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2014-2015 SCASD-PSU Teacher Inquiry Conference Abstracts and Papers

Masters of Minecraft: A Quest to Integrate Popular Literacies in Reading 

Grace Adams (Grey's Woods Elementary, 3rd Grade)

“I traded my emeralds for iron ingots to protect my villagers from zombie invasions!” Quips about Minecraft were spawning like zombies, frequently emerging in my students’ writing, talk and play. The enthusiasm present in their voices caused me to wonder, “How can I harness this energy toward reading?” Giving students opportunities to independently read is essential in developing voracious readers, but my students were often disengaged or uninterested. After discovering student interests, I implemented a Minecraft-based literature circle in hopes to increase motivation for reading. Join a teacher, five students, and Minecraft’s Steve as we venture through the depths of literature and the Overworld dimension. 


It's always better when we're together

Maxfield Palmer (Juniata Valley High School, 9th and 10th Grade)

Throughout student teaching I have incorporated several cooperative learning strategies and have given out surveys for students to complete on their language use and engagement in the activity. I have been able to see into the effectiveness of these cooperative learning strategies through this student feedback and for many of these activities I was able to adjust them and obtain feedback a second time. This feedback showed me how much of the foreign language was being used, student interest in the activity, and what could be changed for the future. 


Take a risk: How to build classroom community

Kaytlin Young (High School South, 10th Grade)

My students have demonstrated various definitions of risk taking when sharing their personal reflections in literacy activities. This inquiry explores how exposing my vulnerability in the classroom encourages students to take risks. 


Intrinsic Motivation and Fluency: The Impact of Self-Assessment and Reader's Theatre

Rebecca Spearly (Corl Street Elementary, 2nd Grade)

When I began instruction with my second grade reading group, I noticed the students were meeting grade level expectations. After working closely and with further observations of these students, I identified motivation and fluency as areas of potential growth. Through the use of weekly self-assessments of recorded readings, students were encouraged to become more accountable for their individual progress. Additionally, I discovered Reader’s Theatre was a promising strategy for achieving the growth I was hoping to see as the students planned, practiced, and performed for their classmates. This inquiry explored the effects of these interventions on my students’ fluency and motivation. 


Growth Mindset: Your brain is a muscle, let's exercise it!

Katherine Graham (Easterly Parkway Elementary, 3rd Grade)

I watched my third graders try something new, struggle, and become immediately discouraged time and time again. It appeared that many of my students viewed intelligence as a fixed trait. The question then became, will encouraging students to adopt a growth mindset change their experiences with learning? Through a series of mini lessons and other interventions, I introduced my students to the science and language of growth mindset in an effort to help them understand struggle as a natural part of the learning process. 


Supporting First Grade Independent Readers through Strategy Groups

Kate Hallinger (Gray's Woods Elementary, 1st Grade)

Developing independent reading skills is a vital part of first grade. To support this belief, my students “read to self” daily. As I observed my students during independent reading time, I was curious about their book choices, how on-task they were, and what strategies they were using. I wondered how I could monitor their comprehension as well as support their use of specific strategies. Using CAFE and the Daily Five as resources to drive my inquiry, I implemented one on one conferencing and strategy groups to ensure my students were reading good fit books and using strategies during independent reading. 


I Am Not My Test Score: The Impacts of Multimodal Assessments and Discussion on Students' Self-Efficacy in an Era of Standardized Testing

Kyrah Nagy (Radio Park Elementary, 3rd Grade)

After observing significant test-taking anxiety within my class, I began to explore alternative avenues of assessment—in addition to student-teacher dialogues concerning tests—with the intention of decreasing students’ test-taking anxiety and negative self-efficacy in school. These ponderings became even more relevant to my class as they began to learn—and worry—about their first year of standardized testing. My primary wondering evolved into the following: How might the implementation of multimodal assessments and discussion about various forms and purposes of assessment affect my students’ perceptions of school and themselves as learners and test-takers in this era of standardized testing? 


"If I participate, will I do well on the test?!" Participation's effect on test scores. 

Kerry Fitzpatrick (Central Mountain High School, 9th-12th Grade)

Participation in an early language classroom is often constrained to a few bright and outgoing students. My mentor includes voluntary participation points in her students’ overall grades. I noticed that there were a lot of students who hardly ever volunteered. I wondered if there was a correlation between participation and test scores. Seemingly those who participate should do well on tests. But what about those who do not? Thus, I decided to investigate whether a lot of in-class participation affected students’ grades. I required participation after a few weeks of teaching to see, if I forced students to participate, would their scores increase? 


