L: Knowledge of Learners and Their Development in a Social Context
Teacher candidate positively impact student learning that is:
- L1 – Learner centered. All students engage in a variety of culturally responsive, developmentally, and age appropriate strategies.
- L2 – Classroom/school centered. Student learning is connected to communities within the classroom and the school, including knowledge and skills for working with others.
- L3 – Family/neighborhood centered. Student learning is informed by collaboration with families and neighborhoods.
- L4 – Contextual community centered. All students are prepared to be responsible citizens for and environmentally sustainable, globally interconnected, and diverse society.
My understanding of Standard L
Students need to develop academics skills and tools for their educational growth, additionally needed and as important, are devices to allow students to navigate the myriad contexts of social development. Throughout their careers as students, and well into the future beyond their education, students should possess the cultural and social intelligences necessary to be an active part of small and large communities, and the world as a whole. Throughout the elementary years, a focus on modeling, developing, and practicing skills for civility and responsibility to community should be woven throughout lessons and daily life. By incorporating projects that include multiple opportunities to work with various groups, classes, multiage students, schools, community, families etc., students will have the chance to repetitively exercise culturally appropriate behavior. As with any skill, the benefit of learning and practicing at a young age is the hope that it will become a life-long way of thinking. Through this social context of learning, teachers then become not only responsible for the development of academic knowledge but also become providers of support for student emotional and character education.
As a teacher, a thoughtful and well planned incorporation of Standard L in everyday life in a classroom is imperative. By supporting an environment rich with culturally responsive opportunities and creating a safe space for students to make mistakes to learn from I hope to provide more than just an academic education. By making emotional and collaborative connections between students to other students, neighborhoods, communities, and the world a development of responsible character traits for civil society is possible. Standard L affords both teachers and students the platform for continual reflection and connections with social, environmental and global issues and the possibility to become a more responsible and citizen within any society.
Teacher modeling and student practice of skills is a common exercise seen in any elementary classrooms. Whether these skill are for learning how to respond to one another, sit quietly in a circle, listen to a speaker, treat each other with respect or show a person kindness, it is imperative that students learn age appropriate skills in an academic context as well as in a social context. This is especially necessary when teachers, student speakers or guest speakers are attempting to address and engage the class. . As evidenced in the following picture respect is being demonstrated when peers are speaking. In this presentation, students developed a family unit for study of colonial Boston. Each team member was to create a persona in the family and then as a family they present these characters and the family unit to the rest of the class.
Before the presentations started I reviewed with the students the personal standards we practice in our class everyday:
- Show Respect
- Make Good Decisions
- Solve Problems
In addition to reviewing these standards, we discussed what this “looks and sounds like” when we have guest speakers. Some of the answers that the student provided were as follows; “You listen to the speaker.”, “Your eyes are on the speaker.”, “You do not fidget with papers or pencils.” etc. By reviewing these “looks like and sounds like” examples and reviewing our classroom personal standards, students were able to reflect about the ways in which they are part of a cooperative community of learners. In our class we rely on support from one another as well as support for one another. Additionally, we explore and deeply examine characteristics that support emotional intelligence and development of social skill throughout the year. Using a social T graph students develop an understanding of different qualities to strengthen a good learning community. This is shared with a visual comparison of what these skill might “look and sound” like. Our current social T graph quality is interdependence as shown in the following picture.
Throughout units of study the students must describe and provide examples of how their team has worked to support one another using the social T graph characteristic. This helps to bolster academic language skills and provides opportunities for students to apply contextual understanding of social skills within a community of learners. Student teams are then awarded points for examples that they provide evidence of interdependent learning occasions. These team points offer a visual representation of positive team or cooperative social skills at play.
Another example for L1, engaging students in a variety of culturally responsive, developmentally, and age appropriate strategies, is demonstrated in the following artifact (Learning Root-Words). In this example the teacher works with the students to study root-words and derivational patterns that comprise the English language. Through this development of root-word understanding and additionally studying prefixes and suffixes, students would be afforded the opportunity to deepen their meaning of text and decode language. Learning and thinking about language then becomes a more conscious effort and can supply an opening to deeper understanding of diverse topics. The following excerpted section of the reflection about learning root-words provides and an example of how an age appropriate development of root-words can also become a study of cultural development.
