Monday, April 30, 2012

Book Club Meeting

Friday was our final book club meeting and we really focused in on what was the "big idea" that Janet Allen was trying to tell us. But before we got to that question, Sara led us in a few questions.
3.       What do you think about page 92 best practices
a.       We really liked this chart because it really put together everything we learned this year in all of our teaching classes into one concise format.  What was highlighted was the use of student questions to inform the curriculum.  But our concern is will we have enough time to utilize this,especially with testing coming in the social studies.
b.      This bullet point "do" and "don't" list really broke down that student centered activities are the best way to teach.  
4.       Would you use these strategies or just opt back to textbook work?
a. We did not really see these strategies as stand alone ways to teach students,especially in social studies because of them are "next level" activities or ones that have already a basis of understanding within the classroom. But we would use these ones suggested in a balance because they seem to make the classroom more interesting for even the teacher. 
The big idea for the book is very much based from a quote on page 74 that states that social studies is about exploration not memorization, which is something we have focused a lot on within our Method's class. The focus is that Social Studies is a laboratory that should allow students to manipulate and combine sources, documents, books, art and music to create an opinion regarding an event or person.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Emily's Reflection

For our book club, we agreed to read chapters 3 and 4 from the book Reading History  by Janet Allen.  This section was, as Sara aptly mentioned, a cumulative review of what we have been learning throughout this class and also the Methods course we are in.  I have really learned that literacy is not just about reading and writing basic sentences, but that there are various forms of it, and that there are many ways that we don’t automatically associate as literacy learning. 
                On page 65, there is a mention of outlining, and honestly don’t like it at all.  Outlining chapters was something my 8th grade teacher would have us do to teach us.  He rarely taught in class, and to cover his own butt he would have us basically teach ourselves.  There were never discussions or connections to the text within class, so overall by the end of the year we had a final exam, but the only thing we had to show was our outlines.  I don’t think I’ll be making my students do this type of activity because while I learned, I did not enjoy or make connections, it probably explains my lack of connection to American History till today.
                The next method, the Mapping/ Webbing I have had a chance to see in my CPD and really saw students review and gain knowledge through this, especially when they have to explain their thought process and connections.  There is a new application through Triptico that is still in BETA version that works with hexagons, and the students had a chance to connect the hexagons relating to their unit.  Students had a fun time and even taught each other/ explained to their classmates why it would be a good answer.  Granted this type of activity does not have to have a right answer, it just makes the students more aware of the various perspectives and ways of drawing connections.
                The use of R.E.A.P is another method that I found interesting especially since the P asks the students to “ponder” and develop questions.  This is something I can connect to Frederick Drake, someone we were introduced within our Method’s class, because he always mentions the importance of creating a laboratory classroom that always has questions present. I’ve said it before and will say it again, we almost beat the questioning out of students during elementary and middle school, so by the time we get them in high school, they are afraid to form questions. This is a good method to counter-act that. 
                The Multiple Sources was another method that had me think back to how much better my previous classes could have been if the organizer that Allen introduces, had been used.  So often we ask students to look up the other side, but we don’t take the next step and have them write about it.  It doesn’t even have to be the graphic organizer, but just to write a paragraph with a reaction or opinion about it would be great because it can get the students to start questioning and researching.
                The Alphabet Book is something that I have seen used within my CPD and have actually really wanted to use in the future.  It was not exactly my mentor who used it, but another teacher would use my mentor’s classroom for his literacy class.  Students would be asked to read a book and create an Alphabet Book on it. Students also had to make a connection/ explanation with it because some of the letters needed explaining.  Students had to go out and do additional research for their presentations.  This could be easily used within Social Studies for certain time periods.
                I feel like that outline of “best practices” in chapter four was a checklist for both our TCH courses this semester on what we had learned and what we should take away.  I look forward to integrating some of Janet Allen’s ideas within a classroom.

Sara's Thoughts on Chapter 3 and 4!

