Friday, June 25, 2010

FUNdamentals of learning

While wrapping things up for the 2009-2010 school year I came across the projects files from the “Money Scavenger Hunt” activity conducted by the spring Economics class. I recalled how activities that are FUN can also provide simple avenues for instruction, and allow for students to break from the norm and be themselves.

This activity coincided with our money and banking unit and was a simple one period activity where students could visit individuals of their own choosing within the school building. Students were put together into teams of three with each team receiving a digital camera. They were then given a checklist of the different currency denominations utilized in U.S. currency. After receiveing their instructions and materials they were then dispersed to inquire as to whether or not individuals they came into contact with had in their possession a specific currency piece. If so, the teams were to take a picture of two team members, the person they met, and the currency.

After they had acquired all the photos from the checklist they were to create a VoiceThread utilizing the pictures they had take. This was the instructional aspect of the task. I had modeled the creation of a VoiceThread earlier in the year with a project of my own, but this was the first time for many of these students to utilize this technology. What transpired was fantastic. Students, who were normally shy, reserved, and distant suddenly became outgoing, sociable, and engaging. There was a laughter and electricity surrounding the teams that had not been there at any other point during the year. We were able to view all the VoiceThreads the following day in class, and the mood from the previous day continued. What a refreshing simple activity.

I was challenged however with comments directed to the content acquisition of such an activity and here is where the FUN from FUNdamentals comes from. While this assignment may have done little to introduce new ECONOMICS content, I consider it a huge success in developing technological and group skills. Furthermore for the students involved it was FUN! Isn’t that what learning is all about? Enjoying the experiences of education and allowing for students to have a pleasant learning experience.

Please view the following two projects and share YOUR thoughts.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

The Value of Pupil Transportation

As I delivered students to their homes for the final time this school year I reflected on the impact that bus driving has had on me. Teaching in a small rural school with a total enrollment hovering around 450 students, I have an opportunity to do much more than teach in a classroom. One of those opportunities is having a full time morning and afternoon bus run which travels 37 miles on a daily basis picking up and dropping off 63 students between Pre-k ages and Seniors. This has been a daily routine for me for the past five years. The more I thought about this bus driving occupation, the more Valuable I believe pupil transportation is to me as a teacher. Granted, I am speaking from the drivers seat,
and the view from here is much different than from behind a desk or at the front of the class, but I quickly came to two key conclusions focused around this job.

First, there is a tremendous Value in getting to know more than just the students you teach. I know this is not possible in larger districts, but listen to how impacting it can be in a small one. I have been privileged with my position to be able to develop a rapport with students years before they sit in my classroom. This has had a tremendous influence on classroom management. Students come into the classroom having a full knowledge of expectations. I also have an understanding of the personality and behavior of some students and do not have to worry about putting forth as much effort in getting to know them. Names are already known, interactions have already taken place, and relationships already developed which all provide for a better learning environment. This is a Valuable aspect of my job

Second, there is a great Value of getting to know the district in which your students live. In a rural district, or a district where teachers do not live in the community in which they teach, I feel there is a huge disconnect between teacher and pupil. When you see the challenges some of your students face everyday due to the home environment they are from, you can’t help but be emotionally moved to be a little more patient, a little more understanding, and a little more supportive in some situations. The Value here is immeasurable. You are better prepared to identify ways to connect to prior knowledge, you can recognize what vocabulary will be the most beneficial, and you can determine which strategies will probably be the most effective. All of these becoming Valuable resources to an educator.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Vocabulary Difficulties

Social Studies vocabulary can create serious difficulties and challenges for students. The culture of the day causes even more problems with the increased use of IM’s, TXT language, and abbreviations. I find that many of my students generally are not familiar with the words that we study and they fail to have an understanding of word meanings that are essential to historical study.

One obstacle is word sounds. Students who may lack a precise annunciation ability will unknowingly cause other students to become confused because what was meant to be spoken is not what was heard.

Another obstacle is word difficulty. While this is not unique to the social studies content area it poses difficulty to a specific group of students, struggling readers. Theses students might lack ability to use phonetic strategies, or just may be unable to decode it.

So, how to overcome this hurdle? If research indicates that experience is what enables a learner to build a repertoire of topic related knowledge then I need to find ways of allowing students to do this. I believe this may be one objective for personal development over the summer.

I think we often feel that other teachers have taught something or introduced something that may not have been completely grasped or instructed. Therefore, I must determine to personally bring the experience to students in order to build the vocabulary crucial for student achievement.

Looking to incorporate some new technology strategies to overcome this obstacle. Any and all suggestions are welcome.

