Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Teacher Magic!

As a pre-service teacher, I am faced with many tasks; sometimes they are intentionally given and at other times, simply encountered. Although both tend to be equally challenging at one point or another, I am finding it more and more difficult to meet those presented by my professors, but more specifically the standards that are set by the state. On one ocassion in particular, I was faced with the task of designing a student-investigation but there was a catch--I had to relate it to a current event. I had no idea what I was going to do, until I came upon a news article that I thought was quite engaging and could easily be re-enacted. This way, I did not have to stretch myself too far--at least in regard to gathering enough materials and designing an investigation from virtually nothing! To save myself time and money, I used the article 'Amphibian Ark' Planned to Save Frogs to recreate an investigation similar to the one that might have been performed by the scientists in the article.

From this article, students may be exposed to the process in which a scientific claim is made. Foremost, the scientists had to conduct some form of observation, and, from there, gather evidence—there was obviously a noticeable change in frog population. Then, scientists had to perform an investigation to get to the root of the problem; and once they were almost certain that they had isolated the cause(s), they had to create a solution that they predict, based on evidence collected, will aid in preventing further depopulation of the frogs. Hence, from this article, students will learn that science demands evidence, explains and predicts, and helps us to understand the world.

This is just how I thought I might use this article--In my classroom, I would use this article to demonstrate how a scientific investigation should be performed, but because this is in fact second grade, I would not be too concerned with details. As a class, we would re-enact the investigation, placing ourselves in the shoes of the scientists who made this discovery. Wearing make-shift lab coats equipped with clipboards and a worksheet, the class would act out a simplified version of the investigation step-by-step. Arranged around the classroom would be stations, each focused on one aspect of a typical investigation. For example, at the first station, we would observe a drop in frog population—I would demonstrate this by providing them with a bar graph that is missing data and have them fill it in after ‘observing’ me take out a definite number of frogs out of a make-shift pond (a few per minute). Moreover, this article kills two birds with one stone by allowing me to apply both SOL 2.5 and an altered version SOL 2.8 a (this article exposes the important animal products).

Saturday, May 12, 2007

Pride...of the Technological Kind!!!

I just want to say that I am so proud of myself!!!! When I first entered my technology course I had no idea what I was getting into!? I can openly admit that I had no faith in technology. However, through this course I was exposed to a vast array of technology and programs that I would have never had access to nor knowledge of otherwise. I regret having said my previous statement; when my plans have fallen through technology, and especially the internet and my computer, has always been there to save me—just like it did when my lesson almost flopped! Thank God for technology! But what I really want to brag about is my final design project! I created a webquest for second graders within my wiki!!! It may not be much but it was the first project I completed all on my own. I wanted to provide students with an opportunity to get away from their textbooks, and did so by allowing them to use the internet in a safe, student- friendly environment—hence the use of my wiki! I thought that students would like to explore mysterious deep sea creatures and tell me what they learned instead of me, the teacher, telling them “here’s the book, here’s what I want you to learn, repeat after me!” This is my first big project so don’t be too hard, but I would love for you to check it out! Enjoy!!!!

Without A Book....

Last week, I taught my first complete learning cycle. I was a little nervous but I had planned carefully and sent my lesson plan to my cooperating teacher ahead of time just in case I had to make any modifications. I taught an introductory lesson on wind that cross-linked science and language arts. My students exercised skills necessary to perform a scientific investigation and explored wind through straws and a laptop. However, I did encounter my first moment of panic!? I had been working so hard on gathering materials for the creative portions of my lesson that I hadn’t realized I had completely forgot to search for the book I intended to read for the explanation portion of my lesson. It was about one thirty in the morning when it hit me…and I was flipping out! I had not intended for this lesson to incorporate technology, but to save myself I had to. I got up an hour and a half earlier than usual to create an outline in the form of a PowerPoint. I made sure to include pictures and clip art that would both engage students and help them relate to the topic being discussed. It was a hit, and the students were really excited and captivated by the pictures and the laptop. I even created a game within the PowerPoint that allowed students to match tools used to measure wind to their appropriate name. Overall, my lesson was a success, but the thing that was most memorable was what happened during the exploratory part of the lesson. I had given each student a straw and a few leaves to blow around and after asking them to blow on their skin (to mimic how the wind would cool them down on a warm summer day) I ran into a little bit of a problem!? Some students began to complain that their air was hot and not cool like the others (their classmates). I did not know how to respond to this comment but their peers sure did!!! I heard much talk about “It’s probably because you breath is hot” and, just like the rest of the class including students who made the comment, I could not stop laughing hysterically!!! I just left it as that, being that no one’s feelings were hurt!

