Stories from the Field

[To submit a “Story from the Field,” contact: Tom Habowski]

Diving Into the Deep End: All Hands on Deck

Assessing Kindergarteners’ Early Literacy Skills during the First Week of School

Norma Linda Mattingly, Ph.D. Mount Mercy University, Associate Professor of Education & PDS Professor & Supervisor

Barbara Leete, Center Point-Urbana School District, Instructional Coach

Mickey Dunn, Center Point-Urbana School District, Reading Specialist,

The start of the school year with our PDS partner, Center Point Elementary, reflects the flurry of activity that occurs in many schools across the country. Teachers can be seen selecting curricular materials, preparing lessons, putting up bulletin board displays, arranging classroom areas, and reviewing students’ profiles in order to get a sense of who they are prior to their arrival.

One benefit of partnering with Center Point Elementary, a K-2 building in Iowa, is that Mount Mercy University interns get to see the kinds of preparations needed to begin the school year. In addition, interns learn first-hand the importance of determining what students know early in the year in order to provide them the kinds of support they need to be successful (Walpole & McKenna, 2012; Richardson, 2009).

One task Center Point teachers are charged with in the first week of school is assessing their students’ literacy skills. Past cohorts of interns have assisted in the process of administering the Slosson Oral Reading graded word lists (Slosson, 2008). This fall interns were ready to take the plunge when Mrs. Dunn, the school’s Reading Specialist, instructed them in how to administer this assessment. The excitement among the interns was palpable as they gave instructions and administered the word lists. Shortly thereafter, Mrs. Leete, the instructional coach, asked if we would consider helping with theConcepts About Print Assessment (CAP) (Clay, 2000).

Research indicates that kindergartners who understand basic print concepts are more likely to succeed in learning to read. Those who lack this knowledge can be taught these skills while others may struggle and go on to experience reading or learning difficulties (Richardson, 2009; Clay, 2000). By identifying students who need extra help, we can provide interventions and hopefully thwart future problems.

While interns expressed initial concerns about “messing up”, the repeated administration of these assessments allowed them to become more skilled assessors. Their assistance made for quicker turn around in data gathering and the formation of decoding groups. Interns experienced authentic purposes for assessing students and their importance in planning instruction:  a lesson well learned with the help of our PDS partners.


Interns & Barbara Leete’s Quotes

“I was nervous about giving the assessments but once I did it several times, it got easier.”

“One boy I worked with knew many of the words, but there was one student who skipped many of them.”

“It was so helpful to have all hands on deck to administer these assessments the first week of school.”


Clay, M. (2000). Concepts of print: What have students learned about the way we print language? Portsmouth, NH: Heinemann

Richardson, J. (2009). The next step in guided reading: Focused assessments and targeted            

lessons for helping every student become a better reader. New York, NY: Scholastic.

Walpole, S. & McKenna, M. C. (2012). Differentiated reading instruction: Strategies for the             

primary grades. New York, NY: The Guilford Press.

Slosson, R. & Nicholson, C.L. (2008). Slosson oral reading test-revised 3. East Aurora, NY:  Slosson Educational Publications Inc.



A Laboratory Classroom: The Result of a PDS Partnership

Pamela H. Segal, Assistant Professor of Literacy, Towson University,
Katie Gjoni, Reading Specialist, Middle River Middle School,

The PDS partnership between Towson University’s Middle School Education Program and Middle River Middle School (MRMS) in Baltimore County has been in place since 2012.  For the past two years I have been teaching the first, of two required reading courses (Using Reading & Writing in the Middle School) for middle school teacher candidates in the middle school reading classroom at MRMS.  This year we had two sections of the course, with 12 teacher candidates in each section. Mrs. Katie Gjoni, the reading specialist, opened up her reading classes for us to join in with her students. Between learning theory, strategies, and getting real classroom experience, the teacher candidates were able to take their knowledge and skills and apply them to the classroom setting.

