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2006-2007 SCASD-PSU Teacher Inquiry Conference Abstracts and Papers

April 2007

PowerPoint in Second Grade?!
Julie Alex, Intern, Easterly Parkway Elementary School, 2nd grade

When the second grade students in my class were able to save their work on the district server, I wondered what else they were capable of doing on the computer. Eventually, I asked the question, “Does using technology help students to retain the information they learn?” Come and see what I discovered!

Structure: Its Impact on Kindergarteners' Independent Writing

Nicholene Allen, Intern, Ferguson Township Elementary, Kindergarten
Can adding structure to kid writing help students become independent writers? In my classroom I noticed that kindergarten students are dependent upon teachers’ help when sounding out words and getting topic ideas. As a teacher, it was difficult trying to help so many children at once during writing time. I wondered if adding structured centers would aid the children in becoming self-sufficient authors.

No A’s? Have you people learned nothing?!?

Stacey Alwine, Intern, High School North, 11th grade
Are grades an accurate determinant of learning?  This is a question that many teachers struggle with, including myself, so I really looked at whether grades can effectively show not only that students are learning, but what and how they’re learning.  I included many anecdotes from my own classroom, along with those theories of Frank Smith and the famous Jamie Myers, and also the popular non-fiction book The Overachievers.  I explore this idea while also keeping in mind the reality that grades will never completely leave the classroom—or at least not anytime soon.

"I’d rather do science podcasts than go outside for recess."

Brittany Bird, Intern, Radio Park Elementary, 3rd grade
How do podcasts support teaching science as inquiry and impact students’ understanding of science concepts and processes?  This session discusses how students were involved in the writing and producing of podcasts relating to a unit on energy and electricity. Hear how creating and writing a script based on a completed KLEW chart helps students to understand the process of using claims and evidence.   Learn how engaging students in script writing encourages them to ask new questions about the science topic, deepens their conceptual understanding, and enables them to make their thinking public.

"This isn’t fun!"
Lauren Bischoff, Intern, Park Forest Elementary, Kindergarten

What young children say can be shockingly honest-even if it’s about what they like and do not like about school.  “This is boring”, “I don’t like that” and “Because it’s not fun” are phrases that teachers try to avoid through careful lesson planning.  Is there a way to keep the structure that classrooms need, but also create a fun and easygoing learning environment?  Come and see what happens in a kindergarten classroom when lessons are livened up with movement activities.

Let There Be Light: Teaching Light to Second Graders Through Scientific Inquiry [Appendicies]

Ashley Bortner, Intern, Gray’s Woods Elementary School, 2nd grade
Audra Schaeffer, Intern, Gray’s Woods Elementary School, 2nd grade

Have you ever dreaded teaching an outdated science unit where the students knew what the outcomes were? What can you do about experiments that don’t seem to arouse children’s curiosity?  Come join us and watch our students’ excitement come to life, as they become amateur scientists, exploring the Light Unit through scientific inquiry.  Learn about the struggles and benefits of teaching an old unit using a new approach, as well as the different wonderings, experiments and outcomes that emerged between our two second grade classrooms.

Teaching Students How to Think: Integrating Literary Theory in the High School Classroom

Heather Brehman, Intern, High School South, 10th grade

Some students struggle with the abstract, analytical, and critical thinking that overwhelmingly prevails in the English classroom. How can teachers use literary theory to make the abstractions more accessible to the average student?

Intensive Methods; Year-long Internship; Educational Technology Training. So where do we go from here? Exploring the factors that facilitate or limit a PDS graduate’s ability to integrate technology into instruction during the first year of teaching.

Jennifer Cody, Intern, Houserville Elementary, 5th grade

Elizabeth Cullin, Intern, Park Forest Elementary, 1st/2nd grade Multi-Age
As interns in the PDS, we are exposed to and receive training in educational technologies, including being issued an iBook as part of a one-to-one technology initiative through PSU and Apple. During fall methods classes, it was incumbent upon us to use the technology in completing assignments. Additionally, we were encouraged to integrate technology into classroom instruction where applicable and possible. As our participation in and responsibility for the day-to-day planning of instruction has increased, we have begun to think about how we would integrate technology into instruction in our own classrooms next year. This led us to the wondering: What factors facilitate or limit the use of technology in classroom instruction for graduates of the PDS during their first year of teaching?

Taking the Curriculum from the Classroom to the Schoolyard

Shayna Cooper, Intern, Park Forest Elementary, 2nd grade

The schoolyard project is in its second year at Park Forest Elementary.  While the project thrives in some classrooms, it creates a disruption in others.  With all of the requirements of a scripted math program and daily language arts stations, it is difficult to add in yet another element to the day.  Viewing the schoolyard as separate from the curriculum can create feelings of interruption and disconnectedness.  Through inquiry I tried to find ways in which classroom content could be used as a focus during schoolyard observations.

