1999-2000 SCASD-PSU Teacher Inquiry Conference Abstracts and Papers


May 2000

"Science tables in first grade."
Almquist, C. 
How can I take the idea of using a science table in the classroom, and change it so that it reflects goals I have for my students? This inquiry project demonstrates how the idea of a science table was shaped to promote conceptual science learning, scientific inquiry, and positive attitudes toward science in a first grade classroom.

Literature circles: Searching for the how to and the why?
Anders, A. and Khayat, B.
This joint inquiry project focuses on Literature Circles. The initial wondering was: What are they and What are some ways to implement them? Once the district's Language Arts specialist modeled Literature Circles with the class, the wondering changed. The authors came to a new wondering that focused on the questions that the students would write -- would they be fat ones like we'd want to see or skinny ones? Then, as they implemented their plan, collected and analyzed the data, another wondering occurred: How do we get the students to listen to each other to go beyond simple conversations to more complex/in depth discussions while basing their responses on evidence from the literature? The authors also believe that this wondering may lead to another as this seems to be a process that never ends as they're always wondering.

"Motivation the unmotivated."
Appold, H. 
This paper provides an in-depth look at three individual learners in a classroom who perform poorly on homework. There appears to be a common link found between student achievement on homework and parental support at home. The problem at hand was how to increase student motivation to complete homework without parental support. The author's mentor teacher and she then applied a program designed to increase intrinsic motivation in one learner and used a system of extrinsic motivation to motivate the other two. Results involved helping a child to develop intrinsic motivation and finding more success.

How can the internet be used effectively to enhance human body instruction for fifth grade students?
Barley, S.
Upon exploring Internet resources this year in preparation for lessons, the author found herself being exposed to some very interesting information and captivating images which further increased her interest in the subject matter. Once she realized how much more she was enjoying these topics, she wanted to be able to share this with her students. Why couldn't it help them, too? She explored the practical concerns of integrating this approach into daily instruction during the human body unit - how to locate quality sites, how to determine what Internet information is useful to present, how to allow everyone to see and participate, and how to model note taking while on the computer. Would the computer-based lessons increase student attention, retention, and understanding?

Inclusion of an ESL student.
Bryan, K. 
What should I do to include a non-English speaking student into my classroom of First Graders? Will we be able to communicate? How do I incorporate his culture in my class? This inquiry project addresses the social, emotional, and academic areas of an ESL (English as a Second Language) student.

Cooperative learning & the "extreme" learners in my classroom.
Bugaj, M. 
The purpose of this inquiry project was to gain a better understanding of the learners in the author's classroom at the very "high and low" ends of the developmental spectrum. More precisely, the author hoped to determine what elements, that involve these leareners, contribute to successful cooperative learning.

Teaching kindness.
Camp, R.
This paper culminates from a study which sought to understand the relationships among children in a third grade classroom. In addition, the author wondered how the State College social studies curriculum could be used to build friendships and a stronger community. The class, methods of data collection, and the activities used to encourage kindness are described.

What techniques will help a child to succeed in the classroom?
Chiappetta, F.
This inquiry project by a PDS Intern seeks to answer questions relating to difficult children in the classroom. For example, she asks, What techniques can a teacher use to help a difficult child be socially and academically successful in the classroom?

"Staying connected."
Clair, C.
How can the PDS provide opportunities to more fully integrate the Math Education Course with teaching practices? A mentor teacher participates in the development of the Elementary Math Education Course and offers support and guidance for interns as they continue to teach mathematics throughout the school year.

The impact of a teacher's values and beliefs on the structure of class meetings.
Clelland, C. 
How do the beliefs of a teacher impact the way he or she engages children in class meetings? How is the structure of these community meetings a reflection of the teacher? This inquiry project by a PDS Intern seeks to answer the question of how a teacher's philosophy of teaching and learning impacts the class meeting.

How do you implement developmentaly-appropriate language stations?
Daughenbaugh, M. and Patrick, D.
Being new to primary and curious about the way in which children acquire beginning language and literacy skills, the authors began their yearlong inquiry with the following questions: What is the main purpose of language stations? How much time should be allotted for each station? What skills should be reinforced?

Comprehension: The essence of reading.
Deily, D.
How do you help the child who is a good word reader develop the critical thinking skills necessary to understand and interpret text for meaning rather than just words? This inquiry project focuses on various instructional techniques and a diverse range of activities to stimulate and increase students' reading comprehension.

Using mini lessons to enhance children's writing.
Devine, K.
How do mini lessons impact student writing? Does the concept presented in a mini lesson show up in student writing? When? Just that day or in a week, or a month? In this paper, the author presents her findings in relation to these questions as well as many others concerning the affect of mini lessons on children's writing.

"?noitceriD thgiR ehT nI gnioG I mA" (Am I going in the right direction?)
Dillon, S. 
An intern's year long observation of a first grade student who exhibits continued directionality difficulties despite explicit instruction and ample exposure is explored in this paper.

Young children working in small groups: A culture within a culture.
Fürer, A. and Bruening, B. 
This paper explores the following questions: How does the culture of small groups in a junior primary classroom impact the roles children assume? What is the impact of the children's roles while working in a small group setting? Are leadership, independence, and ability strong factors?

Why a webpage?
Hermann, C. 
What effects does a year-long classroom web-site have on students' learning? How do parents and students feel about this addition to the classroom? This inquiry project addresses the value of adding a classroom home-page to an intermediate age classroom community.

What a wonderful world: Anit-bias curriculum and the needs of the elementary classroom.
Hosfeld, A. 
How do the needs and constraints of an elementary classroom shape the adoption of an anti-bias curriculum? How can you begin to change the way your students look at the world? This inquiry focuses specifically on the constraints of developmentally appropriate practice, and district curriculum guidelines, as well as the need to use multiple learning approaches while integrating skills.

