Reading Beyond the STAAR

By readingintheborderlands

The UTPA College of Education is beginning a new professional development series! We’ll have three lectures a year over topics we hope will interest the local educational community. The first one will be by yours truly! I’ll be talking about how we can create and support readers who are capable of far more than just passing a standardized test.

Prof Dev Series Sign-April 27, 2013

Build-a-Book Event at UTPA College of Education

By Readingintheborderlands

This Friday there will be a Build-a-Book event from 3:00-6:30 in the Borderlands Room of the College of Education. Bring your children for an opportunity to be creative, write, build and design their very own books! Each child will receive a building kit, and they get to keep a memory of this event forever.

Faculty, students, and community members are welcome to bring their children to this event. All ages welcome, but children five or younger will require parental help.

We will also have a book fair during the Build-a-Book event and continuing on to Saturday, February 11 from 10:00-4:00. There will be children’s literature and young adult books for sale, along with teaching materials.

Global Lens Film Series at UTPA

By Readingintheborderlands

UTPArecently announced the schedule for the Global Lens Foreign Film series, which begins November 10. This year the series includes eight films with English subtitles from Asia, Latin American and the Middle East. Screenings are open at no cost to students, faculty, staff and the entire community.

You can find the schedule and information about each film at the UTPA Global Lens website.

Why Choose the Reading M.Ed. program at UTPA?

By Readingintheborderlands

It’s application season at the Reading M.Ed. program at UTPA. As I looked through applications today, I started thinking about why people choose to come to our program.

 For many students it’s simply a matter of proximity. Other than UTPA, there are very few places that offer on-campus graduate literacy courses. UTPA is close by, it’s relatively inexpensive for a graduate program, and many people are already familiar with the campus since they did their undergraduate degrees here.

However, there are other reasons our program is a good choice:

  • The people who teach in the program understand the Rio Grande Valley and the children who live here. This area and the local schools have some unique characteristics related to border life, language issues, and culture. We have extensive experience working with local schools and families and we bring that experience into our classrooms.
  • In addition, most people who teach in this program are actively involved in research that explores the local educational context and how that context can be improved. Again, we bring this research and what we’ve learned into our classrooms to share with our students.
  • Because we recognize that teaching can be a very isolating profession and because we know that teachers can learn a great deal from each other, our program promotes connections with other literacy teachers. We encourage a great deal of productive student talk in our classrooms because we know that it helps people learn. We also support a continued literacy community even after graduation through this blog and through our Facebook page (look for us on Facebook under “Schall Reading”).
  • We encourage students to pursue questions important to their teaching. Most classes have some sort of student choice built in so that students can explore what they are interested in—within the confines of the course subject, of course. This might mean that the student chooses the topic of their final research paper, or that the student chooses how to respond to an assigned course reading, or that the professor offers two professional books and the student chooses which to read.

Find out more about the Reading M.Ed. program at

Get more information about the Master Reading Teacher certificate program at

Taking on the Scary, Scary Thesis

By Readingintheborderlands

Yesterday I attended a thesis proposal meeting. Congratulations to Abel Lopez, Jr. for successfully presenting his proposal and moving on to the data collection stage of his research!

 The Reading M.Ed. program added a thesis option a couple of years ago and we now have three students somewhere in the thesis process. Our goal is to get more students completing a thesis and to build a research community within our graduate program. So…what is a thesis and why do we care about it?

A thesis is an independent research project that a master’s degree student plans and completes under the guidance of their professors. Thesis hours replace two courses in the degree plan. A thesis usually takes a year and a half to two years to complete and will end up being anywhere from 90-150 pages long.

Because we don’t yet have a history and expectation of thesis work within our master’s degree program, students sometimes find the idea of a thesis rather frightening. It sounds like a lot of work. Ok, it is a lot of work. But for many students it’s worth it! Why?

The most important reason is that doing a thesis allows a student to explore a burning question in ways that they just can’t during regular coursework. For example, if you are wildly interested in how daily shared reading experiences can help your English Language Learners become better readers, you will probably get a few reading assignments and class experiences on the topic during your program. A thesis, on the other hand, allows you to really go in depth on the subject through designing and completing your own research project.

A thesis also allows you freedom as a student. While you are working under the guidance of a committee of professors, ultimately you alone are responsible for the success of your thesis project. Many people relish the chance to take over their own learning.

Another important reason is that an excellent thesis will add to the research knowledge that the local educational community has access to. There’s a huge gap in what we know about the local educational community—your work on a thesis can help fill that gap.

Finally, doing a thesis is excellent research practice if you intend to enter a doctoral program. It gives you experience in every aspect of research. All doctoral programs will be glad to see a completed thesis on your application—and some doctoral programs will be hesitant to accept you without it.

So, yes, a thesis is a big project but there are excellent reasons for doing one. And remember, in the Reading M.Ed. program you have professors who will support you through each step of the process.