Vocabulary is something that I am still struggling with as a teacher. I notice that my vocabulary when speaking is not always higher order or challenging my students. I tend to ‘talk down’ my vocabulary, putting it in words that I believe are easier to digest and understand. Not only am I hurting myself with this I am also hurting my students.

So this is something that I am attempting to work on in my classroom. When I taught first grade vocabulary seems like another world. Our main vocabulary words were our Sight words. This was to help students learn to read and add to their writing and speaking. These are the words that tradition phonics typically can not help you decode and you must learn then my memory. With these as vocabulary words in the classroom we would display them on a word wall that was easily accessible to all students in the classroom. I would use them in reading and writing time giving students as much exposure as I could to them so they could see them in many different ways. I would also have them be a center activity so students were able to manipulate them and each for them. This was a great way to help my students with sight word vocabulary but when it came to over vocabulary I tend to have more troubles.

In first grade when we (my grade level) would pull vocabulary words from text/literature these were words that would help us better understand the text. When I would introduce these words, I would pair them with a picture and have students try to identify the word and relate to it. This was great but these words were not always engrained in their daily vocabulary. This gave students exposure to other words and we would try to use them in conversation but it was not always successful.

Now that I am teaching upper elementary grades I am having an even harder time using the appropriate vocabulary in lessons to help build higher order skills. Also word walls are not always seen in upper elementary. My goal last year was to have a word wall that my students and I would add to- nouns, verbs, adjectives, common words we all used. The plan was to color code them to help students, well my idea as great but never got put into place. So I am still trying to figure it out.

This year for vocabulary I had added a math word wall that has ‘flash cards’ for my students to use. They are hanging in a pocket chart and on the back of the card there is a picture and definition of out math word. This is one way I am trying to improve mine and my students math vocabulary. We use the words when learning the new skill and discussing it. I reference to the words for my students so they are to recognize them. This is something new to me but seems to be working so far. We are about to start a few vocabulary games with our math terms to help us add these words to our mathematic language so if and when we get to write like a mathematician we have the correct terminology. Hopefully I will be able to report back with how this is going in the classroom.


Textual Lineage: A Book Print

I have recently been exploring the idea of textual lineage in my grad school class. This is something I had never heard of before but it makes a lot of sense. Books are such an important part of our lives. For many of us books help us learn about ourselves and life lessons. With each book that we tend to read we take something away that we can use in our lives. After reading up on it, I took to thinking about the books that had an impact on my life and helped shaped me. The books that had the biggest impact on who I am, were picture books and young adult novels. At first this seemed odd to me since I have read many different genre and types of books but the ones that have stuck with me the longest are the ones I grew up with.

These are the books that helped me learn ‘life lessons’ of being kind, sharing, being a friend. Also about how to treat others and how much an ugly comment can hurt someone and stay with them forever. Some taught me about staying true to who are and what you believe in, to make a difference. These are all qualities that people in the stories I read had and I walked away with a new understanding and how to grow into it.

There are so many times I have read a book and never realized what I walked away with. When I thinking of my personal Textual Lineage (book print) I had a hard time at first thinking of what books had an impact on my life. I was a struggling reading so reading never appealed to me and to this day I love reading but it takes me so long to complete a book. Some stories I have read and been able to relate my own life to them and see the impact while others challenge me. Both of these types of books have made it into my textual lineage. Personally for me my textual lineage has a couple picture books in it, since these are the stories that were read to me as a child to help me become a reader. They have a left just as much an impact if not more on my life as books that I read as an adult.

You can see my textual lineage here and how these books impacted my life.

What I have learned about textual lineage is how much of an impact a book can have on your life. Every book that we read leaves us with something new- an idea, value, or life lesson. This is something that happens organically and I never realized it before. When you think  about the books that you read they always tend to stick with you.

So I have decided to explore textual lineage with other people. I have asked my coworkers for their and some of my students. You can see their responses here.

Nonfiction Narrative

This week I was challenged to write a nonfiction narrative. This was something completely foreign me. I had no idea what this was or how to even go about. We were to pick a photo that a classmate had posted to inspire our writing. The photos that were posted had so many different opportunities and showed how unique we each are. So I picked a photo and took a stab at nonfiction narrative. ‘Story’ telling is not one of my strengths, I tend to leave things out or just go on forever. So I tried to write it like a personal narrative- well all I can say is that I tried.

Before I could start writing my nonfiction narrative I went on a hunt for more information. I took to google to see what else I could find. There was a lot of information there and pictures that helped me understand. I did not have a favorite to share. But there are some great sources out there. One was shared with me in class and it is a new picture book that just came out and it a nonfiction narrative poem, it is called Poet. The book trailer just shows how powerful this genre can be. After this I had a little more of an understanding and decided to take a stab at writing in this genre. This was a challenge for me like I said earlier story telling is not my thing. While writing one of my peers created a great video that helped me realize that nonfiction narrative is a genre that I have actually been exposed to but never knew it. Many times I feel like it would get clustered into realistic fiction and biographies.

