Just Listen.


One of the things that stood out to me in Chapter 10 of Kane’s “Literacy and the Content Areas” was about classroom based assessment. She said that we can assess students just by observing, recording conversations, and having mini-interviews with them (294-295). I never thought of these as assessment mostly because I was told that you can’t “assess” students by watching them. I was told that I needed proof on a piece of paper, and in some cases that’s true. I understand the need for formal/informal written assessments, but why can’t watching students be an assessment. I have noticed that I learn more about a student from talking to them than looking at what they wrote. Writing does have an important part in determining things about a student, but sometimes listening to them can hint at what I might see in the writing. When I was in a classroom, I learned who needed my attention more, who needed to be challenged, who needed me to question them to help them continue with an activity, et cetra. I learned all of this from watching students while they worked in groups and by asking them questions about how they were doing and what they needed help with. I think that I got a better feel for the kids and new more about what they needed help with from my conversations with them, and though this is not an assessment I write in a book, it is still a useful for of assessment. I know that I will keep a notebook where I can write down my interactions with students to refer back to and help me assess how they are doing.

How will you incorporate Kane’s classroom-based assessments into your classroom? Do you think they’re important?


Is Watching a Video Teaching Kids?

Brother's Watching TV

Throughout my experience, I have had many people tell me that if my students are watching a video then I’m not teaching or that it’s a free day where students don’t need to do anything. I used to agree with this for other classroom areas other than English. I knew that with English class, movies and TV shows provide a visual representation of what we were reading, but how would this work in another classroom? Kane has showed me how important media literacy is in all classrooms. The students that we will be teaching come from the digital age. They will have grown up with technology and it will seem to be an inseparable part of their life. Students may not realize what is there in what they are watching, and as teachers, we need to teach students how to get the most out of what they watch. As Kane notes, there are a lot of informational shows and movies out there that students could access or are already accessing. If we teach them how to look at the aspects of a text (images, shading, lighting, music, ect.) then they can interpret author’s tone and intent and determine what the author’s views are and what biases are present. This could work to see the author’s opinion of politics in “House of Cards” or the author’s definition of a “nerd” in “Big Bang Theory.” All of this can be used in the content areas.

How do you think you could use a TV show or movie to teach a concept or help student understand one? I’m still trying to think of how this would apply to other content areas other than English.

Write, Write, and Write Some More.



Chapter 7 in Kane’s Literacy and Learning in the Content Areas is all about how to set up students for success while writing and how to push them to revise throughout the writing process. All of this gave me a bit of dejavu because it reminded me of working with teachers and with students during my time as a writing fellow. One method that student out to me was her “6+1 Trait Writing” (pg. 192). The “6+1 Trait Writing” looks like this:

1. Have a clear purpose with good example and details for support.

2. Organize the ideas/details in a clear way with transitions.

3. Include your voice in the writing while still keeping it formal (depending on the type of writing).

4. Choose a variety of words and use creative language to keep the readers interest as well as aid in understanding.

5. Construct sentences that flow smoothly together.

6. Make sure that grammar, spelling, and punctuation are accurate.

+1. Final product is informative and aesthetically pleasing.

I think that the “+1” is important, but could even be taken a step farther. When you look at an essay, it should look neat and organized, but Kane uses the word “Presentation” to identify what the “+1” is. The word “presentation” could be not only the way the writing looks but also an actual presentation of the writing to the class. Students synthesize their work into a presentation format to discuss what they learned and what they researched. This would show a clear understanding of the material by the students and help them find their voice if they are having trouble including it in their writing.

Do you think that this interpretation of the model has merit, or do you think the model is better the way it is used by most teachers? I’m just curious to know what your thoughts are and how you think presentations could help student writing.

