Reading M.Ed. Information for Spring 2012

By Readingintheborderlands

As we start the new semester, I want to update our readers who are current or future UTPA Reading M.Ed. students about some changes and events related to our program.

Internship Hours 

The state of Texas has changed its laws regarding teacher certification. Since the current Reading M.Ed. is a certification program along with a degree program, these changes affect us. Most importantly, students who want to be certified as Reading Specialists must now have 160 hours of internship. Since our current program really isn’t set up to support 160 hours of internship, we are working to revise the program. We believe that all these changes will result in a stronger Master’s degree. Our hope is that the new degree plan will be approved to begin fall 2012.

We are not being allowed to grandfather in students, so anyone who is currently a Reading M.Ed. student will have to complete the internship (with the exception of a few current students who took READ 6325 last  year). In addition, people who graduated from our program already but did not get certified for some reason may run into some certification difficulties. If you are in this situation–you graduated last semester or a year ago or two years ago and did not pursue certification–and you want to get your Reading Specialist certificate, do it RIGHT AWAY. At some point soon, possibly this fall, the certification office will begin enforcing the law for you and and you will have to go back and take two internship courses.

TExES Review Sessions

Another fairly recent change is that the state of Texas now requires everyone who gets a teaching certification to have six hours of test preparation. You will not qualify for certification if you don’t have those hours, even if you pass the test without them!

There are two Reading Specialist and Master Reading Teacher test preparation sessions scheduled for spring. The first will be March 24 from 9:00-12:00. The second will be April 14 from 9:00-12:00.

Written Comprehensive Exam

Current students who anticipate graduating this May or August must pass the written comprehensive exam. The exam will be on April 21 from 9:00-12:00. This is the only time the exam will be offered until next fall. Dr. Schall will be in contact with eligible students, but if you don’t here from her soon and you think you should be taking the comps, let her know.

Once a student passes their written comprehensive exam and completes six hours of test preparation, they are eligible to take the Reading Specialist TExES.

By Readingintheborderlands

It’s the first day of the new semester and I should planning my classes or finishing the course descriptions for our revised reading program, but instead I’m sitting at my desk browsing through Of Another Fashion: An Alternative Archive of the Not-Quite-Hidden But Too Often Ignored Fashion Histories of U.S. Women of ColorThere’s a serious cultural and historical impetus to this blog, but honestly, on this uncaffienated early morning I just like looking at the pictures.

I’ll try to bring my brain back online soon. In the meantime, enjoy!

(And welcome to the new semester!)

AP Skills in Mexican American Literature

By Isai Cabrera

This post was contributed by a student in READ 6310 Children’s and Adolescent Literature.

When reading La Linea I was taken back to my Mexican American Studies courses at a time that I discovered my passion for Chicano Literature, Chicano Movement, and Chicano History.  This type of literature breaks through the ordinary English Language Arts class, Reading Class, or Social Studies class, and cuts at the heart of Political Agenda, Religious Dogma, and Cultural Revolution still relevant today.  It allows the reader to flow through aspects of today’s Political, Socio Economic, and Social Issues and not just stagnate in a story plot. We can tie all these high interest-engaging themes to AP skills that our students can master. 

 The novel allows English teachers to teach the skill of Juxtaposition within the main characters-Miguel and Elena.  The comparison that the author uses to show the different qualities each possess lends to allowing students to identify juxtaposition within Mexican American literature.  In the past when I have tried to use a short story, novel, or poetry to teach juxtaposition my students can only show mastery if the skills is isolated.  I have found this year after reading the short story La Linea my students seem to be more receptive to the concept of Juxtaposition.   This demonstrates that Mexican American reading can be used for Pre AP curriculum.

Another AP skill that I taught using the short story was the use of minor characters within the story to build the plot-character types in the genre of fiction.  In AP classes students must know the importance of minor characters to the plot, conflict, and theme to any story.  The author utilizes the minor characters in the story enhance and move the characters along with the plot and subplot, and add to characterizations of the main characters.  Our students should be able to know the types of characters in the genre of fiction such as dynamic, flat, round, foil, static, and stock characters adheres to the short story.     

Javier seems to play off very well next to Miguel as a foil character-which is the opposite qualities of the protagonist.  Javiers demonstrates “Compadrismo (Camaraderie) or Solidaridad (Unity)” in the short story.  While when we first get introduced to Javier, Miguel already builds a barrier between both. This example among several throughout the short story allows our young readers to master the concept of types of characters in the fiction genre.   

