TN Student Speaks Out About Common Core, Teacher Evaluations, and Educational Data

Great speech showing a TN student’s point of view on the CCS! Check it out!



Good Reads


Last week I was able to do a book share with the students in the class I’m observing to help them find new texts to read for their independent reading assignments. I created a list of titles and a Prezi about a few specific books that I have read and enjoyed, and had the class discuss the books they have read and enjoyed as well. The students marked a few books from the list I created that they were interested in,  but in planning the lesson I wanted to offer them a larger resource for finding books they might want to read.

On their list and in my Prezi, I told the students about, which is a great website for readers of any age. On this site, you can look for books based on a variety of categories, such as genre, and can read reviews and ratings left by other people. 

An account is free, and while it is not a requirement for using the site, choosing books that you’ve read in the past and rating them based on how much you enjoyed them will enable the website to make you personal, individualized recommendations. This is great for students who loved a certain book and are looking for similar reads. 

You and other users from the site can create and vote on lists based on some kind of categorization that includes whichever books you choose. There are a wide multitude of Young Adult Literature lists, for example, and can be a great way to keep up with current popular literature that you may be able to read or recommend to students. 

Directing students to is a great way to help them find their next texts on their own rather than just going over a list with them as well. It makes them an active participant in the selection of the material they wish to focus on and empowers them through choice and research. 

I recommend goodreads to anyone who loves to read!

First Days of Observation


I’ve recently begun observing in a nearby high school with a teacher who runs a variety of English classes and is eager to help me learn. I’ve really enjoyed my time there thus far, and have truly relished the interactions I get to have with the students. I’ve even been given the privilege of helping to perform some of my teacher’s duties–conducting a quiz, helping the students with their group work, and even teaching a small part of a lesson for one of the classes.  

My host teacher is already talking to me about the content he would like me to plan lessons on in the coming weeks. The students in his Honors and Regents classes have a book review due about every seven weeks over the course of the year. They are permitted to pick whatever book they want to read, and then get to write a review that contains a summary of the book’s plot and their opinion on what they have read. My host teacher likes to keep his students progress updated by passing around his “Book Tracker” once in a while, where students will record their name and how far into their book of choice they are.

This independent book assignment seems like a nice break from the complicated free modifier diagrams that the students have to learn for about the first month–if not longer–of school. After this extensive grammar study is over, the students will be moving onto short stories, so the first book review also seems like a good literary warm-up.

My host teacher would like for me to conduct a lesson or book share, where I can recommend different pieces of literature that I think the students would enjoy. He admitted to me that this current body of students was already reading more than many others in the past, but sometimes some of them have trouble figuring out where to start. I plan on creating a list of all sorts of literature, especially various Young Adult books, and giving it the students so they can mark which ones they feel interested in as I do my presentation. I will show any book trailers or other helpful medias I can find, and will likely try to use a platform like Prezi to present what I want to share with them. 

I truly want to find out what sorts of books each of the students enjoys reading; I’ve been trying to observe which ones they carry with them already, and hope for some sort of discussion within the class when I teach this first lesson. My teacher would also like for me to teach another lesson, centered more on how to write a proper book review. I can’t wait to work with my host teacher and my students to make this experience even more valuable for my future as an English Educator. 

Does anyone have any specific pieces of YA literature that they enjoy or would like to suggest I include? I would love for my list to be as comprehensive as possible!

Discourse Development


Over the summer I was fortunate enough to find a writing job with a company that creates and maintains an online presence for various medical practices. The company creates websites, blogs, advertisements, and various other technical aspects of building success online. We worked for plastic surgeons, dentists, orthopedists, and a long list of other specialists. One of our clients was even a cosmetic dentist for stars like Kanye West, the Kardashians, Miley Cyrus, and more.

I’m a part-time writer in the office, so most of my work consists of writing blog posts, press releases, social media posts, and creating landing pages. It was great experience for many reasons, but what I want to focus on is how this job relate’s to James Gee’s idea of a liberating discourse.

We have our primary discourses, which are the language and customs we develop first (from our homes). And anything after that is a secondary discourse–the way we learn to speak in school, at work, with certain friends, et cetera. The more discourses we develop, the less restricted we are. We grow more adaptable and more free from the restrictions of  a single discourse.

For example, I started this blog in a college class last semester. I learned how to use WordPress, how to act, interact, post, speak, and more, creating a new discourse on blogging. The office I worked at over the summer just so happened to use WordPress to create its websites and to edit them. My blogging discourse using this site helped me get the job.

In the job, I also developed more discourses. I learned how to communicate with my various coworkers (most of whom were older than me). I learned how to speak in a blog post for all different sorts of medical specialists, how to formulate my words in a press release, how to format and organize a landing page. One secondary discourse gave me the opportunity to find employment and to develop further discourses that may help me in the future.

