Monday, November 26, 2012

Blog Post #5: Literacy Reflection

This semester, I have been surprised by the literacy levels of my students. They are able to analyze somewhat complex texts in class. Last week we gave them an excerpt from the Communist Manifesto, and even though it uses an unusual vernacular. the kids were able to understand the main points. However, I am also surprised at how unwilling kids are today to do any reading outside of class. Now it must be said that I am involved with 2 college prep classes, and at the school I am at, college prep students do not really expect to do any homework. However, we will every once in a while give them a simple reading assignment at home, and most of the kids do not do it.

When I start teaching next year, I hope to have more readings that connect to current events. For example, to compliment the reading of the Communist Manifesto, and have them read something on the Occupy movement, and how the that movement is related. I tried to connect the two movements in class, and I started to realize that the kids didn't really know what I was talking about. I think that a mistake that I have made this year is that I assume that the kids have some interest in current events and many of them do not. Another thing that I would like to do in my classroom is to use film and movies to compliment the content. Literacy should not just be reading , but using using other forms of media as well. especially in this era of YouTube and having 500 TV Channels. For example, I could give them a prompt and ask them if they see a connection between The Dark Knight Rises and the French Revolution. I feel like this may engage students that do not like reading by using different mediums.

As the course goes on, the more experience kids haven in reading and analyzing, the deeper I think that could get. I know that the Common Core is all about Primary Sources, which are usually hard to read. What I would like to do is to have my students be able to read those documents,and then relate them to other events on their own. In the example above, I gave them a secondary event to relate it to, but maybe as the kids become more advanced, they could figure out this secondary event on their own. For example, as we talked about the Industrial Revolution and the problems of urbanization, they could maybe do a bit of research and finds that it could relate to the slums in many countries in the global south. Hopefully this would engage them by having them figure out the connections on their own, and they can start taking ownership of their own ideas.

By the end of the year, I hope that the kids are able to put everything together and they are able to write a research paper, where they are coming up with the ideas themselves. In the earlier ideas, the students were given at least one of the topics, but in this instance the kids are totally in control of the project, and will hopefully go deep in to the topic. This will hopefully motivate them to do well on the project and be interested in the content.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

521 Blog Post 4: Project Tomorrow

Prompt 1. I have chosen the report titled "The New Math for Justifying On-line Learning." The article is basically an argument that is stating that in order for districts to be able to go along with shrinking budgets and higher demands, they need to start investing more in online classes. It gives statistics like one-third of secondary students would like to take an online class, and that parents are increasingly demanding online classes. The problem that I see with these statistics is that students of course would like to take an online class because the perception is that they will be easy. They can wake up when they want, never have to take off their pajamas  and do their lessons the same time as they are catching up with their latest TV show. This may not be the case in reality, but I believe that is the perception among high schoolers.

Prompt 2: The video that I watched is titled "Is Anyone Listening? Students speak up about Education Technology." The video includes a panel of secondary students that are talking about the lack of access to technology in schools. The students have well thought out and articulate arguments on why we should have more technology in schools. I agree with them that the schools should have more technology, but the big problem for me is the digital divide that is still evident in our society. I would love it if we could give every kid a laptop or a tablet, and have them do web searches and research online. However, the districts do not have that type of money, making this an unrealistic goal. I think what I would like to do is use the web as a tool that the kids could use, but not make it essential to the learning.

Prompt 3: I would really like it if we started a program at our school for students that were interested in teaching in the future. The benefit of this program is that they could then get involved with groups like academic success and Avid, in which they could act as tutors. They could be role models for some of the younger kids, and help out the substitute when the teacher is out. I would love to start an international club at this school, and have students from different countries come in and discuss their culture so we can celebrate our differences.

Monday, November 5, 2012

21st Century Literacies- 521 Blog Post #3

Although I am teaching in a pretty straight forward world history class, there is some creativity involved. For each unit we try and do some simulation type games where kids re encouraged to act in a role as if they were someone from the specified time period. We also try and have some writing assignment where the kids can take a creative stance on a historical stance. Now when I say we try and do this, it means that if we are running out of time, these are usually the first assignments to get cut. Our class will also have many classroom discussions where kids are asked to interpret pictures and pieces of art from the past, and this often inspires critical thinking.

