Posted in Miscellaneous

Readying for the PRAXIS

ImageUntil about a year ago I had never heard the term “PRAXIS”. Now it almost always in the back of my mind. Why is this? Well, the PRAXIS is a test that all educators need to take to ensure that children are receiving a good education from knowledgeable teachers. There are many different PRAXIS tests because of the many different states and all the different grades and subjects. Before I turned in my internship application and I had to register for the PRAXIS. Because of this, I became pretty familiar with the PRAXIS website. In case you are wondering or want to explore the world of PRAXIS you can go to www.ets.org/praxis.

This webpage allows you to register, learn about and find out which specific PRAXIS test your state and major requires. The link below goes directly to the page that details which tests are required for which grades in the state of Utah.

http://www.ets.org/praxis/ut/requirements/

I am an elementary education major in the state of Utah so the test I need to take is the Elementary Education: Multiple Subjects test which is test 5031. This means that I will be tested in reading and language arts, mathematics, social studies, and science. I am usually a good test taker so I wasn’t too worried about this until I read some of the sample questions that can be found on the website. My interpretation of the test is basically like the tv show “Are You Smarter than a 5th Grader?” I actually have thought about watching that show to practice because this test does test content knowledge of grades K-6. While I may still watch that tv show to help me brush up on some of my knowledge, I also looked into buying some prep books. I first looked on Amazon.com and it seems that the trick is to find the book that matches the test number and title that you need to take. Once I started looking for books that were specifically for the 5031 test, I was able to select one that I felt would be best for me. Some of these prep books also contain a practice test which I find will be helpful in assessing where I am and where I need to be. Here is a link to one of the books I found: http://www.amazon.com/Praxis-Elementary-Education-Multiple-Subjects/dp/1607873303/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1359039878&sr=8-1&keywords=praxis+5031

All of us have different learning styles and maybe some of us remember our elementary school knowledge much better than others but my advice would be to start learning about and preparing for this test soon so that you only have to take it once.

Posted in Miscellaneous

Rethinking Teaching: The Church’s New Youth Curriculum

newpic-1I was excited to hear the news that the church would start a new youth curriculum. As I have learned more about it, I have seen what a great new program it is and have even grown a little jealous of the youth that get to use it! I think the new curriculum, which is centered around being a more Christ-like teacher and helps the youth be more involved in the learning process, shows many important points that we can use in teaching our own classrooms.First, the new curriculum is designed to be more flexible so teachers can follow the Spirit and respond to the needs of each student. Flexibility is vital to teaching. Each person is incredibly different and we need to be responsive to each students’ needs. Even when teaching in a secular setting, we can and should still use the Spirit to help guide us in understanding and helping each student learn and succeed.

Second, the new curriculum shows that we as teachers can continually be revising and improving our classrooms. The church spent a lot of time and effort creating new curriculum, trying it out on small groups, and finally preparing for it to be used by the whole church. I think it is human nature to want to stay in one routine, but I think it’s wonderful that the church is continually seeking better ways to help youth learn. We too can diligently search for more effective methods of teaching and then be unafraid to implement them. We can know and study new innovations in teaching and decide how to use new strategies.

Thirdly, the new curriculum model requires a lot of student participation. The lesson outlines (not full lesson plans–just outlines of possible activities, scriptures, and questions so that they are flexible) are centered around class discussion and participation. Good participation can ignite a desire to learn and apply what was discussed, and I think that we as teachers should focus on doing everything we can to have class participation. In addition, I think that this flexibility and participation shows that we should care more about what students learn and apply instead of what material we get through.

These are just some of the wonderful things we can learn from the new youth curriculum. I am excited by it and hope that as a teacher I can follow and implement a similar method of teaching to better help students learn.

For more information on this new curriculum, visit the website here.

Topics for the year in the new youth curriculum
Topics for the year in the new youth curriculum
Posted in Miscellaneous

“Life itself educates.” -Pestalozzi

I am a musician.  As those closest to me can attest, I have not always been able to claim such an identity so readily.  Sure, I loved music and I played the piano for ten years, took voice lessons for five, collected CDs of classical music, lip-synced with my hairbrush mic in the mirror to my favorite obscure British indie band, took every music class my high school offered and advocated that it offer another one—but that’s just because I loved music, not because I was particularly good at it.  So naturally, I chose to major in it here at BYU where my passion for and knowledge of music still exceed my abilities to perform or create music.

Enter Johann Heinrich Pestalozzi. I was introduced to his ideas during a particularly challenging time in my education. My familiar struggle of my enthusiasm outweighing my skill had reached its apex; I could always imagine and understand more than I could actually do.  Such is a recipe for frustration.

