Greetings from my adopted home state of Florida. I was glad to come back to a house that was not flooded or damaged by any wind--I guess that I dodged the bullet on this storm but I also know what August and September are capable of bringing. After an eleven hour trans-Atlantic flight from Rome (and then a connecting flight) with a restless one year old and an energetic five year old I am joyful to be back home. Although shopping at a big box store after being overseas was a bit of a disappointment yesterday, I was grateful for the wonderful customer service that the Stars and Stripes typically has to offer us.
I hope that you all have a wonderful week of the 4th and that you have some time to reflect on all of the great things that our nation has to offer--no matter what side of the aisle you are on. For our Canadian friends, Happy Canada Day! If you are somewhere else on planet have a super one as well.
Part A (Choose 1 question)
Please respond to one of the following questions:
1. On page 35 Willingham writes, "[i]f you want to be exposed to new vocabulary and new ideas, the places to go are books, magazines, and newspapers. Television, video games, and the sorts of Internet content that students lean towards (for example, social networking sites, music sites, and the like) are for the most part unhelpful...Books, newspaper, and magazines are singularly helpful in introducing new ideas and new vocabulary to students."
What are you doing in your classroom to address this issue? In addition, how would you define your role and responsibility as a teacher of digital literacy?
2. One thing that particularly caught my attention was at the top of page 38 where Willingham writes about the school librarian. I have always had a cordial relationship with the school librarian/media specialist but I believe that I guilty of not leaning on her expertise in a manner that would best help my students. In addition, I have seen her role shift from more of a research librarian to that of a tech person.
"The school librarian should be a tremendous and ally in helping children learn to love reading, and she is arguably the most important person in any school when it comes to reading."
In what ways are you working with your school librarian/media specialist to assist your students with literacy? What is the role of the librarian/media specialist at your school?
Part B (ALL)
Based on your reading of this chapter (which focuses heavily on building background knowledge) what is one new thing that you will try with your students in the coming school year or what will you fine tune or tweak to foster student learning?
I'm learning that lesson to Shauna, as I write my book on using 11th grade US history content to teach critical thinking skills.
I am no expert, but yes, the whole topic of fair use and what it encompasses is so important as we move to publishing online, and the amount of material available online. All kids use YouTube and many contribute to YouTube, so it is also an authentic topic for our students.
Thank you for posting that website to catch plagiarism. I think I will use that this year. I have trouble every year with students plagiarizing. I also agree with you that emphasis needs to be placed on teaching students not only how and when to cite sources, but how to distinguish appropriate sites to use as research. This is something I struggle with every year, as do the students!
A1: It is true that being exposed to more vocabulary does help the students in the long run. I can’t tell you how many times my 11th graders will ask me to define a word that I would normally think a Junior should know. In the past few years, as a school we have noticed a significant drop in the vocabulary of our students. As a school about 6-7 years ago, began implementing a school-wide sustained-silent reading (SSR) program based on Janet Allen, in which the students were reading across the school: math, science, history, art, foreign language, electives. Each department takes a day of the week and we set aside about 15-20 minutes on our day in all our classes for reading. It took awhile for 100% buy-in, but once implemented, it is hard to keep the students from reading. Over the past couple years, I have brought in my own personal books (John Grisham and other “social studies” based books) and even have bought about 5-7 various magazine subscriptions just for my class to get the students a variety in reading.
At times, I feel like I am in a catch-22 with wanting to implement more technology and show my students how to be good “digital citizens” and facing resistance from administration and the district. I will find a great website or Web 2.0 app that I want to show my students, and then only get to school to find out that that website is blocked. I know that a way to fight it is by showing them the “benefits” of it and how engaged the students are, but it is hard when so many higher ups seem to have “blinders” on to what technology can do. Over the past year, I did assign a couple “inquiry” projects for my students to research and allowed for them an option from a several options for the final project. That allowed for me to do “mini-lessons” for small groups about what websites were appropriate, etc. It is definitely one of my “hidden” goals this upcoming year to incorporate a more variety of technology for my students as I know they need to know how to properly use it outside my classroom. I have a feeling this year I might just have to be a “rebel with an education cause” on my staff in trying to implement more useful, practical technology tools in my classes.
B: One of the things I have noticed is the variety “social studies vocabulary” knowledge my students have. I have done it in the past, and need to do a better job of it, but creating a “SS vocab” wall and creating a means for my students can visually see the various time periods we study in US History. It may mean clearing off some wall space and being creative, but the one idea that has stood out to me of late is “visible thinking” and allowing the students the opportunity to see their thinking and allowing them to see the connections and key concepts of time periods. But I think along with the SS vocabulary, I am going to incorporate the words they don’t understand in their text or tests.
