Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Week 13: Assessment

1. I think the learning theory that most represents me would be Vygotsky's sociocultural theory. This is because I find that a students culture and social interactions can definitely have an impact on their education, and that learning is definitely something that occurs over a period of time, not just in a moment. Also, I know that I learn best with the scaffolding technique, which is a proponent of this theory.

2. With this theory, learning is something that is scaffolded, meaning that the teacher shows the students what to do and leads by example. Students then follow the example set and learn something in steps, one at a time. This theory also includes the zone of proximal development, meaning that a student can achieve and learn something that may be above their level to learn by themselves with the help of a teacher.

3. To support this theory, I would create an English lesson that allowed me to use the idea of scaffolding. If I was teaching first grade, I could do this by having them write a short narrative about a certain experience they had. All of the students would have their lined paper and a pencil, and I would start out the lesson by telling them what we were going to be doing. Then I would write one example of the opening sentence, such as "One time my friend and I...". This would give the students a starting point for their writing. They would each copy that onto their papers and then write their first sentence. From there I would tell them that they need to have at least two sentences that describe what they did with their friend. Lastly I would ask the students for examples of closing sentences, and write different examples they come up with on the board. The students could then find one they liked or come up with their own to finish their narrative. By doing this, the students will be able to see my example and follow it, and they can write the story in pieces, step by step. The student would also be motivated, because the story would be written from their own life, allowing them to make connections. This would help with their intrinsic motivation for other writing assignments.

4. I would assess learning in the theory with this activity by using a formal and formative assessment. It would be formal because I would want to see what students have learned about writing. Even though I am giving them the first and last sentence of their story, they themselves must come up with everything in the middle. I can assess how well they are using the other writing tools such as description and spelling with their writing. It would also be a formative assessment because I am looking at the end product of a writing exercise, but it is just a portion of the larger writing process. The in class writing assignment would be worth three points. 3 points would be given for following the directions and writing about an experience, and also for copying down the opening and closing sentences, unless they created their own. They would also need to have minor spelling mistakes and I would need to see that they tried to add a little description, such as the color of something. 2 points would be given if the student did not have the proper amount of sentences, major spelling errors, and little description. 1 point would be given out if the assignment was at least attempted, or if the student did not follow directions clearly. It would also be if the student had a majority of their words misspelled, and had no description. No points would be given to a student who did not attempt the assignment.

Week 13

1.      Vygotsky’s theory of learning best represents how I believe children learn best and how I learn best.  I believe that students learn a lot from authority and learn what is right but then also do need help to understand bigger ideas.

2.      According to this theory learning happens when children are assisted with tasks that are challenging.  Peers and adults function as a scaffold to assist students in harder tasks. 

3.      The best way that I would support learning according to this theory would be to assist my students in a challenging activity that would help students learn something new.   I like doing activities that would bring harder concepts to a level they understand.  For example, I could do an easy science activity.  I would have my students use a scale and put a marker on one side and then pennies on the other side.  Then they would see how many pennies it would take to balance the marker.  We would discuss why it took four pennies to balance one marker.  I would lead the discussion to explain that because the marker is bigger and weighs more then we need to use more pennies.  This would help to explain to the students why this is so.  This would bring in higher order thinking.  Discussing why questions are much harder for students but with the assistance (scaffolding) they can understand more.

4.      Make sure that you relate the assessment to your activity. Also include your scoring criteria.  I would use informal formative assessments like discussion to make sure that the students understand the reasons for the outcome of the activity. 

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Week 13

1. I think the learning theory that best represents me is the social cognitive theory. This represents me best because I believe students need to be able to relate to the material they are learning. I don't think it does any good to teach in a way that doesn't catch a student's attention or help them to relate the material to their life, whether that be relating that to beliefs in themselves, people they see, or the environment they are in. I am a firm believer that learning is affect by a variety of factors and the social cognitive theory describes how it is affected by the person, behavior, and environment.

2. As I mentioned above, the social cognitive theory describes how learning is affected by the person, behavior, and environment. Learning is affected by the person through their self-regulation and self-efficacy. It is affected by by their behavior when students see a model and they choose to imitate the model. It is affected by the environment when they see certain consequences affect things, and make decisions based on those consequences.