Another type of character we can teach is flat character.  Moises’s is a character that doesn’t go through changes in the story and remains with the same qualities.   We meet Moises as a dry straight to the point coyote and remain the same through the reading.  As we present these examples our students can become familiar with types of characters. 

Another AP skill we can teach is allusion. For example the allusion to Moses from the Bible is created by the author with Moises is leading his people (Miguel, Javier, and Elena) to the Promised Land –the United States.  Moises’ journey through the desert is like Moses who led the Jewish people for forty years, and Moises also has the same fate as the biblical figure, which was not to reach Israel (or in their case the United States). Both figures die before getting their people to the Promised Land, even though they guided them to it.  Our students can make connections and start to master these skills with the use of a short story.

I strongly believe that we can teach AP skills to our students with literature that can relate to their culture, identities, and language.  Teachers, we can definitely start to introduce these skills to our students and can set them up for success in the future.

Power to Children’s Literature

D. Dena, UTPA

This post was contributed by a student in READ 6310 Children’s and Adolescent Literature.

When our students are exposed to a variety of children’s literature they are able to respond to their experiences and world perspectives. It is an important aspect in our teaching because it enhances their prior knowledge. So the question I ask is what type of literature experiences is being offered in the classrooms? Children are like sponges they are able to grasp all the knowledge that they are provided with in their classrooms. In providing students to literature we need to be sensitive when it comes to choosing a piece of literature. We should always be aware of our student’s needs and interests, from day one. As we begin to observe our students in our classrooms, each child shows their own unique characteristics as they begin to recognize what type of literature is most appropriate for our students. A great way in choosing literature is to evaluating the authenticity of the book. This is not a simple yes or no decision it takes careful consideration establishing the authenticity of a book. This is a reason why many teachers might tend to stick to the curriculum based readings. But that is depriving our students from all the exposure of literature that we have access to. I limited my students as well at a time but throughout my graduate courses this fall semester I was aware of the significance this provides for our students. So I propose for our future or current teachers to begin thinking outside the box and provide our students with rich meaningful text. They deserve to know it, and what better person to educate them than their teachers. Recognize the influence of literature in your thoughts and feelings, search for various genres, cultural aspects, and current trends. In discovering the role that literature plays, helps children to learn to read.

Technology Moves Literacy

By Alvarez

This post is written by a student in READ 4351 Learning through Literacy. Students in this course are part of the high school and all-level teacher preparation programs and are pursuing certification in a wide variety of subject areas.

After spending some quality time with one of my cousins, I have come to a conclusion that the modern day teen, or adults, have now morphed into the modern day technology. My cousin wishes to remain anonymous; we shall call her Mary to respect her privacy. Mary spends most of her time on her cell phone, like most of us nowadays do. There I found that she spends time on text-messaging with family and friends, social networking, gaming, homework on the computer, or even just watching her favorite television shows. She used technology to share her opinions, read literary pieces, and watch literary-inspired film. I grew up with less technology and seeing all this makes me realize that time changes. Even if they are not outside getting their knees scraped, jumping puddles, or climbing trees, they have a bigger advantage by using literacy found by using technology. I saw Mary text with her friends and she could hold up to five conversations at a time. She read an average of one sentence and at time she received forward messages that were very lengthy. She read all of them and answered back with proper grammar; I cannot say the same about her friends because they would cut words or used some sort of slang to text. In her text messages, she also received messages from Facebook, so she would continually sign in to Facebook and check her messages or comments.

When Mary sat down to watch TV, we saw a lot of literacy too. Commercials take advantage of viewers to promote their products, many advertised by calling others by mailing, but both required some sort of reading. Mary is surrounded by technology and has to adapt to the new technology that is coming out. Mary’s little brother plays video games and we took a peek at one of his games, Call of Duty Black Ops. He was playing online so he communicated with people all over the world. His game had literacy too, because he had to follow what the screen said and focus on missions.

We can say that technology has reached everyone and now it is up to us to receive it with arms wide open so that we can become literate by using technology and not just reading newspapers or articles. We now have a choice on what we read, all thanks to technology. Having technology around is not a bad thing; people nowadays are hooked on the new era and rely on it. Technology has now come into our lives and is here to stay. We should learn how to adapt to it because it promotes a lot of literacy for everyone, even if it comes from a text message or even a TV commercial, it has the power to make us literate just as an English teacher would.

