The purpose of this blog entry is to reflect on three lesson plans that I will be teaching in the coming week. In this reflection I will (a) examine what I have planned and determine whether I could do more in these lesson plans to (i) integrate technology, (ii) build schema in my teaching, and (iii) integrate twenty-first century strategies into these lesson plans. I will also (b) reflect on areas I may have overlooked in my lesson plans and how these could be implemented, and (c) areas where I believe I need more training and support and how I could obtain these (possibly with the assistance of my mentor).
Lesson Plan 1
In terms of my first lesson plan (topic: Dictation and Vocabulary), (a) (i) I have integrated technology by sourcing and displaying images for the vocabulary words that the class will review at the start of the lesson and for the ones that will be taught during the lesson. This is simultaneous a way to (ii) build schema of the concepts in my students’ minds. In addition, to further reinforce their mental schema, I will be supplying definitions and examples of the usage of the words and students will suggest examples that I will correct orally for all to hear. Although I believe the images alone may be sufficient to cement the words in my students’ consciousness, we will also be doing a show-and-tell homework assignment where they will bring in an object associated with each word to show and discuss with the class. This activity will further build schema about the word concepts. (iii) This latter show-and-tell activity exploits the twenty-first century skill of knowledge building because students find different connections to the vocabulary word. In addition, students are made globally aware because the vocabulary words are all sourced from the African novel we are reading in class – a novel which is autobiographical in nature and explains in detail the author’s childhood and life experiences in an African community. (b) An area I feel I may have overlooked in this lesson plan is enhancing formative and summative assessments with technology. To this end, I think it is important for me to find concrete yet innovative ways to instantly assess and verify struggling students’ understanding of the material (viz. vocabulary words). I am hoping some of my cohort members’ reflection blogs contain some ideas on this because I cannot think of anything to use in such a circumstance. (c) An area that I could improve upon is my application of the ‘stretch-it’ (elaboration) and ‘right-is-right’ (complete answers) techniques promoted by Robert Marzano (2007). I am acutely aware of the embarrassment low-achieving students could experience when they are asked a question to which they do not know the answer. I tend to be far too empathetic and feel this embarrassment for them. As a result, I simply move on to another student rather than pressing them for the answer or to elaborate on the answer. What I need to do instead is to remember to apply Marzano’s ‘no-opt-out’ technique where he allows another student to answer but then comes back to the first student to have them repeat that answer. (Marzano attests that this technique allows the low-achieving student to feel some form of success when they finally are able to answer the question correctly.) I could also explicitly state to my class that “There is nothing wrong with not knowing the answer. What is wrong is not trying.” I am also aware that I need more training in how to acquire ‘with-it-ness’ – or as I prefer to call it ‘teacher acumen’ (since a perfectly good word exists to adequately describe this concept and since learning and using this word will also help build teachers’ vocabulary!). In reviewing my baseline teaching video I observed that I was not managing what was going on at the back of the class and that I often simply do not see students at that back of the class raise their hands. I believe this is a skill that may be perfected with practice, but at least I am now aware of it and can try to work on improvement. Nevertheless, I plan to establish some form of hand-signal code with my mentor so she can tell me when I am not monitoring all students well enough. (She may actually need to call or shout out to me, because sometimes I do not even hear the students at the back or others calling my name when I am absorbed in explaining something to a student!)
Lesson Plan 2
In my second lesson plan (topic: Patterns and Algebra), (a) (i) I had not planned to use any technology. However, on reflection, I think I could reserve and set-up one or two laptops with exercises from the Khan Academy for struggling students to practice the math concepts with and perhaps for others in the class to take turns on. This second lesson plan is (ii) very heavy on schema building. Patterns were drawn on the board and in notebooks, and manipulatives such as popsicle sticks were used to represent the shapes. I think that an extended exercise on schema could be to use art materials and glue to build 3-D objects, (though I would only want to do this later on in this unit because it could complicate things). (iii) In effect this last activity would also integrate twenty-first century skills because using art makes the math lesson interdisciplinary and creative. In addition, the activity would then involve even more problem-solving and collaboration than it already did in their groups of four and pairs (the latter during the textbook exercise). (b) Although I love mathematics, teaching math is more stressful for me because answers are usually either right or wrong. I have a great fear of teaching my students something that is wrong or simply making a mistake and appearing incompetent. This anxiety leads me to come across as more stern and standoffish than I really am. I am not really sure what – if anything – I could do to change this. I believe that the nerves I experience may diminish with more time spent in the classroom and once I gain more confidence in my new profession of teaching. In terms of this lesson, I could have introduced the metacognitive strategy of self-regulation by telling students what they should be able to do by the end of the lesson. E.g. “Students Will Be Able To:” (SWBAT). In addition, I know that one of my weaknesses is figuring out how to plan better for low-achievers. (c) Perhaps my mentor can model for me her interactions with such students during the lesson and give me some insights into how to do this while not ignoring the rest of the class.
