2018 Inquiry Conference Program

Twentieth Annual Inquiry Conference

Saturday, April 28th, 2018

Mt. Nittany Middle School

Sponsored in part by the Georgia Townsend Fund and the Thomas Newton McCreary and Geraldine McCreary Endowment for Innovative Teacher Preparation Programs and Penn State 

The Penn State University-State College Area School District Annual Teacher Inquiry Conference
A Brief History and Our Program Goals

In 1998 Penn State’s College of Education and the State College Area School District began a Professional Development School (PDS) Partnership that included two elementary schools and English classrooms in the middle and high school. The PDS Partnership has grown to include all nine SCASD elementary schools and secondary English classrooms. Over the years, teachers, administrators, higher education faculty, parents, and community members have supported the partnership enthusiastically. The Inquiry Conference, now in its twentieth year, is pleased to once again welcome the World Languages student teachers.

In addition, those attending the conference will have an opportunity to visit a mid-morning session, “ Teacher Inquiry and Practice Showcase ” during which tables can be visited that feature inquiries from PDS partners and alumni members. These presenters will be sharing their classroom-based research in and around the partnership.

From its inception, the Penn State-State College Area School District PDS collaboration has been based on a strong platform of beliefs about the nature of education, teaching, and teacher education. One of the fundamental beliefs that undergirds our collaborative efforts is that teaching is a complex, multi-faceted problem-solving activity that requires ongoing question asking and data collection within the classroom in order to understand the impact of educational experiences on students and learning. Student learning forms the centerpiece of inquiry and professional development for interns and mentor teachers. The partnership seeks to educate and support teachers who have an inquiry-oriented stance, consistently looking to examine their practice and its impact through classroom-based research. Interns, mentors, other veteran teachers, and teacher educators embody this inquiry-orientation in the teacher inquiry investigations that are conducted. The Annual Inquiry Conference provides an opportunity to share inquiry investigations, celebrate accomplishments and generate a community of reflective practitioners.

One of our goals is to continue to increase the size, scope and impact of this annual event in order to foster rich, intellectually engaging dialogue about classroom teaching and classroom-based inquiry that can have a dramatic impact on how schools, teachers and teacher education are viewed. We invite you to join us in this effort. 

State College Area School District & The Pennsylvania State University Professional Development School

Twentieth Annual Inquiry Conference

April 28, 2018
Mt. Nittany Middle School

8:00 -– 8:15a.m.
MNMS Lobby
8:15 – 8:35a.m.
Welcome and Recognitions
Dr. David Monk, Dean of College of Education, Pennsylvania State University
Dr. Bob O’Donnell, Superintendent, State College Area School District
Mary Nasatka, Secondary English Teacher

Session I

8:45 – 9:10 a.m.
Room 111
And the Participation Award Goes To...
Bailey Gulley - 1st Grade
Radio Park Elementary School
Mentor: Tiffany Brushwood

If you walked into my classroom, you would immediately spot several enthusiastic volunteers. You might also spot a few students who rarely talk. I began to wonder how I could encourage all of my students to participate in whole group discussions. My inquiry focused on raising student awareness about their participation, as well as how to use a confident voice when speaking. Come explore my strategies for promoting engagement through participation.

Room 112

It’s a Lifestyle: Teaching Mindfulness to Second Grade Students
Caren Levin - 2nd Grade
Corl Street Elementary School
Mentor: Laura Henderson

Think about the most frustrating situation you’ve ever been in. We’ve all experienced times like these, but it’s how we overcome these emotions that help us become mindful. Second grade students experience similar emotions of stress and frustration throughout their lives. But unlike most adults, self-regulation skills are difficult for these seven year olds to acquire. Can teaching mindfulness and various self-regulatory exercises help second grade students, as well as ourselves, become more mindful and successful people? Is mindfulness a lifestyle you’re interested in pursuing? Come listen and find out how mindfulness has impacted second grade students. 

Room 113

Can the Blue Dots Catch the Best Effort Bug?
Elizabeth Daly - Kindergarten
Lemont Elementary School
Mentor: Laurie Pagnotto

I became more aware that my group of kindergarten students was not allowing their highest learning potential to shine through in the classroom. Can addressing and promoting a motivated work ethic as early as kindergarten encourage these students to foster a spirit for learning and succeeding that will hopefully last through the rest of their academic career? With a strong focus on growth mindset and self-reflection, the Blue Dots pushed themselves to develop the “best effort bug.” This presentation explores how kindergartners work towards creating an enthusiasm for wanting to perform their best at all times in the classroom.

Room 114

The Power of Being Heard
Melanie DeFrancisco - 3rd Grade
Mt. Nittany Elementary School
Mentor: Linda Margusity

Have you ever wondered what kind of an impact it would have on students’ behaviors if they were given the opportunity to talk openly about problems they are having and how they are feeling? I sure did! I implemented a weekly restorative circle into my 3rd grade classroom to see if opening up and talking about issues would help them to self-monitor their behaviors during individual work time. In my presentation, you will be able to follow my students through the journey we took together - one that allowed everyone to be and feel heard.

Room 115

“We’ve Been Sitting Here Forever”: Incorporating Body Movement into Content to Increase Engagement and Instill a Love of Learning
Maria Murawski - 4th Grade
Easterly Parkway Elementary School
Mentor: Jaime Pugh

Most students, including my own, love to move. There is a collective ‘yay!’ or ‘yes!’ when it is time for any activity that involves them getting out of their seats or off the carpet. I found myself wanting this type of reaction when it came to teaching all content. After analyzing weekly schedules, taking field notes and surveying students about physical activities they enjoy, I tried various strategies to incorporate body movement into my lessons. I really focused on trying to get my students excited about their learning. Move on over to my session to find out if I was able to instill an increased desire to learn from my students! 

