Saturday, March 7, 2015

Lesson Plan: Revising with Proper Nouns

This lesson was adapted from Mentor Texts by Lynn Dorfman.

Brainstorm: Think of places the class is familiar with. Mention specific things you might see as you walk through.

Example: Place- West Chester University
  • Main Hall --> Killinger Hall --> Hollinger Fieldhouse
  • Recitation Hall --> Brandywine Hall --> Farrell Stadium
  • Starbucks --> Sykes Student Union --> Francis Harvey Green Library
  • Lawrence Dining Hall --> The Village --> Church Street
Model: Write a short piece that describes things you see. Keep it general so students can revise later. Then revise by placing proper nouns from brainstormed list.

Friday, March 6, 2015

Interview: Special Education

Here are some Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) about special education. The post is set up in a question and answer format. These answers were last updated in 2013.  The source to many of these answers come from Teaching Students with Special Needs in an Inclusive Setting.

Define and describe special education. 

Special education is specially designed instruction provided by the school district or another local education agency that meets the unique needs of students identified as disabled according to federal and state eligibility criteria. 

Define differentiated instruction and explain its usefulness in meeting the needs of a diverse classroom.

Differentiated instruction is “the planning of curriculum and instruction using strategies that address student strengths, interests, skills, and readiness in flexible learning environments.” It is a “philosophy that guides your thoughts about, and actions with, children in the classroom” (167). Differentiated instruction is important because it tailors teaching to meet the needs of all the students in the class. Typically, teachers will teach to one set of students, but everybody in the class learns differently. Differentiated instruction meets all of the needs of the students in the class.

Essay: Banking and Problem-Posing Concept

This essay was originally written in 2013.

In chapter two of Pedagogy of the Oppressed, author Paulo Freire discusses what he feels is an important educational issue. Freire's chapter focuses on two types of teaching: the banking and problem-posing methods. He clearly believes that one form of education is better than the other. Freire strongly criticizes the banking approach, but genuinely supports the problem-posing method.

To open his discussion, Freire starts with a brief scenario and description introducing the banking approach. He describes the banking concept of education as teachers depositing information into the heads of students, who are only capable of receiving the information. Banking is when teachers talk and lecture, and the students simply memorize what is being said. Through this process, students will not understand the meaning behind an answer. They will not know how an answer is derived, nor why something is the way it is. Students will not fully comprehend an explanation; they will just memorize facts without understanding the reason or significance. No critical thinking is involved with banking. Freire shames the approach for these reasons.

Freire strongly criticizes the banking method throughout the chapter. He believes that memorizing minimizes creativity. Students are not able to think outside the box when they are absorbing a teacher's rant. Students do not have the opportunity to think hardly about something with banking. Freire believes that this is a problem because it will eventually lead to students accepting the world, which will basically be handed to them. Those who are depositing the information may want this since it keeps everything the same, but students won't be able to have their own thoughts or interpretations with banking. Freire goes on to mention an alternative to the banking method.

Essay: Piaget and Educational Psychology

This essay was originally written in 2011.

The subject of educational psychology is extremely broad, but important for future teachers to know. Educational psychology is defined as “the discipline concerned with teaching and learning processes” (Bangs, 349). There are hundreds of subtopics and psychologist that appear in the educational psychology field. The are many important names that relate to educational psychology, but nobody may be more important than Jean Piaget. Piaget believed that “children are not empty vessels to be filled with knowledge but active builders of knowledge who are constantly creating and testing their own theories of the world” (Papert). Piaget brings up several key points in educational psychology, with his stages of cognitive development being the most famous.

Monday, March 2, 2015

"Brain Break" Ideas

"Brain Breaks" are becoming increasingly popular in school. These short breaks may add some physical activity into the classroom, but they have also been proven to increase educational performance.  We may call it a "break" but movement actually energizes and activates the brain. This causes students to re-focus, thus limiting off-task behavior.

I've seen "Brain Breaks" in several different fashions. Many teachers have task cards with the activity printed on the card, which is picked at random. I've also seen a table where you roll two dice and match those numbers with the coordinates of the table to determine the activity. Also, Popsicle sticks with circular printouts attached to the top are picked out of a mug. The printouts tend to have a picture of the activity on one side and a description of the activity on the other. For a more 21st century style, the site GoNoodle has interactive Brain Break videos. All of these resources are great, but personally I think it's harder to incorporate your own ideas while matching the original resource's format.

Personally, I prefer the traditional "task on a Popsicle stick" method. There aren't any fancy pictures or descriptions on the sticks, but I found that it was the easiest to make and also to add your own. And to be honest, it's much cheaper than the Brain Breaks you might pay for on Teacher's Pay Teachers.

All you need are the following supplies:

  • Sharpie Permanent Marker
  • One small piece of construction paper
  • Colored Craft Sticks (You can buy a 75-pack at AC Moore for $2.50)
  • A cup (I bought a 3-pack of cups from the Dollar Store)
I wrote the "Brain Break" onto a Popsicle stick, and put it in the cup. That's it!  The question is, what kind of activities did I use for my Brain Breaks? 

Below is a list of activities with the description for each Brain Break. You could do each activity for a timed period, or do a specific number of each.  Print out the list so you can refer to it as a reference when Brain Breaks are picked out of the cup.