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Benjamin Bergman
Term II Child Study
Upenn - GSE, Fall 2015

Table of Contents

Section 1: Descriptive Review --- pages 2 - 8

Section 2: Literacy --- pages 9 - 12
Section 3: Math --- pages 13 - 16
Section 4: Science --- pages 17 - 21
Section 5: Social Studies --- pages 22 - 27
Section 6: Responding to my Focusing Question --- pages 28 - 29
Section 7: Reflecting on my Learning --- pages 29 - 30
Appendix A: Sink/float Interview Response Table --- pages 31 - 33
Appendix B: Informal Science Conversations and Observations --- page 34
Appendix C: Titos Spelling --- page 35
Appendix D: Classroom Map --- page 36
Works Cited --- page 37

Section 1: Descriptive Review

Focusing Question
What are the impacts and possibilities of Titos moderately outgoing
personality in a school environment in which students are encouraged to be
Childs Physical Presence and Gestures
Tito is a caucasian boy with dirty blonde hair and stands slightly taller
than any other boy in his third grade class at Penn Alexander. He generally
has a relaxed facial appearance which tends to correspond with his
disposition. He often looks calm, almost bored because of his slightly heavy
eyelids. Occasionally Tito makes odd faces as if he is stretching his face
muscles. Tito often expresses emotions by raising his eyebrows. For
example, Tito sometimes raises his eyebrows when he appears interested in
something he is learning. Sometimes after Tito speaks to someone, and while
waiting for that person to respond, he grins narrowly and with what appears
to be a feeling of very slight happiness.
Tito is usually at his desk, like the rest of the students in the class (See
Appendix D for the classroom map). At his desk, he sits on his chair properly
(as compared to, for example, putting his feet on the chair), and he seems to
usually have a fairly good posture insofar as he keeps his back mostly
straight and leans forward or backward from the hip. Tito has stood by his
desk on various occasions which indicates that he sometimes needs a break
from sitting.

When Tito walks in the classroom (such as when he walks between his
seat and the rug) it appears that his limbs and head are relaxed and even
droopy. His style of walking makes it appear as if he looks bored or as if
walking is a struggle and he would just rather stay put than walk to the rug.
In other words, his step has no pep in the classroom. At recess, however, Tito
will run around with the other boys, and so it is during recess that his
physical appearance has much more vigor.
Titos voice is standard in pitch for a boy his age. When he speaks to
me, to a teacher, to friends, or to his classmates as a whole, he almost
always speaks with an appropriately audible volume. The tone of Titos vocal
expressions change based on the situation. For example, when Tito speaks to
a teacher he usually has what sounds to be a respectful, semi-formal tone,
whereas when Tito talks with his friends his tone of voice sounds less
stringent and more natural albeit still respectful. I wonder how Tito
communicates with his parents.
Disposition and Temperament
Tito appears to be fairly mild-mannered in overall disposition. I have
not witnessed Tito losing control over his emotions. For example, I have no
reason to believe Tito has ever thrown a temper tantrum while in school
since starting the third grade. Tito has not shown any outward signs of
depression, anxiety, or any other mental disorder - at least not to my
knowledge, but I am no expert on mental disorders. While Tito can be
moderately outgoing in and out of the classroom, his temperament seems

fairly normal for a third grade boy, and that is why I would characterize him
as having a moderate disposition overall.
Tito sometimes looks bored in class. He looks bored because he will
sometimes lay his head on his folded arms on his desk, and this is something
I have witnessed across academic subjects. Other times he looks bored
because his eyes wander and his physical presence is not one of alertness,
but instead is relaxed. Tito has displayed what appears to be signs of
boredom at least three times a day every day I have observed him. However,
my data is limited because while he may physically appear bored, in
actuality his internal state may be one of interest or excitement.
Social relationships
Titos relationships with others varies greatly depending on with whom
he is interacting. When interacting with friends outside during recess, Tito
appears mildly energetic. He does not appear excessively hyper-active
because he does not continually and wildly run around with friends at recess;
rather, he runs around a moderate amount and takes breaks in between
running to walk or standstill, even while playing active games like wall-ball or
soccer. It looks odd when he stands still while playing wall-ball because his
change in movement from dynamic to static seems to come from nowhere.
When he pauses, I can not tell if he is just bored, is strategically positioning
himself to catch the wall-ball, is simply taking a break because he is tired, or
something else entirely. Whatever it may be, I believe his pauses
demonstrate that he is not usually hyper-active.

During recess, in the cafeteria, and in the hallways, Tito makes

physical, friendly contact with his peers. One time at recess I saw him
aggressively play-fighting with another student in his class, and by the
smiles on their faces, they both seemed to be having a fun time. Almost
every day I have observed Tito, I have seen him pat his friends on the head
or, more often, touch his friends on the shoulder. These physical expressions
toward his peers are not excessive but moderate in frequency, usually
occurring what appears to be about thrice a day to the best of my
knowledge. One day during gym class, Tito sat on his peers lap, and his peer
did not seem to mind. Tito appears to be friends with almost every boy in his
class, but it is not obvious to me that he has a best friend amongst the
Tito has demonstrated leadership qualities towards his peers. One day
during gym Tito was chosen to be goalie for a game of handball. He was very
excited about being chosen for the main position. He said loudly, This is
going to be so easy. This statement demonstrates his confidence when
playing sports with his peers. When the game started, he demanded to his
teammate, Guard him, while pointing to an open offender. During the
game he clarified a rule by telling a teammate that they are allowed to catch
the ball. When sitting on the sidelines, he said to a female player who was
not on his team, Use the ball sensibly. He then smacked his palm to his
forehead. Telling his peers who to play defense against, what the rules are,

