Monday, November 26, 2012

My Literacy Rich Classroom

This semester, I have been surprised by the literacy levels of my students. They are able to verbally express their ideas and participate in classroom discussions. They are able to ask questions about content and hold conversations with their classmates regarding the material. They are not able to, or often struggle with, writing out their ideas. When it comes to short responses, the students often write their responses in bullet form rather than in complete sentences, even if the directions state complete sentences. When students do write in complete sentences, they often are fill with grammatical errors.

September 30, 2013
My literacy rich classroom looks like students are beginning to feel comfortable with openly discussing ideas with their classmates. They are comfortable sharing their ideas with their peers as well as in front of the class. My students are actively engaged in these conversations and discussions. My students are reading the chapters from their textbook as well as beginning to research current events and articles from newspapers and journals.

December 15, 2013
My literacy rich classroom looks like students who are comfortable sharing current events with their classmates and sharing their events in front of the class. They are actively engaged in researching current events and reading about their events. They are also comfortable with researching their event to discover background information to learn more about the topic. They are writing outlines for a current event research paper and are beginning to write a paper on a current event of their choice. They are in active discussion with their classmates as well as myself about their topic and other current events they are finding throughout the period.

May 30, 2014
My literacy rich classroom looks like students who are comfortable verbally sharing current events with their classmates as well as with the entire class. Furthermore, my classroom looks like students who are comfortable reading journal articles and other scientific resources for current events and researching those articles to gain background information. My classroom also looks like students who are comfortable sharing their findings in essay based and short summary based formats. My students are continually reading, writing and discussing current articles in science with their classmates. They are capable of independent learning in using research tools to find other journals and articles to support or gain additional information on their article. Furthermore, my students are capable of independently directing a classroom discussion on a given science topic. They are also capable of fully expressing their viewpoints, opposition statements, etc. in paragraph or essay format with minimal grammatical errors.

Friday, November 9, 2012

Project Tomorrow

Project Tomorrow is a nonprofit organization that's sole focus is on the education of our nation. Their vision is to ensure that the students today grow into becoming educated and well-prepared citizens of the future. They strive to find what students believe they need in the classroom. Through Speak Up, students’ voices across the nation are heard and reform in education can be made to accommodate the needs of the youth.

In the report, “Learning in the 21st Century Mobile Devices + Social Media = Personalized Learning” students have demonstrated themselves to be up to date on modern devices. Students in today’s classrooms are more likely to own a personal smart phone or tablet than they were in years prior. Furthermore, 87% of their parents have stated that the implementation of technology in their child’s classroom is important to them. This high number surprises me because I wouldn’t expect as many parents to say this is important to them, and certainly not to have 50% of them say that it is extremely important to them. I believe that if these numbers are that high and parents feel this strongly about having technology implemented in the classrooms, than as educators we should continually strive to meet the need and desire. I believe this need could simply be met by using what is already in place. If the numbers indicate that students are likely to have a smart phone or other smart device on them during school hours, perhaps lessons could be designed to take advantage of that fact and meet the students where they are. When educators meet the population of students where they stand, success is more likely to be gained in the classroom.

After watching the, “Is Anyone Listening” video, students express the same sentiment of wanting an increase in technological use in the class. They state that allowing students to research and uncover answers on their own through technology, they become more interested in the classroom and the struggle to gain student engagement is decreased. What is surprising is that some students agree that mobile devices are not the way to go about incorporating technology in the classroom. While I would presume students would be the first groups of individuals to state that smart phones and other mobile devices should be utilized, these students recognize their potential for distraction and instead suggest the use of computers in the classroom. As an educator, the ability to control what my students are doing on their cell phones when they should be focusing or paying attention is one of my chief concerns. Having a student recognize that it is a real concern and stating that their engagement will be just the same and allow them to be more focused if their able to use computers makes me feel more comfortable with the use of technology in the classroom. While I would still like to discover a way to incorporate cell phone or smart phone use in the classroom, I will always strive to allow my students the time to use computers to drive their education as well.

Aside from allowing voices in education to be heard across the nation, Project Tomorrow is already implementing a program that trains and equips today’s students to begin educating the faces of our future. Through YouthTeach2Learn, high school students interested in math and science are designing inquiry-based lessons and going out and teaching them to elementary school students. When students are engaged in science and math before the age of eight and nine, a future for them in that field is initiated. The benefits of this program are endless. Not only are elementary school students receiving the opportunity to become actively engaged in the field of science early on, but also the high school students doing the educating are learning in the process. One of the best ways to learn is to teach the material, and these high school students are furthering their education as well as spurring an interest in a future in education by being a part of this program.

With Project Tomorrow, the possibilities for the future of education are endless. The organization is making advancements in the way education is done across our nation every day and will continue to do so in the future.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Creativity in the Classroom

If you spend time in my classroom, you will see opportunities for students to express their creativity every day in a variety of ways. In my classroom, we utilize processing activities to compliment input of content. These activities incorporate student’s creativity in ways that allow them to color and draw as well as create and design their own experiments. These creative exercises provide the students with a different medium by which to learn the same material. By allowing students to add their creativeness to a lesson, the teacher is thus allowing their students to form a direct connection with the material. When students can become personally vested in an assignment or a topic, they become more successful in their ability to retain that information for the long-term.

In these same activities, you may see children challenged to creatively think as well as solve problems. For example, I posed a scientific question to students and asked them to design an experiment that would answer that question using the scientific method. Processing activities may be used as a means to not only allow students to be creative, but allow them to tap into their creativity in a manner that allows them to gain further insight into the content at hand. No activity performed in the classroom should be done so without ensuring that students will somehow be able to apply that knowledge toward something they’ve learned. Each activity should have a purpose that allows students to gain more insight into the material.

Communication, discussion and collaboration most often occurs within group activities or labs within the classroom. Students are often asked to collaborate in activities or labs designed to provide students the opportunity to learn the material in a new manner. Within these activities or labs, students may discuss with their classmates the methods of the experiment or the results themselves. They may also have the opportunity to make clarifications with their classmates on the content or the purpose of the exercise. 

As a teacher, I could probably do more to teach information literacy as well as media literacy to my students. Being able to think critically about the information we receive is a critical tool that will be continually utilized throughout adulthood. I could provide my students papers on a certain biologically issue in society and ask them to analyze the varying points of view on that particular issue. They can do this through a variety of sources, newspaper articles, interviews online, etc. Regardless of how this is executed, it is imperative that students be able to be critical thinkers and develop the tools for them to be come to conclusions on their own. I could also allow my students more room to utilize technology to research or communicate information. I haven’t implemented any classroom projects or research assignments where students would be required to use technology to complete the assignment. Any technology the students use to access information on a topic, they do so at their own leisure or desire.

I try to give my students autonomy whenever possible. I believe that when students feel they can direct themselves or chose how they would like to complete an assignment, they have a greater desire to complete that assignment to the best of their ability. On some level, I always strive to provide this opportunity to my students. Some ways I may do this is to allow students to create their own analogies for how the cell works, to illustrate however they wish a given topic, etc. In this manner and many others, students become leaders of their own learning. Students also take power over their learning in group settings where they can communicate and work with their classmates in order to achieve a specific result. Interacting with their classmates not only provides the students the ability to develop community within the classroom, but they are able to experience what it is like to communicate effectively, work efficiently and interact with others in a team manner. These are all skills that students will continually utilize throughout the rest of their lives regardless of which field they enter.