EDU 6989 Observation Reflection

In May 2016, I spent 42 hours observing teachers and students at Endeavour Elementary School in Issaquah, Washington. I primarily observed a first grade classroom. The first grade teacher also arranged opportunities for me to observe in second, third, fourth, and fifth grade classrooms. I was very appreciative for the additional observation experiences because I saw how instruction, curriculum, and collaborative learning changed in conjunction with different grades. Anyone who spends time at Endeavour will quickly observe that key values in the school are respect, teamwork, citizenship, and personal growth. These values apply to the students as well as the administrative staff, teachers, and volunteers. Everyone is responsible for helping ensure the school is a safe, welcoming, engaging environment so students are focused on learning and achieving their academic and personal goals. Values are promoted on posters in the hallways, on signs in the classrooms, through classroom expectations, and in how everyone communicates with each other.

Two areas I focused on during my observations were classroom management and assisting students with special needs. Since the observation occurred near the end of the school year, classroom management and organization were already a polished process. Students knew what their teacher expected from them and what management cues their teacher used. One universal cue was a hand gesture students used to indicate they wanted to go to the restroom. In the first grade classroom, the primary focus teaching students to line up quietly to prepare to walk in a silent line to recess, lunch, P.E., art, or music. In second, third, and fourth grade, every student was assigned a classroom duty. These jobs helped the classroom remain a safe, productive learning environment for students while reminding them they are responsible for helping take care of the school. Each teacher had their own system about how to assign tasks to students on a rotating based. It appeared every student took pride in their assigned task and they did not want to leave the room for the day until their job was completed. Designating classroom duties assisted in the organization of the room since jobs included responsibilities such as turning on and off computers every day, handing out papers, collecting assignments, and cleaning the desks.

Most students demonstrated very respectful behavior and self-control. Teachers practiced different age appropriate solutions for student misbehavior. In the first grade class, students were seated on the floor for a lesson when two boys started badgering another boy, B. B asked his classmates to stop bothering him. A fourth boy even tried to tell the instigators they were not following class rules. Once it was obvious this issue was not going to be solved among the students, the teacher stopped mid-lesson to remind everyone of the class rules. The consequence for the two boys who were not following classroom rules was to verbally apologize and to write an “I’m sorry” note to B. The teacher also praised the boy who tried to help, explaining that it is important to help your friends. In the third grade classroom, the teacher privately talked to a few students in the hallway since bullying-type behavior had recently developed and seemed to be escalating. Each student was talked to individually for a few minutes. The teacher taking the time to have one-on-one conversations indicated her respect for students as individuals and provided students the opportunity to engage in a conversation with their teacher. Both teachers demonstrated how a response to misbehavior changes depending on the action and age.

Supporting exceptional learners is a priority for teachers, school administers, and specialists. It is a collaborative effort among the staff to ensure students with behavioral, intellectual, physical, attentive, and/or social issues receive an education that aligns with their needs. Depending on the individual’s need, students might work with a specialist for one-on-one help or spend a portion of their school day in the resource room while also receiving specific academic and verbal instruction from their general education teacher.

I focused on observing how general education teachers differentiated instruction and learning activities for students with special needs. In one class students were working on learning their multiplication facts. First, this activity recognized that all students learn at different rates. Students had to correctly answer a set of multiplication facts before progressing to the next set. The teacher added an extra support to this activity for L, a student with a learning disability. L learned the same material as her classmates, but focused on learning half as many multiplication facts in one set at a time. This differentiated instruction recognized L is capable of learning the multiplication facts. Chunking the information into smaller sets made the activity more attainable for L. I also observed the techniques a second grade teacher used when she assisted two students with special behavior needs. A strategy she used with both students was to create a self-monitoring behavior chart that the students used every day. She tracked their behavior too, but believed that the charts helped them stay focused on positive classroom behavior and interactions. It was enlightening for me to observe how the teachers managed the learning and behavioral needs of students with distinctive needs.