and how to use the ball (sensibly) illustrates that he is comfortable telling
his peers what to do, at least in gym class.
Titos relationship with his teachers is one of simultaneous
disobedience and respect. While Tito disobeys his teachers rules to be quiet
on account of his outgoing personality, upon

being scolded for talking out

of turn, he responds very respectfully by immediately quieting down and

giving the teacher his seemingly undivided attention. Often Tito is
reprimanded for speaking without raising his hand. It seems vocal outbursts
are Titos main behavioral flaw from his teachers point of view. Sometimes
Tito has to move his card from green to yellow on the behavior chart for
calling out. On other occasions Tito was told to physically move away from
classmates that he was talking to when the class was supposed to be quiet. I
believe calling out in class somewhat often and talking when he is not
supposed to in an audible voice is demonstrative of his moderately outgoing
Titos relationship with me appears to be one of a budding friendship.
One day during class when I was giving a lesson, I asked Tito be quiet, after
which he spoke one more sentence to his friend. I told him to be quiet again
and he smiled at me and quieted down. I believe that if the teacher told him
to be quiet, he would not continue to speak to his friend, and he would not
smile at the teacher. Therefore, I believe Tito views me as more of a friend
and less of a dictatorial figure compared to his main teacher. When
conducting interviews with Tito, he was friendly and very accommodating to

me which I view as a sign of respect. While Tito is nice to me, he is not overly
warm. For example, while he will high five me, he has never hugged me.
Interests and preferences
One of Titos favorite things to do is play computer games. He told me
that he particularly likes to play Arc Games which tend to be sci-fi and highfantasy massive-multiplayer-online action/adventure games. He was curious
if I play Arc games, and he told me that he plays them because they are
fun. On a different note, Tito told me he likes food such as burritos, and he
expressed a strong interest in the cakes that were brought to class on a
couple of occasions for students birthdays.
Tito appears to have what Gardner (1993) would call a strong bodilykinesthetic intelligence, which corresponds to the activities he enjoys doing.
During recess he likes to play wall-ball and soccer, and he appears to be
good at those activities based on his ability to throw the wall-ball far, to
catch the wall-ball, to read where the wall-ball will bounce, and to make
controlled kicks of the soccer ball. He told me he likes to play outside,
wrestle his friends, and run. During gym class, he performed shuttle runs
faster than about 80% of the other kids in the class. He demonstrated his
kinetic intelligence during the shuttle runs by sliding head first into the finish
line on the hardwood gymnasium floor. His dive was performed well because
he landed firstly on his chest, and he used his horizontal momentum to
distribute the impacting energy throughout his body and then back into the
ground. After diving in a controlled and fluid manner which seemingly

resulted in no bodily harm, he turned himself over on his back and squirmed
back a few feet using a similar motion to that made when creating snow
angels. While squirming about, he appeared really happy because he had a
big smile on his face and he was acting really goofy. It seems he thoroughly
enjoys the runners high, especially after sitting in the classroom most of the
day. In all, I have reason to believe that Tito likes being physically active in
and out of school.
Formal and informal learning
Tito usually (but not always) appears bored in the classroom. Tito told
me that social studies is the easiest and most boring subject. Tito does not
find social studies to be boring because its easy; he finds it boring because
it is taught in a boring manner and the content is unengaging. While Tito
says he finds social studies boring, on multiple occasions I have witnessed
Tito express what appears to be interest in social studies. For example, when
watching a video from Scholastic about animals in South America he said
excitedly, Woah!.
While Tito says that social studies is the most boring subject, he told
me that science is his least favorite subject because it requires a lot of
thinking; however, he likes doing experiments. Tito often looks unengaged
during math based on how much he yawns, how his eyes wander, and that
he will sometimes put his head on his desk while the teacher lectures.
Titos favorite classroom activity is independent reading. During
independent reading, Tito consistently seems very engaged in his book.

During virtual read alouds of picture book (which are done during the last ten
minutes of every class), Tito usually appears engaged based on his eyes
seeming focus on the screen. Based on Titos homework that I graded and
the subject-specific interviews I conducted with him, I would argue that Titos
English language reading and writing capabilities are relatively stronger than
his mathematical reasoning skills.
Tito takes four classes which are not taught by his primary teacher: art,
computers, science, and gym. Tito seems to enjoy art class, which is only
once a week. During art he looks engaged in whatever project he is working
on and undistracted by the people around him. He seems to pay attention to
the art teacher when she speaks based on his eye contact with her and the
fact that he asks clarifying questions. Tito seems to fairly enjoy computer
class which does not surprise me because he likes computers. I have
witnessed that he is on task in computer class based on his computer screen,
and the fact that he is on task indicates that he is not struggling to keep up
with the lesson. During science Tito constantly gets reprimanded by the
teacher for talking too much and for touching the science equipment (placed
right in front of Tito) before he is explicitly told to touch the supplies. I
believe that Titos touching of science equipment is indicative of the fact that
he is at least partially interested in the scientific instruments with which he
does experiments. While Tito sometimes calls out in science class, he also
sometimes raises his hand to be called on. And when he is called on, he
often makes keen observations about whatever experiment he is working on


at the time. He has even received praise from the teacher on multiple
occasions for his astute observations. Finally, Tito is always seemingly quite
excited to go to gym - just like the rest of the boys in his class.

