Friday, July 10, 2015

Kevin on Beyond Traditional Texts

I found the readings and jig saw discussion I had on Day 5 about reading beyond traditional texts informative but not as helpful as the past days readings.  It seemed that we could all agree that getting out side of traditional texts was a good thing but where to proceed wasn’t as clear, at least to me.  As an example I read the article  “What Pokemon Can Teach Us About Learning and Literacy”.  In this article the author shows how her nephew is learning literacy concepts and skills through Pokemon.  She made some really good connections but also some connections that seemed like she was kind of reaching for something that wasn’t really there.  Pokemon cards do contain text, but not much and can be very different then reading novels or textbooks.  So the question I had (that was never addressed) was if these skills her nephew learned through collecting and trading Pokemon cards carried over into the classroom.  Maybe I was just spoiled by past articles being more practical and applicable, but I really felt this article was lacking.  The author did ask some really good questions at the end of the article like “what can we learn about what motivates children to stay in the game in spite of increasing difficulty” or “how can we capitalize on the new literacies developed through everyday engagement with popular texts?”   However I was disappointed that she just left it there and didn’t try to answer those questions.  I do realize that not all articles will answer all the questions and the point of some is to merely ask a question, to get it out there and get people thinking about it.  I guess I just like the practical ones better.
I absolutely believe that non-traditional texts can have a place in the classroom and can be helpful in motivating students, helping with differentiation and scaffolding other material.  The readings and discussions today reinforced this belief.   I learned that it is also important for a teacher to ask students about their reading habits and listen to what they have to say.  Also model a wider understanding of reading material to your students.  Let them know that literature other then novels and textbooks can be valuable in developing literacy.   The final thought for today would be that it’s important to recognize where kids are at and what’s important to them.


Kirti on Vocabulary

Traditional science lessons have often begun with teachers presenting students with science vocabulary words and asking them to write the words, find the definitions in a dictionary or the glossary of the textbook, match the words to definitions, or use the words in a sentence. In this model of instruction, words are often presented in isolation and students are tested on the words alone, without application to concepts.

Just as really mechanics can pull out the right tools to make a engine even more powerful, writers can pull out the right tools at the right time to make good writing. One tool that can power up writing is a strong vocabulary.

Within student learning throughout the primary years program, students acquire and apply a set of trans disciplinary skills: social skills, communication skills, critical thinking skills, research skills and self-management skills. As a teacher I had to always incorporate these skills for any teaching and learning that goes on within the classroom. I used to always wonder and look for strategies for different content area and this article

(Research on vocabulary instruction in the content areas: Implications for struggling readers) offers suggestions for providing effective vocabulary instructions in particular subject areas including mathematics, social studies and science for students reading below grade level.

Students come across concepts represented by many unfamiliar terms that many a times are not integrated across their content areas. As Baumann and Kameenui, have explained it so well “We know too much to say we know too little, and we know too little to say that we know enough. Indeed, language is difficult to put into words”

I totally agree that a critical aspect of students’ difficulty in understanding text in their content area is due to lack of sufficient vocabulary knowledge. And as a teacher, I frequently and consistently try to teach vocabulary but my efforts are mostly in vain. As now, I realize I need to work with different strategies in different content areas. In this article with Carr investigations I found that students learnt and retained contents vocabulary, when they learnt how to self select important terms in a passage, make personal connections with the term, and analyze their progress. In content area reading, students need a thorough understanding of vocabulary because the words are labels for important concepts. Many words have both a common meaning plus a specialized meaning for a particular subject area. Such coexistence of many possible meanings for a word or phrase can be challenging for a student, the teacher needs to address them in content area instructions.

Studies indicate that clearly and in detail, leaving no room for confusion or doubt instructions positively impacts the learning or developing of vocabulary skills. Several features characterize these instructions: integration, repetition and meaningful use.

Researchers have reported a relationship between success in reading mathematics and specific reading strategies, including knowledge of technical vocabulary. Monroe discussed four categories of mathematical terms: technical, sub-technical, general, and symbolic. Knowledge of these categories can help teachers understand the cognitive demands of students. Teachers need to make students aware of the different terms and how the mathematics content can change the meanings of the simplest of terms. Teachers should acknowledge the close relationship between conceptual understanding and the vocabulary knowledge. Students must be given the opportunities to confront, problem solving, and actively engaging in mathematics reading. Students should be able to apply their understandings and vocabulary in different language modes, such as in writing, speaking and in visual representations. After reading this article, it appears that the use of graphic organizers accompanied by in-depth discussion can effectively impact the mathematical vocabulary of the students.

Researchers recommend the frequent use of systematic drill and strategies that assists in remembering a pattern of letters, ideas or associations is an effective way to help students learn place vocabulary. They also recommend instructional strategies such as, pre-reading tasks, categorizing, and contextual approaches can work effectively with social studies.

