Learning with New Literacies

In this chapter I expect to learn about new literacies and how to incorporate these new styles of writing into the classroom.

This chapter discusses many new technologies available to students today.  Some of these I am familiar with already, but many I have never heard of or used before.   I think it is exciting how much information is available to students and how many creative ways there are to use technology in the classroom.

Some of the new technologies that I have begun to use as a student are internet searches, blogs, on-line classes, library databases, on-line presentation builders like Prezi and youtube.

I have found that as a student, I don’t tend to use a new technology until I have an assignment that forces me to use them.  After struggling initially with the new technology, I usually become quite excited about the possibilities of the new tool.

This happened for me with Prezi.com.  I saw another student use it and was quite impressed.  On my own, I tried the site, but gave up quickly and went back to my familiar Powerpoint.  Then in another class, the instructor gave a tutorial and required us to use prezi in an assignment.  The first few attempts were frustrating, but once I learned how to use it, I found I liked it and have used it on my own since then.

This blog is another example of learning a new technology while learning content in the classroom.  I have been interested in creating a blog for a long time.   However, until I had to do it as an assignment, I never made the time.  Now having had a little experience with blogging in this class, I feel a bit more confident.

I would like to think of ways to integrate technology into my classroom when I become a teacher.  I think it is a great way to help students who haven’t used new technology to start to use it and also a way to guide those students who currently use the new technology recreationally to find academic uses for it.

I have seen teachers use Moodle in their classrooms and would really like to learn that.  The teacher I have seen use it put everything from the course syllabus, daily assignments, study guides, and links to additional information and games.  I think this would be an excellent to use technology in the classroom.  It provides an organized storage of class information that can be access after school by both students and parents.

I think one thing that teachers do have to be aware of, however, is that there are still some students who don’t have access to internet at home.  I guess a caution is to always make sure there is time for those students to use the internet in the classroom or at the library.

One of the ideas in the chapter that was intriguing was teaching students to embed hyperlinks in their writing and then discuss the difference between pen and paper writing and electronic documents with hyperlinks.  This could really motivate students to delve more deeply into subjects as they connect to additional information through hyperlinks.

A converse way that I once used new literacies to engage students was with a class I was subbing.  In that class we were reading through text from a textbook.  I was reading it out loud to the class and we came to part where the text direction to a section with additional information.  As I turned to that page, the class protested that they never read that stuff.  I explained that it was just like clicking on a hyperlink on a webpage. We can click and get some additional information and return to the original text.  We “clicked” over to page and read the additional information.   The students seemed to grasp the idea when it was explained that way.

There are so many resources available to teachers over the internet now and even through the creators of textbooks.  I think the big challenge will be to make a commitment to integrating technology and choosing a few new ways with each unit.

Because I am fairly new to most technology, I am planning to take courses as I begin to teach in order to become familiar with the new technologies and get ideas on how to use it in the classroom.  This way, I can get caught up and keep current with new trends in technology.


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Public Writing and Writing for Tests and Assessments

Public Writing:  In this chapter I expect to learn what public writing is and strategies to teach it.

Writing for Tests and Assessments:  In this chapter I expect to learn some ways to effectively use writing in formal assessments.

These two chapters helped me to see ways to use writing and assess writing more effectively.

I particularly liked the chapter on assessments.  This is an area where I still feel the need for more instruction and strategies.  Rubrics were not used when I was in school or even at my undergraduate college.  Now, I am seeing them used in the schools where I have done field experience and in my content area courses and my teacher training courses.  It is a new way of working and being assessed and at first I didn’t like it.  However, the more I get used to them the more I like them.

As a student, rubrics really push me to work at all the elements the teacher is looking for.  In addition, the rubrics help me to know what is expected.  The feedback is also more useful.  I think teachers that use rubrics grade more fairly and also have a clearer idea of their own expectations.  They also usually feel responsible to justify or explain the marks–especially the lower ones.  So, the student gets more concrete responses to why the teacher graded the way she did.  The feedback also provides information on how to improve.  In my content area courses through BYU, students even have the option to rework and resubmit the assignments.  I actually get lower marks when teachers use rubrics, but I think I learn more.  When there is a chance to rework and resubmit, I not only learn more, but still get the grades I want.  It is more work, but the teacher is assessing both strengths and weaknesses.  When the teacher gives really direct feedback on weaknesses and suggestions to improve and the opportunity to rework the paper, I can think and work through those weaknesses and learn from the experience. 

These courses at BYU are also working on the writing process on longer essays.  I have had one professor make having someone review the paper and provide feedback part of the assignment with its own evaluation.  We need to turn in a marked copy of our rough darft where someone else had read it and made comments.  Again, it’s more work, but I learned more and worked through a little fear of people reading my work.

I think that these new styles of teaching and learning will really help all students to improve.  I often would get high scores on writing, but not really know why and not really feel challenged by an assignments.  I would feel stressed having a paper to do not really knowing what the teacher wanted then relieved the score was good and that was it.  Now with rubrics and drafts and revisions.  I feel challenged I know what the professor wants and try to do it.  When it falls short I know why.  When I have a chance to rubric and resubmit a better copy I do it.  Further challenging myself and getting the experience of day it right.  I learn more and it’s more satisfying.  I also feel like the teachers are really helping me more because the feedback means something to me now.  It is a way i can improve this time not next time.

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Developing Vocabulary and Concepts

In this chapter I expect to learn why content teachers should teach vocabulary and concepts and some good strategies to do this.

This is one of the texts that I know I will keep to use as a reference book when I start teaching.  I am really very excited to have good vocabulary building strategies. 

