2007-2008 SCASD-PSU Teacher Inquiry Conference Abstracts and Papers

April 2008

Tricky Transitions Made Timely: Smoothing Out the Rough Edges of Classroom Transitions

Katie Allen, Intern, Gray’s Woods Elementary, 2nd Grade

Elementary students engage in many important activities each day. A small but equally significant part of the school day is what happens in between these activities. Transitions are an extremely important element that can make or break the atmosphere and tone of the classroom. Join me on my journey into discovering how to use efficient transitions to maximize students’ attention and motivation, to maintain a positive classroom environment, and reduce time off-task.

Supporting ELL Students in a Mainstream Classroom

Kayleigh Amato, Intern, Park Forest Elementary, 4th Grade

Margaret Hipple, Intern, Park Forest Middle School 6th Grade


After having several new ELL students introduced to our mainstream classrooms, we decided to explore some strategies that could support them in this new environment.  We looked at strategies teachers can use as well as those to teach ELL students.

"I don’t want to be in a group with them." How to Improve Student Interactions in Upper Intermediate Classrooms

Lindsay Baer, Intern, Boalsburg Elementary, 5th Grade

Andrea Stewart, Intern, Park Forest Elementary, 5th Grade

Spending the year as fifth grade interns, we noticed the classroom environment becoming increasingly unwelcoming as the year progressed.  In an effort to improve day-to-day student attitudes and interactions, we implemented community building exercises to make our students feel proud to be a part of our classes.  Whole class meetings helped to provide a consistent means of checking in on students’ feelings and personal lives, thus providing insight into the motives behind their actions.  This inquiry provides effective strategies to maintain and improve upper intermediate classroom communities.

Just Another Grade to Put in the Gradebook: Exploring Student Perceptions About Writing

Lucy Baker, Intern, State College High North, 12th Grade & State College High South, 10th Grade

This inquiry into student perceptions about the purpose of academic writing seeks to gain an understanding of factors leading to student resistance toward writing in our twelfth grade college prep English classes. This presentation will share data from students, discuss possible causes of student perceptions, and explore possibilities to break down resistance.

Considering Multiple Intelligences in Planning, Instruction, and Assessment of Foreign Language Learning
Kyle Bentley, Intern, Ferguson Elementary, 2nd Grade

Early in the 2007-2008 school year, I began teaching my students a Spanish word of the week.  This sparked an interest in foreign languages for nearly all students in the second grade classroom.  Due to this, I began to wonder how to teach students a foreign language by considering the strengths and weaknesses of different learning styles.  The driving question behind this teacher inquiry project is: How can Spanish be effectively implemented into a monolingual classroom by considering multiple intelligences in planning, instruction, and assessment.  The research is based upon Howard Gardner's Theory of Multiple Intelligences.

A Peek at Student Motivation in Two Different Fourth Grade Classrooms
Tia Black, Intern, Boalsburg Elementary, 4th Grade

Danelle Lausch, Intern, Boalsburg Elementary, 4th Grade

There are only two fourth grade classes at Boalsburg Elementary and all of the students come from a very similar demographic background. Many of the students started kindergarten together and have continued to move through first, second, and third grade together.  For one reason or another, the student behavior and attitude toward school in the two classes is drastically different For our inquiry, we thought it would be interesting to take a deeper look into each individual’s motivation, how that affected each class as a whole and why the extreme difference existed.

Exploring How Building a Classroom Community Affects Sixth Graders’ Daily
 Experience in Middle School


Marcus Bouchillon, Intern, Mount Nittany Middle School, 6th Grade

Carrie Rinehimer, Intern, Mount Nittany Middle School, 6th Grade


In many elementary classrooms across the State College Area School District, morning meetings are an effective and common management tool used to build the classroom community. As elementary interns teaching sixth grade in a middle school setting, we were wary of the benefits and student acceptance of implementing morning meetings into a defined schedule.  This inquiry explores the benefits and downfalls of using morning meetings in this setting.

From Non-Readers to Bookworms: Exploring the Reasons Students Choose the Books They Read
Bethany Boyd, Intern, Gray’s Woods Elementary, 3rd Grade

Since the beginning of the year, I noticed my students did anything they could to avoid actually reading during silent reading time. When I did see them reading, they read the same books over and over again. My inquiry explores why my students chose the books they read and how I, as their teacher, can broaden the variety of genres they read.

