Monday, October 22, 2012

Sociocultural Aspects of Schooling for ELs (555; Daoud)

I have created a personalized social justice action plan, centered around literacy, designed specifically for my future English learners. My plan addresses how I will tackle this, as a future teacher of English learners, will addresses developing critical literacy skills to help increase academic literacy. This is an issue of social justice because students who cannot master academic English are at a clear disadvantage in being able to compete in the workplace in the future and are less likely to be successful in accomplishing their goals. English language learners, in particular, have a difficult time mastering academic English. Additionally, English learners usually are very adept at mastering the use of English in social settings, leading teachers to overestimate their understanding of new material. Increasing the literacy of English learners and perhaps even motivating them to engage with reading independently will make it more likely that they will understand new, complex, and abstract material.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Brain-Based Learning and Teaching Strategies


Take Home Message:

Learning experiences are student-centered, active, engaged, and varied



·       Based on location

·       Replicating the situation helps jog memory (even clothing the teacher was wearing)

·       Placement in groups

·       Bulletin boards

·       Change arrangement of desks periodically

·       Movement; field trips

·       Classroom environment

·       Make the learning unique



·       Repeated movements to do something (dance, lab, lifting weights)

·       Lab procedures

·       Movement, debate, role playing, song

·       Hands-on manipulatives



·       Memories triggered by association

·       Responsible for storing alphabet, multiplication tables, decoding words

·       Songs repetition

·       e.g. Pythagorean Theorem to “Pop Goes the Weasel”

·       Review—structured through written work or group work with product



·       Most powerful

·       Be enthusiastic about content

·       Make learning “joyful”

·       Teach the “So what?”

·       Recreate the scene

·       Play devil’s advocate

·       Find contradictory material and hold a debate

·       Role-playing, plays, skits

·       Music

·       Celebrations

·       Give students choices, independent work, ownership, sense of control

·       Give students break

·       Group work; social experiences

·       Create a warm, supportive class community of students who respect and value each other



·       Handouts

·       Graphic organizers

·       Text

·       Notes

·       Direct instruction

·       Tell them what to write down (prioritize)


Other (Multiple Memory Lanes):

·       Create cognitive dissonance (element of surprise engages the brain more)

·       Discrepant Events

·       Devil’s advocate

·       Debate

·       Controversial issues

·       Surprising results

·       Give students ownership/sense of control

·       Choices

·       Independent work

·       Teach students about their brains (memory and processing skills)

·       Guide them to discover their unique learning style

·       Teach life skills

·       Group work

·       Hands-on projects; Art

·       Creating a song, dance, skit, play, movie

·       Games

·       Oral presentations

·       Class discussions


Tuesday, October 16, 2012

521 Blog Post #2: The Adolescent Brain and Lesson Planning

The Teenage Brain and Lesson Planning

The human brain doesn't stop developing until at least 25 years of age. In addition, the brain is an organ with a great deal of plasticity, meaning that the brain is constantly restructuring itself in response to various stimuli in the environment. Stimuli can vary widely and include: exercise, stress-levels, sleep, mood, hormones, and, yes, school. Teens have a reputation for impulsive behavior, taking risks, testing authority, extreme self-consciousness (at the expense of being open to other perspectives), and a persistant to drive to seek independence. Unlike the adult brain, the prefrontal cortex of the teenage brain is still developing. Since this region of the brain is resposnible for decision-making, inhibition of risky behavior, and appropriate social interaction, this may explain, in part, the strong drive for teenagers to engage in these behaviors.

As a teacher, I can help shape the brains of my students by modeling and explicitly teaching how to collaborate in groups and form a class community. Not only will this help students develop socialization skills, but it will establish a warm and supportive class community where every student feels respected and valued. The brain learns best in a low-stress environment in order to support students as they take risks, make mistakes, and learn from their mistakes. I can present different perspectives to my students from the content, from my past experiences as a scientist, and from the students. I can also design my lesson plans to fun, interesting and focused on the students. I want the students to have ownership in what they do to teach them how to be independent and how to handle responsibility. Having ownership in what students learn by giving them choices in topics they learn about, assignment due dates, or test formats empowers the student to have control over their learning. The lessons will be structured around hands-on activities in groups. Students enjoy socializing and can group activities can help develop productive cooperativity and communication. In addition, students learn best by doing something your hands. I learned science the best when I was in the lab doing experiments. I want to duplicate this experience for my students.

