TL Standard 8

TL Standard 8

SPU’s MEd program in Teacher Leadership has helped me grow not only in my building as an educator but a future leader as well. I had a hard time trying to decide what area I wanted to focus on. There were so many degrees that would benefit myself as an educator and further support my students in my classroom. Once I heard that SPU was offering a masters in Teacher Leadership, I knew I had found the correct program. I feel the learning that had the greatest impact for me was the work that required me to pick myself apart as an individual as well as an educator. You are not able to strengthen your practice and improve your craft if you are not self-aware. Aware of what you do well, biases you make have and areas in which you need improvement. Within the time we spent learning about what makes us tick, we had critical conversations around important issues surrounding schools. One of my biggest takeaways was how to have critical conversations with not only your coworkers, but parents and students too. Another piece of learning that I feel made a great impact on me was revolved around engaging families and communities within my building. “Rather than asking, Why are some families so hard to reach?” we should instead ask, “What am I doing that makes my school and/or classroom hard to reach?” This was a statement that I know my entire cohort took to heart and had a large discussion about. It truly changed the way I began to look at my building. It changed my entire perspective of what I had control over and how I could better our school and classroom environment to be more welcoming and reachable.

I am still very interested in learning more about leadership in any potential upcoming professional development opportunities at the district level or at SPU. I think my entire staff in my building could benefit from having a few of the speakers I was fortunate enough to listen to during a few Saturday workshops come and speak. Having an entire staff listen to such an impactful speaker really helps get everyone on the same page and using the same great language in a building to promote positive change! I also feel that it would be great to keep this cohort connected and collaborating over the next few years in regards to how we are implementing our new learning in our buildings. Starting a book club for those who are interested to further/continue our learning in one of the several components we found that was impactful would be a great way to continue professional learning too.

In the near future, I see myself being a teacher leader within my building. I know I want to continue implementing all of the things I learned for best practice with my students. I also want to continue to push myself in the areas that were harder for me to adapt and implement like technology. It is easy to fall back into what I see now as bad practice and honestly a disservice to my students. Continuing to learn about how technology can be used with such young children is definitely something I see myself continuing to look into to make sure I hold myself accountable to continue to implement and explore new options with my students! I also see myself continuing to lead some staff development classes and potentially taking on a few more roles within my building. I think it might also be fun to teach a professional development class that is offered for district employees. This program has helped prepare me to take more advanced leadership roles than I have experienced in the past. Possibly a few years from now, I hope to take my new learning and be able to help lead other new teachers in a positive direction within their first few years teaching as a mentor. I would love to be able to pass on the knowledge and skill sets that I gained from this program to teachers who are just starting their journey into the classroom!

The time that I spend in the classroom teaching, I would also like to do my best to reach out to other buildings and learning communities to expand our collaboration to a much larger region. Being able to see, share and collaborate with educators from other learning communities or even districts can expand your access to different resources, ideas and possibilities for your classroom! I would absolutely love to have the time to go observe other teachers in other buildings, learning communities, as well as districts at least once a year, to get fresh ideas and share resources to help improve teaching across the board! I look forward to use the past two years to help me grow as an educator, teacher leader and potentially a future new teacher mentor!

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TL Standard 12

TL Standard 12

When looking at standard 12, teachers are asked to evaluate and use technology for teaching and learning. After taking EDTC 6433 I feel like technology is not nearly as intimidating as I made it out to be. Walking into this class in the beginning of the quarter I was nervous, and intimidated. I have always felt that I am pretty tech savvy with the items that I use outside of my classroom, but when it came time to implement technology into my classroom, I didn’t know where to start. During the first class session we spoke about our final project and took a NETS self-assessment to see what areas we could use improvement.  After leaving class the first day I have to a say that I was pretty skeptical. Reading over the NETS and taking that self-assessment truly felt like I was trying to (and not succeeding) read a different language. The self-assessment showed me that I truly had a lot of room for growth in all areas. I teach kindergarten, I have 22 five year olds who are just learning the letters of the alphabet and learning how to read and write. My original outlook was, what in the world could I possibly take from this class and make applicable in my room? “These projects and NETS don’t really apply to me”. I am proud to say, that I was so very wrong! Whether I am teaching 5 year olds or seniors, teaching technology is possible and very doable at any age! My overall technology goal was to focus on NETS-S 2: Communication and Collaboration and NETS-T 1: Facilitate and Inspire Student Learning and Creativity. I would improve technology integration in my classroom by using Haiku as a space to allow my students to share their animal research projects in June. Students would use our classroom Haiku page to demonstrate their research and use of PebbleGo and a voice recording system to create their project. Although I knew this project would take several months to implement, I feel I was effective in setting my students up for success on this project. I spent a lot of time teaching my students about the basics of using netbooks. I worked hard teaching my students how to log on, how to navigate to their sites, how to adjust volume, use headphones and how to log off. I also did a lot of preloading with my students on how to research using graphic organizers and using the basics of PebbleGo. I learned so much about how to introduce complicated technology skills so early in the year with kindergarteners. You can see my Final Summary Project and what my students were able to accomplish! My biggest takeaway from this class is twofold. One is how many technology tools and resources can be modified and used with my kindergarteners in class. The second biggest takeaway is the capability of my kindergarteners using technology, especially so early in the year. With enough practice and careful teaching my students were able to meet extremely high expectations that I set!