Endeavour offers programs to support highly capable students. For students in Kindergarten through second grade, there is a qualification process to participate in the Primary Enrichment Program (PEP). Students in third, fourth, and fifth grade have two options available. Mind Education Right Left Integration (MERLIN) is a program all students in the district can participate in after a nomination and evaluation process. Endeavour is one of the two elementary schools in Issaquah that hosts the MERLIN classrooms. MERLIN classes have high expectations and challenge students through higher level thinking instruction and independent work (Highly Capable Program, 2016). Highly capable third, fourth, and fifth graders may also qualify for Special Approach to Gifted Education (SAGE), which is a program that enhances the learning experience for students placed in the general education classroom (Highly Capable Program, 2016). PEP, MERLIN, and SAGE reflect Issaquah School District’s commitment to providing highly capable students options that appropriately align with their learning needs.

Student’s academic learning and personal growth are very important at Endeavour. Achievement is guided through direct instruction, applied learning experiences, and student’s exploration into individual interests. Student inquiry and questioning is encouraged as a primary method of learning and understanding. Nearly all direct instruction lessons included a review about students’ background knowledge, especially during math and science. Students were often instructed to incorporate critical thinking skills throughout all subjects. This technique was always used after silent reading ended. All the teachers asked for student volunteers to talk about what they had read, if they had any predictions about what was going to happen next, and if they had any lingering questions.

Teachers also emphasized that students should read stories that matched their reading level. The third grade teacher reminded her students of the 5-Finger Rule during reading time. This strategy helps a student determine how challenging the book is based on how many words they understand on a random page. Students begin reading a page in the middle of a new book and for every word they do not know on that page, they put up a finger. A book is “just right” if they have two or three fingers up by the end of the page (Mascott, 2013). I talked with a fourth grade student about he was reading. It was quickly apparent the story was just above his reading comprehension level. I mentioned this interaction with the teacher. She said that he likes to challenge himself, but she would talk with him and recommend he change books.

Student’s safety within the school and at home is critical. If school personnel have any concerns about a child’s well-being, it is recommended to immediately review the district’s regulation manual to ensure the proper action is followed. Pursuant to the regulations, if an employee believes there is a reasonable cause to suspect child neglect or abuse, the situation must be reported to the appropriate law enforcement agency as soon as possible and no later than 48 hours after reasonable cause was suspected (Regulations, 2012). The policy also states the report should made in the presence of the school principal when possible (Regulations, 2012). The recommendation to review the policy every time a situation arises is an essential process because students’ safety is an issue that should be handled correctly and efficiently.

Observation was an extremely valuable experience. I witnessed how professionals supported students with diverse needs and personalities, as well as how they collaborated with their colleagues. I was inspired watching how excellent teachers incorporated various instructional methods into the curriculum while maintaining the students inquiry and learning as the priority. I am beyond grateful that the teachers and students at Endeavour welcomed me into their community and look forward to returning to observe preparation for beginning of next school year.

References

Issaquah School District. (2016). Highly capable (gifted) programs overview. Retrieved from: http://www.issaquah.wednet.edu/academics/programs/gifted

Mascot, A. (2013). Help kids to p.i.c.k. the right books. Retrieved from: http://www.scholastic.com/parents/blogs/scholastic-parents-raise-reader/help-kids-to-pick-right-books

Issaquah School District. (2012. Regulations: Child abuse, neglect, and exploitation prevention-3421. Retrieved from: http://www.issaquah.wednet.edu/docs/default-source/district/regulations-manual/3000/3421p-child-abuse-neglect-and-exploitation.pdf?sfvrsn=0

EDU 6150 Course Reflection – Content Knowledge

4. 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. I believe the content knowledge standard strives to promote student achievement by encouraging teachers to attentively plan lessons with structure and purpose.

Effective lesson planning includes considering what knowledge should be learned, how lessons will be taught, and methods to evaluate learning. The backward design approach is a systematic method to ensure all elements of lesson planning is achieved. EDU6150Figure1

Figure 1.1 illustrates the three stages of the backward design process. This approach enhances student performance since it focuses on planning for the desired results while also identifying students and teachers performances and experiences throughout a  lesson (Wiggins & McTighe, 2005, p. 9). In stage one, the main ideas and knowledge that students should acquire are identified. A lesson target is written to align with academic standards and to maintain the lesson’s structure during decisions related to assessments, activities, and instruction. In stage two, the assessment methods are chosen. Multiple formative assessment opportunities are selected to evaluate the progression of understanding and the effectiveness of instruction. Summative assessments evaluate if a student has successfully learned the lesson’s target. During stage three, teachers decide on specific learning activities and the primary teaching method. The activities and instruction should support the assessment methods, learning target, and students’ experiences during the lesson.

