Final Reflection

As this semester comes to a close I can honestly say that this class has been one of the most enlightening and useful classes I have taken thus far on my journey to be a Special Educator. Each class we have taken has contributed something to our teaching ‘arsenal’, but this class accomplished 3 very critical things for me:  1) It made me very comfortable with the use of a blog and provided me with many examples posted by other teachers.  I now feel confident that this is a valuable classroom tool for many reasons and I definitely plan to have a class blog of my own when I become a teacher, 2) It made me comfortable with utilizing technology in general.  This was a huge step for a 42-year-old who has had very little prior experience with the cyber world!  Thanks to the necessity of navigating the web to complete our assignments, I now feel comfortable enough with the process to continue utilizing it for the benefit of my own classroom, and 3) Throughout my extensive internet browsing to locate materials needed to complete our assignments, I discovered a HUGE amount of incredible information out there.  There are too many valuable resources to list, but some of my favorites were ReadWriteThink, Thinkfinity, ReadingQuest, and of course Learn NC.  I love these sites due to their breadth of resources and their the fact that they have a great deal of ideas for reading and writing lessons. It was also great being able to see sample lessons with align with NCSCOS objectives.  In general, I could not believe the vast array of invaluable resources we have at our disposal today.  We can access materials, ideas, lessons, and resources to incorporate in our classroom that would have been unimaginable to teachers in the past!  We are quick to blame (myself included) the mundane teaching methods of teachers from our youth.  Well, perhaps they would have been able to create more dynamic and engaging lessons if they had the amazing wealth of information and resources available to them that we do today.  Educators of today and tomorrow have no excuse. We have the benefit of accessing tools and research contributed by others from all around the globe.  Thank you, Ms. Deal, for opening my eyes to this exciting new world!

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Lesson Summary – Family History

Lesson Name:  Family History

Source:  The Academy Curriculum Exchange –  This is an area where teachers can find a variety of lesson plans including the original group of 700 lesson plans which came from the Columbia Education Center’s Summer Workshops. These lessons were done by a consortium of teachers from 14 states and cover a broad subject base.

Link to Lesson:  http://ofcn.org/cyber.serv/academy/ace/soc/cecsst/cecsst032.html

NCSCOS Alignment:  Could be applied to different objectives depending upon grade level, for example – 6th Grade Social Studies Competency Goal 13, Objective 13.01 or 8th Grade Social Studies Competency Goal 1, Objective 1.07.

Summary:  This lesson allows students the opportunity to work closely with their own family to identify their ancestors, appreciate their ethnic backgrounds, gain a better understanding of the concept of immigration, connect historical events with movements of their ancestors, become more aware of their own individuality as it relates to cultural origins.  This will guide students to the realization that the United States is a melting pot and thus lead to the primary purpose of this assignment:  To help the students understand that America is politically, ethnically, culturally, and economically a nation of immigration and that their role in our development as a nation is critical.

The assignment involves extensive research by the students and their families into the first Americans immigrants in their genealogy, with a focus on the motivations for immigration, the difficulties of their journey to America, the problems of adapting to their new life, and the unique cultural traditions they brought with them.  This process involves the student conducting family interviews,gathering documents and records about their immigrant ancestors, researching then writing a brief history of their country of origin, and writing a report on their family tree. Students present their written and oral findings to the class, which should also contain visual aids such pictures, items from the “old country”, music, family heirlooms, posters, etc.

There are many things I like about this lesson that would entice me to use it for my own students, such as 1) giving students a personal investment in the lesson (investigating their own ancestry) engages them more in the learning process, 2) Students gain a richer understanding of the history of the US and the role immigration played in its evolvement, and 3) they gain a sense of pride in their own family heritage and an appreciation for cultural diversity throughout the experience.

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Summary and Questions – “I” poems: Invitations for students to deepen literary understanding

In this article Kucan discusses the use of “I” poems as a way for students to write in the first person as a person, place or object that is speaking directly to readers.  In writing these poems, the student takes on the role of narrator and is able to express thoughts and feelings from their point of view.  She states that students relate well to the strong, clear, direct and intimate nature of first-person narratives.  She further discusses current theories and research supporting writing in response to reading such as: 1) writing in response to reading effectively enhances the relationship between reader and text because it encourages students to revisit text and thus they begin to take on deeper understanding as a result of this continued engagement, 2) writing is a knowledge transformation process through which the act of writing causes thoughts to come into existence, 3) writing compels readers to join bits of information into relationships that help one better understand what was read, 4)  learning or understanding is dependent upon opportunity for self-reflective closure, and that writing poetry is a way to do this,  and 5) ideas are better remembered and understood when they are transformed from one form to another.  The article then discusses the specifics of two instructional sequences and implementation, including examples of “I” poems that were written by the students.  The overall response to their usage was positive by both teachers and students, and Kucan concluded that “”I” poems are compelling because they encourage students to pay attention, to take time to look and listen, to sift their experiences, to repeatedly revisit the information and to then choose their words carefully when they are ready to write.  This method fosters deeper understanding of material and a closer relationship between student and text, which is the ultimate goal in a reading classroom and in real life.