3. I would support learning using this theory using many examples in my teaching lessons whether that be examples of role models by bringing guest speakers in, using previous projects of past students as a teaching aid so kids could relate to information from someone of their own age, stories in the news, etc. An example of an activity that would relate to this theory is having ready buddies with an older grade. Younger kids really look up to older students because they think they are "cool" and know that is what the are working up to become. They see kids older than them with higher reading comprehension levels and use them as role-models. They are able to see that in not too long, they will one day be able to read like the older kids and their self-efficacy becomes positive. This leads to increased motivation in the student because they look up to the role model, want to imitate them, and believe they can one day read as well as them.

4. I would assess the learning from this activity using first informal and then formal assessment. I would have my students all use the same book to read with their reading buddies. I will use formative and informal assessment by walking around the room and observing each pair as they read together. After the reading buddies have left, I would hold a class discussion about the book and then I would give a formative and formal assessment with a quiz. I would use a checklist to grade how well I feel the reading buddies are doing. On it I would check off whether my student is following along and whether they are reading out loud with their buddy or not. The quiz would most likely be a short multiple choice and I would grade their answers correct or incorrect on a point system.

extra credit:
1. My question is how can summative, formal assessments be used in a successful way for  very young children (kindergarten age). It seems inappropriate for very young children to be taking standardized tests and formal tests if they cannot read or write. I have tried to brainstorm different ways to assess children who cannot read or write yet but all I have been able to come up with are formative assessments. I understand the difference of the two types of assessments, but it would be nice to hear some examples of formal summative assessments for this case.

Week 13: Assessment

1.     1. I think the learning theory that I can identify most with is Vygotsky’s Sociocultural Theory. I like the balance that Vygotsky provides between the learning that children do internally as well as with the help of others. I am a strong believer that there is a lot of value from peers learning from and teaching each other but I also believe that a lot of learning comes from within themselves. I see the significance of students struggling with concepts and reasoning through it using what they know and I also think it is great to share their thoughts with students in the class and collaborate with their ZPDs (Zones of Proximal Development) which will inevitably be at all different levels.

2.     2. According to the Sociocultural Theory, learning is based off of working with others as well as evaluating what can be done when the student is working by themselves. Vygotsky believes that students can achieve more learning when they work in groups with their peers, with the help of teachers, other adults, etc. I believe in this theory because I also think that sometimes students need a little help by getting other peoples’ ideas in order to further their own thinking and development in the classroom. There is a lot of collaboration involved in the Sociocultural Theory of learning.

3.     3. In my classroom, my students will be seated in clusters with their desks facing each other instead of rows, which will easily facilitate good group discussions as well as collaboration with their peers. For example, let’s pretend I am teaching in a second grade classroom. In social studies, I would introduce a concept like community and would have my students work together with the clusters they are seated at to come up with three examples of a community they belong to (school, neighborhood, grade, classroom, etc.). This would also serve as a formative assessment for me to be able to see if they understand what the concept of a community really means. Then, I would assign a project for each student to choose one of the communities they belong to and make a diagram of the different elements of that community: who shapes that community, who is in charge of the community, who makes up the community, etc. To wrap up the unit of community, I would assign the task to each cluster of students to come up with one fundraiser idea that the whole class could do that would benefit the community. To motivate the students, I would let them know that the class would be voting on which idea they want to actually carry out and in the end, we would actually carry out one of the philanthropic ideas to benefit the community.

4.     4. First, I would use formative assessments like the three examples of communities that the students belong to just to make sure everyone in the class understands what a community means. I would not give any scores to this assessment; it would just be for me to see if I need to spend more time explaining what a community is or if I could move on through the unit. Then, I would use another formative assessment of the diagram of a community. I would make this assignment out of 10 points: 5 for choosing a community they belong to, and 5 points for including all the elements of this community. The fundraising plan would serve as the summative assessment because it would be a good way for the students to display their understanding of each of the elements of the unit on community: what a community is, what makes up the community, how the community can change, and how to apply things to the entire community.

Extra Credit:

I am a little bit confused as to how to spark intrinsic motivation. I have a deep understanding of extrinsic motivation and using rewards but what are some common ways that teachers use to motivate their students intrinsically?

Monday, November 12, 2012

Week 13 Post-Assessment

      1.     The learning theory that best represents me is definitely Vygotsky’s Sociocultural Theory because I believe that Sociocultural Theory is a great combination of students doing their own thinking and also relying on someone else to bring out higher level thinking that some children are not capable of doing.  I will definitely be utilizing Vygotsky’s theory to teach my future students.  I think students learn best when hearing it from someone who is near their age, but is a little more advanced when looking at their Zone of Proximal Development, or their ZPD. 

