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2012-2013 SCASD-PSU Teacher Inquiry Conference Abstracts and Papers

“Do We Have to Read Today?” - Increasing Student Level and Interest in Reading for Fourth Graders

Emily Beisswenger, Intern (Easterly Parkway Elementary School, 4th Grade)

In my fourth grade classroom there is a wide range of reading abilities.  Even though my mentor and I were using the café menu and the students were doing well, I personally felt that I was not being effective during conferences.  I felt that I wasn’t challenging some students while other students were not receiving the support they needed.  I wanted students to be interested and motivated about reading and not just go through the motions.  In my inquiry, I looked at which strategies and techniques could be used to not only increase students reading level, but also to motivate students to read and be engaged during the reading process.  These strategies were based upon reading ability and took into account if students were struggling or advanced readers.

“Can I be done yet?:”  Encouraging Kindergarteners to Self-Assess Their Own Work

Abigail Birk, Intern (Easterly Parkway Elementary School, Kindergarten)

“Can I be done yet?”  This is the question I get asked several times a day by my very eager kindergarten students.  Often times this would be followed by me sending them back to their seats because their work was missing punctuation, capital letters were put in the wrong places, pictures lacked detail, etc.  Soon, I began to wonder if they really knew when their work was done, so I designed an inquiry that focused on giving students the tools to self-assess their own work and provided students with motivating projects in order to aid them in producing quality representations of their learning.  This presentation describes how I took concepts from CAFE, puppeteering, class discussion, self-assessment, and, most importantly imagination, to foster my students in assessing whether or not their work was “done yet.”

Windows and Mirrors: Approaching Sensitive Issues While Reading Classroom Texts

Leah Brown, Intern (State College South High School, 10th Grade English)

Given the diverse individualities of students, educators can show students windows and mirrors to the worlds in which they live as they crack open the books they read in their classrooms to explore sensitive topics such as racial tension, gender and sexuality, religion, culture, and identity in the classroom.

“Mouths Closed, and Eyes Up Here”: Giving Students Opportunities to Talk During the Day

Samantha Brunsvold, Intern (Ferguson Township Elementary School, 1st Grade)

First grade students love to talk and share their stories, but how does a teacher funnel this into positive classroom discussion? In a first grade classroom that is full of energetic, bright students I have wondered how I could take their spontaneous chatter and channel it appropriately. I encouraged student voice through class meetings and used their ideas to develop a variety of structured opportunities for student talk. Through this inquiry I learned a great deal about the power of giving student voice in decision-making.

Make a PAWS-itive Difference: Service Learning in Kindergarten

Ashley Buck, Intern (Lemont Elementary School, Kindergarten)

Service learning provides a context in which students, even young ones, can practice democracy and citizenry.  There is a lack of empirical research discussing elementary aged students and civic engagement, including service learning.  Through systematic observation, interviews, and surveys I discuss my current group of kindergarteners finding success with service learning in exceeding social benchmarks, such as exhibiting empathy and kindness without extrinsic motivation, in addition to achieving Common Core standards.

Reel Literacy: Engaging 21st Century Texts

Floyd A. Butler II, Intern (State College South High School, 9th Grade English)

It is time for secondary English classrooms to completely engage in 21st century texts. Specifically, the consumption of film as film, is a literacy practice that must be incorporated into secondary English curriculums, not as a supplement, but as an irrevocable staple. Moreover, different mediums require different methods of engagement, and the goal is to foster skills for engaging all texts, but each individual text must be acknowledged for its own conventions and functionality.

A Journey Through Reading

Breanne Case, Intern (Houserville Elementary School, 4th Grade)

My inquiry is about discovering the path that children travel as readers. I’m looking to find ways to help children individually during reading even within whole group instruction. I’m learning what questions I can ask when conferring to assess their understanding and developmental levels. I’m observing and noticing skills students are using, or skills that they should be using. So far, I’ve found that students all develop as readers at their own individual rate. I’ve noticed that there are groups of kids who use similar strategies when they read. There are also groups that need to work on specific skills. I’ve found that if I ask certain questions, I can have a better understanding of what they are learning and where future instruction should continue or begin.

Illustrated Learning

Danee Collett, Intern (Gray's Woods Elementary School, 3rd Grade)

When introducing the concepts of energy to a class of 19 third graders, my mentor and I found that illustrating the concepts on the white board for the students was a powerful tool for engaging learners and providing them with a visual of the content we were reading about. After a survey that was distributed to the class, I found that 18 of the 19 students appreciate when we illustrate new content as opposed to simply reading and talking about new information. Many of the students said that the illustrations make remembering the information easier. Throughout my inquiry I have used the success of illustration as a teaching tool and explored the benefits of sketch notebooks to help students learn new content.

Intern Intervention Initiative: An Elementary Team Working With PDS Interns To Target Instructional Interventions For At-Risk Students

Jill Corkery, Instructional Coach (Houserville Elementary); Mike Maclay, PDA (Houserville Elementary); Candy Stahl, PDA (Houserville Elementary)

PDS interns from Penn State University at Houserville Elementary School in State College, Pennsylvania, work with the principal, coach and PDA to identify, assess, intervene, and monitor students who have demonstrated a need for improvement in reading. With support, the intern develops and follows the assessment/intervention cycle beginning. This session will discuss the collaboration that occurs between all stakeholders to benefit intern and student development. It will include reflections on practice by the interns, as well as the mentor teachers. The presentation will weigh the benefits for students, interns, teachers, coaches, and the total school community.

