This past week, I was observed for a shared reading lesson of the text The Garden which is a Frog and Toad story. The lesson involved analyzing the text in order to compare and contrast the experiences of the two characters using key details from the text. When I performed this lesson, it was the second day of a three day mini-unit and it was based on the Journeys teacher’s edition. My collaborating teacher and I; however, modified the lesson to fit the needs of our students. For example, I chose to replace some questions from the teacher’s edition with my own because I believe they matched the objective and would guide the students during the lesson.
The essential question for my lesson was “How are the experiences of Frog and Toad similar and different in the text The Garden?” I stated the essential question early in the lesson and made a connection between my question and the note-taking guide that we used. The students and I completed this shared chart as we read by documenting the experiences of each of the characters. I defined experience as “what the characters know and what they do,” which the reading content coach really liked. I tried to make a connection between this definition and my students by talking about how they already know kindergarten math, so they have experience with it, but that they do not have experience with college math because they do not know it and have not done it yet; this connection helped me meet FEAP 3E: “Relate and integrate the subject matter with other disciplines and life experiences.” By making this connection for the students, I met FEAP 3D (“Modify instruction to respond to preconceptions or misconceptions) because I anticipated that my students would not understand the word and so I gave them the definition in the very beginning to guide the lesson. The reading coach suggested that I spend a bit more time in this area of the lesson to make sure that my students really understood my definition so they could complete the objective and answer the essential question at the end as a formative assessment. This helped me to meet FEAP 1D: “Selects appropriate formative assessments to monitor learning.”
Then I read the text, pausing to ask key questions on most of the pages. I decided to read the text in this way because we already read it on the previous day so this re-read was used to refresh the memories of my students and help them analyze the text with a new lens (experiences of the characters). This aligns with FEAP 1B: “Sequences lessons and concepts to ensure coherence and required prior knowledge.” One aspect of the lesson that both myself and the reading content coach agreed that would have helped my lesson and my students was for me to explicitly model by performing a think aloud. In the very first line, the reader learns that Frog has a garden, which reveals that he has experience with garden. I think that using a think aloud to analyze this line would have helped my students be more successful during the lesson. In the future, I will work on using more think alouds. I believe that I stray away from think alouds because I do not want to think for the students too much; however, I simply need to find a balance between my voice as a teacher and the ideas and thoughts of my students. This will simply come with practice which is why I have begun to take more of the lead when co-teaching the literacy block with my collaborating teacher.
One compliment that I received from the reading content coach is that the areas that I should focus on to improve my teaching are very similar to those of a veteran teacher. He praised me for stating my objective early, using the note-taking chart throughout the lesson (mostly with responses directly from the students) and having a coherent plan for my lesson. He would like me to work on using various types of intonation and voice changes as I read the text and teach in order to engage the students. The reading coach and I agree that my collaborating teacher does a fantastic job with this. At one point Toad kneels on the ground and shouts at his seeds to grow; I leaned next to a student and slightly raised my voice during this part but my collaborating teacher actually got down on the ground and shouted at the floor. My students were laughing and then they were able to go back to the text and focus on the lesson. I have been working on this aspect of my teaching for a long time because, in the past, I was extremely nervous to be in the front of any class and sometimes I actually shook when I spoke to a crowd. Now, speaking in front of my students occurs so much each day that I am never nervous and instead very comfortable. The reading coach assured me that this aspect of my teaching will continue to grow and improve as I continue teaching, which is yet another reason why I am trying to get as much practice with taking the lead as possible.
I have scheduled a second observation for the week after spring break. This week is the USF Spring Break so technically speaking I do not have to come to my internship, but I went today (Monday) and will be subbing on Thursday and Friday. The following week is the district spring break so I will not teach my next lesson until March 17th. The week after that is the standardized testing for my grade level and my responsibilities during that time have not been announced. I am excited to continue helping out in my classroom even though I am technically on vacation and I cannot wait to return after the breaks!