Reflection on Semester 5 Pre Internship

The first 8 weeks of pre-internship have finished, and though I’m sad that it’s over, I’m also really looking forward to being with them for 3 weeks in a row next semester. Pre-Internship has definitely been the bright spot of this semester, since I finally got to put into practice all the theory we’ve been learning. It’s been a huge delight to work with the students and staff at Palliser Heights. My grade 6 class has been the perfect group to get my teaching barings with. I’ve learned a lot from this experience, and it has helped me get a way deeper understanding of what it means to teach. 1st, I’ve learned that one of the most effective strategies for classroom management are to give good concise instructions. This really helps to reduce what I think is the number one cause of off-task behaviour, confusion. I think the 2nd thing I learned is how much work bringing students content. I think I learned this more from conversations from my co-op as she told me about her first few years of teaching, and adjusting to new curriculums throughout the years. She told me how

My goals for this placement were to pick up some classroom management strategies. I had a few ups and downs, but I think I came a long way from the first week to the 8th week. Half way through the eight weeks I started to feel pretty confident that I could keep the class engaged and focused on what needed to be done. I also wanted to improve my lesson planning. We had just started doing lesson plans this year so I knew it was something that I was going to have to refine a lot. My co-op was very encouraging and let me have freedom to try stuff out. She didn’t try and make me do things her way, and consistently expressed that she was impressed with the direction I had taken my lessons. My third goal was to build a relationship with the staff at the school. I feel like I cheated on this one because I ended up getting placed in a school that I had substituted at as an educational assistant, so I had already worked with about a dozen of the teachers and EAs. Feeling like I fit in with the staff ended up being an easy task.

Some of my goals for next semester are as follows:

  1. Integrate more Treaty Ed. I’ve already had conversations with my Co-op about this and she said she would love it if I brought more Treaty Ed into the classroom. She also suggested I work with Claire Kreuger, who works at this school to develop something appropriate.
  2. Do more with Technology. There’s very limited technology in this classroom so I’ve stayed away from it. I’d like to see if there’s any reservable laptop or ipad carts. We’ve seen a lot of really good tech presentations this semester and I’d love to integrate some of what we’ve learned into my lessons.
  3. Integrate more Inquiry. I haven’t done a whole lot with inquiry yet, but it’s something I believe in, and something I want to learn more about. My Co-op feels the same way about it so hopefully when the next placement comes around we can work together to try and implement it some how.

Week 8: Identity & Place

The final week has arrived. It’s bitter sweet! I’ve learned so much of the past 8 Wednesday’s from working with the grade 6 class at Palliser Heights. This last week was an awesome note to end on, because it was a lesson that helped me to gain a much better idea about who my students are and where they’re coming from, and it left me all the more excited to go back to them in the new year!

The final lesson I taught was in social studies. I was a little bit nervous about teaching this subject because I haven’t take a specific Ed class for it, and I also find it a really important subject and wanted to make sure I did it right. We were learning about the relationship between place and identity. We started with some reading together as a class from the saskatchewan textbook. One of the perks with this class is that they’re very good at having good discussions, so a communal reading of the textbook followed by questions was a really great way to start the class. We talked about how growing up in our part of the world influences who we become as people compared to those who grow up in developing countries. We talked about social structures, such as family, school, sports teams or religious institutions and how they might influence the way we learn or what we value.

I gave them an assignment were they were supposed to outline a social structure of their own. They drew a picture of their face and had branches coming off of it, each outlining a social structure. They made a web of detailing all the various people they interact with in those social structures, as well as some of the things they learn from those structure.

They also spent some time thinking about what their roles were in society. Almost all put that they were a son or daughter, as well as a student, while others may have also put a position on a sports team that they played. They also had to think of some future roles that they hoped to have i.e father, engineer, volunteer. They then had to write about how their current social structure was going to equip them to acquire those future roles. For example they talked about how school was going to give them the skills they needed to get into university, which would eventually teach them to become a doctor.

The assignment and discussion went fairly well and I was satisfied with the depth of thinking the students engaged in. My co-op agreed that it went over well, but also commented that most grade 6 classes may not have been able to perform as well as hers did, since hers was generally a more focused group than most. Figuring out what is too hard or not hard enough for the average grade 6 class is something I’m still trying to figure out, but I was happy that I was able to come up with something that challenged this particular class but that it was a challenge that they could meet.