Forget, "This is what your final copy should look like", Participating in Reading and Writing Assignments with Your Students

Jessica Kountz (Feguson Township Elementary, 3rd Grade)

Modeling is an essential part of teaching. But, why do teachers typically model how to start an assignment and what the finished product looks like when the most challenging part is what happens in the middle? I wondered how my participation throughout assignments would influence the way my third graders approached the classwork. By participating in reading and writing assignments with my students, allowing them to see my mistakes, make corrections and see my process in completing identical assignments, I analyzed how my participation affected students work during reading and writing. 


Capturing Concentration Discovering How to Engage Students with Lessons and Promote Following Directions 

Emily Hyman (Park Forest Elementary, 2nd Grade)

After months of constantly resetting expectations for activities, students in my second grade classroom were still struggling to focus on their own work, complete tasks independently, and follow directions for extended periods of time. Simply reminding students of the expectations every day was not working and was proving to be evermore frustrating for me. What else could I do to promote engagement with lessons and compliance with directions? This inquiry examines several changes I made in my teaching style as well as how classroom adaptations I implemented impacted students’ abilities to focus and engage with the academic task at hand. 


Influencing Others and the Community via Service Learning

Tracey Kleckner (Mount Nittany Elementary, 1st Grade)

Service learning combines service objectives with student learning with the purpose of making an impact on the server and the students. In my first grade classroom at Mount Nittany Elementary School, we have begun discovering service learning. The students want to help animals, specifically pets, in the State College area. My classroom has worked closely with Pets Come First, formerly known as the SPCA. They have completed an enrichment unit, made and donated items, and completed persuasive writing. Throughout this inquiry, I have wondered how it can influence student interest in the learning, and strengthen the classroom community. 


Bringing the Outside World In: Incorporating Current Events in the English Classroom

Sara Neild (High School South, 10th Grade)

How can the English classroom serve as a platform for students to explore current events and become more informed citizens in an information-overload world? Throughout the year, I have been incorporating current issues through magazine articles and news sources in the classroom and exploring how they shape and enhance students’ understanding of “traditional” English texts. 


Revising Revision: Exposing Current Understandings of What it Means to Revise and How We Go about Revising

Meg Bowker (High School North Building, 11th Grade)

I’m constantly asking my students to revise their work, only to have them return the same document with minor grammatical changes or an extra sentence thrown in here and there. This inquiry explores how students define and explore different ways to revise through a grading contract for the revision of a literary essay. 


Catching Character: How to Teach Character Strengths to Children  

Lisa DiLorenzo (Gray's Woods Elementary, 2nd Grade) 

What does it mean to show zest, grit, optimism, self-control, gratitude, social intelligence, and curiosity? How does one recognize these character strengths in others? Months ago, these were two questions my students could not answer. To be a well-rounded individual, one must first understand these strengths. Through read alouds, discussions, writing, activities, and reflections, my students learned that character is not something innate and unchanging but is a set of abilities or strengths that are very much changeable – entirely malleable. 


Be a Bucket Filler, Not a Bucket Spiller: Helping Kindergarteners Be Aware of their Actions

Kristen Lawlor (Easterly Parkway Elementary, Kindergarten)

How many times do you hear, “I’m telling on you,” or “That’s mine!” in an elementary classroom? Studies show that young children have difficulty understanding other peoples’ feelings as developmentally they are in the egotistical phase. My wondering formed as I observed my students exhibiting ego-centered behaviors. I wondered: “How I could increase positive communication and appropriate student choices within my classroom community?” My idea to incorporate bucket filling into our Friday Friendship Circles was implemented as a result. This presentation will explore how bucket filling encourages students to consider how positive peer actions and communication fills everyone’s invisible feeling buckets. 


Homework Correction Tools: Enhancing Motivation or Providing a Distraction? 

Francesca Weber (Tyrone Area High School, 8th-12th Grades)

Reviewing homework is a necessity in any classroom to assess student learning. By providing correct answers and feedback to homework that is given, students are able to explicitly see and learn from their mistakes. Throughout the year, I noticed that many of my Spanish I students were not correcting their homework answers, even though they were informed that points would be deducted if left incorrect. Answers were written on the board and said aloud. This made me wonder if students would be more likely to correct answers if given a specific tool to do so. In my presentation, I will discuss the data I collected and the impact of providing a colored pencil as a correction tool. 


Make Your Voices Heard: How Can We Encourage Students to Engage in Meaningful Discussion? 

Erin Grogan (High School North, 11th Grade)

Just because students are quiet in the classroom, doesn’t mean they aren’t engaged and focused. However, classroom discussion is vital to our interpretation of texts. How can we create a safe space that allows all students to actively participate without fear or hesitation? 


Brain Breaks! Incorporating Movement and Physical Activity in the Classroom

Alicia Murray (Corl Street, 3rd Grade)

My third grade students are very energetic and active. Throughout the year, I noticed my class was having difficulty focusing during lessons that did not allow them to move or engage with their peers. Through my inquiry, I wanted to see if implementing a two or three minute brain break would help increase my students’ on task behavior during lessons. This study focused on incorporating physical activity and yoga in the classroom during the day as transitions or breaks in between subjects. 