Engage the Students, Activate the Learning

With everything in mind about the teenage brain, one important goal I have as a teacher is to strengthen neuronal connections to help commit new content to long-term memory storage. This in mind, my lessons must first captivate the interest of my students and their teenage brains. I begin with an anticipitary set to connect student background to the new content. I also begin with a brief review of the previous lesson, helping students understand the connections between different lessons. For my lesson on photosynthesis and cell respiration, we will review the concept of energy and ATP from the lesson before. Then, we will watch a short, 2:00 video about the ocean, phytoplankton, and photosynthesis, followed by a discussion of how phytoplankton supplies the oxygen for every other breath we breathe.

Accessing Memory Lanes and Lesson Planning

We are more likely to remember something if we've seen it in several different ways. This builds connections between neurons, providing the brain with multiple pathways to access the same memory. During adolescence, the brain undergoes remodeling, decreasing the amount of gray matter, where neurons and synapses (the spaces between neurons) are housed. Scientists believe this is because weak neuronal connections are pruned, while strong neuronal connections are strengthened, similar to defragging your computer or organizing your filing cabinet. As a teacher, I need to teach the content in short chunks and in a variety of ways in order to increase the likelihood that students will remember it. Most importantly, I need to help students understand how the content I’m teaching in the classroom is relevant to them in real-life. In addition, graphic organizers, music, movement, teacher enthusiasm, humor, music, and games are all techniques I plan on using in order to activate several different areas of my students’ brains to help them remember how photosynthesis and cell respiration are similar and how they are different. Specifically, having students construct posters in groups that compare and contrast photosynthesis and cell respiration would be an activity that would include many of the ideas listed above.  

Sunday, October 14, 2012

511 Blog Post 2: Revised Classroom Management Plan


My educational philosophy is most closely aligned to “Existentialism”. Existentialism focuses on each individual student. As a teacher, my role is to guide them down the right path to valuable new learning experiences. Self-discovery is critical in existentialism.  Students are challenged to explore questions and discover new concepts. Teachers provide students with support to help them probe deeper into a topic to enhance their understanding, as opposed to simply giving students the answer. Students must understand new concepts by applying their own, personal meaning, using their own background and previous real-life experiences. Students’ opinions and ideas are not only respected, but encouraged. Students learn to respect different trains of thought and are exposed to many different perspectives when involved in class discussion, such as a debate about the pros and cons of human cloning. For instance, in biology, this can be applied most easily through hands-on activities, such as inquiry-based labs, where students are challenged to formulate their own questions, design their own experiments and explore different explanations.

The existentialism educational philosophical view influences my approach to classroom management in several ways, which will be discussed in detail below. In order to achieve this classroom environment, I will implement a classroom management strategy that uses a combination of discipline plans. For instance, I will use a corrective approaches outlines in Canter’s “Assertive Discipline” plan, but I will balance this with Kagan’s “Win-win strategies”, where students and teacher work together to create a positive learning environment (Kagan, 2004).  In “win-win discipline”, “responsible behavior grows when teacher and student work together to cocreate effective discipline solutions” (Kagan, p. 151, 2004). However, I am also influenced by Charles’ focus on preventative strategies in “Synergetic Discipline” and Albert’s “Cooperative Discipline” plans. Overall, my goal is to create a positive and supportive classroom environment where students feel respected, valued, and comfortable sharing ideas and asking questions and taking risks to be willing to try new things and make mistakes.


Preventive Approaches:

Similar to C.M. Charles “Synergetic Discipline” plan, my classroom management plan concentrates heavily on prevention (Charles, 2010). Preventive measures pro-actively remove common motivators of misbehavior. When planning is done carefully and correctly, disciplinary issues are minimalized because students have no reason to cause class disruptions. Concentrating on prevention by creating a positive learning environment and developing an exciting and engaging curriculum is closely aligned with the existentialism philosophy because students are motivated to learn through self-discovery.

