Monday, April 30, 2012

Mesages sent to children, and the cruelty of kids...

Back to Siobhan Vivian’s The List.... For those who do not know, The List is a young adult literature book about a high school that creates a list every year. The list features the names of two girls from each grade; the prettiest and the ugliest. In class we talked about the way society portrays the way men and women "are supposed to" look. We even discussed a little bit about popular kid toys like Barbie and G.I. Joe. According to what was said in class, Barbie’s measurements in real life would be impossible. Likewise, the size of G.I. Joe’s muscles is a ridiculous, non-human size. We even got on to the topic of a poem by Jane Yolen called “Fat is Not a Fairytale.” It was about the desire for a fairytale that featured a plus-sized protagonist. Many people do not realize it but it shows that even the fairytales we have in our society are sending out these sorts of subconscious messages. In every one of the fairytales mentioned in the poem, the princess is always skinny and virtually flawless. In fact, other characters in these stories that are “fat” are either evil, bad or unflattering in some way. These are the messages that children are receiving even before they can read. More relevant to the list, we discussed personal stories and/or experiences that we ourselves have faced. I was disturbed to hear one of my peers speak about an experience she had in high school that was very similar to the situation that happened in the list. She said that at her high school the seniors always create their own “Most Likely to…” list. When she was a high school senior, she told us that she was voted “most likely to become a prostitute.” Now that her younger sister is a high school senior, she too was voted into a category. Her sister was voted “most likely not to live ‘til college.” While people in our class said they did not like The List, because of its content, we have to be aware of the fact that this is the kind of thing that is already happening in our schools, and something that many students are even experiencing themselves. It is a sad fact, but unfortunately, it is true. People often think of the academic side when they think about their life as a teacher, but that is only one aspect of it. There is a complete other side that exists and we as teachers have to be just as prepared to handle those situations as well.

Resources (print, not nonprint)

Last week in another one of my classes, we took a field trip to the library. Before going, I was not really sure what to expect but I figured it would probably be something worthwhile. When we got there I discovered that there were actually many very helpful resources in that back section (2nd floor, very back area, to the left). As a fourth-year student I have walked past those shelves plenty of times, but I never stopped to look at what those shelves were holding. To my surprise there were tons of textbooks with relevant topics ranging from grammar to literature guides. I found a grammar textbook that I found particularly helpful because not only did it have informative information about the features of our language but it also had worksheets that could easily be scanned and used in classes. Now that I know about this resource section I will definitely be making use of it. I am especially excited because I will be student teaching next semester and we were told that we could take materials out for extended periods while student teaching. I am glad we used a class to explore that part of the library and I also plan to tell some of my friends about its existence so that they too can utilize it.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Well, today I stumbled along a website called FanFiction. Before today I actually had no idea what
fan fiction even was. But, luckily we live in a world where it only takes a matter of seconds to look
something up and discover what it is. I've come to the conclusion that fan fiction is basically fictional pieces
written about an original work by fans of that said piece of literature. :-) After I found out what fan fiction
was, I was able to understand what I was looking at on this site. As I browsed through, I found many things I was familiar with, or that are commonly found in the ELA classroom. Some of the featurted books on the
site that I recognized were Goosebumps, Gulliver's Travels, The Great Gatsby, The Hunger Games, The Scarlett Letter and even Beowulf. I clicked on a few books and found some work written by students about the literature. I looked at a student-created piece entitled "Lady Macbeth's Diary" and another called "The Students of Venice" and I even found one called "Animal Farm -- Eviction." I thought these were pretty creative and I could see several uses for them in the classroom. I think that this would be a good way for students to gain confidence with their own fiction writing by publishing it on this site. Or, if students or the teacher do not feel comfortable with putting work on the internet for everyone to see, it could be a resource to use in the classroom as a model to students. Students could view some of the work other students have done, and likewise create their own work that will not be shared outside of their own classroom. Either way, I definitely see possibilities for this website in the classroom. Check it out if you'd like:

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

The National Writing Project

Well, today I checked out the the "National Writing Project" website.

I found this website to be pretty helpful to future and current teachers. The following video is an overview of what the National Writing Project Connect is all about.

This website lets you connect with teachers from all acroos the country and people are able to share their experiences and ideas, as well as ask questions and seek advice. Members are able to create their own profiles and share whatever they would like to. The website also features many other little stories and articles. The first story that I saw when I went on the page was a short little article that mentioned that tomorrow, (April 26) is "Poem in your Pocket Day." There's just a lot of interesting news about education and even specifically with this group's own specific network. Anyone can be a member and once you're a member you have full access to the sight and can even post blogs. Go check it out! :-)

Monday, April 16, 2012

The message of Beauty in the books we teach....

