Friday, January 29, 2010

Student Teaching Day 4

Day 4

Making connections.

Thursday seemed to be less stressful.  The weight of being evaluated seems to have been lifted from our collective shoulders.  The reduction in tension allowed everyone to relax a bit.  I was able to make some good connections and observations today.

We started the day in usual form. After the skill builder and math facts, we worked on a sample ISTEP problem involving operations with time.  After the students had the opportunity to work on the problems, Mrs. J led a discussion with the class.  Using her familiar inquiry method, the document camera, and the IWB; Mrs. J discussed with the students how and why they came up with their answers.  Some students are struggling, but I was able to witness the fabled "ah-ha" moment, along with the accompanying audible gasp.  There are few finer sounds to be heard than this.

The activities in the computer lab were again self directed learning.  The children had a choice of three activities.  These programs are self adjusting to the students' level.  Again, this is the place with the deepest student engagement.  How can this be duplicated outside of the computer lab?

While the children were at Art, Mrs. J and I had an opportunity to talk about teaching as a career, how we each decided to become a teacher, the state of the economy and how it is affecting the job market, and other education related topics.  We brainstormed about how to improve the use of technology in her classroom, the school, and in education in general.  She told me of her experience at the ISTE conference she attended last summer.  We talked about how a few of the students were having an off week, and some of the social issues that were a part of her student's lives.  Conversations such as these are the most valuable portion of this field experience.  I can improve my classroom management skills and learn about lesson plans while working as a sub, but interacting with teachers on this level does not normally happen during a normal sub assignment.

In the afternoon we worked on symmetry of shapes on the IWB, handwriting workbooks, and parts of speech on the IWB.  Mrs. J and I seemed to develop a rhythm as we both worked around the room.  Our teaching styles appeared to gel a bit today.  I had never before been able to visualize how some people work as co-teachers, sharing a classroom with another full-time educator.  After this afternoon, I can see how this could be a great arrangement if one had the right partner.  I also see that it could be a disaster for all involved if the chemistry was not correct.

The day ended without incident and all of the students made it to their respective busses.  Mrs. J was conducting a parent conference as I gathered my things to leave.  She was talking to the mother of one of the students that had been having trouble this week.  It was good to see her take a swift proactive approach to address any problems before they got out of hand.  Another valuable tool for my toolbox; correct small issues before they become unmanageable.

Student Teaching Day 3

Day 3

Evaluation Day

I opened the door to the classroom and was greeted by "I'm so glad you're here!" from Mrs. J.  The tone of her voice told me something was not quite right.  I was informed that there was a schedule change for today.  Mrs. J had an evaluator coming to observe her teaching a math lesson.  That would have been fine, but I was planning on my professor evaluating me teaching the math lesson. 

Time for a hurry-up plan B.  Mrs. J had picked out a Science lesson for me to teach.  I had 20 minutes to prepare.  I quickly read the lesson, and then mentioned to Mrs. J that I wished I had the materials to make an experiment to accompany the lesson.  She magically produced the yardstick, binder clips, balloons, and string I needed for my experiment.  I assembled the parts, tested the experiment, and got everything ready just in time.

The day started as usual when the students arrived.  The children settled down and began their morning work.  Soon after my professor arrived it was time for the Science lesson.  The children passed around the wireless microphone as they took turns reading from the textbook.  I demonstrated the fact that air has weight by using a balance made from the above mentioned materials.  It didn't go as well as in the rushed rehearsal, but it was fair.  After the students read the chapter, Mrs. J and I broke the students into two groups (by ability) and worked on the corresponding worksheets.

My evaluation went well.  My professor was greatly pleased with my performance, preparation, and reflections.  I could have not wished for a better review.   I spent a few minutes talking with my evaluator while the students took a restroom break.  Mrs. J's evaluator came in and my evaluator left.  It was now time for math.

Mrs. J led a lesson on multiplication and division using balance diagrams and stacking cubes.  Her lesson was another inquiry based, hands-on lesson.  I am impressed with this style of math instruction.  I was able to stay for Mrs. J's discussion with her evaluator.  I learned more about the inquiry based program they were using in the third grade.  I was able to learn some of what was working and what was not, and got to see how the professionals made adjustments to their instructional plan.

We had time to work on writing before lunch.  The students worked on their rough draft from their previous day's simple-six prompt attack sheet.  Some students did well, but many struggled following the simple-six guidelines. Erasure crumbs littered the desks as the corrections were made.

When the students returned from lunch, we had a few behavior issues to address.  Mrs. J firmly and swiftly took control of the class and discussed the problems at hand.  I may have handled things differently if placed in the same situation, but I did learn a few new techniques by watching a professional educator in action.  I'll file these new tools away for possible future use.

The Social Studies lessons for the week were discussing an African family.  One of the topics brought up yesterday was the food fu-fu.  Today Mrs. J had made a batch of this African staple during her lunch period.  We took the class to the teachers' lounge where the students were able to sample this interesting food.  The hands-on activity was the highlight of the day for many of the students.

Reading and language followed our African taste test.  A reading specialist came to the room to help, and we broke the class into three groups.  The three adults each took a group, and we rotated groups every 15 minutes.  The small groups worked well, and the students remained engaged throughout the activity.

