Sunday, September 24, 2017

Motivation to Read

This past week I got the opportunity to work with a seventh grader at Carver to create a reading profile. The goal of the profile is to figure out why middle school students are losing interest and motivation to read, whether in the class room or for leisure. My peers and I asked questions like, “what do you like to do in your free time”, “what are your favorite kinds of books”, and “do you enjoy reading”. Many of our responses were in the negative, that students DO NOT like reading and find it boring. They complained it takes too long, it’s hard to focus, and that there are not enough pictures. However, when asked what their favorite books were, we were surprised to find that they liked more advanced and even classic works, such as Where the Red Fern Grows. My student, who said reading is boring, really likes comic books and graphic novels. It is true these books have many pictures, but they still rely on words to explain the narrative.  What these books special, and why weren’t they boring? What motivated them to finish reading?

As a middle school student, I remember not enjoying my English classes; I thought they were “boring” and that the material we read was a waste of time. But I was also a student who would devour a series of novels within a few short weeks. I’m not sure how to solve this stereotype driven enigma, but perhaps the answer lies in autonomy. Maybe we should give students the choice over certain novel/short stories to read for class and then allow them to share what they learned, liked, and didn’t like with the rest of the class. Seeing their peers praising a book could motivate other students to read it for their selves, and to compare experiences and opinions about the novel with their friends.

We cannot convince students that reading is fun; only they can decide that. But perhaps with freedom of choice and positive literary environment, they may find their selves motivate to read. 

Sunday, September 17, 2017

Channeling Energy

Last week at Carver, my classmates and I had the opportunity to observe teachers teach a lesson to their eighth graders. During one of the periods, the kids were literally running around the classroom, jumping over desks, and having loud conversations with their friends during what was supposed to be a quiet journaling session. The teacher and two paras were unable to restore any order or quiet the class down, despite their attempts. As a preservice teacher, such an observation made me feel fear towards my profession, that I would be helpless in a classroom full of wild teenagers. Once again, the nagging thought that I’m not cut out for teaching tormented my mind, and I returned to our LitEd Content classroom sullenly.
That period, however, we talked about what we saw: in the nicest terms, “the kids have a lot of energy”. All of my peers seemed a bit overwhelmed, so the topic of energy took over our daily discussion. What can we, as teachers and schools, do to help direct students’ energy into positive, learning outcomes?
Our readings for that week were all about “Bodies in Motion”. We should not view energy as disobedience; kids are meant to be active. It is our responsibility to give them the physical space to move and grow. After all, studies show that the mind develops through movement. Because of this, we should not demand out students sit still and quietly for hours on end; instead we should channel their fidgeting and energy by giving them tools like flexible seating and moving chairs. Social interaction is important as well, so we should not separate and berate students for talking, but put them in desk pods and encourage activity led interaction.
My classmates and I came up with many projects that demonstrate learning through collaboration and movement. For example, you can use jigsaw activities where each students are placed in groups but assigned different roles. In order to complete the project, they must each do their part, then share what they learned with their groupmates, then collaborate in order to put the project together. Other examples are allowing them to demonstrate learning through presentations, making video, songs, or skits.

I learned a lot from our discussions this past week and will strive to not get angry when my students are chatty or rowdy—instead I will channel their energy through movement based activities. 

Thursday, September 7, 2017

Teaching Content: Post #1

Last week I began attending Carver Middle School through my LitEd course at UNI. The principal and staff met with us the first day and talked about the importance of building relationships with your students and how to make the school a community rather than just an institution.

In order to have a successful classroom, the principal explained, you need to show the students you care and want to truly know them. This means their interests, backgrounds, strengths, and weaknesses. By getting to know their students, Carver teachers are able to engage their students interests, meet their needs, and challenge their skills. Struggling students know they can come to their teachers for help, whether about a homework assignment or trouble at home.

Spending time to build relationships based on respect and trust is vital to classroom success. Many students, myself included, have experienced classrooms that had a layer of fear and distrust clouding their learning. Many times I have refrained from asking questions about assignments or requesting to use the restroom because I genuinely feared my teacher. I didn't know her and felt very inept and inferior; I was unable to calculate her response and feared the worst. Students' learning suffers when they feel out of place and/or judged by their teacher; they have a right to ask questions, be comfortable, and own their learning. If their is no trust between teachers and students, no relationship, then students are not learning. They are being schooled.