Student-Led Class Meetings:  Passing the Power to the 1st graders

Morgan Bracken, Intern, Panorama Village Elementary, 1st Grade
In order to improve the sense of community in my classroom, I wanted to encourage more personal responsibility to my first-grade students.  I chose four leaders each week to lead class meetings, in which the students discussed problems that they were having in the classroom and came up with solutions to work towards a better community.

"I don’t like writing because I hate it," English 11 student

Mackenzie Bricker, Intern, State College High North, 11th Grade

It is not a shock to learn that not all students like to write. But how do we lead students to a healthier relationship with writing? This presentation will investigate techniques and strategies developed to explore my own assumptions and how I guided my practice based on those findings.

The Play’s The Thing!  Using Activities and Humor When Teaching Drama

Mary Ann Brosnan, Intern, State College High North, College Prep 12th Grade

The focus of this Inquiry Project centered on discovering the different types of resistance my College Prep 12 students had to studying Shakespeare’s Macbeth.  This presentation will discuss the classes’ dominant objections to studying Shakespeare and ways students became engaged in the play despite their initial objections.

Brain-Based Classroom Management: Conscious Discipline and Brain Gym Strategies with Kindergartners

Steven Calderone, Intern, Radio Park Elementary, Kindergarten

Cheryl Isola, Mentor, Radio Park Elementary, Kindergarten

A kindergarten teacher and her intern explore the effectiveness of classroom management strategies based in brain research with their students.  The pair integrated components of Dr. Becky Bailey's Conscious Discipline and Drs. Paul and Gail Dennison's Brain Gym into their daily management techniques and classroom routines.  In doing this inquiry their main wondering was, "What effect will Conscious Discipline and related strategies have on student behavior?"

"Thank You for Raising Your Hand" No More Teacher Reminders; Helping Students to Control Talking Out of Turn.
Ashley Campbell, Intern, Lemont Elementary, 1st Grade

I found I was stopping lessons to give constant reminders about hand raising and listening.  I worked to help students understand their own talking out of turn behavior.  I implemented various behavior management plans to see if anything could help first grade students take control of their own behavior.

"Theatrical Education"

Robert Campbell, Intern, State College High South & North, 9th & 12th Grades

This inquiry presents a student teacher's journey from a career as a professional theatre actor towards a career as a classroom teacher.  It is an attempt to contextualize the teacher's experience, the English classroom, and shifting identity in theatrical terms.
The presentation will be a guided tour of a personal website designed to archive past experiences in theatre, current experiences in education, and a synthesis and examination of multiple ways the two fields interrelate.


What is the role of a teacher during a session designated to narrative journal writing?
Holly Cedro, Intern, Radio Park Elementary, 1st Grade

In my first grade classroom, the students use journals to document experiences and occurrences in everyday life.  Over the past 7 months, I have noticed a great disconnect between my capable, story telling writers and the work that they produce in their journal.  My inquiry has led me to question my role in this journaling process.  I am exploring ways that I can help my students produce pieces that they are proud of while going beyond the required three-sentence minimum.

The effects of Teacher Persona

Michelle Chan, Intern, Park Forest Elementary, 2nd Grade

While I was teaching in the classroom, I discovered that I had a difficult time developing my teacher persona in front of the students and managing the classroom. I felt that I needed to find a reason why I could not manage the behavior of the students in my class. So I decided to introduce my lessons with a variety of resources, such as technology, crafts, songs, and games. This inquiry project has helped me discover the advantages of having a variety of lessons in the classroom.

Fostering Responsibility and Initiative in Kindergartners

Becky Cohen, Intern, Park Forest Elementary, Kindergarten

On the 85th day of school, one student who constantly asks for permission and reassurance from the teachers, asked me to tie her shoes. When I prompted her to try it herself, although it took her about 10 minutes, she did it and looked at me with a smile filled with pride. It was then that I realized that students in our kindergarten class could be capable of doing much more without adult assistance, if they were given the appropriate opportunities I wanted to see if adjusting certain routines in our classroom could foster responsibility and initiative in the five-and-six year olds.

Motivation Through Student-Centered Reading Strategies

Stephanie Cranage, Intern, Radio Park Elementary, 3rd Grade

My inquiry project was inspired by my 10 very active reading group students that seemed to need motivation to connect with the books we were reading. I designed new activities specifically for my students, each of which connected back to a reading strategy they have learned. Each activity required the students to pay close attention to what they were reading, collaborate with other team members, and analyze their own thinking.

