Technology Reflection

This past week, I attempted to incorporate technology into a lesson for the first time, choosing to play videos on a Smart Board. I was nervous about it because I am not familiar with technology infused lessons. My CT rarely used technology in her lessons and so I did not have practicum experience with such. Furthermore, since my CT was also unfamiliar with the technology, her usual great mentorship was not available for this planning.

In fact, our mutual lack of experience became an issue right from the start of my lesson. Neither my CT nor I could figure out how to get the internet connected to the Smart Board in order to play videos. I had to settle for playing the videos of an iPhone with the screen enlarged off the ELMO. This taught me the first rule of using technology: using technology as a teaching tool can be complicated and things will go wrong; it is important to prepare for all outcomes and glitches, and have a backup plan if the technology fails or user error occurs. I have also learned that using Smart Board lessons takes a lot of preparation. Learning to use the Smart Board and incorporate it into the lesson plan is made more difficult by the requirement that license access is available only through the school and for use only at the school.

With that said, I think technology can be very beneficial to a lesson. For instance, the videos used in my lesson show something that it is difficult to stage or students to witness in real life. Smart Board lessons can also be a great way to create interactive and entertaining lessons. Moreover, I think my students enjoy experiencing something new—mixing up the instructional media.

In the fall, I plan to practice with technology such as Smart Boards, videos, and computers, to expand and vary my lessons. I want to integrate technology into lessons as a tool to provide differentiated learning experiences for my learners and to create more engagement in my lessons.

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End of Practicum Reflection

This semester of practicum I feel I have grown a lot as a teacher. My Collaborating Teacher (CT) has given me great support and countless suggestions. Even more, she provided continuous chances to actually teach, plan lessons, and gain exposure to students. I have been given great opportunities to practice my teaching skills and try out ideas and have really begun to step up and take on the challenges of teaching.

I have planned various lessons on all subjects this semester. The practice has allowed me to become more comfortable and fluid in creating a lesson. I now feel more competent to devise activities which practice the skills and content I need. Just as importantly, when stifled, I learned to ask my CT and PLC for suggestions and resources. My CT has taught me well about balancing Florida standards and district requirements with the needs and abilities of my students. Initially, I struggled with assessments, falling back on informal observations of verbal responses during group lessons in early classes. In the last few weeks, I began to use physical assessment activities I could collect for review, and next semester I will continue to incorporate more formative, as well as summative, assessments to track my students’ growth and knowledge gaps.

I think I am stronger as a reading and writing teacher, familiar with the different skills and content. More than once, I jumped right into shared reading, read alouds, and IRA lessons at a moment’s notice. I even led a multiple day close reading and performance task. One of my first responsibilities was pulling small groups for RtI, in order to work on different reading skills. During the last few weeks, I actually took over two guided reading groups; selecting the texts, planning skills, and keeping running records. As a reading teacher, I have come a long way and enjoyed the challenges.

In math, I have grown more competent at asking high order thinking questions, and getting students to explain their answers. However, I still struggle to select activities that keep the students engaged in the math lesson, and need to switch methods more often. I am also working to improve on planning and teaching science lessons; I am unfamiliar with much of the content, and being in practicum only two days a week, I am uncertain what they have and have not learned already.

Unfortunately, this semester I had little experience with technology. For all her wonderful attributes and experience, my CT is not very technologically savvy, and rarely uses any technology. As a result, I had little exposure or encouragement to incorporate technology in my lessons. When I tried to use videos in my science lesson, we were unable to connect the internet and the Smart Board; fortunately, as a contingency plan, we used the CT’s phone with the ELMO. This week I was going to create a Smart Board lesson, but the internet was down at school during my planning period. Since one must have the school license to use the Smart Board program, I could not work on it from home. In the fall, one of my goals is to become more familiar with Smart Board lessons, and find more ways to use technology to engage my students and give them experiences they might not otherwise have.

I believe I have made major strides in classroom management and asserting myself as an authority figure. It took me a couple of weeks to learn my CT’s procedures and expectations, and then take charge in the classroom. I have progressively taken over transitioning students, walking them in line, and even putting students in literacy circles. One week, my CT was unexpectedly called to another classroom, and I was forced to handle the class myself. All went well, and that experience gave me a real confidence boost regarding taking control. I have also learned to be more consistent with my consequences, and more at ease with stopping a lesson to correct behaviors. My CT does not use many attention grabbers, and so I had trouble finding ways to get the students’ attention at first. My time alone teaching I was able to implement my own attention grabber, using “one, two three, eyes on me.” Most of the students were aware of this command from the YMCA and quickly caught on; this made getting my students’ attention and giving directions a whole lot easier. “Well-defined norms for behavior can help to dispel the ‘what-ifs’ and enhance feelings of safety, security, and competence,” therefore helping the students see me as an authority and realize that even with my CT gone, the same rules and consequences apply (Davis & Kriete, 2014, p. 89). After my CT returned, I spent a day planning and teaching a whole day’s lesson. I continued to put into practice what I had learned the previous week, remain in charge even with my CT in the room, and confidently use the attention grabber I had put in place previously.

