The Last One

This is weird that I am writing my last blog for this class! This semester has flown by and I have enjoyed this class very much. When I first started this class, I didn’t really understand what “content literacy” was. I had honestly never heard the term before. I obviously know what literacy means and I know what content means, but together, I did not know what this term meant. 

I enjoyed learning that literacy does not only refer to reading. It also refers to speaking, listening, writing, and communicating. I also learned how literacy can be applied in all classes and how important it is in all subject areas. When reading in math, it is important that students make sense of what they read. This also applies in social studies and science, not just in language arts classes. Writing can also be important in classes other than language arts. You can even incorporate writing in math classes! Sometimes this can be vital to teachers. If students write about how a math procedure works or explain a procedure through writing, it helps both the students and teachers. The students get to write out how to do a procedure which helps them express their understanding, and teachers can see if they really understand the procedure by reading their explanation. 

My definition of content literacy has not really changed since the semester started, I just have deepened my understanding of content literacy. I understand how important it is for all teachers to work together and make sure that students are understanding what they read and write. All teachers can work on improving students literacy in their classroom, it is not only up to language arts teachers to develop reading comprehension. 

I also really enjoyed Tovani’s book. That is a book I will keep with me and will probably go on my bookshelf in my future classroom. I really like some of the strategies she gives. I never really understood how important it is to keep getting new ideas as a teacher and Tovani provides some great ideas that I will use in the future.

Another thing I learned through this class was how important it is for teachers to continue educating themselves. It is so important to explore different resources for ideas and tips and strategies. A great way to do this is through reading books like Tovani’s and through creating network connections through things like blogs. I think that in a few years, I will greatly appreciate that we were required to blog in this class because it gave me greater exposure to how to navigate blogs and find things I think will be helpful. There are so many great resources and ideas in blogs throughout the Internet, and I am thankful that I was required to investigate the blogging world because I think it will benefit me in the future. I enjoyed this class and feel like I learned a lot!

Group Work, Assessments, and Final Project

This week, I read chapters 7 and 8 in Tovani’s Do I Really Have to Teach Learning? The more I read this book, the more I come to appreciate it and the more I want to keep it as something that will go in my classroom in the future so that I can keep referring to it and using these strategies and ideas she gives us.

Chapter 7 talked a lot about group work, something that as a middle grades education major we have talked about A LOT. As a student, I have mixed feelings about group work. I used to enjoy it when I was younger, but I HATE group work in college. I know it’s very beneficial, but in college it is so hard to schedule times out of class for everyone in the group to meet, and my thinking is “we are all old enough now that we know how to work with people, so why do we have to work in a group?” However, I understand teachers have their reasons. Group work really does teach students how to work with others, and that is something they will be doing for their entire life, so therefore it is very important to implement group work in the classroom

One thing I really liked that Tovani said was on page 90, “how are teachers supposed to teach their content and reading when they have classes of thirty or more filled with such a wide range of readers?…The answer is small, flexible groups.” I thought this was very interesting and also very smart. It’s very hard to teach to a big class because Tovani is right, there will be such a ride range of readers and learners. Group work helps with this. It allows the teacher the option to split students up into groups in many different ways. I really liked the Highlight and Revisit comprehension constructor strategy she used. In this strategy, “students read and highlight individually a short piece of text a teacher gives to everyone in the class. In groups, they write down in the first column the exact words highlighted by someone in the group, reasons for the highlighting, and the deeper thinking that comes from considering the quote. This activity usually results in students seeing similar points being highlighted by their peers, as well as some unique choices that spark new discussion” (95). I really like how this activity allows students to be active readers on their own but then also learn from their classmates by sharing what they thought was important. 

Chapter 8 talked a little about assessment and how teachers can assess their students in the classroom everyday, and not just when tests are given. I like how Tovani said she “wants to assess my students’ thinking in a way that informs my teaching.” I think this is very important. Teachers have to be willing to adjust and compromise their teaching style. A way to know if your teaching style is working is assessing your students and their thinking. She says that she looks at how students use strategies as a way of assessing them. I also really like the conversation calendar. I think this is a great way to get to know your students without having to put them on the spot in the classroom. It also makes them think about their performance in the classroom by having to give themselves a daily grade. 