I do for every unit give them essential concepts and pondering questions to be used as a study guide/reference for my students. I also have begun implementing an interactive notebook for my classes about 4 years ago. We recently switched from a 4x4 block schedule to a traditional 7-period schedule, and I am still tweaking the issues with the notebook in the schedule switch. I know when properly used, it did allow for the students to show their thinking.
I love the term "rebel with an education cause". I have taken that role over the last couple of years and it seems to have worked. My district as a whole has begun to take a new look at the power of technology integration. Just keep at it and show the benefits of technology. The most important part is to remember not to use a tool because it's cool, but to have some sort of purpose in using the tool. What I have learned over the last year or so is to stick to a couple of tools that can be used throughout the year and can work in other classes. The kids will begin to use the tools in a more effective manor and not think that you are experimenting on them! Also, your supervisors will see the benefit of technology as an educational tool and not a toy or new fad. Remember, baby steps.
The librarian in my school is AMAZING! Not only does she do the "tech thing", but she also assists teachers in research and developing and promoting literacy throughout the school. In fact, one of the reasons I took the job at the school I teach at is the library. First of all, when I started teaching at the school I asked the librarian to help me develop an extra credit reading assignment for my students. She and I developed a list of fiction novels that relate to the content my students study in my class. The kids read the book and explain how it relates and how it helps deepen their understanding of the topic. She also has been integral in developing grade level cross curricular research projects. As for the tech thing she and I teach professional development courses in technology integration, digital literacy, etc. I don't know what I would do without her!
The biggest takeaway from Chapter 2 for me is the fact that I have been doing things wrong. I work so hard developing critical thinking activities that I forget that students may not have developed adequate background knowledge. Next year I will spend a little bit more time developing the background knowledge. In the past I have given students the "study guide" for the test or culminating activity before we study anything about the topic. It lists the enduring understanding and the essential questions for the unit. We discuss it as a class and then I jump into the unit. In theory I thought this was a great idea. Let the kids have the "answers to the test" before we even study the topic. However, I have realized over the years that they rarely refer back to it after we have discussed it. Even if I mention the enduring understanding or the essential questions. When it comes to completing the final project or test some kids don't have a clue. It's very frustrating. I also feel that I have a number of students who just do the work for the grade and not really focus on what they should be taking away for the long term. Maybe I I need to reexamine how I organize my delivery of content.
I don't think that there has to be a conflict between critical thinking activities and developing background knowledge. Develop critical thinking activities that students use to investigate information that contains the background knowledge to which you want to expose them. I believe you'll find that they'll retain information they are using for critical purposes, probably even better than they would in other cases.
You are right, but with the population of students I have worked with over the last couple of years there is a significant gap in the background knowledge. I am one to dive into the critical thinking stuff before I do a full assessment of what my students already know. Which is something I need to work on.
Yes Carla, I too am guilty of sometimes putting the cart before the horse.
Also guilty of doing that and needing to work on it. I would love to hear thoughts on how to do that assessment without putting one more "test" (formative, summative, pre-test, post-test, whatever lingo we want to throw out there) in front of my students. There has to be a better way, but I am not really aware of anything beyond what has truly become a four-letter word. I can tell them all I want that it "doesn't count" or it "doesn't mean anything," but some of them will still take it uber-seriously and others will not take it seriously at all, and I still won't have a accurate reflection of what they know and what they won't.
Carla, I disagree with your statement about "doing things wrong." I have been to a number of differentiation workshops where they advocate for handing out the review sheet for the unit or the assignments for the unit assessment at the beginning of the unit in order to focus student thinking. I had planned on handing out that information, along with a unit syllabus, before I read this chapter, and while the idea of "list learning" did give me pause for a second, I realized that many of my students will recognize something on that list which should tap into the background knowledge that they require to do other work. Maybe the solution to the both our problems is having that list (along with unit essential questions) posted at the front of the room throughout the unit (on a piece of butcher paper or something like that?) and put the dates next to the terms that you are referring to or something like that. It would still require some getting used to, but if it were at the front of the room, and we updated it daily, maybe our students would get used to looking at their sheet as well.
I did get the idea about the study guide from differentiation workshops. I love that idea, but I think I am clinging to something that hasn't really worked for me. I do have a white board that I post the standards for the unit on the board and I refer back to them often. Maybe I should also list the essential questions and the enduring understanding too! Thanks for the feedback!