Sunday, April 8, 2012

Thinking About Developing Skills Through Inquiry

While in college I have heard nothing but good things about inquiry-based learning in schools. With this style a class focuses on one concentrated project (the example from a video I watched was about healthy bodies) for a period of time. In this time skills such as literacy, math, and social studies fall in place. There are a lot of aspects of this mindset that I like. For example I am a firm believer in trying to find a way to connect the student’s interests with what is being taught. Projects like these tend to spark from a common interest in the class and because this kind of topic is given a lot of time and effort, becoming invested is very probable. This style also tackles situations that could happen in the real world. Subjects that are authentic I feel are easier to grasp for students as well. In these cases I am for inquiry-based learning.
That being said I do see value in traditional ways of teaching. For one thing keeping track of teaching the standards would be easier. Not only for this but I think adapting for each student’s learning level would be simpler as well. The traditional way also has a place especially for the younger students in Kindergarten and 1st grade. These grades are all about introducing subjects. The traditional way has typically been straightforward and I do think it would be easier for young children to digest.
I will say that I may be a little biased to the traditional way due to I was taught in a school system that was very traditional. So what I’d like to do is integrate inquiry-based learning with the traditional learning style. But first I do think I should do a little more on both styles. 

Monday, March 26, 2012

Child Participation and Interest

I recently resonated with two educational videos that seemed to confirm my belief on having the student’s interest and participation drive a lesson. Being in classrooms as a teacher and a student I believe that students learn best if they can resonate with what is being taught. Two ways for the students to not only resonate with but remember the lesson of the activity is for them to participate and have an interest in the topic. Participation requires the students to use more than one sense. Taking part in a discussion, acting out a part, or creating a visual representation of something provides muscle memory as well and intellectual memory. I feel doing something that is accompanied with listening will provide a more memorable situation. That is the same with providing an interest. It is easy for something to “go in one ear and out the other” if the lesson is not engaging. Teachers should try to have their lessons be not only something that they need but want as well. For example in one video a teacher recently came back from maternity leave and they decided to use that opportunity to read about babies. The 1st graders were listening fully to the book and wanting to ask questions and tell stories relating to the story. This provided a memorable lesson for all.

Monday, March 19, 2012

Five Basic Questions: The Importance of a Teacher’s Role in a Child’s Literacy Choice

 What? The teacher should have an idea on what interests the students in the classroom, provide suggestions of readings that might interest them, and support their choices by expressing a genuine interest in what they have and giving suggestions when students show they can use the suggestions.

Why? As teachers we want to provide the necessary tools to students that will eventually help them be successful in the “real world”. However, for a person to find a balance of success and happiness, she has to know who she is and what makes her happy.  We can’t choose a student’s interest but we can help him or her add to it.

When? We should always try to provide and observe in the classroom. However, when time is available having an open eye for possible interests for the students outside the classroom. Keeping our ear open too is just as important.

Who? Our main priority is to help our own students. However (time and energy permitting) pointing out interests to other students or past students in our community is a good way to spread some happiness.
How? Keep our eyes, ears, and heart open. Talk with the students. Observe where their interests are focused. Try to have a vast knowledge of books and resources. Great ideas come from many places and I feel other teachers have them.

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Thinking About a Dilemma

How does a teachers do what they believe is best for their students and meet their school’s literacy standards? 
This dilemma was a big focus of the article “Dilemmas and Discourses of Learning to Write: Assessment as a Contested Site” by Karen E. Wohlwend. Reading this article really had me thinking because it is something that I worry about sometimes. Not all of a teacher’s “hows” and “whats” will be the same as the state standards. Personally I can see it being hard because whether it is a heavy course load or a lack of time, there will be restrictions on what and how a teacher wants to teach. So what is the answer to that dilemma and is there one?  I do not think there is. There are only suggestions and tips. Teachers could try to teach it all. They could find time to research different ways and methods. I do agree with Karen Wohlwend’s suggestion, which is to help to policy makers and other teachers “recognize a wider range of early literacy activity as valid participation?” What I take from that quote is to open the policy maker’s eyes and ears to good suggestions from teachers and find a way to incorporate those suggestions into the standards. I feel a teacher’s passion and ideas can cause change and help make this dilemma less daunting. We just need ideas to be given. I know I would be willing to listen.

