Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Online Assignment #3 -- Kate Kristian

What is a student-focused learning environment?

When I think about a student-focused learning environment, the first thing that comes to mind is choice.
With teacher and adult guidance, students are able to choose writing topics and select books and other text that they are interested in reading. Students are involved in the learning process and feel connected to the day to day lesson content. Students are also involved in how the classroom runs as a whole. These expectations are established at the start of the school year as students begin to build a community of learners and are revisited (and possibly revised) frequently. Students have control over classroom decisions and take on roles or jobs to ensure that things run smoothly.

How do you create it?

As a second grade teacher, I have found that the workshop model in both reading and writing supports a student-focused learning environment. The workshop model is made up of the following components:

· Mini-lesson (teaching point, guided practice)

· Independent work time

o Students are reading/writing independently

o Teacher(s) are conferencing with individual students and small groups of students

· Whole group share

o Typically led by the teacher

o Highlights 2-3 students who began using or tried out the skill taught in the mini-lesson

o Gives students time to share their work and ideas with fellow classmates

In addition, a student-focused learning environment is created through:

· Frequent and systematic assessment

· Assessment-based instruction

· Individualized and small group instruction through conferences and strategy sessions to ensure students are working at their maximum instructional level

· Differentiated instruction

· Regular time for student goal setting and reflection

· Clear student expectations

· Frequent teacher feedback in response to student work and accomplishments

How do you sustain it?

A student-focused learning environment is sustained when teachers make a commitment to its principals. Students need to be engaged in the workshop format at least 4 days a week and teachers need to stay true to a consistent format of instruction. Time also needs to be set aside for assessment where teachers review and analyze student work in order to plan for instruction. Without administrative and grade-level team support this can be difficult for teachers to accomplish.

Online Assignment #3 - Natalie Bowers

A student centered classroom is one in which each decision, from how the class is arranged, to where the stapler is located to the day's lesson, is made intentionally and with the needs of individual students in mind. Student centered classrooms are rooms where the students are not just recipients and regurgitators of information, but investigators, researchers, teachers, readers, inquisitors- in short students are engaged both mentally and physically in the act of learning. Student centered classrooms are rich with level appropriate materials; the walls are plastered with anchor charts or public records of strategies; students have access to all the resources and materials they need, and there are systems and routines in place to make transitions, discipline, partner work, etc smooth and efficient.

Student centered classrooms are easy to identify- they usually feel calm and unchaotic, they are free of distracting clutter, they involve limited teacher talk and lots of collaboration- however, they are much more difficult to create. As stated before, in order to create a student centered classroom, the teacher must be very intentional. The creation of this type of classroom starts with environment. Before the start of the year, the teacher must create a classroom set-up that supports the systems and structures she intends to implement. He must make deliberate choices about desks or tables, where resources centers will be, where anchor charts will be located to best support use and learning, etc. The teacher must also be deliberate and intentional about the classroom systems and structures she intends to implement; she must know what they will be, how they will operate, and what role she expects students to play in them before the first child walks into the room. In a student centered classroom there is no ambiguity or confusion about these things. Once students arrive, a student centered class begins the work of community building through the development of class norms/rules in a democratic way. These classrooms value student input, and this is just the first of many opportunities for students to have a voice.

Next the teacher must make intentional decisions about what and how to teach. He must study student work, test scores, formative assessments, and conference notes to gather information about what students need; she must develop lessons that cater to multiple intelligences; he must provide time and structure for student collaboration, and most importantly she should not act as the purveyor of knowledge but as the facilitator of inquiry. In a student centered classroom, the teacher understands, respects and makes space for diversity, learning differences, inquiry, democracy and collaboration.

Maintaining a student centered classroom takes effort. It requires much of both the teacher and the students. In order to maintain this type of learning environment, all involved must engage in regular and frequent reflection and they must respond to this reflection with goals and action plans. This environment also requires a great deal of trust to operate in a functional manner, so it also requires consistency in discipline, lots of compliments, and continual community building. It requires a time commitment from the teacher to not only grade student work, but to look at it closely for trends and teaching points. It requires the maintenance of daily systems and routines and the adjustment of those when needed. Finally, it requires an end to “file cabinet” teaching as units will need modification based on student need and interest.

Monday, May 11, 2009

Online Assignment #3-Darren Hunter

A student-centered classroom is focused upon the individual needs of students, addresses multiple learning styles, and prepares students for the diverse world. In a student-centered classroom teachers act as class facilitators and must consider the needs of the students, as a group and as individuals while encouraging them to participate in the learning process. This type of learning environment resonates with the primary goals of Universal Design. The purpose of Universal design, like those of student-centered environments, is to create inclusive, flexible, customizable products, courses, programs, activities, and environments for all students.
Instruction should provide experiences and information from which the students can build new knowledge. This will not happen overnight and takes a huge amount of patience, time, continued practice, and the ability to withstand colleague criticism in order to become a truly student-centered classroom.
Every student is unique, so the challenge becomes drawing out the best strategies for learning in each child. In a student-centered classroom each child will actively engage their own learning through reflection, individual and cooperative learning, and apply these new skills across various curriculums. In this setting, students will understand the grading criteria and review their work according to the criteria and make adjustments to their own learning.
In a student-centered environment, evaluations measure each child’s progress in comparison to their own previous performance and are used to improve and individualize instruction to meet each learner’s needs. This is shared with their families and continually monitored by teacher and student. When the student is given the grading rubric, the expectation is clear and concise.
Each student will have a say in the classroom management system. In a student-centered classroom the rules are developed and practiced by the students. The norms and learning environments promote healthy positive relationships and the students accept the responsibility of their own behaviors.
Today’s classrooms and the curriculum need to be challenging and engaging. The students are aware of their own limitations and strengths, yet seek to learn new strategies in order to acquire new knowledge. Students can reflect on their learning and actively build upon their knowledge base.
In a student-centered classroom the diversity of cultures, identity, and learning styles is embraced and respected. Different cultures need to be addressed as unique yet essential to maintaining a student-centered classroom.
Through the appropriate use of various technologies, students are able to connect their learning to the global village that is our world. Students regularly email their progress to their families. Families are crucial to maintaining a student-centered classroom and must be seen as partners in their children’s learning. Students and teachers must regularly communicate progress, areas of growth, and positive achievements to their families.
The teacher must accept feedback from the students and families in order to adjust teaching strategies accordingly. Most importantly, the teacher must spend time seriously reflecting upon his or her practices and use multiple assessment tools from the school, district, and state levels. Likewise, the teacher must remain current to trends, research, and set up professional growth goals to maintain effectiveness. The teacher must strive to become a master teacher in all areas of teaching.
The teacher must be an advocate not only for students in his or her classroom, but for all students in the school. This means participation in educational reforms at the school, district, and state levels. In order to effectively push for a student centered school learning environment, the teacher must participate on school committees and pushes for collaboration throughout the school. In this type of classroom, students themselves are actively engaged in creating, understanding, and connecting to knowledge and learning. The Universal Design of a student-centered classroom can provide the following: the ability create a respectful learning environment, determine essential course components, establish clear expectations and feedback, and develop natural learning supports and technologies that already exist. The use of multiple teaching strategies will provide several types of opportunities for students to demonstrate knowledge, and encourage students, families, and teachers to connect. It is important to remember that this will take time as well as a great deal of effort, planning, and preparing for each day.

Online Assignment #3 - Rachel Bergere

What is a student-focused learning environment?

Having a student-focused learning environment is what every educator should strive towards achieving in their classrooms. It is an environment where every learner is considered unique and the teacher responds to this by creating lessons that support this uniqueness. It is an environment where curriculum and instruction are driven by what the students are learning. It flows with them and not with whatever the date is on the lesson-plan calendar. Assessment determines what the teacher will teach and when it will be taught. A student-focused learning environment puts the students at the center of the educational experience.

How do you create it?

