Posted: December 13, 2012 in Uncategorized

Goals- Professional Self:

Pre-FOKI: My immediate goal for my professional self is to complete school and take the things that I learned back to work to share with my colleagues and to use with my students. If all goes as planned, this will also be my last year in Graduate School (NLGL program), as I anticipate finishing in May of 2013. As a teacher, this will be a year of change for me in that the curriculum is moving to the Common Core. I hope that this course will give me a lot of new ideas to use in the lesson plans that I’ll be creating to fit the Common Core. In terms of my professional plans for the future, I want to stay in the classroom because the best part of my job is getting to interact with the students and help them grow in reading and writing. Perhaps one day, I will work for the county or state helping to write curriculum that fits the needs of students growing up in a global society.

Midterm Progress:

I noticed as I reviewed my professional goals, that many of them are long term. This semester has been trying in terms of trying to keep up with 2 graduate classes and do three to four separate lesson plans daily (inclusion, reg, advanced) that aligned to the new Common Core. It is rewarding though to feel as if my hard work is paying off and to be able to bring what I’ve learned back to my colleagues to share. I’ve talked to them about my multicultural literacy unit and my interest in having students read books that will expand their knowledge of social justice issues and diversity.

FOKI – Post:

I’m a pleased with the way that this class helped me achieve my professional goals. They’re always a work in progress but I learned some valuable information through our conversations in the Bookhenge, presentations, speakers, blogs, etc. The work that we did in this class – the projects in particular-  required higher level thinking and challenged me to think outside of the box. Because the Common Core is more evidence based, the projects we were given work(ed) well in the classroom (they aligned nicely with goals in the CC). I’ve shared ideas from this class with my colleagues and we have written unit plans for the new curriculum. The best part was being able to show my students what I’ve learned, the new technology, and get their opinions on topics we discussed in class during that week. One of my favorite classroom lessons was showing the students Adichie’s Danger of a Single Story. Their reactions and insights were one of the best conversations we’ve had this year.  This class also helped me tremendously in learning how to properly teach about multiculturalism, empathy, and issues of social justice

Goals – Literate Self:

Pre: FOKI: I would like to challenge myself to read books that I wouldn’t necessarily have selected based on my interests alone. As a teacher of adolescents, I think it’s important that I model to my students the idea of reading about things outside experiences that one can relate to. Last year I began a multicultural unit with my Advanced Language Arts students and I hope to modify and incorporate it into all of my classes. In order to do this, it is my goal to read a variety of different texts from all cultures so that I’m able to select books that will be engaging and valuable to my students and our goals in the unit.

Midterm Progress:

Thus far, I have made some progress in reading a variety of texts, but not very many that I can use with my students (due to the nature of the content). Two of the books I selected, “The Children and The Wolves” and the graphic novel, “Yummy: The Last Days of a Southside Shorty” both gave me new insights into issues of social justice. While I won’t use those two books with middle school students, I can find books that contain the same problems and address / discuss them in class.  The next book that I selected for our Change Project was Race by Marc Aronson.  I’ve only just begun reading and already I’ve made several cross curricular connections (they learn a lot of the same historical aspects that he recounts in the beginning of the novel). After having examined the table of contents, I feel absolutely sure that this book will bring new insights and issues to the table that will help me enhance my understanding (and teaching) of multiculturalism and race.

FOKI Post:  

This semester I met most of the goals I set for my “literate” self by reading a variety of different texts and analyzing them in my blog and for class disucssion.  Designing my action learning project helped me to look at literature in a more critical way and to examine the truths of what hass been written. Now when I select books for my students I will consider factors that contribute to their understanding of the world (in addition to the lit elements). I’ll consider what it teaches or address about social justice and look for aspects of authenticity and empathy. I’m glad that we were given multiple genres to read (novels, graphic novels, non-fiction, journals) because with each type, I learned a teaching strategy to use with my students.


Goals- Virtual Self:

Pre- FOKI: Setting personal goals for my virtual self is both an easy and yet daunting task. It’s easy because there’s so much I need to learn and so many Web based programs to use that generating a to do (or rather a ‘to learn’) list would not be difficult. That’s where the daunting part comes in. How can I ensure that I am using tools that are not only fun and engaging but are actually adding to students’ understanding of the objective I’m teaching? I’ve already been introduced to several new tools just in the first ECI 521 session  – I really like the idea of having my student produce trading cards as a get to know you activity. I know that I have a long way to go in developing my virtual self because I’ve only touched the surface of what’s available.  It is my goal, through trial and error, to find effective virtual tools for my students and for myself.

