On Monday of this past week I taught a Social Studies lesson to introduce some of the presidents to my students. My PRT (Partnership Resource Teacher) came in to observe me and provided me with good questions to analyze my lesson and improve my future lessons. I always appreciate feedback on my strengths and questions/recommendations because I can only become a better teacher if I properly analyze and reflect on my work.
The idea of pre-planning, teaching a lesson, receiving feedback and then improving future lesson plans is one that I am happy to participate in. In upcoming weeks my blog posts will change to reflect this process more. I will be writing lesson plans based on the University of South Florida (USF) template (which can be viewed here) http://www.coedu.usf.edu/main/departments/ce/elementary_education/lesson%20plan%20template.pdf) I have used this lesson plan format before but I have never implemented a lesson based on this type of plan.
I have currently received some assistance from content area coaches who work with the Urban Teacher Residency Partnership Program (UTRPP). These content coaches specialize in one subject area—mathematics, literacy, or science—and they help me and other residents. Starting soon, each resident will write a lesson plan using the template above for one lesson a week in the content area of the specific coach that is working with our school. So for example, I will be working with the Science content coach first so I will write a lesson plan in Science. I will write a lesson plan and implement a piece of the lesson once a week for a three week period.
After I implement the lesson, I will have a discussion with either my PRT or the content coach (one of which will observe the lesson or watch a recording of the lesson) and my collaborating teacher (CT). This process will occur for a three week period and each week I will reflect upon my experiences in a blog post. This will allow me to grow as a teacher as I analyze my lessons, receive feedback, and reflect on my experiences. When the three week cycle is up, I will work with a different content coach from another subject area and the process will continue again.
I am very excited to participate in this process. I think that by writing out a full lesson plan, I can keep track of the questions I want to ask students, what misconceptions they have and how I can address them, and think about what I expect my students to learn and then do to show me their learning.
For this week; however, I will discuss my experiences with a Social Studies lesson that I taught and mimic the process that I will use in the future.
On Monday, I taught a lesson about some presidents of the United States of America. I gave a brief introduction of President George Washington, President Abraham Lincoln, and President Barack Obama. This connected to the standard “SS.1.A.2.4: Identify people from the past who have shown character ideals and principles including honesty, courage, and responsibility.” This allowed me to connect to the Florida Educator Accomplished Practices (FEAPs) through FEAP 1A: “Aligns instruction with state-adopted standards at the appropriate level of rigor.” I taught this lesson because in the previous week, we had learned about symbols of the United States and the presidents are key symbols of our country because they stand for many of the ideals we believe in such as life, liberty, and happiness.
I read through the textbook with my student and we made connections between the presidents and their symbols. For example, one student mentioned that George Washington is on the dollar and Abraham Lincoln is on the five dollar bill. We also looked at the Washington Monument and the Lincoln Memorial.
I will admit that I had some difficulty teaching this lesson. On Monday, our schedule was changed so we had Specials (Art) at 8:15 in the morning, which was a big change for my class. Art class also takes place in the classroom now so it was a bit difficult for us to adjust to the lack of movement and change in location. Monday is also usually a semi-rough day because it is the beginning of the week after a brief rest on the weekend. My PRT observed me during this lesson and emailed me his thoughts afterwards.
I really appreciated his questions because they were questions that I had asked myself after the lesson. I have not done much planning and then implementation of lesson plans until this year so I have begun to realize just how much thought is needed when writing down ideas. This is part of the reason why I think the lesson plan template (see above) will be so useful for me. I think granting myself that much space to write down questions that I want to ask students and all of the specific objectives that I want to meet will allow me to grain a better understanding of how to successfully plan and then implement a lesson.
I emailed back my replies to my PRT which can be seen below.
My question is: What was the focus of the lesson? There was a lot of really good information, but you needed to keep all of the activities organized in your mind.
Q: What did you want to the students to learn and how did you want them to learn it?
Q: What did you want them to do first, next, last?
Have a plan in your mind about direction, time, activity, discussion, questioning, etc.
The focus of the lesson was to introduce students to some presidents so that during the week we can take a closer look at presidents (and next week at other historical figures) that show various characters traits based on the standard “SS.1.A.2.4 Identify people from the past who have shown character ideals and principles including honesty, courage, and responsibility.” I definitely think that the class would have benefited from me explicitly mentioning this. I know that I need to work on determining the specific objectives for my lessons and so I appreciate you mentioning this.
I also agree that the activities were a bit unorganized in my mind. I was a bit off this morning we had Art first thing in the morning for the first time so I was a bit unorganized from all of that which leaked into Social Studies. I had some trouble remembering what I wanted to teach in that day as well as what I had planned for later on in the week because I will be going into more detail about the historical figures that I talked about today later on. This I definitely know is something that I needed to fix and would have worked better for my students.
I am still getting used to teaching Social Studies because I have little experience with it and I am trying to decide what I want to do in the classroom. My collaborating teacher has given me the opportunity to take the lead. One thing I am trying to determine is if I want to use a Social Studies notebook and I think figuring that out and what I can do in it every day will be very beneficial for my students. I have never really seen a Social Studies notebook before although Mrs. Smith* (*pseudonym*) did show me an example from a training she went to so I am trying to gather ideas and resources before I just put it onto my students, because just as we both saw today, something that has good information but is not necessarily organized well does not really work.
For today, as I mentioned earlier, I wanted my students to learn a quick introduction about some of the Presidents of the United States and how they represent the United States just as symbols do. Later on in the week and during next week we will go more in depth about each president and other historical figures and I want the students to see how these individuals showed character ideals such as honesty, courage, and responsibility.
After this lesson, I went back and spent more time planning out the activities that I wanted to do with my students and some of the questions that I want to ask. I will continue to practice this so I can grow as a teacher. I always appreciate learning experiences like these so I can do my best to become the best teacher I can be.
I am very excited for next week because I explicitly planned all subject areas with my collaborating teacher. I will be performing a read aloud every day and I will be co-teaching Phonics and High Frequency Words with my collaborating teacher. We will also begin the Science Olympics in my classroom, which is the AquaFoils lesson. In Mathematics, we will be teaching the adding strategy of Doubles and Doubles Plus One.
I will also be working with a Guided Reading group. I will be meeting with the enrichment group a few days in the week. For this first week, my collaborating teacher will help me plan the activities but as I become more comfortable with guided reading, I will take the lead on that responsibility.
I will also work with a small mathematics group to reteach content. My collaborating teacher and I analyzed the data we collected from the Unit 1 test and we have chosen some students that need additional help with word problems, specifically adding and subtracting, including compare problems. By doing this, I am working on FEAP 1E: “Uses a variety of data, independently, and in collaboration with colleagues to evaluate learning outcomes, adjust planning, and continuously improve the effectiveness of the lessons.” My collaborating teacher and I analyzed test scores, anecdotal notes, observations, and exit tickets in order to determine which students needed assistance as well as what content I should reteach for them.