Now, at the start of my junior year and my formal educational training, I can’t help but to relate my own experience to my future classroom. The more discourses a student can develop, they better off they will be in the world. Social interactions, employment opportunities, and more all depend on the discourses an individual possesses. As teachers, it is our job to facilitate the development of these discourses.

Read more about Gee’s ideas on discourses here.


Blogging and Microblogging


This past semester at SUNY Cortland, my ENG 307 class required me to create and manage a blog and a twitter account that both center around technology and education. Over the course of this class, I learned that these two accounts are great resources and networks for teachers, especially those that are teaching in the Digital Age. This semester-long assignment taught my classmates and I how to create our own posts, short and long, and how to respond to the posts of others to teach each other various educational values.

Personally, I enjoyed the blogging assignments given to us. It was a simple, fun, and effective way for us to engage each other in a hybrid course, and a great way to reach those outside of our school. Posts and tweets were always a great relief compared to longer and more complex assignments as well.

Blogging and tweeting are something I will likely return to in the future, as they are invaluable to educators. Twitter and sites like WordPress are full of teaching accounts that other teachers can follow and learn things from constantly. There are ideas constantly being exchanged and shared among the education and ELA community, and places like this on the internet allow for this.

Blogging and tweeting can be used in a multitude of ways, for students, teachers, and parents alike. I think any educator who wishes to truly expand his or her knowledge on how to better their students should create at least one account on a website like this. Whether you join to post or just to sit back and learn, blogging and microblogging are a great idea for any educator.

Say Cheese!



When people think about technology in the classroom, their minds tend to stray towards iPads, computers, computer applications, or other complex tools. But one device that is often overlooked (perhaps for its simplicity) is the digital camera. When you think about it, a digital camera is typically easy to use, effective, and fun for people of all ages. So why not makes use of them?

The main issue, of course, is what teachers can even use digital cameras for in a classrooms setting. Sure, they’re entertaining, but what educational value do they serve?

Firstly, cameras provide a level of hands-on engagement that written assignments simply do not have. Getting students involved in their own education is always a benefit; you can’t teach those who aren’t interested in learning.

As for the school-related use of digital cameras, teachers of all subjects could easily integrate them into a new or pre-existing assignment. Here is a great list of uses from various educators and an explanation as to why digital cameras are so beneficial in the classroom.


Digital photographs are great as an addition to projects, or as a project themselves. The visual representation of things always helps in teaching children, and students of all ages could use a digital camera for educational purposes.

Most families typically own cameras already. If they don’t, cameras are not as expensive to provide students with as many of the other devices the school might buy. Digital cameras may also be a type of technology, but traditionalists are less threatened by them as they have been around longer than many other tools.

When it comes down to it, digital cameras are obviously not a necessity in classrooms. But what they stand for–providing a creative outlet, engaging otherwise disinterested students, holding interest in a typically boring subject–is important. Even if it is something as simple as a digital camera, classrooms need to be aware of the role digital devices can and will play in education.

Out With the Old and In With the New


Many ebook providers, like Amazon’s Kindle, have been expanding their demographics into classrooms all across America. The use of tablets and other electronic reading devices for education has been studied extensively for the past few years, and companies like Apple and Amazon have created various initiatives to introduce the devices into schools.

But the question many are still wondering is: will ebooks replace physical books?

It’s true that using tablets rather than textbooks may be more efficient in certain ways. Students would not have to lug around pounds upon pounds of heavy books in their bags, the school may save money, and the networks for the devices can be monitored and restricted, maintaining a safe learning environment.

Maybe students will even engage in the literature more. Tablets are cool, right?

But what about the detriments of introducing ebooks as a replacement? Schools cannot sell their textbooks back anymore, so they may lose money with a Kindle or Nook. Children may lose something in their education without the tactile advantage of physical pages, and if ever presented with a book later on, they may lack the knowledge necessary for comprehending it. Looking through multiple texts is also next to impossible on these devices; a task much simpler when done with textbooks.


Many may turn this debate into a competition between the traditional and the progressive thinkers. Do we prefer the weight of a book in our hands and the texture of printed pages, or do we prefer to keep with the Digital Age and organize ourselves with technology?

The truly important factor in making this decision must be the welfare of the students, however. It must be decided which medium will most benefit their education, and which will most harm it. Our values and beliefs are being placed in the forefront when it is the future of students that we must consider.


This also leads to the point that the reason companies like Amazon and Apple are pushing the integration of their tablets into classrooms is for profit. Schools would have to buy their products in bulk, as well as their applications and ebooks. School is primarily a market to companies like this, and this may alarm many educators and parents. Yet at the same time, textbook companies likely view schools in a similar way.

The truth is, the debate between ebooks and textbooks will likely last for quite a while. Everyone has something different to say about it, and there are still a large amount of studies that must be done to figure out what will most benefit students, teachers, and education as a whole. As of right now, all we can do is keep an open mind and await the final verdict.

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