Days 4 & 5 Practicum (rough draft)

3/27/13  9:45 to 12:15 p.m.

Today when I arrived, the morning teacher had just started her literacy lesson.  First she read out loud from pieces of paper stuck to the smart board with magnets. Each paper had sentences on it.  They read as follows:

–I can ask questions about a text. I can answer questions about a text.

–I can retell stories I have read.

–I can identify characters, setting, and details in a story.

–I can ask and answer questions about words I do not know when I read.

–I can participate in group reading activities.

–I can ask questions about informational text.  I can answer questions about text.

–I can tell the difference between fiction, nonfiction, and poetry.

–I can tell what an author and illustrator do.


She moved back to the chair in front of the rug, and the students were sitting “criss-cross applesauce” in their assigned rectangles on the rug.  First she told them they would be looking for rhyming sounds, then she read them this poem:

Quack, Quack, Quack!

Five little ducks that I once knew,

Big ones, little ones, skinny ones too,

But the one little duck

     with a feather on his back,

He led the others with a

     Quack! Quack! Quack!

After this exercise (that was designed to foster phonemic awareness), she went on to phoneme substitution.  Stretching the words is what she called it.  She made the sounds of b-i-g. then asked what word you’d have if you replaced the b (she made the sounds throughout this part, she didn’t say the letter) with a p (sound).  Then she asked my particular student what would happen if she replaced the p (sound) with the f (sound).  The student was unable to come up with the answer.  She then changed and went on to c-a-t. Giving my student another chance, she asked her what would happen if she replaced the c (sound) with a v (sound).  After contemplating, the student hesitantly guessed “van?”

Then came the story for today’s lesson.  It is called Mouse’s Birthday by Jane Yolen and Bruce Degen.  She talked some about authors and illustrators, and the difference between fiction and nonfiction.  The lesson involved pauses for supporting comprehension points, with the objectives: note important details, identify directionality in print, recognize the use of capitals.  At least, that’s what her lesson book said.  She admitted that she doesn’t follow it precisely, which makes sense.  I am recording these notes as I can’t find the ones I took the day of the event.  Grrr.   Another aspect of the lesson was something called Teacher-Student Modeling.  The concept of cause/effect is built into the story.  The oral language component (according to the book), was the word velise.

The teacher did stop several times to ask the students comprehension questions.  She would ask, for instance, what special day it was for Mouse, who came to his party, what did they bring him, why didn’t they fit, what happened when the candle blew out, will Mouse like his new house, why will Mouse like his new house?

The students were definitely engaged in the story, and paying attention to what was happening.  Nobody that was asked had much trouble answering the questions she posed, though this was obviously a familiar tale.

After the story the kids play the mean Mrs. Thompson game and ask to do the word wall.  In this activity, each student has an opportunity to read all the words on the word wall as Mrs. Thompson points them out, and if they manage to do it they get their clips moved up to the next color. Some of the students get really upset when they get stuck and have to sit down, but all in all it goes fairly well.  My student read all the words with little or no hesitation.

3/28/13 10:15 a.m. to 12:30 p.m.

Being the last day before Spring Break, the energy in the room is more relaxed, and other than reading them a story, the kids are doing mostly fine motor activities.  According to the teacher they are not making progress in that area so a day of cutting, pasting, coloring, and painting will not be wasted.

The teacher does read them a story, though, and makes a point of talking to them again about what fiction is, and what usually happens at the library.  The example the teacher gives: she pretends to be a dragon that is going to use the children to make a big vat of soup.  Then she asks if that is something she would really do.  Of course not, as she loves them all too much is the answer.  But it helps her outline the differences between fiction and nonfiction–what she calls the grown up words for make-believe stories and real stories.  She also poses the question: what do you think happens next?  She’s trying to get them to predict the sequence, which relates to an activity they’ll be doing later at one of the centers.  The teacher points out that the dragon’s claws are sharp, which can hurt the library books.  (I am not sure the title, they were already part of the way through this story–at any rate there is a dragon librarian) The teacher takes time to point out the meaning of words or phrases that the kids may not understand, such as “hot under the collar”, “inflammatory”, “singed”.