With that said, I am still struggling with having with-it-ness in full group lessons. I am working to balance teaching lessons while maintaining awareness of what all my students are doing during the lesson. I think part of my students’ behavioral issues stem from their lack of engagement in the lesson. So, I am working to find activities that fit the students’ varied interests, and more importantly the attention spans of six year olds, including many with diagnosed ADHD. Levin and Nolan (2013) suggest seven ways to prevent behavioral issues: be well prepared to teach, provide clear directions and explanations, explain the purpose and relevance of material, clearly explain evaluation criteria, be consistent with expected behavior, be enthusiastic about material, and build positive relationships with students. I plan to better embody these goals in the fall. I also want to create more differentiation during my lessons, and ensure that everyone has an opportunity to feel challenged, without reaching his or her individual frustration level. “Every student needs [to] feel they belong in the class, that they have a place and are valued” (Charles, 2002). My biggest goal for my final internship in the fall is to create more engaging lessons which will help keep small distracting behaviors under control.

This semester has been a great experience! I have learned and grown a lot. That said, there are still areas for improvement. For example, being in practicum only two days a week, it was difficult to coordinate lessons with my CT. This added to the challenge of planning skills and lessons when I was also not able to witness the beginning and end of units, or fully assess my students’ knowledge base and gaps. I also had a challenging time balancing preparation for practicum with the demands of my other classes. In my final internship, I look forward to seeing units all the way through, and being able to plan more lessons in conjunction with my CT. Above all, I am looking forward to focusing all my attention and energy on my internship, and continuing to grow as a teacher.

References

Charles, C. M. (2002). Linda Albert’s ‘Cooperative Discipline’. Building classroom discipline. Boston, MA: Allyn and Bacon. (Ch. 5. pp. 67-84).

Davis, C. & Kriete, R. (2014). The Morning Meeting Book. Turners Falls, MA: Northeast Foundation for Children.

Levin, J. & Nolan, J. (2013). Principles of classroom management: A professional decision-making model (7th Edition). Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearsons.

Last Formal Observation

My last formal observation went a lot better than the previous one. I feel like I have become more confident and grown as a teacher this semester. However, there is still a lot of room for improvement, and I hope to continue to develop as a teacher.

For my lesson I did a shared reading of Goldilocks and the Three Bears with retelling, as well as working on blending, segmenting, and chunking onset and rime skills. I began by having the students read with me. After my last observation, I tried to remember not keep my back to the students while I read, and tried to keep looking over the students and being aware of their behavior while I read. Although I did a lot better, I had a hard time reading and pointing to words while looking at my class. However because I was more aware of my students I was able to keep my students’ behaviors more in check this observation. The students really enjoyed the book and even began to use voices for the characters, and during the skill work I really tried to evenly call on students, and as result my students seemed to be a lot more engaged, which also helped their behavior. When asking them questions I also made an effort to not just say no when they got a wrong answer, but guide them to the right one, and give them an opportunity to come up with the right answer. This observation I made sure to have a visual activity to go along with the retelling instead of just orally, which helped those with language barriers understand better, and give students something to relate back to. I also gave them a formal assessment of their retelling after the lesson, by having the students glue four pictures of events from the story in order, so I was able to more accurately judge the understanding of each individual.

Although I helped guide the students to the right answer more, when doing word work I need to work on making sure that especially the lower level students understand what was wrong with the answer, to build their understanding of the skill. While it is important to be equitable, in the future I also want to make sure I aim the words work skills towards the students who need the work more than the students that I know already know. I also want to work on making sure student who initially are close to, but have not fully given the correct answer, have time to think through and elaborate on their answer, instead of just moving on to the next student, in order to push students further. Although the words I used during word work originally came from the book, I did not spend time making the connection back to the book, so students relate the skills back to their reading strategies. I had made sentence strips with pictures to put in order with the retelling, however I did not laminate them and so I had hard time putting them in pocket chart, and it slowed down the momentum of the lesson slightly. Next time, I will not spend time explaining the assessment with so much detail so I can see what they truly understand and can do by themselves. It also took too much time and I had some problems with students passing out the pictures for the assessment. Instead of having one student in charge of passing out each of the images, I will make the group of the four images previously, and have student come collect them form me as I dismiss them from the table. It took a lot of materials, and therefore time, to set students up for the assessment, and student were a little confused just having four random events form the story in order. I think it could have been more successful if I had just asked them to draw a picture of an event from the beginning, middle and end, and then allowed for higher level students to write sentences to match.