An educator can create a student-focused learning environment by forming a habit of effective professional practices. For example, effective educators should use a variety of instructional strategies that create meaning for students by using different instructional approaches, multiple perspectives, and real-world experiences. This could include allowing students to make choices in what they learn, or it could include having students engage in cooperative group projects. I have created this by understanding and using instructional strategies that target students’ neurodevelopmental strengths and weaknesses that I have learned through the All Kinds of Minds program. The All Kinds of Minds program has taught me how to recognize the different way in which students learn and think. I have also learned strategies and techniques that I can integrate into my lessons. An effective teacher uses a variety of assessment tools to gather data on students and record their growth. This educator would also ensure that the students are aware of how and why they are assessed. The students in this student-focused environment understand the steps needed to achieve their learning targets and goals. I have started having students do more self-reflection and goal setting during writing workshop. They use a writing continuum to see how they have grown as writers and set goals for future learning targets. A student-centered classroom is also a place where teachers use appropriate classroom management techniques that make certain students know what to do, feel safe and respected, and respect others. An effective educator creates a setting that is student-focused by forming and modifying curriculum that challenges students. This teacher utilizes technology as a tool for students boost what they learn in the classroom. A setting that is student-focused also has a teacher who sensitive to the cultural needs of all students and their families. This teacher regularly communicates with families and community members and views them as partners in the educational process. For students to remain at the heart of this learning environment, an effective teacher must develop and maintain these successful professional practices.

How do you sustain it?

A professional educator can sustain a student-focused learning environment by committing to continual growth in his or her field. I will accomplish this by completing a master’s degree and participating and advocating for professional development opportunities within the school or district. It can also be maintained through self-reflection and renewal by the individual teacher. By constantly reexamining my own teaching practices and professional growth goals, I can feel confident that I am upholding a classroom environment where students are the center. As a professional educator, I will continue to take steps towards becoming an expert and distinguished educator in my own educational life-cycle. By having an attitude that yearns for growth and that never settles for complacency, an effective educator will easily continue to experience the joy and excitement of having a student-focused learning environment.

Online Assignment #3 - Christina Spencer

What is a student-focused learning environment? How do you create it? How do you sustain it?

A student-focused learning environment is a set of multi-layered experiences that work together to support the learning and emotional needs of students. As teachers work with students on a daily basis they delicately balance learning targets, classroom rules, student goals, and school agendas so that students have experiences that foster personal growth and help to imprint new information onto their memories. In my opinion, a classroom that is designed to foster student-centered learning is one that:
1. seeks out and honors student voice.
2. allows students to set personal goals and helps them to reach them at their own pace.
3. honors diversity in student learning and culture.
4. emphasizes the idea that fair doesn't mean equal.
5. acknowledges academic as well as personal successes and set-backs
6. recognizes that students lives are multi-dimensional and supports students as they balance the
challenges/rewards of school and of life.
7. allows students to create, re-create, make mistakes, and learn from mistakes.
8. provides students with the opportunity to teach and the teacher the opportunity to coach.
When teachers can provide opportunities that guide their students to create authentic experiences (academic or personal) they provide a student-focused learning environment.
My classroom is a crazy place! I have students spread-out all over the place working on all sorts of things all at the same time. I am extremely lucky to teach a two-hour block class and a one hour class that only has eight students. This provides me with the flexibility to do almost anything that students need and provide each group with opportunities that they may not receive in their other classes. I frequently allow students the opportunity to use computers for research and rewards, I give them frequent and almost instant feedback on their work, I allow them to take group assessments and learn from each other, I try to emphasize the learning process with my students and not always the product, I use humor and fun to take the edge off of complicated tasks, I create different learning experiences for different groups of students depending on their needs, I frequently give students the opportunity to learn information at their own pace, and I provide educational and emotional coaching. Many of these events happen simultaneously. It is demanding to sustain such a delicate student-focused environment. I am always trying to manage a balance of all of these activities that works best for the moment but can be reused in the future.
I have learned through trial and error that high school students are a fickle group. What worked on Monday may not work well on Tuesday. My classroom is in a constant state of motion and change. I always seek to maintain the optimum environment for my students by being in-tuned to their behaviors and emotions. Being open to their needs beyond the classroom, helps me to build relationships with them. The bond that we build helps me to sustain a positive student-centered learning environment. I have found that the magic ingredient that sustains a student-centered learning environment is the depth of student-teacher interaction. When I have been committed to building relationships and setting up circumstances where students have the opportunity to challenge themselves I have seen the most student investment in my classroom.
Being a student-focused teacher is exhausting but it is worth it!

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Online Assignment #3 - Juliana Kirmeyer

Student-centered learning environments are classrooms in which the students’ needs come before the needs, or wants, of the teacher; teacher and students share equal responsibility for the learning that takes place in the classroom.  The beginning of such environments is when a teacher recognizes that a student’s success is her own.  As a beginning teacher, it is very rare to come to the profession with this attitude – especially trusting that students are responsible for their learning.  It is also quite difficult to give up what one wants to teach and, instead, blend together what engages students with what they need to learn.  However, once this realization occurs for a teacher, it is a struggle to know how to begin making changes.  

            It is helpful for a teacher who is creating a student-centered learning environment to reflect on past instructional and assessment strategies.  Teachers must discern which assessments yielded a high rate of student success, how those assessments were formed, and whether the instruction aligned with the assessment. The data gathered from assessments, in particular pre-assessments, can also aid in the designing of curriculum that meets the needs of students.  Students need to take responsibility in their learning by engaging in communication that helps teachers guide instruction, assessment, and curriculum.  Students also need to feel safe in their classrooms and take an active role in the learning community.  Routines, clear expectations, and open and clear methods of communication with teachers, students and parents help foster a safe and student-centered environment.

            Sustaining a student-centered environment requires a teacher to reflect continually on her work towards her students’ success.  One way I have found to reflect is to write notes to my future self on how successful (or not so successful) a lesson, test, or project was for students.  Sometimes when I ask for student reflection on their work (tests, projects, etc.), I find great ideas for how to improve my instruction.  I ask my students to reflect twice per trimester on their progress overall.  They are quite honest in their reflections and point out issues or successes, some that I have noticed and some that I have not noticed.  Their reflections enable me to clearly communicate with them where they are strong and where they have room to grow.  These actions are helping me create a more student-centered classroom.

            Student-centered learning environments spring from the consciousness of the teacher.  Through monitoring of learning, open and clear communication, and reflection teachers are able to build and sustain student-centered learning environments.

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Online Assignment #3 - Katy Lungren

Why do we teach? Is it for the accolade? The public praise? To get summers off? For the hefty paycheck? Or is the reason we do what we do each day for the students? A teacher that creates and sustains a student-focused learning environment is one who answers every “why?” with: “because that is what’s best for my kids.”

A student-focused learning environment begins before the children even walk in the classroom on the first day of school. Prior to the students arrival, the room must be arranged for and be conducive to active movement, open dialogue, shared spaces, and private, quiet areas. When the students begin the school year, the focus is put on them and their learning from the get-go. The students work together to create community standards and expectations. They determine what the class rewards and individual consequences will be. Routines and procedures are set and practiced so that every student feels safe and aware of expectations. When working on academics, students discuss strategy ideas, talk about different ways to solve problems, read and laugh together, and support one another when questions arise. The students share their opinions, hearing one another and compromising rather than just waiting for their turn to talk. The children set goals, individually and as a group, and then reflect on the progress they are making. Classroom resources are readily available for students needing additional enrichment as well as for students needing more help or support. Students are given time to work, process, and reflect individually and time to share, communicate, and review in groups and as a whole class. Students work together to become a classroom community, preparing them for a role in the global community. Access to and regular use of technology exposes the students to more of the world, allowing them to hone skills vital for success in the future. Students see and experience the wider global community through learning materials, classmates’ traditions, and multicultural literature and activities, thus developing culturally diverse knowledge and attitudes. The students’ families play an integral role in each student’s success, being an active member of the essential triad – student, teacher, family.

