Wednesday, August 21, 2013

A Metaphor for Student Teaching

Student teaching is like dropping the box to a 1000 piece puzzle and trying to put it together overnight.

Photo credit:

I LOVE teaching. And I am totally up for the challenge. Just like a puzzle is composed of many different shapes, colors, and patterns, teaching is full of complicated, overlapping, and unpredictable factors. Puzzling is enjoyable because it is a challenging process. Teaching is rewarding and fun not in spite of the complications and craziness, but because teachers have the privilege of entering the delightful and mysterious world of children and trying to make sense of it. 

Oh yeah.. and I forgot to mention... the first day of school was wonderful.

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Role Model Readers

Ms. Straume and I are role model readers! Our goal is to show the children we are enthusiastic readers. We read for pleasure, and we enjoy the types of books they may enjoy.

Check out the children's books we are currently reading...

I am rereading Ralph S. Mouse by Beverley Cleary. Ms. Staume is reading Lawn Boy by Gary Paulsen. Two of my favorite authors!


My first bulletin board ever is outside the classroom door advertising "Geniur Hour" in the style of a movie marquee!

Reading Role Model

Now that I am in the thick of student teaching there are so many books I want to read! Professional development books, textbooks, and teacher guides. Here are the books that were stacked on my bedside table begging to be cracked open...

However, I am realizing that reading novels and children's books alongside the children is essential as well. See my previous post for more information about the importance of being a reading role model as a teacher.

Monday, August 19, 2013

Reflections on The Book Whisperer

The Book Whisperer

Miller, D. The Book Whisperer. (2009). San Francisco: John Wiley & Sons, Inc. 

I am working my way through Donalyn Miller's book The Book Whisperer and loving it! I came to a heading titled "The Need for Reading Role Models: The Crux of the Reading Crisis." She cites some pretty startling statistics about the lack of avid readers in our society. For example, in a study of preservice teachers they found that "54.3 percent were unenthusiastic about reading, leaving little hope that these teachers would be able to inspire students to engage in an activity that they themselves did not enjoy" (Miller, 2009, p. 107). Well that makes perfect sense! How could I possibly teach someone to enjoy something that I did not enjoy myself? How would I inspire students to read avidly and widely if I did not demonstrate that in my own life and attitude?

Miller goes on to explain that there are two stances on reading: 1) efferent stance and 2) aesthetic stance. Efferent readers read to gather information and get answers. It is what she calls an "outside-to-inside way of reading" (108). On the other hand, aesthetic readers "see reading as an emotional and intellectual journey" (109). As a result, these teachers teach reading differently. 

I have seen such uninspired classrooms of students doing "round robin" reading where they sit in a circle and alternate reading a book page-by-page. But what does that accomplish? Is that inspiring children to read? Or just slowing them down? Are MOST activities, strategies, and skills we teach associated with reading just belaboring the text?

Miller also mentions that teacher read children's books on a regular basis so they can share that experience with their students. So I made a list of some of my favorite authors, books-to-read, books-to-reread (since Miller encourages her students to reread texts they enjoy), and suggested read-alouds. It is a work in progress, but I am excited to get started on some of these delightfully diverting novels. 

Some of Ms. Cantrell's favorite authors and good reads
  • Bridge to Terabithia by Katherine Patterson
  • Hatchet by Gary Paulsen
  • The Chronicles of Narnia  by C.S. Lewis
  • Ann Rinaldi
  • Ralph S. Mouse by Beverley Cleary
  • Holes by Louis Sachar
  • Jerry Spinelli
  1. Percy Jackson Series. It comes highly recommended by many students
  2. Inkheart by Cornelia Funke
  3. My Life in Dog Years by Gary Paulsen
  1. Ralph S. Mouse by Beverley Cleary
  2. The Boxcar Children
Possible Read-Alouds

  1. Guts by Gary Paulsen
  2. Knots in My Yo-Yo String by Jerry Spinelli
  3. Each Little Bird that Sings by Deborah Wiles
  4. The SOS Files by Betsy Byars
  5. The Word Eater by Mary Amato

Most of my reading is dedicated to professional development and student teaching. So I have a hefty stack of professional development, textbooks, and teacher guides on my bedside table. But this chapter has increased my motivation to read novels alongside my 3rd graders. 

Friday, August 16, 2013

Repurposing this blog :)

Dear fellow bloggers, friendly fans, fantastic followers, and first-time visitors,

I am now using this blog to record my learning experiences during student teaching. But it has been used for several purposes in the past.

I created this blog originally in 2011 as part of a technology infusion teaching internship. You can visit my website if you want to see what I did with 1st grade English Language Learner students at a school in Albemarle County.

I also designed an online portfolio based on my work with a kindergartener at the McGuffey Reading Center at the University of Virginia. I am working on merging all of these websites in a user-friendly and aesthetically appealing way. Keep in mind, it is a work in progress.

In 2012 I used this blog as part of my Second Language Acquisition and modern foreign language teaching methods class. So that's why there are a bunch of somewhat boring posts about chapters of books. However, they contain good information

Today I am working on crafting my professional development goals (PDGs). They will of course change and shift as the semester goes on. Here are some random notes and question that have been on my mind for the past few days:

Bringing Up Boys
How do we get boys more involved in the classroom? How do I, as a female teacher, involve and not alienate boys from learning. One way my CI has done this in the past is by choosing more masculine read-aloud stories. For example, boys typically do not get excited about or connect with Little House on the Prairie by Laura Ingalls Wilder. Choosing books that boys can connect with during this time is important to encourage their love for reading.

