Thursday, December 11, 2014

If You Believe It....

Ch. 14

As I was reading pg. 374, I was reminded of the cliche, “Rome wasn't built in a day,” and yet, as the author acknowledges, “Our fear makes us frenzied and impatient,” and “because the test is looming, we simultaneously look back over our shoulders to see if the education critics are closing in.” I could relate to these feelings of insecurity caused by pressure to score well on the tests. While I am not naive to the fact that this year's Common Core ELA test will be more challenging than the 5th grade writing PSSA I was responsible for preparing my students for before, I am a bit glad that the instructional responsibility no longer lies entirely on my shoulders. It also makes me sad to say that. In the past, a vast majority of my students scored proficient on the writing PSSA, but it was a very rare occasion that any 5th grader at our school earned an advanced score. While I respect and feel supported by my principal, I admit that she made her awareness of this statistic known to me on more than one occasion. I suppose that is why I appreciated the seven beliefs that Spandel urges us to cling to. Thank goodness someone believes in us!

I was most drawn to belief #3 with it’s key points supporting choice, time, resources, and real revision. Sometimes I get a bit down on myself about the amount of time a writing project takes, especially with my 4th graders, but they are really learning some important fundamentals, and honestly, it does take time. Currently, we are working on an argumentative piece where they have to use evidence from an article to support their chosen claim of whether cats or dogs make better pets. We have spent a week on the pre-writing planner. I find myself getting impatient. This chapter was just what I needed to read right now. Writing is messy and time-consuming! And, then on top of our hard work, we beat ourselves up about it. I need to stop this mental self-torment.

I also felt re-inspired and validated when I read the recommendation pg. 380 about using the book The Dot to encourage students that they all have a writer inside of them...I have and use this book with my own kids! It is a great little ditty with a powerful theme. I have found that even older kids like it!

This chapter reminded me of this letter sent home to students in the United Kingdom, which I came across over the summer. I loved it because it reminded students that the tests did not define them as unique individuals. As the administrators of this school remind their parents and students, “There are many ways of being smart.” Why aren't we doing this too?!

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Chapter 14 - Journal - Leonard

Bethany Leonard
Chapter 14

Students learn and succeed in different subject areas and parts of school in various and unique ways.  Creativity can be lost along the way when taking tests that are designed to examine student's achievement on content based knowledge. Also, high stress situations can cause some students to question and rethink answers that they normally would have answered correctly.  Page 374 of  our texts states, "A single assessment cannot tell us whether a student can write or whether a teacher can teach".  In the library, I try to use a variety of assessments and work choices to best accommodate all learning styles.  This is challenging for educators when it comes to the standardized tests that students are required to take every year.  It is frustrating for both the teachers and the students. I like the Roald Dahl example that shows how one student can be judged by one teacher and deemed "an illiterate member of the class" and continue on to be an extremely successful author.

Believing that all students can write is another key to teaching writing successfully.  All students are able to write, if given the proper options, connections, choices, guidance, and sometimes assistance to succeed.   A little encouragement goes a long way, just like one unkind comment can last a life time. Our book also stresses the importance of creating a safe writing atmosphere.  I always try to create a safe encouraging environment for my students so that they think of the library as a fun safe place to learn.

What I think this chapter really comes down to is believing in your students and believing in yourself as a teacher.  We are all on the same team to succeed.  Connect with your students to get to know their strengths and weaknesses as writers and as human beings.  We all became teachers to help our students succeed and provide them with the best education possible.  Don't forget why you became a teacher and get caught up in testing and grading your students.  They may not remember getting an A on their spelling test, but they will remember the activities and comments you left on their papers that spoke to them and created lasting memories.

It was great meeting everyone!

Monday, December 8, 2014

Erin Earle
Recess IS Test Effecient!!