This brought us to the end of the day routine.  Gather mail, write assignments in the assignment books, coats, shoes, buss assignments, and so on.  This portion of the day is a bit chaotic, but the children know the routine and all of the tasks got completed with time to spare.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Student Teaching Day 2

Day Two

The day started in a similar way as yesterday, but a bit less hectic.  The students filtered in, stowed their gear, and began their morning routine.  After performing our patriotic duty, the work began.

Math was interesting this morning.  The teacher gave the students several problems (3x4, 6x4, 8x4) and asked them to explain how they found their answer.  The main point of the lesson was to show that order of operation didn't matter; the most efficient way was the usually the best way {the state standardized tests are fast approaching).  The teacher did make good use of the IWB, but once again the students did not get to use it.  One boy did leave his seat during the discussion to point ad items on the board, but he never got the chance to interact with the technology.

After math was a visit from the guidance councilor.  Her lesson was on giving and following directions (tests prep again).  Her lesson did not go well.  At one point she selected a student to be the 'writer' and stood her at the board with electronic pen in hand.  The girl stood there at the ready for five minutes, but never got the chance to write.  The guidance councilor apologized to the student and promised that she could be the 'writer' next time.  The children were split into groups of two to work on an exercise in giving directions.  Time expired before the students were able to get a sentence or two written on their papers.  I'm not sure why things didn't go well.  Perhaps my presence in the room upsets the normal flow.  I know I do better with a group of students when I am the only adult in the room.  I should find a way to correct this by tomorrow...I'm being observed by my professor in the morning

We worked on 'simple six' writing attack prompts after lunch.  I was able to go around the room and assist the students while they brainstormed their stories. 

Writing was followed by reading.  A reading teacher from the Title One room came into the classroom to help with reading.  The class was split into three groups, and the students rotated between me, the reading teacher, and 'seat work' as Mrs. J monitored the classroom.  The small groups worked well, but I see the need for additional teachers/aids/ or parents to make the groups run smoothly.  Small groups could be hard to manage with only one adult in the room.

Overall today went well.  Some of the newness has worn off and the kids are more at ease with my presence in the room.  I expect this to improve a little each day. 

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Student Teaching Day 1

Day One

After days of anticipation, my first student teaching 'field experience' was about to begin.  I arrived early and checked in at the office.  I met with my cooperative teacher and we made our way down the hall to the third grade classroom.

I have worked as a substitute teacher in this room before, so I had an idea of what to expect... Or so I thought.  I was excited to see the new addition of a Promethean IWB, document cameras, and a wireless speaker system.  I would discover later that this is one of only two IWBs in the building.  I was excited to see this high-tech tool in action.

I learned that as in previous years, this classroom had a broad mix of students.  Every 3rd grade student that started the school year with an IEP was placed in this class.  This might be intimidating to some, but not to me.  I did my best to squelch an ear-to-ear smile. Being immersed in an environment of full differentiation will be a great learning opportunity.  Mrs. J printed a copy of the lesson plans for me.  She then put the morning student directions and assignments on the IWB just as the students began to arrive.

The morning routine went the same as many other classrooms I have visited.  Put away coats and bags, breakfast for some, notes from others, lunch money issues, missing pencils, and all of the other normal 3rd grade issues.  We sang the Star Spangled Banner, said the Pledge of Allegiance, and got settled in for the day.

The first subject of the day was math.  Mrs. J used the document camera and the IWB to create a flash-card type of exercise using 10 blocks and multiplication.  She spent a great deal of time discussing with the students how they figured out the multiplication problems.  Having the students verbalize their thought process and having it written on the board appeared to be a great method for introducing new strategies.  The teacher never introduced a strategy or offered an opinion on the 'best' way to solve the problem.   

The science lesson of the day was ‘mini-lab' where students were shown how air could be trapped under water in an inverted drinking glass.  The experiment had a few variations where the students made predictions and the teacher tested the results.       I enjoyed the science lesson and can see how it could be a starting point for a discussion on air pressure, displacement, and other topics.  I did not see any other science activities mentioned in the lesson plans for the remainder of the week.  If this is true, I will have to find out the reason why.

Time in the computer lab was spent working with a program called "A+".  This appeared to be a math activity where each student worked at their own pace and ability level.  All of the students were engaged for the entire 45 minute period.  I wish that they were this engaged in all of their other subjects. 

The spelling lesson of the day consisted of taking a pretest, having the test graded, and receiving a list of words to work on during the week.  Students will be tested again on Friday.  This activity was interesting because of the way the students were grouped.  There were four different groups, and each one took a different test.  I still find it difficult to comprehend how the students that are behind benefit from differentiated instruction.  Yes, they are working at just above their ability level, but when do they catch up to their peers?   I hope to find the answer to this during the next two weeks.

The afternoon was filled with the teacher reading to the students, the students taking turns reading aloud, reading in small groups, and an individual exercise that had the students read a few paragraphs and then draw conclusions.  One of the reading sessions included information about Kwanzaa.  The class asked some thoughtful questions and had a rich discussion about Kwanzaa and Africa.

I had a good first day.  My goal for tomorrow is to become fluent using the Promethean board.  My college professor will be observing me Wednesday morning.  I do not have much time to prepare before I am evaluated. 

Tonight is the fist night of working 8 hours at school and then 8 hours at my 'real job'.  I'll be working the same schedule all week.  I should go get some rest.