Monday, November 26, 2012

521 Blog Post #5

This semester, I have been surprised by the literacy levels of my students. They are able to discuss in class and with their neighbors about the readings. The varying levels at which my students perform surprise me. Some students are very capable at analyzing readings and interpreting abstract symbols and themes, while others find a hard time moving away from the literal readings. They are not able to do homework very well. In fact, my CT made the decision years ago that because student's don't do homework, it is pointless to assign. When we do have to assign homework, we remind students every day that a due date is coming up and we stress to them that homework is so rare for our class and is therefore important when we do assign it. My students still need help reading between the lines and recognizing symbols and abstract concepts.

What will your literacy-rich classroom look like?
My literacy-rich classroom will have many bookshelves of "fun" books for students to read. My literacy rich classroom will encourage reading across genres. Many of my students love crime and mystery novels and I will incorporate those into my curriculum. My literacy-rich classroom will have contemporary and relevant reading material.

Journal Sept. 30, 2013,
My literacy rich classroom has many bookshelves. My class has book clubs, where students choose from a list of books and jigsaw and read them together. My classroom curriculum is relevant to my students' lives and includes books by John Green (The Fault in Our Stars) and Markus Zusak (The Book Thief). My students are engaged in many extracurricular activities and also a book club for my class. They are all either involved in sports, theater, chess, debate, or the writing clubs. Some are active in their community and in clubs such as Key Club, Rotary Club, FFA, NHS, or CSF. My students are reading YA novels and comic books. They often find the books they read at the public library or the bookstores 'recommended books' table. I'm worried about student buy-in but am discussing with them the importance of learning.

Dear Diary,     December 15, 2012

My literacy rich classroom still has many books. My students are really engaging in the material. Instead of focusing on readings from certain eras and time periods, I've grabbed material that hearkens back to the same ideals. I've taught the ideologies and sampled work from the time period, but have had the novel/selection of novel come from more relevant works. My students are still active in sports and extracurricular activities. They are much more respondent to the book club. My students are reading better, with stronger annotations, because of my lessons on cognitive markers and annotations. My students are writing stronger essays and paragraphs, and appreciate my sliding rubrics.  My students have created a safe environment in the classroom, and often discuss the readings in fishbowls. The topics can get heated, but students remember to be respectful even when it is difficult. They surprise me at their empathy for one another. We have discussed giving out homework and have eliminated any busy work. They understand that when I assign a reading or writing at home assignment, it is of the up-most importance.  My students have improved wonderfully from the beginning of the year.

Dear Diary,     May 30, 2014

It's the end of the year! My literacy rich classroom looks much the same, but now the students are much more receptive to reading and writing. We've come a long way and have had some struggles as time went on, but we've all come out the other side. My literacy rich classroom has read many stories, novels, plays, and excerpts. We have learned the important literary concepts. My students are much more engaged with annotating and reading for fun. I've really tried to push the concept of reading for fun and I think I've finally started getting through to them. My students are still super involved in school and the community, and are just really awesome individuals. My students are now capable of independent learning in the following areas: reading between the lines, abstract concepts, understanding common archetypes/tropes/themes/symbols, understanding denotative/connotative meanings, analyzing difficult texts (like poetry) and sharing respectfully with one another their opinions and findings.

I'm so proud to be finished with my first year of teaching and with my students.



Tuesday, November 13, 2012

521 Blog Post #4: Project Tomorrow and Speak Up

The report I chose to explore was "Learning in the 21st Century: Mobile + Social Media = Personalized Learning." The key findings from the report include the fact that personalized learning opportunities are opening up for student and educators through the combination of cell phones and social media and wireless internet. With more student owned devices in the classroom and with increased parental support using mobile technology in the classroom, there has been a shift to incorporate more wireless technology in the classroom. 87 percent of parents say that effective implementation of technology in instruction is important but only 64% say that the school is doing a good job. Administrators have reservations of accommodation mobile devices, with concerns like theft, network security, and digital equity among the top concerns.