                Test, test, test…this is all school districts seem to care about. They fret about how to improve test scores not about which students may not have had a warm place to sleep or food since they ate last at school. They also don’t seem to really care about why behavior referrals are through the roof at such a young age. It seems that they want test scores to go up but don’t really want to look at the things that are holding test scores down. One of the several issues at hand is the lack of recess or the lack of taking a break from structured academics. Administrators and school officials need to take a page from preschools and allow more free play time. Preschool administrators seem to be reading and adhering to the research that stresses the importance of free play even through the adolescent years and quite frankly, adult years. Who doesn’t benefit from a mental break? Everything is about cramming as much academics in to a school day as possible and at the expense of recess and specials (music, art, physical education, library, technology). Academics is obviously the most important aspect of the school day but is it the most efficient use of time to not allow mental play breaks. I know that when I take small breaks from work, I am much more focused on the tasks at hand.
                Those that specialize in the wellbeing of children outside of the educational realm, aka pediatricians, seem to know and understand the importance of recess. In the article “The Crucial Role of Recess in School” in Pediatrics: Official Journal of the American Academy of Pediatrics, the contributors write of how recess “affords a time to rest, play, imagine, think, move, and socialize.” Recess allows children to develop social skills that are not developed during structured classroom time (Crucial Role of Recess in School, 2013). Studies show that it does not matter where recess is performed, indoors or outdoors, just that it is because this break helps students to be more attentive and productive in the classroom. This is what all educators want, for academic time to be utilized well.
                Research from the Scholastic journal Instructor article, “Recess Makes Kids Smarter” also supports the continued implementation and even an increase in recess. It states that recess benefits students in the classroom by allowing them to be less fidgety and more on task, have improved memory, more focused attention, develop more brain connections, learn negotiation skills, exercise leadership, and are more physically active before and after school. Teachers are in support of all of these things and all of these things add to the overall wellbeing of children. It would stand to reason that when a child is able to make more brain connections, be less fidgety, and have more focused attention that the precious test scores that school administrators are in search of would be more attainable.
                There is concern that with the unstructured time of recess comes behavioral issues and possibility of injury. Coming from an educator standpoint both of these concerns happen at school regardless. It is safe to say that millions of students of the past have survived school-time recess to become adults. School officials should implement and enforce appropriate boundaries for recess time but allow the students and the teachers to reap the benefits of recess. The administrators will get their coveted test scores

Monday, December 1, 2014

Leonard- Chapter 13 Journal

Chapter 13 discussed a very important topic, communicating with students.  I think many teachers tend to forget the impact they can have on a student with only writing or speaking a few words or the lack there of.  Even now, I can't wait to see what a professor thought about a paper I have turned in.  Waiting for an assignment to be returned can be torture, especially if the assignment is returned late. Also, a grade with no comments at all can be equally frustrating.  With that said, I have been guilty of leaving only a few words when I have been rushed to return journals to my students.  I try not to write negative comments, but instead I will write, "come see me".  
Negative comments can stay with students for a long long time.  I can remember my 6th grade teacher being frustrated with me for not understanding how to complete a writing assignment.  Compounded with the fact that I was extremely shy and soft spoken annoyed her even more, because I did not ask for help when I should have.   Previously, she had taught my sister, who was very outgoing and honestly tended to pick things up academically faster in those days. She seemed to be rushed and finally barked out something about how I would never go to college and it didn't matter anyway.  For the rest of my life, I will never forget that experience and it is what I remember the most about that teacher.  While going for my undergrad in education, I used her as an example of what a teacher should not be like. 
The chapter also pointed out that teacher comments, especially when they are very vague, can be misunderstood. Positive comments can actually be taken in a completely negative way.  I think the example on page 354, 13.1, involving what a kindergarten student enjoyed about the school year is excellent.
I love the two minute conference idea as well as the conference topic suggestions.  Conferencing with students about their writing is definitely something I need to do more of in the library.  The two minutes conference will give me a way to do it, but I still think I may struggle.  I will not be able to conference with every student on every writing assignment, as I only see them once a week for about 40 minutes. That does include book checkout time. Peer response groups may also be another way I can go to save time, but I also must model it correctly and define the student roles clearly!

Parent involvement with reading and writing is always a good idea and I like how the chapter encourages parents to read and listen to their children.  A parent writing with their children is probably not as often practiced, but something parents should still do. Teachers can help guide these experiences by sending home good examples and suggestions for writing at home.  Maybe this could even be a topic for open house or parent teacher conference night. 

Ch. 13 Reflection

Ch. 13 Reflection


When conferring with students, Ralph Fletcher might say it best, “We must speak to our students with an honesty tempered by compassion: Our words will literally define the ways they perceive themselves as writers.”

When I read some of the negative comments students recalled being written on their papers, I literally cringed. Talk about pulling the rug out from under someone. I have students who would completely shut down if I wrote any one of those negative comments on their papers. Fortunately, I think those comments were extreme; I don’t personally know any teachers who would make such heartless remarks on a student’s piece of writing. Whew!

