Reflecting on Internship Performance Criteria 3.3 Component 3e: Demonstrating Flexibility and Responsiveness in Persisting to Support Students

One of the biggest challenges in classrooms such as mine where there are a wide range of learning abilities is to meet the needs of all learners, regardless of their ability. In my classroom, I have four particular students who perform at a lower level than the rest of the class. Often times these students are unable to fully engage with my instructional content and are left sitting quietly with their thoughts. As I grow in my teaching abilities, I need to develop ways to engage students such as these regardless of their levels. To achieve this, I need to collaborate with more experienced colleagues, and have a student-centered mindset.

I recognize the importance of spending time learning from and collaborating with colleagues more experienced than myself. Colleagues with different skill sets or more years of teaching experience have much to offer. It is important to remember that I have a variety of personnel in my school whose roles are to provide different types of support to students. To name a few, there are speech and language therapists, ELL teachers and paraeducators, occupational therapists, instructional coaches, social workers, master teachers, and psychologists, all of whom can offer different levels of support to my classroom and my teaching (Wasserman, 2012).

Two of my four students mentioned above are ELL and can benefit from additional ELL instruction. Also, my teaching may be able to benefit from advice I receive from ELL teachers. ELL teachers have been trained in specific instructional methods for ELL students and collaborating with the ELL teacher at my school may yield some improvements to the everyday academic experience for my two ELL learners.

It is also important I maintain a student-centered mindset. This means that for every lesson I plan, I need to consider what I know about my learners both on the higher and lower ends of the academic spectrum and provide adequate support. Word banks with pictures are something I have discussed with my mentor teacher as a good potential support for my ELL students. With adequate planning I could provide images along with the words I’m teaching. Providing images along with words to ELL students enhances their learning and retention (Pinter, 2009).

A student-centered approach for my other two students who are lower-level readers might be to find audio recordings of books we are reading together as a class in ELA. Therefore, it would be necessary to choose a book that had an audio option as I was doing my planning.

Consistently meeting the needs of all learners in my classroom will be a formidable task. However, if I learn to collaborate effectively with colleagues and keep the specific needs of all learners at the center of my planning and instruction I will improve the odds of my success in my first year of teaching.

References:

Pinter, A. (2009). Teaching young language learners. Oxford [England] ; New York: Oxford University Press.

Wasserman, L. (2012). Strategies for meeting all students’ needs. Education Week Teacher.

Retrieved from: http://www.edweek.org/tm/articles/2012/04/24/tln_wasserman_strategies.html

Posted in 3. Differentiation, EDU 6949 Teaching Internship, English Language Learners, Internship Criteria, Student Learning, Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Reflecting on Internship Performance Criteria 5.2 Component 2c: Managing Classroom Procedures through Transitions

In today’s schools management of instructional time is of the utmost importance. We have a great deal of content to cover each day so it is imperative we maintain procedures that allow students enough time to be actively involved in learning. I took time to reflect on my ability to manage transitions for students in my classroom.

Transitions can fall into three categories: entering and getting settled in the classroom, quitting an activity and exiting the classroom, and switching from one academic activity to another (Finley, 2017). In my experience the most amount of lost time results from transitions that occur between academic activities.

One example of a transition where significant time was lost due to poor planning of how to execute the transition occurred during a math lesson where whiteboards were necessary for the lesson. I had already called students down to the carpet to begin the the math activity and whiteboards were not needed until the middle of the lesson. At the middle of the lesson I asked students to each get their own whiteboard. What I did not calculate correctly was the time it was going to take for students to: stand up one by one, bend down and take a whiteboard, pick-up a dry-erase pen, take an eraser, then make their ways back to their seats on the carpet. Out of the thirty minutes I had planned for the lesson, this took at least three minutes if not four. Using three to four minutes out of the thirty total minutes I had planned for the math session represents between 10-14% of the total time allotted. I realize now this was wasteful and to avoid this I could have simply laid out the whiteboards in advance of the lesson to save time.

Every bit of extra instructional time counts. If I were to lose three minutes of instructional time in each of 180 math lessons in a year, that would be nine hours of instructional time lost in the year.

To manage transitions better it is important to consider questions such as these beforehand:

  • Did I prepare all materials students will need?
  • Has my lesson been sequenced correctly?
  • Are students seated in a manner conducive to learning that will minimize disruptions from students?
  • Did I provide students with an appropriate warning before asking them to transition?

