Final Reflections

Good teaching is being a teacher that is flexible, relatable, and respectful. A good teacher is knowledgeable about the content, and is able to teach the content in multiple ways if necessary. A good teacher knows her students and cares about them. I do not think that my definition has changed as much as I was able to put my thoughts into words better after taking this course.


After reading the standards, I believe that this class highlighted “Teacher understands that children learn differently”. I learned about the different theories of the stages of development and I learned more about how there are different ways of teaching that can help different learners. I learned about the importance of getting to know each child to better understand their individual needs.


The most significant thing that I learned this semester was that it is imperative to get to know each student and their background. It is important to know about the learning experience they have had but it is also important to get a feel for how much support they have at home. When you know about your students, it is easier to teach them, while also aiding in classroom management. It is important to have an understanding of the developmental stage that your class is in and with that the appropriate practices for those in that stage.
I plan to continue this blog in the future. I find that it is a good place to reflect on new ideas and experiences. It is also a good resource for my future employers to get to know what I know and how I think. My favorite part about blogging was the feeling of active thinking that blogging created. I was very aware of the conversation I was having with myself during my thought process while blogging.  


Scholar Post: Homework, good or bad?

A topic that I found interesting from this course was the topic of homework. There has been controversy on social media lately after a parent posted this note that their teacher, Mrs. Young, sent home.


(Photo credit: Samantha Gallagher)

This really got me thinking about the homework policies that I will enact in my future classroom, so I did my own research on the matter to help inform my decisions.

According to the article “The Case For and Against Homework” by Robert J. Marzano and Debra J. Pickering, there are arguments for and against homework. In the case for homework, the article states “…the relationship between the amount of homework students do and their achievement outcomes was found to be positive and statistically significant”. In other words, when students did more homework, they had higher achievement rates. I believe that this is due to students getting more practice, so they did better. That is a very simple conclusion, and I liked the other aspects of homework that this article investigated. The article discussed how students might miss out on sleep to do homework, they might miss out of family time, they may not have access to support to complete their homework. These are the aspects of homework that I had not previously considered and this piqued my interest even more.

Harris Cooper, chairman of the Department of Psychology and Neuroscience at Duke University, has published many studies on homework. He has also found that homework has a positive correlation with academic achievement, but he also says “After a certain amount of homework the positive effect on achievement disappears, and even might turn negative.” (Harris, 2010). Harris published a table showing the pros and cons of homework.

The most interesting point on this chart, to me, is how homework can disproportionately harm economically disadvantaged or minority students. I hope to teach in diverse areas in Wisconsin, such as Madison or Milwaukee and I hope to work with students from all backgrounds. I found many other articles that come to the same findings.The article “Does Homework Perpetuate Inequities in Education” comes to the following conclusion:” Homework is another opportunity for learning; but it may also reinforce socioeconomic disparities in student achievement. Schools and teachers should look for ways to encourage struggling and disadvantaged students to complete their homework. They could, for example, offer to help parents motivate their children to do their homework and provide facilities so that disadvantaged students have a quiet place to complete assigned homework if none is available in their homes”.

My research leads me to believe that the key to homework is not cutting it out, nor is it loading it on. I now believe that assigning homework is a balancing act. Assigned homework should be absolutely justified and necessary towards completing learning goals. Can homework benefit student learning? Yes. But too much homework becomes ineffectual, maybe even detrimental. In my classroom, I will monitor the amount of homework that I assign. I will do this by examining the content of the homework and looking at its completion rate. I will also look at the accuracy with which the students complete their homework. Using my findings, I will adjust the amount or the difficulty of the assigned homework based on my classroom demographic.

The other aspect that I will consider will be the individual resources of the students in my classroom. My other blogs have discussed topics like the “Digital Divide” as well as parental involvement and how it aids in student learning. Students have different levels of access to resources and help when completing homework. If one of my students does not have internet access, how can I expect that student to complete a homework assignment which requires it? I cannot. I can definitely see how homework has the potential to widen the achievement gap, as some of the scholarly articles I have read have stated. I will have to get to know my students, find out how much help the get at home and how many resources they have, and make sure that they will be able to complete the homework I assign.  