Exploring the effect of self-awareness on classroom culture

Mattison Curran, Intern (Mount Nittany Middle School, 6th Grade)

In a sixth grade classroom that was noticeably quieter than others, I wondered what made my students so reluctant to share during class discussions. Having read their written work for months, I knew they had valuable thoughts and opinions to offer in our conversations. Through community building activities and the natural development of friendships, I sensed a close connection between the students; so why did they clam up when posed with an open-ended question in class?  An anonymous survey highlighted the words “nervous” and “embarrassed” in most of their responses. Most students said they enjoyed hearing their classmates’ comments, stories, and connections, but indicated that they did not feel comfortable sharing themselves. I began the inquiry process by exploring possible reasons for their discomfort; then experimented with activities and assignments to help them open up. Although many variables were applied, my goal remained constant: to encourage conversations that would result in common growth; not just social, but academic.

#Collaboration and the Classroom

Samantha Curti, Intern (State College South High School, 10th Grade English)

Technology has transformed the way students communicate, collaborate, and associate with one another. This presentation explores students’ experiences with virtual collaboration through new technologies and social networking platforms, and considers the possibilities as well as the implications for incorporating these into classroom practices

Peer supports: A means to student independence

Rachael Deiner, Intern (Park Forest Elementary School; 3rd and 4th Grade)

Throughout the year I noticed some of my students relied heavily on paraprofessional support and I began to inquire how I could make these students more independent thinkers. Peer supports seemed to be an obvious choice to decrease the amount of adult dependence in the classroom. Peer supports are students within the classroom setting that can provide social or academic support to their classmates. My goal when implementing peer supports was to not only increase student independence but to also increase interactions between all members of the class. The students doing the supporting were given checklists to follow to help guide them in being a peer support. All students involved reflected on a weekly basis to give me a sense of how they were feeling about the system. I focused the peer support efforts in the areas of writing, social studies, and science.

“Why are we doing this?”: Value Systems and Relevant Schooling

Sarah Dianese, Intern (State College High School North, 9th, 10th, and 12th Grade English)

Students come from many different cultures and value systems, making it impractical to take a “one size fits all” approach to teaching. This session will focus on homework to explore the reasons behind students' differing values for school and ways to make education relevant to all.

“So you think you can talk and be productive?”

Sara Dieter, Intern (Park Forest Elementary, 5th Grade)

It is human nature to communicate with others. During the school day, teachers have to often remind students to stop talking in order to focus on their work.  But to what extent does student-to-student talk affect work completion or quality of work in long-term projects? In my classroom, students have a tendency to talk while they are supposed to be completing their work. Communication is a vital part to learning in many regards, but is there a place for it during independent work time? In addition to completing multiple tasks, such as talking and working independently, students must be self-aware.  When they know how they are most productive, can they self-advocate to make it happen? My presentation highlights my research and subsequent data findings.

“Catch Me If You Can!” Says the Gingerbread Bear: Kindergartners “Run, Run, Run” to Collect Evidence While Writing the “Recipe” for Science Talks

Shari Dillon, Kindergarten Teacher; Alicia McDyre, PDS Methods Instructor and PhD Candidate

Laying the groundwork for science talks, kindergarten teachers will share samples of student notebooks and video clips from their Gingerbread Bear investigations.

“Will” Power: Engaging Reluctant 21st Century Readers with Shakespeare

Carolyn Dodd, Intern (State College South High School, 10th Grade English)

Shakespeare is often a hurdle over which many of our students must “fall down, or else o'erleap” as his works endure as standard core texts.  This presentation will explore how we can engage reluctant 21st century readers with these challenging 400-year-old plays through four modes of interaction with the Bard’s work including intertextuality, media and technology, and physical performance.

Closing the Gap in Choice Reading

Maura Duxbury, Intern (Park Forest Middle School, 6th Grade)

Across the country, there is a serious achievement gap between readers who have been exposed to books since a young age and those who have not.  By sixth grade, students with less supportive home lives and other negative factors affecting their success not only continue to lose motivation to succeed as readers, but also face disappointment in repeated reading failure.  By introducing free choice in reading, are we closing or widening the gap between high and low achieving readers?  My inquiry studies the impact of personal conferencing, reading journals, and text-to-self connections on low achieving, less enthusiastic readers; learners who have developed negative self-image as a reader by falling into the vicious cycle of non-comprehension and avoidance of reading. 

Chickens or Eggs? Either way, We Cross the Road

Joe Evans, Intern (State College High School, 9th and 11th Grade English)

Which comes first, interpretation of the text or interpretation of our lives? As we ask students to bring their own liveliness and understandings to our discussions, how do we encourage a value in the texts while maintaining intersections outside of the classroom?

Prompting Students to Become More Enthusiastic Writers

Christina Ferdock, Intern (Easterly Park Elementary School, 4th Grade)

How can I encourage students to become more excited about writing and want to write more? This is the question I began to explore after noticing that several of my fourth graders had difficulties writing for prolonged periods of time. I began having the students write in response to a prompt two to three times a week in a personal journal. After noticing students’ varying participation during journal sharing time, I began to wonder if using different types of prompts for the weekly journal entries could increase students’ motivation to write. I was surprised by the results, but I found a way to increase students’ motivation and willingness to write more.

Reading Engagement through Daily 5 in the Primary Grades

Chelsea Finley, Intern (Park Forest Elementary School, 1st and 2nd Grades)

After observing the reading and writing processes of Daily 5 take place within my first and second grade classroom I began to inquire about how engaged my students were as they participated in the phases of this process.  In particular, were my students engaged while reading to themselves or reading to a partner? Weeks of observations proved that at least half of my students were off task the majority of the time, especially when they were reading to themselves. Through a couple of intervention strategies, I came to find that the reason for these students being off task had less to do with good fit books and more to do with accountability. Please come to my presentation and learn more about the interventions that were implemented to help the students in my classroom move from off-task to on-task during Daily 5.

