Student Teaching Reflection 4

  1. Professional Practice– The teacher participates collaboratively in the educational community to improve instruction, advance the knowledge and practice of teaching as a profession, and ultimately impact student learning.

This standard addresses the fact that the field of education highly values communication and collaboration among teachers, administrators, and building staff. Professional development trainings and staff meetings contribute to a teacher’s knowledge, experience, and personal desire to continually learn about best practices in education. Students benefit from the extra hours that teachers devote to professional development. A teacher’s responsibility is to incorporate new instructional approaches, activities, and teaching techniques into lessons.

Throughout my student teaching internship, I have attended several staff meetings and professional development trainings. Additionally, I have observed classes and teachers in almost every grade, along with having a few veteran teachers observe me teach. These experiences have been beyond beneficial. I have incorporated several of the ideas I observed into my teaching and my students have responded positively to the changes.

During one of the recent Professional Development trainings at my school, the training committees discussed two topics with the teaching staff. The first presentation was a continuing lecture on the the importance of formative and summative assessments. As a student teacher who has learned about this topic over the past two years, I was a bit surprised to witness the resistance that many teachers demonstrated about assessments. I admit I have found assessments to be an area of challenge and growth, yet I also know the results indicate how important assessments are in the classroom. I recently posted an Assess Yourself chart for my Kindergarten students to use during lessons. The chart includes three signals: a thumbs up to indicate I’ve got this; a sideway thumbs to indicate I need a little bit of help, and a thumbs down to indicate I am very confused. I found the examples for free on Teachers Pay Teachers. Link is available here. There are great assessment options for older students too. I had my students practice using the signals and within two days several of them started using the signs without me asking. It was amazing and I realized how quickly such young students would utilize a form of assessment. It empowers them to think about their learning and understanding of the material.

The second topic at the last meeting was about a new social skills program that the school is implementing called The Feeling Words. A few teachers have piloted the program over the past few months so they shared their application and experience. The Feeling Words is a program designed so teachers focus on the same social skills with all students. The distinction is that every grade describes the social skill word using a different term. Also, teachers in Kindergarten through Second Grade read a book or share a story before introducing the word and making connections. Teachers with students in Third Grade through Fifth Grade review the word and connection before sharing the story or book. The picture below describes the terms used in each grade.

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I had not heard of this program prior to being introduced to it during the professional development training. I really like how this program unites all teachers and students to focus on the same social skills. Similar to the presentation on assessment, I noticed several teachers demonstrate frustration about being required to implement this new program into their instruction during the next school year. I understand teachers have limited instructional time, but I also believe that resisting the changes wastes time that could be used to figure out how to incorporate the new programs or procedures.

As I have participated in the professional development meetings, I have become more aware about why the Professional Practice standard is an important part of SPU’s program. Hunzicker (2013) researched the importance of a teacher’s disposition and his or her influence in schools. In her part of her findings, Hunzicker (2013) determined that when teachers have a positive perspective about learning and student engagement, then those teachers are more likely to be involved in professional development trainings and pursue a teacher leadership position (p. 542). Once again, I understand teachers are limited on time. With that said, I strongly believe that being as involved as possible in professional development directly benefits myself and my students. I know professional development will likely become more difficult to remain updated on because best practices are constantly changing. Therefore, I believe this is an area that I will always remain cognizant of improving throughout my career as a teacher.

Reference

Hunzicker, J. (2013). Attitude has a lot to do with it: Dispositions of emerging teacher leadership. Teacher Development, 17(4), 538-561. Doi: 10.1080/13664530.2013.849614

Student Teaching Reflection 3

 

Content Knowledge: The teacher uses content area knowledge, learning standards, appropriate pedagogy and resources to design and deliver curricula and instruction to impact student learning. This standard focuses on the most critical elements of the lesson design process. It establishes that teachers create purposeful learning units that align with core instructional standards, along with the needs and interests of students.

Students in my class recently started a science unit that involves exploring different types of wood, how they are produced, and how they are used in real world buildings and structures. Students delved into the scientist’s role by experimenting to figure out which type of wood was the most absorbent.

In Picture 1 below (on the left) a student is testing five different types of wood by placing two drops on each piece and waiting to see how long it takes for the water to soak in. After students observed the results of this experiment, they discussed what type of wood they would want to build a house with and what type of wood their desks are made out of. In Picture 2 below (on the right), two students look closer at a desk before deciding that the classroom desks are built from plywood.

During the next lesson, students made predictions about whether it would take more or less paperclips to sink the plywood than the pinewood. In Picture 3 below (on the left), a student colors in the “more” choice. In Picture 4 (middle), students work with the pieces of wood and paperclips to prepare them for the float or sink test. In Picture 5 (on the right) a student anxiously awaits to see if the wood will sink.

