EDU 6526- Identifying Similarities and Differences

Strategies for comparing, classifying, metaphors, and analogies have been proven to be highly beneficial to deeper learning. According to Dean et al. (2012), these strategies for identifying similarities and differences, “move students from existing knowledge to new knowledge, concrete to abstract, and separate to connected ideas” (p. 119). However, the caveat to the effectiveness of these strategies is that students need to be taught each strategy, have repeated opportunities for guided practice, receive scaffolding, and be provided with relevant modeling.
I plan to use Venn Diagrams with early primary students as an entry point to comparing. Last academic year, my mentor and I implemented Venn Diagrams into the morning message one or two times a week. Dean et al. (2012) stress that identification and comparison methods must include prior knowledge to enable students to focus on the new process, while relieving students of being distracted with new content. By implementing Venn Diagrams as a regular practice during the morning message activity, students have repeated practice with a new learning strategy that is rooted in familiar topics and a familiar routine. During morning meeting, students engaged in an insightful guided discussion regarding the diagram. Students would make observations in response to the teacher’s cues and, in turn, develop the skill of comparing subjects. Dean et al. (2012) recommends starting with a Venn diagram to teach basic comparing skills, and then graduating to a more complex comparison matrix. I am curious as to whether first grade students would be ready to graduate to the comparison matrix mid-way through the year. My cohort mates, Laura and Andrea, who have practical experience with this age feel that this would be an appropriate challenge for first grade students. Of course, as with any new structure and process for finding similarities and differences, the process of comparing two subjects given multiple qualifications would need to be systematically scaffolded. However, I plan to implement the complex comparison matrix if I teach first grade next year because I believe it is a highly effective process that prepares students to compare literature in more advanced grades.
Dean, C. B., Hubble, E. R., Pitler, H. and Stone, B. (2012). Classroom Instruction that Works- 2nd edition. Alexandria, VA: ASCD. ISBN-13: 978-1-4166-1362-6

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EDU 6526: Video Analysis of Instructional Strategies- 3rd Grade Adjectives Lesson

According to Dean et al. (2012), an effective teacher must set clear objectives and provide constructive feedback, reinforce effort and provide recognition, and facilitate cooperative learning to establish a successful learning environment. The strategies that teachers can utilize to support student academic achievement are cues, questions and advance organizers, nonlinguistic representations, summarizing and note taking, assigning homework, and providing practice.
For the purpose of reflecting on how these best instructional strategies might look in practice, I am analyzing a video of a 3rd grade teacher instructing a lesson on adjectives. The teacher begins to the lesson by stating the clear simple objective of learning more about adjectives, and inviting students to share what they know about the subject. When a student volunteers that an adjective comes before a noun, she presses for the purpose of an adjective. The teacher has established a clear learning target, and cued the students to share prior learning to start the lesson. She writes student responses on white board at the front of the room
Following the introduction, the teacher invites students to share a list, via raising their hands, of adjectives to ascribe to the beach. The teacher divides the list into five categories, corresponding with the five senses. Then she prompts the class to share a few a few descriptive terms for each category. When this task has been completed, an advance organizer, or “senses web”, is introduced with the directive that they will work together to assign adjectives to an Oreo cookie for each of the five senses. The students repeat the procedure of raising their hands to individually share descriptive terms that are recorded by the teacher on the whiteboard at the front of the classroom. The students have the added task of writing adjectives on their senses web. A high point of the lesson occurs when the students are allowed to take a bite of their cookie and describe its taste. The teacher closes the lesson by restating the lesson’s objective of learning more about adjectives.
I think the teacher sets a clear objective for the lesson and provides a predictable, accessible structure for students to achieve that objective. However, I feel this lesson is lacking in many ways; a learning target that communicates expectations for higher thinking, presence of nonlinguistic representations, reinforcement of effort that is non-attributive and promotes deeper thinking, and (in my opinion most importantly) cooperative learning.
According to Pitler and Stone (2012), an effective objective is rigorous and age appropriate. Considering that this class has prior working knowledge of adjectives and their job in literature, I think it would be more rewarding and engaging to ask students to think of interesting or unique descriptive words. The objective, “learn more about adjectives” is clear, yet general and sets the bar for learning low. Second, the lesson is lacking in nonlinguistic representations. Nonlinguistic representations tap into a specialized brain function, and natural tendency for visual image processing that supports long term acquisition of knowledge (Medina, 2008; Pitler & Stone, 2012, and Dean et al.). The teacher could have had students include representative drawings on the senses web, drawn representative images on the whiteboard, displayed images as prompts, and/or close their eyes to visualize descriptors. Next, the teacher did a fine job of calling on everyone in the class, but utilized a single, teacher-centered style of student engagement. She provided acknowledgement of effort by using general words like, “good.” She did prompt a couple of students to think deeper by asking them be more specific. However, I feel that she could have challenged students deepen their thinking and volunteer more interesting adjectives to describe the beach and an Oreo cookie. To be honest, I was bored and I think the students were as well.
According to Dean et al. (2012), effective reinforcement of effort asks students to track their own effort and achievement. I think the teacher was too quick too accept predictable descriptive words, and she could have cultivated a playfully challenging effort by having the students elaborate on one another’s contributions. For example, when one student volunteered that the beach smelled “fishy”, then another student called out, “gross!” She could have acknowledged that the adjective gross is another adjective that could be used in place of fishy and asked students for other ways to say fishy or gross. Another way she could have reinforced effort is by simply allowing more wait time to hear student’s thinking. She maintains a lively pace at the expense of not allowing time for students to share their thinking.
Finally, I think there is great opportunity for cooperative learning in this lesson that is not capitalized on effectively. Cooperative learning promotes positive interdependence, individual accountability, develops interpersonal and group skills, and promotes self- efficacy (Pitler &Stone, 2012). The teacher could have had students work in small groups to create posters for how to describe an Oreo cookie, and then present their work to one another. Other possible strategies for implementing cooperative learning into this lesson are having students think-pair-share, come up to the whiteboard to write or draw adjectives, or having students act out various adjectives.
Overall, this lesson was clear and well structured but, in my opinion, failed to implement engaging strategies that have the potential to spark student’s imagination to grow socially and academically. One of the most valuable pieces of feedback my internship coordinator gave me was to slow down a bit, and plan many opportunities for students to engage directly with the learning and one another. I would pass this advice on to the teacher who delivered this lesson. I think teachers often get hyper-focused on delivering all the prescribed elements of an effective lesson, with best intention, and lose sight of hearing what students have to say about the learning.