One of my future goals is continue to use and create assessments, instead of relying on verbal and anecdotal notes. I also want to work on making sure I spend time on skills with the students that need them more, and working more to bring up and push my lower level students, instead of relying on my higher level students to give me all the answers. I also want to continue on working on engaging all my students, and having more awareness and withitness.

2nd Peer Observation

My second peer observation occurred during writing time. My students were practicing writing for their clozed reading performance task the next day. Before they started writing, I had modeled writing about why it was important for firemen to check their flashlights. After reading various books about firefighters over the week, my students were instructed to write about what the most important thing firemen do when responding to a fire, and more importantly, why. When my peer arrived I had just begun pulling students for writing conferences.

I began calling students one by one as they finished writing to bring their paper to read to me at the guided reading table. After having losing track of who I had met with in the past, I went in order of where they sat. It also cut back on students calling out and getting mad when I called someone else to show me their work. My peer suggested that perhaps I should have circulated to the students at their desks, so that they can learn from each other’s mistakes. However, I have learned that my students copy what each other say when they hear their classmates work and suggestions. For this task, it is important that they not copy someone else’s response, as they receive a writing grade as well as a comprehension grade, and since many are still learning to write about a given topic, especially explaining why, if they do not address the topic in their writing I have them tell me the answer orally and write it down, so I did not want the other students listening.

One area I have previously noticed I struggle with in teaching writing is leading students to find and correct their own errors, instead of just telling them what to do. My peer observed that when of my students forgot to use a capital letter in the beginning of her sentence, I asked her what you were supposed to do at the start of the sentence, and when she did not know, I told her. My peer gave me some good suggestions about asking guiding questions about what they think could be wrong or what they think they should do, that I will try to use in the future.

With that said, my peer thought I gave good constructive criticism. I tried to pick just a couple things to focus on their writing depending on their writing abilities, and concentrated on the main goal of making sure they stayed on topic and gave reasoning. I was really proud of my students’ attempts, especially to see that they are really beginning to edit their papers, a skill we have been working on, so I am glad my peer picked up on my efforts to also compliment and build up my students.

I was also happy to hear that my peer observer thought my students seemed to respect and listen to me, and follow my direction. I have been worried this semester about trying to make sure my student see me as a teacher and an authority. The day of my observation my collaborating teacher was absent and it was the first time I was the sole teacher in charge, and had been working hard, but struggling to make sure they understood the same rules and punishments applied with me as with their regular teacher. I had been making sure I had been moving their behavior clips up and down, and giving and taking away their reward chips. I also tried to make sure I was consistent and firm when need be.

2nd Formal Observation

Last week I had my second observation. I taught a shared reading and warm-up lesson. Being observed while teaching a full group lesson for the first time, I was nervous. Teaching to a full group takes a lot more awareness.

I started my lesson strong, by discussing with the students how they are supposed to behave during group reading time. I think this warm-up was successful because I had the students demonstrate examples of proper and wrong behavior. My talk-and-turn activity also worked well, as I made sure everyone had a partner before we began and walked around as they talked to make sure the students were on task. I also successfully handled a student who did not want to work with a partner and was able to get her to participate with little discussion. I also made sure not to let wrong answers during the group discussion go unchecked, and tried to stop misconceptions. When students were having a hard time coming up with responses I went back to the text and helped students use the text to find the answer. I was happy I was able to keep from becoming flustered when students were giving wrong answers or becoming disruptive.

With that said, I think I still have a lot of room for improvement in my teaching. When reading the book, I was unaware that I was giving my back to the students, not watching the students. I am still working on being aware of what all my students are doing at all times. Sometimes I would notice behaviors, but did not stop to fix small behaviors. Unfortunately, afraid of stopping the lesson for little things, some of these behaviors left unchecked became contagious and escalated to bigger distractions. I want to work on keeping students engaged to limit fidgeting and inattentive behaviors. When correcting students’ answers, I need to make sure I am helping students understand why a response is incorrect and help guide them to the right answers more smoothly. I also need to voice and rephrase correct responses so all students hear and understand them clearly.

In the future, my biggest goal is to work on being more aware — having more “with-it-ness.” I want to make sure I take the time to address small behaviors as well as the big ones. I also want to remember to praise good behavior as a form of behavior correction. With practice, I want to work on anticipating possible student responses and misconceptions, so I am more prepared to guide responses during discussions.