Room 116

Reaching the Daydreamers and the Wiggle Worms: A Closer Look at Student Engagement
Berea Longwell - 1st Grade
Gray’s Woods Elementary School
Mentor: Colleen Sheehan

In first grade, the students are active and lively. Sometimes those behaviors cause students to be distracted and miss out on important parts of lessons and their learning. Observing these behaviors in my classroom led me to wonder, how might interactive teaching strategies impact student engagement in small and whole group lesson situations in my first grade classroom? Through the implementation of a variety of different strategies, I looked into different methods that helped to create a more focused and engaged classroom environment.

Room 117

“Can You Pop Your Hubbubbles?” Exploring Mindfulness in Kindergarten
Lauren Gray - Kindergarten
Gray’s Woods Elementary School
Mentor: Jessica Jeffries

Throughout this year with my kindergarten class, I found myself reminding my students to listen with their whole bodies and refocus their attention. This occurrence became significantly more difficult when transitioning students onto the carpet to begin whole-group instruction. I began to explore mindfulness practices with my students in order to provide them with the tools they needed to control their focus, especially through active listening with their entire body. Anchor breathing, guided meditation, and

the use of a sound bowl are a few of the many mindfulness techniques I implemented.

Room 118

“Teach!” “Okay!... Wait, What Are We Doing?” Understanding the Impact of Teach-okay on Student Engagement
Grace Choi - 3rd Grade
Gray’s Woods Elementary School
Mentor: Shari Dillon

When my students were sitting on the rug for whole group instruction, I noticed many of them had difficulty paying attention to the teacher. Often times, they found an object to fiddle with or picked at their shoelaces. They seemed more interested in things happening outside of our classroom than what I was teaching them. I began questioning what strategies I could use to impact student engagement. Teach-okay, a whole brain modification to the traditional pair-sharing, seemed like a possible strategy. This inquiry explores how I implemented teach-okay into my classroom and the impact it had on my students’ engagement. 

Room 119

“Do we NEED to participate?” Exploring the Relationship Between Participation and Academic Success
Dane Leone - 7th -12th Grades
State College Area High School
Mentor: Stephen Klebacha

After countless times of nagging students to participate in the classroom, I decided to implement a point-based participation system to encourage students to fully engage themselves in the classroom experience. This inquiry looks into how much, if at all, students’ academic achievement increases from before the participation system was implemented until after. On top of that, we also explore the qualitative changes that the students felt before and after the intervention system was in place.

Room 120

You Said Sign Language? How Does Its Use in the Language Classroom Impact Students’ Understanding and Teacher’s Use of L2?
Adeline Lebeaux Aileo - 9th – 12th; French 1 through 5
Penns Valley High School
Mentor: Cory Zatek

As a certified French Sign Language interpreter and the mother of toddlers, I witnessed how sign language can help non/prelingual-speakers to understand and express themselves. Why not implement it as a tool in the language classroom? For my inquiry, I tracked students’ understanding of French and my personal use of French Sign Language. Language teachers’ goal is to use 90% of L2 in the classroom and this goal can seem unrealistic at times, but sign language might be a key to get to that goal and stick to it.

Room 212

“You’ve Got Mail!” How Teacher-written Praise Notes Foster Relationships and Student Development
Alana Fitz - 11th Grade English
State College Area High School
Mentor: Veronica Iacobazzo

My experience with my 11th grade English students at State College Area High School inspired my desire to learn about how students respond to praise, specifically in the form of postcards sent to their homes. The purpose of this study is to explore the impact of teacher-written praise notes on student development and relationship development between students and teachers. Through a student survey, journal reflections, and class observations, the initial analysis showed that the students responded positively to praise notes, whether they felt a change in their relationships, their personal development, or both. 

Room 214

Is Grading Degrading? Grades as Representations of Student Self-concept
Marina Stelmack - AP Language and Composition and English 11
State College Area High School
Mentor: Melissa Wager

Since early September, I have observed my eleventh grade students go to extreme measures to avoid earning what they consider “poor grades.” Their anxieties and stress levels have left me concerned and wondering if the grades students earn serve as representations of their self-concepts. My goal is for students to focus on the learning that takes place in the classroom, yet, with such an emphasis on grades, I worry learning is not their top priority. My presentation will examine anecdotes from my classroom and data from student surveys and interviews, questioning if and how grades personally affect students.

Room 216

Multimodality: Transferable Literacy Practices and the Changing Perceptions of Text
Megan McElwee - Advanced English 11
State College Area High School
Mentor: Mary Nasatka

The most critical observation I’ve made is this: It’s the students’ world and we’re just living in it. What’s the difference between “dank” and “stale” memes? When did punctuation go out of style? The advent of social media and increased accessibility to technology has drastically changed the way we interact with texts. Some individuals believe students are reading less; I believe they are reading more, just in different ways. For this reason, I tackled the following question: How does multimodal instruction and assessment give students transferable literacy skills and change student perceptions regarding the role of English in our world?

Session II

9:15 – 9:40 a.m.

Room 111

“Wait, What Are We Doing?” What Different Teaching Practices Will Help Improve the Engagement of My First Graders?
Macy Geiger - 1st Grade
Gray’s Woods Elementary School
Mentor: Jill Corkery

I started to notice that my students were not fully engaged in my lessons when I heard them say, “Wait, what are we doing?” Calling out, moving around, and talking to friends around one another were all common behaviors that seemed to be impacting learning. I found myself wondering about various teaching practices that could improve engagement throughout my lessons. With the goal of improving student engagement, my inquiry explores teaching practices that improve student learning: generating reflective learners, creating interesting hooks, and implementing whole brain teaching. In this presentation I will dive deeper into my strategies and findings. 

Room 112

Minecraft, Mermaids, Lions, and Water Pokemon! Kindergarten Students Set the Stage
Carly Colavecchi - Kindergarten
Corl Street Elementary School
Mentor: Katie Shoemaker

Play in all forms is weaved throughout the kindergarten school day. As I interacted with my students in their various forms of play, I noticed that many were engaged in dramatic and fantasy play. In addition, many spent their choice time writing fiction stories with one another. I began to wonder how I could bring these two experiences together to support my students’ social and emotional development. Through the lifelong work of Vivian Paley, I was able to engage students in the process of creating four different plays that they were able to perform for their fifth grade book buddies.