Section 2: Literacy
The interview took forty-five minutes. Tito seemed comfortable and
relaxed for all of the interview. He even seemed relaxed when he came
across words that were difficult to spell or read. To begin the interview, Tito
read aloud from The Seven Natural Wonders by Lisa Freund and I took notes
on his reading ability. Then Tito and I took turns reading aloud a brief
biography about Susan McKinney Steward from the book Five Brilliant
Scientists by Lynda Jones. Afterwards, Tito used pencil and paper to spell a
list of words taken from Words Their Way. Finally, I interviewed Tito on his
general thoughts about reading and writing.
According to the classification system used in Words Their Way, Tito is
in the late within-word-pattern spelling stage. While Tito seems to
understand the CVC pattern - having spelled the words bed and ship
correctly - a more comprehensive spelling list would need to be administered
before concluding that he has a strong understanding of the CVC pattern.


While Tito only spelled three of nine words correctly (see Appendix C for a
photograph of his spelling), Tito utilizes his knowledge of spelling patterns to
make sense of unfamiliar words. For example, Titos spelling choices indicate
that he understands the fundamental concept behind the long vowel pattern
CVCe. Tito spelled float as flote and spelled train as trane. So while Tito
is making use of the CVCe pattern, he is using it incorrectly. As a teacher I
believe it is important to teach Tito the CVVC pattern in which the first vowel
is long such as in the words float and train. Perhaps a pattern sort (as
described in Words Their Way) would be a useful way to teach Tito certain
spelling patterns with which he gets confused.
Tito is able to read fluently but reads somewhat slowly. When reading
aloud from The Seven Natural Wonders, he read at an average pace of about
1.5 words per second, excluding any outlier words on which he spent over
two seconds each to figure out. Tito considered this to be a medium-level
read, and I agree with Tito. The reading was what Goudvis and Harvey (2007)
call a just-right book because while it seemed challenging to him, it did not
seem frustrating. Specifically, of the 139 words in the passage, he
pronounced 130 of them correctly on the first try, and he self-corrected most
of his errors. He pronounced the word steep as step which is interesting
because he correctly pronounced the word deep. While he was not able to
use context clues to figure out the word steep, on a couple other occasions
he demonstrated his ability to figure out words using context. He initially


pronounced the words tourists and deposited incorrectly, read the next
few words after, and then self-corrected using his new contextual knowledge.
While he does not need to stop and pause at every word (or even most
words) in an attempt to figure out how to pronounce it, he also is not quite at
the point of being able to read phrases with consistent grace. When Tito read
aloud, he did not read with much expression. For example, it sounded like he
did not read with purposeful inflections on specific words or phrases, and, in
all, his voice was fairly monotone throughout the passage. According to
Words Their Way, Tito would probably be categorized as a mid to late
transitional reader.
Tito demonstrated strong reading comprehension skills during the
interview. After reading a biography about Susan Steward, one of the first
black, female doctors in America, he told me that there was no part of the
passage that he did not understand. To confirm his assertion, I asked him if
he knew what the word homeopathy meant, a word which the book only
used twice and only defined once; Tito gave an impressively fitting, concise
definition. When I asked him how he knew the definition, he said, I was
listening to you read it. Further demonstrating his reading comprehension,
Tito summarized the passage, made multiple inferences (such as inferring
how the main character may have felt as one of the few black, female
doctors), and connected the text to his own life by comparing and
contrasting issues of racial segregation then and now.


Tito reads at home for about one hour a day. Part of the time he reads
at home is for homework. Tito also reads for personal pleasure. He said, I
read if I have nothing to do, and my friends are not there, and Im not
allowed to play video games. While Tito prefers to hang out with friends at
home over reading, on a couple occasions I have witnessed Tito reading the
comic series Bone by Jeff Smith during recess. On one of these occasions I
asked Tito why he was not playing wall-ball or soccer like he usually does,
and he responded simply, I like to read.
During independent reading time in school, I consistently observe Tito
reading Bone. When I asked Tito why he reads comics, he said, I like the
pictures in them, and theyre more fun to read, and theyre a tiny bit quicker
to read than normal ones.
When Tito reads at home, he does so alone and quietly. At the
beginning of the school year, Titos class did a shared reading of Third Grade
Angels by Jerry Spinelli in which the teacher read the book aloud while the
students read along silently in their own copies of the book. Tito found this
activity to be bothersome because the teacher would read at a different pace
than his. He explained that sometimes the teacher would read too slowly in
which case he had to pause and wait, and other times too quickly in which
case he could not keep up. It seems that one way Tito learns effectively is by
being allowed to read information silently and independently (as compared
to being read to). In my classroom, Tito often has social studies information
read to him in the form of a virtual read aloud of a weekly Scholastic issue


via the SMARTboard. It may be more effective for Titos learning if the sound
was turned off, thereby allowing him to read at his own pace.
Tito told me that he only writes at home when doing homework. I have
noticed that Tito does not have a tendency to write a lot; rather, he will write
just enough to fulfill classroom assignment expectations. In alignment with
Calkins (1994) suggestion, I believe Tito would benefit from keeping a
notebook which was divided by themes or genres. That way, Tito could
gradually add to a theme or topic over many class periods, and hopefully
begin to notice that he has a lot more to say about a topic than he may have
initially assumed.