What does "Alternative" Education mean?

Steve Coroar, Intern, Delta Program/Bellefonte Middle School, 7-12th grade
My goal as an educator centers on creating an educational environment that works best for student's needs, fostering individual interests and a love for learning in the broadest sense.  I have searched for an educational system that incorporates this same goal, and ultimately ended up teaching at an "alternative" program housed within a "traditional" public school district.  Examining the correlation between the label "alternative" and a student centered education system has become my inquiry project.  It seems that students at the "alternative" program I am researching feel more autonomous in their education and arguably more pleased with their high school experience, especially with classroom learning.  Hopefully this research will inform educators as to the benefits/drawbacks of student centered education systems with the label "alternative."

Do You Like To Read? Exploring the components that affect a student’s desire to read.

Christina Cosolito, Intern, Gray’s Woods Elementary, 1st grade

This paper focuses on the factors that contribute to a student’s reading ability and desire to read.  It attempts to explore the many factors that affect students reading attitudes and evaluate common themes among the top reading group and the low reading group.  By evaluating the components that contribute to an advanced reader and the components that contribute to a struggling reader, this inquiry will at tempt to explore ways to help the struggling readers improve their attitude towards books and their desire to read.

Writing and Sharing: How Does Motivation Play a Role?
Megan Coursen, Intern, Panorama Village Elementary, 1st grade
In my classroom, I noticed that when we shared writing, some students were more reluctant to share.  This made me wonder how different sharing strategies would effect student motivation and writing ability.  I also wondered if sharing and writing were intertwined and how they effected each other.  Come join me to learn more about how sharing strategies effects student motivation.

Moving from "No Fact Left Behind‚ to No Child Left Behind:" My Year-long Journey from University-level Know-it-all to Humble High School Teacher

Tim Cox, Intern, State College High School South, 9th grade
Transitioning from university professor to public high school teacher involves rebuilding professional identity and re-forming concepts about teaching and learning.  The university-level role of professor as guardian of knowledge, and the transmission model of teaching this role may imply, have little place in public secondary education.  The roles of gatekeeper and academic expert must be replaced by the roles of coach, mentor, and caring social constructionist to produce quality learning experiences tailored to individual learners‚ needs.  To do this successfully, the teacher has to position himself or herself as the most humble of learners, open to learning important lessons from children.

Can building a town community build community in the classroom?
Melissa Cross, Intern, Panorama Village Elementary, Kindergarten

What drives cooperative learning? How can teachers create more effective and satisfying interpersonal relationships in the classroom? My inquiry experience focuses on increasing cooperative learning throughout the day to address and measure its effectiveness on the social and emotional competencies of the students. Numerous strategies were employed inside the kindergarten classroom based on creating and building a town community to increase student engagement, participation, and positive interactions. Come join me as we explore the effects of working together to build a town in our classroom.

Kinder'garden' Blooming as Authors across Genres
Kaitlin Cwalina, Intern, Radio Park Elementary, Kindergarten
My Inquiry project is to see if kindergarteners are capable of writing in multiple genres.  Through studying and examining the books of published authors across multiple genres, my project is to see if this effects the students’ writing and if kindergarten students take on the role of an author and write across various genres.  I will use the data that I collected from the students’ writing, conferences with the students about their writing, and videotape of students discussing their work to analyze if students are able to write across multiple genres.

Marvelous Morning Messages Make Learning Fun!

Kelli Daniels, Intern, Corl Street Elementary, 1st grade
Can morning messages be an effective and engaging way to teach beginning language arts skills in a whole group setting? This inquiry project explores the effects of morning messages in a classroom with multiple achievement levels. I will use data that I have collected over a seven-week period to show the variety of effects morning messages can have on student learning. Come and learn what role morning messages can play in your classroom!

Improving Social Skills and Making Friends in the Intermediate Grades

Tricia Delevie, Intern, Park Forest Elementary, 3rd& 4th grades

Friendships are one of the most important aspects of the educational experience. What do you do as a teacher when students in your classroom lack those necessary skills to create long lasting and meaningful friendships? How can we as teachers help these students to improve their educational and personal career? This inquiry explores what strategies can be used to understand friendless students and to help their peers understand them as well.

Encouraging Respectful Behavior in the Classroom
Autumn Denniston, Intern, Ferguson Township Elementary School, 5th Grade
In this presentation, we will address the problem of disrespectful behavior among students and disrespect of students for teachers.  We will discuss the investigation of classroom respect, how we attempted to encourage respect among students, and how classroom community building activities have helped in fostering respect among students.  We will display an iMovie of students working together to solve a problem together.

Assessment - Too much? Too Little? Too Late?

Shari Dillon, Teacher, Gray’s Woods Elementary, Kindergarten

A look at the influence of district wide Language Arts assessment practices and assessment activity within the classroom.  How does the data collection and utilization of these assessments affect the instructional component of the kindergarten day?

