Important Concepts in my Instructional Setting

Currently, I am not teaching in my own classroom. However, I tutor math at a K-8 school, working with 3rd, 4th, and 8th graders. In this setting, the concepts that are most important to me are similar to teachers, though not exactly the same. For example, the concept attainment model described in Joyce, Weil, and Calhoun (2015) is difficult for me to incorporate, as I am not given instructional time, but rather am in the classroom as math support.

However, one of the most important models that I find useful is recognizing student effort, even when they are not quite grasping the subject. This is especially important in the 8th grade extra math class I tutor, where I spend much of my time. These students have been selected for extra math help to improve their understanding in algebra, and struggle with some functions that they learned in the 4th or 5th grade. Possibly this is because their class moved on before they fully grasped the concept of fractions or division. Whatever the cause, most of these students despise math (and school in general) and often won’t even pick up a pencil when asked to work. This is especially true if they see a problem that looks complex, despite it being within their capabilities. However, when I combine a little humor with encouragement, and sometimes a little bit of firmness, students are more likely to make an attempt the problem, and when they do, I try to make sure I show my support of their efforts and encourage them to reach their goal. Reinforcing a student’s effort toward a goal “helps them strengthen their resolve to complete the task or internalize the learning” (Dean, Hubbell, Pitler, Stone, 2012). Another important concept is to keep in mind who I am talking to, and to be sure that my actions toward one student aren’t any different than those toward another based on prior behavior, race, or my own expected outcomes. There are students who sometimes respond to my presence very negatively, which can sometimes make it difficult for me to later offer help. However, on some days, these same students are the ones who really want help but if I don’t offer it, they won’t ask. I always try to be aware of my own perceptions toward students, and try to offer encouragement to everyone equally.

Something I don’t do in tutoring that I think would be useful is to explicitly remark about the connection between student effort and achievement. Dean, Hubbell, et al. (2012) explain that students need to understand this explicitly in order to become active participants in their learning and feeling of success. They also mention that this needs to be something that is not just explained once, but often, so that the concept is reinforced in the students’ minds, and really forces them to think about what it means. When I have my own classroom, the students will be younger, but I think that this concept applies to any age group (including adults!). I plan to explicitly teach students about the relationship between their success and effort—some possibilities are by having them graph their success, take time out occasionally to have lessons on the relationship between achievement and effort—as well as using praise when students are working hard with varied, direct phrases.

Dean, C., Hubbell, E., Pitler, H., Stone, B. (2012). Classroom instruction that works: Researc-hbased strategies for increasing student achievement. Alexandria, VA: ASCD.

Joyce, B., Weil, M., Calhoun, E. (2015). Models of teaching. Boston, MA: Pearson.

Questioning as a Teaching Strategy

Most people, when they think of teaching, imagine one of their prior teachers, standing at the front of the room pointing to something on the white/blackboard (or at least, I assume they do). While imparting knowledge on young students can be beneficial to some, it is not a teaching model that encourages student interaction. The readings from this week describe a variety of teaching methods involving knowledge that students inquire about and discover for themselves (constructive knowledge), giving them the skills they will need to find knowledge in the future while promoting lifelong learning. Now when I picture teaching, I try to imagine my old teachers asking questions that encourage students searching for the answers themselves. It is the process of discovery and learning that builds the deep connections in students’ minds. After all, you’re more likely to remember the day WWII ended if you experienced it rather than if you learned it in a classroom.

Questioning can be a strategy used in any subject. Beginning with a question, the teacher can then guide students to form their own questions and make their own discoveries during the lesson. For example, Joyce, Weil, and Calhoun (2015) describe a situation where a teacher—Mr. Hendricks—questions his students as they listen to sounds. He begins by allowing the students to play with the “instruments” for a bit, then asks if they notice anything about two sounds he makes. They begin by describing what they hear, but are confused about why two may sound similar but different at the same time. Mr. Hendricks continues the lesson by asking students to experiment with the sounds, ask questions and make predictions, then test these theories and present their findings. They are following the process of scientific inquiry as stated in the common core state standards (Common Core Sate Standards Initiative, 2015), while the teacher also continues asking questions to guide them. Rather than focusing on dictating to students what they should remember, according to the National Research Council, “the learning process should be built around in-depth inquiries into topics selected because they contain…important concepts from each discipline at any given grade level” (Joyce, Weil, Calhoun, 2015).

Other examples of questioning as a teaching strategy can range from subject to subject. In my own tutoring experience, I try to never give out answers to math questions kids are stuck on. Instead, I ask questions about what they already know, or what they can tell me about the problem, and we work from there. One of the teachers I work with almost always uses this inquiry process when teaching mathematics to his fourth grade students. Rather than showing them how to multiply fractions, he gives them a problem, asks students how they think they can solve it, then gives them the tools they might need to solve the problem. This helps them to develop their own cognitive reasoning skills, while also allowing him to assess where students are at as a group. For language arts, teachers can show students a picture, then ask students to describe the picture, to create a “picture dictionary” which students can then compose sentences with (Joyce, Weil, Calhoun, 2015). These photographs encourage students to think about what the picture represents and what it doesn’t represent, and requires students to form their own ideas of the new vocabulary they are learning.

While I believe it is important for memorization for many things in school, I think it is also important that we take a constructionist approach to building new knowledge. This way, we are giving students the foundation they need and the skills to build further upon their foundation at the same time, allowing them to form connections and act on their natural curiosities.

