Beacon Lesson Plan

Long story short, I obtained a part time job at a program called Beacon.  My job is to teach a supplemental English class after school for ELL students.  I have two amazing assistants, and 25 great students from across the world, bringing five drastically different languages to my classroom.  I will be posting the lessons.

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Journal Review: Content-Specific (English)

West’s article, “Weblogs and literary responses: Socially situated identities and hybrid social languages in English class blogs,” is a detailed account of the juxtaposition of academic literary study and online posting.  She draws three students from her class and utilizes examples of how each one creates a unique, specific identity for themselves through their analysis of the text.  Each identity is then broken down and compared to one another, offering similarities and differences based on the sample entries given.  She concludes with an assessment that the fusion of something informal (the blog) and something structured (high school literature) can help improve the interaction of the students with regards to the text.

In my own experience, keeping some sort of journal where feelings about the reading assignment can be kept for use in class is not a new concept.  The transition from small notebook on the side to internet blog seems a logical evolution of a good idea and making it more appropriate for a technology-based generation.  What does stand out in West’s article, however, is that she is clearly not afraid of what her students might say.  She shows this while discussing Evan and his use of “wtf” (592) in his blog regarding one of the books read for class.  She argues “the use of this acronym in a school assignment can be read as dangerous; however, he chose not to spell out the actual word, which tempers this potentially inflammatory action” (592) in defense of her student’s use of vernacular when addressing a character in the text.  This is significant, as she utilizes the student’s opinion and use of language to show that the assignment was done, understood, and an identity formed in the blog.  West, however, fails to provide any evidence regarding the negative impact of such informal language on a high school level writing ability.  The project offers a more comfortable forum of interpretation, but also seems to sacrifice the learning experience of formal writing.

West’s employment of blogging for a literature class is also significant, as she is establishing a technological pedagogical content knowledge with her students (Niess, et al., 2008).  This is a considerable feat, as it moves critical thinking and text-heavy subject matter to a newer sphere of learning.  With the completed blogs and established identities, a teacher can easily assess the needs and understanding of each student, and steer the lessons accordingly.

 

West, Kathleen C. (2208, April).  Weblogs and literary responses: socially situated identities and hybrid social languages in english class blogsJournal of Adolescent and Adult Literacy 51(7) 588-598.

Niess, Margaret L., Lee, John K., and Kadjer, Sara B. (2008).  Guiding learning with technology.  Hoboken, N.J.: John Wiley & Sons Inc.

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Journal Review: Student Diversity

This particular entry will require an introduction of its own, as I believe it to be part of a larger issue that is very hot these days.  I need to preface this by stating that I am a second-generation American married to a first-generation American; I live in the greater New York City area.  To this extent, I must stress that I am no stranger to immigrants, English Language Learners, and the like.  My opinion, expressed below, is strictly in reaction to the article and author discussed.

 

In her article, “Exploring US mainstream teachers’ perspectives on use of the native language in instruction with English language learner students,” Katya Karathanos describes the surge of students that do not use English as their primary language and the need for the educational community to respond to it.  She describes the argument that English language learner students benefit more from implementing instruction of their native language into a mainstream class and reports a more favorable opinion of the concept over practice in Midwest teachers.  She concludes her report with the idea that the use of a primary language in mainstream classes is beneficial to the ELL students and that her findings provide “important insight and direction for teacher educators” (630).

When reviewing the attitudes of teachers, she states that “traditional teachers (in English-dominant mainstream classrooms) expressed more negative attitudes toward the native languages of their students and were generally against using the native languages for instructional purposes” (619).  She does not, however, offer any elaboration about these attitudes, nor does she make an attempt to discern why they hold their particular viewpoint.  Another item of note in her article is the location of the study.  She reports that Kansas, where the bulk of her study occurs, has seen a drastic increase in ELL students.  The flaw to her claim, however, is the lack of a percentage and its relation to prior demographics.  How drastic is this surge, and how does it compare to demographics for larger cities?  For argument’s sake, four ELL students in a class of forty is a ten percent demographic; on a larger scale, a small rural community could easily show similar proportions, but would not be able to compare in scope to a major city.  Therefore, the alleged negativity on the part of the mainstream teachers could possibly be a belief that a second language is not necessary for instruction of a class when it only serves to aid a very small number of the whole.