"But, I need to do this first...": A closer look at the perplexing, off-task behavior of one student
Lauren Dooley, Intern, Gray’s Woods Elementary, 1st grade

Have you ever wondered why certain students have trouble staying on-task and following directions? This inquiry focuses on how I came to better understand one student's behavior as well as how to effectively manage and engage this student. This inquiry may provide teachers with insight about how to better understand students whose behavior may be difficult to understand.

Troublesome transitions made effective through the perspectives of teachers and students

Lindsay Driver, Intern, Radio Park Elementary, 5th grade

Julie Harris, Intern, Radio Park Elementary, 3rd/4th grade

Our study enables one to see the different transitions used within a given classroom to eliminate the unproductive behavior and increase the amount of instructional time. We were able to use the perspectives of both teachers and students to help form claims that provided us with a better understanding of transitions. Come join us to learn more about how to use transitions in your own classroom to create a positive learning atmosphere.

Making Time for Math Enrichment in a Busy Classroom
Heather Earley, Intern, Corl Street Elementary, 4th grade
How can a teacher find the time during a busy day to add math enrichment to a classroom?  How will students respond to the availability of extra math activities during their free time?  This inquiry is focused on finding the time and resources needed to add enrichment in a classroom.  It also takes a look at how students respond to the new activities available to them.

Can We Work Together? Exploring Connections Between Social Interaction and Individual Instruction.

Robert Epler, Intern, High School South, 10th grade

Instructors often see group work as an essential part of the classroom, with social interaction and sharing ideas being critical pursuits.  However, are groups really more effective than individuals?  This inquiry explores the methods and outcomes of using groups to facilitate individual instruction.

EVERY student can learn! How differentiating instruction by focusing on learning styles can increase struggling students’ confidence, engagement, and language arts performance in a second grade classroom.
Lauren Esposito, Intern, Ferguson Township Elementary, 2nd grade
How can a teacher differentiate instruction effectively for three students who are more than one year below grade level in their reading abilities?  My inquiry will be focusing on helping these special needs students learn to read and write their 35 no-excuse words during my daily seventeen-minute spelling station. Through my inquiry, I have discovered that by incorporating student interests and dominant learning styles, I can maximize our limited instructional time, increase language arts performances, and raise students’ self-esteem levels.

Reviving the Passion in Student Writing

Maura Fitzgerald, Intern, High School North, 11 th & 12th grade

By the time they reach the 11th grade, many students have become stuck in the pattern of the five-paragraph essay, and they see writing as a chore rather than an opportunity to play with language.  What happened to creativity, risk-taking, and style?  My inquiry project explores student responses to an innovative writing project that bridges the gap between academic and creative writing

"Seven? Six? Twelve? I just don’t know!: Using math stations to understand how lower-achieving math students conceptualize math."

Casey Fogle, Intern, Gray's Woods Elementary School, 5th grade

Mathematics is my favorite subject in school, so during my time spent in my 5th grade classroom this year I became increasingly interested in understanding the way my students comprehend it. Throughout my observation of several different topics, I noticed the same students struggle in mathematics. My inquiry involves a closer observation of three of these students, through the use of math stations, to help me understand how these lower-ability students conceptualize concepts in math. During my investigation, I hope to learn ways to help these students begin to succeed in the area of math for the remainder of this year and in the future.

Afternoon Activities and Reflective Journals: Do They Have a Value in the Classroom?
Gina Folda, Intern, Boalsburg Elementary School, 4th Grade

This inquiry focuses on using community building activities and reflective “friendship” journals to determine if students can change the way that they communicate with each other.  The activities for this inquiry are typically read-aloud and discussions or partner activities that focus on communication.  I strategically paired students for the reflective journals by partnering students who either do not communicate or do not communicate well.

"Who’s Excluding Who?" Are ESL Students Excluding Peers Or Are They The Ones Being Excluded?
Renee Gerber, Intern, Boalsburg Elementary, 5th grade
My inquiry focuses on the separation of my classroom students both inside and outside of the classroom environment.  I am specifically interested in the relationships between my Russian bilingual students and the rest of my classroom students.  In order to better understand my students’ behaviors, I collected data to support and to guide my inquiry.  Data samples used to support my wonderings include: student questionnaires, teacher observations, classroom meetings, and social simulations.  My inquiry has provided a gateway, for both my students and myself, to learn more about diversity and about how language promotes and hinders social interactions.

Using Media and Popular Culture in the Classroom

Ashley Gessner, Intern, Park Forest Middle School, 8th grade
Students spend an average of 40 hours a week plugged into media.  My inquiry researches the effects of using media and popular culture within the classroom as a tool.  I investigated student behavior, quality of student artifacts, and students’ reactions to the use of media and popular culture in the classroom.

