Weekly Reflection – 1/13/14 – 1/17/14

           I have become more adjusted to my classroom during this past week, which has allowed me to get to know my collaborating teachers and students better. I know almost all of the names of the students by now after having so many conversations with them as well as grading and filing their papers. The students have come to respect me more as an authority figure but my collaborating teachers sometimes have to remind the students to pay attention to me, but this may be because the students are young and need repetition and help in order to pay attention.

            On Monday, I attended a PLC meeting with my collaborating teacher and the other teachers of the same grade level. Attending and participating in this PLC meeting allows me to meet the Florida Educators Accomplished Practices (FEAPs). When I participate in PLC meetings, I meet the first subheading, “Instructional design and lesson planning,” which involves “applying concepts from human development and learning theories.”

During this meeting, we discussed plans for the next two weeks because we will have Monday, January 20th in order to celebrate Martin Luther King, Jr. Day. We discussed plans for assignments related to MLK day including possibly reading the book Martin’s Big Words by Doreen Rappaport. I have never read this book before and neither have my collaborating teachers but other teachers said that it was a worthwhile read so we may look into that idea. Our students will be filling out a worksheet that says “I have a dream…” and they will write or draw about their dream. I made copies of the worksheet and the image below is a copy of the worksheet. I really like this idea because it allows the students to make a personal connection to the event and think about what their dreams for the future are.

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            Other worksheets that we discussed using include a poem about friendship and a poem about Martin Luther King, Jr.. We have a worksheet in which each letter of term “unity” has its own column and then the students will either write words or draw pictures that begin with the letter in each column or use stamps. A picture of the worksheet is posted below:

U

N

I

T

Y

The teachers also discussed their plans for the science unit for the next few weeks which involves sound and vibrations. The teachers and I discussed activities that would allow the students to “see” sounds and vibrations. We thought about making guitars with rubber bands; however, it would be extremely difficult to collect about forty shoe boxes for the students. The teachers were trying to figure out how we could get the supplies in time when I came up with the idea of using toilet paper rolls to make the guitars. I thought that we could cut holes in the tubes and then the students could attach rubber bands to the tube and then strum the rubber bands to watch them vibrate. My collaborating teachers really liked the idea and so we are collecting toilet paper rolls for next week so we can do this lesson.

In order to make my idea clearer, I have created an image and posted it below. (Please note, the picture of the toilet paper roll was taken from Google Images.) The toilet paper roll has three rubber bands around it and a hole cut in the side so there are many places in which the students can strum the bands.

 a2

            We may also use the toilet paper rolls to have the students make kazoos or rain sticks. I really like the idea of allowing the students to explore sound in such a hands on way. We also discussed the idea of allowing the students to use tuning forks in order to see, hear, and feel vibrations. My collaborating teacher had a worksheet which contained four ideas for allowing students to hear and see vibrations, one of which is allowing them to make a kazoo using a rubber glove, a rubber band, and an empty toilet paper roll.

Another idea on the worksheet was to put rice on top of a drum so when the students hit the drum, they will see the rice move. My collaborating teachers liked the idea but they were afraid that the students would get rice everywhere. I came up with the idea of having the students work over the water station in our classroom, which is basically a big tub in which the students can play with water during centers time. By doing this, there would be less of a chance that the rice would get on the floor. My collaborating teachers loved the idea and praised me for it.

My collaborating teacher mentioned another idea from the worksheet which was to take a coat hanger and tie a piece of string on each end.

 a3

The student would wrap his or her fingers around the string and then stick his or her fingers in his or her ears.

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Another student would then tap the coat hanger so they can hear and see the vibrations.

 a5

            As soon as my teachers mentioned this idea, I immediately mentioned that someone will have to make sure to watch the students the entire time so no one gets hurt. One of my collaborating teachers was surprised by my response, saying that I had only been in the classroom for four days and I knew that someone would have to watch over the students. For me, my first and foremost concern is the safety of my students and therefore, I would want to make sure that they would not accidentally hit one another with their hands or with the coat hanger. In the end; however, I believe my collaborating teachers and I will not use this idea.

A few days after the meeting, we implemented some of these ideas in the classroom during science time. The students were split into their groups and then each group was given a basket that corresponded with a different activity. Two groups were given the tuning forks, two groups were given rulers to bang, two groups played with the rice and the drums, and two or three other groups completed worksheets on sound. I walked around the classroom and observed the students and gave help when necessary. The students really enjoyed the activities and they were eager to show me the vibrations.

