Breadcrumbs (again)

I am posting all of the breadcrumbs I have written this semester! They were available via the google drive link below, but I just wanted to post the finished product as well.

 

https://docs.google.com/document/d/1e930isJC-2utAQXFzo6hJndPzMmF9FVGe_7H0JkvUcw/edit#

 

 

Sunday 2/11/18

 

For this week, I read Seifert, Chapter 7 on engagement. This chapter opened my eyes to new concepts and understandings behind classroom management that I hope to integrate into my classroom.

 

As I have mentioned many times, this year has been extremely challenging for me and I am ever so grateful for the many breaks teachers receive. My students have trouble taking me seriously and “respecting” me. I put “respecting” in quotations because I believe respect is a buzzword that can mean many different things to many different people. To me, respect currently means caring enough about my course to fill out the worksheets I spend time making and staying silent long enough for me to get through my mini lesson. The reading this week, as well as advice and conferences with other teachers, has shown me that earning respect is as much job, as the teacher, to facilitate what respect looks like as it is my students’ jobs to implement respect in my classroom.

 

Respect very much falls under the umbrella of classroom management. When there is mutual respect amongst peers and the instructor, typically, there is some sort of management in the classroom. Seifert emphasized that good management (and therefore, respect) comes with good planning and coordination of lessons and activities. If students can visibly notice that their teacher is not putting in time and effort to their class, they will not respond well to any sort of instruction in the classroom. This was my biggest takeaway from the reading.

 

Although I have spent the majority of my time lesson planning this past year, I began to realize that’s about the only thing I was working on for my classroom. I rarely assigned or collected homework, gave little projects, and did not have much student work up around my room. I was merely trying to get through the 8th grade science curriculum, rather than celebrate the things we learn.

 

As part of my plan for this course, I intended to implement something I have learned each week in to my planning and life as a teacher. From this week I will attempt to bring more than just lessons to my classroom. I will provide an update with how this part of my plan pans out.

 

Sunday 2/18/18

 

This week I applied the reading I had done the week before and I’m happy to announce that I’ve seen some progress! Instead of solely focusing on lesson planning and making my worksheets, I have planned a homework assignment for almost every lesson.

 

All I did was add a section to the end of my worksheet titled: Early Finisher/Homework. This section of my worksheet serves two purposes. The first purpose being that students who work quickly and are able to finish my worksheet ahead of time will be able to occupy themselves by completing this last activity. The second purpose being that students were able to apply their knowledge of what was learned in the lesson that day during the activity applied for homework.

The homework assignment allowed my students to better grasp the material learned that day as well as begin to take my class more seriously. When I began to check homework and assign grades to my students based on if they completed the homework or not, I began to see a slight increase in motivation in my class as far as completing work went. My students began to remind me to check the homework because they wanted me to see that they have completed it. The students then began to see how their grades were affected by homework.

 

Based on this progress, I plan to grade homework beyond just completion. I also plan to more strictly walk around the classroom during independent work and grade classwork based on how well students are following expectations.

 

Sunday 2/25/18

 

This week I read a segment of Seifert, Chapter 9 titled “student-centered models of learning”. I chose this segment because I believe this is something that currently lacks in my classroom. My plan is to analyze how I may implement student-centered learning in my classroom, and next week devote a lesson or two to my findings from this chapter.

 

If I were to describe the worksheets I create, I would call them structured because there is normally little room for student intervention, unless I assign a creative assignment where student are able to write or draw. My worksheets follow the flow of a lesson starting with the aim, moving to the objectives, then mini lesson, and finally some sort of practice of the material just taught. My biggest struggle this year has been classroom management and I have found that the highly structured nature of my lessons has allowed my classroom to run slightly more smoothly. This structure, however, has squandered many chances for students to play a key role in the teaching that occurs in my classroom. I have found myself facilitating everything from the Do Now, to all of the mini lesson, as well as directions for learning activities built into a lesson. I have been looking for a way to slightly alter this teacher-centered culture of my classroom and this chapter has given me an outlet to begin brainstorming.