      2.     I believe that students learn best by discussion and group work, and Vygotsky is a very big proponent of learning by socializing.  I also believe that students learn by modeling of their peers who are more advanced and have a higher ZPD, more so than by their teachers.  Student will be able to learn through their intellectual discussions with their peers, some of which have a higher ZPD, allowing the other students to reach in their understanding. 
      3.     I would be able to support learning using Vygotsky’s Sociocultural Theory through motivation.  Let’s pretend that I had a 4th grade class. One activity I could plan would be to have my students study the planets using a group project, where they would all be at differing ZPD levels, allowing them to challenge each other in their thinking.  I would have them make a chart of the planets in the correct order from the sun, and have them write 2-3 facts about each planet underneath or on a separate sheet of paper.  I would not give any more instructions than that, and expect the groups to figure out a way to represent the planets.  It would not have to necessarily be on a piece of paper.   They would be motivated to do this work, however, because they would want to get a good grade (that’s the extrinsic motivation), but the students would also want to accomplish this project because they know that it is a fun way to show what they know instead of taking a paper and pencil exam.   They would be able to spend time with their classmates in a very low key atmosphere and be able to find facts that interest them about planets, instead of requiring facts to be about the weight, size, and amount of moons each planet has.  That would make the students feel very stuck and there would be no need to have groups made up of students of differing ZPD levels.  Student will be able to teach each other about their planet projects, making them feel like what they are learning is important, so they will be even more motivated to learn about planets. 

      4.     The end result of the project would be a formal summative assessment, but because this is a group project, there will definitely be informal formative assessment during this process within the groups.  The students, who will be feeling motivated to learn about planets, will be asking each other questions and testing each other as they work on the project.  My assessment would be when each group presents their planet project.  Because this is a performance assessment, I will be using a rubric.  More specifically, I will be using an analytic rubric, because I will be grading them on whether or not they put the planets in the correct order from the sun, if they were able to name the planets, if they gave 2-3 facts about each planet, and if the project, by a class vote, had an overall appeal, meaning if the group did not just through the project together in the last 10 minutes before it was due.  Because the groups will be working on this project during class time, I will also be assessing them on if they contributed on the project, as I made clear during my instructions of the project.  I will have a rubric on a 1-3 scale, if the student did not do what was expected, if the student did a satisfactory job, or if they did an exemplary job.  The students will receive a copy of the rubric as I give out the instructions so they are aware of what they are being assessed on, so there will not be any confusion.  Though this is a group project, I will make sure that each student knows that they will be given an individual score based on how much they contribute.  This will be an extra extrinsic motivator to make sure each student participates in the planet project. 

Extra Credit:
I am still a little bit confused on equity.  I am not quite sure how I can, as a teacher, address and provide an equitable education, especially if I teach in a very diverse community, which is something that I am seriously considering.  I have looked at some articles about equity and talked to some of my education friends about this, and I’ve found a lot of cool information, but I am worried that I won’t have enough class time to make sure my class is as equitable as possible.  I’ve found actual lessons that would instill equity, but not much when it comes to the day-to-day schedule.  I must be missing something pretty substantial, though.  Do you have any ideas about how to create an equitable classroom without adding any extra time?  

Friday, November 9, 2012

Behavior Theory of Motivation

The behavior theory of motivation uses reinforcement to help motivate the students. When used correctly, the reinforcement will help students connect their actions with what they are doing correctly. Hence, they are more likely to copy this action again in a similar situation. In the behavior theory of motivation, two types of motivation are present. One type, intrinsic motivation, is what teachers would love all students to have. It is the students natural curiosity that makes them eager to learn. On the other hand, extrinsic motivation is when students perform a task or complete an assignment because they will get a sicker or prize etc. Because intrinsic motivation is so important, often times extrinsic motivation is used to encourage intrinsic motivation. For example, a teacher might use the indoor recess option as a motivator for students to complete work. However, this can be taken in the wrong way, where students might just rush through their work. To keep this from occurring, a few factors should be kept in mind.

