Writing Through the Ages: A Summary

The current form of writing used in English is a result of centuries of modifications and reformations. The first true alphabets did not come to be until 1700-1500 B.C. Before that, writing was mainly pictographic or ideographic. These early writings were mostly religious because the majority of those who could read or write were priests or their scribes. The following is a summary of the gradual evolution of alphabetic writing.

Sumerian Cuneiform
Around 3300 B.C., Sumerians in Mesopotamia developed a writing form called cuneiform. It was invented so that merchants could record business transactions. To do this, writers used sticks and weeds to write on clay, which made a triangular wedge shape. This system was useful because it was symbolic, meaning that people who spoke many different languages could interpret and understand it. A modern example of a modern-day of a largely ideographic writing system is Chinese.


Egyptian Hieroglyphics
Hieroglyphics were developed in Egypt around 3200 B.C. This system combined symbols that represented things with symbols that represented sounds. It was difficult for writers because there had to be a symbol for each thing or idea.

Early Alphabets
The first system that had every mark representing a sound dates back to Syria in 1500 B.C. in the port of Ugarit. They still used cuneiform symbols because they had easy access to clay. Around 1100 B.C., the introduction of papyrus by the Phoenicians revolutionized writing forever. The smoothness of the papyrus made it easy for writers to produce lines, which then led to the development of the twenty-two-letter Phoenician alphabet. This writing system did not include vowels. Some modern-day writing systems that use only consonants are Arabic and Hebrew. To represent vowels in these languages, diacritical marks are placed over consonants.


Greek and Latin Alphabets
Using the Phoenician system as a base, the Greeks developed their alphabet included both vowels and consonants. They also added more letters to represent the sounds that existed in Greek but not in the Phoenician language. What resulted was the first true alphabet. The Romans based their alphabet on the Greek, adding letters such as v, x, and y to represent sounds that exist in Latin but not in Greek. This writing alphabet is the most widely used alphabet in the world, and the English writing alphabet is based off of the Roman alphabet. Another variation of the Greek alphabet is the Cyrillic alphabet. This alphabet includes Slavic sounds not found in Greek. It is used today in Russia, the Ukraine, Serbia, and Bulgaria.

The above map shows (in dark green) the countries of the world that use the Latin Alphabet as the official script. The lighter green countries use the Latin alphabet as co-official script with other(s).

Source: Freeman, D. E. and Freeman, Y. S. (2004). Essential Linguistics: What You Need to Know to Teach. Portsmouth, NH: Heinemann.

Abbie Middleton


A Timeline of Writing

Since the beginning of time, humans have been communicating with written marks. The development of the writing system has evolved from pictures to letters.

  • Sumerian Cuneiform

For centuries, humans have used written marks for communicating with one another. The “first true alphabets weren’t developed until the period between 1700 and 1500 B.C.” (p. 99). Writing began with ‘pitcographs’, which were usually connected to religion or magic. The Sumerians invented the earliest writing style, called ‘cuneiform’. The Sumerians used “sticks or reeds to make marks on clay” (p. 99). Many different people interpreted the Sumerians’ writing style differently because the pictures were abstract symbols that represented items that were traded. Pictographic writing was “useful for trade across different language groups” (p. 99).

  • Egyptian Hieroglyphics

Hieroglyphics were invented around 3200 B.C. (around the same time as cuneiform). It mixed pictures and the alphabetic system to create words, thus making it different from the Sumerians’ cuneiform. This was difficult, however, for people of other languages to read because they had to learn “a picture or symbol for each thing or idea” (p. 100).


  • Early Alphabets

The first writing “system in which all the marks represented sounds was developed in Syria around 1500 B.C.” (p. 100). They needed an easy way to communicate and didn’t want to combine the use of pictures for sounds and ideas. The Phoenicians created a paper-like substance from the papyrus plant for writing rather than using clay. With this new invention came the first alphabet with twenty-two letters. The “Phoecician writing system used letters to represent consonant sounds, but it did not include vowels” (p. 100).

  • Greek and Latin Alphabets

The Greeks were the first to develop an alphabet with both consonants and vowels, and “they used the Phoenician system as a base” (p. 101).  The Romans based their alphabet on that of the Greeks and added their own letters to represent sounds that Greek did not contain (like v, y, and y). The English alphabet is based widely on the Roman alphabet.