From Penguins to Wetlands to Spring: Motivating Writers through the use of Writing Centers

Carly Furino, Intern (Ferguson Township Elementary School, 2nd Grade)

After seeing the frustration in some of my students’ faces during writer’s workshop, I began to wonder about what I could do to make writing fun and meaningful for these students. Therefore, I designed writing centers within my classroom to try and enhance and motivate student writing. These writing centers included reading, science, social studies, poetry, and art. I wanted to see if integrating the content areas and writing would motivate the students to write more. Throughout these centers, I also integrated the second grade writing standards, so that the students could practice the skills of writing an informational and persuasive writing. In addition, I started a “Traveling Mr. Penguin”  project with my students where every night a new student got the chance to take Mr. Penguin home and write about their experience. I wanted my students to see the meaning, richness, and excitement that writing can have. I wanted my students to take pride in there writing, and feel confident in their writing and ideas. My inquiry focused on trying to motivate and enhance student writing through the use of writing centers and interactive writing activities.

Participation in the Classroom

Megan Germ, Intern (Easterly Parkway Elementary School, 3rd Grade)

I have nineteen students in my classroom, but sometimes it seems that there are only three. As I observed and taught different lessons, I noticed that I had three students who dominated discussions and always participated by raising their hands, wanting to answer every question. It was strange to me that my other sixteen students would not raise their hands to share their ideas, but when they were called on, they would know the answer and share relevant thoughts. Through my inquiry, I investigated the factors that influence, and perhaps even enhance, participation during whole-group instruction.

Tone it down! Negotiating Students Who Control the Tone of the Classroom Environment

Anna Grimaldi, Intern (State College South High School, 10th Grade English)

How do we encourage all students to have a “voice” in the classroom when some students dominate classroom discussion? This presentation will examine a negotiation of student and teacher values for participation, as well as various strategies that aim to create a successful classroom community.

iPads Go Outdoors

Kimber Hershberger, Teacher (3rd Grade); Judi Kur, Teacher (1st Grade); Cheryl Isola, Teacher (Kindergarten)

K-3 students use iPads to document seasonal changes and explore their school yard. Learn about a variety of apps to use with helping students to observe and collect evidence to use as part of their science investigations.

Fostering L2 Communication in the Language Classroom

Nathan Hollister, Intern (State College Area High School, 7th-12th Grade Spanish 2 & 3)

In the foreign language classroom, it is important to provide students with not only written practice but also speaking practice. When working with novice and intermediate level students, I found that students were much more likely to practice their communicative abilities meaningfully when those interactions were tied to a consequence. This is where Star Days came into play where English (the students’ L1) was not permitted in the classroom from bell to bell. While it was important that students be able to communicate effectively on these, it was also important that students understood that perfection was not expected of them. I believe that this led to a little less stress about speaking Spanish in an already stressful situation. Students later demonstrated that they understood the purpose of this classroom practice regardless of whether or not they liked it. This session will be about the ups and downs of utilizing a system in order to foster communication in the students’ second language.

Climate Change…on Our Playground?

Kate Hooper, Mentor; Cheryl McCarty, Mentor

Come learn how teachers, elementary students, and university faculty designed a service-learning project to examine the impact climate change is having on their environment in central Pennsylvania.

How Can You Have Any Pudding If You Don’t Eat Your Meat?:  Teaching Students Who Don’t Value School

Caitlin R. Hunt, Intern (State College North High School, 12th Grade English)

Too often in today’s society, students are conditioned to believe that they must do well in high school in order to move onto a four-year university and have a successful life.  But how can we effectively teach students whose social worlds do not value school?  This presentation will explore emergent curriculum as a means of preparing these types of students for whatever they will be pursuing after high school.

Inquiry into Independence in Third and Fourth Grade Students

Kristen Jados, Intern (Radio Park Elementary School, 3rd and 4th Grade); Laura Reed, Intern (Radio Park Elementary School, 3rd and 4th Grade)

Throughout the year, we have noticed how independence levels affect productivity in students, teachers and the classroom as a whole. We wondered how we could increase students’ independence so they rely more on themselves than on us. As we think about our future careers as educators, we want our students to be as productive as possible while only having one adult in the classroom. The goal of our inquiry was to give our students the opportunity to think about their definition of independence and to recognize how to become a more independent student. This experience not only helped us explore how we as teachers can develop independence in our third and fourth grade students, but also provided us with a very powerful professional development opportunity.

Increasing Engagement of Learners in a Lower Level Math Class

Lauren Jeffrey, Intern (Park Forest Elementary School, 5th Grade)

In a slower pace math class, uninterested students can be harder to engage and keep engaged. Knowing how to engage these students in a way that increases their chances of learning is important for the success of the class. During this inquiry process, my mentor and I implemented lessons using interactive math journals and small group instruction to increase engagement of these students. Throughout this process, participation began to increase and off-task behavior began to decrease.

Cooperative Skills: Skills for Life-Long Learning

Kelly Kiefer, Intern (Mount Nittany Middle School, 6th Grade)

My inquiry follows the question: How can I begin to establish habits in my students so they can work more cooperatively in groups? Being able to work cooperatively is a skill set that is needed to be successful in many aspects of your life.  Working with peers, playing on teams and collaborating with colleagues all require cooperative skills. Cooperation is an important skill set that requires practice.  Sixth graders need the chance to practice using social skills as well as academic skills. Playing productive roles in the groups encouraged participation from group members.

How do Professional Development triads (mentor, intern and supervisor or coach) inquire into and talk about student work in elementary mathematics?

