Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Where I'm From

Last night, in my ED 692 class (Classroom Strategies in First and Second Language for Reading and Writing) we had a workshop presentation that included a lesson based on the work of George Ella Lyon. The lesson included a chance to write a "Where I'm From" poem, based on Ms. Lyon's work. It was a powerful experience, and one that I recommend to teachers everywhere.

Here's Mine (written from the perspective of my childhood):

I am from solitaire cards and chicken foot dominoes.
From dryer sheets and telephones.
I am from the nomadic
moving again and again and again.
I am from the coleus and the Christmas cactus.

I'm from sleeping in Christmas morning and playing Boggle.
From Kathy and "Cap'n Reese."
I'm from yelling and hugs
and from music.

I'm from strength and keep going
and Eensy Weensy Spider.
I'm from Oregon
My brother from Colorado
My sisters from Germany, New Jersey and Washington.
One sister left shortly after arriving.
From slideshows and Schranks
and pictures in forgotten boxes that now live at my house.

Where are you from?

Friday, May 4, 2012

Classroom Memories

One of my "Moodle" prompts this week for one of my online grad school classes asked us to reflect on memories we had in our ownclassroom experiences, and how that experience impacted our learning, and to describe how that experience will help us, as teachers, "create a classroom conducive to learning." Here's what I wrote:

Like others have mentioned, I don't have many memories of classroom experiences in the grade I want to teach. Sort of. I remember when I took it upon myself to transplant all of my Sophomore biology teacher's classroom plants in my free time after school because they were all root-bound and suffering from neglect. I learned the hard way about cacti that actually are heat-sensitive and shoot their spines at whatever they feel is threatening them--even if that's just a hand trying to help them have a better growing experience. It was nice to look back the next year and see the proof of my handiwork--happy plants. I remember an Anatomy and Physiology class in my Junior College/freshman year where my professor simply handed me the top half of a human skull to hold while he pointed out the intracacies of the human brain. I had to get over my squeamishness at participating in cadaver anatomy VERY quickly at that point--or risk dropping the skullcap in my hand. I also remember working for weeks on a genetic experiment breeding fruitflies--only to discover that someone had tampered with my jars at the very end, the most crucial part of my experiment, by damaging the covers of my jars and allowing my fruit flies to mix and mingle with other fruit flies and destroying my data. Not fun. Luckily my professor was understanding.

I also remember being in third grade and being treated more like a middle school or junior high. Instead of staying in one classroom, we went from room to room for different subjects. A glaring exception to the middle school model was that we didn't have lockers and had to schlep ALL of our stuff with us from room to room--so much stuff to carry that it was actually physically painful to my seven-year-old self. I truly hated school that year. I started lying about doing my work--telling my parents I didn't have homework, and telling my teachers that I'd had issues at home preventing me from doing my work--because that was easier than lugging all of my stuff around all the time. (That didn't last long).

So--to create a classroom conducive to learning. I think that sort of classroom needs to be comfortable--but not too comfortable. There needs to be systems in place that SUPPORT learning, not detract from it. And when circumstances arise that are truly beyond a student's control, a teacher needs to be helpful and understanding.Sometimes the best way to get over apprehension and fear in learning situations is to just dive right in and do it. And live plants always make a room a little more pleasant. Unless they are spine-shooting cacti.

Seriously, watch out for the Cacti.

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Blink and You'll Miss It

Somehow, without my realizing it, this:

became this:

Monday, March 26, 2012

Cover Me--I'm Going In!

It's Spring Break here in Oregon, and I need to use this time to clean and purge my office/craft space. As you may remember, I taught monthly classes for four years at Stampin'Cat Studio. Before that I had an online scrapbooking store. Now, my focus will be on grad school for the next year and a half, so I need to change the focus of my workspace. I'll be doing a HUGE clean/purge/sort "Clean Sweep" kind of thing for the next few days. If you haven't heard from me by Thursday, send in someone to find me. I'll probably be buried under the Basic Grey papers. Or Bazzill. Or Echo Park. Either way, keep digging until you find me!