The Power of Restorative Circles in the Classroom

Taylor Springer (Easterly Parkway Elementary, 4th Grade)

Through observations and interactions in my fourth grade classroom, some community concerns were becoming apparent. Some students seemed afraid to speak up in class, while other students were only communicating with a small group of classmates. I wondered how implementing Restorative Circles into our daily routine would improve student relationships, enhance students’ attitude of our classroom community, and increase student voice. These Circles were introduced in my class as a place where students could discuss fun ideas, classroom issues, and even academic topics. Students actively participated in Circles each day of the week, where they answered questions or discussed matters that were relevant to our classroom. 


Interpreting Place Value into Other Units of the Math Curriculum

Alexis Roberts (Gray's Woods Elementary, 2nd Grade)

This year, I had a group of students who really struggled to understand place value conceptually. I began to wonder what I could do to help these students have a better understanding of place value. More often than not, place value is a unit that is covered at the beginning of the school year and then not explicitly addressed again. Rather than teaching place value as a separate unit, I decided to integrate place value concepts within other units of the math curriculum to see how it might impact my struggling students. 


Building Classroom Community Through Multiple Perspectives 

Rachel Renninger (Radio Park Elementary, 3rd Grade)

Being a new student to a school can be very difficult, especially if you do not know the language. Our class has had many experiences with new students, which got me wondering about how empathetic the students are to newcomers to our class. Do they understand how it feels to be a new student? Will learning about multiple perspectives strengthen the classroom community? Through simulations, read alouds, writing activities, discussions, and role-playing activities the students took a look into other people’s perspectives and why perspectives are important. 


How much Spanish is too much Spanish? How will graduate increasing the use of the L2 during teaching affect student participation? 

Eric Green (Central Mountain Middle, 7th Grade)

Something that every foreign language teacher wonders about is how much of that language they should use during instruction. Many argue that the students should be fully immersed in the language, using the L2 100% of the time, while others believe in using both the L1 and the L2 equally. Along with the amount of L2 that is being used, it is important to think about how it is being presented, because that will affect how the students react. In my classroom, I gathered data to see how it would affect their participation if I gradually increased my use of the L2 during my lessons. 


Math Manipulatives: How do manipulatives affect 3rd grade students' engagement and understanding of mathematical concepts? 

Sarah Massung (Ferguson Township Elementary, 3rd Grade)

While reading over the Math Expressions curriculum, I noticed that several of the lessons did not include manipulatives. I wondered how my 3rd grade students would respond if I supplemented the lessons with manipulatives. For my inquiry, I supplemented some of the fraction lessons from Math Expressions with manipulatives and taught some of the lessons without manipulatives to see if manipulatives had an effect on student engagement and understanding of fractions. 


"Is this right??" - A Study on How to Increase Self-Assurance and Reduce Performance Anxiety in Fourth Grade Girls

Tara Pierfy (Park Forest Elementary, 4th Grade)

In learning to observe and interpret student behavior, one observation has stood out since the beginning. While working in class, several students will ask, “Is this right?” or “Is this good?”. In an effort to be instructional, rather than informative, I ask what they think, or how they arrived at their answer. Even after explaining, they still don’t seem satisfied until I give my seal of approval. After conducting one-on-one interviews with a select group of students, I learned more about their attitudes toward school and the stress they feel in regard to achievement. The difference between male and female responses was astounding. 


"The More We Get Together The Happier We'll Be:" Working at Fostering Empathy in Students 

Megan Selfe (Mount Nittany Elementary, 1st Grade)

Community building is something that we focus on a lot in our classroom. As we got more comfortable with each other, we needed to be reminded of how to always treat each other respectfully and how to handle the little issues that seem big to first graders. This led me to wonder what ways I could foster empathy in my students to catalyze a change in the classroom. I was focused on seeing increases in positive interactions and to have a more kind and respectful classroom environment. I designed my research project to experiment implementing different strategies to foster empathy in my students. 


Reading Between the Lines to Get Outside the Box: Exploring the Possibilities of Critical Literacy in the English Classroom

Natalie Zuravleff (High School South, 10th Grade)

Literature and culture are inextricably linked. Russian short stories and Chinua Achebe’s Things Fall Apart allow for an exploration of culture through literature and vise versa grounded in a critical literacy approach. 