M J Kitt, PDA; Gail Romig, Instructional Coach

In this study, data was collected as PDS triads talked about student work in mathematics.  First the PDS triad met to select and discuss a student for whom there is a concern in mathematics.  Two to three types of student work were selected to provide insight into how to address the concern.  The intern gathered, or developed if necessary, student assessment tools, administered them and assessed the results.  A second triad meeting was then arranged to discuss the results and to plan an individualized plan of instruction for the student.  The conversations of the triads were studied to determine the focus of their discussions and how it affected future instructional plans.

Why Can’t We Be Friends? Fostering Positive Interactions Between First Grade Students

Olivia Kohler, Intern (Ferguson Township Elementary School, 1st Grade)

As my first grade students started to become more comfortable with the classroom and each other, I began to notice that some interactions between certain students were less than favorable. In order to strengthen our classroom community, I began teaching weekly friendship lessons that included conflict resolution skills. My inquiry opened my eyes to the complexities of first grade friendships and gave me insight into the role a teacher can play in developing these relationships.

Who’s making the “Boy Books” Boy Books? How perceptions of gender influence interpretation in the classroom

Dan Landers-Nolan, Intern (State College South High School, 10th Grade English and 12th Grade Sports and Adventure Literature)

Historically gendered works such as Macbeth and Lord of the Flies conjure up several questions for educators: Do characters like Jack and Lady Macbeth polarize the classroom? How do characters like Piggy and Macbeth fit into a student’s expectations? This presentation will discuss these questions and how they can be used to inform teaching.

Enhancing Student Learning Through Music

Madeline Large, Intern (Mount Nittany Middle School, 6th Grade)

This inquiry has helped me to conclude that music is a powerful force that speaks to everyone in different ways. It has the power to complement ideas with emotions.  Music blends thinking with feeling.  When used strategically, it can also be a significant aid in memory recall. My interest in this topic stems from my own love of music and my desire to use it as a tool to enhance student learning in the classroom. Through interventions such as “teaching tunes,” student-created raps, and lyric studies, I was able to explore student responses to musical learning in terms of engagement, participation, and academic growth.

The Art of Storytelling

Rachel Levin, Intern (Radio Park Elementary School, 2nd Grade)

What am I doing wrong? Do they even notice I’m talking? Why can’t I get my students to settle down and actually listen to me for once? These were questions I asked myself everyday, until I was introduced to the art of storytelling. This inquiry focuses on using storytelling as a means to increase my presence and classroom management skills in an active second grade classroom. Over the course of my inquiry, I began noticing positive changes in my management skills and in how my students viewed me. They were excited to come to the rug, and hung on every word I said to the point where they could repeat the stories themselves. Storytelling quickly infused itself into our daily routine.

Engaging Early Writers: The Impact of Students’ Personal Interests

Amy Lewis, Intern (Gray's Woods Elementary School, Kindergarten)

In a literacy workshop approach, students are expected to occasionally work independently. For Kindergarten students this can be especially challenging. In my classroom, I observed students who were off-task and unmotivated to write without adult guidance. In many cases students were not completing or even beginning an assigned task in the allotted time. I wondered if student engagement would increase by incorporating individual interests into writing activities. Through student interviews, video analysis and assessment of student artifacts, I learned more about my students and how to motivate them to become independent writers.

Poetry for the Stages: Using Theatrical Elements to Explore Poetry

Madeline Libkin, Intern (State College North High School, 11th Grade English)

Will transforming poetry into performance affect students' understanding and engagement? In this session, I’ll explore how the study of this theatrical trans mediation impacted the way my students interacted with the poems we studied.

“This is Too Easy!” Pushing and Motivating Advanced Learners During Reader’s Workshop

Staffi Luk, Intern (Easterly Parkway Elementary School, Kindergarten)

During Reader’s Workshop time, I noticed through systematic observation that four of my students who are reading well above the kindergarten benchmark were often off-task and unmotivated to do their work. Through one-on-one interviews with each of them, I was able to see that they preferred to sit and talk with others at the centers, instead of engaging in the activity at hand. Implementing several interventions, such as providing a variety of word work options and engaging the students in deeper-level discussions, I saw an increase in attention during Reader’s Workshop. During my presentation, I will explain how I implemented activities through the help of various sources to keep my students motivated and challenged during Reader’s Workshop.

HOMEWORK, BUSY WORK, AND MISSING WORK:  an exploration of how different types of homework relate to the classroom

Jeff M. Luttermoser, Intern (State College North High School, 12th Grade English)

Looking specifically at a group of seniors months away from graduation, we will explore ideal homework, and how its form and purpose determine its ability to support, or inhibit learning.

Increasing Student Engagement and Participation in Math

Meaghan Lyons, Intern (Park Forest Middle School, 6th Grade)

Throughout the year, my students have had the opportunity to learn math both conceptually and procedurally.  During the fall, I began to notice that the students seemed to struggle when learning new concepts.  I also noticed that many of them did not seem to be engaged and seldom participated in the math discussions.  As a result, I decided to focus my inquiry on creating more engaging learning activities that promote participation and an eagerness to learn.  I experimented with several interventions and found that they had a positive effect on student learning.

Bullying in Middle School

Lauren Lynch, Student Teacher (Central Mountain Middle School, 7th and 8th Grade)

I will conduct interviews with my students about the prevalence of bullying in middle school and their ideas of how to deal with bullying. What teachers can do to help students that are being bullied.

I think I can!  A look at students’ self-efficacy and its effect on academic achievement.

Kristin Macaulay, Intern (Radio Park Elementary School, 3rd Grade)

As teachers, we often hear about a lack of motivation from students. I am constantly pondering the best way to solve the issues of uncompleted work and disinterested attitudes. For my inquiry, I have chosen to take a different approach to these concerns. Instead of looking to find a solution, my inquiry focuses on why these issues occur in the first place. In order to better understand my students, I have studied their thoughts about themselves and school to see how this affects their overall achievement.

