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 :)