Midterm Progress:

Improving my virtual self has been a learning process! While I never expected it to be easy, I think I overestimated my tech savvy with Web 2.0 skills.  It has given me a new found appreciation for the frustration that our students feel when we explain something that is new to them and just expect that they’ll catch on (technology or content).  I’ve learned that I’ve got to slow down and really show them how to do something or I’ll lose them – I get lost if I try to move too quickly. I’ve also learned that you have to be creative! Technology is not perfect and it never will be so it’s important to keep an open mind and come up with alternatives/solutions to issues as they arise. While I cannot use Bookhenge at my school – which is unfortunate because they would LOVE the avatars – I do want to incorporate the bookcast idea. I’ll probably start on a lower level of Bloom’s and have them begin with a book report video as this will allow them time to learn the technology. I’ve learned a lot about using technology in this course, but I haven’t had an opportunity to really use it with my students yet.



Overall, I would consider my virtual self a success. Perfect? No. But I did learn a lot about technology and took risks in my projects. My blog was not as dynamic as I would have liked, but I was pleased with the way that my action learning project turned out (my students enjoyed being the stars). The Bookhenge is still a bit of a mystery to me in terms of how many “worlds” are contained in Second Life. My students were very helpful in giving me new ideas for technology and even showing me how to do certain things (like trim Flip videos) and use Smart board tools more effectively. I’ll continue to improve my virtual self by trying new things and researching the latest ‘cool tools’ .



Action Learning Project! Click here

Video  —  Posted: December 6, 2012 in Uncategorized

I’ll begin with an a-ha moment that I had this weekend while finishing my non-fiction Aronson book, “Race.”  Prior to reading this book, our class read an article written by the same author in which he argues against the necessity (and to some degree validity) of book awards that only consider authors who meet an “ethnicity/race” requirement. I found the evidence that he used to support his claim to be very opinion based and biased, although, I did not really understand why it was so. After having read his non-fiction book, I now have a greater insight as to why Aronson may take this particular position. This is not to say that I necessarily agree with him on all claims in the article, however, I am more understanding about how his past has shaped his perspective(s). Reading about his family’s history of religious persecution, subsequent immigration to United States, and the discrimination they faced as the hands of a “race” label sheds a whole new light on why he wouldn’t support something that has race as a crucial component. For me, this moment of clarity helps to solidify the importance of using nonfiction literature in the ELA classroom. I have suggested and supported the notion that reading about “others” helps to create a greater understand of and greater empathy for people that have experienced things outside the realm of our own experiences. I can now use myself as an example of how reading nonfiction literature helps us to see more than just a “single” story.  I would like to admit that in some ways, I am still making assumptions about Aronson’s reason for arguing against the ethnic based awards, however, the connections that I made by being given additional information helped me to see his story. This brings me to another point – teachers need to make sure our students understand that although stories – non-fiction and fiction- reveal things about people and places to us – the conclusions we draw should not be stated as fact unless the author has confirmed it.

1. Why does Aronson refer to nonfiction as a “neglected stepchild” and is this an accurate description?

For a number of reasons, that are probably related to negative childhood experiences with nonfiction, some teachers are less than thrilled to use it in their classrooms. As a result, nonfiction gets “put on the shelf” and fictional texts take precedence, particularly in the ELA classroom. However, those who do use nonfiction may become less the exception to the rule and more of just the rule, especially in light of the new Common Core requirements which places a heavy emphasis on nonfiction.

2. What’s the connection between boys and nonfiction?

As I thought about this question, I began to consider my students and categorize on the types of books that they select on their own when our class visits the media center. It surprised me that I’d never made the connection that the boys overwhelming tend to pick nonfiction texts.  Topics that seem to really resonate with my students (~ages 12-14) are war, sports, animals, crime stories, and biographies about men they admire (ranging from government officials to entertainers). Prior to reading the explanation for this, my own conclusions were that boys just weren’t very interested in the “drama” that typically makes up adolescent fictional literature. The exceptions to this observation were books in the science fiction/fantasy genre, graphic novels, or those that have a male protagonist who is relatable to a specific individual through similar hobbies, conflicts, etc.  An article that I read on OISlibrary blog ( created a list (based on research, surveys, and experience) that outlines why boys tend to prefer non-fiction.

