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2010-2011 SCASD-PSU Teacher Inquiry Conference Abstracts and Papers

June 2011

iEducate with the iPad: Using iPads to Support Instruction
Abby Gay, Intern, Easterly Parkway Elementary, 2nd Grade

In my second grade classroom, we were very fortunate to receive a class set of iPads. These iPads were introduced to select primary classrooms. Technology in the classroom is an important topic in education and this was the perfect opportunity for me to do my own research on this issue. This presentation takes a deeper look into the impact that this technology can have in a classroom as well as its effectiveness in children’s learning. Additionally, I chose to inquire about the iPad’s ability to adapt to a wide varietyof learners’ needs.

"HOLD 'EM UP": Ways to Increase Student Participation During Whole Group Calendar Math Instruction
Alexandra Geiger, Intern, Radio Park Elementary, 3rd Grade

As an intern in a third grade classroom, I had noticed the same few hands being raised consistently during daily Calendar Math instruction this school year. In order to maintain a high rate of participation from these students, as well as increase participation from all of the other students, I implemented a variety of strategies in an attempt to keep the Calendar Math curriculum engaging for all learners. Come and learn which of these strategies yielded the best results for making Calendar Math a part of the day everyone was excited about!

Doctor Zebra and Grandpa Joe: Prescriptions for Better Writing
Allison Reich, Intern, Radio Park Elementary, 1st Grade
Maria Dissen, Intern, Radio Park Elementary, 2nd Grade

What strategies can be implemented to excitingly engage young writers?  By incorporating the use of special editing pens, adventurous puppets, and self-checklists, we have found that our students have become skilled writers while also exploring working more independently. Having a special puppet friend who really listens to the writers’ stories while also working to improve them has been beneficial in engaging writers in two elementary classrooms.

“Wait...We Actually Have a Choice?”: A Look Into Student Choice
Amanda Miller, Intern, Park Forest Middle, 6th Grade
Chrissy Frantz, Intern, Park Forest Middle, 6th Grade

Have you ever wondered why teachers assign projects students have little interest in completing? Our inquiry focuses on giving students choices in how they complete a project or how they carry out a discussion. We created choices based on the learning styles of our students. The choices given always allow the students to use either technology or traditional paper and pencil. We present to you our findings of how giving student choices influence their performance in our sixth grade classrooms.

“Are You Hungry?” How Incorporating the Daily 5 and C.A.F.E. Menu can Satisfy Kindergarteners’ Appetite for Independent Reading!
Amber Halbfoerster, Intern, Gray's Woods Elementary, Kindergarten

While observing my students during literacy stations, I noticed many were off-task during independent reading time.  As I began to learn more about the principles of the Daily 5, and the training that students practiced prior to incorporating this literacy approach, I was intrigued. I wondered if this approach would support my students with independent reading. Through this presentation, I will share data that illustrates student time on task and engagement throughout this process.

Imagining Imagery: How to increase detail and imagery in student writing through the implementation of various interventions
Ashley Longosz, Intern, Radio Park Elementary, 4th Grade

Throughout the school year, the fourth grade students in my classroom have been working towards writing well-developed paragraphs that focus on a distinct topic. I have noticed that many students’ writing lacks detail, necessary for making their writing more compelling and engaging to read. My inquiry focuses on implementing different interventions aimed at enhancing detail and imagery in student writing.

"Did you sign up for lunch?" How can primary students use self-monitoring to increase independence in routine tasks?
Bailey Gilson, Intern, Park Forest Elementary, 1st and 2nd Grades

In my first and second grade multiage classroom, I found myself frequently reminding many students to complete routine tasks, such as signing up for lunch or taking down their chairs during our morning routine. I also noticed that many students would ask, “What do I do next?” during independent writing. I believe that developing good independent work habits will serve my students well as they continue in school. In my inquiry, I wondered if teaching students self-monitoring strategies and providing them with resources to monitor their progress would increase independence in routine tasks.

