Which way is the write way to teach creative writing?

So, this week I got to teach a lesson on creative writing, and I would like to say that it was pretty successful despite the significant time crunch I had.

My teaching partner and I decided that it would be a good idea for us to teach another English/ Language Arts lesson, but that this time it would be a little bit more fun than how-to-properly-use-quotation-marks or how-to-properly-cite-sources lessons that we had been teaching.  As well, we also decided to take a hand at writing two different lessons, even if they were revolved around the same topic, and we both chose writing activities that we had enjoyed as students.  I chose a writing activity in which each student would begin writing a story, and then after some time they would have to take their paper and pass it to the person on their left, after which they would then have a different story than that which they had first started, and would continue writing the new story.

It really is a fun activity as you get to see students weaving their individual writing styles into common stories, and though when I taught it we only had about twenty minutes it was still a whole lot of fun with a whole lot of silliness.  After a few turns continuing different stories, the students were instructed to conclude the story in front of them.  I then collected the stories and proceeded to read some of them in front of the class.  What I did not account for was that some stories might not always be school appropriate, and so my biggest worry was that I would be reading a story and be caught off guard by something of that nature.  But, that only happened once, and I was able to catch inappropriate stories before I read them and so skip them.

Overall it was a really fun activity, despite my worry when reading them in front of the class.  The really cool part was that because I was reading their stories, the students listened very intently, and by very intently I mean that you could have heard a pin drop (had I not been talking).  I mean, I don’t think that I have ever seen that class be that quiet before, and especially not voluntarily!  I think what I took and will continue to take from that experience is that when you get the students more involved, they will manage their own classroom.  Had a student been talking while I read, his/her neighbors would have shushed them to be able to hear.  It was so cool.

Only one more lesson with that class.  I am definitely going to miss them.  Did anyone else know that teaching could cause so much emotion?  Probably.

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Out with the old and in with the… well slightly revised version

So, recently we received feedback for our original lesson plans (of mine you can find both in my original journal and on my lesson plans page) from our coop teacher and class professor, and were asked to revise them.  Revising the lesson to make it better was pretty cool, and a great learning experience being able to actually go back and change what I though needed change, whether it be a simple adaptation or a full out overhaul.  Though if you’ve been following you’ll know that my partner and I did something similar with one lesson plan as we had an opportunity to teach it a second time.

One of the changes in the lesson was to emphasize Bloom’s Taxonomy as steps up a ladder, rather than as random assignments and questions.  As the assignment was about written quotation marks, it was difficult finding something that could relate to Treaty Education, as the First Nations have and oral tradition, and so don’t need written marks to signify when someone is speaking, but then I realized that both written and oral languages need ques to signify when someone is quoting someone else, and was able to find SI7: Examine Oral Tradition as a valid way of preserving accounts of what transpired and what was intended by entering into treaty, which I thought fit nicely.  Other changes in the lesson can be seen by the link above.

Overall, it was a very good learning experience to look over my lesson again.

Is this your… other… quote?

Like I said last time, my teaching partner and I had the opportunity to our Bibliography lesson again to a different class, and wow, the students make such a difference.

We proceeded like last time, beginning with the 5-4-3-2-1 attention grabber that we have been using that past couple of weeks.  We did our presentation and used guided notes like last time, only this time, the students seemed to be a lot less engaged, my coop noticed this and said that, though it sometimes happens like this, the class was much more unruly than usual.  We also noticed that, because the students were not paying attention when they were supposed to, we had the same questions asked when it came time for the students to work on the activity.

Over all I think it went pretty well, but there are things that I would change if I were to do it again.  The biggest thing would be that I would make sure to look over the lesson in depth and in detail.  Just because I have taught it once, does not mean that I can teach it the exact same based on my past experiences.  Especially when teaching two different classes, the things that need to be emphasized in the first may not be a problem in the second, which then has its own problems which I may not be prepared for.  So again, prepare better.