Factors that affect the perception of the reward:

  • The purpose of the reward
  • How the students perceive the reward
  • The context in which the reward is given

Some guidelines that will not affect intrinsic motivation but will help encourage it would be:

  • Only present the award/sticker to the student if they actually deserve it
  • Use unexpected rewards sparingly
  • Use rewards only when necessary so students do not use that as their only reason to work
I actually just helped my teacher with encouraging intrinsic motivation today when I went to teach. The students were working on their morning work and I was assigned the great task of giving a sticker to the students who were working quietly and diligently. A few of the students did this very well, and I gave them a sticker and said, "Thank you for workings so hard and quietly." They continued to work in this manner. However, other students saw that I was handing out stickers for being a "model student" (as they call it) and began to also work quietly and diligently. This shows that the sticker was used to help encourage intrinsic motivation with extrinsic motivation. 

Week 12

Topic: 6th Grade Science- The Scientific Method
Item sampler:

The scientific method is used all throughout schooling and later into life. It is an important skill to have and know how to use. Based on the blueprint of my topic, I would create an exam that assesses the students knowledge of what the scientific method is, what the steps are, and how it is useful. It provides the instructor with an idea of what the students know about the scientific method. On the item samplers, the questions are fair and reliable. They give room for the student to construct a response and explain their thinking. The questions also are not worded to sway the student one way or another in their thinking; this gives room for more accurate results as to where the student stands. These types of questions should not sway student performance. However, I believe giving this test as a part of, say, the ISTEP would influence student performance in a negative way. In seeing these item samplers, an instructor might tend to teach to the test, which could have a great influence on student motivation. When the teacher begins to teach to the test, students can often feel rushed or pressured. Also, the teachers then just teach the material the fast way instead of maybe taking the longer route where students will actually understand it. This kind of testing pushes students away from intrinsic motivation.

Extra Credit:
1. What does it take to bring a child back to intrinsic motivation after they do not feel intrinsically motivated anymore?
2. My youngest sister (age 13) kind of hit a point like this in science class this year. She did not see the point in knowing the material she was being taught. She knew it for the test and then forgot about it after that. I tried to help her (over the phone, not as effective) by seeing how she could somehow apply it to her life and what she might want to do with her future.
3. I am not sure if my attempt was all that successful or not. Science is not a subject that she particularly likes, which makes motivating her much more difficult.  However, I think she is at least trying to put forth more of an effort to engage herself in the material.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Week 12

The topic that I am most interested in is 3rd grade mathematics. Math has always been one of the subjects I was really good at understanding. The sampler resource that I chose can be found at From looking at the blueprint, the purpose of my exam would be to assess the children in the 6 different standards that are listed (number sense, computation, algebra and functions, geometry, measurement, and problem solving. This assessment would allow me to know if the students are really comprehending each concept thoroughly and if not, what areas do I need to spend more time on in the classroom. I do think that the items in the sampler are reliable because they give clear instructions on what the students should do. I think that the questions are also very appropriate for the content that is being assessed. They are a good representation of what they students should/needs to know based on the blueprint. The questions also allow the students to think outside the box. The questions which are not multiple choice requires the students to "show their work," which shows the teacher the process that the students are taking to solve a problem. This also provides feedback to the teacher so he/she knows where exactly in the process she should revisit or spend a longer amount of time in the future. I think that this is a great way to kind of gauge which students are more advanced or behind so that they can have the help necessary to excel and grow. These statewide exams may also be motivation to students. If a student is wanting to do well in school because of the benefits that occur, they may be more motivated to work hard so that it pays off in the long run, such as when going to college.

Extra Credit: I am still a little confused about motivation. When it comes to a student being motivated, how exactly do you know whether or not the students' motivation is due to extrinsic or intrinsic factors. I know that the teacher can give rewards such as silent reading but how do we really actually know that they are not doing the task because of the reward at the end because some students really enjoy reading so they hurry to get done so they can read. I've tried to observe my field experience class because she give the students the option to silent read when they get done but I still can't really tell what their true motivation is.

Week 12 blog

The topic that I have chosen is 5th grade mathematics because I would like to teach a 5th grade classroom and because I really enjoy math.  So the sampler that I referenced was the 3-5 grade math which can be found at  Based on the blueprint that I looked at, I would really want to focus an assessment around the 7 key ideas that were given in the blueprint.  These would be crucial for excellence and knowledge of the material for my students and it would set them up for success on the I-STEP.  This form of assessment gives teachers a structured way to teach the class so that they do not have to pick and choose topics.  It also gives them specific feedback on what areas they need to spend more time on if there are specific focus topics.  I think that the questions are fair and reliable because they are in easy language, they give plenty of information, and cover the blueprint that I originally looked at.  I think that the questions are also designed to make a student think critically.  This can really distinguish which students know the knowledge for the long run and which students are only memorizing facts.  It can show the students that may need more 1 on 1 time.  I think that large, standardized tests would be positive because it would create equity of knowledge across all schools.  Students would all have similar expectations and would all be judged on the same scale.  This is a very good thing to have in place when it comes to assessment and education.

