Thursday, August 9, 2007

Amazing Grace

Every Sunday afternoon after the traditional nap,my Mimmaw and I sashayed into the den to play the piano
Amazing grace, how sweet the sound
She sat on the fine mahogany bench with such class and grace
That saved a wretch like me
Big blue eyes peering down at my hands
I once was lost but now am found
Soft hands kindly placing my fingers on the correct keys
Was blind, but now I see

Wednesday, August 8, 2007

Do we dance enough?

“You were supposed to sing or dance along the way.”~ Such a true comment, life is set up as a process, school, more school, work and more work. Sadly, many people forget to sing and dance along the way, making their life less interesting. Who wants to wake up to realize that the process was a “hoax”, I know that I don’t. We push our students to strive for success and to work hard to obtain their goals, but we must remember to let them have a little fun along the way. Yes, there is a fine line between the two: accomplishing goals and sing/dancing along the way, but the two can coincide with one another. The more music produced by each student the greater their chances of success without burnout. Remember everyone should use moderation in all things and this is something that we can teach our students. Life without music is no life to live at all. Thank you for reminding me how important it is to stop and listen to the music while even in tough situations.

Monday, August 6, 2007

Lit. Review

This past school year I was blessed with the privilege of watching a student grow in academics, self-esteem, self-efficacy and personality. Celeste has a middle of the road, dyslexia case that was magnified by her lack of confidence in her abilities. However, throughout the year her confidence grew and grew as she made strides in her learning. This made me wonder if self-esteem, self-efficacy and testing, go hand in hand with academic success in students.

I have always thought that one must have a confidence in themselves to truly excel in anything, but in the classroom students with learning disabilities need to believe in themselves more so than anyone else. After reviewing many research articles I still believe in what I first thought. While self-esteem is powerfully influenced by results achieved and appreciation shown by others from primary school on, it is also a good predictor of academic success. Adequate self-esteem is related to the capacity to cope with academic tasks by employing effective study methods and actively participating in the learning process, both of which are involved in achieving set goals (Pepi and Fraia and Alesi, 2006). Celeste had been retained in third grade, failed the TAKS test and failed third grade her second go-round, but was placed in fourth. I think that her lack of achievement in previous years was a major impact on her self-worth; therefore she lacked belief in herself, causing a bigger deficit in her ability to learn. Indeed the perception of how much one is worth and in what way is strictly related to school achievement during adolescence, with higher self-esteem being related to better school results ( Pepi and Fraia and Alesi, 2006). Davies and Brember preformed a study that found that feelings of worth or unworthiness could affect mathematics and reading performance of individuals forming their self-image while receiving feedback from others (Helm, 2007). Specifically students with a severe learning disability such as dyslexia self-esteem can play a vital role in their success. Since many students with dyslexia have a difficult time with “keeping up” with the rest of their classmates on the progress of learning, they tend to retreat and question their ability. I am sure many of them wonder what is going, they don’t understand. Morgan’s study found that , when dyslexic children fail to keep up at school, their self-esteem drops as they begin to question their academic abilities (Alexander-Passe, 2006) sometimes causing the students to act out in inappropriate ways. A child’s perceived image of himself or herself will guide that child’s academic achievement (Sze and Valentin, 2006). Thus causing students to take into consideration what others can do and what they can’t causing them to give up quickly because “why try it, if you can’t”. Therefore, children experiencing poor academic performance in school are more likely to continue with learning problems because they do not believe they can do better (Sze and Valentin, 2006) According to Helm (2007) Legum and Hoare performed a study that linked academic performance and self-esteem by giving the students counseling and support to make better educational choices. Within this study they saw an increase in students’ academic performance causing student to obtain a nine-point grade point average increase. Apparently, self-esteem creates optimistic and pessimistic students. The results for academic achievement reveal a positive correlation with optimism and a negative correlation with pessimism (El-Anzai, 2005) So not only is the student not believing that they can accomplish tasks, but low self-esteem creates negative attitudes about things related to school. El-Anzai (2005) states there are a significant relationship between academic achievement and self-esteem and that it agrees with different studies as well. Anxiety plays a key factor in students’ ability to work well. Some students get so upset because they don’t believe in themselves that they can’t even remotely learn new concepts because they are too overwhelmed. Anxiety is one of the obstacles blocking high academic achievement in adolescence, since anxiety plays a role in reducing some factors that help to increase academic achievement (El-Anzi, 2005). Not only is it self-esteem that is affected but the self-esteem carries over to the student’s self-efficacy which appears to be in the same category, thus causing many students with less belief in themselves to not give a 100% in academic learning and tasks.

