The new content coaching cycles began during the past week. For this first round, I will be participating in Science content coaching. Next I will do reading, and then I will end the semester with mathematics content coaching. For this semester, each cycle will consist of five weeks instead of three weeks. I am excited because this will allow me to get more feedback from the content coaches so I can further improve my teaching. Another difference between the previous cycle and this cycle is that the lesson plan templates will be referred to as the “USF Lesson Plan” instead of “Five Page Lesson Plans.” I had mentioned this title last cycle as a general term but it has become the new official term. By completing the USF Lesson plan template, I meet FEAP 2A: “Organizes, allocates, and manages the resources of time, space, and attention” by explicitly writing time limits and the details for each part of the lesson.
This cycle, I will be focusing on writing unit long lesson plans instead of writing about a single day. This is really beneficial for me because it allows me to structure my lessons based around the unit and the standards that I teach. Another great thing about this new structure is that I have already been doing this by taking the lead on planning and teaching science in my classroom. I will continue to do that during this content coaching cycle and for the rest of the semester. This structure will allow me to meet FEAP 1B: “Sequences lessons and concepts to ensure coherence and required prior knowledge.”
I was observed during this past week when I taught a lesson about the harmful effects of the Sun. For this lesson, I modified an activity from the Nat Geo textbook. In the original lesson, students used light-sensitive beads [beads that change color when placed in UV light] to compare the effects of using sunscreen to not using sunscreen. For my lesson, I wanted the students to see the effects of various items that people use to protect themselves from the Sun. The students observed the beads first without any protection and then moved in stations to examine beads in four setting: (1) under an umbrella, (2) under sunglasses, (3) covered in sunblock, and (4) under a hat. This allowed me to meet FEAP 3A: “Deliver engaging and challenging lessons” because the students were engaged through the centers activity and then had to show what they learned through discussions and written assessments. The station activity also allowed me to meet FEAP 3E: “Relate and integrate the subject matter with other disciplines and life experiences” because I had the students picture going outside in PE or going to the beach in order to provide them with background knowledge and a visualization of the ideas we discussed.
In order to meet FEAPs 1A/5A [Designs purposeful professional goals to strengthen the effectiveness of instruction based on students] needs, in the Ethics section of the FEAPs, I have designed a goal to work towards during this content coaching cycle. My goal for this content coaching cycle is to examine my questioning. I ask many planned and unplanned questions and I want to make sure that all of my questions connect back to the standards and the purpose of the lesson. I also want to make sure that I focus on asking higher order thinking questions, which will help me meet FEAP 3F: “Employ higher-order questioning techniques.” My content coach is helping my meet this goal by taking notes about the questions I ask and how the students respond to my questions. I will also be working with a peer to meet this goal.
The purpose of my lesson for this week was for students to understand that there are harmful effects of the Sun that we can work to prevent by using items to protect our bodies from the Sun, such as sunglasses, sunblock, etc. I met FEAP 1A: “Aligns instruction with state-adopted standards at the appropriate level of rigor” by designing this lesson around the standard: “SC.1.E.5.4 – Identify the beneficial and harmful properties of the Sun.”
I was very excited to see that the students clearly understood this by the end of the lesson. One of the questions that I asked is what material would be the best to use in order to protect yourself from the Sun. One of my students answered that you would need to use all of the materials to protect yourself from the Sun because some materials do not cover up your entire body. Two examples of this are the hat that only covers your head and sunglasses that only cover up your eyes. When I planned the lesson, I hoped that my students would learn that they need to use at least some of the materials mentioned to protect themselves, but I was very surprised and excited to see that many students understood that all of the materials can be used at once. This really shows me that the students understood my lesson and really grasped the concept of protecting oneself from the Sun.
One aspect of the lesson that I loved was having my students explore each of the objects by going outside and moving in stations. One problem that I faced; however, was that the students were very curious so they kept touching and moving the beads. By doing this so often, the beads came in contact with the light and changed colors. This was an unfortunate accident but it did highlight the point that the objects do not completely protect you from the Sun, which may have led to the understanding that you need to use all of the objects to protect yourself.
At the end of this lesson, I had the students write in their journals as an assessment piece. I try to have the students write each class period so I can use this to inform my teaching for the rest of the unit. This writing allows me to see if the students understand the concept or if there is a misconception that I must correct. This allows me to meet FEAP 1D: “Selects appropriate formative assessments to monitor learning” as well as FEAP 4D: “Designs and aligns formative and summative assessments that match learning objectives and lead to mastery.”
Below are some of the responses that I received for this lesson. I was really proud because the majority, if not all, of my students understood the concept and wrote a correct answer. One student in particular, a boy who has been learning how to speak English after moving to the United States, has really improved in my classroom. At first, he rarely spoke or wrote, but now he raises his hand all the time and is always eager to share his thoughts by speaking or writing. His answer is included in the examples below.
The student wrote, “I can protect myself b using all of the things that we used outside.”
The student wrote, “I can protect myself by using an umbrella.”
The student wrote, “I can protect myself by the roof.” This came from a discussion about how when we are indoors, the roof blocks the sun which helps to protect us. The student’s notes from the station exploration can also be seen: “The beads turned color” and “The sunglasses protect us.”
Many of the students had responses like these, which I use to inform my teaching practices that the students have a good understanding of this concept. At the end of the week, the students took a science test about the Sun and the Stars (the unit in which this lesson occurred). The next unit will be about Land and Water, which will begin next week. Within the next two weeks, the students will be taking their science midterm. The students saw similar questions in the beginning of the year science test and now the students will be able to show what they have learned. I am a bit nervous but excited to see how they do because I have taken the lead on planning and teaching science for a few months now so this will give an idea of how well the students have understood my lessons. I am excited to continue the science content coaching and cannot wait until I can be observed again!