One component of this class I feel I grew the most in was digital citizenship. Before this class I didn’t know much about digital citizenship or what it even looked like in primary grades. The words Digital Citizenship hold a lot of meaning, but what does it look like in a classroom? After class discussion and research, to me, digital citizenship is communication, appropriate use, research, collaboration, and any type of interaction online. My professor, Richard Snyder, did a wonderful job of breaking down such a large term into 4 major focus points. In his PowerPoint Snyder shared, “Big Points of Digital Citizenship are: 1. Respect for copyright and intellectual property. 2. Access to appropriate tools and resources. 3. Digital etiquette and 4. Global awareness (slide 11).” After looking into what the words meant, as any teacher would, I wanted to know what that would look like in my own classroom. Being a kindergarten teacher, some of these big points of digital citizenship seemed a little intimidating and far-fetched for my 5 year olds. I was excited to dive in and see what was available and applicable for my classroom.

There are two ways I would like to support and promote digital citizenship in my classroom. One of my goals this year is to teach digital citizenship to my students by showing them how to access appropriate resources online. I would like to use PebbleGo in my reading and writing workshop to allow for my students to pull information on multiple topics from a source other than a book. Students in all grade levels are no longer asked to complete a project using only pen and paper or from a book in the library. Technology has now become incorporated into everything we do. I especially look forward to using this tool during my nonfiction lessons in reading and writing workshop. This will allow my students to pull information from a research database as well as several text to supplement their nonfiction writing project. How wonderful will it be for me to help my students get a head start on how to properly access the correct resources to help them be successful?

My second goal for teaching digital citizenship in my classroom is to give a number of very generalized lessons on how to live in a digital world. What that means, looks like, and the importance of that, through their eyes. After researching online, I found several websites that had great free lessons on teaching digital citizenship to kindergartners. In all of the lessons I found, they all basically covered the same important parts/issues. Those teach points were:

  1. Computers are used for several different purposes and to visit faraway places that help us learn new things.
  2. Safety using the internet. The idea that, staying safe online is very similar to staying safe in the real world. Right vs. wrong decisions. Connecting this issue to what they have been told many times by parents and teachers, don’t interact or give personal information with someone you do not know, etc.
  3. How to safely navigate on the internet. How do you avoid problems? How do you know what is safe vs. harmful?

I feel that teaching these skills listed above to my class is very doable as well as age appropriate goals. Digital Citizenship doesn’t have to be an intimidating phrase. With all of the smart work that others have already done on this topic, all it takes is a little research and pulling from your resources to create age appropriate lessons for your students. Oh wait! Using appropriate tools and resources!? Sounds familiar! Like the   we watched, digital citizenship is everywhere!!!

During this class, I learned about several different programs that have been extremely useful and helpful in my classroom! A part of this course that I enjoyed was the fact that majority of the programs we got to learn about and use in class are all able to be scaled down to use at different grade levels. I also feel that I gained a wonderful foundation of resources and tools for my future years of teaching. Not only did I find new programs and technologies that I am able to use with my students, I learned about new technologies that will benefit me in my journey for my graduate degree! I look forward to seeing how I can continue to use these programs with my students and in the future as well!

Resources:

Be a Digital Citizen. 11 Jan. 2012. YouTube. Web. 5 Oct. 2013. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FdEXijFXfD8

“The Emergent Reader Research Solution.” PebbleGo. Capstone Digital, Web. 5 Oct. 2013.

Murphy, K., McNamara, E., & DePasquale, R. (2003). Meaningful Connections: Using Technology in Primary Classrooms. Beyond the Journal.

Murray, Jacqui. “How to Teach Kindergarten Digital Citizenship to Kindergarten.”4 Oct. 2012. Web. 5 Oct. 2013.

Snyder, Richard. “EDTC6433 Week 2 Digital Citizenship Powerpoint.”1 Oct. 2013. Web. 5 Oct. 2013.

