Student Teaching Reflections Week 4

Week 4 Reflections March 3/18-23

This fourth week of student teaching was a lesson in experiencing many firsts: my first supervisor observation, my first attempts videotaping for the TPA (Teacher Pedagogical Assessment), my first educator’s job fair, and my first time experiencing the work-load after a day away from school.  This week also afforded me the opportunity to feel a sense of comfort amongst the chaos as I spend more time in front of and next to the students and less time on the sidelines.

My first “set of firsts”, focused in the beginning of the week with preparing, organizing, and developing a unit for fractions and lessons that would be appropriate for the students’ mathematical development of fractions.  The unit needed to meet the requirements for not only student performance expectations and state standards but also be appropriate for my supervisory observation and videotaping for the TPA.   I started the unit by exploring fractions and creating fraction kits with the students.  Then we continued throughout the week to use these kits during lessons to help the students with classwork/homework and to improve their understanding, by using them to play many games, and to support the relationships between fractions and a whole.  Along with the students, I developed a cognitive content dictionary that supports multiple learning styles and defines vocabulary that is specific to mathematics.  I completed two-hours of videotaping and will focus on finding the right ten minute segments for the TPA reflection and submission. The observation by my supervisor was helpful in providing me with concrete feedback about instructional tools and opportunities for me to refine my teaching style.  I look forward to more observations as it is always nice to have feedback to better craft your personal teaching techniques.

The job fair for educators, held in Tacoma at the Tacoma Dome, proved to be overwhelming and exciting all at the same time.  Although, I understand the national crisis that education is facing, it was promising to see so many people still seeking employment as a teacher.  On the other hand the vast amount of people (probably somewhere in the ballpark of 1200 candidates) looking for jobs and the actual jobs available was somewhat disconcerting.  I have faith that I will find full time employment as a teacher… it just may take some time.  The beauty of this experience was that I was forced to revisit my resume and add my new experience to my past experience. This afforded me the opportunity to see my accomplishments of the past two years and realize the potential opportunities for this new career.   I was encouraged when talking to potential employers in various districts about the turnover they imagine happening in the near future, 2-5 years.  Although, the ability for relocating to another part of the state or country is not a reality for me, there are still prospects available for educators to get a foot in the door and begin a career in teaching.

The work load, after a day away from school, is another “first” I was able to experience this week.  I missed a day for the job fair where the students completed assessments.  While this is a good day to miss as the students are focused on their tests, assessments involve time for grading and evaluating which I had to make up for upon my return.  It is easy to see why teachers are rarely eager to take time away from their classrooms when it means that the catch-up work grows exponentially in size.  Even the e-mail load upon my return was tripled in size.  The small actions and interactions that seem to go unnoticed throughout a normal school day become substantial upon your return.  Simply being in the classroom to answer questions as they arise, being available to students, parents, or principal, or even to run ideas/thoughts/plans by colleagues, helps make the daily workload manageable.  While there are and will be times when it is necessary to be away from the classroom I see the great importance of everyday consistency for a teacher’s presence and availability.

Lastly, this week I began to feel like a real part of the class.  I seemed to start to assume more often the role of teacher and with that began to feel a sense of place. This sense of place directly relates to a sense of purpose for me.  I know I am doing the right thing even though I may feel at times uncomfortable in the uncertainty of my future.  Even in the classroom, filled with routine, a sense of controlled chaos that seems to afford me comfort.  Comfort in the knowledge that I am doing what I should be, comfort in the idea that I will always be learning, and comfort in the fact that I can make a difference.  My sense of ease grows each day along with my abilities and strengths as a teaching professional.

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Student Teaching Reflections Week 3

Week 3- March 12-16, 2012

Reflections

In this third week of student teaching I encountered yet another myriad of new experiences.  I began new literature circles/reference circles with five different groups of students, three different books and multiple references.  In an effort to support students becoming “ACTIVE” readers and learning to explore different reference materials this time is devoted to creating an environment of exploration. Needless to say there is much planning involved.  With each group meeting lasting only fifteen minutes I have to remember to be precise and ask questions that support further investigation and critical thinking skills for each student.  My goal is to have the students learn to lead the discussions as I become more of an observer.

For the literature circles each of the three books are about the American Revolution.  They all tell a different story and support a different level reader.  The literature circles offer a natural differentiation with a focus on the different Lexile leveled books.  This is nice because it is the first experience I have had working with the whole class:  third, fourth and fifth graders, in a small group setting.  The groups are mixed ages and challenge me to understand differentiation not only for age but academic achievement as well.   The schedule is such that I have the same students every other day.  On the first day the students and I focused on what qualities make a “good reader” successful.  I made each student a bookmark with the acronym ACTIVE on it.  We talked about how good readers practice being active reader and what that can mean.  The book mark read the following;

Good Readers… 

Ask questions

make

Connections

Track what’s important

Infer meaning

Visualize

Eureka!- synthesize

We discussed and shared examples of what each of these good reading habits look and sound like.  After this discussion I asked the students to make predictions for each book and I sent them off to read their chapters.  They understand that when they return for their next literature circle meeting they need to have the assigned reading completed and be ready to discuss the reading with the group.  I have specific assignments for each student i.e., discussion director, illustrator, summarizer, word finder… for the future sessions that they will be responsible for completing.

