learning to "blum"

A blog about my time in the education department at Luther College.

Learning about Social Studies

During this semester I have been able to better reflect upon my social studies knowledge. I have always struggled with social studies. There are so many dates and names as well as places that are difficult for me to remember. However, I have been able to recall some of this information in being in Social Studies Methods. Much of my renewed learning has come from activities we did with mapping. I will never forget taking map tests in elementary school and middle school where we were to know various places on the world map as well as label lines of latitude and longitude. I absolutely dreaded these tests, but some of the models we have used in social studies class this semester have allowed me to see fun and engaging ways to teach these aspects of social studies. I have been able to enhance my learning about geography quite a bit in this class. I have also renewed my learning of social studies by looking at ways that I can enhance social studies for my own students. This is important to me because I was one of the students who didn’t understand why I needed to know some of the things we were learning in social studies. I was never interested in the subject nor was I able to relate to many of the topics. Our learning in methods this semester has allowed me to see how I can make social studies meaningful and engaging for my students. Finally, I have learned that social studies does not only include the aspects written above. Social studies can also include the behavioral sciences and economics. This has allowed me to see where my strong points are in social studies, as I now know that not it is not simply just history and geography. All of this being said, I know I still have a ways to go in renewing my social studies knowledge and thus know I need to continue that learning in order to enhance my future students’ learning.

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TCI – What is it?

Our assignment for this week is to blog about what we would do if we were on a committee looking at TCI. We are to share our feelings on what we would share as a member of the committee and why we would share it. To be honest, I had no clue what TCI was when first looking at what our blog was supposed to be on. After being on the website, I found many things I could include as a member of a committee looking into TCI. TCI is a publishing company dedicated to social studies. They provide interactive curriculums as well as textbooks for schools to use as their social studies curriculum. It is clear that they have an emphasis on making learning engaging for students. The materials provided by TCI also are aligned with the Common Core. This is comforting, as much of what I do as an educator will have to fit in with the Common Core standards. 

For our class, we are focusing on the Social Studies Alive! feature of TCI. We are working with the program titled “Our Community and Beyond.” There are several things I would share about TCI and the Social Studies Alive! curriculum based on my research of TCI. First, I would share that there are numerous teacher resources found throughout the site. Teachers can see connections to standards, look at differentiation ideas, and view lesson procedures. I feel this is important to share because there is a growing demand for teachers to share lesson plans and make sure they are connecting classroom work to the state/national standards. I also think the emphasis on differentiation is important to share because we all have many individual learners in our classrooms that we must make sure are getting the learning. I would also share that there are assessments provided because these assessments are specifically written for the use of Social Studies Alive! It can sometimes be difficult to make sure assessments are addressing all they need to, and this can serve as a template to make sure that objectives are being addressed. These assessments are tools and can be edited and used to create your own personalized assessment for your students. Finally, I would share the idea of student site vs. teacher site. First and foremost, this is a site that caters to students as well. There is a student site in which they can interact with the materials, presentations, assessments, etc. that the teacher has created. This makes the units engaging for students as they are using technology as well as working hands-on with social studies. Students can create notes in their notebook as well as participate in “challenges” with a lesson. They can also read chapters that have both a spanish and audio option as well. Overall, I feel this is a beneficial curriculum that would be worthwhile to try to implement for several units in social studies throughout the year.

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Educators and Politics

It is no secret that education is often debated in politics. This is seen with No Child Left Behind, the Common Core Standards, and many other laws and government policies. Recently, there has been much debate on early childhood education in the political realm. This week, we were asked to blog about our own personal opinion on legislative changes in education and the involvement of educators. I personally believe that there should be a large amount of contribution with regard to ideas on education from educators themselves. This is because we as educators have knowledge with regard to children’s development and teacher/administrator/community roles. Do teachers know everything? No. However, if teachers are able to work with legislators the outcome will be much more positive than it would without them. Obviously those involved in the government also have much more knowledge on legislation as well. This shows that there must be great teamwork when it comes to legislative changes in education. Legislators should look to educators for ideas and knowledge with regard to the educational realm and educators should look to legislators for help in development of educational changes. 

