a poster that said, “What is your favorite book?” Then the children could respond. The playing of words will be everywhere. By clapping out names, singing songs, and having interactive rhymes like “Willoughby Wallaby” the children are getting more phonemic awareness. Literacy is also important when referring to the skills of the adults interacting with the children. Depending on the age, providing verbal prompts for the children to be able to communicate their thoughts will help extend their vocabulary.

Just a side note, slightly unrelated to the blog subject:
Becca and I visited our school’s library with our children this past week. We wanted to get an idea of what kind of books were available for the children. I wanted to check out the critical literacy that was in our urban, city school. Our children usually go on Friday, but due to an in-service day, the children were going to the library with another class on Thursday. Our second grade students were going with the neighboring kindergarten class. The teachers in the class usually drop off the students while the librarian works with them. This time, the librarian put in a movie about jellyfish. She had to speak with a parent, so she placed Becca and I in charge. The children, especially the kindergarten students, spoke to each other about the movie. The librarian walked towards the children and told them in a stern voice to stay quiet. We didn’t see a problem with the children talking, if it was related to the movie. Then each class got to choose books from a select assortment placed on a nearby table. The other students were to watch the movie in silence. The child in our class who is diagnosed with a learning disability, was left to wander around the classroom. Becca noted that the lack of structure was very problematic for him. When the children started talking, the librarian yelled, “Be quiet or I will make you write sentences.” Nearby, a pile of papers sat on a table with the words: “I will be quiet in the library,” written multiply times.
I felt like EVERYTHING was wrong with this experience. I understand that it is difficult to find qualified, trained staff but how is this appropriate? The kindergarten students may not even have their fine motor skills developed to even write their names. Plus, how could you expect four and five year old children to sit still and just watch a movie without any structure? The second grade students had trouble with the task. I feel like this experience could interfere with these young children’s interest in literacy.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Shannon's Goals for 2009

In 2007-2008, I was placed in an upper- (to middle) income public school in Holt, Michigan. Upon entering the doors you were quickly greeted by the Principal's warm smile and a friendly hug from your teacher (in Kindergarten thru 1st grade). The classrooms were spacious and the teacher's had their own supply closet to store their classroom materials. Little did I know, that other schools in the same district were not a mirror image of the warming and cohesive school I had grown to love in Holt. 
This year (2008-2009), I am placed in a second grade classroom within the same county as Holt, Michigan - however the classroom setting is vastly different. In the Lansing Public schools, the student population is very diverse from that of Holt student's, and the school's overall feel is much different from that of of Holt. The administration and teacher's do not seem to have such open communication that I saw at the previous school district. My classroom consists of 25 young learners, congested into a smaller classroom. With students from all different cultural backgrounds, and learning backgrounds - my teacher is constantly striving to meet these various needs on her own. 
I have learned that this 'urban' school is drastically underfunded, and in desperate need of help in the classroom. With large class sizes, and shrinking budgets - many teacher's fear that their classrooms may grow still in 2009-2010. So, I ask, "How do we teach to such a large and vastly diverse group of learners?" That is, how do we reach all cultural backgrounds of students in literature, yet still maintain our 'task' of following the scheduled curriculum? In Holt, majority of the students were from a Caucasian background, with both parents involved in their child's progress in school. Therefor, their literature may not necessarily discuss the different cultural and economic backgrounds that many Americans come from. However, it is important in the more 'urban' setting to discuss and familiarize their students with the various backgrounds to help their learners understand their peers. 
I am beginning to learn how to base more of your lessons from the G.L.C.E.'s around literature and into other subject areas (Social Studies projects or assignments, Science and Mathematics). But why aren't more and more teachers following the same path? Teacher's struggle to connect all of their content in the classroom to each other (Ex: literature from a historic novel into science discoveries of that time period). I too, hope to find more fluid ways to connect my love for literature into all of my subject areas I will teach during my internship year and beyond. Besides, if a student doesn't particularly enjoy math - what better way to learn it than to present it in a different way that better suites their individual needs (story problems for those who enjoy literature or problem solving - or in a systematic way for students who like structure - as in science)?

Chelsea's Goals

I too, similar to Nichole, would like to learn about how to teach literacy in schools with limited resources. I also would like to learn more about developing curriculum with resources such as the book room, and how to connect the GLCEs to the books we read, and to be able to keep the students motivated throughout the school year.
As if that isn't enough, I am going to be a special education teacher and would like to develop a knowledge base of how to work with students in a general education setting with varying ability levels in both reading and writing. I also would like to develop a base of knowledge of materials and techniques to keep challenging students interested.
Basically, I hope to get a lot out of this class :) considering I am a special education major with language arts as my integrated major.

Nichole's Blog

One thing that I am interested in learning and experiencing is teaching in an environment with limited resources. The urban setting that I am currently in does not have many resources, whether quality anti-bias children’s literature or paraprofessionals to help guide struggling children. I have seen the “book rooms” that Erin spoke about during my original placement in a Holt School. I have also witnessed classrooms in which the only literacy instruction is done by using old, tattered, miscellaneous books that the teacher has accumulated over time. Our goal as teachers is to provide all children with equal education, regardless of socio-economic status, ability, gender, or race. However, it sounds much easier than it really is. I want to learn techniques to go about reaching that goal, regardless of what the school environment is.

Monday, January 19, 2009

Prompt for Week 1:

Read the syllabus and write about your goals for the course. Write specifically about your thoughts about your preparation for placement in an urban setting and with literacy instruction. How do you want to use this course to help aid you in that preparation? What do you want to learn about teaching in an urban setting and language arts instruction? How do you want to “bloom?”

And... GO!