Dean, C.B. Hubbell, E.R., Pitler, H., & Stone, B. J. (2012). Classroom instruction that works: Research-based strategies for increasing student achievement. Alexandria, VA. ASCD.

Pitler, H., & Stone, B.J. (2012). A handbook for classroom instruction that works.Alexandria, VA. ACSD.

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Human Development and Principles of Learning. Module 5: Piaget, Vygotsky, and Constructivist Classroom Applications

One of the strengths of Piaget’s theory is his description of how human beings move in and out of egocentric displays of behavior as they progress through the formal operations structure. According to Crain (2000), each stage consists of a human being egocentric in some form and reaching a stage of decentering, only to develop into another manifestation of egocentrism at the next stage. Finally, as an adolescent egocentrism takes the form of one having idealistic views of how they can transform the world. In the Piaget construct we experience a final decentering as we discover how our views about the world can be realistically applied. I find this concept of egocentrism to be utilitarian in reflecting and planning how I will interact with children relative to their age.
I agree with the Psaltis et al. article that Piaget’s work is lacking in consideration of sociocultural contexts. However, I do feel that the general framework can be adapted to any educational culture as a useful tool for considering children’s’ developmental needs. Psaltis et al. (2009) describe the process of interiorization vs. internalization, and the former being the process by which learners commit new knowledge in a sustaining fashion. I believe this concept has valuable implications for instruction regardless of sociocultural context.
According to Powell & Kalina (2009), cognitive and social constructivism should be used alternately in the classroom to create a meaningful and productive learning environment. Cognitive constructivism involves consideration of how a child is interacting with their environment, and optimizing the potential for learning by making that environment stimulating and safe. A teacher can provide structured times for educational free exploration such as having a science lesson where students are allowed time to various materials that are arranged on a tray allowing each students to have their own scientific journey. This activity can be followed with a group discussion where the teacher provides a catalyst question, such as, “which materials did you think were the most absorbent? Why?” I think providing students with as many opportunities for authentic learning is essential to constructivist learning. For example, my mentor school has second and third graders create and run a postal system, and the whole community participate in buying supplies and correspondence. It is a meaningful constructed learning unit that fosters a unification of all the students in a common project.
Crain, W. (2005). Theories of development: Concepts and applications (5th ed.). Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson Education, Inc.
Powell, K.C., & Kalina C.J. (2009). Cognitive and social constructivism: Developing tools for an effective classroom. Education, 130(2). Retrieved from:
Psaltis, C., Duveen, G. &Perret-Clermont, A. N. (2009). The social and the psychological: Structure and context in intellectual development. Human Development, 59, 291-312. Retrieved from:

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American Education Past and Present: Module 4- The Roman Way and The Way Today

 I was touched to read Professor Scheuerman’s story of Mrs. Braun’s and Ms. Sun’s dedicated daily correspondence which culminated in more than 4,000 letters at the time of Ms. Sun’s passing.  I reflected on this story of intergenerational sharing of knowledge in tandem with one of the main ideas of this week’s subject matter.  Scheuerman (2014) posited this essential question, “while we may prescribe a courses of study for young people, we are to take into consideration their abilities and interests in selecting instructional endeavor…How does this square with, we know what they need to know?”  The Common Core State Standards (CCSS) represent the knowledge and process educators know students need in order to succeed academically.  I think it is a positive step for school reform to have a research-based consensus for curriculum that teachers can use to ensure students are achieving learning expectations all through their grade school career.  However, I feel that the focus on CCSS at this moment in education is making it difficult for teachers to be child emergent in instruction because a disproportionate amount of energy is focused on adapting the standards to work with their classroom culture.  I think the type of character education that results in students having an authentic experience of cultivating a relationship where they practice service and loyalty to others is invaluable to empowering students to believe that their actions make a difference in the world- to prepare students to be involved citizens.

However, the Ellis (n.d.) article about educational reform reinforced for me the necessity for having an accountable structure for ensuring that we are meeting the academic needs of our students throughout their career.  I hope that public schools will continue to move toward a model that empowers decision making at the local level.  I think it is important for individual school communities to be able to collaborate to make decisions that will benefit each unique educational community.  If we are to expect our students to believe in their ability to invoke change by being active citizens, we should be able to have a decisive voice in policy as teachers to model this in our service to our school community.


Scheuerman, R. (Producer). (2014, July).  .Session 4 Podcast A: The Roman Way and Traditional Values [Audio podcast].  Retrieved from

A. Ellis. (n.d.)  Educational Foundations. Retrieved from

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EDU 6526: Strategies for Summarizing Text

The three structures recommended by Dean et al. (2012) for summarizing are rule-based strategies, summary frames, and engagement in reciprocal teaching.  Students practice removing irrelevant or repetitive information, replace lists of things with one summative term, and find or create a topic sentence for a passage when learning rule-based summarizing strategies.  Dean et al. (2012) describes a teacher thinking aloud, as she has her class collaborate on applying the rule-based strategies.  Students get support extracting the key points from a text through using summary frames.  A summary frame is custom designed for the type of text studied, and developmental level of readers.  The final summary structure highlighted by Dean et al. (2012) is reciprocal teaching.  This strategy is used primarily with expository text. To practice the reciprocal strategy a teacher facilitates the division of students into four roles of summarizer, questioner, clarifier and predictor.  As students collaborate to act out these roles, they gain understanding of the key points of a text. Teachers can facilitate small groups for reciprocal teaching that are composed of students complimentary learning styles, temperaments, or abilities.

After reading about various summarizing strategies, I reflected on how I might adapt these structures for the mixed-age, kindergarten/first grade class I taught last year.  I think these summarizing strategies lend themselves effectively to readers’ workshop, or a lesson that requires a collaborative reading of a text.  While reading aloud last year, I would ask students to tell me what the book was about.  Also, I would think aloud sometimes about whether or not an element of a text was essential to the key idea.  Often, this would encourage students to engage in a summary of the text.  I initially felt that the summary strategies presented by Dean et al. (2012) were too advanced for kindergarten and first grade students.  As an intern, I did not use any consistent form of the summarizing strategies offered.  But after discussing various adaptations with cohort mates who teach early primary grades as well, I realized that it is effective practice to introduce rule-based strategies, summary frames, and reciprocal teaching with appropriate supports for emergent readers and writers.  Furthermore, I can see how having consistent structured practices for summarizing texts could lend itself to students initiating this practice independently.

In my future teaching, I would like to create anchor charts that are visually fun and engaging to support students in memorizing the rules for summarizing a text.  I would also like to create a library of summary frames that have fun images to help students learn how to record the key components of a story.  Finally, I would like to engage students in reciprocal teaching by modeling the roles, and scaffolding the process.  Counter to what I believed before reading the literature on structured summary strategies, I believe teaching these skills to emergent readers and writers will help build a solid foundation for excellent study skills as students are assigned more complex texts to distill.


Dean, C.B. Hubbell, E.R., Pitler, H., & Stone, B. J. (2012). Classroom      instruction that works: Research-based strategies for increasing       student achievement. Alexandria, VA. ASCD.

