Sunday, May 4, 2014


drawing of little boy thinking of a firetruck

"First, Next, Then, Finally..." 

On the blog A Journey in TEFL, the author writes about teaching a mixed ability group of students the writing process, specifically writing a narrative using sequencing words. You may know these words as first, next, then, and finally. The author found it difficult to teach this process to some of her struggling students. So, she decided to group them for an activity. First, she grouped them in high-low groups. Next, she regrouped them in high-high and low-low groups. 

In my comments, I said that I thought her grouping and then regrouping was a great idea! I also added that using a graphic organizer might be helpful. I even suggested to try recording students telling their stories orally, and then play it back for them. They could use this as a guide to get their story on paper. 

back to school picture

"Career v. Motherhood"

Kathleen Morris writes about her decision to be a stay at home mom and the strange feeling of not preparing for the upcoming school year in her blog, Primary Tech. Ms. Morris's post really resonated with me because I have felt those same feelings of disconnect that she was discussing. I remember the first year that I did not prepare for a return to the classroom, and it was bittersweet. I was happy because I was about to become a mother, but I was sad because I missed teaching. As each year has passed, the sadness of August and the start of a new school year has lessened, but it still remains. Teaching is not a job. It's a reward to get to go to a room filled with bright young minds each day and do your best to encourage learning. It is a passion and a love of learning and a desire to share and instill that love of learning with students that drives the teacher. 
Ms. Morris also writes about staying connected through blogging. I admire her for doing that. I wish I had thought of it! 

cartoon drawing of a man winking and holding up a free sign

"What's the true cost of FREE?" 

In Vicki Davis' post about switching from Blogger to Wordpress, she describes her reasons for moving and how she did it. Her new Wordpress blog is titled "Cool Cat Teacher Blog." One reason she gave for moving was the lack of customer service offered with Blogger. Because the service is provided for "free," Google has no obligation to offer any type of support. She was also concerned that her content would become the property of Google, and they could use it at their discretion according the terms of use. 

In my comments, I thanked Ms. Davis for an insightful article and complimented her on her new Wordpress blog. The layout was much more neat, simplistic, and user friendly. I also said that when I start my blog as a teacher that I would consider my options before automatically choosing a "free" option. 

clipart of a frozen thermometer

"Cold Calling"

In the post, "On cold calling," the author writes about his experience of being called on randomly by his math teacher in high school and being filled with fear of not knowing the answer. As a result, he refrained from using the "cold calling" method in his classroom, but he had recently read an article that caused him to see a usefulness to the method. It allows for quick gaging of student understanding.

In the comments left by me, I stated that I had never been a fan of "cold calling" either and that I had not used it as a teacher. I also expressed some concern for using this method. I think there are more positive ways to gage student understand rather than in front of the entire classroom. I think calling on students should be more about engagement, participation, and contribution. In my opinion, each student should be allowed to contribute to the discussion and learning process in ways that they are comfortable. It is the job of the teacher to give them those opportunities. 

photograph of Miss She and Amelia

"Caught on Camera"

This week all students in EDM510 commented on Jenny's Learning Journey after we commented on some of her students' blog posts. First of all, I'd like to say that I love the title of Miss She's blog. The title reflects her attitude about teaching. You have to be a good learner to be a good teacher, and it seems as though she embraces the learning part of teaching. I also loved the picture that Tatiana took. The look of joy on Miss She's face that was captured by Tatiana shows how much she enjoys her job! Since I've always wanted to go to New Zealand, maybe I'll get a chance to visit Miss She's class if I ever get to go! 

I also commented on her photography post. I couldn't resist! Photography is something I'm very interested in, and her pictures of the flowers were very good. 

chart explaining the principle of Kiva

"Students Making a Difference"

William Chamberlain is doing something very meaningful and profound with his students. He's doing a service based project through an organization called Kiva. His students work together by each making small donations, $1 to be exact. These students then work together to decide who will receive the money as a loan. They have chose people from around the world. One man was from Armenia, and the loan helped him buy farm animals. 

I absolutely love this idea! This is a great way to show students how working together can have such a huge positive impact on the lives of people that they didn't even know and maybe even learn something about the country and culture in the process. It also teaches them about financial responsibility and economics! I hope to someday incorporate a program like this into a classroom. If you are interested in this service project, you can find more information here, Kiva

picture of a standardized test answer sheet

"Homework and Standardized Testing: 
Are they helping or harming students?" 

This topic is something I feel very passionately about. When I was assigned to Will Richardson's blog, READ. WRITE. CONNECT. LEARN., I was supposed to comment on a different post, but I could not resist commenting on "One Mom's Struggle With School and Tests." 