The backward design process is a guide for teachers. It helps prevent too much focus on implementing a particular activity, assessment, or teaching technique since the goal is to organize lessons based on the learning target. The process is a thorough analysis of the lesson and instruction. Backward design process avoids students’ confusion about why something is taught. The learning target is provided so students know a lesson’s purpose and can reflect on their learning process. The activities help ensure students have opportunities to practice what they are learning before the summative assessment.

I think a teacher’s ability to successfully apply the elements of content knowledge is a gradually learned skill. Planning lessons is important and using guideline is valuable, but experience is crucial. All teachers use students’ past performances and achievement to modify a lesson after instruction. Experienced teachers are often more effective at making modifications during the lesson. I believe this is a standard in which I will constantly improve by reading additional research and gaining experience as a teacher.

Reference:

Wiggins, G. & McTighe, J. (2005). Understanding by design. Alexandria, VA: ASCD.

Inclusion of Students with Special Needs

American federal laws and society values have contributed to an increase in students with special needs working alongside their peers in general education classrooms. When students with special needs are included in the general education classroom, all students learn that everyone has special abilities and some people need more help than others. I think inclusion of students who receive special education services leads to a more accepting school culture and other students strive to assist anyone who needs help. After reading more about this topic, it is evident some people worry about accommodations being fair for everyone and whether or not inclusion is beneficial.

Byrnes (2008) explains that an accommodation is a modification to an activity or setting to remove the barrier preventing the person with a disability from achievement and access. Byrnes analyzes how appropriate adjustments do not make an assignment or lesson easier for students, but rather provides equal access that other students experience in a learning environment (Evans, 2008, p. 319). I thought Byrnes provided thorough support for accommodating students with special needs since the purpose to them when it is needed and does not interfere with what is being tested.

Kauffman, McGee, and Brigham (2008) argue that inclusion often prevents students with disabilities from being properly challenged or enabling the students to rely on the accommodations. Further, there is concern over whether students with special needs are receiving an appropriate education that aligns with their disability (Evans, 2008, p. 329). I think these are valid arguments, but instead of implying all students with special needs should not be included, it is better to remind teachers to think about individual student’s situations. Making generalizations about how special education inclusion is applied erroneously across the country adds to any negative connotation. It is also ignoring the school’s that have implemented a good approach. People who oppose the inclusion should ask successful schools about their program to learn what is recommended to ensure all students are being properly assessed and accommodated.

I think it is often difficult for people who have not needed an accommodation in life to understand that the purpose is to make the task equitable, not easier. I support the inclusion of students with special needs working in the general education classroom when the resource team makes that recommendation. I think when children work with a diversity of students then it is an opportunity for life lessons that might not occur otherwise. As long as everyone is achieving what they are capable of doing, the inclusion of students with disabilities should not be considered a distraction in the general education classroom. Instead, inclusion should be viewed as an asset because everyone is learning material and lessons they might not have been exposed to in another environment.

Reference

Evans, D. (2008). Taking sides: Clashing views in teaching and education practice. New York, NY: McGraw Hill Higher Education.

Character Education

Should character education be taught in schools?

As I have learned about character education over the past year, I have been very adamant that I would introduce some sort of focus on practicing positive character traits and values in my classroom. I was aware that there might be issues with deciding on which traits to concentrate on and I did not want to create any specific lessons about the characteristics. My philosophy has been that it is best to discuss the values with my students. Another advantage of character education is to help unite my students to work toward a common goal of operating as a caring, functional classroom. It did not occur to me that some parents or community members might view character education programs as a conservative, religious agenda until reading Cornwall’s perspective that value-focused programs reinforce the majority’s social and cultural values (Evans, 2008, p. 343). Cornwall opposes character education programs for multiple reasons. A few of arguments against character education include 1) programs do not explain to children the reason for promoting certain values, 2) there is no way to track the success of programs, and 3) a better alternative is to transform how the classroom operates rather than focusing on the faults of people (Evans, 2008, pp. 343-347).