1.     My classroom environment can be structured in a way that provides a warm, nurturing learning environment. I will arrange students in groups to foster collaborative group work. By building a positive, comfortable environment and allowing students to build a community within my classrooms, students will feel more willing to participate in solving problems and engage in the material (Kohn, 2008).

2.     To give students a sense of ownership and build a class community, class rules will be decided on, as a class, on the first day of school. In Kagan’s “Win-Win discipline”, “class rules are agreements worked out cooperatively by teachers and students,” (Kagan, p. 154, 2004). Giving students a voice and encouraging them to share their ideas is one of the principles of the existentialism educational philosophy. Consequences for each rule will also be planned and voted on, as a class. My expectations for the students and the students’ expectations for me as a teacher will also be discussed as a class and posted.

3.     In addition to classroom environment and class rules, one of my responsibilities as a teacher is to make the curriculum fun and engaging for my students. This is one of the main ideas presented in William Glasser’s, “Noncoercive Discipline” model (Glasser, 1985). The content will be presented in a way that is relevant to students and is connected to their interests and backgrounds. Many activities, labs, and projects will be planned where students can work together in groups to “self-discover” biological concepts in exciting ways.

4.     Remove causes of misbehavior. Students may be tempted by distractions, such as cell phones, notes, and toys. For instance, I had to remove a pile of toothpicks, leftover from a previous lab, when a student began building shapes and pictures out of them instead of working on his test.

5.     Make learning goals achievable and the assignments doable so that students experience academic success and positive learning experiences. This can be accomplished by pre-teaching the content, using presentations or class discussions. In addition, the teacher can support student learning with supports, such as visual aids, handouts, and graphic organizers.

6.     Get to know the students to build student-teacher relationships. Focus on listening to your students. Involve the parents. Some teachers even make home visits to better understand her students (Baeder, 2010). This builds trust and makes the students feel included, creating a positive classroom atmosphere. In addition, the teacher can better design the lessons around student background, interests, and needs. Finally, the teacher can guide the student to understand which learning styles work best.


Supportive Approaches:

Teachers use supportive management approaches when they reward positive behavior. By ignoring minor infractions and focusing on exemplary students who model correct attitudes and behaviors, the whole class benefits. Many discipline plans emphasize focusing on rewarding positive behaviors and not focusing on minor infractions by swiftly correcting misbehaviors and moving on. Focusing on positive behaviors will allow students to have increased self-esteem. As a result, they will be more comfortable in the classroom and more willing to take risks to challenge themselves. This is an essential part of existentialism: fostering a supportive classroom environment so that students are willing to explore and try new things.

1.     We will also spend time during the first week getting to know each other. I will continue to learn about my students and engage my students in group projects throughout the year. Fostering a class community means that teachers work with students to bring about classroom synergy (Charles, 2010).

2.     Nelson’s and Lott’s “Positive Discipline” plan emphasizes building teacher-student relationships at the beginning of the year (Nelson & Lott, 2008). I want to become familiar with each of my students as individuals and also help build relationships between students. Getting to know each of my students will help me identify their learning styles and difficulties, allowing me to differentiate according to the needs of my students. I expect to effectively teach a diverse class, composed of many cultures, English-language learners, and students with learning disabilities.

3.     Give students choices and include them in decision-making processes when possible. Although I touched on this above (“Prevention”), students can be offered a wider range of choices than just rule-making. Including students in decision-making is part of many different discipline strategies, but is clearly discussed in Kohn’s “Beyond Discipline (Kohn, 2008). For instance, students can have a voice in their choice of assignments, assignment due dates, and seating preferences. When possible, I want my students to choose from a small list of topics to learn about or activities to do.

4.     Focus on model behavior and ignore (minor) misbehaviors. By pointing out exemplary behaviors to the class, students learn which behaviors to mimic. For instance, I might bring to the class’s attention that a particular student put forth extra effort on an essay by praising that student publicly or showing the essay on the projector so everyone can learn from it.

