Spring Semester 2015 Summative Blog

In order to process all I have experienced and learned over the past sixteen weeks, I must reflect on my personal observations and notes, blogs and suggestions provided by my superiors and peers.

All in all, I have learned that professional growth for me will come from the intentional and deliberate efforts of journaling, reviewing, and connecting academic research to support or improve my teaching behaviors. Teacher inquiry invites intentional, planned reflection, heightening your focus on problem posing using a public platform to discuss, reflect, share, and debate instruction and practice (Dana & Yendol-Hoppey, 2014). Given this deeper connection to reflection, my first goal will be to set aside daily reflection and inquiry time and then apply any developmental changes to my instruction. In order to achieve this goal, I will attempt the following:

  • Incorporate reflection time in lesson plan (ideally, teacher reflects and students do, too)
  • Have back up time factored into my personal schedule
  • If time does not permit, use voice memos app on iPhone
  • Video record lessons as often as possible (I can reflect and inquiry time and time again)
  • Buddy up with a peer, professor/CT, and/or PLC group who can observe me for specific changes in my instruction and behavior management skills

My second goal is to practice better time management skills. Time management has been a consistent theme throughout my blogs (including Fall 2014 posts). As I reread my post, I realized just how much time management plays a role in nearly every aspect of teaching from transitions to actual productive learning time. For me, I struggle the most with my lesson time management. Much of this has been the result of not dedicating enough time to developing an authentic lesson plan with explicit instructions. According to Weinstein and Romano (2015), “Students are unable to make good use of their time if they are confused about what they’re supposed to be doing” (p. 188). This has proven true in my own teaching experience. Mistakes I have made include giving directions too soon before student independent work begins, being too broad in step-by-step directions, and nearly skipping over them completely. These realizations, in combination with my observations of what quality teaching looks like, have made time management my second goal. In order to achieve this goal, I will attempt the following:

  • Seek out advice from peers, PLC groups, coaches, professors and other educational professionals (Be observed frequently, too)
  • Track instructional strategies and student response/production levels to determine what works best for specific classes
  • Ensure lesson plans include step-by-step and time specific directions with time built in for flexibility
  • Have anchor charts in place for student expectations (e.g. bring a pencil and notebook to guided groups and have agendas on desk during independent reading time)
  • Incorporate an egg-time for instructional time and rotations
  • Provide students individual checklist to guide direction (do the same for me but including more than just directions)

As this semester is wrapping up I am pleased with my progress in the classroom. I know I have so much to learn and try before I will develop into the teacher I envision but I am confident I am on the right path to succeed. I feel two goals is achievable due to their tracking abilities, my resources, and my desires to be an effective and productive teacher.

I look forward to tracking my progress with you next semester!

Until Then,

Erica

Peer Observation #2

For my second observation, I had my peer observe my second attempt at the subject-verb agreement lesson. I went into the PM class lesson with my CT and professors tips and suggestions still fresh in my mind. I penned in a few edits and adjustments to my lesson plan and felt much more confident this round.

After lunch the students are usually running on high energy and want to discuss what happened during specials and lunch. This has been a challenge for me to bring them back and settled and ready to learn. My peer noticed this too. I circulate and say let’s wrap up our conversations and begin our dictation. I try to remember how much time students spend not talking throughout the day and be flexible during transitional periods. As I’m preparing for my full-time internship in the Fall I started thinking about a better way to bring the students in the classroom and back to their seats and ready to learn run more efficiently. I want to try and have students walk in and have a procedure such as have a sip of water, pick up your dictation journal and return to your seat. I think having a talking distraction such as taking a sip of water will help students separate from the conversations that take over. Obviously, no one would be forced to drink but something along those lines. Another idea would be to encourage a quick transition back to their desk by letting them pick the sentences to correct or maybe earn a 3 minute game of Simon Says or 3 minutes of doing Kids Zoomba to help combat extra energy and have students learn the benefits of working towards a goal.

Speaking of goals, I have been working on a system of making sure all students are included in lesson talk and discussion. IT To achieve this goal it is imperative that I establish and specify during lesson procedures. It can be challenging to assure every student has the opportunity to participate so by establishing interaction routines teachers are more likely to master the task (Weinstein & Romano, 2015, p. 95). By establishing early on procedures students are less likely to feel they are being “picked” on if you call on them and the teacher can establish a safe environment in which getting the wrong answer isn’t embarrassing.  My peer noticed improvement in my interaction skills. It is usually easier for me to call on those students who are explicitly engaged in the lesson but its often the students who are disconnected that have misconceptions or have reached their frustration levels. What kind of educator does taking the easy side of street make me? Not one that I would want teaching our future generations of students. My peer gave me some suggestions to try and I look forward to applying them. *This just reminded me, I would hate to lose all of these tips. I need to start an “idea/suggestion” journal and add tabs such as behavior management, Rules/Procedures, etc.*

Another area of improvement was that the more educated I am on a subject matter, the more confident and informed I will be for the students. During the lesson, a misconception was addressed and I wasn’t able to articulate a rationale behind the irregularity so I told the students let’s use Google and see if we can find out. While this was a good way to model what to do when you’re unsure of something it also took a few minutes out of the lesson. Basically, that is a great thing to do when time or content permits but it’s not always the best use of time. The only way to combat this is plan a few weeks ahead and then become an expert in the field by research, asking colleagues and consulting other resources such as team leads and coaches.