Week 7: Writing Creatively About Peace

This week we focused on questioning for our learning targets. I find this topic be pretty central to the learning, since the best learning occurs when curiosity is aroused. Learning is essentially the process of gaining sought knowledge. I think questioning in the classroom should promote thinking that prompts the students to think about ideas in new ways. This is something that I kept in mind as I prepared for my grade 6 creative writing lesson.

My co-op asked me to teach a creative writing lesson on the theme of peace. I brought a variety of different pictures with me to my lesson and the class look at a few of them. Some of them were famous, protests against war, and some were lesser known photos about humanity harmonizing with nature. When we first started the lesson I asked the students what peace meant to them. A lot of them said it was the absence of war and getting along. When looking at these pictures I asked them to think about how peace was represented in the pictures. Then to go a little deeper, we talked about the people in them. What is each person thinking/feeling? What do they want? Is there conflict? If so who is benefiting. The three pictures below are the ones we talked about as a class.

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MakePeaceNotWar

 

I then divided the students into groups of four. I gave each group it’s own picture and they asked each other a variety of questions: What stories do you think are being told in this photo? What words come to your mind that define this photo? If you were in the photo and were a part of what was happening, how would you feel? How is peace represented in this picture? Is it shown? Or is it desired?

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The-unknown-rebel-in-front-of-tank-in-Tiananmen-Square

Once students dissected their pictures, they started working on some individual creative writing pieces. Some wrote poems, some wrote short stories, while others did character sketches. After about 25 minutes of writing they returned to their groups and shared what they wrote. I then had them make a group presentation. One person was to share the groups picture and talk about what was happening. One would talk about how it related to peace. Finally, two would share what they wrote with the class.

This lesson went extremely well, and I feel like it was my best one yet. I think the questioning process really helped to open up the students imagination about the various meanings each picture could convey. I was thoroughly impressed by what the students had written, and it showed how deep in thought the questioning process had brought them.

You can view the Lesson Plan, Powerpoint, and Assignment sheet for CR6.1 Creative writing lesson here.

Week 6: Classifying Living Things pt 2

This week I got to do a continuation of my science lesson from last week when we learned about vertebrates and how to classify them. My co-op suggested last week that the students might need a little more time to really wrap their head around the characteristics of the five classifications so she asked if I would do another lesson that would take them deeper into that understanding.

We started out by reviewing some of the things we learned the week prior, such as why we classify things and what the classifications of vertebrates were and what characterized them. We then moved into the activity portion of the assignment. Each student was to choose a vertebrate and make a poster detailing what classification they belonged to and what characteristics made them belong to that classification. They started out by filling out the blanks in their assignment sheet which doubled as a rough copy. They would then need to show me their information before I would give them the go ahead to start making a good copy on 8.5×14 paper. The assignment was going relatively well until we got to the stage where students were starting to finish their rough copies. A big line of students started to form around me with students who either needed help or needed me to check their rough copy. This caused the noise level in the room to rise quite a bit, which made it hard for other student to get their work done. There was also a large amount of congestion.

This lesson ended up being a learning experience for me in classroom management, because I had inadvertently created an atmosphere that was no longer conducive to learning. Yet, all the students were doing was following my directions. My Co-op eventually intervened and instructed all the students who needed my attention to write their name on the board and go to their desk and read until I was ready to see them. This quick bit of concise direction fixed the dysfunction in the classroom surprisingly quickly, and made the classroom a manageable entity once again.

Reflecting on this lesson, I’ve been trying to figure out what I could have done differently to make the assignment run a little bit smoother. Mrs. McNaughton’s directions were definitely a good idea, and that’s something I would implement right away if I were to do this lesson again. However, I think, and my co-op agrees, that there were some things missing that increased the need for further instruction by the students. At least half of the students struggled to fill out the fill-in the blank sheet I handed out which asked them to list 4 things that made their animal a mammal, as well as 2 interesting facts about that animal that weren’t necessarily related to their classification. Through out the assignment a lot of students asked if they could go on the computer to look up some things about their animal. I think this was a great idea because the students curiosity is aroused and they have questions, which means they’re now in the best position to learn. Unfortunately I didn’t build a research component into the lesson do to the lack of technology in the classroom. This particular class only has two laptops, so Mrs McNaughton isn’t able to do a lot of technology related things she would like to, an nor am I. I allowed students to do research on the one working laptop but that also created quite a line up that just left a lot of students waiting for their turn.