Organizing the primary classroom learning environment.
Humphrey, C.
How can I create and maintain an effective room arrangement that maximizes use of existing space? How can new furniture help? What part does teacher behavior play in maintaining the environment? This inquiry project looks at the space needs of students and teachers in a primary classroom and the teacher's struggle to manage clutter efficiently.

Effective parent-teacher communication: Enhancing the teaching partnership between home and school.
Koziak, M. and Abruzzo, S. 
Explore with us multiple techniques to develop a strong communication network between home and school in your classroom. We will examine the effectiveness of several strategies from both the teacher and parent perspective. Some communication techniques that will be discussed are newsletters, home/school journals, web-sites, pilot progress reports, three way conferences and others. We hope to provide you with some useful ideas to use in your own communication efforts.

Dinosaurs in primary.
Kur, J.

This paper explores the journey from facts and crafts to inquiry. The teacher researcher asks: Can I take a Science Unit that is heavy with content and make it more inquiry centered? The author shares the process and product.

Can you help me?
Little, T. and Kauffman, T. 
How does a multi-adult classroom affect student dependence/independence? This inquiry project by a classroom teacher and university intern looks at dependent learners and seeks to understand the reasons behind the dependence and ways to foster independent workers.

Effective science teaching.
Mitchell, K.
This teacher inquiry involves working on how the author can make her teaching of science more responsive to students' developmental and conceptual needs. As a part of this inquiry she is striving to make science an interesting and exciting subject for students. This research involves how to structure science lessons so they are more inquiry based.

It's a magnet world!
Quell, R. and Dobash, L. 
What impact will student directed science have on children's learning? Will the shift form a collection of science activities to exploration better support children's development of scientific concepts and attitudes? This inquiry project by an intern/mentor team reports on the changes that took place when the environment shifted from an activity-based to a play-based science classroom.

Life under the sea: The social studies concepts.
Rotz, L. 
This inquiry project is designed to help teachers and interns develop social studies concepts and activities for the State College Area School District Unit, Life Under The Sea. This particular unit has a heavy emphasis on the sciences, while the social studies concepts are not clearly defined. This project is intended to aid teachers in creating social studies lessons and activities that can be integrated into the existing unit. The activities are aligned with the district standards and some of the current PA standards.

Healing the wounds: Increasing a child's self-esteem.
Sapone, C. and Hartman, B.
How can we decrease negative attention-seeking behaviors in the classroom? How can we raise a child's self-esteem permanently so that he can be successful in school and in life? This inquiry project done collaboratively by a fourth grade teacher and her intern seeks to better understand a disruptive child's behaviors and how they are linked to his self-esteem.

Helping fifth graders come to terms with The five qualities of good writing.
Shirk, J., and Baumrucker, N.
This inquiry project by a 5th grade teacher and a Curriculum Support Teacher for Language Arts/Social Studies seeks to answer the following questions regarding journal writing by 5th graders. How beneficial are teacher/student generated prompts in helping students attend to the five qualities of good writing based on the Pennsylvania System of School Assessment? How can the Writer's Workshop format be used to allow students to experience an historical simulated journey west to the fullest extent, provide for accountability, produce polished, finished pieces while still permitting for enough time and freshness of thought without belaboring the activity?

Exploring positive discipline strategies.
Shockey, D.
Through understanding strategies of positive discipline, one intern gained confidence when handling behavioral issues in her first grade placement. Learn about the philosophies she gained and the strategies she used to enhance her teaching practice.

Mind your P's and Q's: Exploring mirror-images with first graders.
Slocum, A. 

Mirror images are single letters written by children as if the letters were seen in a mirror. (e.g. A q is written instead of a p. or a b is written instead of a d.) This inquiry project answers questions such as Why does mirror-imaging happen? And How does mirror-imaging make children feel? Also, many techniques are explored in helping children overcome their tendencies to write mirror-images.

Enhancing self-esteem in relation to academic and social success for a student.
Snyder, A.
Throughout this inquiry project, the author explores the following wonderings: Does self-esteem play a role in the classroom? By enhancing a child's self-esteem will I be able to prevent behavioral problems in the classroom that limit a child's success academically and socially? Can this child be reached and how will it affect their school year?

Auditory processing disorder: Seeking tounderstand in order to facilitate effectie writing strategies.
Strother, S.
Have you ever had a student that appeared not to listen to directions? Do any of your students write stories that are incoherent and difficult to decipher? This paper explores how a few simple writing strategies can help students focus in on their ideas and be successful in their writing.

Self-esteem: Intervening to ensure the success of a capable child.
Trannell, J.
In this inquiry project, the first year intern focused on a student in his class with whom he worked to improve self-esteem and academic performance. He responded to the following questions: What can teachers do to improve the self-esteem of students who are capable but who don't believe in themselves? How does this lack of self-esteem affect the academic and social success of the child? What are some interventions that can be tried with minimal disruption to the entire class?

Classroom Web Sites And Parent Communication.
Wakeley, M. 
This paper explores the following questions: Is a classroom web site an effective communication tool between teachers and parents? How can the web site enhance parent awareness of the activities in the classroom? How can educators participate in developing a classroom web site.

Student's motivation levels toward science: A glance at 3rd grade science education.
Wilson, M. 
The Question: "How can I design science education in the classroom that is academically focused and increase motivation?" Through research, the author has found that students' motivation levels toward science are affected by design of lessons and previous experiences. This inquiry allowed her the opportunity to witness the changing perspectives over a period of several weeks. During this time, she was able to conduct several science experiments and ask the students for direct feedback. This collection of data led to more questions.