Freeman, D. E. and Freeman, Y. S. (2004). Essential Linguistics: What You Need to Know to Teach. Portsmouth, NH: Heinemann. 


By: Rebecca McKee

The BTLPT Exam

Recently in our classes we have been discussing the BTLPT test and all the different areas of the test. I am not going to lie, the test is intimidating. Even though we are getting a preview of the test now, all the timed sections are still very scary. Certain sections only give you two minutes to think about what you are going to say in an essay or response. For some two minutes may seem like a while, but when your anxiety is up and you’re very nervous this amount of time may be limiting. While reviewing over the test we also looked over, what things were counted off for. In my opinion in many sections some of the things that were counted off for, I had had addressed in my answers had we not reviewed in class what not to say.

Overall the test takes a little over three hours to complete. This may not seem like such a long time, however when everything you’re doing or saying is being monitored by time the test might seem pretty long. In the past years the BTLPT test has been altered. The old test did not include lesson planning, classroom situations, or even many real-life situations or questions that we as teachers would need to know. The old test was very basic and was not nearly as hard as the new one is today. There is even talk, that teachers who took the old one to become certified might have to come back and take the new one to keep their certification. If I were one of these teachers, I would very much dislike this idea. However, as a future teacher I like this idea. If you come back and take the test and pass it, then you know that you’re trully qualified to be teaching what you are certified in. If not, then maybe its a good thing. It will show you that that standards, and what others expect of us has risen.

For many decades teachers have been under-appreciated by many other professions. They think that just because we don’t get paid very much, and that we deal with children all day that what we do is easy. If that is not the most in-accurate statement, then Im not sure what is. As teachers we have to learn to adapt what we do everyday in the classroom, to each and every student. We need to make sure that we are challenging them, yet they’re learning and retaining the information as well. It is especially harder for those teachers who are teaching students a different lesson. So yes, I do think that we should be held to a higher standard than other teachers. General education only has to take two exams to be certified, being a Bilingual teacher we have to take three. This makes sense, because we are not only teaching our students what they need to get to the next grade, but also another language. We have to teach what the General Ed. teachers teach them, but also make sure that they understand the content of the language.

This is why our new BTLPT test is so much harder, and in my opinion it has a good reason to be! Yes, the test is long and yes the test is intimidating, but if it’s what we need to be certified as awesome well qualified teachers, then I’m glad. With proper practice, and reviewing well over the logistics of the exam if we are qualified like we should be then the test should not be all that difficult. Taking the proper steps to review, and practice some practice questions, may be one of the best ways to prepare for the exam. Even after reviewing, the exam should not be easy. However, with well preparation and a good mind set I think everyone in our major should do fine, and become certified to be a Bilingual Teacher in the state of Texas.

For more information on the logisitics of the BTLPT test, here is a link so everyone can start practicing! http://www.google.com/url?sa=t&rct=j&q=&esrc=s&frm=1&source=web&cd=1&sqi=2&ved=0CDoQFjAA&url=http%3A%2F%2Fcms.texes-ets.org%2Findex.php%2Fdownload_file%2Fview%2F520%2F259%2F&ei=FZWpUMOxFuSa2AXjzoG4Bw&usg=AFQjCNEQ-3_hqsl5U4mrB0rDXdRTMZ9XYg&sig2=lG_FecF6CGnxB8j4dbBNBw

You can go to this website, or just go to google and type in BTLPT preparation manual and it will take you to the same place!



Dominique Robles

Help! My students are out of control!

I think the greatest fear of many teachers is to have that moment, that terrifyingly overwhelming moment, in which they think: “These kids are out of control!” Fear not. Thankfully, there are many tools that we can equip in our teaching toolbags that will allow us to avoid this horrible scenario.

A specific type of discipline that I have studied extensively and seen used in classrooms is Conscious Discipline. This method theorizes that misbehavior in a child is ruled exclusively by their brain states. When a child is acting out physically, they have entered a survival state ruled solely by the brain stem, or the survival area of the brain. The child feels unsafe, so he is reacting in order to protect himself from a perceived threat. A child who is acting out verbally has entered an emotional state ruled by their limbic system. This child feels that they are not loved or liked, so they are responding to perceived hurt. The goal of this method is to connect with the child, and move them to their prefrontal lobe, so they are able to understand and connect with you to realize when their actions are wrong.