Students often try to only memorize the terms and facts and completely ignore to understand the meaning of science concepts. Teachers take it for granted that students understand nontechnical words, such as component, consistent, exclude and interpret. Teachers need to pay attention to nontechnical words and try to determine vocabulary of the language and conceptual knowledge of their students. Science vocabulary instructions must be addressed in pre-reading activity, such as Possible Sentences and semantic mapping, where students have the opportunity to activate and build important background knowledge about science concepts and the terms associated with the concepts. Science vocabulary is also supported with the class discussion, structural analysis and repetition.

Some suggestions for struggling readers

· Provide opportunities to engage independent reading.

· Relate below grade level trade books to content area topics.

· Use contextual-based approaches.

· Encourage independent learning by allowing students to self-select terms to be studied.

· Teach key vocabulary explicitly.

· Provide opportunities for multiple exposures to key terms.

· Avoid drill and practice activities.

· Emphasize structural analysis when teaching vocabulary.

· Provide staff development training in effective vocabulary instruction.

Furthermore, whether you teach kindergarten or high school students, having a strategic plan for teaching vocabulary should be at the top of “must- do” list of a teacher. It is my duty as a teacher to bridge the gap between traditional educational practices and to create an opportunity that gives an expression, both creatively and intellectually.

Drew on Writing

The act of writing is something that is extremely important to me. I have a degree in creative writing, I have had the good luck to have had my writing published in a couple of places, and I continue to work towards completing a novel. The practice of writing is something I take very seriously, that I care deeply about, that I consider to be of great value, and that I very nearly worship the craft of. 

All those things said, the act of writing is one of the hardest things there is to do. There are few things more frightening or paralyzing than a blank page. The practice of generating an idea, pursuing a the thought through to its conclusion in an orderly fashion and producing the words needed to get there on the page is a skill that does not come easily, that must be worked at, and that must be taught; it is not innate to anyone. 

The act, however, is almost uniquely suited to constructive thought. The way one needs to organize one’s thoughts in order to produce a piece of writing is an exercise in itself, and I can see how it would be spectacularly valuable to the process of understanding a content area. 

I recall information that I learned in the 6th grade while preparing a paper about spiders that is still there in my memory banks. The simple act of transferring the ideas to paper were supremely valuable in helping me retain them. 

I will be honest, I do not know if that report made me a better reader, thinker, or student, but I sure know that the organs spiders use to produce silk are called “spinnerettes.” 

Today’s lessons connected very well with the process of writing I learned in my writing undergrad. Particularly on the important places in the process of revision and editing and the very important difference between the two, something that people often do not grasp, and that with the help of spell-check and the delete button are almost incapable of separating. 

Revision has nothing whatsoever to do with spelling, punctuation, grammar, or capital letters. That’s the editing process. Revision is entirely about the clarity of ideas, the specificity of words, and the structure of paragraphs and sentences. It is absolutely the best place to engage students in collaborative practice in the writing process. Writing is hugely solitary and often difficult to pursue collaborative and social goals, pedagogy, and development. Revision, however, is almost necessarily social. Writing must be turned over to peers and the potential audience for feedback, advice, and workshopping in order to tighten and improve the language. It is one of the steps in the process where teachers should, I think, spend a huge amount of time on specific instruction and allow the students to engage in practice over and over and over again. 

Wednesday, July 8, 2015

Yusef on Beyond Traditional Text

Blog: Moving beyond traditional textbooks

Today's highly energetic debate on the role of non-traditional texts inside our classrooms brought up some insightful points and valid arguments. Our class debate was action packed as both sides came out the corner swinging by presenting their group perspectives on this topic. When I was not busy ducking Drew's overhand right or blocking Maha's left-handed jabs, I listened and internalized the oppositions statements-- does technology hinder my cognitive process? Can a complete reliance on non-traditional text limit reading and writing literacies? Where would I be as a student or person without my laptop, Smartphone and access to millions of online resources? What if Google is making me stupid?
The 21st century has spawned the power of mass media, and provided online education; the internet has changed our conception of literacy. The ability to read and write' or traditional definition of literacy has transgressed to a modern definition or what Id explain as the ability to understand information however presented'. New types of literacies have been developed which has placed a strain on the traditional form of literacy. These strains inherently lead to specific challenges that educators need to address: 1) Disconnect- incorporating technology poses a real challenge for students/educators who grew up in an environment where digital skills werent needed 2) Safety- how can educators introduce technology appropriately in their classrooms 3) Accessibility- is technology and are computers accessible for everyone? 4) Dependence- has the vast amount of information made us too reliant on the internet? Does this technological dependency affect our concentration and contemplation? 
The Internet has become the universal medium of information, never before has a communication system played such a major role in our lives. But Is Google making us stupid? This was my first time reading this very intriguing article by Nicholas Carr. I really enjoyed it because it brought up questions that I don't often contemplate. In the article the author informs us on how technology is negatively affecting our cognitive processing. We are simply becoming too used to receiving information very quickly and easily. Is Google becoming the new human brain? The article claims that technology is a huge distraction in our lives and discusses how intellectual technologies' can eventually be engrained into our daily lives. 
Moving beyond textbooks
Non-traditional texts like graphic novels are powerful tools that can help students become more engaged in reading and writing. Research shows that students are motivated to read and write when they have a choice of topics and when the reading/writing is relevant to their lives. I believe every student is unique, technology provides opportunities for teachers to explore ways to use tools to help students at multiple levels. This differentiation can be helpful especially, with ELL or students with learning disabilities. 
Moving beyond traditional text allows more opportunities for interactive classroom interactions, self-expression and group collaboration. The internet enables us to explore new information; were now able to acquire instant information from various types of resources. Research that took years can now be done in a matter of minutes. Web 2.0 applications like Wix, Blogger and Google, provide students with more meaningful and authentic learning experiences, these opportunities help equip students with literacy skills that are required in todays world.