Getting Along: An examination of interpersonal communication skills among fourth graders

Anna McAloon, Intern (Gray's Woods Elementary School, 4th Grade)

My inquiry stems from the social interactions that I see in my fourth grade classroom. I wondered why I saw so much relational aggression within gender and between genders. There lational aggression seen in my classroom consisted mainly of spreading gossip and rumors, as well as exclusion. I decided to implement some positive communication strategies in the classroom to try and influence the way in which students interacted with one another. These strategies included a classroom “bucket filling” initiative and circles based upon the idea of restorative circles. I wanted to find out if students could move beyond their socio-emotional developmental characteristics and previous actions toward building a stronger community.

Time to Blog! Investigating How Audience Affects Students’ Motivation to Write

Elizabeth Menold, Intern (Gray's Woods Elementary School, 2nd Grade)

Motivating second grade students to write can often be a struggle. I wondered how I could sparkstudent interest in writing by offering a novel outlet. I investigated how providing authentic writing opportunities could increase on task behavior and interest in writing. This inquiry focuses on using blogging as a tool and provides opportunities for students to write for a different audience.

“It’s Triple Threat Time!”: Implementing Literacy Stations in 6th Grade

Brittany Meshberg, Intern (Park Forest Middle School, 6th Grade)

How Do Literacy Stations Impact Student Learning?  It is a common instructional approach used for elementary school students. So, why can’t it be modified for middle school students? After assessing my sixth graders needs as learners as well as their disconnect between reading and writing, I implemented a ninety minute literacy block twice a week comprised of three stations - Rockstar Reading, Witty Writing, and Star Service. As a seasoned performer, I incorporated my theatrical experiences into the classroom and related the “Triple Threat” mentality in theater to my students’ learning.  In other words, my original goal was to create “Rockstar Readers” who independently explored different genres of books through guided choice, “Witty Writers” who were inspired to use their imaginations and craft a story based on a picture, and lastly, “Star Service,”  to provide students my attention in a small group setting to ensure all learners’ needs were met. After weeks of researching different instructional methods, collecting data, collaborating with colleagues, and evaluating my sixth graders, I found that student learning was strongly impacted by establishing expectations and procedures, providing students with visual art as a motivator to write and eliciting and valuing student feedback on a weekly basis to improve Triple Threat Time.

iMath: Utilizing iPads as an instruction tool with advanced math learners

Carolina Mickelson, Intern (Radio Park Elementary School, 1st Grade)

Technology has quickly become an ever-present force in classrooms today. As an intern in a first grade classroom, I am fortunate to have access to a form of technology that fits easily into my students’ own two hands, the iPad.

Through various observations of my students using this form of technology, it became evident they all enjoyed using iPads to play games and watch videos. However, I began to wonder how I could incorporate the use of iPads into instruction for more productive purposes. For my inquiry, I decided to focus on integrating the use of iPads into math instruction to enhance the current math curriculum, challenge the thinking of advanced math learners in my classroom, and make math a more fun and interactive activity for these students. Since I was using the school set of iPads, which I could not alter, I also focused on finding new and mathematical uses for common, everyday iPad apps.

Fighting for the Spotlight: Interruptions vs. Engaged Learning Time

Rachel Mittl, Intern (Park Forest Elementary, 5th Grade)

Ringing telephones, sudden loudspeaker announcements, and occasional teacher visits: the guaranteed events in a teacher’s daily life.  These interruptions often happen in order to maintain the safety and success of every student.  However, these routine occurrences cut into a teacher’s time for engaging students in the content that needs to be covered.  Struggling to pull students back and refocus them can prove to be an arduous task unless these interruptions are minimized or reduced all together.  Through investigating student behavior after a disruption occurs and monitoring the types of interruptions most prevalent in our classroom, I hope to find possible solutions to prevent the loss of engaged learning time in the future.  Much to my surprise, I had not yet uncovered the most disruptive interruption in my class.

Motivating Students to Write: Which Strategies Work?

Alyssa Myer, Intern (Mount Nittany Middle School, 6th Grade)

Since the beginning of the school year, I noticed that my students had low motivation to write. Their assignments were turned in late, and often contained many careless mistakes. They did not seem to get excited about the assorted writing prompts they were assigned. What was the reason for this? What were the key factors contributing to my students’ lack of motivation to write? Which strategies can I implement in order to increase their motivation and get them excited about writing? After doing some research, and after analyzing various data I collected from my students, I decided to implement more choice, variety, and sharing with peers in our writing lessons. My presentation will describe my journey, findings, and results.

Talking Without Words

Rebecca Oliver, Intern (Park Forest Elementary School, Kindergarten)

While working in a Kindergarten classroom, I noticed my students needing support from adults on a consistent basis.  Likewise, I noticed a lot of interruptions during instructional time.  I wondered if my students could communicate their wants and needs in a non-verbal way-sign language.  I also wondered about the impact of sign language might have on behavior management, classroom procedures, and the exchange of feelings between students. While implementing American Sign Language, I gained insight on various advantages and disadvantages of using sign language in a Kindergarten classroom.

Discovering Differentiation: Motivating and Engaging Third Grade Students

Natalie Osborn, Intern (Ferguson Township Elementary School, 3rd Grade)

In my third grade classroom, I recognized that some students did not appear engaged during the learning process. As a growing teacher, I wanted to look more closely at what motivates students during lessons and how to increase their engagement through differentiating instruction and utilizing their varied learning styles. I have continued to use differentiated instruction by allowing students to move around the classroom, utilizing interactive videos and incorporating music, as well as incorporating student interest and choice, where appropriate, into lesson planning. Through this, I have noticed that students have been highly engaged in lessons and a majority of the class chooses to participate in discussions. Differentiated instruction has now become an essential component of my teaching philosophy.