Arts Benefit in Student Achievement

By Joe Barrios and Abel Ocanas

This post is written by students in READ 4351 Learning through Literacy. Students in this course are part of the high school and all-level teacher preparation programs and are pursuing certification in a wide variety of subject areas.

According to the book Critical Evidence:  How the ARTS Benefit Student Achievement, students that have been exposed to the Arts have greater achievement.   The author, Sandra Rupert, notes that learning experiences in the arts contribute to the development of academics skills, including the areas of reading and language development, and mathematics.  One way of determining these results is by making assessments with standardized exams.  The study of music has provided a context for teaching language skills.  Students that are involved in drama have to use their reading skills in memorizing and acting their part in a skit.  An analysis conducted of multiple studies confirms that finding that students who take music classes in high school are more likely to score higher on standardized mathematics tests such as the SAT.  One example is musical training in rhythm emphasizes proportion, patterns and ratios expressed as mathematical relations. 

Another benefit is that students also improve in using their thinking skills and social skills.  Students that are involved in Jazz are exposed to improvising.  Improvising allows students to be creative and come up with their own melody while listening to the main accompaniment.  Social skills are another benefit that is gained by being exposed to the Arts.  According to Sandra Rupert, Art activities promote growth in positive social skill, including self-confidence, self-control, conflict resolution, collaboration, empathy and social tolerance.     

The arts help create a positive school environment.  The learning environment is created by teachers and students success that foster teacher innovation, a positive professional culture, community engagement, increased student attendance, effective instructional practice and school identity.  According to Sandra Rupert, a comparative study with other Chicago public elementary schools, students from the CAPE schools performed better on standardized tests than the students who attended schools that did not integrate the arts with academics.

Teaching Uninterested Students

By Dennis Alexander

This post is written by a student in READ 4351 Learning through Literacy. Students in this course are part of the high school and all-level teacher preparation programs and are pursuing certification in a wide variety of subject areas.

I believe teaching uninterested students is demanding, but there are some effective ways to approach this challenge. I am one of those students who worries taking notes and turning in homework on time. But before college, in almost every classroom I attended, that wasn’t the attitude toward school shared among some classmates. Some students, during classroom time, seemed to be interested and talkative about everything except academics.  I asked friends and teachers from other classes if that was something common, and they said yes– there was usually a small group with this indifferent attitude. Some of the answers with which classmates justified their attitude were “it’s boring” or “dude, that stuff is irrelevant, it has nothing to do with me.” I asked teachers why this happening and they said “someone else is in control of how and what I’m supposed to teach”. It is based on what my classmates and teachers said that I will propose ideas to make a more productive classroom experience for uninterested students.

When I think about relevant assignments, a recent project comes to mind in which I interviewed an adolescent concerning his classroom literacy experience.  The interview corroborated the idea that students would be more engaged in academics if teachers, from time to time, relate assignments to student’s interest.  The adolescent and I understood student interest should be taken into account in classroom discussions, writing assignments or research assignments. Moreover, apart from relevance, students do not want their school experience to be boring. I remember how I liked when teachers went out of the take-notes-from-lesson routine and came up with projects. I also remember how infrequent those projects were. However, it does seem achievable and realistic to me for a teacher to include one or two of these cool activities per month. Those activities might include graphic organizers, group projects or class discussions. Considering a student usually attends seven different classes, students would enjoy at least seven different activities of this kind per month.

I didn’t understand completely the first time a teacher told me he was not in control of his classroom. It wasn’t until college that I understood teachers were required to teach subjects directly related to pass state exams, and that many times their teaching methods had to be in accordance to the school head administrator strategy to pass those exams.  I think this problem is deeper than the first one because it seems to be out of the teachers hands. My recommendation here is teachers should write and talk to school administrators about how this is detrimental, and propose more advantageous and less restrictive methods to pass the state exams.  I’m glad to know from college readings there are committed teacher movements against classroom control negatively influencing students’ learning.

Making these changes is not so easy; it requires teachers’ dedication and students will. However, I think any effort resulting in effective classrooms is worthy. I wrote some struggles and solutions I believe are relevant to schools today. Do you think of other ideas to solve these problems? Do you think of any other school related problems?

Criminalization of Immigrants

By L. Treviño

This post is written by a student in READ 4351 Learning through Literacy. Students in this course are part of the high school and all-level teacher preparation programs and are pursuing certification in a wide variety of subject areas.