Harris Cooper mentioned in his research that high schoolers get the most benefit from homework, while younger students are still developing skills like self-regulation and concentration. As I want to be an elementary school teacher, my students will still be developing these skills. They will then have to rely more on their family members to help them complete their homework. After considering this, I think that I agree with Mrs. Young, the teacher who started the controversy on Facebook. I beleive that younger students will get more benefit from spending quality time with their families and getting enough sleep at night. I will be able to provide students with the guidance that they need to master the learning objectives, giving them more of an equal shot at success.  



Cooper, H. (1989). Synthesis of research on homework. Educational leadership, 47(3), 85-91. Retrieved December6, 2016 from

Mazano, R. J., & Pickering, D. J. (2007, March). Special Topic / The Case For and Against Homework. Responding to Changing Demographics, 64(6), 74-79. Retrieved December 6, 2016, from

OECD (2014), “Does Homework Perpetuate Inequities in Education?”, PISA in Focus, No. 46, OECD Publishing, Paris. Retrieved December 6, 2016 from


Technology can bring the world to your classroom when used correctly

Technology, when used correctly, can enhance students’ learning experiences. It can be used to take the students on a field trip to the jungle, or to the Berlin Wall, or to Machu Picchu. It can give them ways to communicate. It can allow them to question, explore and create. The key phrase however is “when used correctly”. When used incorrectly, technology can actually function as a distraction from learning objectives. When I am a teacher, I plan on using technology and teaching children how to use technology. I believe this is vital in today’s society. Children need to be “technologically literate”.

According to the 2009 Secretary of Education, there is a “digital divide” ( The “digital divide” is an opportunity gap. Some schools have more access to technology and to staff who know how to use that technology, than others. Some students have more access to high speed internet at home than their peers. The students who have more access to technological resources are at an extreme advantage. I feel it will be my duty, as a teacher, to know how to use technology, how to make it meaningful and how to give my students access to it.

I looked into virtual reality, and I think that it can be very beneficial. It may seem like technology is very expensive, but while I was researching the use of virtual reality, I realized that the prices of (reusable) technology, while they may be expensive, can help schools cut costs. I there are virtual resources that can replace some of the resources that the school has to buy. It could reduce the amount of paper a school has to buy. It can replace taking the students on as many actual field trips. Instead of buying cow eyeballs to dissect (as I did in eighth grade), the students can do this using a virtual reality program. When used correctly and meaningfully, technology provides a window to resources that the school could not afford otherwise.


Motivation and Backward Design

Part 1:

I hope to help develop an intrinsic motivation to learn in school. Intrinsic motivation is motivation that comes from an internal desire to do or learn what is expected of them. Motivation does not come from external factors (rewards, good grades, making parents happy), also known as extrinsic motivation. Instead, motivation comes from internal factors (satisfaction, personal fulfillment, enjoyment). Students who are intrinsically motivated will be more likely to pay attention, do their work and engage in the classroom. They will want to do classwork, they will want to participate, they will want to learn. I looked up some ways to promote intrinsic motivation and my favorite ideas from the article “25 Ways to Cultivate Intrinsic Motivation” are these:

  • Make Mastery Cool
  • Make students feel like education is a choice, not a requirement
  • Make every student feel capable
  • Give accurate and authentic performance feedback.
  • Stimulate cognitive curiosity by presenting a problem or question as a puzzle to be solved

(Briggs, 2013)

I realize that intrinsic motivation is not automatic. Extrinsic motivators can be very beneficial for behavior management. But I hope to be able to use techniques to develop intrinsic motivations.

Learner-centered methods of teaching are imperative to being an effective teacher. Learner-centered models have many benefits for the students.  According to the article “Learner-Centered Teaching” by Dr. Phyllis Blumberg of the University of the Sciences in Philadelphia, Learner-centered teaching produces students that are better prepared for the real-world. The article stated that learner-centered teaching is not always possible, but the goal should be to incorporate it whenever it is.

To be an effective teacher, I think it is important to be flexible. Multiple teaching and assessment styles should be employed. If students do not get exposed to different teaching styles, they will not know how they learn best. Some students may have an advantage over others, simply because their teacher prefers teaching in their favorite learning style. As far as assessment goes, it is easier to gauge level of understanding if students are assessed in multiple ways. It is also easier for the teacher to get a more well-rounded picture of their students’ ability level and understanding of a content area if they use multiple forms of assessment.

As far as objectives/goals go, I believe that it is important to make sure that these goals are clear to students. In the classrooms that I volunteer or have had field experiences in, they have displayed the lesson objective and explicitly stated how the students will be expected to demonstrate their mastery of these goals. I think that this is important. It gives students purpose. I think that I would go further, whenever possible, and tell them how their mastery of the goal has real world application, this step will help to promote intrinsic motivation to learn.

