POGIL Conference – Portland, OR – July 27-29

As part of a KSTF Professional Development Grant, I was able to attend the Northwest Regional Conference for POGIL (Process Oriented Guided Inquiry Learning). In an effort to meet my obligations for the grant, I will post the implementation plan approved as part of the grant and then comment on the outcomes for those specific action items. In this commentary, I will provide the learning from the conference and links to tools learned along the way.

June – July

Read for about 2 hours different published POGIL activities from math or science disciplines to see their successes, challenges and recommendations for improving POGIL in the classroom. Additionally, I will collect and review my previously created POGIL-like activities to compare my lessons with those created using the POGIL process. Conduct an internet search of leading questions (or directives) that could be used in the classroom environment to extract deeper responses from students (such as “can you tell me more about that?”) and make a list. Throughout the implementation of this plan, I will refine this list as I find what is and isn’t appropriate to foster learning.


July KSTF Meeting

Talk with other KSTF fellows about their practice of group activities, particularly science teacher who have lab classes. Since POGIL activities are similar to the group work and inquiry of a science lab, experienced science teacher may have tools for asking questions of students that lead to critical thinking in the inquiry activity. I am looking for questioning strategies when other teachers are working with groups.


July 27-29 (POGIL Conference)

Attend POGIL Workshop: Portland, OR. – I will begin on the Introductory Track for the workshop since I have no formal experience with POGIL. During the workshop, I will learn about the process and structure of the POGIL activity, list student learning outcomes from a POGIL activity and create plans for implementation of POGIL in my classroom. POGIL implementation includes facilitation tools for teachers that include questioning and keeping students engaged. I will use this learning for facilitation questioning to refine my bank of questions. Additionally, I will attend workshops about the Activity Structure of a POGIL (creating a framework for learning) and Writing Learning Objectives for the activities.


August – December

Create a clear classroom procedure for students to teach them how to positively engage in group, inquiry learning. I will Implement this procedure for my Algebra and Geometry classes in the fall when using group work. Additionally, I will create a POGIL lesson for my classroom and I will share out with other staff members to increase success in their classroom. In creating these activities, I would like to work with an instructional coach (provided by the school district) or a colleague to ensure effectiveness. Finally, I will continue to incorporate open ended questions (probing and clarifying questions otherwise known as socratic questioning) during my regular teacher to help extract deeper, more thoughtful responses to my students.



Micro-Teaching Reflection

Micro-Teaching Lesson Plan

[1] O1 – Offer an organized curriculum aligned to standards and outcomes. This program standard means that teachers will be thinking critically when writing lesson plans and will make sure that students are learning relevant material which meet state and national requirements. In teaching, curriculum should be easy to follow for maximum student understanding. [2] The attached document is lesson plan for my micro teaching lesson presented to the MTMS Cohort. The accompanying picture is a sample of student work from the micro teaching lesson. This lesson plan demonstrates my understanding of planning collaborative learning and inquiry based learning activities. Asking good questions and facilitating a collaborative learning environment increases student engagement and ultimately increases learning (Borich, 2014).Micro-Teaching Student Sample Work

[3] Within the lesson plan, I include questions which help students engage with the lesson and informally assess understanding. Students were also encouraged to work in groups where they could discuss their misunderstandings. The lesson clearly states the Common Core State Standards in Mathematics and the lesson aligns the learning activity with the learning target which helps students learn math concepts prescribed by the standard. [6] After teaching the lesson, I reflected on improvements I could make to improve the lesson or better achieve the learning targets. I would scaffold the learning more, my understanding of vocabulary relating to sets and subsets is strong, yet often times students do not have such deep understanding. I worked to scaffold the lesson with some vocabulary, although, if I were to teach this same lesson again, I would use direct instruction to introduce vocabulary and concepts and then use the activity to help improve understanding by allowing structured freedom. I would conclude by providing more independent practice. [5] The result for the student is that when lessons are highly organized and scaffolded well, their learning improves. The student will retain more taught information if we guide them towards independent thinking. [4] In summary, by constructing this lesson, I learned about scaffolding well, using student inquiry when teaching a lesson and the possible challenges associated with gauging student learning. [Extra Learning] An additional learning point during creating the lesson is how easy it can become for teachers to use powerpoint slides to dominate classroom instruction and how dangerous it is to overload students with words on slides.