Games and Skill Reinforcement:
 How Can Games be used to Maximize Learning and Reinforce Skills With my Second Graders?
Jenelle Davis, Intern, Lemont Elementary, 2nd Grade

I began to observe different areas that needed extra reinforcement for particular students.  I noticed that students who needed extra practice were uncomfortable being singled out for one-on-one instruction with the teacher.  Knowing how motivating games are for my students, I decided to create various games for the identified challenging skills.  Through assessments and individual placements, I was able to differentiate instruction to meet learning objectives and maximize learning in a supportive way.

"Ice Breakers Won’t Cut It."
Jessica DeAngelo, Intern, State College High South, 9th Grade

How can we mesh together the social and academic communities of our classrooms?  Join me while I attempt to connect the disjointed pieces of my classrooms’ social and academic communities to form an atmosphere where every student can learn in a safe environment

Implementing a Whole Class Behavior Plan: Understanding Expectations from a First Grade Perspective.

Michael Dissen, Intern, Gray’s Woods Elementary, 1st Grade

Outstanding classroom management is especially important with 26 first grade students.  This inquiry project focuses on behavior issues in hopes of learning how first graders understand the expectations set for them.  The majority of my data has come from class discussions, personal interviews, and the implementation of a whole class behavior plan.

Kindergarten Chaos: Finding the most effective behavior management strategies on the carpet

Ashlee Donaldson, Intern, Park Forest Elementary, Kindergarten

Is it sometimes difficult for your students to remain focused during activities on the carpet? This inquiry explores the effects of trying out several behavior management strategies, such as assigned seating areas, singing and movements, breaking up the activity (morning and afternoon), and a reward system. Come and see the advantages and disadvantages that I have found for each strategy.

Making Time for Science 'Talks'

Jessica Donaldson, Intern, Radio Park Elementary, 3rd Grade

Can third grade students think like scientists?  In my third grade classroom, each student uses his/her everyday language to help find meaning behind and make sense of scientific phenomena. Science talks allow a specific time for the students to converse about their observations, data, and wonderings. Since the beginning of the year I became increasingly interested in understanding how an effective science talk is led and how argumentation can be a significant tool in the growth of scientific knowledge. My inquiry involves a closer observation of the components of an effective science talk to increase student engagement and participation. As a result of my investigation, I hope to learn ways to engage the students to become active participants and encourage discourse for scientific understanding.

How might VAKT (Visual, Auditory, Kinesthetic, Tactile) Strategies Help My Struggling Students Understand and Retain the Relationship Between Letters and Sounds?

Jessica Earley, Intern, Gray's Woods Elementary, Kindergarten

As I started to work closely with a group of five students, I wondered how I could do more to help these students be successful with language. I decided to research Visual, Auditory, Kinesthetic, Tactile (VAKT) learning.  As I researched this type of learning, I wondered if I offer these students exposure to a variety of learning tools by incorporating VAKT learning into the language arts curriculum, would these students start to develop a better understanding of letters and sounds.

SOUNDing off on Student Support: How much support do students need in order to construct understandings from inquiry science activities?
Stacey Ehrlich, Intern, Radio Park Elementary, 2nd Grade

Sarah Szymanski, Intern, Radio Park Elementary, 2nd Grade

Teaching in the State College Area School District has allowed us the opportunity to teach science in an inquiry based format.  As new teachers of inquiry based science we wanted to make sure we were giving our students every opportunity to be successful in the classroom.  Our inquiry focuses on how the amount and method of support during science lessons affects students' abiliy to understand the key concepts in the unit.

Helping First and Second Grade Students Relate to the Feelings and Differences of Others


Jennah Feathers, Intern, Park Forest Elementary, 1st and 2nd multiage

Forming and maintaining friendships is a crucial aspect of every child’s school experience.  My inquiry focuses on helping students identify their own feelings and relate to the feelings of others.  My goal is to equip all of my students with the skills necessary to interact and cooperate with others.

"Hello! Is Anybody Listening?" How To Maximize Instructional Time in Fifth Grade
Susan Feinstein, Intern, Houserville Elementary, 5th Grade

As I began to teach more in my classroom, I found that a great deal of time was being wasted at the beginning of transitional times when I was trying to get my students’ attention. They thought transition time was a time to socialize. This made me wonder what type of attention-getters would be effective and age-appropriate in order to make transition times more organized.  This inquiry takes a look at the most effective attention-getting strategies in my fifth grade classroom.