I, like many of the teachers in Karathanos’ study, believe the underlying principle is good, but I take issue with the practicality of it in the context of a more culturally diverse environment.  The location of her study is likewise not an appropriate representation of national demographics.  The lack of any counterargument in her article makes it extremely unilateral.  In such a case, is it a negative attitude these teachers had, or concerns for its practicality in a post-NCLB educational system?  Reviewing Karathanos’ work, it is doubtful that anyone would know.

 

Karathanos, Katya (2009, November).  Exploring US mainstream teachers’ perspectives on use of the native language in instruction with English language learner students.  International Journal of Bilingual Education and Bilingualism 12(6) 615-633.

 

Edit:  With regard to Karathanos’ assertion, such an idea would be impractical in its implementation.  To insist teachers utilize a student’s native language in insturction would cause professional development to be focused on learning a student’s native language.  Imagine, then, a scenario where a teacher learns Spanish to better assist the surge in Latin American students; who learns Tagalog to accommodate the needs of the transplanted Filipino students joining the class the same year?  While Karathanos’ intentions are good on paper, the instruction must be scaffolded within the confines of the larger community’s language.  It is impractical and unrealistic to cater to the linguistic background of every non-English speaking student, and has potential to  alienate to one group while assisting another.

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Journal Review: Balanced Literacy

Danielle V. Dennis’ article, “’I’m Not Stupid’: How Assessment Drives (In)Appropriate Reading Instruction,” shows the drawback to standardized testing because of generalized results.  While some students struggle on tests pertaining to verbal aptitude, her experiences lead her to contend with the belief that an all-purpose reading instruction program is inadequate to those individuals.  An analysis of four students reveals to her that each student possesses different strengths and opportunities for their reading levels, and a general program to improve scores is costly and potentially ineffective if it does not address each individual case separately.  She modifies a grade school model of implementing a “multitiered intervention plan” (288) for the adolescent’s unique needs, and encouraging educators to better instruct the student readers.

What stands out most, I believe, is the anecdote with which Dennis starts her article.  It is a poignant statement from the most important aspect of the education system: the student.  If the idea of high-stakes, standardized tests is to measure the effectiveness of learning, then the remedy to the problem appears to be a disservice to the student.  Isolating an area of educational opportunity should better allow the teacher to help the student improve, but statement’s such as “just because I don’t always understand what I read doesn’t mean I’m stupid” (283) add a new perspective on how poorly the solution can be provided.  In Javaar’s case, a sixth-grade student is being relegated to perform exercises generally aimed at a much younger age group.  From a student’s perspective, this can have a detrimental effect on morale and ultimately the desire to learn.

Policies such as the No Child Left Behind Act, as well as individual state responses to it, are inherently designed to measure the capabilities of various students through standardized testing.  The primary downside to such exams (in the context of reading aptitude), however, is that “they do not reveal why struggling readers are testing below grade level” (284).  The solution by institutions is overly simplified, which is to purchase reading programs to help these students, without discerning the abilities of the individual.  Dennis’ modified action plan requires that “all school personnel must be involved in the instructional process” (289), which is crucial to the proper development of the student by bringing an separated, external requirement (high-stakes exams) to the individual students, each of whom have their own diverse strengths and opportunities.

 

Dennis, Danielle V. (2009, December/ 2010, January).  “I’m not stupid”: how assessment drives (in)appropriate reading instruction.  Journal of Adolescent and Adult Literacy 53(4) 283-290.

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Journal Review: Classroom Management

In his article, “Discipline or Punish?  Some Suggestions for School Policy and Teacher Practice,” Yang provides a comparative analysis of the words “discipline” and “punishment” in the context of how it affects student education.  Having conducted his own study across three California schools, he points to evidence that the disciplinary action of classroom removal occurs most frequently in minority males.  He continues, based on this information, to show the negative scholastic impact class removal as a corrective action has on this particular demographic.  He further goes on to offer a suggestion of how to incorporate discipline as praxis, but admits the recommendation is not complete, stressing that “schools can and should function as disciplined spaces that nonetheless reflect the realities” (60) of the students.

