Spotlight on Three New England Teachers

By Kurkjian, Catherine | New England Reading Association Journal, May 1, 2000 | Go to article overview

Spotlight on Three New England Teachers


Kurkjian, Catherine, New England Reading Association Journal


As new technologies quickly come into play, it becomes increasingly difficult for published research to keep pace in evaluating their usefulness for literacy and learning (Kamil & Lane, 1998) . Leu, Karchmer & Leu (1999) argue that the evaluation of effective literacy strategies will increasingly fall to classroom teachers who use. these new technologies on a daily basis. They describe a phenomenon called the "Miss Rumphius Effect" in which our more experienced colleagues share new visions of literacy learning, resources, strategies, and expertise to inform teaching. Miss Rumphius, the main character in Barbara Cooney's beloved picture hook of the same name, sows seeds of the lupine flower to make the world a more beautiful place. Like Miss Rumphius, these technological pathfinders will sow the seeds of knowledge to support us in our use of technology to enhance and to transform literacy learning.

This article highlights the work of three New England teachers in their use of technology Our travels begin at the Ella E Hoxie School in Bourne, Cape Cod in Ms. Susan Pandiani's third grade classroom. Next we are off to Mr. Steven Woznicki's fourth grade classroom at the Florence E. Smith Elementary School of Science, Math and Technology in West Hartford, Connecticut. Finally, our travels will take us back across New England, to Ms. Marjorie Duby's fifth grade class at the Joseph Lee School in Boston, Massachusetts. Like Miss Rumphius, these teachers work beyond the confines of "their own gardens" to pioneer and share new ways of using technology to teach and learn.

This message is posted on Ms. Pandiani's web page

(http://www.capecod.net/voyage/navigators.html) and serves as the inspirational theme of her classroom. It is based on a picture book called The North Star written and illustrated by Peter Reynolds (fondly referred to as "Captain Peter" by the students) and on her ongoing collaboration with him. The North Star, which can be accessed on-line (http:l/www fablevision.com/northstar/read.html), encourages readers to chart their own course in life, while paying attention to their own guiding signs and North Star along the way. (In the on-line text of The North Star the reader has the choice of selecting a version with a male or female starring as the main character.)

As I entered Ms. Pandiani classroom, she issued the call "Navigators navigate!" At that point the children looked up, clapped and gave their attention to their teacher. Ms. Pandiani welcomed me and explained to the children that they had a visitor who would spend the day with them in order to learn about the important work that they do at school. I felt drawn in and charmed by this intriguing atmosphere.

Throughout the classroom environment the navigational metaphor was evident. The children worked in teams, which had navigation related names such as The Queens Fleet, Orion, Scorpio, Leo etc. Similarly, within their collaborative group, each child had responsibilities that were described in nautical terms. For example, the quartermaster was a member of the team whose job was to pass out the paper and materials to her group.

As I looked around the room I saw ships, paper lanterns and stars made by the children hanging from the ceiling. The third graders explained to me that the ships took them on their voyage. The stars were there to help guide them, while the lanterns helped to light their way There was a mural entitled " The North Star Hemisphere" with the "Isle of Perseverance", the "Isle of Disrespect", and the like, designed to help students reflect on the course they are charting and to offer alternatives for "safe passage". And there was the enchanting artwork by artist /illustrator Peter Reynolds to inspire dreaming, imagination, writing, and artwork.

Author/Writer In Residence Via the Internet

Ms. Pandiani's collaboration with Peter Reynolds began in 1996 when she discovered math software (The Graph Club), which included a little book entitled Fizz & Martina in The Incredible Not-for Profit Pet Resort Mystery, written and illustrated by Reynolds. …

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