Clickers

flickr photo by Waifer X

This week we explored clickers. I found that most uses of clickers include polling systems or answering questions. Because I will be an elementary ed major, I don’t think the use of clickers is incredibly practical.

If I were to poll my students, having them get out a clicker, turn them on, submit an answer (assuming they understand a letter corresponds to an answer), have me look over the answers, etc. would just not be time-effective. I think that young elementary students like to move around and do different things, so I would have them raise their hands or do something fun like wiggle their left foot to poll them.

I’ve only used clickers to answer questions for  credit in class. I think that in a large lecture setting, this is a great idea. It offers an opportunity for class credit for many different people, and is more practical than grading worksheets or something like that. However, in an elementary class of maybe 30 students, I believe I will have plenty of chances to give students credit for assignments.

Overall, in the elementary classroom setting, I don’t think clickers achieve anything that can be achieved without them.

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Wikis & Blogs & Websites, Oh My!

Over the course of this semester we have explored Wikis, blogs and websites. I have found that each has specific advantages to using them in the classroom!

Wikis

Mostly, I would use Wikis for collaborative student editing, specifically in the writing process. It’d be greatly helpful for one student to have say, 5 others editing his/her draft.

I might also use a Wiki to communicate with other teachers. It could be an ongoing forum of sorts where we discuss lesson plans, activities, etc. There might even be separate Wikis for specific grades or subjects.

Last, I could use a Wiki as a sort of class page that teachers and parents could edit and utilize. One drawback to this is, do you really want to give parents editing privilege? That is why I might use a website instead.

Websites

Websites would be perfect for classroom pages. Only the teacher can edit it, but parents and students can check due dates, upcoming field trips, upcoming assignments, tests, etc. Everyone knows how to get onto a website and it’d be easy for parents to routinely check.

I might also use Websites for large class projects. If students were each doing a biography on someone famous, I might compile them all onto a website. It’d be neat for students to have something on the web that they’ve created.

Blogs

Blogs would be useful for student journaling or prewriting. They might also be useful in ongoing projects, like observing tadpoles. Students could update their blogs daily with observations.

I think I would mostly use blogs for student purposes, and I personally would rely on websites for teaching things.

Overall, these are three common types of technology that are all very practical and helpful in the classroom.

Exploring a New Technology: Inspiration

A class website using Inspiration

This week, I chose to explore the software program Inspiration as a new technology. I chose it because my dad told me he uses it very often, and of course it’s interesting to research technologies that you know are being used.

Inspiration is a computer software program used for creating webs, charts, presentations, and outlines. It encourages visual learning through these tools. It helps students plan, organize and design. I used it on my dad’s work computer (it has to be bought, not just a free download) and found it to be incredibly easy. I am a huge advocate of creating webs before writing essays, and it was a cinch to do so using this program. I randomly chose the main topic of Michigan. With one press of a button, a line extended out to create the sub-topic, and I wrote “Climate.” With two more clicks, I had sub-sub-bubbles reading “Temperate” and “Deciduous forest.” With another click, the program automatically turned my web into a paper outline! How easy!

I also played around and made another web based off of The 3 Little Pigs. The title was at the topic, and lines reading “setting,” “characters,” “plot,” and “conflict” and “resolution” as underlying topics. It was simple to fill out and really easy to navigate.

I thought about how I might incorporate this program in my classroom. Of course, it would be an excellent pre-writing tool. Students could create the topic of their paper and each paragraph, or idea, could be an extension of the web. Students might choose a historical event and organize its details in a web. Another great way to use this would be to transfer the students’ pre-writing or outlines to a Wiki and then having classmates give them feedback! Mostly, it would be used for students to organize their own thoughts, or to learn to organize the thoughts of others.

An example of event webs on Inspiration

One tiny drawback to using this program is that some students simply don’t benefit from this type of pre-writing. Some kids are list-makers, in which this program would be unnecessary. Of course, it’d benefit them to at least be introduced to web-making.

Overall, this is a really great and simple way for students to further think of, organize and plan their thoughts. It’s automatically neat (some kids don’t have the best handwriting) and automatically organized. It can be updated as students learn more about a certain topic. It’s a way for students and teachers to stay organized and explore different methods of visual learning.

If you are interested in Inspiration or want to learn more, their website is really informative and has sample activities and webs. Check it out here!