Monday, March 19, 2012

Bilingual Education and Technology--Looking back on my first term.

(note: there are a LOT of fun links here. Take your time. Enjoy them all) 
I've spent the last ten weeks being introduced to different aspects of Bilingual Education. One of my two ESOL classes this term was "Sociopolitical Foundations of ESOL/ Bilingual Education," while the other was "Educational Technology for the ESOL/Bilingual Classroom." I must admit, when I started the ESOL endorsement, I just wanted to make myself as employable as possible. But now, I find myself a passionate advocate of Bilingual Education.

Many of my blog readers will remember that I've been tutoring Koreans for the past four years. Part of why I thought I'd enjoy the ESOL endorsement classes was because I felt I already had some experience teaching ELLs, or English Language Learners. I have enjoyed my time with Newspaper Talk, and feel it really has given me a good preparatory experience teaching ELLs. I'm looking forward to furthering my ESOL education.

I was surprised to find that I enjoyed my ESOL EdTech class so much. I must admit, I was a little nervous at first. I do not think of myself as a particulary "techie" kind of gal--I mean, I know how to work my way around my familiar programs and websites, but I've not done much beyond that. After all, that's what my IT tech loving geeky husband is for! He's MUCH MUCH better at it than I am! But I found that I really enjoyed the lessons in this class, and figured out some terrific tools to use.
In my first assignment, I used some Google tools to create a Powerpoint-style presentation. Then I used SlideRocket to make my first ESOL-themed assignment. (that was fun!).

After that, I used Jing to create a Screencast (I've hidden my ScreenCast as an Easter Egg kind of link--pay attention to my Korean tutoring if you haven't found it yet); I liked that technology so well, I used it to make another ScreenCast to help my Mom figure out Spotify (I haven't heard if she liked it, but I had fun making it!).

One of the assignments that was hard (but still enjoyable) was using Prezi to create a "digital essay" about using technology in the classrooms. One of my classmates had a quote that inspired my project. Her project referred to using digital tools and technology as the "new literacy." I felt that was so apt and appropriate, I titled my digital essay "The New Literacy."

I still find the subject fascinating, and truly believe that if you are teacher who does not want to use technology in the classroom, you will be replaced by a teacher who does. I do think that it's a lot to ask for students who are surrounded by some pretty sophisticated technologies to just put it all aside and sit and listen to a lecture or read from a textbook and be expected to enjoy it.

Our last big assignment was to create a website. I must say, website "plug-n-play" templates have come a long way since I toyed with the idea of creating a personal website many years ago--an idea I abandoned because it was too hard for me to do by myself. That isn't the case any more!

All in all, I have been changed in the last 10 weeks. Not only have I become a passionate advocate of bilingual education, but I've become somewhat of a technological pioneer. Granted, my pioneering journey was just for myself, but all of the assignments (with the exception of the week we were to experience blogging) took me to places I hadn't been before. I created a new digital literacy for myself, and had my eyes opened to new ways of looking at the world--and education.
Speaking of Bilingual Education, I'm including an essay I wrote about the importance of Bilingual Education in the United States. There is a LOT of prejudice out there, and I hope that some of you might see things a different way after reading it. There is room for improvement.I know that I am no longer content to be merely an observer on the sidelines in this important education issue.