“Hola clase!” Teaching 1st Graders Spanish Vocabulary While Targeting Different Learning Modalities
Britlyn Greimel, Intern, Gray's Woods Elementary, 1st Grade

It all began after greeting my students one day at morning meeting.  Two words were all that was necessary: “Hola clase!”  From that point on it was evident that most of the students in my class had a passion for learning a second language.  I too, shared this passion with my students, rooted in my own experience of learning Spanish in second grade.  I decided to start teaching my first graders a selection of Spanish vocabulary words.  Considering the numerous learning styles within my classroom, I decided to teach different vocabulary words through a variety of learning modalities (visual, auditory, and kinesthetic).  Join me and learn about the discoveries that I made, through integrating a second language into an elementary classroom.

"The More We Work Together the Happier We'll Be": Promoting Teamwork in the Classroom
Celeste Formisano, Intern, 2nd Grade

There are many opportunities for my second grade students to work together throughout the day. My second grade class began the year getting along with one another; suddenly, behavior became a concern within my classroom. Students were not talking nicely to one another and were disruptive during class and specials. The students also became increasingly chatty and had difficulty following directions. This resulted in my having to consistently remind students to follow our classroom rules and to meet expectations throughout the day. In an attempt to motivate students to have appropriate behavior, I began to wonder if promoting teamwork would impact the students' behavior. I began incorporating opportunities for my second graders to use teamwork throughout the school day. This inquiry explores the impact of extrinsic rewards, positive reinforcement, and teamwork in my second grade classroom.

Are They Really Double-Checking, or Just Telling Us They Are? Taking a Look at the Value of Student Self-Assessment
Christina Allen, Intern, Gray's Woods Elementary, 3rd Grade

After noticing how many computational mistakes and other errors were found in independent work for mathematics in my classroom, I decided to inquire into the nature of the mistakes, the specific students that may be falling prey to mistakes more often, and the main reasons behind the lower accuracy of their work. To do this, I utilized a self-assessment system that took place at random and involved students placing stickers on their work to show how much effort they put into each assignment. As time went on, I introduced the self-assessment activity to parents and started to provide positive reinforcement to those who completed "personal best" work on a consistent basis. Join me to find out if students see self-assessment as a way to hold themselves responsible for producing "personal best" work consistently.

“Why do I have to do this?” Encouraging Motivation and Self-determination
Christine Mackowski, Intern, 3rd Grade
Stacy Miles, Intern, 3rd Grade

All students have the capability to learn and work to the best of their ability. But what happens when students fail to motivate themselves? For our inquiry project we first had to gather evidence that our students were unmotivated to consistently complete their schoolwork. We compared data from all third grade students to one student in each of our classrooms we felt needed the most self-determination. We gathered evidence inside and outside of school to discover the source for lack of motivation. What will it take for these students to motivate themselves to learn?

To Speak or Not to Speak? Is That the Only Question? The Impact of Adaptations in Eliciting Communicative Responses
Danielle Zarnick, Intern, 1st Grade

While working with a student who has Down syndrome, I noticed her desire to communicate effectively with peers, teachers, and family. I began to wonder what adaptations would be most effective in eliciting more communicative feedback from her. I tried several interventions starting in late January through early March, such as technology, math manipulatives, and teacher prompting. In this inquiry, I explored the impact of these strategies, among others, to attempt to assist the student in communicating more effectively and frequently.

“Is It Reading Time Yet?”: A Look at What Motivates Students to Read and LOVE It!
Elizabeth Finigan, Intern, Easterly Parkway Elementary, 2nd Grade

Every classroom has students who read in their spare time and students who will only pick up a book, because their teacher told them to. What strategies can teachers use to motivate students to want to read and dare I say, enjoy it? This inquiry examines how much reading ability, parental involvement, student collaboration, and the physical environment of the classroom effect a student’s motivation toread and what reading instruction strategies teachers can use to foster a love of reading in their students.