Cornwall’s first argument is not persuasive because it is nearly impossible to teach children anything without explaining why. If a teacher forgot, or purposefully did not explain the reason, then a student will likely ask. Cornwall assumes teachers or parents will respond to a child’s inquiry by stating, “because I say so.” If that is an adult’s response, then most children’s interest will decrease in learning whatever they are being taught. It is difficult to convince children of anything without providing ample reasoning. Children always have questions and (thankfully) are not satisfied until understanding why. Cornwall’s second argument is more convincing. There should absolutely be a method to track the success of character education programs. Of particular interest to me is what is the best method that students learn the values and what values are most worth teaching? Cornwall’s last point is thought provoking. I agree the system in place should not force people to make the better, responsible decision, but creating a better environment begins with people having values and morals. Additionally, this argument contradicts another argument that character education does not reflect the true complexity of choices in the real world (Evans, 20098, p. 344). If teachers and parents provide the most ideal system possible, then how will children learn decision-making skills to use once they are adults in society? Not everyone will be trying to protect them when they are adults.

Cornwall addresses important questions to consider, yet I still believe teaching values and character is beneficial for students. Character education helps teach students how to live by their values, even when there might be a hard decision to make. They have to analyze the benefits and consequences and decide on the option they think is best. Parents, teachers, and caregivers have the responsibility to guide children to learn why values and character traits are important and how these values help everyone live in a more harmonious society.

Reference

Evans, D. (2008). Taking sides: Clashing views in teaching and education practice. New York, NY: McGraw Hill Higher Education.

Educational Standards

One of the most controversial education debates centers around the issue of standards and curriculum decisions. Should standards be regulated at a local state level or by United States government at a federal level? There are advantages and disadvantages to regulation at both levels, although it seems everyone agrees a decision should be made so the United States can experience proper progress in education reform. The No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB) passed in the early 2000s brought the topic to an even greater debate. One of the biggest issues of NCLB is that educational standards each state must meet were decided on at a federal level, but the act authorized states to decide if schools met the required proficiency level.

Support for federal regulation includes the rationale that national standards create a comparable and equitable educational experience for all students, support for the growing need to compete globally, and allow for better collaboration among educators across the country (Evans, 2008, pp. 7-9). These are very valid reasons, especially if states have not demonstrated they are not capable of solving these issues. However, a better approach might be to advise local officials about steps they can take to enact similar policies to work toward common educational goals. Main arguments against national standards is that centralizing educational decisions and authority results in a loss of policy makers understanding needs within the local community and the loss of valuable teachers and administrators (Evans, 2008, pp. 14-16). In a country as large and populated as the United States, how can the federal government properly and efficiently decide on the educational needs for all? While there should be similarities among states, it is not beneficial to students or educators for all decisions to be implemented at a national level.

National versus local regulation is a very complex subject that should involve a longer discussion. I am still undecided on my preference as I reflect on my experiences as a student and my desires as a teacher. In 6th grade I moved from California to Washington. I remember one day in a science class when I realized I had previously learned what my teacher was teaching that day. At first I thought it was great that I did not have to learn something new, but then I wondered what I was going to miss. Did my new class already cover a different topic I should know? This memory leads me to believe national standards will help prevent this from happening. As a teacher, I think about how easy it would be if there were national standards and regulations. It would be easier for me if could easily move around the country and not think about a new state teaching certification or creating a completely new set of lesson plans. But it is more important to me to feel like my professional opinion will make a difference. I also believe that my students’ parents should have easy access to how standards are decided and regulated. I doubt our voices will be heard on a national level. Overall, the foundations of a democratic society area more important to me than the advantages of the federal government making all the decisions.

Evans, D. (2008). Taking sides: Clashing views in teaching and education practice. New York, NY: McGraw Hill Higher Education.

Netiquette Infographic

My goal for this project was to create an infographic that I could give to students or post in my classroom concerning Netiquette Guidelines. ISTE Standard 4 recommends teachers promote online digital citizenship and student creativity while focusing on relevant technology issues like security, plagiarism, research, global communication, and copyright laws. These are all important topics and one of the reasons netiquette captured my attention is because the guidelines summarize many of the other digital citizenship objectives.

After I decided on netiquette as my topic, I searched for websites about specific tips and rules to teach students. I was surprised how many of the articles I found were written nearly 10 years ago. This confirmed that netiquette was a good topic. Updated materials and information is appealing to any learner, but it is especially helpful when trying to capture younger students attention. Next, I googled examples of infographics so I knew what one looked like. I also watched the EDTC6433 YouTube video that teaches how to make an infographic and examples of projects to assign students. I learned there should be a relationship between pictures and text and that the images should be noticed before the details.