HALR Chapters 15 & 22, Writing and Sharing our Funds of Knowledge

Writing and Sharing our Funds of Knowledge

This piece focuses on the knowledge we can bring from our homes to our practices at schools.   These include  experiential, informal, cultural, and people-based “funds of knowledge”.  In the paper, we see how to make a map that looks like webs used for any number of academic pre-writing exercises.  They draw connections, in this case, between all the types of knowledge brought from outside school into school.  It will be interesting to see if we do this in class…

Chapter 15

The section titled “Cultural Foundation of Tracking” could just as easily be labeled “The Effects of Political Ideologies on Education”.  It is not surprising to find cultural ideals reflected in our educational practices.  Politics in this system have created classes, and this stratification probably happens more often than we realize considering the ideals touted by the group with the most power.  Naturally, the group with the most power will wield the most influence on policy, which in this system means the rich and/ or the social elite.  When their discourse revolves around the idea that people are not adversely affected by socioeconomic differences, they are conveniently “forgetting” that their misguided notion of poverty as genetic is still entrenched in our culture to this day.  Well, they aren’t forgetting so much as practicing willful ignorance of it. Tracking is just another manifestation of this piece of nonsense (that we inherit our social status via our blood) that we are all still suffering under. It falls in nicely with the whole 3/5 of a person mentality that was itself a further embodiment of slavery justified by the idea of inferior genetics.  All of which is compounded with this notion of the American ideal: “Pull yourself up by your bootstraps”,  “Anyone can do it”.  Sure, and the best response I’ve seen to that yet: “That’s a really good way to fall flat on your face”.  The response outlined, “beliefs and values grounded in low expectations held by parents, teachers, students, administration, and community members must be challenged for the strategy to succeed” is one I’d love to see outlined (not to mention practiced) in more detail (perhaps I should read the rest of the chapter). Whatever happened to tabula rasa?  Granted that was inaccurate as well, but we’ve gone quite a ways in the opposite direction.

I’m wondering how difficult the idea of better curriculum for all students, what is essentially (if arguing in political jargon) a Marxist redistribution of resources, would play out on the national stage.  How do we combat the idea that localities should only get the money the taxpayers in the area have put into the local coffers, strengthening and solidifying the class structure and ignoring mountains of research that show that equalized opportunity means equalized academic achievement, when the paradigm of standardized testing and the subsequent grouping further causes the stratification to manifest itself?  In short, how does this work when so much of the country’s political capital is spent telling us that detracking is the wrong way to educate, and that resources should depend on the hard work of the taxpayers in a certain area and the abilities and skills displayed by individual students?  How do you fight people that obviously don’t like any kids that aren’t their own (that are already benefiting from higher levels of education in most cases)?

Days 2 &3 Practicum (the chaos is restrained…somewhat)

Day 2

The teacher reads a bit from Junie B. Jones. Then she gets up when she gets to the end of a page that has an illustration and walks around, taking the time to be sure each and every student gets a chance to look at the picture. Then the teacher puts the book away.

Singing and dancing to counting by one’s song. The kids love dancing and singing, though most are only truly focused on one of these activities at a time. Sometimes they’ll do both simultaneously.

On Smart Board math lesson about comparing pieces of yarn. The technology seems to give the teacher at least a little bit of grief every time she uses it, but ultimately it works well enough and the students all seem familiar with the format, asking after the lesson if they’re having a quiz that day. Besides the lesson, the teacher has the on-screen options of doing guided practice or giving the students a quiz. Generally she opts for the former. The kids do quizzes and map their progress on the iXL program on the computers.

The teacher leads the students into the guided practice portion and the kids use the smart board marker to put pieces of yarn in order of length by ranking 1-4 (they write the rank next to the length of yarn). The teacher uses a lot of specific (though occasionally not exactly accurate) terminology. For instance, she’ll tell them to rank objects from tallest to smallest. Instead of tallest to shortest or biggest to smallest, for example. She also equates tallest with biggest throughout the lesson, which while I realize we’re talking about kindergarteners, still bothers me for its confusing inaccuracy.

Last before snack and recess is centers, I was in charge of the tangrams and the shapes the students use to make the tangram. I try to encourage them to tell me the shapes, and the numbers in the shapes that indicate how many of each shape they’ll need to make their puzzle. So far, this appears to be a case of knowing or not knowing. I didn’t have too many kids that knew some of the numbers, but not others (for instance).

