Sunday, October 23, 2011

A Classroom Visit

So this Friday I took a trip to Agnor-Hurt to meet with my TIP teacher and observe her in the classroom with her students. Ms. Ingram teaches many different students from different grade levels. When I came in she was with a group of four third graders reading a book. I watched and listened as she carefully guided them through the book. She had to refocus their attention a lot by asking them to point to specific words and stay on the same page she was on.
Then I met Ms. Ingram's first graders, the group I will be working with on the TIP project. They are all very cute. She only has them for thirty minutes a day and the time flies. She chooses a different student each day to decide what shape they will sit in on the floor. The student she chose had us sit in a circle. Then the students went around in the circle and said their names and the language they spoke at home. The majority were Spanish-speakers, but there was an Arabic-speaker and a Korean-speaker.
Then the children got up and sang "Head, Shoulders, Knees and Toes" first slowly then more quickly. Lastly, Ms. Ingram had them sit at a small group table and start reading a book together about animal body parts.

One of the things I learned from this visit is that Ms. Ingram is a very passionate and lovely teacher with a lot of energy and pizzazz. I had a great time watching her interact with her students. I got a better sense for where the students are with their language ability. However, I also learned that 30 minutes is an incredibly short amount of time. I got a few books from Ms. Ingram that I can borrow and use for my lesson.

I am meeting with her again tomorrow morning at 8:15 to talk about our lesson plans more in depth. Considering the age group and time limitations I think that I am only going to be able to implement one type of technology. I hope that VoiceThread will be easy enough to use with 1st graders.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Expect the Unexpected

My first meeting with my TIP teacher didn’t go quite as planned, but it was overall fairly successful. I had an 8:15am appointment on Monday, October 18th with Bev Ingram, an ESOL teacher at Agnor-Hurt Elementary School. Bev had called in sick that morning and forgotten about our appointment, so I was not able to meet with her in person. However, I called her on the phone from the school and we chatted for forty-five minutes about the project we would be working on together.

Bev works with both first and third graders. She teaches different age groups at different times of the day and the different groups are at different levels of English proficiency. We decided the best group for us to work with would be her first grade group that meets everyday from 11:30am-12pm. There are about 10 students in the class from different backgrounds including Hispanic, Arabic, and Korean students.  

Bev explained to me that her job with the first graders is to integrate SOL curriculum with language acquisition and vocabulary building. These first graders are at a higher level than some of her other groups, but they are still pretty shy about speaking in front of a group. She told me that she will give them examples of sentences to write and sometimes they will just copy the sentence she wrote rather than creating one on their own.

The unit they are moving into is a unit on animals including animals’ body parts and movement. Her goal is for them to learn vocabulary to describe the different animals with an emphasis on learning action verbs. She told me that since the students are in first grade they have limited writing ability; however, a big part of her job is getting them to communicate orally.

Based on that information, we decided to pursue a technology project that incorporated speaking ability and digital images. The first piece of software or technology that came to my mind was VoiceThread. I explained to her that using VoiceThread the students could upload images and then speak into a microphone about each of the images.

She suggested that we take pictures of the students using digital cameras that the school provides and then upload those pictures to the school computers. Since humans are animals too, the students could use VoiceThread to describe their own movement and practice their speaking skills. Then they could browse a safe website for digital images to find pictures of their favorite animals doing different movements. Or, if that was too difficult, we could have uploaded pictures for them onto a VoiceThread account and simply have them record their speech about each animal. She also told me she would like to incorporate an outdoor activity into our project.

My idea was that we implement this project over the course of five days since she only has the student for thirty minutes each day. One day we could go outside with the children and take pictures of them doing different physical activities. Another day we could have them read a story and describe the movements of the various animal, highlighting the vocabulary and action verbs. This could be done with selected books or with photos or pictures the instructor picks out. Bev let me borrow some of the books she had in her classroom that these students might be able to read.

The fourth day we could introduce the students to VoiceThread and have them browse safe websites for pictures of animals and save them to the VoiceThread account. The final day we could have them talk about each of the pictures and record themselves talking about the pictures. Then, time permitting, we could use a SmartBoard to share what the different students have said. There are only 10 students in her 1st grade class so it will hopefully be easier to do this since there are fewer students.

Bev and I plan to meet next week at the same time at the school to go over the details about the project. She let me borrow some books and resources that I could look at and bring back next week. She also pointed me towards a resource called SIOP that inserts language goals into classroom plans.

The school has a computer lab equipped with Mac computers as well as carts with laptops. So hopefully access to the Internet and enough computers will not be a problem. They also have access to iPod touches and digital cameras. So if the students wanted to record their voices using the iPod touch that is an option as well. I am concerned about the logistics of teaching 1st graders how to use VoiceThread.

My goal for this week is to take a close look at the SOL standards and curriculum framework for what 1st graders should understand about animals. Then I hope to look at the SIOP website to get an idea of what language goals can be integrated into the framework. Hopefully by the end of the week I will have created a drafts of the lesson plans for the project.

I wanted to get an idea of which week we could implement this project. I told her the best week for me would be November 14th- 18th. I could come in every day that week from 11:30am – 12:00pm to work with the students. If that week doesn’t work we could do it the week of November 27th through December 2nd. The tricky part with that is that my assignments for other classes will be culminating at around that time so I will be extremely busy. Hopefully the week before the week of Thanksgiving will work out.

We still have a lot of work to do, but I am hopefully that we will develop a really fun and productive unit for the children.