Bonus:  I think that in regards to motivation this course has not answered the question on how to motivate students in the classroom that may have a disability, but are still included.  This motivation is always more difficult.  I have resolved most of my questions in my special education class, but I would really like to see and hear some personal stories and examples from teachers with experience.

Assessment Prompt

I am most interested in teaching at the 5th grade level with a concentration in the area of social studies. According to the ISTEP+ Grade5 Social Studies Blueprint is primarily concerned with the students of this particular age to know the basics of 1. being history itself, 2- Civics and Government, 3-Geography and lastly Economics. Link

The ISTEP+ item sampler acts as a guideline to teachers for what sort of questions will be asked at this grade level as far as where the child is as far as being educated on the matter of history being taken into account in the classroom at the 5th grade level the sampler suggests that students will not be just answering multiple choice questions but as well as critical thinking questions that could take a while to answer in which they could ask questions about different indian tribes , european exploration, supply and demand and so on. Heres the link

The purpose of the exam I would take in preparing my students would be to make sure we not only know the material but create fun things we could do that could help us retain this sort of information when it comes time to be tested on it , perhaps act out a play- role playing important historian figures and so on.

I feel like the standards for this test are not to challenging and seem like common things that aren't to difficult for a student to be able to keep straight and be able to know at this particular age range. Although I am all for following standard guidelines of what students should know by a certain point to an extent. I don't feel like a state wide test is the best option in getting to make sure that the teachers are doing their job in the classroom. When I did my field experience at Hatfield Elementary School, these teachers were pushing so much at the students learning wise so closely together I didn't even have time to comprehend everything that was going on so I am sure they weren't sure 100 percent of the time that was going on. The teacher even felt like the students had to much work do than what they had time to teach to them based on state standards.

The types of  questions on the ISTEP+ standard blueprint/ samplers I feel will be of use down the road whenever it comes time to prepare for harder test such as the ACT/ SAT/ Praxis or whatever huge important test it might be having the basic knowledge of how to answer more in depth critical thinking questions you will be better off. It could potentially motivate the students to do well in school for if they do well on the test and get a high score that might push them harder to continue to learn and perform better in the school.

Week 12

I plan on teaching 2nd grade, but 3rd grade was the next available grade. I chose the English/Language Arts blueprint for 3rd grade. The blue print specifically that I chose was the Reading Comprehension where students are meant to analyze story elements in a story. The purpose of my exam would be to simply analyze the story elements in a book we have read. To get them prepared, we will have studied elements of a story with other books. The test, however, will be about a book we have read, but not discussed. The test would begin with a short multiple choice section to test the student's comprehension of the story. These questions will ask mostly things like why did something happen or where someone was when something happened. This part should be pretty easy if the student paid attention to the story. The test would go on to fill out a story mountain (shown below)

This will test the student on analysis of story elements like background, setting, etc and climax, resolution. The test would go on to ask for an analysis of the main characters described in the book. The plot, theme, and narrative tone would be asked about in an essay format as well. I think the questions are fair and reliable because as long as the students paid attention to the story and class discussion, they would understand the story and know the questions. These questions would impact a student's performance by intrinsically motivate them to do well in order to do well in the future. Statewide and national exams would impact students  also by motivation because students would want to do the very best they can because their score would be riding on whether or not they get in the college they want. 

Extra credit:

How can a teacher completely factor out inequity? It seems to me that any type of special attention could be seen as inequity, like staying after with a student to give them extra help. I have spoken to a few teachers and they have said that it just depends on who is judging you on that fact. Anyone can have an opinion about anything. If a parent think you are showing favoritism or inequity, then speak with them and make sure to ask them how they think you should change and try to do that (within reason). This can be applied to principals, faculty peers, and other students.
Week 12 Writing Prompt Response
I would like to teach 5th grade so I have chosen the 5th grade language arts blueprint and the English/Language arts for 3rd through 5th grade item samples.  In the 5th grade students are beginning to take there education from the elementary level and towards what they will be learning through middle school and high school.  The standards that are meant for the 5th grade classroom look into more application, analysis and critical thinking.  The purpose of the exam I would create to help prepare my students would be to see how there skills have moved from memorization into a practical application.  In order to evaluate my students ability to think deeply I would use matching exercises in order to see how they are able to connect certain items.  The book discusses how matching exercises help evaluate student's ability to "make associations or see relationships". These are both skills that are needed for 5th grade level formal assessments.  Fifth grade also has a focus on comprehension.  In order to test comprehension I could use multiple choice or fill in the blank.  These are both typically used for memorization but in this case the student's would have never seen what they are being tested on before.  It would simply show if they understood what they read or not.   Also, writing is a major component for the standards of the testing and there are a lot of questions in the item sampler about writing.  In the item sampler there are quite a few questions focusing on sentence structure and writing with a short prompt.  In order to prepare my students for this part of the test I would have questions that have incorrect sentences grammatically and ask them to fix the sentences and explain what was wrong.  In order to prepare them for writing prompt questions I would give them open-ended writing prompts with a time limit preparing them to pace themselves and be able to finish the writing in the time given.  This can also give me a chance to see there writing and how they work under pressure. I think that each of these would help prepare students in that it would give me an ability to see where my students are and what they are needing help with.  I would be able to change my teaching to what their needs are. It would also give the students a sense of the pressure that is accompanied by any standardized test.  Based on the criteria of fairness in the book, the item samplers seem quite fair. The only thing I have always thought was not fair about standardized testing is the pressure that goes along with it. I have always done worse because of the pressure, which leads me into the next topic.  I think that standardized tests provide a conflicting motivation for students.  Because of the pressure that is placed on the students to do well, I think that students would be intrinsically motivated to learn because of the upcoming test.  At the same time because of this pressure students will a low self-efficacy may not do as well or be as motivated for the test because they may never believe they will do a good job.

Extra Credit: 

My main unanswered question about motivation (because it is so important) is if these methods truly work that we are learning about. And what works for different people.  I have been trying to resolve this by talking to my teacher. She has so much experience and is reassuring that learning what motivates each student will is not hard to find.  

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Madeline Leslie: Week 12

I want to be an elementary teacher when I grow up. More specifically I would like to teach the 3rd grade. So, I decided to look at the blueprints from grade 3 Mathematics and the item samplers for Mathematics grades 3-5. Based on the blueprint of my topic, the purpose of the exam that I will create would be to make sure my students understand number sense, computation, algebra and functions, geometry, measurement, and problem solving. Questions about number sense may include representing numbers and values in words, models, and expanded form. Questions about computations may include adding and subtracting whole numbers with or without regrouping. Questions about algebra and functions may include solving problems involving numeric equations. Questions about geometry may include identifying quadrilaterals. Questions about measurements may include measuring line segments. Questions about problem solving may include solving problems by identifying relationships among numbers. This form of assessment will provide the instructor with information on whether or not the students understand what has been taught in the classroom. For the most part, I think these questions are fair because the exact topics that were mentioned in the blueprint are being displayed in the item samplers. However, the questions can sometimes be very tricky. The might require some more challenging thinking than what was practiced in the classroom. This is why the questions can sometimes be unreliable. Also, because some of the questions are worded differently than what the students are used to or because they require one step more of thinking, the student performance can decrease than what the child would be used to seeing. These types of statewide and national examinations can impact students in many different ways. For example, these types of tests motivate students to do their very best. For example, when students are older and have to take the SAT and ACT for college, these tests will motivate students to do as well as possible so that they can be accepted into the college of their choice.

Thursday, November 1, 2012

week 11

There is very little diversity in the first grade classroom at Hatfield. There is one biracial set of twins; they are in different classes. Most students in Mrs. Shipman's room seem to be about the same economic class with one obvious exception, one girl. I'll call her "Lisa".  Lisa and I created a special bond almost immediately. My second visit to the school, Mrs. Shipman let me work with kids individually in the hall and I asked Lisa how her week had been. She told me "not very good" and looked down at the floor. "My mommy moved out" she said. "And my dad is in jail cuz he did drugs and I have had a hard time growing up because my dad. My mommy had to go steal food for me because my dad wouldn't work"
I don't know if I should have reacted the way I did but I am glad I was the teacher she chose to open up to because my childhood was similar to little Lisa's experiences at times. I told her that I was just like her. I said, "I also had a hard time growing up when I was a little girl but I did something really special." I told her that I wanted to be different from my family so I tried really hard in school so that I could go to college. I explained that no matter what other people do she always has the power to choose who she becomes.
I think Gay would call my reaction to Lisa an example of "culturally responsive caring"  which places