The reference circles focus on supporting the student’s ability to understand the proper and most accurate places to search for information.  For example, I asked the students, “If looking for information on kangaroos would you look in a dictionary, a thesaurus, the internet or an atlas?”  After they answered, we discussed and looked through each of these reference materials to better define and give students the visual scaffolding needed for better concept retention.  As the groups progress over time, the reference circle time will be used for exploring genres,  literature/writer’s purpose, propaganda, how to read time schedules, how to  look up nutritional information, how to read tide-tables…etc.  The goal is to have these very practical everyday skills become second nature for the students.

The balance between the literature circle and reference circle seems to be off to a good start.  The students are excited about the books that we have chosen to read and are eager to read more.   Our class curriculum for social studies will additionally support their literature books as we begin our study of the American Revolution this next week.   Furthermore the focus on reference guides, material searches, literary purpose, and practical everyday tools for fact finding is fun and exciting for small group sessions.  I look forward to the progression of both literature and reference circles, with these small groups of students, as the next few weeks unfold.

Student Teaching Reflection Week 2

Week 2-March 5-9, 2012

Reflections

On Monday, of this my second week of student teaching, I was afforded the opportunity to learn from a substitute.  She is the prodigy of my mentor-teacher and graduated from the Seattle Pacific University M.A.T. program just last year.  It was great teaching alongside her and seeing how comfortable and at ease she was with the children and the flow of the daily classroom schedule.  It allowed me to see that I, too, will feel more and more comfortable not only in the role of teacher but with the curriculum and schedule in the class as time moves on.

I continued this week to focus on third grade math and started to feel at ease and more effective in my mathematical teaching style.  A common flow began to emerge in this small group as we continue to develop a pattern and routine for our math time together.  As I only have nine students in this group they are easily manageable both during whole group instruction and individually as they work on mathematical concepts and strategies.  I feel somewhat challenged by the pace of the curriculum but am optimistic that I will improve on pacing skills as the weeks unfold.

Science has been a tremendous focus for the class for that last two weeks and we worked hard to finish a science unit before the kit was due back to the district.  Because of this intense focus, students were immersed in a unit that involved force and motion and did so with real enthusiasm.  This unit utilized scientific concepts by applying them to a standard vehicle and then to a vehicle design challenge.  The vehicle design challenge enabled students to meet specific requirements and design a vehicle accordingly.  The students loved this.  They applied their learned scientific concepts as they related to force and motion to develop their group challenge vehicles.  They were forced to work together to designs, test, and redesign, if necessary, their vehicles to complete this challenge.  The students were excited about science and it was fun to see them making the scientific connections from the unit and working together cooperatively to complete the challenge.

This week also brought the real opportunity for discipline.  My “newness” as the student-teacher was being tested by many of the students and because of this I was forced to start utilizing the tools that have already been set up in the classroom for management.  One such “test” resulted in a student challenging me and then continuing to challenge the systems in place for disciple.  This student put up such a fight that the student was sent home from school for the rest of the day.  I was involved in a meeting with the counselor, my mentor teacher, the student, and the mother to discuss what happened.  We discussed what actions led to the discipline and developed a plan to support the student’s opportunity to make better decisions/choices in the future.  Additionally, I had to send three other students to “catch-up club” for incomplete assignments and not turning in work.  The honeymoon is over for the students.  The students now understand that I expect them to behave and participate in the same fashion as their teacher and that I will response to their behavior accordingly.

All in all week two provided me with challenging opportunities that forced me to examine my personal teaching style and adopt the necessary skills specific to my mentor teacher’s classroom style.  Each week seems to teach me a completely different lesson.  The first week was flexibility. This week the lesson I learned was classroom discipline and follow through for behavior management techniques.  I acknowledge that this will be different wherever I end up teaching but that I will need to have some hard and fast rules that I stick by regardless of my location.  So far, solving problems, making good decisions and being respectful seem to be three that I see myself using often and supporting for both academic and social growth of my future students.