Although the classroom was very loud due to the students talking and hitting all of the objects, the students were so excited and they loved the hands on activities. I thought it was a great day and that the students really absorbed what we were trying to teach them. For example, the students of one group eagerly showed me the vibrations and the sounds the tuning forks made. They had recognized that by hitting the tuning forks on the table, they made vibrations that you could feel if you gently placed the tuning fork on your skin, which they did to me to show me what happened.

After the students did the activities, we discussed what they learned. My collaborating teachers have the students get in pairs by singing a song “sticky hi-five a friend.” Basically, the teachers sing those words a few times until the students have hi-fived a friend and they hold hands and talk with each other. So my teachers used “sticky hi-five a friend” and the students discussed what they did and learned. The students then had a whole class discussion on the topic. The students mainly answered sounds that they have heard before. In Classrooms that Work, the authors discussed that in the most effective classrooms “all kinds of real conversations took place regularly […] Children had conversations with each other, and teachers had conversations with the children” (Cunningham 4). By allowing the students to talk to one another about their experiences, they are learning from one another. The students are constructing their knowledge based on their experiences and the experiences of others.

In the Elementary and Middle School Mathematics textbook, the authors describe the importance of effective discussions in the classroom: “In Classroom Discussions, a teacher resource describing how to implement effective discourse in the classroom, Chapin, O’Conner, and Anderson (2009) write, “When a teacher succeeds in setting up a classroom in which students feel obligated to listen to one another, to make their own contributions clear and comprehensible, and to provide evidence for their claims, that teacher has set in place a powerful context for student learning” (Van de Walle 43).

I really enjoyed this entire lesson plan because it allowed the students to learn in a hands-on activity so they experienced sound and vibrations before they learned the term. In my observations, I saw that my students really enjoyed the lesson, which I think is extremely important because student interest fosters engagement: “Learner interest and engagement were important variables in the teachers’ planning [in effective classrooms]. Teachers taught the standard curriculum but tailored it to their students’ interests, needs, strengths, and weaknesses” (Cunningham 5). This lesson plan allowed the students, who are mainly kinesthetic and visual learners, to learn in the best way for them because the teacher’s kept their strengths and needs in mind.

During this lesson, the students were able to construct their knowledge through their experiences with sound, which follows along with the theory of constructivism. When the students were working with one another in groups and then discussing what they learned, they constructed their own knowledge as well. This follows along with Vygotsky’s social constructivism theory, which states that knowledge is constructed through interaction with others, which occurs as the students work in groups using a hands-on approach to learning the material (Bohlin).

I would love to use this lesson plan in the future. I think that students of all ages would enjoy the hands on activities; however, older students may need more activities that involve a higher level of thinking. For example, older students may not be as interesting in hitting rules to hear the sounds and feel vibrations; however, they could do these activities and had to reflect on them in writing in each center.

Another concept that my collaborating teachers have used in their classroom is that learning is constantly taking place, which is a sign of effective teaching: “Every minute of time in the highest-achieving classrooms was used well. Teachers in these classrooms turned even mundane routines into instructional events” (Cunningham 3). In my classroom, the teachers play many educational songs as transitions. For example, before science, the students have been listening to a song about echolocation; before reading, the students have been listening to a song about sight words; before math, the students listen to addition songs in which they count by ones to one hundred, and by fives to one hundred. These are only a few examples of the educational songs that we play in the classroom. The students love listening and singing along to the songs. On Friday, the students kept asking the teachers to play the echolocation song. I love this idea because the students are having fun but they are still learning, and by using the same songs over and over again, the repetition of singing and hearing the songs allows the students to learn. There are also many videos that accompany the songs, so the students can even visualize the concepts.

Another way that my collaborating teachers use their time effectively occurs when lining up the students. Instead of just telling the students to line up, my collaborating teachers make the students think and they call certain students up based on various questions that they ask. For example, the teachers may ask the students with a certain letter in their name to line up. We recently learned about the letter “b” so they asked the students with the letter “b” in their name to line up. The teachers also line up the students based on the color of clothing that they are wearing. Although this seems minuscule, it is a brilliant idea because the students have to think before they stand up; the students have to decide whether or not they fit into the category, which allows them to thinking about letters and spelling as well as colors.

This week I learned how to use a foam dye cutter when my collaborating teacher asked me to cut out 144 foam trees for the class so they could use them for an assignment involving learning the seasons. I have never used a dye cutter before so I thought that this was a great experience and a new opportunity for me. Although the activity may be deemed tedious by others, I enjoy helping out my collaborating teachers with tasks like these because I am still learning and I am helping them in the classroom. This is the reason why I enjoy making copies for my teachers. I have honestly learned a lot about copy machines from all of the copies that I have made. This is a skill that I did not realize I needed to hone and by helping out my teacher, I was able to acquire new skills and learn.

