Sunday, September 13, 2009

Language Povery and 21st Century Tools

Language Poverty students need specific scaffolding and strategies in order to access the required content. At the secondary level, content is accessed through language: reading, writing, speaking and listening. English Language Learners (ELL) require more focused attention on listening and speaking than native speakers. However, children who live in poverty have had less access and exposure to literature and rich vocabulary. Therefore, students who live in poverty and students who do not natively speak English enter school with a deficit of language. In order to access the content presented them in the secondary classroom, these students require additional support.

I believe the greatest support these students of "Language Poverty" require is through vocabulary instruction. This vocabulary instruction must be contextual. It cannot be separated from the content. Students must experience a concept: hear, see, taste, touch, smell, and manipulate it. As children, when we learned a new word/concept it was through our experiences. We did not take notes on a word! In addition, we compared the word to concepts we already possessed.

My nephew, for example, upon being presented with a grape for the first time called it a, "berry." He CATEGORIZED it as being sweet, small and red, therefore it must be a berry. His mother responded, "No Kia, its a grape. Can you say, grape?"

To learn a new concept we compare it to what we already know, our SCHEMA, to truly grasp the concept so that we can use it.

How can secondary teachers offer meaningful experiences to students inorder for students to access the content THROUGH the concept? How can we do this through the medium of 21st Century Tools?

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Tonia tried her hand at Vlogging (also known as TloGging)

I have been meaning to get back to blogging for the past year....when you stop doing it, you get so much you want to share, you don't know where to start. So, I vlogged....although I prefer to call it a tlog. Hopefully, I can once again become reflective about my practice....

Friday, October 17, 2008

The Roof -- The Roof -- The Roof is on FIRE

I can't believe that it has been less than a month since my last blog post. How quickly change happens in education.

About a week ago I had a dream that one of my students started a fire in the classroom across the hall. I saw the flames and sent a student to pull the fire alarm....there were adults and students in my a panic I started screaming for everyone to leave the room....the adults carried on their conversations as students lost control and began running across tables and doing crazy things. The adults continued to talk despite my pleas to leave the building. My dream ended with my classroom filling with smoke...

This dream has come at a time of great transition in my professional life. I have been appointed as the Science and Technology Coordinator and have handed my classroom off to a VERY CAPABLE student teacher. I was doing both jobs for about two weeks and have transitioned almost completely. And now, I am wandering around in a daze trying to figure out how to have the academy ready to drive learning in less than TEN months.

The crazy thing is that I have gotten less done in my full time capacity as I did doing it part time. I have literally been in meetings! I'm still teaching first block and there is about 1 hour of lunch supervision. Its CRAZY.

I'm very excited about the possibilities of having an academy full of teachers focused on integrating technology into their instruction. I just don't know where to start.

I think that the teachers think we have this secret plan about the transition that they are unaware of. If they only knew that I was just as confused as they are!!!

Hopefully in the coming WEEKS (not months) I will be able to develop a clearer picture that is transparent and supportive of teacher needs so that they can develop great instruction so that our students develop into amazing learners.

I hope to set up a google group or NING group that will fascilitate collaboration, provide book studies to help teachers focus on their practice, develop academy policies and practices, develop an idea of the picture of our learner, introduce teachers to the expectations of technology, and begin to paint a clearer picture of the S&T academy. I think all of this will be supported by the collaborative tools that Web 2.0 has.

One of the cool tools I'm excited about is through This adobe veture uses a Java platform to provide document creation, PDF creation, collaboration space where desktops can be shared. It is still in BETA and has a few kinks, but the document creation is a little cleaner than Google Docs and the super bonus is the PDF creation application.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

course management

I have created an "online" course experience for my students who are "retreads."

Those who have taken the class before and do not need language support are doing a self-paced version. I posted all of their learning activities on a wiki and am having them post them on their Goolge site.

I'm pretty excited. I've been playing with the idea of a course management system, namely sakai, but I may be able to do most things through a wiki.

the are blogging on a "reflection" page, doing notes and activities directly on their site.

its kinda cool....

I'm going to observe them this week, it is the first full week and see if they are more on task and completing more activities than before.

I am also excited that I can rescue my monolingual students and start emphasizing language through content!!