Inspiring Annotation


Chapter 5 of Sharon Kane’s book is all about what she calls metacognition. Metacognition is about recognizing and understanding your thinking and your brain processes while you read. A more common term for this is annotation. When trying to get students to think at the metacognitive level, annotation is the best way to get them to write down their thoughts. I never learned how to annotate in school, yet I was expected to once I got to college. I had questioned the text as I read because that was part of my interaction with the text, but I never actually wrote down what I was thinking. I think that annotating would have been easier for me if I had developed the habit sooner, and so that is why it is important to teach students that skill. Kane gives a lot out useful tips for teaching annotation, but one that interests me is about using a guest speaker. Kane writes “An authentic way of helping students understand how people in various fields gain and create knowledge, and how they think about their own learning, is to invite professionals in to talk with them about how they go about working and learning” (Kane 130). Students might not always take a teacher seriously, but they make take another professional seriously. With the new age of technology, we can invite professionals into the classroom from all over the globe. We can use Skype and students can ask them about how they research and how they learn, like Kane suggests. It may be easier to set up Skype calls because it doesn’t involve the person traveling to the school. Students can have questions set up to ask the person, and this will teach them questioning techniques. The question now is what kind of professionals could I invite into my classroom and how would I connect them to my content? I can obviously invite authors, but who else could I bring into the classroom and how would each new guest add something to the students’ knowledge that they couldn’t get from reading an article?

Step Off the Stage and Let the Students Shine

Robin Williams in Dead Poets Society

Picture from:


I just recently started reading Sharon Kane’s book Literacy and Learning in the Content Areas for a graduate class that I am taking, and Kane makes it so easy to understand how to structure a class. Having done some education classes in the past, I have heard many names of theorists thrown around, but Kane condenses all the information in an easy way to understand and shows you how to apply the concepts that she is presenting. The biggest thing that I noticed was the emphasis on the student. This is not a new concept, but it is a concept that is not always in practice. The material of the class is important, but knowing the student is even more important. The material could be really interesting to you, but it may not be interesting to the student, so you need to know what interests them and find a way to bring that into your practice.

Before reading Kane’s section on the social aspect of the content areas (Chapter 2), I didn’t realize how much you could use student interaction within a classroom. I could understand it in some content areas, but I had rarely seen this practice in an ELA classroom. I often saw the teacher as the “sage on the stage” and the interaction would be between teacher and student. Kane shows strategies for cooperative learning and literacy circles that give students agency and create a community of interdependence. Although cooperative learning can be effective, I feel like the teacher needs to step back a bit. Kane says the teacher should “1. Specify the instructional objectives/ 2. Make pre-instructional decisions/ 3. Communicate the task/ 4. Set the assignment in motion 5. Monitor the learning groups and intervene when necessary/ 6. Evaluate the learning group interactions” (50). This seems like the teacher is heavily involved, but it almost sounds like a group work activity with the teacher monitoring. I think that the teacher needs to model and show the students how the cooperative learning should take place, but after the first time, the teacher reduce their input. By the end of the year, the teacher should just set up the instructions, and then let the students handle it on their own with only a little input. Students need to learn to depend on their peers, and if the teacher is constantly involved, then they will still depend on the teacher for the learning and for the “right answers.” The teacher doesn’t always know the right answers because often there aren’t any (at least in an ELA classroom), so the teacher needs to step back so that the students can develop the research habits and problem solving that will help them succeed.

Teaching Continued

These videos are created from the poetry of an inspiring teacher, Taylor Mali.

It has been a while since my last post, and this will be a short one. I just wanted to take some time and start writing. I am so excited and nervous about the enclosing gap of time between me and student teaching. I love being in the classroom, and I love working with students, but I’m afraid that I won’t be the best person for them. I’m afraid that I won’t be able to help them as much as I want to, or I’m going to talk to blank stares all day because I failed to inspire my students. Reading and writing have inspired me in so many ways, and I want students to know that it can inspire them too. I hope that I will be able to give my students everything and that they will learn. Any advice to a nervous student as she waits to transfer into teacher?