Bilingual Education in the U.S. has had a rough road. Shortly after the First World War, there was a push against bilingualism, specifically with the German language (Spolsky, 2011). German books were banned, German music ignored, and schools stopped teaching the German language.  These attitudes continued until those who were bilingual were seen as having a lack of intelligence. Even worse, bilingualism became anti-American. In fact unless it served the country in some way, either defensively or otherwise, there has been a lack of bilingualism in America. The Bilingual Education Act expired in 2002, and the No Child Left Behind act crippled bilingual education even further (Crawford, 2008). Some states have even gone so far as to promote an “English-Only” curriculum in schools. California, Arizona, and Massachusetts have even gone so far as to pass laws requiring an “English-Only” curriculum, citing that students’ test scores improve in an “English-Only” model and that by teaching only in English, students would be protected from unwanted influences and even have greater economic prosperity. Other states have tried to pass laws, Colorado for example, but were unsuccessful (Benz, 2005). Thank goodness! I think that such claims (by those that promote the “English-Only” movement) are ridiculous! This makes me grateful to teach and live in Oregon, one of the few states that have officially adopted an “English-Plus” policy; this means that not only are immigrant students taught in English, but their native languages are also protected and encouraged.

Bilingual education has been in the court systems long before the push for “English-Only” curriculum laws. In 1946, in California, a man named Gonzalo Mendez successfully sued the Westminster School District for racial discrimination and segregation (TeachingTolerance n.d). Mendez was a farmer who wanted a better life for his children. His sister took his children and her children to register them in their local school district. Her children looked white; his did not. Her children were allowed to register in the local school, while Mr. Mendez’s children were told they’d have to attend the inferior Mexican school on the other side of town. Outraged, Mr. Mendez spent a year organizing the other Mexican families. They won the case, and the landmark case of Mendez v. Westminster was successful in allowing not only Mr. Mendez’s children the right to attend the superior schools, but 5,000 other Mexican children as well. Many people followed this court case, including Thurgood Marshall, who successfully argued the famous Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka in 1964. In 1964, the Title VI Civil Rights Act was passed. This act allowed for equal education for all, regardless of race, color, or nationality. In 1971, in Chinatown, in San Francisco, it was discovered that many Chinese children were put into English-only classrooms. These children had very limited English skills. The district felt that they had done nothing wrong—and had in fact, been providing an equal education for all, according to Title VI. A judge however, saw things differently, and felt that by putting these children into classes where they could not understand the lessons made their classroom experiences “incomprehensible” and “in no way meaningful” (Wright, 2010 p. 73). This Supreme Court case became known as Lau v. Nichols, and it led the way to implementation of bilingual education programs for students with limited English proficiency. The Equal Education Opportunity Act (EEOA) of 1974 followed; this act help apply the Lau decision. Other court cases followed: Castañeda v. Pickard put into place standards for assessment for the ruling of the Lau case in 1981 and in 1982 Plyer v. Doe (a District Court case) stated that all children were entitled to a fair an equal education, regardless of their legal status. Schools are also not allowed to ask for documentation of a student’s legal status as well, giving undocumented children access to a quality education under the Castañeda standards.

English Language Learners or ELLs are still working hard to receive an equal education in today’s schools. They need instruction not only in their core-content areas but also in the English language itself. Many of today’s schools use a Transitional Bilingual Education model, or TBE. This model is used most often because the government is willing to fund it, and because it puts the least strain on a school district (Wright, 2010, p. 82). The goal of a TBE model is to transition the ELLs as fast as possible into an English-only, mainstream classroom. The most common method of English Language Development or ELD is the “Pull-out/Push-in” method. In this method, ELLs are “pulled out” of their classroom for their English-language instruction, usually for about 30-45 minutes a day. If schools are using a “push-in” model, this instruction happens in a student’s regular classroom, during classroom hours. Another method of TBE is the Sheltered Instruction method. Here, students are taught content in English, but these learning activities are supported by pictures, visual aids, and other methods—anything that would help the student understand the content of the lesson in English. Pascopella (2011) feels that Sheltered Instruction gives students explicit “academic content-vocabulary instruction” in both English and, where possible, a student’s native language. Another method schools use for ELD is the Dual Language model. In this instance, learning instruction occurs half in English, and half in the student’s native language (usually Spanish). Pascopella likes this method because it gives students a chance to “develop their first language” while achieving proficiency in English at the same time. A lot of ELLs have academic success in this method. Finally, some schools use the Submersion model, also referred to as the “sink-or-swim” approach to bilingual education. This is the model preferred by those who promote “English-Only” curriculum. In this model, students receive all of their instruction in English, with no thoughts given to using any part of a student’s native language.

