Sunday, April 29, 2007

Tapped-In Reflection

This semester I used Tapped-In for the first time and it has been an awesome experience. At first it took me a while to get into it and find it helpful, but after playing with it and reading everyone posts I began to get excited about it. I look forward to coming back to my email and reading the responses people have or the new threads that have been started. I found that for a while I didn't have anything to say in response to others posts so I just did a lot of reading and little to no posting. Then I decided to start my own topics...I used ideas that I had been thinking of in other education classes or paper topics I had in my other courses. This program has been an invaluable resource. It is a great collaboration tool and is especially unique because of the diverse group of educators involved. It was neat to hear experiences from seasoned educators, new teachers, administrators and other pre-service teachers from all over the world. What I enjoyed the most is when someone found something new that would be helpful in the classroom and they shared it in a post; my bookmark list has grown tremendously from saving those links. It has also been helpful that our entries are only visible to the people in our group, which makes it much more comfortable to pose questions and express discomforts or uncertainties. I don't think I would have spoken as freely if I thought a potential employer could see what I wrote.

Tapped-In has also been nice because it gives all of us a place to share our experiences, thoughts, joys and frustrations throughout the semester. With class periods only being 50 minutes it is hard sometimes to chat with the other pre-service teachers about what they are doing in the classroom, how their lessons have gone and what they have learned. I have really enjoyed reading people's experiences and seeing what they are doing for projects. I really think that if we didn't have this tool there would be a lot more chatting during class so we can catch up with each other. It was also great to have access to the discussions for the other class that is in their full time experience now because they were able to give some insight on what full time student teaching will be like and what some of the frustrations may be.

The mentors have really given some great insight into their past experiences, have been great collaborators and amazing comforters. I was really impressed by how many people respond to any question that is posed...and if they didn't know how to help they definitely suggested other resources that may be useful. It was just amazing to be collaborating with such experienced, intelligent and dedicated individuals. I am so thankful that Sheryl was able to get these fabulous women and men to dedicate their time. I must say I have been quite excited when I get responses to some of my threads or to my blogs from our mentors. I feel like I am talking to someone famous!

This tool would be great when I become a teacher and I really hope I get the opportunity to use it. I think it would be awesome to set it up within a school or even a school system. There could be one for all of the elementary school teachers in a specific county where they are able to share ideas, ask and answer questions, collaborate and network. This would connect an entire county or city of teachers and their wonderful ideas that would have otherwise never spoken to each other. It would also be cool to set up a pen pal session with a few classes from different schools where the students can create threads and post questions to other students to ask for help, share ideas, or just learn what life is like in their end of the world. I definitely want to use it in my classroom as a learning tool to spread the wealth of knowledge my students will have, but at the least I think it would be great to introduce it to the school system I work in to use as a collaborative tool within the county.

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Teaching about Plane Shapes

I taught a math lesson about plane shapes to a group of nine 1st graders in the cafeteria of D.J. Montague Elementary School. Please click here to go to my wikispace account and view my full lesson plan.

I originally had no technology in this lesson, but after receiving suggestions from Sheryl, our Technology Enhanced Learning professor, I decided to add in a Brain Pop Jr. video. Since I was only teaching the lesson to 9 students and it was being conducted in the cafeteria it was only appropriate to use one computer. I had the students sit around the computer as I played the video from Brain Pop Jr. about Plane Shapes. On the wall I had a cut out of each of the four shapes taped to the wall and when the video got to the question “What is a Triangle?” I paused the video and had the students respond to the question and write their answers on the cut-out of the triangle. Then we listened to what the girl in the video said about what a triangle is. We did this for all four shapes. After we reviewed the video and wrote on the cut-outs I did a demonstration of what the students would do for independent practice. I showed them a credit card (a rectangle from their environment) and showed them a chart that they would fill out when describing the shape. I filled in the section on how many sides, how many corners and how many square corners the rectangle has. The students were then split into groups of 3 to do the same thing with an example of each shape from their environment. After completing the activity each student got in front of the rest of the class and presented one item they examined with their group and told the rest of the class what shape it was, how many sides it had, number of corners and number of square corners. After completing this activity I collected the charts to grade.

