EDTC 6433: Final Reflection

I am happy to say that I am leaving this class feeling like I have learned a lot and also feeling 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 have to admit that I was nervous, and intimidated. Yes, I feel 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 projects we would create and we touched on the types of work we would do in this tech class. We also 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 75 year olds, 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 this project won’t be completed until May/June of 2014, I feel I was effective in setting my students up for success on this project. I have spent a lot of time teaching my students about the basics of using netbooks. I have 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 have also done a lot of preloading with my students on how to research using graphic organizers and using the basics of PebbleGo. I have learned so much about how to introduce somewhat complicated technology skills so early in the year with kindergarteners. My biggest learning and 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!

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 greatly 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 am leaving with wonderful 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 with SPU for my graduate degree! I already used one 2 of the programs I have learned about in my projects and presentations for finals this quarter! I look forward to seeing how I can continue to use these programs with my class this year and in the future as well!

Something I always need to remember is how important technology is and how it allows for creativity in my classroom. Student choice is so important. It allows for students to be more engaged and take ownership in their learning, and technology really aids student choice. Technology has really opened the door and alleviated stress for the kiddos in my room who struggle with fine motor and writing skills. It has allow for my students who rarely participate in conversation and give me a large sigh when it is time to get work done,  to be excited to pull out the netbooks or recording system to get started on their work! Technology is supporting students with many different avenues to access information and support learning! I will definitely be continuing the use of technology in my classroom!

EDU 6655 Is Theater the Answer?

While reading chapter 14 of Brain Matters, Wolfe does a wonderful job recapping the main takeaways from her book. While reading over the importance of using appropriate rehearsal strategies and providing many opportunities for students to revisit information over time on page 222, I was able to connect a phenomenal new resource I received during our staff LEAP time.

Our staff was lucky enough to have a training session from BTiC: Bringing Theater into the Classroom. It is a program that teaches you ways to integrate drama into your entire curriculum. They give activities, and ice breakers to help start your year off. With those activities, comes a set up for grouping our students that you are able to pull from for the rest of the year. 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).” What I loved about BTiC is this program provides methods of learning that research has proved to be most effective. During this mini workshop, we learned a lot about tableaus and how effective they can be in all subject areas and used for many purposes. This immediately excited me and got me eager to apply my new learning into my classroom. I already had an idea of where and exactly how I wanted to test out using tableaus.

In my classroom during reading workshop, the curriculum is focusing hard on oral retelling of the highlighted story from the curriculum. We are provided with a hardcopy version of this story, the story is available online, and we are given blank picture cards for students to “fill in the blank” of the story. However, no matter how many times we listen to the story (me reading the book, played online or using the blank cards) my students are still having a difficult time with going back and recreating the story in the correct order. I went back into my classroom after the workshop and immediately introduced tableaus to my students. Rather than having my whole class attempt to retell the entire story together, I divided the story out into 4 sections and grouped my students into 4 groups. Each group was given a section of the story and they had to work together to create a tableau to show the most important piece of their section of the story. Each group then watched the others mini productions! We had a quick discussion about each tableau and why they chose the stances, and gestures they chose. After this activity, we sat back down and debriefed the whole lesson. The next day I came back and revisited this same story and asked them to retell the story. The outcome was phenomenal. Every single student was able to correctly retell the story in the correct order and they were actually able to pull even more information from the story after that activity than they were able to before.

All of the reading and research from Jossey, Wolfe and the fabulous online readings that we have been able to discover have really come to life in my classroom with how students learn best. I can’t wait to continue using tableaus and theater in my classroom!

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

Wolfe, P. (2010). Brain Matters. (2nd ed., pp.221-223). Arlington, VA: ASCD.