Room 113

Circle Time for Everyone? - Using Restorative Circles to Lessen the Fear of Public Speaking
Julia Levine - 3rd Grade
Houserville Elementary School
Mentor: Gretchen Fetterolf
Through weekly restorative circles it was brought to my attention that there was a shared fear of speaking in front of the class. I have struggled with public speaking my entire school career and empathized with students participating in restorative circles, afraid to speak in front of the class. The part of restorative circles that amazes me is that students bring forward certain problems to the class. Other students respond to give helpful advice. Students are also able to solve conflicts with each other in the classroom. How might shyer students become more comfortable through the implementation of restorative circles?

Room 114

To Self-Assess or Not Self-Assess; That is the Question
Kayela Shortall - 4th Grade
Mount Nittany Elementary School
Mentor: Sarah Dwyer

In the fall, I would observe my students as they eagerly finished their essays and as they would vigorously fill out their self-assessment rubrics; the same rubrics we (the teachers) use to score their writing. As I looked over their essays before winter break, I couldn’t help but see the difference between our scores and their own. How could part of my class over assess themselves and part of my class under assess? Does self-assessment help in fourth grade? This lead me to my inquiry wondering: how, within my teaching, would peer review help my students adequately self-assess their writing? 

Room 115

A New Way of Teaching: Whole Brain Style
Rebecca Fine - 4th Grade
Radio Park Elementary School
Mentor: Julie Jobe

Providing a student-centered environment where children feel included and connected to their learning was always the type of teacher I strived to be. For my fourth grade students, it was a challenge to remain focused during lessons or when given directions. After reading professional literature and observing other classrooms, I came across Whole Brain Teaching, an interactive, clever way to gain attention from students and promote engagement. Come see how Whole Brain Teaching influenced my students and built a strong classroom community.

Room 116

“Is it Technology Time Yet?” Exploring Student Engagement in Reading Through Different Technology Resources
Jessica Bickle - 3rd Grade
Ferguson Township Elementary School
Mentor: Ciara Nolen

After being asked many times by students if they could use their Chromebooks during lessons, I realized how much they enjoyed using them. I thought of my class and a few students who needed additional help in reading. I wondered if there was a way that I could incorporate more technology time into the day to engage students more and improve their reading skills. This presentation will discuss the different technology resources that I used and what I discovered.

Room 117

Broadening the Minds of My Tunnel-Visioned Readers: Developing Students’ Skills to Successfully Discuss Their Reading
Alexandra Trivelis - 3rd Grade
Ferguson Township Elementary School
Mentor: Tara Pollick

Third grade is the year when students move on up, both physically to the second floor of the school and metaphorically in terms of academic learning. No longer are students just learning to read, but they are reading to learn. I began to notice that my students struggled to have a meaningful conversation, in which they both shared and listened to their peers. I began to wonder: what strategies can I implement to help my students successfully discuss their reading? Through guided instruction and self-assessment, our class has embarked on the journey of becoming stronger readers who have powerful discussions. 

Room 118

Saving the World One Student At A Time: Using Service Learning in My Fourth Grade Classroom to Enhance Social Studies Learning
Ali Cohen - 4th Grade
Gray’s Woods Elementary School
Mentor: Cathy Klein

Have you ever felt like you didn’t have the power to save the world? The truth is that everyone can make a difference. Through service learning in my fourth grade classroom, I explored how students learned to make a difference in their community and how they grew empowered over time. One may ask, in the world of education, where we have standards to meet with a myriad of content to teach, how would we have time for service learning? Can service learning enhance social studies knowledge, while changing my students' motivation to save our world?

Room 119

"Should We Take Notes on This?" The Relationship Between Guided Notes and Assessment Grades
Paige Haney - 7th & 8th Grade Spanish, High School Spanish 1B
Mt. Nittany Middle School & State College Area High School
Mentor: Maria Shroyer

I have found that students, especially in middle school, often don't take it upon themselves to write notes on the content that I'm teaching. I am interested in exploring the idea that when students are given some sort of guided notes to follow throughout class, they will be more engaged in the lesson and ultimately perform better on unit tests. In my research, I collected data on my eighth grade students' exam scores from before and after I began the implementation of various guided note-taking sheets, which gives insight into the relationship that occurs between guided note-taking and exam grades.

Room 120

“How Many Points Do I Have?” Student Participation: Can Class Dojo Increase Student Participation and Decrease Undesired Classroom Behaviors?
Raechel Mullan - 9th grade
State College Area High School
Mentor: Michelle Regel

“How can I strengthen my classroom management?” All teachers have considered this question and implemented different strategies. Classroom management is the root of the entire classroom; without it, students have difficulty succeeding and learning in a safe environment. At the beginning of the semester, my Spanish 1E classes lacked effective classroom management so I asked myself how I could change this. I implemented Classroom Dojo, an online reward system, to track participation points that later converts into a participation grade twice a marking period. During my presentation, I will share how this system increased student participation and decreased undesired behaviors. 

Room 212

In Transition: Moving from English as a Second Language to General Education Classes
Adison Godfrey - 11th Grade English
State College Area High School
Mentor: Marianne Bowers

When the school year began, three recently-exited English language learners (ELLs) expressed anxiety about their ability to complete the work in their first general education English class. I attempted to assuage their concerns, but I wasn’t sure what I could do to make the transition easier for them. Through interviews, field notes, and reflective journals, I explored how they experienced the transition from ESL to a general education English class. Inquiring into these students’ perceptions and challenges has helped me to better understand their experience and support them in their learning.

Room 214

Knowing Your Kids: The Influence of Teacher-selected, Personality-based Pairs
Amy Lin AP - Literature and Composition 12
State College Area High School
Mentor: Allison Becker

Though student collaboration can yield incredible results, there is potential for many interpersonal problems. In the interest of facilitating student-centered learning, I began to deliberately arrange new groups or pairs based upon differing skills and personalities. I theorized that there could be a “sweet spot” where students felt comfortable enough to share their ideas, but not so comfortable that it impeded productivity. Using student work produced from these groupings along with field notes and surveys, this inquiry explores the implementation of personality-based, teacher-selected pairs or groups in an AP 12 Literature and Composition classroom.