Raising Rockstar Writers
The first subject area that I will take over is writing. I have always loved the writing process. But even as a mature adult sometimes I find it difficult to express what I want to say in words. Writing is a courageous process. It involves exposing your thoughts and your personality. I have had multiple professors teach us that a teacher should not correct grammar and punctuation right off the bat because then students focus on correctness in writing over content. Here are some questions I am asking myself: How do we value students' ideas and not focus on their mechanical mistakes? How do third graders feel about writing in general? How do I motivate and inspire children to write without fear of exposure? What are the obstacles children face when they are writing? 

Thursday, August 15, 2013

21st Century Classroom Jobs Chart

Today I worked on recreating the classroom job's chart. My clinical instructor (CI) and I were inspired to rethink the chart by the Framework for 21st Century Learning and skills as well as Albemarle County's D2015 initiative. Our new and improved jobs chart has icons rather than pictures. The title is "Craigslist" rather than "Help Wanted." More importantly, the names of the jobs are jobs that exist in the real world such as "athletics coordinator," "Geek Squad," "quartermaster" and "receptionist." 

I hope to incorporate the jobs chart into a lesson on economic specialization in the classroom. Just like people in the state and local economy specialize, we specialize as a classroom to be as efficient as possible. 

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Seven Pathways to Lifelong Learning #1: Technology Infusion: Popplet

I have had an amazing start to student teaching. I feel like my brain is buzzing with new ideas (the buzzing part could also be the coffee). I have been jotting down books, websites, and concepts non-stop for the past three days. Today I learned about the "7 Pathways to Lifelong Learning," an initiative by Albemarle County Public Schools. This has definitely given me direction in thinking about how I want to plan my instruction this semester as a student teacher in third grade.

7 Pathways to Lifelong Learning - D2015

1. Interactive Technologies
2. P-based Learning (Passion, projects, problem-solving)
3. Universal Design for Learning
4. Instructional Tolerance
5. Connectivity
6. Make to Learn, Learn to Make
7. Choice and Comfort

#1 Interactive technologies. One of my favorite interactive technologies that can be used by students and teachers is Popplet. It is an excellent online brainstorming and concept mapping tool.

If you have a Popplet you can look at others' popplets. I created a Popplet concept map while I was planning a third grade economics unit.

A Delightful Reading Corner

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

The Book Whisperer

Miller, D. The Book Whisperer. (2009). San Francisco: John Wiley & Sons, Inc. 

Some quotable quotes and great ideas from the book: 

"The only groups served by current trends to produce endless programs for teaching reading are the publishing and testing companies who make billions of dollars from their programs and tests" (Miller, 2009, p. 3)

"I believe that this corporate machinery of scripted programs, comprehension worksheets (reproducibles, handouts, printables, whatever you want to call them), computer-based incentive packages, and test-practice curricula facilitate a solid bottom line for the companies that sell them" (Miller, 2009, p.3)

Amen! This is exactly how I feel. We have reduced reading to worksheets, comprehension questions, and online fake coins. Reading should be about choice. Choose a subject that interests you. Choose the author whose style you love. I believe that it's also important that teachers model a love of reading and a love of reading a variety of genres. 

Children should be introduced to mythology, legends, fables, mysteries, realistic fiction and inspired to explore other genres. But the starting point should always be "We read because we love to read" and not... "I read to get a better fluency score. I read to fill out a worksheet to turn in so I get a checkmark."

Children become better at what they love. They will love reading if they love WHAT they are reading. If they are entertained and excited by the story. If they feel they have choice over what book they pick up and what book they put down. Personally, I don't care for the Magic Treehouse series. I never wanted to read those books in school but they were usually mandated. What if I had read books by one of my favorite authors, Ann Rinaldi or Sharon Creech, instead? 

"These programs ... are doomed to fail because they overlook what is most important. When you take a forklift and shovel off these programs, underneath it all is a child reading a book" (p. 3)

How could we lose sight of that? We teach children, not "reading programs." 

OOOOOH research!! She quotes Krashen!! MY favorite. Krashen is a leading expert in language acquisition theory. He writes about input, interaction, and output. I have lots of posts on this blog about second language acquisition. Here is what he says about reading:

"Stephen Krashen, respected researcher, activist, and author of The Power of Reading, identifies fifty-one students that prove that students in free-reading programs perform better or equal to students in any other type of reading program. Krashen found that students' motivation and interest in reading is higher when they get the opportunity to read in school... building lifelong readers has to start here" (p. 3-4). 

Not surprising. I wouldn't read a novel purely because someone else said I should. I would read the back cover, read a few pages, and then decide if I liked it. If I did, that would increase my motivation to read. I would want to come home every night and curl up on the couch with a great story waiting for me. 

"Educators coined the terms real reading, authentic reading, and independent reading to differentiate what readers do in school from what readers do in life is part of the problem" (p. 4).

Terminology gets in its own way sometimes. 

Miller says that her reading instruction begins with her love of reading and outlines how reading has been important in her own life (p. 9-10). What a crucial starting point! 

Speaking of not being able to put a book down.. I want to read this one cover to cover! More posts to come.