Reading Nonfiction narratives now that I know what they are, have been a great way to learn about history and the events that have shaped our county and lives. These are also ways that we have been able to grab our students attention in learning the facts about history. I think about it as a way we have been learning for centuries. Story telling has been the oldest way of passing on information. People are able to relate to stories and remember them. We still share stories and events today that have effected our lives. Putting them into written form can sometime be the challenge.

Since this was a challenge that many of my peers took on, I was able to see what they had written about and their take on nonfiction narrative. This helped me to see even more how powerful this genre of writing can be. The stories from my peers are moving and you feel like you are there with them experiencing the event.

This is a genre that I would love to explore with my students. They have so many stories to tell and things that have happened in their lives. Teaching them a new way of writing and looking at the events in the worlds and their lives. This is also a writing lesson that can also work with a great mentor text like Poet that I mentioned above. Hopefully I will have time this year to explore this writing with my students.

Gaming in the classroom

So this semester I have been challenged in my grad school class with gaming in the classroom. Our class is run similar to a game with challenges, quests, experience points, achievement points and badges. At first I was extremely overwhelmed and had no idea how this was going to pan out. But as we are three weeks in, I am getting more excited about this process and thinking about how I can use it in my classroom. Since I am only a week into my school year I am still able to introduce new ideas like gaming to my students and not have it through us off track. This is something I want to do and am looking for the best way to go about it. Some of my peers have already started to introduce this into their classrooms and are having great feed back, which makes me even more excited and eager to try this with my students.

So one of the challenges I had this semester was to create a video game using Splondor. This was a great experience and very fun to do. It challenged me to think of how I can use gaming in my classroom. So I created a game that you can check out here it turned out to be fun and a learning experience for me. I plan to have my students play the game and work on different literacy skills, then create their own game. This could be the perfect way to reach my students who need that extra motivation to learn. This will allow them to play a video game (something that they love) and learn content.

Adding gaming into the classroom would be a challenge but I am sure I would be able to find support in my school. There is always the concern of, wont it look like students are just playing all day? There has to be a balance in the classroom. Technology and gaming can be a great thing to use in the classroom but it cannot replace good practices. These things will only enhance it. Like i stated earlier this can be a way to reach my students who do not like school and would much rather be playing games. As  a teaching I am always looking for a way to engage my students and keep them excited about school. This can become a problem when I am always battling games for attention.

So I started to search for more information on gaming in the classroom. I took to every teachers favorite site pinterest to see if I could find anything on gaming in the classroom. So far all I found was center games and board games that have been turned academic. Which is another great way to get students attention. Gaming in the classroom is something new to me and I have already seen so many benefits form it in my own grad school experience. Im hoping that after we get the school year rolling this is something I can start to bring in.

Content or Disciplinary Literacy

There are so many different ways to teach literacy to our students. As a teacher I am always looking for ways to best reach my students. We tell our students that when we do science they are scientist and that in History we are historians, but do we even fully understand what we are telling our students? We want our students to read and think like these individuals but have never given them the skills to do so. Yet we still tell them that they are a scientist, historian, mathematician when reading in these areas.

This week in grad school we read and had a discussion about content area literacy and disciplinary literacy. Trying to draw a clear line between the two is nearly impossible. They intertwine with one another but can always be very different . My take aways from this class and the difference between these two is:

  • Content literacy is a generic way of reading. reading to make sense of the text and recall information
  • Disciplinary literacy is specific to the area (math, history, science). Has its own vocabulary and content.

Many times when teaching we use both content and disciplinary skills. By using them together we are reaching the goals and standards set by our states. This allows out students to become those historians, scientist, ,mathematician and readers. As teachers we want our students to be the best they can and excel in life after school. In order to do this we must use content and disciplinary literacy. This will expose our students to different types of text, not just the traditional fiction and non-fiction. We are able to use text from that field and give our students the opportunity to understand how to read and write differently.

So the question is: How can I use these in the classroom to help my students? That is also what I am currently pondering. What I can do in my classroom to help my students reach these goals. As my school year has just started this is the perfect time to figure out how to use these skills in my classroom. So I have headed over to google to see what information I can find on Content and Disciplinary literacy (that I have not already read for class).  So far in my search I have come across a couple books and many articles that explain what they are and the mechanics of them (similar to what I have read for class). So now what? Do I read everything that I have found or stick with my base knowledge and go from there?  Well my plan is to now look for articles that fit my curriculum in different disciplines. This way I can start to introduce these different ways of learning. Then I can continue to read and search for more information on how to build upon this. So far from class a I have a great resource for history. Check it out here.

