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My Classroom Website

Element One: Teachers know their subject content and how to teach that content to their students
 

I have…

 

There are various assignments I have completed at uni that I believe have helped me understand specific content areas from various syllabi, and how best to deal with this content in my teaching practice in the classroom. The most useful assignment was based on a mathematical concept (see evidence 1) and how students misconceptions can impede on the successful learning of such concepts. This assignment required me to address these misconceptions, and as seen in the task, I was able to prepare a summary on the concept, the possible reasons for particular misconceptions and some tasks that might help to overcome these. All of this information came from my previous experience on pracs, or from literature. Doing the research, reading journal articles and browsing through textbooks and workbooks always helps in being able to delve into a topic beyond a superficial level. Even whilst on prac, if I had to teach a topic area that I was relatively unfamiliar with (for example, The Rivers of the World - see evidence 2), I did the solid research beforehand in order to be able to effectively transfer this knowledge to my students. I did however realize that the best way to teach such content to my students was to plan a lesson whereby they self taught. For this particular task, students were placed into groups, and each group was given a generic scaffold of questions that needed to be answered. In the initial setup, I went through what was required, a reminder about what is expected in groupwork, and ways in which the groups might decide to approach this task. Students suggested avenues of research (beyond the books that I had provided), how to divide tasks, etc. This way, whilst I did scaffold the task and give examples, the group had to find out their own information, and take time to present it on a piece of A2 cardboard. This information was then shared with the class. Essentially, what this taught me was that I did not need to know absolutely everything about all content areas. Where necessary, in certain lessons, I would familiarise myself with the concepts and content prior to teaching the lesson – particularly in maths. This was so that I could figure our the best, most simple way to teach mathematical concepts to my students. Yet when it came to content where I did not know everything, it was about finding the best way to teach this content to the students – groupwork and research projects seemed to be the best way to approach it. Lastly, an overall familiarity with the syllabus content for each subject has allowed me to plan and implement lesson sequences that are engaging and appropriate, and ideally lesson sequences that link with other KLA’s where possible (see meanies lesson plan - evidence 3). It is also evident that these lesson sequences attempt to make content appear interesting and relevant to kids in Year K – I don’t see a reason, as yet, as to why learning can’t be fun – particularly in English and Creative Arts.

 

I need/I will…

 

I have not had the opportunity of using smartboards as yet. If in my next prac school at least one of the classrooms has a smartboard, I will most definitely ask to sit in on a few lessons, and potentially even teach that class one of the lessons on the smartboard. I believe, from my basic research, that smartboard can be an affective teaching tool in terms of student interaction. I will endevour to find out if this method works for my teaching style, and how best to incorporate it into my teaching if ever I am lucky enough to have a smartboard in my classroom. It seems that this is the way of the future!

 

I believe...

 

I believe, overall, that a solid knowledge of the syllabus content is not necesarilly the most vital aspect of planning. The syllabus documents are always there to refresh. What is important is knowing how to adapt the outcomes to fit a lesson, and how to itergrate key learning areas to form an engaging, motivating and content rich sequence of lessons or an entire unit of work. It is with this belief that I wish to continue my development of achieving this - really being able to work on intergrating the KLA's and bringing together a rich learning environment for all students.

              
Element Two: Teachers know their students and how they learn
 

I have…          

  

Whilst on my special ed. placement, I really gained a deep appreciation of students unique learning styles – from the gifted and talented students right down to the high needs students. Specifically, I worked with one student whose lack of any phonemic awareness drastically impeded on her learning in all content areas. She was targeted as a high needs case. I was able to demonstrate my knowledge and understanding of teaching strategies to cater for such students through my literature review. It helped me understand how such students need specific programs that can assist teachers in supporting these students learning (see evidence 4).