As I’ve reflected on the mistakes I’ve made, I’ve become much more conscious of adding better planning to my learning segments. As a result, I’ve been able to reduce the time lost due to poor transitions. And although there is still much room for improvement I will continue to explore more efficient ways to transition my students as I become a more experienced teacher.

Reference:

Finley, T. (2017, March 13). Mastering classroom transitions. Edutopia.

Retrieved from:

https://www.edutopia.org/article/mastering-transitions-todd-finley

Posted in 5. Learning Environment, EDU 6949 Teaching Internship, Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Reflecting on Internship Performance Criteria 3.1 Component 1b: Demonstrating Knowledge of Students

 

Reflecting on Internship Performance Criteria 3.1 Component 1b: Demonstrating Knowledge of Students

Learning to apply effective differentiation techniques in the classroom can be a challenge for a student teacher. To do so requires the teacher understand their students from a cultural perspective as well as from an academic perspective.

In my classroom I have an English Language Learner student who has arrived to live in the United States with almost no English ability either in written or spoken forms. As he has been integrated into our classroom there have been many instances where including him in the learning tasks has felt next to Impossible. With no language ability and no ability to interact with their peers this student oftentimes falls under the radar and does not receive the instruction they need.

To remedy this I am learning to differentiate my learning tasks in order to instruct the greater class at the appropriate level while finding ways to challenge my English Language Learner. For example I have made an effort to include more pictures in the PowerPoint presentations I create for my lessons. Even when other students in the class I know do not have as strong of a need for pictures in these situations, I explicitly have my English language learner look at these pictures and pronounce the words associated with them. Then I have him listen to the rest of my presentation and discussion with the students making sure I model using the correct vocabulary.

I also make sure to keep my English Language Learner engaged throughout each learning segment. Lewis & Hill (1992) write how English Language Learners learn to speak by listening first. One of the ways I’ve been doing this more is by including turn and talk assessments throughout. I’ve placed him strategically at a table with my other English language learner who has very little English. I’ve found that this English Language Learner is much more willing to engage in conversation when the other English Language Learner is present.

I could also more about the interests of my ELL student by connecting with his cousin who is the sixth grader at the school. Connecting learning at the school with topic at home can really help ell students to progress in the language development and also look forward to the next day’s lesson.

Although my ability to differentiate has a great deal of development that still must happen, I am aware of the need for it and am eager to begin exploring new ways to engage all my students at their levels.

Reference:

Lewis, M., & Hill, J. (1992). Practical techniques for language teaching. Hove, England: Language Teaching Publications.

 

Posted in 3. Differentiation, EDU 6949 Teaching Internship, English Language Learners, Internship Criteria, Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Reflecting on Internship Performance Criteria 2.1 Component 3b: Using Questioning and Discussion Techniques

Throughout the course of my internship I’ve learned the importance of taking the time to make good preparation of questioning strategy in advance of lessons I teach.

At the beginning of my internship my fault was not sufficiently having thought through the questions I would ask for a lesson I was going to teach. I read through the bullet points of the lesson and studied the materials in advance to teaching it. But when it was time to teach it, I learned that lessons rarely work exactly as they are planned. So, as teachers we need to be better prepared with a variety of content and questions in order to engage students no matter what content a lesson will cover.

I found that if I am not prepared with a good set of questions that usually means I have not thought the lesson through very well. Some of my more uncomfortable teaching experiences occurred when I had not done the thinking before the teaching. For example, early on in my internship I taught a math lesson but realized halfway through the lesson that I had not sufficiently worked through the math required to solve the problems. As a result it was very difficult asking meaningful questions of the students. I realized I should have thought this lesson through better on the front end.

Having a good variety of questions is important to engage students and invoke learning. Convergent questions are typically more close-ended and are designed to lead students towards a particular point of understanding. They are usually more low-level and can be useful for reminding students of particular facts or information.

Divergent questions, however, are typically more open-ended and high-level can be used to generate multiple answers and encourage a greater participation of students. They don’t always spur the conversation to a predictable outcome, but they often lead to interesting discussions.