Reference List:

Borich, G. D. (2014). Effective Teaching Methods: Research-Based Practice (8th ed.). Upper Saddle River, NJ.: Pearson Education, Inc.

Bloggary #4: Lesson Plan with Emphasis on Literacy

Lesson Outline for General Education

Click here for PDF version of Geometry and Literacy Lesson Plan

Candidate: Riley Germanis Field Supervisor
Date: 7/25/2014 Grade: 10 Mentor Teacher


Lesson Part Activity description/Teacher does Students do
Title Geometry – Early Euclidean Constructions
Standard ELA-LITERACY.RST.9-10.1

Cite specific textual evidence to support analysis of science and technical texts, attending to the precise details of explanations or descriptions.



Determine the meaning of symbols, key terms, and other domain-specific words and phrases as they are used in a specific scientific or technical context relevant to grades 9-10 texts and topics.


Central Focus (CF) MATH.CONTENT.HSG.CO.D.12

Make formal geometric constructions with a variety of tools and methods (compass and straightedge, string, reflective devices, paper folding, dynamic geometric software, etc.).


Academic Language The verb “Cite” best describes the language function in the learning target. Cite is broken into the following explicit concepts:

  • Defines vocabulary words as relevant to Euclid’s definitions.
  • Understands when and how each definition can be used.
  • Applies the appropriate definition within the context of the provided proof


Learning Target(LT) Student critically reads Euclidean definitions related to an equilateral triangle. Students will use Euclid’s Elements Book 1, Postulate 1 to construct an equilateral triangle and can explain each step using the discussed definitions.
Instruction Preview/review Teacher uses Admit slips for students to have a partner discussion of the following terms: Equilateral Triangle, Line Segment, Circle, Equal Lines. Students can edit Admission Slips after discussion.Teacher engages students in a classroom discussion about their Admission Slip definitions. Clarifies definitions to align with the Euclidean definitions according to “Elements” Prior to lesson, students were asked define a set of words. Students discuss with partner.Students assist in creating consensus definitions.
Informal Assessment Teacher collects student Admission Slips to address previous knowledge of students. Anonymously reads some student definition of a circle, line segment and equal lines while helping students agree on a more formal definition. Students respond to slips in classroom discussion.
Practice Activity orSupport Teacher explains Double-Entry Journaling technique for this exercise.Teacher presents Euclid’s definitions, postulates common notions relevant to creating an equilateral triangle. (Definitions 1, 2, 15, 16, 20; Postulates 1, 2, 3; Common Notion 1)(See website: http://www.greenlion.com/Eu-I-1-7.pdf


Teacher transitions to direct instruction, uses presentation slides and examples to aid student understanding. Reminds students to interpret on their own.


Students actively listen and prepare their journal for activityStudents use Double-Entry Journaling to compare formal Euclidean definitions with their own ideas independently for 7 minutes.Students update their interpretations to align with class presentation
Informal Assessment Teacher reviews each term and asks for student volunteers to write their responses on a poster board (which looks like a Double Entry Journal).Provides brief feedback to students with incomplete ornon-rigorous interpretations. Students raise their hand to respond and write their interpretations on class model.
Practice Activity orSupport Teacher transitions into individual activity. Uses a handout of English Interpretation of Euclid’s Elements Book 1, Proposition 1Teacher briefly explains the nomenclature for naming line segments and circles.Teacher explains that drawing is essential to understanding the proof of the proposition, the drawing will be turned in and graded for effort to connect the construction to the Learning Target.


Teacher circulates and probes challenging questions about which elements of the construction follow the definitions, explain how

Students acquires appropriate material for constructions.Students ask questions as it related to the activity.Students use the Elements Book 1, Proposition 1 to draw an Equilateral Triangle.