Sustaining a student-focused learning environment can be a bit of a challenge for me. At the beginning of each school year, I feel refreshed after a summer of rest. Reflecting over the past year and making plans for how I will do “it” better over the summer inspires and invigorates me. This optimism and belief that the ideal (as Vanessa so articulately described it) is possible sustains a strong student focus in my classroom from September through January or February. As the weight of added responsibilities, high-stakes testing, fifth-graders’ hormones, and other stressors build up mid-year, I have noticed that I fall back into poor teaching habits at times. To combat this, it takes deliberate, specific actions, built-in reflection time, and careful planning to ensure my classroom remains student-focused. I have also found like-minded colleagues to be life-savers. We share ideas, plan together when possible, commiserate if necessary, and (I believe, most importantly) hold one another accountable. We ask each other, “Why are you doing this or that?” If we are doing our jobs and doing them well, the answer will be, “because that is what’s best for my kids.”

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Online Assignment # 3 - Megan Ackerman

A student-focused learning environment should place the focus on the individual student. Throughout the school year, I constantly tweak lesson plans and the school-wide curriculum to help my students be successful in their learning. For those who need extra help, I set aside time to do one-on-one instruction or make other necessary accommodations. I feel it is important to have a solid and consistent management plan, so all students know classroom expectations. A student-focused learning environment is about using time wisely, so students can get the most out of their learning. It’s about getting to know all my students and creating fun and innovative lessons to pique their interests. It’s also about letting them have a voice in the classroom and being a part of making decisions or solving problems. Lastly, I feel the most important aspect of a student-focused learning environment is encouraging my students to use their imagination in everything they do, because “Imagination will often carry us to worlds that never were. But without it we go nowhere.” (Quote by Carl Sagan)

How I create a student-focused learning environment is by getting to know my students. At the beginning of every school year, I have their families fill out a survey about their child. In the classroom, the first week of school is dedicated to getting to know my students. They do a variety of art projects and writing prompts that help me get to know what their interests are. My students also fill out an evaluation form telling me what their learning goals are for the trimester and how they will achieve them. I set aside time and have a conference with them on their learning goals. It would be a challenge to create a student-focused learning environment without a consistent management plan. A teacher needs to have strong discipline skills, so her students may learn in a calm and respectful manner. I create this by having a color-coded chart. A green card means good behavior, yellow is a warning, orange is a consequence, and lastly, red is when a student fills out a red card explaining how she/he could have made better choices. The card goes home for a family member to sign and is returned to me the next day. My students also create a classroom mission statement in which they come up with the classroom rules to follow. Next year, my students will be signing a contract stating they will be responsible for their behavior. From time to time, we have classroom meetings to allow students to express their concerns or come up with ways to solve problems. Over the summer, I will be working hard implementing new ideas into my curriculum and classroom. One idea I am planning to invoke in my classroom is having my students write monthly letters to other students out of state. As for creating imagination, I enjoy putting on a play/skit for my school. At my school, each grade is responsible for hosting mass that takes place every Friday. My students will doing mass on Ascension Thursday in a couple of weeks. The gospel focuses on Jesus going back into Heaven. I have created a skit based on the gospel for all my students to act out. “The true sign of intelligence is not knowledge, but imagination.” (Albert Einstein) I feel mass should not have to be boring, it should be creative. When appropriate, I sometimes let my students come up with their own lines. They really enjoy being a part of creating a play. They will get to dress up and imagine themselves as Jesus’ apostles. We will also decorate a big bulletin board and use it as a background for our skit. After Holy Communion, my students will also put on a meditation song and present it in sign language. I feel that acting out the gospel is a great way for my students to truly understand the message of Jesus’ love for them and to love one another as Jesus loves them. It is a lot of work, however it is also very fun. The reward comes when I see my students come together as a classroom community and amaze the school with their talents and imagination.

I sustain a student-focused learning environment by constantly seeking ways to improve my teaching methods and curriculum in order to meet the needs of all my students. I take the time to get to know my students on a regular basis, such as having a conference or having lunch with a student and learning about her/his interests. Most importantly, I sustain a student-focused learning environment by putting them in the spotlight showing off all that they have accomplished.

Monday, May 4, 2009

Online Assignment #3 -- Vanessa Marfin

A student-centered environment is one in which every decision is made intentionally with the goal of promoting student learning. In a student-centered envioronment, students actively set learning goals, select methods for achieving them, and evaluate whether they have met them. In a student-centered learning environment, students understand and help define what "quality" is, and are able to use assessments to identify goals for future learning and to more fully understand themselves as learners. In this environment, all students are welcome and celebrated. Different learning styles and cultural heritages are seen as contributing to the richness of the whole, and institutional and perceptual barriers to any student's full participation in our society due to bias is confronted and corrected. Students are active participants in establishing rules and consequences. In this environment, everyone knows where everything is and takes responsibility for putting it back. When an instructional problem is presented, students can draw upon a wide variety of resources and tools, including technology, to solve the problem because everything in the classroom is owned by the students in the fullest meaning of the word "owned." In a student-centered environment, time is not wasted because students are eager to learn, know how to learn, and are invested in their learning. A student-centered environment invites parents and community members into the classroom to contribute to and celebrate students' learning.

The student-centered environment is an ideal. There are a multitude of barriers to achieving this ideal, including scarcity of planning time, inadequate resources, and suboptimal school cultures. However, the role of the teacher is to continue to pursue this ideal despite obstacles. One way the teacher gains strength for achieving the goal of the student-centered classroom is through collaboration with other professionals. By sharing knowledge and working together to solve issues in the broader society that make teaching and learning in schools difficult, the teacher can maintain passion for and belief in education.

In a student-centered environment, the teacher also becomes a student, maintaining enthusiasm for learning and commitment to reflection upon and improvement of instructional practices throughout her career.

Sunday, May 3, 2009

Online Assignment #3 - Juli Rangel

In my 2nd grade class, our current topic of study in science is “Forces and Motion.” We’ve learned that motion is the act of moving. When I think of a student-focused learning environment, I imagine a classroom full of children in motion.


• Actively participating when processing information:

o Recording responses (writing, drawing on white boards)
o Signaling (hand signals, response cards)
o Responding verbally (“tell your neighbor,” choral responses)
o Acting out (role play, movement, facial expressions)
o Responding mentally to prompts (“imagine, pretend, recall, remember, picture, think about”)

• Having opportunities to participate in partner work and cooperative learning projects
• Exploring numerous manipulatives and hands-on activities to aid in conceptual learning
• Demonstrating their skills and knowledge with higher-level thinking, questioning and learning tasks (Bloom’s Taxonomy)
• Using the learning environment respectfully and with ease and purpose (resource location, following rules and procedures)

A student-focused learning environment can be created when a teacher demonstrates competency with the following criteria:

1. Instructional Strategies – Students need to be aware of different learning approaches, and their learning tasks need to be varied, meaningful and related to curriculum standards.

2. Assessment Strategies – Students need to understand a variety of assessment tools and criteria, have opportunities to share their progress with parents and be involved in the decision-making of their progress.

3. Classroom Management Principles – Students need to feel ownership in the creation of classroom standards and rules. These standards and procedures need to be taught, modeled and practiced and continually reviewed, so all children can learn in a positive, safe, organized and inclusive learning environment.

4. Designing and/or Adapting Challenging Curriculum – Students need to understand the learning tasks and the steps required to reach them. They need to be engaged in a variety of high-level thinking skills and know and use resources to aid in their individual learning. Teachers need to address the diverse learning needs in their classroom by differentiating learning tasks whenever appropriate.

5. Demonstrate Cultural Sensitivity- Students need to be exposed to cultural diversity through learning materials and activities. They need to learn how to respect cultural diversity and have opportunities to share cultural traditions and customs that reflect varied backgrounds and experiences.

6. Technology Integration – Students need to use a variety of technologies and technology skills in a responsible and ethical way in order to enhance learning, productivity and self-expression.

7. Communication with Families and Community – Teachers need to form partnerships with families and communities in the educational process by engaging in two-way communication. Teachers need to share information about assessments, behavior, learning and community building opportunities and provide accessible ways for parent and community input.