Although I have been scored at a 3 in my internship Performance Criteria for 2.1 Component 3b: Using Questioning and Discussion Techniques, I feel I still have great room for improvement. I have begun to realize that having a balanced array of convergent and divergent questions in my lessons will allow me to both stimulate higher level thinking while ensuring we cover the necessary material for the day. Being certain to take sufficient time, as it becomes available, to develop questions before a lesson will help me improve in this.

Reference:

Dos, B., Bay, E., Aslansoy, C., Tiryaki, B., Çetin, N., Duman, C. (2016). An analysis of teachers’ questioning strategies. Educational Research and Reviews, v11, n22, 2065-2078.

 

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Establishing an Effective Classroom (EDU 6942 – Course Reflection)

“Program Standard 5. Learning Environment – The teacher fosters and manages a safe and inclusive learning environment that takes into account: physical, emotional, and intellectual well-being (Seattle Pacific University, 2016).”

During completion of my coursework for EDU 6942 Autumn Field Experience I learned that to create an effective learning environment it is the responsibility of a teacher to build and maintain a classroom that is safe and inclusive. To do this a teacher must be intentional in preparing for the needs of all students to be met in a room that has rules and procedures planned well in advance of the first day of class (Bucalos & Lingo, 2005).

The screenshot that I have included here (Figure 1) includes text that states the importance of having a teacher with sound pedagogical background knowledge who plans sufficiently for a classroom environment with systems that are conducive to student needs and learning. The result in the teachers achieving this is rooted in effective classroom management.

screenshot

Figure 1

There are multiple components that contribute to effective classroom management. A teacher must be fully prepared to prioritize tasks while engaging students in a well-planned, caring environment.

Being fully prepared involves planning and establishing systems that must be activated starting on the very first day of school. All the effective teachers I’ve observed have stated one thing in common: they attribute a large part of their success to planning the administrative details of their classrooms far in advance of the first day of school.

Whether it is a day, a week, a month or even a year in advance, thinking ahead and preparing helps a teacher establish a clear vision for how they want their classroom to function. Classroom management must be a key focus for the first days of school. A teacher must set goals and plan for systems on how students will get supplies, line up, go to the bathroom, get drinks, and many other fine details (Heyck-Merlin, 2013).

Sufficient planning for the first days of school allows teachers to shift their focus immediately to building effective relationships with students. With a plan for procedures already in place a teacher can give their students their full attention.

Research shows that the quality of student-teacher relationships is extremely important in laying a strong foundation for effective classroom management (Bucalos & Lingo, 2005). Students can sense when a teacher is truly reaching out to them from a relational standpoint and they will almost always respond positively when they believe a teacher cares for them (Ellerbrock et al., 2015).

Teachers need to create an environment of shared trust, bolstered by an aura of appropriate assertiveness on the part of the teacher. The idea of appropriate assertiveness does not focus as much on positive or negative reinforcement to control behavior as much as it does on creating a trusting relationship (Bucalos & Lingo, 2005). When a student truly trusts a teacher, they will be more receptive to the teacher’s instruction and advice, which only increases the teacher’s effectiveness.

Of course, the above is purely theory and advice because I haven’t had the actual experience. To strengthen my ability to work toward creating a classroom founded on safety and inclusion I will need to experience my first year teaching. During this time, I plan on developing strong relationships with other teachers so that I can learn from them. Specifically, I’m interested in learning how effective teachers manage their time and organize their materials to maintain administrative control in their classrooms.

In time, drawing from not only sound research but also personal experience, I will be able to create and maintain a classroom that is ripe for both student and teacher achievement.

References:

Bucalos, A. B., & Lingo, A. S. (2005). What kind of ‘’managers’’ do adolescents really need?: Helping middle and secondary teachers manage classrooms effectively.  Managing adolescent behavior, (winter), 9-14.

Ellerbrock, C. R., Abbas, B., DiCicco, M., Denmon, J. M., Sabella, L., & Hart, J. (2015). Relationships – the fundamental r in education. Kappan, (May 2015), 48-51.