I have become convinced by this course and the one I took last semester that teaching reading for content area is very important and I know that vocabulary is a key to understanding reading.  Now, I have some good strategies for my teaching toolbox that will help to teach vocabulary in a meaningful and engaging way.

Some of the strategies that I found new and very intriguing were the Semantic Feature Analysis charts, teaching synctactic and semantic contextual clues, OPIN and word structure. 

I am looking forward to including these strategies into my curriculum when I begin teaching.  I hoping to do a good job with supporting students reading skills as I teach content.  By using the strategies in the chapter, I think that students will not only learn the content better, but will learn skills that they can build on and transfer to their other courses. 

I particulary like the teaching synctactic and semantic contextual clues and word structure because these are skills that students can use in any course to help understand the text better. 

The chapter also included many good ways to use graphic organizers to help students understand and remember new words while connecting them to the topic.  The more I learn about the uses of graphic organizers the more comfortable I am with using them. 

I like that there are many strategies to use to help learn vocabulary.  I think fresh approaches are helpful in engaging students and keeping the learning from becoming too routine. 

As I begin teaching, I plan to use this text as a reference to help plan classroom and homework activities that aid the students’ learning and help them interact with the text as we learn content.


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Virtual Class — Vocabulary Words

Civil War
Civil rights

Social Studies is a huge subject area, so I focused on vocabulary for a unit in American History — Civil War and Reconstruction.  The above words would all be needed in order for students to understand the historical context and in order to read many primary documents.  Some of the words are familiar words to some students, but their use in the context of the Civil War and reconstruction may need to be clarified.  For example, compromise, emanicipate, union and civil rights.  Other words are very directly linked to the era and may be unfamiliar outside that context.  For example, secede, confederacy and sectionalism.  Words like reconstruction and insurrection are necessary to understand and also lend themselves to the technique of learning new words from the prefix, root word and suffix.  For example, re-, construct, and -tion: re:  to do again; construct: to build or create; -tion, indicates a process.

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Virtual Class — Diverse Learners Resource Link


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Virtual Class — Diverse Learners Resource Link


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Culturally Responsive Teaching in Diverse Classrooms

In this chapter, I expect to learn about diverse students and strategies to provide culturally responsive teaching. This is a topic that I find very interesting. I value cultural diversity and want to respect all people and their cultures.

Having gone to college in an international setting, I have experienced learning with students from very different backgrounds. As the text indicated the exchange of cultures and the opportunity to discuss material with students from all over the world, enriched the learning experience.

I can also attest to the effect on students when an educator fails to take the students’ cultural context into account.

I remember taking an ethnicity course with students from Israel, Serbia, Hungary, and Germany taught by a professor from the main campus in the United States. The professor came to our classroom to discuss ethnicity issues. He brought with him his regular curriculum geared for U.S. students. It seems he did little to look into the backgrounds of the students in our class. Understandable, however, it was a small class on an international campus and his subject was ethnicity. The subject matter could have and should have been easily applied to our group and we all could have learned many things by drawing on our own backgrounds and presenting and analyzing information. However, the professor focused almost solely of issues of racism in America.

As the only American student in the classroom, I was probably the only one interested or well-acquainted with the information he was presenting. When my classmates offered examples from their own backgrounds, the professor often took offense or tried to offer an “expert” explanation of the subject. However, his impromptu discourses often showed his lack of knowledge of facts, undermining his ability to cross-transfer the information that he did indeed have expertise in. The class got off to a rocky start, there were many complaints and we did not experience the same level of discussion and cultural exchange as we did in many other courses.

This was a well-educated, excellent professor who had much experience in teaching. Not only that, but he was a genuinely nice person who liked his students and wanted to make a connection with us. He even had us to his flat to Barbeque burgers. I have no doubt that the struggles we had in our classroom were unintended, but do believe they could have been avoided with a little planning.

Another professor from the main campus came to teach about Holocaust. He also brought his curriculum from the main campus, but adapted a little. We read a Holocaust memoir written by a Hungarian Nobel Prize winner. He attempted to learn a little Hungarian. He explored museums and cultural sites in the area and shared what he was learning, asking the students about many things. He also arranged a class trip to Krakow where we went on tour of Auschwitz. He presented himself as an expert in his area of expertise and as a learner in any new areas for him. When students brought up information from their backgrounds, he was genuinely interested.

From these two experiences, I learned the importance of respecting students’ culture and how to teach your subject while capitalizing on the both your own and students’ expertise.

The text offered many strategies which I hope to use. In particular, the use of multi-cultural trade books to supplement the text. I also hope to create projects which allow students to connect the course connect to their own areas of interest.

I was very interested to read that a teacher was taking a day of coursework to explore each student’s cultural background. I recently attended a seminar with an organization called Facing Race. In it we explored our own background and beliefs in the context of race. We viewed a video series that depicted some very common stumbling blocks in interracial communications. Between each segment we had time to write and reflect and group shared with one another. The purpose was to understand where we were coming from and learned to hear one another and speak to one another about race in a respectful way.

After the program, I thought that this would be an excellent way to begin a course in American History in a multicultural classroom. I feel that the time invested in recognizing race, reflecting on our own backgrounds and learning to share in a respectful way, would be a great way to break down the barriers that can complicate learning this subject matter in a diverse setting. It is great to see that a teacher has had some success in a similar approach.

I am excited to teach in Multicultural classrooms. I hope to draw on what I have learned and experienced to make the classes engaging and meaningful to all students. I hope to do this by learning about the backgrounds of students and connecting the course content both to their current physical surroundings—neighborhoods, city and state and to the cultures they come from.

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