Peer Shared Writing: Using Peer Shared Writing to Impact Student Performance and Provide an Enjoyable Learning Experience

Rhea Hallacher (Lemont Elementary, 1st Grade)

Writing does not come easy in most first grade classrooms. I decided to explore peer shared writing in the hope that students would benefit from others’ ideas, and that it would impact the students’ writing skills, and boost their confidence as writers. Through my inquiry process I learned that providing lessons that integrated different subject areas and used hands on activities helped the students to gain a love for writing and while valuing the writing process and increasing motivation in their writing. 


Glowing and Growing: The Role of Reflection and Self-Evaluation in the English Classroom

Kelsey McClain (High School North, 12th Grade)

I have found the process of reflection and self-evaluation to be immensely valuable in tracking and encouraging my development as a future educator. This inquiry will explore the student use of reflection and self-evaluation as a tool for growth as speakers and writers in a Speech and Debate classroom. 


Generating Writing Topics for a Variety of Learning Styles

Matthew Rivera (Gray's Woods Elementary, 4th Grade)

How can teachers increase students’ motivation and ability to generate ideas? This is a question that plagued my mind for months. While observing my fourth grade students during writing time, I noticed that quite a few of them struggled to begin their writing. Taking into account the many different learning styles of the students in my class, I wanted to implement new strategies focused on meeting the needs of a variety of the intelligences. Through many different prewriting activities I attempted to increase both students’ motivation and idea generation. 


Stop! Brain Break Time: Implementing Physical Activity into a Second Grade Classroom

Mallory Winner (Easterly Parkway Elementary, 2nd Grade)

My students are always moving and grooving, especially on the carpet area! Even when there is a high interest task, they still seem to have trouble sitting still and staying on task. Through my inquiry, I wanted to see how short physical activity breaks affected my second grade students’ ability to focus. In my presentation, I will be sharing the brain breaks I used and how they worked out for me. 


Can a well-designed test retake policy be used to demonstrate the importance of mastery learning? 

Riley Wales (State College Area High, 9th-12th Grade) 

This inquiry project studies the ability of a test retake policy to better help students understand the importance of mastery learning in the State College Area School District in Pennsylvania. Data was collected in a survey on Google Forms that was disseminated via email to Spanish II and Spanish III students who have worked in a classroom with a test retake policy throughout the 2014-2015 school year. This research and it’s findings are discussed in detail throughout this paper. 


More Than Just Talking: Meaningful Classroom Discussion

Regina Covelli (High School South, 9th Grade)

Discussion is a staple of the English classroom, but many students do not want to contribute. This inquiry explores reasons behind students’ reluctance, and strategies to create meaningful discussion in the classroom. 


Pigeons, Spoons, and the Authors Who Write About Them: Using Author Studies to Motivate Students 

Lyndsay Miron (Easterly Parkway Elementary, 2nd Grade)

My inquiry started with an Internet search about children’s authors who use Twitter because I planned for my class to tweet to them. Soon after my search, I began an author study on one of my students’ favorite authors, who is an active Twitter user. Students read his books and wrote their own stories featuring his lovable characters. While communication with the author was still a goal, I realized that the simple act of studying the author’s work was what truly excited and motivated my students. My presentation is dedicated to the pigeon, piggie, elephant, and the spoons! 


Using our Whole Brain: Strategies for Management and Engagement 

Stephenee Billman (Park Forest Elementary, 2nd Grade) 

Can you think of a student in your class who is always calling out rather than raising his or her hand to share ideas? Well, when I began my journey in my 2nd grade placement I quickly realized how much of a problem this was for a few of my students. I also realized that the students who weren’t calling out seemed to be disengaged and acting inappropriately on the carpet. With this in mind, I began to think about classroom management as a focus for my inquiry. In my presentation I will share my experience with implementing various aspects of Whole Brain teaching in order to increase engagement and to decrease problem behaviors. 


The Communication Triad: Teachers, Parents and Students 

Emily Mowery (Gray's Woods Elementary, 1st Grade)

Does student-parent communication about school, affect student motivation in school? What can a teacher do to increase school-related communication outside of the school day? These questions became the motivation for my inquiry into the Communication Triad. One strategy I implemented to increase communication was a family message journal. Surveys and newsletters were other strategies implemented to increase communication about classroom news and helpful parent tips. Were these strategies successful? Did they help students share about school? Did parents feel more connected to what happens in school and successes/struggles their children have? My inquiry uncovered the answers to these questions. 


Seashell Buddies: Deepening Connections among Students in my Second Grade Classroom

Katelyn Kraft (Radio Park Elementary, 2nd Grade)

Because several students leave our classroom each day for support services, I wondered how that impacted their sense of connectedness to other students. To deepen connections across all students in the classroom, I created a “Seashell Buddies” program. This inquiry examines the impact of having an assigned buddy on the relationship among students in our classroom. 


Homework: How Does it Affect Student Participation and Test Scores? 

