Blog #5

The chapter I read from my book of choice is called, The Power of Engaging Lessons, and it sheds light on exactly what the name implies.  Before even reading this chapter, I found myself reflecting on lessons I remember from both my K-12 experience and my time in college.  I noticed that the lessons I really enjoyed and remembered where the ones that were the most engaging.  The one that first comes to mind is one from my 10th grade history class, where to finish off the unit on the Great Depression, we spent quite a few classes doing a Great Depression simulation.  I got more out of this than I would have from just reading from the textbook and sitting through lectures.  The more I thought about that activity in my history class and as I read further into the chapter, the more I noticed the connection between engaging lessons and skill development.  Not only did I have fun learning, but I developed more skills than I would have if the teacher decided against doing this engaging activity.  The most significant skill that I continued to develop through this activity would be partner work and peer collaboration as me and my partner (“husband”) navigated through the simulation.  This really clicked for me when the authors of this chapter write, “Engaging lessons are incredibly powerful and produce countless unexpected ripple effects.  They also serve as steady reminders that learning can be fun.  And when students make the connection that learning isn’t just remote memorization, but an enjoyable opportunity to explore and be challenged, then they too will want to continue learning long after the last bell rings.”  With today’s emphasis on testing, we have become so narrowly focused on what skills should be incorporated into the classroom, often providing students with a dry and dull learning experience.  Typically, only memorization is focused on to pass these tests and lessons/activities that promote the growth of some very beneficial skills, such as communication, are shied away from.  I loved how the authors mention the ripple effects of engaging lessons, because while in my instance the focus was the Great Depression, I learned so much more than history through that activity and picked up many more skills than if we would have stuck with the very traditional learning methods.

As a preservice teacher, when considering the topic of skill development and reading about the importance of engaging lessons in my book of choice, it is easy to see the strong positive relationship between the two.  Engagement promotes greater skill development and will help students write better about the topic of the lesson, as they can pull from their lived experience they had during the lesson and will likely have a better understanding of what is being asked of them because of their engagement with the material.  Muhammad writes, “Skills are central to the ways in which we do school today and typically define achievement standards. Skills are also significant in designing learning standards that govern teaching and learning in schools, and each content area has its own descriptions and set of skills.”  This is an interesting point because yes, each discipline has its own individual skill requirements, but there is no mention about how skills can overlap across the various disciplines.  Writing is the biggest example of a skill that should be required within each discipline.  It may not look the same in each discipline, but there are countless benefits to including it in more than just language arts classes.  What educators consider to be a worthwhile skill is an everchanging argument as times change and technology continues to advance.  However, engagement to better promote skill development remains crucial to effective and lasting learning.  One author talks about her best and worst learning experiences.  Her worst being a college history class where the professor just rambled and the course grade was solely based on a paper and two exams, and her best being a very engaging high school Spanish class.  She highlights the importance of engagement by mentioning that her lowest grade in college was in that boring history course, whereas the Spanish class encouraged her to learn Spanish long after it was required and that teachers teaching methods impacted her as a future educator.  Engagement also gives students the courage to feel as if they have gained enough skills and interest to pursue the topic further.


Differentiated Blog #4

In this final post I am catching up with friend over the phone.  She is currently on vacation in Mexico and was telling me about her trip.  Though many people just think of reading and writing, there is also a huge communication aspect to language arts.  At the start of a student’s language arts journey, they learn phonics, where they learn how to make sense of sounds that create the words and phrases around them.  As these skills grow, we take this communication piece and expand it into presenting work to the class and giving speeches.  Without basic knowledge of phonics, it could be hard to hold a conversation.  It would be hard to make sense of what you are hearing and respond back to keep the conversation going.  If you are catching up with a friend and listening to what has been happening in their life recently, you are essentially hearing “stories” in the form of speech.  Though it may seem like such a basic skill that we take for granted, speech and communication are important in language arts instruction, and I am seeing just how important these skills are in the Phonics class I am currently taking.

Differentiated Blog #3

In this picture I’m watching the show Your Honor.  From a language arts perspective, when I think of movies or tv shows such as this one, I can see that they are not much different from books.  There is so much writing that goes into making a film.  Students could be asked to make their own video and within that assignment there would naturally be a huge writing component.  To really be able to understand what is going on, there needs to be some knowledge about plot, climax, exposition, character development, etc.  However, in this sense it might be easier to follow along since you can see what is happening on screen rather than reading words on a page.  Either way, stories told on screen develop the same way stories told through writing do.  Just like when reading, thoughts and opinions must be organized when watching something to help make sense of what is being seen.  When I think of this it reminds me how we would pair a book to its movie in school.  If it is an instance where the story is told through a book and was made into a movie or tv show, that movie or tv show can enhance the readers understanding of what they read.  