Students whose self-efficacy for reading is low often resist reading or apathetically go through the motions of learning to read. In contrast, the same students often exert considerable effort, tenacity, and discipline in activities they like and in which they feel self-efficacious, such as athletics or drawing (McCabe and Margolis, 2001). So, since some students feel they aren’t good at learning, they focus and put extreme effort into things they think they are good at. While at the same time pretend to try to learn, yet they aren’t really trying, so as a teacher who knows what they could accomplish if they did put a little effort into learning. Self-efficacious students participate more readily, work harder, persist longer, and have fewer adverse emotional reactions when they encounter difficulties than do those who doubt their capabilities (McCabe and Margolis, 2001). Nichols and Utesch (1998) state that individuals will low self-efficacy will avoid activities that they believe are beyond their capabilities, so they choose easier task so that chances for success are greater. Producing the idea that self-efficacy affects student motivation relating to academic work. Nichols and Utesch (1998) concur with this idea by using the research based upon Ames (1994) and Nichols and Miller (1994) found that students’ self-perceptions of ability are positively related to achievement and student motivation. Ried and Davis and Saunders and Williams and Williams (2005) find that students with higher academic self-efficacy regardless of earlier achievement or ability, work harder and persist longer; have better learning strategies, such as personal goal setting or time monitoring, and are less likely to engage in risky behaviors.

As I was reading many of the articles relating to my topic several times standardized testing was brought up, it seems that testing does nothing to benefit a student’s self-esteem, if anything it hinders it. Harlen & Crick (2003) refer to a test that was completed based on standardized testing , as well as extreme test anxiety, the impact on the self-esteem of those who did not meet their own or others’ expectations was often devastating. An eight year study was completed on primary school children by Davies and Brember, the study began two years prior to the nationalized test. The greatest change seen within the students coincided with the introduction of the tests. The initial drop in self-esteem was related to the circumstances surrounding the introduction the test for Year 2 children (Harlen and Crick, 2003). This suggests that before the test were introduced; low achieving students were no more likely to have low self-esteem than high achieving students. But after the introduction the low achievers had a lower self-esteem than their higher achieving classmates (Harlen and Crick, 2003). Not only does just a student receiving a failing grade impact them, but the attitude and pressure that teachers placed on the students, caused great anxiety. The anxiety that students felt was a consequence of being exposed to greater risk as performance become more important in the eyes of the teachers. They concluded that assessment had severely reduced the roll in helping learning and became concerned only with the achievement as measured by testing and there was evidence that students were all too aware of this (Harlen and Crick, 2003). Sadly, student’s judgments about being smart or stupid were based on the results of the national standardized testing. This became part of the classroom climate, labels ready to be placed on students when results were announced ( Harlen and Crick, 2003) This was a massive blow to many students self-esteem and efficacy, because after taking practice tests many students knew the outcome of the real test and had ceased to strive against the inevitable, writing themselves off as learners (Harlen and Crick, 2003) Low achievers were not motivated, refused the test and became disruptive within classrooms. The evaluation based on the test and teacher’s evaluation began the student’s construction of their identity. So, if your identity is negative naturally your self-esteem would plummet. And of course this would impact the students’ ability to excel in academics. Not only did the teacher and student know the category that the student was placed in but so do their peers. Students who are compared unfavorably and publicly with their peers have low self-esteem in relation to learning, avoid risks and use less effective and more superficial learning strategies. Not only do their own perceptions of themselves as learners suffer but this perception becomes shared by their peers (Harlen and Crick, 2003). Testing does nothing for a student’s self-esteem, nor does our society for pushing the test. Testing has a direct effect on a student’s belief in themselves, which makes a change in the students work effort, and attitude about school in itself.

After reviewing the literature I have discovered that there is a great need for students to become more self-efficacious, gain higher self-esteem and motivated. Many things can attribute to an individual’s self-esteem, but research shows that self-esteem can impact student achievement in academia. Now, I would like to know what techniques could be used to improve a student’s own perception based on academics. What more can we do to promote better self-esteem, to improve each student's academic success?

