Tag Archives: student teachers

The “Google generation”

Many of our learners have grown up with access to all sorts of search engines, namely Google which has quickly turned from a noun to a verb: “Just Google it.” With access to Google, many of our learners have instant answers that are just a few clicks away.

There has been an ongoing debate on whether Google is harmful or not to our ability to critically think about texts. Tan (2016) from Mindshift recongnizes, “with the advent of personal assistants like Siri and Google Now that aim to serve up information before you even know you need it, you don’t even need to type the questions. Just say the words and you’ll have your answer.” However, there are ways to ensure questions/inquiries in the class are “Google proof.” A former Kentucky middle-school teacher suggests re-thinking our instructional design is key in making work Google proof. He says, “Design it so that Google is crucial to creating a response rather than finding one…if students can Google answers — stumble on (what) you want them to remember in a few clicks — there’s a problem with the instructional design.”

I envision project-based learning and inter-disciplinary approaches as a way into creating Google proof material. Any suggestions? What have you tried/created/heard about?



Course Design and Development — Hoping the changes work out!


A poem I wrote today to try to relieve some first day jitters:

T’was the night before a new school year and all the through the house

Papers were flying and textbooks arouse

The course syllabi posted online with such care

In hopes that the students soon would be there

The readings updated and carefully writ

Ensuring inquiry, equity and technology fit

And I in excitement yet dutifully prudent

Wait for the joy of engaging with each student….


Revising university courses is not a simple task. I (Yiola) have spent several weeks reworking my courses and developing new ones for the coming year.  While my courses have been consistently well received by students I felt they needed updating: readings, perspective, pedagogy as though the domino effect could not be more evident.  Piecing together what to share and how to share it so that student learning is not only deeply enjoyable but also optimal is no easy feat. As teacher educators we need to model good practice — after all, how can you spend an entire 3 hour class talking about the importance of inquiry pedagogy with power point presentations and lecture notes and expect students to understand and transfer their learning to the classroom?  And then, on the other hand, how does a Masters level instructor justify spending hours having Masters level students “inquire” as children would in their elementary classrooms?

Finding the balance between theory and practice, between scholarship and the “daily grind” of classroom life, between academic rigour and child centred practice is, for me, an exceptional challenge.  I want student teachers to know what to do when they enter their elementary classrooms and I want to model it for them in our class (i.e. small group activities, equitable practices, varied experiences, and direct instruction) and I also want students to understand WHY we do it (i.e. research based literature and engaging discourse). I want students to be self-directed learners (to share their ideas, to bring news to the classroom, to extend their own learning outside our class time) and I also want to provide students with connections between best practice and what they see out there (use of technology, positive learning environments, etc…)

Some changes I have made to my courses this year:

  • more use of technology (in my teaching, in my teaching of, and in students experience with)
  • lessened the number of assignments but deepened the expectations of the ones included
  • varied the nature of the assignments (included presentations, group and individual assignments, concept maps, papers)
  • updated my methods of assessment: to reflect/model practices used in our school system, to include students in the process itself
  •  continue to invite guests to the class (classroom teachers, doctoral students, school administrators) as co-presenters as a means for sharing knowledge and modelling collaborative practice
  • Updated the readings to better reflect the issues of 21st century teaching

Researching teaching education, speaking with colleagues who are deeply invested in teacher education and knowing what other great educators are doing not only keeps me motivated but is one of the best professional development tools out there.

I wish all teachers and teacher educators and wonderful school year!

Unlearning in Teacher Education


As a literacy teacher educator, do you feel you spend a lot of time encouraging your student teachers to forget what they have previously learned?  Lortie (1975) refers to the perceptions of teaching our student teachers developed (as elementary and secondary school students) as an  “apprenticeship-of-observation”. Lortie suggests “education students have spent years assessing teachers and many enter training with strong perceptions based on firm identifications” and maintains that these strong perceptions affect student teachers’ “pedagogical decision-making”.  This makes unlearning as important as learning.  How do you get your student teachers to unlearn?

Lortie, D. C. (1975). Schoolteacher. Chicago, IL: Chicago University Press.


Exploring Literature Circles with Student Teachers

Yesterday with our pre-service PJ and JI literacy classes we explored the use of literature circles as part of a literacy program. The student teachers had read the novel Joey Pigza Swallowed the Key by Jack Gantos and in small groups took up the literature circle roles outlined by Harvey Daniels. After the student teachers had completed the literature circle activity the class came together again as a large group to consider and discuss the following questions: what did the student teachers think about the literature circle approach, would they use literature circles in their classroom teaching, what reactions did they have to the novel selected, and would they consider using this particular novel with their students. The student teachers engaged in an insightful and serious discussion of the questions posed. Reaction to the novel was mixed. Many of the student teachers appreciated the authors attempt to narrate the story from the perspective of a child labeled with an exceptionality (ADHD). However, student teachers also voiced their discomfort with various aspects of the novel such as the depiction of the young protagonist Joey’s interactions with various adults in the text, the issues of labeling and medicating children, the portrayal of abuse, alcoholism, and dysfunctional family dynamics in the novel.