Getting ready, and going outside. While you would imagine they are accustomed to this bit of the routine, it is a very unstructured time of the day and therefore (to my way of thinking) takes quite a while. Basically, they spend about 15 or 20 minutes eating a quick snack and gathering their things together so their backpacks are ready on the rug and they are sitting quietly in their seats with their outdoor gear on.

After recess, all that’s left is lining up to go home.

Day 3

Playing the, “I have __, Who has __?” math game twice.

Start with the counting by 5s song, and then on to singing/dancing to the count by 2s song. All the students seem to really enjoy this activity and most do the counting out loud, and correctly.

The teacher shows them containers, and they determine which will hold more, then the teacher does the lesson with the smart board, and after they learn about which containers hold less and which more, they do the exercise, and students go to the board to determine which holds less, which holds more, or which two stay the same by circling, crossing out, or underlining the objects on the board. Again, I find the use of comparative terms interesting, as they are again used indiscriminate to their meanings. In this context, tallest means the largest capacity (according to the teacher’s lesson), and the word volume never comes up. I am struck by how we spend so much time almost teaching students the right thing, only to have to teach and re-teach for countless years oftentimes, because of this slipshod way of doing things. Okay, personal rant over…for now. The kids seem to grasp the concept of the larger containers holding more, though they are thrown both in the real life and with the on-screen example when asked which holds more and the options are two equal containers, despite being told that’s an option several times.

At center time, I help at the table where the students are measuring objects on laminated sheets with cubes and recording how long the objects are. This is a task from yesterday, but most of the students haven’t finished it yet. Some have a hard time focusing on the task, which has a combination (like most school activities) of literacies going on. The students have to measure the object, write the word ‘cubes’ to show that that is the unit of measurement being employed for the task, and then write the number for how many cubes long the object is. Again, longest, length, shortest: these are words that don’t come up much.

After centers the kids eat snack and we go outside for recess before it’s time to go home.

Practicum, Day One in Chaos

Oh. My. Word.

Well, I finally got to go to my daughter’s classroom and volunteer/observe today.  When I went in, the students were all on the rug getting ready to start a math lesson, and playing a math game.  They each had a card on which one side read “I have 8, and the other side said, Who has 15?” and the like.  They seemed to have a hard time concentrating and staying focused, but eventually got into a rhythm with it.  After they got to 1 again, the game was over and they moved on to a math lesson.  The teacher used the smart board that was attached to a laptop to go through a unit on measuring length, in this case measuring pencils with cube trains.  She went through the screens and asked different students to answer questions posed by the lesson and her own questions.  A lot of time was spent keeping order. While the students seemed to know what they were supposed to be doing (and not doing), they are kindergarteners (enough said).

After the math lesson, the teacher lay down on the floor so the students could measure her with cube trains.  They each had a cube train consisting of five cubes (the pencil in the lesson measured 5 cubes).  They took turns attaching their cube trains starting at the teacher’s head and when they had each put their trains with the rest, the teacher had them count by 5 to see how many cubes she measured (85, but who’s counting).  After this, she had three tables set up with activities and the computers, making 4 stations (or centers).  I was in charge of the Pop the Numbers game. The other two tables were measuring things on worksheets with paperclips or cubes.  After a set amount of time, the kids would rotate tables, though some stayed if they hadn’t finished their task at the center they were currently at. I spent some time telling kids to sit down, not to peek, and to follow the basic rules.  As in, do not flick your game pieces (gumballs on cardboard discs) across the table, do not take more than 2 gumballs when it’s your turn.  They all had played the game many times, and all tried to avoid the Pop! discs, which meant the student had to put all their discs back in the box. The object was to have the most discs when the timer buzzed, but obviously there was no skill involved in winning, so I had them telling me their numbers, and counting by 2, and learning strategies to help avoid sneaking peeks.

After that was all done, they had snack and lined up to go outside.  This meant all their things were packed up so that when they got back they could go out to the buses or to the parent pick-up room.

I am writing this now, right after doing it, and yet I’m sure more will occur to me later.

I think I can remember all their names…which is good as I’ll be there quite often over the next few weeks (I have 4 more hours scheduled for this week, which will bring me up to 6. Then I have more scheduled for next week as well). There is an interesting dynamic in this classroom, as the teacher in the morning is different from the teacher in the afternoon.  She told me they still treat her like a sub, and one student did say she wasn’t their teacher, their teacher was there in the morning.  I corrected her, but you can tell it’s confusing and difficult for these little guys to fully grasp. When I told the teacher what the student said (right after she said they treat her like a sub), she seemed both surprised at it, and disgusted by the arrangement in general.