“Can we switch seats?” Investigating Collaborative Learning in a 6th Grade Classroom
Elizabeth Hartigan, Intern, Mount Nittany Middle, 6th Grade

Sixth graders spend a lot of time in school working in groups through Science experiments, Social Studies projects, Reading Book Clubs, and partners for Connected Math lessons.  Teachers spend time planning for these activities to be accomplished in a timely manner and of good quality.What are the best approaches to grouping students?  Is allowing students to select their own groups a productive strategy?  Are students productive when working with same and different genders?  Does changing groups often make a difference?  This inquiry answers these questions for this setting specifically, but suggests practices for the elementary grades overall.

Connecting Words to Numbers: An inquiry exploring effective means of adapting math word problems for English Language Learners
Emily Kao, Intern, Easterly Parkway Elementary, 3rd Grade

Throughout the 2010-2011 school year, I was given the opportunity to work closely with two English language learners in the subject of mathematics. I immediately noticed how well versed both students were in the area as they demonstrated a strong grasp of the foundations of mathematics. The students illustrated the ability to quickly and accurately compute and solve equations, yet exemplified feelings of distress when assigned the task of tackling lengthy word problems. I wanted to look for ways to help these English language learners live up to their full potential, and break free of any language barriers standing in their way of success. In my inquiry, I looked for effective tools and strategies to help learners excel.

Where Did All of My Students Go?
Emily Ulrich, Intern, Ferguson Township Elementary, 4th Grade
Sarah Harlan, Intern, Corl Street Elementary, 4th Grade

We have noticed the constant revolving doors in our classrooms. Our students are consistently leaving the classroom for Enrichment, Learning Support, Title I, Instrumental Music, ESL, and other pullout programs. The purpose of this inquiry was to learn which strategies classroom teachers utilize when their students are pulled out of the classrooms on a daily basis.

6th Graders, Senior Citizens, Poetry, and the Spoken Word: Can we build cross-generational relationships that lead to understanding and tolerance?
Gina Pricci, Intern, Mount Nittany Middle, 6th Grade

In our world of technology, research questions can be answered in a heartbeat.  Information on any subject can be obtained in mere seconds.  Because of this, the art of sharing personal experiences, stories, and life lessons has become undervalued. As I spoke with students about their relationships with grandparents and elders, I began to wonder if I could enhance the appreciation sixth grade students had for their elders. Through personal interviews, poetry writing, and conversation, could my students see value in communicating with senior citizens? Would senior citizens learn something from the current generation? Come and listen to what I discovered!

Around the World with Service Learning
Hannah Laman-Maharg, Intern, Radio Park Elementary, 5th Grade

Service-learning is a teaching and learning strategy that integrates meaningful service with instruction and reflection to enrich the curriculum and students’ learning experiences, teach civic responsibility, and encourage long-term social and civic development. Students in my 5th grade classroom were interested in helping people in countries where there is a lack of access to potable water. The students’ specific service project focused on teaching people how the moringa tree can be used as a filter to produce clean water. The project will culminate in a student presentation to raise awareness about access to potable water and describe their involvement in addressing the problem. What were the benefits of this service-learning project?

Making Peace, Love and Happiness Come First: Instructing Kindergarten Students on Lifelong Habits of Success
Holly Evans, Intern, Lemont Elementary, Kindergarten

To what degree will direct and thematic instruction associated with the 7 Habits of Happy Kids by Sean Covey, impact kindergarteners’ personal social skills? How will this instruction affect the overall classroom community and individual success of every student? Participating in a six-week unit study, entitled Making Peace, Love and Happiness Come First, students will learn and practice interpersonal skills such as displaying one’s best effort and also interpersonal skills such as participating as an active team member.

Just Imagine Them In Their Underwear: Public Speaking In Primary Grades
Jaclyn Cascino, Intern, Panorama Village Elementary, 1st Grade

Public speaking is a lifelong skill. With this in mind, I noticed many of the students became shy when speaking to the class. In an attempt to have students feel more comfortable speaking in front of their peers and to begin instilling this valuable skill in them, I began implementing different interventions for students to speak in front of the classmore. I wondered what impact having students share poems, nursery rhymes, books, and various topics would have on their confidence level when speaking in front of the class.