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Post 4: Thinglink and Education

Recently, I explored an educational social media website called Thinglink. This website allows users to upload photos and videos to turn them into interactive tools. For example, if I uploaded a video for my students to watch about the importance of recycling, Thinglink allows me to add in questions, comments, or external links that scroll across the video in order to help guide my students’ critical thinking and keep them engaged. With photographs, the creator can put interactive dots that create text boxes with information, website links, videos, or questions for the students to explore. Playing around with the site, I created an interactive tool about deforestation using specific pictures and icons on which I placed interactive buttons. For example, there is a picture with a panther; the interactive dots on this photo go to links about endangered animals affected by deforestation.

My interactive tool I made using Thinglink. 

allows me to compile links, questions, and videos to engage my students, spur research, and prompt them to own their learning. The site is also Google App friendly, allowing linkage to Google docs, maps, and forms. Looking at the social media side of the site, users can search and view other people’s creations if they do not have time to compile their own. A quick search of “panther” brings up a variety of interactive pictures displaying links, information, and videos to educate viewers about the animal. By simply clicking the heart icon, a user “touches” the photo, thus saving it to their Thinglink profile. By collecting tools this way, a user can effectively manage a variety of resources to share with their students or use to inspire their own interactive tool.

Thinglink has free and premium versions and is very user and classroom friendly. It allows teacher to sign into the account separately from their students, and features multiple channels to organize different units, classes, or groups. You can even use Thinglink in place of traditional projects by allowing students to compile research and make their own interactive tools rather than using markers and posters. Thinglink is a great tool that can be implemented into any classroom for it helps student engage in autonomous research, summarizing skills, and higher ordered thinking.   

Here is a link to the Thinglink education website:

Screenshot of Ms. Gorzney's Thinglink page

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Post 3: The Struggling Reader’s Ally

As an English pre-service teacher, I am always learning and researching about how to make my classroom universally designed. Recently in one of my special education courses, we came realized that we never go over the kinds of universal technology that help our readers and writers. I took it upon myself to find a resource that helps students who may be slow readers, have trouble pronouncing words, or have visual impairments or dyslexia. Here is what I found:

Learning Ally is nonprofit organization that provides a collection of over 80,000 human-narrated books to help readers improve comprehension, confidence, and performance. The content they offer is centered on the core-curriculum, featuring text along with the professional recordings. The program works on computers, tablets, and many mobile devices, making it easy to use and a personalized experience. There are two programs: 1) $49/quarterly for four audiobooks or 2) $119/year for unlimited audiobooks. The first program would fit nicely into any school unit, because the books for that semester’s curricular could be downloaded and used in class. The site features many success stories and celebrates readers from all backgrounds. However, the program is only licensed to those with a documented disability.

Like Learning Ally, many other programs and tablets have read aloud features that can help struggling readers. The great thing about tablet readers are that the benefit and are open to ALL students rather than just accommodating for those with diagnosed disabilities. By giving every student the choice to use assistive tech, no one will feel different, disabled, or given unfair advantages. 

Here is a link to the Learning Ally website: Learning Ally 

Below is a descriptive video featured on LEarning Ally's website and YouTube channel:

Photo by Brian Moore, "Using more iPod Book" on Flickr 

Friday, November 11, 2016

PLN: 10 and 11

10) Zoom

Zoom is a free, online video chat room where co-workers can call in and collaborate at any distance. It is the modern day conference call. Zoom has many useful features, such as screen sharing that, if you subscribe with a monthly fee, can support up to five-hundred participants. It’s easy to use, supports more people than other video chats, and allows effective collaboration. I learned about Zoom from my educational technology course where we were encouraged to use it for our many group projects. Since we all had busy schedules, Zoom allowed us to convene at an hour that worked best for everyone and did not require anyone to travel. I will definitely use zoom as a teacher so I can collaborate with my co-workers. Grading, planning, and boards keep teachers very busy, so Zoom is a very flexible tool to use in place of formal meetings. It can also be used to conference with teachers across the country, such as in podcasts or other live events about education. As teachers, we need to work together and share our knowledge and research; sites like Zoom allow these interactions to be done face to face and screen to screen over any distance.