Section 3: Math
The interview took about forty-five minutes. Tito answered every
question correctly, and he seemed to be relaxed throughout. His
explanations for how he answered questions has given me insights into his
problem solving abilities and approaches. Tito answered addition and
subtraction problems using a diverse mixture of direct modeling, counting,
and numerical reasoning (or number sense). He answered equal groups
problems using repeated addition, skip counting, and by drawing arrays.
While Tito often relied on counting tiles to solve addition and
subtraction problems, he demonstrated a budding development of number
sense. One problem in particular demonstrates this point very well. In order
to solve a join result-unknown problem (nine plus eight), Tito first counted
out nine tiles. Then he recounted those nine tiles starting at the number ten,
which demonstrates his ability to count on. It also demonstrates his ability to
reason abstractly since he was able to arrive at eighteen with only nine tiles
by allowing each tile to correspond to two non-consecutive numbers. After
deducing that nine plus nine equals eighteen, he subtracted one in his head
to come up with the correct answer. It was his decomposition of nine into
eight and one that gives evidence of his numerical reasoning skills. However,
this roundabout way of solving the problem demonstrates that he does not
necessarily solve problems efficiently.
His main solution strategy for solving a variety of addition and
subtraction problems in which the result was given and in which the result


could essentially be separated into two smaller quantities (including a join

change-unknown, separate change-unknown, comparison differenceunknown, and part-part-whole part-unknown problem) was to first count out
the total or resulting number of tiles. He would then count tiles from the total
pile and place them separately to represent one of the smaller quantities. He
would then count the remaining tiles in the total pile which would be the
answer. In all, I would consider this strategy to be direct modeling.
While he often used direct modeling and counting, his number sense
was also prevalent at times. In solving a separate result-unknown problem
(fourteen minus five) he immediately knew the answer. He explained that the
answer is nine because if you did twelve minus three it would still equal
nine, because if you did twelve minus two it would equal ten. According to
Fosnot and Dolk (2001), it is rare that a child uses a constant difference
strategy to solve a subtraction problem, and I believe Titos use of this
strategy speaks to his versatility.
Along with being a moderately flexible problem solver, he also strived
for accuracy in one particular way. When I would ask him if he was confident
in his answer (and other times when I did not ask him), he would recount
tiles. However he would double check his work by solving the problem the
same way he did initially, which has the potential drawback of leading to
consistently inaccurate results (although in his case, to his credit, he was
always accurate). On multiple occasions I asked him if he could solve a
problem using a different approach, and he would say that he could but it


would require more thinking or it would take longer or that he could but
it was hard to explain how he would do so, therefore I do not consider him
fluent at two-digit addition and subtraction story problems.
Tito is beginning to develop a relational understanding of single-digit
multiplication, because he demonstrated an understanding of not only to
compute multiplication problems but also a limited understanding of what
the problems actually mean. Furthermore, he demonstrated flexibility in
solving multiplication problems insofar as he used varying techniques to
come up with solutions.
Tito seemed to understand multiple ways to solve the problem: Three
kids are collecting leaves. Each kid collects two leaves. How many leaves are
there total? He fairly quickly wrote the numbers 2 4 6 on his paper while
reciting each number, and then concluded that the answer is six leaves.
According to the OGAP framework on multiplication thinking, his use of skip
counting would put him in the early transitional stage. However, he then
explained that he could have immediately told me the answer, and he only
wrote down numbers to show his work. This initially suggested to me that
two times three was a known fact to him. But then he told me that this was
an addition problem that he solved by doing repeated addition, thereby
moving him down to OGAPs late-additive stage. The following problem
confirmed that he is straddling the additive and early transition stages. When
asked to solve a story problem representing three times three, he skip
counted by threes to six, after which he wrote down that six plus three


equals nine. He said, There are nine cookies in all because three plus three
plus three equals nine, in other words, three six nine.
When I asked Tito to solve three times four (written 3x4), he was
confused at first. I then asked him what it means to do three times four, and
he immediately knew how to solve the problem. I found this to be an
interesting response because it gives evidence that he thinks in terms of not
just what problems say but what they mean, which indicates that he is
developing relational understanding. While he used repeated addition and
skip counting to solve the previous equal groups problems, for this one he
drew an array. While these varying strategies for solving multiplication
problems would suggest that he has what Russell (2000) calls flexibility in
solving problems, his relational understanding of multiplication is limited.
While Tito easily came up with his own unique word problem to represent
three times four, when I asked him to come up with an addition sentence to
represent three times four he spouted off different pairs of numbers that add
to twelve. Even though his use of an array and skip counting and his ability
to create a word problem demonstrate his relational understanding of
multiplication, his inability to derive an appropriate addition sentence
(despite some seeming understanding of the relationship between repeated
addition, equal groups, and multiplication) is why I deem his relational
understanding to be existent but limited.
I believe it would be useful to wean Tito off of tiles in solving addition
and subtraction problems. As a teacher, I would demonstrate to him how to


use pencil and paper to think about these problems, and I would build upon
his prior knowledge of how to decontextualize and make abstract
representations. I would model how join change-unknown, join startunknown, part-part-whole part-unknown, and comparison differenceunknown problems can be solved using subtraction and without any tiles. I
would focus on developing his numerical reasoning, with the hope that he
would realize how much quicker numerical reasoning has the potential to be
to solve problems than direct modeling. I believe it would be useful to focus
on how numbers can be decomposed, which is something he is beginning to
In developing Titos multiplication skills, I would spend a small portion
of class time having him do rote memorization of single digit numbers in
combination with skip counting and repeated addition exercises to reinforce
and give meaning to the rote memorization of the times table. Furthermore, I
would build upon his knowledge of arrays to teach him area models in
combination with the distributive property.
Section 4: Science
Titos entire formal science education is through Penn Alexander.
Penn Alexander has a strong science education curriculum insofar as
students learn science mainly through experiments rather than mainly
through doing worksheets or listening to the teacher lecture as is so often
the case in science classrooms. At Penn Alexander students have one fortyfive minute science class per week.