Part 2


Unit Title: The Civil War                                                                

Established Goals:

Students will understand the causes and effects of the Civil War and research the topic using reliable sources.

Understandings: Students will understand that…

  • There were multiple causes for the Civil War
  • It is important to consider multiple viewpoints
  • The Civil War had great impact on America
Essential Questions:

  • What were the main causes of the Civil War?
  • What were the after effects of the Civil War?
  • How did the Civil War affect people’s every day lives?
Students will know:

  • The key events leading up to the Civil War
  • The effects of key battles on the war
  • The effects of the Union Victory on America
  • Key dates and locations of the Civil War


Students will be able to:

  • Students will be able to identify the causes of the American Civil War.
  • Students will be able to explain the Emancipation Proclamation and its effects
  • Students will be able to describe the life of a Civil War Soldier
  • Research a topic using credible sources


Performance Tasks:

  • Online research project and presentation about different aspects of the war and people of the time
  • Final Examination
  • Map Activity
  • Writing Activity using prompt: Use research to write 3 journal entries from the point of view of a soldier.
Other Evidence:

  • quizzes
  • reading activities
  • K-W-L charts
Key Criteria:

  • Students consider multiple viewpoints
  • Students use and cite reliable sources
  • Students use and present relevant information about the Civil War
  • Students demonstrate understanding of the geographical and chronological events of the Civil War
  • Students explore the day-to-day life of people living during the Civil War and role play using research.


Summary of Learning Activities:

  • Students will read and discuss journal entries/diaries from people from the time
  • Students will research and present on a topic/important event/person from the Civil War after proper research methods are taught and modeled
  • Students will complete map activities about key locations of the Civil War
  • Students will debate the reasoning from multiple viewpoints
  • Students will learn about the cause and effect of the Civil War by reading texts, watching documentaries, classroom lessons and conducting their own research
  • Participation/creation of skits about the day-to-day life of people during the time of the Civil War

I used the Backward Design Method to complete this unit plan. It helped me to focus on the goals. I was looking up activities to include, and I found some “flashy” ones, but they could not be justified in helping to complete my goals. I started with the goal and worked my way down. It was a new way to start a unit plan, but I found this method very helpful. Normally I would start lesson from the beginning. I would find a topic, create an activity, and fill in the goals that my activity covered. It worked, but I feel as though this way helps to make the goals more meaningful. It may take more work and thought, but this method is a good way to make sure that school time is used most efficiently.


Cognitive Theory of Learning vs. Behavioral Theory of Learing

In short, the behaviorist theory of learning is more based on the outcome of learning, while the cognitive theory focuses on the process of learning. The behaviorist view gives stimulus (positive or negative, punisher or reinforcer) to motivate the learner to produce the desired outcome. This is good to use in the classroom for things like classroom management and motivating children to do their work. Motivation can be given in the form of positive reinforcement (giving them something to reward a behavior, like candy when everyone does their homework), negative reinforcement(taking something away to reward behavior, like removing a final exam if everyone gets an A on their essays), positive punishment (adding something to discourage a behavior, like giving an extra assignment to a student who skipped class without excuse) and finally negative punishment(taking something away to discourage a behavior, like taking away a recess if the class was disrespectful to a substitute). The problem with this theory is that it is not very specific, it is also hard to instill intrinsic motivation to do their work and behave well.

The cognitive theory of learning focuses more on the learning process. It makes the brain comparable to a computer (it’s really more like 50 computers running at the same time, but for simplicity’s sake we will stick to one). Our brain gets an input of information and we have folders (memory) where we store this information. We check to see if it fits into one of our existing folders, and if it does not fit at all, we make a new folder, if mostly fits, we may have to expand our understanding of this content. Here is a video explaining how we do this:

This theory helps you understand how a child learns, but it does not give clear ways to incorporate it into the classroom, in that way it is somewhat vague. Even so, know how a student learns information is vital when creating lessons and units. It also considers each child as an individual, reminding teachers that not all students have the same amount of background knowledge.

I believe that both of these theories have their uses in the classroom, but I think that knowing how students learn (the cognitive learning theory) is something that will inform instruction the most. I hope to use the motivators described in the behaviorist learning theory effectively. If not used appropriately, punishments and rewards can become ineffective and sometimes even detrimental to relationships with students. I hope to incorporate the cognitive theory of learning to remind me to always check my students’ background knowledge, and make sure that they always have the necessary tools to master learning objectives. I also learned that students think and learn in different ways. It is important to cater to multiple learning styles to help students remember what I am teaching them.


