P2 – Practice differentiated instruction.
Every day of my internship I have had the opportunity to practice and provide differentiated instruction. Although differentiated instruction at first seemed like a lot of extra work, albeit a very necessary component in successful education, I have come to realize that differentiated instruction is essential and just requires that the teacher understands that each student is an individual. Education must be approached with the knowledge that each student is an individual learner and must be provided with differentiated instruction depending on her individual needs, challenges and strengths. I have discovered many ways to practice differentiated instruction that are quick and realistic additions to my daily teaching. One way I provide differentiated instruction is by providing students with the day’s agenda and the learning target both in written form and verbally for my students. I have attached an example of the written form onto this post. Everyday when students arrive to class, they look at the projector screen which has the day’s date, materials needed, and the agenda with the day’s learning target. Students then begin gathering their materials and getting mentally prepared for class. When the bell rings, I remind students what they need, what is on the agenda and what we are beginning with. I am working on also explaining to students, verbally, why the learning target is important and why it is our focus for the day. I have found that many of my students rely on the visual, the written agenda, while many rely on my verbal message of the day’s agenda and expectations. All students understand what is expected of them and what to expect. I have found that all students like to understand the schedule and what is coming up, there is a great sense of relief when students have this information at their disposal. When the schedule is off or if the agenda was not up or lacked significant detail, students feel uneasy and do not know what is expected of them. I will continue to provide students with this daily information as an easy means of differentiated instruction, specifically of the agenda and daily learning target.
Throughout class, I project the expectations that are associated with each activity so that these expectations are clear. For my students who are hyperactive, often have difficulty listening and following instruction and for my students with IEPs, I frequently check in with them to make sure the expectations and requirements are clear. I have also had the opportunity to provide specific students with detailed expectations and requirements of the day, along with prompts, in the form of handouts, so they can quietly review them at their own pace and at their table.
At my school, we use the Workshop Model, created by Columbia University Teacher’s College. I have found that this type of an approach uses varied instructional approaches that engage a variety of learners. I look forward to integrating more approaches into my teaching tool belt and learning about more ways to differentiate instruction. Through professional development opportunities, collaboration with staff, and responding to the needs of my students, I will continue to collect methods for differentiating instruction.
P3 – Practice standards-based assessment. Through internship, I have had a lot of practice using standards-based grading because it is the model at my school. According to Whitman Middle School’s website “Standards-based grading removes extraneous factors and focuses solely on a student’s academic achievement and continued mounting evidence that indicates a true assessment of the child’s present attainment of the learning targets”. I have really enjoyed using standards-based grading as a means of assessing student knowledge and students’ ability to meet the learning target, which I have found is much more important than students’ ability to turn in a lot of work. Standards-based grading has allowed me, as a teacher, to focus on student learning and has allowed me to make learning meaningful for students and to create opportunities for teachable moments and emphasis on learning how to be a mature person who takes responsibility. I have attached my writeup for TPA which addresses standardized grading, this excerpt sums up my sentiments towards this grading system:
“Standardized grading has allowed me to focus on student learning and skill acquisition to inform my instructional practices. Experts report that reviewing student assessments that focus on student learning can help reveal ‘the practices for each instructional component association with good (or poor) progress in learning and achievement’ (Shermis, 2011,468).”
It has been evident to me throughout internship and through my experiences using standards-based assessments, that focusing on skill acquisition and student access to the learning targets, allows me to provide students with a more comprehensive education that has the student at the center of learning. I aim to continue these grading practices throughout my teaching career, always striving to focus on student learning, which should always be the focus in education.
E3 – Exemplify an understanding of professional responsibilities and policies. To me, E3 means understanding the responsibilities of a teacher in all facets and situations, as well as adhering to policies established by the school. This is a broad category but I do believe my internship has helped prepare me to handle the the responsibilities of a professional teacher as well as the policies in place for teachers and policies at specific schools. A teacher has many “jobs” and responsibilities- from preparing students educationally, to helping them become productive and healthy young people, to keeping them safe, to creating a safe environment in which all students can learn, to communicating with staff and colleagues to make sure the policies are being adhered to, and the list goes on and on. For TPA I created a context for learning which outlines my adherence to my professional responsibility to provide each individual learner with an appropriate education which responds to their educational needs. As a teacher, it is my professional responsibility to make sure students are provided with the appropriate tools and resources to be successful. I have attached my TPA context for learning as evidence in which I outline various strategies for providing students with IEPs and 504s the specific modifications, instruction and materials that they need to succeed. Part of my professional responsibilities are to keep up on my student’s IEPs and learning needs, gathering data to make sure I am providing students with an appropriate education with modifications if necessary, and to make appropriate changes if needed. At my current school, it is policy to communicate frequently with students’ IEP counselors; I make it my goal to check in with these counselors and instructors at least 4 times a week, often I am able to check in daily. These informal and formal meetings allow the counselors, aides, and myself to work as a cohesive group to provide students with an appropriate education. I have participated in several IEP meetings with administrators, fellow teachers, parents, and IEP counselors, to renew and revise current IEPs, using current student data and observations about student needs, challenges and successes to guide our conversation and the setting for goals for the student. There are many responsibilities and policies teachers must adhere to. I will continue to educate myself on these and continue to promote individual student education.