This type of learning exploration can be tool used to support diversity throughout multiple disciplines: social studies, literature, science, and even mathematics. By breaking down words into parts, an acknowledgement of diverse structure, whether social or academic, is appreciated. Continual repetition of these strategies, when introducing new words to students, would support the development of languages and their relationship’s to diverse root-word knowledge.
Further evidence of my understanding of Standard L and more specifically L2 can be seen in this lesson about Martin Luther King Jr. In an effort to teach young students about the difficulties and enormous impact inequality and prejudice has on individuals, this age appropriate activity is explored. The students experience what it is like to be confronted with inequality within a context that is both uncomfortable and supportive of intellectual growth. In this lesson students are either given a snack (boys) or not (girls), depending on their gender, as they enter the class at the start of the day. The girls begin to feel slighted and yet I do not give them a snack. Together the class reads a story about Martin Luther King Jr. I then question students about their feelings about what they just experienced. Were they mad? Who were they mad at? Did they feel uncomfortable having a snack? What could they as an individual do to change/help the circumstance? What could they as a group do to change/help the circumstance? At this point, I would give the girls in the class a snack and continue our discussion, analyzing the cause and effects of inequality as they relate to our classroom situation. By allowing the students to feel some level of discomfort, whether it is because they are feeling circumstances are unfair for them or for a classmate, a real life lesson is learned. It is here that we could further explore the opportunities students have to be culturally responsive within our class. I can then read an age appropriate book about Martin Luther King Jr. that further supports the development of cultural responsibility. One book in particular that I have found to be appropriate and engaging for elementary age students is A Picture Book of Martin Luther King, Jr. by David Alder. There are many books that support this topic and this exploration of social responsibility to individuals and communities.
Additionally, the foundation for relating this experience to real life examples, both historically and currently, will be supported further by exploring examples of prejudice and inequality throughout time. One way this is provided for students is through a reader’s theater performance of Fannie Lou Hamer. This encourages development of individual ideologies regarding cultural responsibilities for all members of a society. Students will have the opportunity to reflect upon their personal ideologies when completing a journaling assignment.
This diversity of language skills is necessary for academic performance and cultural understanding, but would be inadequate if not paired with connections to communities inside and outside the classroom. To support L2 a focus on connections within the school centered community, a better understanding of the skills necessary to work with others is imperative. The following artifact (Classroom Management) is an example of goals and values essential to provide a safe environment for both social and academic learning. Developing skills to promote community, creating a supportive and safe learning environment, following “The Golden Rule”, supporting and demonstrating positive participation within a group, and responsible attention to appropriate choices and consequences are some of the critical components to addressing these two standards. By supporting a foundation built upon these important structures, learners will be able to transfer the skills learned to effectively collaborate within a classroom setting, to groups and communities outside the classroom.
Further examples of cooperative community building within the school are through a development of after/before school programs that engages students in non-academic activities. By allowing students to practice social skills learned in the classroom and supporting safe opportunities to practice theses skills, student’s social and emotion intelligence is deepened. One such program students can participate in is, the “circus skills” program called B.R.A.T.S. (B. Rising Athletically Talented Students) offered at the school. Students are provided opportunities to learn, practice, and perform in non-academic environment. This alleviates the structured pressure of collaboration in and academic setting while giving students a chance to collaborate and have fun at the same time. This non-academic environment fosters community that is beneficial for all participants. Additionally, students support one another, quite literally, throughout practice and performances of these newly attained “circus skills”. The social skills necessary for trust and respect are evident throughout performances for the school community and the community at large.
Pictures of the Local Festival Participation
Cooperation and collaboration skills need to be practiced often and communicated to families and communities involved in the support and care of these students. Because my understanding of L3, student learning is informed by collaboration with families and neighborhoods, a clear responsibility for communication between school, student, home, and community is evident. The following artifact (The Ideal Classroom) is an example of the type of communication I will share with families and care-givers of my future students. Although, it is a hypothetical letter to parents, it is an honest example of the collaboration I believe is necessary for student achievement both academically and socially.