In my Young Adult Literature class we read The List by Siobhan Vivian. In this novel, the idea of beauty was very prominent.Some of my classmates said they would never teach this book because of the superficial content it featured. The book tells about the lives of several high schoolers and every year there is a list created that has the name of 8 girls, the prettiest and the ugliest from each grade. Although some may not like this idea, these are the kinds of things that high school students actually face today. Not only that, but, the sometimes controversial issue of beauty has plagued the human race since virtually the dawn of time. In class we did an activity that exemplified the Greek mythological story of when Eris, the Greek goddess of discord. In this story Eris placed an apple among three other goddesses and the apple was labeled “To the Fairest.” Each goddess wanted to be deemed as the fairest. This goes to show that people have been arguing about who is the most beautiful for thousands of years. Also, this particular story made me think of the story of Snow White, because the entire plot was driven on a disagreement about who was “the fairest of them all.” The story of Snow White is still popular today and the list is a new novel that is very popular today. It seems that opinions on beauty will forever be a part of human life, whether we like them or not. Hopefully as teachers, we will be able to still teach books such as these in a way that does not cause students to discredit their own beauty, but instead appreciate it.

Censorship in the classroom

In one of my other classes, we discussed the idea of censorship in the classroom. This topic brought up a lot of controversies in class. It seemed everyone had a different perspective of the matter. However, even with so many different opinions, the one that stood out to me the most was the comment made by Tim Plumberg. He said that we cannot truly even compare our responses because everyone’s idea of what is good” or “bad varies; we are all different places on the spectrum. He is absolutely right! We watched the latest Jennifer Lopez music video (it was rather racy) in class and there was a wide range of responses to it. The difference in thoughts on the video alone showed how differently we thought and even how different our morals may be. Like someone said in class, you never know where your students are coming from and what they have or have not been exposed to. In the classroom I feel that I will censor a little bit more than I would with my own children, just in case I have students that may not have been exposed to certain things. Also, some school districts are a lot more reserved than others and I would not want to get in trouble  with the school either. What do you think?

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Blogging in the Classroom

Well, as the semester winds down, and we've been blogging for about 8weeks or so, I feel that I've written enough blogs to decide whether or not I would want to incorporate blogging in my own classroom. While I personally am not a big fan of blogging, I think that it could be beneficial in the classroom, perhaps if students have a writing prompt. For me, the hardest part of blogging is figuring out what to write about. I always feel like it's such a task to write my blog every week, but I feel as though I wouldn't mind as much if there was a specific writing prompt that I could focus on. Every week I have to rack my brain, or google some information to write about and it really bothers me. I think it would be a lot easier to respond to a standard question or thought. However, that is just my personal opinion, but I think I might use blogging in my classroom with writing prompts.

Monday, March 26, 2012

In response to the "biased" CBS report...

     I recently watched a youtube video about Education in America and mentioned that the U.S. is ranked 24th in math, and 21st in science worldwide, just like the CBS news report. However, this report also mentioned where we ranked in reading literacy, and that is 15th. While it's not as bad as math and science, it is still disappointingly low.

     Even so, according to this video, teachers in America teach about 1,080 hours per year and the average primary school teacher is paid about $43,633 while the average amount of hours taught per year world wide is 794 and nine other countries are paid more then U.S. teachers with the highest paid teacher residing in Luxembourg being paid an average of $70,000 per year.

      Lastly, the video touches upon graduation rates. Forty years ago, the U.S. was number 1 in when it came to graduation rates, today we are ranked 19th. Apparently 6,000 students drop out of school daily and 30% of students do not graduate. But with all of these saddening details, what can we as pre-service teachers to do?

Education in America video

Friday, March 23, 2012

The Flipped Classroom

In another class of mine, we gave a presentation on "The Flipped Classroom." This idea refers to teacher-created videos and interactive lessons that are viewed by students at home. This idea was developed when two high school chemistry teachers found it problematic to use valuable class time to re-teach lessons to students that were absent. They then came up with this idea to use technology in a way that would allow them to annotate lessons and post them online. This was great for absent students, but then they began to see just how useful this idea could actually be. They began creating these lessons for everyone in the class. Not only did this allow for an immence amount of added class time, but students were able to come into class with some sort of understanding already and they were also able to come to class with questions. Teachers who have used this approach say that discussions are more student led, and in general students become active learners as opposed to passive learners. While researching on this topic, I came across a website called Khan Academy:

and on this website a man named Eric Westendorf made an entire archive of these interactive lessons for teachers and students to use as they please. Unfortunately, there aren't any videos that pertain to ELA, but I still enjoyed visiting the site and it can also give English teachers some ideas for their own videos that they may want to create. Lastly, I wanted to share this video of "the flipped classroom." I definitely think this could be helpful.