Room 216

Teacher Generated Feedback: Practices That May Lead to Improvement in Student Writing
Patrick Ashton - 9th Grade English
State College Area High School
Mentor: Heather Dinsmore

Throughout the past year, we have administered several writing assignments to English 9 students. Whether it is something as simple as a Claim-Data-Warrant paragraph or a long reflective essay, I have wondered if students use the feedback we give them to improve their work next time. We have conducted workshops, reflections, and allowed for revisions but students do not always improve on future assignments. This inquiry investigates how students process and use teacher generated feedback to improve. Utilizing data collected from student interviews, feedback practices that may help students reach their fullest potential are explored and discussed. 

Session III

9:45 – 10:10 a.m. 

Room 111

“Tell Me and I Forget, Show Me and I May Remember, Involve Me and I Will Understand.” Creating a Curious Classroom to Enhance Student Understanding
Megan Robert - 2nd Grade
Gray’s Woods Elementary School
Mentor:Tara Kauffman

After helping my mentor with our inquiry hour in the fall and also helping with inquiry hour in my fourth grade partner classroom, I became interested in ways that I could spark my students’ curiosity about learning. What strategies could I use with my second graders to develop their curiosity and wonderings? How could I help my students generate their own questions and guide their investigations to answer them? I focused specifically on developing my students’ wonderings during our magnet unit and during our animal research unit. During my presentation you will hear more!

Room 112

“How Do You Spell This?” Aiding First Grade Students in Becoming More Independent
Joelle Marino - 1st Grade
Ferguson Township Elementary School
Mentor: Jodi Bierly

Throughout my time as a first grade intern, I have noticed what I thought to be a considerable amount of student dependence upon teachers and peers in the classroom. As I began to examine this dependence closer, I noted the questions my students ask on a daily basis. I observed a correlation between length of independent practice during writer’s workshop and the amount of questions asked. I was left wanting to teach my students how to problem solve on their own. With this purpose, I wondered how can I instill independence in my first grade students during writer’s workshop?

Room 113

Rockin’ and Rollin’ to Higher Levels of Writing Engagement
Alexandra Monahan - 3rd Grade
Houserville Elementary School
Mentor: Melissa Anderson

How exactly could I enhance writing instruction to help reluctant third grade writers in my classroom? This wondering stemmed from observing the difficulties that some students seemed to be facing when sitting down and actually getting started in their Writer’s Notebook. By creating the “Rockin’ and Rollin’ Writer’s Club” with a couple of students, I was able to research and discover various writing strategies to try with them. Through the implementation of these strategies, I was hopeful that I would be able to create an enthusiasm towards writing in these students that would lead to higher levels of writing engagement. 

Room 114

“I’m All Ears!” Using Restorative Circles to Impact Student Listening Skills
Melissa Keuler - 2nd Grade
Easterly Parkway Elementary School
Mentor: Colleen McCracken

“Are my ears listening? Are my eyes watching? Am I in a smart spot? Am I being a listener ?” These questions started to come out of my mouth more times in one day than I could count. After I noticed this, I began to think of ways in which I could promote my students’ awareness of how their behavior and engagement affect others and the learning that can occur in our classroom. Since restorative circles are used both proactively to build and maintain a strong classroom community, as well as reactively to solve problems and approach challenges as a group, I decided to use this approach to try and impact my students’ listening skills.

Room 115

“When Can We Use Book Creator Again?!” Implementing Technology and Student Choice With Chromebooks
Celia Efrati - 3rd Grade
Easterly Parkway Elementary School
Mentor: Deana Washell

One-to-one technology within the classroom has been a gift. I eagerly watched my students tune in and remain engaged when using their Chromebooks. I began to wonder how I could individualize lessons for students when they were accessing their Chromebook. I also wondered how I could give my students creative control with the technology we use in the classroom. This presentation showcases the ways I utilized student voice to implement new technology tools in my instruction.

Room 116

“Stop and Drop What You’re Doing; It’s Time to Move!” The Impact that Movement Has on Students’ Focus During Writing
Julianna Cardillo - Kindergarten
Gray's Woods Elementary School
Mentor: Lynn Fritz

I noticed that my students struggled with staying focused during writing. Writing is fifty minutes per day, which is a long time for kindergarteners to stay focused the entire time. Students had a tendency to not stay seated and walk around the room, so I wondered how I can help them become more focused during writing time. I wondered how implementing movement activities before writing time would impact students’ focus during writing. I investigated the effects that calming movement and high paced movement had on students’ focus while they were writing. 

Room 117

Let’s Get Critical: Guiding First Graders on a Journey into Critical Literacy
Cara Dore - 1st Grade
Park Forest Elementary School
Mentor: Brenda Hartman

After the LLED block first introduced me to critical literacy, I discovered my passion for this framework of literacy instruction. Through critical literacy, students focus on multiple perspectives and sociopolitical issues, empowering them to sharpen their critical thinking and to take action. Through my inquiry, I endeavored to design lessons which intertwined SCASD English Language Arts curricula and critical literacy for a small group in Readers Workshop. I analyzed my students’ engagement and comprehension throughout the inquiry. My presentation will discuss the journey’s impact on my students and on myself.

Room 118

Authentic Learning (Teaching) and the Formation of Life-Long Learners
Laura Fenerty - 7th Grade
Mount Nittany Middle School
Mentor: John Stout

As a pre-student teacher, I was searching for dynamic ways to enrich my fourth graders’ learning experiences. In an attempt to exchange the monotonous “teach, learn, test” cycle for lessons that students would remember, I began to wrestle with the educational strategy of authentic learning . This presentation explores some of the lessons and instructional periods in which authentic learning was present as well as the core beliefs I found to make a classroom more authentic.