Lesson Plan 3
If possible, I think I could (a) (i) successfully integrate technology into this lesson plan by pre-typing my poster and using a projector to display the example on the board, rather than just sticking it up there with tape. It would also be good to source and display images to go along with and enhance the themes, quotes and connections discovered in chapters 1 and 2 of the novel. (ii) On reflection, I think that I could find a better way to build the schema in this lesson plan. A good exercise could be to use the initial posters as a draft and then have the entire class work together to make final decorated posters chronicling the themes through each chapter of the novel. This would definitely help students remember the novel in its entirety and make sense of all the themes within it. Another option would be to have the entire class work together to either create a mind map poster or an electronic mind map of the novel. Pupils in this class are already familiar with drawing mind maps, but doing one electronically could be a fun twist to this activity. (iii) Such an activity would require even better student collaboration and interpersonal communication, so I might have to give students some guidelines on acceptable ways to communicate things to each other and outline to them how to work together in harmony (also known as social competency). This lesson plan involves extensive group work (collaboration) and skilled communication (creating a poster and presenting it to the class, and using various media) which are both twenty-first century skills. I mentioned in the plan possibly making the groups into jigsaw groups (where each member is assigned a specific role) to ensure full participation of all members. I recall that this method would also help students to develop and demonstrate leadership and responsibility, which are also desirable twenty-first century skills. In this third lesson plan, (b) I know from beforehand that one of my greatest challenges will be time-keeping. I will have only one period of forty-five minutes to teach my lesson, after which my mentor will be introducing them to and teaching a new topic in English Language Arts and she will need the entire next period to do so. Being inexperienced in teaching – and tending to be rather ‘long-winded’ as a general rule! – I find it difficult to get to the grain of things and to explain things clearly and concisely. (c) A strategy my mentor has already suggested is that she get my attention and point to the clock if I am running on or taking too long on a part of my lesson. Unfortunately, this tends to fluster me and make me lose my train of thought, so I am now in a bit of a conundrum as to what to do. (b) In particular, I know I have issues with classroom management during group work activities and may need more training and support on how to master this. In this lesson, (a) I feel I may have also overlooked harnessing the power of some simple metacognitive strategies. (c) One simple way I could do this in all lessons is to tell the pupils the purpose of the lesson (viz. to learn how to thoroughly analyze a text, pull out important parts, synthesize it and make connections to other texts and to their personal lives). I could also get students to self-regulate by giving them a rubric to auto-evaluate their group presentation and peer-evaluate those of their classmates. I would also love to have time to pre-teach students some metacognitive text scanning strategies. I learned most of these in a speed reading class I took in university and they have been invaluable throughout my life. Strategies such as the following would definitely help my students be more efficient in a limited time scenario when they need to scan a text and draw out the important or relevant parts of it to present to the class. E.g. Scanning each line of text with your finger; looking for clues to meaning in word roots, word origins, prefixes and suffixes; taking note of words in bold, in italics or with the first letter capitalized; and reading the entire first and last paragraphs but then only the first and last line of all other paragraphs in the chapter. Another useful strategy to teach could be to tell each pupil to take notes on the chapter assigned and then have group members commiserate and compare notes at the end. (b) With my low-performing students (of which we have two in the class), I could try to prepare some leading or guiding questions on theme to try to scaffold their learning and improve their group participation. It seems to me that more structured activities are easier to scaffold for this group of learners (e.g. the scaffolding in Lesson Plan 1).
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