Another lens – English Language Learning

Our assignment this week in CEP 811 was to explore our Maker lesson plan through the lens of Universal Design for Learning (UDL).  My original lesson plan was created using the UDL framework because that is the preferred format in my district, so I am instead looking at my lesson through the lens English Language Learning (ELL).

My original lesson along with the ELL modifications can be found here.


The three primary strategies for improving the learning experience for ELL students are drawing upon their funds of knowledge, using a multimodal multiple literacy approach to instruction, and allowing for the creation of a third space.

Funds of knowledge are the resources that students have at home and with their families to support their learning at school (Spence, 2009).  I revised my lesson to more explicitly allow students to use these resources.  I now give students the opportunity to talk about constellations and sky stories that are familiar to them as different cultures have different mythologies of the night sky.

A change in personal practice related to funds of knowledge that is difficult to state on the lesson plan is allowing students to discuss their work using their native language.  In the past, I have encouraged students to participate in discussions using only English for practice purposes, but de la Piedra (2010) found that students who discussed an English text using their native language related to the text in a more meaningful way than if they were forced to discuss in English.  When the thinking was done in a language that was familiar, it allowed for deeper learning and better understanding which is ultimately the goal.  This was probably my single biggest takeaway in my research.

I did not make any changes to my plans based on the Multimodal Multiple Literacy approach to instruction because Universal Design for Learning already builds in the practice of giving students multiple ways to gain information and interact with their learning.  My lesson already allowed for a variety of literacies – traditional, digital, artistic, and scientific – as well as the chance to interact with learning in a variety of ways (multimodality).

informal learning

Allowing students to develop a third space means giving them the opportunity to combine their home and cultural knowledge with their school based knowledge requirements in a way that feels safe and comfortable (Smythe, 2010).  Frequently these times fall outside of the regular class times.  In order to allow for the development of this third space, I modified my lesson to allow open lab times during recess, lunch and before and after school to give students less structured times to make these connections and interact with peers on a more casual level.

I really believe that by creating my lesson originally using the principles of UDL regarding multiple means of representation, engagement, and expression that the needs of English Language Learners in my classroom are met.  UDL comes from an asset based view of students rather than a deficit based view which is the main idea behind the funds of knowledge.  The teacher is acknowledging student assets and not relating to a student based on their English language deficit only.  The multimodal multi-literacy approach is at the core of the multiple means of student involvement that is the basis of UDL.  Creating opportunities for students to develop a third space also fits nicely into providing students multiple means of engagement.  I feel that my original lesson was well designed to support ELL students, but the few tweaks that I made based on my research make it even stronger.  I feel that the more important learning for me in this project are mindset reminders to look at the whole child because that whole is so much greater than the sum of the individual parts.

Please feel free to provide feedback in the comments section.  My goal is to grow as an educator and a person and constructive feedback is at the heart of that growth.

Works Cited

Ajayi, L. (2009). English as a second language learners’ exploration of multimodal tests in a junior high school. Journal of Adolescent & Adult Literary, 52(7), 585-595. doi:10.1598/JAAL.52.7.4

de la Piedra, M.T. (2010). Adolescent worlds and literacy practices on the United States – Mexico border. Journal of Adolescent & Adult Literacy, 53(7), 575-584. doi:10.1598/JAAL.53.7.5

Hepple, E., Sockhill, M., Tan, A., & Alford, J. (2014). Multiliteracies pedagogy: Creating claymations with adolescent, post-beginner English language learners. Journal of Adolescent & Adult Literacy, 58(3), 219-229. doi:10.1002/jaal.339

Smythe, S., & Neufeld, P. (2010). “Podcast time”: Negotiating digital literacies and communities of learning in a middle years ELL classroom. Journal of Adolescent & Adult Literacy, 53(6), 488 – 496. doi:10.1598/JAAL.53.6.5

Spence, L.K. (2009). Developing multiple literacies in a website project. The Reading Teacher, 62(7), 592-597. doi:10.1598/RT.62.7.5


JiscInfoNet. (2007, February 27). Laptop Use, University of Cumbria (formerly St Martin’s College). [Online image]. Retrieved November 30, 2014 from Licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Non-Commercial -ShareAlike 2.0 Generic license.


