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2000-2001 SCASD-PSU Teacher Inquiry Conference Abstracts and Papers

May 2001

Peer Coaching: A Road to Deeper Understanding.
Bauer, D., Heitzman, M., and Kur, J.
Guided reading has been a natural part of these teachers' classrooms for the past several years. This paper explores the impact of guided reading instruction on students using peer coaching methodology. The paper also examines the understanding and meaning peer coaching brings to the lives of two experienced teachers.

Making the Shift from Reading with Pictures to Reading with Text.
Black, J.
As an intern in a kindergarten classroom, the author has had the opportunity to see different levels of emergent readers. She was especially interested in how children make the shift in reading from using pictures to using text to tell the story. Is this something that is individual within the child, or can I as the teacher help to facilitate this shift? What are the other factors involved in determining when and how this shift occurs? The author looked at the five and six-year olds in her kindergarten classroom to help search for answers to these often asked questions.

Poetry in an Elementary Classroom.
Carney, L.
How can a teacher incorporate poetry into his or her classroom? In this paper, the author describes how one PDS intern tackled poetry with her second-graders.

"A" is for "Apple": Enhancing the Readiness Skills of an ESL Student.
Coleman, K.
In this paper, the author explores the following questions: "What do you do for a child who has not made much observable progress from the beginning of the year? What exactly is hindering the academic and social growth of this child? How can I get parental support and involvement in my quest to help this child find success in the kindergarten environment?"

Meeting the Needs of Every Learner.
Collins, A.
As a beginning teacher, this author wonders how she could meet and address the needs of all second grade learners in her heterogeneously grouped classroom. This inquiry project addresses meeting the needs of an individual student, as well as meeting the needs of all students in a diverse classroom through various planning, instruction, and assessment practices.

Encouraging 3rd Graders Through the Writing Process.
Dennis, E.

During Writer's Workshop, the author worked with two struggling writers. Her two writers had very different needs. Through data collection and research, the author tried to find ways that would help these two students become successful at the writing process.

Increasing Communication with Parents of Struggling Readers in a First Grade Classroom.
Diotalevi, M.
During this paper the author analyzes the effects of an at home reading program on the reading development of five first grade students and also observed the responses of their parents to this program.

How Can I Help my Students Become More Independent Problem-Solvers in a Time of Conflict?
Dutt, P.
This inquiry project explores the idea of providing options to students in a time of conflict with peers. Using role-play, classroom meetings, and the Wheel of Choice, students refined their own problem-solving skills before seeking adult assistance.

Finding, Evaluating, and Utilizing Computer Software in the Kindergarten Classroom.
Fiscus, T.
The purpose of this inquiry paper is to explore ways to enhance the kindergarten curriculum with technology. The author focuses on supplementing a math unit using computer software in two kindergarten classes.

A Tale of Two Talks: Exploring the Norms of Science Talks and Math Discussions.
Galanti, M.J.
How do the activities I plan and the questions I ask affect the norms of talks and discussions in my classroom? This paper explores different types of norms and identifies major differences between the science and math discourses in the classroom. The paper shares questioning strategies, teacher expectations and goals, and validity and justification in math and science.

Math Centers in the Upper-Intermediate Classroom.
Grove, B.
How can teachers individualize instruction in the upper-intermediate classroom? This paper explores how the author effectively implemented math centers in her fifth grade classroom. Topics such as appropriate content, activities, grouping, and organization are discussed.

Teaching Technology Competencies and Math Curriculum in the Computer Lab: An Old Dog Learns New Tricks.
Humphrey, C. 
The author explores: "How can I develop enough self-confidence and skill to teach computer competencies to my second graders? How can I integrate computer activities into the SCASD math curriculum?" Teacher progress and sample lesson plans are shared.

Enhancing the Wonderful World of Nature Unit to Make it More Inquiry Based.
Kauffman, T., Rotz, L., and Bryan, C.
This inquiry project by three primary teachers looks at the current Wonderful World of Nature unit and provides suggestions and core activities that will encourage inquiry in the classroom. This project links the plants, animals, and IPM standards by suggesting an inquiry based framework that helps to organize the unit.