Questions:

1) Can “I” poems be effectively used in content areas such as technology or math?

2) Are there assessment guidelines for grading since the poems are very subjective due to their creative nature?

3) For students that do not consider themselves creative or those who are intimidated by poetry, how can we make them comfortable with this process?

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Summary and Questions – The multigenre paper: Increasing interest, motivation, and functionality in research

This article explored the topic of high school research papers, more specifically the approach of a mutigenre paper as an alternative to the much criticized typical research paper.  After briefly covering some of the most common complaints about typical papers (student dread, unoriginal, breed apathy and unconcern, etc.),  Moulton mentions various approaches other teachers have taken such as Kraus’s mystery papers, Macrorie’s I-search paper, Jobe’s collaborative “we-search” project, Dellinger’s survey-based project, Coleman’s newspapers, Peacock’s letter-style reports, and the featured Multigenre project approach by Romano.  Moulton mentions the underlying common theme between all approaches, which is that of increased student interest and excitement.  This in itself makes these alternative approaches appealing to me as a future educator.  Moulton overviews the approach of a multigenre paper in this article and discusses her own classroom experiment with this type paper, which she assigns to her undergraduate class of Secondary English education majors.  The multigenre paper requires students to research a topic by using a variety of research tools and then write a series of pieces and present a number of artifacts which integrate what they learned from their research.  There are infinite ways to integrate artifacts it seems, and some of the many mentioned in the article are journal entries, poems, birth announcements, personal letters, etc.  The focus is on creatively and extensively researching and cohesively presenting a work that exemplifies the subject.  Something I found refreshing about the article was Moulton’s candor about her struggles to understand, objectively grade, and teach the multigenre method.  Seeing how an educator works her way through the process of trying something new is inspirational to me as a future educator.  We will all struggle at times when breaking new ground, but we have to forge ahead and make these changes for the betterment of our students.  Some of the particular difficulties Moulton specifically mentions are knowing specifically what a multigenre paper is and what it should look like when finished, how many/what types of genres should be included, how to grade such a product, and how to effectively cite references.  Throughout the process, Moulton collaborates with her students to define and refine the process into something they could all understand, a work that clearly proves student understanding of subject matter, and that could be graded in a fair way.  Eventually, they decide to require representation from eight different genres, a learning log, and detailed endnotes to address areas of concern.  In the end, both Mouton and her students felt that the multigenre approach was regarded very favorably and there were many positive aspects:  The students were very interested and excited with this approach , the presentation of content and material was very interesting, the depth of endnotes proved that extensive research was done, the use of non-typical genres bred creativity and aligned with current theory that it is important to write for different audiences (and thus use appropriate genres for them), the process proved more reflective for students than the traditional research paper, it allowed students to gain technological experience, and it very effectively blended creativity with research.  In summary, letting students explore a topic through a creative research process incorporated practical skills but also engaged students to a far greater extent. This culminated in a work the student was more emotionally invested in and that the teacher could appreciate to a greater extent than the traditional research paper.

Questions:

1.  Since this article was written in 1999, have further efforts been made to clearly define what a multigenre paper should look like?

2.  Have guidelines been established since the writing of this article to assist teachers in assessing multigenre papers?

3.   Have studies been done to show how the multigenre paper could be used in an EC setting?

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Reaction – A Professional Development Initiative for Developing Approaches to Vocabulary Instruction With Secondary Mathematics, Art, Science, and English Teachers

I really enjoyed reading this article and visiting the participating teacher’s web sites.  Having a clear understanding of vocabulary is essential for success.  It means we are better able to understand written and oral language in all forms.  This applies to everything from reading fiction and poetry for leisure to being successful in a content area classroom setting.  In the past, the burden has primarily fallen on Language Arts instructors to teach vocabulary to students and content area teachers only briefly attended to it and then typically only to the extent that students could remember the necessary vocabulary from one assessment to the next.  The methods for teaching vocabulary for all teachers in the past has involved mundane activities and methods.  This article stresses the importance of vocabulary success for students and points out that content area teachers should be focusing more on this area because it benefits the students directly in their classroom and has crossover benefits as well.  The article did an excellent job of pointing out some creative ways to engage the students more in the process and to thus ensure greater success.  Seeing various methods applied in different classrooms and with proven success was motivating to me as a future educator.  I hope that future initiatives will be implemented in other classrooms and that perhaps eventually vocabulary instruction will be closely linked to required standards in all content areas.  We know it is important for students on multiple levels, we know that it can be done in effective and engaging ways, so know we need to pursue it.  Great article!