"": The "Key" to Using Technology to Create Strong Parent-Student-Teacher Communication

Molly Guinane, Intern, Corl Street Elementary, 2nd grade
In the age of technology, do you question what the most effective ways to provide ongoing parent communication are and how these methods affect parent-student-teacher relationships and communication?  This inquiry explores the effectiveness of a well-maintained and updated classroom website and the use of technology in the classroom to help build communication with parents.  I surveyed parents and students and implemented alternative methods of communication to measure effectiveness.  Through this inquiry project I have discovered both facts and strong opinions when it deals with the communication between parent-student-teacher in our busy society.

"Unfashionably Late" Class Work

Elizabeth Gray, Intern, Ferguson Township Elementary, 1st grade

How can teachers motivate their students to complete their class work in a timely manner? This inquiry explores specific students who consistently have trouble completing their work in class. What are the underlying causes of incomplete or late work? How can teachers modify this behavior? This inquiry project takes a closer look at these questions and offers strategies for improving timely and successful completion of class work.

Graphic Organizers: Making Connections and Bridging Academic Achievement

Lindsay Greer, Intern, Ferguson Township Elementary, 5th grade
Teaching in the State College Area School District has taught me that all children learn differently, and in an attempt to meet all of their needs, instruction needs to be differentiated. My inquiry centers on the idea that children learn differently and need organization to maximize learning. I will explore the uses of different graphic organizers in the classroom across all content areas, adapting some of them for the needs of particular students. I want to see how graphic organizers can be used successfully in a classroom and how learning is affected by their implementation

"u wanna chat bout this L8r :-)?" Students Find a New Voice in Online Discussion Forums

Lindsay Grosso, Intern, Park Forest Middle School, 7th grade

In today’s technologically driven society, many students are finding a voice in the cyber world.  My inquiry project explores how online discussion forums provide a new opportunity for students to engage in conversations about the curriculum.  I have examined the relationship between conversations in online discussion forums and conversations in the classroom by analyzing the language, tone, content, and level of participation in these two forms of discussion.  I will share my findings by presenting case studies of 7th grade students.

Supporting an Authentic Audience in the English classroom

Keri Haluska, Intern, High School South, 10th grade

High school students often struggle during the writing process, for they are given little opportunity in the topics they choose and the audiences with whom they communicate.  My inquiry explores writing for an authentic audience as a means to provide students with a purpose and passion for writing.  During this session, I will discuss the results of how an authentic audience impacted students’ skills and motivations for writing.

Incorporating Conflict Resolution into an intermediate classroom to help increase student learning.

Emily Harford, Intern, Park Forest Elementary, 4th grade

Adolescence is a hard time for all students.  They are becoming more social and their social life is slowly taking over their academic life.  In order for learning to occur, students need to feel comfortable and focused on the lesson.  Bringing this level of comfort into the classroom is a difficult task. This inquiry focuses on helping students feel comfortable in the classroom and finding a way to express their feelings.  It also experiments with ways to implement conflict resolution lessons so all students can benefit.

Working Together in Kindergarten

Rachel Harrar, Intern, Park Forest Elementary School, Kindergarten

Many teachers and theorists believe that five and six year old children are too egocentric to work together effectively.  However, current educational research emphasizes the benefits of collaborative learning.  This inquiry aims to discover the feasibility and effect of collaboration and group work in a kindergarten classroom.  Students were given multiple opportunities to work together in partners and small groups during a variety of subject areas, including math, computer lab, and literacy centers.  The students also had the chance to express their feelings about group and partner work.

Podcasting- Recording Our Way to Motivated Writing

Jillian Hautala, Intern, Corl Street Elementary, 3rd grade

With State College’s integrated units, my third grade students do most of their writing for informational purposes. This can get hard, and tiresome for many students. I wondered if there was any way that my students could be motivated in this type of writing. I decided to try to integrate podcasting into the writing process to see if this quick extra recording of their written material would have any effect on their motivation to write.

Writer’s Workshop: Producing Independent Writers

Ashley Homer, Intern, Ferguson Township Elementary, 2nd grade
After observing the Writer’s Workshop, I have found that it is not a productive writing period for students. Writer’s Workshop is a time for students to be creative and write stories. However, this free time is causing anxiety and behavioral problems within the classroom. Students are having trouble organizing their thoughts, staying on task, and making use of the time given to them. By creating writing centers, students are utilizing their time and organizing their thoughts, while allowing for teacher-student conferences.

What do we do with this again? Two interns explore how to get students to follow directions more efficiently.

Danielle Hueston, Intern, Ferguson Elementary, 3rd grade

Tara Lesniak, Intern, Ferguson Elementary, 4th grade

After months of collecting incomplete or incorrect assignments, we realized our students need help following directions.  How many directions can they absorb at once? What can we, as teachers, do to give better directions? This inquiry explores how to help students independently listen to the directions and complete assignments without asking what to do over and over again.

