Module 6 – Similarities & Differences

The readings this week focused on teaching students strategies on working with similarities and differences. According to Dean et al. (2012), “There are four strategies in the identifying similarities and differences category: comparing, classifying, creating metaphors, and creating analogies” (Kindle Version pg.1945). Along with the four strategies there are also three recommendations: teach students a variety of ways to identify similarities and differences, guide students as they engage in the process, and provide supporting cues to help students identify similarities and differences.

In doing some self-reflection this week I was able to positively answer parts of the reflection prompts. I say ‘parts’ because I did not use metaphors or analogies last year and therefore had to answer no to part of the prompts.

  1. Do I provide explicit instruction related to comparing, classifying, creating metaphors, and creating analogies?

With this prompt I am able to say that I do provide explicit instruction related to comparing and classifying. I often use Venn diagrams with my students, before having them use the Venn diagram I teach them the different elements of the organizer and how to best utilize it. “ Students can use graphic organizers as a visual tool to help them make comparisons. The most common is the Venn diagram, which uses two or more intersecting circles to show how items are similar and different” (pg. 246).

One area that I can improve in is by implementing more metaphors and analogies. We did not use this strategy due to the high number of students with Autism Spectrum Disorder. Students with ASD have a difficult time grasping concepts that are not direct and concrete. Even though I will have students with ASD next year, I may try using metaphors and analogies with my other students.

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Video Analysis 1

Video 1 – 3rd Grade: Teaching Adjectives

I enjoyed watching and analyzing this video of a 3rd grade classroom learning about adjectives. Throughout the video I took notes on the different areas we have covered in our reading including: setting objectives, questions, providing feedback, reinforcing effort, providing recognition, cooperative learning, cues, advanced organizers, non-linguistic representations, summarizing, and note taking. I found that the teacher included several of these strategies into her lesson but she also left some of these strategies out.

The teacher did use specific strategies; she was great about setting the objective at the beginning of the lesson. This strategy was effective because all the students were aware of what direction the lesson was heading in and were engaged. She addressed the fact that the students would be learning more about adjectives but, the lesson would also include a discussion on the five senses, “today we are going to learn something different about adjectives.” She asked a ton of questions; throughout the video she was always asking questions to get the students thinking, “why would we be talking about the five sense when we are talking about adjectives?” The teacher did fairly well at reinforcing student effort. After students would offer an answer she would tell them “good job”, she also thanked the students for their polite manners. I noticed that after students would give an answer several times she said “maybe”, I didn’t like that. It would have been better for her to say “good job” or “try again”. She did offer an advanced organizer with the senses web; this was helpful for the students while they were planning their descriptive paragraph. The use of the Oreo was a great non-linguistic representation; the students could smell and taste the Oreo in order to write a descriptive paragraph.

Although the teacher did a great job in using many of the strategies we discussed she also left out several strategies that could have been useful to the lesson. She gave some feedback for example, “a more specific way to describe the ocean not how you feel about it.” I think she could have given the feedback in a more positive way, other than this statement I didn’t see any other feedback. One cue that I noticed, “can you get a pencil from a friend?” this was a good helpful cue but, she could have offered more cues throughout the lesson. I did not notice the teacher providing recognition, cooperative learning, summarizing, or note taking.

One thing that I may do differently with this lesson is to add in a portion of note taking. In the beginning of the lesson when the teacher was talking about the five senses would have been a great opportunity to include some note taking practice. As we have learned in the reading, note taking can support student learning in many ways. When students take notes they are able to take a lot of information and filter through to access the most important aspects. Students are then able to put that information into notes using their own words. This process allows students “to process the knowledge and assimilate it in their own understanding” (pg. 1550-Ipad).

Overall I think the teacher did a great job with this lesson. It is difficult to include each of these strategies into one lesson, she did a good job with including most of the strategies.

Module 5 – Homework

The readings this week focused on homework and whether or not it is a beneficial part of our student’s learning. Throughout the last several years skeptical parents and teachers have seriously evaluated the use of homework as a teaching device. The fact is homework can be as beneficial as we make it. Many of the old ways of giving homework are not useful to our students but by implementing a few recommendations given in the reading we can transform homework into a useful tool. Growing up I hated homework, most of the time it was very difficult and I needed my mom to help me. Even after turning in my completed homework I rarely received any feedback besides a total score. This was frustrating as a student and I struggled to understand the value of it.