So how does this actually work in a classroom? The biggest thing an acting out child needs is to calm down. The Conscious Discipline model provides examples of breathing exercises that a child can do when upset, and suggests a “safe place” in the classroom for a student to calm down. You can send an acting out student to the safe place so that they are able to calm down and talk to you. A child needs to be calm before talking, or they will not absorb what you are saying, and only become overwhelmed. Also, be sure to create an inclusive and welcoming environment where students are celebrated. If all of your students feel accepted, they will feel safe and comfortable. Lastly, be sure to go over and practice the your rules. Students cannot be expected to know what to do if we don’t let them know. Practice, practice, practice!

This is not an end-all cure to bad behavior, but beginning to practice Conscious Discipline can get you in the habit, and move toward better behavior and classroom harmony. Good luck!

By: Alex Thorne
Source: http://consciousdiscipline.com/resources/educators.asp

My Manifesto, By Katherine Mantz

  1. A successful ClassroomI will communicate with each of my students and their parents.  I understand that strong communication is the key to success in a classroom. If i have a good, trusting relationship with my students and their parents, they will feel more involved, consequently their will be a more positive outcome.

    I will be respectful and acknowledge the different cultures in my classroom. It is important for me to show respect to the diversity in my classroom as well as teach it.  I will incorporate the different cultures in my classroom through projects and activities.

    I will accommodate any needs that I see are visible within my classroom. I know that it is important to assess and teach at a level that is understandable for each of my students.

    I promise to always be aware of when my students are struggling. It is my job as a teacher to always observe what goes on in my classroom and understand the needs and struggles of each one of my students.

    I will not always use a traditional way of teaching. I will make my lessons interactive and engaging so that my students want to learn and succeed in learning.

    I will incorporate beneficial technology within my classroom. It is important as a teacher for me to create enhancing opportunities throughout the curriculum, therefore I will have interactive technology in it.

    I promise to avoid translating throughout my classroom. When my students do not understand something in English I will always explain to them in a meaningful and beneficial manner.

    I will always stem prior knowledge in the classroom. I am aware that if my students enhance and incorporate their prior knowledge in the classroom then they will be able to understand the topic better.

    By Katherine Mantz

You Are Loved: A Teacher Manifesto

In class this week, we talking about a teacher manifesto and how we can carry that out in our future classrooms. These are the promises I will make as an educator and role model.

8. I promise to teach life skills. Not only will I help my students to effectively take the STARR, but I will also teach my students skills they will need in real life. I will not teach them to take a test, but to retain information that will help them later in life.

7. I promise to model great learning to my students. I will not only teach my students in content, but also model how they should learn and what a good student does to succeed.

6. I promise to make my students feel important. My students will not feel insignificant. I will listen, respect, respond, reflect, question, challenge, and care for my students so that they know they are important to me.

5. I promise to believe in my students. I will support their dreams, desires, and goals. And not only will I support them 100%, but also will do everything in my power to help them achieve those things. Because of the confidence I have in my students, they will have confidence in themselves to succeed.

4. I promise that they can trust me. I will try not to hurt their feelings and if I ever do, I want them to be comfortable enough with me to come tell me. I want them to know that I take their trust very seriously and will do everything in my power to gain it.

3. I promise to become a better listener to their needs. If they ever need anything, regarding anything, I want them to know that I am all-ears. I want to be there for them when they need a listening friend and a mentor. I will not ignore them.

2. I promise to respect them and their opinions. Though I may not agree with them sometimes, my students will know that I listen and am interested in their view of the world.

1. Above everything, my students will know they are loved. I promise to care for them as my pupils and respect them. I will care about their dislikes and likes, their hobbies, their family, their favorite food, everything to better get to know them.

By: Rebecca McKee

The Importance of Study Skills

I recently read an article in one of my bilingual education classes about study skills and their effectiveness not only in the classroom, but also in everyday life.

See link here: http://www.lafamilia.info/colegios/auladepadres/formaciondepadres/formacion03.php

So many times teachers focus on teaching their students content only. While this is important to their success in your specific class, it is also necessary to make sure they know how to study, when to study, and what to study in order for them to succeed in their future academic endeavors.

Study skills are important for many reasons, one of them being that students can apply them to any subject at any grade level. Once students learn how to study, they can excel in any subject. There is a common proverb that says: “Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime.” I think this applies to the idea of study skills perfectly. If you focus on teaching students specific facts and information, they have the opportunity to do well in your class (you will “feed them for a day”). But if you teach them how to study and take notes, they have the opportunity to do well in all of their future classes (you will “feed them for a lifetime”).