Snapshot of what our Zoom meeting looked like

11) College of Education & Teacher Leadership Workshop

Even before this class I was at work expanding my PLN. As part of the UNI College of Education, I receive many emails about speakers, events, and seminars to further equip and prepare me for my career as a teacher. One of the emails I got invited me to a workshop that would help teachers learn how to be leaders in their school and collaborate with their co-workers. Many other prospective teachers were there and we got to break out in groups and talk with one another about our own negative and positive experiences with collaboration, contradicting beliefs, and unhealthy partnerships. We talked about the importance of compromise and how to stay professional in stressful, argumentative settings, as well as doing what is right rather than what is easy. Another part of the workshop talked about how to make a resume and efficiently market myself when applying for a job.
My workshop certificate 
Being a part of the college of Education is very beneficial because it is another facet of information about teaching, partners me with my peers, helps me build my resume, and prepare to be a teacher. I recommend joining many clubs and organizations to expand your own PLN.

PLN: 7, 8, 9

7) Pinterest
            I started using Pinterest because my mentor teachers insisted it would help me organize my classroom, but I never got around to making an education board. After following English and Education blogs for this class, however, I see how beneficial Pinterest is to educators. Like Twitter, I am able to share and receive numerous ideas pertaining to education. The tag feature is very helpful because I can find specific things I am looking for, anywhere from stimulating classroom designs to lesson plans. I followed a variety of boards and pinners, so now when I go on the site I am greeted with hundreds of new ideas neatly laid out for my perusal. Another nice thing about Pinterest is that I can make my personal boards private, so I do not have to worry about managing several accounts.
            Some helpful boards I’ve followed and pins I’ve placed have to do with English education. There are many classroom starter activities, essay and discussion prompts, and a never ending cluster of synonyms for crutch words. These are all helpful tools for both me and my students. With these board organizations, I can easily find inspiration when I feel my lessons need some stimulation or my thinking is blocked; everyday my dash will be full of new ideas. If feeling ambitions, I can also share my own lesson plans and ideas.  Pinterest will help me stay organized, creative, and in touch with my fellow English teachers around the world.

Many of the education boards I have followed 

8) Symbaloo

I continued expanding my PLN with Symbaloo. This site acts as an organizer where a teacher can compile all their social media, assistive tech, and blogs they follow. I first heard of Symbaloo from my level one mentor teacher. She used it to organizer her personal and class related material, such as websites and programs the school used. Recently I made my own Symbaloo, featured in the picture below, where I organized all the blogs I follow, educational websites I have used or am familiar with, and my college and social media related material. Symbaloo also acts as a sharing device; I was able to follow the educational technology department’s Symbaloo where I can find all the materials we have been using and discussing in class, as well as example projects. Their Symbaloo helps me easily find the course material and examples I am looking for rather than having to dig through the files on eLearning. As a future teacher, I could have my students create their own Symbaloos and then share mine with them so they will always have easy access to my class blog and other websites we use. Rather than sending email links or social media posts that can easily get lost on a dashboard, I can post the helpful sites or homework information on Symbaloo instead.

My Symbaloo 
My Symbaloo: link to my Symbaloo about English education and my portfolios

9) Facebook

            Using Facebook, I was able to join groups for the clubs, major, and associations I am a part of here at UNI. One of these groups I joined is UNICoTE, a club and Facebook group for English teachers. As a future English teacher, this group gives me the opportunity to connect with my peers and often posts about English education related events such as authors, NCTE, and keynote speakers brought to UNI. Through social media groups like this, I am able to stay involved and up to date on all that in happening in my major here on campus, giving me even more opportunities to expand my PLN. As a teacher, I can use the group feature on Facebook to create a page for my class to join where they can get updates and collaborate. As the admin, their posts must be approved by me to prevent bullying and cheating. It also works to organize clubs and other school associations. I was a part of many Facebook groups for the clubs during high school to help me stay involved. Not only does it reach out to our students, but to the entire school community. Parents can stay up to date 
on school events and fundraisers, motivating them to get 
involved in their child’s education.             

UNICOTE Facebook group