During the video the students were really involved and freely responded to the question of what is a triangle, square, rectangle or circle? They had great answers and most of the answers were the same thing the girl in the video came up with to describe the shape. The students really enjoyed being able to come to the front of the class and write their answers on the cut-out of the shapes. They also felt very smart when what they said was the same things the video said afterwards. When the students were split into groups to work with the examples of plane shapes from their environment they stayed quiet and worked nicely with their other group members. The students wanted to go beyond the four shapes they were given and trade with the other groups to explore their objects. When the students were asked to present their answers to the rest of the group some of them shied away but in the end were able to successfully present. It was great for them to practice their presentation skills.

Strong points of this lesson were the technology and the hands on activities with shapes from their environment. The students loved the technology and were extremely engaged. While technology was a strength it also turned into a weakness because of the added excitement the students had. They were ecstatic when I presented them with a laptop and they were further excited by the Brain Pop Jr. characters and music. They wanted to touch the computer and get as close as possible to it so it made it hard for other students to see. In the future I would do many things different with this lesson. I left the lesson very frustrated and not because I didn’t feel that I was able to teach it was because I felt like I had no control over these 9 students. I was dealing with unusual circumstances which I definitely had to take into consideration. I got them right after there recess time and during their snack time and we were doing the lesson in the cafeteria, which is normally a loud and fun place for them. Also, since I wasn’t able to project the video onto a large screen I had nine kids looking onto 1 small laptop screen. The students were sticking their heads in front of others trying to see and some decided to try and climb on the table to see. I felt like I was constantly telling them to stop doing this or stop doing that.

Most of my modifications for future use are revolved around classroom management. I would definitely lay down the rules before we get involved in the activity and let the students know what will happen if they don’t follow the rules. I will also explain all directions before we get started to so the students know what to expect before getting into the work. Also, in the future I would separate students that I know will be problems and pair students who need help with students that are more advanced. Also, if the students do not listen to my instructions in the future I will close the laptop or stop the activity and tell them that we can’t continue until they begin listening. As far as technology I would ensure that I have somewhere to project the video so everyone can easily see it or I would provide each student with a laptop or computer and headphones to watch the video on their own.

The most valuable lesson I learned during this activity was that young students are extremely fascinated with laptops. As soon as the laptop was brought out the students got squeamish and excited and wanted to touch it, smell it, hold it and hear it. They couldn’t get enough of the computer and wanted more of it. I never expected the students to be in such awe over this piece of technology, but it made me realize that technology is still very unique to some people and it creates an excitement about learning that I have never seen in a classroom. When the video was playing I had no attention problems and the students wanted more. They were able to learn without realizing they were learning and it was amazing to watch. This experience was a major learning experience and while I felt very overwhelmed afterwards I was definitely able to stop and look back at what I did and what I could have done and I know that if I taught this lesson again with the same group of children it would go a lot better than it did that day. Another thing I learned during this lesson was to know the password of school laptops. I couldn’t figure out the password and it wasn’t the password that was used on most other things in the school and if it wasn’t for another pre-service teacher that was observing my lesson, I would have had to drag all of the students to the technology classroom to ask what the password was before I could start the lesson.

This lesson was created originally without any technology, but when we were requested to put technology into one of our lessons I decided this would be a fun one to do it with. I searched for hours for activities involving plane shapes and after a while I became frustrated and asked my professor for assistance. She presented me with three activities she found that were relevant and when I found this Brain Pop Jr. video I knew it was perfect for my lesson. It fit right in with what I was teaching and I could easily use it to help with the engagement of my activity. Only one of the students had seen the video before but he was just as engaged as the rest were.

I can’t put into words how shocked I was by the student’s reaction to the laptop, it was the equivalent of buying a new driver a brand new car when they get their license. They were absolutely thrilled and their excitement for technology really made me think about how much I take computers and my laptop for granted. It also made me think about how little the students must be using the computers in their school if it seems so novel to them when I presented them with a computer. I also found it unique how I was able to take a technology free lesson and turn it into a technology friendly lesson. I know that it strengthened this lesson.