 

Student-centered models of learning puts some of the responsibility of learning onto students rather than it falling solely on the teacher. The chapter did, however, emphasize that student-centered learning is not a chance for the teacher to take a backseat role. Student-centered learning is simply a way for a student to explore a section of a unit or topic that interests them rather than sticking solely to the plan of the teacher. This kind of teaching, known as independent student, usually still requires much guidance and support from the teacher.

 

My goal for next week is to implement an element of independent study into one of my lessons to allow my students to feel that they are essential to the learning of themselves as well as the rest of the class. My students have proven to me that many of them will take advantage when given too much freedom or leverage, so I have to be careful with how I plan to implement independent study into my lesson. An idea I have is that I can provide a choice of activities for my students to complete during the “independent/group practice” portion of the lesson and build upwards from there.

 

Sunday 3/4/18

 

Last week I read an article on how to switch from teacher-centered teaching to student-centered teaching. My biggest takeaway from the chapter was that student-centered teaching can be implemented with something as simple integrating student choice or independent study into a lesson. My goal for this week was to implement a student-centered activity into my lesson where I would do minimal instruction and students would do most of the heavy lifting, still taking away important pieces from the lesson.

 

This week’s focus was on reviewing old material for the upcoming readiness test. This actually very easily lead to a student-centered lesson. The day before the readiness test I told my students that what they reviewed that day was their choice. They were given the option of reviewing reproduction, heredity, mitosis, or the human body system. There was a different activity for each topic (either a reading, writing assignment, vocab matching activities, etc.). Students were given all the activities so that they could complete the ones they did not choose in class for further review that night. Each student and their elbow partner had to choose and work together on the same activity. After the time allotted for this activity ended, I had a partner pair from each activity lead the discussion for the review of their activity (with guidance from me as they lead the discussion).

 

I reflected on this lesson and came to the conclusion that my students were more interested in the lesson when they had the choice to pick the activity that they completed. Although the lesson was still fairly structured with many parts being “teacher-centered”, it was a step in the right direction of creating a more autonomous class.

 

Sunday 3/11/18

 

This week I will reflect on a visit I took to Millennium High School in Manhattan. I visited two chemistry classes (one being ICT), two biology classes (one being ICT), and an AP Biology classes. The biggest take away for me is that it is possible to put the bulk of the workload on to the students. In each class I observed, the students were performing a mini lab or activity with little guidance from their teacher, which is directly related to my Breadcrumbs post from last week. The teachers of Millennium brought my student-centered vision to life.

 

I took the most away from the general biology class I observed where the students completed a very simple activity to demonstrate the process of diffusion. All students were asked to do were put a single gummy bear into a cup of water and draw what they observed on this first day of the activity. The students were then to return to their gummy bear the next day and observe what had happened to their bear overnight and this would demonstrate diffusion in a cell. To make the activity more student friendly, students were able to name their gummy bear. Every student was able to successfully complete this task and made a prediction of what would happen to their bears.

 

This activity showed me that a fairly complex science concept can be integrated into a classroom through a simple, fun, and short activity. Observing this lesson inspired me to integrate more short and simple activities that stray away from my routine of note taking and worksheets. The students appreciate a break from note taking and will better remember the purpose of the activity. I feel that I have not tried this before due to my fear of losing control in the classroom, but the with the right amount of instructions and guidance I can add student-centered instruction to any lesson I want.

 

The chemistry teacher exhibited a whole other level of student-centered instruction. In this class students were demonstrating the concept of redox reactions through a demo involving salt water, pencils, and a battery. Many things were not planned beforehand (i.e. gathering materials by teacher) and students ran the experiment themselves with the teacher circulating during the activity. This showed me that a science classroom really can run autonomously and in a low stress environment.