          I found this last reading of chapters 3 and 4 of Janet Allen's Reading History to be a composite of many things I have learned over the past semester. Allen spoke a lot about multiple perspectives and sources. Specifically she mentioned that "Building [a] background... of note taking by which they could record information that represented both big ideas and the secondary information supporting those big ideas" (64) was a super important part of history. Ashley and I just wrote a lot about this in our memo and lesson plan for our writing strategy study. Allen also discusses a type of historical thinking on the same page, which relates to a lot of Drake's ideas that we have been studying in our methods class. On page 75, Allen gives an example of how to think historically with the RAFT example (Role, Audience, Format, Topic). I really liked this and thought it could be an easy quick thing to have students do before every reading. While it may take some time in the beginning of the year, this is a skill that could be utilized quickly by December and help students really get into the right mindset before making judgements on a text. I was also glad to see Allen address the issue of "transferring knowledge to testing"on page 86. While the first two steps out of her four step plan were basics, the third and fourth steps went into detail about how we can really help our students approach and decode difficult readings. This is something we ask a lot in our classes, but I've never seen such a clear statement on the issue.
          In chapter 4, I really enjoyed the section on "Highlighting the Best Practice" (92). This chart is something I will keep with me on my desk as a constant reminder that taking the easy way out and relying on the textbook is detrimental to my students. Often I get frustrated by how hard my TCH classes are. After all, I had teachers in high school who did everything by the textbook and I got along just fine, even though I hated the subject. So when I get frustrated I find myself thinking, "In real life, I'll just assign things out of the back of the book." But this chart really shows how important it is to make a small increase in effort in order to receive a huge increase in effectiveness. Allen discusses being a reflective practitioner on page 95, and that is something that I believe I will have to focus on, to ensure that I never get lazy and that I am always being the best teacher I can be for my students.

Emma's Response

Emma Giovinco
TCH 412
Book Club Post #3
Chapters 3 & 4
April 27, 2012

          The last two chapters of this book proved to be very interesting. Chapter three
focuses heavily on the need to make reading meaningful for students, instead of just
reading something to answer simple questions, we want students to use their opinions and
background knowledge. As in the previous chapters, the author gives many strategies that
can be useful to aid students in the classroom when reading and writing. The first strategy
that we encounter in this chapter (pg. 65) is actually not one of my favorites. The strategy
is basically an outline or a story map of a reading. The key component to this strategy is
that students read something in class, and then map out what they think are the most
important parts of the reading. My mentor teacher at my CPD along with the teacher that
he makes his curriculum maps with (who is also an 8th grade social studies teacher on
another team) gave this assignment to their students. Most students succeeded and I do
believe that this strategy helped them, however, many students mapped out what they
thought were the key concepts of the reading, and when my mentor went over them, the
information that the students chose as important, deemed to be somewhat trivial
compared to the rest of the text. And when it came time for the quiz about that information
the next week, they still associated what they personally thought was important from the
text as the most important information instead of what the teacher wanted them to find.
One strategy that I liked very much is one that incorporates the need for students to
understand multiple perspectives through history. While the students at my CPD were
working on a DBQ, I reviewed the actual DBQ questions that they had worked on the day
before. The questions incorporated perspectives from muckrakers and robber barons
which provided the students with effective background knowledge to argue two
perspectives if necessary.
          I also fell in love with the quote on page 74 that states, “social studies are about
phenomena to be explored, not just answers to memorize”. I even added this quote into my
advocacy assignment given to us by Professor Kava in which I have to defend the
importance of social studies being taught in middle and high schools. As seen in Frederick
D. Drake and Lynn R. Nelson state in their book, Engagement in Teaching History: Theory
and Practices for Middle and Secondary Teachers, which is our text for TCH 430, my Social
Studies methods class, it is extremely important to create a sort of historical laboratory, in
which students can interact and immerse themselves into the history that they are learning
about. And this quote reminded me of exactly just that.

Week 3!

Friday, April 27- Ch.3 & 4 (Pg 63- 96)
          Roles: Sara- Tech Manager, Discussion Director, Emma- Summarizer, Clarifier, Emily- Notetaker (We ALL take the role of connector)

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Notes from Book Club #2

  1. Although all of these Reading and Writing Strategies are interesting and I'm sure effective, do you really think it is feasible for one teacher to utilize such a wide variety of strategies throughout a unit with information to get confusing?  