To be honest at this point in our class we do to teach as much information and media literacy as I would like. We have very little access to computers and technology in the classroom, ans as my CT put it at a meeting recently "How are we supposed to teach 21st century skills with 20th century technology?" Last week as part of my lesson I showed the kids to show how the medical advances in the 19th century doubled are life expectancy. I wasn't sure if the kids would understand, but they really dug it. They started asking me to see the statistics for the different countries, and they probably got more out of that then anything else in the lesson. I am thinking of trying to have them do an assignment based on the information from that website, but I haven't figured it out quite yet.

A big challenge in our class right now is to teach the kids to work independently. We rarely give them homework, and most in class assignment they can work with a partner. Even the notes now during lecture we pretty much tell them what to write. I feel that this is a problem with kids in general today that they have trouble deciphering what is important and what is not. This is in part due to the CST's, as teachers will tell kids now, THIS IS IMPORTANT, ITS ON THE TEST. On the flip side. I think kids today are very good at working in groups and they get along pretty well. We always assign roles in order to give everyone a taskso that they feel engaged.

Monday, October 22, 2012

Classroom Management

Since my two strongest educational philosophies are existential and essentialist, my management plans are probably going to fall somewhere in the middle. I believe that in he beginning of my teaching career I will probably be more on the essentialist spectrum because I will probably want a bit more control of my classroom. Already in my short student teaching career I have noticed that if you give an inch, the students will take a mile, so therefore I will only give a few inches away. I hope to incorporate more existential ideas as I progress, but in the beginning, I plan to have a bit more of an iron fist.

Preventative Approaches
1. Creating a social contract with your students. I really like the idea of beginning your classroom management with your students by discussing with them in the beginning of the year a contract with your students, which will determine what I expect from them and what they will expect from me. By having your students set the rules, this will give them some ownership over them, and hopefully they will take pride in following them. Kohn (1996) says that students should be actively involved in solving all problems that affect the class and that they should be involved in all classroom processes. Of course they would be guided into appropriate rules, but they will hopefully see the classroom as belonging to them.

2. Team Building Activities – By having activities in which the classroom continually interacts with each other, this will hopefully build respect within the classroom and prevent future problems between the students. Charles (2008) believes that by doing these activities, you can build camaraderie in the classroom and this will lead to greater cooperation between the students.

3. Interesting curriculum – One way to make sure that students stay engaged in the class is to mix things up a bit and keep them entertained. Kagan, Kyle and Scott (2007) believe that this can help prevent most classroom behavior problems. I find that by throwing in some movie clips during the class, and by continuously having them work together, the kids’ stay more engaged.

4. Having a set of clear consequences – The Canters (1976) discipline method states that by having a clear set of consequences and by enforcing them consistently, students will be better behaved. I generally see this as true in my classroom, as students know that if they behave inappropriately, their grade will be negatively affected. The key to this approach is to be consistent and make sure the kids are aware of these consequences. These can be settled upon in the social contract mentioned in the first approach.

5. Embracing technology – One big change I have seen since my days in high school is that pretty much every student has some electronic device with them at all times. While these can be disruptive at times, I don’t think that these should be outlawed all together. Kohn (1996) mentions that teachers need to be flexible with students, and this is one area in which teachers are going to need to be a bit more flexible. What we do in our class is allow iPods during independent work, and say that if we see them using them during other times, they will lose this privilege. So far, it has worked. It also helps to keep the kids quiet during independent work.

Supportive Approaches
1. Undertaking classroom and school wide activities (Kohn 1996) – One approach that I think I would like to try is to set up a couple fun activities throughout the year like field trips or simulations that students would be interested in. However, only students who are putting an effort into the class would be able to go, and only students who are generally in good behavior throughout the year.

2. Recognize Achievement (Albert 2008)– As a student, I was always motivated (and still am) when teachers gave positive feedback in class. I feel that when students think they are doing a good job, they are more likely to continue working hard in order to impress the teacher. Albert also says that another good strategy is to have students give positive feedback to other students as well.

3. Always treat your students with dignity (Curwin and Mendler 2008) – I agree with Curwin and Mendler in that it’s important to always treat your students as individuals. This involve getting to know them and some of their interests, with the hope that they will see you as an individual, and they will be less likely to disrupt your class.

