As the semester has progressed, I have begun taking over more and more responsibility in my classroom. At first I was a bit hesitant and I asked my teachers before I performed various actions in the classroom and as I become more accustomed to the classroom, I started taking over responsibility by simply doing what was needed. When we lined up, I would stand in the front of the line to watch over the students and then I led them outside or to the cafeteria or from the cafeteria to the classroom. As I found time I would grade and file papers for my teachers. Sometimes my teachers gave me ideas to help in the classroom, which have now become a daily routine for me.
One lesson that my teachers said I could implement in the classroom involves working with individual students on handwriting skills. I noticed that some students struggled with writing so my teachers mentioned a few specific students that I could pull aside throughout the day to practice handwriting skills. I decided to work with three students, two boys and one girl. As I work with these students, I am incorporating one of the Common Core English Standards into my mini-lessons, which is part of my goal for FEAP 1A: “Aligns instruction with state-adopted standards at the appropriate level or rigor.” The standard involving writing is LACC.K.RF.1.1 – “Demonstrate understanding of the organization and basic features or print.”
At first I used a pen and paper to work with the students; however, my teacher showed me that she had better tools for working on handwriting in the writing center of our classroom. One of the tools that she showed me was a magnetic drawing board that has premade stencils for all of the letters. Below is a picture of the magnetic drawing board that I used with the students. Please note that the board has been altered through Microsoft Paint in order to erase the writing on the board.
These students responded positively to my intervention. I made sure not to embarrass students or bring any negative attention to them. I understand the frustration associated with bed handwriting because I honestly have terrible handwriting. My “w” looks like a “u” and most of my letters join together in a pseudo-cursive. I never want my students to feel ashamed or embarrassed because of their handwriting so I focus on their strengths, not their weaknesses. I do of course observe and keep track of what my students need additional support with; however, I make sure that I consistently speak in a positive tone with positive words because I believe all of my students can be successful.
When I started working with the students I decided to focus on helping them learn to clearly write their names. I think this is a great starting point because students love seeing and reading their names. Students also write their names multiple times a day so they can constantly practice their handwriting skills if I begin with their names. I cannot post any of the work that my students and I have done because doing so would violate their rights and privacy. Instead, I will simply discuss what they have accomplished. All three students seem to enjoy the individualized sessions with me and everyone has shown some positive growth. I will address the students by pseudonyms in order to protect their rights and privacy. I will discuss two of the students, who will be referred to as Jacob*, and Kaylee.*
Jacob and I starting worked on one of the letters of his name during one session and then when I asked Jacob to write his name during our second session, he showed me his improved handwriting for the specific letter that we worked on. I could not believe that he remembered and had been practicing writing that letter because it had been almost a week since we started working together (he had been out for a few days so I was unable to work with him). I was elated at the impact that I had on Jacob and we practiced that letter and then moved onto another letter.
Kaylee made amazing progress that seemed to be inspired by our sessions together but were based on her own actions. Kaylee had some difficulty writing out her name because in the past but she made progress throughout the entire school year. In our first session, I focused on having Kaylee write out her name on a line, which became smaller and smaller every time she wrote out her name because this was an area of struggle for her. After a few tries Kaylee announced to me that she was unable to fit her name on the smallest line but I told her to try writing it out anyways. Kaylee was a bit upset when she filled up the line but I simply extended it for her and she happily finished writing her name. She made great progress in this session in terms of condensing the spacing between her letters and writing in smaller print.
On Wednesday, she told me that she had been practicing her name and that she could write it out clearly if I gave her some blank paper. I volunteered my personal observation notebook and she started writing out her name. I could not believe what a great job she did. Each letter was written with purpose and almost all of the letters were written in lowercase as they are supposed to be. I was so proud of Kaylee’s work that I showed both of my collaborating teachers and we all praised Kaylee for her great work. I will still continue to meet with Kaylee in order to make sure that she fully understands the processes she took to write out her name that way. As Kaylee makes progress, I will adjust our sessions to meet her needs.
Another task that I have taken over in the classroom is testing the sight word knowledge of my students. In the beginning of the year my teachers sent home a packet of sight words for the students to learn and practice at home.