Read Alouds: Working Wonders to Enhance Classroom Community
Shelby Flanz, Intern, Easterly Parkway Elementary, 1st Grade

While working in a first grade classroom, I realized how important it is to have a strong sense of community.  The children really thrive when they feel comforted and welcomed by their classmates and teachers.  Since children’s literature is truly a passion of mine, I was interested in finding out if classroom community could be enhanced through read alouds and incorporating follow-up community building activities.

"Mom and Dad, look! I stayed on GREEN today!" 
Parent Communication and Classroom Management
Jamie Frey, Intern, Ferguson Township Elementary, Kindergarten

Allison Renaut, Intern, Ferguson Township Elementary, Kindergarten

Is student behavior in the classroom related to the amount of communication between their parents and teachers? Can students benefit from an increase in communication regarding their behavior? We explored these questions through the implementation of a comprehensive behavior system that involves students reporting their (color-coded) behavior to their parents each day. Student motivation and consistent implementation became factors as our kindergarteners learned to regulate their behavior and direct more of their attention toward learning.

What are ways that I can incorporate student ownership into my classroom and how does it impact the classroom environment?
Emily Funkhouser, Intern, Park Forest Elementary, 3rd & 4th Grades

During my internship I became interested in providing students choices and having them take ownership and responsibility of “teaching” their peers.  I was interested in seeing how student choice impacted the classroom environment and the attitudes of each individual student.

Exploring the Effectiveness of a Classroom Website
Molly Golding, Intern, Ferguson Township Elementary, 2nd Grade

As I began to think about myself as a teacher next year, I wondered how parents would view my teaching and how I could effectively communicate the events in the classroom with parents. This inquiry explores the effectiveness of parent teacher communication via the Internet.  I surveyed parents and students to measure the effectiveness of an updated classroom website.  My inquiry project is a reflection of the data collected from parents, students and teachers regarding the effectiveness of this form of communication compared to a classroom newsletter.

"Kicking up Kid Writing in Kindergarten"
Erica Graper, Intern, Panorama Village Elementary, Kindergarten

Since learning to read and write is one of the main focal points in kindergarten, we spend a lot of time working in our “Kid Writing” journals each week.  Because students have a wide range of abilities, it can be difficult to address all of their needs at once.  I investigated how to differentiate instruction, raise expectations, and create mini-lessons to help my students become independent and confident writers.  I want my students to feel good about what they know, while also challenging them to constantly build new knowledge.

ESL Students from the Inside Out

Lisa Harpster, Intern, State College High South, ESL

English as a Second Language students experience concerns and identity struggles that continue worlds beyond most conventional issues encountered by secondary students. What is really going on in the lives of ESL students, both inside and outside of the ESL classroom?

Making the transparent visible: Using Studio Code to reveal mentor decision making during science instruction

Kimber Hershberger, Mentor, Radio Park, 1st Grade

Judi Kur, Mentor, Radio Park, 3rd Grade

How can we make our teacher decision making during science talks more visible to our interns? This session will explain the process we used to help our interns analyze our science talks. The process was used for both intern and mentor lead talks. We will also share the results of our analysis and the discussions with our interns about what we noticed from using Studio Code.

Community Building in Fourth Grade

Kristen Hughes, Intern, Corl Street Elementary, 4th Grade

This inquiry project focused on building and maintaining a positive classroom community in a busy fourth grade classroom. The strategies of classroom meetings and “Rock Buddies” were used in the classroom to work on improving and maintaining a positive classroom community where each student felt valued throughout the school day.

"Can I be done?" Exploring ways to improve primary students’ attitudes towards writing as well as the quality of their written pieces.
Lauren Hukill, Intern, Park Forest Elementary, 1st Grade

“Can I be done?” This phrase can be heard repeatedly any time the students in my first grade classroom are asked to write. As a primary teacher, I strive to instill a passion for writing in my students. However, I have struggled throughout the year to help my students develop an interest in writing. For my inquiry, I chose to examine how student choice, classroom sharing, and publishing impacted students’ attitudes towards writing and the quality of their written pieces.

"What are you thinking?" A Look Into Student and Teacher Understanding In A Conceptually Based Math Curriculum

Amanda Iachini, Intern, Corl Street Elementary, 3rd Grade

Amanda Kameny, Intern, Park Forest Elementary, 3rd Grade

Throughout this year in third grade, math has been taught through a conceptually based program.  Within the classroom there is a wide variety of learners that have left us wondering, “What are our students truly understanding?” and “How can we create better instruction to meet all of our students’ needs?”  This inquiry has become an exploration into the students’ thinking and understanding, as well as, an evaluation of our own teaching practice.