Sustaining a student-focused learning environment requires a great deal of effort and experience! Teachers need to know the required learning targets and enduring understandings so they can create and/or gather lesson plans that contain sound instructional strategies that make learning meaningful. Teachers need to “know” their students by using baseline assessments, pre and post assessments, surveys and conferencing so they can know where to move ahead with each child. Teachers need to be prepared on a daily basis, prepared with lessons supplies and materials so valuable instructional minutes are not lost. Teachers need to continually take time to collaborate with others and for reflection and renewal regarding the effects of their teaching, as well as remain current in teaching practices, theories and research.

Wow! Teachers work hard!

Friday, May 1, 2009

Online Assignment #3 - Rachel Bland

When I think of a student-focused learning environment I directly think about the individual students' themselves. I think about who they are, what their academic levels are, what academic goals they have, where they live, what languages they speak at school and or home, their gender and their personalities. A student-focused learning environment means differentiating the district's adopted curriculum and using a variety of teaching strategies to meet the students where they are. This could entail changing the numbers in a math problem for a student or sub-group of students to make it either more or less challenging. It could also mean preparing for a homework assignment during school, such as providing example of different scales (when learning about measurement) if students do not have access to them outside of school.

I create a student-focused classroom by knowing my students and about their lives. I get to know my students by doing three important things: first I send out a survey to families. The survey asks families for information about their child. It asks about any allegeris, medications, diet restrictions, siblings, bed time, favorite subject, sports played, favorite activity etc. Secondly, I give students a simple survey. It asks them about their favorite food, favorite book, what they want to learn about, what they want to be when they grow up, how they like to help others etc. I carefully read both survey's and make notes about important information. All of these documents are stored in the classroom student files. Thirdly, I constantly talk with studnets both individually and within daily classroom meetings. We discuss learning strategies, problem solving skills and what they enjoy learning about. All of this information helps me to lesson plan and then modify the lessons to meet students where they are academically. I am also able to set the classroom up for students to use to their advantage. That is, if students problem solve by using math manipulatives I make sure they are out in an area where student's can easily access them.

I sustain a student-focused learning environment by continually learning about the studnet's I teach. I talk with students about their learning experiences, ask questions about problem solving techniques and evaluate daily data about whether objectives were met. All of this information helps me to tailor the district adopted curriculum and my teaching strategies to fit the needs of the students. As students' learning abilities grow and change throughout the school year, I make the choice to learn from them in order to teach to the students and not teach to the curriculum.

Monday, April 27, 2009

Online Assignment # 3 -- Due May 12

What is a student-focused learning environment? How do you create it? How do you sustain it?

After posting your remarks, you will need to respond to 2 others.

You have 2 weeks to complete this assignment--by May 12.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Online Assignment # 2 -- Silvia Gomes

I have found some very interesting web sites that can really inspire creative curriculum and teaching units.

National Archives for Educators and Students
This website has amazing lessons and web quests that students can use to learn different concepts of history. The most amazing part of this is that it allows access to primary documents which can be written in vernacular that students have had no exposure to. Though the vocabulary can be difficult, students become so engrossed in the subject matter that even older students begin “deciphering” the meaning of these documents and which roles they play in history.

Read, Write, Think

I am sure that this website is recognized by many, if not all However, in case no one has mentioned it or you, the reader, has not heard of this website, this is a must have for any teacher. This is a place that has its roots in literacy, but due to our developing view of education, it is a website that meets most subject areas.

I also love this website as it acts like an enormous toolbox. The makers of this site understand that re-inventing the wheel is silly and a waste of precious teaching time. On this site, it puts teachers in direct contact with useful resources that they can give their own students to aide in learning concepts. It also provides links that will aide teachers in managing their own work loads. This is a great site to help with organization, assessment, and instruction development.

Two literature pieces that I am absolutely promoting to anyone who will listen are these:

Boy Writers by Ralph Fletcher
This book is one that I have been flying through that gives a much needed point of view perspective of the role of boys in the classroom and how to gear a more gender friendly writing program which has been geared to meet the strengths of girls. So often, I see boys struggle with Writing Workshop or in finding a sense of accomplishment in their writing pieces. Fletcher helps to ease the teacher into the mantra: "It is ok if..." In reading this book, It helped me realize that although some teaching practices are sound, there is a population that is being ignored (about 50% of the population to be exact).

Units of Study for Teaching Writing by Lucy Calkins
This was a series of books that was introduced to me by a fellow classmate. I have just begun to dive in, but have become engrossed in what I have read so far. This series breaks down your year into Units of Study (Memoirs, Literary Essays, Fiction, Breathing Life into Essays, etc). One of the books serves as a guide to the Writing Workshop and another one helps the teacher Launch the Writers Workshop in the classroom. Inside, it has a word-for-word script in case a teacher needs some intensive guidance, general lesson outlines for those who like a bit more independance in their teaching, and coaching notes for the points where a teacher may get "stuck." There is also a CD-ROM with resources, materials, bibliography, rubrics, charts, and much more! Lucy Calkins also has a primary grades series aimed for the K-2 writers. I was also informed that the 3-5 series can be easily adapted for middle and high school writers!

Online Assignment # 2 -- Christina Spencer

My areas of focus for my professional certificate are: using a variety instructional strategies that make the learning meaningful and increase student learning, using a variety of assessment strategies, and integrating technology in the classroom. Through my web searches I have found many sites that will be useful in the implementation phase of this process. Often times I found sites that provide more than one use, sparked a focused reflection, or created the coveted "ah-ha" moment. Hopefully you will find these resources to be useful or interesting too.

Instructional Strategies:
-Instructional strategies for math specifically designed for students with learning disabilities or low math ability but could really be used as "best practices" for many abstract concepts in math
-This site had all sorts of goodies connected to it, they included: assessment strategies (all subjects), instructional strategies with references to research to support the strategy, assignments, and much more...

Assessment Strategies:
-This site was great, it provided several examples and tools for implementation

-One of my favorite tools associated with this site as a plan for creating appropriate scoring rubrics for student work

-This site focused on individual and peer assessment, each strategy had a visual sample and a rationale for its use

-I'm sure everyone noticed that the assessment website I chose was powered by one of the world leaders in technology. Intel is very supportive of education and has lots of ideas on how to integrate technology and the use of 21st century skills in the classroom.

Online Assignment #2 -- Kathy Loftus

Natalie, you are not alone in creating an account and posting ability. But here I am, I did something right, what I did, well I 'm not too sure.

1. Classroom Management

I found a site that was on our resource list. Education World http://www.education-world.com/

This site had many other topics as well. I went to the Classroom Management under the Strategy of the Week section. It listed many other sites to visit. Each site pertained to a specific topic about classroom management. For example one site talks about seating arrangements. How the seating arrangement can affect classroom management, how you can rearrange students seats and how it will change the classroom management. I am very excited to look into more of these sites to help me with some ideas to better my class room management. I also found a book titled: A Personal Guide to Classroom Management, by Michael Grinder, National Director NLP in Education. This book provides you with strategies that will help make classroom management very easy. I am interested in learning more strategies that will give me some ideas of how to work with my students.

2. Integrating Technology

I also used the same site as above, Education World, http://www.education-world.com/

This site has a technology integration section. I went to that section and then went to the site reviews, then clicked on PE and Health. Once I got there, I had many different sites to go to. The sites were interactive with the student, some were more informational and others were primarily for the teacher only. I am excited to be able to access these sites with my health classes. This will provide other ways for my students to learn, besides working from the book and work book.

3. Informing, Involving, and collaborating

I received a book from one of my professional growth team members. It is called, Strategies for Teachers, Teaching Content and Thinking Skills, by Paul D. Eggen and Donald P. Kauchak. The book focus' on what strategies to use to teach your students better. How to get your students to have a higher level of thinking and to better communicate to your student and their family. I am looking forward to continuing to read this book and gather some ideas from it to help the learning for my students to be more meaningful.

I also found a website that will give me ideas on what will help my communication with parents and students. www.2.scholastic.com This site has other sites and articles that you can go to that will give you ideas and strategies to use to help improve on communication and make it more effective. This site also had information on lesson plans, technology ideas, and many other subjects that would be helpful.