Differences, a chance to Celebrate (and learn)

In my future career I realize the importance of working as a team with the other teachers in the building. I plan on viewing my coworkers as resource. I plan on collaborating with the other teachers in my grade. I once talked to a teacher who “swapped classes” with another teacher for some lessons. They did not have to plan as many lessons and they were able to use the other teacher’s strengths. This requires a good relationship with coworkers. I realize, though, that it is not always easy to work with others, especially when there are major differences between you.

My training at my internship with the Milwaukee County Zoo talked about how to address differences with coworkers. One of the things that stuck with me was that when a coworker does something that frustrates you, it is necessary to give them the benefit of the doubt and try to steer away from the idea that the other person did this on purpose. They gave us situations and let us role play how to communicate frustrations and then analyze it. I found this very beneficial. Communicating frustrations may seem difficult, but it will help to keep situations from escalating.

With students, it is important to identify and celebrate individual and cultural differences. I would like to hold conferences with the students and their parents before the start of the school year. Through discussion, I hope to learn about the students, and their background. I hope to find out things about them and their differences. I then would like to promote an accepting environment by celebrating differences and helping the children to learn about each other and their cultures. By learning about each other and showing how “different” is not synonymous with “bad”. I also plan on using my identification of differences to modify my curriculum and teaching style.

I expect that I will have students with diverse cultural backgrounds in my classroom. I remember being a kid and not always understanding the children who I thought were different than me. Whether it was the way they looked, the way they acted, or the way they learned, I remember thinking it or they were “weird”. I was raised to be polite, so I never commented or discussed these things, but I do not think that this is a good way to handle it. I think that allowing a space where children can ask questions, learn about each other’s cultures, and celebrate differences will help everyone feel comfortable. We do not live in a “colorblind” society, though we may like to think that we do. People recognize differences in each other, instead of pretending we don’t, I think it is important to learn about the differences and seeing the beauty in the difference.


Knowledge Construction and its Implications in Education

There are many theories about child development and how children learn, but the most popularly accepted theories (Piaget, Vygotsky, Erikson) follow a basic pattern. Children go through different stages of development and as they age and progress, they are able to learn more and gain deeper understandings of what they are learning. Each child is different, so the stages usually show a range of the ages that children are when they are in that stage. This is very important to remember; if a child is in a certain stage’s age range, it does not necessarily mean that they are in that stage, so it is important to take a look at each individual child to gauge where they are in their development.

Knowing about the different stages is very important for a teacher. According to Russian psychologist Lev Vygotsky, it is important to be teaching within the Zone of Proximal Development or ZPD. The ZPD is the area between what a child can do WITHOUT help or guidance, and what a child can do WITH help/guidance. This zone changes as students develop. Basically, it is important to make age/stage appropriate lessons and provide students with the tools and guidance that they need to achieve mastery. If the curriculum is too easy, the child will not learn anything new. If it is too hard/out of their range it is setting them up to fail, which not only wastes time, but it may negatively affect their attitude towards school and learning.

It is important to personalize learning for your students. There are many resources to figure out what level a student is at. There is a detailed way to find a student’s reading level on the website “Reading A-Z” so that appropriate books can be selected for elementary/middle school aged children. . There are other ways to test prior knowledge and level. Administering a test at the beginning of a year/unit is a good way to do this so that plans can be modified to suit students. When I become a teacher, I will use pretests and other gauging tools to modify teaching, I recognize that it will be important to stress the reason for pretesting and make sure that students know that they are not expected to know anything on the test, I would probably not even give them a score. I would not want students to become stressed out or anxious about. This website offers more ways to gauge prior knowledge (

I realized the importance of knowing age-appropriate techniques during my internship at the zoo. In training we learned about the different abilities of children at different ages (noting that a child’s age does not necessarily mean they will be in that stage). Policies, procedures and techniques were different in a 4-5 year old class than in a 6-7 year old class, for example.  One day we had children from a community center come, the centers do not always provide the background information that the parents who sign their children up for zoo classes the usual way. There was a child in aged 6-7 year old class who got a “third strike” (this means that they continued to have trouble following the rules after two warnings and could no longer be in zoo class). This was a very rare occurrence, and the only one from that summer. After the day ended, an employee in the community center brought the child to apologize for his behavior. While he was doing this, the employee mentioned to the instructor that the child functioned at a 4 year old level. Had we known this, we would have approached the behavior management techniques much differently. In our 4-5 year old classes, we do not even introduce (or use) the “Three Strike Policy”, the reason for this being that children this age may think it is too scary, or they will not be able to grasp the consequences for their behavior. Instead, we address each behavior issue that comes up by talking it out with the child. Threats of removal from the class can be distracting, too upsetting and ineffectual.

