Completing the Class!

Final Research Paper

It appears I finally have my draft done for this class.  It was harder work than I thought it would be, but here it is.

 

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Week 8…Great!

Sitting in Kaladi Brothers Coffee sucking down something comparable to motor oil but with a lot more kick.  I can’t believe its Saturday morning and we are out of the village and still trying to shake the jarring effects of our small plane ride from Tatitlek yesterday.  Most of student teaching is over and now I have to relocate my family to Anchorage for the next 36 days.  We’re exhausted…I’m exhausted, but it feels good to get out of the hotel.  Really not able to think, but I have got to put something in here about my research project.  

My triangulation consists of daily survey data collected from each student, which has been compiled by an Excel worksheet.  This gives me quantifiable data that is far more objective than the other two sources used.  My own observations and one that was kind of last minute, but meaningful none the less is feedback from parents.  The feedback from the parents was surprising to me.  I didn’t think to ask for it at first, but it was given to me.  I met some of the parents at the Halloween carnival at the school and one of the mothers pointed out how she and her daughter enjoyed looking different words up on InstaGrok.  Shortly after the introduction of InstaGrok in the classroom the daughter went home and showed her mom how it worked.  Out of the 14 kids in the school hardly any have support from home, but I was thrilled to here something positive from this one parent.  

Some of the things I learned overall from using these different tools in the classroom is that it would be good to guide the activities with a source word list of sorts and then allow spontaneous ‘tinkering’.  Without a source list the rabbit trails are endless making it hard to quantify if the target vocabulary is actually being worked on.  Sites like Wordle or Tagxedo were fun to play with and stimulating to have posted up in the class, but the students quickly became bored with them.  For instance, we would break them down and have ‘Little Word Day’, ‘Medium Word Day’, and ‘Big Word Day’  to make sure we didn’t focus on just the big words (Which was happening).  The greatest return on time spent was to go as deep as possible with VisuWord, Visual Thesaurus, and InstaGrok.  I found that using a set word list (Made cool looking with Wordle and Tagxedo) we could tear words apart, find similar words and explore meanings in so much better and useful a way than I had ever seen before.  In regard to constructivism this was most rewarding.   

I tried many different methods of employing these tools in the classroom, but considering I was student teaching I felt I had some restrictions and had to get the students back ‘on track’ with their original vocabulary program.  Needless to say, there was some unhappiness because ‘play time’ was over.  I was hoping the use of these tools would be continued by my host teacher, but that does not seem to be the case.  Going back to the legacy vocabulary and spelling program was met with a collective sigh.  However, I can tell you this, if I had my own classroom and the freedom to make these tools a central part of a word study program I assure you that it would be amazing.  Rote memorization would disappear and true learning would emerge.  From what I have seen and experienced these various tools fit well in a constructivist classroom and can drive learning potential through the roof!            

    

Week 7 Reflection

  Truly This week has been much better and I feel I have some great data to through together and process.  Now that I read up on what is expected for finishing the class I wish I thought about taking pictures.  Hopefully, I can get some pictures before everything gets tossed.  Anyway, the data collection is over and the real task begins.  From what I have gathered so far it looks favorable for the digital tools used in class.  The kids really enjoyed the tools for the most part and I really got a kick out of using them as well.  

  Even though there was some trouble we worked through it and I really appreciate the kind encouragement and support from people like Karen.

Thank Heaven…Week 7!

   After implementing some classroom management strategies I was able to get back to the original research.  It appears the new students we had come into the school were experiencing a bit of culture shock.  Things in the village, as well as in the school, are very different than in Anchorage.  It took me a little while to figure out where these kids are coming from and be patient with them as they try to adjust. 

   Back to the research…I was able to incorporate a couple new tools into the lineup this week, such as InstaGrok and Tagxedo.  InstaGrok is similar to VisuWord, but has some interesting features to keep one engaged.  Tagxedo is similar to Wordle, but has the option to arrange your word cloud into very interesting and artful designs.  Tagxedo has been a big hit thus far because of the extra amount of creativity students can put into their word clouds.