Pestalozzi’s head/heart/hands model of learning gave me solace.  The head/heart/hand model is thus: in a holistic education, educators take into account the head—the realm of knowledge, facts, and information; the heart—where our passions, attitudes, and deep emotional resonances abide; and the hands—the practical skill we develop in our chosen educational pursuit.

Looking at education as a tripartite endeavor gave me a constructive framework for tempering my frustration. While I wasn’t suddenly a stellar performer, I recognized that the disparity between my zeal and my skill was normal, healthy, and would help me progress.  The process by which my passion drives my skill is the way in which “life itself educates” me.

Because that educational concept has so positively impacted my development, I’ve had a certain fondness for and resultant curiosity about its originator ever since.

Screen Shot 2013-01-14 at 9.38.33 PMJohann Heinrich Pestalozzi was born in Zurich, Switzerland on January 12, 1746, and lived through the French Revolution that would provide a dramatic backdrop for his educational reforms.  Pestalozzi, like Comenius, advocated education for impoverished children and emphasized the important role women, especially mothers, play in the early education of a child.

After the French Revolution, Pestalozzi took in dozens of children orphaned by the war and tried to create a familial/educational atmosphere by founding a school for them in Stans, Switzerland. The school didn’t last very long, but Pestalozzi describes the time he spent there as the happiest of his life.  His next educational venture was a boarding school called Yverdon which he launched as a laboratory for his educational methods.  Yverdon served students’ education in three veins: intellectual, moral, and physical.  (The physical aspect included vocational and civic training.)  This school attained the same familial setting Pestalozzi valued in his first school, but due to contention among the teachers over who would be second in command after Pestalozzi, it only lasted two years.

Pestalozzi also adhered to the experiential model of learning, in which the basis for understanding is exposure to and involvement with the subject. This theory has remained relevant on the educational scene due to its study by renowned child psychologist Jean Piaget. Like Piaget, Pestalozzi traced a child’s intellectual development from “observation to comprehension.”

Screen Shot 2013-01-14 at 9.41.04 PMAnother of Pestalozzi’s ideas that resonates strongly with me is his conviction that “education should develop the individual’s faculties to think for himself.”  One of my favorite aspects of teaching is the inherent altruism.  I, like many, am a naturally selfish person, and I appreciate that becoming a teacher will help weed that out of me.  The whole objective of teaching is to make yourself obsolete.  The very essence of being a teacher is aimed at eclipsing the need for teachers.  When a student gains sufficient “faculties to think for himself,” the need for a teacher disappears and the once-teacher can step into another role, that of the confidant, or the mentor, or even the colleague.

I once asked one of my dear friends and fellow future teachers what education meant.  She answered, “Education is anything that makes you a better person.”  So essentially, if one lives well, “Life itself educates.”

Posted in Miscellaneous

The History and Definition of Learning

newpic-1One of my favorite classes this semester was my civilizations GE requirement, an Honors 201 course entitled “History of Learning in the Arts, Sciences, and Technology.” The title intrigued me because it seemed to fit my interests as a prospective teacher and sounded like an exciting way to look at world history.

The class discussed the history of the world from its beginnings until 1500 (a quite daunting time frame) through the perspective of learning. We looked at different events and civilizations and discussed the ways learning was present or absent, how learning was encouraged or discouraged, and the influence that learning had, etc. The teacher did a very good job stimulating class discussion and exposing us to a lot of information. I thoroughly enjoyed the class and only regretted that we had to touch on things so lightly because of limited time.

Dictionary definition of learningDuring the course of the semester, we were asked to define learning numerous times, culminating in a final project where we gave our definition and discussed it through various historical artifacts. I found it intriguing and difficult to find a good, succinct definition of learning after discussing so many facets of it throughout the semester. Here is my not-so-succinct definition of learning: learning is the cycle of action, struggle and discovery that includes exposure to information, making connections, application, and eventually becoming different because of the context the information gives you for your attitudes, decisions, and beliefs.
I found the class very helpful as a prospective teacher. It helped me see learning in a historical context and then find principles and important parts of learning that I can understand and apply as I try to help students in my classroom. For example, thinking about making connections and how vital that is to the learning process helps me prepare to have a big focus on connecting new information with things that students already know. Another example is the realization that learning all types of information is important because of the context it gives a person. That can help me focus on relating learning to students’ lives to give them a greater context for their lives. I plan on taking the second half of the course (from 1500 to the present) next semester. I think we can all benefit from pondering what learning really is and how it relates to society.
How would you define learning?