    • We originally thought that if we did separate strategies for different lessons we could address that issue, but then we thought about how terrible that would be for our students. Then we discussed the idea of a structured class. On the one hand it is good to have an atmosphere where the students know what to expect and know how to complete the tasks at hand, but on the other hand we're not sure if we want our class to get too predictable.  
  2. The quote on page 33 that reads, "writing floats on a sea of talk" brings up an interesting point. How do we as teachers accommodate students who sometimes speak better than they write? How do we assess that knowledge through summative and formative assessments? 

    • For this questions we discussed a lot about my particular experience with my current mentor teacher. She had students answer the same questions for homework and then orally in class the next day. We thought that this could have been better assessed if she had students write down a revision or reflection after the class discussion since their thoughts seemed to be clearer after speaking them aloud. We also discussed Emily's experiences with an ELL student who is eloquent in class but can't seem to translate his thoughts into written English.
  3. Besides practicing DBQ based questions, how can we help students better understand how to use context clues to assist them during class readings?

    • On page 34 of this text, Janet Allen introduces something called the "Questions Game". We think that this is a great way to help students gather context clues and help them strengthen their ability to make connections.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Emily's Response for Chapter 2

Emily C. Tchir
Book Club Posting #2
Chapter 2
Chapter 2 within the book Reading History: A Practical Guide to Improving Literacy by Janet Allen was a lot more about the actual strategies regarding implementation of literacy practices within Social Studies. A lot of the mentioned strategies I have seen within my CDP, experience, linked to the Methods class or was purely intrigued by.
Page 31 has a section where the author asks the question “whose job is it to teach reading” and that seems to be a question that many are grappling with, but Allen had put together a great response regarding this issue. She mentioned that we SHOULD work with reading skills within our subjects because that is where students will see them most, and by understanding how to approach certain materials, students will glean more information. This is a topic that we have mentioned also quite a bit within our Methods class, but overall, I have to give it to Janet Allen for giving the best set of arguments for Social Studies teachers to teach literacy.
The Questions Game on page 33 really caught my attention because it takes the basic exit tick idea of asking students to write a question down from the day’s lesson and takes it up a notch a la Emeril Lagasse. I really like the group learning setting and the encouragement of asking questions. As I often mention, students ability to question has been quleched like a bug on the windshield at a young age, so having an activity like this is a perfect way to introduce the students to higher order thinking questions. This activity brings in scaffolding, some autonomy, and integrates some use of long term memory skills.
I found ReQuest to be a great tool for unit reviews, because many times, I have found, students have a tendency to ask some really good questions that could really be utilized on a test. It was such a relief to see the use of the Word Wall really become integrated into the classroom. I feel like teachers have it ingrained in their minds to NEED to use a word wall, even if they don’t really utilize it to a full potential or really even know WHY they should have one. The options that Allen gave put the words into a historical context and also showed that students should start to think like historians. It is one thing for students to know what a word means, but seeing it in context and then dissecting a sentence can bring so much meaning.
The Words in Context Plus on page 42 was something I more or less fell in love with. I really wish I had a model like this to use for words I was not familiar with. This visual aid helps students break down the word so much that it gets them used to seeing certain words. I can’t wait to use a method like this within the classroom, although I don’t think I would use this on a regular class day, perhaps when there is a substitute or for homework.
One method that had me worried a little bit was the Textbook Activity Guides described on pages 51-53. I have seen so often teachers give the textbook questions that ask for direct answers out of the book and have the students hunting for answers, not actually reading. Within my CDP I have seen this type of activity used and rushed through because students recognize how to “play the game” of these types of sheets. If I was a teacher using this assignment, I would change it up a little bit. I might keep the first three or four questions about context, and then build up (a la Bloom’s Taxonomy) in difficulty. I would not ask from the certain pages or paragraphs but make students infer from the overall reading, making them think more critically and analytically.
I look forward to read what Allen has for us next in Chapter 3.