Reflections on Professional Development – EdCamp

In CEP811, we had the opportunity to participate in a virtual EdCamp experience.  My reflections on this experience are included in this post.

edcampI have participated in EdCamps before and really enjoy the structure.  I love learning from my peers and allowing them to shine in their areas of expertise.  I like that the content is driven from the needs of the participants.  I also like the informal nature of the interactions and the fact that you can participate as much or as little as is comfortable for you on any given topic.  The thing I had the biggest trouble with in this situation was the fact that I had to be the “expert” for a topic in which I do not feel that I have any expertise.  Many of the EdCamp sessions I have been in before had less of that leader/teacher feel and more of a conversational one.  I think in the future, I would try to draw more out of the other attendees to make it more of a conversation and less of a presentation. I also prefer face-to-face EdCamps because of fewer out of the user’s control technology frustrations like wireless dropping out, presenting using unfamiliar technology and the like.

Screen Shot 2014-11-21 at 12.09.16 PMFor me, this type of professional development format is not really anything new.  I am in my tenth year as a media specialist in my district and this is how my team does our self-directed PD.  When we implement a new initiative, but we are not given any training. Each person learns a bit on their own at a workshop or a conference or muddles through in their building. We then come together and figure out what works and what doesn’t through our conversations and individual expertise.  I think this is why I felt so immediately comfortable in the EdCamp environment.  I think this movement for professional development generally is positive because one of the biggest complaints about PD is that it is not relevant.  By creating learner led professional development in this manner, educators are given a say in what they learn and their PD becomes relevant.

edcamp1 The first thing I would do to organize an EdCamp would be contact an expert and ask for advice.  A full EdCamp would require finding a location, publicity, sponsors, securing necessary technology, preparing the online “schedule” documents ahead of time, food and drink and many more things I am sure I cannot even think of at this time.  It would also require a decision on focus.  I have seen EdCamps with different themes – literature, technology, general education.  I would have to decide ahead of time if I was going to have a theme and get the word out to the appropriate audience.  Pernille Ripp, who founded EdCampMadisonWI, wrote this blog post after the inaugural event discussing some of the things that she learned about running an EdCamp.  Resources such as this would be what I would use to help me get my own EdCamp off the ground.

EdCamp is a very useful form of professional development that allows educators to show off their expertise and learn from their peers.  It is a collaborative, personalized, experiential way to learn and uses the same models of best practice we use in our classrooms.  For me, it represents the change in PD structure I have been craving since I started teaching 23 years ago and I am glad to get the opportunity to participate.

Jarrett, K. (2012, December 1). EdCampNJ2012. [Online image]. Retrieved November 21, 2014 from Licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic license.

Jarrett, K. (2012, December 1). Feelings on professional development in general? (Edcamp Philly 2012 Survey). [Online image]. Retrieved November 21, 2014 from Licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic license.

Ripp, P. (2013, February 24). So we ran and edcamp and what did we learn? [Web log].  Retrieved from 

Reading, Research and Redesign

This week in CEP811, we are redesigning our classrooms using learning theories and experiential design.  We also used the tool SketchUp to design new learning areas.

I am the media specialist in an open-concept designed elementary school that functions like 18+ individual classrooms, two computer labs and a library in a single room.  For this project, I am just looking at my space which is located in the middle of the learning center.  These photos will give you an idea of what my space looks like.

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My library is large and serves as a multi-use area.  It is also used weekly for Rocket Rally when all 500 students, staff and assorted others come together to celebrate our students.  My space needs to be very flexible.  I currently have heavy, awkward tables and a hard wired computer lab in my area.  These two things negatively impact flexibility.  My bookshelves are essentially fixed, but serve to delineate “my” space from the hallway.  My library also has many positives like floor outlets throughout the space and large open areas that provide some flexibility.