Heyck-Merlin, M. (2013, May 13). Five ways schools can help teachers prioritize. The Together Group. Retrieved from: http://www.thetogethergroup.com/together-school/five-ways-schools-can-help-teachers-prioritize/

Seattle Pacific University. (2016) Internship Performance Criteria (IPC) – Long Form for SPU Teacher Education Students. SPU SharePoint. Retrieved from: https://spuonline.sharepoint.com/sites/SOE/TEStudents/SitePages/Internship%20Evaluation.aspx

Posted in 5. Learning Environment, 7. Families and Community, EDU 6942 Autumn Field Experience, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

Reflection on Standard 4.3 (EDU 6150 General Inquiry Teaching & Assessment Methods)

Standard 4.3, Designing Coherent Instruction in the area of Learning Activities essentially requires the teacher to design lessons that take into consideration the academic levels, and perhaps also the behavioral dispositions, of all students in the classroom, while making appropriations for their specific individual learning needs [1]. I developed a lesson plan that was designed to meet these criteria while engaging students in the subject area of third grade language arts. The lesson plan focused on teaching the main elements of plot in a story as well as how to compare and contrast two stories using a Venn Diagram. To effectively develop the procedural knowledge necessary to use a Venn Diagram a sufficient amount of practice is necessary to develop the skill (Marzano, 2007).

General Inquiry LP Screenshot

Figure 1 (Lesson Plan Excerpt)

In determining the most effective strategy on how to teach use of the Venn Diagram I decided to split learners into three group categories: high, middle, and low-group learners [2]. As can be seen in Figure 1 my strategy from my lesson plan included differentiating instruction among the three groups. My approach in Figure 1 shows an awareness that there are different learning abilities present in each classroom and that an instructional strategy to meet all learners where they are at academically and behaviorally must be determined. Splitting these students up into high, middle, and low groups allows for the teacher to maximize their time and resources for this instructional activity [3]. It occurred to me that by structuring instruction in this fashion the middle and high-level students would be able to work independently so the teacher is able to focus their efforts on the low-group learners. The teacher intentionally places some of the most responsible “high” learners with “middle” learners that may have more behavior issues or academic struggles that typically draw the attention of the teacher [4]. One of the biggest challenges for a teacher with a high number of low-group students is having adequate time to support the low-group learners without being distracted by questions or behavior issues from the other students. By partnering the most responsible of the high-group students with the middle-group learners that need the most support the teacher is able to maximize their time with the low-group learners [5]. Although the theory behind this approach is logical, as a next step I will need to put this lesson plan into practice so I can actually experience teaching this content and take note of what works best in this lesson plan and what needs to be modified [6].

Reference:

Marzano, R. J. (2007). The art and science of teaching. Alexandria, VA: Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development.

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Thoughts on Character in the Classroom (EDU 6989 – Professional Issues)

In an age when cultural and religious differences seem to pull our society ever farther apart at the seams, our children need to learn how to coexist and have healthy discussions about each other’s perspectives, even when they are different. A student’s moral compass will be developed during these important formative years and it is up to us as educators to determine the best approach to creating an environment that fosters growth of appropriate character traits and social skills.

One opinion on how to approach this involves creating a character education program that serves to create a school environment that searches to become a “microcosm of a civil, caring, and just society” (Likona, Schaps, and Lewis, 2003). At the heart of this approach is to uncover the common points of our humanity so that students can learn that although we can have many differences, we can also have many things in common, which can hopefully unite us and maintain grounds for mutual respect and even friendship. The ability to find healthy ways to relate to each other is an essential life skill for a student to develop and take with them into adulthood.

There is, however, an opposing view to the above opinion on character education programs in our schools. The opposing view holds that character education programs are flawed in that they do not actually produce free-thinking, socially-skilled, empathetic students. Rather they produce students who are trained not to question authority (even if they receive unfair treatment) and who are expected to fall in line with what our authoritative government chooses to offer them in life. Anything but preparation to be a progressive functioning member in a truly democratic society.

In my own opinion, character education is an important element to include in a classroom. However, I believe it should not be forced upon students simply to get them to comply with your wishes as a teacher. A great deal of student learning results from the observations of how others act in their presence. The teacher’s behavior, in particular, has great influence on the development of character in the classroom. Students watch teachers very closely; their moral “thermometers” are always on. If a teacher acts and responds consistently in a variety of situations in a way that is in line with the morals they are teaching then students will benefit. However, if teachers do not follow those morals they strive to teach then students may be led astray in their character education program.

Posted in 1. Expectations, 2. Instruction, Character Education, EDU 6989 Professional Issues, Moral Education, Uncategorized | Tagged , , | Leave a comment