Sunday, March 11, 2012

27 Very Helpful Resources

For our last assignment that we had due in class, I read a very informative article that provided me with twenty-seven helpful digital tools and resources. I just wanted to share them with everyone.

For collaboratively constructing writing:
     Google Docs (
     Zoho Writer (
     Adobe Buzzword ( (
     Mendeley (

For publically sharing notes in response to presentations, videos, or discussions:
     Twitter (
     TodaysMeet (
     SoapBox (
     Notepad (
     WallWisher (

For sharing and commenting on fiction writing:
     Fanfiction (
     Inkpop (
     Pulse It (
     Wattpad (

For creating multimedia books or curations of news stories:
     Sophie (
     Bookbuilder (
     Storify (

For professional organizations’ resources:
     IRA’s Engage (
     NCTE’s Connected Community (for NCTE members:

For sharing teaching ideas:
     English Companion Ning (
     National Writing Project Connect (
     #EngChat (

For sharing ideas for use of Web 2.0 tools:
     Classroom 2.0 (
     Digital Is (

For sharing lesson plans:
     ReadWriteThink (
     Sophia (
     Curriki (

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

"Mine as well read this..."

In one of my classes today, we had a "surprise guest speaker." She is a Slippery Rock University graduate, that was once a Secondary Ed. major, just like many of us. However, she switched her major to Student Affairs, which deals with all different aspects of students, outside of the classroom. Alongside her mother (who is an assistant principal at a school ? somewhere in Pennsylvania) she holds a workshop called "WRITING DANGEROUSLY" where they "make language come to life" and really engage students. She told us about how sick and tired she was of seeing things misspelled on #Twitter, even by college students. I can agree with her 100% on that issue. I have seen people say things like "I guess I mine as well go home" and "My auto correct keeps changing aint to ain't, why is it adding an apostrophe?" and "I'm so hungry, I think I'll get some Wendies." When you think about it, that is pretty pitiful, but who do we have to blame for this? She does not exactly BLAME high school teachers, but she does suggest that it is our job to make things right! Although this may be a very difficult task to accomplish, especially in schools where many teachers have, all but thrown in the towel and started TEACHING TO THE TEST. She tells us that by "making the language come to life for our students" we can make them gain a sense of appreciation for the English language. Once students have made a relationship with the language they will become better at understanding and practicing it. Although I am not yet teaching in a classroom, I truly do hope that I can impact my students and get them to enjoy the English language, in one way or another. That will be a giant task, but it is definitely one that I am willing to take on.

P.S. I feel like the #statestandards are to blame... #justsaying

Friday, March 2, 2012

CBS has biased reports...

In my Ed Measures class, we watched a CBS video during class. In the video the reporter stated that the United States is ranked 25th in math worldwide, and that the United States is also ranked 21st in science. While these stats may seem unbelievable at face value, there are many factors that can cause such scores to be true. One discrepancy is why didn’t they give us our statistics for history or language arts? Also, you cannot help but wonder how these stats were gathered, given that there is no universal/international standardized test that every country takes. Not only, are these legitimate issues to call into question, but there are other factors to take into account that are more specific to the United States. For instance, in America it is mandatory for all children to attend school, but in some other places like Asia only some students go to school. Another more United States specific factor is that Americans as a whole do not place as high a priority on school. Instead, they place priorities on working, sports and a host of all kinds of other subjects. Either way, it seems that the creators of that specific report were slightly biased in their reporting. Standardized testing is already something that I consider to be an annoyance but reports such as this are not helping the matter.

Podcasting is actually fun

After making the required podcast for class I have seen what podcasting is all about from a first-hand point of view. Before actually making my own podcast, I already liked the idea of it simply from the presentation in class and from the comments made in class as well. After making my own podcast, I see that it is actually very fun. I already thought that this would be a useful tool in the English Language Arts classroom, but now that I know how fun this tool can be, I think I may utilize podcasting a lot more than I originally thought. I think students will enjoy making up funny scripts and listening to themselves when they are finished recording. I will definitely encourage my students to get creative with their assignments and add sound effects, music and other things to enhance their projects. I definitely look forward to using this tool in my future classroom.

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Digital Age without a Digital Classroom...