Titos least favorite subject is science, because he rarely does it.

When I first asked Tito if he likes to study science in school he
responded affirmatively. I followed-up by asking him if he likes science more
than other subjects, and he explicitly told me that science is his least favorite
school subject. However, Tito elaborated, Experiments can be fun. It
depends what experiment Im doing.
When asked why science is his least favorite subject, he said, I dont
know, I just dont particularly like it that much. I cant really make into words
how I dont like it.
When asked why he likes math better, Tito explained, Well, maybe because
I do math more than scienceso Im more used to it.
Tito explained that his least favorite thing about science is that theres
a lot more thinking involved compared to other subjects. He said, Im just
not used to science. I havent been doing a lot of science. It seems Tito is
not quite accustomed to doing the type of thinking that science requires, and
therefore he finds science somewhat unenjoyable.
Tito has a decent understanding of gravity.
I gained a better understanding about Titos knowledge of gravity by
asking him why pages in a book fall when turned, and I used an actual book
to demonstrate to him exactly what I meant. Tito explained that a page falls
based on which side of the seam it is on when it is released. I asked Tito why
a page does not stay still when it is released, and he explained that the page
is not heavy enough, and its very bendable. It seems Tito was getting at


the idea that things that are light and flimsy tend to fall over more easily
than heavy, sturdy objects. Titos suggestion that heavy, non-bending
objects stay in place better than light, pliable objects suggests that he has
an intuitive understanding of physics (in particular: basic Newtonian physics).
However, Tito did not acknowledge gravitys role in causing a page of a book
to fall.
When I asked Tito what gravity is, he responded, If there was no gravity we
would be floating right now, so gravity is basically to keep your feet on the
ground. On the top of the earth there is a little gap of gravity and then nongravity. Tito explained that gravity decreases the farther away you get from
earth until it becomes absent. He said, As you get higher and higher there is
less gravity and oxygen. Tito said he does not know why there is less
gravity farther away from the earth, and he guessed that it might be
because there is less oxygen. Tito does not seem to understand that gravity
has to do with the mass of objects. Still, it is impressive that he had the
insight to make a correlation between his fairly accurate understanding that
both oxygen and gravity decrease as one moves outwardly away from
earths surface.
Tito has done the sink/float experiment before.
Upon placing a big bowl of water in front of Tito, and various small
objects strewn on the table, Tito immediately asked if this was a sink/float
experiment. He then told me that just for the fun of it he had done a
sink/float experiment at his friends house in which they used various


materials, most of which were made of plastic. He said, They tricked me

because they got a plastic egg, and then they put a metal thing inside. And
then they said will this float more than this [referring to an unaltered plastic
Despite having been tricked in the past during a sink/float experiment,
Tito seemed perfectly content doing a sink/float experiment with me. I
explained to him that he simply had to tell me whether or not an object
would sink or float and why, after which he would place the object in the
water. Tito understood the directions as evidenced by his ability to follow the
directions throughout the experiment.
Tito demonstrated that he understands that certain materials are likely
to sink while others are likely to float. For example, before testing the fishing
bobber, Tito predicted it would float because it feels like plastic and plastic
normally floats. Before testing the aluminum nut, Tito predicted it would
sink because its metal and not a lot of metal floats. Before testing the
small wood cylinder, Tito predicted it would float because wood normally
floats. Clearly Tito seems to understand that whether or not a material sinks
depends on what it is made out of.
In addition to what an object is made of, Tito also demonstrated an
understanding that whether or not an object floats depends on the objects
density. Despite recognizing that the nylon bolt is made of plastic, and
despite claiming that most plastics float, Tito assumed correctly that it would
sink because its sort of heavy, and its not hollow Titos use of the word


hollow gives evidence that he has a conceptual albeit limited understanding

of density. Soon after testing the nylon bolt, Tito explicitly claimed that a lot
of hollow things float. However, at no point during the experiment did Tito
use the word density. Rather than talk about the density of an object, Tito
instead spoke of an objects heaviness in determining whether or not it will
float. He thought the small aluminum cylinder would sink because its
heavier than the paper clips. (He picks up the paper clips to compare). Its
going to sink because [the paper clips] sank and [the aluminum cylinder] is
much heavier.
I asked Tito if the small aluminum cylinder would float if it was much
smaller but the same shape, such as if it was shrunk in a shrink ray. He
responded, If it was much smaller, no. Ive put tiny things in water and they
sink. I asked him why small things sink, and he said its because theyre
heavy. I asked him, If something is really small, it is light, right? He was
It seems like all of the pieces are there for Tito to comprehend density,
but he has yet to put those pieces together formally. He understands that
small things can sink, he understands that hollow objects tend to float, and
he understands that the material an object is made of affects whether it
sinks or floats. He even understands that the shape of an object makes a
difference, having explicitly stated that circular and flat as well as thin
objects have a tendency to float. I believe that Titos use of the words
heavy and light in determining if an object will float are partially a


