Winter Quarter Final Blog

Throughout this quarter I have spent numerous hours reflecting on my teaching practices. I have had many more opportunities to take charge of lessons and try on different teaching styles and management practices that have worked, and others that have failed miserably. After every encounter with my students I feel like I am thinking of ways that I could improve for next time. Also, I have found that if I did something well, I should take the time to celebrate small victories and give myself a pat on the back for my growth. The more time I get to spend with my students, they more I feel like I am learning how to improve my practices.

Now that I am taking over more lessons in my main placement I am starting to see how my teaching is actually affecting my students. Whenever I look over assignments based off of ideas I taught, I really feel like I failed my students if several of them didn’t understand the concept, and on the other hand, I feel completely elated when I know they are able to use and understand what I taught them. The more evidence I gather through formative and summative assessments has helped me to guide my lessons and become a better teacher.

Through blogging this quarter I have really reached out to my blogging community about things I am struggling with, things I am reflective over, and things that just interest and intrigue me about my adventure in my classroom and my teaching aspirations for the future. I feel when I have reached out for help, the advice I was given really helped to deepen my understanding of situations and shed light on ways I could try to do things differently. My blogs also deepened my perspective on my practices as a teacher. A blog that I believe really showed my growth as a teacher this quarter was this blog on table top movie making. I took an idea I learned in my technology class and really thought how it would benefit and excite specific students in my class. I feel this blog shows how I can provide differentiated instruction and present extension projects to my students.

This quarter I have also done my part to contribute to several of my classmate’s growth and professional reflection as teachers by providing comments on their blogs. When I would leave comments with my peers I really strived to give words of encouragement and make them think deeper. This is one of my many blog comments that show my contribution to my blogging community this quarter.

Teaching Science

While growing up I wasn’t always the biggest fan of science. Throughout elementary school I remember science as watching my teacher perform experiments and asking us questions while we watched quietly. We would then perform a boring worksheet. I learned through experience that this style of teaching science is definitely not the best way. When I got into middle school, science became more about being told facts and dissecting smelly animals. As a “tween” the thought of engaging in these practices grossed me out and bored me. I have always been a curious person, so I feel like the hands on dissecting activity should have been more intriguing to me, but I feel that the atmosphere of the science classroom and the overwhelming sense that science was for guys detracted from my experience. It wasn’t until high school that I actually found a joy in science. We finally were able to make our own inquiries and test them by creating our own investigations. My teacher taught us Newton’s Laws by actually having us perform experiment that proved his statements. My high school science teacher’s methods were very similar to the NGSS practices. I believe all teachers should learn more about these practices when planning a science lesson. I was finally able to form my own opinions and test them through hands on activities.
Looking back through my own experiences with science I discovered good and bad practices for teaching science. Science is a hands on activity. It isn’t something that should be talked at you; it is something you need to experience for yourself. I need to make science exciting and accessible to everyone. The stigma that science is for boys needs to be eliminated. My experiences taught me that I am most intrigued about science and learn best in science when I get to form my own opinions and experiments, and come to conclusions based on my own findings. Through interviews I conducted, I learned that my students feel the same way about learning science as I do. When I asked my students what they liked best about science some of their responses were, “I like to think my own opinions about stuff like rocks, like there is no answer for it, it’s like you just think what you think”, “I like it when we get to play with the materials and make different things”, “I like playing the science games that use experiments”, and “I like hearing cool fact about the things we are learning about”. My students’ responses and my own experiences have really influenced the ways I plan to teach science. My goal is to teach through an inquiry based and hands on learning environment. By teaching science in an engaging way I really see my students benefitting from the scientific opportunities I present to them.