Starr, L. (n.d.). Encouraging Teacher Technology Use. Retrieved May 10, 2015, from http://www.educationworld.com/a_tech/tech159.shtml

TL Standard 1

TL Standard 1

Over the past 8 weeks I have learned a lot about myself as a person and as an educator. The past 26 years of life I have believed that who I am is directly related to my experiences and the relationships I have built. My exposure to the world has helped shaped my individuality along with my values. I have come to find that I tend to follow Aristotle’s views on morality. “Aristotle believed that your views on morality come from your experiences whereas Augustine’s believed that your beliefs on right and wrong come internally, through your practice and belief of god.” (Module 2). With Aristotle’s views, I feel character education plays a huge role in how I developed my values. Everyone has a large influence on the positive development of character education and who you become. (Module 5). I grew up in a separated household and through the exposure from both (which exposed me to two very different ways of life), I somehow attained my own ideas of right and wrong through observation and experiences. I was able to watch the decisions and actions taken by my older sister, and the praise and repercussions she endured from those decisions. I have taken the different environments I have been exposed to, important influences in my life and experiences I have encountered to help shape my ideas of what is right and wrong. I continue to look within myself to live the life that I feel is right and healthy for me and all of those that surround me. (Module 1).

Every teacher brings their own values into their classroom while teaching. For me, it is important to help my students build critical thinking skills and exposure to as many point of views as possible. It is also important to help students at a young age develop an understanding of how to cultivate a point of view, morals and principals for smaller topics so they can understand the process for the much larger topics down the road. (Module 1) For me, the tricky piece in this is to not instill my own personal views as the “right” way. I also feel that as a teacher it is important to always be a positive role model for your students. When I am faced with an ethical dilemma, my first thoughts are, how would this influence those around me? Would I teach and encourage my students to make the same decision? I stand firmly behind the statement, “practice what you preach”. At times, it can be tricky to stick by that statement, but it makes it difficult to respect and follow the lead of an authority figure or someone children can look up to if you are unable to follow what you teach. Ultimately, what is most important is to stick by your core beliefs and what will continue my healthy living. In the reading Schema of the Moral Process in Pojman’s Value: The Quest for the Good it discusses that some of us invent our values by choice and those “values are created by desires and they are valuable just to that degree to which they are desired.” We must decide to do what is morally right, which can change depending on the person. (Module 1)

There are a lot of important pieces from this course that I will take with me that will help influence my choices in the future in my classroom. One of these is the importance of teaching subjects that might make me uncomfortable such as religion, sex education, politics etc. I have been doing my students a disservice by not providing my students with an appropriate amount of information/education because I have been uncomfortable or I am afraid to press my personal views. Through the readings and discussions in this course, I feel more comfortable with my limitations surrounding the subjects. “The first amendment requires teachers within the public school to remain neutral with promoting religious views. All throughout my time completing my undergrad, it was made clear that there are extremely controversial topics such as politics and religion that we as future educators needed to be aware of, and how to handle such situations.” (Module 3) I am excited to test out a well-rounded education on these controversial topics. I completed an project with my group on the teaching of sex education and the common arguments and controversial standpoints. This all connects with another piece of information that this course has will influence my teaching in the future. The importance of teaching character education in the classroom, starting as young as kindergarten and continuing and building all the way through 12th grade. This is how I believe we build the foundation for students with strong character education to have discussions and well-rounded education for controversial topics like religion, sex education, and politics.

Parker Palmer’s book, To Know As We Are Known talked about the importance of promoting a safe environment, “The teacher who gives a single interpretation of the data rather than suggesting alternative theories fails to open a space in which students are challenged to learn. (Palmer, 78)”. In order to challenge your students to question what they read, what they learn and to take risks, there needs to be a safe environment. As Palmer states, “silence is a threatening experience” (pg 81). Promote talking, brainstorming and collaboration to help guide your students in seeking the truth and morally centric outcomes. (Module 4). This is a concept that I plan on continuing to implement in my classroom, a safe environment where my students feel comfortable taking risks.

Another major piece that will stay with me and I would like to do more of, is fight more to keep the arts and extracurricular in schools as much as possible. This is something I would like to push as a teacher leader and future administrator. We are quickly losing sight of what is important and healthy for the children in our schools. As we read in Developing Assets by Peter Scales, exposure to external and internal assets is critical to help eliminate problems in schools. Limiting a child’s exposure to the world and real life experiences is hindering their development and ability to solve real world issues. In school we are able to help expose our students to creative activities, clubs, music and sports and we need to hold on tight to those opportunities and not lose sight of their importance in our student’s lives. For a lot of our kids, this is the only time they get to have those experiences. (Module 7)

Citations:

Lewis, C. S. 2001. The Abolition of Man. New York: HarperCollins.