Nate on Beyond Traditional Texts

Today we had a great discussion about the different types of non-traditional text that open the minds of the youth today. I read the article “Graphic Novels in the Secondary Classroom and School Library” because I’ve always found this medium really intriguing. Graphic novels bridge the gap between cartoons and film, while dealing with content that really captivates the imagination of young adults. I’ve seen a lot of really deep biographies, action packed thrillers, and culturally saturated graphic novels.

The benefit they have is quickly immersing the reader in a time and place which textures the story. When reading long texts, it’s sometimes difficult for readers to envision the setting through the descriptions. They can be very wordy, general and vague, or unfamiliar locations. A graphic novel can bypass pages of novel writing and allow the reader to enter the world immediately.
 Another benefit to graphic novels is the addition of gestures and body language to accompany the text. Also, physical appearances and dress of the characters can help readers engage more with the characters. This helps the readers imagine how that characters voice and attitude would be due to all the social attributes they can link to the image. This style of communication is much more direct and able to captivate students who get bored by reading large blocks of text.

 Another aspect of graphic novels is the ability to convey a shift in tone or intensity based on the style of animation and the colors used. Here we can see how art can benefit education by allowing the students to be influenced by the psychology of aesthetics. Color choices, layers of shading, and irregular cell compositions can tell a story of their own which is the undercurrent theme of graphic novels.

They differ from comics and cartoon strips because they are less likely to follow the format and are more content heavy, hence the “novel”. They tell a complete story instead of breaking the series into chapters. They differ from film because they are void of sound and treated as a series of snapshot moments in the story. These limitations actually increase the potency of the art theory and storytelling aspect, making the message direct and enthralling for readers.

Graphic novels also allow for students to catch nuance in the background and italicized words, urging the reader to connect the dots and think deeper. That is where graphic novels truly succeed, by letting the art and the text equally carry the story. There is a rhythm and highly-stylized personality to every graphic novel.

I enjoyed this read and it gives me an opportunity to share a related story. Last year I was in Barcelona with my family on a random walk around the city. We came across a bookstore and the posters in the window were old European illustrations and it was eye-catching enough to bring us inside. Once we got inside, we noticed that it was only graphic novels and was organized in no particular way, just stacks and stacks of mismanaged books. When we looked closer we noticed that all the books were brand-new, and even better, were in about 12 different languages. All of them seemed to be culturally specific, highly artistic, and contemporary. We had to settle on only 2 books for our luggage’s sake, but one of them has been an inspiration to me as an artist and actually helped me learn basic Catalan. The book is called Barcelona Low Cost. It tells the story of 3 people sharing an apartment in Barcelona and their personal lives being broke in a touristy city. The story goes back and forth between reality and the inside of their minds and the color scheme is incredible. I learned a completely new take on painting night life using colors I previously underrated. It also clearly captures the environment and feeling of Barcelona, the illustration style being also heavily Spanish in technique. I also noticed that my wife was able to gather a lot about the story even though it’s 95% written in Catalan, a language she has zero prior knowledge in. That is what I like most about graphic novels, the art can hold the text up enough to be understood without necessarily needing the text at all.

Tuesday, July 7, 2015

Matt on Comprehension

Matt Balaban

Blog post for July 7, 2015

During our jigsaw conversations today about comprehension, I was struck by an intriguing theme that seemed to come up more than once: not answering questions.  Indeed, inquiry is a tool that provides among the most meaningful and rewarding educational pursuits, but how to respond to inquiry, as a teacher, is a topic worth visiting.  After all, a question might be thought of as only half a coin, the response being the other half.  I’m intentionally using the word “response” rather than “answer”, because there doesn’t seem to be any room for growth with an answer, but a response…I guess it could be anything.  And that’s what came up today.  In order to foster the most meaningful comprehension, how do we, as teachers, respond to questions?