I am interested to see how this will play out in the classroom and the different skills that my students will gain.

A New Year

When most people think of a new year they go to January first- the start of a new calendar year. For me the new year starts with back to school. With the start of a new school year, I get a new class full of smiling faces. Even with the challenges that lie ahead with a new class it is always exciting to see what will happen and watch students grow over the year. There is always an adventure waiting to be had. I never know what we (my students and I) are going to experience.

So Where am I now? I am entering my 4th year of teaching and my second year of grad school. This has been an adventure and one that has helped me grow as a teacher and a person. I started Grad school at the end of my second year of teaching and it was the best decision I made. I was ready to leave education just after two years. With the start of school I was able to reflect back on myself as a teacher and the challenges that I had faced my first two years. I was nervous starting school again, not knowing what was going to happen. I have come so far and now have a new support group and what seems like an endless list of resources to help me as teacher.

As I have grown as a teacher there are many challenges that I have encountered and some of those challenges even turned to strengths. My biggest challenge as a new teacher was classroom management with struggling students that are typically labeled as behavior problems. This is something that I am no expert in but I feel like this is an area I have grown in and grad school has helped me with this. I have been given idea about text to use in the classroom to support student growth and give all students an opportunity to feel successful in school. I plan to continue to grow in this area and many more in my classroom. Every year I learn something new from my peers and my students. Something that I see as a strength in my classroom is keeping my students active. We are a room of motion and hands on, yes there are the times where we must sit in our seats but I try my best to keep my students engaged.

What is happening now?

With the start of a new year here and the start of grad school- classes are underway. After our first class we explored the idea of ‘Knowledge is…”. This was a conversation that allowed everyone to explore a definition of knowledge and what it means to each individual. As we explored knowledge I saw that we all thought of it as something different, you can see our thoughts on twitter using #knowledgeis This is something that would be interesting to explore with my students and see what they believe knowledge is. I can only imagine what they would think.

looking back…

When I think back to this semester of grad school, there is  much that I have gained and continue to learn from. As a teacher I feel like I am always learning something new, wither it is from grad school or my students. With this I also find myself questioning what we are doing and if it is effective.

At the beginning of the semester we were asked what a number told us about a student. If the student was a level 1, 2, 3, or 4 what we would know about them. And well I thought I had an idea of what these numbers meant for our students and in all reality all they tell me what this student did on a test. We cannot group our students just based on their test scores. We have to look deeper into who they are as learners.

While reading Choice Words and Opening Minds, I have been able to reflect on my teaching and think about why I went into teaching. Everyday I look my 24 students and I am reminded of everything that I do and how much of an impact it has on them. I have always wanted to help people and enjoy that I can now do that daily with my students. I had wanted to be a teacher since I was a struggling student in school and now that I have accomplished my dream I want to help my students reach theirs. Helping to grow and learn is more than anything I could have hoped for. When looking at what I do with my students and thinking of Johnstons’ text I know that what I am doing is making a difference.

As I reflect on my teaching I also reflect on my schooling as a student. And well I was a struggling learning and had to overcome so many challenges. I was never told I was ‘good’ at a subject nor was I ever told I was ‘bad’ but I just knew in my mind that i was not good at school. My teachers were a wonderful support system that would never let me fail and found any way to help them. This is something I strive for, for my students. I try to encourage them in all aspect of life and school. I want them to see what they are capable of. I have been taking what Johnston says and see what I can add to my classroom- we are now trying to be mindful of our word choice, listening to each other and questioning things are unsure of.

This semester has had my mind turning with questions and ideas of way to help my students. There are so many things that I know I am capable of helping my student obtain.

Together in the education world

As I finish reading Opening Minds by Peter H. Johnston, I am now more aware of things that go in the classroom. Like I have started earlier the world that is my classroom is a safe place where my students are able to express themselves and be themselves. There the little bumps that come up in the classroom as always but we manage them. We have come together to solve many problems and work things out, our room is a give and take. We try to keep everything together and respect everyone no matter what. Some days is it easier than others.

In chapter 8 Johnston talks about working together in the classroom. There are many times that students attempt to work together but spend more time arguing then talking together to find a common ground. When this happens I tend to step in hear both side and help them agree on something in the middle. This is hard for my students to do on their own even though we work together often since they all believe in their idea and don’t want to stray from it. But when we do get to common ground it is amazing what they are able to produce and share. This is one thing that I want to do better in my classroom. Teaching my students to think together will help them work together and come to commit ground easier. They will be able to respect the others opinions more and complete more task. By building this foundation in the beginning of the year students will be to work together better. This will also allow them to listen to their peers and reflect on what the others said and think of what they can add. Thinking together will be a powerful tool when used in the classroom.