Two Mentors, Two Classrooms: How does having two classroom placements and two mentors affect a PDS experience?
Jenna Jenkins, Easterly Parkway Elementary, 2nd Grade

My two mentors and I have wondered about how to handle our situation from the very first days of school. Where would I start the school day? Where would I end it? Should I teach lessons in both classrooms? Was I getting to know all my students? Did I know them all as readers, writers, and mathematicians? These are all questions we asked one another and discussed throughout the school year. Since this situation was new to all three of us, the year began with somewhat of a rocky start. Then, it was a conscious decision on my part to embrace the unique situation and the experience I was a part of. Since that moment, I have begun to see the huge impact it has had on my learning as a pre-service teacher. Are there positives? Yes. Are there negatives? Maybe. By pursuing this wondering, I explore and delve deeper into my own experience, learning how it has affected my year in the PDS, and how it might affect my world of teaching after the PDS.

Supporting Lifelong Readers: One Book at a Time!
Jessica Silvi, Intern, Radio Park Elementary, 3rd Grade
Melissa Vaughan, Intern, Park Forest Middle, 6th Grade

Our teacher inquiry focuses on improving the independent reading curriculum in the classroom. We observed our students picking independent reading books in a variety of ways and listened to student opinions of books and genres. This led us to investigate effective independent reading strategies to improve student book choices and reading comprehension. After researching these strategies, we implemented them into our third grade and sixth grade classrooms. Because of our investigation, we can share what we learned about strengthening independent reading in our classrooms.

"I Don't Want To Do This!": Increasing One Student's Motivation To Complete Assignments In The Classroom
Jessica Sussin, Intern, 2nd Grade

Throughout the school year, I have had the opportunity to work closely with all of my students, however I have spent considerable time working with and observing one student in particular. Working with this student led me to wonder why he always seemed to be asking for my help during class time and why the majority of his work was left unfinished or turned in late. This inquiry investigates these wonderings through exploring the ways in which one student’s motivation to work independently can be affected by the incorporation of personal goal setting, incentives, personal interests, and self-efficacy in the classroom.

Increasing Students’ Engagement, Motivation, and Productivity during Literacy Centers
Jodie McAllister, Intern, Panorama Village Elementary, 1st Grade

Through my observations, I noticed that many of my students were increasingly off-task and unproductive while working at their independent literacy center. I wondered if my students were bored or if they were not ready for independent work. This led me to research more about literacy centers and how to effectively implement independent centers that are not only academically appropriate but also creative and fun. In this inquiry, I explore the question of how creativity can help increase the students’ engagement, motivation, and productivity during independent literacy centers.

"Nobody can Hurt Me without My Permission”: How Teachers Can Prevent Bullying in the Elementary Classroom
Justine Ludwig, Intern, Ferguson Township Elementary, 5th Grade

As a teacher, the hardest part of my job is dealing with students who feel bullied and hurt by others’ actions. Over the course of the year, certain students in my classroom were experiencing issues of feeling bullied by those they considered their friends. After talking to other teachers, I found this was more common than I thought. I began to think of how to handle this issue from a teacher’s perspective and wanted to identify the different strategies and resources that teachers use to prevent bullying from occurring in their classrooms.

America's Next Top Role Model: Understanding Role Models in the Multiage Classroom
Kasi Anderson, Intern, Park Forest Elementary, 1st and 2nd Grades

After working with a multiage classroom of 1st and 2nd graders, I started to wonder how the social aspects played an effect on the dynamics of the classroom.  I surveyed all 22 of the students about their feelings. After analyzing the data, there was a clear consensus on which students were seen as “role models.” I was surprised by my findings and they questioned my original thoughts. The outlying students were then further analyzed based on their behavior and work ethic. After answering these questions, my presentation will explore the students’ perception of what a role model is in a multiage classroom.

