Concluding my Blogging Experience

December 3, 2008 at 5:35 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

So I can admit I was a little skeptical of this assignment when it was first given to me at the beginning of the semester. I was thinking to myself, great another thing that I am not going to have time for with work and school. There was also the whole technological side to the assignment. I know how to check my email and my facebook, but I cannot edit my own Myspace page without help from one of my friends because the format is just weird to me. I am not completely lost when it comes to technology, but I do know there are plenty of people out there that know more than I do. As I continued writing my blogs I realized I have learned a lot about the field that I am going into, and I was able to address many of the issues, concerns, and fears I have entering the education field.
I know much is going to change over the next few years, and I hope it is for the better. I would love to see the profession of a teacher have more respect, and more support from parents.
One thing that I do regret about this assignment is the amount of time I had to spend on it. I feel as though I should have spent more time writing my blogs. I was always reading articles and paying attention to what was going on, but it was normally when I needed a break from a different assignment and I never wrote the blog at that moment as I wish I would have. This assignment has been a very unique experience and I have surprisingly enjoyed it. Understanding a little better how networking works, and how many people can be connected through the internet never fails to surprise me.

Expanding Language Programs in Schools

December 3, 2008 at 5:27 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

An article written by Zain Shauk caught my attention, “School may expand its language programs.” He was reporting about an elementary school in California that offers German, Italian, as well as Spanish in their elementary school: “Twenty-five kindergartners at Franklin Elementary already receive 90% of their instruction in German, and administrators are hoping to put more students into bilingual environments by adding programs for Italian and Spanish” (Shaulk). I believe that his is a very good step towards cultural awareness for Americans. Many Americans are not exposed to any other culture or language besides their own. As I had mentioned earlier, in my little high school we had no diversity. We were all Caucasians, we were mostly sons and daughters of farmers, and we pretty much all practiced the same religion. It was not until I started working and attended college that I realized how important learning about people who were different from me was. I got the opportunity to meet people from Mexico, Guatemala, and other Latin American countries. I was also given the opportunity to meet people from Saudi Arabia, and learn even more about a culture that seemed so forbidden with the events within the last decade.
I really think that our schools should implement learning other languages before the students reach high school. I also think it would be ideal if we offered more than just Spanish. Being a Spanish major I do understand how important this language is in our society now, and the effect it is having on our culture here in the U.S., but there are many other cultures that have just as much to offer, and learning a little about the language is a good look into a culture very different from what is normal.
I am a very strong believe that understanding is the first step to overcoming stereotypes as well as accepting people from other cultures. I believe that in our wonderful “melting pot” we need to embrace the opportunities we have to learn about new people, not be afraid of them because they are different. Tolerance is not good enough and accepting and understanding will help with discrimination as well as much of the violence that is experienced in our society. Teaching students from a young age about these differences is a step in the right direction to help our society be more at peace with the amount of differences we have here.

Article: Schools may expand its language programs
http://www.glendalenewspress.com/articles/2008/11/15/education/gnp-languages15.txt

Are budget cuts really the best for Michigan schools?

December 3, 2008 at 5:02 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

While looking through the articles trying to find something that caught my attention, I decided to browse through news stories that where close to home. Now neither of these articles where very long, but each were very important to our community. These articles were found on Channel 3 news http://www.wwmt.com one spoke of budget cuts for schools in Michigan, and the other about the number of homeless students rising especially in Grand Rapids. While reading through both of these articles I could not help but make a connection between the economy and the homelessness in our area. It makes sense, our communities are losing jobs, in turn losing money, and then our families in the area are losing their homes. This is a horrible epidemic that Michigan’s poor economy has sent us towards.
I could also see a connection between the state losing money and this in turn causing budget cuts for our schools. If there isn’t money to be given well, the government does not have much choice except to decline funding.
These two issues cause one problem for me though, if the schools lose funding and these homeless kids don’t get what they need from the school what will happen to these students. There are many more students than one would think that the only meals they eat are at school. They eat breakfast and lunch and school, if they make it to school on time to catch breakfast, and at times do not receive another meal. If funding gets taken from the schools and after school activities get cut, well where are these students to go but back home without supervision with working parents or to the streets, which is worse yet. The last concern I have with taking money from schools is, if teachers and schools do not get the funding to help students achieve the goals they need to succeed in society, how are they to overcome the background they came from and make something more for themselves?
For many children school is like a sanctuary. Time to forget about what is happening outside of school and a chance to learn. I am very worried that Michigan is not going to be doing all it can to help our underprivileged students succeed. This goes all the way from elementary schools up through college. Many students from poorer backgrounds would not be attending college where it not for the help of government grants and loans. I just hope that careful consideration goes into these budget cuts before they take place/

