Summer Learning Place

Practicum Experiences

Final Observations

I’ve had a great experience at the Summer Learning Place! Not only did I get to work with a fantastic co-teacher, Nicole, I learned so much about meeting the needs of various students during the same class period.

Our class was made up of “those kids.” The students in every teacher’s classroom that need alternative assessments or constant one-on-one time but always tend to act up in whole-class activities. Many of these students simply crave attention. Whether it’s negative or positive doesn’t matter to them; they need it. Since each of our students desperately clamors for attention during the school year, a smaller classroom provided a more advantageous opportunity. I learned very quickly that if the students needed to talk or tell you something, you better let them get it out or they will be in a bad mood for the rest of the day. With students displaying every emotion from angry to overly emotional, Nicole and I had a lot of consoling and disciplinary discussions with the students.

After the first week, I was upset that the students were not better behaved when we provided them with such engaging and cool activities. Nicole and I were both perplexed as to why the students responded positively with so little effort to worksheets over the hands-on activities we had implemented. The combination of math and reading centers and a project-based writing curriculum seemed like a great idea for kids who didn’t want to be in school during the summer.

During an activity one day, I wondered how their classroom teachers responded to this problem. I realized that maybe their classroom teacher only used worksheets or very structured activities and that our unconventional teaching must be very confusing for these students who are probably constantly “redirected” by teachers where Nicole and I felt that the students were responsible enough to follow the rules they made for themselves. 

With that being said, and despite the behavioral problems, I think the students have really enjoyed the centers and ecosphere-based writing lessons. I have really benefitted from testing these teaching methods and discovering that for students coming from conventional classrooms, four weeks is not enough time for the students to become acclimated to a new set of classroom procedures and activities.

Without my fabulous co-teacher, the behavioral problems would have been overwhelming and testing out new methods would not have been possible. I am so grateful for this experience and I will take these lessons to heart when I begin creating activities for my own classroom full of students! 

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Behavior Management

So we started off with a chain that the entire class was responsible for earning rings to create. This proved to provide some incentive for good behavior but the students did not understand that for all of them to earn a ring, every student had to contribute with their own good behavior. They didn’t really appreciate the concept of a team effort: if one person lost, everyone lost. 

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This is how far our chain has grown. Probably not enough to reach the floor at the rate we were going last week. 

Then, we implemented individual behavior sticker charts (Thank Cathy!). These have completely changed their mindset on classroom behavior. This system allows for students to see their progression towards their reward and sets appropriate expectations. I think because the students were making unrealistic expectations of when the chain would be completed, they often lost sight of their goal during the day. With the behavior sticker chart, the students are constantly aware of their behavior’s rewards. 

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The students earned their first prizes today for receiving 10 stickers for their behavior.(Thanks for the prizes Nicole!)

Hopefully the students will continue to evaluate their behavior in the classroom beyond their experience at the SLP. 

 

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Math Centers with Checklists!

We had a great day working with math centers and activity checklists! Each of the students was given an individualized checklist with three activities. The three activities were determined by each student’s math ability level. These activities ranged from basic addition skills to subtraction and addition of three-digit numbers with regrouping. Activities included the following: Fishy Sums challenges the students to evaluate completed problems and figure out if they were completed correctly. If not, the students will need to complete the problems correctly.

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Secret Code Triple Digits challenges students to both add and subtract with regrouping using three-digit numbers. Pig Pen Problems provides the students with an activity to discover the correct addition or subtraction problem for a corresponding answer. The students must solve all the problems in order to complete the pigpen.

Egg-cellent Addition is a two-digit subtraction and addition problem worksheet that the students will use to graph the eggs they solve. The Summertime Board Game incorporates basic addition and subtraction while moving around a game board to practice automaticity in learning basic math facts.

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Cardinal and Penguin Addition both provide students with the ability to sort addition problems with cards and use manipulatives to solve the worksheets. 

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*These activities were created by teachers and can be found on teacherspayteachers.com

What Worked!

Who knew that creating individual checklists would provide students with such incentive? The students loved being able to check off activities as they completed them. While I was worried that I had planned too much, I think the students worked harder during this class period to complete their activities even though their assignments were more complex than usual.

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What I Would Do Differently 

With a different room and more time, I would create simple instructions at each math center instead of trying to explain all of them at the beginning of the class period. By providing the students with an easy task analysis (using words or pictures) to follow, the students would have taken even more ownership of their learning. These instructions would also make the activities more independent and allowed more time for questions to the teacher about solving the problems than questions about the instructions. 

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Reading Lesson with Centers!

CENTERS! I was very nervous about using centers in my reading lesson after the students had a lot of difficulty concentrating during activities that were not pencil and paper yesterday. While it made me uneasy about the outcome, I knew that centers would be the best use of my students’ time, as each student needs individual assignments according to their ability level. With such varying abilities, Nicole and I split the class up based on ability level and sought to meet their needs in a small group setting with centers. In Nicole’s group, students focused on working with sight words and developing phonological awareness. The students used the iPad app, Gopher Finding, to develop sight word recognition. 

Students in Nicole’s group also used a laptop to explore HearBuilder, a program that develops a student’s phonological awareness through different vocabulary games. Another center featured time for the student to read independently and use post-it notes to label each page with a challenging word they encountered. These post-it notes allow for the teacher to reflect on what vocabulary causes the student to struggle. Nicole’s final center involved the student reading one-on-one with her. This time for direct instruction is key for the teacher to develop a sense of where the student is and what he/she needs to work on. 

