Teaching, Researching and Soaring to Success

February 10 2017
Category: Academics

This week’s #SoaringToSuccess spotlights, Kari Gagnon ’17. As a childhood special education major focusing on grades one through six, Kari has completed student teaching, presented research on using emojis in the classroom, and now plans to continue her studies in graduate school.  

Kari Gagnon

Let’s grab our backpacks, take seat in the classroom, and learn more from Kari…

This fall, I completed my student teaching placement at Elmira’s Diven Elementary School in a first grade classroom, under the supervision of the fantastic, Mrs. Samantha Bailey. Since I began this placement in September, I discovered so much about classroom routines, and how important the beginning of the school year is. I also learned how essential it is to write lesson plans that are geared toward specific student learning needs, which made my lessons much more effective.

Since I was completing the Education Teacher Performance Assessment, or EdTPA, during this placement, I used data to inform my instructional decisions, which taught me that sometimes it is necessary to re-teach parts of a topic to ensure that students have reached mastery before moving on to the next skill in a subject area.

In November, I had an incredible opportunity to present research titled, “Imagining and Emoji-ing: New Literacies in the Classroom” at the New York State Reading Association Literacy Conference in Rochester, New York. I shared this experience with three of my peers, as well as two professors of literacy, Dr. Deborah Owens and Dr. James Nageldinger. During my placement in first grade, I gathered research to share the motivating nature of emojis by creating plans to implement emojis into a prescribed curriculum. One of the domains I taught consisted of stories that were similar, despite the fact that they were from different parts of the world.

I created many assessments for the domain, but this is one of my favorites, as it incorporates both emojis and comprehension. The students really enjoyed it! You could use this in many ways. I chose to focus on emotions and expressions, since we had been talking about feelings a great deal in my classroom.

For the first question, I showed students the image and asked them how they thought Little Red Riding Hood was feeling in the picture. Then, I asked them to select the emoji that matched her facial expression. When I introduced words like sly and surprised, I showed the emoji and also modeled the face. For example, for “surprised,” I suggested that I was cancelling school tomorrow, and we all demonstrated the word surprised. I had the students look at each other’s faces, especially the eyes and mouths. I also showed them the emoji so they could see the similarities between the mouth and eyes. Because I was doing research on emojis, I also incorporated a “Random Emoji Generator” from Byrdseed into my teaching.

Byrdseed was created with the intent to provide gifted and talented students with a creative opportunity to express and strengthen their literacy skills. I shared this activity with students in my small writing group, where each group had a different set of emojis. The goal was to have students create a story with four randomly generated emojis. It was amazing to see their different interpretations of common emojis, and I cannot wait to use the Random Emoji Generator again in the future. Using emojis in the classroom encouraged students to express creativity and increase phonological awareness during writing. Completing this research expanded my knowledge of literacy, and the many ways that students can interpret new literacies.

Overall, I had an incredible student teaching experience, all thanks to my highly motivating cooperating teacher. She believed in me, built me up, and I can’t wait to share my future successes with her! To keep myself busy and in the classroom this winter, I became a substitute teacher for the Elmira City School District. I love being a substitute teacher, because it allows me to give back to the community, while also gaining more teaching experience in many different grade levels.

In the interest of gaining more travel experience, I have applied to several graduate programs all around the country. Although the end of my time in Elmira will be bittersweet, I truly cannot wait to discover where my next adventure in education will take me.