Homelessness in Michigan: http://www.wwmt.com/articles/michigan_1355932___article.html/west_problem.html

Budget cuts: http://www.wwmt.com/articles/michigan_1356049___article.html/problems_recession.html

Education in the new Obama administration

December 3, 2008 at 4:40 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Educators, academics hopeful Obama administration will make changes to NCLB

So I know that my blog has been mainly focused on literacy and reading issues in schools, but I decided to take this entry a different direction. I found an article discussing President Elect Obama’s plan for the No Child Left Behind Act. Being that I am a future educator, this is a very important topic for me. Before I get into the article I want to explain a little bit about what happened at my school. I went to a high school of less than 200 people from 9th to 12th grade, and our elementary, middle, and high schools where all in one building! Crazy I know, but its true. A school of this size does not offer many AP classes so many of the gifted children decided to dual-enroll, which is take college classes will taking high school classes. To do this the student must take the M.E.A.P. (the state standardized test) as it was called at the time and pass. Many of us took this exam our sophomore year to prepare us for taking college classes our junior and senior years. We all passed and the following year, without the overachieving students taking the exam, our school was declared a failing school. Our grades had gone towards the junior class of the year before us. Our school was put on a watch and if improvement was not shown in the next few years, I believe that our funding was going to be restricted.
Now while Obama has many good plans for our economy’s future as well as health care and education, the article states that he has not said exactly when or what he is going to do with NCLB although he knows changes need to be made.
“We must fix the failures of No Child Left Behind,” Obama said during a campaign rally in Ohio in September. “We must provide the funding we were promised and give our states the resources they need, and, finally, meet our commitment to special education.”

NCLB asks for success and perfection with out the tools or guides for teachers and students to achieve them. I know that Obama wants to give raises to educators as well as give more funding to schools, but I believe that this act needs to be fixed first. The governments funding for education is being mandated by a standardized test is only written with the success of one type of student in mind. I observed a classroom last fall, and one of the teachers told me that his second grader started crying during the exam because she did not understand the exam. She was an English as a second language learner, and there was no other form of the exam. I do not believe that this act is giving our education a fair chance. We do need to have people moderating how or tax dollars are being sent, but not an exam.

Information for this post was taken from the article Kimberly S. Wetzel’s article in the Contra Costa Times
http://www.insidebayarea.com/argus/localnews/ci_11082812

Making a difference in our own communities

October 21, 2008 at 4:40 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | 1 Comment

In news from Western Michigan University, it has been declared that WMU researchers have been awarded a four million dollar grant to help preschool aged children with their reading skills. The idea is to have these children ready to read by the time they reach elementary school. Dr. Esther Newlin-Haus is the project director as well as the director of a similar program that has been introduced in Battle Creek area schools.

An interesting fact that the article included was that of all of the Kalamazoo area children that will be involved in the program, seventy-six percent are eligible for free or reduced lunches and ten percent are English as a second language children who speak either Spanish, Arabic, and other Asian languages (Schwerin). These are children that are already at an advantage to students whose parents have a higher income, as well as students whose first language is English. The article states that the program will also offer “parent workshops and mentoring” which could help these under priveleged students emmensly. Many problem areas could be overcame with more parent involvement at home. Reading to or with children, asking them questions about what they read to help them learn how to read comprehensibly, as well as just being involved could have a large impact on the literacy rates in our area schools.

I think this grant could help increase our tests scores in Michigan greatly. Setting the foundation of basic reading skills at a young age can have a positive correlation for better comprehension in later grades as well as higher reading levels. I also believe the amount of children that are not at reading level will decrease. This will later turn into a more positive outlook on reading and education but the students, parents as well as the educators.

Schwerin, Mark. “Researchers touch the lives of 350 local children.” WMU News.

“Those who can’t spell, teach”

October 21, 2008 at 4:39 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | 6 Comments

This phrase caught my eye as I was looking through new articles for my blog. I am sure that by my title alone I have chosen to focus my blogs on literacy in schools, but I never though I would find an article like this. According to an article posted by The Times in the UK, over a quarter of trainee teachers taking a basic literacy test don’t pass on their first attempt. Words such as anxiety, unnecessary, and relieved are problem areas for incoming teachers into the professional workplace.

The literacy tests are taken online and can be taken as many times as needed to pass. According to the article the majority of all incoming trainee teachers pass the second time around. A survey done by Spelling Society showed that more than half of adults have problems spelling such words as embarrassed and millennium. These adults are the parents as well as the role models for our future generation. How can we expect anything more than basic communication skills when our society does not uphold such standards? Starting with younger generations, less and less people are reading these days and engaging in other means of communicating with an incorrect vocabulary such as: watching TV., playing games, books on tape, as well as texting, which has a lot to do with the way our language is used today.

