H4 – Honor Family & Community Involvement

H4 – Honor family/community involvement in the learning process. Teacher candidates inform, involve, and collaborate with families/neighborhoods, and communities in each student’s educational process, including using information about student cultural identity, achievement and performance. This means that the teacher is making efforts and succeeding at communicating with parents, families, faculty and students outside of the classroom. To extend the learning process outside of the classroom, I am taking advantage of students access to technology. I have created and maintained a simple, yet content rich website (http://www.mrgermanis.com/precalculus/) which provides students with access to all class materials, handouts, notes, journal reflections and homework; all at their convenience. Additionally, through he online grading system, I regularly publish accurate records of students performance and comment when appropriate for reasons of student performance. Finally, I send email communication to some parents for students who standout in class as well as students who are struggling to make efforts towards classroom goals (i.e. they do not attempt homework which results in poor assessment performance).

All of these communication efforts provide resources for parents to assist in the students learning. Absent students are able to learn at home with a simple internet connection (even phone internet connections are sufficient). All classroom activities and links to those activities are published up-to one week early to provide advanced access. Additionally, parents and students can see upcoming assignments, test dates and quiz dates and the content of those assessments. Lines of communication are open and our teaching process is transparent to everyone involved. The administration can easily see what is happening daily in all of my classes by looking at our website. More communication is provided with parent emails, this alerts parents to actions to improve student performance in the class. Here is an example of an email sent to parents of students who are at risk for failing the course and steps to improving students performance:

I am writing to warn that low scores on the remaining assessments will likely result in a failing grade for the semester.  Please consider

  • Perform “test corrections” on Test 4.1—there are two opportunities tomorrow.
  • Complete all homework.
  • Work extra problems in areas of weakness.
  • Come in for help on concepts that are still unclear.
  • Prepare for the semester final exams. Optimize JR scores by writing full and complete responses.
  • Track progress on Illuminate.
  • Perform VERY WELL on the semester finals.

As always, all class information (activities, homework, content of tests, etc.) is on the class Website

– Mr. Germanis

By creating an open and public forum for sharing information about what happens in my classroom, I am learning to keep myself accountable for the work that happens within the classroom. Since parents, students, administrators and the community members can observe my lesson plans on my website, I am encouraged to prepare lessons more carefully and plan my instruction better. My website should make sense to someone who is not in my class and the classroom experience should enhance the learning. In communicating with parents, I have learned that they will only help with their students learning process if I provide specific tools to assist their student. My letter provides specific instructions for parents to help their student. I remind them of grades online, encourage parents to help their students prepare for assessments and help students make time to attend test correction sessions. One of the great joys I have is informing parents of the good things their students are doing. From these emails, I have experienced openness and have a chance to communicate with parents the good things their students are doing, the responses warm my heart and help me establish a positive communication with parents about their student.

Research shows (Degner, 2013; Henderson, 2002) that students are more successful if the parents become involved at home. There is also evidence that parents are unsure of how to help their students, the role of the teacher is to help parents prepare their student for success. By providing parents with tools to help, the parent and community involvement is helping the student achieve success.

While parent communication is important, I would like to be more active in reaching out to parents in different ways. Most of my communication has been to parents though email contact. As I move into a more diverse community of students, some parents may not be best at communicating through email and I will need to communicate through phone or in-person more frequently. Additionally, I would like to be more proactive in communicating MORE good things that are happening in the classroom, especially when students are performing well. Because I have experienced positive feedback from parents after good communication, I would like to attempt to do this more frequently to establish a positive relationship with parents.

Sources:

Degner, K. M. (2013). Demography as Destiny: The Role of Parental Involvement and Mathematics Course Taking Patterns among 9th Grade Students. Current Issues in Education, 16(3).

Henderson, A., & Mapp, K. (2002). A New Wave of Evidence The Impact of School, Family, and Community Connections on Student Achievement Annual Synthesis 2002. Southwest Educational Development Laboratory, 2002.

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Bloggary #2: Struggling Readers

“Math textbooks have the highest content load per sentence of all the secondary textbooks” (Barton and Heidema, 2002; Daniels and Zemelman, 2014, pp. 189). It is no wonder that students are struggling, textbooks present complicated reading beyond the level of understanding for most students. One of the major challenges with mathematics is being able to determine what is important and what is not important as well as being able to visualize the concepts more concretely. Steve Zemelman (2014, pp. 277) discusses an encounter with a student who is struggling to understand the dense description of a falcon preying on rabbits as it relates to physics. Zemelman provides help to the students by having students turn the words into mental pictures, ultimately decoding the situation. In many cases, students struggle further by failing to accept help from a teacher due to a poor teacher-student relationship. In return, students often feel that it is acceptable to give up, not even making an effort to find a solution.

Building relationships with students is one of the main reasons I wanted to become a teacher.   The impact a teacher can make on a student’s life is enormous. Motivating students to be ambitious and work to resolve problems is not only a skill for success in school but also in the work place and as a contributing member of society. Students can learn this by having a community-oriented classroom.  Teachers should 1) create a trusting atmosphere where it is safe to take risks, 2) organize learning so students can help one another, 3) provide students opportunities to take on classroom responsibility, 4) facilitate connections between class and student life, and 5) use engaging content to help student fall in love with the subject (Daniels and Zemelman, 2014, pp 205-206). Further, with a community-based classroom, students are interdependent encouraging each other to accomplish common goals.

Returning to individual reading strategies of dense texts, I think the modeling strategy of Think-Alouds during direct instruction helps students sift through complicated material. Since math and science curriculum is tested on a one size fits all, it is challenging to amend the text specifically to student needs.  More important, however, is to help students think critically through challenging texts and word problems. Even with a B.S. in Mathematics, I often struggle to grasp the concept of a high school word problem when I first read it. I take myself through a checklist of what is needed and what can be discarded and document everything I need. By demonstrating this to students, they can acquire the same skills I have developed over the years. The challenge with displaying knowledge in math is that students are required to have good understanding of the topic, before they can articulate a solution. If a student knows what is happening and how to reach a solution, they can then comprehend all of the important parts of a problem.

By building relationships with students, teachers can help provide skills for general problem solving and decoding text. Another strategy teachers can use to present material is by providing an article and then posing very general questions regarding the situation. By taking a literary approach, students can integrate their outside knowledge and problem solve before the math is presented. In an eighth grade class in Chicago class, Jacqueline Sanders presents students a simple question with a complicated answer, “Where does the money from your job go?” (Daniels and Zemelman, 2014, pp. 262) Students were forced to read though several articles, websites and tax code books to use math in determining where the money from a job goes. Students could choose the level of difficulty of their sources, but ultimately they used math and reading skills to sort through both important and trivial facts to answer their question. By removing the textbook, Ms. Sanders was able to provide a different type of math instruction.

In all, students need assistance in decoding meaningful reading. The reading does not need to be from a textbook either. Students should have applicable outlets to display their learning and reading. Finally, by modeling the thought process when reading through high content reading passages, students can learn to decode and comprehend what they are reading in order to apply it to the content area.

 

Sources:

Barton, M. L., & Heidema, C. (2002). Teaching reading in mathematics: A supplement (2nd ed.). Alexandria, VA: ASCD.

Daniels, H., & Zemelman, S. (2014). Subjects matter: Exceeding Standards Through Powerful Content-Area Reading (Second ed.). Portsmouth, NH: Heinemann.