Monday, December 19, 2005

Take 5--Letters to me regarding web quest

I am finally going through the formal letters the students wrote me discussing the web quest project. I have compiled some of the comments that I was excited reading:

"I thought the web quest was really fun...more fun than I thought...I now want to join a debate class!" Jordan Y.
"I not only learned a lot about my character from the web quest, but also about the civil rights movement and civil disobedience." Carley B.
"I think this activity was a good learning experience for the whole class. It gave us an opportunity to work together and debate against classmates, and had fun doing it! Definitely do it next semester." Josh P.
"You took a risk with a new form of lecturing and it turned out fun and interesting." Madison S.
"The web quest taught me to look at both sides of an argument...Thank you for giving us this opportunity." Brittany N.
On the web quest "you asked the question 'does standing still' create a society unwilling to change. This assignment helped me see that if people don't take a stand for what they believe in too used to things and become afraid of change." Nick B.
"Working on this assignment was a good learning experience for me because most classes I've taken didn't have very much hands-on activities or computer activities...and the fact that you made that page yourself was very impressive in my opinion because it was much more useful than I could have imagined." Aaron A.
"Very cool overall. Nice work, Mrs. Davis." Matt S.

I feel for the first go-around, this went very well. The students also gave me excellent suggestions for next year. I am definitely up for trying this again.

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

Take 5--Video conferencing and audio podcasting?

I just read the comments regarding the 9th grade position paper and I am intrigued by your ideas, Karl. The video-making and audio podcast sounds wonderful; challenging, yes, but I am up for a challenge. I did say I was willing to dive in and try things and we all can learn from my successes (and certainly mistakes!).

Where would I find information? Do I personally have to have an ipod? I have found information regarding a software program that looks like a possibility for video recording and the Internet. Is this something available through our grant? I want to search and see teachers doing this; maybe I will find an email to contact them. Hmmm...

Here is the information regarding the software program for video recording:

Take 5--What DO I think of my web quest?

Today is the last day in the computer lab as my freshmen finish their Inherit the Wind web quest. They have researched historical figures who have contrasting view points: Rosa Parks vs. Governor George Wallace. They will come to the Forum tomorrow to participate in a round table debate. I will write back tomorrow how that goes.

So has been interesting. The students are engaged and really trying to find interesting and engaging information. They want to stump the opponents and challenge the way "they" think. We'll see how well it works.

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

Take 5--Rethinking the Position Paper

English teachers talk about how we have to reteach students formating of papers, thesis statements, topic and concluding sentences, and various other writing standards. We are frustrated at this lack of transference from one year to the next; I feel it is because students don't "own" this knowledge. They perform for a particular teacher and then, forget it until the next teacher has his/her own hoops for them to jump through.

Thinking about next semester and teaching the position paper, I decided that I want to engage students in a writing process that hopefully is more memorable. Here's what I'm thinking. I ordered 2 Karen Hesse books, Out of the Dust and Witness. One is about the Dust Bowl and its destruction and the other about the Ku Klux Klan infiltrating a small Vermont community and the repercussions from it. Both are written in free verse (poetry format), which I think will be interesting for students, but also are beautifully written. I am going to have them research why the Dust Bowl ocurred and why catastropic dust storms still ocurr. There are other various environmental issues they could research as well as how people deal with and persevere after such devastation (New Orleans, Thailand, China, etc.). With Witness, students could research why violence takes place and why hate groups still exist today.

But, what is more engaging I think over all of this is an often untapped resource: senior citizens. They lived through these historical times, watched our country evolve, etc. and have a wealth of information to offer. I am going to visit several nursing homes to see if there is one that would be willing to have my students come interview some folks. I will have to work on this idea, but I think it could work well.

We'll see. If nothing else, it energizes my teaching for next semester, so that teaching the position paper is not hum-drum, gotta do-it, but risk-taking and engaging.

Monday, December 05, 2005

Take 5--TV as a literacy genre

Karl had emailed us an article (below) that discussed how Finland has consistently had the highest literacy rates worldwide. They believe it is due to the fact that many of their programs are in foreign languages, so people (including kids) have to read the TV to know what is being said.

I love this idea; I am going to try it with my 6-year old. He is an emerging reader learning words it seems exponentially. The Disney Channel will not only sport fun-loving shows, but now could provide another genre for Carter to read.
Hall Davidson, in his keynote at the TechForum a couple of weeks ago inAustin, suggested making sure that closed caption was switched on whenstudents watched TV. I don't recall if he included research, but itmakes a lot of sense to me. He told a couple of stories of peoplebecome more fluent in other languages by having closed caption switchedon.>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>One example of how the use of subtitles has a positive effect on literacy isin Finland.I don't know if you've ever heard of PISA -- the Program for InternationalStudent Assessment -- run by OECD (Organization for Economic Co-operationand Development), where they test 15-year-olds around the world every threeyears (see Anyway, Finland has repeatedly come out ontop in terms of the readers it produces.An article on the Finnish reading phenomenon can be found in the October2005 edition of Educational Leadership (see citation and abstract below).The article makes the observation that because half the TV programs onFinnish TV are in foreign languages and there is no dubbing, anyone wantingto watch television has to be able to read. As the article says, children"learn to read quickly — favorite television programs are much moremotivating than any speed-reading exercises assigned in class."That's what it's about -- having a reason to read.....----------------------------------------------------------------------------A Land of Readers. By: Halinen, Irmeli; Sinko, Pirjo; Laukkanen, Reijo.Educational Leadership, Oct2005, Vol. 63 Issue 2, p72-40, 4p, 3bw;Abstract: This article informs that once every three years, the Program forInternational Student Assessment (PISA) tests 15-year-olds in variouscountries around the world in reading, maths, and science. The PISA surveysincluded approximately 40 industrialized countries. Schools surveyed hadcomparable school characteristics, yet the number of extremely low achieverswas smaller in Finland than elsewhere. Comprehensive school has become aplace in which teachers have extensive authority to interpret the contentthey teach. Teachers do not divide students into ability groups in anysubject area, and no school inspection system controls what schools teach.Since the mid-1990s, Finland has committed to promoting literacy on a numberof fronts. In addition to popular library reading campaigns in schools, boththe Finnish Newspaper Association and the Finnish Periodical Publishers'Association organize reading weeks for schools once a year, which targetsuch general literacy skills as fluency and critically reading text.; (AN18491496)

Thursday, December 01, 2005

Take 5--Grading and just sitting here, instead

No, I'm not going to talk about the meaning of grading...I'm just going to talk about how much grading I need to do. Instead, I am doing the RSS (is it a noun?), searching the web for interesting constructivism articles realizing I have 4 to read in my home, and yet my senior projects including 3 papers of sorts per student are sitting in room C14. I would like to call "Calgon" and have my papers magically dissolve away.

Ahhh...dream on and "pull your britches up," as my dad would say.

I'm off, not to be a constructivist, but to grade, and simply that.