My teaching style is largely based on intrinsic motivation. I found this hard to implement on my pracs. It was only on my most recent prac that my cooperating teacher did not believe in rewards – her approach, and indeed the whole school approach, was based on verbal praise and getting students to value their work for themselves – not basing it on a sticker, stamp or point in the points system. I enjoyed working in this class as it allowed me to really put in place my beliefs (see evidence 5) on the benefits of intrinsically motivated learning. It was in this same class that I implemented a maths lesson that was designed specifically to cater for all the students level of intellectual development – from the students with special needs to the gifted and talented students. Not only did this lesson cater to the needs, but the response from the G&T kids saying “oh yay! I love a challenge!” really let me know that they appreciate the value of intrinsically motivated learning. It was in a lesson similar to this one (see evidence 6) that I really involved the students interests in the lessons. 80% of the students in the class played a musical instrument or displayed a high interest in music. Incorporating modern songs and music into a maths lesson was something that they did not expect – they absolutely loved it. I was extremely happy with the outcomes of this lesson – the kids were engaged from the start and it continued through to the end of the lesson.

Lastly, I have also come to appreciate how essential visuals are in supporting learning – particularly in younger years at school, but more specifically, for students from non English speaking backgrounds (see evidence 7). I hope to one day implement an ESL unit such as this in my class.

  

I need…

 

Whilst I know that this is something that will take practice, I need to really demonstrate a knowledge of the typical stages of students social and intellectual development as a whole. While I did cater to the different intellectual levels within the class, I sometimes struggled to plan lessons that targeted a typical Year 5 class – as in I prepared lessons that were too challenging for the majority. Whilst Vygotskys Zone of Proximal Development theory is something I very strongly believe in, these lessons were definitely not positioned within that zone. I believe that this was based on my initial fear of teaching a Year 5 class, believing that they were so old and could do anything (coming from my previous Year K prac). However, I slowly began to learn that these kids are still babies, still growing, still learning and most certainly do not know everything. It took a while to lower my expectations to an appropriate level, and guidance from my cooperating teacher helped in this process.

 

I will…

 

Hopefully in my next prac, I will have a look at the students workbooks intensively beforehand, talk to the teacher regarding specific learning levels, and really do everything in my power to see exactly where their learning level is at so that I can better plan and implement my lessons. Additonally, whilst I have completed indigenous education subjects at uni, I have never actually had indigenous students in my classroom. If in my next practicum I do not have indigenous children in my class, I will most definitely sit in on and hopefully assist with lessons in other classrooms that may have such students. If the whole school is not really geared towards indigenous education, I will aim to volunteer at an institution that is.

     I believe...

      I believe that no classroom is the same as another. Each classroom is unique, bringing different students needs, interests and strengths to form a complicated and interesting environment. Teaching is about taking into account all of these unique aspects and planning accordingly. Again, with practice, I hope to only improve my planning to as to create a rich learning program for each and every students in my class to effectively participate in.

Element Three: Teachers plan, assess and report for effective learning
 

I have…

 

In all lesson plans that I have developed in both uni assignments and in school settings, I have always ensured that the syllabus outcomes go at the top of every plan. I then ensure that indicators are established so as to allow me, in my teaching and evaluating process, to ensure that students are in fact achieving the desired outcomes. In terms of assessing these outcomes – that is, looking for the indicators, I take on various approaches – as I believe one should. It is not just about ticking off the outcomes - when I was assessing my students mathematical understanding of lessons I taught during prac, I ensured not only to look at their final answers in their workbooks, but to look at their working out process as well. It was not uncommon for me to get students up in the middle of a lesson to take on the role of teacher, and explain their answers for particular problems. This way, I could assess their understanding, and if they struggled, I could find another student who might be able to help. Assessment for learning is about seeking and interpreting clues and evidence that then help decide where the learners are at in their learning and how best to get to the next stage (Assessment Reform Group, 2002).

In terms of more formal maths assessment, I conducted SENA assessments during my 2nd year Kindergarten prac. I also conducted reading tests - miscue analysis (see evidence 8) with my Year 5 prac class. I do not believe in worksheets and written tests as the prime assessment strategy in the classroom. This is reflected in my critique of a science/design and make unit of work (evidence 9). There was no indication of assessment throughout the unit, but rather just a single worksheet at the end which acted as a ‘test’ for students. As can be seen in the critique, I added assessment throughout the tasks – listening to students, questioning students, getting students to explain their findings to the class, etc. Most importantly, I added hands on tasks so that I could watch the choices they make whilst they have fun completing the task.