 

After this visit I told myself I would work mini activities into my lessons at least once a week. My next post will be my progress on this endeavor.

 

3/19/18

 

Last week I reflected on my visit to a very autonomous High School where students did the bulk of the work in the classroom and the teacher acted more as a guide rather than an instructor (which is the dream for any teacher). The more of these blog posts I write, the more I am realizing my true goal of putting more “weight” on my students in the classroom by the end of the school year. By attempting to reach this goal, I believe I will also be conquering my goal of managing my class. What I plan to touch upon in each blog post going forward is my progress in creating a slightly more autonomous classroom.

 

I ended my last blog post by stating that I wanted to integrate more mini activities into my lessons in an attempt to engage my students more as well as lead myself into a more student-centered lesson. I attempted to do that this week, but started off small. Instead of just releasing my students to complete an activity on their own, I lead the charge in the demonstration of the activity, but forced my students to do the brain work.

 

My activity demonstrated the relationship between the Earth and the Moon in both size and distance. I did this by showing my students a basketball and asked them to guess what kind of the ball the moon would be if the Earth was the basketball I was holding. I then handed off the basketball to a trusted student. My students were so intrigued by just having an object brought into the classroom, which was really interesting to observe. After some turn and talk time was given, I took a few answers from the class and wrote down their guesses. Finally it was revealed that if Earth was the size of a basketball, the moon would be the size of a tennis ball (I did this by pulling out a tennis ball from under my desk). Students reacted this with many saying things like, “ah I knew it!” and “Woah, no way! I thought the moon would be bigger”. By bringing in these tangible objects, my students were able to make real connections they may not have made had we just discussed the sizes of the Earth and moon. I then had my students reflect on what they learned from this activity.

 

Next I asked my students to pick a distance I would have to hold the basketball and tennis to replicate the distance between the earth and the moon. I had already had a precut string of this size (23.5 feet) which I gave to the students I had given the tennis ball and basketball to. I learned that students think the moon is closer to the Earth than it actually is as many students picked lengths shorter than 23.5 feet. I then had students reflect on what they learned from this part of the demo.

 

In my opinion, this lesson was much more successful than other lessons and I believe that is because I added engagement and suspense to my lesson. My students were actually interested in finding out what kind of ball the moon was and how far apart the Earth and moon would be. Due to the success of this lesson I will try to integrate activities like this into my lessons more often. The next step in my process is to have my students do the activity in small groups rather than me doing it in front of the class.

 

3/26/18

 

This week I will continue to build upon my desire for more student-centered instruction in my class. As the weeks go on, I am picking up on more and more ways to achieve this goal by attacking my lessons through different entry points. One that I have divulged in already has been student-centered activities that put the bulk of the learning on discussions students have with each other about demonstrations and activities that have occurred in the classroom. I have already successfully implemented a few student-centered activities in my lessons and will continue this work.

 

A student-centered lesson is the result of a student’s desire to want to the right thing in the classroom. This stems from a student being self motivated in the classroom, which lead me to my discovery of the Self Determination Theory (SDT). This theory touches upon a student’s desire to do well in the classroom when they are intrinsically motivated by their surroundings rather than solely extrinsically motivated.

 

To learn more about this theory I read the article Intrinsic and Extrinsic Motivations: Classic Definitions and New Directions by Richard M. Ryan and Edward L. Deci.

 

4/1/18

This week’s blog post is focused on self reflection through analyzing my original action plan and critiquing the progress I’ve made thus far and any changes to be made going forward. My original action plan had the goal of discovering what motivates my students in the classroom with the intent of improving student engagement and behavior, which are two areas I have struggled with this year.

 

I am happy to see that I have stuck to my goal of trying to create more engaging lessons and have stuck to my action plan of including one thing I’ve learned from articles/readings/observations/educational experiences into a lesson at least once a week. This part of my action plan has allowed me to take risks in the classroom and really figure out what works well for my students and for myself as a developing educator. What I did not realize would happen is I have begun to focus on one specific form of engaging my students through student-directed lesson and activities. This has been the focus of my research for this class as I have been having the most success when I implement small student-centered or student-directed activities.