Room 119

Participation Points Can Become Bonus Points on Assessments!
Lori Wang - 9th Grade
Altoona Area Junior High School
Mentor: Patricia Leonard

Participation is often key in learning and tracking student progress in class. Although teachers aim to increase engagement in the classroom, students are not always willing to participate, because they are shy and afraid of being wrong. In my initial observation, only one student per group participated and answered all the questions for everyone else. Afterwards, I arranged their seats in pairs. In contrast, I had fewer students who were willing to participate. I started implementing a strategy where I had classes competing against each other for participation points. Will I be able to increase participation points with rewards system? 

Room 120

Textbooks or Tangibles?
Sabrina Nolan - 9th-10th Grades
State College Area High School
Mentor: Nicholas Gallo

What kind of item provides information but can also be manipulated? An authentic material! In this day in age, we have moved past textbooks inside the world language classroom. Instead, we incorporate authentic materials into our lessons to provide a more engaging environment. Authentic materials serve as tangible objects, cultural artifacts, and create teachable moments. So, the real question is, what impact does exposure to and practice with authentic materials have on students’ grammar knowledge and ability to use grammar?

Room 212

Raise Your Voice, Not Your Hand: Empowering Authentic Student Voice in the Digital Era
Megan Krusel - 9th Grade English
State College Area High School
Mentor: Danielle Ambrosia

In a world that has ever-changing and interconnected methods for communication, teachers need to be flexible in the ways they allow students to express their voices. This realization led me to wonder: what approaches can teachers take to increase student understanding of voice and digital citizenship? Searching for authentic student voice in my classroom of 9th graders, I employed a range of activities that required students to engage with traditional writing methods and others that pulled from more contemporary digital literacies. Through student blogs, poetry, and in-class discussions, this presentation explores how student voice was empowered through these different formats.

Room 214

Facilitating the Development of a Critical, Collaborative Mindset Through Classroom Discussions
William Sheatz 9th - Grade English
State College Area High School
Mentor: Meredith Henderson

Assisting our students to develop a critical mindset is imperative in this complex, modern world. Therefore, I focused my inquiry on recognizing the possible causes for and ways to facilitate this development in my classroom. During my inquiry, classroom discussion emerged as a practice that seemed to promote and support the collaborative construction of meaning by students. This presentation focuses on the ways that student participation and the quality of classroom discussions through prewriting exercises and various discussion methods may help promote and develop a critical, collaborative mindset in students. 

Room 216

Now I See It: How Using Visualization and Art Increases Engagement and Relevance With a Text
Landon McCartney - 9th Grade English
State College Area High School
Mentors: Sarah Rito and Lisa Harpster

I am an avid reader who loses myself in the pages of a novel easily, but I noticed that my students did not always feel the same gravitation towards books. As I began planning my unit, I wondered how to make a text more engaging for my students and concluded that I could use the power of visualization to assist them in seeing the text. Incorporating art and multimodal instructional strategies gave me hope that I could make the text more enjoyable and relevant for my students. In doing so, I made the text come alive for them.

Teacher Inquiry & Practice Showcase


Please help yourself to a snack in the cafeteria while you interact with our interns, teachers, and teacher educators who are sharing their teacher inquiries. You are welcome to move flexibly from table to table. Enjoy the opportunity to interact with as many presenters and visitors as possible! The titles of the inquiries and presenters are displayed below.

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  TIPS: Celebrating Inquiries of Veteran Educators
Table 1

Using Screencasting and Google Forms to Create a Dialogic Feedback Loop in an Online Classroom 

Logan Rutten (Penn State University) 

Table 2

Differentiation in a Digital Curriculum

Emily Gibson, Rachel Livesey, & Teresa McSweeny (21st Century Cyber Charter School; Downingtown, PA) 

Table 3

Teacher Learning Through Collaborative Inquiry: Duoethnography 

Kate Hallinger, Rachel Wolkenhauer, Jen Cody, May Lee, Siti Nuraeni, Yun-chen Yen, & Ali Davenport (Penn State University)

Table 4

More Meaningful and Engaging Play in Kindergarten 

Cheryl Isola (State College Area School District)

Table 5

Mindfulness for Teachers and Teaching Mindfulness 

Meghan McGinty (State College Area School District) 

Table 6

Through the Eyes of a PDA 

Sue Feldman (State College Area School District)

Table 7

One Book, One School, One Community: How Cooking Works 

Libby Snyder (State College Area School District)

Table 8

Conferencing with Second Grade Writers 

Andrea de Carle (State College Area School District)

Table 9

Creating a Narrative through Media 

Dan Woodman, Colin Baumgartner, & Anne Harrington-Kokemor (Prince William County Schools, VA)

Table 10 

Inquiry Hour With The Room 220 Fifth Graders 

Jamie Glass & Fifth Grade Students (State College Area School District)

Table 11 

Make a Makerspace Work for Your Space 

Dustin Brackbill (State College Area School District)

Table 12 

Democratic Practices in a Classroom Setting 

Corey O’Brien, Jamie Myers, & Larry Ferguson (Howard County Public School System, MD)

Table 13 

Connected Content Storylines: Spark Student Engineers to Create with Confidence

Deana Washell, Megan Germ, & Colleen McCracken (State College Area School District)

Table 14 

Cross-Continental Collaboration: Interns in Colombia! 

Amy Long, Lauren Gray, Berea Longwell, Macy Geiger, Maria Murawski, & May Lee (Penn State University)

Table 15 

Opening Our Doors to the Power of Collaboration 

April Rizzo (State College Area School District)

Table 16 

Make Writing! 

Ona Feinberg (State College Area School District)

Session IV

11:00 – 11:25 a.m. 

Room 111

The Art of Communication
Sierra Bigler

As a teacher, my main focus has always been making sure I’m providing the best educational environment for my students. As a result, I’ve continuously looked for ways I can improve myself to better benefit my students. While student teaching, I became aware of the importance of communication between the other teachers that interact with my first grade students. I found myself wondering how I could strengthen my communication skills in order to provide my students with a successful, collaborative learning environment. This presentation examines the communication strategies I have learned and how I have grown as a professional educator.