I have been focusing on Kolb’s Experiential Learning Theory in this course.  As a result, I was looking for ways to make my space more conducive to students having experiences and testing out their new theories.  My district is also implementing both Universal Design for Learning and Personalized Learning.  To me, the MakerSpace is the ultimate way to achieve the common goals of all three of these ideas, so I wanted to make sure that I included one in my design. Two Experience Design recommendations from the Third Teacher (2010) that also factored into my design were the ideas of making classrooms agile so they can transform as learning transforms and expanding virtually so that students are not restricted to simply what is happening in their school or community for learning experiences.  In the media center, my curricular focus is reading and research.  My space should be the perfect venue for collaboration beyond our school walls.

Here is the floor plan for my redesigned learning commons:

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The biggest change I have made is the removal of the lab.  I replaced the desktops with laptops to go with my Chromebooks and refitted the space with two “classrooms” of 6 round tables separated by mobile laptop and Chromebook carts.  The tables can be moved easily and the carts are on wheels, so they can be moved as well.  I also have an area with six larger rectangular tables that can be used for larger Maker activities or for larger groups of students.  That area is set off with a rolling cart containing Maker supplies.  All three of these learning spaces can be used interchangeably for Maker or Inquiry projects and will allow for a variety of seating options including stools, stability balls and swivel chairs. The remaining area is my story corner/free reading area.  I kept my story rug because it is a useful tool for students learning abc order, but I have supplemented it with beanbag chairs and floor cushions so students can more comfortably enjoy literature discussion without it truly being a pain in their bottom.

The costs for this update are detailed below.  This does not include the cost to purchase any consumables for the learning commons.

12 Noodle Chairs @ $130 each = $1560
24 Stability Balls w/ bases = $699
12 Swivel Chairs @ $150 each = $1800
12 Stools @ $90 each = $1080
12 Circular Tables @ $730 each = $8760
1 Chromebook Cart = $1790
1 Laptop Cart = $2479
1 Maker Storage Unit @ $1065
10 Beanbag chairs @ $125 each = $1250
10 Story Corner Cushions @ $25 each = $250
30 Lenovo Laptops (from our district tech specs) @ $730 each = $21,900

Total = $42,633

A remodel such as this would require approval from my principal, the Technology Director, the Curriculum Director and the School Board given the amount of money required to complete the project.  It would also require buy-in from the teachers in my school because any change in the media center would change the acoustics and building dynamics for everyone else.  The project would take several years to complete – starting small with the changes to my story corner, then moving to the replacement of the computers before pulling the lab out entirely and redesigning the space completely.

This kind of redesign is a dream and only represents a small portion of the changes I would like to make to transform my library into a true learning commons.  Additional comments and suggestions are welcome.

The Third Teacher (2010). 79 ways you can use design to transform teaching + learning [Online document].  Retrieved from

One Diverse Universe: MOOCs and Learning

Week four of CEP 811 allows us to use what we have learned about learning theories and instructional design to create our own Ultra Micro Massively Open Online Course (MOOC).  So with a topic of my own choosing and two weeks worth of notes in hand, here is my dream course to teach my peers.

In my One Diverse Universe: Diversity in Children’s Literature course my peers will analyze and critique multicultural children’s literature by creating and sharing a book blog, developing an interactive on-line bibliography of titles and using blogs and social media to discuss diverse literature with their peers.


Course Topic:  Diversity in Children’s Literature

Children today come from more diverse backgrounds than ever and they deserve to know that their life is represented.  This course is for parents, teachers, and librarians who want to find books that allow all the children in their world to see themselves reflected back in the words that they read.  This course will look at literature K-12 and participants can choose to focus on the grade levels that apply most closely to their situation.

Learning Objectives:
Learners will be able to identify credible sources to assist them in the selection and analysis of diverse books.
Learners will be able to analyze and critique “classic” children’s literature titles through a multicultural lens.
Learners will be able to discuss diverse children’s literature in an informed and culturally sensitive way.

Learning Experiences:
Learners will read extensively from a variety of cultural and literary styles.
Learners will create a Twitter Account to share their work with their peers.
Learners will create an interactive bibliography of multi-cultural titles.
Learners will create a WordPress blog to document their reading and book analysis.
Learners will respond to each other through on-going discussion via blogs and social media.

Peer Interaction
Learners will be expected to interact with their peers by commenting on blog and social media posts.  Some of the content in this course can cause intense feelings in some individuals and the most effective way to process what is being learned is through discussion.  Please remember to use digital etiquette in all interactions with your peers.