Literacy Comes in Different Shapes, Sizes and….Projects?
Morgan Ilgen, Intern, The Centre Learning Community Charter School

What does literacy look like in a project based, technology supported school? How do students in a project-based learning environment move toward a relationship with literacy? The goal of my inquiry project is explore literacy in a project-based classroom. Using specific examples from past projects that I have taught as well as student and teacher feedback, I will examine students’ acquisition of knowledge, skills and attributes as they promote or disrupt literacy.

"Not So Elementary"

Kate Irwin, Intern, Park Forest Middle School, 6th Grade
As a sixth grade intern, I have noticed as the year has progressed that students in my class have struggled with responsibility.  I would classify responsibility as paying attention in class, following directions, turning work in on time, and finding the answers to problems independently.  With more than half of the year completed, many of the students are still relying on a teacher for help with things they should be able to do on their own.  Gaining more responsibility in sixth grade will allow students to transition into seventh grade, where personal responsibilities increase further.

Writers' Workshop: Motivating and Focusing Students to Become Better Writers.
Laura Jacobson, Intern, Ferguson Township Elementary, 1st Grade

Keri Lucas-Collins, Intern, Ferguson Township Elementary, 1st Grade

As first grade interns at Ferguson Township Elementary, we observed students during writers’ workshop exhibiting off-task and uninterested behavior.  As student teachers, writing is a content area that we worry about teaching.  With both of these concerns in mind, we developed our inquiry based on motivating and focusing our students during writing time, using strategies that will benefit us as future teachers.

"Tough Love"
Sarah Klein, Intern, Lemont Elementary, 1st Grade

My inquiry project is about finding a classroom management technique suitable for me.  I have introduced a "warm fuzzies" jar in my classroom and other techniques to help the students behave more appropriately. The main problem that I find in my classroom is talking out and not raising their hands. I am inquiring about this problem with different techniques developed by my mentor, my PDA, and me.

Writing a house!

Andrew Kurnas, Intern, Bellefonte Area Middle School, 7th Grade

Writing is a magical thing. It is where many of us sort out thoughts, vent, organize, plan, express and find solace. So how do you teach that to students? Through the metaphor of building a house, we will discuss the perceived tension between the resources that young writers have, and what is expected of them the by larger society.

American Sign Language in the Classroom, what are the benefits?
Christine Lack, Intern, Park Forest Elementary, 6th Grade 1/2 Multiage

I have taken two semesters of American Sign Language at Penn State. My interest in sign carried over into my classroom, and I began teaching my children sign. I wanted to explore what benefits there were to teaching my students sign, especially in the area of writing. My inquiry project helped me explore the benefits of using sign in my classroom.

How Does Music Affect Student Learning in Language Arts and Throughout the Day?
Shayna Levenson, Intern, Gray’s Woods Elementary, Kindergarten

With a busy kindergarten class and a particular interest in music myself, I began an inquiry on the effects of music on language arts learning. How could I incorporate song and movement into my teaching, and would it help my students remember letter sounds, word families, and common sight words? Come, find out how we added an element of fun and excitement to our kindergarten classroom this spring!

Did I Just Say That?  Exploring the Formation of Teacher Identity Through Analysis of Experiences
Rachel Loeb, Intern, State College High South, 9th & 10th Grades

No two teachers are alike.  Despite years of similar training and schooling, each of us has carved out a unique personality and standards within teaching. What influences and shapes how we negotiate our niche in the role of teacher?  If we could more completely analyze why we act the way we act in stressful, joyful or trying moments, perhaps we can feel more confident and assured in our teaching personalities.  This inquiry explores my personal path to figuring out why I teach how I teach.

The Influence of Peer Editing in the Writing Process

Allison Lundell, Intern, Radio Park Elementary, 4th Grade

My fourth grade class began to write narratives before the winter break. I found the students often skipped over mistakes they were capable of identifying and correcting, instead of utilizing a critical eye to examine their own work during the editing process. I decided to introduce a peer editing process into our classroom, to see how it influenced the students' editing capabilities, as well as their general writing abilities.

