2007 PDS Inquiry Conference
Abstracts for Secondary English Interns

Rachel Livesey

rachellynnlivesey@hotmail.com

High School South/North, grade 11

Text of America: Where Do Our Students Fit In?

What texts help to define and/or reinforce American ideals, values and norms?   This research examines the role that American texts, both literature and media, play for student understanding of American culture and identity.   I further explore how such texts reinforce a value system that may marginalize groups of students.   By diversifying the texts and continuing conversations with students through online discussion boards, I will suggest an approach to American literature that promotes critical thinking about the world students are situated in.   This inquiry will focus on The Great Gatsby and the media as taught in an eleventh grade classroom. 

Meredith Moxley

mkm200@psu.edu

High School North, grade 12

Using Stepping Stone Home-Makeover as a Tool to Engage Marginalized Students

When high school is seen as merely a step in the college prep process, students who are not planning to further their education at a college or university are automatically marginalized.   We decided to use a project-based service learning activity to engage these students and find a way to connect curriculum to students who are often left out of everyday academics.   This presentation will discuss the effectiveness of this idea and provide suggestions for educators to use such community service projects in their classrooms.

Stacy Alwine

sla5003@psu.edu

High School North, grade 11

No A's? Have you people learned nothing?!?

Are grades an accurate determinant of learning?   This is a question that many teachers struggle with, including myself, so I really looked at whether grades can effectively show not only that students are learning, but what and how they're learning.   I included many anecdotes from my own classroom, along with those theories of Frank Smith and the famous Jamie Myers, and also the popular non-fiction book The Overachievers .   I explore this idea while also keeping in mind the reality that grades will never completely leave the classroom---or at least not anytime soon.


Heather Brehman

hmb151@hotmail.com

High School South, grade 10

Teaching Students How to Think: Integrating Literary Theory in the High School Classroom

Some students struggle with the abstract, analytical, and critical thinking that overwhelmingly prevails in the English classroom. How can teachers use literary theory to make the abstractions more accessible to the average student?

Steven Coroar

sac270@psu.edu

Delta Program/Bellefonte Middle School, grade 7-12

What is "Alternative" Education Anyway?

My goal as an educator centers on creating an educational environment that works best for student's needs, fostering individual interests and a love for learning in the broadest sense.   I have searched for an educational system that incorporates this same goal, and ultimately ended up teaching at an "alternative" program housed within a "traditional" public school district.   Examining the correlation between the label "alternative" and a student centered education system has become my inquiry project.   It seems that students at the "alternative" program I am researching feel more autonomous in their education and arguably more pleased with their high school experience, especially with classroom learning.   Hopefully this research will inform educators as to the benefits/drawbacks of student centered education systems with the label "alternative".

Tim Cox

dr.timothycox@yahoo.com

High School South, grade 9

Moving from "No Fact Left Behind? to No Child Left Behind:"   My Year-long Journey from University-level Know-it-all to Humble High School Teacher

Transitioning from university professor to public high school teacher involves rebuilding professional identity and re-forming concepts about teaching and learning.   The university-level role of professor as guardian of knowledge, and the transmission model of teaching this role may imply, have little place in public secondary education.   The roles of gatekeeper and academic expert must be replaced by the roles of coach, mentor, and caring social constructionist to produce quality learning experiences tailored to individual learners? needs.   To do this successfully, the teacher has to position himself or herself as the most humble of learners, open to learning important lessons from children.

Robert Epler

eppy2003@comcast.net

High School South, grade 10

Can We Work Together?   Exploring Connections Between Social Interaction and Individual Instruction.

Instructors often see group work as an essential part of the classroom, with social interaction and sharing ideas being critical pursuits.   However, are groups really more effective than individuals?   This inquiry explores the methods and outcomes of using groups to facilitate individual instruction.