Course Structure
This course will run four weeks.  It will start out with looking at the need for diverse literature for students.  The middle of the course will be focused on the resources that can be used to search out and analyze titles, and we will finish up with the creation of an annotated bibliography of resources to share.

Course Overview
Before class starts, please create both a Twitter and a Google account, and set up a WordPress blog.  These are the tools we will be using to communicate and complete our course work.  I would also recommend getting a library card and becoming familiar with your local public library.

Week 1:  Why Do We Need Diverse Literature?

Watch this short video from the We Need Diverse Books campaign.  (The campaign is over and fully funded.)

Read the Association for Library Service to Children (ALSC) white paper on the Importance of Diversity in Programs and Material Collections for Children.  Then read the article Children’s Books: Still an All White World? by Katie Horning from the May 2014 issue of School Library Journal for a short overview on the history of diverse literature for children.

Reread your favorite childhood books.  Pay particular attention to how or if they address cultures other than the dominant one.

Write a blog post about your favorite children’s book.  Explain why it was a favorite for you as a child and if you still feel the same way.  Talk about what kinds of children would see themselves through the story.

Tweet out the link to your blog.  Use the hashtag #diverselit.  Read and comment on at least two of your classmates’ blog posts.

Works Cited

Horning, K. (2014, May). Children’s books: still an all white world? School Library Journal. Retrieved from

Naidoo, J. (2014, April 5).  The importance of diversity in programs and material collections for children. Retrieved from

We Need Diverse Books. (2014, October 27). We need diverse books campaign video [Video file].  Retrieved from

Week 2:  ALA Awards Recognizing Diverse Literature

Most educators know about the Newbery and Caldecott awards given out each year for distinguished writing and illustration of children’s books respectively.  These two awards are just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to awards for children’s books and the medal lists for many of these awards are a great place to find diverse literature for children and teens.  These are some of the awards given.  Go to each homepage to learn more.


Pura Belpré Award

Schneider Family Book Award

Stonewall Book Award

Coretta Scott King Award

American Indian Youth Literature Awards

Asian/Pacific American Award for Literature

Choose 3-6 books (depending on the length) from these award winner lists to read and evaluate.

Start creating your interactive annotated bibliography in GoogleDocs.  For more information on annotated bibliographies, check out the Purdue Online Writing Lab here.   Your bibliography should contain links to on-line reviews of the work and author information if available.  Choose your favorite title and write a blog post critiquing the book.

Tweet out the link to your blog post using the hashtag #diverselit.  Read and comment on at least two of your classmates’ blog posts.

Week 3: Resources for Selecting Diverse Literature

For many teachers, librarians and parents, the biggest stumbling block to choosing diverse literature is we don’t know what we don’t know.  Fortunately, there are many resources out there to help guide us through the process.  Read through these two sites that feature questions we should ask ourselves when choosing books that represent backgrounds and experiences that may be different than our own.

How to Tell the Difference
How to Choose the Best Multicultural Books

Visit two of the sites below and explore the resources available on these sites

CBC Diversity
CCBC Multicultural Literature
Disability in Kidlit
Latinos in Kidlit
Exploring Diversity

Choose another 3-5 titles to read and add to your bibliography.

Choose your favorite title and write a blog post critiquing the book.  Add a paragraph at the end of your critique discussing the on-line resources you used to help you find the book, which one you felt was the most useful and why.

Tweet out the link to your blog using the hastag #diverselit.  Read and comment on at least two of your classmates’ blog posts.

Week 4 – Wrapping Things Up

Watch this TedTalk by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie on the danger of a single story.

Read a final three titles that have looked interesting to you over the past three weeks.

Write a final blog post summarizing your learning about the importance of diverse literature and the resources available to help teachers, librarians and parents find it.  Finish your bibliography and include a link to it in your blog post.

Tweet out the link to your final blog post.  Use the hashtag #diverselit.

