Monday, July 23, 2007

First-year teacher "must-haves"

I will begin teaching for my first year in a 3rd grade classroom in about a month (yikes!) I was wondering if anyone could suggest any "first-year" teacher classroom must-haves to start the year out right...any feedback would be greatly appreciated!

Sunday, April 29, 2007

Time to get back to it!

Yes, I know I have been absent in my writing for several months now. Admittedly, my semester of full-time student teaching has proved to take up the majority of the time. However, the end is on the horizon. This semester has, without a doubt, been the most challenging of my semesters at William and Mary, but also the most rewarding. My students always find a way to challenge me. Anyway, with that said, I am hoping to come back to blogging to document my first year of teaching.

Thursday, November 30, 2006


On my "Proofreading with Podcasts" blog, I noticed that the link was not right. It should work now.


I came across Chris Craft's blog today and hope that you all will take a moment to look at what he is doing with his students. In short, his class in South Carolina is communicating with a class of students in Lima, Peru via Skype. This sounds like such an excellent way to help students communicate with students in other parts of the world and learn about other cultures, traditions, etc. I would love to do something like this with my students next semester when I am a full-time student teacher. Anyway, with my 25 page paper looming over my head, I do not have time at the moment to write more, but I encourage you all to check out Chris' blog.

Also, if you are unfamiliar with Skype, take a look at it. I became addicted to it when I was studying abroad last year. It's such a great way to communicate with people all over the world for free or at really low cost. The quality is just as good as a landline and all you need is a microphone and headset.

more thoughts on blogging

I recently read a blog about the importance of others commenting and reading the material we blog about (click here). Although I couldn't agree more about the importance of feedback, I also wonder about students who are not comfortable sharing their work. This blog mentioned that the teacher is often the only person reading elementary school students' journals. When I was a kid, I personally liked the fact that my teacher was the only person reading my work.

In contrast, blogging allows students to read each other's work and receive valuable comments. While this is extremely important, I wonder about the students who might not want what they write to be publicized. Journaling may be a personal time for students to reflect and share thoughts they may otherwise not want to. While I love the idea of sharing and agree that it spreads new ideas, how do we accomodate those students who prefer to keep their writing to themselves? Yes, these students should learn how to share some of their work, but respecting their privacy is also important. I am particularly concerned about one of my students who is already having many self-esteem issues and family problems, who I think would be much more likely to share his feelings in a personal journal, as opposed to a public blog. Should we give students the opportunity to do both personal journals in class, as well as blog? If so, would doing both take up too much time?

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

The excitement of receiving comments

One of our assignments throughout the semester has been to maintain a blog about our pre-service teaching experiences. Prof. Nussbaum-Beach has also encouraged us to get our students blogging. Thus far, I have been somewhat skeptical on the idea, as it seems logistically challenging to implement. However, the more I maintain my own blog, the more benefits I come across to blogging. The main aspect of blogging that I find increasingly exciting is receiving comments from other educators across the nation. Although this has not happened very often, the times that it has happened has motivated me to write again. Furthermore, other educators' comments have led me to new ideas.

With that said, I think the excitement I receive from other educators' feedback, could also be very motivating for students. Initially, I thought that students may not care who is reading their blog. However, I find myself checking my blog just to see if I received comments. I can only imagine that elementary-aged students would be ten times more excited to receive comments!

Unfortunately, my cooperating teacher did not seem very keen on the idea of blogging with our third graders. However, perhaps I can warm her up to the idea by providing her with student examples of blogging...

Monday, November 27, 2006

Honor Code Violation Update

Bud, an educator from Colorado left an important comment in response to my original "Honor Code Violation" posting. He pointed out that it is not only important to explain to children that we should put information from other sources into our own words, but that we should also cite it. Although as an almost 2nd-semester college senior, citing seems like second-nature to me, it had not crossed my mind that students at all ages should learn this skill and learn it well. Furthermore, it is important to teach children how to cite at an early age so they become accustomed to it, and do not run into plagurism problems later on in their careers.

Proofreading with Podcasts

I came across an idea by "Mrs. C" called "Proofreading with Podcasts." Mrs. C's students made podcasts of stories they had written so they can catch errors by hearing them. Mrs. C also posts comments to students on their class blog, so they can all have immediate feedback. As we have talked about in class, this seems like such a great way to get students excited about using technology and integrating it with traditional school subjects. Proofreading by reading aloud is something I actively use in my own writing, but have not thought to do with my students. As my students work on the writing process I will try to introduce it so that they can also learn how hearing a piece of written work can allow you to take a different perspective.