4. Make use of Coopetition (Charles 2008) – I am a big fan of friendly classroom competitions to get the blood flowing a bit in the classroom. Charles believes that students respond to competition more then just about any other activity. I do not even think that there needs to be any real stakes or prizes, but the competitive streak in most kids should be enough to keep them motivated.

5. Promoting Life Skills (Kagan, Kyle and Scott 2007) – I like the idea of working in life skills throughout the curriculum. This hopefully will get the students to have more self control, and develop improvement in the students behavior as the year goes on.

Corrective Approach
1. Be consistent with corrective actions (Canters 1976) – One thing that I have had trouble with so far is to be consistent with my discipline. It’s easy to go hard on the students who are traditional troublemakers, and take it easy on the students who are usually well behaved. By being consistent with all students, you set a precedent that you will be fair, and hopefully the students will gain respect for you.

2. Focus on the behavior, not the student (Albert 2008) – I like Albert’s idea of dealing with what is happening in the moment, and not necessarily what has happened in the past. I think this goes a long way in communicating to the students that you are not picking on them individually, and that its their behavior that is wrong.

3. Be private, only the student involved should hear (Curwin 1992) – This strategy can not be used all the time, as sometimes you may need to call out someone in class to stop a behavior immediately. However, I do like this strategy because so far in my experience I have seen that students react much better when you deal with them in private. You may also learn something about them, which explains why they are behaving this way, which probably wouldn’t happen if you called them out in front of the class.

4. Restitution, resolution and reconciliation (Coloroso 2002) – This is a plan for more serious altercations in which a few steps may be needed to solve the problem. There are a couple aspects of Coloroso’s plan that I really like. The first is the idea of sitting down with the student(s) and having them help make the decision on how they can grow from this result. Hopefully this will allow them to take some ownership of their problem and they will take a greater role in fixing it. The second aspect of her plan is if that I think is important is to sit down all students that were affected by the behavior to make sure that all are ok after the incident.

5. Win-Win problem solving (Gordon 2008) – Although this seems like it can be challenging sometimes, especially when someone is clearly in the wrong, I think that this could be an effective way of solving conflicts between students. When they both feel that they have gotten something from the talk they will hopefully be more productive after the intervention. This is somewhat similar to Coloroso’s reconciliation process, but I like that this really works on making sure that all students come out of the incident with something positive.

As I begin my teaching career, I feel that my biggest challenge at the start will be classroom management. As class sizes in high school are getting bigger then we have ever seen, good classroom management strategies can be extremely important in making sure that you have a productive classroom. These strategies that I have chose are the ideal strategies which I think a good teacher should use, but I acknowledge that some my be harder to pull off in my first couple years. Hopefully, I can integrate many of these strategies to build a creative and dynamic classroom. 

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Socio-cultural aspects of Schooling for EL's

There are a couple strategies that I would like to try as a teacher of EL's, one that I picked up from the readings, and the other that I was thinking about when speaking with an EL from my class. The first strategy I would use is peer tutoring. In the Little article, "Journey Towards Belonging," Little talks about an experience she had as a young student when she was routinely called into the office to help translate when new Chinese immigrants were registered into the school. Although she sees this as a negative, mainly because her Chinese was not strong and it was often different versions of Chinese, this got me thinking that this could actually be used as somewhat of a positive. I think it would be effective to have a program where high achieving EL's who are at the advanced or early advanced stage, could help out in the classrooms where there are beginning or early intermediate schools. This would have two benefits in my opinion; the first benefit is that it would be a big help to the struggling EL's, but also would help the advanced EL's both in their language skills and content skills. There could even be a mentor program where kids when they are reclassified would have the option of helping out a struggling EL. I feel like this would be helpful because EL's would have someone to talk to who knows what they have gone through, and knows what it takes to be reclassified.

My second strategy is that every EL be told what exactly it will take for them to be reclassified. I spoke with a student this week who has achieved very high scores on her CELDT tests for the last five years, and has no idea why she remains an EL. After doing some digging myself I found out that she had a couple bad CST tests, which have kept her from being reclassified. When I told her that was the reason, she was surprised because she had no idea the CST's were even linked to reclassification. This leads me to believe that there is a lack of communication between the staff and EL's on how they could get out of the program, There needs to be a system where every EL should know exactly why things are the way they are. This actually could be one thing that the mentor program above could help fix.