Friday, May 11, 2007

“Tapping In…”

Entering the sphere of education was not done without cold feet, but a strong support system definitely cured me of that?! Through my technology course I was able to access a great number of resources to assist me in practically anything I could think of. One of the better resources was something referred to as ‘TappedIn’. There, my peers and I were able to ask questions and get feedback immediately. Likewise, we were able to comment on topics/questions posted by other individuals. It provides a wonderful, user-friendly atmosphere where pre-service teachers, veteran teachers, and various other educators can discuss and express their concerns. This mentorship is definitely something I intend to continue over the course of my career. I really appreciate how insightful and generous other members of TappedIn have been, and I will definitely recommend it to future teachers and veteran teachers who have yet to become members!

Multicultural Education…A Burden of Only White Educators?

This year was my first year in the education program at William and Mary. I took four courses total including one that discussed the philosophical and social foundations of education. Our professor gave us many articles to read, but only one truly sparked my interest. The article “How We Are White”, by Gary Howard, took me by surprise when I found out that there are some white instructors who are frustrated because they do not know how to reach all of their students, particularly the ones who are minority. The article discusses how teachers of one school have taken initiative to do something about what they assume to be ineffectiveness in their instruction—they have even gone as far as hiring someone to study under who heads the ‘team’s’ series of informative meetings. I applaud their efforts, but was sad to hear that the person leading the meeting was the only person of color involved in the effort. I hear so much about the need for multicultural information but haven’t too much about what the minority population is doing about it. I find it odd that if student success is truly of utmost importance and educators truly desire to reach all students, then they should take time out to reach that goal; and that means going beyond determining and appealing to the prevailing learning styles existent in your classroom. Personally, I do not believe that there physically needs to be an educator of color in the classroom, rather there should be some alterations to the curriculum and the way information is presented. By and large, I feel as if the issue of multicultural education still remains unscathed.

Wednesday, March 7, 2007

Education In a Non-Traditional Classroom Setting

In Beth Frerking's article, titled Fine Tuning, an after-school program of South Bronx is shown a little limelight. However, I feel this school deserves more than an honorable mention. Going above and beyond the required basics of model after-school programs, this program provides economically disadvantaged students opportunities that may not have been readily available to them prior to this experience. On site, students are exposed to a vast number of arts and cultural activities, ranging from violin and Latin-percussion instruction to computer technology and sewing that reinforce lessons learned in a traditional classroom.
However, more important than exposure to these activities that students may not readily have access to is the effect that this additional attention has on a student. Above all things, this program creates yet another opportunity for teachers to give attention to students who may not be getting the necessary or preferred amount in a regular classroom setting. In most cases, schools in this particular situation are not too concerned with this matter but rather safety issues, increasing funds, and meeting academic standards. Moreover, it may be the case that such schools lack both teachers and support staff capable of catering to this need, in addition to involved parents—whose lack of involvement may arise due to a number of reasons which may or may not include parents who are both working or are the sole provider for their household, and/or the circumstances that might favor such a program. Although, not addressed in the article, I feel that these instructors and/or volunteers, in particular, should be applauded, for regardless of whether or not they realize it, these teachers are lifting up the self-images of these students and showing them they are not simply there to instruct, but rather inspire, support, and enlighten these students—that their presence in the classroom is not an authoritarian figure but an extended parent who wishes to see their students succeed, willingly offering help and providing that pat on the back no matter how insignificant it may appear to be. Every little bit helps and I truly admire how these instructors step out of their comfort zone and get personal!?

Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Technological Memoirs

I can honestly say that I have a love/hate relationship with technology. Yes, technology does have its many advantages, however, my experiences with it has lead me to believe otherwise!? I can not say that I have spent quality time with this "thing" that is suppose to be my friend because I do not always view my computer as a docile and trustworthy creature--there have been one too many times when it has let me down. I think I must have missed the class where they taught computer literacy. I am not saying, that if given a computer, my first reaction would most likely be to just burn holes in it with my eyes, but my skills are definitely lacking?! I can truthfully admit that when I was a younger, technology wasn't really something I was exposed to, unless you want to count an overhead; and even when it was, it was as if we were just fed to the dogs and left to fend for our own. I have yet to come upon a teacher who will inspire me to make good use of technology, though I do have high hopes that this course will effortlessly reverse my current feelings towards anything technological.