At this point, I am not sure what a literacy event will look like.  I have plenty to think about.

Prospective Literacy Events (Practicum)

Okay, so, trying to get to my daughter’s school to do observations has been nothing short of a comedy of errors.  Except that it really isn’t funny.  Either it’s break, or my kid is sick, or school is closed, or I get called in to work, or my babysitter falls through AT THE LAST MINUTE.  Seriously, every. single. blinking. time.  GAH!

Anyway, I am going this afternoon, but I am thinking that my literacy event will look something like me interviewing one or more students (very informally, if there’s time) after the teacher reads from the novel she’s been reading to the class.  We are reading the same series at home (Junie B. Jones – she’s hilarious), so I might end up doing some stuff with my daughter at home.  I just don’t know.  I want to see what the students’ reactions are to being read to, and what they do while they are listening (purportedly, at any rate).  I am curious as to how she sets up the kids for the story, as in how do they sit, how does she introduce the activity, things like that.  Of course, based on further observation, I might change my literacy event.

Based on the times I have spent a few minutes in the room here and there, I imagine that they sit in a circle on the rug…but I look forward to seeing how it all works.

HALR Chapters 9 & 10, Gee: “Ideology and Theory” Chapter 1 (forthcoming)

Chapter 9

Adolescent Second-Language Writing

Linda Harklau and Rachel Pinnow

acrolect – the variety of speech that is closest to a standard prestige language, especially in an area in which a creole is spoken.

basilect – the variety of speech that is most remote from the prestige variety, especially in an area where a creole is spoken.

“Monolingual models have also presumed that thoughts are separated from their translation into words rather than integrated” (128) <–This is interesting, especially in light of students preferring comprehensive marking of their errors and teacher editing. While language is obviously a communal oral activity, it is also a solitary pursuit while learning it, apparently, where students prefer to do it themselves with the teacher’s help rather than work in a group.

“found that English L2 adolescents in New Zealand produced more linguistically accurate and complex essays with more information when working alone than when working with peers on topics in which they possessed adequate background knowledge” (129)

“studies suggest that proficiency, cultural context, and dynamics of social interaction all affect L2 adolescent writers’ ability to work as peer collaborators and editors” (129)

“Cummins’s “threshold hypothesis,” suggesting students that students must develop a critical level of proficiency in their first language in order to reap cognitive, linguistic, and academic benefits from bilingualism” (130)  I’d be interested what the differences are between adolescents that learned to be bilingual from birth, and then learned an L3 as compared to students learning an L2 as adolescents.

There’s an overall pattern in the research suggesting that it works best for students to have decent writing skills to begin with and instruction following in order to succeed at writing in their respective L2.  Also, the integration of out-of-school literacy with in-school literacy (where have I heard that before…) is important for developing good skills.

“Villalva (2006) found that L1 Spanish students relied on social networks as primary sources for their writing, much as some students might rely on print sources, and argues for an examination of how writers are socialized into different norms for inquiry and language use outside school” (132).  That would be an interesting study. At the same time, one could look at the nature of their sources and see if it correlated with their writing ability…for instance are those most immersed in multimodal design more adept at linear writing, or less?

The discussion around the use of ICT (Internet & Communication technologies) is one that sounds much the same no matter the pedagogical topic.  “We want to use it for instruction but it’s too hard to control for negative content, but we have to do something because we are falling behind in what our students are actually doing in their literacy activities”.  It would seem the relevance beats the difficulty, much of the time.

While obviously not the scope of this piece, it would be interesting to note the cognitive and academic advantage to being multilingual, and what the cultural norms are in regard to students that are.  Based on some of the comments here, there seems to be concern that those without at least a second language will be discriminated against.  Is it the opposite now?  “[T]here is considerable danger that diverse becomes a catch-all term that creates a binary between White monolingual students and anybody else who may speak a language or dialect other than standard edited English” (135).  Hmmm…if you are superior linguistically, as one can argue that multilingual students most likely are, why would this be treated any differently than bullying a student because he has shoddy clothing, or discounted lunch, or the newest phone? Other than in rare cases, I doubt very much that these kids speaking more than one language chose to do so. It is mostly a matter of circumstance, yes? The call for more research into these topics is well-warranted.

