Sink or swim

So, today we presented our very first lesson plans.  Mine was, well, my first lesson plan.

I think it went okay, but being the very first one I found many things that I could learn from.

I started off my lesson with a PowerPoint presentation, and the first slide was a quick quote from a movie to get the students hooked into the lesson, after which I was intending to have a quick discussion on whether one of the characters was correct in saying that quotation marks meant that he did not believe another of the characters.  The students were hooked by video, but because I did not ask them to specifically watch for anything beforehand, they were fairly unresponsive and my planned discussion flopped.  Afterwards I went through my PowerPoint presentation.  I had intended to move about the classroom as I talked, but instead my knees locked and I stood right next the board.  The presentation itself went okay though.  There were a couple technical difficulties, but I didn’t freak out when they happened so everyone chuckled and moved on.  Afterwards the students worked on their assignments and I made sure to move around the classroom, answering questions and keeping an eye on whether or not the students understood the instructions and were able to complete the assignment.  Finishing this, I gave a few more examples to help the students understand, and then ended the lesson.  Right at the end, a couple of students had a question regarding the role of question marks, which I was able to answer well to them.

Things done well:

My presentation was well planned out.  I used words or phrases that they understood.  I walked around and helped out during the assignment.  When asking questions during initial examples, I didn’t immediately answer, but tried to probe as to why they gave a right or wrong answer.

Things to work on:

Move around classroom during presentation.  Make sure students have materials out before teaching.  Clearly explain why we are watching an initial video.  Give students enough time to write down notes.  Give clear instruction in making groups.  Use teachable moments for the whole classroom.  Have a clear signal to get students focused back on the front.  Come up with a way for students to inform you on their learning (like a thumbs up/down gauge).

Overall, there are definitely a few things that I need to work on, but I think that a lot of those could be solved preemptive planning, at least now that I know what to look for.

My coop teacher and placement partner were both very helpful in helping me identify not only areas needing improvement, but my areas of strength.  When something goes wrong, it is very easy to focus on the negative, but when your colleagues come back with encouragement and constructive criticism, it really helps in moving forward.

So, after my first ‘performance’ I’m not going to quit, but treat it as a learning experience and keep moving forward to becoming the best teacher that I can be.


Rules, or no rules

Classroom management is always an interesting topic of debate when brought up around teachers.  Some think that it’s better to give the students clear instructions and rules, while others think that having a few core values as the only rules is better.  But, after reading Dr. Richard Curwin’s blog post on the topic and Matt Giesbrecht’s description of Classroom Dojo, a moderated but self-managed classroom, it’s much easier to take a side in the debate.

Curwin’s post focuses on how having a few basic ‘values’ without strict rules is actually a bad thing.  This is because a value cannot be regulated, and so teachers have unstated rules that students don’t know about until they cross the line.  On the other hand, when giving strict rules with values as an overarching theme, students both know what the rules are and why they are in place.  Saying that you only have one rule is a deception, but giving clear guidelines and instruction allows students freedom to work within those boundaries without fear or desire to cross them.

Giesbrecht gave a brief explanation of Classroom Dojo, an app in which the teacher and other students (at the teacher’s discretion of course) can give points to other students based on what they are doing well, or detract points if a student breaks a rule.  He explains that though some might have objections to the clear format of letting students know via overhead projector can be a way to shame students, it in fact encourages quick behavioral correction.  This video gives a quick explanation of the Classroom Dojo app.

I absolutely agree with the idea of giving clear rules, as talked about in Curwin’s article, especially when they are accompanied by overarching values explaining why each rule is in place.  Setting up what I call ‘preemptive’ classroom management strategies I think is the most effective way to manage a classroom.  But leaving space open to help tackle problems that will eventually pop up is also wise, as one cannot be prepared for everything.  As for Classroom Dojo, I think that it has some really good potential, but that I might have difficulty integrating it into a classroom.  I don’t know, if nothing else it would be a good thing to try out.

What do you guys think, should classrooms have more or less rules?  Should teachers be absolute rulers in their classrooms, or should they merely moderate while the students judge themselves?

The wheels on the bus…

So, our last class went very differently than what my partner and I had expected.  Instead of teaching our first lessons as planned, the class went on a field trip, and us with them.  Our co-op teacher explained the circumstances, but quickly responded that this we an incredible learning opportunity for us to actually see the students on a field trip.  He told us that instead of being the ‘teacher’, his role was much more as a supervisor while also being able to learn with the students under the guidance of the tour guide.

Overall the students were very well behaved, which I was pleasantly surprised to see.  I do not know why, but I expected to see the students act like orangutans when they were in the new place, but for the most part they were very quiet, listening to the tour guide, who was an excellent presenter and orator I might add, and taking in all that was presented to them.  I know that not all classrooms are the same, but I would like to hope that my future students would behave in a similar manner, the only difference being that they might have been more interactive with the guide.

So, no new tales from the classroom, no first lesson disaster or success stories I am afraid to say.  But do not worry, we still have to present in a couple weeks, so we may see something interesting there.  Have a great day!

Culturally Responsive Classroom Management

Classroom management.  Now that is definitely something that I need to focus more of my time on as a pre-service teacher.  How does a teacher manage a classroom?  What expectations should a teacher have for his/her students? And how do the students individual backgrounds affect these expectations?

In the article Culturally Responsive Management. the author explains that teachers are not in a vacuum, and so still have cultural biases, even if they do no realize it, and so these biases come out when managing a classroom.  So, even if they have good intentions, a teacher may unintentionally be chiding a student because the student is sticking to his/her own cultural values.  In response to this, the author gives some tips as to how best to integrate student’s cultural backgrounds into classroom management strategies.  One of the biggest things that I took from the article was that a teacher should first recognize the differences within students, and then celebrate them, as refusing to recognize the differences is still a form of discrimination.  Students are different, so once a teacher recognizes that, it is a lot easier to meet them where they are at.