Research has shown that if a student is allowed to keep their native language (L1) in an additive learning environment along with learning a new language (L2) they are more successful academically (Goldenberg, 2008). Garcia (2010) also makes a strong case for keeping an ELLs L1. Wright (2010, p. 83) states that it is “easier for students to learn to read and write in the language they know best.” Unfortunately, many TBE programs are subtractive, meaning that they end up removing a lot of a student’s native language as they learn English. It is challenging to keep an L1; instruction must be given in both languages. This is difficult for both the student and the teacher, as the teacher must put a little more effort into instruction, and the student will struggle at first. They will need “extra time” –after all, they are learning academic content while learning the language, but teaching students to read in their first language “promotes higher levels of reading achievement in English” (Goldenberg, 2008). Still, studies have proven again and again that if a student can read and understand content in their native language that understanding will transfer into English. It is slow going at first; students are processing information in both languages, and that takes longer to accomplish, but in the end, a student who preserves their L1 while adding an L2 is a better learner overall A recent article in the New York Times (“Why Bilinguals are Smarter, March 17, 2012) also supports the idea that bilingual education makes for better learners. Essentially, to have a successful program, ELLs need English language instruction that doesn’t replace their native language.

A good teacher will be able to find ways to teach a student in such a way that they are able to keep their native language. This kind of teacher will be creative, using Sheltered Instruction, and above all, will respect not only a bilingual student’s native language but also their culture. Teacher’s may encounter resistance to keeping a student’s native language from their parents; many parents of ELLs want their children to be taught only in English, feeling that they are able to provide education at home in an ELLs native language. When this happens, a teacher will need to explain the research mentioned earlier—that teaching a student in both languages will create a student who is an exceptional learner and truly bilingual—in literacy as well as speech. It will seem at first that a bilingual student being taught this way will struggle; teachers will need to reassure both the parents and the student that this kind of instruction and learning will be worth it in the end. Websites like “Colorín Colorado” are helpful in promoting dual-language instruction. Teachers can also fight back against the marginalization promoted by NCLB and insist that those teacher performing ELD be trained and certified ESOL instructors. Often, teacher’s assistants or teachers with minimal training are left to teach and implement ELD instruction (Harper, et al, 2007). Good teachers can educate parents about what’s necessary for good ELD instruction, and the parents can be sure to then ask for quality instruction on behalf of their children. Another way teachers can advocate for ELL students and families is to make the school and their classroom a welcoming place for them. I am glad that the Greater Albany Public School district has a Welcome Center for Spanish-speaking families, as well as interpreters available for parent-teacher conferences and other school functions. When I read the district’s ELD plan I was happy to find out that they also work to get interpreters in languages other than Spanish from the International Club at OSU. All of the documents that are sent home with schoolchildren have also been translated into Spanish, and other languages are available if needed. I think that these kinds of activities go a long way to helping ELL student and families feel welcome in any school district. Even with such district support, it is my hope that I will be one of those “good teachers” that is able to successfully teach ELLs.

(Rather than make a Reference page, I've just linked all the references within the text. If I used a reference more than once, I only linked it once. I hope that you enjoyed having all of the actual papers available for your perusal.)

So that's it. That's a small sampling of what I've learned this first term when it comes to Bilingual Education and Technology. It was a big step for me in a lot of ways. I am so glad I took it.

Dwain the Tub! I'm Dwowning!

So here we are: finals week.

It's been a blur.

While I'm SO HAPPY with the Candy Stripers Junior Roller Derby team, between it and Grad School, I've had very little time. I'm still tutoring Koreans and also working at the Corvallis Waldorf School in their Extended Day/Afterschool care program.

I'll say it again though, the Candy Stripers are AWESOME!