Lickona, T. (2004). Character matters: How to help our children develop good judgment, integrity, and other essential virtues. New York: Simon & Schuster.

Palmer, Parker. To Know As We Are Known: Education as a Spiritual Journey. San Francisco: Harper, 1993

Pojman’s Value: The Quest for the Good. (n.d.).

Quotes from my discussion board posts in Modules: 1-8

Scales, P., & Leffert, N. (2004). Developmental assets a synthesis of the scientific research on adolescent development (Revised/Expanded ed.). Minneapolis: Search Institute.

Smith, F. (2006, April 3). How to Approach Moral Issues in the Classroom. Edutopia. Retrieved July 15, 2014, from http://www.edutopia.org/how-approach-moral-issues-classroom

Standard 6

Standard 6

The course EDAD 6589 Engaging Communities gave me a new found appreciation for the leadership roles that principals have within a school. This course provided me with several new learnings that made me totally rethink strong mindsets that were once instilled regarding parent involvement and parent engagement. Throughout this course and the completion of its assignments, I gained a much more realistic idea of the work and collaboration it takes with not only parents but the surrounding community of a school to make it successful. The first day of class, our cohort brainstormed the different stakeholders that were involved in a school community and more importantly, had a large effect on a school’s community. My understanding of the term stakeholders grew significantly when our brainstormed list became much larger than I ever would have imagined. Places and groups such as, daycares, churches, businesses etc. are all affected by a school and the school is affected by these places as well.  During this course we spent a lot of time reading case studies that provided real examples of schools and their success as well as failures in regards to parent and community involvement and engagement.

One of my biggest take-aways this quarter was a statement that my professor made, he said, “Rather than asking, Why are some families so hard to reach?” we should instead need to ask, “What am I doing that makes my school and/or classroom hard to reach?” This was a statement that our entire cohort took to heart and had a large discussion about. It truly changed the way we began to look at our building. It changed our entire perspective of what we had control over and how we could better our school and classroom environment to be more welcoming and reachable.

This leads into another large take-away from this course was that there is a large difference between parent involvement and parent engagement. This concept was also supported by two different lectures I was able to listen to about family, school and community engagement. Melanie Strey and Brad Brown led these fabulous Saturday workshops. At first, I was certain that my classroom obtained parent engagement because I had several parent volunteers and helpers each week. What I quickly came to realize is, I had a lot of parent involvement, not engagement. I have parents in my room helping with projects, prep, some working with students, but mainly, it is a one-way conversation. Engagement requires a two-way communication system where parents feel like they have a role in the school and child’s education. I have a lot of parent involvement, where parents are talked to and told how they can participate in the school. I know I spend a large amount of time during conferences a two way conversation where I am asking parents for input and inside ideas and knowledge about their kiddo. What I quickly realized is that I needed to work on making those conversations happen on a more regular basis, not just during scheduled conference times. “Traditional definitions of parental involvement require investments of time and money from parents, and those who may not be able to provide these resources are deemed uninvolved (Bower & Griffin).” This quote really stuck with me because several teachers, including myself have probably agreed with this at one point. The parents that don’t to help out in our classroom, or return permission slips right away with a check to attend we might find ourselves feeling like those parents are uninvolved. However, parent involvement can take many forms.

A Harvard Family Research Project titled, Data Collection Instruments for Evaluating Family Involvement serves as a tool that provides several avenues to help teachers and administrators collect data to continue improvements in family involvement. There are multiple surveys that cater to different types of demographics. These surveys allow you to measure and assess family involvement which then allows the schools to take steps towards improving community engagement levels.

There were a few different data collection models that I felt could be used in my building. The ones that I was able to connect the most with from my teaching experience were: Parent and School Survey (PASS) as well as Parent and Family Involvement in Education Survey of the 2003 National Household Education Surveys Program.

One of the major assignments during this quarter was a Community Involvement Plan. We were asked to research and look deep into how our principal of our building and staff reach out and engage with the school’s community. We were asked to interview our administrator to get more inside information on what her job truly entails.

During this course we were also asked to conduct an interview with a teacher that currently teaches in a school with opposite demographics that I currently teach in. I picked a Title 1 school that was within the same district that I taught in. I was able to ask this teacher several questions about how her school works with the surrounding community to help their students reach a higher success rate in the population that they currently serve. The teacher was able to speak with me about several different programs and things that their principal does and reaches out to in order to better serve their demographics and population. In my Engaging Community Reflection you can read more about it.