On the other side, one of the purposes of school is to instill cultural values in the students, and so how does a teacher meet students where they are at and still teach cultural values as a way of life?  I do not have a definite answer to that question.

What do you think about the Culturally Responsive Classroom Management?  Should teachers focus on the values of the dominant culture, or should they give more thought to the differences of their students?

We must Assess the damage done here

Today we talked about assessment, thought definitely not for the last time.  You see, assessment can be a very controversial topic, because it can be done in many different ways.  Traditionally, assessment has been completed by using assignments and tests to see if students know the content, but that is not an effective way to reach a lot of students, and so teachers should assess in many ways at once to get a more rounded picture of the student`s understanding.  Another topic that has been coming up recently is the idea of twice-done assignments (I`m totally coining that term; it`s mine), and how a good way to encourage student learning is to not keep assessments like homework assignments as final grades, but instead do some editing and allow the student to try again to hand it in again.  I know that would work well for other classes (especially those that include large written assignments), but I`m not sure how that would work for math.  Either way, I am continuing to believe that when students are presented with assignments that determine final grades, then they do not do the best that they can, but when a teacher is willing to help them through their mistakes, they are more willing to make them and subsequently learn.  Tests are final, I get that.  They are summative assessments of what the student learned throughout a unit or class, but formative assignments should be for encouraging learning.  Even if all the teacher does is grade it, give it back to the student, allow them to hand it in again, grade it again, and then take the average between the two marks, it would show what the student knows, it would encourage the student to try on both assignments, it would teach the student what exactly they were having difficulty with and encourage them to examine and correct their own mistakes, and it would not penalize students for not knowing everything right away.  I see this example as a fairly simple procedure to implement, even if it does add a bit more work to the teacher (grading it twice), but I think the benefits are incredible.

So, I still do not know a lot about assessment, but I am learning, and I want to be a teacher who is always learning so that the classroom in my last year will be better than the classroom in my first year, if only because of new ideas.

What do you guys think?  Should assessment be the same as it always has, or should it be changed?  How much should it be changed?  Is this the best way to teach our students?  Like I said, I don`t know everything, but I do know that I want to best for my students, and so I will continue to learn with that end goal in mind.

Making the Lesson Plan

Last Wednesday we continued to work on possible activities to teach certain lessons.  My partner and I came up with some pretty good activities to help teach comparing and pricing skills, as well as puzzle solving skills.  For the comparing and pricing, we thought that it would be good for students to actually go to grocery and bulk food stores to compare prices on specific items, that way they would learn how to actually see which is cheaper, and if it is more practical to purchase items in bulk rather than just buying what you need.  For solving puzzles, we came up with the idea in which students would be given specific items and a crate, and then be asked to organize those items in such a way that they would fit within the crate unobtrusively.  With each activity we also came up with differentiation strategies.  After this we began to actually work on lesson plans, and it has been very helpful going through all the processes.

I have learned a lot just through working through the lesson planning process.  After deciding on a topic, one then needs to come up with how the lesson will actually accomplish that goal.  It is difficult trying to come up with activities and good teaching practices that would work for students, and it is especially difficult not to resort to lecture style teaching that, while being much more easy to plan and implement, produces very little in the way of actual learning.  For the lesson plan I was hoping to achieve, students would learn about area and how to best divide up land for a given number of people, while also taking into consideration that everyone needs to have easy access to the water.  I would use this activity to test the mathematical skills of the students, but then would be able to cross over into a social studies lesson in which I would be able to talk about the Metis river lot system, in which the Metis divided the land into strips so that each land owner, specifically cattle ranchers, would have personal access to the river.

I do not know, but I thought it was at least an interesting idea.  But like I said, going through lesson planning is teaching me a lot, and I am coming to realize that the only real limits are the ones that teachers put on themselves (well and maybe financial, or time, or a number of other things, but I have not reached those yet).  And so, education continues to teach me how different the profession of teaching is from other professions.  Oh well, at least it won`t be boring.

What are your thoughts, do you have and lesson planning ideas? What other sorts of cross-curricular connections come to the top of your head?

In the Classroom: The Beginning

So, yesterday was the first day in which I was in the classroom that I will be in once a week for the next eight weeks, and overall I would say that after spending the afternoon with the co-op teacher and his class, I am really looking forward to our time together.

To introduce ourselves, my partner and I prepared an icebreaker game to introduce ourselves and get to know the students.  It went okay, but there were some ‘hiccups’ in the activity.  We had selected six different questions, correlating to each side of a normal die, and so we would get each student to say their name, roll the die, and answer the question.  Once the activity began, I realized that it was very difficult for both my partner and me to lead at the same time, and so because she had the list of questions, I just became a quiet figure standing among the students.  It was awkward, to say the least.  Anyways, as the die got passed around and the questions answered, we realized that the game was not going to take nearly as long as we had hoped, but our co-op came to the quick rescue by suggesting that we go through the students again, this time making sure that everyone received a different question.  As I said, the activity had significant holes, but we made it through.

After this, the teacher began a quick lesson that he had prepared, and in it I was able to observe many things within how the classroom was set up, how he taught, and how he dealt with students.  It was very interesting seeing these things and taking notes on what things I would like to implement within my future classrooms after seeing what worked within his.

I learned a lot from the initial experience of presenting and seeing lessons presented.  It will be good to further develop relationships with these students and their teacher, to hopefully better myself as a teacher.