When was the last time you read a book for fun? If you are an English teacher probably not in the last few years. It’s funny because many of us chose our majors and careers based on of our love of books yet they demand so much time spent reading to prep for classes and to mark papers that reading for fun gets left behind. One of our goals as English teachers is to inspire a love of reading in our students, and we try to do this by incorporating a variety of genres, independent novel studies and silent reading in our classrooms, but while this is happening we catch up on marking, do attendance, or prep for the next class rather than spending the time satisfying our own love of reading. How can we teach our students about enjoying reading when they do not see us model that importance, and instead focus on other tasks. One of my goals as a teacher is to make time to read for enjoyment while my students are silent reading.
Life of Pi is the book that inspired me to choose English education as my major. I read this book in the summer between grade eleven and twelve for my AP English class and the sense of adventure, the take on religions, the beautiful description, and the reflective ending all left me utterly in awe of what words can do. Two years later I had the opportunity to meet Yann Martel, author of Life of Pi, and got to listen to him speak. I had the opportunity to tell him how his novel inspired my career choice and he wrote in my book “may stories carry you over oceans” a quote I then got designed into a tattoo. This tattoo is meant to remind me of that love of reading, and why I choose English education during those months of school where I am questioning why I choose to become an English teacher.
We have to make time to read for our own enjoyment and share that with students. Begin each class by sharing an interesting news article, participate in the silent reading, or start a book club at your school. Why would our students see reading as valuable if we act as if it’s unimportant? By changing our teaching methods in small but drastically important ways this we can show our students that reading for fun is worthwhile and hopefully create life long readers.
Chapters two, four, and six of Making Classroom Assessment Work all focus on creating authentic engaging assessments for our students. As teachers we need to make our assessments meaningful to ensure that our students are actually learning rather than just memorizing the information. Chapter two talks about the importance of creating a space where our students are able to take the risks needed to learn, because without the student stepping out of their comfort zone no meaningful learning takes place. Chapter four discusses the importance of understanding what success looks like for both the teacher and the students to ensure students have the best opportunity for success. Chapter six explains that “when students are involved in the classroom assessment process, they become more engaged in learning” (Davies 55) and thus more likely to retain the information. All three of these chapters focus on how teachers can best support their students through assessment, something that I personally think is an important aspect of teaching.
There are many connections that can be made between the chapters in Making Classroom Assessment Work and Sandra Gibbons and Bonnie Kankkonen’s article Assessment as Learning in Physical Education: Making Assessment Meaningful for Secondary School Students. All four readings focus on making assessment authentic for our students to increase engagement and overall learning. In the article Gibbons and Kankkonen emphasize the importance of making assignment criteria and expectations explicit “to help students become self-directed learners” this stood out to me because it’s something we have been discussing in our other classes and I plan to incorporate into my own teaching practice. By doing something as simple as explaining the outcome in student-friendly language to my students I can begin to uncover the hidden aspect of why they are learning what they are learning, and in turn, increase their engagement and learning.
Both Weimin Mo’s article “Can you Listen Faster” Assessment of Students Who Are Culturally and Linguistically Diverse Learners and Damian Coopers chapter How Should Assessment Be Matched to Students Needs discuss the importance of working with our English as an Additional Language Students (EAL) to create a classroom climate that offers the greatest opportunity for success. This is important because many times teachers do not know how to adequately gage the learning that EAL students have in their previous language. When this occurs the student becomes disengaged, as they either already know the material or do not have the supports needed to succeed. Many teachers also have difficulty differentiating assignments for their EAL students, and the students are often left completing assignments that do not meet the required grade level outcome.