 

These lessons were very exciting for the students as they investigated using hands-on experiments, made connections to what they know, and learned new scientific terms such as absorbent, repel, and prediction. These activities are part of a kit that was designed over a decade ago, but I learned that the tasks are adaptable to modern standards. The school district is currently in the process of adopting Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS). The new standards emphasize the importance of students practicing in-depth experiments to delve deeper into core scientific concepts through hands-on experiments and investigations (Joyce, Weil, Calhoun, 2015, p. 72). Despite being created under a different set of standards, this wood unit and activities align with NGSS’s K-2-ETS1 Engineering Design standards. So far students have practiced making observations, gathering information, and analyzed the results. At the end of this lesson sequence, students will build their own structures out of wood, an activity that aligns with the developing and using models objective. It will be really exciting to see what the students create and learn why they wanted to build certain structures!

As this lesson sequence continues, my goal is to develop a stronger understanding of the new science standards. I am particularly interested in increasing my knowledge about how the standards relate to the Common Core State Standards and the Standards for Mathematical Practice. I think it is so beneficial to plan lessons that incorporate students’ skills and knowledge across all subject areas.

Reference

Joyce, B., Weil, M., & Calhoun, E. (2015). Models of teaching. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson.

Student Teaching Reflection 2

Instruction: The teacher uses research-based instructional practices to meet the needs of all students. This standard reflects the importance of teachers thinking about individual student needs while creating lesson plans and activities. A teacher must ponder questions such as: “what do my students need help learning?” “how do my students best learn new material?” and “what types of learning activities will help all my students succeed?”

This week the Kindergarteners have been learning to read and write ten color words: green, blue, purple, red, yellow, orange, black, brown, white, and gray. According to Bennett and Desforges (1988), learning activities tend to be organized into four categories: incremental, practice, restructuring, and enrichment (as cited in Marzano, 2007, p. 175). The learning activities in this color word focus incorporated mostly incremental and practice tasks. A variety of tasks were planned so students were consistently involved in learning activities and developed a deeper level of comprehension through repeated practice and engagement (Marzano, 2007, p. 176). Throughout the week, students read color words in various subjects and texts, practiced writing color words during handwriting, and listened as color words were pronounced and spelled audibly. The next few pictures show a few examples of students working on different color word activities.

In Picture One, a student has finished practicing writing “black” in a Color Word Handwriting Packet I created for the students.

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Picture One

In Picture Two, a student is coloring the word “yellow” in a Color Reading Book my mentor teacher created.

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Picture Two

In Picture Three, a student points to the word “blue” while reading a book about the many colors in the ocean.

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Picture Three

The range of activities kept students engaged all week. By Thursday, I observed about five students who were fluently reading more common color words (blue, red, yellow, and green) in their books and some started incorporating these color words into their writing. I think planning multiple tasks throughout all subjects really helped all the students gain a deeper level of understanding. I also think it was really important to plan at least one activity a day that focused on color words. The activities reinforced what students had learned and provided opportunities for them to practice their new knowledge.

I was very impressed by the students’ growth within one week. If I had planned differently, I would have had students complete a color word preassessment. Then I could accurately assess how many additional color words all students learned this week instead of their success being based on my observation. In the future, I plan on teaching students number words so I will prepare an appropriate preassessment so then I can monitor students’ progress. Next week, the class will continue learning color words. I plan to include more handwriting activities so all students think about including colors as a detail into their writing and stories. One more change for next week is an increased focus on the less the common color words (black, brown, gray, and white) since those are the color words I observed all students need more exposure to learning.

Reference:

Marzano, R. J. (2007). The art and science of teaching: A comprehensive framework for effective instruction. Alexandria, VA: ASCD.

Student Teaching Reflection 1

Learning Environment – The teacher fosters and manages a safe and inclusive learning environment that takes into account: physical, emotional and intellectual well-being.

It is essential that schools cultivate a community of trust and respect so all students feel welcomed and supported throughout the school day. In every classroom, teachers incorporate research-based teaching methods to promote a supportive learning community where students needs are acknowledged and fulfilled. Students frequently participate in a cooperative learning environment. Cooperative learning helps students figure out how to work together, support each other’s learning, and reflect on their individual learning (Dean, Hubbell, Pitler, & Stone, 2012, p. 32). Teachers who incorporate cooperative learning are also fostering a supportive learning environment. Beesley & Aptorp’s research concluded that additional benefits of cooperative learning include increased academic and socioemotional achievement, higher self-esteem, and decreased feelings of isolation in school (as cited in Dean, Hubbell, Pitler, & Stone, 2012, p. 46).

Before beginning my student teaching experience, I had not considered how cooperative learning operates in a Kindergarten classroom. I also had not thought about how the basic skills needed during cooperative learning also help a teacher ensure students feel like a significant member of the classroom. I quickly discovered there are a few unique qualities about Kindergarten. Kindergarteners are learning what it means to be a student, how to participate in academic activities, and how to engage in social interactions. The foundation of cooperative learning is built during Kindergarten as students focus on fundamental life skills like respect, sharing, being kind, and helping others.

As displayed in the picture on the left, my mentor teacher incorporates social skills as part of the students’ learning goals. These skills support a positive classroom culture. Learning social skills helps students’ transition throughout the school day, interact with their peers, and provide assistance to each other during lessons. There is a constant reminder that everyone should practice kindness, caring, and sharing. This focus helps students remember how to cooperate with each other as they line up for recess or inquire about each other’s work. Eventually these skills will aid students as they participate in cooperative learning activities.