Differentiated Blog #2

In this post I am spending some time reading The Messenger.  When people think of language arts they primarily think of reading and writing.  These are two skills that students do not really question whether they will use outside of the classroom.  These are things that students can easily see being used in everyday life, even if it is just reading and writing text messages.  However, for this post I am focusing on reading, a foundational skill that students begin learning at a young age and build upon as their skills grow.  Depending on the student, reading for pleasure might be one of the only things they learned in school but enjoy doing on their own time.  There are so many possibilities with reading.  Doing it on your own terms can be a therapeutic act that allows one to take time for themselves and escape into a different world, or learn more about something they are interested in.  Depending on what is being read, it can spark thinking in a different way and help the reader see the world from a perspective they may not have otherwise considered.  Reading is more than just words on a page.  There is an interaction happening between the words and the reader, and this reader can then take these words and share them with others.  I know if I loved reading something I can’t wait to recommend the book to someone and share what I have learned from it with them.

Differentiated Learning Blog #1

In this photo I am doing homework for my Intro to Fiction writing class.  This class challenges my lack of creativity and puts my writing skills to the test in a way I am not used to using them.  For this assignment we were asked to read an article about how the world you build in the story you are writing can drastically impact how the story is perceived.  After reading this article we were to read a short story and write a one-page paper answering questions about how the setting affected the short story.  There are multiple skills within language arts and this assignment allowed me to utilize many of these skills.  Before starting the assignment, I had to have some previous basic knowledge about what a setting is and the logistics of stories.  I had to read the article and organize my thoughts about it.  I did this by taking notes and writing down some quotes that seemed important.  Then, I had to read the story and connect certain aspects of it to what I read in the article.  Finally, I had to take these thoughts and observations and translate them into a short paper.  As I wrote that short paper and this blog post, I realized all the time it took to build those skills.  Those literacy skills did not come overnight, and it took many years and countless lessons to get to the point I’m at today.  Without these literacy skills I would not have been able to complete the assignment.

Blog #4

The part of my book I read for this blog post continues their discussion about how mindset plays a big role in your attitudes towards being a teacher.  They talk about the difference between simply saying you are going to do something compared to taking action to actually do it.  They further this this by having their readers think of things that may have happened to them outside of teaching that could then be related to teaching.  The one author says, “Looking back on a specific experience that I, Caitlin, had when I was a teenager, I can see that I fell into that realm of saying I wanted something to happen, but not going beyond that.”  After saying this she describes how she thought she wanted to be the starting point guard on her high school basketball team but then her senior year a talented freshman came in and benched her of that dream.  She says how if she really wanted that position, she would have done everything in her power to make sure she got it, but instead her basketball career ended after high school and that talented freshman went on to play D1 in college and then coach a college team.  This made me question where I would be as an athlete if I had not taken risk, which then made me think of the risk’s teachers might be afraid to take, sheltering their students from the best well-rounded education they could be receiving.  Incorporating literacy in every discipline is one of those risks not taken.  Looking back, I can see how including literacy in all disciplines would have benefitted my K-12 education, like if I were to have written self-reflections about my experience during lab experiments.  There is more to writing than what traditional thoughts lead us to believe.  It is not a skill that only belongs in one place with only one purpose.  As a student writing was one of the only things I was able to see why we were learning it and constantly building upon, because it is a skill that will be used throughout life.  The frustration within the education system is obvious.  Though not all that frustration pertains to how best to teach students, it is part of it yet there is hesitancy to make simple improvements such as including literacy in all disciplines. As I have continued reading this book, I have noticed that the advice given so far does not only have to apply to ELA teachers, as implied by the title. This advice on mindset would be great for a teacher of any discipline, just as literacy would bring great benefits to other disciplines.