It is very interesting to compare these results with the issues I have seen in our schools with my own eyes. Has an epidemic of illiteracy entered itself into our culture without us even noticing it? I have heard random facts that the most common television programs are written at a fourth grade level, and that we have succumbed ourselves to the “dummy” how to books, but I did not know that it was such a problem. It almost does not seem fair to hold teachers to these high standards when their education/background does not give them the tools they need, but is it fair to the following generation to not have the teachers at the standards they need to be? I know the article doesn’t exactly refer to the United States, but we have many basic skills tests that have to be passed by our incoming teachers also. If the U.S. imposed a literacy test, would we see similar results?

 

http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/life_and_style/education/article4981687.ece

Stephen Greenblatt on Cultural Mobility

October 21, 2008 at 4:38 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

As I am a student of a foreign language, Spanish, as well as a student of literature, I found this event very intriguing to attend. Stephen Greenblatt is one the most respected writer when it comes to Shakespeare. He was written books, and studied much of Shakespeare’s works as well as history, but what Greenblatt has done with his lost play Cardenio is nothing short of amazing.

Greenblatt spoke a lot in his introduction about cultural mobility. This is an idea that struck home with me. I have taken international literature for children and young adults, as well as read many works of authors from many Spanish-speaking countries, and this idea proved true. Although Greenblatt spoke more of taking a work and watching it mold in different countries, I liked thinking about the opposite and seeing myself and hopefully seeing my future students learn about other cultures through literature. Students can look at a culture from the first person point of view of a person who is right there experiencing it. I believe it makes the learning experience for the student more real and more relatable.

Cardenio was the play chosen by Greenblatt for his experiment and was performed in 1613, but it has been said that the manuscript was lost. Another playwright of the time, Louis Tibbelt, said that he had found the lost manuscript, but it burned before a copy could be made. From what Tibbelt wrote and from a translated version of Don Quijote translated by Shelton, Greenblatt had just what he needed to write his own version of the play. Not ever knowing that two of my greatest passions were put together to write Cardenio (Shakespeare and the Spanish poem Don Quijote) I was completely intrigued. Greenblatt sought the help of the playwright Charles Mee and the two created a modern day work of Shakespeare.

The interesting part of the presentation was when Greenblatt spoke of how he gave the same materials he started with, had them translated into other languages, and then asked playwrights from other countries to write their own play based on what they were given. The results were amazing. Each country’s own ideas shown through the piece, but at the same time the main ideas of the play were kept in tact. This added to his idea of cultural mobility. Now being that I am going to be a teacher of literature as well as a foreign language, I really liked the idea that literature can mold into the environment that it is in. A student from Saudi Arabia is not going to have the same ideas as a student from Peru, but each could present the same ideas in very distinct styles. I also think that this diversity allows for students to realize that culture can be learned as well as portrayed by literature.

 

http://www.wmich.edu/wmu/news/2008/10/016.html

Starting With the Basics

September 23, 2008 at 1:48 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

As I am going to be a high school teacher I also find it very important to pay attention to the basic skills that are taught before they reach the high school level.  Many problems with reading and writing can be caught and at times helped if the right steps are taken.  In the article “10 City Schools to Focus Reading Skills on Content,” by Elissa Gootman, we get to see what ten intercity schools in New York are doing to help raise reading levels in high schools. 

The program is called “Core Knowledge Early Literacy Project” and the main idea of it is changing the current teaching style “balanced literacy,” to what they are calling the “Core Knowledge” curriculum.  The program starts with students in kindergarten and then follows them until they reach second grade.  It focuses more on enhancing the basics so by the time the students reach middle and high school they have a better idea of what reading and understanding is.

The balanced literacy style encourages the students to choose books with topics that interest them and at their own reading levels.  This approach relies heavily on faith that the students will push themselves and engage themselves in the reading.  The Core Knowledge curriculum focuses on content, vocabulary skills, and nonfiction books.  The students read interesting works as a group, with a more structured environment as well as basic knowledge of other subjects.  According to state tests, forty-three percent of the city’s eighth-graders read at or above grade level (Gootman).

This article shows that intervention needs to be done from the beginning and that basic skills need to be the foundation of learning how to read.  If students can be taught the right way to read and how they can begin to work on these skills, and maybe even mastering them before reaching the high school level.  These beginning years are very crucial to the students and could very well determine the curriculum of high school teachers if the skills are not present or at grade level when needed to be. 