Chapter 9- As we continue working our our classroom worlds, we are not only helping students learn we are helping them grow for the future. There are many days that I look at my students and look at the potential they have for the future. We talk about our goals and dreams for when we grow up. But when we look closer at what we are learning, there are many times when my students will still say to pass the test and to do well in the classroom. I know as an educator this is something that I am working towards changing for my students. I want them to be able to see that what they are learning have value and will help them later in life and not just to pass a test. There are so many things that I am able to do with my students that help them grow as individuals. Yes the curriculum is important but so is the social and fun aspect of the school day. By getting all these things to link together students are learning how to function in society and our classroom world. The goal is for them to be members of the community and make an impact.

There are so many things that I know I can do better but I feel like everyday I am helping my students to make a difference and to help them grow. The goals I have for myself reflect the goals I have for my students. Together we can accomplish so much and grow together.

Imagining and Engaging

While reading chapters 6 and 7 of Opening Minds by Peter H. Johnston, I continue to think about to my practice and what is going on in my classroom. There are so many things happening at once in the classroom that keeping my students engaged and giving them a safe place to learn.

While reading chapter six I think more about the world that I have built for my students. I know that the words I use have such an impact on their lives and worlds-being aware of what I do and say have an impact on my students lives. Mind reading is one way we as teachers interact with students. We want our students to think like us and guess what we are thinking/read our minds. We have them do this while reading as well to understand the characters. This also goes with social reasoning which is used to find a new/deeper understanding. This helps us when we read to make sense of what is going on and how to understand the characters. This is something that we lead our students to find on their own. These things are hard to see in the classroom but have a great impact. There are many times I prompt my children to discover a word on their own or an idea. I will let them know what my thoughts/clues are that helped me. This has helped them, but I have never thought to explain my facial expressions and thoughts in way that students can look at someone and make the inference of what is going on. This is something that can help them when working in groups and in whole class discussions. Social reasoning is something I would think that I use more in the classroom. We make inferences daily about what we are learning and reading. We try to build reasoning and understanding with characters. There are still so many areas in this that I can grow to help my students. Giving them more opportunities to read others minds and discuss their social inferences on what is going on.

In chapter seven Johnston talks about moral development, what is injustice and unfair. This allows us to look deepening into understanding our students thoughts and have them put actions with their words. By teaching our students to back up their opinions and with facts and support. They are able to put reasonable actions behind their opinions they are able to defend and support their opinions. With moral development students are able to build upon their backgrounds of what is ‘right’ and ‘wrong’ and support it. This is something that I try to encourage and support in the classroom but have my own difficulties with it since there are so many things that are hushed in the public school. Since social injustice is something that is seen daily I would like to find ways to incorporate it into my classroom more.

As I continue to read I think of all the different things that happen in my students world that is our classroom.

Feedback and Thinking

As I continue to read Opening Minds by Peter H. Johnston, I find myself reflecting back on my own practice and thinking of ways to change and improve what I do in my classroom.

In chapter 4 Johnston talks about praise and feedback. Many times in the classroom we are so quick to tell students that something is wrong and tell them how we feel about it. Instead we should be asking our students for another way to do something. This is something that I have done in my own classroom. When my students have done something out of ‘character’ I would let them know how disappointed I was in them, when I should have been asking them what they could do different to change it and for later. This is allowing students to see what is going on and take control of their actions. Giving them the power is not always easy but makes life in the classroom a little easier. Also Johnston says not use personal feedback with emotion, it is part of what causes students to believe that they are not good in a subject.

When prompting students with questions, many times peers will do the same thing allowing students to think about their thought process and explain what they have been doing. The way we talk to our students has a huge impact on what they do. If we change the way we talk to our students and how we give them feedback can make a world of difference for our students.

When giving praise to students we have to consider what we are saying and how we say it. There is a way to praise students and give them criticism at the same time, that is effective to help students growth.

In chapter 5 Johnston talks about different ways of thinking about topics and their framework there is the dynamic framework and fixed framework. Having open conversations with direction allow students to think and share their opinions and thoughts. They are able to do this in a comfortable environment where they feel respected and valued. By having some teacher direction it helps students to realize what they have come across when they cannot figure it out on their own. By having a dynamic frame work in the classroom students are able to grow and see themselves differently daily. They are accepting of challenges and find ways to solve them. They are understand that things can be difficult but are not set in the ‘good’ or ‘bad’ student ind set. This is important when giving students the opportunity to share their thinking and wok together. Also when having a disagreement students are able to respect one another.

This is something that I am working on in my classroom. We have had a couple disagreements and students are working on ways to value each others opinions. This is something new for me and them so we are working on it together and trying to see how what everyone has to say is important.