The text offered several recommendations in changing the way we look at homework: develop and communicate a district or school homework policy, design homework assignments that support academic learning and communicate their purpose, and provide feedback on assigned homework (pg. 1728 Kindle Version). If we apply these recommendations to homework assignments our students will understand and appreciate the purpose of homework.

In doing the self-reflection this week I had to consider the homework I approved through the general education classrooms. Working in a resource room last year we did not assign homework to our students. Instead, the general education teachers would check with us to review the homework they sent home to our students. In reflecting on assigning homework, “Do I provide corrective feedback on all homework assignments?” I rated myself highly on this question, because I make a point to always provide corrective feedback on homework assignments. I would have my students bring their homework assignments from their general education teacher into the resource room to review with them. We would go over each question that was incorrect and work out the problem together, if there was a specific area they struggled in we would focus on that in the resource room. It is very important to provide feedback so our students can improve and become more independent.

In reflecting on assigning homework I found an area I can improve in, “Do I help my students provide self- and peer feedback on homework assignments?” Although I always encourage my students to give self-feedback, I never allow students to give peer-feedback on homework or assessments. I have always thought that this could be a dangerous thing to do with my students who already have low self-esteem. I’m not sure that I agree with peer-feedback. I believe teacher feedback and self-feedback is sufficient. Next year I may try peer-feedback and see how my students do with this addition.

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Module 4 – Note Taking

The readings this week focused on teaching students how to summarize and strategies on note taking. Both of these skills are important in supporting student learning. Throughout our student’s educational career they will continue to use these strategies and need them in order to be successful. I remember my first year of college sitting in a huge lecture hall, not sure how to take useful notes. This is a scary experience and our student’s should know how to take notes long before sitting in a lecture hall. Because, I was never taught how to take proper notes it is something that I am passionate about teaching my students.

The text discussed several key elements to note taking: teacher-prepared notes, teach students a variety of note-taking formats, and provide opportunities for students to revise their notes and use them for review (pg.1547-kindle version). Each of these areas is essential in teaching students the proper way to take notes.

It was very difficult for me to do an accurate self-reflection on this topic. Last year was my first year of teaching (student-teaching), and after reflecting on my current practice of note taking I found that I have a lot of room for improvement. On a scale of 1-5 I would have to rate myself a 1 in teaching note taking. Looking back on last year, I only taught my students one way to take notes, and it was more of an introduction to note taking. Unfortunately, I did not teach them various formats, give them feedback on the note taking, or build much time into my lessons for note taking.

One area that was difficult for me to admit was the fact that I did not provide various formats. In special education this is extremely important, according to the text, “Some students are primarily linguistic learners, and informal outlines and bulleted lists might make the most sense to them. Other students are primarily nonlinguistic learners, and webbing might resonate best with them” (pg.189). Looking back, I should have provided my students with various learning capabilities with these various formats of note taking. My reasoning behind not teaching this skill, I felt that many of my students were too young to be learning how to take notes. After the reading this week and doing some self-reflection I believe that this is a very important skill regardless of the grade level and something that I need to be teaching my students at a very young age.

Next year I plan to focus on this area to improve. I plan to make room for note taking in every lesson and build note taking into each story we read. The more repetition the more likely our students will become successful with this skill.

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Module 3 – Cues & Questions

The readings this week focused on helping students to access prior knowledge and introduce them to new information. As educators we are constantly introducing new information and searching for better ways to help our students succeed with each new lesson. Cues and questions are extremely useful when beginning a new topic, they help students to personally relate to the information and anticipate what they will learn next.

The text recommended four areas to focus on when beginning a new lesson: focus on what is important, use explicit cues, ask inferential questions, and ask analytical questions. Each of these areas allows students to access the information and anticipate the direction of the new unit/lesson.

After doing some self- reflection in the area of cues and questions I found some areas I excel at and others that could use some improvement. One area I feel confident in, “Do I focus on what is important as I provide information, share examples, and engage students in activities that tightly align with the learning objective?” An example of sticking to the essential information could be shown in a reading lesson done on a book that refers to students creating an Olympic game at their school. Instead of discussing in great detail the history of the Olympic Games I stuck to the relevant information and gave a brief introduction of the Olympics and immediately moved into the relevant factors of the Olympic Games at the school in the story. The learning objective was to use close reading to read the story and write a summary, therefore a detailed explanation of the Olympic Games was unnecessary.

