Friday, June 15, 2012

Let's Get Back to the Point! English Ed. Graduate Workshop- Day Two

Day two of the graduate workshop was reserved for presentations by the workshop attendees. Here is a basic rundown of what was presented:

1. Pulling Together: Building Community to Support Learning and Learners  by Kelly and Carolyn
  • We started by talking about how stereotypes of Native American students are perpetrated in schools by mascots and a lack of education about Native American culture.
  • The two presenters suggested a few activities: have students spent time getting to know each other through ice-breaking activities, create presentations about family and cultural traditions, and spend time talking about all the issues. One neat activity was to have all students fill out a worksheet written in another language (the one I had to fill out was in French) and then talk about how frustrating it was to understand the task but not be able to complete it.
  • Some different articles we were given to read:
    • "NCAA Takes Aim at Indian Mascots"
      • "We believe hostile or abusive nicknames are troubling to us and it can't continue," committee chairman Walter Harrison said. "We're trying to send a message, very strongly, saying that these mascots are not appropriate for NCAA championships."
    • "Sorry For Not Being a Stereotype" by Rita Pyrillis
      • "When you say you're Indian, you better look the part or be prepared to defend yourself. Those are fighting words. When my husband tells people he's German, do they expect him to wear lederhosen and a Tyrolean hat?"
  • We then discussed the issue of stereotypes in school mascots- and how educational institutions have a responsibility to educate students and not use their influence to perpetuate misrespesentations or stereotypes of any culture or people
  • Act 31 requires teachers to teach lessons about the history and culture of Native Americans. 
  • Some additional resources:
    • "After the Storm"- a documentary about the racial tension that occurred after a legal battle about spear-fishing rights by the Ojibwe tribe.
    • "The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian"- a young adult book about a Native American teenager (also a budding cartoonist) who leaves his reservation school to go to all-white school.
    • "Smoke Signals"- a comedy written by Sherman Alexie and starring an almost all Native American cast. I saw this in high school in my English class- it is an awesome movie!
  • Kelly actually founded the Indian Resource Center of Marathon County to help meet these issues (see video below). She suggested contacting the organization for resources, information, or for school presentations. They are currently redoing their website, but you can visit their Facebook page here!

2. Charter Schools- How they Work by Katie
  • Summary- This presentation went over one of the teacher's experiences with charter schools. She discussed PBL (problem-based learning), how the school was organized, and her experiences with teaching in a charter school. 
  • Grading- Students were all responsible for a "Scope and Sequence" and had to keep track of their own learning (and tie their work into state standards). Some classes (like math) could be taken online or at the traditional school. Other credits (like P.E.) were expected to be completed outside of class- students were responsible for 200 hours and would keep track of their hours on a website- The grading scale was "proficient", "advanced", or "mastery".
  • Students also focused a lot on service learning- they were required to put in 200 hours by the time they graduated. Katie really liked this requirement- she said students really saw purpose in their learning when they were able to interact with their communities.
  • The three things Katie said she took away were:
    • A new paradigm of learning and teaching with PBL
    • The benefits of service-learning
    • The importance of student accountability for WI state standards
  • Some of the issues we discussed as a group were: the differences between charter schools and alternative schools, the perception of charter schools by traditional schools, and the importance of finding a way to include structure in a non-structured environment. 

3. Vocabulary Activity by Megan
  • In this activity, Megan shared a vocabulary activity she uses:
    • She posts a list of vocabulary words on the board
    • Students vote on their favorite words
    • On a worksheet, students re-write the word, the definition, and have two spaces to write sentences (a sentence created by the class and a sentence created individually). 
    • After a few days of this, students have 8-10 sentences written on their worksheet- this repetition commits the words to memory in a much more memorable way than just trying to study them.
    • Megan does this for every novel, and the activity is a lot more fun depending on the personality of the class. The final assessment of this is a vocabulary quiz.

4. Independent Book Projects & Using Drama in the Classroom by Elaine
  • The book project is a 4-5 week unit that consists of four parts: students read a book, fill out a packet, complete a final projects (there are nine options with nine rubrics), and present the project to the class. The packet requires summarizing and active reading strategies (lots of text-to-self and text-to-world questions).
  • One of the drama activities was to act out the figurative language by charades. Students would pick out keywords from a short piece of text and try to act out the descriptive language without using words
  • Another drama activity was for students to pose as characters to show relationships within the text. We used Romeo and Juliet as an example and people posed as different characters, considering physical stance, location in the room, and facial expressions.

5. Writer's Notebook by Alyssa
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  • Alyssa has her students write Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays (free write) for different amounts of times. She has asked students to write twenty minutes outside of class per week.
  • She referenced a project from our Methods class at UWSP- we read "Notebook Know-How" by Aimee Buckner.
  • On most days, she uses prompts that connect to the themes of what is being read in class (example: a question about anger when reading the fight scene in Romeo & Juliet). Once a week, students have the options of freewriting or picking a creative prompt.
  • Justin shared an idea from Kelly Gallagher- students can start the year building a "Writing Territory"- they brainstorm lots of ideas and write those down in the back of their notebook. That way, when they can't think of anything to write, they have a list of ideas to use.

6. Reading Strategies by Nicole
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  • Nicole just finished her Master's as a reading specialist and shared some strategies for helping students with reading. 
  • Before students can enroll in her reading program, they usually have to test low in three tests- the SRI (The Scholastic Reading Inventory), IRI (Informal Reading Inventory), and WKCE or MAPS tests.
  • She suggested giving students IRI tests at the beginning of the year so that they can be better placed with reading material. In a good situation, teachers are given the freedom to replace a class book with a similar one at a slightly lower Lexile level. She did warn, however, to still use discretion in picking out novels- Huck Finn is ranked at a fourth-grade reading level, but many tenth-graders still have difficulty understanding the dialect or picking out the satire.
  • One activity that she has students do while they read is take notes. She shared a graph to take Cornell notes with and also shared the idea of using bookmarks with notes. This keeps students active and also ensures deeper understanding of material. "Don't use the honor system," she said- make sure that they check in and get credit for their work. Another incentive is to give students permission to use those notes on quizzes or to help with a writing project.
  • A similar project I use in my class is marginal notes / selective underlining (click for link to handout I use). I usually expose students to this method and then page summaries (where students write down a few keywords or ideas from every page as they read.
  • Another graph she shared was one that asked students to make direct connections (text-to-self, text-to-world, and text-to-text) and then explain how that connection helps them understand what they are reading. The strategy Nicole shared is referenced in the book, Do I Really Need to Teach Reading?".
  • The final thing Nicole suggested is to expose students to multiple reading strategies (reading conferences, comprehension quizzes, and note-taking) and then to let them choose how they want to share their understanding with her.
7. Technology in the Classroom by Katie & Krista
  • Here's a link to the technology presentation Katie shared:
  • I also presented some information from this blog and shared some of my projects from this past year.

Summary: This was a great experience- I really hope this workshop happens again. It was very useful to get information about the future of education and take another look at the purpose of testing. We got some great resources (Holding on to Good Ideas in a Time of Bad Ones by Thomas Newkirk and The Truth About Testing by W. James Popham). It was also pretty awesome to see what all of my colleagues are doing in all of their careers and I really enjoyed the good discussions we had about the future of education. The information about charter schools, CCSS, and assessment will be very useful in my new role as a technology integration specialist. Change is happening right now, and we need to embrace it- and be a part of it. This is an awesome time to be in education, and I'm incredibly lucky to be a part of all of this!

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