Mrs. Gjoni and I created a lab like classroom where the teacher candidates worked with her middle school students on content area reading and writing strategies.  We also worked with students on skills (i.e., one-on-one, small groups, content area literacy lessons) throughout the semester. The teacher candidates were able to take the theoretical strategies and apply them to the reading classroom setting under the guidance and support of  Mrs. Gjoni and myself. At the same time, the middle school students received extra attention, time, and support from our future teachers.  Mrs., Gjoni felt that this was an invaluable experience for her students who appreciate all the help they receive.  At the end of the semester, the middle school students made our pre-service teachers better, while the middle school students improved their reading and literacy skills.

The practical application of content area reading and writing strategies, learned in a formal setting, and teaching struggling middle school readers is something that teacher candidates often do not have the opportunity to experience until their intern year. This course, with Mrs. Gjoni’s help and guidance, allowed the teacher candidates to grow and learn from the middle school students and the experiences in the classroom. In the end, this was a unique experience for everyone involved in the course.  Despite this being only the second year this course was taught in the middle school setting, there is no doubt that everyone benefited from this experience and we will be continuing this partnership in the coming years.


Science in My City: Using Photography to Make Science More Relevant

Charlease Kelly-Jackson, Ed.D, Kennesaw State University, Bagwell College of Education, PDS Liaison,

Cindy Szwec, Ed.D, Fair Oaks Elementary, PDS Principal,

Taylor Davis, Riverside Intermediate Elementary, Fifth Grade Teacher,

Kassell Lebert, Powers Ferry Elementary, Third Grade Teacher,


Science content knowledge is an integral part of being an educated citizen in this global and technological society; however, “for students unfamiliar with the language or style of science, the deceptively simple act of communication can be a barrier to understanding or becoming involved with the science” (Hines, Wible, & McCartney, 2010, p. 447).  This is especially problematic for English language learners (Rosebury & Warren, 2008) whose teachers continue to place greater emphasis on the verbal or linguistic way of processing knowledge rather than the visual. It is imperative that teachers provide students with the abilities and techniques to interpret, demonstrate, and apply learning to new situations (Vasquez, Comer, & Troutman, 2010).

Visual images give meaning to words and provide alternatives to words as a means of communication. As teachers, we must not only acknowledge students’ units of knowledge but what they can do with the knowledge (Vasquez, Comer, & Troutman, 2010). Developing visual literacy skills is one approach to helping students reach that high level of cognition. Visual text, such as photography, is a tool that represents an abstract concept or series of concepts. Photographs can capture the meaning of a concept far more easily than pages of written text (2010). As a matter of fact, the concept becomes even more significant and relevant when the student is the photographer. The photographs become the center of the discussion while the student serves as the expert or initiator of the conversation (Luttrell-Rowland, 2006).

To get a sense of how personal experiences connect to science, three preservice teachers at Kennesaw State University conducted a “Science in My City” project with a third grade class at Fair Oaks Elementary. The project allowed forty-three third graders to take pictures of ‘science in their city’ for four weeks. Students were divided into three groups and assigned a preservice teacher who worked with them during homeroom, computer lab, recess and/or afterschool. As the final product, students created PowerPoint presentations detailing where the pictures were taken; how the picture connected to Earth, life, or physical science concepts; and science academic vocabulary associated with the picture. Data revealed that students connected primarily with life and Earth science concepts. Students took pictures of parks, rivers, rocks, trees, leaves, grass, flowers, water, etc. During the school’s Leaders Loving Math and Science Night, students orally presented their findings and were able to use science academic vocabulary (such as rocks, minerals, soil, exposed roots, erosion, weathering, life cycle) to describe items and/or activities in their photographs.

Photographs of physical science concepts were limited; however, this could have been attributed to the emphasis on life and Earth science concepts prior to the beginning of the project. Nevertheless, students were able to ‘see’ the relevance of science and how it is embedded into many aspects of their lives. The following quotes demonstrate how students felt or what they learned from the project:


“I think science is not all about one area, it is everywhere.”