 

Going forward I will continue to research mostly student motivation theories and ways to implement engaging student-centered activities into my lesson.

 

If I were to rate myself on the rubric provided, I would give myself most 3s and 2s. The areas I need to improve on the most are getting my blog posts in on time and connecting with my peers. The way to improve my interactions with other is very simple: read and comment on their posts! I was definitely limiting myself by trying to research my goal of student-centered instruction by myself as many of my peers have the same or similar goals and have really great ideas that I plan to implement into my teaching. The way to improve submitting my work on time is going to have to be a consequence system, like we are suggested to have with our students to improve behavior in the classroom. As someone who has an over hour commute to work, I try to leave school pretty soon after that last bell. On Friday if my blog post for the week is not done, I will stay and write it. This will hopefully be the motivation I need to get the blog post done during the day or throughout the week.

 

4/8/18

 

This week I wanted to research more ways to encourage engagement in my lesson and my classroom. Up until this point I have been trying to implement mini labs and activities that would allow my students to take a break from the usual note-taking, turn and talks, and independent/group work. I’ve noticed that the more my students are able to have a stake in their learning, rather than just be guided through note-taking, the better the behavior is in the classroom, which has become the focus of my research: classroom management through engagement.

 

To further research my focus of classroom management through engagement, I read Seifert, Chapter 7 and specifically focused on the section Preventing management problems by focusing students on learning. A part of this section focused on choosing activities that are the correct level of difficulty and challenge students in an effective and engaging way. I took particular interest in this section because I have encountered an issue with the level of difficulty in my activities a number of times.

 

My students rarely follow the pace I intend for them to move at; my students either move more quickly or more slowly, with the exceptional few who wait for me to move on in order for them to move on. Most days the bigger issue is that my higher students will try to finish their work as quickly as possible in order to be able to put their head down for the rest of the period or take an exceedingly long bathroom break. The other issue also lies with my students who fall behind on their work during my lesson because they do not understand a certain segment of the lesson and therefore cannot complete an activity that falls later in the lesson.

 

This chapter opened my eyes to the importance of differentiation and how differentiation can lend a hand in classroom management. If all students are equally assisted and supported in the lesson, there should be no extra time for my higher students and more time for my lower students in a setting where all students are being challenged, but in different ways. As a first year teacher I typically do not find the time to differentiate most of my lessons, but I will try to implement this factor into my lesson and see if it makes a difference in my classroom environment.

 

4/15/18

This week I attempted to apply my findings of last week’s research and implement differentiation into a lesson and observe how my classroom environment did or didn’t change. The more I research, the most I am learning that a positive and safe classroom environment comes with lessons that are focused on the students in front of the teacher rather than the textbook, administration, or any other factor that may affect a day at a school. The needs of the students (whether that be engagement or a learning disability that must be supported) is correlated with classroom management.

 

In this lesson I actively attempted to differentiate the independent writing activity for my students by creating two different version of the activity: a high version and a low version found below. The high version is fairly straightforward merely stating the task, while the low version has a graphic organizer added as well as a definition.

 

Low Version:

Independent Practice:

Directions: Write a story about a trip you have taken (or a trip you want to take), about a time where you traveled to a place where the temperature was different than your hometown.

 

Assessment Criteria: Check off each box as you complete each task

  • Write about 3 temperature dependent* activities you did on this trip

  • Identify the type of sunlight you received in your hometown versus the type of sunlight you received on the trip

  • Write a 5-6 sentence paragraph

  • Include the vocab words: direct sunlight, indirect sunlight, and rotation

  • Include pictures for extra credit

*temperature dependent: An activity that can only be done in a specific temperature (for example, you can only go swimming when it is warm outside or you can only go skiing in the snow)

 

Before you start writing, fill out this graphic organizer to help you get started:

Activity done on trip

What did you do in this activity?