Creativity

Creativity holds a lot of meaning in my eyes, especially in education. Over the last 4 years of teaching, I have learned the importance of engaging students and student choice. Within that, there are a lot of opportunities for students to find ways to incorporate creativity within their work. I am lucky to say that my school is well known for exposing our students to the arts and encouraging creativity in every aspect of the classroom. Recently, I have been incorporating drama into my teaching. My students are using props and acting out stories daily. Last year, I provided my students with an opportunity to put on a play presentation that we invited our parents to. The students got to pick the story they wanted to act out. As a class we sat down and picked roles for the story then the students then wrote their own script for the play. Once the script was written the students then created their own costumes and after a lot of rehearsing, we performed on our stage for the parents and a few classes within the building.

What I learned from this experience is how much interest and ownership the students took in their own work and learning. They were dedicated and motivated to make it the absolute best they possibly could. After watching my students use creativity in a way that boosted learning and performance I have been intrigued to find other ways, programs to get the same results.

This week I was able to explore a new program called WeVideo.  I was pleasantly surprise at how easy and fun this program was to use.  I was asked to film small clips equaling 10 minutes of footage about my life. Using WeVideo, I clipped the footage down to a 3 minute video. Video editing was all new learning for me and I was very happy to realize its simplicity. I feel that this program could be a fun way for my students to use. Being Kindergartners, they would need a little assistance from their parents with recording. However, it would be very doable for us to put a small clip from each student into one video and work together on it. It would also be fun to take small clips during the school year, field trips etc. and then at the end of the year put it together to make a small video montage of the kindergarten year that I could send home with each child. It would be a simple and fun way to remember some of the best times in kindergarten!

Mnemonics Saved the Day

Growing up, I always had a difficult time studying for tests. There was always so much information that I needed to retain but I struggled keeping the information organized and straight in my mind. I always seemed to struggle until the day I started using mnemonics. In chapter 13 of Brain Matters Wolfe states, “many teachers view mnemonics as mere memorization or ‘memory tricks’ (Wolfe 208).” They say that mnemonics are unrespectable because they don’t enhance deep and meaningful understanding. As an educator, I could not disagree more. I was able to be successful in elementary school, middle school, high school and college because of the help from mnemonics. It is a great tool to  aid memory and the ability to recite information.

Wolf spends a great deal of time reciting many of the categories of mnemonics. Two categories that I was able to connect with the most is acrostic sentences, as well as acronyms. The two are very similar to one another. The difference is acrostic sentences are always sayings in a sentence form whereas acronyms are using just a single word.  Many of us have probably learned several of these as young children and still to this day are able to recite these silly sentences or words. Examples are how many days are in each month “30 days has September, April, June and November..” ,  learning the notes of the line on the treble clef by learning the sentence “Every good boy does fine” . A popular acronym that I still use to this day to help me remember how to properly use the words affect vs. effect is RAVEN.  “Remember affect (is a) verb, effect (is a) noun (Wolfe 210).”

“When two vowels go walking, the first one does the talking (Wolfe 211).” Using what seems to be just a silly sentence during reading workshop to help students remember a very important rule while reading, truly works. In chapter 15 of Jossey Bass Reader, it talks about the differences between literate and illiterate students. One intriguing difference was when they looked into reciting nonsense words. “The illiterate people tended to turn these into real words (Blakemore 240).” Teaching kindergarten, I still have several students who are not reading yet. Illiterate students, struggle retaining the information and research shows that they are actually using a different part of their brains when attempting to read words. They use the part of the brain responsible for problem solving.

After looking deeper into this new learning, I am curious to see how helpful it could be using mnemonics more frequently with my illiterate students. I look forward to learning more creative ways to distribute information for my illiterate students to recall it better/faster, as well as strengthen my literate student’s skills. Could this change, decrease or eliminate (in some areas) the problem with students using the wrong part of their brain while trying to read? Even if it couldn’t solve the problem, I am curious to see the growth with those illiterate students in using mnemonics. As teachers we can teach students about how their memories work and give them the tools they need in order to recall and pull from that stored information.

Wolfe, P. (2010). Brain Matters. (2nd ed., pp.200-217). Arlington, VA: ASCD.

Blakemore, S. J., Frith, U. (2007). The JOSSEY-BASS READER on the Brain and Learning (p. 101). San Francisco, CA: John Wiley & Sons, Inc.