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My Classroom Management Philosophy

This week we have been assigned to write about what our philosophy on classroom management is. As I think back to my J-Term experience, I can think of many aspects of classroom management that weren’t there. There were not rules established or posted anywhere in the classroom, the rules sometimes changed, there were too many punishments, there wasn’t much praise, and students had no sense of order or structure to their day whatsoever. When I think of these things, a lot of ideas come to mind with regard to classroom management. So how can I establish my own classroom management philosophy with my students?

First and foremost, I feel it is important to have an inviting environment that students will enjoy. This will contribute to many things later on. I feel the room should be easy to navigate and students should know where everything is. They should feel comfortable and safe in the room. Classroom management can also affect environment. If there is strong classroom management, the classroom will have a much better environment.

Once students walk into the room, and even before school begins for the year, it is crucial to establish relationships. I know that without the relationships I developed with students during my J-Term practicum, my experience with classroom management would have been much worse. Students thrive when they have good relationships with the adults and children in their classroom and school. These relationships help to build a sense of community in which everyone is working toward common goals and respects one another. This can quickly clear up some classroom management issues without even establishing rules. I know, however, that within my philosophy of classroom management there must be some rules.

With this being said, I feel there are several ways to incorporate rules into the classroom. The first being a mission statement. This is something that can be developed by the students and teacher, signed by all, and posted in the classroom for all to see. I think this is important as it gives students some ownership in their own goals and classroom management throughout the year. I also think it is important to create rules that students can see throughout the classroom. I would allow students to help me come up with these ideas and choose 4 or 5 to post. There are some unspoken rules/expectations that will be taught during the first few weeks of school as well, such as daily routines like lining up. I think an important part of all of these rules is the discussion that takes place with students. Students need to take ownership of the rules and their effort in making the classroom a fun place to be. Talking with students about rules will allow them to do this.

As a pre-service teacher pursuing an early childhood endorsement I know that there will have to be a lot of practice. This practice is crucial to my philosophy on classroom management. How will students know what is expected if they don’t know what the expectations look, feel, and sound like? The answer is simple: they won’t. They can be told the rules many times, but without practicing and talking about the rules, they won’t fully understand why rules are in place and what the rules mean. With younger ages, I would most likely implement some form of reward for the whole class as well as individuals with regard to classroom management. I think this would depend on the class and how they respond to certain rewards, as sometimes students begin to become too dependent on rewards. There has to be a balance in place that allows students to see they aren’t just in it for the reward.

Finally,  I would have to communicate my classroom management philosophy with my students’ parents/guardians. Many schools have parent nights or “meet the teacher” nights in which the teacher can meet students and their guardians before beginning the school year. I think it is important to talk with parents or get some information from parents with regard to classroom management during this time. This establishes relationships and respect right away and will directly benefit students, as parents can see what is expected. Obviously the rules will not be created yet fully because there will not have been school yet, so I would outline some basic rules and ask parents what goals they have for their own children. After establishing rules with the class and the mission statement, I will be sure to send a copy of each home and talk about the process the class went through the develop these items. I also think there could be fun ways for students to interact with their parent/guardian such as working to create a picture of themselves following a rule and writing a sentence or two about the picture. This could then be made into a classroom management book that can be sent home for students to look through with their parents/guardians.

Obviously there is much, much more I could write about my philosophy on classroom management. However, really what it all comes down to when you look at each section is the students. Everything I will do as a teacher is dependent upon my commitment to my students. Whether it be developing relationships, developing classroom community, making rules with one another, role playing rules together, and communicating with parents, classroom management is put in place to ensure that students are having a positive experience in the classroom.

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Classroom Management as a Subject

During the month of January I spent my time in a third grade classroom in Dubuque, Iowa. One of the aspects of teaching I struggled with the most during my time there was classroom management. My students often exhibited less than acceptable behavior and I had difficulty finding a way to reestablish a sense of order in the classroom. I know that there was not much I could do to use my own classroom management style in the classroom, as there was not much management even when I wasn’t teaching. This definitely was a learning experience for me. In a way, I was happy to have had this experience because I don’t feel I would have learned as much from a perfectly behaved classroom. Since arriving back at Luther, we have been focusing on classroom management in my Social Studies Methods class. Thus, bringing me into the topic of this blog: Can classroom management be a “subject”?