Sunday, April 22, 2007

Private versus Public Education

I chose to write about Private versus Public education for an essay in my Foundations of Education course. After researching and writing this paper I began to really think about my own feelings about private versus public education. I spent my entire life in the public education sphere. My brother went to private school for one year because he constantly got in trouble so my parents thought private school would straighten him out. The only other private school experience I have been exposed to are all my cousins on my mother's side attend private Catholic schools. I have always been under the assumption that students who attended private school do much better in school and after school than students in public schools. Much of the research I have found has not supported this and in some cases has provided evidence that supports public over private. Many parents choose to put their children in private schools because they have more control of the goals of their child's education, the environment they are exposed to, the strength of the education, and the emphasis put on post secondary education. Research by Sassenrath, et al. found that the mean scores between private and public schools in the mathematics and science arena aren't significantly different, indicating that private education may not be much stronger in those subjects. I was very surprised by the research that i found that supported this notion that private schools may not be much better cognitively than public schools. Private schools do tend to have better discipline and less behavior problems and many parents choose to send their children their to expose them to a more positive environment. There are so many pros and cons to each side it makes it hard for a parent to choose...I am not sure where I would feel most comfortable putting my child, but I do know that the cost of private school education will have a large impact on that decision.

Monday, April 9, 2007

Science Circus

In my Elementary Science Curriculum and Instruction class we have been exposed to and taught about the use of a science circus. For those who do not know, a science circus is a large activity that has 5 or 6 stations based around a theme. The theme could be weather, animals, plants, motion, energy, etc. It is great to use as an introduction to a unit or as a wrap-up at the end of a unit. The stations are meant to have students explore some aspect of the theme and each station should only have 2-3 students at it. For younger students, it is best to have a teacher or helper at the station to assist them with the directions. Each station has student directions, teacher directions and all the supplies necessary for the activity. The students are given a certain amount of time to complete each activity and answer a variety of related questions. The teacher or assistant at each station should follow up with more discussion questions that are on the teacher instruction card. Prior to my elementary science course I had not heard of a science circus and now I am hooked. I think they are great for exploration, inquiry and imagination. Students are given the ability to discover and work through problems and potentially develop a curiosity for the subject matter. I think that more teachers should use science circus' often in their classrooms and maybe aim to have one for every other unit and eventually one for every unit. It would be easy to work with other teachers to share circus ideas or plans. I know it takes a while to create a science circus, but once it is created it can be saved and used over and over again. This is a great way to engage students and let them become junior scientists.

Monday, April 2, 2007

Technology in the Classroom

Since I have been in the classroom this semester I haven't found a lot of technology in the classroom. Each class has a couple of computers, an overhead projector and calculators but I have barely seen any of them used. I have only seen the computer used to give Accelerated Reader tests, for the teacher to email, and in the library when the students look up books in the catalog. In one classroom the teacher was using a fancy overhead (not sure what it was called) to teach math. It basically acted like a video camera that projected everything under the camera onto the board. It also allowed the teacher to zoom in and out on certain parts of the projection. Otherwise technology has been obsolete. I wonder why this is happening? Are teachers depending on their technology teachers to provide all the exposure to technology or is their a lack of understanding for what they can do with technology? Are the teachers not being encouraged or even required to incorporate it? I have found that with the small challenges to incorporate technology that I have been given in this class it has made me think harder and be more creative with my planning. So I understand why it would be easier to leave it out, but the reality is that these students are growing up in a "technology world" and I think they would be more interested in learning if they were able to use these tools. I discoverd that a simple way to incorporate technology is instead of printing out worksheets that have students cut out parts of something, say a plant, and put it together on construction paper...why not have them manipulate these pieces on a computer in a word document and put them in order and then print off their final piece?