Science is everything. Before I did my project I did not know this.”

“When I took my pictures it made me want to learn more about science and I learned that science is not just in the classroom.”

*Project supported by Kennesaw State University’s Bagwell College of Education Research Award



Hines, P. J., Wible, B., & McCartney, M. (2010). Learning to read, reading to learn. Science, 328(5977), 447.

Luttrell-Rowland, L. (2006). A photovoice relationship: Collaboration and difference in photovoice methodology. In Proceedings of the National Conference on Undergraduate Research (NCUR) (pp. 3079-3084). Asheville, NC: The University Of North Carolina at Asheville.

Rosebery, A. & Warren, B. (2008). Teaching science to English language learners: Building on students’ strengths. Arlington, VA: National Science Teachers Association Press.

Vasquez, J.A, Comer, M., & Troutman, F. (2010). Developing visual literacy in science K-8.  Arlington, VA: National Science Teachers Association Press.


How a Master Teacher Began Her Inquiry Journey

Brian Brinkley, Director of the Betty Holden Stike Education Lab in the Watson College of Education, UNC Wilmington.

Dorian Barnes, Murrayville Elementary School in Wilmington, NC,  Master Teacher with the Watson College Professional Development System.


Picture it – fifth grade American history projects. The teacher assigns topics, and students write a one page, five paragraph essay about their assigned topic. Now picture the alternative – students are inspired to connect in personally meaningful ways to an event, individual or issue in American history. The latter is exactly what happened this past January as Dorian Barnes, a teacher at Murrayville Elementary in New Hanover County, North Carolina, changed the way her class approached American history.

The University of North Carolina Wilmington maintains powerful partnerships with several school districts and partner schools in southeastern North Carolina. One initiative, the PDS Master Teacher Program, pairs teacher leaders with university faculty to initiate curriculum change projects or conduct research within their schools and classrooms.

Selected as a Master Teacher in the fall of 2015, Mrs. Barnes teamed up with Watson College’s Ed Lab Director, Brian Brinkley, to change the way her class approached American history. She wanted to change from project-based to inquiry-based teaching, constructing opportunities for, students to ask and answer their own questions and create products of their own design to share what they learned.

After conversations with Mr. Brinkley and after reading about the promise of inquiry-based instruction, Mrs. Barnes opened the world of American history to her students with a series of introductory videos and high interest reading. Students consulted with their teacher, parents and other students to decide what to investigate. Through a three week process, Mrs. Barnes taught students about asking good questions, using primary and secondary sources, taking notes, and presenting in ways that made sense.

The results were undeniable: Every student in Mrs. Barnes classroom was deeply engaged in learning. Mrs. Barnes’ teaching was reenergized, as were her fifth grade colleagues. When the other teachers saw what was happening with her students, they decided to change their American history project to an American history inquiry. The fifth grade Learning Expo was planned to last a few hours on one day. It turned out that the fifth grade classes had to present over three days because of the interest of other grade levels in their school.

On a personal level, the inquiry experience was impactful, as well. Michael, one of Mrs. Barnes’ African American students, decided to find out what he could about Harriet Tubman. He learned that

she was an abolitionist, that she helped with the Underground Railroad, and that she had been born into slavery before she escaped. After sharing his brief presentation on a digital tablet, Michael reached behind him and revealed a pair of slave shackles – an artifacts of his inquiry study. Realizing the deep symbolic importance of what Michael held in his hands, Mrs. Barnes asked, “Where did you get those, Michael?” “Me and my dad made them,” he answered.

Like Michael, each student’s inquiry experience was both personal and meaningful. Even with the obstacles and pitfalls she experienced, Mrs. Barnes knew she could trust her faculty colleague, Mr. Brinkley, to support her every step of the way. Because of the partnership made through PDS, she is committed to helping students grow even more with asking and answer their own questions, next time in their studies during Black History Month. She summed it up this way, Perhaps one of the most beautiful outcomes of this project was that students were actually listening to one another and everyone felt equally smart! Now picture that!