I find that reading about what schools are doing to make our country more literate from the early stages very important, and is something we need to focus on.  The only other way I could see these teaching styles working better is finding a way to get parents involved at home. Many students are not read to or do not read aloud to their parents.  I understand that with the working class this is not always practical, but is a very crucial adjustment to the students learning in my opinion.   

Gootman, Elissa. “10 City Schools to Focus Reading Skills on Content.” The New York Times 26 Aug. 2008. Education. 26 Aug. 2008. The New York Times. 14 Sept. 2008 <http://http://www.nytimes.com/2008/08/26/education/26core.html?_r=2&scp=5&sq=literacy%20in%20schools&st=cse&oref=slogin&oref=slogin&gt;.

“Is it my job to teach reading as a high school teacher?”

September 23, 2008 at 1:14 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | 3 Comments
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“Is it my job to teach reading as a high school teacher?”  

This is a question many high school English teachers find asking themselves.  More and more students are arriving to high school without the basic reading and writing skills, and those that say they can read cannot comprehend nor explain what they read.   Christine Cziko taught English in a California classroom for more than twenty years, and in 1995 her ideas on teaching reading changed.

Cziko had realized that many of her students were not at the ninth and tenth grade levels that they needed to be to get by in her class. Cziko comments on her approaches to try to engage the students in the reading:  “I read to students, gave time in class to read, “talked through” the book, and, when desperate showed the video.” These measures that Cziko used where to at least try to give students a “common experience” with the book, she said. 

In 1995, she had decided that something else needed to be done.  Perhaps teaching reading is to be done in high school also.  Cziko joined the HERALD Project’s Strategic Literacy Initiative. The goal of this group is to help middle school and high school teachers  help their students gain “confidence, motivation, knowledge, and strategies” they need to be successful (WestEd).   The teachers wanted to create classrooms that the students can start working through texts, reading, asking questions, and ultimately understanding what they were reading and lastly applying these skills to their own reading. The teachers chose works by people they could relate to, showing the students that reading and writing is important and that the all can benefit from learning these skills.  At the end of the year Cziko commented that her students on average moved from the average of early 7th grade level to a late ninth grade level that they needed to be at. 

As I find myself getting closer and closer to starting my career, these are issues that I find very relevant.  Reading through Cziko’s progress with her students, and starting to think what I might end up doing my classroom makes it all very real to me.  I don’t want to be the teacher that has to show the movie because my students feel as though they “can’t” understand or even read.  I want them to understand the importance of reading as well as how enlightening it can be.  I believe that the HERALD project has many good ideas, and I may consider adopting some of them myself if I find the appropriate atmosphere.

 

Cziko, Christine. “High School Literacy.” Voices from the Field. 2001. 14 Sept. 2008 <http://http://www.alliance.brown.edu/pubs/voices/3qtr2001/adlit.shtml&gt;.

Literacy in Schools

September 4, 2008 at 6:44 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment
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There have been many concerns in the news lately about the education system, and which president would be best to help solve some of these solutions. Many of these concerns include standardized testing, schools complying with the “No Child Left Behind Act,” as well as lack of funding. The issue I have chosen to address is the falling literacy rate of our students today. Many students are reading at levels much lower than expected at their current grade level, and this could pose a serious problem in the future.

 

The reason that I have acquired an interest in the topics of literacy in schools was when I went to do an observation in an intercity elementary school close to where I attend college.  I had the opportunity to talk with the teacher and I found out that the school would be closing due to low scores on the MEAP Test. The students on average were at least one grade level if not more behind where they should be. I started volunteering at the school and then realized how important these basic reading skills were.

Because of this experience, I hope to learn about some of the real reasons this decline in reading levels is happening. Is it because many of our students are bilingual and do not fully understand the language enough to read coherently? Is it due to the lack of funding of our schools, and the lack of resources for our teachers to teach efficiently? Or is the interest in reading declining due to computers, and television? These are just some of the causes I have heard about but still have yet to find any real evidence.

I also hope some of the articles I will read address the solutions that many schools and public officials are taking to address these matters. I think it would be interesting to find an article that reflects on the upcoming election and many of these issues we face in the school system today. I would also like to know if teachers have to alter lesson plans, or re-teach lessons from previous years to allow students to “catch-up” to where they need to be, or if they just eliminate certain lessons altogether. As many of us are going to be English teachers, we need to look at these concerns and know what we are going into as we enter the field of education. We also need to know what course of action is expected from us with students that are not at grade-level, and how to prepare for standardized reading tests. This is an issue that affects all English teachers.

 

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