misunderstanding of concepts, but perhaps more so a misunderstanding of

terminology. I believe Tito will have little trouble grasping the concept of
density when he is eventually taught it.
Overall Tito did a great job on the experiment having gotten almost
every prediction correct. I was impressed that he used phrases like normally
floats or tends to sink rather than making blanket statements. His choice
of words suggests that he understands that life is nuanced and there are
often exceptions to rules. His choice not to use blanket statements also
suggests that he could easily grasp the idea that science does not prove
theories so much as provides evidence for theories.
Tito makes astute observations.
Through my observations of Tito during the sink/float experiment and
of him in science class, I have come to the conclusion that he has a knack for
making keen observations. For example, during the sink/float experiment he
concluded that because the small polyethylene cylinder floats and yet
weighs more than the nylon bolt which sank, they are probably made of
different materials. In his science class, he made the astute observation that
he could feel the air moving next to a stricken tuning fork. While Tito is
perceptive, his science teacher has faced the challenge of preventing him
from calling out in class but this is more of a behavioral issue than one
pertaining to scientific intelligence. As regards his ability to learn science
from a strictly intellectual standpoint, I cant think of a single area in which a
teacher would have trouble working with Tito.


I believe it would be usefully informative if Tito did a physical science

unit in which he learned about gravity. Perhaps the unit could be centered on
astronomy as a means of teaching the concept of gravity. A fitting biological
unit may involve Tito learning about where food comes from, since he likes
spending time outside. I think Tito would also enjoy learning about artificial
intelligence versus organic life because he is interested in computers.

Section 5: Social Studies

Tito has mixed feelings about social studies.
On the one hand Tito finds social studies to be interesting because it
explains what happened and how it happened. Tito also finds it interesting
that historical events have been made into books and movies as a means of
explaining how those events happened. He likes that social studies has
taught him a lot of things about home, states, town, country, world,
everything. On the other hand, Tito claims that social studies is not that
interesting. I believe Titos feelings towards the subject are best summed up
when he says at the end of the interview, I sort of like it well I dont
really like it.


I tried to better understand why he feels mostly disinterested in social

studies. He says that it is the combination of content and the style in which
the subject is taught which he finds boring. I have observed Tito (and the rest
of his class) being taught social studies primarily through virtual read alouds
of Scholastic issues, through teacher lectures, and through individual seat
work such as drawing self-portraits, writing poem-biographies, and answering
questions on their weekly Scholastic issue. The class does about thirty
minutes a day of social studies.
Tito could not quite pinpoint what he dislikes about the content or
teaching style, nor could he tell me how the teaching style could be
improved so that social studies would be more interesting. He also could not
tell me his favorite social studies lesson. That Tito could not remember any
social studies lesson over the past few years as being among one of his
favorites gives further evidence of his disinterest in the subject as it is taught
at Penn Alexander.

Tito equates history with famous people.

When I asked Tito what history is, he said, George Washington. Hitler.
All the famous people that did something that was bad or good. I asked him
if ordinary citizens are also a part of history, and he said he was pretty sure
they also are. While Tito was at first unsure if he is a part of history, he later
concluded, I guess everybody is, including me. If you do history youre a


part of it. According to Tito, doing history means learning about history. He
was unsure if someone who has never learned about history is a part of it.
I found it interesting that Tito initially viewed history in terms of
famous people even though his third grade social studies class spent a
couple weeks focusing on the self (through creating biographies, selfportraits, and facebook pages). This discrepancy in how Tito defines history
and the content of his social studies class is perhaps best explained by the
fact that Tito differentiates history and social studies. He told me that he
gets history and social studies confused. He says that he may have learned a
bit of history, but he probably did not realize it at the time, and when he did
learn history it was outside of the social studies curriculum.
Tito learned the fifty states, but doesnt know the function of a
Upon asking Tito what he has learned in social studies, he responded,
Where I live, the fifty states, mostly about where things are so far. Tito says
he had to learn the fifty states for tests. Tito explained that knowledge of
the states is useful so that one does not confuse cities and states. While Tito
may feel his main purpose in having to learn the states was to get a good
grade, it is impressive that he was nonetheless able to create a purpose for
this information extending beyond school and into his everyday life. He
realized that this geographical information could be applied outside the
classroom, and his practical application of the material could be considered a
somewhat higher order thinking skill according to Blooms Taxonomy.


Tito said he does not know why there are different states, or how the
states formed, or what functions they serve. Tito said that life might be bad if
there were no states because a lot of geography would be different. When I
asked him to explain how geography would be different beyond the maps
themselves changing, he paused for a very long time, seemingly unsure
what to say. It seems Titos understanding of states, despite being able to
apply this information, is not in-depth as described by Barton and Levstik
(2011); rather, his understanding is largely based on memorizing a list of
Tito seems to believe that being taught multiple perspective means
being taught from multiple teachers.
Tito confirmed that Penn Alexander teaches social studies using
multiple perspectives. When asked for an example, he responded, Do you
mean different types of social studies or the same type but different
perspectives? His response gave me the impression that he did not fully
grasp what I meant by being taught from multiple perspectives and I
believe I am to blame for not making the question clearer. Still, I pressed
forward and asked him if he is ever taught the same type of social studies
from different perspectives. Tito asked, Does geography count as social
studies? He explained that in second grade he was taught the fifty states
and in third grade he was taught the difference between a town, a state, and
a country, thereby building upon his second grade teachings. It seems Tito
believes he was taught geography from multiple perspectives insofar as his