One area I can improve in relates to the question, “Do I help students develop an understanding of how their background and prior knowledge connect with what they are about to learn?” Although I often try to apply this question to my teaching I find it difficult to apply in certain subject areas. One specific area I struggle with is low level math, how can I connect prior knowledge when teaching word problems or simple addition problems?

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Module 2 – Survey of Instructional Strategies

One of our most important jobs as an educator is to teach students that they are capable and competent. One way our students learn they are capable is by beginning to recognize the correlation between effort and achievement. Some teachers are successful in teaching their students this crucial knowledge; other teachers are unable to provide these skill sets to their students. According to Carol Dweck there are two types of teachers, “There are those, holding a fixed mindset, who behave in a manner that reflects a belief that intelligence cannot change – some students are smart, whereas others are not” (pg.39). For these types of teachers they find it difficult to teach students the more effort they exert the better they will do on an assignment. Whereas some teachers, “The second set of beliefs is found in individuals who possess a growth mind-set, which is a belief that intelligence can be developed through knowledge and the application of effort” (pg.39). These teachers believe that all students can learn and create a positive learning environment for their students.

After reading about the different types of teachers and how they impact their student’s learning I wanted to reflect on my own teaching strategies. I decided to use the rubric for Reflecting on Current Practice: Reinforcing Effort, to reflect on which type of teacher I am and how I reinforce effort in my classroom. After filling out the rubric I realized that there is an area that I need to improve in, “2. Do I continually provide students with examples of effort and stories about people who have overcome odds and/or worked hard in order to succeed?” As I read in, Classroom Instruction that Works, it is very important to provide success stories for our students to teach them effort and achievement correlation. I thought this was a great idea; unfortunately I had to answer “no” to the question. I have never thought of reading my students success stories, and explaining the similarities to my students. I have realized this is something that I will need to incorporate into my lessons next year. My district just adopted a new curriculum, Wonder Works, this is an English Language Arts curriculum that has paired readers with each lesson. After reviewing the paired readers I found that most of the short stories are non-fiction that are based on individuals who have worked hard to overcome trials in order to achieve their dreams. I think it would be a great idea to include these paired readers into my lessons and tie it to my students and their effort/achievement. There are many different practices that I plan on implementing with my students next year to ensure that they understand the correlation between their effort and achieving their goals.

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Module 1 – Survey of Instructional Strategies

After reading chapter 1 of A Handbook for Classroom Instruction That Works I was able to get more information about setting objectives and giving feedback to my students. Pitler and Stone discussed how, “students learn most efficiently when they know the objectives of a specific lesson or learning activity” (p.3). In order to be successful in this area we must study to become familiar with the common core state standards and the benchmarks our students must meet in our district. When we become more informed in this areas we are better able to explain and discuss the learning objectives with our students. One way that I use this strategy is by having a detailed compilation of all the common core state standards by subject in a binder. When I am planning a lesson a find a standard that best aligns with what I am teaching, I then redesign the standard in student friendly language. Each day I write the goal on the board in the form of “I can…” at the beginning of the lesson I have a student read the goal and we have a discussion about what the goal means. I think this is an effective strategy because it provides a goal for the students to work towards and a chance for them to discuss and ask questions about where the lesson is heading.

I enjoyed reading about the information in regards to feedback in chapter 1. One important detail that stuck out to me was how we must provide feedback but in “spoon-size portions” (p.23). After reading through this I couldn’t agree more that we must provide valuable feedback but in small portions. When a student is receiving too much feedback at once it can be overwhelming and all the value can be lost. One way I provide feedback is by meeting with my students after a test or large writing assignment. We go through the rubric together and discuss one area that they can improve on for next time and make a plan to make it happen. After filling out the reflection on feedback shown below, I noticed a few areas that I can improve on. One area that I answered “no” to ways “After providing feedback, do I give my students the opportunity to rework until correct?” After providing feedback I do not usually give them the opportunity to redo the assignment, my thought is that they can apply the feedback to the next assignment. After reading over this I am considering allowing my students this opportunity.

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