While Yang offers some startling evidence as to the link between classroom removal as punishment and its negative impact on test scores, he fails to include the Caucasian student demographic.  As his points progress, he seems to not give his “at risk” demographic their full credit for improvement.  He cites another work in reference to a language barrier between Caucasian middle-class students and African-American urban students.  While a seemingly minor point in Yang’s discussion, this allusion stands out for me.  In class discussions pertaining to racial identity during my undergraduate work, African American urban classmates voluntarily admitted that the language used among their “own kind” was different from the language they spoke to the world outside of their inner circles.  Language, by nature, has a formal aspect and an informal aspect, both of which are used by everyone who speaks a language (e.g., the Japanese use of infinitive verbs in casual instances and the more polite conjugation for professional settings, or the use of slang among friends as opposed to a more formalized speech to a parental/authoritarian figure).  In this instance, Yang’s argument that “engagement is highly context-specific” (54) sells his discussed demographic short.

Yang offers a diagram of “structure and engagement as the interactive bases for classroom practice,” (54) which is similar to the corporate training outline for Situational Leadership.  However, I find Yang’s diagram of structure and engagement limited and confining with respect to teaching the students.  Furthermore, Yang does not address the issue of intelligence, whether single or multiple.  While his concept appears sound, his ideal “Classroom X” (55) is built on the understanding of the student from a more ethnic perspective instead of a more generalized idea of a student.  While it does treat upon the student as an individual, it seems to create more of a cultural barrier than aid in classroom management.

Yang concludes his article by providing the end to an anecdote from his first time disciplining a student.  In the end, while the student enjoyed his class, the tension emerged from the student’s belief that the disruption could have been resolved in the classroom.  Yang also admits, “this was the best advice given to me around classroom management” (60), but fails to link the anecdote’s relevance to his requirement for teacher-student ethnic understanding or to his model of how an ideal classroom necessarily operates.  He offers a persuasive argument that a school’s Zero Tolerance discipline policy creates a less effective school than one with more individual-centered policies in place, but cannot provide a complete, working paradigm.

 

Yang, K. Wayne (2009, Septemer).  Discipline or Punish? Some suggestions for school policy and teacher practice.  Language Arts 87(1) 49-61.

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Journal Review: Learning and Assessment

In 1983, Howard Gardner’s psychological work, Frames of Mind: Theory of Multiple Intelligences, became a highly embraced ideal in the realm of education.  Over the subsequent twenty-seven years, Gardner’s initial seven intelligences have been expanded to nine, each one measurable to a certain degree in students from backgrounds as diverse as their learning styles.  In his article An Intelligent Use for Belief, Matt Aborn expresses his views of the effectiveness of Gardner’s intelligences on the educational community and the impact it has made in practice among students.

Aborn declares the Multiple Intelligences Theory to be a drastic shift in ideology from the existing IQ tests which locked a student into a fixed aptitude for their academic life, and beyond.  Multiple Intelligences, being more dynamic, has allowed for a more workable, limitless means of teaching students.  He goes on to elaborate how Gardner’s theory enables students and teachers to better identify proficiencies and areas of improvement and urges his fellow educators to embrace Multiple Intelligences as a means to better help the students reach the apex of their respective abilities.  This idea, he asserts, is essential when planning lessons and curricula due to the diversity of the students being taught.

While history shows the focus of education fluctuates between the extremes of developing well-rounded individuals and achieving high scores on tests as a measurable result of curricular effectiveness, one singe fact remains constant—every student is different.  Each student, especially in an era of virtually free-flowing information and in a culturally diverse society, will have a different lifestyle and a different mindset.  Furthermore, as more technology develops, its impact on society will change people.  With the never-ending flux of daily life, it is logical to assume the mindset of people is likewise in a constant state of flux.  In such a case, the educational system requires a “malleable definition of intelligence, as opposed to a fixed one,” (Aborn, 85).  Gardner’s theory allows for a different style of learning per student, which remains dynamic as the student lives his or her life.  As the student changes, so can their intelligences.

Aborn describes IQ tests utilized before the Multiple Intelligences Theory are “based on the premise of one type of intelligence that was genetic in nature and thus fixed throughout life,” (83).  A single intelligence, however, should not be classified as static.  History is full of constant changes in society and knowledge, and has proven that nothing stays the same.  Therefore, it can be understood that the learning aptitudes of a student do not stay constant, as the student is a product of society and knowledge.

 

Aborn, Matt (2006, Fall).  An intelligent use for belief.  Education 127 (1) 83-85.

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Journal Review: Introduction

As a graduate student, the bulk of my assignments for class were journal reviews, where an article from an educational journal was read and a reaction was submitted based on the class’ theme.  There are five, in all, here:

Learning and Assessment

Classroom Management

Balanced Literacy

Student Diversity

Content-Specific

Citations will be provided in APA format at the bottom of the post.

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