College is a time where having effective study skills is especially important. Many courses involve extensive reading and note taking. The more study and note taking skills students have, the better their chances are at success. Gettinger and Seibert (2002) also support the use of study skills across the board, and even suggest that students who are not doing well in school may be due to the fact that they do not possess good study skills.

One effective study skill I have recently learned is Cornell notes. This type of note taking is very beneficial for students of all ages. To take Cornell notes, the students divide their papers into three different sections. The first section is about a two-inch margin on the left hand side where the students write critical-thinking questions. The larger right hand portion of the paper is for actually taking notes. There is also a small section across the entire bottom portion of the paper for summarizing. This method is beneficial for students because they are able to ask and answer questions, and summarize their learning at the end of a lecture, video, or reading.

As future educators, it is important to make sure that we know several different types of study skills, so we can teach our students how to implement them in their daily studying. I believe that if we do this, our students will experience great success not only in our classes, but in all of their future classes as well.

By: Abbie Middleton

Source: Gettinger, M., & Seibert, J. (2002). Contributions of study skills to academic competence. School Psychology Review, 31 (3), 351-365.

The Five of Sequence for Teaching & Learning

I think that in order to have active learning in the classroom as a teacher you need to have a plan. A structured plan that helps you access, that the students are learning what they should.  A great way to do this is to follow the five stages of sequence for teaching and learning. Also known as the five E’s of learning, and they are as follows: Engage, Explore, Explain, Extend, and Evaluate.

The first part Engage, means to get the students excited or ready to learn about the lesson that you are about to present. This stage is really important, because if the students are not interested in the material then why would they want to learn it? To get students engaged you could start off by introducing the lesson with a game, or something that really catches their attention.

The next stage is Explore. Really get the students involved.  Work with them on what their prior knowledge is and how they can connect that with the lesson. If you can relate the lesson back to something that affects their life, then it will be that much easier for them to learn and be engaged. Get them moving around during the lesson; really have them work hands-on to explore what they are learning about.

Explain the third E! Give the students an opportunity to communicate what they learned to you. Some sort of activity that will test what they learned. Maybe a review over what they learned during the lesson, just to re-emphasize what they learned about. The fourth E is to Extend. Allow the students to use what they just learned. Incorporate what they just learned into a fun activity. Or have them do something outside of the classroom, where they really get a good chance to use what they learned in class in the real world. This is a great idea, because it would really reinforce how important the information was and how they can use it in the future.

Finally the last E is to evaluate.  This stage is really important because this is the stage where both student and teacher determine how much they are learning. You can teach your students what they need to know but if you are not accessing if they are actually learning, then there is no point in teaching it. This step is necessary in all learning phases, in order to make sure that you are doing your job as a teacher.

As a teacher we need to be structured, we need to have a sequence that we follow to make sure that what we are teaching is accurate, learned, and then later used outside the classroom.  This structure of the five E’s is a great process to make sure that you are implementing all the right things in the classroom. I am positive that I will be using this structured strategy in my classroom. Below is also a great website to go to as a teacher to learn about other strategies, and what other teachers think about them. It great because you get to hear other teachers views, on what could be better about lessons, or even learn about some new lessons that you can implement in your own classroom. http://www.teachability.com/index.jspa?gclid=CPmHg9LngbMCFU6mPAodLWAATw or the same website is: Teachability.com

 Dominique Robles

Culture Shock!

Have you ever been in a situation where you felt utterly and completely out of place? Maybe you were in a different country, or even just a place with a different culture than your own, where you don’t know the language, the mannerisms, or even how to find the restroom. Now imagine feeling that overwhelmed and confused every single day. How stressful! Unfortunately, this is how many of our LEP (Limited English Proficiency) students feel in our classrooms everyday. Although we don’t intend to, we force our culture on them, and expect them to understand and abide by it automatically. It is understood that all students must adapt to the school culture, but more often than not, they are not given the tools to do so. And we wonder why our students have trouble succeeding!

So now that we are more aware of our LEP students’ situations, how can we equip them with the skills they need to succeed? Here is a compiled list of tips and tricks!

1. Learn about your students. What cultures do you have in your classroom? What are their values? What are the family’s values? The student’s? Learning about your student can go a long way in contributing to mutual success in the classroom.