Over the past few years Clare and I have intentionally selected this novel for use in the literacy course, in part, because the novel raises a number of serious issues teachers face in a classroom context. Each year student teachers communicate diverse reactions to the reading of this novel. For instance, we have had both student teachers who themselves have been diagnosed with an exceptionality, as well as, student teachers who as the parent of a child with an identified exceptionality tell us that aspects of novel truly resonated with their experience. In contrast, we have also had student teachers communicate their dislike and discomfort with aspects of the novel. At the end of class yesterday Clare and I reflected upon the rich class discussion, and once again asked ourselves if we should continue to use this novel with student teachers in the literacy courses. Our answer was yes. We do understand how and why the topics dealt with in the novel and the author’s portrayal of child-adult interactions are contentious and troubling. Yet, we also recognize the value of asking student teachers, who as educators will be work closely with children and families, to deeply consider the difficult and complex dimensions of a teacher’s role. As Lisa Delpit astutely reminds us “we do not really see through our eyes or hear through our ears, but through our beliefs.” As educators we must continue to challenge our beliefs about what it means to teach and to learn.


Teaching with a Sense of Humour

The What is Education?  blog for teachers states that having  a sense of humor is, 

 very useful in creating a classroom climate and the development of learning processes that are more healthy and enjoyable. In fact, Melissa Kelly said that a sense of humor is one of the keys to being a successful teacher. According to Melissa, teachers’ sense of humor can relieve tension in the air and can prevent the onset of disruptive student behavior in the classroom, and can be used as a way to attract the attention of students in the class. And most importantly, with its sense of humor, a teacher would show that he/she is a person who has a personality and mental health, to enjoy life, and be able to live a normal life without the stress of his/her career.


I (Cathy) was delighted to see one of my student teachers, Carolyn,  using her sense of humor throughout her literacy lesson. Her grade one and two students found her quite amusing and would joke along with her.  Sometimes her humor was self-depricating, and sometimes it was as innocent as, “Who me?  I would never do that!”  It was never sarcastic and always made her students smile.  She even used it as a classroom management technique to keep the students focused and engaged.  When I asked her about  her technique, she said it made teaching and leaning more enjoyable.  Then she described an art lesson she had just taught using candle wax and water colours.  She drew a picture on the white paper using a white candle, so it was not visible.  While introducing the lesson she held up the paper and kept telling the students how proud she was of her picture.  When the students kept insisting there was nothing there, she applied the water colours and, of course, the picture magically appeared.  The humor came to play when she allowed each student to play the same joke on her as they created their pictures.  All of the magic pictures were displayed proudly in the hallway of the school.  Carolyn said the students still refer to it and giggle.

I think having a sense of humor is an asset.   We all definitely need to laugh more, especially in our schools.  Carolyn

Engaging Students in Math

The day after Halloween, one of my (Cathy’s) student teachers, Megan, presented a wonderful lesson to a group of grade four students on probability.  She opened the lesson with a picture of herself dressed as an M&M.  (This was not really her of course, but the students didn’t know that).  She told the story of how she disguised herself as an M&M and went out trick or treating.  One nice lady gave her a whole bag of M&Ms because of her great costume.  Megan wondered aloud on the probability of pulling out red M&Ms as opposed to green M&Ms or yellow ones.  This student teacher had these children with the picture, but the M&Ms clenched it.  All of the students wanted to predict.   The students moved from large group work to small groups to independent work with ease.  Interestingly, Megan did not allow the children to eat the M&Ms.  They were data.  The children accepted this fact and made no protest.  The math remained the focus throughout the lesson.  The lesson was an absolute delight to watch.   Trouble is, I may never eat M&Ms the same way again.  I will always be calculating the probabilities of pulling that red one.


Responding Critically to Azalea’s ‘Bounce’

In class this week my (Cathy’s) teacher education students were exploring indirect  instruction through learning centers.  One of the centers featured Iggy Azalea’s music video, Bounce, and the instructions to discuss the work through a critical literacy lens.   (E.g. What message do you think the artist wants us to get from this video? Based on the artist’s thoughts and actions (expressed in the song), how would you say she is portraying herself to the world?)