Alexander-Passe, N. (2006). How Dyslexic Teenagers Cope: An Investigation of Self-Esteem, Coping and Depression. Dyslexia. 12, 256-275. Retrived from EBSCO 26 July, 2007.

El-Anzi, F. (2005). Academic, Achievement and its Relationship With Anxiety, Self-Esteem, Optimism, and Pessimism in Kuwaiti Students. Social Behavior and Personality. 33.1, 95-104.
Retrieved from EBSCO database 27 July, 2007.

Harlen, W. and Crick, R. (2003). Testing and the Motivation for Learning. Assessment in Education. 10.2, 169-207. Retrieved from EBSCO database 27 July, 2007.

Helm, C. (2007). Teacher Dispositions Affecting Self-Esteem and Student Performance. The Clearing House. 109-111. Retrieved from EBSCO database 27 July, 2007

McCabe, P. and Margolis, H. (2001). Enhancing the Self-Efficacy of Struggling Readers. The Clearing House. 75.1, 45-49. Retrieved from ERIC database 24 July, 2007

Nichols, J. and Utesch, W. (1998). An Alternative Learning Program: Effects on Student Motivation and Sef-Esteem. The Journal of Educational Research. 91.5, 272-277. Retrieved from JSTOR database 27 July, 2007 .

Pepe, A. and Faria, L. and Alesi, M. (2006) Personal Conceptions of Intelligence, Self-Esteem, and School Achievements in Italian and Portuguese Students. Adolescence. 41.164, 615-631. Retrieved from EBSCO database 27 July, 2007.

Reid, M. and Davis, L. and Saunders, J. and Williams,T. and Williams, J. ( 2005). Academic Self-Efficacy among African American Youths: Implications for School Social Work Pratice. National Association of Social Workers. 27.5, 5-14. Retrieved from EBSCO database 26 July, 2007.

Sze, S. and Valentin, S. (2006). Self-Concept and Children with Disabilities. Education. 127.4, 552-557. Retrieved from the EBSCO database 27 July, 2007.

Wigley, S. (2004). Assessment of Morale in Further Education Students Studying for A-level Examinations. Journal of Further and Higher Education. 28.4, 423-434. Retrived from EBSCO 26 July, 2007.

Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Irish Tenor

Tall, bearded smile full of laughter
Swing low, sweet chariot
Strong arms covered with a pearl snap work shirt
Coming for to carry you home
Riding in the truck down a quaint country road
Swing low, sweet chariot
Windows down, no a/c, wind blowing through my hair
Coming for to carry me home
Munching on a BabyRuth candy bar, headed to the pasture
Swing low, sweet chariot
Calm, patient, gentle hands weaving through the cattle, pouring dust upon their backs
Coming for to carry you home

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Developing Characters

Bluebonnet Writing Project
Teaching Demonstration

Title of the Book: Farfallina & Marcel
Author: Holly Keller
Illustrator: Holly Keller
Publishing Information: “Green Willow Books” HarperCollins Publishers
ISBN: 0-06-623932-X
Suggested Grade Level: Intermediate

Goal: Students will be able to identify and understand the importance of character development within stories. Not only will they be able to identify character elements but students will apply characterization to their own writings.

Objectives: Students will listen to the story, decipher what types of characters are being presented, complete character maps within groups, and incorporate character elements into their own personal narrative.


4.10 (L): represent text information in different ways such as in outline, timeline, or graphic organizer

4.12 (H): analyze characters, including their traits, motivations, conflicts, point of view, relationships, and changes they undergo.

4.15 (C): write to inform such as to explain, describe, report, or narrate

Research Supporting this Lesson:
By using picture books, the teaching of literary elements is accessible to all students regardless of age and reading ability. The illustrations and text encourage students to connect their reading and writing experiences in the creation and revision process.

Lester Laminack supports this when he writes, "the presence of both artfully crafted language and detailed art [in picture books] provides the young reader with cues for constructing meaning" (37).

Laminack, Lester L. 1998. Volunteers Working with Young Readers. Urbana, IL: NCTE.