second grade teacher taught him just the states, while this third grade
teacher taught him more.
I asked Tito why it might be important to learn the fifty states from
multiple perspectives. He said, Because one could have taught me less than
the other. Or they could have taught me the same thing. Titos response
suggests that he understands why multiple perspectives are important. He
seems to realize that because one teacher may know less about a topic than
another teacher, it is useful to learn from both teachers in order to get a
more holistic perspective. While Tito explicitly says that one teacher could
have taught him less than another, Tito seems to realize the more general
idea that teachers know different things than one another.
Tito did not know the difference between a firsthand and secondhand
account of an event, so I explained it to him. Tito then realized that firsthand
accounts have the potential to give more description. Following a leading
question, Tito told me that one can never entirely trust any source of
information, but he had trouble explaining why.
Tito is open-minded to multiple theories of why the Titanic sank.
Titos class read a brief Scholastic issue about the Titanic, after which I
began reading aloud Magic Tree House: Tonight on the Titanic. Tito told me
that he believes the Titanic is such an important part of history because it
was so tragic on account of the huge number of people who died. Tito
recalled that the ship sunk from hitting an iceberg. He elaborated, But I did
hear from another thing that the water tank blew open and thats what sunk


it. Titos ability to draw on conflicting explanations without claiming that one
is necessarily the truth, and his willingness to consider explanations other
than the status quo explanation (that it hit an iceberg) demonstrates his
ability to appreciate and be open-minded toward multiple perspectives;
however, his open mindedness may prove dangerous when he is presented
with inaccurate information.
Tito noticed that clothing styles change over time.
I asked Tito to flip through Eyewitness: Titanic and stop at a picture he
found particularly interesting. He flipped through the book rather slowly,
spending a while examining each picture, which indicated to me that he was
fairly interested in most of the pictures. After a couple minutes he had not
chosen a particular picture, so I asked him what impressions he was getting
of the time period back then based on the pictures and paintings of that time
period. Tito recognized that the black and white pictures were probably older
than the colored pictures.
I directed his attention to pictures of people from the early nineteenhundreds. He first noticed that these people were wearing older clothes. He
could tell they were older clothes because not a lot of people wear them
now. This was a well-reasoned observation, because he seemingly deduced
that if there is a picture of people wearing clothes which people do not wear
in the present time period, than the picture is likely from an older time


Tito noticed that the men wore more turtlenecks back then and now they
wear shirts like these (pointing to his own standard v-neck t-shirt) and
collared shirts. Tito also said that woman of the present time period dont
wear a lot of long coats like that. I asked if women today wear long coats in
the winter, and he expressed uncertainty. After being asked leading
questions, Tito said that based on the pictures he believes people dressed
more formally back then, but he was not sure why people dressed more

Tito is not prone to make generalizations about people.

Tito was not sure why woman and children got to go on the Titanics
rescue boats before men. This indicates that Tito has seemingly little
understanding of the relationship between chivalry and sexism. Tito said if he
was on the Titanic he wouldnt care if women and children were rescued
before him. He said, Sometimes I can care about others lives more than
mine. It seems Tito could probably empathize with those on the Titanic who
let others be rescued first.
When I asked Tito if he thinks women were selfish for being rescued
first, he said brilliantly, I dont know, because Im not them. He further
elaborated, Half of them could care about men more than them, but the
men sort of forced them, and some of them could have been selfish, you
never know. In other words, Tito believes that every woman is different, and
therefore it seems he does not feel comfortable judging women as an entire


group. In conclusion, Titos unwillingness to generalize entire groups of

people combined with his willingness to consider varying sources of
information, including sources which defy the status quo, gives me the
impression that Tito is a critical thinker in the realm of social studies. I think
Tito might find social studies more interesting if the teacher based lessons
off of his interests by asking Tito what he wants to learn about rather than
telling him what he has to learn about. I think it might be engaging (and
hopefully not frustrating) for him if the teacher were to challenge him to
think critically about social justice issues. I also think Tito would benefit from
having class discussions about social studies rather than having to simply
answer multiple choice questions on his weekly Scholastic issue.

Section 6: Responding to the Focusing Question

Penn Alexander has a culture where students are expected to be quiet
unless explicitly or implicitly given permission to speak. The problem is that
Tito has a somewhat outgoing personality. In Titos classroom a student must
raise their hand to speak, with rare exceptions such as turn-and-talks.
Unfortunately Titos demeanor does not mesh well with this classroom
culture, and therefore Tito is often reprimanded. I can not recall a day I
observed Tito that he was not reprimanded for speaking out of turn. The
impact of Titos outgoing personality is that he is sternly told by his teacher
to be less outgoing. In other words, he is told to be someone he is not, and
the teacher threatens him with so-called consequences as a means of


controlling his behavior. So, what are the possibilities for a student who is
outgoing in a school where silence is valued?
It may be possible that Tito can learn to better control his vocal
outbursts. It is possible that Tito can practice mindfulness and self-awareness
simply by being more conscientious of his desire to speak in relation to
whether or not his hand is raised (Cayoun, 2005). A teacher could encourage
Tito to actively be aware of his vocal outbursts and incentivize Tito to only
speak upon raising his hand. A teacher could initially offer Tito a tangible
extrinsic reward (such as candy) and give Tito praise for each class day that
he does not call out. Simultaneously, a teacher could help Tito develop an
appreciation for a quiet classroom and hand raising by explaining how it
benefits himself and the class as a whole as a means of creating an intrinsic
motivation. Gradually the teacher should diminish the extrinsic reward until
eventually Tito was solely motivated to raise his hand and to be quiet by the
intrinsic reward of knowing that he was helping himself and his classmates
learn. I am left wondering if a quiet classroom in which students must raise
their hands to speak is really the most effective type of classroom. I believe
it may be more useful for students to learn conversation moves rather than
having to be called upon to speak. I also wonder if there is public school near
where Tito lives that would encourage his outgoing demeanor rather than
repress it. Lastly, I am curious what Tito thinks of the quiet culture that
encompasses Penn Alexander, and how he believes it impacts his learning.