I used the website http://www.piktochart.com to create, modify, and download my poster. The free demo offers limited templates, but I think that is actually a benefit for new learners. After selecting a template, I discovered I had more creative control than I initially realized so I changed some of the fonts and color schemes. The majority of my time was spent writing and editing content. I would have liked more image choices since the visual aspect is so important, but I was able to work with what was provided. Overall, I think the site is a valuable free resource. If I want to create more charts and posters in the future I think it is worth the annual cost, especially to have access to higher quality final versions.

Creating an infographic is a really fun assignment to demonstrate knowledge in an artistic method. If students cannot access a computer, then I would teach them how to make an infographic either through drawings or assembling together pictures from magazines and newspapers. I look forward to seeing what my students create in the future when I assign infographics as part of group projects or individual assignments.

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ISTE Standard 5 – Engage in Professional Growth and Leadership

ISTE Standard 5 stresses the importance for teachers to stay updated on technology research and trends. In addition, teachers should participate in a digital society by sharing their knowledge and research through digital communication methods. Standard 5 also emphasizes that teachers find creative methods to use technology during classroom instruction and create engaging activities so students can practice and apply new digital skills. This standard prompted me to ask myself: as a new elementary school teacher, what local and online communities can I join or monitor to ensure I am devoting time to continually learning about updated technology and integrating new digital ideas into my curriculum?

Teaching is a complex, time-consuming profession that requires many character traits including commitment, organization, effort, and motivation. One of the goals of teaching is for students to master challenging content and learn new skills. Effectively incorporating technology is difficult for many teachers because technology is constantly changing and sometimes complicated. The U.S. Department of Education (2010) asserts that educators can become more effective teachers when they practice a connected teaching model. The connected teaching model is a technology-centered approach that encourages teachers to continuously use the necessary computer equipment, resources, and technical assistance to connect with students, teachers from around the world, and to access current course-related content (U.S. Department of Education, 2010, p. 40). The connected teaching model reflects how important technology skills are in a rapidly changing global society. This type of instructional approach and planning is quite different than what I experienced as student. As a teacher, I need to monitor resources and websites that will help me practice being a connected teacher and continually learning about technology.

StudentGuide lists essential resources for teachers who want to incorporate technology in the classroom. This list is very helpful for me because it divides potential resources into seven categories. Under each category are links to corresponding websites, resources, articles, or organizations. The seven categories include: 1) general educational technology tools; 2) technology initiatives and grant funding; 3) integrating technology; 4) web tools; 5) planning lessons using digital tools; 6) using technology to enhance learning among special education students; and 7) ongoing professional development. I like StudentGuide’s website because resources are organized by specific topics and I think I can find additional information through the recommended links. A classmate of mine shared a different source from TeacherVision that includes information about similar categories, along with links to specific lessons and resources about how to begin using technology in the classroom. I like TeacherVision’s list because it has more subject specific links and activities. When I review any resource, I know the purpose is for me to acquire additional knowledge so I can create innovated learning activities for students instead of relying on traditional teaching instruction approaches and assignments.

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ISTE Standard 5 for teachers is one of my favorite standards I have learned about over the last few months. I do not want my lesson plans and curriculum to become outdated or repetitive. That is not interesting for my students or myself. I can prevent that from happening if I continually explore what new technology is available. I also need to maintain communication with other teaching professionals and my students. Through routine communication I can ask questions and assess what technology is effective during lessons or how activities could be changed. My students will experience my commitment to technology as they become involved in the process of continually researching, connecting, and reflecting.

References

StudentGuide. 2013. Essential resources for integrating technology in the classroom. Retrieved from: http://www.studentguide.org/essential-resources-for-integrating-technology-in-the-classroom/

TeacherVision. 2016. Technology in the classroom: Resources for teachers. Retrieved from: https://www.teachervision.com/educational-technology/teacher-resources/43743.html

US Department of Education, Office of Educational Technology. (2010). Transforming American education learning powered by technology. Washington D.C. (38-50). Retrieved from: http://files.eric.ed.gov/fulltext/ED512681.pdf