1. Have students come up with an adjective that starts with the same letter as their first name to describe themselves.
2. Students will then get into groups of four and introduce their new name and learn the name of others in the group. Repeat two-three times until names are remembered. Do you think that adjective is the only description of that person? Could there be more descriptions used to describe each classmate? If so what type of descriptions?
3. Pull up character map on computer to give an example of a more detailed example of character development. Discuss the elements used to describe a character.
4. After discussing the elements of a character, groups will select one member to analyze physical, personality and emotional traits. Each group will share the elements of their member with the rest of the class, while the class guesses the member.
5. Read book to class without showing any pictures. Students must listen carefully so that they can figure out what kinds of animals are being used in the story.
6. After reading discuss what types of animals the characters were and what information provided their answer. So, if those would not have been there would you have understood the character?
7. Have groups complete a character map about Farfallina or Marcel using the computer:
*Discuss the use of dialogue as a way to include character elements.
8. Have students think of a time when they grew apart from someone very special. Students will then complete a character map describing that special someone.
9. Students will then write a narrative about why or how they grew apart, while using character descriptions including dialogue.
10.Students will then share with group members. Group members will listen to see if they can get a true understanding of the characters in the story, then share their findings.
11. If time permits have students pick another person’s narrative and make an illustration based on what they read in the story.

Reading/Writing/Drawing Connection:
1. Use a picture book to discuss the importance of character development within a story.
2. Write a story about a time when you felt abandoned by a special someone.
3. Draw an illustration based on another student’s narrative.

Discussion Protocol:

What did you learn about character development from this lesson?
What was your favorite activity from this lesson?
How will you incorporate character development into your own writing?

Extension/Service Projects:
1. Students can create a skit including dialogue to act out their stories.
2. Students may create a board game based on the possible life of the characters.
3. Write in a diary about the day in the life of the character.
4. Have students pull out a past narrative and trade with a partner, partner will to fill out character map to show how well the author described the character, have students discuss what is good about the story and what can be added.

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Small Wonders

As a rancher's daughter growing up near a small rural town I had all the amenities nature could provide. An adventurous stroll down by the creek into the mystical (in my mind) wooded area was an everyday activity. Even as a typical teenager I would find myself venturing out to see what new things I could discover. It wasn't until I moved away for college that I realized how lucky I was to have had such a wonderful "backyard". I quickly began to miss my expeditions into the great outdoors; you can't ask for much more than to be one with nature. Nature might just be the most peaceful, precious, unpredictable, honest, and underappreciated attribute to our world.

During my serene walk through the River Legacy Park my memories of days ago wandered back into my mind. The cascading song of the locust played continuously as I walked across the forest floor, reminding me for the first time that I have yet to catch one this summer. I had also forgotten how captivating the dragonfly could be; a soothing sensation came over me as my new found friend searched for a place to take a rest. Surprisingly, dragonfly's best friend butterfly was fluttering around from flower to flower. Yes, it is true that many of us can see these two beautiful insects anywhere, but do you see them amongst the vast trees shielded from the chaotic hustle and bustle of that thing we call life? I think not. You truly can't appreciate them until you are in their refreshing "true" element.

Hesitating leaving behind the two friends' entertainment I slowly continued on the path ahead to discover the luscious green land full with trees. A brief stop at the creek caught me magnifying the area to discover the "original weaver", the spider and his wondrous web of wonder. I was fascinated by his structure. I warped back into my childhood self as my journey continued. I took a deeper look into every tree, bug, flower, seed, bird and sound as if they were brand new. I was in heaven watching the small wonders that make up nature.

Sad, but true I realized while on my drive home that even this "country girl" had wandered away from her love of nature. So, if I can stray from the joys of nature, then those who have never known the joys may never find it. With this being said, I realized how underappreciated and overlooked our precious natural environment is, but with more inspiring people like those at River Legacy maybe the awareness of our "small wonders" will be taken to a new level. Luckily, I have been reacquainted with my old love and now I am newly inspired to share with others.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Theory, Politics, Hope and Action

I am aware of all the issues that are involved because of litigation, rules and stipulations, but this article was a wonderful eye opener. I think it is sad when we place a student who obviously can't speak english into a regular class room expecting them to prevent themselves from drowning. It is not fair. My biggest pet peeve about teaching is the standardized testing. I understand the need for it, but I don't agree with the emphasize and judgement that is put on it. When you live in a society where 10 year old straight A students are so worried that they are going to "fail" a test that they have a mental breakdown, then you know that things could be improved.