Support through Professional Community

8. Professional Practice – The teacher participates collaboratively in the educational community to improve instruction, advance the knowledge and practice of teaching as a profession, and ultimately impact student learning.

8.1 Participating in a Professional Community – Relationships with colleagues are characterized by mutual support and cooperation.

The eighth standard of the Internship Performance Criteria emphasizes the importance of participating in a professional educational community to advance student learning. It is important for teachers, especially new ones, to have a support network of other teachers, administrative staff, librarians, parents, and online communities to learn from and develop professionally. Regularly attending workshops and reading about the latest research-based instructional strategies is important to grow as a teacher.

Throughout my internship, I have attended grade-level team meetings to discuss curriculum, potential unit and lesson plans, and ways to assess student learning. One way I have been supported by my mentor and colleagues is by exploring a new curriculum for English Language Arts by the Collaborative Classroom that was approved for implementation at my school next year (see Figure 1).

Figure 1 - CCC Learning Hub Curriculum

Figure 1 – CCC Learning Hub Curriculum

As a third-grade team, we collaborated one day when there was an early dismissal and I experienced exploring the unit for fiction writing. We all agreed to use a specific rubric to evaluate the students’ fiction writing (see Figure 2). Together we modified it to fit our classroom needs.

Figure 2 - Fiction Writing Rubric

Figure 2 – Fiction Writing Rubric

Another way my colleagues and I supported each other was by sharing resources for the next unit about poetry. I borrowed an instructional guide for poetry from another 3rd grade teacher and used many of the lessons from it to teach types of figurative language to my students.

According to the U.S. Department of Education (2010), “half of teachers leave the profession within the first five years” (p 39). This is partly due to the lack of a support network of other educators and high amounts of stress as brand new teachers navigate the first few years of teaching. One way new teachers can be more successful is to build a support network around them. The U.S. Department of Education (2010) discusses the practice of “connected teaching” in which “teachers engage in personal learning networks (PLNs) that support their own learning and their ability to serve their students well” (p 40).

I am fortunate to have been placed in a school that has dedicated teachers that support each other to make sure we are doing what is best for our students. I am always willing to help my mentor and colleagues and want to support them too as I grow into this new profession. I have learned that it truly takes a village to teach children and without my colleagues’ support, I would not have been as successful teaching our poetry unit. In the future, I plan on continuing to talk to colleagues about different instructional strategies and ways they have taught poetry. I also plan to join an online community where teachers share lesson plan ideas and other resources that can help me engage students and support their learning in the best way possible.

Reference:

U.S. Department of Education, Office of Educational Technology. (2010). Transforming American Education: Learning Powered by Technology. Washington, D.C.

Advertisements

Reflecting on Teaching

2. Instruction – The teacher uses research-based instructional practices to meet the needs of all students.

2.3 Reflecting on Teaching – Teacher makes an accurate assessment of a lesson’s effectiveness and the extent to which it achieved its instructional outcomes and can cite general references to support the judgment.

The second standard of the Internship Performance Criteria emphasizes the importance of using research-based instructional strategies to meet the needs of all students. Reflecting on teaching is one critical component of this standard. It is important for teachers to constantly reflect on how lessons went and what could have been done differently or more efficiently to better meet the needs of the students. As I continue through my internship, it is important for me to reflect on my lessons and whether students were engaged, how well they understood the lesson, and steps I need to take for the next lesson.

I created several math lessons to begin teaching a unit about equivalent fractions. These lessons were based on research I had learned in my Elementary Math Methods class. Empson & Levi (2011) suggest letting students explore the concepts on their own first before being directly given methods or algorithms of solving problems. The theory is that students will learn better if they come to understand the concept through real world problems and classroom discussions. According to Empson & Levi (2011), effective teaching practices include “Posing problems to children without first presenting a strategy for solving the problems; choosing problems that allow children to craft a solution on their own; and facilitating group discussions of children’s strategies” (p. 10).

I started my first lesson by giving students an open-ended question with little instruction on how to solve the problem. Below is a portion of my lesson plan (Figure 1).