Maura Fitzgerald

maf961@psu.edu

High School North, grade 11-12

Reviving the Passion in Student Writing

By the time they reach the 11th grade, many students have become stuck in the pattern of the five-paragraph essay, and they see writing as a chore rather than an opportunity to play with language.   What happened to creativity, risk-taking, and style?   My inquiry project explores student responses to an innovative writing project that bridges the gap between academic and creative writing.

Ashley Gessner

amg336@email.psu.edu

Park Forest Middle School, grade 8

Using Media and Popular Culture in the Classroom  

Students spend an average of 40 hours a week plugged into media.   My inquiry researches the effects of using media and popular culture within the classroom as a tool.   I investigaged student behavior, quality of student artifacts,and students reactions to the use of media and popular culture in the calssroom.

Lindsay Grosso

lag263@psu.edu

Park Forest Middle School, grade 7

"u wanna chat bout this L8r J ?"  

Students Find a New Voice in Online Discussion Forums

In today's technologically driven society, many students are finding a voice in the cyber world.   My inquiry project explores how online discussion forums provide a new opportunity for students to engage in conversations about the curriculum.   I have examined the relationship between conversations in online discussion forums and conversations in the classroom by analyzing the language, tone, content, and level of participation in these two forms of discussion.   I will share my findings by presenting case studies of 7 th grade students.

Keri Haluska

kah975@psu.edu

High School South, grade 10

Supporting an Authentic Audience in the English classroom

High school students often struggle during the writing process, for they are given little opportunity in the topics they choose and the audiences with whom they communicate.   My inquiry explores writing for an authentic audience as a means to provide students with a purpose and passion for writing.   During this session, I will discuss the results of how an authentic audience impacted student's skills and motivations for writing.


Melissa Kalwanski

melkay@gmail.com

High School North, grade 12

Wikipedia, Plagiarism, and Citation:   Helping Students Avoid Temptation

Students today have a wealth of information at their fingertips.   Unfortunately, not all of them use this to their advantage.   Students are also confronted with misinformation, and a variety of easy ways out, from papers for sale to the ability to cut and paste a paper together.   This inquiry explores both why students fall to the temptation of the easy way out, and how teachers can help them avoid plagiarism and choose the best sources. 

Dana Kinek

dmk328@psu.edu

High School North, grade 11

A Step Toward a Publishable Draft: Encouraging Revision as an Integral Step in the Writing Process

How can we consistently encourage process over product in the English classroom?   This inquiry will explore students' views on the step of revision in the writing process.   Particularly, I have been interested in why students revise and how they approach revision.   I will use students' responses to focus more specifically on the question: "How can we nurture the practice of this skill and how do we instill the importance and significance of revising any written piece?"

Ashley Prokop

aap177@psu.edu

Park Forest Middle School, grade 7

Got the Jitters?   Understanding Adolescent Energy

Adolescence is the time when students experience a variety of hormonal, physical and emotional changes.   The goal of my inquiry project is to examine the academic effect of physical changes on students' movement in the classroom.   I will focus on three scenarios: students are forced to move, prevented from moving, and given the choice to move.

Sarah Rife

srr163@psu.edu

High School South, grade 10

Veto the Snooze Button: How to Wake Up a First Period Class

High school start time is an ongoing issue in today's schools, but when starting later isn't an option, how can we help our students to WAKE UP in the morning?   Throughout the school year, I have been experimenting with various classroom activities and utilizing observations and student feedback to see what engages or disengages a first period class.   I will consider various methods that succeed in not only capturing the students' attention, but also connecting them with course content.


Heather Stodart

hcs121@psu.edu

High School South, grade 9

Mean Girls and Lost Boys, Not Just In the Movies: How Peer Relationships Affect Learning In the Ninth Grade Classroom

Why are so many ninth grade students on the verge of failing this year at State High? Why has this ninth grade class been called the "worst ever"? This inquiry project investigates elements of both peer relationships and adolescent development in ninth grade students and their possible effects on classroom community and achievement.