Work Cited
Adichie, C. (2009, July). Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie: The danger of a single story [Video file]. Retrieved from

How CEP 811 Learning influenced Course Development

This course was developed using Wiggins and McTighe’s backwards design model.  I started with the outcome of being able to critique and select quality multicultural literature and created my lessons with that goal in mind.  This is the instructional design model I have used throughout my teaching career because for me, if I try to teach without an outcome in mind, my instruction wanders and is not as cohesive.  This model allows me to focus my energy and time on developing the skills necessary for the outcome I desire – in this case choosing and critiquing children’s literature for diverse students.

I have also tried to keep Kolb’s Experiential Learning Theory in mind as well.  While this course isn’t as maker centered as most of the work we are doing in this class, I feel that the reading of the articles and books in this class serve as the experience portion.  For example, reading the Oyate website would definitely create a situation where the learner reflects on what they have read.  This leads to new ideas about literature which are then tested through the reading and analysis of a book from one of their book lists.  Kolb’s learning spiral is definitely represented in this course.


Photo Credits

Schu. (2008). Award winning literature. [Online image]. Retrieved November 15, 2014 from Licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Non-Commercial -ShareAlike 2.0 Generic license.

SunSrfr. (2014). Birds on a wire. [Online image]. Retrieved November 15, 2014 from Licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Non-Commercial -ShareAlike 2.0 Generic license.

Looking at Learning Through a New Lens

IMG_0672Last week in CEP 810, we jumped into the Maker movement with both feet.  Our assignment was to develop a lesson tied to our curriculum that incorporated the Maker kit of our choice and an item that we found at the thrift store.  My lesson was the culminating activity for a unit on Constellation Mythology.  My maker project design of creating their own constellation using circuit stickers, cloth and embroidery hoops is one of many different options that students have to develop their own constellation and the accompanying mythology.

This week, I am looking at this project through the lens of a learning theory of my choice.  It was difficult for me to choose a theory.  I have been in education for 25 years and have been through the implementation of a lot of these theories over that time.  I finally chose Experiential Learning Theory and Learning Styles because they are the closest to my core educational belief that the best way to learn is by interacting with learning.  It is also difficult to separate the two as they are intertwined in David Kolb’s model.   As explained by Kolb and Kolb (2008), learning is a spiral.  The learner first has a concrete experience after which she reflects on the experience.  In the course of this reflection, new ideas and concepts develop and the learner develops a new hypothesis.  This process of testing her hypothesis results in a new concrete experience, and the cycle starts over again.  Based on this cycle, Kolb also designed a learning style model based on how learning styleslearners perceive and process knowledge (Lu, Jia, Gong & Clark, 2007).  Based on years of data collection from the Kolb Learning Styles Inventory, nine consistent learning style preferences have been identified (Kolb & Kolb, 2008).  These styles represent how an individual feels most comfortable interacting with the learning process and identifies preferences ranging from group work vs. individual to lecture vs. fieldwork (Lu, et al., 2007).  All of this is part of the creation of a student’s Learning Self-Identity or their personal beliefs about whether or not they are capable of learning.  (Kolb & Kolb, 2008).

As I look through my lesson plan, it seems to be very well aligned to Kolb’s theories of Experiential Learning and Learning Styles.  My building is implementing Universal Design for Learning (UDL). UDL is built around the idea of providing students with multiple means of content representation, multiple means of engaging with content and multiple means of expressing their learning which for all intents and purposes is just another way to say Learning Styles.  My lesson plan is built around this concept.  Students are provided with a variety of ways to have the concrete experience that initiates the learning spiral.  They can read constellation myths and informational books about constellations, interact with physical representations of the stars or watch a demonstration of how to use Google Draw to create their projects.  They can think and reflect in groups or individually, in a highly structured or less structured environments.  Finally, they can represent their learning in a wide variety of ways ranging from pencil and paper to Maker kits to virtual tools.  The lesson as a whole is driven by giving all students a way to develop their Learning Self-Identity in a positive way.  As a whole, my lesson is grounded pretty solidly in the research foundations of Kolb’s theories and should enable my students to learn.

Any feedback on this post or my lesson plan in general is welcome in the comments.

Works Cited

Kolb, A. Y. & Kolb, D. A. (2008). The learning way: Méta-cognitive aspects of experiential learning. Department of Organizational Behavior Working Paper. Case Western Reserve University.