As a teacher leader and a potential future principal, this course and standard has really helped me understand just how important it is to have a positive, working relationship with not only the parents at your school but the community too. I have always had several parent volunteers each year. However, as I mentioned earlier, there is a difference between parent involvement and parent engagement. In the future, I would like to strength my parent involvement in my classroom and school by making sure there is a safe and welcoming environment. It is critical for parents and students to feel like they’re voice is heard not only within my classroom but in the school as well.

Resources:

Agbo, S. (2007). Addressing School-Community Relations in a Cross-Cultural Context: A Collaborative Action to Bridge the Gap Between First Nations and the School. Journal of Research in Rural Education, 22(8), 1-14.

Bower, H., & Griffin, D. (2011). Can the Epstein Model of Parental Involvement Work in a High-Minority, High-Poverty Elementary School? A Case Study. Professional School Counseling, 15(2), 77-87.

Elias, M., & Buzelli, C. (2013). The School-to-Prison Pipeline: Policies and Practices That Favor Incarceration Over Education Do Us All a Grave Injustice. Teaching Tolerance, 39-43.

Ferguson, C. (2005). Reaching out to diverse populations: What can schools do to foster family-school connections? National Center for Family & Community Connections with Schools, Retrieved May 10, 2015 from http//www.sedl.org/connections/resources/bibsearch.html

Robbins, C., & Searby, L. (2013). Exploring Parental Involvement Strategies Utilized by Middle School Interdisciplinary Teams. School Community Journal, 23(2), 113-136.

Westmoreland, H., Bouffard, S., O’Carroll, K., & Rosenberg, H. (2009, May 1). Data Collection Instruments for Evaluating Family Involvement. Retrieved May 10, 2015, from http://www.hfrp.org/family-involvement/publications-resources/data-collection-instruments-for-evaluating-family-involvement

TL Standard 10

TL Standard 10

During the course EDU 6526 Instructional Strategies, I was able to explore several research-based instructional practices. Some of which I was familiar with, others I had not had the opportunity to explore or dive deep into with my students. We began the quarter by looking into our common practices and beliefs. We began to look at a general overview of several types of research based instructional practices such as; cooperative learning, feedback, advance organizers, questioning, self-reflection, reciprocal teaching, and non-linguistic representation. After reviewing several of these instructional practices and looking at the key components that make them successful, I realized I had a lot to learn and a lot to explore in my classroom. For the remainder of the quarter, I got to explore these research-based instructional practices in depth and try implementing a few into my own practice. I chose to do further research on cooperative learning, advance organizers, role play, and non-linguistic representations.

During my further research in role play I found an article on how dramatic play/role play can enhance student learning. One piece of information that I found very useful was they gave the reader the list of things they need to have thought of, prepared, or aware of during role play in order to be successful in enhancing student learning. Cecchini referred to it as, “setting the stage” to have the right skill set. Incorporating role playing and having children mimic behaviors, actions and verbal expressions of someone helps retention and comprehension of taught material. In this article it discusses the importance of paying attention to the use of materials, making sure you have the correct length of time for the activity, keeping an eye on their social skills/interactions with their peers and their communication levels. All of these pieces are important things to consider when having your students’ role play in your classroom. I wrote a lesson plan to test out these ideas with my students. Overall, I was pleasantly surprised by engagement levels and how much fun they had. I will definitely do another lesson like this! I loved this website, and will refer back to it when I plan another lesson with role play in the future!

I also spent time researching non-linguistic representations. I found a website that covers the book Enhancing Writing with Visualizing by Linda ZeiglerJerry L Johns and Virginia R Beesley. This book is one I might order to read and keep in my professional library. It is a “how to” book to help teach students the strategy of visualization and the important role it plays in literacy. A quote from the webpage that I really enjoyed was “By integrating visualization into the writing process, students think as they create. And since an image looks the same in any language–this research-based strategy benefits every learner!” Learning how to tap into your visualization skills not only benefits the engagement levels, but the retention levels too. It can aid any lesson in any subject area. This book I found focuses on how it helps in literacy. In the book, each lesson is prefaced with information to help teachers choose lessons that match the needs of their students. The indicators are labeled with writing traits to help teachers comprehend how each lesson incorporates multiple elements of writing. I gave this a try in a writing lesson plan I wrote. Students had an opportunity to put their senses to the test. I loved to see how this research-based instructional practice was highly effective with my students. They all took the lesson very seriously and their ability to write with “wow words” seemed effortless.