“teachers in an ethical, emotional, and academic partnership with ethnically diverse students, a partnership that is anchored in respect, honor, integrity, resource sharing, and a deep belief in the possibility of transcendence” (Gay, 2000, p. 52). Caring is a moral imperative, a social responsibility,
and a pedagogical necessity. It requires that teachers use “knowledge and strategic thinking to decide how to act in the best interests of others . . . [and] binds individuals to their society, to their communities, and to each other”(Webb,Wilson, Corbett,&Mordecai, 1993, pp. 33-34). "

Delpit says "appropriate education for poor children and children of color can only be devised in consultation with adults who share their culture." Here lays the importance of parent and community involvement in curricula. In my P248 class, we often talk about low Social Economic Class (SES). We discuss how it might effect the way a person learns. The problem I see with Delpit's conclusion is that it is based on generalizations, though I understand the source. Not all kids of color have authoritative parents. Not all poor kids are developmentally inferior. Lisa is a wonderful reader, for instance.

During my last visit Mrs. Shipman asked the girl to share her writing with the class and Lisa just froze. She wouldn't utter a word. Mrs. Shipman looked at me and mouthed, "something is wrong". Apparently this was odd behavior from Lisa.
A time before this, on the playground, Lisa didn't want to play with the other kids; she would rather stand right next to me. She told me, "I think you're like my mommy". Could I be affecting Lisa's emotions so heavily that it makes her uncomfortable in class?

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Week 11 - Equity

1.         One incident that I have seen in the classroom was a definite difference between the abilities of some of the students. Even though they are only in kindergarten, the ability levels between students is sometimes a very large gap. In one instance that I noticed in particular, the teacher was reading a book and sometimes she would pause and ask the students questions, to make sure they were actually comprehending the reading. Sometimes she would ask them about a certain word and then have the students think of other words that rhyme with it. She would then call on various students who were raising their hands, and occasionally call on students who hadn't answered yet. Some of the students had no issues with rhyming and finding new words, whereas others struggled to even find simple rhyming words, such as cat and hat. The levels that each student are at differ incredibly in certain areas.

         This issue can definitely affect the motivation of the students. The teacher needs to make sure that they avoid evaluative praise, because this can affect the motivation of those students that are at a lower level than some of their peers. They want to avoid showing favoritism to students who do well. It causes the other students to question their abilities and may make a student develop a performance avoidance behavior. It may also cause those students being praised for having the answers right to develop a performance-approach behavior. The teacher must do their best to reduce the competitiveness of the activity, and use different types of praise to benefit all of the students.

2.       Delpit believes that one way to combat educational equity is to realize that many parents just want their students to be able to have success in larger societies, not just whatever the culture of power is. Teachers shouldn't be teaching students how to exist in  white culture, but should know how to succeed in any type of culture and environment. This means that they need to teach children content from all areas, and from all different types of cultures, not just the dominant cultures in that area. Teachers also need to realize that not one teaching approach will work for all students, and that they need to listen to their students and respond to them in order to give them the best education possible.

        Gay makes the suggestion that we should create culturally relevant curricula by first developing culturally diverse knowledge bases. Once a teacher has that knowledge, they can create formal plans, symbolic curriculum, and societal curriculum. Formal plans are usually lessons that are based off of the standards, and teachers can make changes to their lesson plans to create a more diverse lesson. It is ok to teach about various controversies that are generally avoided in classroom settings. Symbolic curriculum are when images, icons, symbols, and other similar modes are used to teach knowledge, morals, skills, and values. To create culturally relevant curriculum, teachers should use these symbols to educate their students. One example would be showing authority in the symbols of both men and women, of all cultural identities. Teachers should also create culturally relevant lessons through what is known as societal curriculum. Societal curriculum is how mass media portrays ethnic groups and the knowledge and impressions people gain from this. Culturally relevant teachers will attempt to reverse what popular culture has taught and show students critical analyses of different cultures and ethnic groups to educate their students.