Both pieces focus on the importance of creating a place of success for all of our students but particularly those whose first language is not English. One way we can help our students is by using formative assessment to gage where our EAL students are at, particularly when it comes to things like vocabulary. Mo and Cooper place a great emphasis on the fact that our EAL students “do not…share the same conceptual system that…[we do]” (Mo 46) and that we need to communicate effectively with our students to assess whether or not the scaffolding that you have provided is enough. This scaffolding could be as simple as revisiting key terms related to the assignment or having the student repeat the instructions for the assignment in their own words, but the heightened understanding the student will have of the assignment and that you will have of the students understanding will make a world of difference.
Chapters seven and eight of Making Classroom Assessment Work involve both assessment of learning and involving students in their own learning. Assessment for learning is important because it “teaches students, while helping them learn how to assess their way to success” (Davies 63). By working as a class to set criteria for what we are doing is a way to involve students in both their learning and assessment, in turn encouraging student accountability. Chapter eight discusses involving students in their own learning by allowing them to gather their own evidence in support of it. This is important because “when students are responsible for assembling the evidence [of learning], they have more opportunities to figure out whether they are on track” (Davies 77) and gives them the opportunity to get help.
These chapters connect to The Classroom Experiment videos we watched this week as well. In these videos a school in England implemented some controversial ideas into a classroom. I loved the red, green, and yellow cups, and the whiteboard ideas but had difficulty accepting the comments not grades rule; particularly as it was implemented in this school. I like the idea of using less grades and more feedback in my classroom, but my main concern would be involving the parents in the process. As our schools get more and more diverse we should acknoledge the fact that some cultures prize grades and that parents might not understand when their child has no grade to show them. In the videos they only involved the parents towards the end of the experiment and I believe that if they went to the parents first the parents could put their childs minds at ease regarding the new rules. Davies comments on the importance of teacher-parent communication when she says “You may not be marking or grading work in ways parents expect. Let parents know that you are continuing to assess all student work” (Davies 78). Without this communication both parents and students are left confused and uninvolved with the assesment process.
Chapters three and five of making classroom assessment work although on different topics, share some common beliefs. Chapter three begins by discussing the theory of backwards design and that “When teachers and students know where they are going, they are more likely to achieve success” (Davies 25). This model of assessment is important because no two kids will come into class on the same level, but as a teacher your job is to support all students so that eventually reach the same outcome, and if you don’t know what that outcome will be you cannot accurately and equitably help students reach that goal. In chapter five Davies discussed collecting evidence in order to represent student learning, and the idea that “the amount of ongoing evidence needed to effectively plan daily instruction varies from teacher to teacher” (Davies 51) and from student to student. In both chapters Davies discuses the idea of involving the class in their own assessment students don’t know what they are to learn and what it can look like, they are handicapped and their success is at risk” (Davies 28).
The article “Backward Design” furthered the ideas presented by Davies and put the focus of backward design on “design[ing] curriculum and instruction that facilitate understanding, retention, and generalization” (Sands and Pope 6). Both the Davies chapter and this article It also focused on why this model of assessment is important, because no two kids will come into class on the same level, but as a teacher your job is to support all students so that eventually reach the same outcome, and if you don’t know what that outcome will be you cannot accurately and equitably help students reach that goal. The backwards design approach works well with the current outcome based education system here in Canada, as we already know the goals that we need to work towards, they are mandated in the curriculum. Knowing these outcomes, but having the freedom of designing how to best get your students there is one of the best parts of being a teacher.
Assessment is an important aspect of the teaching profession and chapter one of Making Classroom Assessment Work does a good job of providing a baseline for new teachers. Assessment is the “gather[ing of] information about student learning that informs our teaching that helps students learn more” (Davies, 1). Since student learning is the most important aspect of assessment the chapter encourages both assessment for learning and student involvement of assessment as key factors in student engagement and student improvement
In my ELNG 351 class we’ve recently discussed assessment for learning in relation to high/low stakes writing. As an English major I like the idea of using low stakes writing assignments throughout the year to prepare students to write a larger paper; which is something I did not experience in high school. This type of assessment for learning allows students to explore their own writing while also working on the technical writing skills learned in class. This style of learning is beneficial to students because “it is when students do something the second and third time that they come to understand” (Davies, 7). Allowing our students the time and space to explore their own learning using this kind of assessment makes them accountable for their own learning and encourages their investment. Another thing that encourages student accountability is creating assignment rubrics with the class as it “increases student learning” (Davies, 3) which reminded me of a text I read in my ELNG 351 class that suggested “[having] students write a cover letter or writers log to hand in with the…final version” detailing what they were proud of, what they struggled with, etc. This would allow me as the teacher to give more specific feedback and allow the student involvement in how they are being assessed.