Julie Mauritzen (Central Mountain High, 10th-12th Grades)

In a classroom in which homework is almost taboo, I wanted to see if having the students do additional work outside of my classroom would bring up their in-class participation and improve their grades. Throughout my time in my classroom, I assigned several homework assignments of many different kinds. In my presentation, I will elaborate on the types of assignments given and their likelihood of being completed by students who are not accustomed to having homework. I will use data to support my findings on the connections between homework and academic achievement. 


Boosting Confidence through Building Community: Helping Students Connect in a Large Classroom

Sarah Nagel (Ferguson Township Elementary, 4th Grade) 

Have you ever felt invisible? As a teacher, this is a feeling I hope my students never have. However, a small group of students pulled for special services found themselves feeling unseen or inadequate in a classroom of 26. Through my inquiry, I hoped to promote the confidence of this small group by helping them better connect to the classroom community in Room 118. I first assessed how being pulled from our homeroom affected students. Then, through the use of various community building strategies, I encouraged students to connect with one another and embrace both their differences and their similarities. 


Folding Our Way to Success: Using Interactive Notebooks to Teach Reading Strategies

Taylor Tomaselli (Park Forest Elementary, 4th Grade) 

I decided to try Interactive Reading Notebooks in my classroom because I thought that they could be helpful in investigating some of my wonderings about my classroom. I wondered how I could most effectively teach reading strategy groups. How could I make reading strategies more meaningful to my students? I decided to implement Interactive Reading Notebooks in my classroom and study the effect they would have on my students’ learning. A main component to the notebooks is a paper foldable tool made during the lesson. Along the way, my class had fun creating some raps, pictures, poems, and comics. 


Say It, Write It, Move It: Exploring Learning Styles in my 4th Grade Math Class

Alyssa Lambert (Mount Nittany Elementary, 4th Grade) 

As I began developing and implementing math lessons within my 4th grade classroom, I questioned how the information I was delivering to my students was being received and processed. Recognizing that all students learn differently, I focused on collecting data to determine whether my students were visual, auditory, kinesthetic or a combination of the three learning styles. Throughout my inquiry, I focused on delivering the content to the students in their preferred learning style. In the process, I became self-aware of my own learning styles and their effect on the delivery of my instruction. 


Finding Your Tribe: Social Differentiation in the Ninth Grade Classroom 

Jamie Garrett (High School North, 9th Grade) 

Through an examination of the interpersonal relationships that students form in their classes, I will show the effects of students’ social selves on their academic selves and illuminate what teachers can do to foster students’ growth socially as well as academically. 


A Classroom Without Walls: Extending the Classroom Community in the 21st Century 

Ashley Lope (Lemont Elementary, 2nd Grade) 

As I pondered the significance of community, I wondered what a classroom without walls would look like. What would the effect on my students be if I concentrated on broadening their perspectives of community from classroom citizens to global citizens? Through 21st century collaboration of written and oral communication with a classroom in Virginia, my students had the opportunity to interact with a mix of personalities and cultures in a community far different from their own. This journey took us nearly 300 miles away, and became the vessel through which encounter, communication, and awareness blended together into memorable moments. 


The Original Hipster: Why is Hamlet So Moody? 

Jaqueline McAfee (High School North, 12th Grade) 

Through transmediation with films of Hamlet, what do students pay attention to when they describe a mood in a scene? How do they then explain why these moods are important to the life of the characters in the play? 


Mentor Sentences: Improving Students Writing through Interactions with Mentor Texts

Michaela Colavecchi (Gray's Woods Elementary, 3rd Grade) 

How do we as teachers help students become better writers? I began to wonder this when I read countless writing pieces from my third grade students that contained little descriptive details as well as weak sentence structure. This targeted instruction provided students the opportunity to look at the style, organization, language, and conventions of a mentor sentence. Through doing so, the students were able to practice and apply the specific skills in their work. In the course of my inquiry, I investigated the effect these lessons had on students’ independent writing. 


Energetic Engagement: Finding Ways to Channel Student Energy 

Alexandra Verna (Easterly Parkway Elementary, 3rd Grade) 

Throughout the year, I’ve noticed that the students in my class are very talkative and constantly moving. Instead of trying to diminish this energy, I wanted to find ways to channel it and use it positively in the classroom. Throughout this inquiry, I implemented different techniques to determine how this energy could be positively incorporated into lessons and our daily routine. 


ELLs in the World Language Classroom: How to assess the L2 without relying on English

Ashley Clauer (Mount Nittany Middle, 8th Grade) 

At the beginning levels of language learning, we often rely on English, the L1 of most students, for instructional and assessment purposes. However, what happens when we are faced with an English Language Learner in our class - a student who is not only learning the target language, but who is still developing proficiency in English. This inquiry is based in developing additional resources for an ELL to use during formal assessments so that the test was of his knowledge of French, not of English. During my presentation, I will share the resources I used and their levels of success. 