Computer Gains vs. Computer Games.
Kilgore, A.
This paper offers a look at how a systematic approach with weekly lessons on the computer as opposed to playing computer games changes young students' attitudes and comfort levels about their technological abilities.

Friends&emdash;Who Needs Them? A Study of Self Esteem and the Need of Belonging.
Knepper, S.
This inquiry project explores the relationship between self esteem and peer interactions. By focusing on a particular student, the author witnessed how crucial it is that students feel as if they belong. She discusses interventions that she used to help the student feel more positive about herself and offers tips on how to help all students develop a positive sense of self and feel more accepted by their peers.

A Trap of Many Teachers and Many Students: Independence, Confidence, and Patience.
Lloyd, A.
The author explores the idea that educators support children in their learning, but are they "help-happy?" This study focuses on the effects of this support within a fourth grade class that has more than one teacher. The author suggests educators can celebrate the success of one-to-one instruction on many levels. However, independence, confidence, and patience are assets of learning that require self monitoring. When there are multiple adults in the classroom, how are the children influenced?

Everyday Spelling.
McCarty, C.
This paper explores the following questions: "What do teachers do to help those students who have difficulty with spelling? Are there strategies teachers can provide to help these students succeed?" This inquiry project investigates developmentally appropriate activities to help children improve their spelling. The author chose to select a few students and examined their everyday writing. She also inquired into these students' perspectives about spelling and writing. This inquiry connects to the Sitton program and is reflective of the needs of spellers in the author's third grade classroom.

"What is a Fair Share?" And Other Fractional Adventures in a First Grade Classroom.
Malaggese, L.
This inquiry paper explores teaching fractions conceptually to first-graders. Working closely with her mentor, the author tried to develop appropriate lessons based upon what the students knew and their misconceptions about fractions.

Assessment: Bridging the Gap Between Ideals and Reality in the Primary Classroom.
Matheson, A.
The author explores "How do I authentically assess students in a way that is manageable, individualized, and that can be utilized to guide my teaching?" By trying out a variety of assessment tools the author gained some powerful insights into the individualization of assessment in the primary grades.

Creating Strong Communities of Learners.
Miller, T.
This inquiry project focuses on the question: "How can I make sure my classroom is managed in a way that creates a strong community, positive learning environment, and allows me to instill upon my students the knowledge and hope that questions are meant to be asked and answers are meant to be found?"

Language and Literacy Instruction: Where am I on the Continuum?
Monti, L.
The author seeks answers to the questions: "Who am I as a teacher of language and literacy? What is my philosophy on language arts instruction?" This inquiry project presents an intern's journey through inquiry as her questions about language and literacy instruction constantly change.

Multiple Intelligences: What Every Teacher Should Know About.
Newman, C.
This inquiry paper explores Gardner's eight intelligences and how they can be tapped in the classroom. The author's focus is on designing several activities within each unit of study that targeted and addressed the multiple intelligences in her two classrooms.

Let's Talk about Science.
Peters, B. and Romig, G.
This paper describes how a mentor and intern team inquire into how Science Talks can enhance student understanding and teacher assessment. By allowing children to converse about science concepts, greater understanding is developed and exhibited in journal writing. As children became better at expressing their understandings through talking and writing, the authors were better able to access what they knew about the science concepts taught in this class.

Communication is the Key.
Portland, C.
This paper focuses on two effective communication tools used between parents and teachers. The weekly newsletter and home-school journal, used for the inquiry project, were successful in many ways.

Community Building for the Success of all Children.
Rankin, K.
This inquiry paper examines structuring the learning environment in order to build a classroom community where all children, including those with special needs, feel valued and successful.

Rethinking Columbus.
Reed, D. and Jones, A.
The authors examine "How can the story of the "discovery" of America be taught to 4th graders in a developmentally appropriate way?" Their focus was to compare and contrast biographies of Christopher Columbus while examining different author's viewpoints.