Students use drawings and explanations to describe their learning.


Closure Assessment of Student Voice Teacher debriefs the activity with students and presents the correct answer to students.Teacher asks students to complete an exit slip. Requirements include the following elements:

  • What was learned about Euclid Definitions and Postulates?
  • How did the definitions connect to the proof drawing?
  • If you were to teach this, what changes would you make


Students observe correct solution asking questions.Students take 3 minutes to respond to these questions




edTPA Training Prompts (optional or used for coursework)

  1. Supporting Science Development through Language

a) Language function: What verb appears in your learning target that represents the language function?

The verb “Cite” best describes the language function in the learning target. Cite is broken into the following explicit concepts:

  • Defines vocabulary words as relevant to Euclid’s definitions.
  • Understands when and how each definition can be used.
  • Applies the appropriate definition within the context of the provided proof


b) Language demand: What learning activities or products will student write, speak, or do to represent the language demand and an opportunity to practice the language function?
Admit Slips: Students will use this tool to preview and bring prior knowledge into the lesson.Exit Slips: Students reflect on their new knowledge while providing feedback on their understanding and suggestions for future students to better learn information. 
c) Additional language demand: How will students practice content vocabulary words shown in the learning targets?
Double Entry Journal: Allows students the opportunity to see the formal definition of the word and then provide their own definition and interpretation. Students can also draw pictures to aid their understanding of vocabulary.Drawing to Understand: Students use drawing tools to display their understanding of the reading and application of the vocabulary words. Students who are unable to draw the proof using the Euclidean definitions do not understand the reading tool. 
d) What learning activities enable students to practice using symbols or abstract representations of information (syntax), if these are part of the lesson?
Students will read a passage from a Euclidean proof. Students will interpret the English translation of the step by step proof and will either draw each (step 1 through 5) or will cite the appropriate definition which applies to the step of the proof.
e) How is discussion (discourse) structured in activities?
Since Euclid’s writing is translated from Greek to English and were written in 300 BCE, a collective, agreed upon interpretation must be developed to create meaning to the language. Students will privately discuss their own ideas, share them with the class and contribute to the overall understanding. The teacher will guide the definitions to be precise and accurate.
f) What other writing or speaking activities enable students to practice vocabulary and the verb shown in the learning target?
Students will write an exit slip to revisit definitions and their application to their learning. This provides an area of informal assessment so the teacher can determine student understanding. Students will also engage in metacognitive writing as they reflect on what they learned and how they would prefer to learn this in the future, this provides teacher feedback on how to best present information in the future.


Bloggary #3: Writing for the Next Generation

Writing to communicate with others has been around for centuries, originally starting with cave drawings and paintings and then developing into more formal writing systems. Some educators claim that in recent years students have become less able to communicate using effective writing. However, I believe that students are no worse, the writing style has evolved with new technology. Writing experts Daniels, Zemelman and Steineke (2007) mention students distaste in writing, “Teachers often sat that kids hate writing. But maybe what they hate is the kind of writing we make them to do” (p. 3). New technology encourages writing, Facebook and text messages are the main form of communication for the Millennial generation (those born into the technology revolution). The Baby Boomer generation (those born within 20 years of WWII) and Generation X (those born between the Baby Boomers and Millennials) have quickly adopted email as an effective form of replacing snail mail. Hence, people enjoy writing, just maybe not the type of writing that is valued in academia. Recognizing the differences between generations can help understand how writing has changed throughout the years.

John Seely Brown (a Baby Boomer) is credited with creating the first prototype for the modern spell checker (Krishnamurthy, 2005). Many improvements have been added throughout the years, including grammar correction (the dreaded little green line) in computer word processors. These innovations have assisted in the so called “writing crisis” facing public education. However, if we can harness the current writing style, educators can use student writing as a learning tool. Too often writing is limited to english and history classes, however, if educators use writing to help students reflect on their work, explain their ideas and learn how to articulate step by step instructions, writing has a valuable place in the education system.