Though either of my concentrations as a preservice teacher naturally incorporate literacy, I can sense and understand the hesitancy teachers of other disciplines may have when considering the use of literacy within their discipline.   However, because it is so apparent in both of my concentrations (language arts and social studies) it is easier for me to see the benefits literacy would bring to the other areas.  I think a lot of the problems come down to a teachers comfort level, which does not allow them to explore the many benefits of literacy.  It really reminds me of this when the authors write, “Most people hate uncertainty and aren’t willing to face their fears and get out of their comfort zone.  So they stay the same and then wonder why they don’t get different results, the ones they want.” Teachers may be afraid to use literacy because what they know and use in their classrooms works to some degree, enough to get their students by.  As a preservice teacher, I have heard teachers question how they could engage their students in deeper thinking and understanding.  Writing is a great solution to this!  We say we want the best for our students yet do not make the changes to give them the best.  Teachers should not be expected to make include literacy in their discipline all at once.  The change may be overwhelming for both the teacher and students.  It should be done little by little, paired with a familiar learning tactic.  If this change is not made, both parties could be missing out on the greater potential.

Mitchell, C., & Cannata, J. (2021). The Empowered Ela Teacher: Be The Teacher You Want To Be, Do Great Work, And Thrive. EB Academics. 

Blog #3

As a reader, when I think of the term multimodal, I think about something being greater than one dimensional.  I think about how life itself is in some way like this because there are so many different aspects within life that overlap and need a healthy balance, that come together to form the life you are living.  Some of these aspects include work, family, physical health, social life, etc.  I also noticed this idea within my book of choice.  The one author was talking about how she was so overwhelmed and ended up quitting her job as a teacher during the school year in March.  However, she continues to explain when and why she realized leaving her profession was a big mistake and then discusses what changes she had to make to make sure she loved the job she felt she was meant to do.  She writes, “Teaching could no longer be my entire identity.  Instead, teaching need to be just a part of me… I knew that if I wanted to continue on this teaching journey and still be happy, still have time for my family, and still be able to hang out with my friends on the weekend – actually have a little life and not let being a teacher consume my entire identity – I needed to change.”  This quote helps demonstrate that the most beneficial and positive outcomes happen when multiple different things come together to create the final outcome.  It is no good having one aspect dominate all the others.  When that happens, it can be too overwhelming, and the end result suffers as a result.  The same applies with education and the material given to students.  There needs to be a variety of material given to the students to help gain their interest and give them multiple different ways to learn about and build upon the content.

As mentioned in the previous paragraph, the term multimodal makes me think of something being more than one dimensional.  From a preservice teacher frame of mind this indicates that students should have a variety of different learning opportunities given to them.  This could be a field trip, movie/film, book, picture, map, etc.  When this happens, students have the opportunity to learn in a variety of different ways.  What may work well for one student might not work as well for another but providing these different learning opportunities helps ensure each students gains knowledge in whichever way works best for them.  In the book, when talking about regaining excitement for teaching the authors write, “The possibility it real.  It is attainable.  And this book – our strategies, or approach to planning – will get you there.”  The same would apply to students and what they are learning.  Oftentimes, students feel they are at a similar loss within their education as teachers feel they are at within their jobs.  However, just as they say teachers can rediscover their love for their job, students can also find the love and desire for learning, but this can only be done when everyone is given the right tools.  Just as this book will give their readers different strategies, teachers need to give their students multiple different sources to learn from.  Both of these have to be given with the assumption that different things have different effects on people, but that is one reason why providing more than one source to learn from is beneficial.  These multiple strategies or approaches help to gain interest and understanding.  As seen with the Stafford piece, the scaffolding methods that can be used within this concept ensure that each of the learning pieces has its own purpose in completing the end goal, just has the strategies to be given in my chosen book are given with the intent to helping their readers become better teachers.  However, if one of these does not have the intended impact, there are other sources to rely on to help continue to build this knowledge and understanding.  

Preliminary Lesson Sketch

The Anchor Text is the book The Longest Day. This book details the events that took place with D Day. The supporting texts include a article that discusses D Day and the events leading up to it, a map showing the invasion, a D Day movie, and a source that gives an overview of the battle and the soldiers that received honor. The objective is for students to understand what happened on D Day and be able to explain the impact D Day had on the rest of the war through an essay.

