Being Taught to Teach

Lesson Writing, Rubrics and Reflection
December 13, 2011, 4:45 am
Filed under: My Papers, Reflecting, Student Teaching

I have been working on creating my own lessons, rubrics and reflecting on them.  Here is one of my first attempts European Diseases Lesson, Rubric and Reflection.  I created a social studies lesson for my 4th and 5th graders on European Diseases that were brought to the Americas during exploration.


Teaching ELLs
December 12, 2011, 5:33 am
Filed under: My Papers, Reflecting

One of my courses asked us to write a keynote speech for our final project.  The speech needed to discuss the ideas we had begun to develop about teaching, and more specifically teaching English Language Learners.  Here is what I had to say:


All of our students are English language learners whether they come to us having spoken English their whole lives or not at all.  Despite this fact how often do you think about language in the lessons you teach in math, science, or social studies?  In reality you need to think about language in every subject, not just during language arts.

That being said, you cannot treat all students the same when it comes to learning English.  It is important to take into account their background and how they have access to English.  As teachers we should be prepared with a toolbox of methods for language learners, as each tool will not work for every child.  We want all of our students to succeed, and in a society built upon inequalities of power and status, giving our students entry to learning about the language of power and how to use it will help them succeed.

The first of these important tools in understanding the language of power that I will talk about is the idea of academic language.  Just as I am speaking to you now in a way that I would not use when talking to a friend or writing a college paper, school has its own set of language and rules.  When you are working with students who are not coming from the dominant culture of power they might be unaware of this.  A key in helping them discover academic language and how to access it is teaching them about language registers.  Even if your students do not use English at home, they will be used to register switching, but not by those terms.  Everyone switches registers, for example my mother can always tell when I answer the phone and it is my grandmother on the other line, my tone, the words I use and my general way of speaking change.  Just as I have learned to change registers, students should learn early on that when they come into school there is a particular way to talk and act.  In order to have access to the culture of power students must learn about it and how to access it.  Teachers must walk a fine line when talking about these issues with their students.  While it is important to ensure that students know the language of power, it is also important to make sure their home languages are given a place of importance and value.  Teachers should encourage students to expand their language and literacy practices to meet the language demands of school, yet retain their existing language abilities.

Another piece of the toolbox that teachers can use to ensure that students’ home culture and language is incorporated into the classroom is the idea of bridging and contextualizing.  Bridging is a key at the heart of student centered teaching and because of this it is often referred to as constructivist by nature.  Bridging is a type of scaffolding for students in which the teacher tries to connect classroom lessons to their everyday lives, experiences and interests.  By providing these connections for students they will gain a richer understanding of the material presented to them.  An example of this can be teaching students to brainstorm before starting a creative writing piece.  By giving them that time to tap into the knowledge they might know about a writing prompt before having them start writing, you are allowing them to connect to the prompt in a more personal way which will result in a deeper tie to the project.

Somewhat linked to this is the idea of contextualization.  Contextualization is another type of scaffolding that tries to link classroom work and learning with each student’s ability and way of learning.  Rather than presenting academic language as a mass of decontextualized jargon that our students cannot access, teachers need to use the vibrant details that students are used to reading in everyday language interactions.  Gestures, images, body language, tone of voice these are contexts that students have grown use to interpreting to interact with people in their world.  Academically they need to be given the tools to interpret the language as well, genre, tone, registers of academic voice, these are all contexts that can be read, written or spoken in the academic setting.  These do not need to be foreign concepts to introduce to children.  In the example I talked about earlier of being on the phone with my grandma, that can be broken down into context and many students will be able to understand and connect to why I speak differently with my grandmother.  The trick is then to get them to see how that applies to academia.  If they know their audience, like my grandmother on the phone, then the papers that they write can also be written as though they have a particular audience.

The final tool I will touch on today is modeling for your students.  Modeling can be as simple as teaching students what a topic sentence is by creating one of your own or showing them how to do a task.  Especially if there are English language learners in the classroom, your students may devote a lot of time to trying to understand directions.  However this can be combated by a teacher’s use of modeling.  If a teacher takes the time to be explicit in modeling the directions for routine, English language learners will be able to redirect the time they would normally devote to understanding directions to actually participating in this familiar routine.  An example of this would be modeling a three way interview.  Three way interviews have been brought up in several group discussions as a good way to have students work with text.  If a teacher takes the time to explicitly explain a three way interview on day one, it can easily be implemented throughout the school year with less stress to the children.

As teachers we want all of our students to succeed.  In order to succeed in our society they need access to the language of power.  Although every student has an end of success to get to, each student is going to take a different route on the road leading to it.  In order for teachers to be successful in helping our students, we must carry a toolbox that allows us to mix and match our classroom techniques to fit our learners.  Knowing which tools fit what situations will come as you get to know your students and make their learning about them.  Not every tool will work for every child, but by keeping things like register switching, bridging, contextualization and modeling in mind while we teach all subjects, the chances of reaching our English language learners will grow.

Sneaky Finals
December 6, 2011, 4:52 am
Filed under: My Papers

Finals have snuck up on me!  I can’t believe that the first semester of my credentialing year is coming to an end, although I am looking forward to having some time to write all the blogs I have been thinking about writing, in addition to taking some very much needed me time.  Finals shouldn’t be that bad because they are mostly papers, however this is the way my schedule is going: last class tomorrow, last takeover morning/last observation/evaluation meeting with my supervisor and CT on Wednesday, 2 finals Thursday including a website based off of a teaching inquiry and a keynote speech (in addition to the other final), lesson plan paper and final on Friday, task paper and final on Saturday, in class discussion question final on Monday, and another lesson plan paper final on Tuesday.  Thus I am taking this moment to procrastinate.

I have just finished my paper for Saturday and let me just say I was really excited to do these tasks and clinical interviews with two of my students.  I will probably be sharing my paper late, but here is a little taste.  Our tasks had to be based off of a game the children play and how they think about it.  I chose chess because two of my students have been regularly playing this at recess.  For the task they had to do some scenarios with me individually so I could ask them about their thinking on the game.

Here is an awesome screenshot from the video of Richard (pseudonym).  He is waiting for me to set up the scenario, so he decided to make the chess pieces fight for the camera…of course…

The Bishop won