Monday, October 15, 2012

Revolution of the Mind

After learning about the teenage brain, I am going to try an make my lessons much more interactive, and have the kids get up and out of their seats. Kids like to take risks, so I think I would need to find a way to incorporate that in the learning. I hope to access memory lanes by continuously asking them how they felt about certain situations from their youth. For example, when talking about the injustices from the old regime in France, you could ask your students how they felt when they had no say in a big decision. Students will become engaged because they will relate it to something in their own lives.

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Level +1 SDAIE Strategy

In my class last week, we made baseball cards with the different Enlightenment philosophes. Students had to draw a symbol of the different philosophes on the front and then write their ideas on the back. I have five level three English learners in my two classes, so I designed the lesson at the Early Advanced Level in cluster 3 of the ELD standards where it states "Apply knowledge of language to achieve comprehension of informational materials, literary texts, and texts in content areas."

Sunday, September 23, 2012

SDAIE Stratagies

During class this week I used the SDAIE strategy of Cooperative Learning in class, by having the class get into groups and jigsaw five different principles of the US constitution. They had to read a small paragraph, and then make a poster representing their specific principle. Each poster needed to have a picture or symbol which they felt matched their portion of the constitution.  Then, the groups would have to present their poster to the rest of the class, while the other students filled out a graphic organizer.

This represents a SDAIE strategy in that the students utilize group communication skills, graphic organizers, and a reduction teacher talk.

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Social Injustice

This is a picture of the text books in our class. Not only are they 10 years old and falling apart, because of our large class sizes, students often have to share them. I also believe that history is a continuously changing organism, and that history textbooks should be changed at least every six years (which I believe should be happening anyways). 

Friday, September 7, 2012

Literacy Survey

In my first period class, I gave the students a short survey asking some basic questions about what they like to read, what they don't like to read, how much they read for fun, how they feel about their school reading, and if they have internet access at home. I also included a question at the end about what their favorite TV shows were, just to get an idea of what the students are into culturally.  Here are the questions that were asked.

1. Which of these sources do you enjoy reading: fiction books, nonfiction books, newspapers, Internet sites (blogs, sports, etc.), magazines, comic books, graphic novels, textbooks, other?  If other, write those down as well.

2. Of those listed in Question 1, which sources do you not enjoy reading?

3. On a scale of 1 to 10, how much do you read for fun? (With 10 being a lot, and one being never)?

4. Would you say that the reading you have to do for school is easy, medium, or hard?

5. Do you have Internet access at your house? Circle one
Yes / No

6. If you answered yes to question 5, would you say it’s easy or hard to access your Internet at home?

7. What are your three favorite TV shows?

The results were kind of interesting. The most popular reading source were novels, or fiction books, which I wasn't really expecting because in our lecture we talked about how kids were more interested in non-fiction books. Non-fiction books were less popular, with only about a quarter of the kids saying that they enjoyed non-fiction books. However, the second most popular source was magazines, which are mostly non-fiction, so I guess that somewhat counts. The most unpopular source was newspapers, with 2/3 of all students saying that they didn't enjoy reading them, even more then textbooks. I am not sure if this is a reflection of the San Diego newspapers, or a sign that kids don't read newspapers anymore (probably the latter). The students also don't read for fun very often, with the average score being just under 4 out of 10 when asked how much they read. 

On a different note, I feel very old after reading the response on what they like to watch on TV, as I have never even heard of most of their answers.   

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

My Name: Michael

Some Famous Michaels.
The name Michael was originally a Hebrew name, and literally means "who is like God?" St. Michael is the only archangel listed in the old testament, and was a common name for Byzantine Emperors. Specifically, I was named after my maternal grandfather, who died a few years before I was born. According to my mom, he would usually go by the nickname Mike, which I also usually go by. I kind of like the fact that I am named after him as it makes me feel somewhat connected to him, even though we never got the chance to meet. I like the idea of naming kids after past relatives as I think that it forces kids to think about their past and reflect on their roots.

A few other things about my name. My last name is Isenberg, which in German means iron mountain. My middle name is Benjamin, which I got from my paternal grandfather's cousin. Most of my college friends call me Mikey, as there were three different Mikes on my freshman floor, and it was a way for them to differentiate me from the other Mikes. This was usually an issue for me, as Michael is the fifth most common name in the US, so there were almost always other Michaels around.