Only two more weeks left with this class and this coop teacher.  Lets hope that I’m able to finish them well!

Is this your quote?

Yesterday my teaching partner and I team-taught again, with the focus of this lesson being Bibliographies/Works Cited pages, and I have to say that I think it went pretty well.

The reason that our teacher asked us to present on this topic was because the students at our school are putting on a science fair, and so they need to know how to properly say where they got the source materials for their projects.  I think that it was a great opportunity for us to teach that, as when I was about their age I did not receive such teaching, and so when I created a large project without having properly cited sources, I received a very low mark.  It is all part of people giving credit where credit is due (instead of plagiarizing), and when people do not, it is more often from not knowing how to properly cite than it is from a malicious attitude.

So, my partner and I taught this lesson, and it went well because of a few reasons, such as giving the students guided notes.  This is important because it does not require students to spend their entire time writing down the information presented, but instead requires a good level of engagement to successfully complete the notes given them.  We also continued using the 5-4-3-2-1 classroom management strategy which worked so well last lesson.  Another thing we did was to get the students to put name tents on their desks, as we are still having a little trouble with their names.  With those in place, it was a lot easier to ask them questions and to talk to them in general, and I know they appreciated when we did so.  Among other things, these were some of the reasons that the lesson went well.

Some things that I would change for next time would be to make sure to give clearer instructions to the students when getting them to do an activity.  I also think that it might be better to give each group a few items to work on instead of one, only to wait for another group to be finished to work on the next one.

Conveniently enough, though, we get to teach the same lesson next week to another class.  You see, this week we presented it to a different grade 7/8 class than the one we usually work with, but next Monday we will present it to our class, which is both really exciting, and a great learning opportunity.  It is really cool that we get to teach a lesson, tweak it, and then teach it again.  So, I’m pretty excited about that.  I’ll let you know next week how that goes.  Talk to you next time!

P.S. My partner and I got all our resources from Purdue Owl for those of you who also have questions about writing a Bibliography or Works Cited Page.

Science: the study of… blobs?

Hey everyone, how are you guys doing?  I’m doing great, as my field experience this week went really well.  For our field experience, my partner and I decided to try team teaching a science lesson.  Our lesson revolved around mixing different household items, specifically water, cooking oil, and alka seltzer tablets to form what looks like a homemade lava lamp.

It was a very simple experiment to conduct, but still very fun to walk the students through it and observe the results together.  If you want to conduct the experiment yourself, we got all our resources from Science Bob, as seen in this video:

And though it was a lot of fun in the end, there were still some significant hiccups that could be improved upon.

For example, we had a very significant time delay because of technical difficulties.  Our coop was trying to figure out the problem, and so it became very awkward and unproductive in the room while we waited for the issues to be dealt with.  It was a good lesson though, not that technology is bad, but that a teacher should always be prepared with a Plan B because we all know that technology has a tendency to not work from time to time, we just need to prepare for that inevitability.  But, despite that difficulty and others besides, there were some really good things that we set in place.

For example, to get the students attention, we had set in place that when my associate teacher or myself would care to speak, then we would raise our hand and count down from 5, expecting that the students would be paying attention and listening by the time we reached 1.  You know what, it really worked.  The students almost always stopped talking and paid attention to whoever was speaking.  It was pretty cool.  Another thing we tried our best to accomplish was to encourage questioning and further experiments.  When we had finished the lab we still had a few minutes so one of the groups put the cap on their bottle and shook it, wondering what would happen.  Initially I was hesitant to allow this, but then reminded myself that this is science!  In science we ask questions, form hypothesis, experiment on said hypothesis, observe the results, and conclude, so why should I stop students from wanting to learn?  I then proceeded to encourage the other groups to do the same and write down the results.  It was really cool.

All in all, the students learned, and they had a lot of fun doing it, which is something I’ll want to hang on to for my future teaching experiences.

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?