If I were to do this lesson again, theres a few things I would change. First, I would probably try and make sure I had several copies of and animal encyclopedia if I didn’t have access to internet technology. Simply having those resources on hand would eliminate 60% of the questions I had which were usually questions about their specific question. This way I don’t have to be the encyclopedia. Second, I would use the same classroom management technique my Co-op used to keep the students in a productive mode. This class is very compliant and is usually quite good at staying on task as long as you give them good directions. So while they’re waiting for me to come check their rough copies, I would have them write their name on the the board and have something else for them to work on while they waited.

Overall this lesson went okay, but I definitely felt it was the least successful of all my lessons so far. My professional target for the week was also classroom management and I feel as though I would have met my targets any other week, but this week it just didn’t come together. It was still a valuable experience though because this week probably taught me more about classroom management than any week before. It helped me to see where things can go wrong even for a really good class. This lesson helped me to be more aware of a class’s need for structure and direction. It also taught me that I need to always be ready to supply students with the means to satisfy their curiosity as young learners.

You can view the assignment sheet and rubric for the poster assignment here under DL6.3 Intro to Vertebrates.

UPDATE: Two weeks later my co-op handed me the pile of vertebrate posters my Grade 6’s made. I can only be there one day a week so she got them to present their posters without me there, and said they did a great job and that she’s confident they have a clear understanding of the characteristics of their chosen classification. Here’s some of the finished products! IMG_7049 IMG_7050 IMG_7051 IMG_7052 IMG_7053

Week 5: Classifying Living Things

This week I got my first crack at a science lesson. The grade 6’s I work with have spent the last while learning about invertebrates, so my co-op thought it would be good if I gave them an introductory lesson on vertebrates and how to classify them. I always like to start my lessons out with some form of community engagement where we have a discussion or exercise on the front board. For this week, I started with a KWL chart to activate prior knowledge about invertebrates. The students listed facts like how invertabrates don’t have backbones or how they have exoskeletons, or how they’re generally smaller. Based on these classifications, we began to make inferences about what might characterize vertebrates (i.e. they have backbones, their skeletons are inside their body, they’re bigger).

We then spent some time learning the 5 classifications of vertebrates, such as mammals, reptiles etc. We then played a game where where I should show the image of an animal of the screen and they were to figure out what classification it belonged to and justify why. The students really liked this game! We played it for about 10 minutes so that students could solidify their understanding as to what significant traits about an animal help us to categorize it into these classifications. I was also sure to throw in some curve balls. For example sharks give birth to live young much like mammals but are technically part of the fish classification.

I ended of the class with giving them a work sheet where they had to choose and animal from a list and fill-in weather it was a vertebrate or invertebrate and what characteristic made it belong to that category. As a bonus, I also asked them to write down the classification of the animal if it was a vertebrate.

My professional target for this week was giving directions, so I tried to explain the assignment as straight forward as possible. I verbally explained the assignment but also listed concise point form instructions on the board. I also had more thorough instructions on the worksheets. I think the target was fairly easy to meet for this particular lesson. This lesson worked well, but my co-op suggested that we could have played the game longer just for extra practice with the students before they tried to classify animals on their own, because some students still struggled with what made a mammal a mammal and what made a reptile a reptile.

You can view the DL6.3 Intro to Vertebrates lesson plan, powerpoint, and assignment sheet here.

Classroom Management

One of my big goals with Pre-Internship was to learn more about classroom management. We recently read “The Great Respect Deception“, and looked at an interactive classroom management tool called “Classroom Dojo“. The Great Respect Deception was a really fascinating article because it poked holes in the myth that simplifying your list of rules to one or two platitudes does little equip students when they’re trying to figure out where the line between acceptable and unacceptable are. As the author says “Platitudes cannot be enforced because there is no line to cross, there’s nothing predictable for students to understand, and they’re too vague to be useful.” I don’t think it’s fair the students when we put some much faith in various forms of common sense that we expect them to have, but haven’t taught to them yet. Curwin concludes his article by defining the difference between values and rules, and that values are something that the rules should bring us closer to.

This brings us to the philosophy behind Classroom Dojo. I can honestly say Classroom Dojo intrigues me. The reason it intrigues me is because I’m fairly confident that it really works, and Matt is probably right when he says it can work in any classroom. I think it probably does quite well in achieving what it wants to, which is to illicit compliancy from your students.