“Boys are more likely to read for a purpose, if they can see the point in it. What am I learning? What facts can I find? THIS is why boys often prefer non-fiction, books with photographs and captions…and “fun facts” books. These non-fiction interests can then spark an interest in the fiction books – sports, cars, animals, geography…Boys often crave the subject of the moment, and switch to new ones fast.”

Based on my own experiences, I would agree with generalization that boys prefer to read about things that provide them with the truth. This should be a major consideration for ELA teachers, especially if we want to engage male readers who may be less than thrilled to read because they “have to.”

3. Why should we and how can we include more nonfiction reading in our middle and high school curricula?

Nonfiction, when used correctly, can be an invaluable asset to the ELA teacher. Informational text can serve to provide students with factual background information that may be related to the setting of a fictional story they’re reading. If a student has no prior knowledge of a time or place, then throwing him or her into a fictional story and expecting that child to grasp the nuances of a character or place is simply not realistic. For students who have a hard time reading, the additional information will aid in their comprehension and help enhance the overall experience (background information fills in a lot of the “why” questions behind the motivations or actions that a character exhibits). Non-fiction should also be included in the curricula because student WILL need to know how to read nonfiction material their entire adult lives. It’s always surprises me when I begin my informational text unit how much direction they need –in terms of reading strategies.  (I weave nonfiction throughout my entire year, but I do have an introductory unit/independent work on various types of informational text).  As adults and as educators, we are in constant contact with nonfiction (newspapers, forms, recipes, journal articles, ect) so it’s easy to forget that the processes for understanding these types of texts do not come naturally for everyone, they must be explicitly taught.  How should this be achieved?  It should be a part of every content area class and all teachers should be responsible for teaching nonfiction that applies to their curriculum.


Honestly, I had not really considered how I would handle a situation if I were confronted by a parent or teacher about the appropriateness of a book I’d selected to teach. Although, I am very familiar with censorship, I simply did not know about the procedure that is recommended by the NCTE. In particular, I found the form (to be completed by the group or individual initiating the call for censorship) to be one that’s wisely crafted. The data required forces the requester to seriously contemplate his or her motives and to acknowledge the value(s) of  the book that is in question. It may not prevent the process from moving forward, but I’m sure there have been instances when the petitioner changed his or her (or their) mind upon reflecting on all of the considerations. Teachers should also have a rationale for teaching the book so that parents and community members can clearly identify why a particular book has been selected. Our group decided that a thorough rationale should include: essential questions, Common Core goals, how this book addresses the essential questions, any awards given to the text, briefly address any obvious concerns they may have with the book, and link it to higher levels of learning and thinking. As Arrowhead High School apparently learned (based on the rationales for every book they teach), it’s better to communicate in advance than have to defend later. Teachers should not be afraid to use literature that may have controversial themes or elements of violence, explicit language, drugs, ect as long as they can back up their choices.  In regards to Web 2.0 tools, I am a firm believer that these tools of “play” can be used in the classroom for meaningful, educational purposes. Teachers who work in environments that limit access to or prohibit use of all of the resources available should offer pedagogical based arguments (and evidence of successful use within a teacher’s class) to dispute the seemingly arbitrary ban on Web 2.0.   Speaking of Web 2.0 — I am disappointed that I could not contribute to the Voicethread via my home computer (it just wouldn’t work), however I was able to listen to the comments and reflect on my own views on my blog – See Bold Choice blog below

After our class in the Bookhenge last Thursday (11/1), I discussed the Arrowhead case with my colleagues during our PLC. We decided to teach our “point-of-view / bias” unit around the idea of censorship. I’m excited to start this unit with my students because I know that it will cause a heated debate among them, particularly, when I bring up books that they’re familiar with, such as The Hunger Games. We (7th grade LA teachers) thought that reading about and arguing for/against a side would be a fantastic way to discuss point of view and determine biases. #bookhenge