Reflecting on Field Experience

flickr photo byRob Shenk

I believe mostly everyone in the class is currently going to field placements for TE 301 or did it last semester (or maybe last year). As it comes to a close, I am able to look back and reflect on challenges, successes, and my overall experience. I urge you to do the same in the comment box! 🙂

The Good

Luckily, I was placed with a really amazing collaborating teacher. She is helpful, patient, and always open to my questions or comments. She offers suggestions and ideas (she’s the one who introduced me to proteacher.org!)

I was able to easily apply all of the literacy theories learned in TE 301 to my study child and other students in the classroom. I had ample time to administer assessments, and my study child was usually willing and cooperative. We always had time for the “fun stuff” too, and usually that meant my study child wanting to read to me!

I learned A LOT. I learned about classroom management, how to encourage students, how to teach yet allow students to be autonomous, and I learned that most students really are enthusiastic with a desire to learn.

The Not-So-Good

Of course, there were a few challenges (or learning experiences!) I was often paired with one particular student who simply had behavioral issues. He never wanted to participate and he often seemed quite angry. Getting him to read or do a math worksheet posed a problem initially, but I learned that he just needed time and help.

It took me a while to let my self-consciousness go. I was hesitant to approach or help students for fear that I was “doing it wrong.” Well, though I never really messed up, I learned that I was expected to! I’m not a teacher yet- I’m learning. No one expected me to be a professional educator. I got to teach a 5-minute math lesson and was more nervous than I thought. I’m still working on the confident teaching issue!

So, if you have any great field stories, comments, or problems, feel free to share!

Catching Up with My Dad, the Teacher

flickr photo by superkimbo in BKK

My dad is a teacher, and recently a lot of our conversations have been about teaching. I especially like to hear what kind of technology he sees being integrated in middle schools. Because we studied it last week, I brought up Wikis, and he said that they are used widely and often. He said that all of the first-year teachers in the district joined a Wiki designed specifically for them. In this Wiki they share tips, lesson plans, swap stories and other things. From what he’s heard, many of the beginning teachers really enjoy it. It’s an example of technology being used for teachers, not by teachers!

Another technology my dad uses is called Teacher Web. It’s a website that that the district paid for and only the teacher can create or edit it. Students, parents or other school administration can access it. He uses this to post homework, assignments, projects, vocabulary, or other class reminders. It’s also possible to report grades through this program. He compares it to a “class page” and says it’s similar to a Wiki, just without the collaborative editing opportunities. Though he uses it for specific classes, Teacher Web can create pages for grades, whole schools, or entire districts. Here is a sample page for an elementary school teacher and classroom!

My dad also explained a software program called Inspiration. This is the technology I will be exploring for this week, and you can read about it here. (A brief description: it’s a program on which students can design webs, charts, outlines or other organizational/pre-writing tools).

Overall, in my dad’s school, it sounds like common technologies used are programs or websites accessed on the computer. These seem like simple yet completely effective ways to integrate technology and enhance both teacher and student experience.

Creating & Editing Wikis

Creating my Wiki was simple and fast. I was eager to collaborate with my classmates and get some ideas and feedback. Unfortunately, I might’ve waited too late, because as of 7:00pm Sunday night, I’m the only one who has written anything. I double-checked my settings, and they allow all members to edit the wiki, so I’m not quite sure what the issue is. Maybe by the end of tonight there will be some postings! 🙂 2 of the 5 members I invited have accepted.

Regardless of the success with this particular Wiki, I think they could be valuable educational tools. Wikis differ from blogs because all members can edit the actual document or presentation- not just comment on it. Each person can have a different text color and edit the document or give feedback. It’s clear and simple to use, and I both researched and thought of some ways it could be used effectively in the classroom:

  • Having students use it for the writing process so that classmates can peer edit pre-writing webs, rough drafts, etc
  • Maintaining a class newspaper
  • Open a Wiki for big assignments and use it as a question-and-answer forum
  • Maintain a class website with due dates, reminders, etc.
  • Let students demonstrate their knowledge on a topic by making a page for each letter A to Z. The entire class can write as much as they know about a certain topic on each letter (For example, if the topic were United States geography, students might write “plateaus,” “prairie,” or “Pennsylvania” on the P page).
  • Give students digital access to rubrics or assignment details
  • Show students samples of assignments from previous students
  • Have an ongoing document that other teachers can edit (all Social Studies teachers in a school or district could be members, for example)

Overall, I think the use of Wiki is one of the things learned this semester that I will definitely apply in my future classroom. The possibilities are endless, and everytime I think of another use for Wikis, I think about how helpful it’d be.

