Today was quite a revealing day with Angel in regards to getting to know her personality and priorities. When I arrived to the school, the class was outside having their recess, and I came out to find Angel and her friends putting on make-up behind the teachers back (make-up isn’t allowed in school). Also, this was the week that Angel was hanging out with girls that she typically didn’t enjoy hanging out with, who made fun of her, and always talked crap behind her back.
Later that day, when I was able to work one-on-one with Angel, I decided that I should talk to her about what happened at recess today. During lunch, a couple of boys noticed that she had put on make-up and complimented her, and based on her reactions, that was exactly what she was searching for by actually putting the make-up on. When I asked her about the make-up on the playground, Angel informed me that her boyfriend had broken up with her the week before and she wanted to make him feel jealous, so she asked her friends to make her look better than normal to make him realize what he lost. I then decided that I would talk to her about the impressions girls can give boys, and the difference between what is right and wrong in regards to boys (on a very basic, self-worth level). She seemed a little confused by my concern with what I did, went along with my mini-lesson for the day, and went along the same way at the end of this lesson as she did last week with the ven diagram. I hope that the discussion I had with her left an impression, and that the information I gave to her classroom instructor was not simply shrugged off.
As this was the second week that I was able to watch the students, the class was more welcoming and open around me. Students showed excitement when I came into the classroom and said that they hated the fact that I could only visit once a week. A couple of students even said that they like when I’m in the classroom simply because I smile at the students and they feel like I already care about them as people and want to know about their lives rather than focus just on school like their teacher does. According to the students, Mrs. Ambrose rarely asks students about their personal lives or tries to get to know them on a level deeper than a student-teacher relationship.
Today I learned a lot about the friend dynamics throughout the classroom, particularly in regards to the girls. There are three different groups: one that keeps to themselves and never changes, and the other two change friends constantly, some girls loathing each other one week and the next sharing deep secrets as if they’ve been friends their entire lives. Due to this social dynamic, many of the girls care more about gossip, social status, and stabbing each other in the back as well as relationships with boys than they do about their education.
Because I found out the above information, I was able to better understand why Angel struggles the way she does with her reading. Yes, the information that Mrs. Ambrose gave me concerning Angel were very true, but I am starting to believe that the reason Angel has yet to show much improvement this school year is because of the friendship dynamics found throughout the classroom. Through conversations and observations with Angel and her friends, it is becoming quite apparent that school is the last priority in her life.
I was able to play a matching game with Angel today, learning the different vowel combinations that she struggles with. She enjoyed playing a game as simple as matching, despite her age as a 5th grader. She loved being active in her learning, as well as seeing pictures with the words, which I believe helped her in the long-run.
She then wanted to read a book to me, and we ended up reading two. After reading both stories, she said that she wanted to teach me how to use a ven diagram to compare stories because she had learned how to use them, so we did that as well. It became quite obvious to me today that Angel needs to be active in her learning in order to something to stick.
At this point in my fieldwork, I had yet to stay in the classroom longer than one hour. However, as I finally got out of my shift at work, I was able to stay in the classroom from 11:00-3:30. During the second half of their Thursday, Mrs. Ambrose’s class goes through the following schedule: finish math lesson, recess, lunch, daily 5, social studies, reading groups, end of day review, pack and go home. It was quite interesting watching Mrs. Ambrose attempt to handle her classroom. It is quite apparent that there is negative attitude throughout the classroom, this attitude first coming from the instructor and then in return from the students. No one listens to the teachers instructions, the instructor is very in-personable with her students, and there is an overall lack of emotion or excitement in the room.
Students want to be able to help throughout the classroom, aid the teacher with lessons, be able to be active students. But that is simply not how her classroom is run; Mrs. Ambrose requires all students to stay in their seats, rarely gives them permission to leave their seats, and quickly disciplines them when they speak out of turn or get out of their seats.
Because of the lack of emotion and family-like feel in the classroom, students never try when it comes to their studies. When students are asked to have their silent reading time, those who write actually doodle and those who read never actually turn the page, indicating that they stared at the page and day-dreamed the entire 45 minutes.
When I was finally able to talk with Angel one-on-one, I was able to have a normal conversation with her along with reading tests and word lists. She, as well as her friends that I talked to later in the afternoon, asked if the notes I took would be turned in to their teacher. Once I said no, they were unafraid to share their feelings about their classroom as well as provided brutally honest opinions about their instructor. By the end of the day today, I was more concerned about the classroom as a whole rather than my case study.
This chapter simply reinforced information that I learned while working on a group presentation for Dr.Looker’s Young Adult Literature Class. One of the main items that I read about focused on the idea of think-alouds. I never personally remember participating in a think-aloud in grade school or middle school, however I have seen a handful of friends utilize this learning method in order to think through their thoughts in an organized and efficient fashion. For many students, when they come across something within a text that they are unfamiliar with or simply do not understand, they continue on, ignoring their struggle, therefore lacking comprehension on that minuscule section. If students neglect to gain comprehension knowledge in regards to that one minute passage, then their overall comprehension of the text may be skewed. Allowing any student time to stop and think through their thoughts when approaching any text, whether it be difficult or not, teaches them how to process and analyze information on a deeper level than basic knowledge.