These findings don't really surprise me. One finding of the report was that Administrators with 1-3 years of experience were "only slightly" more likely to use a smartphone or tablet than administrators with 16 years. I would expect there to be an age gap between administrators who are new to the job and those that have been in the field for 16+ years and that those who are younger would be more than "slightly" inclined to use mobile technology. Perhaps the gap between Administrators and Students/Teachers/Parents is that the Admin is less likely to use the devices in question. They probably aren't aware of the advantages of using technology in the classroom. It could also be that the new Administrators don't want to drastically restructure education. I fully intend on incorporating technology in my classroom. I hope to get a tablet or iPad so that I - and the students-  can use it in class.

Monday, November 5, 2012

EDSS 521 Blog Post 3: Creativity in the Classroom


In my class, creativity occurs in our figurative language analysis. When we discuss poems, our students are asked to interpret and think critically about the poem. When they do this, students bring their individual background knowledge and experiences to their interpretations. This fosters creativity because the students are asked to think above or outside of concrete facts. There is never just one answer; in our class, students are told that as long as they can argue effectively their stance, they are correct.  We recently gave a summative assessment about transcendentalism and romanticism in which we gave students the choice between turning in a written, visual, or mathematical project. We gave them the rubric we will be using and the requirements for each project. We have 2 or 3 people working on a mathematical approach to comparing and contrasting the two literary movements in relation to the literature we read in class.

In my class, critical thinking is something we do every day. Our students have to think critically about literature, an author’s philosophical belief or approach, and the impact a piece of literature has on society. We ask that students base their assumptions and inferences and ideas in the information we’ve discussed in class and in the texts themselves. Problem solving occurs less frequently in my English classes. However, a lot of my students love to predict the outcomes and character actions, so we do ask students to predict when we can.  By predicting base off the knowledge they’ve gleaned from the text and from the context of the story, students are utilizing their problem solving skills.

Our students communicate and discuss with one another every day. We constantly turn into table groups of 4 and share our thoughts. We have whole-class discussions and as a teacher, I simply facilitate the conversations. My students love discussing with one another.

In my class, I teach my students to think critically about the information they encounter in life (information literacy). We do a joint-research project with History, in which students have to find 10 sources and use 5 of them. They have to include a brief paragraph about why the sources they didn’t use were not viable for the paper. Through thinking critically about the topic, the context, and the knowledge they’ve learned in class, my students practice information literacy frequently.

The first unit we teach is on argument. Argument, we informed the students, is everywhere: it’s in advertisements, comics, literature, TV shows, news journalism. Argument is the idea of having a stance and using logos, pathos, ethos, and rhetorical devices to best persuade others. In doing so, we inform students that they need to be able to think critically about the information given to them and how the mode of the information (media, text, etc.) drives the purpose of the people behind the information. We teach our students to think critically about the media presented to them both inside and outside the classroom.

Technology is used every day in my classroom. We do a lot of work with the document camera and listen to audio books and visual clips when we can. We do trips to the computer lab and career center to do workshops on our research paper and the project we have due soon about Transcendentalism and American romanticism. Our students love getting out of the classroom and working on computers. We will be setting up a blog soon for the students to use in an online forum sort of setting, so they can communicate with all the 11 grade College Prep classes that my CT and I teach together.

Our students have a hard time with homework. We give them reasons and purpose behind each assignment we have them do and explain that it’s not busy work. In class, we work independently and then after a few minutes we tell the students that it’s OK to talk with a neighbor if they would like to. We have been working with having the students read directions more (they seem to refuse to read directions) and so we’re going to be doing a lesson where we give them a list of 3 things they need to do and then we said “you have 15 minutes to do them all. Go.” We recently did that with a gallery walk, where we had stations around the room color coded. We told the students that they had to go to one of each color and answer the questions provided. We told them they had 15 minutes to do them all and that we’d reconvene then. It worked really well, and we adjusted the time as needed for each class. During our reflection time at the end, the students told me that they really liked being able to move around the room at their leisure and that they liked having choice in the stations. I really want to do more activities like that in the future.

My students are always interacting with one another. We’ve got assigned seats of homogeneous table groups of 4. Each unit, we make a new seating chart. Students often turn into their table groups and discuss what they need to. We also do parallel teaching when we can. For example, we’re reading a play, Inherit the Wind, and there are at most 20 speaking characters in an act. We split our class into two groups of 20 and alternate taking out groups outside and we read the act out loud. My group really enjoyed going outside and reading out loud. Students in my class rarely just sit at their desks, passively acquiring information. We even offer clipboards to students that want to get out of their seat and stand in class.