Secret Agency: Infiltrating Apathy

Zane Matsko (High School North, 12th Grade) 

Instead of demanding answers from me after I’ve presented information, I want my students to demand answers from themselves. Questioning everything is an important skill, but doing it out loud also requires the confidence to share one’s questions and ideas. My inquiry explores how to get students away from searching out accepted responses in order to engage more with their own original ideas and explorations. 


How to Reach for the Stars: Teaching Goal Setting as a Process

Samantha Englert (Easterly Parkway Elementary, 1st Grade) 

Learning to be a student is an important aspect of first grade. A growth mindset and goal setting skills are important components for success. In observing my students, I noticed a fixed-mindset trend. My students were driven by achievement and end result, not the process. This observation led to my inquiry: teaching with a focus on the process of goal setting. Together we explored the steps involved in the process, as well as how to act on each one in a meaningful way to promote self-awareness, growth mindset and learner confidence. 


Teach Creatively: Adapting Curriculum-Based Instruction to Enhance Student Engagement

Morgan Holsopple (Park Forest Elementary, 1st Grade) 

1st Grade students are lively and imaginative; this is hardly arguable. I wondered if I could design instruction that could be equally lively and imaginative, with the hope of increasing student engagement. This inquiry developed early in the school year, when I noticed how difficult it seemed for students to maintain attention during particular lessons. I began to explore how I could increase student engagement. After veering in a few different directions, I realized that the question I was truly asking is: how can I adapt curriculum-based instruction to enhance student engagement? 


Kindness Counts: How Explicit Social Lessons Impact Student Interactions

Jaimee Pohl (Gray's Woods Elementary, Kindergarten) 

Throughout the school day, kindergarten students are in constant interaction with each
other. While observing my class of nineteen diverse personalities and learning styles, I noted that many interactions were more egocentric, than kind or respectful. I began to wonder how explicit lessons in social skills would impact the day-to-day interactions in our room. Using our School Wide Positive Behavior Plan, the PACK rules, as a guide for activities, my inquiry focused on the impact of these rules:
Practice kindness, Always show respect, Challenge yourself and Keep it safe. 


Increasing Engagement: One Whole Brain Teaching Move at a Time

Kelsey Narkevic (Radio Park Elementary, 4th Grade) 

The school day can be long and tiring for some students, which may cause some to lose focus while learning. In my inquiry, I wanted to find a way to increase student engagement during instructional time to enhance student achievement and knowledge. After hearing about the multiple strategies that make up Whole Brain Teaching, I decided to implement certain aspects of it into my own teaching to get students moving and collaborating during lessons. I began to see that students exhibited more on-task behaviors and comprehended information more clearly when this teaching style was used. 


"WHY so MANY questions?" - How Does Active Questioning Impact Student Participation and Affect Towards L2?

Phyllis Hopp (Penns Valley Area High School, 9th and 10th Grade) 

The question I explored for this Teacher Inquiry was how does the implementation of an active questioning strategy (explicit, frequent, and consistent) impact students’ participation patterns (quantity and quality) and their affect towards the L2. As I started with a brand new group of students at the beginning of February, I was able to gather information from the students before and then after they were exposed to this strategy of questioning. Self-assessment questionnaires and observation of student participation patterns over a five-week period were used as data. During the presentation I will share the results from this analysis. 


The shift from handwriting to typing: A look at the Infusion of Technology as an Instructional Tool in a Balanced Literacy Classroom

Nikolette Trofa (Ferguson Township Elementary, 4th Grade) 

Over the last decade, educators have taken a shift from using paper and pencils for instruction, to challenging their teaching approach by integrating the wonders of technology. I began to notice my mentor teacher often using technology as an instructional tool to enhance her lessons. As an intern in the State College Area School District, I wondered how I could use these tools and what impact they would have on my students learning and my own teaching practices. This inquiry focuses attention on the effects technology has on literacy learning for students in the elementary classroom and how that influences teacher instruction. 


Take a Deep Breath: How Teaching Strategies Can Help Kindergarten Students Self-Regulate 

Courtney Latorre (Park Forest Elementary, Kindergarten) 

When students enter kindergarten they are learning how to become students and how to interact with others. I found myself frequently giving reminders about behavior throughout the day. I began to wonder what I could do to help students self-regulate and be aware of their actions without my continuous reminders. I began teaching and promoting strategies such as mindful breathing, yoga, and noticing feelings with the hope of helping students become more self-aware and able to self-regulate. 