I Don’t Remember!!!  Improving Reading Comprehension Among Struggling Readers

Julie Huet, Intern, Gray’s Woods Elementary, 3rd grade
Do your students have trouble remembering something they just read?  Can your students extend information beyond the text?  My inquiry focuses on finding different strategies to help struggling readers remember information that they just read.  I wanted my students to go further than simply reading the words on the page.  I wanted them to remember what they read and make connections beyond the text.   Come join me to learn more about the different strategies that are available to assist struggling readers in your classroom!

Listen Up! How Teaching Listening Skills in the Classroom Affects Students’ Ability to Follow Directions.
Kate Hummerston, Intern, Boalsburg Elementary, 4th grade

“They just don’t seem to be listening!” is a thought I often had leading up to my inquiry as students would often ask me to repeat directions and information.  As I began my inquiry I wondered if my students really knew about what it means to be a good listener, and how teaching listening skills during the week would affect my students’ ability to follow directions.  I introduced listening skills during Morning Meetings over a course of three weeks, and conducted surveys and discussions to see what my students’ knew about listening.  Join me as I share with you what I have learned about teaching listening skills, and how it has impacted the students in my classroom and my teaching.

What are Students Talking About?  The Role of Student Talking Within the Classroom.

Amy Hutchison, Intern, Park Forest Elementary, 5th grade
Often students learn a great deal from one another when they are engaged in what they are learning through talking with their peers.  This is valuable discussion that should not be omitted from the classroom, but there is also student talking that is disruptive and not focused on the lesson being taught.  My inquiry has focused on collecting data to determine what type of talking is going on within the classroom (on-task/off-task), when the talking is occurring, and whether that talking is helping or hindering student success.  This data was collected to investigate my wondering of how I can create a classroom environment that welcomes beneficial student talking, yet avoids talking that delays student success.

Wikipedia, Plagiarism, and Citation: Helping Students Avoid Temptation
Melissa Kalwanski, Intern, High School North, 12th grade
Students today have a wealth of information at their fingertips. Unfortunately, not all of them use this to their advantage. Students are also confronted with misinformation, and a variety of easy ways out, from papers for sale to the ability to cut and paste a paper together.  This inquiry explores both why students fall to the temptation of the easy way out, and how teachers can help them avoid plagiarism and choose the best sources.

A Step Toward a Publishable Draft: Encouraging Revision as an Integral Step in the Writing Process
Dana Kinek, Intern, High School North, 11th grade

How can we consistently encourage process over product in the English classroom?  This inquiry will explore students’ views on the step of revision in the writing process.  Particularly, I have been interested in why students revise and how they approach revision.  I will use students’ responses to focus more specifically on the question: “How can we nurture the practice of this skill and how do we instill the importance and significance of revising any written piece?”

The Communication Puzzle: How can we make parents feel more connected to their child’s classroom?

Patricia Kreseski, Intern, Boalsburg Elementary, 4th grade
Do you want your students’ parents to feel more connected to your classroom?  Are you wondering what would be the best method of communication to use with them?  This inquiry explores responses from my students’ parents to three different methods of communication.  Come join me to discover what method of communication my students’ parents preferred, and what made them feel more connected to my classroom.

Direction Clarity: Why Do Students Struggle to Successfully Follow Directions?
Michelle LaBarbera, Intern, Radio Park Elementary, 4th grade
In my fourth grade classroom, each lesson begins on the back carpet, so that the students can be provided with directions.  During these lessons, I noticed a trend of my students to ask questions which I had answered repeatedly during directions.  This led me to wonder why students could not follow directions.  Was I being unclear?  Were the students unfocused?  Was it a combination of both teacher clarity and lack of student concentration?  My inquiry explores how to increase the rate at which students follow directions to maximize student learning.

Reading Out Loud – Exploring Alternatives to Sustained Silent Reading
Andrea Leung, Intern, Houserville Elementary, 3rd grade
Some students are unmotivated to engage in sustained silent reading because of a limited selection of reading material or difficulty persisting in reading long passages.  What are some other ways to use the time devoted to sustained silent reading?  Research has shown that reading out loud is effective for helping students to improve reading fluency and reading comprehension.  How will oral reading practice rather than silent reading help students to improve reading fluency and reading comprehension and how will it affect their motivation to read?

"How do you spell that?" Helping kindergarteners become more independent writers!

Jessica Lindner, Intern, Ferguson Township Elementary, Kindergarten

My students have always loved Kid Writing, but as the year progressed I found many of them to still be extremely dependent upon the adults in the room to help them write their words. I felt like our room was overflowing with word families, kid writing friends, word rings, etc. that went unnoticed and unused. How could I get my class to use the tools right in front of them? What did I need to do to help my kindergarteners become more independent? Through my inquiry I have answered many of these questions and started my children on the road to independent writing!

Text of America: Where Do Our Students Fit In?