Some Perspective from a Truth Teller

Recently, I attended a lecture held by LeAlan Jones, coauthor of “Our America”. I wasn’t sure what I would be getting into when I entered the lecture, but I knew it would be something good. Even before the lecture started, I could tell that Mr. Jones was a significant figure. There must have been at least one hundred people sitting in the room, waiting to hear him speak. Granted, some of them were forced by COR 101 (The Cortland Experience) to attend, but that was not even half of the people in the room. This experience may have been enhanced if I had read more than just an excerpt of Mr. Jones’ “Our America,” but I felt like I didn’t need to read the book to be able to understand what he was talking about.

Mr. Jones talked a lot about how we have so many opportunities for change, due to social media, but we aren’t doing as much with it. He posed many questions, asking what we would do if we were alive during the Holocaust, or slavery, or the Civil Rights movement. Everyone said they would help, and yet there are wars and oppression going on now that we either don’t help or don’t know about. We all would like to say we would help, but the fact of the matter is, we probably won’t.

This got me thinking about my life and what I have done to help. I can’t just go out and pick a cause and say that I care, I need to actually car about the cause. One cause that I care deeply about is schools and school curriculum. The media and some teachers have painted a bleak looking picture of the school system right now, and that needs to change. Many of the students, including me, would just “go through the motions” with school. We sat in class, did homework, and then sat in class again, not really wanting to learn anything. In some classes I cared, but not all. One class that I saw many students “check out” of was English, which I plan to teach in my life. I need to find a way to get students to want to “check in.” Mr. Jones quotes a popular phrase, “Give a man a fish, he has food for a day. Teach a man to fish, and he has food for a lifetime.”  Mr. Jones stressed that we cannot just give things to those who don’t have what we have, we need to teach them how to fight for it. School is one of the ways that we can teach them to fight. In my classroom, I want to spark an interest in my students to better themselves. I want to show them how much I love reading and show them that I care enough about their reading lives that they will pick up a book and read. I want students to want to read and research. I don’t want them to just “go through the motions” reading the canon books that I didn’t even like reading. I want students to be invested in their own learning. If the school needs new books, I won’t research and fill out a grant on my own, I will bring the project into the classroom. I will have students research different options and advocate in their own society. I want to teach them how to make change happen in there society and have them be the ones responsible. When these students leave high school, they would be able to say that they did something worth while in the last few years.

I want to be an advocate for change, and I believe change starts with the next generation. We need to better the next generation so that they can change society and help those who missed out or faced troubles during their life. We can make change in our world, but if we don’t teach the next generation, then will they continue the change? I don’t know, but I do know that I want to help the next generation in any way I can.

So, I ask you now, what change will you make in the world? What will you do?

Thoughts on “The Motivated Student” by Bob Sullo Part 2

If you saw my post last time about Sullo’s book, then you already know how important I think motivation is and what I have noticed in the school where I was observing. If you haven’t seen this, click here.

The last post was only after reading the first half of the book, so I was still missing a lot of different ways to motivate students. Now after reading the second half, there is so much more I can do in the classroom. One thing is connecting the content to the students. I can ask questions like “What would you do if you knew this character?” I never thought about how that could motivate students. Now I see why. It makes them engage with the text and it opens their imagination to take what they know one step farther. I haven’t seen too much of this in Mrs. Mitchell’s class, but I am sure it would really help. As I mentioned before, BKid is a hard student to engage, and he isn’t the only one in that class. Questions that engage them with what they are reading would really help. Unfortunately, all they have been reading is poems and short stories rather than novels.

Sullo continues on to say that realistic expectation can help with motivation. I completely agree with this. I have experienced unrealistic expectations in my experiences in school, and it gives me that “I don’t care” attitude that teachers want to avoid. Sullo says, “Adopt the practice of grading students based on their current performance compared to past performance,” (107). This is something that Mrs. Mitchell does. She told me that it might be harder in a public school, but she grades students based on how far they have come. The students may be making huge grammar mistakes in the paper, but the ideas may be more coherent than they ever were, so they still get a good grade. Obviously this creates the challenge of personalizing the learning and remembering where all the students are with their writing. I make write notes about the students that will help me remember when I am bringing this into my own classroom.

