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.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Sara's Response for March 21st

     On page 33 of Chapter 2, Allen quotes James Britton's idea that "writing floats on a sea of talk". This immediately made me think of my CPD. Yesterday I witnessed my mentor teacher review all of what they had learned so far in her 8th grade class. She had them answer questions for homework, then when they came in and sat down she announced that they would have a Socratic seminar answering the same questions. She said that she knew most of them spoke better than they wrote and she wanted to make sure everyone had a fair shot at expressing their ideas. I originally thought this was great, but after reading this chapter and thinking more critically about this example, I feel like my mentor teacher missed out on a great opportunity. She should have then had her students revise the questions they had wrote. I feel like this would have given students the chance to relate their discussion thoughts back to their pre-discussion thoughts and improve their writing skills.
     I really liked the Questions Game which was also shown on page 33. It is a great way to get students involved in each other's learning. It makes answering peers' questions a game, and the students who can learn together like that will be much more willing to be open with each other in class discussions. Students have to interact with the text multiple times, each time looking for something different. This repetition can only help them.

Week 2!

Friday, March 23- Ch. 2 (Pg 29- 62)

Roles: Sara- Tech Manager, Notetaker Emma- Discussion Director, Emily- Summarizer, Clarifier  (We ALL take the role of connector)

 Emma's post is below.

All entries must be uploaded by Wednesday at midnight.

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Emma's Book Club Post #2
March 23, 2012
Chapter 2

               The second chapter from Janet Allen’s, Reading History: A Practical Guide to Improve Literacy also proposed many intriguing ideas and strategies in order to help students truly understand the meaning, vocabulary, and information with a given text.  Whether the text is considered an expository piece, a functional piece, or a narrative piece, it is essential that students come away from reading with useful knowledge and the ability to retain the information.  One strategy in particular that is seen on page 43 of the text in figure 2.5 is an example of Words in Context Plus chart.  Not only do I find this chart to be extremely helpful for students who sometimes confuse or mistake words, I have also seen it in action in my CPD!  My mentor teacher and his cohort, who is also an eighth grade social studies teacher in another wing, decided to try this sort of chart out to see if the students responded positively.  In the first class in which they utilized this graphic, the students responded fantastically, almost every student in the class contributed to the completion of the graph, and my guess is they all walked away with a better understanding of what their vocabulary meant, not only as a vocabulary word, but the concepts behind them.
                   I also found it interesting when on page 45 of the text; Allen begins referring to context clues, and their importance when reading in class.  For our first reading strategy study, Emily and I focused heavily on further developing the students’ abilities to use their context clues.  During our presentation/ lesson, we first gave our students a passage about Greek and Roman history, we then read it aloud as a class, and then asked the students to begin filling out our booklets that then utilized the Four Square strategy.  The students needed to go back into the text, and deduct what they think/ remember the key vocabulary words to mean.  This skill is extremely important, not only in the area of social studies, but in all subject areas.  This skill is most specifically important for almost every New York State Regents Exam.  For Social Studies, English, Science, and Math, there is almost indefinitely some sort of reading required, in which a student would be required to use their context clues to answer a question, or solve a problem.  Certain concepts like this are invaluable.      

Friday, February 24, 2012

Chapter One Reading! Discussion Questions/ Notes
1.      As adolescent teachers, we are faced with the reality that we may not have a classroom to call our own.  We also are faced with the school systems that have students that are not able to have steady access to certain resources.  How can we use the idea of a word wall in this case? How might we be able to adapt certain methods for these circumstances?

-          How to accommodate students when you as the teacher may lack the necessary resources, or your own classroom.

-          Is it worth it to take the extra time to reorganize the room or set up according to how you would like it?

-           Are we expected as teachers to put in our own money as teachers towards materials for students?

-          It takes more than just a 7 to 3 job to be a teacher; we must be working all the time to accommodate the needs that include lesson plans and unit plans and accommodations for students.

2.      All of the ideas posed by the book seem to work in excellent ways. What if we have a student who is the reacting in a positive way to them?

-          A teacher needs to use a variety of strategies in a classroom so that students of different learning styles and students who have learning disabilities will be accommodated.  

3.      How do we constitute a method of teaching to be success? What percentage of students do we expect to have gained knowledge through that method to call it successful? What makes a method unsuccessful?

-          Students are engaged, asking questions, showing understanding (through testable abilities/ formative and summative)

-          How would you call a method successful?

o   Who determines what an acceptable grade is?

o   How many students should be passing or above a certain grade average in order to be considered a “good” percentage”?