A Partnership in Preparing Preservice Teachers to Teach with Mobile Technologies

Tiffany Hill, Emporia State University,
Jo Couch, Olathe Public Schools,
Nancy Smith, Emporia State University,
Lori Mann, Emporia State University,


In response to an increase in the number of mobile technologies used in public schools in the state of Kansas [KSDE, 2016], and in an effort to prepare teacher candidates to use those technologies upon entering the classroom, the Hornet Connected Learning [HCL] initiative at Emporia Sate University [ESU] was launched in Fall 2014. The one-to-one mobile technologies initiative, which has become an essential element of the Professional Development School [PDS] program at ESU, has an articulated mission of putting pre-service teachers in a position to be leaders in connected learning and teaching through the use of current technologies.


From the conception of the program, HCL was designed to be an initiative that would better prepare preservice teachers for teaching with mobile technologies. In turn, all preservice teachers at the level of sophomore and above are required to bring an Apple iPad to classes, and instructors have integrated within their courses learning experiences to help pre-service teachers to understand methods of using the iPad to make them more productive in their professional activities and more effective in their instructional practice.


To the benefit of our pre-service teachers, the HCL initiative paralleled a one-to-one iPad initiative that was also launched in Fall 2014 in our largest PDS partner district, Olathe Public Schools. With the launch of their initiative, the district provided professional development for their teachers and welcomed our pre-service teachers to attend that same training. With pre-service teachers learning alongside their mentor teachers, pre-service teachers reported a clearer vision for how the iPad could be used as a tool to improve instruction.


Outside of their ESU coursework and professional development within the school district, interns continue to develop as a result of support received from their mentor teacher in the field. For example, Mrs. Jo Couch, a third grade teacher in Olathe Public Schools, showed her intern how to use an iPad application called Educreations in a mathematics lesson. In the lesson, students solved mathematics problems in writing within the application, and then used the application to record verbal explanations of their strategies for solving the problem. The intern was further taught to use the recordings to make sense of student understanding, and reteach, if needed. From the lesson, the intern noted how the application enhanced student engagement and improved her awareness of student understanding in the lesson.


Since the launch of the HCL initiative, data has been collected to monitor the progress of our pre-service teachers and their use of mobile technologies in their field placements. Initial results indicate that 60% of mentors indicate that their intern has better than average skill with the iPad. Further, just over 70% of mentors agree that their intern has leadership skill and confidence with the iPad. Mrs. Couch notes, “Interns come to me already confident with the use of technology, however by the end of the semester, my interns tell me that integrating the iPad into their lessons challenged them to be creative and to strategize its usefulness in their teaching.”


Beyond the Methods Classes: Family Interaction in Learning

Susan Payne, Ohio University, The Patton College of Education, PDS Faculty,
Elizabeth Hoisington, The Plains Elementary, First Grade Teacher/ Faculty Liaison

As teacher candidates in The Patton College of Education at Ohio University, junior level Early Childhood majors work in a partnership school by investing two full days each week becoming part of a K- 3 classroom.  The Plains Elementary is considered a “high needs” school located in the Southern Ohio Appalachian area. Many of the students in the school are from a lower socioeconomic background with approximately 80% deemed as living in poverty.  Experiences and resources to support and challenge their education are often unavailable or unattainable.  The school population includes many students with an individual educational plan 20%); living in a single parent home (25%); having a primary caregiver that is not their parent (being raised by grandparents, aunts, family friends, foster parents – 14%); or having have no contact with one or both of their biological parents due to death, incarceration, abandonment, or drug addiction (35%).  These situations are often very different from most candidates’ backgrounds.

