What was the focus of your work or the nature of your teaching problem? Why is this important to you?
year my students take standardized tests, especially the Golden State
Exams, which require them to quickly read a prompt, develop a thesis,
and write a well-supported essay. Some of these tests allow
approximately 22 minutes for the task. In order to score well, my
students needed to be able to think through the prompt and content
quickly and accurately. I realized that when I assigned timed essays,
students either gave me generalizations with no supporting facts, or
provided many facts discussed in class, but expected the reader to make
the connection to the prompt. Therefore, I wanted to design an activity
though which I could direct students to develop generalizations and
support them with appropriate evidence.
What did you learn about teaching the subject, and what did you learn about the subject through teaching it?
the Virtual Classroom, when the teacher poses a question, all students
respond simultaneously. In a traditional classroom discussion, usually
only the most articulate students share. Those who are unsure of the
subject or are unsure of their response do not take a risk in sharing.
I was able to “see” the thinking of many students that never
participate in a classroom discussion. By using the Virtual Classroom,
I could also readily see misconceptions in students’ thinking. In
addition, students posted to the Virtual Discussion in teams simply
because I did not have enough computers for every student. However, I
found that this was beneficial. I could hear the groups planning their
responses and discussing salient issues before posting them. In fact,
students became somewhat competitive about having quality responses
posted. It was rewarding for me that students were genuinely wrestling
with the concepts. Even though all of the postings were not “on track”
the activity overall was successful in directing the teams to support
their claims with evidence. I was able to repeatedly request, “What is
your textual evidence?” I learned that Adam Smith’s works are very
challenging for seniors in high school but they can understand Smith’s
basic concepts if scaffolded appropriately.
What resources, colleagues, and/or collaborations advanced your thinking about your project? What was your
help me with teaching the development of thesis, I consulted with Mrs.
Sue Phillips, the English Department Co-chair and with Mrs. Michael
Howard, the British Literature teacher. Mrs. Phillips provided me with
two books on debate which caused me to create prompts and lessons using
the word “claim.” Therefore, I would ask students about their “claims”
and “sub-claims” in order to help them realize that they must not only
“know the facts,” but must also draw some generalizations from those
facts. Mrs. Howard helped me to develop the prompt itself. Finally, I
met with fellow Social Science teacher, Mr. Bill Payne. Mr. Payne and I
worked together to develop the fact-gathering questions, the conceptual
questions, and the essential question for the scaffolding and Virtual
Classroom Discussion Guide Sheet.
What did you do?
created a class activity in which students explored a topic of the
California State Standards for Economics regarding Adam Smith. For the
activity, students first examined several resources regarding Smith
using a “guide sheet” to explore particular topics. The resources
included a brief biography, an electronic encyclopedia article, and
lecture notes from a professor at Macquerie University in Sydney,
Australia. After the students were familiar with the resources, I
conducted a virtual discussion using the Virtual Classroom utility of
Blackboard. Finally, students had to address a particular prompt and
plan the response with a cluster. I kept this essay prompt relatively
simple in structure while the topic was complex. I felt I could more
easily ascertain student improvement using this method.
From Revolution to Reconstruction
This site was developed by a professor of Department of Computing in
the Humanities at the University of Gronigen in the Netherlands. The
site has received numerous awards but has been ranked in 1996 as the
top Social Studies site by Electronic Learning. The site has an article
on Adam Smith.
Smith, Adam (economist)
Wikipedia article to give students some background information regarding Smith.
Adam Smith: The Wealth of Nations
lecture for a Political Science class at Macquerie University in Sydney
Australia posted by R. J. Kilcullen. The lecture provides a succinct
description of the plan of The Wealth of Nations and its basic
were the tools, scaffolds and supports that you constructed to help
students practice historical methods, do historical thinking, and
achieve historical understanding?
I created the
Paradise Gained—A Journey into the Realm of Ideas Questions to guide
the students through the resources that I provided for them. The
resources ranged from simple to college level in order to provide
access to the information to all students. (I also color coded the
resources so that I could easily direct students to particular
information) This guide sheet began by stating state standard and the
essential question. In order to respond to the essential questions,
students had to explore the resources for the answers to the
fact-gathering questions, then participate in the Virtual Classroom
Discussion to explore the conceptual questions. The Virtual Classroom
Discussion not only assisted the students in understanding the
information but also motivated them to tackle some very challenging
information. In a Virtual Discussion, what a participant “says” is in
front of everyone to evaluate, causing the students to be somewhat more
thoughtful in their preparations. Also, I kept directing the students
to support their “claims” with textual evidence. This kept putting
claims and supporting facts in front of the students who were following
the discussion. Finally, the students would be answering the essential
question by responding to the writing prompt. The prompt itself
directed the students in their thinking and required a prewrite.
does this apply to your future teaching decisions, and how will you
bring these ideas back to your colleagues, schools, and others teaching
similar students or content?
The Virtual Classroom
Utility in Blackboard will be a consideration of similar topics of
discussion for future lessons. To encourage other teachers to consider
using this feature of Blackboard, I am posting the lesson on our high
school’s network and have presented the lesson in a department meeting.
I am working with my partner to develop a virtual discussion for our
students on a subject in British Literature. I believe that by using
the strategy for more than one subject, students will learn how to use
the utility more effectively.
What were the major findings of your work? What is the significance of your work to others?
student’s essay responses did improve from their previous efforts.
Their prewrite clusters reveal significant planning. Not only was the
activity motivating for the students, they were able to actually retain
and apply the content and skills of the lesson.
What implications does your work have for teaching a diverse student body, including English learners?
of all, every student can participate. English language learners are
not excluded from the discussion because they may feel uncomfortable
about speaking in class. All students post simultaneously so every
student can actually think about the question posed and respond. In a
traditional setting, I believe that some students rarely ponder
subjects because they know that several students will provide the
required answer. I also believe that the activity helps to establish a
classroom culture that thinking is a process and the process involves
developing and supporting assertions with evidence.