Section 7: Reflection on my Learning

I have learned that assessing a particular students understanding of
various academic subject matter has the potential to be more effectively
done in a one-on-one setting than in a group setting. I have also come to
learn that when a teacher has a class of twenty-four students, it can be very
difficult and impractical for that teacher to assess a student one-on-one.
Therefore, I am interested in developing my ability to do assessments of
students in small group settings. Fortunately, in the coming week my
placement teacher plans to show me how to do small group guided reading
as a means of assessing the ability of students to read. While one-on-one
assessment is generally very effective, I believe there are certain areas of
assessment which can actually be best accomplished in a groups setting,
such as assessing how students communicate, share their ideas, and work
with one another in order to solve problems or in order to learn from one
another. In other words, interpersonal skills might best be assessed in a
group setting.
Along with learning about the process of assessing students generally,
I have also learned quite a bit about Tito as a learner. I have learned that Tito
likes to participate in class by answering questions, but he needs to learn to
not call out as much. I learned that reading is one of Titos strongest suites. It
seems that one way Tito learns effectively is by being allowed to read
information silently and independently (as compared to being read to). When
it comes to writing, Tito might benefit from keeping a journal divided into


themes or genres as a way to gradually build an array of thoughts about a

particular theme over time. When it comes to math, Tito might benefit from a
teacher who works with him on his numerical reasoning as an alternative to
counting. Furthermore, a math teacher should consider building upon his
knowledge of arrays to teach him area models in combination with the
distributive property as it relates to multiplication. As for social studies, Tito
is an open-minded thinker and is not prone to making generalizations about
entire groups of people. I think Tito would benefit from a more challenging
social studies curriculum than the one he is currently getting, especially
because he finds social studies to be mostly boring. If I was his teacher, I
would have class discussions about big-idea issues like poverty, happiness,
and war as they relate to the students lives. Finally, as a science learner Tito
makes keen observations when doing experiments which is a trait of every
great scientist. Tito claims that science is difficult because he does it so
rarely, so I believe he would benefit as a scientist by doing science more
often, which - given the importance to teach to the PSSAs - may require
incorporating science into literacy and math.

Appendix A: Sink/Float Interview




(in order of

Titos Exact









Because it feels like

its plastic, and


plastic normally
Nylon bolt

Maybe will

Because its sort of


heavy, and its not





hollow, so it might
not float.
Aluminum nut


Because its metal

and not a lot of metal


Two attached

Maybe will

Because theyre

paper clips


very thin. I say

maybe because
theyre connected
and they weigh more
if theyre connected.

(I regret not having




tested a single paper

Big aluminum



Its not hollow, and


its very heavy.


I think its heavier


than the paper clips.


(He picks up the








paper clips to
compare). Its going
to sink because
these sank [referring
to the paper clips]
and this [referring to
the cylinder] is much
Small acrylic



Its lighter and the

same height
[compared to the
small aluminum


Maybe will




I cant see inside.



Small wood


Wood bead

Glass marble

Because wood





normally floats.

[No reasoning

will float



Because its heavy


and its a mineral


thats tending to not

supposed to float.
Big acrylic



Because the other







two glass things


Big wood



Because corks float,

and corks are pretty
big too.

Clay cylinder

At first:

Because its heavy

Very hard

and rubber, and

to tell.

rubber floats.


He then asked me,

finding out

is it clay or rubber?

its clay,

I told him its clay.

not rubber:


Appendix B: Informal Science Conversations and Observations

September 10, 2015: During Titos first science class of the year, he was
taught about how sound waves are formed from vibrations. After watching a
Brain Pop video about sound waves, the teacher asked a question about
vibration. Tito raised his hand to answer but was not called on. The teacher
asked the class why a bell makes sound. Tito called out his answer (which
was that a bell produces vibrations), and he was reprimanded for not raising
his hand. The students did a drop test in which they had to identify objects
based solely on sound. Tito identified every object correctly.
September 17: During the second science class, the teacher asked the class
what a hypothesis is. Tito raised his hand to answer but was not called on.
Tito was scolded multiple times at the beginning of class for not paying
attention to the teacher. The students did another drop test experiment. Tito
seemed to enjoy the experiment. Tito made a prediction that he would be
able to correctly identify six of the eight dropped objects, and his prediction
was accurate. This demonstrates that Tito has a good grasp of his own
October 1: During this science class, the students experimented with tuning
forks. Tito made the astute observation that when the stricken tuning fork is
rotated, the sound changes. The teacher complimented Tito for this
observation. He also observed that he can feel air move around the stricken
tuning fork.


September 28: Tito told me his favorite science experiment was making
parachutes which he did in second grade. When asked what he learned
from the experiment, he said the only thing he remembers having learned
was how to make parachutes.




Appendix C: Titos Spelling





Tito sits here


Appendix D: Classroom Map

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