Saturday, November 11, 2006


I admit, it has been a while since I have had an inspiring occasion to blog about. However, this changed last week upon my observation of a 4th grade class researching and writing about hurricanes.

For the most part, the students were actively engaged in their assignment-- to use a website to find information about a hurricane of their choice, and write a newspaper article about their findings. After circulating around the classroom for a while, I noticed that one particular student was having trouble extracting pertinent information from the website and writing up her own article. I gave her a few pointers and moved on to helping other students in the class.

After a while, I was circulating back around to her side of the room. I overheard the boy next to her say, "I know a trick! Let me show it to you!" Immediately, my interest was sparked. He proceeded to show her how to copy sentences from the website and paste it to her word document. The first thing that popped into my head at this moment was "RED FLAG! RED FLAG! HONOR CODE VIOLATION!" The little girl then did just what the boy had shown her. I decided that this would be the moment to intervene, but just how do you explain plagurism to a 4th grader?

At this point, I began talking to the two kids. I said to the boy that copy and pasting can be very helpful at certain times, but that we need to be very careful with how we use it. I then explained that when we find information from any source, we must always put it into our own words, or else it is like stealing. The two seemed to understand what I was trying to say, so I was satisfied. As soon as I finished my explanation of plagurism, I noticed the boy re-opening his word document and deleting the entire paragraph. It was clear that he had simply copy and pasted his information into a word document and then began playing computer games.

In a way, the children's clueless-ness was adorable. However, I was surprised that no one had ever explained the concept of plagurism to them before. This incident brought to my attention that students who are required to do any type of research, especially using technology, should be given a lesson on plagurism first.

Sunday, October 08, 2006

How lucky we are...

Remember way back in the dark ages when dial-up was the only way people could really access the Internet? Remember how slow it was?

Last year, I spent a semester studying abroad inAdelaide, Australia. When I got there, I could not believe how technologically behind their Internet capabilities were! Here is an example of how slow it was: in order to check my email, I would open up gmail, go take a shower, come back and sign into my account, blowdry my hair, and a half-hour later I would be able to read my email. Don't let me forget to mention that this was on a college campus, where Internet access is vital. Even more frustrating is that the Internet was down so often that you could not count on getting your research complete.

When I came back to William and Mary, I was reminded how lucky we are to have such strong access to the Internet. Yes, it goes at times, but at least we can "Google" something and usually have an instantaneous answer to whatever obscure question we may have. It seems even cooler to me that the elementary school I have been assigned to, DJ Montague, has wireless throughout the school. What a wonderful resource for our students!


This past week I taught my first lesson as a pre-service teacher. It was a literature-based social studies lesson. I used "the ELMO" to read the book to my students. While I was really excited to use this piece of technology, I think that I would use it differently next time. The "ELMO" seems like a wonderful device to use when showing students something specific, but in terms of using it for an entire book, it felt like it was just in the way.

I thought that it would allow the students to see pictures in the book better while I was reading it, but the book was too big to have the whole picture show up on the screen. If I were to do the lesson over, I would probably not use it for reading the book. However, if I had thought to keep the machine on throughout the rest of the lesson, it would have been perfect to show the example I had made for their extension activity.

Vending machines in schools

Last week, I was doing some reading at Swem and after a couple hours, I could no longer concentrate because I was so hungry. I decided to go down to Swem Cafe to get myself a cheap snack from the vending machines. Much to my dismay, the machines were only stored with various types of junk food- chips, cookies, Pop-tarts, candy bars-- you get the picture. Furthermore, water was the only healthy option for beverages, as all of the drink machines were full of soda. Juice was out of the question, as the only juice offered was not 100% juice, and merely "juice drinks" full of sugar. I subsequently grew extremely frustrated with the lack of healthy snacks and drinks available. This made me think about the food available to our elementary school students. After reading a CNN article titled "Guidelines forged to ban unhealthy items from schools," I realized that efforts are being made to encourage schools to change what stocks their vending machines. However, the latest nutrition initiative taken by former President Bill Clinton, does not require schools to change the food they offer. Five dominating snack food companies have agreed to encourage schools to buy healthy foods rather than catering to their students' cravings. Clinton acknowledges that "the plan's success will depend heavily on the participation of schools, which will continue to be free to buy whatever they like."

Although such initiatives are a step in the right direction, it leads me to wonder if more pressure should be put on schools to give students healthier options. The nation is undergoing a "childhood obesity epidemic" and limiting students' options prevents them from making healthy choices. If students spend about 7 hours a day in schools, how can we expect them to eat healthily if we do not actively push them to do so by limiting their options to healthy foods?