For my final project, I am thinking about doing something with a strategy. Whether that is a class presentation, a “booklet”, or a podcast, I am still thinking. I will probably know by the end of class time today as I am sure it is something we will talk about. 

A Few Thoughts

This week, we had to look at a few blogs and pick out some things we liked and talk about them. I noticed when reading some of my classmates blogs that many people commented on how to keep students interested when reading both at home and in the classroom. A Sassy Classroom commented how no matter what age, focusing on what you’re reading is always going to be difficult to do 100% of the time. Even as college students, as Sassy Classroom mentioned, we can read any entire page without really understanding what we read because we are tired and ready to go to bed. The same goes for our students. Several blogs commented on how Tovani talked about using sticky notes can help students stay focused on what they read. Using this strategy, Tovani talked about how students can write down questions, concerns, interest, or pretty much anything on these sticky notes. This way they become active readers.

Last week in class we talked about when we first started highlighting, underlining, and taking notes on our own in school. I shared that I started this in seventh grade, but after thinking about this, this was false. I remember in ninth grade I was in an honors English class and the very first day of class my teacher explained how in this class we were expected to be active readers. She explained that this meant underlining, writing in margins, highlighting, etc. in the books we read throughout the year. I specifically remember that when she told us this, I hated it. I didn’t want to make my books all messy and write all in them. I wanted to keep them nice and pretty and hated the thought of writing in my books. However, by the end of the year, I loved writing in my books. It helped me so much when studying for a test or doing a project to be able to go through and see what I wrote or highlighted during certain parts of the book. So after thinking more about this after last weeks class, teaching my students to be active readers is something that I want to definitely focus on. Even if they are like me and hate the initial thought of making their books look ugly, it will help them so much in the long run. This is one of those tips where your teachers tell you “you’ll have to do this in college so better start now” is actually true! Now that I can actively read, I feel like it really helps me in college and is a skill I will use throughout my life.

Going along with this same idea of keeping students interested in what they read, Education Dawg posted an interesting blog last week. This person (who I’m guessing is a boy) talked about two different situations where he is reading a Sports Illustrated magazine and can obviously remember everything he reads because it interests him. Then in the other situation, he has to read an SAT story and he reads the whole thing and has no idea what it’s talking about because he isn’t interested in it. I think we have all been here- when something is interesting to us, we obviously want to read more about it and understand what we are reading. When something is boring to us or complicated, we don’t have any interest in understanding what we read because we just simply don’t care because it isn’t interested to us. Again, Tovani provides some great strategies for this in her book. Again with the sticky notes and active reading, these are some great strategies to keep students focused on what they are reading because (honestly whether they like it or not, hopefully they like it), they have to pay attention to what they are reading.

Another thing I thought was interesting was from the blog Pin It To Win It. This is a quote from their blog on March 4th: “When you build anything you start at the bottom and go up from there.  You can’t start at the top because there is nothing to support it.  It will just crash!  All of the energy you spent building it would have been a total waste. That is how I feel about children who are not on the level they should be on.  Teachers don’t always see it that way.  You see I believe in helping children grow, I don’t want them to fail.  By giving them an assignment or reading especially that is too difficult for them they will not be able to figure it out, will become discouraged, and have wasted their time.”

I think this is a great way to view some of the things we have been talking about in class. We have talked about how difficult it can be to really give assignments that are on the specific level of your students, because some students may have deeper understanding of things than others. For example, someone who uses another language other than English as their first language will obviously not be on the same reading level as someone who has spoken English their whole life, even if these two people are in the same grade. So it is up to the teacher to assign work appropriate to the level they are on. I just thought this was a very interesting analogy that this Pin It To Win It posted and it was something that I had never thought of before. In order for all students to get the full understanding of topics, teachers must appeal to their specific learning level. This, of course like I have mentioned before, is easier said than done. At the same time, it is something all teachers should strive for.