Most of the students had heard of the video but never actually viewed it until arriving at the literacy center.  (Perhaps you haven’t either).  Without revealing the content, I will reiterate the general tone of the reactions.   Most students were annoyed by the video content.  One student said she was disgusted (and this is not sexual content).  One group, however,  tried to take a broader view.  They said they could not judge the work until they understood Azalea’s intent.  So they took it upon themselves to look up an interview in which Azalea discusses her purpose for portraying her song the way she did.  After viewing the interview, they were angry.  Azalea explained that she portrayed herself thusly so she would be seen as “flashy”.  No message, just glamour.  After this insight, some wonderful discussion ensued about cultural ethics and hegemony.

One student spoke to me at the conclusion of class and confessed that she was surprised by her own reaction.  In her words, “I have changed.    Studying literacy education has given me a different perspective.  I see the world differently, especially things like music videos.”

Below is the link so you can view this content for yourself and decide.  The second link is the video in which Azalea discusses her purpose for making the video.

Happy critical viewing!

Reading Choices

In general terms, my (Lydia) dissertation research examines the ways in which student teachers construct conceptions of literacy and enact literacy pedagogy when they view themselves as in conversation with a broader field of literacy (e.g. Multiple Literacies, New Literacy Studies). One aspect of this research considers how student teachers’ personal literacy practices inform their approach to literacy pedagogy. In some cases student teachers’ personal reading practices have been influenced by the interests and reading choices of the pupils they teach. These student teachers have often engaged with texts recommended by their pupils (e.g. graphic novels, young adult literature), and these shared texts become a space within which teacher and pupil connect. One of the student teachers participating in this research discussed the text ttyl written by Lauren Myracle, who has been referred to as a modern day Judy Blume. This young adult novel, which is part of a series, is written entirely in instant messages. Interesting, this best selling novel has been on the annual list of the “Most Challenged Books” released by the American Library Association. In other words, people have requested that this book be ban from libraries and schools “due to sexually explicit material and offensive language.” I plan to share this text with the student teachers in our literacy courses this year. I think it could contribute to an interesting conversation about text structure, style, controversies, and pupils’ diverse reading interests.


Love that Dog: A touching book and useful pedagogical resource

In both my experience teaching pre-service literacy courses and my current research with student teachers I (Lydia) have witnessed the sense of anxiety and discomfort many student teachers voice when they are faced with the prospect of teaching poetry during their practice teaching placements. Often, their associate teachers are themselves not comfortable with poetry and therefore, they have difficulty scaffolding the teaching of poetry or providing supportive resources for student teachers. This awareness has motivated Clare and I to delve into poetry within the first few weeks of the P/J and J/I literacy courses, in an effort to ease some of the initial anxiety student teachers experience in anticipation of teaching poetry. We attempt to provide multiple entry points into the teaching of poetry by presenting student teachers with various forms of poetry, and by highlighting the creative expression and emotive potential offered by this medium. We also provide them with a number of resources and pedagogical strategies they can utilize during their practice teaching placement. I recently picked up a copy of the book Love that Dog by Sharon Creech, which I hope to use in the literacy methods courses this year because the insight provided into how students might feel about reading and writing poetry is useful for both teachers and students. Throughout the book, the main character a young boy named Jack journals back and forth with his teacher Ms. Stretchberry, cleverly expressing his initial resist and eventual connection to poetry. Jack initially pronounces, “I don’t want to because boys don’t write poetry. Girls do”; however, through his ongoing dialogue with his teacher Jack experiments with word choice, sounds, and rhythm as he is engages with various poetic formats. My favorite entry in the book is “November 22.” Hopefully the student teachers in the literacy courses this year will enjoy this touching book as much as I did.lovethatdog

Reflecting on my time at the International Symposium for Digital Technology and Literacy/English Teacher Education

I (Lydia) feel fortunate to have had the opportunity to participate in the symposium last week as many of the issues raised resonated with my current research examining student teachers’ experiences with contemporary literacy teaching and learning. The issues highlighted during the individual presentations and accompanying discussions offered rich insights into the status of teacher educational internationally.


I’d like to share a few of the questions raised during the symposium that remained with me and will continue to inform my research in literacy teacher education: What should a curriculum of contemporary teacher education include? In what ways can a curriculum of teacher education provide the space and quality time necessary for student teachers to truly engage as learners? How does power continue to operate in the curriculum? How do digital tools and social media spaces construct reading and writing? What do these digital spaces permit and what do they restrict? How is knowledge constructed, represented, and distributed within digital spaces? What are the pedagogical consequences as students engage with different modes within digital spaces? These are just a few of the questions I continue to consider upon my return from the symposium. Having the opportunity to consider the complexities and issues relevant to teacher education with international scholars was truly inspiring. I look forward to continuing our rich conversations.