Daniels et al. (2007) suggest exit slips and reflective journaling to use writing as a learning tool. Exit slips are a form of reflective journalling for students to complete after a lesson. Given a prompt, this tool can help students think about their learning and identify improvement areas, or it could provide vital feedback for teachers (p. 35-39). Future lessons can be constructed using student feedback to identify areas of struggle or class improvement suggestions. Exit slips are just as valuable for the student as they are for the teacher. Additionally, the reflective aspect helps students review concepts before moving to their next class. Reviewing material supports the cognitive process of storing short term memories into long term memories (Medina, 2008).

Within math and science topics, students are frequently overwhelmed with information in the content they are reading. By adopting a less formal writing techniques, teachers can use drawings as a form of writing knowledge obtained from a passage (Daniels et al., 2007). Encouraging students to write down all of the information in a complicated problem helps them articulate clear understanding of their reading. In drawing form, students can use math and science skills to learn within that domain. After, writing is important to explain the steps and procedures for solving them problem. Another approach to drawing is to use clusters to connect central concepts (Daniels et al., 2007). In a math classroom, making a cluster map can visually represent central ideas together and make connections between the mathematical concepts.

Finally, Daniels et al. (2007) claim, students remember “50 percent of what they see and hear, 70 percent of what they say and write and 90 percent of what they say as they do a thing” (p. 26). While visiting a mentor teacher, I observed a project where students created study guides and learning tools for future classes. They were encouraged to engage with the material as they use peer to peer writing techniques to explain the math skills they used throughout the year. According to the instructor, peer teaching demonstrates a clear understanding of the topic.

So, writing is being used in creative ways that are less formal than essays or analysis papers, it is being used to converse and effectively communicate with teachers and other students. Writing in high schools is not in crisis mode, rather the culture of formal writing is slowly changing to meet modern needs for effective writing. Teachers have invented and adopted methods of written communication that will help lead to effective workplace communicators.



Daniels, H., Zemelman, S., & Steineke, N. (2007). Content-Area Writing: Every Teachers Guide ( ed.). Portsmouth, NH: Heinemann.

Krishnamurthy, S. (2005, October 19). A-List overdue on campus. The Michigan Daily.

Medina, J. (2008). Brain rules: 12 principles for surviving and thriving at work, home, and school. Seattle, WA: Pear Press.

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.



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.

Bloggary #1: The Problem with American Textbooks

Through many years of standardized education, textbooks have become the quintessential teacher tool. Powerhouse textbook companies are able to customize book topics to align with state and federal standards for students.  This process has not only driven out less dominant publishers, but also created singular authority on what should be taught and how teachers should teach. The problem is that students receive a disproportionate amount of their learning from a single source, a practice highly discouraged in academics. Additionally, these textbooks are so dense with material and core themes that essential topics are often glanced over to favor covering a wide variety of topics rather than truly integrating strong understanding of a single subject. Even worse, textbooks leave gaps in curriculum further challenging student comprehension of what they read and disengages learners. (Daniels & Zemelman, 2014)

What can be done about the textbook conundrum? Diversify! Textbooks are a great place to start, especially within the STEM fields, but should be used with caution strictly as reference books to start the conversation. Math and science are not closed fields and research continues to be conducted regularly. Classroom conversations should follow student interest, which is why external sources are essential in creating a diverse classroom learning environment. They engage student interests through investigation by research. Traditional math classes are operated by first using lecture, then textbook readings and finally homework problems from the textbook. Real math does not happen this way. Math is a way of logically representing real world scenarios with numbers, so the topic should be taught the same way. Learning through the history of math not only provides cultural perspectives, but encourages literacy. There are interesting stories about economics, stealing, cheating and even crazy people in bathtubs (Archimedes). While most of the new research is far too complex for students to study, learning how to take real world ideas and apply content concepts encourages students to implement their knowledge in a useful way distancing the use of textbooks.