I believe a lot of effort has gone into training teachers to choose their words carefully, using phrases such as, “It’s ultimately your choice how you revise because this is your piece of writing, but what do you think about some of these revision ideas?” We all know that, so many times, the cliche of It’s not what you say, but how you say it holds true. Writing is very personal for our students. On page 352, I found it interesting to read the internal dialogue responses of students to specific teacher comments. On page 353, the comment, “Good feedback causes thinking” was powerful for me. 

To me, this means we don’t just tell students HOW to revise, we point them in the right direction, model some strategies, give them options to think about and choose. This technique, is more aligned, I believe with teaching students how to help themselves even when we are not with them. The ‘showing vs. telling’ way of writing also holds true for teaching writing.


In 4th and 5th grade, I find that my students often need some specific ideas about how to improve, “va-goo” (vague) comments aren't enough to stimulate growth. One of the most powerful revision tools I have come across, is asking a student permission to take a look at their hard work in front of the class. Most of my students love being in this spotlight. I can scan and import the writing onto the Promethean Board. As a class, we can develop a collective consciousness about how to respectfully praise and revise work. We can pool our thoughts together in a whole class discussion of a single student’s work. If we identify an area where we would like the student to “stretch it out” and add more detail, or maybe change the wording to assist with fluency or reorganization, the students can simultaneously attempt the same type of revision within their own piece of writing, right then and there….mini-lessons in action. 

I have to admit, I try to use this teaching technique more than one-on-one conferences because I feel that this models and reaches more of my students, also keeping more of them on task. However, I think the “two-minute” writing conference topics on pg. 356 could be very helpful in alleviating my own anxiety about establishing a meaningful purpose. Perhaps the students could be given a similar list ahead of time, choose their own purpose, and come to the conference ready to share their progress or ask questions about their self-selected topic. On pg. 368, Spandel again shows her advocacy of teaching the traits “through revision and editing practice - not through teacher correction that has no true impact on students’ skills.”


I like the idea that you can choose to focus on and grade only one or traits at a time. This reminds me of the freedom I felt when I first learned about Focus Correction Areas with Collins Writing.


I would like to improve with my own parent involvement with student writing. Once in awhile, I will ask students to take home their rough draft, my model, and the rubric to self-assess with a parent as their homework. I don’t think I do this often enough though. I would like to send home a letter to parents that contains some of the suggestions on pgs. 368-369 along with a summary of the writing traits.

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Argument Writing Assignment - Leonard - Not a final copy!

Bethany Leonard

Argument Writing Assignment

ECUC 452 Teaching Writing

Not a final copy!

Social Media and Social Networking in Education?

                Using social media and social networking in education has been up for debate with many educators over the past few years.  To clarify, I am referring to the tools and online communities used to share information.  Some examples of social media, according to Shantel (2012) are blogs, social networks as in Facebook or Myspace, microblogging like twitter, wikis, YouTube, discussion forums, and photo sharing communities like Flickr. The world of education is continuously changing to include the use of technology and web 2.0 tools.  Salgur (2013) states that, “Social Networking services has become an important part of teenagers’ daily lives” (pg. 35).  Our students will be using social media and social networking tools even if we do not teach with them.  According to Ramig (2009) there are even social networking sites created for students as young as 5 years old.

There are both negative risks and positive benefits when it comes to using social media and or social networking in education.  Should social media and social networking be used in education or are there to many risks involved? Do students need be taught how to safely utilize social media?  Shantel stresses that, “Educators in in the twenty-first century are charged with the responsibility to teach students to read, write, and function responsibly in a digital world” (pg. 54). Will we be doing our students a disservice as educators, if we do not teach them how to use social media and social networking tools in education?

The Risks

                Michelle (2014) supplies a good example of a survey showing that many teachers are afraid to use social media in their classrooms.  In this survey, 1,005 teachers in grades K-12 were asked if they used social-networking in their classrooms.  An overwhelming 80% of the teachers that were surveyed expressed fears of possible negative consequences from using social media tools in their classrooms. Only 18 percent of the teachers surveyed claimed to use social media tools in their classrooms.  Is it possible that the educators from this survey need more education on how to properly use social networking and media in their classroom or are their fears of the consequences substantial even with the proper precautions?