Monday, June 21, 2010


As an educator, communication is vital to compel productive student achievement and success. One manner of communication readily available and implemented most often is that of grading. Grading affords teachers the opportunity to provide students with feedback, and feedback is the most vital robust learning strategy. Since proper effective communication is vital to any relationship, it is easy to conclude that this would also apply to relationships educators have with students, their parents, administration, and colleagues.

The question I ponder today is; Does the grading procedures and system that we incorporate into our teaching reflect real student achievement, or does it prepare them for standardized assessment?

I personally desire to provide my students with quality assessments that will exhibit student work in relation to state standards. The grades my students receive should both communicate achievement and intelligence, and prepare them for assessment. I find this increasingly more difficult as I move toward a more technological approach to instruction and the state exams remains traditional in its assessment format.

Generally speaking evidence that is collected for grading purposes will either be an original student created piece of work, such as a project, or will be student created work in response to teacher created assignments. In either case the grade received will be indicative of the correct manner in which the work was created and compiled, not necessarily a true measure of student learning. Through teacher created tests, the grade received is based on the correct number of responses or skills that each particular student was able to achieve, match, or meet. When dealing with an original student created work the grade received will be the result of how the piece created by the students matches to the corresponding criteria and mastery level of a rubric.

According to the New York State Standards, students are required to be able to use a variety of intellectual skills to demonstrate their understanding of geography, the history of the United States, the world from multiple perspectives, and the development of economic systems. As educators we are to teach so they have the ability to demonstrate multiple intellectual skills regarding these standards. but are they a true measure of achievement?

A look at my students Regents grades causes me to question many things. Things which I will address in the near future...

Monday, June 14, 2010

Assessment and Identification of Knowledge

As commencement ceremonies approach I find myself looking to the New York State Standards as a way to evaluate and reflect on my past year of instruction. I find that this introspection allows me to document many suggestions and generate multiple ideas in preparation for the following year.

At this particular time I am examining New York State Social Studies standard five. This standard addresses civics, citizenship, and government. According to this standard the student is to be able to explain what citizenship means in a democratic society, how citizenship has changed over time, and explain the role of an informed citizen in today’s changing world.

In order to identify and determine if I have enable my students to achieve this standard I must first break down the components of the standard and how they relate to both education and instruction.

First we must contemplate what type of knowledge this standard is assessing. The ideas of this standard can be divided into two different levels. The first consisting of terms, details, and facts. The second consisting of principles, generalizations, and concepts.

This standard incorporates information and ideas from both of these levels of knowledge. A student attempting to achieve this standard must have prior knowledge and understanding of what a citizen is. This illustrates the first level of knowledge, identified as “terms”. Since the term citizen is prevalent throughout the entire standard it is imperative that students know and understand this term.

Another example of the knowledge within this standard is exemplified in the concept of democratic society. For a student to demonstrate citizenship within a democratic society, they must understand what a democratic society is. Without the knowledge of this concept, students would be incapable of demonstrating a thorough knowledge of the term.

So I ask myself if I have instructed in such a way as to ensure that the student learning experience assisted them in achieving this goal? Did I allow them to not only utilize their prior knowledge in my classroom but also impart to them the knowledge necessary for meeting the standard? There are multiple avenues to explore, understand, and employ when I instruct students regarding this standard. Here are two considerations I reflect on regarding the instruction surrounding this standard.

First, a student must possess the necessary vocabulary to meet the standard. Since this standard deals with terms and concepts, which are both different levels of understanding, it is essential that the student first be cognizant of the terms. Research has shown that a student must be introduced to word in context more than once in order to learn it. Since this is true, I must ask myself if I implemented on multiple occasions the word or term I desired my students to learn? This introduction could have been either verbal or through a reading activity, but the focus needed to be on introduction and implementation of the term.
This instructional methodology relates directly to the standard by ensuring a student can identify and understand the term citizen. Through a repetitious introduction students will have had a greater chance of applying that term to the concept aspect of the standard, which brings me to the second aspect of reflective consideration.

Students that achieved the standard being discussed must have grasped and have an understanding of the concept of a democratic society. This idea can be, and often is, interpreted in many different ways. The purpose here is to help students see the concept in light of the American idea of a democratic society. My instructional strategies will enable the students to not only develop a knowledge base, but also organize and prepare more readily to different situations. My role in instruction regarding this level of understanding is to provide the students with multiple opportunities to apply the concept to specific situations. A specific avenue that I implemented here was role-play and simulation. By offering the student an opportunity to put the concept into practice and use I was able to measure the understanding. This performance assessment greatly increased comprehension and understanding.

By taking these things into consideration and recognizing the level of understanding that was achieved, students were assisted in obtaining and utilizing the necessary knowledge to become successful in the academic world, Thus meeting the commencement expectations placed on them by New York State.