I’ve realized recently that although my current “practice” teaching and plans for future teaching have dominated much of my thought, energy, effort, and time this semester, I haven’t written about it here. Anyways, while I plan to do a final reflection on my semester (after finals and projects), here’s an insight to what I’ve been doing this semester and a taste of the really successful and fun day I had when my supervisor came in for my final teaching observation! I probably should be doing other work, but today was so great that I needed to take this reflective opportunity and share.
To set the scene, I’m placed with 7th graders in Agawam. This is a Pre-Practicum experience, so my main role is helping during group work, conferences etc., doing observations, and I get observed teaching full lessons twice. Today was my final observation of the semester. Also to not be confusing, I already went through this exact process earlier in the semester with another phenomenal cooperating teacher at a different school in Springfield! Next semester is my “real” Practicum student-teaching.
It’s officially the last week of classes of first semester of my senior year *gasp*, and predictably, this I spent this entire past weekend pouring my every effort into the insane amount of in-progress final papers, projects, and portfolios assigned. Finally, late on Sunday night, I was able to switch gears and work on my lesson plan for my final observation. I am focusing on short story mysteries for my two-week unit plan project (10 days of detailed lesson plans and materials) for my Teaching Methods class project. Coincidentally, my classes at Agawam are starting a similar unit. I planned what I thought could be a fun intro into the unit, but since my mind was so spent, I wasn’t sure it was my best work or ideas. My cooperating teacher, Mrs. Ramos looked it over Monday and thought the lesson was strong content-wise and also creative and dynamic. With a few tweaks, I was good to go! Apparently, even when being overloaded with work, stressing, and running on very little sleep, I can still make a good lesson plan. This is good to know!
For a summary of what we did today, I started off with having the students recite the “ingredients” to a mystery: characters, plot, setting, clues, resolution, etc. Then they brainstormed some well-known mysteries: Scooby-Doo, Pink Panther, Encyclopedia Brown, National Treasure, Blues Clues, Sherlock Holmes, CSI, etc., etc. This had the students using the information of the mystery ingredients and thinking to apply it to shows/books/movies they know. We then watched a trailer from one of the recent Sherlock Holmes movies and applied those same skills. Next we read a mini-mystery and worked on setting and clues to solve it. I then had the students break up into groups in three stations: stations 1 and 2 reading and trying to solve another mystery, and station 3 had a creative writing prompt: “How might you set up a trap or surveillance of a family member who keeps stealing from the cookie jar?” The kids loved getting to plot their traps and plans to catch the cookie thief, all while applying the same content. All of the tasks I set up had the students entertained while critically thinking. I think I remember doing a similar lesson when I was in middle school, and it stuck with me.
Background info on accommodations: Before leaving school Monday, I made all the necessary copies of the four sheets I needed along with the adaptation copies for our student who is legally blind. He works better when the worksheets are magnified on a copier and printed on larger paper. This is a small task to do that really makes a huge difference in his learning. If the teachers and aids did not work with the student to assist him, and if he was not able to have the same quality of instruction as the others, behavioral problems might be an issue because of a natural lack of focus and disengagement with the class. If accommodations were not made, it might look like he wasn’t smart, but it would be really just a result of it taking him much, much longer to read small text. However, with these accommodations of large text and paper, this student can be right on par with other students and show his intelligence and other good qualities. There is a lot to think about while lesson planning, and it’s for the best of the student.
How it went!: I taught the first two periods of the day before being supervised, and it was a really good thing that I did. The two classes before my observation served almost like trial and error periods. What I mean is that my delivery and order of parts of the lesson were not perfect on try one. I made adjustments for class number two and finalized these adjustments further for class number three. For this reason, the third class went the smoothest of the three, thankfully! My transitions were still in the proper places, but I switched up the order of things to have it flow better. My questions were clearer and my focus was stronger. I had practiced for the championship game!
I do feel bad that the first class got the short end of the stick, because we had some technical difficulties with the computer, projector, and speakers, but that is just part of me being a learning teacher. The second and third classes were happy and energetic during my lesson! I got them to speak when normally they are quiet! My hook and activity worked in getting them engaged and interested while learning the material! It was fantastic, and I am thrilled. Mrs. Ramos and my supervisor were happy and impressed as well, which are huge compliments, seeing as I truly respect each of their opinions. An aid even overheard a student walking out of the third class saying “this was the best lesson of the year.” Now, I may not say that he’s completely right, but the sentiment that he had fun while learning makes me extremely happy, because that ability to make learning fun is a huge part of the process to becoming an extraordinary teacher.
I’m happy with my “performance” today. I was energetic and genuinely enjoyed my time with my students. I knew where I wanted the class to go for learning in the lesson. The students were great. I made the content relevant to them. I was positive. They were good thinkers. They had fun and learned. I had fun and learned. Today was a great day. :)