 

 

EDU 6120 Social Studies, Language Arts, and Arts- Final Rational and Integrated Lesson Plans

Equality and Civil Responsibilities as a Theme

Throughout the three lesson-plans there will be a focus on equality, as it relates to prejudice, and civil responsibilities within the community of our classroom and school.  An examination of the strong ties between the historically significant events and the connections to society and the behaviors of today will allow students to begin to understand the cause and effect nature of history.  Woven throughout these lessons will be the thread of character education and civil responsibilities. Each lesson will spin the yarn of truth, respect, responsibility, and the decisions that affect individual beliefs, freedoms, dreams, and civil rights.  There will be multiple opportunities to engage students in deeper thinking that transcends simply a lesson of the past by relating the lessons application to our classroom community and the school community as a whole.  This work attests to my proficiency in Approval Standard S3: Subject Matter and Curriculum Goals (integrated across content areas).

In the first lesson students will explore the cause and effects of inequality and prejudice.  The students will be involved in a social experiment that allows them to feel and see prejudice and inequality.  To start the lesson some students, when entering the classroom, will be given a snack (boys) while others (girls) will, upon entering the class, be given no snack. (I will in the end share the snack with the other half of the class)  This will allow students to feel just a small injustice and help to support the preceding lesson.  A deeper investigation of prejudice will ensue with the reading of a book about Martin Luther King Jr. After reading the story I will conduct a discussion that will provide opportunities for students to share their thoughts and feeling regarding prejudice, discrimination and inequality.  This discussion may prove to be very visceral for some, while others participate with empathy.    Students will have the opportunity to explore their ideas about what prejudice means to them, why people have prejudice, how prejudice may lead to discrimination and inequality; additionally we will explore ways to combat,  overcome and eradicate these issues within a community. A Readers’ Theater will provide an additional opportunity for students to participate and view a historical account about inequality and prejudice through the eyes of Frannie Lou Hamer, an African-American woman fighting for the right to vote in 1962.

In the second lesson the thread of civil responsibilities is woven throughout examinations of Martin Luther King Jr.’s., famous, “I Have a Dream Speech”.  Students will develop individual ideas of what dreams are as they relate to their responsibilities within a community.  Students will then create posters depicting their dreams for their classroom or school community.  Each student will illustrate and write their dreams and these will be displayed through the classroom.

Lastly, a connection of prejudice, inequality and civil responsibilities within a community is woven through a lesson developing the tenets of equal rights for all.   A focus on the importance of support and peaceful “protesting” will help support student’s evaluate of their own community and the rules of respect and responsibility within that community.  Students will design peaceful “protest” signs and silently march through the school in a demonstration of the strength in the community and that character values that the classroom and school holds as rules.  In this lesson students will be able to see that they have power and that together they can create an environment that is safe and supported by friends and teachers.

Each lesson is comprehensive enough to be taught individually, however, when combined the powerful message is deepened.  By asking students to apply the principles of community involvement and group reflection, an environment rich with consideration of individuals and respect for the civic begins to evolve. The powerful tools of responsible civility and equality are necessary to model and practice often throughout all lesson.  Still, these important tools when combined with historically significant events and developed through a creative curriculum will become a stable foundation.  This continued practice of civic responsibilities will become a natural reflex for the citizens of the future.

Lesson Plan 1 – Social Studies, Language Arts, and Arts

Lesson Plan 2 – Social Studies, Language Arts, and Arts

Lesson Plan 3 – Social Studies and Art

Student Teaching Relfection Week 1

Week 1-Student Teaching Reflection 2/27-3/2

This week was exciting, overwhelming, tiring, challenging, and fun. Mostly, I found myself thrilled just being in the classroom; as I have been anticipating this start for years.  As I watched and increasingly participated throughout the week I found an extreme need for flexibility.  By this I mean, although my mentor teacher is very well-planned, each day seemed to unfold differently than the last.  The routine is set and the students are knowledgeable about their tasks however it is the unplanned, unexpected occurrences that call for the need for flexibility.  The ability to lead the class with student interests in mind, meet the learning targets for each lesson and pace the lesson according to student schema and knowledge acquisition…structuring a lesson and understanding personal ability to adapt is vital.  This is also no easy task and I realize that as I become a better teacher that some days are going to be better than others.

I started this first week by taking over the third-grade math curriculum.  I set out over the weekend to plan and understand what it is I needed to teach the students.  Each day I set up the lesson with a learning target on the board and proceeded to teach the lesson.  On day one we needed to find space to work and the only location available was the hallway.  For a lesson that lasts a full hour this space was not ideal.  I realized, as the students became restless and tired of sitting, that they had tuned out.  I needed to add more action, movement into the lesson for better retention and kinesthetic learning.  On day two I had the students move to a bigger space (luckily there is an open classroom for us to use at this time) and I added movement and action in the lesson; the students seemed to respond better.  I was able to move about the class and they responded with more enthusiasm and interest.  It was easier to see where differentiation was needed in this setting as opposed to sitting in a hallway trying to balance a book on my lap.

We had an all day science lesson that was very intense, involved, and interesting.  I began to understand how precious time becomes as the curriculum is deep and time is limited.  This all day focus might not be ideal every day, however, it was important for the students to move through this deep curriculum and complete the science kit. I witnessed the value in pursuing the depth of the curriculum for the benefit of student understanding of the lesson developed.