                There is the fear that teenagers will share too much of their personal information on the Internet or inappropriate information that may even get them into criminal trouble (Salgor, 2013).  Salgor (2013) also mentions that social networking may also cause cyber bullying in schools.  Cyber bullying also occurs through home use of social media and social networking.  Riman (2013) suggest the following negative “claims” about using social media in education.  One of the claims includes students spending more time communicating socially online and losing their ability to communicate in person.  She claims that pronunciation and grammar skills have declined.  She suggests that student’s ability to remember pertinent information has decreased.  Finally, Riman insists that instead of studying, students are checking their Facebooks or Twitter accounts.  Many of these negative claims, as an educator, I do not agree with and feel they are more like fears.  There is also no research given to support the “claims”.  
The Benefits

                Social media and social networking can offer a variety of educational benefits according to Salgur (2013) including, encouraging students to work together and collaborate with other students in ways they were not able to in the past.  Students are able to share projects through technology and improve their technology skills as they do so.  Riman (2013) suggests that students learn important skills including resume building, creating personal websites, and online portfolios they will need if they someday work in the business world. Shantel (2012) explains that students are able to listen, watch, evaluate, reflect, collaborate, connect with other learners, plan, and find their voice when using social media sites.

                Learning continues even when the school day is over with social networking and using media sites (Ramig, 2009).  Depietro (2013) explains that social media will allow shyer students, who tend to be nervous about participating in class, a platform to get involved.  Social media and social networks provide a new low stress platform for all students to participate.  In some cases, learners may even respond and communicate with each other more frequently. 


                “It is not feasible and quite na├»ve to suggest that students should be set free on the Internet and told to learn” (Shantel, 2012. Pg. 56).  Ramig (2009) makes many valid points about staying safe and being responsible when using social media and networks in a school setting. 

·         Limit network access so that only the students and select individuals may view and post to it for privacy.

·          Monitor the social network on a regular schedule.

·         Remove inappropriate posts, but also discuss them with the class.

·         Also, share appropriate post examples with the class.

·         Give specific directions about what you are expecting from students when utilizing social media or networking sites.

·         In some situations, allow parents access to the social networks and encourage them to read the posts.

There are definitely some risks with using social media and social networks in education, but with the proper education and precautions, many of the risks can be avoided and addressed when they do arise.   There are far too many educational benefits to avoid using social media and social networks in education.


Depietro, P. (2013). Transforming Education With New Media. New York:  Peter Lang Publishing.

Michelle, R. D. (2014) Teachers found to avoid social media in classroom. Education Week, 33(18),

                4. Retrieved from

Ramig, R. (2009). Social media in the classroom-for kindergarteners (!) through high schoolers.

                MultiMedia & Internet@Schools, 16(6), 8-10.


                Euromentor Journal, 4(3), 35-46.

                Retrieved from

Shantel, M. S. (2012). Go ahead…be social: Using social media to enhance the twenty-first century

                Classroom.  Distance Learning, 9(2), 54-59.

                Retrieved from


(I still have two more citations to add!)





Chapter 14

Chapter 14
                The take-away from this chapter…there are 7.

1.        Believe in the voices that once led us. We learn to write by writing. This is something that I have embraced this year with a free write journal.  The students can write about ANYTHING but I do have a topic available if they feel they need a starter.

2.       Believe that the human spirit is too elusive, to vast, and too diverse to be defined bt a single assessment. This is something that I believe wholeheartedly, even outside the realm of writing. Why don’t the powers that be understand this?

3.       Believe that we can and must create assessment to match our vision of good writing instruction. This is a constant area of struggle for me. I am always looking to improve in this area.

4.       Believe that students can write. I am believing this more and more as I am figuring out how to teach my students. I also see this through the writings of my 7 year old in first grade and even 5 year old in preschool.

5.       Believe that writing isn’t just a skill for school, but a skill for life. This is very true and I know that as a 34 year high school graduate, college graduate twice, a former counselor, and a current adolescent Language Arts teacher. To have students of positive school experiences understand this is a challenge, much less students that have nothing but negative school experiences.

6.       Believe that voice is power. This is exactly what I hope to teach my students through their journals.

7.       Believe that you can teach. This is a constant work in progress for me. This is one of the reasons that I enrolled in a teaching writing class. It has truly helped!