"…And They Wrote Reflectively Ever After…" Reflection as Development through Journals
Susan Lunsford, PDA, Houserville & Lemont Elementary

Candy Stahl, 2nd Grade Teacher/Mentor, Gray’s Woods Elementary

This inquiry focuses on the use of reflective journals as a tool for improving practice and fine-tuning observations made by interns. As the year progresses, many issues and questions arise; concerns and discoveries surface that require personal and professional refection. A mentor teacher and PDA will share weekly reflective journal samples, surprising discoveries and examples of how feedback from mentors and PDA’s influence an intern’s ability to develop a reflective stance.

Promoting Social Competence through Community Building Activities.
Linda Lutz, Intern, Park Forest Elementary 3rd Grade

In this inquiry, I set out to answer the following question. "What effect can community building have in a classroom in regard to instilling a sense of right and wrong, fighting bullying, and promoting social competence while intrinsically motivating students to work as a team and value respect?”

Technology in the Classroom Can Increase Student Engagement!

Anne Maddox, Intern, Park Forest Middle School, 7th & 8th Grades

Using technology in the classroom can be an effective means of increasing student engagement. Come and see examples of specific ways that teachers can utilize technology in projects, assessments, or just as a change of pace. Laptops, podcasts, iMovie, SCoodle, or Comic Life can be the first step to engaging your students!

Mommy and Me: Not the play group it use to be

Erin McDonnell, Intern, State College High South, 10th grade

I began this year relying on my own past experiences to define parental support, and within two weeks my conceptions were turned upside down.  I will focus on initial thoughts, how a year-long study and reflection led to a new definition, and how this will help teachers in their own classrooms.

Everyone’s Got a Job to Do: Fostering Independence in the Primary Classroom
Rachael Miller, Intern, Corl Street Elementary, 2nd Grade

After student teaching for several months in a second grade classroom in the State College Area School district, I began to think that teaching was going to be a breeze.  What I didn’t take into consideration is that there are three adults in my classroom for most of the day and the students are very reliant on them.  Because of this, I began to wonder what I was going to do next year when I might be the only adult in my own classroom.  I started creating independent centers and independent management tasks for my students to complete.  Through this inquiry I found that creating meaningful roles for students in the classroom helps foster independence, which is beneficial to both the student and the teacher.


Efficiency and Effectiveness of Inquiry Science in Kindergarten
Alicia Motta, Intern, Gray’s Woods Elementary, Kindergarten

When taking my science method course in the fall, I became increasingly convinced that inquiry science is the best and most efficient way for students to learn science. Since there are various opinions relating to kindergarten students’ ability to gather evidence and create claims, I created a series of inquiry-based lessons to discover just how capable kindergarteners are.  Also, because there is so little time to teach science, I studied the most effective and efficient ways to plan and teach the current science curriculum through inquiry.

Why do My Students Need So Much Reassurance??? How Can I Best Help My Third Graders Become More Independent Workers?

Carley Mulligan, Intern, Houserville Elementary, 3rd Grade

Over the course of the school year, I found that several students consistently seek reassurance from one of the classroom teachers.  I decided that I needed to do further research to figure out the underlying meaning behind the children’s dependence on an adult in the room.  I came up with various ideas for why this may occur.  Some reasons include: Directions are not clear enough for students, students are lacking in their self-confidence, students are lacking in their self-monitoring skills, students need more check-ins during independent work, students act in this manner at home, the K-2 Fail Safe aids promote less independence for primary students, and finally, some students may have test anxiety.  These above ideas began my thought process, and I want to know the underlying reason behind why some of my third grade students need so much reassurance!

A New Generation of Learners: Motivating students with multiple forms of technology

Katie Newman, Intern, Ferguson Township Elementary, 4th Grade

Sue Feldman, Mentor, Ferguson Township Elementary, 4th Grade


Students today are fortunate to have an abundance of information at their fingertips. Channeling that information and learning from it can be challenging for even the most technologically savvy.  As we continuously learn new avenues together with our students, we have arrived at the question: How can we use technology to motivate, engage, and entice our fourth grade students to be lifelong learners? This session discusses how students were involved in learning and implementing all modes of technology through Scoodle, GarageBand, iMovie, and the SMART Board. By enticing our students toward technology, we have provided more opportunities for choice within the curriculum.

"This Feels Weird" — Talking About Race and Other Differences in a High School English Classroom
Laura O’Connor Vernikoff, Intern, State College High North, 11th Grade

How do we, as teachers, help our students to speak openly and honestly about difficult topics?  Students used a unit on the Harlem Renaissance as a stepping stone for examining race and other “differences” in American Society and in their school community.  Throughout the unit, I struggled with ways to keep an open dialogue going; here are some of the strategies I found.