To understand the diversity of the community and build connections family engagement evenings were developed by the cohort of candidates.  Building upon their methods coursework candidates developed an opportunity for families to engage in integrated and differentiated activities in math and science. During the evening activity candidates created and supervised stations, centered upon learning standards, in which students and adults interacted with materials in a hands-on, low risk, enjoyable and family friendly environment.  With grant support from the Patton College and donations from the community, materials in recreating the activity at home were able to be given to each family to continue the learning experience.  With the success of the first “Math Mania Night” in 2014, families have looked forward to each semester’s offering for the past 3 years.

Families built relationships with the candidates realizing their contributions to their child’s learning.  “OU students are so patient.” They provided “great activities” where “I learned too.”  Candidates continued to grow in meeting the NAEYC standard of creating “respectful, reciprocal relationships that support and empower families, as they involve families in their child’s development and learning.”

 “I got to learn more about my students’ families and what their background is like. I was also able to see how they interact with their families and what kind of relationships they have. It gave me some insight as to how my students are outside of school.”

“I learned about the importance of bringing the community together to be involved in children’s learning. Children feel more confident in taking initiative in their learning when they are being supported by their community.”

 Realizing the need for increasing opportunities for community interactions, additional partnership schools are infusing family activities into the seminar curriculum. These efforts are assisting students in developing as an educator embracing the Patton College’s Core Values – Change.

Ferguson, C. (2008). The school-family connection: Looking into the larger picture. Austin, TX: National Center for Family and Community Connections with Schools.

The Professional Standards of the National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC) (Standard 3: Building Family and Community Relationships

The Gladys W. and David H. Patton College of Education; Ohio University

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Ingram Pye Day at Mercer University

Morgan Mitchell, MEIA President,
Dr. Sybil Keesbury, Mercer Faculty Liaison,
Tracey Muff, Ingram Pye Academic Coach,

 In April 2016 Tift College of Education’s student organization, Mercer Educators in Action held it’s second annual “Ingram Pye Day” for the fifth grade students, teachers and administration of Ingram Pye Elementary School. Mercer University just completed its third year of a Professional Development Partnership with Ingram Pye Elementary School. After our first year partnering with Ingram Pye, 2013-2014, the Student Teachers came to realize that many of their students at Ingram Pye had never been to Mercer’s campus. Ingram Pye’s students showed great desire and question of what being at Mercer University is like and continuously asked for their teachers to take them across the street to see the campus. With many Ingram Pye students living at or below the poverty line, Mercer’s students decided that the only way for these children to experience a college campus was for us to bring them to Mercer for a day. Bibb County School District’s mission statement is that “each student demonstrates strength of character and is college or career ready.” However, the majority of the parents at Ingram Pye did not attend college and their children have never seen a college campus before. This combination makes it difficult for a child to feel hopeful that they will be able to defy the odds and attend college. Mercer’s desire for this annual field trip is to instill hope in every student preparing for middle school that college is obtainable. We know that the best way for this goal to begin is for the children to step foot on a college campus in hopes that they will return back to one.

Ingram Pye Day is filled with excitement and activities for all participants. The day begins with the members of Mercer Educators in Action and student athletes in their uniforms outside of Ingram Pye to welcome and walk the fifth grade students to Mercer. Mercer Police blocks of the road and the group makes the half mile walk from Ingram Pye to Mercer University’s football stadium. The students get a tour, pep talks from the coaches and players, and are given time to play on the field with the athletes. The Mercer basketball team also provides the students with tours, entertainment and encouragement. The students break up into their classes and go on a rotation schedule for campus wide scavenger hunts to learn the history and current events of campus, to play field games on Cruz Plaza and engage in educational sessions such as engineering workshops and looking through the Astronomy department’s telescopes. Students, their teachers and administration are also provided lunch during the day. All of the scheduled activities are centered on instilling belief in these students that college is something they can achieve. At the end of the day Mercer’s police, students, and athletes walk everyone back to school for dismissal. After Ingram Pye Day students leave with excitement, smiles, and statements such as, “I can’t wait for college!” and then our mission is accomplished.