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Sara's Response For February 24th

          I think the first chapter of this book, Reading History by Janet Allen, shows some great insight on the connection between literacy and history, and how we as teachers will need to adjust to the needs of our students. For example, Allen lists different processes for assessing student’s background knowledge. This is essential in the subject of history because everything connects. In the section about “Creating meaningful and memorable historical contexts”, Allen address gaps in historical content. This reminded me of my freshman year of high school, we were learning about the printing press, and how books used to be copied by hand before this invention. One of my peers honestly did not understand why these people didn’t just use a copy machine. It was comical at the time, but she honestly did not realize the lack of electricity until someone explicitly reminded her. This is something that as a teacher I will need to be able to address, instead of just giggling at the girl’s mistake and moving on.
            I like that Christine, the 8th grade teacher, used a myriad of sources to engage her students, including relating her lessons to Titanic when the movie was released. I really like the idea of book passes, especially if students were then able to choose one of the books they sampled and do some kind of additional project with it. I also really loved the idea of the Anticipation Guide, especially since students’ opinions change after they learn all the facts (I saw this in a more informal way in my CPD regarding students’ opinions on the Vietnam War). I did have a little bit of trouble with the idea of a word wall. This device is used often in our other readings, but I feel like it looks too childish to give to 15 and 16 year olds. Is there a way to get the point of a word wall across without actually writing the words on a strip of colorful paper at the front of the room?  

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Emily's Book Club Response

The book chosen to read was Reading History by Janet Allen. This book speaks a lot about having the student's be connected to their subject, in this case history. A lot of the techniques that Allen writes about can be seen in most classrooms, at least I feel I have seen them throughout my school days, and in the CPD. One part of the reading was when Allen started mentioning specific activities to be used within the classroom, it was easy enough to read through, much like the 125 Strategies book and within Teach 430, the Bring Learning Alive book.

One of the activities that caught my eye would have to be the box of the primary source documents. I thought that this might be a great way for students to also learn what a primary source is, how to tell that a source is a primary source, and how to search for a complete picture of an event. Another activity that I thought could be used in any adolescent grade would be the List-Group-Label. This pushes the students to think critically, and could also be a great way to wrap up a unit because the students would have previous knowledge (Vygotsky scaffolding) to integrate. This is a simple, resourceful activity that could be applied to any unit, and teaches the students that they should not have simple answers, but to have a reason for why they each believe in certain perspectives.

The Concept Ladder struck home with me, especially with the example being about the atomic bomb. If I had this book last semester, I could have integrated it into my unit plan. This was a great way to get the students to think outside of the box and to have them look up the information themselves. Students would have a chance to get interested because there could be one or two questions (at least) that would spark something within them.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Emma's Dialogue Journal

February 24, 2012
                The first chapter in Reading History: A Practical Guide to Improving Literacy written by Janet Allen, proposed a lot of interesting strategies for teachers to ensure that their students have a deeper understanding of the information that is being thrown at them.  Many of the problems that this chapter poses are problems that I have seen frequently throughout my experiences in my CPD.  In order for a modern day student to be interested in studying a historical individual who, most likely died quite a long time ago, the teacher must incorporate present day experiences into the lesson, while connecting them to experiences that historical individual might also have had.  If a student sees that people from all cultures, ethnic backgrounds, and time periods have had similar experiences, perhaps that will stimulate a student’s interest, and want to learn more on their own.  I have seen both of my mentor teachers struggle with making these connections meaningful for the students.  In almost every class I have observed and participated in, the students seem to actually want to make these types of connections to their daily lives, in that way, the class and the material instantly becomes easier and more understandable for them.
                   The same difficulty goes for a teacher’s ability to make sure students have the proper background knowledge about any given subject before delving deeper into material.  I really loved the way the teacher, Christine, incorporated so many different types of texts into her curriculum and lesson plans of all different topics.  This obviously helps the students to make their own connections and assumptions as to what they will be learning about, and what they should be prepared for.  The example on pages four and five in which Christine did an entire lesson just off of the simple idea of the movie Titanic directed by James Cameron was a novel idea.  Not only did it incorporate modern day cinema into the classroom, which I’m sure got the kids excited, but it allowed the students to take on personal roles of people during that time period.  Because of this, students such as the one described in this lesson, Ebony, appreciate the history behind a story more than just facts and dates, but they see history through the eyes of people living at that time period.
 I know that I will personally try to use strategies from this reading into my teaching.  I am already trying to incorporate the Anticipation Guide strategy or the Here And Now strategy into assignments that I currently have for Professor Kava! 

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Week 1

The post is due by midnight on Wednesday, February 22nd!

The roles are as follows:
Sara - Tech Manager, Connector
Emily - Discussion Director, Connector
Emma - Notetaker, Summarizer, Connector

Book Club Post #1

Here's the schedule for our book club!

Reading History: A Practical Guide to Improving Literacy by Janet Allen
Friday, Feb 24- Ch.1 (Pg 1-28)
          Roles: Sara- Tech Manager, Emma- Notetaker, Clarifier, Summarizer, Emily- Discussion Director (We ALL take the role of connector)
Friday, March 23- Ch. 2 (Pg 29- 62)
           Roles: Sara- Tech Manager, Notetaker Emma- Discussion Director, Emily- Summarizer, Clarifier  (We ALL take the role of connector) 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)
*ALL posting should be done by Wednesday at midnight!