Creating A Student Centered Mathematics Class: A look into using the workshop approach when teaching mathematics to increase student engagement.

Erin Pastuszek, Intern (Corl Street Elementary School, 5th Grade)

Reflecting on my own challenges in mathematics class, as well as knowing that all students have different learning styles and needs, I began to wonder about various teaching strategies that aid in increasing student engagement.  After observing my mentor teacher use the workshop model during mathematics class one day, I became interested in learning more about this approach.  More specifically, I wondered how this model benefited students and how it is designed and managed.  Please come join me as I share what I’ve learned about the many benefits of the mathematics workshop approach and how you can incorporate it into your classroom.

Let’s Talk About It: Encouraging Student Discussion in a Sixth Grade Classroom

Katherine Preston, Intern (Mount Nittany Middle School, 6th Grade)

In my sixth grade classroom, my students enjoy talking with each other about the latest social issues and happenings of Mount Nittany Middle School. However, when I tried to get them to share their ideas during our literature discussions, I found it to be very teacher-centered: I was asking all of the questions.  Through my inquiry, I wanted to learn what teaching strategies were successful in getting my students to dialogue with each other during a literature discussion with little teacher assistance.  In my presentation, I will be sharing which tools and strategies were most successful in increasing student participation, as well as decreasing teacher facilitation.

Does MATH actually stand for “Mental Abuse Towards Humans?”- Exploring students’ expectations in two lower level math classes

Emily Rishel, Intern (Park Forest Middle School, 6th Grade); Ashle Garman, Intern (Park Forest Middle School, 6th Grade)

As beginning teachers, we noticed the challenge of instructing students who appear to demonstrate little to no concern or interest in the subject. In both classrooms, we found common patterns in terms of students’ classroom engagement and heard negative comments about the content area and themselves. During our inquiry process, we explored what effect students’ expectations have on their effort and performance. This study takes a deeper look at students’ attitudes toward math from the perspective of sixth grade students placed in co-taught lower level math classes.

Discovering the Word Wall in First Grade

Megan Roney, Intern (Mount Nittany Elementary School, 1st Grade)

This year in my classroom, I noticed that the word wall takes up a significant amount of space in our room. I started to wonder if my students and I were using the word wall to its fullest potential. Through my inquiry I wanted to see how students were using the word wall on a daily basis and to find out what they wanted to do with the word wall. I also wanted to find out the variety of ways it might fit into our daily routine. I learned that the word wall is an interesting, yet challenging topic, and there are a variety of ways to use it beneficially for my students.

Musical Mechanics: Learning in First Grade Through Sing-a-long

Mollie Rosen, Intern (Easterly Parkway Elementary School, 1st Grade)

In my first grade classroom we have had the opportunity to learn in writer’s workshop through a variety of ways. Through careful observation, it had become apparent that my students really struggled to successfully include appropriate mechanics during independent writing time. I quickly grew curious as to how I could help my students and hopefully connect with them in a new way. I decided to address this issue by teaching my students particular mechanics rules through the use of song. I felt that this new tool would be just what these children needed to be successful in my first grade classroom. My inquiry explores what benefits there are to teaching this diverse group of learners through a new lens.

Silence is Golden: What using sign language taught me about behavior management in kindergarten

Amanda Sayer, Intern (Gray's Woods Elementary School, Kindergarten)

Whole group instruction in kindergarten can be challenging given the impulsivity and short attention span of five-year-olds. This inquiry began with my interest in sign language, and grew as I wondered how to help my kindergarten students communicate their needs silently while I am teaching. What are its specific advantages and disadvantages in a whole group setting? Would using sign language sufficiently communicate teacher expectations? I hope my findings will allow other teachers to recognize how incorporating sign language into a classroom can affect behavior management.

Investigating the relationship between fine motor skills and handwriting

Stephanie Schwed, Intern (Easterly Parkway Elementary School, Kindergarten)

As I work with my kindergarten students during Writer’s Workshop, I can’t help but notice the quality of their handwriting. Many of the students have light pencil strokes or huge letters.  I wondered what sorts of things contributed to this handwriting? And as a result, what sort of effect did their poor handwriting have on their quality of work and overall attitude towards writing?  I took a closer look at what sorts of five-minute activities I could implement in my classroom to strengthen hands and refine motor skills and how these activities could improve handwriting overall.  Furthering this, I took an even closer look at how I could use these different techniques while planning my whole group lessons to develop the entire class’s handwriting skills.

Hey wait, this isn’t what we agreed on!

Allison Scoble, Intern (State College South & North High School, 9th, 11th, and 12th Grade English)

How can preconceived notions about how “school works” influence student perceptions of classroom community? This session explores how the classroom climate evolves through student perceptions of grades, class discussions, social media, and student/teacher relationships.

Free Reading Friday: Why We Spent 20% of Classtime Reading for Pleasure

Suzi Shelton, Intern (State College South High School, 9th Grade English)

What does an effective Silent Sustained Reading environment look like and what are the benefits? This inquiry examines a year long effort to make 9th grade students “readers,” the plan to reach this goal, and how to effectively implement SSR time in the future.

The Many Faces of Management in First Grade

Alyson Shenker, Intern (Gray's Woods Elementary School, 1st Grade)

At the beginning of each school year, every teacher is met with the challenge of establishing effective management strategies. It is the teacher’s responsibility to accommodate all students, and ensure that expectations and procedures are clearly laid out. As an intern, I found it challenging to get all of my students to attend to me while teaching. I began this inquiry with the hopes of finding behavior management strategies that felt authentic to me, and were engaging and exciting for my students. What I learned through this inquiry helped me find my voice as a teacher and strengthened my management skills.