Online Assignment # 2 -- Vanessa Marfin

At first, this process made me feel I have already entered initial withdrawal as described by Steffy. Reviewing research articles, I felt guilty for having drifted so far away from the scientific approach I was introduced to in my credential program. Skimming intriguing book titles, I felt skeptical about my own ability to integrate new elements into my teaching practices right away. Clicking on enticing links, I felt resentful of professionals who are not in the classroom anymore but are making plenty of money selling solutions to teachers -- solutions that are often contradictory at that. I feel like what I really need in order to become a better teacher is sufficient time to actually read and evaluate all these resources, assimilate them at a reasonable pace, plan how I will implement them, and share them with colleagues. And I need to have this sufficient time without being forced to sacrifice my family life or the time that I need to explore my own interests and meet my own non-teaching goals. However, after writing about the resources I found, I feel I am already re-energized a bit and looking forward to continuing to revamp and revise my teaching practice.

The first two resources deal with instructional strategies, specifically for teaching math. I spend the majority of my time as a high school resource teacher working with students on math and find that many are turned off to math because of their perception that it is irrelevant to their lives. Enter:

Radical Equations: Civil Rights from Mississippi to the Algebra Project by Robert Moses. In this book, Moses describes the curriculum he developed to prepare traditionally underserved students for higher mathematics instruction and explains why math is a civil rights issue.

Rethinking Mathematics: Teaching Social Justice by the Numbers. I found this book on the Rethinking Schools website and it is exactly what I need to make math more relevant to my students and to more actively promote social justice in my teaching. Includes suggestions for using issues of social justice (including housing discrimination, living wage, environmental racism, the war in Iraq, etc.) to teach math and problem solving. I am very eager to incorporate these lessons into my math program. I predict that after solving the problems in this book, students will find answers to their perennial question: "When am I ever going to use this?"

The third resource that I found invaluable I did not discover on my own, but Margie gave it to us at our last class meeting. I used this website in school, as I am sure many of you did:
ERIC Clearinghouse, U.S. Department of Education; www.eric.ed.gov
This is a vast storehouse of educational research articles. I searched for "ADD/ADHD and on-task and self-monitoring" and found several articles about a technique called "S.L.A.N.T." that I would love to implement throughout my school. I also found a method called a "Question Exploration Routine" that is a visual organizer that appears promising for improving reading comprehension for students with learning disabilities. I know I can turn to this resource again and again when problem situations arise with my students. Staying knowledgeable about research-validated interventions will be especially helpful for me in collaborating with classroom teachers, I will be able to make very specific suggestions and back them up with data.

Online Assignment #2—Kate Kristian

From the book, Integrating Technology by James G. Lengel and Kathleen M. Lengel, I learned that there are actually stages in technology adoption. I find this important because just like the stages of general teacher development there are limits to what a teacher can apply into their classroom when integrating technology. The stages go as follows: Entry, Adoption, Adaptation, Appropriation, and Innovation. To give you an idea of how a teacher develops through these strategies, at the Entry phase the teacher is aware of technology, but chooses not to involve him or herself in the use of it, and is not interested in using it with students. Teachers in the entry phase actually avoid technology. In the final stage of innovation, the teacher views technology as a tool, however not the only tool to good teaching. The teacher focuses on the curriculum and ensures that students are meeting standards rather than being impressed by a student’s project that doesn’t include the content of the curriculum.
In Integrating Literacy and Technology by Susan Watts Taffe and Carolyn B. Gwinn, they emphasize the use of layers of instruction in order to scaffold, and gradually release the responsibility to students. The stages of instruction include, Teacher Explicit Instruction, Teacher Modeling, Think-Aloud (while modeling), and Interactive Demonstration.

Parent and Community Involvement
Mobilizing the Community to Help Students Succeed by Hugh B. Price was given to me by one of my Professional Certification Team members. She is a literacy coach for the Seattle School District and felt it was a great resource for involving parents and community members in the school environment. There are a lot of ideas in how to set up programs that involve parents and community member that have proven to boost student achievement.

“Assessment Through the Student’s Eyes” by Rick Stiggins is an excellent resource for getting started with more student-centered assessment. Stiggins refers to this assessment as “Assessment for Learning” and has great advice for implementation:

• Share achievement targets with students prior to the project, unit, or assignment
• Share examples of exemplary student work
• Provide time for self-assessment and provide students with specific feedback in manageable chunks
• Set time for students to set goals
• Have students develop a scoring rubric for the assignment or project
• Provide students with time to reflect on their achievement. For example, after a test is graded, have students determine what concepts they are actually struggling with, and where they may have made a computational error. Then, provide further instruction and another opportunity for students to demonstrate their skills.

Monday, April 6, 2009

Online Assignment #2 -- Natalie Bowers

Oh goodness, I finally found the button to create a new post.  I feel so silly; I've been looking for it for-- well, I won't admit to how long it took me; I'm just glad I found it!  

Like many in our group my goals are: integrating technology, informing, inviting and collaborating with families, and using a variety of assessments.  I am excited to expand my knowledge in all of these areas, but if the truth be told, I'm most excited about the tech goal.  I have an aversion to technology (see the first two lines of this post), and learning more about it and discovering how I can integrating effectively in the classroom is the goal most likely to push me out of my comfort zone and into the place where real learning takes place.  

In the last few weeks I've found many resources to assist me on the road to meeting my goals, below are a few of the ones I'm most looking forward to studying closely.

1.  Integrating Technology
I figured since my aversion to this goal was so great, I would do best to fully immerse myself in it.  I didn't want to just read an article, I wanted a book; my search brought me to this one, Ten Easy Ways to Use Technology in the English Classroom.  I was drawn to this resource for a number of reasons.  First, as I stated early it was a book, and I thought it would be more in depth and thorough than some of the other resources I found.  Second, the words "Ten Easy Ways" really appealed to me; it made me feel like I wouldn't be overwhelmed by the ideas.  Lastly, and probably most importantly, I liked that it was specifically written for the English Classroom.  In a class that is mostly about reading and writing, I find it hard to think of ways technology fits into my classroom in a natural and organic way.   My hope is this book gives me the tools I need to start on my track to having meaning technology in my LA classes.  My principal agreed to buy the book for me, so it should arrive in a few weeks!

2.  Informing, inviting and collaborating with families
For this goal, I decided to use a resource from the bibliography we were given in class,  Rallying the Whole Village:  The Comer Process for Reforming Education.  In my current position as a literacy coach and staff developer, my role with families has changed.  I'm no longer have a set of students I'm responsible for, so the contact I do have with families is on a much greater and more "global" scale. 

 We are currently undergoing major demographic changes at my school.  Due to budget cuts and school closers, we are acquiring 250 students in a special, self-contained advanced program, and right now tensions are high.  Everyone is worried about how our current demographic and our new demographic will mix; there are lots of questions and there is a lot of fear.  Since I'm in position of leadership, I'd like to learn more about how to create a positive, cohesive school that values the diversity each group brings with it, and I think this resource will help me learn more.

3.  Using a variety of assessments
I'm really excited about this resource for two reasons.  First I've been trying to read this book for two years, but I keep getting distracted, and two, I've convinced a group of other coaches to read it with me in a study group!  As we all know, many heads are better than one, and I can't wait to read Assessing Writers by Carl Anderson with them.  I've read a few chapters in this book already, and I'm so excited about his fresh approach to assessing writing and all of his ideas about sharing the process with students and parents.  I also really like that his approach isn't about grading, it is about evaluating growth over time.  I look forward to reading this book completely and with my colleagues.

Sunday, April 5, 2009

Online Assignment #2 Darren Hunter

Hello everybody! I have found so many sites, books, journals, and reference materials. I have become overwhelmed at times. However, I have finally narrowed down my list to three wonderful resources. The available materials are endless and I am looking forward to reading the other responses and the information provided by my classmates.