2. Check on your students. Many students who are limited in their English proficiency will feel too nervous or scared asking for help. Make sure they are fully understanding the instructions.

3. Use pictures, diagrams and hand motions. Connecting all assignments, instructions and directions with visuals will provide a reference point for students who don’t quite understand the vocabulary you are using.

4. Be inclusive. Have times during the school year during which different cultures are honored. This will make your student feel included in the classroom community.

5. Apply with English speakers as well! Although I’ve mainly mentioned LEP students, these rules also apply to English speaking students in a dual language classroom! When it is time to move to the second language focus, the English speaking students are the ones who will feel lost and confused. Be sure to give them the same courtesy as you would your LEP students.

By: Alex Thorne
Source: http://www.shenet.org/arongen/sfarenell/P12.htm

Help! How do I Keep my Student’s Attention!?: Lesson Planning

A child’s attention span is about an hour long until they need some sort of mental break. So how the heck, as teachers, are we supposed to teach for 6 hours during the day?! We’ve discussed the production of lesson plans a lot in class lately, and with observations in the elementary schools, I can (finally) see how imperative it is to actually have a plan in store throughout the day. Sometimes, our friends think teaching is just playing with kids all day…boy, are they sorely mistaken! Teacher’s need to have a plan of action and enter that room ready to implement it–no exceptions! But, how do we do this without losing their attention throughout the day?

WikiHow describes the effective lesson plan in 6 steps:

1. Know your student’s likes and dislikes and plan lessons around their interests.

2. Know your objective.

3. Over-plan the class…do not leave giant gaps of time in which there is nothing filled.

4. Write your overview.

5. Set out your objective.

6. Plan your timeline.

While these are all great things to keep in mind while creating an effective lesson plan, they don’t answer the question I have most: What activities can I implement that will teach with the TEKS (and all other requirements) but also interest all 23 elementary students in my class?

One thing I have loved learning at Texas A&M is how to create lesson plans without the use of worksheets. I think that worksheets are great reinforces, however, I have observed that students tend to get burnt out on them quickly. They need action, kinetic movement, cognitive thinking skills, all of those things that require more out of them than just sitting at their desk filling out a worksheet. Can we evaluate their learning by a worksheet? Absolutely! But are they retaining that information or just spitting it out onto a piece of paper to receive a proper grade? As teachers, how can we build lesson plans to make sure students are retaining the information taught?

The positive use of technology in the classroom is a huge factor as to why students are so responsive when given the opportunity to use a computer, iPad, iPod, etc. It’s like they have never seen one before and get jittery and jumpy when it’s their time to get on the computer…when in fact, it’s just the opposite.  Schools have stressed the use of computers/laptops in the classroom more because it is exactly what the students are used to, not because they have never seen it before. The use of technology has proven to be a very effective way of learning in the classroom because it is so familiar with our students this day and age, and what they relate to most.

Which brings me to my next topic: carve your lesson plans out of things the students are interested in! Yes, it will be hard to fit all of your students likes into one lesson plan, but get to know your students! Know their fears, dreams, goals, likes and dislikes, favorite movie, favorite sport, favorite way to learn, everything and anything that will help you to help them! Studies time and time again have shown that students respond positively to lesson plans that interest them. There are so many ways to incorporate different activities that will catch your student’s attention and keep it for an extended period of time.

And last but not least, use different methods to evaluate learning other than worksheets! Use sentence strips, a game of jeopardy, magnet letters…anything that will get you the scores you need to see where your students are cognitively, but not sever their attention span to where they are rushing to get it done because of sheer boredom. Little do they know that when they are playing a game of jeopardy, they’re actually learning! Shhh…let’s keep that secret between us teachers!

Every student is eager to learn, it’s just the way that lessons are presented that catches their attention or not. If lessons are boring and repetitive, their willingness and desire to learn deteriorates until there’s really none left. We can change the outlook our students have on learning. We can be the change they need to want to learn. Now let’s go change learning.


“Making It Interesting.” Blogspot.com. N.p., 10 Feb. 2009. Web. 29 Sept. 2012. <http://makeitinteresting.blogspot.com/2009/02/lesson-plan.html&gt;.

“How to Make a Lesson Plan.” WikiHow. Wikipedia, 14 June 2012. Web. 29 Sept. 2012. <http://www.wikihow.com/Make-a-Lesson-Plan&gt;.

By: Rebecca McKee