Lastly, whilst I do not have photocopied evidence of the students marked work, I chose to mark the students ‘fairytale’ stories at a desk, where I could go through their story, ask them questions as I went, and understand their writing process. The attached lesson plan (evidence 10) highlights my intention for assessing, and this is what I did. I found it invaluable to have my students standing next to me, watching me mark their work, talking to me along the way and expressing their ideas and choices verbally.

 

I need…

 

The above science unit of work example is something that I want to implement in my class during my next prac. I want to ensure that everything I have said I want to do, I will do. I believe in it, and need to ensure that it takes place. If this means setting myself goals at the beginning of each lesson, or each unit of work, then so be it. If I need written reminders and probe questions, then I will do it. I also need to expand my repertoire of assessment strategies.

I need to communicate with parents whilst on prac. At this point, I have not made a great effort in doing this. I will be the primary teacher in the classroom, and I believe it is vital for parents to know what is happening in the classroom and how their child is going, particularly with a new teacher figure in the classroom.

 

I will…

 

I will actively seek different approaches to assessment – be it through suggestions on the internet, suggestions in formal literature or from communicating with colleagues and peers. I would also like to become more involved and understand fully the formal assessments that schools are obliged to undertake. I will ask my cooperating teacher to explain these formal assessments to me, and where appropriate, hopefully I can undertake the role of assessing the students – for example, formal running records. In terms of contact with parents, I will introduce myself in person if I see the parents and I will aim to send a letter home at the end of each and every week to let them know what took place in the classroom that week and how their child went. This strategy has been suggested to me, and I really like the idea. I will also look closely at the ‘Assessment for Learning’ website as I recently discovered they have fantastic suggestions and strategies for programming and assessment.

   
Element Four: Teachers communicate effectively with their students
 

I have…

 

One of the best literacy lessons I planned whilst on prac was based around fairytales. Students had previously learnt about the basics of fairytales, been read fairytales, etc. This lesson, we spent a large part just on discussion and questions (see evidence 10). I then read a short sample story, Rapunzle, asked a few more questions to elicit whether or not students understood the structure of a fairytale, and then went straight into writing. The setup phase of the lesson was the most important part – it got students thinking not only about the structure of fairytales, but also thinking creatively. This discussion phase worked perfectly, and the stories students wrote were really great.

 

I used many grouping structures during my Year 5 prac. The Rivers of the World poster assignment was based around friendship groups. I took the chance with this one – I wanted to see if it would work. And it really did! The one group of girls had the two highest needs students in it, and 3 other very capable girls. I grouped the special needs students together as I knew the teachers aide would be in the classroom at the time, and therefore could focus on the one group. I also knew that one of these high needs students was extremely artistic – her drawings were amazing! Therefore, her assigned role in the creative was the ‘creative director’ – their poster really did look fantastic, and this student felt very rewarded by her final work.

 

Another grouping strategy I used was for maths – I used ability levels for this task. I had designed a worksheet for the three levels of students in the classroom. The 3 students who work with a teachers aide were given their worksheet and worked on it in the corridor. The middle level (majority of the class) were given a worksheet, but could work quietly with the person next to them if they wished. A range of tools and objects were around the classroom to use if need be. The gifted and talented students were given there own worksheet, and worked together on the floor. A lot of the content in their worksheet involved concepts that the rest of the class had not yet learnt about – therefore I spent time with this small group going through the new concepts. It worked well, as I could spend time with these students discussing whilst the other students got along with their work.

I used this most recent prac to explore different grouping strategies - some worked better than others, but at least now I have tried and tested, and hopefully know what will work best next time. However, as previously mentioned, each class is different - what works well in one class might fail in another. It is all about testing the waters!

 

I need…

 

I really need to incorporate more ICT into my lessons. I am naturally more of a pen and paper, creative person. Hence I do not automatically think to include ICT into my lessons, despite seeing its value. While I have demonstrated use of questioning techniques to engage students, it is still an area that I would like to increase my confidence in.

  

I will…

 

In my future planning and on my next prac, I will seek advice from my cooperating teacher in terms of how I can best incorporate ICT into my lessons, and seek out what resources are available. I will also do my research on teacher websites, books and literature to work out the best way to plan and implement these ICT lessons once I have spoken to my teacher for advice.

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