I don’t think classroom management can be a subject in the school day, but I do believe it can be incorporated as a “subject” within a subject. It is certainly a topic that needs to be addressed right away at the beginning of the school year as well as being reinforced throughout the school year. Classroom management provides structure and a predictable environment. From my January experience, I can conclude that this “security” aspect of classroom management is vital for students – especially those who do not have the necessary structure in their home life. I would definitely incorporate the subject of classroom management into a social studies unit at the beginning of the year. First and foremost, many of the aspects of classroom management (goals, rules, etc.) are vital to understanding much of the social studies content. The Iowa CORE states that students will “Understand the rights and responsibilities of an individual to his/her social group” (www.educateiowa.gov). This directly correlates with classroom management, as students are using their responsibilities with regard to classroom management to benefit the social group (peers and teacher). There are also parts of the Iowa CORE social studies standards, such as Political Science/Civic Literacy, that connect to classroom management aspects.

Overall, I feel connecting work with classroom management to social studies content can be beneficial to students. The topic of classroom management can be taught through this lens because it can help students to see why social studies is relevant to them and how it will impact their future in different classrooms and in society. I also feel it can be taught through incorporating the ideas of voting and democracy into the classroom. Students should come up with the rules and vote on which rules they feel are the most important. In elementary grades, this can truly help students relate to what we do in the United Sates, thus connecting what is being done in the classroom to the “real world.” Going back to this throughout the year can help students to see the impact it has had on the classroom and can help them to see the importance of community that is emphasized in social studies.

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Cupcakes, Tables, and Pizza: Learning How to Divide

As students walked into the classroom this morning there was quite a buzz about how Miss Blum would be teaching math. I had many students ask me what I would be teaching or what they would be doing. It was clear to me that they had high expectations. As if I wasn’t worried enough already!

I had spent the night before polishing my lesson plan and making sure all of my materials were ready. I also read through my lesson plan enough to put anyone to shame. I was so nervous. However, it wasn’t until the students began talking about my teaching for the day that it fully became real to me. It was time to teach on my own. Though the students’ expectations worried me, they thrilled me at the same time. I would be teaching after the students returned from gym class at 10:45 A.M.

At 10:30 I started to get myself set up for the lesson. I quickly ran through my lesson in my mind. Would I have enough differentiation? Would I be able to keep control of the class? What if I forgot part of my lesson? Again, the students walking into the classroom curbed my thoughts. These kids were ready to learn. I had students get their materials out and began the lesson with a real-world problem about students in the class. This was my favorite part of my lesson and I knew the kids would be excited about it as well. I had the students in the problem act out the situation to show the division involved. This activity was more popular than I expected, as students were asking if we could do another problem like it another day. We then began the main portion of the lesson, which involved working through the Math Trailblazers curriculum using the context of a birthday party. The birthday party included division of pizzas, cupcakes, and guests to tables. Though I wish the curriculum would have provided more flexibility with the situation given, I was glad it kept the mathematical learning real-life applicable. The importance of making school work relatable for students cannot be understated.

Now that I have one day of teaching under my belt, I am looking forward to tomorrow’s lesson! I can’t wait to make math more fun for these students. The menu for tomorrow’s lesson includes group work, graphic organizers, and a fun family who needs help sharing a jar of money. I’m hoping that continuing this real-life math work will help to fuel passion for learning among students – it sure is doing so for me!

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Keeping up with 3rd Grade

I am sitting at Panera Bread with a caramel latte in front of me. On the table is my laptop, lesson plans, assessment plans, unit 7 of the Math Trailblazers curriculum, and various writing utensils. I’m sure half the time I’ve been sitting here I’ve had a goofy smile on my face. I feel like a teacher, and boy does it feel good.

At Luther, we do a methods practicum the year before we student teach. I have been placed in a third grade classroom in Dubuque, IA. This practicum takes place throughout the month of January and we are to teach a 5-7 day unit in the classroom we have been placed in. I wanted to keep my blog up to date in order to remember my experience.

I was extremely nervous to begin my first day in the classroom. The amount of sleep I got the night before was close to none. About a million thoughts were running through my mind… What if my CT (cooperating teacher) thinks I am a bad teacher? What if the kids hate me? What if I’m not ready for this? What will the school be like? I’m happy to say that many of my thoughts were eased the second I stepped into the classroom. The first 2 days in the classroom were great. I was able to learn a lot about my students and my CT. The students in the classroom are great kids. There are 19 students in the class (14 boys and 5 girls). I noticed quickly the amount of diversity in the classroom. This classroom is busy, busy, busy. There are students leaving for reinforcement throughout the day, a student who is visually impaired, math geniuses, amazing readers, and many more. The students continue to amaze me with the ideas they come up with. Needless to say, my first five days in this classroom have not disappointed!