Throughout the rest of the week I participated in small group  lessons and had a chance to be involved in correcting, entering grades, planning, copying and gathering , disciplining and various other responsibilities as a partner and also and observer; each tasks supporting the other so as to provide students a smooth, academically rich  and full day.  There is so much that happens before school starts, during the planning periods, on lunch break, after school day ends, and even over the weekends that is not observed by the public.  These times are the “behind the scenes” opportunities that teachers use for productive planning.  The key is to find balance and to work effectively with the time available.

On Friday I led my first whole class instruction.  This was great.  My mentor was close by to help but I was in charge of developing the word “aerodynamic” in the student’s cognitive content dictionary.  Although, it was a bit bumpy at times, I felt that I had the class’s attention and they eagerly participated.  I know that my transitions and teaching techniques will improve and develop as I develop.  I hope to improve and gain the finessed set of skills that I have observed in my mentor teacher.  I realize that I need practice to develop skills.  I look forward to the opportunities before me to hone these skills under the guidance of my well-seasoned and extremely dynamic mentor.

EDU 6363 Language Arts, Social Studies, and Arts

EDU 6363 Social Studies, Language Arts and Arts

Fine Arts and Technology

Within every community there begs opportunities to implement and involve the arts.  In Seattle alone there are over 30 museums.  While each of these field trips would cost money there are group discounts and programs available for education that may require little or no monies.  School districts have funds set aside to support some additional curriculum and if married with another discipline of study a natural integration of curriculum occurs.  Even if there are no opportunities or funds to take a field trip the beauty of technology is that “virtual” field trips are a comprehensive way to support what in the past could only have been observed by leaving the school campus.

No, while I do believe the experience of seeing artwork in person is a gift it is not often the reality for many districts across the nation.  Online support then becomes a perfect opportunity for viable experience for arts education.  For example the Simthsonian, based in Washington D.C., offers virtual tours and online art education.  Artwork that students might not be able to afford to see in person they can now witness and enjoy repeatedly online.  By simply having access to a computer a whole world of arts education is open to all, no matter the socio-economic status.

In addition to funding, the challenge of time often becomes an obstacle for comprehensive arts education.  Virtual educational art programs offer a compromise for integration of arts into classroom curriculum with no additional time burden.  With fewer and fewer specialized art teachers, the regular classroom teacher is forced to seek out alternative options for exposing students to fine arts. Some of these virtual programs are user friendly and support the average classroom teacher who is looking to incorporate the arts but might not be as knowledgeable as an art specialist.  Teachers are nothing if they are not resourceful and the following websites are some great places to start looking for local  and virtual resources to support and supplement arts education.

Seattle Art Museum- SAM

Website Seattle Area Museums

Smithsonian

EDU 6363 Language Arts, Social Studies, and Arts

I Can Teach

Arts Education is a dying a slow budgetary death.  Cutting specialized arts programs seem the first step to tightening the budgetary belt.  It is a sad thing to see go and so it seem to fall on the shoulders of the classroom teacher to begin to incorporate arts education in to the classroom.  After reading about different ways to involve arts into multi-disciplinary lessons, for social studies, literature, science, etc., I see the value in creating an arts program that is joined with other disciplines not taught separately.  Although, this blending of curriculum is not as singularly focused as going to a specialized art class, it does offer a comprehensive look into arts education, can support depth of understanding, and continue to meet the curricular standards.

I saw this reflected in a curriculum for teaching science through photography.  Students were given a camera, science journal and the opportunity to take black and white photos in the vein of Ansel Adams.  Students not only studied the scientific components of the plants and environments they were photographing but they learned about the art of photography.  The lesson began with the important artistic rules for artful photography and supported artistic ingenuity and creativity of the personal choices.  Students were able to connect science to art through the camera, careful connection of scientific knowledge, and reflection in their journals.  The students displayed their black and white photos in a gallery along with scientific drawing and journal entries to reflect both their knowledge acquisition of science and art. This combination of science and art became a program that the teacher continued to develop and still teaches.  Incorporating arts in any classroom is possible.  The challenge is to create a program that supports all academic standards and blends curriculum with a unified finesse. This is reflected through the following quote from arts education champion Elliot Eisner as he comments on the significance of making and re-creating art education in any venue.

The arts inform as well as stimulate, they challenge as well as satisfy. Their location is not limited to galleries, concert halls and theatres. Their home can be found wherever humans chose to have attentive and vita intercourse with life itself. This is, perhaps, the largest lesson that the arts in education can teach, the lesson that life itself can be led as a work of art. In so doing the maker himself or herself is remade. The remaking, this re-creation is at the heart of the process of education. (Eisner 1998: 56)