Like Sullo said in an earlier chapter, fulfilling students basic needs is critical when creating a lesson. One of these needs is fun. The students need to be having fun when they are learning, but I think that is easier said than done. I return to BKid, and easy example for lack of motivation. I saw him come alive during an activity in his French class. Mrs. Mitchell had students use empty ice cream containers to review prepositions. She would say the preposition in French, and the students would need to use the containers to demonstrate what it meant. BKid was smiling and enthusiastic, pointing vigorously in different directions. I was so excited to see him this engaged in an activity, but then the game ended and his energy ended with it. I believe I already used this example, but it is a good one when looking at motivation.

Something that I really want to focus on when I go off into the teaching world involves a model Sullo includes in chapter 13. The model is three circles, one large one with a smaller one inside and a smaller one inside that one. The large one is “nice to know,” the next in “important to know,” and the smallest is “essential to know.” Sullo says that we need to focus on the two smaller ones, which completely makes sense. I’m not sure Mrs. Mitchell was always focused on the essential and important information, and that’s why she may have lost students interests, or if she did, she did not emphasize that it was essential or important. I would need to look back into my field notes and really read to see what was essential and important in her lessons. Some classes it was obvious, but in others, I am unsure. I will need to seriously focus to make sure that it is obvious in all of my lessons what is important and essential, and occasionally throw in the “nice to know” information.

The final thing that Sullo points of is our “professional identity.” This is something that I am beginning to construct. I am learning about many different pedagogies and trying to determine how and what I want to teach. In one of my classes, I did some serious work with identity construction that completely surprised me. I did not know how many identities I had and what truly helped me create them. It also made me think about what I will use to create my professional identity. I have already been constructing bits and pieces even before I began my AED classes. Sullo uses Bob Wubbolding’s WDEP model when talking about the professional identity. This acronym stands for “W: Identify what you Want,” “D: Determine what you are Doing to achieve you goals,” “E: Evaluate your progress,” and “P: Plan how to maintain your success or improve your performance,” (155). The one thing I definitely know that I want is to have students not necessarily love Shakespeare but at least enjoy something from the unit and take something from what we did with which ever play we are looking at. I have not yet determined what I will do to create this, but I am slowly thinking of different ideas that will get me there. I feel like WDEP is a great resource to use so that I am always improving and striving to reach my own personal goals as a teacher.

Thoughts on “The Motivated Student” by Bob Sullo

Recently I began to read “The Motivated Student” by Bob Sullo, and it really made me think about the pedagogy that I am forming and the pedagogies that I have observed. Sullo talks about the elements in the classroom that can inspire as well as cut down motivation. The first thing that he talks about is fear. Many teachers will resort to fear as a tactic, even small bits of fear like, “Now class, if some of you don’t do well on your next exam, this may cause you to fail.” Luckily, I have not seen any sort of fear tactics in Mrs. M’s room (my observation teacher). I am glad to see that my host teacher does not fall into the bad habits that reduce motivation. Another way Sullo says that motivation is reduced is through an overly controlled environment. Mrs. M seems to have a good balance of rules and students choice. I do not see many students who are unmotivated in her classroom. Part of this may be because of the surrounding environment. There is a bit of a fear element with it being a sullo studentprivate school and there is the possibility for a student to be kicked out. In this way, there is a little bit of fear that causes students to be motivated. Another part is that from 6th grade until 12th grade, they have Mrs. M for English, so the students become used to her rules and internalize them. One of the things Sullo suggests is, “Get to know students in the lower grades,” (80). Mrs. M is already doing this just by the school set up that she is in. Another thing that Mrs. M has is enthusiasm. I always see her smiling or laughing at a joke a students makes. When she reads a story or poem, she performs it and everyone watches (give or take one sleepy student). Almost every time Mrs. M reads, the students listen intently and are quiet. I have even seen some students inspired enough to perform when they read.