16-6-24- sybil keeysbury

Flipped Learning: A PDS Literacy Partnership

Dr. Vickie Johnston, Program Coordinator-Special Education Florida Gulf Coast University,
Jamie Mackereth, Reading Specialist Pinewoods Elementary Fort Myers, FL,

While many literacy methods courses are taught in a traditional university classroom and require students to complete a specific number of field experience hours, preservice teachers from the College of Education at Florida Gulf Coast University participated in their literacy methods classes in a unique way— using a flipped classroom approach.

The flipped learning model is an inverted, student-centered learning approach. In flipped learning, what was formerly done in class is now done as homework and what was done as homework is now done in the classroom. Class activities and what is assigned as “homework” will vary widely between various flipped classroom models; consequently, there is no single model for implementing a flipped learning approach.

In our flipped learning model, preservice teachers met at a PDS partner school and were required to facilitate literacy centers with kindergarten, first, or second grade students after spending the first hour shadowing and learning from the classroom teacher. After two hours in their assigned elementary classroom, these pre-service teachers meet with their university professor for class in the same PDS partner school. The PDS partner schools provided a classroom for this literacy methods instruction. During this class time, the inclusion of a variety of stakeholders created an opportunity for discussion about best practices in literacy instruction and encouraged quality instruction in literacy teaching and application.

All the stakeholders involved teamed up to develop a vision for the implementation of this flipped learning model, incorporating research-based literacy instruction and field experience application while embracing the essentials principles associated with PDS. We developed a school-university culture that was committed to the preparation of future educators and embraced their active engagement in the school community and developed a shared commitment to innovative and reflective practice by all participants. Faculty at all partner schools contributed to delivering quality innovative learning communities and collaborated on instruction in the area of best practices and the role that assessment plays in driving instruction in an elementary classroom. Teachers, preservice teachers, and university faculty reflected on classroom effectiveness through reflective logs, surveys, and evaluation rubrics.

This unique flipped learning PDS partnership provided unique opportunities for our preservice teachers. They participated in a special read-aloud day in which they dressed as their favorite book character and delivered an interactive read-aloud to the elementary students, increasing student engagement and establishing an environment that encouraged and supported reading, after school book clubs, and participation in competitive local “Battle of the Books”. This PDS collaboration also allowed our preservice teachers to learn about programs unique to our partner schools, such as Thinking Maps which is a creative process using graphic organizers for independently learning more about their subject matter. In order to implement quality literacy instruction, there is too much content to cover and not enough time to prepare preservice teachers to acquire both content knowledge and pedagogy in a traditional university classroom. Our program was developed to respond to this need for both content and application for preservice teachers by using a flipped learning model.

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A PDS Partnership: Making Learning Relevant and Meaningful

Danielle Hilaski, Assistant Professor, University of North Georgia,
Megan Nason, Associate Professor, University of North Georgia,
Nicole Maxwell, Assistant Professor, University of North Georgia,
Tyler Cleveland, Kindergarten Teacher, Riverview Elementary,


The University of North Georgia (UNG) and Dawson County Public Schools are committed to their PDS partnership allowing teacher candidates, in-service teachers, college professors, and elementary students to benefit from this ongoing collaboration.  This year, as a part of their Literacy Assessment course, Juniors in the Dawson PDC (Professional Development Community) participated in a weekly Reading and Assessment Laboratory with kindergarten and first grade students.  The aim of the Reading and Assessment Laboratory was twofold: to provide UNG students with opportunities to administer and analyze literacy assessments in a supportive environment and to provide kindergarten and first grade students with individualized and responsive reading instruction.


In class each week, UNG Juniors learned about and practiced a variety of literacy assessments.  Following this instruction in the college classroom, these teacher candidates had the opportunity to administer these same assessments with a kindergarten or first grade student in the Reading and Assessment Laboratory.  While administering these assessments, teacher candidates received just-in-time support from their professor, Dr. Danielle Hilaski, clarifying confusions, modeling procedures, and analyzing results.  Also during this lab time, elementary students benefitted from individualized and responsive reading instruction.  Teacher candidates prepared weekly lesson plans based on the Georgia Standards of Excellence.  These lesson plans offered the elementary students’ opportunities with familiar reading, word work, and a new book providing students multiple, scaffolded learning opportunities.  Since these lessons were customized to each individual student’s strengths and weaknesses based on the results of previously administered literacy assessments, each student received literacy instruction that was at the cusp of their learning.