E2 – Exemplify collaboration within the school. Teaching is often referred to as a lonely profession but I understand that teaching can and should be highly collaborative. To me, E2 entails collaborating with fellow educators in your school, at your grade level and beyond, for the greater good of the students and the enrichment of all teachers. I am lucky to be currently student-teaching at a school that encourages collaborating between staff members. The 8th grade English and social studies teachers at my school are especially collaborative and this has proved to be a great learning experience for me as well as a great asset being a new teacher. The team has helped me with lesson and unit plans, shared ideas and encouraged me. Oftentimes, I ask fellow teachers for advice about instruction or content, take photographs of their charts and get ideas for my lessons. More and more, teachers come into my class and ask for lessons I have taught that were met with success or take photos of carts I have created that they would like to use in their own classroom. I have had the opportunity to create a high school reading unit which teaches students new strategies for accessing complex text and tools to use in high school when reading is challenging for them. This unit was constructed using Columbia Teacher’s college teaching prompts and structure. I have bounced ideas off of my team and mentor teacher but the unit and each day’s lessons were my creation. I was honored when all of the team members informed me that they would greatly appreciate if I could send them my unit calender, for they have been such a great support to me. I have attached a snap- shot of this unit calendar. Collaboration is truly going to assist in my longevity as a teacher. I will continue to support and be supported by teachers in my school and in my profession. Collaboration is an essential component of teaching and learning, therefore must always be an integral part of my profession, for the good of my teaching and student learning.
H4 – Honor family/community involvement in the learning process. To me, H4 involves supporting and participating in the students’ community and understanding that family and community plays an important role in the success of a student. Through internship, I have had the opportunity to support family and community involvement in the learning process and I look forward to continuing this practice throughout my career. Parents should be welcomed into the classroom, be provided with information regarding where students are at, what are their strengths and challenges, and should be conferred with frequently so that students, parents and teachers have a working relationship, built on understanding of the whole-child. I have had the opportunity to meet with parents during IEP meetings and inform them of their child’s challenges and successes in the classroom, and participated in the process of creating new goals for the student. Parents have the legal right to be a part of these conversations but even more importantly, parents should be an integral part of this conversation as they have an intimate knowledge of their child and their learning needs. Another opportunity I have had to honor family and community involvement in the learning process is attending school events that provide opportunities for parents, community and teachers to support student learning. The most recent event I was able to attend was the science fair, see the attached evidence for a full synopsis of this event. The science fair had a great community turn out and showcased almost every student’s science fair project. The halls were lined with science boards, each detailing the experiment or survey, hypothesis, procedure and findings. I was impressed by the work that students put into these projects and the creativity they brought to the assignment. Many students and parents came in support and I was grateful for the opportunity to show my support towards students, especially in a subject which I do not teach. Students need to see that their family, community and teachers support them in many ways and value all of their learning. I remember seeing my own teachers at my science fair, orchestra concerts and plays, and it reaffirmed in my mind my teacher’s commitment to not only my education in their classroom, but also in me as a person and my overall learning. As a teacher, I will continue to support and honor the community that students live in by supporting school events and student learning.
H3 – Honor the classroom/school community as a milieu for learning.
To me, H3 involves a few key teacher responsibilities and activities. Honoring the classroom as a milieu for learning requires that the teacher sets up the classroom climate and culture in a way that provides a safe and productive learning environment for each individual student. Honoring the school community as a milieu for learning requires that the teacher steps out of the classroom- physically and mentally- participates in community events and attends band, orchestra, athletic games, plays, and other student activities outside of the classroom. Honoring the whole-child requires that teachers honor not only the classroom as a place of learning but also honors the school community as a place for learning and growth. Last night I attended Willy Wonka at Whitman Middle School, a very rewarding experience for me. I have attached my findings in full and as a screen shot, explaining my renewed commitment to see my students as whole-people, not just confined to the classroom, “Watching students perform in this play re-committed me to the fact that students have rich lives that do not just start and stop in my classroom, but that are as important and multifaceted as my own”. I want to continually be learning about my students, the learning they have experienced through extra-curricular activities and be committed to community involvement, participating and attending school events that promote learning outside of the classroom. I believe it is important for students to feel supported by their teachers inside and outside of the classroom. This type of support leads to more buy-in from students and creates a healthy and supportive classroom environment.
O1: Offer an organized curriculum aligned to standards and outcomes.
To me, O1 means linking learning goals and learning targets with appropriate standards and outcomes to create comprehensive learning activities and curriculum for all students. This can look many different ways but an organized curriculum aligned with standards and outcomes must provide scaffolds for students to build their knowledge upon. Curriculum should build off of itself and build towards learning goals that can be achieved by all learners. Today I had the opportunity to organize the next several lessons in a way that scaffold learning towards the desired outcome: that students create compare and contrast claim statements about the Coastal tribes and Plateau tribes of Washington State. Attached is the completed lesson where I explain the significance of this organized curriculum which is aligned with Common Core State Standard: “SOCIAL STUDIES SKILLS The student understands and applies reasoning skills to conduct research, deliberate, form, and evaluate positions through the processes of reading, writing, and communicating: 5.4 Creates a product that uses social studies content to support a thesis and presents the product in an appropriate manner to a meaningful audience”. I have also attached a screen shot of the steps in the next lesson that will organize student thinking and build toward the desired outcome and learning goal.
We have been organizing our curriculum to lead up to this culminating formative assessment where students can showcase their ability to read for content and big ideas, take notes on reading, organize and synthesize their notes, then create a claim statement, topic sentences, evidence, analysis and link to claim sentence- all of which will come together to create a claim statement about the Coastal and Plateau tribes. This curriculum seeps into English Language Arts curriculum, as we have been teaching how to write literary essay using a format similar to the one used for compare and contrast. The social studies and English curriculum often overlap naturally, which provides added support to the lessons and helps aid students in their learning and knowledge accumulating. I look forward to continuing my practice of organizing curriculum to be aligned with standards and outcomes. If you begin with assessment requirements-proof of learning and skill, and focus on the standards and outcomes desired, structuring curriculum becomes more organized and systematic.