Rachel Livesey, Intern, High School South/North, 11th grade
What texts help to define and/or reinforce American ideals, values and norms?  This research examines the role that American texts, both literature and media, play for student understanding of American culture and identity.  I further explore how such texts reinforce a value system that may marginalize groups of students.  By diversifying the texts and continuing conversations with students through online discussion boards, I will suggest an approach to American literature that promotes critical thinking about the world students are situated in.  This inquiry will focus on The Great Gatsby and the media as taught in an eleventh grade classroom.

Scaffolding Students' Question Development to Promote Active Research and Higher Order Thinking in a Sixth Grade Classroom

Heather Lukac, Teacher, Mount Nittany Middle School, 6th grade

Tired of your students copying and pasting?  Looking for a way to get your students to read and understand the information they are researching?  This inquiry looks at the use of scaffolding to help students develop questions to guide their research in hopes of promoting higher order thinking.

Imagine That!: Students Using Their Imaginations During Learning

Lauren Maese, Intern, Gray's Woods Elementary

Most children love to use their imaginations, so why not put it to work in the classroom?  While teaching social studies I incorporated imaginative elements into my lessons such as simulations and role-play to see how students would respond.  Does it keep them more engaged?  Does it impact their work quality?  Come join me and see how students responded to this creative way of learning.

What’s That Animal?

Linda Margusity, Mentor Teacher, Panorama Village Elementary, 2nd grade

Jennifer Trannel, Mentor Teacher, Panorama Village Elementary, 1st grade

Have you ever wondered how to incorporate technology and make science lessons more inquiry based when teaching about animals?  Well, we did!  We took a look at what misconceptions primary students have about animals and then created a unit of study to try and get at some of these misconceptions.  We looked at ways to include different forms of technology like e-mails, podcasts, and instant messaging.  We also tried to create lessons that were designed with inquiry in mind.  We will be sharing the things we’ve learned, the things we’ve done, and the things that we are still doing with this project!

wRiting with the Right Resources

Kate McGann, Intern,Gray’s Woods Elementary

Finding the right resources to incorporate into the writing curriculum are essential in order to spark a child’s interest and imagination.  My presentation will focus on how implementing different manipulatives into our writing curriculum has encouraged students to write more detailed descriptions of their pictures.  Also, I will discuss the three different types of manipulatives I used in depth and which ones I found the most influential.  Lastly, I will describe how those different manipulatives have impacted the different ability levels in my classroom.

Why Won’t My Top Reader Write?
Brian McGonigal, Teacher, Park Forest Middle School, 6th grade

My presentation is about my top reader in my sixth grade class.  He reads at a 12th grade plus level, but he writes at the fluent stage, which is a low fourth grade level.  I am attempting to find out why his writing is so poor, has he ever been taught how to write, and if there may be some type of learning disorder.

Exploring Unit-Specific Vocabulary and Expository Writing

Jeanette Mendenko, Intern, Panorama Village Elementary, 2nd grade
We've all heard it: "I don't know what to write!" Although quality non-fiction books surround our students during science-intensive units, it often seems that their protests are unfounded. In my inquiry, I explore student opinions about several different kinds of writing, and look towards new methods that can alleviate some of their anxieties.

Using Stepping Stone Home-Makeover as a Tool to Engage Marginalized Students

Meredith Moxlley, Intern, High School North, 12th grade

When high school is seen as merely a step in the college prep process, students who are not planning to further their education at a college or university are automatically marginalized.  We decided to use a project-based service learning activity to engage these students and find a way to connect curriculum to students who are often left out of everyday academics.  This presentation will discuss the effectiveness of this idea and provide suggestions for educators to use such community service projects in their classrooms

Motivating Language Arts Activities and Strategies

Tara Moyer, Intern, Ferguson Township Elementary, 3rd grade

Throughout my inquiry project, I have explored the different types of activities and strategies used during language arts that increased students’ motivation to read. I used surveys, interviews with students and examples of student work to judge the motivating aspects of a language arts program. With this information, I was able to choose strategies and activities that helped encourage students to read inside and outside of the school. The goal of this inquiry project was to help students find a love for reading and become lifelong readers!

Sharing with a Purpose

Wendy Neilson, Intern, Park Forest Elementary, multiage 1-2 grade

My inquiry explores the purpose behind sharing during morning meeting and how sharing can be used to enhance students' speaking and listening skills.  After implementing many different changes, I've discovered some interesting claims about sharing, and what it means to the students in my class.

Making Judgments of Students' Academic Achievement
Kelli Nowlin, Intern, Radio Park Elementary, 1st grade
Teachers are asked to make formal and informal judgments of their students' academic achievement on a daily basis. The purpose of this inquiry is to begin to explore the relationship between such judgments of academic achievement and actual academic achievement as measured by standardized tests.