Monday, February 27, 2012

Assessing Understanding

I like to think of reading comprehension as reading understanding. I do not think only reading words is really reading without understanding. To me it is just reciting. As teachers and guardians we can help early readers understand what goes on in a story such as by pointing out key points but how can we assess their comprehension. Here are a few suggestions that will help teachers know where a child is in their understanding of a story.

Ask the children to tell a section of a story through illustrations.

Ask the children to retell the “major” events of a story.

Ask the children to write a section of the story through the eyes of a another character.

Ask the children tell a section of a story using only puppets.

Ask the children to think of a time where something happened to them that was similar to part that happened in the story.

Ask the children to find the “most important” part of a story and explain why they think it is very important. Ask what makes it important.

Ask two children who have two different “most important” parts of the story to talk to each other about why they think it is most important.

Retell the story with parts that you make up and ask the children point out the fallacies. 

Monday, February 20, 2012

Child's Interest

Children get more out of reading books that they are invested in.

Children are more invested in stories that interest them on some level.

Teachers need to be able to adapt their curriculum to their individual child’s needs and wants.

Teachers should know a little about their student’s interests.

            With these points in mind, I would like for teachers to have knowledge of some good children’s books and try to place a book with a child based on interest. I base this suggestion on prior experience. When I was in the fifth grade the whole class was reading a book entitled Weasel by Cynthia Defelice. Right before we started reading my teacher took me aside and said that she knew that I have trouble staying with stories and that fortunately the book Weasel seems like a book I could get into. Before I left she said listen really close when she reads the first chapter. When she did I was hooked. Honestly I feel it is the best book I have ever read even 10 years later.
              I think I will try this suggestion as well.  I have seen a student in this one classroom who is very bright but likes to get attention through his own brand of humor. He would much rather focus on something funny than schoolwork a lot of times. So I am going to try to suggest Louis Sachar’s Wayside School series. The student can handle the difficulty level and I think the humor in these books will be appealing to him as well. 
             Teachers can make a difference especially if they have the child’s interest at heart. In the article “Let’s Start Leveling about Leveling” by Kath Glasswell and Michael Ford, they believe that children have the right to “be engaged” in what they are reading. A lot of time required reading will not spark the interest of every child in the classroom or even meet a child’s reading level. We want children to not only read but also enjoy reading. So teachers can do their best to advise students to look a certain books. Even if the student does not take our suggestion, at least we try to help them find a constructive interest.

Sunday, February 5, 2012


[Easeyer] “Is this how you spell easier?” I was asked this question a while ago in a 3rd grade classroom. Here were two instinctual answers I thought about saying:
“Well… no. Here is how you spell it.”
“Does it look right to you.”
I think my answer was: “Yes. I mean… does it say easier to you? Yes? I’m glad.”

I am getting closer to finally becoming a teacher and I realized here that there are still some things that I need to make sure I do.

1.     Figure out what to say. As it turns out not correcting him is something that the teacher did not mind. The student is still young but is showing he understands that letters go in the order of the sounds he hears. There is still enough time to polish these phonemic skills.
2.     Figure out where to go. In my own classroom, depending on the age that I will teach, there are goals that I will have for my students. With this particular student I know that he as well as most of the class is very capable of spelling these words correctly. If I see multiple students having trouble with certain words, there are a lot of techniques I could do. For example I might write words that are often misspelled in my class and pin them up on the wall. Whatever I do should be to strictly benefit my classroom.
3.     Figure out how to talk. There is more to teaching than just knowing what to say or teach. Looking back on how I responded to the student, one thing I would have done differently was sound more confident. That is very important. My class will look to me to have an answer. I can give them the answer or help them find it themselves but I need to sound confident. Inflection, based on experience, can be a difference maker.
4.     Figure out the answers to my questions. Being in a different classroom I do have to try to follow the ways of the lead teacher. However in my classroom I have to know my way. What techniques do I like when teaching literacy? Which ones work? Which ones need to be adapted? How will I do this? Whatever my answers will be, I have to content and believe in them.