5.     Use student’s preferred “currency” to motivate them (Jackson, 2010). Whereas teachers idea of good behavior and academic success may be a quiet classroom and high grades, a student may put more value in what their peers think of them and if the subject matter relates to them personally. By adapting and reaching a common, middle ground, the teacher can better motivate the students to focus their energy on the learning goals. For instance, turning an individual writing assignment into a group competition may drive the students to work harder on the assignment.

6.     Give students frequent reminders and feedback (Crowe, 2011). Actively help the students tempted to misbehave opportunities to redirect their behaviors. For instance, reminding a student who tends to forget his homework daily reminders (written on the board) and a graphic organizer will give him support and help improve his behaviors in a supportive manner.


Corrective Approaches:

When students are not meeting expectations or are behaving in a way that disrupts the learning of the class, immediate and appropriate corrective action must be taken. My approach will be firm and consistent, yet fair, non-confrontational, and void of emotions, such as anger. There will be clear-cut consequences spelled out and posted on the wall (see “Preventive”). I really like some of the principles described in Canter’s “Assertive Discipline”, such as the “Disciplinary Hierarchy”, which explains a graded set of consequences for misbehaviors.  Students have choices, and they make choices in their behaviors (Canters, L. & M., 2008). There are expectations and rules for students (just as there are expectations for the teacher), and there are consequences for student behavior (good and bad). The consequences of failing to follow a rule will be voted on together by teacher and students at the beginning of the year. The teacher’s responsibility is to enforce these consequences consistently, appropriately, and fairly throughout the year.

1.     After discussing and posting the rules and consequences on the first day of class, use a graded consequences, or a “disciplinary hierarchy” to consistently, but fairly, correct misbehaviors. Using a set of disciplinary hierarchy is derived from Canters’ L. & M. “Assertive Discipline” plan where a disciplinary hierarchy is set, explicitly taught, posted, and followed consistently with all students (Canters, L. & M., 2008). At my site, our “hierarchy” is:

a.     1st offense—warning

b.     2nd offense—time-out/discussion with teacher/call home

c.      Referral

2.     Use appropriate praise when possible, particularly to students who have recently misbehaved. Find opportunities to praise students who have misbehaved to recognize positive behavior (Canters, L. & M., 2008). Praise publically so successful students can be models for other students.

3.     Use the negative consequences sparingly. Discipline must not interfere with motivation to learn. Misbehaviors are seen as teachable moments, where as a teacher, I can use the misbehavior to help the student identify her problem. Consequences are logical and immediate. (Curwin, R., and Mendler, A., 1989). In my classroom, we use a type of “conventional consequence” when we send a student away until he is ready to participate”.

4.     When using corrective measures, respect student’s dignity by maintaining student privacy. Teacher can use proximity control, “give the eye”, talk with the student privately, or after class, or even “send a secret signal”. (Albert, 1989).

5.     Help students see what they did wrong. Give students ownership of the problem they created. Help them find ways to solve these problems. (Coloroso, 2008).

6.     Don’t make too big of a deal over minor mistakes (Jackson, 2010). In addition, show students who have made a mistake, a clear path so they have an opportunity to redeem themselves.

7.     The teacher should ask herself and the student, “Why are you acting this way?” (Crowe, 2011). This engages the teacher to consider how the student’s background is motivating the behavior and also allows the student to use self-reflection, a metacognitive skill, in order to learn from his mistakes.


Through a balance of nurturing support and high expectations, my goal is to engage students in the exciting field of biology, while teaching them important life skills that will help them develop into self-regulating, autonomous adults. My goal is to teach them to self-correct themselves and build a community where learning is a priority, and the motivation for misbehavior is low. Not only does having an effective classroom management plan foster better learning, but it also builds class cohesion, community, and respect as well as a personal sense of commitment and responsibility. These are tools that will help students become successful adults, no matter what career they choose.



·       Albert, L. (1989). Belonging and Cooperation. In Cooperative Discipline. (pp. 93-99). PA: American Guidance Service.

·       Baeder, A. (2010). Stepping into Students’ Worlds. Educational Leadership. 67(5), 56-60.