Communication with families and parents is a paramount aspect of teaching, especially at the elementary age. As the teacher is the guardian ad litem throughout the school day, it is necessary to try to foster open, direct, and honest lines of communication from the beginning. Whether it is through email, phone conversations, written document or face-to-face time spent connecting with families and communities, a sincere and dedicated effort needs to be a concern and a focus. With this in mind, I purposefully began my student teaching experience by introducing myself to the families and caregivers of my students. The following screen shot provides evidence of my comprehension of L3 and the need to collaborate with families and neighborhoods. The introduction letters I sent to the parents/caregivers and families were accompanied by a request for permission to film their child for educational purposes. This letter provided the impetus for open lines of communication by providing families the access to communication options and some insight in to the purpose of my presence in the classroom.
Another example of community interaction with education can be seen in the following picture of a local resident who came to speak with my students about the American Revolutionary War. He is part of an organization called the Sons of the Revolution. This organization provides opportunities to examine and learn about the American Revolution. By dressing as a Patriot soldier he visits classrooms and shares information and artifacts about colonial time period. Students are shown in the following picture actively involved in a lecture about the American Revolution. Students demonstrate social skills and civility necessary for learning from community members or guest visitors.
Further, practice of skills can be exemplified at events that harness student and community interactions such as fundraising events, performances, picnic, B.B.Q.s, festivals, assemblies, etc. The following picture is of an upcoming social event where students and families are provided the opportunity to interact and model the skills and sensibility that they have learned from practice within a classroom setting.
Lastly, we have many parent volunteers throughout the week, for special events, and even multiple parent chaperones for our recent three night excursion to the temperate rain-forest. Having parents/caregivers involved in the classroom allows students to benefit from practicing civil responsibilities and social skills appropriate for diverse situations. Evidence of practice of student learning informed by collaboration with families and neighborhoods, and a clear responsibility for communication between schools, student, home, and community is demonstrated in the following in class photos. Parents, a lawyer, a police officer and a court secretary, volunteered their time to help our students better understand behavior and legal development of the case of “Goldilocks and the Missing Porridge”. While the case was customized to fit an elementary age learning level the real structure of a court case was demonstrated. The support offered by the parent/caregiver volunteers added real world value and practical application to the learning.
Furthermore the shared community found in the support of collaboration with families, parents, caregivers and neighborhoods offers a well-balanced connection between home life and school life.
L4 encompasses a wider application of skills necessary for students to prepare for life in beyond the classroom. Attention is given to skills essential for civil responsibility, environmental sustainability, and acceptance within globally diverse society. The following artifact (Thematic Instruction) demonstrates the necessary steps for developing the major skills, at an age appropriate for supporting standard L. Thematic instruction allows teacher and student to make connections personally, community wide, and on a global scale while supporting cultural diversity and environmental sustainability.
L4 is demonstrated through our recent field trip to Naturebridge Learning Center in the Olympic National Park. Our exploration of the temperate rainforests and the environmental education provided a wealth of knowledge about environmental sustainability in our own region as well as globally. Experienced staff, the teacher chaperones and the parent /caregiver chaperones guided and participated with the students in a learning experience immersed in real-world connections. Not only were we living in the rainforest for three days but we were able to see and understand the impact the humans have on the environment. A strong lesson in stewardship was encouraged throughout our stay as the knowledgeable staff encouraged students to realize how they can be good stewards of their environment. Students, along with staff and parent/caregiver volunteers more fully participated and enjoyed the learning experience while gleaning the value of civil responsibility and environmental sustainability.
All in all Standard L may just prove to be what I value as one of the most important standards of all. It is through this standard that my efforts as a teacher will support and sustain the future. By scaffolding opportunities for students to engage in age appropriate cultural experiences, connecting students to the communities within school and in the community beyond the classroom, supporting emotional intelligence and character education for all students, and by providing experiences to encourage ownership of the environment and global issues students are more likely to proactively participate in their future. These students are the future of not only our nation but our world. Students must actively participate and understand this goal. Teachers must actively encourage and understand this duty. Although, this is a mighty charge, it is imperative to embrace Standard L with fervor and determination, knowing that all learners can make a difference.