Figure 1 – Open-Ended Math Lesson Task

At the end of the lesson I had students complete an exit ticket. The sample exit ticket below (Figure 2) shows that this student thinks they understand the concept since they indicated a 5 for understanding the learning target, however, their answers to questions 1 and 2 did not support their high self-assessment score.

Figure 2 – Sample Math Lesson 1 Exit Ticket

As I proceeded to teach the second lesson, I used a similar format of giving students a problem to solve and allowing them to solve in whatever way made sense to them. Below is an exit ticket from my second lesson (Figures 3a & 3b) showing that this student really needs help and doesn’t understand the learning target.

Figure 3a – Sample Math Lesson 2 Exit Ticket

Figure 3b – Sample Math Lesson 2 Exit Ticket

Many students struggled with the exit ticket questions and the average “understanding the LT rating” for lesson 2 was 2.9. While I was teaching these lessons, I realized that my students were not ready to be given open-ended questions without prior instruction on how to solve them. I saw students struggling with the question and not knowing what to do or how to get started. I thought about my teaching after both lessons and determined that I could no longer apply the research and theories discussed in my Elementary Math Methods class. Without this type of reflective thinking, I would not have thought about what to do differently for the next lesson so that more students are able to meet the desired instructional outcomes.

I have learned that reflecting on teaching is important for effective lesson planning and instruction. As a result, I modified my third lesson to include direct instruction and modeling first before giving students a problem to solve. I have also learned that theories or instructional ideas may not make sense to use with certain students or groups of students. Perhaps if students had been taught earlier in the year to expect to try to solve problems in their own ways first, they might have performed better during my lessons. This constant reflection will help me meet my students in their zone of proximal development and provide them with instruction better geared toward their abilities. I am confident that my students will greatly benefit from what I have learned. I will use the remainder of my internship to continue reflecting on my teaching and making sure I am meeting the needs of as many students as possible.

Reference:

Empson, S. B. & Levi L. (2011). Extending Children’s Mathematics: Fractions and Decimals. Portsmouth, NH: Heinemann.

Using Book Clubs to Differentiate Instruction

3. Differentiation – The teacher acquires and uses specific knowledge about students’ cultural, individual intellectual and social development and uses that knowledge to adjust their practice by employing strategies that advance student learning.

3.1 Demonstrating Knowledge of Students – Teacher recognizes the value of understanding students’ skills, knowledge, and language proficiency and displays this knowledge for groups of students.

The third standard of the Internship Performance Criteria emphasizes the importance of differentiation. It is important for teachers to be aware of the strengths and weaknesses of each student so that instruction can be tailored to groups of students on a similar level or even individual students. Every student is at a different intellectual level and differentiation allows for better instruction geared to exactly what the student needs. If teachers simply teach the same content to all students, regardless of ability, interest, or cultural awareness, students may be left behind.

A few weeks ago during my internship, I used the Teachers College Reading Level tests to determine the current reading level for several student in my class. This assessment analyzes a students’ reading ability, including oral reading rate, fluency, and comprehension. My mentor and I have used this information in order to create four book club groups, each at a different reading level. Blair, Rupley, and Nichols (2007) assert that “effective teachers use assessment to select instructional strategies appropriate to the desired students’ learning outcomes in relation to the students’ existing reading capabilities” (p 434). These different book clubs allow us to differentiate our instruction for groups of students.

I am currently leading two of the four book clubs: one group is reading about Sojourner Truth and the other is reading about Elijah McCoy (Figure 1). Each time we meet, students bring their reading notebooks and texts with them and the group shares what they learned from the reading assignment. By examining each student’s notebook (Figure 2), I can quickly tell which students have read the assigned pages from the text and which ones haven’t. Most recently, the assignment included reading four pages of the text and taking notes. However, several students had only written notes from the first two pages and did not have enough class time to finish reading the assignment. I plan on using this knowledge to only assign up to two pages of independent reading and note-taking as opposed to four.