“It’s Cool to Choose What I Read”: Encouraging Student Choice During Read to Self

Caitlin Simcox, Intern (Ferguson Township Elementary School, Kindergarten)

I believe that encouraging student book choice can be influential in developing successful readers. Based on observations in my Kindergarten classroom throughout this year, I wondered how I could encourage and support my students to make book choices that were interesting to each individual child. I also wondered how I could incorporate different genres of books and use of technology into Read to Self. I provided students with a variety of instructional level books and iPad timers to see if those supports would increase time on task. With student choice as the driving force in my inquiry, I, with the support and encouragement of my mentor, sought to provide structure and variety within Read to Self.

Motivating and Engaging Primary Writers

Erika Smith, Intern (Park Forest Elementary School, 1st and 2nd Grade Multiage)

Students at the primary grade levels are passionate and very energetic.  As my students were writing during the first half of the year, I started to wonder how I could get them to write with greater passion and detail without having them lose interest or focus.  More specifically, I wanted to look at how I could motivate and engage them in writing.  Come and see how I used Zines for writing instruction and how this writing style influenced student motivation and engagement.

School Spirit and It’s Effects on Student Learning

Staci Speece, Intern (Central Mountain High School, 9th-12th Grades)

Having pride in a school has more of a toll on our students than we think. Creating a safe and welcoming environment in our school helps us create that same type of environment in our classrooms.  When students take pride in their environment, it makes them want to be in that environment more and they become more motivated.  In this presentation, I will talk about the effect of having school pride and what steps you can take to promote school pride if you do not see a lot currently.

Three Minutes Is All It Takes: How does physical activity and movement improve student on-task behavior?

Tegan Stanford, Intern (Gray's Woods Elementary School, 1st Grade)

Being physically active is the norm for most young children. In my first grade classroom I noticed that this need for movement was affecting my student’s ability to focus during instructional time. I decided to inquire about how incorporating physical movement throughout a typical school day would benefit the students’ ability to stay on-task. By introducing a variety of movement opportunities I learned a great deal about how to support on-task behavior through physical activity.

“Help I’m Stuck!” – Writing With First Grade

Kathleen Sullivan, Intern (Mount Nittany Elementary School, 1st Grade)

To be a better runner you have to run. To be a better piano player you have to practice playing the piano.  To be a better reader you have to read.  To be a better writer you have to write.  However in my first grade class, my students were not writing up to our expectations.  During our writing workshop, I noticed students were often sitting and staring at a paper that had few words written on it, and they were choosing to chat and use the bathroom during independent writing time, leaving little time for writing.  Based on a survey given to the class about writing, very few students actually liked writing during the designated writing workshop time of the school day.  Also, students wanted to share their writing more with the class.  Each week on Fridays during writing workshop, I implemented a free writing time.  During this time, students write about whatever they want, without restrictions, with the hope that this would increase the volume of students’ writing.

How Do You Increase the Desire to Want to Read in Fourth Graders?

Elizabeth Teeling, Intern (Ferguson Township Elementary School, 4th Grade)

As an observer in the classroom during the first semester, I noticed how much my students were not taking advantage of the time given to them to read during the day. From the very beginning of the year the students were given the freedom of book choice and as I conferenced with the students, I noticed that some of their bags were bursting with books; with further questioning I realized that some would start several books and have no desire to finish any of them while other students had difficulty straying away from a beloved series or genre. With my inquiry, I set up different stations around the room to introduce the students to different genres and media in hopes to spark interest and increase the desire to want to read.

Glass, Bug, or Mud? Self-assessment and Differentiation in a Fifth Grade Math Class

Julia Tessler, Intern (Houserville Elementary School, 5th Grade)

Even when students are already regrouped for math, there exists a wide range of abilities within a class. Differentiating instruction is a powerful tool to meet every student on their level, but can it be made more powerful by having the students decide where they fit? This inquiry focuses on helping students self-assess their understanding of math topics. Based on their self-assessments, they move to activity stations that match their level of understanding. Join me to learn if students were able to successfully assess themselves and how they benefit from differentiation.

Can Anthropological Learning Occur in Large Classrooms? Personalizing Instruction through Bimodal Organization

Nathanael Thacker, Intern (State College South High School, ESL)

Emerging dialogues and practices within the field of secondary education affirm that students receive more personalized instruction in smaller classrooms. Through a bimodal classroom organizational model, instructors in large classes can provide settings for increased feedback and dialogue with all student-learners.

What does it mean to “do your best”?

Alyssa Tourso, Intern (Radio Park Elementary School, 4th Grade)

At the beginning of the school year, I noticed that some students were unmotivated to do their best in school. Students’ abilities were often not reflective of their work habits. This knowledge led me to take a closer look at how students view their own motivation and how it relates to their performance in the classroom. By examining students’ self-perceptions, I found that their self-assessments are often contrary to their work habits. Based on my findings, I plan on incorporating a variety of strategies into my lesson plans to better meet students’ needs.

Maximizing Meaning through Multimodality

Rebecca Van Horn, Intern (State College North High School, 11th Grade)

Looking specifically at a unit on The Great Gatsby in three Advanced English classes, this presentation will explore how creating multimodal assignments allows students to find value in the text, tap into their social worlds and use trans mediation to expand their thinking.

Participation Patterns in Two Sixth Grade Classrooms: What Factors Make a Difference?