I Read It, But I Don’t Get It

I read it but I don't get it
“A reader’s purpose affects everything about reading. It determines what’s important in the text, what is remembered, and what comprehension strategy a reader uses to enhance meaning” (Tovani 2006, pp 24)

I have really been reflecting on myself as a reader, and how I comprehend what I read and write. I feel that in the past I have been one of those readers who just skimmed the words if I didn’t understand what the passage was about, just to feel like I read it because I was supposed to. I have been one of those fake readers that Tovani talked about in the book I Read It, But I Don’t Get It. Throughout my life I have learned strategies that I think helped me develop, and now I am becoming aware of those strategies I used. I think it would be very beneficial for my students to learn the strategies that helped me.

I remember my sixth grade teacher telling the class to read the questions at the end of the Social Studies chapter before we began reading the text. This was the first time that I can remember getting directed to do this. At first I felt as if I were cheating since I was given that big of a hint about what to be looking for in the text. The more I used this technique she suggested, I found myself remembering more about what I read. I focused in on the important things, and I did well at understanding what the teacher wanted us to know. I remember my classmate who didn’t take the advice becoming frustrated and taking twice as long to finish assignments. As much as I liked the focus, and I do strongly believe it was a wonderful skill to use in my reading development, I wonder if it hindered my ability to learn about the other aspects of the text that I wasn’t required to answer a question about. When we give our students too narrow of a focus they might miss out on the other elements of information in the text that might interest them.

A couple of times a week in my main placement, the students have to read a passage and answer a few questions about what they have read. At this point in the year I don’t believe they have been directed to read the questions first, and focus on those aspects of the story. I think that giving many of the students in my class this focus would tremendously benefit them. It isn’t fair to ask our students to just read blindly and expect them to absorb all of the information. From now on as a reading teacher I am going to try my best to implement the reading strategy of having a clear focus as we read. When my students understand the purpose, they will be more likely to retain the information. A good way to do this would be to model reading the questions, or to tell the students up front what the purpose is. I could also give them background information about the text to help them make a connection with the passage. I feel my main placement teacher tells the class the purpose of an assigned reading before they begin, which is a wonderful thing. To take it a step further I will teach them what helped me, which is reading the questions before I read. Reading the questions ahead of time wasn’t really a strategy that was suggested by Tovani, so I am curious what other’s opinions are about this skill I learned.

Call on me Bingo

Throughout the year I have been in awe of my second graders creativity. They are always coming up with unique ideas.The other day, two of my students decided to make a bingo sheet with the name of every student in the class. Whenever I called on a student they would cross out that person’s name, and try to get a bingo. At first I didn’t know what was going on, but I noticed they were writing on something during the first lesson of the day. They were engaged the whole time so I didn’t automatically ask them to put it away. As I wandered by their desk during the lesson I noticed what appeared to be a classroom bingo card. After the lesson I checked in with them to see what they had come up with. As I had suspected, they were putting an X over people that I called on. It was very informative to see who I had called on already that day, and who was being left out. I let the girls continue filling out the Bingo sheet throughout the day, and checked in with them to see how I was doing. It was really fun to have them keep track of who I called on, and it really held me accountable to have each student participate in class discussion that day. I was surprised with how fast I got a “blackout” when I was conscious of who I had already called on and who I needed to engage in the conversation. The bingo game my students created was creative, kept them engaged in the classroom discussions all day, gave us a special connection throughout the day, and really made me conscious of how I engaged the class and conducted class discussions. These kids help me to become a better teacher everyday. I am just amazed with how clever my class is. I can’t wait to start my full time student teaching and be with them everyday!

Netbooks in the Classroom

Having technology available in the classroom provides a wonderful learning opportunity for our students. My second grade classroom makes good use of the Netbooks the school provides. Our class was given seven Netbooks to use whenever we wanted. My teacher decided to set up the Netbooks and turn them into an option during choice time. Each student is assigned a day of the week to use them, and Friday is first come first serve. We assigned each student to a day because we wanted everyone to have an option to use them each week, not just the students who finish their work quickly. I have found that the Netbooks are a wonderful motivator for students to get their work done when it is their day.