Joyce, B., Weil, M., Calhoun, E., (2015). Models of teaching. Boston, MA: Pearson

Common Core State Standards Initiative (2015). CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RST.6-8.3. Retrieved from http://www.corestandards.org/ELA-Literacy/RST/6-8/

Facilitate and Inspire Student Learning and Creativity

The International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE) standard 1 for teachers states that teachers should “use their knowledge of subject matter, teaching and learning, and technology to facilitate experiences that advance student learning, creativity, and innovation in both face-to-face and virtual environments” (ISTE, 2015). This means that teachers should model creative and innovative thinking, they should promote student reflection, use digital tools and resources to engage students in real-world issues, and model knowledge construction (ISTE, 2015). This standard also aligns with HOPE principle P4, practice the integration of appropriate technology with instruction. As a teacher in a society that is continually advancing, providing opportunities for students to experience technology in a way that promotes creativity and learning is vital.

While exploring ISTE standard 1 and the materials for this week, I grew curious about the technologies available for language arts and literacy lessons. Since I hope to teach fourth grade, I examined the Common Core State Standards for fourth grade writing standards, and asked the question:

How can I use technology to help 4th grade students create a real or imagined narrative with dialogue, description, and a sequence of events?

My main concern with asking this question is that I would have a difficult time finding a resource specifically designed for creating stories with description, dialogue, and event sequencing, three standards outlined by the Common Core. Rather than searching for this specifically, I determined that it is more beneficial for teachers to use resources at their disposal in order to encourage ideas and reflection, then take those ideas and help students translate them into writing. I have also noticed that for many students, writing does not come naturally. With this in mind, I asked a new question:

How can I use technology to help 4th grade students generate and record ideas in a way that suits their learning style, then use these ideas to create a real or imagined narratives?

My first thought was for a daily journal. Students could record ideas and thoughts based on several writing prompts provided by the teacher. These prompts could range from questions about students’ weekends, to invented dialogue, or providing photos for students to describe. However, keeping journals on paper only allows for students to write or draw their ideas, despite the fact that many may struggle with this. So I began searching for web resources that incorporated a variety of ways to record journal entries, and came up with several possibilities. Ideally, schools would have unlimited resources for technology, and would be able to include handheld devices such as iPads or personal computers for each student while in school. However, as a member of my learning circle pointed out, there is this idea of the “digital divide”, which describes the disparity between students (or schools) with access to technology and the internet, and those who do not have it. Keeping this in mind, I conducted my research for affluent schools, and for schools with limited resources.

One resource that allows students to record their voice, record and upload video, upload photos and drawings, and also research in-app and write ideas, was Glogster. The app can be free, or there is a paid app for schools (or website), allowing classrooms to create digital media posters called glogs either individually or in groups. The teacher has access to all glogs in his or her classroom, and can provide feedback for students, while also assessing where each student is at. I experimented with Glogster a bit and created my own poster, which can be seen by clicking on the image.

Meghan's Glog Example

Jack Marshall, one of my learning circle members, suggested that Glogster be used as a graphic organizer, and I think this is a wonderful idea. Students could “conduct their research [and] add pertinent information onto the board and then have everything in one place as they prepare to write their papers” (Marshall, 2015). The access to the web in-app also allows students to engage in exploring real-world issues which they can then write about, which is part of ISTE standard 1. Another classmate, Kate Thibault (2015), posted an article about tech tools in young classrooms, which described word processing programs that don’t involve fine-motor skills and can make the physical act of writing less frustrating. Although this was meant for younger children, I believe I could also adapt it for older children who struggle with putting their ideas to words on paper.

One potential issue with ISTE standard 1 that several of my classmates expressed was that using technology in class can provide a distraction for students. Since Glogster can be somewhat distracting for students (access to YouTube, internet images, the ability to add stickers and clipart), another possible direction for online journals is a blog. Dr. Wicks mentioned edublogs as a safe and secure place to keep these. Recordings can be created and uploaded for free online for students who like to speak their ideas, and drawings can be photographed or scanned as well. Having individual blogs also allows students to collaborate in their writing and constructing of knowledge. For schools with fewer resources, in-class journals are still an option. Students who have an easier time expressing ideas through speech may benefit from an inexpensive voice recorder, which teachers could teach them to use and transcribe. Amazon has some recorders at a variety of reasonable prices.

In my classroom, I hope to incorporate as much technology as I am able, though obviously I may be restricted by budget or time, or support. However, students today are using so many resources ranging from wikis to social media to podcasts and blogs. They are “using them in an ever increasing pace and in ways that are helping to define a new generation of not just information gathering, but information-creating as well” (Robin, 2008). Because of the increasing technological resources and interest in digitization, as well as ease of access, it makes sense to teach them in a way that they will be using. In my classroom, I hope to use the resources I discovered relating to this standard to facilitate the creation of online media as well as use online resources to create stories and discover world issues. One idea I had was to use freerice, a website mentioned in the Vialogues for this week (or something similar) as a way for students to spend free time practicing various subjects, but also using it as a way to generate interest in world hunger. This could lead to a year-long service project in which my class conducts research on hunger issues in the world and locally, and uses the information to come up with a project where students could volunteer time to raise funds or send resources. In this way, students are generating possible solutions for authentic problems while using technology to research these issues, and are promoting positive values of citizenry.

Marshall, J. (2015, January 12). ISTE standard 1. [Comment 2 on Welsh, M.] Message posted to: https://plus.google.com/u/0/communities/111058430962704146204

Thibault, K. (2015, January 9). ISTE standard 1. Message posted to: https://plus.google.com/u/0/communities/111058430962704146204

Robin, B. (2015). Digital storytelling: A powerful technology tool for the 21st century classroom. Theory into practice, 47:220-228.

ISTE (2015). ISTE standards: Teachers. Retrieved from: http://www.iste.org/docs/pdfs/20-14_ISTE_Standards-T_PDF.pdf