All in all, I’m feeling much more in the groove because while nothing has been flawless (not even close to flawless) I now have a direction and goal I’m seeking. I must put it into action and track my findings in order to assure I’m growing into the teacher I desire to be.

Until next time,

Erica

Blog #7 – Reflection on Final Observation

It has been one week since my last observation and going in to this one, it felt much more purpose-driven. I knew specific areas in which I hoped to improve on. This made lesson planning feel less stressful. Knowing what works and hasn’t worked for me makes it easy to ask my peers, CT, and professors for specific-content and/or behavioral skills insight.

While the lesson planning went better than my previous attempts, my play-by-play dialogue still had many holes in it. Over the summer, I am going to play with different layouts and lesson plan templates to find one that might better suit my speaking skills. I’m surprised it took me this long to think about doing that. After all, I’m in a program that encourages teachers to let students complete their work using mediums, such as graphic organizers, that best suit their learning style instead of enforcing one universal way of learning. Of course, all of the templates in the world will not perfect a lesson without investing the time, knowledge of your students and energy into creating them.

My CT and I decided to do a co-teach model (of course, she was able to wing it, but in hindsight I should have included prompts for her in my lesson plan). It is very helpful to me to have someone who is able to “pick up the slack” during the lesson. What she adds to the lesson and especially during times when I’m stuck or unsure of how to move forward, she steps in and lightbulbs go off in my head! It is almost more beneficial to me then the post-observation reflection session because I’m immediately given “feedback” in real time. I’m going to make a habit out of immediately jotting down these “insider” tips after the lesson otherwise they get lost in passing.

Overall, I thought the implementation went well but I was already thinking of things I could improve on to feel super confident I did a great job. Plus, its hard when you’re not with the students everyday to see what worked for them and what didn’t. My CT sat in on the post reflection along with my professor. I was glad to see my CT so upbeat and positive and confident that I have what it takes to evolve into an effective teacher. Some positives include:

– Knowledge of standards and students

– Kept non-examples short

– Use of visuals and technology

– Reminds students what purpose/goal of lesson is

– Students were engaged and behavior issues kept at a minimum

Some areas of improvement include:

– Keeping an eye on the whole class. I tend to focus on the perimeter students, or students who tend to have behavioral issues. I need to remind myself during my teaching to do this. I can write a reminder on my student list and antedotal clipboard.

– I could have included text decoding – I included it during my PM class and it was much more effective

– Forgot to read instructions – As a student, I know I need directions in order to know what to do so I need to slow down and follow my plan to make sure I don’t forget something as obvious as this.

My semester reflection will include more improvement plans and suggestions that are beginning to really click and work for me as a developing teacher!

Until then,

Erica

Formal Observation #2

Formal Observation #2: Sequence of Events – Timeline Features

This week I had three opportunities to improve my teaching. The first came during the process of crafting and revising (three times) my lesson plan with the input of my CT and professor. The second and third came from the feedback of my professor’s observation of my lesson during our AM Class and my own video recording of the same lesson completed with our PM Class. I will reflect and discuss the video recording as well as peer observation of it next week. This week I will discuss how I can improve on the areas of improvement

With so many lesson planning resources available at my fingertips you would think creating an authentic lesson plan would be quick and “easy” to complete. For me, my drafts seem to be generic and dull. I decided if I wanted to peak our students learning I would need to seek out the help of all the resources we have available. I first had the feedback from my professor which helped me recognize the gaps and flaws in my first draft. I followed those corrections with the help of my CT who provided me with the LAFS iReady workbook. The workbook helped me guide my lesson to be better aligned with the standards and more purpose-driven. Moving forward I will remember the success (which I hope is proportionate to my experience) I had in creating this lesson plan. I will know that the planning portion of a lesson makes every difference in the world and that it usually (especially with teachers and preservice teachers at a novice level) takes a team to construct the most effective lessons. I look forward to building my own library of lesson plans as student/classroom specific modifications will be much less time consuming and more effective in terms of learning.

The first lesson, during AM Class, was pretty well controlled in terms of behavior management. The students appeared to be responsive to my instruction but I cannot say with any real certainty that the students have furthered their knowledge on sequence of events and its use and value. This is where assessment must be implemented. While my plan included means of measuring student(s) learning and progress before, during, and after the lesson the actual implementation of assessment was not applied. I know I need to improve my formative assessing skills. I will start by making sure I have a clipboard with a list of student names on it and a chart in which I can quickly jot down any misconceptions, understandings, etc. which will overall help shape my instruction and awareness of my students needs. In addition, I need to work on improving my HOT questioning skills. It was brought to my attention that after asking questions I rarely give students the opportunity to answer them. Sometimes I think its my nerves and adrenaline that rush me past it and at other times its my fear of not knowing how to guide their thinking back on track. By using the same resources and seeking ideas of peers and superiors and experts in the field I can practice becoming more question-savvy and help guide my students higher order thinking skills.

Next, week I’ll update the status of my video recording reflection and my peer observation results and projected goals.