Open Door Policy -- Are Two Heads Better than One?
Katherine Frentz, Intern, 5th Grade

Kelly Flanagan, Intern, 5th Grade

Historically, classroom teachers have worked in isolation. Typically, an individual roaming school halls would find parallel lines of closed doors, each with a single teacher doing his/her own “thing” behind each one. On our first day of in-service at the end of August, we entered a whole new world that opened our minds (and doors) to the possibilities of co-teaching. Collaborative planning sessions, joint lessons, and a constant partner to look to for advice, ideas, justification and reflection became our daily routine. Whether we were prepared or not, co-teaching had now become our practice. This new practice led us to new wonderings. Is this beneficial for the students? How does it impact them? How does it influence their engagement? How does it influence time spent on transitions? Is this influence the same across all subjects, or does it differ for each content area? These are the wonderings that we set out to explore. Please join us as we share what we have found and decide if two heads are always better than one.

Free Writing in an Elementary Classroom
Katherine Goodwin, Intern, Park Forest Elementary, 4th Grade

Student choice and reflection were two aspects of writing that I was particularly interested in implementing into my 4th grade classroom. By allowing students to “write what they want” and to “trust the gush,” I wondered how students were affected by the practice of “free writing.” Is the freedom and choice beneficial? Or are there drawbacks to not having structure within writing exercises? This session will explore the ways in which free writing affects student writing and elementary students in general.

Blogging and Skyping and Podcasts, Oh My!: Integrating Technology into the Kindergarten School Day
Kaylyn Pacchioli, Intern, Ferguson Township Elementary, Kindergarten

In today’s world, teaching students how to effectively use technology as a learning tool
goes hand in hand with the process of helping students develop a passion to be lifelong learners.
 Information technology is becoming more and more prevalent in education because it is a valuable 
resource for up-to-date information, it provides opportunities to practice necessary skills, it is
 a tool for far reaching communication, and it builds skills for tomorrow’s workforce. To help
keep them engaged in their learning, we must use multimedia, and in order to prepare them for
the future, we must expose them to a wide-range of technologies to help them become 
technologically literate citizens. In this inquiry, I am exploring how I can integrate the use of
technology throughout the school day to increase independence and confidence in kindergarten 

Exploring Outside the Classroom: Inspiring Primary Age Students Through Writing
Laura Nussbaum, Intern, Park Forest Elementary, 1st and 2nd Grades
Stephanie O'Donnell, Intern, Park Forest Elementary, 1st and 2nd Grades

Since writing is an important aspect of the primary grades, we wanted to make sure our students were really engaged and enjoying writers’ workshop time.  Due to the large influence of environmental education in Park Forest Elementary, we began to wonder if nature-enhanced writing would motivate our students to become better writers.  We also questioned whether writing for an audience and providing students with a choice during writing would impact their views about writing.  By taking our students outside to explore the world around them and having them write a variety of pieces in their hardcover nature books, we have discovered how nature truly influences primary age writing.

“Can You Repeat That?” How Math Talk Impacts Student Learning
Linda Margusity, Intern, Panorama Village Elementary, 3rd Grade
Mary-Lynn Robosky, Intern, Panorama Village Elementary, 3rd Grade

Do you have kids who have difficulty paying attention in large group discussion? Do they not listen when their classmates talk? Through the book Classroom Discussions: Using Math Talk to Help Students Learn, we worked on ways to increase student participation and understanding of the unit material. Using strategies such as repeating, we are finding that students are paying closer attention to one another as well as being more willing to take a risk and participate in large group discussions. We have also found that this strategy is working in other subject areas such as Science, Social Studies and Language Arts.

North, South, East, and West: Why are Directions So Hard to Follow?
Mallory Souleret, Intern, Park Forest Middle, 6th Grade

Sixth grade is an important time for all students. It is a time when students are not only maturing physically and socially, but are preparing for new learning in secondary classrooms. This year I have noticed that while our students are diverse in different ways, they all share a common bond; they are dependent on teachers when following directions. Whenever a direction is given either orally, visually, or is kinesthetically demonstrated by the teacher, many students fail to follow the direction. Therefore, I have been focusing on strategies that can be used to help students follow different types of directions. I believe that these techniques will help the students to succeed in their future classrooms. It has been a journey, but the students are on their way to following directions!