Room 112

“Breathe In, Breathe Out”: The Impact Mindfulness Has on Student Engagement
Jennifer Smith - Kindergarten
Ferguson Township Elementary School
Mentor: Mary Macalus

In a busy school day filled with routines and activities, I found my kindergarten students having a difficult time staying engaged throughout different points of our day. When students were sitting on the rug, I saw that instruction was often slowed down to address students who were talking, touching others, and zoning out. I began to wonder how the implementation of mindfulness could impact their engagement while attending to instruction on the rug. Planned mindful practices such as deep breathing, movement, and relaxation techniques, resulted in a new sense of self-awareness and engagement with my students.

Room 113

“What’s My Strategy?” Helping Second Graders Build Their Comprehension and Fluency Skills
Carly Dargitz - 2nd Grade
Park Forest Elementary School
Mentor: Kimberly Wilson

Listening to my second graders stumble over words and struggle to comprehend what they were reading as we conferred during Reader’s Workshop led me to wonder: How can I use reading strategies in order to increase my students’ comprehension and fluency skills? The purpose of my inquiry was to strengthen my understanding of how I can support students in the development of their reading fluency and comprehension skills. This presentation explores the different strategies I used with my students and the results of our conferring sessions.

Room 114

Inviting the Seven Year Old to the Present Moment: An Inquiry Into Mindfulness in a Second Grade Classroom
Morgan Pizzi - 2nd Grade
Easterly Parkway Elementary School
Mentor: Andrea de Carle

In the modern world, students are more often than not exhibiting signs of stress or shutting down when academics seem overwhelming to their eye. To focus on my student’s engagement and overall well-being in my classroom, I orchestrated an inquiry that naturally integrated mindfulness practices into our everyday routine, wanting to see if my students had the ability to not only utilize these tools, but develop a self awareness for when they need to access them.

Room 115

“It’s Circle Time!” A Look at How Restorative Circles Impacted My Students’ Feelings
Alissa Dolensky - 4th Grade
Easterly Parkway Elementary School
Mentor: Dee Finley

As early as the first week of school, I began to notice how diverse my students’ personalities were. About halfway through the fall, I noticed a divide between many of my students, and I did not want my classroom community to feel so separated. I started researching Restorative Circles, because I knew that they were proven to help classroom communities. However, my wondering focused around my students’ feelings. Did Restorative Circles help my students to feel more appreciated and heard? Come join me for “Circle Time!”

Room 116

Number Talks: More Than Just Talking About Numbers
Sarah Prohaska - 4th Grade
Ferguson Township Elementary School
Mentor: Jodi Kamin

As I watched my 4th grade math students continue to grow and shape into strong math thinkers, I noticed one piece that seemed lacking, the ability to explain their thinking. I began to wonder how I could help my students improve their capability to confidently share out their thinking as a way to continue their growth as math students. Through the implementation of number talks into our daily routine three days a week, I encouraged students to speak up and share their thinking while also encouraging my students to keep an open mind and see numbers through another’s ‘math eyes.’

Room 117

Sour...Sweet...Finished! Persevering Through Writing
Morgan Kaluza - 2nd Grade
Park Forest Elementary School
Mentor: Jackie Ondik

While teaching my second graders, I found myself constantly asking “is this your best effort?” in order to stop them from rushing through their work to just be done. I started wondering how I could improve my students’ perseverance. Specifically, how could implementing growth mindset and mindfulness strategies improve their production of quality work during writer’s workshop? Together, we learned what it means to give best effort and truly persevere not only during writing, but throughout life. As we say in our classroom, sometimes you need to get through the sour part in order to get to the sweet!

Room 119

Motivate Through Mentoring: Promoting Participation and Setting Students Up for Success
Megan Svensson - 9th-12th Grades
Bellefonte Area High School
Mentor: Emily Zimdahl-McManus

In my Spanish classroom, I found three trends: my students were hesitant to 1) participate in class, 2) speak in the target language, 3) ask questions or do additional practice for topics that were difficult or confusing for them. I decided to implement a before and after school mentoring program with incentives for students to attend. The goal was to create opportunities for students to come to a low-stress environment to participate, practice speaking Spanish, or take on more responsibility for their learning by coming to ask questions or for practice problems so that they weren’t missing out on these opportunities.

Room 120

Listen More, Speak Better: How Increased Oral Vocabulary Practice Can Help Students
Lauren Brauckmann - 9th-12th Grades
Saint Joseph’s Catholic Academy
Mentor: Dr. Tom Masullo

In most Spanish classes, students are exposed to language in a variety of ways: they speak, listen, read, and write. My question during this inquiry project was how listening skills affected vocabulary retention. If students heard their vocabulary words more in class, would they learn them faster and remember them longer? In order to explore this theory, I tried to say the vocabulary words more often in class, I incorporated speaking centered activities, and assessed students orally.

Room 212

“Not Everybody at Once” The Challenge of Increasing Student Discussion and Participation”
Matthew Davis Sociology and CP US History
State College Area High School
Mentor: Amy Bowersox, Ryan Walsh

As a social studies teacher, I value respectfully discussing social issues and being an active participant within the classroom and the community at large. However, once I entered the classroom, I noticed that active participation and willingness to discuss controversial social issues was limited to a small segment of students. Wondering how I could increase respectful participation and discussion, I explored the effectiveness of various question types and began implementing collaborative discussion techniques. I analyzed video recordings, field notes, reflective journals, and surveys in order to evaluate participation and discussion among students.

Room 214

How Should Our Approach in Classrooms Change With the Tides of Technology?
Maggie Ledrick 10th Grade English
State College Area High School
Mentor: Dana Zuhlke

Incoming high school students are increasingly accustomed to using technology, but how does this affect their learning and focus? Students take classes with teachers who have a wide array of attitudes, experiences and practices. My observations of these differences in various approaches to technology gave rise to this inquiry. As I designed more lessons focused on digital writing, I wondered about student productivity, especially when integrating a hybrid approach of handwriting and typing. My findings and their implications explore how approaches that brings together handwriting and typing might impact productivity.