   Since this week went so much better than last week I intend to keep my research question the way it was and not change it.  As far as gathering my research data I have been compiling the info on an Excel spreadsheet.  It will be fairly easy to manipulate the data and I didn’t have to rely on students getting on the internet to do a survey through Survey Monkey.  It may be old school, but I do like being able to have tangible information that I can load into a spreadsheet myself.  

References:

http://www.tagxedo.com

http://www.instagrok.com

Week 6 Reflection

This last week sure was something.  New students (unhappy ones at that) shifts in attitude and overwhelming need to get things back in order.  Regardless, the research continues.  My first group may not work out so well now, but that’s OK because another group may be available.  In fact I am thinking of broadening my scope of research from looking at just the 4-6 grade class to adding in the K-2 class.  I think this would be interesting because then I could see the differences between the two classes with such different ages.  Not sure yet, but I think tomorrow will nudge me in either direction.   Whatever the course may be I will continue to gather information, learn and grow.

I am really thankful for the encouragement from Karen and Michelle.  It is nice to know that I am not alone in this and that there are some great teachers who have gone before me who offer their support.

Week 6

    What I have found this week is that some of the dynamics in the classes have changed dramatically.  We have had a new group of 5 students move into the village from Anchorage.  They are siblings who are all in the same class, which has doubled the class sizes for the 4-6 grades.  They have been here for a week and things have been steadily going down hill.  They are not interested in anything I present them with and the worst of all is that it is rubbing off on my original group.  The original group loved the word tools we were using in class, but now there are some bumps in the road.  The indifference is not isolated to the ELA class I’m teaching, but across the board.  Yesterday was the low point as I and the two other teachers I work with had to focus on classroom management.  Needless to say these students are quite unhappy about their situation both at home and at school. 

    I think this week’s data will have to be sifted a bit before I can arrive at a true representation of what is going on with my research because of variables beyond my control.  Things were fine up until Wednesday.  This is when I noticed a downward turn in attitude.  Before this, however, we were moving right along and the use of the technology and tools a fun and meaningful activity for everyone.  I plan to implement some more comprehensive tactics to get things back on track this next week.

    On a positive note, I have been working with our K-2 class teaching phonics, reading and writing.  We have been relying exclusively on the Saxon curriculum for this, which has been going well thus far.  This last week I was able to put an older Mac computer in the classroom and set up a computer station and started using a couple cool websites to enhance the phonics and reading instruction.  The best one I have found so far is Starfall Education (http://www.starfall.com) there are others that we can use as well.  Another website that we have been toying with is ABC Mouse (http://www.abcmouse.com).  Although I have been looking for free digital tools this one has a 30-day free use option.  If it works well the school may be able to purchase a subscription.

    As far as research goes and my original research question I am hoping to salvage the work done with the older kids and stick with my plan.  However, I am thinking of modifying the scope of my research question to add in the K-2 class, but with the same parameters for the research focus put forth at the beginning. 

References:

 Starfall Education. (2002–2012). Retrieved from http://www.starfall.com 

Age of Learning, Inc. (2007-2013). Retrieved from http://www.abcmouse.com

Week 5 Reflection

The students are really excited with the three digital tools introduced so far.  However, as Barbra commented, I too wonder how long they will be interested in these things.  Truthfully, much of it is a lot of fun and I try to be as involved in it as much as I can.  With Wordle the kids experiments with the various patterns until they get the one they like and then print them out.  Hopefully, my own participation and enthusiasm as well as a handful of other websites will keep things going.  I love it that they are reading more, but hope their comprehension doesn’t decrease because they are so busy looking for big words.

This week I intend to gauge if there is any drop in enthusiasm and if so then I will introduce some more of the tools I have up my sleeve.  It is important to keep in mind that I am not looking to grade any one digital tool as better than another.  I do want to measure overall effectiveness of the concept.  One of the things I would like to do is work in some more measures to ensure reading comprehension is not compromised.   I also have been thinking of separating this activity from reading time and have a focus on vocabulary independently.  I will have to feel it out this next week to see what adjustments need to be made.

My plan for the next couple weeks is to continue collecting data on student enthusiasm with the digital tools.  I would also like to document which ones they were bored with and which ones they really like.  My questions will focus on:

  1. How excitement either holds or wanes?
  2. What seems to work well for vocabulary instruction?
  3. How effective these tools are without a loss in reading comprehension?