Now more than ever immigration has become a hot topic here in the United States, especially considering where I am planning to teach, which is in South Texas. I believe that this lesson plan and topic is one that I would definitely try to modify to fit in my lesson plans.  Now more than ever it is safe to say when an American citizen hears about an immigrant or an illegal alien the person will automatically assume that that individual is of Mexican descent.  Although through the history of the United States it is not only Mexicans who are mistreated as immigrants, I felt that because I am addressing a predominantly of Mexican heritage class that in order to grasp their attention and interest it would be best for me to focus on a culture that they may relate to.  I am hoping that this will spark enough interest in them that they will want to begin their own research and look more in depth into other immigration problems and mistreatment of ethnic groups. 

Something I would like to make clear in my lesson is that breaking the law is breaking the law but I would hope to get the point across that these individuals are not criminals who seek to do harm but instead are individuals almost like refugees looking for a safe place and for a better opportunity for their family.  To hear the way several people describe Mexican immigrants and the use of the term wetback really affects the mind set of those around them. The derogatory terms that are used to describe Mexican immigrants create hate and ultimately create tension.  I am not trying to influence the students to be in support of illegal immigration but instead educate them so that when they are in a discussion about this topic that they will be able to speak with knowledge and an understanding of both sides of the problem and not simply regurgitate what they have been spoon feed by the media and by entertainment. 

While looking for a video clip on YouTube I ran across so many videos depicting Mexicans in the most horrid fashions.  It saddened me not because they were against immigration but because of their naive ignorance to what is really going on and the fact that they are posting these videos where other individuals can get influenced by them and become more toxic to the community around them.  Racism is like a disease and if these individuals do not educate themselves it will spread to the ones around them.  I want my students to be able to carry themselves in a respectable matter and to be able to carry a discussion without using derogatory words or using stereotypes to make their point.  Whether they are for or against I wants them to be knowledgeable in whichever side they chose.

The books and articles that I chose because of the information that they provide.  Of the books I have chosen the one that stood out to me was Daniel Rothenberg, “With These Hands: The Hidden World of Migrant Farmworkers Today” reason being is that one of the very first articles in the book is an interview with an Anglo man who says that he loves being a picker, that it allows him to come and go as he pleases and to travel the world. Then it is followed by an interview of a Mexican picker who says he cannot leave the farm until the farmer allows him to leave. He must stay there until they agree for him to go. He describes his life as horrible but understands the sacrifice he must make in order to keep his family in some type of life style other than poverty.  To me this shows what a huge difference in treatment that the two individuals faced in the same type of work place. 

I want students to question the treatment of illegal aliens.  Do they believe the United States is being far in the treatment of them?  I would like students to not only be able to identify which laws were used to keep Mexicans out but also if they think the laws carried a bias in them. I would also like to show them the evolution of the Mexican immigration system and let them decided if it has positively affected the Mexican community or has it caused more tension between the 2 countries because of this. I would like students to identify stigmas that they are familiar with and have been placed on Mexican individuals as well as Mexican Americans.

This is an example of the lesson plan:

Criminalization of Immigrants

Content Objective: TLW demonstrate why and how the Border Patrol started and ultimately lead to the criminalization of immigrants.

Language Objective: TLW be able to write about laws that have been passed that deal with immigration and will also be able to identify the stigmas that have been created by the Border Patrol and Media.

Materials: Teacher supplied power point presentation as well as reading materials. Kelly L Hernandez. Migra!; A History of the United States Border Patrol, would be assigned to the class as course material in order to lay down the foundation of the findings, as well as David Montejano’s  “The ‘Mexican Problem ’”  an article that brings race and superiority to the picture. “What Triggers Public Opposition to Immigration? Anxiety, Group Cues, and Immigration Threat” by Ted Brader will also be given so they can see how fear can create cause and swiftly become out of control. Daniel Rothenberg, With These Hands: The Hidden World of Migrant Farmworkers Today will also be used to show interviews with pickers to show their side of the story.

 Focus: Show a video clip of the show Border Wars which is on National Geographic. The clip I will use is of a man who lives on the border leaving out water bottles and canned food in the dessert and then the self-proclaimed Minute Men discovering it and pouring the water out and confiscating the canned food that was left there for anyone in need of it.

Presentation: Students will do a research paper with materials I provided as well as their own sources and artifacts.

Closure: Ask the students if they can think of any stigmas that they have either heard, been victim to or have participated in the stereotyping of immigrants in any way.