I will be beginning a short unit on division with the class on Wednesday, January 15. The school uses Math Trailblazers, so this is what I will be using for the unit. I have been busy making lesson plans for this as well as constructing assessments. The teacher has also been gracious enough to let me work with reading groups (the school uses LEAD21) as well as teaching some science lessons.

ImageRead more about Math Trailblazers here!

This will surely be an opportunity I will never forget!  

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Is fair always equal?

After working with The Daily 5 in class, we moved on to reading The Cafe Book by Gail Boushey and Joan Moser. I really enjoyed learning about The Daily 5 and could see myself implementing it in my future classroom. I was a little concerned about the amount of time that it takes up, however. Now that we are learning about CAFE, I feel as though these two programs together are perfect for helping students to become independent learners and create a student-centered classroom community. In class on Friday, we were asked to blog our feelings on The Sisters’ statement of, “We strongly believe fair isn’t always equal with children…” (Boushey & Moser, 2009, p. 58). 

Image Read more about CAFE here.

I truly believe that that Boushey and Moser are spot on with this statement. In any given classroom that I have, I will be teaching a vast variety of learners. The students in my class will all come with their own interests, readiness, and learner profiles. It is important to take note of and differentiate based upon these aspects. CAFE allows for teachers to do this. Through student-teacher conferences and goal setting, each students’ individual needs can be met. With some students, less attention will be needed. They will understand much quicker than most and will be able to work individually on their goals. For other students, however, more guidance may be needed. If all students are given the same amount of time with teachers or given the same amount of goals, the teacher is doing a disservice to them. Fair, to me, is making sure students are given the amount of instruction that will allow them to succeed. This cannot always be equal because of the differences in student needs. Boushey and Moser make a good point in explaining that “fair is not always equal” when they address the crucial points in students’ development as readers. This comes at a different time for all students, and so teachers must give more time to those who are at these points than those who are not. Overall, i think Boushey and Moser have a great outlook with regard to this statement and I feel it will be important for me to remember as a future educator.


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Would I Use the Daily 5?

For Language Arts Methods we have been reading The Daily 5: Fostering Literacy Independence in the Elementary Grades by Gail Boushey and Joan Moser (“the sisters”). Throughout the time that we have been reading this book, I have been thinking about the Daily 5 with regard to whether or not I think it would be effective. There were times in reading where I though, “Yes, this could work,” but there were also times in which I had no idea how I could implement this practice into my own classroom.

ImageRead more about the Daily 5 here.

When thinking about my own classroom and the Daily 5, I thought back to my practicum experience my freshman year. The second grade classroom I was in used Daily 5 during their language arts time. The way in which my cooperating teacher used Daily 5 in her class was always positive. The children were engaged, they always knew the expectations, and they were proud of their Daily 5 work. Seeing this has had a positive impact on my own beliefs with regard to the Daily 5, but I still struggle with how I could use it in my classroom.

Here are some of my thoughts on the Daily 5:

1. The Daily 5 is a great way to build classroom community. While introducing The Daily 5 to students, they are asked to work together to come up with “I-Charts” for each task. This allows students to think about what their jobs are as students and what the teacher’s job is. Students thus feel accountable for their work during the Daily 5. This builds not only respect but also a sense of community as students and the teacher are working toward a common goal.

2. The Daily 5 provides a new level of engagement for students. Students who participate in the Daily 5 are able to choose their task order, choose what to do within that task, and they get to be independent learners. Students thrive when they are participating in/learning about something they are interested in and the Daily 5 allows for them to target their interests. Through having a choice, students are able to direct their own learning.