1. Integrating Technology


I found the website listed above to be a great resource for successfully integrating technology into the classroom. This is one of the biggest areas of my Professional Growth Plan and I found no shortage of websites, books, source materials, and journals. While researching, I came across the education-world website. This website is packed with not only valuable technology resources, but links for lesson planning, school-wide issues, and professional development. I found a great link in which The Education World Tech Team shares its secrets for teaching successfully with technology and includes thirty-three tips for effectively managing technology use in your classroom!


2. Informing, Involving and Collaborating with Families

Easy and Effective Ways to Communicate with Parents: Practical Techniques and Tips for Parent Conferences, Open Houses, Notes Home, and More That Work for Every Situation by Barbara Mariconda

This must-have guide explains how to turn every interaction with parents from the first letter home through the last conference into a positive and productive interaction. This book has been a valuable resource for me. It includes many suggestions, as well as problem solving solutions, for effectively communicating, collaborating, and forming partnerships with families. The book is an easy read with real-school scenarios and plenty of ideas for forming positive communication teams. It has been very helpful so far this year and I continue to refer to it. If you would like to borrow this book please let me know!

3. Effective Classroom Management


I came across this great web resource: The Education Information for New and Future Teachers on the www.adprima.com site. This resource explains how to successfully develop and maintain a student-centered classroom management system. In addition, this site has an abundance of information and hundreds of links for not only classroom management but for my other areas of Professional Growth. This website has links for lesson plans, educational journals, content and curriculum assistance, as well as curriculum and instruction, to simply name a few. I will definitely continue to refer to this website during my professional growth cycle and beyond.

Online Assignment #2 - Rachel Bergere

When I started this program and began my professional growth plan, I knew that I was going to have to find resources to help me best achieve my goals. I immediately began asking teachers at my school for resource ideas. I also revisited old workshop materials to see if additional resources had been suggested for us to read at a later date. I have found three that I have started reading and have even used some of the strategies and ideas in my own classroom and in my growth plans.

Classroom Based Assessment by Bonnie Campbell Hill, Cynthia Ruptic, and Lisa Norwick

One of the teachers at my school who used to work in many areas outside of the classroom, including as an advisor for student teachers through Seattle University, suggested the text Classroom Based Assessment. She has been teaching for over 20 years and said this book is invaluable to her. This book is useful not only for university students who are learning about assessment for the first time, but it is also helpful for classroom teachers who need to fine-tune their own assessment practices. Throughout the book there are chapters on how to assess and observe students in writing, reading, and other content areas. There are reproducible forms and continuums to use in the classroom. There are also descriptive suggestions for professional growth at the end of each chapter.

Setting Limits in the Classroom by Robert J. MacKenzie

I am reading this book as a part of my professional goal to improve my classroom management. It offers suggestions on how to improve the structure of the classroom, guidance for how to give logical consequences for behavior, solving problems with homework, and how to motivate students in a positive way. One practice that I read in this book was to start using a Friday “Preferred Activity Time” (PAT) to improve and lessen the time it takes for transitions. During this PAT they get to choose activities that they would like to do that involve “thinking and learning”. The students earn 20 minutes of PAT each week that they get to have on Friday afternoon. They can earn additional minutes for excellent behavior, transitions, or being on-task. During transitions they can lose seconds from their Friday PAT for taking too long, excessive talking, or being off-task. I have only started using this system, but it has seemed to work so far. The 6th graders love having a free choice time and work hard to get additional time for it.


This is a free web-based learning environment for teachers to use for conferencing with their students. It looks to have been set-up for secondary and post-secondary classes, but I think it would also work for 5th-8th graders. Teachers can create their own threaded topics and even have students post their own topics. There appears to be scheduling functions, link sharing, and personal messaging options as well. I was interested in having the ability to post topics that students could read and respond to, as well as read each others’ topics, and respond to them. I decided to use it for a class meeting last week and the students loved it. I posted the question: What do you like about our class? What gifts do you offer? The students enjoyed seeing their responses posted on the thread. It was a positive experience in our classroom. I also had access to all of the students’ responses and could actively monitor the students to ensure they were being appropriate and respectful. I look forward to exploring this resource more and seeing how I can using it for instruction and perhaps even a tool for assessment.

Online Assignment #2-Megan Ackerman

After doing some research and review on literature and website searches, I couldn’t help feeling slightly overwhelmed by the vast resources that are offered for teachers and narrow the sources that would be most meaningful to implement in my professional growth plan. However, I was also excited to get my hands on some new material to help me improve on incorporating more of cultural diversity, technology, and effective assessments in my classroom.

To help with innovative reading assessments in my classroom, a colleague of mine recommended a book called, With Assessment First, written by Deborah White. Deborah White has dedicated her professional life to teaching for more than thirty years and is a reading specialist and Reading Recovery teacher. The book focuses on effective ways to move reading assessment and instruction forward. It takes on a different kind of assessment approach. The book explains ways to connect short, focused assessments, so that reading instruction is meaningful and powerful to all readers. It shows ways to determine approximate reading levels and identify strategies students may be using. White looks closely at the five key areas readers usually need support on, which are phonemic awareness, phonics, vocabulary, fluency, and comprehension. I am excited about delving more into With Assessment First,, because it also provides teachers with a planning chart for each focus area and a variety of activities to facilitate reading instruction. As I read more of the book, I plan on experimenting with some of the reading activities along with using the reproducible forms for giving assessments.

It has been frustrating finding creative ways to implement technology into my classroom, until I discovered the website, www.scholastic.com (http://www2.scholastic.com/browse/collection.jsp?id=391). It has a vast amount of resources on technology integration along with incorporating literacy, writing, social studies, and cultural diversity lessons in the classroom. The website’s mission is to help encourage literacy appreciation. It has quality products and services that educate and motivate children in understanding the world around them. The site has many activities to help students become more familiar with our history and cultural heritage. It has a variety of lessons that teach students about living in a democratic society with basic liberties and responsibilities. Most importantly, it helps students understand the value of having rights and freedom for all people. While I was searching the website, I stumbled on “Celebrate Constitution Day.” The site had several useful articles my students could use to do research, such as, “We the People: The Preamble,” “Bill of Rights,” or “Constitutional Expert: Caroline Kennedy.” Towards the end of the webpage, I discovered some fun activities. I laughed when I saw “Interview Ben Franklin.” I just had to check it out. As soon as I clicked on the site, I had a virtual interview with Franklin. I couldn’t get my eyes off his yellow teeth! After the interview, I was invited to write an actual article I could print out. It was a fun learning experience. I know my fourth graders would love this website.

Lastly, another helpful website I found was www.readthinkwrite.com. I have already used this website to start collecting efficient writing assessments and rubrics to incorporate in my writing curriculum for next year. I have had trouble finding creative writing projects and this website has an abundant list of writing ideas and projects! What I like about this site is that it also offers lesson plans, along with duplicates, to help teachers teach writing strategies.

Online Assignment #2 - Juli Rangel

Wow! I feel like I’ve only scratched the surface of available resources to improve student learning. Completing Step 3 in my Professional Growth Plan no longer feels intimidating. Now, I just need to schedule the time to continue sorting through the many “finds” I have set aside and for all the additional resources you all are contributing. I hope you find the resources below helpful.

1) http://www.teachersfirst.com/index.cfm

A terrific website I found is titled, TeachersFirst.com. “TeachersFirst is a rich collection of lessons, units, and web resources designed to save teachers time by delivering just what they need in a practical, user-friendly, and ad-free format.” It is loaded with great technology integration ideas. If you click on “units,” you’ll find some of the site’s most popular lessons and instructional units. The tab, “subjects/grade level,” gives you an A-Z menu for lessons and resources sorted for Elementary, Middle and High School classes. Among the subject areas listed here, there is a “Special Education” tab, which may be of interest to a couple of our cohort members. When I clicked on “Social Studies/Elementary,” I found TimeRime. TimeRime.com allows you to view, create, and share interactive timelines. I look forward to exploring this site further!