Kolb, D. A., Boyatzis, R. E., & Mainemelis, C. (2001). Experiential learning theory: Previous research and new directions. Perspectives on thinking, learning, and cognitive styles, 1, 227-247.

Lu, H., Jia, L., Gong, S. H. et. al. (2007). The relationship of Kolb learning styles, online learning behaviors and learning outcomes. Educational Technology and society. 10(4): 187-196.


Forsythe, G. (2013). Kolb’s Experiential Learning CYCLE, Learning Styles & examples: a non-exhaustive perspective. [Online image]. Retrieved November 8, 2014 from Licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Non-Commercial -ShareAlike 2.0 Generic license.

Thrifting and Circuit Stickers

Repurposing and creative thinking were at the heart of week 2 of CEP 811, and it proved to be a challenge for me.  Our goal was to visit a thrift shop (or a basement) and find something that could be repurposed to interact with our maker kit to create a prototype of a learning tool or activity for use in our classroom.  The interaction portion of the project was what proved to be a stumbling block, but more on that later.

I started my pgoodwillroject wandering the aisles of the local Goodwill store.  My maker kit, Circuit Stickers, just didn’t seem to lend itself well to anything I saw.  Circuit Stickers are designed for use in an artistic type of activity, and most of what I teach in the library is very straightforward.  It does not allow for much student creativity.  I wracked my brain to find both an activity that could be reworked to be more artistic and an item that could be repurposed to support it.  When I found a metal corner shelf that I thought could be repurposed easily to display  interactive book reviews, I thought I had it made in the shade. I hurried home and got my creative juices flowing.

I figured out a simple way to use the stickers and reading response questions to make an interactive student review.  I thought it could be one of a series of more creative ways for students to present reviews ranging from book trailers made in PhotoStory to comic strips created using Pixton to podcasts recorded in Audacity.  The shelf would sit sideways on the shelftop displaying QR codes, comic strips and interactive reviews, as well as providing a storage space for copies of the books reviewed and tablets for accessing online content.  That was when I reread the assignment and realized that the repurposed item has to INTERACT with the maker kit.  My shelf didn’t interact with anything.  Back to the drawing board. I will implement these ideas in my library though because they fit my curriculum beautifully and give my students with different means of expression.

I went thrifting again in my basement, and focused on things that fit the more arts and crafts style of my maker kit.  I found a bunch of small embroidery hoops and Aida cloth which got me thinking about the lights shining through the cloth like stars.  That was my light bulb moment.  In the spring, I teach the mythology behind the constellation stories to my fourth graders.  As their assessment, they write their own modern day constellation myth and design the constellation.  This activity is typically done on black paper with metallic sharpies, but I got to thinking maybe it would work to use the circuit stickers instead.  The change is only one of substitution when looking at the SAMR model which means there is no real change in my learning outcomes from before so the activity would continue to be connected to my curriculum in the same manner as before the change.  However, the change is a baby step toward a more integrated Maker culture in my school.

How to create a Circuit Sticker constellation

  1. Create your constellation myth and design your constellation.
  2. Cut out a piece of dark cloth the same size as the inside of an embroidery hoop.
  3. Design a circuit representing your constellation on the cloth.  Make sure you place the stickers at the spots where your stars will be in your constellation.
  4. Place a second piece of cloth in the embroidery hook.  Fit the fabric with the circuit behind the piece of fabric in the hoop. Check to make sure the lights are showing through the top fabric.
  5. Using a silver Sharpie, draw the outline of the constellation on the top fabric.

This short video shows how it should all work.

The lesson plan for the activity, can be found here.

Works cited:

BlueCinderella (2008). goodwill [Online image]. Retrieved November 2, 2014 from Licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic license.

“Enchanted Valley” Kevin MacLeod ( Licensed under Creative Commons: By Attribution 3.0

Multimodal Elements Statment

The multimodal elements in this post enhance the readers understanding and build bridges.  The use of the Goodwill icon helps readers make a connection to the thrift store element of the process and the photograph of the book review represents the initial route that my thinking took in this project.  The final video combines still and moving pictures to put together a visual story of how the process should work.