Monday, February 26, 2007

Agriculture in the Classroom

Last week I had an amazing experience in my Elementary Education Science Curriculum and Instruction class. We had a presentation by Tammy Maxey, the Education Program Coordinator, of Virginia Foundation for Agriculture in the Classroom. The Ag in the Classroom homepage gives a great description of what the foundation is all about. It states that "The Virginia Foundation for Agriculture in the Classroom (AITC) is an integrated educational teacher training program designed to foster an understanding of how agriculture affects the quality of our lives. The AITC program is aligned with Virginia's Standards of Learning (SOL) and provides lessons and hands-on activities appropriate for incorporation into current classroom curriculum." Tammy came to our 5o minute class and did a wonderful presentation on how to incorporate agriculture into the classroom for a range of grade levels. She gave a bit of history about the program, tested our knowledge of agriculture, and simulated multiple activities that support Ag in the Classroom. All of the activities were very engaging and were tied directly to the SOL's. She provided us with a ton of materials to take back with us. This included two different CD's with multiple lesson plans and activities to use in our own classrooms. We will also now have a lifelong connection to the VA Foundation for Ag in the Classroom through yearly publications that will be sent to our homes that all include lesson plans based around the theme of the newletter. This presentation was absolutely amazing and a great resource for teaching science. I would highly recommend that anyone use this in-service with their teachers.

Monday, February 12, 2007

2nd Blog Entry- George Lucas Site

I read "Fear Factor" by Christina Wood. This article was about the short term and long term effects of bullying on students and how some bullying leads to dead studentsor other violent behavior. The article began by talking about Lakeside Middle School and how it was put on the state's list of "persistently dangerous schools." Everyone at the school and community were surprised by this, but they took this information and put into action a plan to decrease and hopefully eliminate the bullying that did occur in their school. The school already had a program called Peace and Respect Initiative, which provided parties or treats to classes or students for keeping their school fight/bully free.

They decided to be proactive with this new information and they started a program on bullying awareness and prevention and used a Federal grant to implement the Second Step Violence-Prevention Program. Training was provided for staff about bullying intervention and a counselor was hired to work with the students and staff on anger management and behavior issues.

Later in the article there are statistics about the amount of students that have been bullied; 16% of school age children have recently been bullied, 23% threatened, 40% called hurtful names, and 38% hit, kicked or pushed. The article also described a variety of forms of bullying.
Typically bullies choose somebody weaker than them and usually choose to bully them in front of a crowd so they can gain respect and power.It was also emphasized that all prevention programs must work with the school, students, parents and the community because the bullying doesn't stop when the school bell rings at the end of the day.

There are five steps to a successful program:
1. begin with education.
2. move to intervention
3. effort must be vigilant and ongoing
4. a change in the culture of the school
5. maintain this

A separate column within the article described mean girls and what bullying was like for girls. They refer to girl bullying as "relational bullying" because it is social rather than physical. Typically a bully will take action by getting another girl shunned by a large group of girls. This can be really detrimental to a female because the social world is very important to most females and if they don't have it they can feel like they don't have anything.

My Reaction:
I find this article really interesting. It is not unsual to hear about shootings or stabbings in schools because some kid got picked on too much and he/she finally snapped. But I don't typically hear about what the schools are doing to prevent this from occuring. This article has given some light to the types of prevention programs that are out there and how to implement them.

One thing I do not agree with is how this particular Middle School had celebrations or treats for students or classes to help keep the school fight/bully free. I don't think that teaching the kids that if you don't beat someone up or pick on them then you will get some cake or candy is the proper method. I instead think that teaching them about caring and morals or values is a much more valuable lesson. When they leave school there won't be any rewards for keeping your hands to yourself. Another thing I don't agree with is a statement in the section about "Mean Girls." It says that "Bullying by girls-- often called relational bullying-- is social rather than physical" I agree that often it is, but I don't think that we should forget that girls do get physical and we can't assume that it is all verbal just because they are female.

I like the prevention programs because they are a proactive response to the situation...these programs are working to hopfully prevent these problems from occuring instead of waiting to find out about it and then reacting. Another important topic raised in this article is the notion that bullying occurs in multiple forms. I think many people forget that bullying isn't always someone pushing or shoving another person; it can be a gesture, a look, a written note, or showing a weapon. This is especially important for us pre-service teachers to remember because we will have to look out for these signs.