Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Epiphany!

Epiphany!
I hear someone say, “I had an epiphany!” and I just role my eyes. There are some words in our English language that are overworked and misused and I’ve always felt this is one of them. I put it right in the same category as “epic” which is used to refer to just about any idea or event that someone likes these days. Just Googling the word “epiphany” brings a 7,570,000 hits that range from wine-making (Epiphany, 2010b) to music (Epiphany, 2010c) not to mention the 514,000 hits that come from Googling books with that word!
So, it is with fear and trepidation that I now add my voice to the throng exclaiming, “I had an epiphany!” Yet I find that it is the only word to describe yesterday’s experience. This sends me searching for context...
Merriam Webster’s web site defines “epiphany” as
(from Greek epiphaneia, “manifestation”), festival celebrated on January 6; it is one of the three principal and oldest festival days of the Christian Church (including Easter and Christmas). It commemorates the first manifestation of Jesus Christ to the Gentiles, represented by the Magi, and the manifestation of his divinity, as it occurred at his Baptism in the Jordan River and at his first miracle at Cana in Gallilee (Epiphany, 2010a).
Now, I’m not saying that what I experienced yesterday is on the same level as the proclamation of the Diety of Jesus Christ! Maybe Dictionary.com’s second definition relates more closely to what I experienced:
a sudden, intuitive perception of or insight into the reality or essential meaning of something, usually initiated by some simple, homely, or commonplace occurrence or experience (Epiphany, 2010d).
Yeah...that is definitely closer. And “what,” you may ask, “was this sudden perception or insight into the essential meaning of something?”  As you might remember from my last post, my research interests kept broadening instead of narrowing. While this may seem like a trivial matter, it’s extremely frustrating when I have needed to create a small study. I found myself designing something that I really wasn’t that passionate about simply due to the time table of an assignment. All the advice I had been getting told me to tailor each assignment toward my research interest and since I hadn’t even come close to an area of study it was becoming increasingly more difficult.
Then, initiated by a simple, commonplace occurrence of a conversation, it “suddenly” came to me...a small study that is directly related to a research direction I am passionate about! I felt like telling the world! And although it wasn’t a spiritual revelation, it was an experience that I will never forget...that day...that time...that place where I found my niche in the research world!
References
Epiphany (2010a). In Encyclopædia Britannica. Retrieved September 29, 2010, from
     Encyclop√¶dia Britannica Online:
Epiphany by Christette Michele (2010b). Retrieved September 29, 2010, from 
Epiphany (2010c). Retrieved September 29, 2010, from Amazon.com 
Epiphany (2010d). Retrieved September 29, 2010, from Dictionary.com 

Monday, September 20, 2010

Another Idea?!

So, I was told that my research interests would narrow as I got into the program. I had in mind the fundraising coin collector apparatus you often see in McDonalds. You know...the big yellow "funnel" that you start a coin rolling and with centripetal force it eventually lands in it's home? Well, something's wrong! My funnel is upside-down. My research "coin" is defying the laws of nature--gravity and centripetal force! Instead of spinning to it's home inside my brain, the coin keeps gaining speed upward and outward--gathering more and more ideas.

The saying goes, "If you can't beat 'em, join 'em." That's what I've decided to do. I just keep writing the ideas down and hope that someday my funnel will invert--it will have to for my dissertation. In this spirit...if you've had a plaguing question about literacy of any kind...let me know. I'll add it to my pile and if I ever pursue it and it gets published...you'll get credit for the idea!

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Reverse Storyboards

Here's another fun literacy project to try after reading a story or book. Have students work in groups and choose a section of the story to illustrate with a caption. Then work as a class to arrange the illustrations in the order of how they happened in the story. This is a great way to summarize and talk about important events/characters in the story.