In Sara Kajder's book "Adolescents and Digital Literacies" chapter three talks about teaching in a digital age. there is no doubt that we are definitely living in a digital age and it seems necessary for us to teach with digital apparatuses. In many of our education classes we have learned how to use differnt technologies in order to teach students. Also, when we teach mini lessons in class (even without being instructed to use technology) we often use technology in the form of the internet or at least in the form of our projector systems, which we have become oh so familiar with. In chapter three, Kajder even mentioned how important it is to go to conferences and other workshops to learn the newest ways to use technology in our classrooms. Even so, I have to wonder, what happens if you get a job at a school that does not have technology? What if your school does not have the projector systems that we have become accustomed to, and instead they have the over head projectors with the transperancy sheets? This eliminates powerpoint presentations, the internet in class and even videos. With the way that students automatically connect with technology, do you think this would make students less engaged and do you think it would be harder for you as a teacher to teach your lessons?

Friday, February 24, 2012

During the previous weeks of class, we've been using a portion of our classtime to present the different technology lessons described in our textbook. The one that I would like to speak on is the one about podcasting; in particular, using podcasting for book reports. With the lack of motivation in our schools today, any time that we can use technology in the place of more traditional teaching methods or presentations, we need to take advantage. Not only will a podcast eliminate small issues students may face such as "stage freight" or sloppy unrehearsed oral deliveries, but it also allows students to be a lot more creative.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Teaching Online Schools

In one of my other classes we were discussing the topic of online schools. During this discussion we talked about whether or not we would want to teach at an online school and whether or not we feel that students receive the same quality of education. We even took a survey and asked the people in the class who had previously taken on-line classes what they thought about on-line vs. in-person classes. Everyone agreed that they do not feel as though they got as much out of online classes as they did with in-person classes. It was a very interesting discussion, but I thought this was an idea to think about. Would you ever want to teach at on-line school? Personally, I do not think I would want to teach an on-line class. In an online classroom, you would never see your students and thus I feel that it would be a lot harder to make connections with students. However, it would probably be a lot more convenient because you would not have to physically leave your house and go to school. J u s t s o m e t h i n g t o t h i n k a b o u t . . .

Monday, February 6, 2012

My Discovery of The Literature Network

Well.... In my computer class (I forget the actual name of the class) we had to evaluate websites that we could use with a standard, (or something like that). During my search I found a nifty little site that I think could be very beneficial for English Teachers! It's an online database that basically contains "all of the classics." Online makes it easier to locate and go through works of literature. Also, it provides quizzes that you could potentially use in your classes. Students can take them online and it records their scores electronically. One more nice feature that it has is a forum for people to discuss different issues and topics. The fact that the literature can be read online opens up the opportunity to even project this on an overhead and have students read aloud in class. I just really liked this sight and see a lot of potential in it. :-) Oh here's the link:

Friday, February 3, 2012

Teachable Moments

Earlier today in my Young Adult Literature class. My professor was telling the class about how

she learned a new word from one of the novels we will be reading. The word that she learned happened to be the word "fuckery" and she told us that she had never heard of the word before. Myself

and another student of color both recognized the word and have heard it and even used it on multiple

occasions. The professor, realizing that the two of us were familiar with the word, said to the class "May I

make a 'race statement'? I notice that the two of you lovely ladies are the only ones that knew

what this word meant. Maybe this is a cultural thing? The author of this book IS African

American." After this, class continued and proceeded as usual. As the class was winding down, the

professor announced to the class "Class, I've done something bad; something you NEVER want to do

when you become teachers. I singled out two students because of their race. You NEVER want to

single out a student based on anything! And I hope you two ladies will accept my apology." So

there you have it folks! A teachable moment right there.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Who's job is it, really, to teach the basics?

      In class, we were discussing some of the myths that are out there regarding literature. One that we did not talk about in class, but I do feel is worth mentioning is Myth #2. This myth says:
     "Students learn everything about reading and writing
                in elementary school."
I believe this statement could not be any further from the truth. Regardless of whether this statement is supposed to be true, or not, it isn't. In multiple high school English classes I've observed, teachers re-teaching basic ideas, rules and concepts that students should already have ingrained in their brains for life. It's sad, but true. As a teacher I anticipate that it may be very frustrating when you plan to teach students a new kind of writing or other new skill, but you have to put that plan on hold to reteach an earlier skill that students should already have mastered. As future teachers, we could all be faced with this issue. The question remains, will you humble yourself and go back to repair the foundations of your students, or just continue to try and teach on top of unstable "mastered" skills?