How Do Quiet Learners Really Learn?
Rockwell, A.
This paper is an inquiry into the author's own learning style and the learning styles of three "quiet" students in her first grade classroom. Through her exploration she also attempted to understand how she could help these students feel comfortable with their learning.

Two Journeys of Exploration.
Ruth, A.
This inquiry project explores the question: "What happens when I allow for more student choice in planning the sequence of the Explorer unit?" While the author's students were packing their trunks of supplies for their voyage simulation, what tools was she packing as well? The inquiry paper focuses on parallel explorations: the journey the author's students took to the New World with their cooperative groups, and her simultaneous journey toward letting go of some control to allow for more student choice.

Intrinsic Motivation: Motivating Students to Value Learning.
Rutkowski, S.
The author examines the question: "How can we encourage our students to want to learn without giving them rewards or bribes so that they will complete a task or activity for its own worth?" The process and product are shared in this paper.

Announcements, Celebration, and Song: The Effects of a Radio Station on the Sense of Community Among School Members.
Samuels, S.
After learning many tools for building community in classrooms, the author wondered how community is built across the entire school. The implementation of a school "radio station" provided an opportunity to study student and teacher reactions to this community building tool. The author learned how these weekly morning announcements contribute to the school's sense of community.

What do I Wonder About? Incorporating Testable Science Wonderings into A Primary Classroom.
Schwartz, W.
What do teachers do with their students' wonderings on a KWL or KLEW chart? How can they address students' questions within a set science curriculum, instead of leaving them written on the chart at the end of a unit? What part do teachers play in helping students develop questions and then answer them? This inquiry project takes a close look at how the author used questions as the basis for science instruction.

The Positive Effects of Using Class Meetings with Fifth Graders.
Shirk, J.
This inquiry project focuses on the positive effects and outcomes of using classroom meetings with older students. The paper also focuses on the logistics of managing, operating and running effective class meetings. A monthly calendar of events is also included.

Writer's Workshop in the Primary Classroom.
Siracuse, A.
Providing children with the skills necessary to become successful writers is an important yet very complicated task. This paper outlines how a mentor and an inter implemented a developmentally appropriate Writers' Workshop in their second grade classroom.

Communication is the Key.
Steinberg, L.
What can be done to enhance the communication between teachers and other significant adults to provide maximum support for the growth and development in literacy for special needs students? This inquiry project by a PDS intern explores effective methods of communication between classroom teacher and learning support teacher to support school success for a special needs student.

Using Technology as a Communication Device Between Parents and the Classroom.
Terins, K.
This inquiry paper explores the following questions: "How can a teacher effectively use a web site to communicate with parents? What other forms of technology can be used to convey the daily life of a classroom to parents? How can students reach their Kid Pix computer competencies through the production of a project for parents?"

Decision Making: Exploring First-Grader's Thoughts and Actions.
Weston , T.
The author's belief that developing childrens' choices to make good decisions is one of her responsibilities as an educator guided the inquiry for this paper. She examines how students think about and implement decisions within the classroom setting. Data considered the effect of group size, expectations, and student independence. Conclusions reveal a continuum of decision-makers, the connection between decision-making and students' roles in the classroom, and the role of empathy.

Homework Web Sites and Parent Communication.
Wilkinson, J.

How can technology enhance parent/student communication by informing parents about homework assignments? What are the time requirements to post homework on a daily basis? Can a teacher handle it on his/her own? In this paper the author discusses her findings to these questions as well as some of the problems and benefits associated with a homework website.

Enhancing Adolescent Altruism: Kids Do Care!
Wilson, C.J.
This inquiry project explores a way to better understand what a teacher could do to enhance the altruistic nature of children. When encouraged to show kindness for others, or an unselfish regard, the author found the children put their hearts into projects they developed on their own. How can a teacher help to guide these projects into action? Furthermore, what kinds of activities will actually enhance the children's caring disposition towards others?