I really enjoy my time with my students and my collaborating teachers. I am constantly learning in the classroom through my interactions and experiences. I cannot wait to see what else I will learn next!

Acknowledgements

  • Bohlin, Lisa, Cheryl Cisero Durwin, and Marla Resse-Weber. Ed Psych Modules. 2nd ed. New York: McGraw-Hill, 2009. Print.
  • Cunningham, Patricia Marr., and Richard L. Allington. Classrooms That Work: They Can All Read and Write. 5th ed. Boston: Pearson Education, 2011. Print.
  • Van de Walle, John A.; Karp, Karen S.; Bay-Williams, Jennifer M. (2012-02-08). Elementary and Middle School Mathematics: Teaching Developmentally (8th Edition) (Teaching Student-Centered Mathematics Series) (Page 43). Pearson. Kindle Edition.”
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5 thoughts on “Weekly Reflection – 1/13/14 – 1/17/14

  1. Hi, Nicole!

    I always appreciate your thoughts, and your diagrams this week were very helpful in allowing me to get a sense of these ideas. I also appreciate how you make a claim and then you support it with one example. For instance, you said that the students understood the vibrations lesson and then you gave an example of one student who came up to you and showed you what s/he had learned, which is great, but it’s just one student. How do you know that the other students understood the purpose? In essence, how are you keeping track of and documenting your observations of your students?

    1. Thank you! I try to make sure that the information I convey is done in a format in which everyone can understand. I try to keep this in mind when I teach my students because some may be able to understand me by simply reading the words but others need a visual to aid in the comprehension. I know when I first read about the coat hanger vibrations activity I was really confused until I saw the accompanying pictures and I “acted” it out myself.

      Thank you again. I try to make sure that my claims have observations, all of which I keep in my own personal journal so I can refer back to it at any time. I have found that this journal is especially helpful when I am reflecting on the week’s events.

      I appreciate your question about how I keep track of student learning. To be honest, one of my fears as a future educator is how I will keep track of student learning and whether or not they have grasped what I want them to understand. I would love to learn more about what strategies teachers use to keep track of student learning. As an intern, I currently keep track of what I see in a sort of mental checklist because it is difficult to write down which students understand in a classroom of almost forty students. During turn and talk (“sticky hi-five a friend”) I try to pay attention to what my students are saying and whether or not they are on topic. My collaborating teachers form their own little groups during turn and talk and I have begun to do this as well. I try to make sure that students are on the right track and guide them if they seem confused. In the whole group discussion, I, along with my collaborating teachers, noticed that the students understood the concept of “vibrations” but they did not have that specific vocabulary word. The students explained how the tuning forks “shook” when they banged them on the table. The students used other words such as “moved,” “jumped,” and “tickled.” After this discussion on what the students observed, my collaborating teachers put on two videos with songs about vibrations. My teachers asked the students to look for the “fancy word” that described the “shaking” feeling that they had observed. After we watched the two videos, all of the students shared out that the “fancy word” was “vibrations.”

      So basically for this activity, I mentally kept track of what the students were saying to see what they had observed and learned. My collaborating teacher who was in charge of the lesson did this as well and she repeated what the students said to reinforce the information. My collaborating teacher then showed the students a video and did a quick informal assessment to see if the students learned what she wanted them to know and their immediate and passionate reaction by shouting out “vibrations” proved that they had grasped the concept.

  2. I currently do not have my own small group, although I would like to introduce this concept to my collaborating teachers. On Tuesday I will be working alongside one student, possibly a small group, for enrichment in math class. As of right now, I have mainly worked at an observer with some small assistance in the classroom. Whenever the students do turn and talk, I join in a small group that I chose based on the behaviors of the students. For example, if I see students that have not chosen a partner yet, I will make my own group. My collaborating teachers also join different groups of students during turn and talk.

    1. I think this is a great question to ask your PRT, your course instructors, and your CT. I have seen other teacher candidates and teachers keep notebooks with tabs for each group. This strategy is particularly helpful for ongoing small group instruction. For whole group, I’ve seen teachers keep class lists on a clip board located in the front of the room (or somewhere where it is easily accessible). The teacher had the objective in mind or would write it on the paper and then use a simple rating system (plus, check, minus, for instance) on the paper. These are just a few, but I would definitely check in with others including other residents about ideas.

      BTW – You should go to bed and get some sleep. 🙂

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