How can a teacher strike a balance between productive conversations and work time in a 1st grade classroom that struggles with behavioral issues?
Kristan Overfield, Intern, Park Forest Elementary, 1st Grade

Throughout the year the students in my classroom have been involved in many disagreements and confrontations, said many put-downs to each other, and made other students feel left out during the day.  I believed that the behaviors and verbal interactions in the class could be causing some students to feel unwelcome.  I was interested in seeing if constructive discussions and activities would help improve student’s self concept and feeling of community in the classroom.

I Don’t Like to Read
Bonnie Peters, Intern, State College High North & South, 10th & 12th Grades

How many times do parents or teachers hear this statement?  Even students who are good readers sometimes do not enjoy it.  This inquiry explores the reasons for lack of motivation and interest in reading with secondary school students, and provides teachers with possible solutions for getting all students to read.

Extra! Extra! Teach All About It: PDS Interns Explore Integrating Current Events Discussions into Their Classroom Practice

Cole Reilly, PDA/Instructor, PSU College of Education
Elem. PDS Interns [400 Level SSED Methods]


Experts agree that incorporating current events into classroom practice is a powerful way to help students (and teachers) begin to see themselves as citizens of the world. However, my experience suggests that few teachers (even season ones) make time for this in their busy schedules, hesitant to do so for one reason or another. Perhaps student teachers are at an especially pivotal point in their lives in terms of seeing themselves and their work as teachers as inherently political; issues toward which they may have previously felt apathetic are newly relevant when their K-6 students begin asking them to clarify something about the war in Iraq or upcoming elections, etc. In response to a sense that some of our graduating interns had not felt prepared to navigate the unsteady waters of current events in their classroom, I set out this year to see How Do PDS Elem. Interns Conceptualize Their Own Identities & Practice (e.g., As Young Adults, Students, & Emerging Teachers) in Relation to Current Events?

I Don’t Want to Be His Partner…He’s Not My Friend. What Are the Best Ways to Build/Encourage Community with My 2nd Graders, Given Some Challenging Individual Behaviors?

Alyssa Rumbaugh, Intern, Lemont Elementary, 2nd Grade

The mission of this inquiry is to find out the best ways to build/encourage community with my 2nd graders given some challenging individual behaviors. Recently, I had noticed a few of my students having a lot of trouble with teamwork and cooperation. Several students in particular make it more challenging for the group as a whole to get along and work well together. With community building being a strength and value of my mentor’s, I am wondering why a few students can set the tone for the rest of the class and what I can do to correct this problem. With community building activities already established in the classroom, such as sharing time, partner activities, and group exercises, I’m still pondering why it is not effective for certain students.

The Effects of Experimental, Activity-Based Learning on Student Engagement and Performance

Anthony Scaltz, Intern, State College High South, 9th Grade

Throughout the year, I have been implementing teaching techniques grounded in experiential pedagogy. By utilizing some of these techniques, I seek to establish a correlation between experimental, activity-based pedagogy and its subsequent effects on student engagement, achievement, and language proficiency. Through various activities and games that get my students out of their seats, I hope to show how methods that move away from a lecture-based approach using verbal cueing and stimulation into an approach that utilizes multiple modes of learning and multi-sensory stimulation have a profound effect on the learner.

"Tell me how you got that answer?" Exploring evolving second grade math strategies for solving separating problems.

Elizabeth Schadler, Intern, Panorama Village Elementary, 2nd Grade

Throughout the year, I have noticed a change in the way my second grade students have been thinking about combining and separating problems. The strategies they use to solve those problems are a reflection of how their mathematical thinking is changing. My inquiry project focuses on how my students’ separating strategies mature and what factors make them change.


"Technology Talk": Students Use Online Discussion Forums on SCoodle to Discuss Literature

Kristen Schrenk. Intern, Park Forest Middle School, 6th Grade

Teaching in the State College Area School District has allowed me the opportunity to integrate technology into my classroom in order to enhance the curriculum. My inquiry project explores how the use of online discussion forums using SCoodle can be used in my 6th grade classroom to support reading instruction. I have examined to what extent my students demonstrate high-level thinking and comprehension when engaging in conversation about literature with their classmates.

Can I See Your Hall Pass?  Exploring the struggles of a young teacher

Tara Sclafani, Intern, State College High North, 11th Grade

Being 22 years old and teaching students five years younger than myself was needless to say, interesting.  Over the past months, I have observed my students’ behavioral patterns toward me in regards to respect and authority.  Through this inquiry, I will explore how to construct a strong teacher identity focused around gaining respect from students and investigate the struggles associated with new and/or young teachers.