EDU 6655 What Would I Change?

There are many things that we as educators would change about our schools if we had the money and/or power to.  Ask a teacher to close their eyes and pretend that money and power were not an issue. For them to write down ideas of what a perfect school would look like and see what you get. Every teacher has their dream of what that would look like, and it would be pages upon pages of changes, some more feasible than others.  There is, however one major change that I would like to see implemented in schools all over the country. I would like to see more exercise built into our students’ school day.

“Research from Harvard University has shown that exercise plays a critical role in brain functioning (Wolfe-Early Brain Development 6).” Many researchers have concluded that exercise is an important part of a child’s day. In chapter 7 of Brain Matters, Wolfe discusses how school districts are decreasing the time spent in subjects like art, music and physical education to spend more time on core subjects such as math, reading and writing in hopes to raise students standardized test scores. However, after looking into research concerning the effects of exercise on brain function it suggests that this practice may be counterproductive to the results they are looking for (Wolfe 93). Wolfe goes on later in the chapter explaining a study that was done proved that the more physical tests students passed, the higher they scored on the achievement test. Exercise not only enhances learning, it affects emotional and physical well-being as well because when you exercise your body produces endorphins (Scheve).”

I was pleased to read in John Medina’s Brain Rules 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 2008)”. 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 2008)”. Science and my readings have proved that exercise is a vital part of education and learning. Taking the time each day in my class to do our Get Fit- Count to 100s song, stretching, doing breathing exercises, and having them do children’s yoga are all benefiting the learning of my students. It has been a great way to get the blood flow and oxygen to their brain to help get them ready to learn. I have really noticed a difference in their level of engagement after such activities. In my perfect world, districts would stop eliminating our student’s time in important activities that help the success rate of our students. I would also have blocks of time set for exercise in the classrooms totally to about an hour of fun movements and exercises. There could even be a before school program where students could come and do Pilates, yoga, zumba, jogging or any other type of exercise to get their brains awake and ready to learn before the day begins! This would not only aid learning and engagement, but it would also help solve our national obesity issue that our country is undergoing.

Resources:

Medina, J. (2008). Exercise. Brain rules: 12 principles for surviving and thriving at work, home, and school (pp. 14-18). Seattle, WA: Pear Press.

Scheve, T. (n.d.). Is there a link between exercise and happiness?. Retrieved from http://science.howstuffworks.com/life/exercise-happiness2.htm

Wolfe, P. (2010). Brain Matters. (2nd ed., pp.93-97). Arlington, VA: ASCD.

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

Collaboration

Collaboration has always been a very important part of my school as well as within my school district. Over the years the district has provided teachers with several different tools to collaborate within our teams, buildings, and district. A few years ago, OneNote was the program that our school district required teachers to use. My team and I personally made great use from this program. We would use OneNote as a place to upload any documents, notes from meetings, projects, and collaboration ideas. We would often create flipcharts and post them on OneNote and share access with other surrounding schools to support the work smarter, not harder idea. OneNote was great for the first year or so, but the program quickly faded out.

Last year, LWSD introduced a program called Haiku. In my eyes, Haiku was designed 100% around communication and collaboration. This year, every teacher is required to have a Haiku page live and active for parents and students to access. Teachers have the abiltiy to make it as complicated or simple as they would like. You are able to upload assignments, projects, newsletters and much more. My team, administrator and school are using this program for much more than just parent and student communication. My team has created a kindergarten haiku page for just the teachers. On this page, we upload and collect data for our CIP goal every month. We use this information in our monthly meetings with our principal to share our progress in meeting our goals. We track our level 4 students and our students that are not meeting standard and the students that are approaching standard. We collaborate and provide strategies and methods for helping to meet the needs for our students. Haiku has become a wonderful and easy way to communicate, collaborate and access all types of information needed with my kindergarten team, administrator, students and parents. I hope my school district decides to keep Haiku around for many years to come, I feel there is wonderful potential in this newly adopted program.