 

Discussions

This past week in class, we focused a lot of talking about discussions and how these can be incorporated into a classroom. We talked about different strategies that can be used in order to get students thinking deeper about what they read. One of these strategies is “Read Aloud.” This is a pretty self explanatory strategy: the student rotate reading out loud in the classroom. Everyone follows along and the teacher can stop them at any point and ask questions about what they just read. If you had a class full of strong readers, this would be a great strategy to use. However, you have to be careful that if you use this strategy, it doesn’t backfire in a classroom of students who are struggling readers. 

Discussions are also a great way for students to learn from other students. When teachers facilitate discussions, sometimes the main goal is not to talk a lot but to let the students talk for themselves. Students listen to one another and can learn from listening to what others have to say. They also have to back up what they say with information from the text. A lot of the time a teacher can ask “Well, where did you find that in the book? What page is that on?” Which makes them have accountability to what they say. 

We also talked about tests, quizzes, and different strategies that are used to basically test how “smart” a student is. We have also talked a lot about standardized testing and multiple choice and short answer tests and how productive these are in testing how much students know. Who was the person that came up with the idea of standardized tests and said it was the best way to test students? Who was it that said that “if you can’t do this by this specific grade level then you aren’t smart?” I really liked the quote that was given in class that said: “The question is not: are you smart? The question is: how are you smart?” I think this is very true. Every student is smart in their own individual way. When we standardize the way we test students on how much they know, we are taking away from their individual talents and the areas where they are the “smartest.”

For example, I also take a class called EDIT 2000 where you learn more about how to use technology in the classroom. The past week we had someone come and talk about creativity and how creativity is measured. Why is it important that we measure creativity? I have always thought that someone is just born more creative than others. What happens if you have your child’s creativity measured and it turns out they aren’t very creative? The speaker gave us all these different areas where the graders look to measure creativity, such as energy level, organization, planning, and detailed. Well for the people that grade these tests, what if their definition of being organized is different than another grader? Who are they to tell someone that their child is not creative because he doesn’t have a high enough energy level? How is “energy level” defined, and what energy level do you need to be considered creative? I think this is just an example that goes along with the idea of standardized tests. Who was it that said “okay this is what needs to be known by this grade level and if someone can’t answer this question they aren’t smart.” I think that students should have freedom in their learning and also freedom in testing of their learning. 

Education- Don’t take it for Granted

Over spring break, I learned a lot about content literacy and education in general. I went to Haiti on a mission trip over the break. It was a serious eye opener to not only third world countries and how other people live in such poverty, but it also made me grateful and thankful for the gift of education.

In Haiti, more than 2/3 of the population is unemployed. The people live in very poor conditions with little food, unhealthy water, and barely any money. On my trip, we were partnering with an organization called Mission of Hope that is stationed in Haiti and seeks to provide help to the Haitian people by providing them food, schools, churches, medical clinics, and orphanages. They said that in their school systems, it costs about $4 a month to send one child to school. This may not seem like a lot of money, but I was amazed at the number of children who could not go to school because they did not have enough money.

One day we were walking around a village and we met this kid Greg that followed us around. He was about 14 and he originally told us that he was not at school that day because he was sick. Later, as we kept walking around, he told us that he had tried to go to school that morning but was turned away because he did not have enough money. That broke my heart. Sometimes in the US, we dread going to school and learning, while other places, kids are praying for an education and for enough money to go to school.

This aspect of the trip just made me realize how thankful we all should be that we have the opportunity to get a great education. It also made me very excited to be a teacher and share my love for learning with my students and hopefully increase their love for learning. It made me really want to teach my future students the importance of an education and how much they should appreciate it.

Another aspect of the trip that was somewhat difficult was the language barrier. In Haiti, they speak Creole, and every day we walked around with about 4 to 5 translators so that we could understand what the people were saying. Some people spoke English, but when they did not, it was difficult to understand what they were saying at times. Especially when we were playing with kids, I really wanted to be able to understand what they were saying to me and wanted to be able to talk with them.

I kind of thought about how this could relate to content literacy. Just as I couldn’t understand these kids, I thought about how important it is for students to understand what they are reading or hearing in a classroom. If they cannot make sense of anything they read, hear, speak, or communicate, they will not be learning anything or benefit from that class. 