However, there are some obvious problematic implications to it. It is essentially Skinner’s approach to behaviourism in it’s purist form and it essentially teaches children that learning is only worth while as long as there are rewards. The problem with this is that we get students to do what they should not because they believe they should do it, but because we are bribing them to do it. So the question is does the end justify the means? I think anyone would agree that in an ideal world it would be better for students to pursue learning simply because they love it. Not because of whatever form of instant gratification that may be paid out to them. But maybe this approach isn’t so different to how the world really works anyway? We all grow up and pursue a place in the workforce, knowing that if we perform adequately we’ll be rewarded through a wage or salary. We may even be rewarded with a measure of social prestige.

As a pre-service teacher I’m not naive to the fact that I lack experience, and maybe that ideal that I cling to of teaching learners that learn because they love to learn is not really realistic? Teachers and students both are competing with a huge variety of socio-economic backgrounds and home situations. This Classroom Dojo app may be the game changer that some teachers are looking for to engage students that really need something more. The app gives the students constant feedback as to how they’re doing in class, which I suppose gives more opportunity for them to improve. This app may be something that proves to be an investment in a class that ideally wouldn’t need it anymore after a time.

I think may main hesitation with Class Dojo is that I don’t believe it’s the only way to improve classroom management, and probably not the best way. If you want classroom management to improve then logically getting your students more invested in what they’re learning should accomplish that. A more inquiry based learning approach has proven to do just that. Inquiry has a way of achieving the idea we chase after in actually getting students to fall in love with discovery, curiosity, and the process of learning. But I also know there are a lot more dimensions at play in any given teachers situation, and not every teacher may have access to the support needed to get inquiry working effectively.

Classroom Dojo is certainly something I’d be willing to try out. I think students will love it, but I fear it may just be a patch job instead of real fix.

Week 4: Friendly Numbers

This week I finally finished my lesson on the principles of Graphic Design with the grade 7/8s. They turned in some really cool stuff, and I could tell that they were excited about the posters they made! For the students that finished early I had a follow-up assignment. The students that finished early were mostly the ones who rushed through the project, and because of that I wasn’t sure they fully grasped the four principles. So for the extra assignment I made up a a sheet which had a section for each principle. They went through magazines and found examples of each and pasted them into a collage. I also gave them the option to write their name in ways that represented the principles. In heinsight I think it would have been beneficial to have every student do this before moving onto the bigger project. I think it would have helped to solidify their understanding of the principles a little bit better and made the students be a little more intentional about how they designed their posters. Their posters were still quite effective in representing the four principles but I think a lot of that was due to sheer instinct, since this class seems to have a high level of artistically inclined students.

In the afternoon my co-op let me have the mental math period. A majority of the students lack basic multiplication skills, so my co-op has been working hard to get them up to grade level. I decided to do something that would be helpful in that goal and introduced a strategy called “friendly numbers”. This is the mental process by which we essentially substitute hard numbers for easy ones. For example 12×10 is much easier to solve than 12×9, so the strategy is designed to get kids to modify equations and simply add or subtract the variable as needed. I started with a few examples which included the whole class. I then passed out a worksheet I made with 19 questions. 7 were questions like 35+7+7 is equal to 7x___. Then next 7 were 9×6 is equal to 9×5+_____. The final 5 were just regular multiplication questions where they would be able to use the strategy on their own. Each answer had a corresponding letter that they would use to solve the secret message at the bottom.

I did a good job explaining it and my co-op noted that I seemed to have a good understanding as to when I was losing students and needed to try something new and was good at gauging weather or not they were getting it. I had to called the class back a few times to do more examples, but by the end of the period most of the class had grasped the concept. The one critique my co-op gave me was that I explained the worksheet before I handed it out, when I should have explained it after the students had their own to look at. If I had done it that way, it may have helped cut down on some of the confusion when the students got their worksheet.

Instruction can be a tricky thing, and I think math is perhaps the most difficult subject when it comes to instruction. Math is hard for a lot of students and it’s so easy to lose kids along the way if the instruction isn’t engaging. It needs to be succinct yet I also can’t make any assumptions about levels of common sense. There’s a lot of things about numeracy that I have big and complex understandings because I have an expansive frame of reference from which to understand it due to my life experiences. These students don’t hav that yet. Frame of reference is everything, and we need to be careful to deliver content in a way that builds that frame of reference.

You can view the N6.2 Mental Math Friendly Numbers lesson plan, and assignment sheet here.