This last term, I had 12 credits and really thought it was fine. Next term, I have my first practicum (student teaching experience) and I'll be taking two more ESOL endorsement classes for a total of 14 credits. And I'll have the Junior Derby. And work.

Send me your best knock-knock jokes. I'm going to need them.

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Together Again--For the First time!

Starting Over--again.

Some of you have stuck by me for the last five years or so that I've been blogging. I've been pretty quiet the last year or so. I haven't really felt the groove. Yet at the same time, I LOVED blogging. I loved feeling like I had an audience, like I was heard. And I think that's really what it's all about. We, no matter who we are or what we are blogging for, want to feel like we are heard.

I'm currently back in school. Back in grad school, back in an MAT program--but this time at Western Oregon University instead of OSU. I like it a lot. It came about rather suddenly, so it's been an adjustment for me and my family. To top it off, I started a Junior Roller Derby league about the same week that school started. I'm SO GLAD I did, but it's made for a rocky start. My family's equilibrium was definitely off-kilter for a bit. I think that now, nearly two months in, we are finding solid ground again and getting the kinks worked out of our schedule. I'm grateful that my kiddoes are older. That makes it a lot easier.

One thing I'm doing differently this time is that I am working on an ESOL endorsement. ESOL, in case you didn't know, stands for "English for Speakers of Other Languages," and is essentially, in it's simplest terms, a pedagogical method to help facilitate learning for children who don't speak English as their first language. Not so simply, it's fascinating stuff! I'm surprised at how much I like it--how much I am enjoying my classes in these areas, and how much potential there is for improving my teaching in my content areas (Biology and Music, in case you didn't know). That's part of the reason I'm resurrecting my blog--one of the classes I'm taking is all about technology for ESOL teachers and how they can use them in their teaching. So far, I've really gone beyond my comfort zone and learned about Google Docs, Slide Rocket, Prezi, and more. It's kind of blown my mind. I had no idea that there was so much good FREE stuff out there! I may have even found a new favorite photo-processing site; something I'm grateful for, since my beloved Picnik is shutting down (well, technically they are moving to Google +, so I may not lose them totally).

Our assignment this week was to create a blog. Since I HAVE a blog, albeit a terribly neglected blog of late, I didn't creat a new one, but rather re-acquainted myself with my old one. It's a bit unfamiliar--the dashboard is different, and things are a big dusty; my knowledge of how to use all of the tools and tabs withing blogger a bit rusty, but still--here I am! I can't promise I'll continue blogging regularly, but I can tell you that I truly missed the outlet, and can tell that part of me needs to be blogging.

But how would you use blogs as a classroom teacher? I certainly wouldn't be quite as forthcoming if I were writing this blog with a teacher hat on. I believe that there should be some kind of line in the sand--that teacher's need to maintain some kind of aloofness--especially in this age of prevalent social media--in a time I've heard referred to as the "almost now." Yet I feel that blogs are a powerful tool. I think a teacher could easily stay connected with parents and students--assignments could be posted in detail in blogs. A teacher could give samples of the works he or she is expecting to receive in those assignments. Students could be assigned to write blogs--but be in character. For instance, biology students could write from the standpoint of a famous researcher; history students could be a character in history; and ESOL students could have a rich and varied language exploration right at their fingertips.

I still tutor Korean students in the mornings. Many of them attend English academies after their regular school day is done. These are a version of a "cram school," where grammer and vocabulary are learned by rote day after day, night after night. I think that there could be SO MUCH MORE to the study of the English language. Why not discover great poetry (or even bad poetry for that matter)? Write limericks? Act out plays? I think that ALL of these are better ways to learn and immerse in language study. As a singer, I've sung many songs in languages I do not speak. I still have had to learn a bit about what the song says in order to give a decent performance. Blogs can be a part of that. A student could write stories--even if it's just their own stories--and thereby learn more about the mechanics of sentence structure and vocabulary than rote memorization can provide.

Blogs connect people. And those connections are really what it's all about--whether you are connecting teacher-to-student, or teacher-to-parent, or in any other capacity.