Indecisions

For this post, I was able to talk about whatever I wanted to relating to what we are learning in class and content literacy. I had kind of a hard time with this, as I am used to being told what to do and how to do it in all my classes. I am not complaining, however, because I think it is nice to be given some freedom to write whatever I want every now and then. But I did find it somewhat difficult to come up with something to write about.

Last week in class, we talked about differentiation in classrooms and how not all students will be on the same learning level. We discussed how in a make believe situation, parents were mad at you as a teacher because some students were being given more and harder homework than other students, and we had to write a letter to the principal explaining our reasoning for doing this. I think that honestly, it is a lot easier said than done that we will follow these same procedures in our classroom. It is a lot easier to say that as a teacher, we will have different assignments and lessons for those students with greater and lesser learning disabilities. As I have talked about before, there is only so little time during the school year to teach content, and teachers are always crunched for time to meet deadlines and get things done. So adding additional work in terms of lesson plans and classroom planning to a teachers schedule would be very difficult.

However, I think it is imperative to take all students learning ability into consideration when teaching. This is part of being a teacher- helping students learn to the best of their ability. And not all students are on the same level. That’s just the way the world works. So I think it is extremely important to make sure that teachers spend the time they need to develop lesson plans and ideas that appeal to all different types of learners and their different levels of ability. 

Text Sets

This week I focused on creating my own text set for a math problem. The problem I wanted to create a text set for was:

“Allison purchased a $30 international calling card so that she could call her family while she is in France. Each call costs a service fee of $2.25 and 10 cents per minute. Allison only makes one call and talks until the card is used up.

 Create a table and write an expression that relates the number of minutes that Allison has talked and the amount of money Allison has spent. Assign symbols and describe which quantities the symbols represent.

 Create a table and write an expression that relates the number of minutes that Allison has talked and the amount of money left on Allison’s calling card. Assign symbols and describe which quantities the symbols represent.

 Graph both of these equations on the same graph.”

To create this text set, I first started with listing what the students would need to know to solve this problem. This is what I came up with:

What students would need to know:

–       equations/expressions 

–       variables

–       relating quantities

–       creating tables

–       graphing functions

I then used this information to find the components of my text set. This is my text set:

Resources:

1. http://www.khanacademy.org/math/algebra/linear-equations-and-inequalitie/equation-of-a-line/v/word-problem-solving-4

    – This website can help with similar math problems. It walks students step by step through similar problems, allowing students to apply these same steps to this particular problem.

2. http://www.amazon.com/Algebra-Survival-Guide-Conversational-Thoroughly/dp/0965911381

     – This book is awesome. It has also step by step explanations of algebra concepts, which the students can apply to this work problem.

3. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iNjD4GeF96w

     – This video shows students how to create a table based on a word problem and graphical information. They can watch this video to show them how to create a table for this problem.

4. http://www.purplemath.com/modules/solvelit.htm

     – Purple Math is a great math website. This specific page can help students with knowing how to solve for variables and how to set up variables in an equation.

5. http://math.about.com/od/booksresourcesdvds/tp/Top-Apps-for-Algebra.htm       

       – This website has a list of awesome apps that can help with algebra. I have personally used wolfram alpha before and it is a great tool. Quadratic master would also be a great tool when starting quadratic functions, which aren’t used for this specific question, but is great when you do not have a calculator on hand. Also with so many schools going to BYOD (bring your own device), these apps could all be very useful. 

6. Iexcel.com

     – My 5th grade cousin told me about this. She has a log in and password. This website shows you the learning skills you need to know in different grades, and it also has practice problems and tools. This would be a great resource for solving this problem. They can go on this website, go to their grade and find what they are learning and do practice problems. My cousin said sometimes her teachers assign homework through this website, particularly around the time they are about to take the CRCT. 

7. Brainpop! 

     – Brainpop is a great website! At the middle school I was placed at last semester, my mentor teacher used this website a lot in her classroom. There are videos that you can watch that explain math concepts and also quizzes that go along with the videos. When I taught a lesson last semester, I used BrainPop. The students watched a video and then I had them take the quiz and I used this as an assessment.