The other aspect of this chapter that I remember learning about and finding interesting was the different levels of comprehension. Student advance from the literal level comprehension stills to metacognitive selecting/organizing, elaborating, and monitoring skills. Unfortunately, as students advance in grade level, teachers neglect to inform their students how to read and comprehend more advanced texts. Students will approach an advanced level text and look at it through the eyes of literal comprehension, then face confusion and questions when the problems they are asked to solve after reading the text ask for more than basic comprehension facts. Do instructors teach their students how to properly analyze and dive into texts on a more intimate level, or are these lessons overlooked simply because teacher forget the necessary instructional steps to take in regards to advancing comprehension skills.
Especially in the early middle school years, despite the massive amount of work and information that those grades are required to learn, that teachers can’t forget to teach their students how to advance their learning and thinking skills in order to more accurately dissect and analyze a text.
I find that vocabulary lessons are overlooked in comparison to other lessons. More often than not, due to pressures from the school and district, teachers place more emphasis on other subject areas, such as math or science, than they do other areas. Vocabulary seems to be one of the most overlooked necessities in schools simply because most textbooks provide vocabulary for students to learn anyway. But why not find a way to make vocabulary lessons more fun or at least separate them from other subject areas. Students tire of the same old lessons plans and routines quickly, and inserting weekly vocabulary lessons or activities brings variance into the classroom while still keeping the class intellectually stimulated.
The suggestion that I found most interesting was the self-selection strategy. Students want to participate actively in their learning. It allows them the freedom to take charge or at least have an opinion in regards to their education. Having each student hand pick a word that they deem important enough for the rest of the class to learn in their vocabulary lessons puts slight pressure on the students to pick legitimate words while still focusing on the classes abilities and learning levels.
I also loved that each student had to provide a sentence in which their vocabulary word was used. For some students, it helps if they have a context around a new word in order for them to more easily remember the definition. Without the sentence context, some words might be too difficult to remember. This small advancement on the vocabulary lessons provides a different method or strategy for students to learn vocabulary and still be successful in the classroom.
Granted, if a student misuses a word in context or incorrectly defines it, then the teacher should step in and guide the student in question to its proper use or definition. This, however, allows the class to join in in discussion and participate in solving the problem of the incorrect vocabulary word. Student can then aid each other in improving their learning skills and properly implementing new vocabulary into their mental word banks. Having students actively participate in their learning could keep them interested in the content and improve success rates.
Today I was finally able to meet my case study student and conduct a reader profile on her. I could not have asked for a better case study students. She is one of the nicest, open, and obedient student in the class. Unfortunately, I really do not believe that my coordinating teacher has classroom management at all, so it was nice to realize that I have the good kids in the class. I will say that it was the first day that I met Angel, so she might have been using her good manners on me. However, she seemed to be quite genuine while she and I talked while I was there.
Angel was more open and honest with me than I expected her to be with, which makes me feel quite confident in the fact that I will be able to create an amazing case study. She admitted her darkest classroom fears, opened up about her feelings regarding school and her teacher, and even asked me to keep certain facts that she told me confidential; she realized within the first ten minutes that I was someone that she could confide in and has already taken advantage of this fact. I appreciate her openness and willingness to work with me. I’m looking forward to working with her every week.
Also, I must say, that I do not enjoy working in a public school. I never know whether or not I should take the authority to ask students to follow their instructors rules while they aren’t in the room or if I should simply observe. Also, coming from a private school, I am not use to classrooms where students don’t have respect for the teacher. I feel bad saying this, but I feel as though I could step in frequently in order to help out the teacher. I hope that, after working the classroom for the last couple of weeks, students will behave more, as they have already warmed up to me and asked to me as well as with Angel.
I think that this is going to be one of the most interesting fieldwork experiences that I’ll have had since I came to Concordia. I hope that I will be able to make it all that I can!
So I know that I’ve blogged about these twice (I believe), but I find these anticipation guide questions at the beginning of each chapter quite interesting. For this chapter, number five stands out among the rest: “Because the dictionary is so difficult for struggling readers to use, using it is the least useful of the word-identification strategies”. We are then to agree or disagree with this statement; to be completely honest, I feel as though I have mixed feelings about this statement.
In many ways, this statement could not be more true. How can a dictionary help struggling readers in order to identify a word when they won’t be able to identify over half of the words that they come across in the dictionary in search of their initial word. Without the ability to easily navigate a dictionary due to the lack of phonetic knowledge, it could actually be more stressful attempting to search through the dictionary in order to understand the word than simply sounding out the word without the use of a dictionary.
On the other hand, I believe wholeheartedly that the use of the dictionary can be quite helpful in aiding struggling readers and writers when it comes to spelling. After having the pleasure of working with a writers workshop group last semester, I was able to observe how students can utilize a dictionary in order to figure out the proper spelling of a word. By using the dictionary, students must sound out the word; however, if their pronunciation is incorrect, they will not be able to find the proper word. This will also reinforce the vitality of proper and distinct enunciation when speaking. Also, if students are unsure about silent letters or just want to play with a dictionary, they will learn so much simply by working with it.
Dictionaries can be quite useful throughout the classroom if the instructor implements it properly and effectively in their lessons and activities. Also, if the teacher simply keeps dictionaries throughout the room, students will turn to them on their own in the hopes of figuring out their problem without the aid of their teacher. If a struggling reader find use of the dictionary difficult, then I suggest that the instructor make games in order to improve the readers navigational skills through the dictionary in order to aid the student in better utilizing the dictionary.