Application allows students to learn about how other subject fields operate. Math is a support for almost every field, so reading and discovering fields outside of mathematics increases student application. One criticism by Daniels & Zemelman (2014) is that textbooks are secondary sources of information, recompiling first or even secondary sources to create a flowing article or document. Using secondary sources for research provides an incomplete picture of the topic area and generally does not help understanding. Math journals and research are not accessible to students and often primary sources are too difficult or dry to provide meaning for them. I believe textbooks are good at breaking down concepts into manageable bite size pieces for students. From here a student can solve mechanical problems. Conversely, the steps are often too simple and solutions are being spoon fed to students. There is sometimes no room for students to think or problem solve. Any math teacher would tell you that mechanical regurgitation of computer like output is not the desired outcome for students. We want real world questions to guide which mechanical concepts are needed to learn and use math techniques to answer those questions.

In general, the content should make sense and students should be able to reconstruct concepts from the ground up. Removing the textbook from the classroom can help with this. Students grow confident knowing that they played a part in their own understanding of topics rather than having a textbook tell them what to know. Integrating real world topics creates a guide to know how to proceed. Teachers can help by nudging students to asking the right questions and directing them to find the right mechanics for solving problems. Daniels and Zemelman suggest many literary reading strategies teachers use to build understanding. Many, but not all, of these techniques are directly applicable to understanding math concepts and becoming literate in the language of math. Sources: Daniels, H., & Zemelman, S. (2014). Subjects matter: Exceeding Standards Through Powerful Content-Area Reading (Second ed.). Portsmouth, NH: Heinemann.

Entry Reflection:

(1) This blog entry demonstrates the HOPE principle O2 – Offer appropriate challenge in the content area. (2) The entry was made with many references to authors Daniels & Zemelman, who wrote “Subjects Matter: Exceeding Standards Through Powerful Content-Area Reading. This entry summarizes much of their work and discussion around the impact of textbooks within the classroom. (3) Teachers should be able to recognize content as valuable or invaluable to students based on the sources of the information and the challenge offered to the students. A textbook may offer information deemed appropriate for the student, however sometimes student have a challenging time understanding the meaning behind what they read. By removing the textbook and creating many sources of information for a student, teachers differentiate their teaching style and engage many learners.

(4) Until reading the critiques, I did not understand the problem textbooks posed for many students, especially those tho are underachieving because of an inappropriate match of learner to reading. (5) Further, I learned that by extending the textbook reading by including more sources of information, teachers are able to differentiate their teaching to meet students needs for optimal learning. (6) The responses in the blog entry have helped me think about how to use alternate sources of information in my classroom. I hope to use textbooks as a reference for students to learn about the technical methods of mathematical processes. I hope to include external sources of information to guide the direction of what to teach in my classroom.

Characteristics of an Effective Educator

According to the US Census Bureau in 2011, more than 79 million people were enrolled in school between nursery and college, that’s 29.6% of the US population. Since a major portion of the populace is engaged in school related activities, it’s essential to look at the characteristics of the 3.3 million educators who teach students every day.

Particularly for secondary school, effective educators are well versed in their content area. They should have deep background knowledge to challenge the most curious student with engaging material but also the ability to break down challenging concepts into elemental chunks. Mandating attendance means all students are present and educators should know how to make their subject relatable. From experience, engaging presentations, activities and lessons foster growth. This is the result of differentiated teaching, changing styles to keep the classroom experience engaging. Most importantly, effective educators show their students they have faults. Being vulnerable in content knowledge can be an opportunity for a teacher to show their students that they are constantly learning as well. Teacher too often don’t ask for help fearing of being ostracized by students.

Teaching is a daily presentation, effective educators come to work with tenacity (the determination to work with challenging students), patience (to serve students in a healthy learning environment) and flexibility (to face challenging situations with grace). These three dispositions are essential for all educators to find success working with students. With an engaging teaching style targeted at all levels of students, the ability to make mistakes in front of students and strong dispositions, these traits combine to be the characteristics of an effective educator.