2) http://edcommunity.apple.com/ali/

The “Apple Learning Interchange” is another great resource for technology integration. Once you complete the free membership process, you have can collaborate online with others around the world as well as access tech lessons sorted by topic or specific technology. When browsing through the elementary topics of Language Arts, Math/Science and Social Studies, I was pleased to find several ideas that included lesson plans and student examples.

3) Understanding by Design – Grant Wiggins and Jay McTighe

This book was mentioned at our last class meeting when the “Rubric For The Six Facets of Understanding” was referenced. I was pleased to find it on my principal’s bookshelf! The authors state, “This book is intended for educators interested in enhancing student understanding and in designing more effective curriculums and assessments to promote understanding.” Our school is currently involved in the process of using the state standards to create curriculum maps, and we recently attended a professional development day learning about teaching, “enduring understandings,” which involved the practice of “backward design.” As I browsed through Understanding by Design, it is clear that our recent workshop relied on the work of Wiggins and McTighe. Honestly, I think this is a book I will have to read more than once in order to process it deeply. It’s easy to see that the work of Wiggins and McTighe provide amazing guidance to improve student learning and to make that learning powerful and in-depth.

4) Results Now – How We Can Achieve Unprecedented Improvements In Teaching And Learning - By Mike Schmoker

I spent quite a bit of time browsing through this book and found it to be very interesting. I look forward to reading it thoroughly this summer. It clearly argues how instruction itself has the largest influence on achievement, and sadly provides research on how much of instruction, as a whole, across the country is ineffective. His first four chapters focus on WHY our schools are not working to their potential. He’s asking us to take a good, hard look at our current school system. But there’s hope! Schmoker feels that any school can achieve, and it’s obvious that he and Wiggins and McTighe are on the same page by starting with powerful curriculum design. But what stood out as I perused the book was Schmoker’s argument for the need of swift and regular opportunities for teachers to meet, so they can collaborate and create worthwhile lessons. He believes when teachers are brought out of “isolation” and given opportunities to work and plan together, amazing results can happen.

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Online Assignment # 2 -- Juliana Kirmeyer

I have always loved using the Internet as a resource - I find really interesting ideas and applets (little online modules) that I use in the classroom.

One of my favorite haunts in the Math Forum - especially for Pi Day resources. An interesting section I never explored before was the Mathematics Education section.


I found numerous articles about mathematics assessment, curriculum development, and collaborative learning. I just found it to be a wealth of information and most articles even provide a bibliography or resources! Very exciting, and I look forward to digging into this treasure chest further.

One other site that I found interesting was by Danica McKeller (of Winnie Cooper fame on the "Wonder Years"). I had picked up her book a year ago and was surprised to find a new Pre-Algebra book recently released entitled "Kiss My Math".

And she has a website: http://www.mathdoesntsuck.com/

The website provides additional content based on her books (including a link to her new "Kiss My Math" site). The books are WONDERFUL - very girly, but any male would also find her explanations about the basics of middle school math very clear and fun.

I have her books on my bibliography for strategy as she provides so many great ways to think about integers and equations as well as wonderful short cuts that are based on the ideas behind the math. She also has an online forum where students can talk about math together!

Who knew "Winnie Cooper" was a math genius? I cannot say enough good things about the books and her websites are amazing. Great math content and good strategies for empowering students.

I am constantly on the look out for resources for surface area - it is a very difficult concept for middle school. I was hoping to find videos or some sort of game where one could deconstruct a three-dimensional object.

And I found this website that would be great for meeting the diverse needs of students in science and math:

Adaptive Curriculum Website

I say 'would be' because it costs money. I was able to sign up for a free 30-day trial and it has been most interesting. While it would be really great to be able to purchase this for use, it has given me great ideas for how to adapt curriculum to provide more challenge or accommodations for students. Even if you do not sign up for the 30-day trial, you can browse the site for ideas on how to present content within a context.

There are also sites that I am familiar with but I want to explore more in depth. If you have not heard of these resources before, they are quite valuable -- especially with regard to multi-cultural education.

Teaching Tolerance - this is a great magazine that you can get for FREE and it has really great lessons and resources about, well, teaching tolerance in the classroom. It is not just for homeroom teachers - it has great lessons and instructions for teachers at all levels and subject areas.

Journeys in Film - this site has some free lesson plans, but more over, if you have ever wondered how to use a foreign film to teach across disciplines, this is your site. I did a few leadership lessons from an English lesson plan for Whale Rider and it was quite good. The students really enjoyed it. I want to pursue the few free lessons I received that pertained to math to find more ideas for putting math in a real-world context.

I look forward to looking at all the websites, books, and articles I have been accumulating over the past few weeks as well as years -- this is a wonderful learning opportunity!

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Online Assignment #2 -- Rebecca Bland

I have found this assignment; to find resources to help us meet our Professional Growth Goals; to be very helpful. There is a vast amount of research and blueprints for lessons and handouts at our dispense so I am glad to find them and use them - why reinvent the wheel? I hope you will find these helpful in your individual quest to meet your goals.

1) North Central Regional Educational Labatory

This website has a vast amount of links to articiles and handouts reguarding involving families in schools. Much of the articles discuss how we as educators can structure our practicies to involve the families. For example, translating documents that are sent home. Futhermore, increasing the amount of information we share with families about their student's progress but also classroom/school activities.

2) New Ways of Classroom Assessment; Brown

From skiming the book, it seems that Brown wrote it with a focus on teaching english as a new language. However, one chapter is on new ways to assess learning when ELL students. My classroom is composed for many ELL studentsm and although they are children and not adults I am hoping some of Brown's strategies can be altered and thus applied to a primary classroom.

3) Integrating Technology into your Classroom

This website is awesome! It addresses grades K-12 and has a variety of resouces from lesson plans to management of different technologies. One specific article that stood out was How to Teach in a One Computer Classroom. I, infact, teach in a one-computer classroom and have often wondered how I can include multiple or all students with our sole computer. Check this website out!

Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Online Assignment #2 ~ Katy Lungren

I have been discovering some helpful websites over the past few weeks of searching and exploring. The most challenging aspect has been finding the time (between teaching, planning, extra school responsibilities, and such!) to thoroughly review and sort through the extensive amount of information and research I have come across. I still have a lot of sifting to do, but here are three sites that I found especially valuable in putting together my Professional Growth Plans.


SEDL (Southwest Educational Development Laboratory) National Center for Family and Community Connections with Schools – This site provides “people with research-based information and resources that they can use to effectively connect schools, families, and communities.” I found the information in the Briefs and Handouts section to be especially helpful in planning how to increase family participation. The Connection Collection area is a fantastic source for doing further research. It is an annotated bibliography database that is searchable. I have already found a number of articles and research papers that I am planning to read in depth at a later time that are centered on how to better include ELL parents in the larger school community and also how to assist low-income families in helping and supporting their own children academically.


International Society for Technology in Education – This site has an abundant amount of information and research centered on classroom technology integration. The link above is specifically for the Educator Resources page. This page contains links to other sites with general technology integration ideas, examples, lesson plans, classroom supports, and so much more. Thus far, my exploring has taken me to Glossopedia, an online science encyclopedia for students that includes kid-friendly definitions and descriptions, videos, maps, and photos, Imbee, a safe and secure site that allows teachers and students to learn about blogging which I hope to use next year to set up homework help for students and parents and also use for students to discuss Literature Circle books with one another, and a number of subject-specific learning sites where students can practice and build skills in reading, math, and science.


Concept to Classroom – This site offers a series of online “workshops” on a variety of topics. While the workshops seem to be of good quality, I found the resource pages for each workshop topic more useful for my current purposes. There are lists of books, articles, websites, videos, and materials for each of the eleven workshops. There is a workshop or two based around each of my three professional development goals. For my assessment goal, I used the Assessment, Evaluation, and Curriculum Redesign resources to locate some books and articles that I will be reading this summer. For my goal centered on building family partnerships, I used this site’s Making Family and Community Connections resources to better inform how I communicate with my students’ families and also found some great educational information to pass along to parents. To help find more information about technology integration, I found both the WebQuests and Why the Net? An Interactive Tool for the Classroom resource pages helpful.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Online Assignment #2 -- Due April 8th

After completing your literature review and website searches for your Professional Growth Plans, please share some of the most interesting and exciting new resources you have found. You will also need to respond to 2 other class members. Once you have read everyone’s responses, you will be ready to complete your literature review for your 3 goals and attach your Bibliography to your Professional Growth Plans. You will have 2 weeks to complete this assignment.