netbooks 2

When the students use the Netbooks they have four options to choose from. They can type on Word, create a PowerPoint, play on Pebble Go, or use Scholastic Silly Story Starters. The students enjoy playing around with Word and PowerPoint. They enjoy exploring how to type and change the different fonts, colors, and letter sizes. It is also a wonderful way for them to see their stories and ideas without having to write them down. The Pebble Go website is a wonderful way for the students to learn about science and social studies. This website is very kid friendly and has wonderful videos and interactive activities for the students to engage in. Pebble Go is probably the most popular choice on the Netbooks. The last option, Scholastic Silly Story Starters is a wonderful activity that helps our students grow as writers. Thiswebsite has the students spin a wheel to receive silly ideas for a story. When you choose the silly story option you have many options for writing such as making a postcard. You can also illustrate your story when you are finished.

Each of the options provides the students with an educational use for technology. I feel that most of our students are very familiar with technology, but not in the best way possible. Most of our students only use technology to play video games. It is important to show our students a fun and educational way to engage in technology.

Deconstructing a Unit as a Team

This week in my math course we collaborated as a team of four to deconstruct a math unit on multiplication and division of whole numbers. Working beside my colleagues to learn and make sense of the curriculum was a wonderful learning experience. I was unfamiliar with the curriculum called Expressions that we worked with, so it was exciting to play around with the ways they suggest teaching a unit. I loved having the opportunity to take a concept that I was unfamiliar teaching, and breaking it apart with the help of my team to make sense of what the most important ideas of the unit were. When we worked together we were able to bounce ideas off of one another and help each other understand the unit in more depth.

Once we skimmed through the unit and understood what the learning objectives of the unit were, we mapped out how we would teach the content, and how each lesson would build upon the other. We discussed where and how we would incorporate “Math Talks” and “5 practice” discussions to deepen our students understanding of the concepts. As we mapped out the unit, we also determined the best opportunities to conduct summative and formative assessments of our students learning to help guide our teaching. Having the opportunity to see the whole picture of the unit and think about the best practices to teach our students the content was very beneficial. The picture below is my team’s sketch of how we imagined connecting the ideas and teaching our unit.

math unit

While out in my main placement I have had the opportunity to listen to similar collaborations on deconstructing a unit. This year my school adopted a new reading curriculum, so each lesson is brand new to even the experienced teachers. The teachers that I work with in my main placement find the ability to collaborate with their team mates very beneficial when planning these unfamiliar lessons. When they put their heads together they can come up with creative and engaging ways to teach the curriculum. I love the idea of working together as a team to make sense of a unit. As teachers we all need to work together to provide our students with the best learning opportunities possible.

Table Top Movie Making

During one of my classes on technology this quarter, I had the opportunity to learn about Table Top Movie Making with Brick Maier. This was a wonderful opportunity in my development as a teacher. As the world is turning towards being so technologically centered, it is important for me to engage my students in the many ways technology can be exciting. With Table Top Movie Making, the creators get to decide on the characters, the props, the storyline, and the setting. People can become as creative as they want to be. It is incredible to see your thoughts and creativity presented back to you like a movie.

In my 2nd grade classroom, I have many artistic students. Often times they create books with their friends that follow a central theme such as Minecraft. When the students get to engage with their friends on these projects they are very enthusiastic. There are many great lessons that can come out of the students working together on these books during choice time, but the one thing that is lacking is usually the writing. Their pictures tell the story, but I would really like for them to express their art in more ways that will expand their literary skills. I believe that showing the students the fantastic ways that Table Top Movie making can make their art even more alive would inspire them to want to create the written portion to narrate their stories.

I imagine I would have my students prepare a written script to perform. Once I approve the script, the students will be able to draw their high quality characters and scenery. They will then practice the scenes to prepare for filming. By practicing the scenes, they will be practicing their reading. After they film, we will go over editing and show their final movie to the class. I love how this creative activity includes writing, reading, teamwork, and lets the students tap into their creativity in many ways. I believe an activity like this will inspire my students and give them more productive and engaging things to do with their time.

This website will help you get started on creating your own table top movie! =) Enjoy!