As a result of their participation in the Reading and Assessment Laboratory, teacher candidates shifted their beliefs about struggling readers, the purpose and importance of informal literacy assessments, and their role as a literacy teacher. One teacher candidate admitted that she felt overwhelmed by the responsibility to administer so many different assessments and to plan reading instruction in response these assessments for the laboratory.  However, by the end of the course, she said she understood that the assessments narrowed her focused “beautifully” allowing her to teach with purpose.  Another teacher candidate also recognized this importance relationship between assessment and instruction sharing, “We are actually using our assessment to inform instruction.  So we get to see the [student] growth.”  Teacher candidates additionally recognized the benefits of this model sharing, “Not only was my student’s confidence boosted [as a result of the laboratory], but it has also boosted me”… “and a lightbulb went off and I realized I can do this [create assessment-driven instruction].  Similarly, other teacher candidates admitted feeling more prepared and knowledgeable in their field placements as a result of this experience.


This Reading and Assessment Laboratory is just one positive example of the powerful learning opportunities that can occur for teacher candidates, college professors, and elementary school students as a result of the PDS model.

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Diversifying AP Literature with help from PDS interns

Kate Walker, English Teacher, State College Area High School
Nahid Soltanzadeh, Graduate Student, Pennsylvania State University,
Jamie Myers, PDS Director, Pennsylvania State University,


How can you possibly have students read five different novels simultaneously in small groups and offer personalized attention to each group? You invite more interns into the classroom. This year, after evaluating the diversity (or lack of it) in our AP Literature class, we decided we needed students to choose a diverse book and discuss it in small groups. Having the PDS program, and access to multiple teachers/interns, allowed us to act on this and provide a mentor to each small student group. While there’s normally one intern assigned to each class, in this case we sent out a blanket invitation to interns and mentors asking for participation.

Because we were able to have an intern or mentor with each group, the discussions went deeper than just surface analysis. Discussions in four separate classes about The Kite Runner, The Joy Luck Club, Frankenstein, The Awakening, Americanah, The Brief and Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao, Tracks, and The Color Purple led to group papers, where students collaborated on writing an argument for inclusion of their text into the curriculum. Interns and mentors were able to push students to consider reasons why the text might be a strong candidate or why people might question inclusion for a full class read. Also, when students struggled with understanding or with approaching a delicate topic, interns and mentors were there for guidance.

The wide range of background experience brought to the table by interns and mentors exposed students to a variety of perspectives as they read their choice novel. The group with an Iranian intern had an in depth discussion about the social and cultural context of The Kite Runner focusing on the concepts of Nang and Namoos (honor and dignity). Foreign to the western culture, these concepts play a significant role in the story. As said by one of our students: “Her insights and answers to my questions regarding the book The Kite Runner supplemented my understanding in a way my primary teacher could not. She was able to give context and explain certain concepts, which resulted in a much richer and more immersive learning experience.”

One of the assignments included a potential unit overview, some ideas for teaching activities, and texts to pair with the main text. Because interns had been planning their own units, they could assist students in generating ideas for this–for example, using “The Story of an Hour” to pair with The Awakening, or discussing poems to pair with The Kite Runner.

We had two mentor teachers and four interns working with students, allowing teachers to work with texts they were passionate about and exposing students to different perspectives on texts. Not only did students bring questions for discussions, they practiced creating AP level multiple choice questions, they researched authors, and they wrote proposals to incorporate different types of literature. Some activities pushed students to think visually and collaboratively, like the one where we asked them to produce an image with a quotation capturing an important theme.

16-6-24-walker1authors Kate Walker & Nahid Soltanzadeh