Throughout the next few months, a teaching goal of mine is to incorporate more cooperative learning opportunities in addition to social skills learning goals. I think more group-oriented learning tasks will be a great time for students to discover how their developing social skills are utilized during academic activities. A stronger learning environment will be built as students gain confidence working with each other.

Reference

Dean, C.B., Hubbell, E.R., Pitler, H., Stone, Bj. (2012). Classroom instruction that works: Research-based strategies for increasing student achievement. Alexandria, VA: ASCD.

Autumn Field Experience Reflection

Learning Environment – The teacher fosters and manages a safe and inclusive learning environment that takes into account: physical, emotional and intellectual well-being.

Teaching goes beyond helping students acquire knowledge and skills. Teachers also use their professional judgment to assess students’ emotional and physical health. These two factors often influence a student’s ability to learn, their confidence, and their sense of security. Creating a community of trust includes the teacher building relationships with students by learning about their interests and personalities.

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Figure 1 – Washington State DSHS Guide

Figure 1 is a reminder that child abuse and neglect can occur within any group of people. A child’s safety and well-being is a basic human right, so reports made to CPS help ensure children live in safe environments. In 2006, over 78,000 CPS reports were made in Washington. CPS conducted a further investigation in just under less than half of those reports.

Child abuse and neglect is difficult for teachers to think about, yet it is critical to be aware of abuse signs and know how to talk with students if the issue arises. Teachers should regularly review their school district’s policy on reporting child abuse and neglect. In the event reporting is necessary, it is best to be prepared about the appropriate resources and procedures.

At the beginning of the school year, my mentor teacher had made about five CPS reports concerning child abuse and neglect during her eight years of teaching. I visited her class in mid-November and she was preparing to make her third CPS report this school year. In two of the situations this year, the children reported an issue to her that caused concern to find out more information. In the third situation she observed a drastic change in the child’s personality and mood. She has reported physical abuse, emotional abuse, and neglect. The protocol at her elementary school is that the student talks with the school counselor after a potential issue is discovered. By the end of the school day, the teacher and the school counselor notify the principal that a report will be made. The school counselor is generally present when the teacher calls CPS.

While is it distressing my mentor teacher has already made three CPS reports this year, I think it is because her students feel truly comfortable in her classroom. They know she cares about them, which is why they trust her with sensitive information about their personal lives. She allows them the opportunity to express themselves and share stories. She has so many high need students that I think she should try to schedule a regular time for quick check-ins to ensure she is meeting with everyone. There is a 10-minute block when students return from recess before going to either P.E. or music. It has been challenging for her to use that time academically, so that might be an opportunity to meet with students individually.

Teachers start building the classroom’s learning environment beginning with their first interaction with students. The teacher-student relationship is essential for earning students trust and motivating them to excel academically. The school community balances academic growth as well as emotional and physical development.

Reference

Washington State Department of Health and Social Services – Children’s Administration. (2010). Protecting the abused and neglected child – A guide for recognizing and reporting child abuse (DSHS – 22-163).

 

EDU 6644: Reflection

Module 3’s primary focus was on how general education teachers can support students with learning disabilities and special needs. I selected this module for my reflection because it is an overview of what I need to know as general educational teacher. A portion of my discussion post is presented in Figure 1 below.

Figure 1
There are several factors that influence how a teacher can proactively support students with special needs. First, teachers should have a solid understanding of the range of disabilities, disorders, and unique special needs that will require extra attention in meeting a student’s behavioral, social, physical and/or academic need. Every year general education teachers will assist students with special needs. Lewis & Doorlag (2011) state that about 75% of students who have a mild learning need can receive accommodation in a general education classroom. The more knowledge teachers have about different types of special education needs, the more likely teachers will be comfortable relying on their skills while working with all students.

An essential fact for general education teachers to learn about exceptional learners is that about 75% of students with a mild learning need can be accommodated in the general education environment. I think that when teachers learn this information, it diminishes the misconception that all students with a special need require intense intervention. In practice, I can show other general education teachers we have the ability to provide accommodations. I want others to feel empowered that we have the knowledge, skills, and resources to help students with a mild learning need. There are many benefits when teachers provide support for student with special needs by modifying lessons or differentiating instruction. The student’s day is not disrupted by having to leave the classroom for special instruction. Another benefit is that special education teachers can devote their time with students who do need individual assistance.

In Figure 1, I also discuss how a teacher becomes more comfortable relying on his or her skills after attaining more knowledge about working with exceptional learners. I mention something similar nearly every week because one of my concerns has been how will I be confident in applying my knowledge and skills while working with students with special needs? I value the academic focus on learning about the range of students’ needs, but I know the application of that knowledge can be challenging. After my observational hours, I realize confidence will happen overtime. This is a situation where I need to worry less and instead look for opportunities where I gain experience and apply my knowledge. As I experience working with a range of students I will learn what accommodations produce the best results.

This course has helped me learn about identifying and working with students with special needs. I anticipate many challenges and learning opportunities in the future. With education, reflection and teaching experiences, my ability to support exceptional learners will continue to grow.