Pitler, H., & Stone, B.J. (2012). A handbook for classroom instruction that works. Alexandria, VA. ACSD.





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Session Three- American Education: Past and Present

“The world would be very silent if no birds sang except those who sang best.”

-Henry David Thoreau

Professor Scheuerman (2014) emphasizes the power of memory as one of the cornerstones of a sustained and fortifying education.  Specifically, he recalls four quotations that were engraved at each directional in a high school he visited, and the impression these wise words imparted in terms of anchoring one’s growth into respectable citizenry.  I connected with the Thoreau quote on two levels relative to the responsibility a teacher carries within society.  First, when I first began working with elementary-age children 6 years ago, I quickly realized that singing is a required action for the job.  I have always regarded myself as a horrible singer, and reserved such actions for intimate family gatherings, or solo moments in the shower or car.  I had to get over myself right away because when I realized that children gain infinite joy and meaningful knowledge through singing on a daily basis.  This led me to a deeper insight relative to this week’s topic of teachers as civil servants.   In order to effectively serve the needs of students and community, I must always maintain a practice of letting go of my human burden of ego, and walking the extra mile with other individuals who present opposing views or challenging behaviors.

My interpretation of the Jesus’s Sermon on the Mount is that we all are the salt of the earth; and we all possess a light that has potential to benefit the world.  This sounds so simple out of context, but applied to teaching I believe this practice is simultaneously the most strenuous and rewarding calling of the profession.  In order to maintain a dialogue with children, families, colleagues, and wider community a teacher must be willing to let go of rigid ideas and listen to other’s perspectives with compassion and purpose.   At the same time, a teacher’s practice needs to be rooted in some foundation of ideology in order to foster a consistent classroom culture.  I think this balance will be my greatest struggle as I move into the role of lead classroom teacher.  I will be reaching out to more experienced educators for counsel as difficult questions of serving all my community in an integral way arise.

Professor Scheuerman also speaks to the absence of community elders in our modern culture, and calls to teachers to help young people anchor creation of personal identity in something other than the “tyranny of the peer group.”  I plan to include community elders in my classroom curricula as a means of providing children with a family experience to inform their growing sense of self.

In conclusion, if I wait until I have a “perfect” singing voice before I express myself as a new teacher; I will cheat my students out of a model who is willing to let go of ego, and view themself as interconnected with society.  Also, I would cheat myself out of the experience of being dynamic and fresh in my practice.  So, I plan to keep on singing loud and proud.  Maybe someday I will take lessons!


Scheuerman, R.  (2014, July) Session 3 Ellis. Nature of the Profession [Web log post].  Retrieved from:

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Session Two- American Education: Past and Present/ A Community of Learners

What I took away from the collection of readings and podcasts from this week’s study is a call to take the best of what the 5th C BC Greeks worked to achieve in their society and use it as teachers to make our schools a meaningful forum where young people realize their place in the world. One question I feel compelled to respond to from Dr. Schuerman’s lecture is, “how can we connect various disciplines to the greater goal of teaching kids how to cooperate with one another?” One example I can offer is the enthusiasm that I saw building in my K/1 budding readers for literature over the course of this past academic year. One of many things I admire about young primary learners is their love of taking-in a story that their teacher reads aloud. My students would drop all chatter and glue their attention on me immediately when they knew I was going to read them a story. I observed how this story time gave students an opportunity to have a rich community discussion. At this age children have a tendency to share their feelings and observations about a story, but have not developed skills for listening and responding to one another. I would use this time to encourage students to engage one another in a discussion by using a variety of strategies, i.e.- think-pair-share. At the end of the day in our classroom students had some free reading time. Without fail, a student would seek out the story that had been read aloud earlier, and a lively group reading would ensue. I think it is a reliable barometer for a teacher to reflect on their practice by asking the question, “am I teaching this subject or unit in a way that promotes real-world application and motivates students to think about how they might better the world with their knowledge?”

In the reading from Plato’s Cave I equated the human traveling back and forth between the darkness cave and the light with our lifelong education as humans. One piece of the dialogue serves as warning not to laugh at the person who has attained knowledge (light), yet has returned to delusion or ignorance (darkness). I think if we are committed to being lifelong learners there will always be times when we are feeling around in the dark as we endeavor to acquire new knowledge. As community we can support one another in taking educational risks. As a teacher, if I become someone who believes I have learned all I need to know, and am not willing to feel uncomfortable in order to grow- I have let my community down, and truly am stuck in the dark cave.


Scheuerman, R. (Producer). (2014, July). Session 2 Podcast A: Paideia [Audio podcast].  Retrieved from

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