In my field experience I have noticed an equity issue with ability level.  It has become very apparent to me as the weeks have gone by which students are above level, at level and below level.  One day the teacher had me take two students who needed extra time working on their math worksheet.  These two children were very far behind in comparison to the other kids.  They were really struggling with addition and I realized how far behind they were compared to the kids who had already finished the work sheet.  After school I talked to Mrs. Whaley (teacher) and told her how surprised I was that they were struggling so much.  She agreed and said they were two of the kids who were two of her lowest level kids.  The next week it became apparent to me that the way she grouped their desks was by ability level or academic level.  There are two groups of desks in the classroom with kids who are above level.  They are the kids that always finish first and are ahead when working on group activities.  Then there are two groups of desks that are normal academic level and two groups of desks with children farther behind.  I found it shocking as to why she would group them together by ability level.  I would think putting a mixture at each group would work better for the kids that are farther behind because they were be pushed and helped by kids ahead of them.  I believe the issue of equity in ability level can impact the motivation of students.  These students in groups that struggled had to be taken out of class and helped.  They might feel embarrassed or “slow”.  This might not only hurt their confidence and self-esteem but also cause the students to feel less motivated.  By putting the slower students in groups with higher level students may not only help them when they have questions but motivate them to work harder. 
Gay believes “the academic achievement of ethnically diverse children will improve when they are taught through their own culture and experiential filters”.  Basically teachers need to educate themselves on different cultures so they can better teach students of different ethnic backgrounds and include different cultures into the classroom.  Delpit suggests that as teachers we allow ourselves to be open and really listen to other perspectives because people of other cultures are “experts” in their culture and know what they are talking about.   By doing this, it will allow us to better speak across cultures to our students of different backgrounds. 
Gay proposes that one way to design culturally relevant curriculum is by designing bulletin boards to promote symbolic curriculum that talk about different ethnic groups and positive characteristics.  For example, doing a bulletin board on leadership and include different ethnic groups.  Then Gay also talks about societal curriculum and kind of changing the mental stereotypes that students believe because of the mass media they are exposed to. 

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Equity in the Classroom

In my second grade classroom at Shawswick Elementary in Bedford, IN, I have noticed an equity issue of gender.  My teacher is a big supporter of a quiet learning environment, and anyone who makes noise during quiet work time gets called out on it.   Second grade boys tend to have a difficult time sitting still, so this expectation the teacher sets is already a challenge for them to meet.  One morning, I get to my classroom and I notice that a few desks have been separated from the normal rows of desks.  I do not think much of it at first, and then I notice that the only desks that were moved away from the group were boys’ desks.  I ask the teacher about it, and the teacher told me they were not able to concentrate on their work because they were moving around too much.  I then pay closer attention to these boys the rest of the day and I notice that they are still moving around and not much has really changed.  My teacher seems to have this set idea that a classroom needs to be a quiet, still environment, but that is not a conducive learning environment for 7-year-old boys.  She was not being equitable between the girls personalities of being quieter and more still to boys more rambunctious personalities.  This affected the boys’ motivation because I could tell that they were embarrassed for being separated from their peers.  They stopped participating and did not seem to be enjoying their work, or at least appeared to enjoy it less than normal.  If a child feels they are not being treated equally, they will most likely not want to participate or not feel comfortable in a classroom that should feel like a community. 

There is a very real problem with equity in schools, and Delpit (1988) and Gay (2002) have given some suggestions to help lesson this very real problem.  Delpit believes that “students must be taught the codes needed to participate fully in the mainstream of American life…within the context of meaningful communicative endeavors” (296).  Delpit also suggests that people in minorities and members of poor communities “must be allowed to participate fully in the discussion of what kind of instruction is in their children’s best interest” (296).  She feels very strongly that people learn differently based on their cultural background and that communication across different cultures can be very difficult for people who are unaware that people from different cultures communicate differently.

Gay suggests that teachers should design culturally relevant curricula in order to give support to children from different cultures.  One thing that Gay suggests is that, as teachers, we should deal “directly with controversy” (108).  Gay talks about how a lot of teachers try to avoid talking about very controversial issues, most of which have everything to do with culturally relevant issues.  If teachers are not afraid of talking about cultural topics, the students should begin to feel comfortable expressing their culture in their classroom. Another way Gay suggests giving support to children from different cultures is through symbolic curriculum and understand the power that it holds “as an instrument of teaching and use it to help convey important information, values, and actions about ethnic and cultural diversity” (108).   Overall, Gay wants teachers to not only teach about the White culture, but to talk about all cultures.  Culture is all around us in the United States, and it is part of the teacher’s role to make sure that their students are aware of the different cultures represented in the immigrant country of the United State of America.