Sometimes a parent or guardian will request that we test the students to see if they have learned the words from a particular list. When I was checking binders in the morning as part of my morning duties I found a note regarding this test and my teachers said that I could test this student as well as others in the classroom. My teachers have a list (two lists for the two classrooms) of the students and the list from the packet that they have passed the test for.
Students are only able to pass a test if they know all of the sight words from the list. Sometimes students “know” all of the sight words if they are tested in order; however, I test the words in a random order to see whether or not the students actually know the words. For example, for list 1 the words are I, can, we, the, like, a, see, go, to, have. The students typically know “I” and “can” but they get confused if I ask what “have” right after that. Although this may seem like a trick, this is actually necessary in order to determine how well the students know the words. We do not want students to memorize the order of the sight words on the list; instead we want students to learn the words, how to pronounce them, and what they mean.
After testing a few students, I came up with a small “speech” to tell them before the test. I told the student that I would point to a word and he or she was to say the word. If the student did not know the word, he or she was to say “I don’t know.” I added this because sometimes students would look at a word but not say anything. I wanted to make sure they were able to tell me if they did not know a word but if they were trying to figure it out, they had the time to do so without me interrupting them. I also told the students that if I leaned in and asked “what?” or “can you say that again?” I was not saying that what they said was wrong, but just to say the word again because I was not able to hear it the first time. When I was quizzing one girl, she said a word but I did not clearly hear what she said. I asked her to say it again and she changed her phrasing so I explained that I just wanted to hear her say it again because the rest of the class was being loud and it was hard for me to hear her. I used this phrasing and the questions in order to make sure that the students did not feel embarrassed or question their answer. After I tested the students, I wrote a note in their binder to inform their parents/guardians how well they did and what they needed additional help with.
Below are some of the notes that I wrote for parents/guardians in the planners of the students. Please note that I have edited out any names or any other identifying information in order to protect the rights and privacy of my students. One parent actually saw my note and responded to it.
Above is my response to a parent's request for a sight word test.
The parent’s note reads “Hi, Okay makes me one happy mama, and we will practice what needs to practiced for sure! Thank you for letting me know J.” [I drew the heart in response because this is done in our classroom to show parents that we have read their notes.] It was really great to see this response from a parent and I have written notes for many of the students. I will continue to check back and see what parents have said so I can work with the students. I understand that parent and teacher communication is extremely beneficial for helping students be successful in the classroom so I want to foster these kinds of conversations so everyone can help students be successful and I know what a student needs my assistance with.
On Thursday I submitted my request to be a participant in the USF Inquiry Conference. I have been looking for research related to my inquiry question “How do I accommodate for the visual, kinesthetic, and auditory learning styles of my students in social studies, math, and English?” This ties in directly with my goal for FEAP 2h: “Adapts the learning environment to accommodate the differing needs and diversity of students” and my goal for FEAP 5B: “Examines and uses data-informed research to improve instruction and student achievement.” I collected some data from the research that I have studied and I submitted an annotated bibliography for three of the sources that I have found to my PRT [Professional Resource Teacher]. The three sources that I have found are (1) Impact of Learning-Style Instructional Strategies on Students’ Achievement and Attitudes: Perceptions of Educators in Diverse Institutions, (2) Making It Happen: Using Differentiated Instruction, Retrofit Framework, and Universal Design for Learning, and (3) How to Differentiate Instruction in Mixed-Ability Classrooms. **These sources are listed below** I will be looking over this research and conversing with my inquiry partner to decide what I should do in my classroom and how I should collect my data.
The school is on Spring Break next week so I will not post anything on my blog next Friday but I will return to school on March 17th and I will have a new blog post at the end of that week.
(1) Dunn, R., Honigsfeld, A., Doolan, L. S., Bostrom, L., Russo, K., Schiering, M. S., Suh, B., & Tenedero, H. (2009). Impact of learning-style instructional strategies on students’ achievement and attitudes: Perceptions of educators in diverse institutions. Clearing House, 82(3), 135-140.
(2) Standford, B., & Reeves, S. (2009). Making it happen: Using differentiated instruction, retrofit framework, and universal design for learning. TEACHING Exceptional Children Plus, 5(6),
(3) Tomlinson, C. A. (2001). How to differentiate instruction in mixed-ability classrooms. (2nd ed.). Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development.