Got the Jitters?  Understanding Adolescent Energy
Ashley Prokop, Intern, Park Forest Middle School, 7th grade

Adolescence is the time when students experience a variety of hormonal, physical and emotional changes.  The goal of my inquiry project is to examine the academic effect of physical changes on students’ movement in the classroom.  I will focus on three scenarios: students are forced to move, prevented from moving, and given the choice to move.

Veto the Snooze Button: How to Wake Up a First Period Class

Sara Rife, Intern, High School South, 10 grade

High school start time is an ongoing issue in today’s schools, but when starting later isn’t an option, how can we help our students to WAKE UP in the morning?  Throughout the school year, I have been experimenting with various classroom activities and utilizing observations and student feedback to see what engages or disengages a first period class.  I will consider various methods that succeed in not only capturing the students’ attention, but also connecting them with course content.

Read, Write, Motivate: Using Defined Choices to Increase Student Motivation in a 4th Grade Classroom
Lauren Santos, Intern, Ferguson Township Elementary, 4th grade
How can I increase student motivation in their written responses to reading?  What strategies can I implement that would be both time effective and motivating for my fourth grade classroom?  Throughout the year, I witnessed as several of my students submitted assignments that were not completed to the best of their ability. By offering a variety of structured assignment choices and implementing self-assessment techniques, I hoped to increase my students’ motivation to write about their reading.

Oh no! I don't want to do this again!: Self-esteem, motivation, and writing instruction in a first-grade class

Megan Sorber, Intern, Panorama Village Elementary, 1st grade

What is the relationship between a child's self-esteem and his or her writing? This inquiry explores that question, as well as how self-esteem and writing may impact writing instruction in a first-grade class.  I will also explore issues such as: how my students respond in different writing situations, how they feel about writing, and what the relationships between academic achievement in writing, motivation, and self-esteem are.

"Teacher Time"
Courtney Stitt, Intern, Park Forest Elementary, Kindergarten

Are nontraditional rewards more effective than traditional reward systems in achieving positive working habits, behaviors, and friendships?  Can spending more time with teachers during lunch or extracurricular activities increase the number of friendships throughout the classroom?  Come see how motivated kindergarten students become when they are given the reward of spending more time with their classroom teachers.

Mean Girls and Lost Boys, Not Just In the Movies: How Peer Relationships Affect Learning In the Ninth Grade Classroom
Heather Stodart, Intern , High School South, 9th grade

Why are so many ninth grade students on the verge of failing this year at State High? Why has this ninth grade class been called the “worst ever”? This inquiry project investigates elements of both peer relationships and adolescent development in ninth grade students and their possible effects on classroom community and achievement.

We Gather Together To Build A School Community
Donnan Stoicovy, Principal, Park Forest Elementary

On a weekly basis, all members of the Park Forest Elementary School community gather in the multipurpose room for an All School Gathering.  There are multiple goals that I set out to accomplish when I scheduled this gathering in everyone’s schedules.  This inquiry explores how the weekly gathering is bringing our school community other than the physical part of being in the same room.

How do Movement Activities Increase Students’ On-Task Time and their Ability to Remain Focused?

Eric Struzik, Intern, Park Forest Elementary, 1st grade

Do movement activities enhance students’ ability to stay on-task?  Will students remain focused on the material if they are moving around the room, participating first-hand with the material?  This inquiry explores the use of movement activities used at a primary grade level and their effect on the students.

Shaking Out the Wiggles: How Can Movement Affect Brain-based Learning in the Classroom?

Erin Swift, Intern, Ferguson Township Elementary, 1st grade
I have come to learn that it is important, as an educator, to understand that children need different ways to engage themselves in the classroom.  I have also learned that movement can be seen in the classroom, in ways other than transitions.  This has led me to the following questions, which have guided my inquiry project such as; can movement activities excite students during instruction and change their state of learning?  Can students who have difficulty staying motivated and on task use movement exercises, as a way to keep students engaged? Lastly, can students, who have a hard time verbalizing their ideas in our brainstorming sessions, be able to bring ideas to the forefront with these simple yet powerful movement activities?

Kinder-garden progress; how ‘flowers’ may develop differently based on how old they are as ‘seedlings’.

Jessica Toepfer, Intern, Radio Park Elementary, Kindergarten
What is the relationship between students’ age and their performance in kindergarten including social and academic aspects? An intern looks at the oldest and youngest students in two kindergarten classrooms to see if age of a kindergartener matters on an academic and/or social level. Observations, surveys, journals, interviews and research were all strategies used in attempt to develop answers and data concerning this concept that so many educators and parents ponder.

What special or sensory accommodations can I make in my classroom so that my students are more actively engaged?

Julia Villanova, Intern, Park Forest Elementary, 3rd grade

As a teacher, I have seen many students struggle to pay attention during even the most interactive and engaging lessons.  I have come to realize that not only does each student learn differently, but also each student’s attention is kept differently. In completing this project I was interested in finding the best work environment for individuals in my class, through the altering of my teaching techniques, and the implementation of sensory modes, and other accommodations or individual expectations.