Room 216

“Don’t Ask Me!” Empowering Students to Lead Their Own Learning (And Each Other)
Hannah Kohler 9th-12th Grade English
The Delta Program
Mentor: Gary Masquelier

At the Delta Program, students are empowered to develop their voices in our democratic school environment. However, in discussions of literature, I noticed my advanced English students were quick to cede to their teachers’ perspective without sharing theirs or listening to others. To reclaim our democratic classroom, amplify student voice, and increase authentic participation, I challenged these students with an unmediated text, student-led discussion, and student-generated multimodal assessments. By removing myself from the center of instruction, and by trusting students to take ownership in learning, I found that they had far more to teach (and learn) than I first imagined.

Session V

11:30 – 11:55 a.m.

Room 111

Are Advances in Technology Helpful for Engagement or Hurtful?
Jessica Rothbard - 2nd Grade
jessrothbard@gmail.com Easterly Parkway Elementary School
Mentor: Alix Croswell

I found myself being asked by my students to read during read-to-self time on their Android tablets. I noticed that this was something my students enjoyed doing. I wondered if reading on the tablet was something that students enjoyed for fun or if they felt engaged while reading on the tablet. I chose three students from my classroom and required them to read physical books for two weeks and then to read on their tablet for two weeks. I discovered the impact technology has on student engagement while reading across content areas in my second grade classroom.

Room 112

“What I Hear You Saying is...” A Look into Teaching Practices that Create and Contribute to a Positive Classroom Social Environment
Corey Tolliver - 3rd Grade
Corl Street Elementary School
Mentor: Kelly Essick

As I noticed my third grade students struggling to communicate with each other I began to wonder how I could develop teaching practices to assist and support students' ability to effectively communicate their thoughts, emotions, and ideas with other members of the classroom. This presentation takes an in depth look at the teaching practices I implemented as part of this effort including: Restorative Circles, lunch bunches and read alouds and how they impacted my third grade students.

Room 113

One Size Does NOT Fit All -- Discovering Ways to Help a Student Learn with ADHD
Allyna May - 3rd Grade
Park Forest Elementary School
Mentor: Brenda Khayat

After speaking with a friend about a recent ADHD research project she participated in, I realized I knew little about ADHD. I began wondering how I could better understand and then implement strategies to help my third grade student with ADHD. Using what I learned from interviewing my friend and reading articles, I created a behavior chart just for this child. This presentation shares the specific ways I grew to understand my student as a whole child and the strategies I implemented to support him as a learner.

Room 114

Kindergarten, I Have a Feeling We Are Not in State College Anymore!
Jessica Sinicrope - Kindergarten
Easterly Parkway Elementary School
Mentor: Lisa Spock

As the school bus drove further and further away from the school, a concerned child blurted out “Are we even still in State College?” For some students, this was their first time riding on a school bus. Since this bus ride for our field trip was only seven minutes, I began to wonder at what age do children start to make sense of the world around them? I focused on communicating with teachers, families, and friends across the United States in order to bring their cultures into our classroom. This presentation focuses on the strategies I used in order to help my students begin to broaden their sense of the world around them.

Room 115

Let Your Light Shine: Fostering Students’ Kindness
Megan Gallagher - 3rd Grade
Radio Park Elementary School
Mentor: Kelly Mark

One of the reasons I decided to become a teacher was to make every one of my students feel happy in school and to change the world through kindness. While many of my students are kind individuals, I started to wonder how I could increase their kindness towards others in my classroom. Come hear what mini-lessons and kindness activities I used with my students to help their kindness grow.

Room 116

Mind-Full or Mindful?: The Impact of Mindfulness Practices in a First Grade Classroom
Marissa Tavaglione - 1st Grade
Gray’s Woods Elementary School
Mentor: Jennifer Lawrence

Since the beginning of the year, I have noticed that my students were extra wiggly after recess. It seemed that after running around and playing on the jungle gym, my rosy-cheeked, out-of-breath students needed a few minutes to get settled before they could focus on learning. After just beginning to practice mindfulness myself, I found myself wondering how my students could benefit from mindfulness practices. Are first graders capable of being mindful of their own attention? Throughout the past few months, I explored how different mindfulness practices benefitted my students’ attention and learning.

Room 117

A Room Full of Sunshine: Fostering a Growth Mindset in Kindergarten
Michaela Walsh - Kindergarten
Radio Park Elementary School
Mentor: Cheryl Isola

Throughout the school year, especially the spring semester, I noticed that some of my students were struggling with being kind and being resilient in their work. Knowing that these are two pillars of the growth mindset, I started to wonder how I could foster a growth mindset in my Kindergarten students to help promote their independence as they move towards first grade. This presentation shows the many ways that I worked to foster a growth mindset in my students, encouraging them to be empathetic and resilient on their own, helping the classroom become a room full of sunshine.

Room 119

Rose, Bud, Thorn: How Routines Can Implicitly Effect L2 Use
Christina Lui - 8th-11th Grades
Bellwood Antis High School
Mentor: Timothy VanScoyoc

Some students feel ill at ease while using the L2 in the classroom. This is the case in my French 3 classroom, where my students default to using English during class. I was interested in seeing if there were ways in which I could implicitly encourage students to use the L2 when speaking. During my presentation, I will describe the routines I created to start and end class as well as how students’ attitudes towards speaking the L2 changed throughout the duration of the project.

Room 120

The Technological Teacher – Can Using More Technology Help Reach Students in the Larger Classroom Setting?
Austyn Piepenhagen - 6th-8th Grades
Mt. Nittany Middle School
Mentor: Sue Aurand

In the classroom with a high number of students, it can be difficult to give each student the attention they need. My inquiry asks if increasing the use and range of technology in the classroom can aid with this and increase test scores and participation as a whole. I focused on one 7t h grade class that had 29 students and significantly lower test scores and participation on average per student than my other, smaller 7t h grade classes. During my presentation, I will discuss the different technologies used as well as the impact it had on the students in this large class.