Elbow, Peter. (1997). High Stakes and Low Stakes in Assigning and Responding to Writing. New Directions for Teaching and Learning, no. 69.
For my summary of learning I decided to make a prezi presentation which can be found here. I chose to use Prezi because I could include video, screencast, and photos which allowed me to display many of the tech skills I’ve gained while taking this class. I really enjoyed going through all of the work I’ve done this semester and aside from a few computer crashes (thanks iMovie) it was a lot of fun to make.
If you’ve read some of my other posts surrounding ECMP 355 you may have noticed that for my learning project I’ve chosen to learn how to knit; preferably a scarf. Although I did not quite get the scarf I was hoping for; as it was more difficult and time-consuming that I’d expected; I’ve adapted my goals to learning the stitches needed to complete a scarf. These stitches include the cast on, knit, and purl stitches.
Here are the posts surrounding the beginning of my project
and here are my original posts surrounding these stitches
To summarise what I’ve learned and to give back to the online community I decided to go back and create how-to videos similar to the ones that I learnt from
such a complex task online was difficult and making these videos has shown me how much effort people put into making videos that teach others a skill, as I didn’t have the best lighting or camera’s available and I could not get a camera angle that could show me completing the stitch properly. This online forum was also beneficial as it allowed me access to help when I ran into a problem with the knit stitch and there were numerous tutorial videos to choose from. Overall through completing my own and viewing the results of classmates learning projects I have learnt that there are both benefits and challenges to online learning and that my students will have the opportunity to explore whatever skill they would like online, so I must never assume their knowledge, as with the internet it is neverending.
Today I learnt the pearl stitch which makes up the body of the scarf. I have been following along with the same series which is good because the camera angle and lighting really help me get through some of the tougher stitches.
I’ve found learning over the internet a lot more time consuming as I don’t have the ability to easily show someone when I am having trouble rather I go back to that forum from part 4 or rewatch the video. After quite a few tries I finally got the hang of the pearl stitch as this video was a little harder to see what exactly was going on. As you can see the stitches are quite loose and would make a nice chunky scarf.
In my ECMP 355 class, we were discussing the place social justice should hold in the classroom; which is something that has become an important issue for me in the past few years. I tend to be the one that speaks up when I see forms of oppression in my daily life or on social media Social Justice/social issues should have a prominent place in the classroom if you want to make your classroom a place where all students feel safe and accepted or if you want your students to go on and stand up/support people in their community in the future. Our students will have been subjected to many varying opinions on these issues from Tv., the internet, friends, and family so introducing issues such as homophobia, racism, etc. must be done with compassion and mindfulness. Having students write journal entries about how they feel about what they are learning would allow not only for the student to explore their own thoughts regarding the subject, but also allow for the teacher to check in and see where the students are at.
I believe that the most important thing regarding social justice in the classroom is that it has to be integrated; rather than it only being a one-day thing. I plan to integrate social justice into my own classrooms by making social justice issues prevalent in my classroom and by creating a space where issues such as oppressive words can be discussed. One way I could create this space is by including these posters
I also plan to incorporate social justice issues into my lessons.
Allen Turing lesson
I hope that by not shying away from social justice issues in my classroom, and by approaching them with consideration and awareness of my students; that I can set them on the path to understanding their own opinions thoughts and biases related to these issues and create more mindful and engaged citizens.