One way could be responding with another question.  This could be a method that intentionally redirects the train of thought in a productive way, maybe such as responding with “Do you see any context clues?” if a student asks about the meaning of a word.  Or maybe “Do you remember what we mentioned about [blank] in the previous paragraph?”  Something like that.  Moreover, responding with a question seems to provide the opportunity to continue exploring new questions that wouldn’t have otherwise been thought of.  Maybe as a response, a question could take the form of something like “Can you think of a similar question that involves [blank]?”

Another way to respond to a question without exposing an immediate answer is to solicit responses from classmates.  “Who thinks they have an idea about how to answer that?” for example.  This seems like a good tactic to get more people involved and get more ideas flowing.  In my mind, whatever keeps the discussion alive seems to be the best choice.  A straightforward answer, while satisfying, seems like it could cut things short.

My favorite way to respond is exemplified in the Close Reading article from today, where the teacher is explaining a possible thought process to understand the meaning of the word “revile” from a sentence about waiting in a checkout line.  Simply asking about what the word “revile” means prompts so much if we’re willing to delve in.  Notice what the teacher responds with:

I don’t want to get stuck on the word reviled, so I need to think a bit more about it. I see that it has    -vile inside of it, so I think it’s something bad because I know the word vile is like “disgusting” or “gross.” Re- is “again,” but I’m not sure that makes a lot of sense to think that this is “gross again.” I’ll reread the sentence. The author says that it would be even more frustrating if there wasn’t some technology advances in the grocery store line. So I am thinking about the lines I have waited in, and I’m thinking that, yes, they were frustrating and that maybe that word means “bothersome.” I also noticed that some of you circled bottleneck or tally. Can you talk with your peers to see if you can unpack the meaning of those words, even if you didn’t circle them? 
I love this.  It’s unbridled thought, and simply exposing it seems like a suitable technique to build similar strategies for students, sort of like a model.  It goes through morphology thinking, and is honest about how that doesn’t seem to provide the most fruitful perspective to get where we want to be in this case.  It brings in past authentic experience outside the classroom to provide insight that gets us to the next step.  It appeals to the context of the sentence and ends with another question about other words that could serve as clues, and ends with a question that prompts more discussion and interaction.  

It seems that responding in these ways much of the time is actually the opposite of simply answering.  The goal is to guide students to create valuable answers themselves rather than have an answer be placed in front of them.  This seems like a recipe for more personal ownership of the content, skill-building that can be applied in the future, and more discussion and questions to follow.  I guess the value of a question is just as valuable as how it’s responded to. 

Monday, July 6, 2015

Randy on Vocabulary

Jigsaw Reading on Vocabulary
Randy Limon

After our jigsaw reading and sharing yesterday, I have realized that academic language development is paramount across disciplines.

It’s like learning a foreign language for the first time. Living in China for 10 years does not make me fluent in Mandarin. I might be if I had pushed myself harder to understand the language. The intricacy of the characters and tone of the language made it so difficult for me to learn it. Without proper instruction and practice, it is almost impossible to speak the language. I am still learning Mandarin.

Bridging the gap between the vocabulary instructions and student’s academic language acquisition is integral in developing independent learners. Students need to have access to academic vocabulary in order to utilize the proper terms in the disciplinary texts being studied or grasp the complexity of texts used in content areas.

Many students find it difficult to connect with the academic language because they are not given opportunities to use them. As an educator, we need to create an atmosphere of learning academic language in classroom constantly.

We can employ some of the effective strategies to allow students to use academic language in their practice.
·      Teach students how morphological awareness can be used in understanding academic texts
·      Engage students through activities such as pair or group shares, quick writes and matching activities applying the academic language
·      Scaffold these concepts using academic language through oral rehearsal  (paraphrasing) and systematic study (multiple modality)

Instruction and practice take a vital role in developing student’s performance in learning content. Letting the students to discover the convention on their own can impact the language acquisition in content areas as well.

Another way to enhance academic language connection in class is to set clear language objectives in your lessons. Students will not succeed if they don’t know what to learn and even more so they won’t succeed if they do not know what to do. Language objectives will help teachers incorporate activities that will allow students to read, write, speak and listen to academic language used in the classroom. Ultimately, this action can foster effective content literacy.

Learning can only take place if new meaning is created and language is a resource to develop these meanings. At the same time it helps students to express their thoughts and observations in a sophisticated way. Without these language skills, the transferred teaching contents remain one-dimensional and hard to relate to and therefore are unlikely to be permanently anchored in the students’ heads. The proper use of academic language is indispensible for putting the newly acquired abilities in a context in real life.