In my small group, there were three centers for students to rotate through. The center that incorporated a performance assessment required students to read one-on-one with me using a grade-level text appropriate for their goal. In order to get an accurate measure of each student’s words read per minute, a recorder with a microphone was used to document each reading. Students read for 10 minutes before rotating to the next center. 

The students then rotated to the word sort spread out on the rug. A stack of 30 third-grade level vocabulary words were given to students to sort into three categories: nouns, verbs, and adjectives. Students sorted these cards on the worksheet (seen below) and then copied each word onto their own chart divided into three columns for each category. This activity developed the student’s comprehension of the third grade level words in order to increase reading fluency. 

The final center required students to complete a word search. The students had a choice between doing a word search on the water cycle or commonly misspelled 3rd grade-level words. If the students completed all of one, they were given the opportunity to complete the other option. Our students LOVE word searches! These develop word recognition without the students even realizing it!

What Worked!

Students with their varying ability levels worked each center at their personal pace! This lesson allowed me to work one-on-one with each student to see their progress and develop a plan for how instruction should be modified. Centers, with one person at each one, allowed me to be assured that students would not be silly with a partner and provided a tangible assessment of the individual’s vocabulary and reading skills. The centers also put the responsibility for learning in the students’ hands and I think that they feel a lot more confident about their ability to complete assignments now. 

What I Would Do Differently

While I was very excited to work one-on-one with each student as they rotated, I was unable to observe and aid students at other centers to check up on them. One of my students has very little confidence and needs positive reinforcement constantly or his work will not be completed. When I use centers again, I will provide more “checkpoints” for him so that he can feel success after a few problems to encourage him to continue without my presence. 

In the future, I will also provide a time for reflection where the student can relate to me what centers were most useful to them in improving their reading skills. 

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Observing the Ecosphere!

Observing the ecosphere

(Click on the link above to watch A. observe)

A. is observing the ecosphere before offering his examples up for whole class discussion.

 

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Ecospheres!

Who knew that creating an “ecosphere” with two 2-liter Coke bottles would be such a great teaching strategy!?

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I had my doubts that the ecospheres could begin to exit the “honeymoon” phase, but so far, the ecospheres have proven to be more and more interesting each day. Each of the students is given personal time to observe the ecospheres and develop their own thoughts before we discuss the whole class’s observations. As we created the ecospheres and observed them the first few days, the students learned that there is a cycle within these small bottles.

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(Image from http://www.abundantearth.com/store/ecosphere.html)

This has led students to be more confident about their inquiry skills and subsequently, their writing ability, as they document their findings each day.

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These are some of their observations/predictions from today’s class.

This morning we began teaching the class the “Water Cycle Dance.” The students used the knowledge they gained from learning about the ecospheres to develop understanding about the water cycle. Evaporation, condensation, and precipitation are now stages that the students can recognize are occurring in the ecosphere that they’ve been observing! We’ll let you know how the “Water Cycle Dance” progresses over the next few days! 🙂

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Incentive not Discipline

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While Nicole and I have a very attentive group of students, we were noticing as the week went on that the rules the students had created were not receiving the appropriate amount of attention. We decided on Thursday that we would add a positive behavioral system in our classroom. Each time a student demonstrates an action that is following one of the rules, a paper chain link is created to add to the paper chain hanging from the ceiling. We decided that the students should receive a reward when the paper chain reaches the floor. On Thursday the students voted on two choices: ice cream or pizza party. The unanimous decision was a pizza party!

I will be very anxious to see how well it works in the classroom this week! I’ll let you all know how it goes!

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First Days of Teaching!

An empty 6th grade history classroom. That’s the first thing I observed about the stuffy area that would be my co-teacher’s and my instructional playground. I’ve always wondered what it would be like when I would FINALLY be the main authority in the classroom. While it has been great to begin implementing my own ideas and try new methods, it has been invaluable to have such a great co-teacher. As we designed our curriculum, very little would have been possible without Nicole’s expertise. With her in our classroom, I know that each student will receive the right amount of attention necessary for becoming more confident in the classroom.

When the students arrived, Nicole and I discovered very quickly that our students were chock full of personality. After introducing our science experiment for the week, “ecospheres,” the students were so excited about the prospect of keeping up with the fish’s environment within the coke bottles.  I was nervous about using this experiment at first because I didn’t know how well it would be received and how much the students would know about this type of experiment because so many science programs have been cut in Greenville County. I’m now very much for the concept of having a project-based curriculum after discovering the students know and retain much more when there is a central theme. I have been continually AMAZED at the depth of knowledge in the students’ observations and predictions that only occurred from their senses and reasoning.

Having observed how well the students communicated their ideas and observations orally, I was surprised at the students’ inability to relate this intelligence in their reading and writing. I am currently very overwhelmed by the amount of work I feel is necessary to appropriately meet the WIDE range of needs of the 7 students Nicole and I are responsible for. With limited time and resources, Nicole and I continue to brainstorm new ways to accommodate our classroom for our students. I have been so thankful for her calm reassurance and I think it positively effects our students, regardless of the activity. While I am finding each day to be more daunting, I am encouraged by my co-teacher and incredible students.

 

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