I learned a lot about myself as a teacher and my students during this quarter when I explored, wrote lessons and taught several of these research-based instructional practices. However, I feel that one of my biggest takeaways during this course was my learning on giving feedback to students. In chapter 7 of Visible Learning for Teachers, John Hattie talks a lot about feedback and how “feedback aims to reduce the gap between where the student ‘is’ and where he or she is ‘meant to be’ (Hattie, 129).” As a teacher it is imperative for you to know where your students are and where they are supposed to be. He discussed how the more transparent you make it for students, the easier it is for them to help in getting themselves to that place. This really piggybacks to the importance of your students knowing the learning targets and objectives each day. I found that this chapter really connects the importance to why having your students be able to share the objective and why it is important for them to know the goal of the lesson to the power of feedback with your students. Hattie describes the best form of feedback is just above the level at which the student is working. With that requires a lot of work for a teacher to make intentional and meaningful comments that aren’t just “way to go” or “wow, good job”. Knowing your students currently level and the end result is critical. A quote that really stuck with me from the readings this week was when Hattie states, “Almost half of teachers’ feedback was praise, and that premature and gratuitous praise confused students and discouraged revisions. Most often, teachers use praise to mitigate critical comments, which indeed diluted the positive effect of such comments (Hattie, 136).” This was a new way of looking at feedback for me. I definitely feel that I am guilty of premature praise which in return in fact has discouraged revisions with my students. I am truly interested in working on my praise and the timing and intent of that praise so it doesn’t discourage my students for revisions within their work. One of my biggest takeaways from Hattie this week was “Errors invite opportunities” I love that statement. “What we now know and what we could know; they are signs of opportunities to learn (Hattie, 139).”

Another big take away was around note taking. In chapter 6 of Classroom Instruction that Works it states, “Evidence from the 2010 study also suggests that note-taking strategies are not intuitive; this means that students benefit from explicit instruction in note-taking strategies, particularly those that are guided and more structured (Dean, Hubbell, Pitler and Stone, 79).” Changing to Common Core this year has brought along several changes. One change that classroom teachers have taken on is structured and purposeful note-taking. This is a skill that is now being taught as early as kindergarten and also graded during our Performance Assessments throughout the year. I feel that it is important and very critical for students to be taught how to be effective note takers. I was very taken back when I first read that kindergarteners would be required to take notes from an informational text and then use the notes as a reference during an assessment. Reading that in September as a kindergarten teacher, I just about fell out of my chair. I felt that was asking way too much of my little five year olds, half of those kinders not even able to write words independently at that time of the year. However the teaching to note-taking in kinder is very intentional and guided. It is a process that is done together and allows students to see the framework of successful note-taking. They build from that in September to hopefully the beginning stages of independent note-taking by the end of the year. I felt it was really neat to watch (most of) my students this year develop such a complex skill at such a young age!

Over the course of the quarter, I participated in a final collaborative inquiry with a teammate that I collaborate with frequently. We focused our research on using transition words to help stories flow better, as well as adding a concluding sentence in narrative writing to conclude their story. Our inquiry question was: How can we implement advance organizers to support students in their narrative writing? You can look at the layout and framework of this action research project here. In the Collaborative Instructional Strategies Inquiry project you can see my analysis of this action research project and how effective it was in the presentation.

As I mentioned throughout this reflection, I look forward to continue using the research-based instructional strategies that I learned about. To further challenge myself, I plan to try using additional research-based instructional practices that I am not as familiar or comfortable with. Teaching such a young grade, some of the concepts that go into these lessons can be intimidating.  In the research throughout this quarter I did find several examples of how to scale lessons down which is encouraging and helpful to get my feet wet! I recently began working with professional learning coaches with my grade level team to try find new ways to add research-based instructional practices into a math workshop. I look forward to continuing this work with my teammates and the learning coaches as well as looking into additional professional development to implement into my classroom!

Citations:

Cecchini, M. E. (2008, January 1). Earlychildhood NEWS – Article Reading Center. Earlychildhood NEWS – Article Reading Center. Retrieved May 16, 2014, from http://www.earlychildhoodnews.com/earlychildhood/article_view.aspx?ArticleID=751

Dean, C, E.R. Hubbell, H Pitler, and B Stone. Classroom Instruction that Works. 2nd Edition. Alexandria, VA: ASCD, 2012. Print.

Hattie, John. Visible Learning for Teachers Maximizing Impact on Learning. Routledge: London and New York, 2012. Print.

Success for all foundation®: Cooperative Learning- Elementary. (2012, January 1). Success For All. Retrieved May 2, 2014, from http://www.successforall.org/Elementary/Powerful-Instruction/Our-Instructional-Design/Cooperative-Learning/

Using BrainPOP as an Advance Organizer. (2009, December 20). BrainPOP Educators Using BrainPOP as an Advance Organizer Comments. Retrieved May 2, 2014, from http://www.brainpop.com/educators/community/2009/12/20/using-brainpop-as-an-advance-organizer/

Zeigler, L. L., & Johns, J. L. (2007). Enhancing writing through visualization. Dubuque, Iowa: Kendall Hunt Pub. Co..