Figure 1 – Books for Differentiated Instruction in Book Clubs

Figure 2 – Sample Student Notebook for Book Club

Now that I have the awareness of the level of each student in each of the book clubs, I can better determine how big of a reading assignment to give them to complete before the next book club meeting. I have learned that dividing a classroom into groups of reading levels can be an effective way to differentiate reading instruction. I realize that some students in the class may be reading at a much higher level than others, so it is important for teachers to recognize and be aware of those differences so that we can appropriately challenge students to reach for the next level in their zone of proximal development. In the future, I hope to build on my growing differentiation skills and transfer my knowledge to other subject areas.

Reference:

Blair, T. R., Rupley, W. H., Nichols, W. D. (2007). The effective teacher of reading: Considering the “what” and “how” of instruction. The Reading Teacher, Vol 60, 5, 432-438.

Effective Teacher-Student Relationships

5. Learning Environment – The teacher fosters and manages a safe and inclusive learning environment that takes into account: physical, emotional and intellectual well-being.

5.1 Creating an Environment of Respect and Rapport – Teacher-student interactions are friendly and demonstrate general caring and respect. Such interactions are appropriate to the age and cultures of the students. Students exhibit respect for the teacher.

Teachers must provide a safe learning environment that takes into account the physical, emotional, and intellectual well-being of all students. Managing a classroom and maintaining respect and caring for all will promote higher student achievement. Without a safe learning environment, students are less likely to participate and more likely to become disengaged from learning and behave inappropriately.

Demonstrating concern and caring for each student can help build a sense of community in the classroom. According to Marzano (2007), several behaviors with students can increase academic achievement including making eye contact and friendly gestures, smiling, encouraging, and generally increasing the amount of time devoted to each interaction. Figure 1 below illustrates the various effect sizes for each teacher behavior. Having the appropriate mixture of concern, cooperation, guidance, and control in the classroom can help maintain an effective relationship with students.

Teacher Interactions with Students Source: Marzano, R. (2007). The Art and Science of Teaching. Alexandria, VA: ASCD.

Figure 1: Teacher Interactions with Students; Source: Marzano, R. (2007). The Art and Science of Teaching. Alexandria, VA: ASCD.

During my internship so far, I have observed my mentor showing caring and compassion for students, as well as defusing potential problems and providing guidance. She accomplishes this through a variety of actions. One way is through setting expectations with students on appropriate behavior. For example, she has several posters on the wall that list how students want to feel at school (figure 2) and the acronym RULER, which stands for the social emotional learning curriculum that public schools use in my district (figure 3). She indicated that she discussed these expectations at the beginning of the year. She is also reviewing the classroom charter and the mood meter chart (figure 4) this week to reinforce the idea that students should feel safe and happy at school.

How students want to feel in class

Figure 2: How students want to feel in class

RULER: Social and Emotional Learning Curriculum

Figure 3: RULER is a Social and Emotional Learning Curriculum

Mood Meter Chart

Figure 4: Mood Meter Chart

Another way she promotes a safe and caring learning environment is by monitoring student behavior at all times. There is one student in the classroom that has anger management issues and I have observed her quickly helping the student calm down by either redirecting or having the student wait in the hall until calm enough to reenter the classroom. My mentor also makes eye contact and maintains composure in tense situations in order to calm down the student.

Through my observations so far, I have learned that promoting a friendly and respectful classroom is important for the teacher-student relationship. In my own interactions with students, I have smiled and made eye contact with them and shown appreciation if they complimented me on something. I have also shown an interest in what students have to say and even used humor when appropriate. In addition to these interactions, I also attended an after-school open house event related to World Cultures where I interacted with several students on a more informal basis.

Providing a safe and welcoming classroom environment can increase student learning. As I continue my internship, I hope to notice more ways I can demonstrate caring for students and discuss these ideas with my mentor.

References:

Marzano, R. J. (2007). The Art and Science of Teaching: A Comprehensive Framework for Effective Instruction. Alexandria, VA: ASCD.