Rah Rah Read! Exploring New Reading Strategies to Increase Comprehension

Lauren White (Ferguson Township Elementary, 1st Grade) 

Everyone knows that learning to read is an important part of first grade. As I observed groups of my first graders learning to read, I started to wonder - how I could be sure that I am meeting every child’s needs in an engaging manner? Through my inquiry, I researched and implemented three new reading strategies that focused on comprehension: reader’s theatre, close reading, and student participation in a book club. I will share interesting and sometimes surprising results from working with one reading group in an effort to simultaneously improve their comprehension skills and make learning enjoyable. 


"I Chose It, So I'm Gonna Do It:" Giving Students Autonomy and Choice in English Class

Jenna Magistro (High School North, 11th Grade) 

What are the impacts of giving students choice in the classroom? Using The Glass Castle, I have explored how giving students the opportunity to have choice in their readings, research, and writings affects their attitudes and performances in English class. 


Who says Mentor Sentences are only for older kids? Inquiry on Mentor Sentences in First Grade

Emma Feingold (Lemont Elementary, 1st Grade) 

Mentor sentences –sentences used as examples of correct writing -- are fairly new to the world of education. Mentor sentences use quality sentences to teach students about structure and grammar, rather than having children correct sentences with intentional structural and grammatical mistakes. Research shows that using mentor sentences in third grade and above enhances writing. This year, in an effort to inspire my first graders to improve their writing, I decided to use mentor sentences. The results were impressive – let me show you what I mean! 


The Curiosity Project

Shannon Trozzo (High School North, 11th and 12th Grade) 

Why has pure curiosity become taboo in the high school classroom? As teachers, we should find multiple ways to incorporate the various passions of our students into the lessons that we teach every day. This research project seeks to find how intrinsic motivation, curiosity, and inquiry benefit students writing and research in the English classroom. 


"How Much Longer of Writing Do We Have?" Motivating First Graders Through Writing Stations

Morgan Marasco (Gray's Woods Elementary, 1st Grade) 

After hearing my students ask, “How much longer of writing do we have?” and “Is writing almost over?”, I had many wonderings surrounding the topic of intrinsic student motivation during writing time. After giving my students a survey to determine their feelings towards writing time and their motivation to write, I found out some very useful information that shaped my wonderings and inquiry. The student surveys provided me insight into what they thought would make writing more motivating for them. From those ideas, and some of my own, I created writing stations to compare and contrast student motivation at each. 


Learning through Assessment 

Kayla Fox (Easterly Parkway Elementary, 3rd Grade) 

As I started to plan Math and Social Studies lessons in my 3rd grade classroom, I was concerned with how I could best assess my students’ learning process. I wanted to purposefully plan my lessons in a way that would benefit individual growth. I realized the best way to purposefully plan a lesson is to meaningfully assess students informally during each individual lesson and use that data to benefit the next lesson. As I planned my lessons, I used different strategies to inform my understanding of each student’s learning process. 


Using Questioning to Improve Classroom Participation in the World Language Classroom

Anne Lawrenson (Altoona Area High, 10th-12th Grades) 

The purpose of this research was to examine my own teaching and what I could do to increase student participation in my third year French students. While student teaching at an urban high school in central Pennsylvania, I realized that my students were hesitant to orally participate in class, so I began to look at how the questions I asked in my lessons affected their ability and motivation in the class. I looked at three types of questioning typically found in world language classrooms, IRE, IRF, and Instructional Conversations, and recorded amount of times students participated, and analyzed videos of my teaching. 


Battle of the Sexes: Understanding Gender Differences in Math Confidence

Renne Taylor (Easterly Parkway Elementary, 4th Grade) 

Do boys and girls vary in math confidence levels? This question struck me as I noticed a startling difference in participation from my advanced fourth grade math students. This led me to wonder if my students’ participation is reflective of their confidence in math. Research has claimed that boys show higher math confidence, but is this true of my advanced fourth graders? I developed choice workshops targeting a particular math topic to find if these workshops would increase my students’ confidence and participation. Will more boys or girls attend workshops to increase math self-confidence? 


A New Leash on Life in the Classroom: A Service Learning Journey with PAWS Centre County 

Katie Lynn O'Donnell (Park Forest Elementary, 2nd Grade)

Service learning is a teaching and learning strategy that integrates meaning community service with instruction and reflection to enrich the curriculum and students' learning experiences, teach civic responsibility, and strengthen communities (Learn and Serve America National Service Learning Clearninghouse). I noticed that my 2nd grade students had a soft spot and love for animals, and I wondered how I could use this observation to increase student motivation and attitude towards various subject areas. To do this, our classroom paired up with Centre County PAWS in order to make the needs of the community come alive with our very own classroom. 