Peer Observation

This last week, I had the opportunity to invite my peer to observe me in my classroom and provide feedback about my teaching. Unfortunately, he missed my full group lesson, but was able to observe my small group lesson. Students were playing a game, taking turns reading CVC and CVCe words, and collecting the ones they were able to read correctly. The students are just beginning to learn to read CVCe words, and understanding the difference between short and long vowels.

I was happy to hear some positive feedback. I explained the rules of the game clearly, and reminded the students of the rules when necessary. I was also able to regain attention of the students who began to wander or talk, without interrupting the lesson too much. The language arts lesson also contained math skills, as students had to know the number of the dots on the dice rolled, adding a bit of cross curriculum learning. The content was grade level, but challenging to the students. I provided sufficient extra support to students, and provided strategies to help the students decipher the words.

According to my peer, and my own assessment, I need to improve student engagement. When students were waiting for their turn, they would sometimes lose their focus and become distracted. Also, some of the students really struggled with the long vowels and did not seem ready for the content, or were confused by the difference between vowel sounds.

My peer made some good suggestions on how to improve the lesson. For instance, to keep all the students interested: allow students to help each other if the student whose turn it is does not know the word. Also, after the one student reads the word, everyone should say the word together, so they all learn and remain engaged. He also made a good suggestion to make cards with blanks and a vowel in the middle, and other with an “e” on the end, so the students can improve in recognizing the differences, and learn to break apart the letter sounds.

I also had the opportunity observe my peer teaching in his classroom. I am envious of his always calm demeanor and how quietly he is able to talk with the students while maintaining the students’ focus. I really enjoyed his attention grabbers, and how flawlessly he used them; the students reacted immediately. I definitely want to incorporate attention grabbers in my class.

First Observation of My Teaching

After all the anxiety, I am very pleased with the results of my first teaching observation. Being in the classroom such a short while, and having the observation day fall towards the end of the week, it was hard to know which skills the students needed for the day ahead of time. Especially, since my CT believes in adjusting plans, day-by-day, it was hard to coordinate a lesson plan for any given day in advance. I had originally planned to teach a full group lesson on place value this week, but earlier in the week, my CT decided the students needed more work with sequencing teen numbers, and wanted to do math centers instead. Wednesday, I proctored a small group center on identifying what number comes before, and after, a given number in the teens and saw that she was right. As a result, I wrote my lesson for the math center instead of the full group, and with less time to plan my lesson, I was nervous about the possible outcomes.

However, I believe the lesson went smoothly and was successful. I believe I was able to clearly explain and model the instruction so that the students were able to easily understand the center. I chose two high learners and two lower learners to create a mixed group. It worked well to have the higher learners to encourage and help the lower learners. Furthermore, I think the differentiation worked seamlessly, where the lower learners were given the additional support and the higher were still challenged. In fact, the differences in approach were not noticeable to the students, who switched back and forth smoothly. I believe I was tactfully able to regain the attention of my student who was distracted by objects at the table. I also think allowing the students to self-correct worked well to build their understanding. In my practicum, I have been learning how important it is to evaluate my teaching and make the changes necessary to make each lesson more successful than the last. I was very fortunate to have taught and corrected the same small group lesson before, as this allowed to me to make needed changes. For instance, this time around, I explained and reminded students what “before” and “after” meant before explaining the math concept; in the end, this pre-lesson explanation was the biggest factor in making my lesson run more smoothly and be better received by the students.

With that said, there are some additional changes I will make in my lesson plan. I think some of the students were confused when I had them count more than one number before the given number, so next time, I will say only one number prior for the lower learners. Since, the students still struggled with the concepts of “before” and “after”, I think it would be beneficial to give the students a paper with a place to put their given number, and blanks on either side of their given number so that they can fill in before and after numbers, and have a physical cue or visual for the concept rather than imagining the sequence, and struggling with the terms. To better handle the distractions, next time I would make sure the table were clear of distractions, and place the students in a manner that their backs were to the rest of the room so they would be less distracted by the other students. I would also set expectations for them about their attention and not playing with things. Although the overall pacing of the lesson went well, towards the end, the students became restless and bored. Perhaps the center went on for too long. In the future, I will coordinate with my CT to set a given time for each center, and be sure to rotate the students though different centers to keep their interest.

Next, I am preparing to take on more whole group lessons. My future goals are to gain more withitness, to insure I am aware of what all 20 students are doing during full group lessons. I want to keep all my students engaged during large group lessons by ensuring that all students have a chance to talk, and that each student feels accountable for learning.