Room 212

“How’s It Going?” Using Individualized Reflective Rubrics in the English Classroom
Laurena Clemente - 5th-8th Grades, English
Delta Middle Level
Mentors: David Rockower, Virginia Squier

While multi-grade classes offer several affordances, one challenge that I faced in the multi-grade classes at Delta Middle was providing effective writing instruction. In an effort to tailor assessment and support for each person, I conferenced with students to develop rubrics that reflect each individual’s strengths, challenges, and interests. These individualized reflective rubrics were designed to encourage authentic writing, allow space for student agency, and ultimately humanize the writing and assessment process. The question at the heart of this inquiry is: Why approach writing instruction in a standardized way if students themselves are not standardized?

Room 214

“Do Students Respond to Teachers Who Care About Them ?” By Focusing on Students’ Wellbeing, Are They More Engaged in Class?
Albert Esposito - 11th and 12th Grade Social Studies
State College Area High School
Mentor: Ryan Long

How do students engage and participate in a classroom where their lives outside of the classroom and the emotional aspect of these personal experiences are the focus? This inquiry examines the relationship between student well-being and overall success or engagement in class. Through anonymous interviews, grade data, student quotes, and other methods, this presentation will explore the development of student engagement where student well-being is the focus. Implications and possibilities for practices and a pedagogical approach that prioritizes student well-being are explored and discussed.

Room 216

1:1 Devices, Digital Literacies, and Phone Jail: Teacher Perspectives on Technology in the Classroom
Casey Hicks - 10th Grade English
State College Area High School
Mentor: Gina Motter

In collaborating with various teachers, I’ve noticed a wide disparity in their attitudes and approaches toward technology both in and out of the classroom. These observations made me wonder to what extent a teacher’s experiences with technology impact their beliefs and use of it in a 1:1 school. Stereotypical assumptions are that “older” teachers are more reluctant to accept or less able to adapt to new technology, and that students and younger teachers, as so-called “digital natives,” would prefer to use technology more consistently. However, my findings from surveys, interviews, and field notes appear to challenge those assumptions

We are deeply grateful to all of the following individuals for their ongoing support of the inquiry process and the planning of this inquiry conference. 

  • PDS Associates and Mentors 
  • K-4 Professional Development Associates
  • Bernard Badiali, Bill Benson, Sue Feldman, LeeAnna Hooper, MJ Kitt, Holly Klock, Gwen Lloyd, Colleen McCracken, Christine McDonald, Erin Morgart, Amy Long, Nicholas Reitz, Jane Steff, Deana Washell, Rachel Wolkenhauer, Mary Yahner 
  • English Professional Development Associates Lochran Fallon, Michelle Knotts, Raeann Horgas, Keith Machtinger, Mary Lou Manhart, Karen Morris 
  • World Languages Associates: Michelle Pasterick and Matt Poehner 
  • K-4 Mentor Teachers
  • Melissa Anderson, Jodi Bierly, Tiffany Brushwood, Jill Corkery, Alix Croswell, Andrea de Carle, Shari Dillon, Sarah Dwyer, Kelly Essick, Gretchen Fetterolf, Dee Finley, Lynn Fritz, Brenda Hartman, Laura Henderson, Lauren Ishler, Cheryl Isola, Jess Jeffries, Julie Jobe, Jodi Kamin, Tara Kauffman, Brenda Khayat, Cathy Klein, Jen Lawrence, Mary Macalus, Linda Margusity, Kelly Mark, Emily McAleer, Colleen McCracken, Ciara Nolen, Jackie Ondik, Laurie Pagnotto, Tara Pollick, Jaime Pugh, Mary Robert, Colleen Sheehan, Katie Shoemaker, Lisa Spock, Deana Washell, Kim Wilson
  • World Language Mentor Teachers
  • Sue Aurand, Nick Gallo, Steve Klebacha, Patricia Leonard, James Masullo, Michelle Regel, Maria Shroyer, Timothy Van Scoyoc, Emily Zimdahl-McManus, Cory Zatek. 
  • Secondary Mentor Teachers: Amy Allison, Danielle Ambrosia, Allison Becker, Marianne Bowers, Amy Bowersox, Heather Dinsmore, Lisa Harpster, Beth Hartman, Meredith Henderson, Veronica Iacobazzo, Ryan Long, Gary Masquelier, Gina Motter, Mary Nasatka, Sarah Rito, David Rockower, Virginia Squier, Becca Thorsen, Melissa Wager, Ryan Walsh, Dana Zuhlke 
  • SCASD District Administrators and Specialists 
  • Superintendent Dr. Bob O’Donnell 
  • Assistant Superintendent for Secondary Education
  • Dr. Will Stout 
  • Supervisor of Elementary Education K-5
  • Vernon Bock 
  • Assistant to the Superintendent for Strategic Initiatives
  • Linda Colangelo 
  • Directors of Curriculum Deirdre Bauer (K-6) Jacquelyn Martin (7-12) 
  • SCASD Technology Department Nicole Steele, Director
  • Nick Zepp, Senior IT Manager Fanessa Thompson
  • PDS Elementary Principals : Shelly Buckholtz, Linda Colangelo, Kris Dewitt, Todd Dishong, Mark Feldman, Thomas Weed, Zachary Wynkoop, Charlotte Zmyslo 
  • PDS Secondary Principals Curtis Johnson, Christina Manning, Kathy Pechtold, Laura Tobias, Katy Ricker 
  • Department Coordinator Christine Merritt,
  • High School English, Jackie Saylor, High School Social Studies 
  • Curriculum Coaches
  • Ona, Fineburg, April Rizzo, D’Anne Saylor, Jen Tranell 
  • Instructional Technology Coaches Kelly Bowen, Helen Quinn, Florence Milutinovic 
  • Penn State Administrators 
  • Dean, College of Education David Monk 
  • Dean’s Office, College of Education
  • Greg Kelly
  • Rayne Sperling 
  • Maria Schmidt 
  • Department Head, Curriculum and Instruction
  • Rose Zbiek 
  • Director, CEAED Gwen Lloyd 
  • Director, CIFE Alicia McDyre 
  • EDUCATE Courtney Lynch