Saturday, October 20, 2012

Sociocultural Aspects of Schooling for English Language Learners

One of the major issues I have with the English language learners in my classroom is their reading comprehension. Many of my ELL students won't even attempt the homework from the book or the science articles. They have been taught that they are not good readers and have had no help in learning strategic reading methods. I hope to help my students overcome this injustice by teaching them how to read in science and providing graphic organizers that help them focus their reading. By pointing out the use of titles and subtitles and how to read graphs and the extra tables in the text, I can help ELL students focus on what the main ideas are in the text, rather than trying to decode every word. I think offering vocabulary words in Spanish may also be helpful in helping students make the connections between English and Spanish. ELL's often get lumped into the same category of illiteracy as students who are not English learners and forgotten that they may have a different set of needs to assist their literacy.

Adolescent Brain

Overall, the vocabulary lesson plan implemented in my classroom incorporates making the connections adolescence need in order to support healthy brain development. At this age, the prefrontal cortex of the brain is still developing. This is where their decision-making, planning, and social interactions are being developed. Giving students the opportunity to make connections between what they already know and what they are learning supports a healthy brain growth.

This vocabulary lesson also is designed to access memory lanes in teenagers. The repetition of the terms in many different ways moves the terms from short term to long term memory. Students do not just learn the words and definitions, but use them in sentences with peers, during a hands on activity or lab, and an end of class write up.

Students are engaged in this activity during think-pair-shares- during discussion and through the various hands on activities done throughout the class. Being able see a use for what they have just learned almost immediately after learning it helps commit the vocabulary into long term memory, and ending with a quick write that further helps students realize how they connect to it seals the deal!

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Class Management

                Classroom management is an essential part to an effective learning environment. It is one of the hardest concepts to teach new teachers, and must be deeply rooted in the individual’s pedagogical philosophy. I am an experimentalist and essentialist at my roots. As an experimentalist, I believe that education is about inquiry and experience, and students should be involved in problem solving and critical thinking to further their understanding of the content, as well as their world. The essentialist side of my philosophy relies on building a foundation of knowledge that facilitates growth in whatever direction a student may want to go in. My classroom management plan is mostly related to my experimentalist philosophy. I want to build a classroom focusing on respect. I feel that if I show my students respect, they will appreciate that and show me respect in return, preventing many discipline problems. A supportive classroom involves students in the management and discipline process, by giving them a voice; I can correct those students who feel the need to speak out and try to control the classroom by having an appropriate and encouraged outlet for that. My classroom management plan relies on building trust and respect and a safe environment for students to share and not be afraid to make mistakes. If I can accomplish this, I am confident that I will have few discipline problems.
An effective classroom management plan works to prevent behavioral problems before they even emerge. My plan to prevent behavioral problems involves a respectful and motivating classroom environment where students are involved in problem solving and the decision making process to create clear expectations for their own learning, and are provided with meaningful curriculum.
1.            Respect in the classroom creates a safe environment for students to share ideas and make mistakes without the fear of failure. As a science teacher and experimentalist, I believe that making mistakes and trial and error are some of the best ways to learn and experience learning.
2.            This kind of safe environment for learning should also motivate students to try to solve new problems and test their ideas. C. M. Charles claims that motivating students will produce energy and excitement, thus preventing many behavioral problems (Charles, 2000).   
3.            To better experience learning, students should be involved in the problem solving and decision making of classroom rules and procedures (Kohn, 1996). Giving students a chance to voice their opinion and make choices builds trust and respect between students and teachers. This also creates accountability among peers to follow the rules they placed and take responsibility for their own learning.
4.            Students also need meaningful curriculum and assignments in order to keep them engaged and motivated, thus preventing many behavior problems before they occur (Glasser, 1985).
Once a respectful and motivated classroom is established, it must be maintained and supportive of positive student behavior.
1.            To support positive behavior, I will implement a “good things” segment to open each class so students feel comfortable sharing their lives with the class and helping build relationships in the classroom. It also shows students I care about them and their lives and in turn, their success in school. By getting to know my students and what they are experiencing, as an experimentalist, I can better relate the material to the curriculum in hopes of engaging all students.
2.            I will also encourage and reward positive behavior by thanking students for participating in class and always supporting their comments whether they are right or wrong. This shows other students that they will not be punished or made fun of for making mistakes; that it is a normal part of the learning experience.
3.            Alfie Kohn suggests holding regular class meetings to keep students involved in problem solving and behavioral issues (Kohn, 1996). This would fit smoothly the other supportive strategies of classroom management I suggested earlier.
4.            Class meetings can also be where I can ask students where they personally need support and how I can support them. If a student needs a special signal to know when it is ok to speak freely and when to raise his hand, then the small adjustment on my part will make a big impact on the possible disruptions later (Curwin and Mendler, 1983).
Support in the classroom is all about maintaining trust and respect in the classroom to show students I care about them and their education and want them to succeed.
Despite our best efforts as teachers to create a classroom free of discipline problems, they never go away; there will always be students who are difficult or having a bad day.  
1.            When such issues arise, I plan on being clear about expectations, direct, respectful, and immediate with addressing issues, and quick to recover and recognize positive behavior. My essentialist side is direct and makes clear of expectations and the consequences of behavior problems so that students are without surprises when they act out (Lee and Canter, 1976).
2.            When such issues do arise, being direct and consistent with students reduces the drama and possibility of bias among students. I will give direct and concrete suggestions instead of abstract ones (Curwin and Mendler, 1983).
3.            Linda Albert’s cooperative discipline model suggests a Target-Stop-Do strategy; immediately and verbally target the issue, speak to the student to stop the issue, and follow through with the consequences (Albert, 1996). Being able to verbally target the problem then pull the student aside to privately discuss the issue shows respect and saves some of the student’s dignity (Curwin and Mendler, 1983).
4.            Consequences for misbehavior should be equal to the severity of the act, and quickly addressed and moved on. Once an issue is addressed and solved, there is no need to further punish the student. I will be quick to recover and jump at the chance to praise positive behavior by the student.
 Pride means a lot to high school students and anything I can do to minimize hurting their dignity and relating school to excessive discipline, I will do. I don’t want disciplining disruptive behavior to break the trust and respect built throughout the entire year.
                In conclusion, experimentalism drives the way I will prevent discipline problems and support my students throughout the year to maintain a respectful, safe, and collaborative classroom. Essentialism supports my need to be direct and consistent with students who do act out and quick to recover and offer praise for good behavior. If I can maintain these goals, I believe not only will I have few discipline issues, but I will also facilitate a safe and healthy environment for students to learn and experience science.

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

SDAIE Assessment

Next week in my Lab Biology class, our students will be conducting a CSI lab testing evidence left at the crime scene and comparing it with the lunch of the suspects to determine who stole Jerrell's iPod. Students do a pre lab where they test different foods for Starch, Glucose, Protein, and Lipids to familiarize them with the testing process. Students then design their own experiment to determine who stole Jerrell's iPod. This is primarily student run, but they must get approval of their procedure and how they will collect data before they can begin. Instead of a lab report, students will be giving a brief oral presentation of their findings which must include the steps of the scientific method. They will be given a rubric (see below) to guide them in creating their presentation.

For ELL's, we will be focusing on the Oral Presentation category of the rubric and adjusting it for I+1. A "3" is Advanced, "2" is Early Advanced, and "1" is Intermediate. Most of my students will be graded against a "3" because they are early advanced English learners. The standard requires ELL's to speak to be understood, using standard English grammatical forms, intonation, pitch, modulation, and I added academic vocabulary.