TL Standard 2

TL Standard 2

I was pleasantly surprised at how much I enjoyed all of the assigned online articles and readings from our required books Brain Matters, Jossey Bass and Brain Rules for this quarter. There are so many important pieces that go into teaching and education. Before this class, I feel that I was always focused on the curriculum as well as supplementing that curriculum to give my students the best education I possibly could. Now, I feel that my original focal point is shared with a new, additional component. I am not only focused on those aspects of the teaching field regarding curriculum, but now, I am focusing more on best practices. These best practices are based on solid research regarding how students learn and retain information.

Both Brain Matters and Jossey Bass do a wonderful job explaining the brain. These two texts covered a lot of similar information such as; the structure and functions of the human brain, the development of the brain, sensory input, information storage and how the brain learns best. As an educator, I was able to take away and apply many pieces of these books into my classroom immediately. However, there were a few topics of discussion during this quarter that I feel really grabbed my attention that I would like to discuss. I really connected with and would like to talk about the “buy in” at the start of each lesson and its importance. I would also like to discuss using the arts in my teaching. Another large take away was, teaching using concrete experiences. I will also touch on the benefits of exercise in the classroom, student’s memory, and the importance of using visuals in the classroom.

In a webinar Dr. Willis, an educational researcher, mentioned it is important to make your lessons enjoyable, you need to have what she called, the “buy-in” method. Making your lessons relevant for your students allows them to immediately connect and engage. They should understand what she called the “here-me-now” not only in reading, but in every subject area. At any age, students should be able to answer: what will this information or skill offer me, here, at this time. In Brain Matters Wolfe explains, “Occipital Lobes are the primary brain centers for processing visual stimuli (Wolfe 2010).” The visual stimulus connects with stored cognitive associations which make what is being seen, meaningful. So what does this mean in my classroom? Making sure my learning targets are always posted and up to date for my students to see. It also means making learning meaningful to my students, and giving them concrete experiences (which I will discuss later). I see the best learning and highest success in my students when I have provided a great buy in to my lesson and then continue with a highly interactive, hands on activities. Looking back into chapter 11, Wolfe states, “We learn some things by experiencing them concretely, others symbolically, and still others in abstract terms (Wolfe 166).” I was recently introduced to a program called BTiC: Bringing Theater into the Classroom. It is a program that teaches you ways to integrate drama into your entire curriculum. I was able to immediately implement my learning into my classroom. I played around using a type of acting called tableaus. I had my students use a tableau to demonstrate their understanding and comprehension of a story we had read that they were struggling with retelling. I was amazed at how well they did and the results showed they were able to retain and pull great content from our lesson using this exercise. Research proves that the arts allow students to explore, learn from peers and learn how to explore and express emotions. The arts provide students with skills which are not directly taught in content based classes, but which are required to have and use in content based classes.  For example: observation, spatial relationships, kinesthetic, symbolism, imagination, abstractions, cooperation (Sousa, 335-336). Using a buy in, music and theater in our classrooms more often could ultimately be the new “best teaching practice”.

Another big takeaway for me this quarter was the idea of getting my students out into the real world. That all not all of my assignments have to be pencil and paper based, like our curriculums seem to have them. “Young children learn best through concrete experience. It is important to provide hands-on learning to strengthen natural interactions in natural settings (Wolfe 6).” In chapter 11 of Brain Matters Wolfe mentions, “Many of our strongest neural networks are formed by actual experience (Wolfe 169).” Looking and researching further, it is beneficial and more interesting to find actual problems in our own school or community for students to problem solve and work together to find possibly solutions. Teaching kindergarten and having my students be so young I find other ways to help give them concrete experiences at home too. I have my students out in natural settings to gain experiences. They help parents write grocery lists, they cut out words from food labels, bags, magazines to add to our classroom word wall. They go on nature walks with their parents to connect to science curriculum. I look forward to incorporating real world problem solving strategies into my classroom!