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Online Assignment #1 - Kate Kristian

My 3 professional growth goals relate directly to my current stage of professional development, which I believe is the professional teacher phase. As I reflect on my 6th year of teaching, I feel that I have made that shift from personal concerns such as being accepted by colleagues, juggling all teacher responsibilities, and being able to handle adverse situations to concerns of my students specifically. My energy is more focused on how to best deliver my instruction to ensure that my students are making adequate progress, and all of my students are performing to the best of their abilities. Within the Seattle School District, I’m provided with numerous opportunities to further my professional growth in most subject areas, and while I may have looked at this information and new learning as overwhelming in the novice phase, I know have the experience and confidence that allows me to determine how it will work in my classroom, with my students.

My professional growth goals reflect my focus on students behavior and learning and include:
1. To use a variety of assessment strategies and data to monitor and improve instruction.
2. To integrate technology into instruction and assessment.
3. To inform, involve, and collaborate with families and community members as partners in each student’s educational process, including using information about student achievement and performance.

At this time, I am using a variety of effective assessment tools with my students. My students are assessed formally and informally, and in different formats. I also use summative and formative types of assessment. However, my students are not regularly using their work to examine and reflect on their achievement of learning targets. I am not providing students with many opportunities to reflect on their learning deeply. As a teacher in the professional phase, I am focused on using student assessment to drive my instruction. My hope is that my students will have a better understanding of the assessment process in general, and that they will have gained skills in self-monitoring, evaluation, and regulation.

Due to the limited opportunities that my students currently have to learn using the available technology in my school, I have chosen this goal. Given the proper training and guidance, I hope my students will be able to view technology as a tool that can aid their learning in a particular content area. Specifically, I want my students to be fluent in logging on and off our classroom computers, accessing appropriate websites to further their knowledge and/or experience on a particular subject, and to understand how to use these tools responsibly.

Parent and Community Involvement
At the end of my professional growth, my hope is that parents will have better understanding of how their child is performing in all areas including academics and social and emotional development through regular communication and feedback. As students are becoming more aware of their progress through self-monitoring, evaluation, and regulation, I want to include them in this process. I currently use a wide range of assessment methods in order to gather information on my each of my students’ progress. However, I have yet to determine an effective way of passing along the information to parents and community members.

Because my teaching and learning plan is focused on Literacy, it will only help in making assessment, technology, and parent and community involvement stronger in reading and writing.

Online Assignment #1 - Juliana Kirmeyer

My Professional Growth Goals:

1(a) using instructional strategies that make the learning meaningful and show positive impact on student learning

1(b) using a variety of assessment strategies and data to monitor and improve instruction

1(d) designing and/or adapting challenging curriculum that is based on the diverse needs of each student

I became a teacher to share my love of science and mathematics. Looking back at my first years as a teacher, I find myself feeling terribly sorry for the students I initially had. I was self-centered as a teacher - I only chose to teach those things (with the standards in mind) that I felt I enjoyed. After reading "Life Cycle of the Career Teacher" I see how my behavior was very typical of a teacher at the novice and apprentice stages. However, I don't see myself quite at the professional stage.

I am the sort of person who always seeks something new, something different, and something better than what I am doing. I have kept my head above the waves of “withdrawal” with this sort of attitude. I cannot stand teaching the same lesson twice; there is nothing I do that is untouched and unrevised, no activity where I do not first think, “will the students enjoy this?” and get their feedback and suggestions after completion. So, I have a type of reflection process embedded within me. But what reading the first four chapters (plus Appendix) has given me is a direction to my constant need to revise and regenerate.

I have chosen to look at how I assess because it is always the question for me “ are my students learning?” But, I also want to find ways to have the students tell whether they are learning and growing. I have students identify their learning goals twice a trimester, but it is never tied to standards for the state or school. Providing students with a road map of what they need to master by the end of the year might be a good way to introduce goals for learning to them and provide them a way to reflect.

Because I teach math, it is essential that students gain ways to “cope” with learning new information. I can see how my explanation do not always help my students learn best, and I want to learn how to better teach them strategies to learn new information and content.

Reading the first four chapters of the "Life Cycle of the Career Teacher" has further cemented my professional growth goals. I can see where I need to grow as well as where I am growing.

Source: Steffy, B. E., Wolfe, M. P., Pasch, S. H., & Enz, B., J. (2000). Life cycle of the career teacher. Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin Press, Inc.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Online Assignment #1 - Vanessa Marfin

The unifying theme of my Professional Growth and Teaching and Learning Plans is transferring responsibility for directing and monitoring learning to students. As a special education teacher at the high school level, I will serve my students most effectively when I am able to provide them with the tools they need to monitor and improve their own learning. Because my students will always experience academic challenges but will not always have access to intense, personalized instruction, I am doing them a disservice if I continue to take responsibility for diagnosing and meeting their challenges without their active, conscious participation. The Professional Certification standards provide a sound framework for making this transition from a teacher-centered to a student-centered program. This is a highly appropriate shift for a teacher entering the professional stage of development, a stage wherein student learning drives teacher behavior (Steffy).

My first professional growth goal is Effective teaching 1(a): using instructional strategies that make learning meaningful and show positive impact on student learning. After professional growth, I hope students will be able to preview a task and select an effective approach to completing it, accessing additional instructional resources when necessary. Those instructional resources might be reteaching or modeling from me, or the use of instructional materials such as manipulatives, graphic organizers, or other devices or strategies. I would like my students to move from saying, "Let's do my math homework," to saying, "I was thinking of using a table to solve problem number 13. Can you help me set it up?" I would like students to be able to take this active approach towards learning in our learning lab environment, and also in general education classrooms. Currently, students disengage from instruction when they don't understand. My goal is for students in my program to gain the metacognitive and self-advocacy skills necessary to raise their hands and say, "Mr. Chipps, can you please demonstrate another example of that problem type?" or "Ms. Carroll, can you please help me relate this information about the Middle Ages to my own life and goals?" I hope that by explicitly demonstrating a variety of instructional techniques to students and by challenging them to actively critique my instruction and their own learning, students will become their own learning clinicians -- able to diagnose and treat breakdowns in their own evolving understanding.

My second professional growth goal is Effective teaching 1(b): using a variety of assessment strategies and data to monitor and improve instruction. I hope that after my professional growth students will be able to record data on their progress toward IEP goals and evaluate their own performance. I hope that including students in this process will improve motivation and help students to have an accurate picture of their own strengths and weaknesses. Familiarity with their IEP goals will also facilitate self-advocacy. My students currently tend to view their weaknesses in very global terms, i.e. "I am not a good reader." This only hinders their learning as their negative self-talk and learned errors interfere with the development of new skills and understanding. After my professional growth I hope for students to be able to say, when faced with a textbook reading assignment (for example), "I struggle with academic vocabulary. I need some extra time to complete this assignment so I can look up key terms before the reading."

My third goal is Effective teaching 1 (g): Informing, involving, and collaborating with families and community members as partners in each student's educational process, including using information about student achievement and performance. After my professional growth, I hope students will be able to lead their own IEP meetings, especially concerning their Individual Transition Plans. I hope students will be able to write their own post-high school goals for education and employment and that I will have become knowledgeable enough about community resources that I can offer each student at least one off-campus experience to help prepare her for her life goals.

By encouraging students to take a more active role in their educational programs, I will give up some immediate ego gratification. I will no longer be congratulated after a well-run IEP meeting or hear students say, "I need you," "You really helped me with this." But, as a professional teacher, these concerns are inconsequential. What matters is that students graduate from high school with the self-awareness and skills needed to achieve their dreams.