Is this activity temperature dependent? How?




 
   



 
   



 
   

 

Write your story below:

One time, I traveled to_________________________________________________________________________

________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

____________________________________________________________________________

 

High Version:

Independent Practice:

Directions: Write a story about a trip you have taken (or a trip you want to take), about a time where you traveled to a place where the temperature was different than your hometown.

 

Assessment Criteria: Check off each box as you complete each task

  • Write about 3 temperature dependent activities you did on this trip

  • Identify the type of sunlight you received in your hometown versus the type of sunlight you received on the trip

  • Write a 5-6 sentence paragraph

  • Include the vocab words: direct sunlight, indirect sunlight, and rotation

  • Include pictures for extra credit (space has been left at the bottom of the page)


 

Write your story below:

________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

 

Passing both worksheets out was a bit of a hiccup, but after all worksheets were correctly distributed I was able to see if there really was a difference in the classroom environment during the activity, and there was a difference!

 

My really low students who sometimes act disruptively in class because they are unsure what do, actually did more work than usual! Some were unable to write a response to the question, but still filled out the graphic organizer, while my higher students easily breezed through the assignment. There were some clarifying questions here and there, but it was nice to see that a modification to work and adjusting the difficulty level of an assignment really does make a difference.

 

4/22/18

My goal for this week was to find evidence supporting inquiry based and hands on learning in the classroom and its connection to engagement in the classroom. I successfully found an article by the National Science Teachers Association titled The Integral Role of Laboratory Investigations in Science Instruction, which discussed the importance of inquiry based learning for students of all ages. The article discussed that labs are specifically important due to the inquiry-based nature of science. Students should walk away with skills in observation and evidence gathering due to their participation in science labs.

 

This article got me thinking that not only should I try to just integrate mini labs and activities into my lesson to increase engagement in my classroom, but I should clue my students into why they are doing a certain activity or lab to allow them to understand the practicality of their actions. My students always asks things such as “why do we have to write this” or “why do we have to learn this”. All are valid question, but, of course, at the time that my students ask these questions my response is normally “Because I am the teacher and I said so”, which was not well received by my students. This article really sheds light on my students questions. Adolescents want to know the purpose of their actions. They do not have the common sense and knowledge that adults have to understand why we must learn certain topics and complete specific learning activities. Of course my students want to know what they’re getting out of my course! This realization may be a key factor in improving engagement and classroom management in my class.

 

Next week I will focus on implementing rationale into my lessons and how many science lessons relate to their everyday lives. I already am required to include rationale in my lesson plans so I might as well implement it into the actual lesson.

 

4/29/18

 

This week I decided to implement an idea I researched last week about providing rationale in my lessons to clue my students into the significance of what we were learning that day in their everyday lives.

 

The topic we’re learning is the phases of the moon, which at first, I was unsure of how to implement rationale and meaning into the phases of the moon. Why would my students care about what phase of the moon it is? There are many other things going on in their lives that they care much more about. I later realized that all the other things in their life was not the point. If I could make the phases of the moon real and relevant to them, they may be more intrigued, and that’s exactly what happened!

 

On my walk home the other night I took the following picture. image

 

My students were so intrigued that they were looking at an actual picture of the moon found in the night sky of The Bronx rather than a picture off the internet or in a textbook. We discussed what phase of the moon this picture represents and why and I was pleased that my students were taking more interest than expected in the phases of the moon.

 

Later that week my students were coming up to me showing me picture they had taken of the phases of the moon and telling me what phases of the moon they were. I was actually shocked that a simple picture I took of the moon (honestly not the most exciting thing in the world) created such a strong reaction in my students. This lesson taught me that if I make my lessons more relevant to their everyday lives, engagement may increase in my classroom.