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

how to move from great to good

I don't know how "PC" this blog post will be....this is a warning.....I'm going to use this post to vent because I find that by venting I find clarification and ultimately new direction and resolve.
I love to teach, but sometimes I feel like the cliche: babysitter. I plan, sometimes to a fault and all I end up doing in a day is chasing students around the room, asking them to get on task and then pretending not to have my feelings hurt when the call me a name (the latest is McAsshole)!

I want each of my students to feel cared for and know that I expect them to excel. I wonder how clearly I have been able to voice this message over the past two weeks?!

My biggest headache comes from my 3rd and 4th block Social Studies classes. I thought they were supposed to be "ELA", but our school has such a high course failure rate, that half of the students are what Jennings lovingly refers to as "retreads." (Retreading works for my tires.....for a time, but isn't helping these students learn to learn or live. ) So, I have half of my students learning language, and the other half retaking the class. I can't really teach language....I attempt to teach content to students who have no idea what I'm saying and chasing the other half of my class around the room with threats and plees to "do thier work." Looking at my gradebook, I see that noone is passing ----- noone is completeing thier work.

I have often told myself: "I am a good teacher, good teachers handle all situations with grace and agility and make all students learn."

Last night I was reading a book for my Evaluation class for my principal's license. In summary it said, the job of a supervisor is to fascilitate growth among teachers so that students get the best education possible. It also said that supervisors must be aware of the teacher's experience, maturity, life obsticles, and setting ----what they have to deal with inside the 4 walls of their classroom. Supervisors should give teachers, especially young teachers, opportunities to grow and that means making sure their setting is manageable.

I keep comparing myself to Jennings. However, eve with 30 years teaching I won't be as great as she is nor will I command as much respect. Yet, here I am, a teacher with only three years experience expecting the results of a teacher with thirty. And, I feel that my administration expects the same.....wouldn't my class load be different if they did?

My question: how do I move from being a good teacher to a great teacher in my current setting?

And when did I become the teacher that blames my failures on my administration(/counseling center)?

I need to differetiate....everyone says so, but none can explain to me the steps to do it. It seems that differentiation can be explained in theory by textbooks, peers and administrators but, it takes experience and intuition to do it....and do it well.

By looking at my classes, I need to differentiate and create three - four lesson plans for each class. --- Thats my next step to figure out how to do this efficiently.

I also need to make sure I acknowlege my students who are on task....

I need to plan activities that are kinesthetic and allow for movement.....maybe I won't have to chase these kids around so much...

Tuesday, September 2, 2008


Woe, there is so much to do when school starts I don't know where to begin. I keep giving myself other tasks to do too....but they are so much fun!

First Area of Distraction
Dave Tarwater and I spent my plan today attempting to put Sakai onto one of the computers in my classroom. Our limited understanding of networks thinks that we can use one of the computers as a small server. Some where we did something wrong and it didn't work. I was hoping that it would be much easier to use than moodle. However, downloading and installing was way more than we could muscle today. I think there is something wrong with where our directory is pointed. I'm going to try the download from rSmart tomorrow. From playing around I really like the cleanness of Sakai, it doesn't seem as fumbly as moodle. It also offers blogs and eportfolios....I'm very excited about this. We're hoping to replace the e-courses that the school currenlty pays for with Sakai.

Second Area of Distraction
The ILT is planning on defining the new academies that our school will be moving into next year. We will be presenting the vision during after school PD sessions over 2 days. However, we had to throw in an overview session with the whole staff given by our principal. I did the math. Getting 80 teachers to leave one area of the school after the initial presentations to go to another part of school to get the overview of each acaademy seemed like a waste of time. We only have 45 mintues after school each day. SOO......I thought it would be cool if the teachers broke into their session and watched a streaming video of the principal at the same time. SWEET!! However, UStream does not work in-district(?) and whiziq only offers a small video with the larger white board....not what I was looking for. So, Joe pointed me to Mogulus, which is pretty sweet. It sets up like a news channel with scrolling text and everything. Also, your viewers don't need an account, you just point them to your page ( You can even embed in a webpage or a blog!!! It has a chat feature ....which would be cool, but it doesn't work in district...

I've enjoyed being distracted, but I have some cool stuff going on in my classes too....but its late, I'll share more tomorrow!

Thursday, August 21, 2008