"Art is literacy of the heart": Using Art to Enhance Kindergarten Writing Performance
Michelle Fritchman, Intern, Gray's Woods Elementary, Kindergarten

Kindergarteners are full of imagination and wonder in a world that is constantly offering new information and possibilities. With this vast range of imagination, I have noticed immense creativity in my classroom. I have always been an artistic person with a great passion and love for art that I enjoy sharing with my students. As I worked with children in my class I have seen students excel at illustrating their writing and others only begin to unveil their talents. These observations led me to wonder how art can enhanceself-expression and performance in Kindergarten writers. Through this journey using a variety of art mediums, we explored a chance to use the freedom art offers to express ideas.

Why Won't Johnny (and Jenny) Write? How One Intern Made Kid Writing More Motivating for Kindergarteners
Molly Selzer, Intern, Easterly Parkway Elementary, Kindergarten

When my students’ parents were in school, the question was “Why Johnny can’t write?” That was the title of the December 1975 issue of Newsweek. Now the question is “Why my kindergartners won’t write?” As I watched my students’ motivation towards “kid writing” decline as the school year went on, I wanted to know how teachers could make kid writing more motivating for their students.

Let's "Talk" Math!: Investigating the Use of Mathematical Discourse, or "Math Talk," in a Lower-Achieving Elementary Class
Rachel Mountz, Intern, Easterly Parkway Elementary, 4th Grade

Math is one of those “love it or hate it” subjects. Building confidence in our students and keeping that confidence up is one important part of teaching a successful math class. Every class is different and requires a specific set of motivating techniques to keep them on their toes! Here’s an idea - how might mathematical discourse (student-centered discussions) using “math talk moves” benefit a lower-achieving math class?

Turning Frustration into Motivation: Writing in a First Grade Classroom
Samantha Spidle, Intern, Gray's Woods Elementary, 1st Grade

In my first grade classroom, one of the most difficult and frustrating parts of the day was writing.  Transitioning from Kid-Writing in kindergarten to a more structured Writer’s Workshop environment was a difficult move for most of my six and seven year olds.  In my inquiry I attempted to alleviate some of this frustration by incorporating interventions aimed at motivating my first grade writers.  During this presentation you will learn how providing my students with tools for keeping track of their new editing responsibilities, and offering an audience for my young authors, made all the difference in the world.

"I'm finished, can I type now?": Can student collaboration positively influence students as writers?
Sarah Baker, Intern, Easterly Parkway Elementary, 4th Grade

“I’m finished, can I type now?” These are the words that I heard repeatedly during writing time in my fourth-grade classroom. Many students had the idea that once all their ideas were written on the paper they were done with the piece and ready to move onto their final draft. Where was the proofreading and editing? Who could help with the proofreading and editing? To help students become less dependent on an adult, I introduced my students to many different peer editing and sharing opportunities.  This inquiry seeks to discover how student collaboration can improve writing and how the collaboration can improve student relationships in the classroom community.

But I Swear I Turned It In....Increasing Sixth Graders' Independence and Accountability
Stephanie Anglestein, Intern, Park Forest Middle, 6th Grade

One of my first lessons this year was that sixth graders forget to write their name on their homework almost as often as their younger elementary school peers. September brought on my ability to quickly identify each of my 26 students’ handwriting. November resulted in constant reminders for students to make up late work. By January, I began to wonder why a handful of my students were able to keep track of their assignments, while the rest lacked organizational skills that would contribute to their success. This inquiry explores how self-monitoring can help students develop more independence and accountability for their assignments.

New Kid on the Block: How to integrate a new student into an already established community
Stephanie Clowes, Intern, Ferguston Township Elementary, 2nd Grade

At the beginning of the year, my second grade classroom developed into a strong community of learners.  When a new student joined us in January, I was surprised to see that he was not becoming part of this community.  I began wondering why this was happening and asked myself what I could do to help.  Through multiple interventions I explored different ways to aid a new student in becoming part of a strong classroom community.