In the post, Will shares a letter that he had recently received from a very frustrated mom. She admits to yelling at her daughter over a spelling homework assignment. She wrote:

Tonight, I yelled at my 7 year old child because she misspelled one of her spelling words… the word ‘rainbows’. Yes you read that correctly. I yelled at her. She sobbed uncontrollably as I refused to let her erase the mistake. This I know is ludicrous. Why the hell would I do that? Mistakes happen. That’s why pencils have erasers, right? Well its because of what public school is doing to my child and I cannot stand to watch it anymore. Tonight it turned me into a monster. Its been over 6 hours since this incident and I’m still overwhelmingly disgusted with myself as if it had just happened.

How could I not respond to that? As both a parent and a teacher, I felt so much compassion for her and her daughter. I'm sharing my entire comment because, like I said, I feel very passionately about this topic. Also, I forgot to mention in my comment that standardized testing is a very lucrative business, and teachers and students are paying the price! Dearly! 

Here's my response:

I'm responding to this post not only because it is part of an assignment in a college course that I'm taking through the University of South Alabama, but also because standardized testing and homework are both something I feel passionately about.
A little more background information... I'm currently working on recertification because I chose to be a stay at home mom for the past 5 years. Before that, I taught 5th grade in Texas for 3 years and 3rd grade in Alabama for 1 year.
Here's my theory about homework. Children are at school for approximately 7 hours a day, and it is my job to teach them while they are there. That's what I'm getting paid to do. That's the career I chose. I did not send loads of homework home with students so parents could do my job for me. Evenings should be reserved for family time, extracurricular activities, and playing.
I did assign some homework, but I always kept it short and simple with the occasional project assignment. Like one of the other commenters, I believe homework in the early grades should consist of reviewing a few spelling words and helping the child master math facts. I would also encourage reading their library book at home, but I did not make it mandatory.
My approach for 5th graders was nearly the same. I taught reading, English, and history. The only homework assigned was work that didn't get completed in class (which they usually had time to complete if they didn't goof off). I also assigned the occasional project, encouraged them to read for pleasure, and asked them to study for tests. I never had a complaint about homework the entire time I taught!
I said all of that to say this. I think you should have a sincere talk with your daughter's teacher about your concerns. You can see from the responses (many are from teachers) that you have a lot of support. I especially liked the letter to the teacher by Gary, but I'm not sure that would win your daughter's teacher over. :) However, I think I will save it and use it one day in the future if I am forced to that point.
There is also a homework rule that maybe you haven't heard of. According to it, your daughter should be doing no more than 20 minutes of homework a night. Here's a link if you would like to read more about it. How much homework is too much?
About the standardized testing, please, just opt out. That testing business is complete nonsense! I am totally against it. I have seen firsthand what it does to students. I actually had one student breakdown and cry one day because of the tremendous amount of stress.
I recently read this article, and you may find it interesting as well.
Teacher quits over emphasis on standardized tests...
This is a quote from the above article. "Kerry Murphy tried to compare it to testing adults at work: 'Can you imagine if we scored employees on how well they performed on their job throughout the year on a test taken in 2 days? Adults would be having nervous breakdowns left and right. But for some reason it's totally ok to do it to kids?'"
I also liked what this mom wrote on her blog. Why My Children Will Not Take State Assessments
I wish you all the luck in dealing with this matter. I am so worried about what is going on in the educational system these days that I am seriously considering homeschooling my son. For now, I'm keeping an open mind, and we're going to try kindergarten in our local public school in the fall.
I thank you for allowing your letter to be shared. It reassured me, as a teacher, that my limited homework policy can still be appreciated by parents and, as a parent, I'm not alone in my stance against too much homework and standardized testing.

"Do we really need a PLN?"

Picture of Dean holding socks

Dean Shareski writes about his personal experience of having a PLN (Personal Living Network as he renamed it) in his blog Ideas and Thoughts. #SocksforDean is a post about his 50th birthday, and how a multitude of people from around the world sent him socks for his birthday. He expresses a lot of gratitude for the gestures and shares some links with readers that provide more information on the power of the connections we make via the internet. "Digital dualism" is a very intriguing look at the differing opinions of our culture's immersion in technology and social media. 

Of course, I wrote "Happy Birthday" in my comments! I also wrote that I am just getting back into my teaching career and his post helped me see the benefits of developing a PLN. 

map of Oklahoma

"New Leadership"

On his blog, Moving at the Speed of Creativity, Wesley Fryer introduces his readers to the new superintendent in his area. He gives an extensive background of Rob Neu. To save his readers time he includes time stamped links to videos that feature the incoming superintendent. "Meet New OKCPS Superintendent: Rob Neu (April 2014)" was an excellent introduction that allowed readers to form their own opinions. 

After reading through the comments made by Neu in interviews, I commented that it appeared they would be getting a forward-thinking superintendent. I even mentioned a book I had recently read, Teaching Digital Natives: Partnering for Real Learning by Marc Prensky. I spoke about the need for positive change and wished them luck in getting some changes in their area. 

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