·       Canters, L & M. (2008). Discipline through assertive tactics. In Building Classroom Discipline. (9th ed., pp. 65-69). New Jersey: Pearson.

·       Charles, C.M. (2010). Discipline through synergy and reducing causes of misbehavior. In Building Classroom Discipline. (10th ed., pp. 245-262). New Jersey: Pearson.

·       Coloroso, B. (2008) Inner Self-Control. In Building Classroom Discipline. (9th ed., pp. 99-104). New Jersey: Pearson.

·       Crowe, C. (2011). When students get stuck: Using behavior agreements. Educational Leadership. 68, online.

·       Curwin, R., & Mendler, A. (1999). Discipline through dignity and hope for challenging youth. In Discipline with Dignity (2 ed., pp. 168-183). Alexandria, VA: Assn for Supervision & Curriculum.

·       Gordon, T. (2004) Discipline through inner self-control. In Building Classroom Discipline. (8th ed., pp. 79-84). Boston: Allyn and Bacon.

·       Jackson, R. (2010). Start where your students are. Educational Leadership. 67(5), pp. 6-10.

·       Jones, F. (1987). Positive Classroom Discipline. Santa Cruz, CA: Fredric H Jones & Assocs.

·       Kagan, S., Kyle, P., and Scott S. (2004). Discipline through same-side win-win strategies. In Building Classroom Discipline. (8th ed., pp. 151-165). New Jersey: Pearson.

·       Kohl, P. (1992). I won’t learn from you! Rethinking Schools. 7(1).

·       Kohn, A. (2008). Beyond Discipline. In Building Classroom Discipline. (9th ed., pp. 84-89). New Jersey: Pearson.

·       Nelsen, J. and Lott, L. (2008). Encouragement and support. Discipline through belonging, cooperation, and self-control. In Building Classroom Discipline. (9th ed., pp. 104-109). New Jersey: Pearson.

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Monday, October 8, 2012

Accurate (i + 1) Assessment for English learners (555)

*Note--This summative assessment is a vocab quiz designed to be given after the lesson, "Intro to the Cell", my SDAIE lesson plan for EDSS555.

"Intro to the Cell" Vocabulary Quiz

Directions:  Choose the most appropriate word based on the definition provided.

1)      This type of cell has a nucleus with DNA inside.

a)      prokaryote         b) eukaryote      c) endocytosis   d) exocytosis


2)      This type of cell has no nucleus and is the smallest living organism.

a)      prokaryote         b) eukaryote      c) endocytosis   d) exocytosis


3)      This process involves cells excreting waste and other products.

a)      prokaryote         b) eukaryote      c) endocytosis   d) exocytosis


4)      This process involves cells absorbing particles into the cell.

a)      prokaryote         b) eukaryote      c) endocytosis   d) exocytosis


5)      Small structural units of function within a cell; much like organs.

a)      organelle             b) chlorophyll    c) thylakoid         d) stroma


6)      Green pigment molecule in plant cells.  It’s used in photosynthesis.

a)      organelle             b) chlorophyll    c) thylakoid         d) stroma


7)      Dark jelly-like liquid found in the chloroplast where the Calvin Cycle occurs.

a)      organelle             b) chlorophyll    c) thylakoid         d) stroma


8)      Green, coin-shaped disks in the chloroplast where the Light-Dependent Reactions occur.

a)      organelle             b) chlorophyll    c) thylakoid         d) stroma


9)      The process by which eukaryotic cells transform sugar and oxygen into energy, water, and carbon dioxide.

a)      diffusion              b) osmosis          c) Photosynthesis            d) Cellular Respiration

10)   The process by which plant cells transform light, water, and carbon dioxide into sugar and oxygen.

a)      diffusion              b) osmosis          c) Photosynthesis            d) Cellular Respiration


11)   The movement of molecules from higher concentrations to lower concentrations.

a)      diffusion              b) osmosis          c) Photosynthesis            d) Cellular Respiration


12)   The diffusion of water across a semi-permeable membrane.

a)      diffusion              b) osmosis          c) Photosynthesis            d) Cellular Respiration