Kelli Voorhees, Intern (Park Forest Middle School, 6th Grade); Justine Hoster, Intern (Park Forest Middle School, 6th Grade)

After noticing that not all of our students were participating in class activities to the degree that we had hoped for, we started to wonder what factors affect participation and what causes students to participate.  This prompted us to create a joint inquiry about participation and the variables that affect the patterns.  Through observations, interviews, and surveys we found similarities between our classrooms.  This inquiry takes a look into our findings.

Blood Pudding and Other Doses of Culture: Implementing Culturally Responsive Practices in the Classroom

Dara Waksman, Intern (Ferguson Township Elementary School, 4th Grade)

At this time, we are seeing our world evolve as it seeks to meet the needs of the people and cultures that comprise it. With this in mind, it is pertinent more than ever to expose students to what culture is and to make them understand that every person has a culture and that culture is not “black and white”. There are so many blurred lines and no definite way of categorizing what defines a person’s culture. In showing students that culture is multi-dimensional and takes many forms, beyond those of race and ethnicity, students will begin to see and discover and understand the cultures around them. By implementing culturally responsive practices in the classroom, students are offered opportunities to start on their cultural journey as well as stimulate a new threshold of understanding. Through a literacy lens, I sought to promote the idea of culture within my classroom in order to open up lines of communication and provide students with a supportive outlet to explore these cultural avenues.

How can student interest motivate learners to work to their full potential?

Jessica Waltersdorff, Intern (Easterly Parkway Elementary School, 3rd Grade)

How do different interests, like Legos and Star Wars, motivate decisions students make throughout the day? Decisions include getting started right away, completing assignments, and being a safe and responsible learner. While observing students as they were instructed on the carpet, I noticed that there was one student who was not as engaged as the others. The student has so much to offer in the classroom, but rarely works to his full potential.  I used student interest, an interest in Legos, to develop a learning plan in collaboration with the student. This plan is used as a motivational tool to encourage him to be productive and use time wisely in the classroom across all subject areas. This plan was used with one student in my classroom based on an interest that he personally expressed in Legos.

Sequencing Lessons

Jennifer Weiss, Student Teacher (Bellwood-Antis Middle School, 7th Grade; Bellwood-Antis High School, 9th Grade)

Throughout this semester, I have been working on using a “Before, During, After” format to sequence my lessons. I have found that this is a very effective way to utilize the time in each class period. Students are oriented and are better able to anticipate what is to come in the classroom. Then students are lead through the lesson with guided practice. Finally, I am always sure to conclude my lessons in a way that brings everything together. Additionally, this format helps me as a teacher understand how to best present material to the students in a logical manner. I would like to present about this format and compare.

Diverse Perspectives on Teacher Leadership within the PDS Context

Marion Wheland, PDA; Doris Grove, PDA; William Benson, PDA; Jim Nolan, PDA

Though many have studied the topic of teacher leadership, few have looked at the concept from the point of view of teachers. We surveyed mentor teachers from across the district to help us to: 1) understand how teachers define teacher leadership; 2) identify specific examples of teacher leadership activities; and 3) identify the factors that facilitate teacher leadership as well as also those factors that make it more difficult for teachers to exhibit teacher leadership.

“It’s Time to Move!” Discovering How Brain Breaks Affect the On-Task Behaviors of Students.

Samantha Wilkes, Intern (Easterly Parkway Elementary School, 2nd Grade)

Second graders are naturally very active students and enjoy opportunities to move. Over the course of the year, I noticed that some of my students were having a hard time staying focused during the day. I began to wonder how brain breaks throughout the day would affect a group of individual students’ on-task and off-task behaviors. As I began to observe the students, I found that students were mostly off-task during the morning, which was typically writer’s workshop. After implementing various brain breaks in the morning each day, I learned how these breaks affect the on-task and off-task behaviors of some of my students.

Challenging Student Assumptions: Engaging Students in Diversified Inquiry

Ashley Williams, Intern (State College North High School, 12th Grade English)

How can we challenge our students’ assumptions without devaluing their beliefs and without disrupting classroom community? This session will explore multiple opportunities that allow students to explore and reflect on beliefs divergent from their own.

From Little Star to Daily 5: How My Perceptions of Literacy Have Changed

Rachel Wolin, Intern (Corl Street Elementary School, 1st Grade)

Over the course of my life, reading and writing played a large role in my education, from being enamored by books to creating my own poetry anthology “Little Star.” When I was first introduced to The Daily 5 reading program, many of the ideas I held about reading and writing began to change. This inquiry takes data from two different age groups and how their thoughts and use of The Daily 5 program change and affirm my opinions of how literacy can be so much more than just the ability to read and write. 

Self Esteem in the Classroom

Julia Young, Intern (Mount Nittany Elementary School, 3rd Grade)

I feel that I have come to develop very strong bonds with my students.I feel personally invested in their lives and well-being. I have found, however, that though I think positively about my students, they do not think positively about themselves. This is the focus of my inquiry. Through my findings thus far I have found that certain patterns exist. Students who are seen as “higher achieving” usually have higher self-esteem, problem solving skills, etc. I have also found that students with lower self-esteem feel less comfortable talking about their feelings.

Helping English Language Learners: How do students interact with non-English speaking

Andi Zirkle, Intern (Park Forest Elementary School, 1st and 2nd Grade Multiage)

This inquiry studied students’ interaction with ELL students. In my classroom, we had two students come into our classroom who did not speak any English. Based on this initial interaction, ‘a difference was noticed in how students in our classroom helped ELL students who speak proficient English and those who do not speak English proficiently.  In all classrooms, students who did not speak English were treated as observably different members of the classroom communities. In my classroom, this took the form of excessive “helping” from the students, but in other classrooms this difference in interactions took various forms. This inquiry also explores how non-ELL students describe their helping, what teachers think of this helping between peers, and how they built an inclusive environment for their students.