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Instructional Strategy Review 3

NAME: Melissa Scott

TITLE: Graphic Organizers

SOURCE: National Center on Accessible Instructional Materials

SITE LINK: http://aim.cast.org/learn/historyarchive/backgroundpapers/graphic_organizers

DESCRIPTION: A graphic organizer is a visual and graphic display provide students with visual representations for their thinking and learning before, during, or after reading. Graphic organizers come in many varieties may be introduced as advance organizers before the lesson begins, or as post organizers after engaging in the learning task.  They organize information and thoughts to assist the students in the learning process.  The type of graphic organizer to choose would be largely dependent upon the lesson plan and there is a seemingly infinite number of options to choose from.  Here are a few:

NCSCOS: Given that they can be applied to most subjects at most grade levels, they will assist the teacher in meeting a broad range of standards in their lesson planning.

EXAMPLE:  When teaching 8th grade Social Studies and delivering a lesson on the Civil War, a teacher addressing NCSCOS Goal 4, Objectives 4.02 and 4.04 would teach content relating to details, causes, and key players in the war.  This information could be easier for students to learn if they used the following graphic organizer:

When the above organizer has been modified (as needed) and completed, it could look like this:

EXPLANATION/ELABORATION: Graphic organizers have a broad base of research supporting their effectiveness in supporting learning for various students. They have proven very  effective at making abstract concepts more concrete, organizing and categorizing information, and depicting relationships among ideas within a learning task.  Graphic organizers have been used in a broad range of curriculum subject areas, which makes them  very useful for educators.  Although reading may be the most common application, science, social studies, language arts, and math are additional content areas that have also been proven to derive great benefit from research.  Two of the most notable benefits are comprehension and vocabulary improvement.  Since they integrate operations such as mapping cause and effect, note taking, comparing and contrasting concepts, organizing problems and solutions, and relating information to main ideas or themes they may be used in a broad range of curriculum subject areas.  This makes them very useful for educators and I will definitely use them in my classroom.

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Instructional Strategy Review 2

NAME: Melissa Scott

TITLE: KWL Strategy

SOURCE: The University of NC at Chapel Hill – Learn NC

SITE LINK: http://www.learnnc.org/lp/pages/2839

DESCRIPTION: The KWL strategy is a before-reading instructional strategy designed to activate a student’s prior knowledge and establish a purpose for reading.  It is used to guide students through a text with the assistance of a chart. The KWL process is designed to elicit students’ prior knowledge of the topic of the text, set a purpose for reading, help students monitor their comprehension, allow students to assess their comprehension of the text, and to provide opportunity for idea expansion beyond the text.

Students begin by brainstorming everything they Know about a topic and recording the information in the first section (the K column) of the KWL chart. Students then generate a list of questions about what they Want to Know about the topic. These questions are listed in the second section (the W column) of the chart. During or after reading, students answer the questions they placed in the W column. This new information that they have Learned is recorded in the third column (the L column) of the KWL chart.

NCSCOS: The KWL strategy can be used for virtually any subject in any grade level, thus meeting a broad range of NCSCOS objectives including content area as well as broader alignments. For example, a 4th grade Science lesson on Electricity and Magnetism that was designed to address Science Goal 3, Objectives 3.01, 3.02, 3.03, 3.04, and 3.06 could also be applied to:

ENGLISH LANGUAGE ARTS (Grade 4)

Goal 2: The learner will apply strategies and skills to comprehend text that is read, heard, and viewed.

  • Objective 2.03: Read a variety of texts, including: 1) fiction (legends, novels, folklore, science fiction), 2) nonfiction (autobiographies, informational books, diaries, journals), 3) poetry (concrete, haiku), 4) drama (skits, plays).

INFORMATION SKILLS – Grade 4

Goal 4: The learner will EXPLORE and USE research processes to meet information needs.

  • Objective 4.01: Identify information needs and formulate questions about those needs.
  • Objective 4.07: Organize and use information.

EXAMPLE:  When presented with a KWL chart prior to beginning the Science lesson on Electricity and Magnetism, the student would fill out the first column on what they already know and what they want to know.  After the lesson they would fill in the last column on what they learned.  A completed chart could look like this:

EXPLANATION/ELABORATION: This strategy should be very helpful for students in that when they begin to study new material, it is important to determine prior knowledge they already have about the material.  This can provide greater motivation based on student realization of the knowledge already possessed, and it sets a purpose for reading the material while incorporating the use of challenges, choices, and collaboration to motivate students to learn.  The chart also ensures that the students are monitoring their own comprehension since the last section of the chart is an assessment of what they learned/  By encouraging purposeful learning through actively seeking information that the student will be held accountable for in the end, the student is more engaged in the learning process when using the KWL strategy.

This is an especially useful strategy due to the fact that it can be applied to essentially any subject matter or text.

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