Portfolio Tips from proteachers.org

I learned of a great website and shared it on twitter early in the semester: www.proteacher.org

I check it frequently as it has an entire section devoted to “beginning” or future teachers. Recently, I checked out one of their most recently updated sections: Teaching Portfolios. Since we are creating digital portfolios for CEP, I’d like to maintain and update mine in order to be able to use it during future interviews. The website had a lot of good tips about what to include in a portfolio, and maybe it’ll help you decide what to put it your digital portfolio (it helped me!)

  • Pictures of you teaching lessons (or a video, if it’s a digital portfolio)
  • Favorite lesson plans
  • Student-made samples
  • Rubrics and assessments you created
  • Notes from parents, students, etc
  • Teacher certificate and test scores
  • Philosophy of education

This is an amazing website with a lot of relevant information for us as undergrads. What are some other things you think it’d be helpful to include in a teaching portfolio?

End of Semester Stress: Student & Teacher

flickr photo by blockpartypress

As the end of the semester approaches, I’m definitely “feelin’ the heat” and have a lot to do to finish up my classes. As students, we are often stressed by our looming projects, papers, and exams. This semester, I’ve been wondering what this time is like for teachers. (This semester, more than any, I’ve really felt like a “future teacher” which might explain this mindset).

In elementary school, the end of the year was filled with long outdoor recesses, Field Day, and cleaning out our tote-trays. It was a breeze. Though I wonder, were teachers doing this to ease their own load? Filling out report cards, filing student work, wrapping up loose ends, etc. probably took up much of our teachers’ days. I wonder if our 1-hour long recess was planned to give them extra time.

 High school was more similar to college, as the end of the year began when finals ended. I don’t remember being too stressed out as a student. However, teachers were giving last-minute help, administering exams, figuring out last-minute attempts at extra credit, dealing with parents, cleaning their classroom, etc. When our last exam ended and we left the school, we were done. Teachers were beginning a week-long grading session.

Perhaps my curiosity is piqued because I am starting to see from a teacher’s perspective. Of course, I have a year and countless assignments left to complete, but because they are preparing me to be a teacher, I am eager to do them well. I don’t really dread assignments anymore.

Does anyone else find themselves thinking “like a teacher?”

Brainstorming Technology Integration Lesson Plan 2

flickr photo by oylerdp

For my midterm lesson plan, I chose to write it under the assumption I’d have any type of technology available. So, for my final, I must create a less flexible lesson plan (with just an overhead projector, I believe. If you know more specific guidelines, leave a comment!). I’ve been trying to brainstorm what I might make, as this is a challenging assignment!

Here’s a list of what I’ve thought of so far:

  • Creating an overhead of a map
  • Creating an overhead of a Google Earth image (would this be allowed?)
  • Letting students write a story on the overhead (each student writes a line)
  • Letting ESL students practice writing letters, words and punctuation
  • Having students “correct” math problems I purposely do wrong
  • Having students “correct” ESL sentences/words I spell wrong or use wrong grammar in

So, that’s what I have so far. I’d love any input as to whether you think any of these ideas might really work, or not work at all, or how I can create an in-depth lesson plan around them.

Punctuation in ESL

flickr photo by Horia Varlan

I read mmorf’s ESL Lesson Plan blog weekly and one post was especially interesting. The post was entitled, “Punctuation Saves Lives.” In the Language Learning & Teaching courses I’ve taken, it is understood that punctuation is one of the hardest forms for English language learners to learn (that and articles, for those who are interested!) mmorf gives the example, “Let’s eat, Grandma!” versus “Let’s eat Grandma!” and points out how utterly important punctuation is.

As a future ESL/EFL teacher, I am constantly looking for tips and tricks about teaching ELLs (English Language Learners). I think that posting the two sentences above and asking students to identify the difference would be an inventive and fun way to point out the importance of punctuation (the students would think it’s funny, too). Perhaps then, students might pay closer attention to punctuation.

Of course, this isn’t limited to ELLs. Punctuation is an important part of writing and composition, and any student practicing these constructs would benefit from extra attention to punctuation.

mmorf claims the best way to practice punctuation is to flood input- have the students read, read, read and write, write, write! A great way to do this is to incorporate attention to punctuation in any lesson plan. If the students are reading an informational piece for comprehension, perhaps a teacher might take a moment to point out certain punctuation to the class.

Overall, I enjoy reading the ESL Lesson Plan blog weekly and have found really great tips and strategies in teaching ESL.

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