A big interest of mine has always been the benefits for students and the research behind exercise within the classroom. In John Medina’s Brain Rules, he states that, “kids pay better attention to their subjects when they’ve been active. Kids are also less likely to be disruptive in terms of their classroom behavior when they’re active (Medina 18)”. Not only are they less disruptive but they “feel better about themselves, have higher self-esteem, less depression, less anxiety. All of those things can impair academic performance and attentiveness (Medina 14)”. So how can I take this into my classroom? Well, each morning in my class, we are now taking the time to do our Get Fit- Count to 100s song, stretching, doing breathing exercises, and having them do children’s yoga to help set my students up for a successful morning and day. It has been a great way to get the blood flowing and get more oxygen to their brain. I have really noticed a difference in their level of engagement after such activities. In the book Brain Matters, Wolfe talks about research that Harvard University did that shows that exercise plays a critical role in brain functioning (Wolfe 94). Having a lot of research backing up and supporting my choice of adding 20+ minutes of exercise each morning and again in small periods throughout my day lessens the stressful feeling that I am “wasting” teach time because I am, in actuality, helping their learning.

A large chunk of our time this quarter was researching and completing readings about our memory, long-term, short-term memory and the inner workings of each. During our Brain Rules presentations we learned that most memories we make are lost within minutes (Medina 147). Hearing that students are likely to lose a large percentage of the information taught each day is a scary and concerning thing for any teacher to hear. So what is the solution? How do we make sure our lessons and hours upon hours teaching each day are not wasted? Our memory experts Wolfe and Medina suggest if teachers “want something to stick in students’ long-term memory, then teachers must build elaborative rehearsal strategies into their instruction.  Building elaborative rehearsal strategies allows students’ time to process the information.  This increases the strength of students’ learning because the strategies allow consolidation to take place (Wolfe, 157.) It was brought up in class discussion after a Brain Rules presentation that it is best for teachers to plan lessons where content is incorporated gradually and then repeated in intervals. At the beginning of each year, teachers spend time looking at their specialist schedules hoping and trying to work their days where they can have large chunks of teach time during ideal parts of the day. I feel that I have always had an inconsistent specialist time and I never really have more than a small block of time for teaching a lesson before recess or a specialist interrupts it. Well, research has shown that leaving a lesson and revisiting that material is actually doing your students a service. The best way to retain information in your memory is to rehearse and revisit as much as possible. I am now using my choppy daily schedule to my advantage to really reiterate my main teach points.

The last piece of information that I found extremely valuable, that I would like to discuss is the importance of visuals and active engagement used in your daily lessons and in the classroom which connects to my presentation on Whole Brain Teaching. We learned through class discussions and our readings that images help us learn and remember more than just written words. This immediately made me think back to my own classroom and what I could change in my lessons to fit this model that is more visual based. Medina says, “Vision trumps all other senses…We learn and remember best through pictures, not through written or spoken words.” (Medina, 223) In a sense, less is more. Teaching kindergarten my classroom is filled with pictures and word labels for my ELL students and non-readers. For my kiddo’s on IEP’s I have several picture schedules that allows consistency for them. I have always been aware at how beneficial images are for ELL students and students on IEP’s but I had never understood how important images were for increasing understanding for the whole class. Wolfe discusses in chapter 12, “Not only are visuals powerful retention aids, but they also serve to increase understanding,” (Wolfe, 184). This will be a constant challenge for me in my teaching career. To look at my lessons each day and find ways to scale down the amount of text and increase the visuals.

I am happy to say that I feel like I have been able to make many changes so far this year in my room to better the learning for my students. Although making a change or trying something new that I do not not feel 100% comfortable with, like theater and drama, can be intimidating it is proving to be effective and really helping my student learning. I was able to use my presentation on Brain Rules: Chapter 8- Stress to help me manage and eliminate stress not only for myself but also within my classroom for my students. What is most important in my eyes as an educator, is to remain open minded and open to suggestions that could best benefit your students. Always be willing to take risks, and better yourself as an educator, because we have to remember, it is all about the students! I look forward to using Medina’s Brain Rules in the future as a teacher leader and possible future administrator.

Resources:

Bringing theater into the classroom. (n.d.). Retrieved from http://www.seattlerep.org/Programs/Education/BTIC/Default

Medina, J. (2008). Brain rules: 12 principles for surviving and thriving at work, home, and school (pp. 14-147). Seattle, WA: Pear Press.

Sousa, David A. (2008). The jossey-bass reader on the brain and learning. (1st ed., pp. 95-336). San Francisco, CA: John Wiley & Sons, Inc.

Willis, J. (n.d.). ASCD Webinars – Judy Willis, Brain-Based Learning Strategies. Membership, policy, and professional development for educators – ASCD. Retrieved October 6, 2013, from http://www.ascd.org/professional-development/webinars/judy-willis-brain-and-learning-webinars.aspx

Wolfe, P. (2010). Brain Matters. (2nd ed.,pp.16-223). Arlington, VA: ASCD

Wolfe, P. (2013). Early Brain Development. (pp.1-10) A position paper for the 9th Bridge Early Childhood Program in Las Vegas.