The time will come when I have my answers. I know it will be soon and I do have a lot of resources in my repertoire. For example I just read a technique in Catching Readers Before They Fall that would be good for students who have a lot of trouble reading. It has to do with taking a sentence that a student said orally and writing it down. After I do that I will cut and mix the words. Then I will order them in the correct way while saying each word and have the student do the same thing. I like this method and I can see myself doing this. By continuing to acquire more resources, have more experience in the classroom, and figure out my way, I feel figuring out the teaching process will get enjoyably easeyer for me.

Sunday, January 29, 2012

“Every Mark on the Page” has a purpose.

The article listed above has great insight and explanations into the mind of young children who are learning to write. For those guardians who worry about their child’s pace of writing progression, this article may help.

One of the first things a teacher should know before stepping into a classroom is to never underestimate a child. Many times the children have the ability to handle progression the guardians may think is too fast for them and they also may have specific reasons for why they write a certain way. Here are a couple of examples.
·      Drawings Followed by Writing- A lot of early writers will have drawings that precedes their writing. This helps children see what they want to write. This is their “planning” stage.
·      Backward, Forward, Upside-Down- I still remember when I would get my “b’s” and “d’s” mixed up while writing. A reason why an “s” may be backward or a “q” will replace a “d” is because they experiment or “explore the limits” with letters.
·      Same Letters, Different Arrangement- When children experiment will letter arrangements they are showing signs of progression. It shows that they understand that 26 letters are arranged to make many words. Over time they will understand the limits of arranging.

What teachers and guardians can do is give support and positive feedback. This can give children confidence to keep writing and keep trying. Kate Foley Cusumano gives a few suggestions on how to do this. Some of these include resisting from correcting spelling mistakes, letting them see writing (texts, magazines) everyday, and thinking of fun writing activities such as providing captions to scrapbooks.

Thank you to Kate Foley Cusumano and her article. 

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Community Equals Recourses

            As a teacher I will be using many resources to give my students information and experiences. Some will be books, websites, and tools. However some of the resources that I think my students can get a lot out of are places within the community.

            The other day I went to my local Kroger and asked the manager if field trips were allowed and what might be included. Even though I let him know that I was only a student and did not have a class at the moment, he seemed happy to let me know what a field trip to the Kroger would include. He first explained what students could take away from here. I had known why I would pick a grocery store for a field trip but I did not think that he would start by saying what I had originally thought. He said a grocery store has a community and home feeling that children are used to but also has plenty of new things that could interest them as well. A tour here would be like finding a hidden room at your own home. He then told me what a tour would include. There would be a “behind the scenes tour, a trip to the office on the second floor, free samples with tasty foods, and also possible goody-bags for the students. Lastly he said that they also take suggestions and work with teachers in planning the tour.

            After talking to him I realized that a lot of stores and people within the community enjoy being able to help schools. If teachers are willing to ask around, the students can gain new meaningful experiences in their community.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Literacy ≠ Reading Words Completely

            A common misconception is in order to be literate a person must be able to comprehend words. Reading words is a big part of literacy and very important, however it is not the most essential aspect. I feel literacy is mainly about being able to attain and retain a message from a source (books, letters, text). There are other visual representations that can do this just as well.

            With Valentine’s Day coming up the message that a lot of people want to give to one another is “I love you” or “I care about you”. Writing these words on a Valentines card or something else will definitely give the message to the other person. However this message could possibly have the same or more meaning if say a child gives their guardians a drawing of their family on a paper heart. Or maybe an individual who is in another country can send the person they care about a picture of them self.  These messages can say something meaningful without using a single letter.

            The key is to use visuals that are meaningful to the reader in someway. For example the book Arrival by Shaun Tan is a wordless picture book could have easily had words to explicitly display meanings. Instead this story allows the reader to interpret the message that they find however they want to. There are some who see a man using his own special kind of literacy to communicate with his family. The message I take from this story is while loved ones may have to leave, they will always be with you and you will be able to see them again.

            This form of literacy is important and is also what a lot of children use before they can learn to read. What adults can do is continue to show children the importance of attaining meanings from visuals. Even as an adult a picture can say a thousand words.