Blog #2

This chapter focuses on how mindset plays a role in your attitudes towards and your success as an ELA teacher.  They dig into how to switch your mindset to overcome the feeling of being overwhelmed.  When it comes down to it, a lot of this has to do with time management.  As a reader with a busy schedule and the desire to do everything the best way I possibly can, I really appreciated their push for and advice on good time management.  As a reader, I felt it was important for me to acknowledge that this discussion was not only applicable to teaching, but also to life in general.  It tapped into my identity as a busy college student and athlete once I acknowledged that time management is a universal skill for all aspects of life.  Good time management is crucial to be able give the appropriate amount of attention to different aspects throughout life, it is just specifically framed for teachers and lesson planning in this case, another thing I do identify with.  In was also nice that the authors made the effort to relate good/prepared teachers to something outside of the education system, because their readers are also more than just people involved in that system.  The authors do this when they compare these teachers to professional athletes by saying, “They’re well rested, they’ve eaten well, they’ve strategized for that specific game to play against that specific team.”  This comparison can be very beneficial in aiding one’s understanding of the topic.  Whether or not someone is into sports and understands the comparison, it still shows that the authors made an effort to recognize their readers as people, as individuals, and not just educators.

In this chapter they connect mindset and identity together right in the beginning.  They say, “You can have all the strategies, tactics, and ideas in the world, but so much of being an empowered educator is about who you are and how you’re showing up each day in your classroom, factors that are directly impacted by your mindset.”  To further get their point across, the authors lead their readers through a reflection and ask them to challenge the teacher they want to be and the skills it takes to get there.  Just as Gholdy Muhammad does, these authors also see the identity is dynamic and changing.  Maybe the teacher you are does not line up with the teacher you want to be?  The authors tapped into a teacher’s identity by sympathizing with them in regard to one of teachers most frequent complaints, being overworked and underpaid.  Though they show sympathy, they also take this point and use it as motivation to both better yourself as a teacher and to better the profession as a whole.  The cherry on top occurred when they mentioned, “We do quite a bit of research at our company, EB Academics, to try and understand what teachers are experiencing in their middle school ELA classrooms – how they’re feeling, why they’re feeling that way, what they need to feel supported, etc.”  This really demonstrates that the authors are putting in a lot of time to get to know their targeted audience and ensure they are providing them with the best content tailored to their needs.  As a preservice teacher, I recognize how important this acknowledgment of identity is and how it can really impact the quality of education my students will receive.

Blog #1

As a reader the first thing I noticed about the book, “The Empowered ELA Teacher: Be The Teacher You Want To Be, Do Great Work, and Thrive” was how inviting the book appeared to be.  It seemed as if it was going to be an easy read.  The language being used makes the content within the book super casual and easy to relate to.  Though it seems to be an easy read, it also seems to be a very informative read.  The discussion that took place in the introduction between the two authors and their readers made sure to leave their reader fully aware about who the authors are and what can be expected in the chapters to come.  First, they grab their readers attention by almost joking about a problem many teachers have voiced having.  Then, the two authors introduce themselves.  They explain how they met one another and gave details about their experiences as teachers.  To conclude the introduction, they provide their readers with a brief description about what each chapter in the book will discuss.  They really wanted to make sure their reader chose a book that was appropriate for them.  As a reader, I really appreciate this because it helps show that the authors are in it for the right reasons, and it helps assure me I will not be questioning why I picked this book once I get farther into it.

As a preservice teacher this engaging book seems like an excellent choice to help familiarize myself with the struggles an ELA teacher may face and learn some strategies on how to combat these struggles.  In the introduction of this book there was a huge element of discussion taking place between the book and me.  The way the discussion was set up in the book made the book seem super supportive of teachers and it really made itself out to be a useful tool for teachers.  They introduce the motto “Do.  Be.  Thrive.” that will be present throughout the book, and they begin to bring attention to three key components of lesson planning: engaging lessons, commitment to rigor, and effective lesson planning.  When the authors introduced themselves, they made sure to explain that they are also teachers and understand the challenges that come with the job.  By doing this, it gave the book more of a “this is what worked for us so hopefully it works for you” feel, rather than a condescending, “we know all” feel.  As a preservice teacher, this is an idea I would like to bring into any class discussion I facilitate, because I may the teacher, but I do not know everything and there is also a lot I could learn from my students.  This friendlier atmosphere has made me more open and willing to receive the information that lies within the upcoming chapters, as I am sure a welcoming environment will also do during class discussions.  So much can be learned when utilizing a discussion type of environment, rather than having a one-way conversation.  A students learning experience would be even better if they were given the opportunity to read and have a conversation with the text, then continue on by having a discussion with their class.  So much can and will be learned through reading as a discussion, but even more can be learned when that discussion is also brought outside of the text.  Through the discussion outside of the text students may be exposed to perspectives and/or ideas they never considered, and as a result they are able to expand their knowledge and critical thinking skills.