Age is not the only thing that affects a student’s ability to learn. Other factors include, but are not limited to, the role of parents, family life, poverty, the role of peers and the role of the media. The factor that most interests me is the role of the parents. Parental involvement can make or break a student in terms of preparedness for school and background knowledge. According to a study called “Parent Involvement, Academic Achievement and the Role
of Student Attitudes and Behaviors as Mediators” by Ralph B. McNeal Jr. ( , a student whose parents were very involved in their education/learning experiences will be at a huge advantage, meaning a student whose parents are not involved is at a huge disadvantage. The study found that:

  • “Parent-child involvement consistently has a greater effect on student attitudes, behaviors, and achievement than does parent-school involvement. “
  • “ Without exception, parent-child discussion consistently has the strongest effect on student attitudes, behaviors, and achievement.”
  • “Indirect effects of parent-child and parent-school involvement consistently are greater than their corresponding direct effects.” (McNeal, 2014)

I think that low parental involvement is one factor that creates an achievement gap in students. As a teacher, it is important to look at the parental involvement. If you know that a child’s parents are not involved, they may need more support at school. It may also be a good idea to provide parents resources/ideas about how to be more involved in their children’s education. PBS has a website that gives parents ways to have be more involved to promote an environment where their child can succeed.  


All About Me!

Hello! My name is Natalee Overboe and I am a senior at UWW. I’,m studying to become an elementary/middle school teacher. I am also getting a degree in Spanish. I was born and raised in Madison, WI. My favorite part about living in Madison was getting to go downtown. I also loved being in the diverse and eclectic crowd.  I now live in Janesville, WI with my boyfriend, Josh and my cat Marley while I work as a manager at Subway in Whitewater and go to school. There are many experiences in my life that have shaped my life to make me into who I am today.




My family members are the biggest influences in my life. The whole reason that I want to be a teacher is because of my mom. She is a second grade teacher in Madison. I loved “Bring Your Child to Work” Day. I got to see my mom teach and play with all the fun school supplies. After that I would play teacher constantly. As I grew up I started realizing how much impact my mom had on people’s lives. We would be in a store and run into her past students. They would remember her 10 years later and tell her how she helped them love school. I realized that I wanted to have an impact on children’s’ lives. I wanted to be able to make kids love to learn so they would want to get an education to better their lives and the community.



I come from a family of teachers. My mom, my aunt, my uncle and three of my cousins are teachers. They have all encouraged me to work towards my goal of becoming a teacher, but the non-teachers also helped shape me to become who I am today. My grandma, Gloria,  is my favorite person in the entire world. She is the nicest, most generous person I know. I strive to be as warm, polite, welcoming and giving as she is. I consider what she would do or think when I have a tough decision to make. I had an internship at the Milwaukee County Zoo this summer and we were to write down our positive thoughts about each of the other interns and we all got to see what was said about us. As I was reading the comments about me, I noticed that a lot of the things that the other interns liked about me, were the traits that I try to model my grandma after. I am extremely proud to be her granddaughter.




My work experiences have had a large part in shaping the person I am. I currently work at Subway and I have for the last 5 years. I learned a lot of techniques for dealing with others. I have learned how to train new employees, motivate coworkers, maintain a positive attitude, make people feel welcome, and deal with customers who were not happy with their service or food. I am very thankful for this job.

As I mentioned before, I had an internship at the Milwaukee County Zoo this summer in their conservation education program. I think about the lessons that I learned from this experience everyday. At this internship I learned the importance of a positive attitude and work environment. I learned keys to behavior management, making children feel comfortable and I got to lead many tours, lessons and activities. I loved this internship so much and I believe that teaching children the importance of the creatures that live on this earth and their envrionments is vital to preserving the beauty and health of our planet.


These are just a few of the people and experiences that have influenced me, and I know that I will continue to learn and grow every day.