3. Is the Daily 5 too time consuming? This is something I still struggle with. How in the world am I supposed to implement Daily 5 while also implementing the amount of math, social studies, science, etc. that I need to include in the day? With the emphasis on the CCSS in the educational world, I have a hard time seeing how I can devote so much time to the Daily 5. Not only do I have to fit all of these subjects in, but my students will be leaving the room at various times throughout the day. I feel as though this could be disruptive to the Daily 5 routine. I know Boushey and Moser address this in their book, but I don’t quite think they address it to the extent it needs to be. Along with this, the Daily 5 can take weeks to establish within a classroom. I would feel immense pressure to “get the ball rolling” on teaching language arts in my classroom due to what is now expected for children to learn. The Daily 5 takes more of a relaxed approach on teaching language arts, as it takes quite a bit of time to actually begin Daily 5 work.

4. The Daily 5 is able to address every learner. The different tasks in the Daily 5 (Read to Self, Work on Writing, Read to Someone, Listen to Reading, and Word Work) are all equally important to language arts. Students will each come in with their own strengths and weaknesses in language arts, and I feel the Daily 5 address each of those. It can be especially helpful to ELL students through Listen to Reading and can help students who need to work on their own fluency in Read to Someone. Obviously the other tasks hold important benefits as well. The choice in the Daily 5 also allows for the learner to choose the way in which they learn best, such as using tactile learning for Word Work.

Overall, I think the Daily 5 is something I could see myself using in my own classroom if I am able to work within my time constraints and expectations as an educator. It is a great way to create a classroom community and student-centered learning environment. I also feel is a positive way to work with students individually and assess through observation. It is clear to me that teachers are able to see student growth in language arts through implementing this practice.

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iPads in the Classroom


Over the weekend we were assigned to read about iPad use in the classroom. These readings were What the iPad Is and What It Is Not and iPads for Learning – Classroom Ideas for Learning with the iPad. These readings gave me a lot of insight as a pre-service teacher. Technology in the classroom is huge, and I will be expected to know how to utilize the apps available as well as many other aspects of iPads, SMARTboards, laptops, and other technological devices in my own classroom when I begin teaching. Even though I am a pre-service teacher, I do not feel as though I know as much about iPads and other electronics as I am already expected to. These readings helped me see ways in which I can use iPads in my classroom in beneficial ways. Here are some of my thoughts and reactions:

1. iPads can be used for various subjects. I personally experienced the new wave of having iPads in the classroom during my freshman year practicum. I was in a second grade classroom in which the students often used iPads during Daily Five and Mathematics groups. During Daily Five, some students read from iPads and some students did word work with them. It was clear to me that this was a great way for those who are tactile learners to internalize new knowledge. The math lessons were also fun and engaging for students. Who wouldn’t want to play games on an iPad AND learn at the same time?! 

2. iPads can spark creativity. The article titled What the iPad Is and What It Isn’t explains how iPads can be beneficial with regard to creativity. The iPad is stressed in this article as a “thinking tool.” I think this is an interesting name for the iPad. Students are able to create their own “learning map” with the apps they use, the books they upload, and the way they use iPads to present information. To me, this is a phenomenal way of personalizing education. This helps students to make their learning fit their needs and interests and makes what they are learning important to them.

3. iPads can help students to learn about the technology in our world. Technology is now an important aspect of the curriculum in many schools. All of the schools I have observed in throughout the past couple of years have had some kind of technology course whether it be strictly computers or working with a wider range of technology. I think this is important as our world is becoming more and more technology-based everyday. Students will need to know how to use various items like iPads in order to succeed in the future. Thus, having iPads in the classroom can provide a basic knowledge that will allow students to learn more about technology.

4. Taking a step back from some of the positives, these readings allowed me to consider some of the more negative aspects of iPads. I had thought about the differences between iPads and laptops, but not quite to the extent that the readings mentioned. iPads do not have Microsoft Office or Adobe, it is somewhat difficult to have multiple people using one iPad, and it has limited storage (for now). What struck me the most was the idea that multiple person use is difficult. Thinking back on my experience in the second grade classroom, I realized it was hard for the students to share the device. At the time there was only one iPad per classroom, and students often had a hard time using it in groups because they couldn’t all see the screen and it was hard to have several people using one app at once as well. For me, this would be frustrating in a classroom because classroom community is important to me and I think this would test the community that has been built within a classroom if some students struggle with sharing.

Though there are both good and not so good things that come with using iPads in the classroom, I do believe much can be gained from learning more about them and integrating them into schools. There are clearly academic benefits and real-life applications that can come from their use. I can’t wait to get out into a classroom and work more with these devices when I have the chance!

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