Morning Work: Meeting Needs While Maximizing Everyone's Time and Energy
Emily Seigfried, Intern, Gray's Woods Elementary, 1st Grade

From the time that students first step in the door until Morning Meeting starts, it seems to be the busiest time of the day.  Many papers need to be processed and the lunch count needs to be reported.  Time is of the essence for teachers, but this is also an important time for students.  Knowing that I will encounter this type of situation no matter where I teach in the future, I decided to focus on making Morning Work an enjoyable, yet productive independent work time for students.


Assessing Students' Understanding through Classroom Artwork

Kate Smith, Intern, Easterly Parkway Elementary, 2nd Grade

After noticing how much my students enjoyed art class and seeing the quality products they were producing, my goal was to learn how art could be integrated into the regular classroom in a meaningful way.  The students and I created a large mural to show what we were studying over an entire unit.  I learned that art can be integrated into the curriculum as a form of assessment.  It allows students to use their unique abilities to express their understanding in a creative way.

Impact of Multiple Intelligences on Student Motivation
Victoria Strope, Intern, Mount Nittany Middle School, 6th Grade

What motivates students? Understanding what motivates students is the basis of this inquiry. By embedding “Multiple Intelligences” in a social studies unit, favorable assignments have been identified as well as trends in student participation. The purpose of this study is to assess the relationship between student motivation and participation and students’ stronger intelligence.

"I don’t want to write!"  How does a pen pal program influence students’ writing?

Maria Talarico, Intern, Panorama Village Elementary, 2nd Grade

What impact does a pen pal program have on students’ writing?  My students were struggling with writing and I wanted to find a way to increase their motivation and improve the quality of writing they produced.  Throughout my inquiry project, I have explored the impact of pen pals on my students’ motivation to write, their use of writing mechanics, and their handwriting to determine how pen pals impact my students’ work.

"Can You Help Me Up?" What Does It Mean To Support Our Students?
Latrice Thompson, Intern, Mount Nittany Middle School, Park Forest Middle School, 7th & 8th Grades

Do all students need the same type of support from teachers? Through case studies, research, and classroom observations, I have explored what additional support could be beneficial to particular students on my 7th/8th grade team.  This presentation will suggest various type of support that can be offered to middle school students that need more assistance in and outside the classroom.

Simple, yet Significant: Fourth Grade Community Service
Alyssa Veshecco, Intern, Gray’s Woods Elementary, 4th Grade

Through this inquiry project, I investigated the effects community service has on my classroom, especially concerning my classroom community. Students were able to participate in class meetings held each week, complete several community service projects, and learn what it means to “Pay It Forward.”

Dear Reader: Addressing audience in third-grade writing
Margaret Wallace, Intern, Gray’s Woods Elementary, 3rd Grade

In writing for my own coursework, I often ask about the appropriate tone for a piece.  The question for whom is this writing intended is one that experienced writers must ask constantly in order to write effectively. I wondered if my third-grade students approached their writing in this way.  My inquiry examines the effects of writing for a specific audience on the quality of students’ written work, editing and motivation to write.  It specifically focuses on the establishment of an ongoing pen-pal relationship with a sister school in Ankara, Turkey.  The inquiry has helped me to observe the positive effects of teaching third-graders to write with a specific audience in mind.

Crunching Conflicts: A Closer Look at Conflict Resolution in the Classroom


Elise Wolf, Intern, Park Forest Elementary, 1/2 multiage
My experiences in a first and second grade multiage classroom have confirmed my belief that conflicts are inevitable at this stage of children’s social development. Although I strongly believe that conflicts are essential in developing a child’s social and emotional well being, the frequency and level of these conflicts among my group of students made me uneasy. In an attempt to better understand why we were having these disagreements, we began “crunching” conflicts together.

Authority in Writing Pedagogy
Luke Zeller, Intern, Delta (SCASD), Per Brahegymnasium (Sweden), Fenix Gymnasium (Sweden), 8th - 12th Grades

As a peer-tutor in writing at Penn State and a student teacher in English through PDS, I have been trying to deconstruct authority in writing pedagogy.  Would it be possible to have students be participants in the construction and purposeful use of language?  Through an alternative approach to writing assignments that attempts to more genuinely value writing as a process, we may begin to imagine how that is possible and why it is so important.