Routines can also help with motivation. This was shocking for me to hear. Routines? Really? But it is the predictability that creates a safe environment for the students. If they feel safe, they are more motivated to learn. With the 6th grade English class, Mrs. M always starts out with spelling on Mondays. This is something that the students have become accustomed to. Fridays are reading days where the 6th graders can read their own personal book for the class period. Mrs. M has taught and continues to demonstrate what a good reader does and all of the students follow. In the 11th/12th grade English (upper grade levels are combined) Mondays are “Mad Lib Mondays.” Mrs. M has a Mad Lib book that she picks a page from and assigns the students each one of the blank spots. The students expect this to happen and become a bit upset if she skips it (which has only happened once since I have been observing). This allows the students to do something fun that is still reviewing parts of speech.

One student in the 9th/10th grade English class has continued to baffle me. I have nicknamed him BKid because what I always notice about him is that he looks bored. He is often talking with classmates or sleeping or just staring off into space. It is hard for a teacher to try and personalize learning, but Sullo says that it is very important for motivation. Later in the year, I learned that BKid has an IEP that causes some of his problems in school. This could be the downside to a private school that only has 5 teachers (some teaching more than one subject). There is no specific help for IEPs, but the teachers try their best to help. There is one time when I saw BKid motivated, and that was during an activity in fren class. Mrs. M gave each student two empty Ben and Jerry’s containers and had them stand up. They were reviewing directions, so she would say a direction/preposition in French and the students would use the containers to demonstrate the meaning. BKid was attentive and played along, but as soon as the activity ended, he went back to his slumped position in the chair and checked out. Unfortunately, Mrs. M can’t always do activities like this, but knowing that he responds well to them may help her in her teaching.

Motivation is much more important than I realized. It can completely affect the way students learn. I will continue in Sullo’s book and make notes of what I should be doing in my future classroom. Student teaching isn’t very far away, and motivation can be the difference between me being a good teacher or a great teacher.

No Time to Teach?!

So, I am about halfway through my semester now, and I still haven’t found a rhythm. I am constantly forgetting things or getting frustrated at the wrong time and being unprofessional. I feel like I am drowning in work and I don’t have any rope to grab on to. I have had more breakdowns just this semester than I ever had. You may be wondering, “Then why don’t you change your major?” The answer is, I can’t see myself doing anything else. Ever since I was little, I wanted to teach, but I never knew what subject. The reason why I decided on English was because it was something I liked and I thought I was good at it. Now, I have become passionate about it. I find myself asking people about what they are reading or what they are doing in their English class.

I love teaching the most when I am in the classroom. If I could, I would skip homework and start building a curriculum now and teaching and learning by trial and error. I love talking with students and I just feel satisfied being able to help at least one student, even with a small task. But, then comes the wave of homework that makes me want to hide under my bed. I have become so behind and I feel like I never have enough time. It has gotten to the point that I don’t like going to observation because that is time when I could be doing homework. Isn’t that terrible? I don’t want to be in a classroom, where I love to be, because I have homework. The more days that pass, the farther behind I get and the more I trip up, the more I become stressed, the more I take it out on others.

I hope that I will be able to figure something out, but at this point, I feel like I’ll just need to wait until the semester ends. I know I am learning a lot, I just don’t feel I have the time to absorb the information. I am reading so many things that I end up skimming and then we don’t even discuss it, so that’s another thing that I could be learning that I’m not. Even this blog is taking up time that I don’t have to give. I have found myself skipping meals because that’s time when I can be doing homework. There was one day when all I ate was an apple. Now, with my tailbone injury, I am getting even less done.

I don’t think I told you all about that. Well, in Quidditch, I got tackled pretty hard and landed on my tailbone with my weight, plus the weight of the guy who tackled me. This happened  Saturday, October 19th, and I still haven’t recovered. I am often at my most productive when I am in my room, but now I have to stay out in the living room because sitting on my bed puts too much pressure on my tailbone, causing me pain, and I can’t use my desk because it is completely covered with books. I can get work done in the living room, but not so much when my roommate is there. I need to find a way to get things done.

I need to be able to breathe.

To eat.

To sleep.

To teach.