Let's Move! Kinesthetic Brain Breaks in the Classroom

Laura Ferguson (Gray's Woods Elementary, Kindergarten) 

Kindergarten is an exciting, high-energy time for children. However, this energy is sometimes difficult to regulate, especially during times of sitting still. What could I do that would be beneficial and exciting to all of my students, not just those struggling the most? My inquiry led me to kinesthetic brain breaks. Kinesthetic brain breaks are activities to do in the classroom to get us moving (they can occur when ever needed.) They are used for quick moments and transitions. Some are very active, like Zumba, while others are calming, like stretching.


Close Reading: Not Just for High Schoolers Anymore! Utilizing Students Interests in Close Reading to Increase Comprehension in the Elementary Classroom

Elizabeth Teeling, Intern (Ferguson Township Elementary School, 4th Grade)

Recognizing, as a future teacher, that I will need to address reading comprehension issues, I became interested in both the why and the how of meeting this need. I wondered why some of my higher-level readers were struggling to retain what they read. During my inquiry process, I decided to focus on how student interests play a role in their comprehension, how the application of a close reading strategy aids students in “breaking down” the text, and how selecting texts based on student interests could strengthen their application of these comprehension skills. 


Movement Makes Me Lose Control... Or Does It? How Movement Impacts Class Engagement

Stephanie Wittie (Clearfield Area Junior Senior High, 9th Grade) 

Implementing activities that involve physical movement in the classroom can be a fun way to engage students but does it really make a difference on overall levels of class engagement, and if so, how long does that last? I decided to expand on that idea and to investigate the effects of various activities that incorporate some type of student movement (acting, moving to different sides of the room, writing on the board, etc.) on student engagement by implementing various movement activities at different times in the day to see what effect this has on my student engagement levels. 


Why Can't We Be Friends? Encouraging Kindness, Love, and Empathy Through a Social Curriculum in Fourth Grade

Juliann Whittaker (Ferguson Township Elementary, 4th Grade) 

Cliques, social conflict, and exclusion... three behaviors that began to emerge in my fourth grade classroom as the school year progressed. How could I teach my students the value of forming social connections with all students, instead of just a select few? How could I place a stronger emphasis on encouraging kindness, love, and empathy in my classroom? Through the use of anonymous pen palling, class meetings, lunch bunches, and the award-winning novel, Wonder, I was able to shape my students’ understanding of what it means to be a friend. 


"She started it!" A Look into Positive Interactions Between 2nd Grade Students

Kate Shaffer (Park Forest Elementary, 2nd Grade) 

“Your work is ugly!’ “You’re a liar!” “Ow! She hit me!” These are not typical phrases you hear from second grade girls; however, since the beginning of the school year, they have become the norm for some students in my classroom. As these acts of unkindness increased, I found that these behaviors hurt others’ feelings, and distracted students in my classroom. Knowing this could go on no longer, I set my focus on figuring out how to increase positive interactions and develop positive character traits within my students. Through classroom management strategies, reflective journals, and read alouds, I set out to create a classroom community that was centered around kindness. 


A Tale of Three Students: Differentiating Instruction to Meet the Needs of Struggling Readers

Erin Yevins (Ferguson Township Elementary, Kindergarten and 2nd Grade) 

Once students are placed in leveled reading groups, teaching is a piece of cake, right? Wrong. I noticed that even within these reading groups, the need for differentiation still remained. In each group, I chose one student who struggled with a specific reading component and then further implemented strategies to address those concerns. The three main issues we were exploring were related to fluency, comprehension, or a lack of motivation. Through my efforts, I have found that although there is no magic cure-all for reading ails, there are strategies that can aid the unique learning style of every student. 


Contracting Ownership: Shifting Students' Perceptions of Writing

Alyvia Walters (High School North, 12th Grade) 

Many of my College Writing students believe that writing becomes “important” once it receives a grade. This inquiry seeks to explore where students place value in their writing, and how contract grading has the potential to encourage students to find greater meaning in their own work. 


Who Will Be the Next American Idol?

Haley Huberty (Lemont Elementary, 2nd Grade) 

Fluency is defined as the ability to read text accurately, at an appropriate rate, with expression. While conferencing with my students, I noticed a small group that struggled with reading fluency. After some initial research, I wondered, “How can poetry influence the fluency of targeted second-grade students?” To address this in an engaging way, I designed an intervention program that utilized the natural rhythm of poetry to improve fluency. Over four weeks, my students practiced and performed poetry. The collected data revealed intriguing findings. Join me at my presentation to find out... who will be the next Fluency Idol! 


Breaking it Down to Build it Up: Exploring Empathy in the English Classroom

Jessi Harris (High School South, 10th Grade) 

Is empathy teachable? Hearing someone share her story might be the closest thing we have to “walking around in her shoes.” Students being able to identify with the storytellers who are seemingly “different” from them could foster a breaking down of cultural barriers and the building up of empathic understanding. My inquiry examines if and how students can develop this empathic understanding through reading, writing, and dialoguing.