Idea from Dr. Timothy Rush, University of Wyoming, June, 2010

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Philosophy

Now don’t freak out! This won’t be that deep :) In my Introduction to Doctoral Studies class we were asked to think about our philosophy of life, learning, and education in the framework of 4 of life’s components--Society, Individual, Natural World, and Spiritual Dimension. Since it’s been quite some time since I’ve penned a philosophy, I decided to give it a try. I’m finding that it’s probably not a bad idea to do from time to time. While some basic core ideas remain the same, I’m finding there are several things that have changed the way I view things in light of my “growth” personally and professionally. Today’s entry will reflect my philosophy of Life in general within this framework. So here’s what I have so far:




I believe that the Spiritual Dimension (soul/spirit) encompasses everything I do and think through God--my Lord and Savior. Within that, I see Society and the Individual’s existence in the Natural World as key to maintaining physical existence as it is suspended through God’s grace and mercy. My very existence is determined by the ongoing health of this world and therefore I have a direct link and responsibility to it. Someone once said, “No man is an island.” As this illustration depicts, I believe that to be true. I cannot exist completely outside of Society (though it is tempting to try at times). My actions, however small or big, affect those around me. Similarly, I am affected by the actions of others placing me in direct contact with Society as an Individual.
Stay tuned for the next philosophical installments!

"Story Preview" - A Pre-Reading Activity

Here’s a great pre-reading activity to help readers engage in a story:
Step 1: Choose a story to read aloud that you want to focus on but don't show it to the students ahead of time.

Step 2: Choose key words and short phrases (2-3 words) from the story, write them in a list form in the order they appear in the story with the title at the top of the page. You may want to include character names and few things they say in the list. Depending on the age of the students, vary the amount of words/phrases chosen.
Step 3: Have students work in pairs or small groups to create a story from the list you’ve created using the words/phrases in order. This should not take more than about 15 minutes so make sure you choose the right amount of words/phrases for them to work from.
Step 4: Have pairs/groups share their stories.
Step 5: Read the book aloud and then compare students’ stories with the book. 
This is so much fun! We did it in class and I had a blast! I was really surprised at how engaged I was in the story as I listened for the words we used in our story and how they were used by the author. Have fun...let me know how it goes if you give it a try.
Activity taught by Dr. Timothy Rush, University of Wyoming, June, 2010.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

How did I get here?

Holding a PhD in Literacy Education was not on my "list of things to do." When I decided to go back to college, all I wanted was to be a teacher. It took me six years of full-time classes while working part to full-time and being a wife and mother. I wish I could say I "did it all" but that would not be accurate. Unfortunately, my family often got the "leftovers" which speaks to their whole-hearted support. Then the day finally came...graduation...a job as a kindergarten teacher! My dream realized, I didn't think there could be anything more I would want! For five years I went to work hardly believing I got paid for such an amazing experience. Working with 5- and 6-year-old human beings is exhilarating and I couldn't imagine myself doing anything else!


It was in this stimulating environment that I fell in love with the emergent and early literacy journeys of the children and families I worked with. I became, what some may call, a "professional development junkie"--reading books on the subject, seeking out other teachers passionate about literacy development, taking additional classes and attending workshops, and creating and reflecting upon classroom practices that truly supported the children and families I worked with. It wasn't long before I started to see the value in furthering my education in this field. 


Then came the fateful day when I opened my newest issue of The Reading Teacher and saw an ad for a PhD in Literacy Education through University of Wyoming. After visiting their program and meeting faculty and other students I knew my life would change. With the sacrificial support of my husband, I moved to Laramie, Wyoming to begin this journey. There are times that I ask myself, "What am I doing here?" The answer always comes back to the hope and desire to spread my passion beyond the four walls of my classroom--to support other teachers who have my same passion--to make a difference in the lives of children and families as they encounter literacy's ups and downs.


I leave you today with a quote from Fred Rogers, one of my favorite champions for children: "We live in a world in which we need to share responsibility. It's easy to say 'It's not my child, not my community, not my world, not my problem.' Then there are those who see the need and respond. I consider those people my heroes."