Chapter 10

Research on the Literacies of AAVE-speaking Adolescents

Jamal Cooks & Arnetha F. Ball

“They conclude that the status of AAVE in America reflects the larger postcolonial struggles of its speakers” (143).  I wonder as I read this sentence whether America’s school system acknowledges in any way its reflection of the colonialism employed by the nation against indigenous and displaced peoples (Native Americans and slaves from Africa).  Changing the way we teach the history of colonialism can’t but help all students understand why things are the way they are.  This would be the first step in developing respect and understanding, if you were to ask me.

“the public tends to view pidgins, creoles, and minority dialects as corrupted or degenerate forms of standardized languages and to fear that their use interferes with students’ acquisition of Standard American English”  (145).

“Siegel critically examines this popular view and notes that research on educational programs shows that, contrary to the prevailing viewpoint, using a stigmatized variety in formal education seems to have a positive rather than a negative effect on the acquisition of Standard American English”  (145).

If Melvin B. Tolson can do it…right? “it is possible to instruct students in the norms of the academy without sacrificing the primary discourse that students bring from their home and community environments”  (145).  So not only do we need to do some tweaking of our history lessons, we need a set of tools for teachers that makes integrating AAVE into the classroom a simple and natural exercise.

Approaches to pedagogy with AAVE: (145-146)

linguistically informed approach: begins with the premise that teachers should distinguish between mistakes in reading and differences in punctuation.

contrastive analysis approach: focuses on making the differences between SAE and AAVE explicit, using strategies such as contrastive analysis along with other second-language acquisition methodology.

dialect readers: an approach that introduces reading in the students’ primary discourse and later makes a switch to SAE.

dialect awareness approach: seeks to infuse the fundamental principles of linguistic variation into school curricula, and students are encouraged to become ethnographers of their own and their local community’s speech patterns.

Ball’s study (146-147) is interesting in that nothing is said about the European American teachers giving higher scores to the European American students, while much is explored regarding how African American teachers score African American students higher.  Is that because of the subject of the article…I hope?  Where is the study where the scorers are unaware of the primary discourses of the writers?  If there’s one standard to be met, we don’t need that kind of impartiality.  But if we are going to acknowledge and work with true diversity (fairly unavoidable here in America), shouldn’t there be some set of practices that guide those evaluating the work of linguistically-diverse populations of students?  There it is: “Evaluators and researchers propose alternative assessments, including contextualized, ecological, and curriculum-based assessments” (147).

Herein lies the difficulty: “A long-standing challenge for those charged with the task of educating AAVE-speaking adolescents has been to provide them with the literacy skills they will need to excel in our rapidly changing society” (147).

Once again, I concur with the call for more research, as “more research is needed that can help us to understand those approaches that actually make a significant difference in literacy lives of African American students and the strategies that are most successful in working with AAVE-speaking adolescents” (149).

Last week = total garbage.

So, it’s Tuesday evening, and my kids are sick, and so am I (I’m so over sickness, seriously).  I’m missing class. I go to finish up the paper I’m writing for 515 and when I “select all” in order to change the font so it all matches (the last thing I need to do), the program I’m using (libre office) crashes.  Like 10 times.  No matter how I try to fix the problem.  The message that my OS was experiencing an internal error kept popping up.  So I say to heck with it, and copy paste the document into Google so I can finish it and turn it in.  Makes sense, right?  Sure.  Until my stupid internet quits working (my OS seriously hates me sometimes–annoyingly, usually in the middle of the semester).

I worked like 40 hours last week, and just frankly gave up on getting things to cooperate with me.  Eventually (this weekend) I convinced my computer to load in the other OS.  Now I have internet, and I’m playing catch up.  I missed the paper, and I missed most of a week of blogs and online coursework.  So, yeah, that sucked.  Still does, in fact, as I scramble to get everything done with one kid still sick (she goes to the doctor in the morning).

I don’t have an excuse, nor would I offer one.  I could have gone to the library after work.  I didn’t.

My new mantra: things are going to move forward in amazingly productive and positive ways.  That’s right, it’s long, but I mean every word of it.