I thoroughly enjoyed reading the articles and blogs for this weeks assignment and our discussions about using multicultural literature in the ELA classroom.  Towards the beginning of our class, the question was posed, “Can we transcend culture and truly see the world through the eyes of another?”  I think it’s pretty obvious, that the answer is no, but I loved the idea of coming together in a “third space,” that space being literature. It reinforces, for me, how critical it is to expose students to books that connect them to other people and places. As I mentioned in my rationale for supporting and Arab American Award for artistic expression, the value of cultural awareness outweighs the arguments against it.  Pickney states, “Awards by their very nature are exclusionary,” therefore the only way to level the playing field would be to do away with them entirely.  If we do this, we’re back at square one- the books that find recognition will not come from diverse populations – the idea of “unintentional neglect” Pinkney  mentions in her article.  These awards (and multicultural literature in general) provide a platform to promote and market books that present a story told from a perspective that we don’t often hear. They facilitate the writer with an opportunity to tell his or her story (critical in protecting us from the danger of one story). #bookhenge

Bold Choices!

Posted: October 31, 2012 in Uncategorized

Although I have not read the book (“The Perks of Being a Wallflower”), it didn’t surprise me in the slightest that there were parents who had serious objections to the text in light of subjects that are broached. That being said, I was advocating for the teacher’s right to use this novel in his curriculum. I don’t think that any professional and ethical teacher would select a book with such potentially controversial topics without sound educational reasons to support his or her decision. Admittedly, perhaps because I am not a parent, it is more difficult for me to view things from their position. While I can understand from a common sense approach (if nothing else) the desire to shelter or protect one’s child from mature, sometimes-dangerous realities, this should not suggest that parents have the right to ban books for all students.

Ultimately, I thought the solution was a fair one. It limited the book’s availability to those with parental permission, but did not ban the book from the course or the school. I was a little confused when the media reported that parental permission slips were required prior to beginning the books for the course, but that this was not sufficient.  If there were options given – I believe there were 16 titles total (and I’m going to assume the list was provided at the beginning of the course), then I’m not sure where the fault lies? In my opinion, if the Krueger’s were that involved in censoring the materials their son was exposed to, they could have been more proactive and selected the books for him. That being said, the school principal seemed to take responsibility for not having adequate measures in place to notify parents about the content of books being taught, so I’ll presuppose there was some measure of miscommunication.

I was surprised that the committee to decide on whether or not to keep the book in the curriculum included students.  This was probably a surprise to me because I teach at a middle school and students are typically not involved in parent/teacher/curriculum controversies. This is not to say that they shouldn’t be, and I was pleased to see that they were included. After all, as the NCTE points out in their Right to Read, “Ultimately, however, the real victims are the students, denied the freedom to explore ideas and pursue truth wherever and however they wish.”  I applaud this teacher for making bold choices.

In regards to the procedures that the NCTE recommends for filing a complaint, I found the form that they provided (for parents to complete) particularly helpful. The nature of the questions requires a thoughtful consideration/explanation on behalf of the person initiating the complaint. The procedure indicates that, “Both teachers and administrators should refrain from discussing the objection with the complainant, the press, or community groups. Once the complaint has been filed, the authority for handling the situation must ultimately rest with the administration and school board.”  This particular statement raises a question in my mind. How should the teacher handle the situation while he or she waits for the decision to be handed down?  If the complaint is filed in the middle of a unit (once the class or student has begun the novel), should the teacher continue to teach that novel or should other arrangements be made?

In my short-lived professional career (5 years in January), I personally have never faced the challenge of my novel selections being censored. Only once did a parent raise any questions about some of the topics in a book that I chose, and upon explaining my decision for selecting that particular book, she was satisfied. Although I would like to think that I am one of those teachers who will make extremely bold choices, after reflecting upon my selections, perhaps I tend to err on the side of caution. In the community where I work, parents are very influential, and so there is always that thought in the back of one’s mind about job security. What battle am I willing to wage with a parent so that I preserve my student’s free inquiry, intellectual freedom, and right to read? Because I teach young adolescents, I’m going to filter my selections based on what I feel is appropriate for their age (yes, I realize that is very subjective). If there are ever questions about the appropriateness of a book I’ve selected, I have no doubt that I will be well prepared to support, defend, and fight for my decision.