Jaguars, Barracudas, Monkeys, and Parrots: Managing and Motivating Kindergartners through Teamwork

Zach Vosseler, Intern, Gray's Woods Elementary, Kindergarten

"How can I take a management strategy from my elementary school past and implement it in my elementary school present?" A huge part of a teacher's success in kindergarten is found in the ability to effectively manage a classroom. After hearing several occurrences of students giving each other "polite reminders" on how to follow the rules, I decided to implement a management strategy based on an idea from my own experience as a second grader and modify it to suit a kindergarten classroom environment, emphasizing teamwork and cooperation. My goal was to give the kindergartners more responsibility in helping to maintain their peers' good behavior while decreasing misbehavior.

Making the Cut: Better Understanding Fine Motor Skill Development in Kindergarten Students

Megan Walsh, Intern, Panorama Village Elementary, Kindergarten
Because Fine Motor Skills (FMS) may impact subsequent student achievement, I want to better understand what may be affecting some of my kindergarten students who appear to have fine motor deficits.  Please join me to look further into the relationship between FMS and language/literacy development, how I can meaningfully integrate FMS activities into the curriculum, and how I can assist students in the class to develop their fine motor skills. 

From Seed to Seed
Deana Washell, Teacher, Easterly Parkway Elementary
As my students prepared to embark on a journey west as pioneers, I began to develop various wonderings about plants: How could this science topic be effectively integrated into the Pioneer unit? What misconceptions about plant life do primary students hold?  What meaningful inquiry based experiences could enhance student learning? What types of wonderings will result from the use of resources such as fast growing plants? By gathering and analyzing data, I hope to further explore my wonderings.

Carpet Time Chaos:  Exploring Ways to Decrease Off-Task Behavior

April Wheeler, Intern, Radio Park Elementary, 2nd grade

My inquiry has been an exploration of student involvement and off-task behavior during carpet-time activities in the classroom.  In my primary classroom, a significant amount of time is spent on whole group instruction at the back carpet in the room.  This exploration has allowed me to determine what some of the causes are for off-task behavior as well as how to go about correcting those behaviors.

Self-Regulation: Is First Grade Too Soon?
Sarah Williamson, Intern, Park Forest Elementary, 1st grade

During my internship I have had the opportunity to take a glance into a sixth grade classroom and noticed that many students still needed reminders for many of the things as my first graders.  Within my first grade classroom, I was feeling as if I was constantly hounding my students for the same things.  My inquiry project was designed to give me insight into how I could teach students to take control of their own actions and solve their own problems without prompting.

G’day Mate and
Kimberly Yurik, Intern, Gray’s Woods Elementary, Kindergarten
Enthusiasm is a key component when fostering a love for classroom learning in students. By incorporating two different cultures into daily curriculum and how they live and learn, I began to discover how everyday activities, like writing, could become new and exciting in a kindergarten classroom. Come and see how integrating different cultures in the classroom effects student enthusiasm!

A Look at Learning Mathematics Conceptually and its Effects on Students Computational Fluency.
Meghan Zagari, Intern, Panorama Village Elementary School, 1st Grade

I was led to this inquiry through wonderings that came about when I was taking Math Ed 420 and from observing the way my students are taught math in the State College Area School District.  In my math ed class, I was amazed by how many conceptual understandings I had never been explicitly taught in school.  After conceptually understanding what went into certain mathematical operations, I realized there was meaning behind these procedures that I was always taught to memorize. I have carried these understandings over into my first grade classroom, where I continue to observe how my students learn math conceptually.  While watching the first graders, I felt like I still had many unanswered questions about this instructional approach.  I began to wonder how students develop their computational fluency amidst instruction that is conceptually based.

Peer Coaching: Students Helping Students Succeed in the Classroom
Mary Beth Ziobro, Intern, Boalsburg Elementary, 5th grade
My inquiry has been an exploration of the effects a peer coaching system can have on  students who demonstrate off task, unorganized, and inattentive behaviors. Through this peer coaching system, students who are exhibiting these problem behaviors have the opportunity to correct them with the help and guidance of a peer coach. During my presentation, I will explain how the peer coaching system works as well as the way I implemented and maintained the coaching system in my classroom.

Making the Most of Math
Rhiana Zips, Intern, Gray’s Woods Elementary, 3rd grade

Cheryl McCarty, Mentor Teacher, Gray’s Woods Elementary, 3rd grade

The purpose of our inquiry project is to determine the effects of pre-assessment in mathematics. We focused on how flexible grouping could benefit students as well as their teachers. We pre-assessed our students with material from the curriculum combining and comparing, and then we made flexible groups in order to begin teaching the unit. Throughout the teaching, students were moved around in groups according to their learning. The goal of our project was to determine if pre-assessment was beneficial to the students, and if it was feasible to continue using pre-assessment.