Tuesday, March 25, 2008

What a difference!

Every now and again class just clicks - and tonight, I was really pleased with class. I'm not sure it makes up for the last disaster with this group of teachers, but for whatever reason, everything just worked. What was different this go round? In other words, why did things go so well tonight and so horribly the last time?

For one thing, I was prepared well ahead of time - got ready for Tuesday's class on Monday instead of Tuesday morning - I have a tendency to "over plan," especially when I'm working "last minute" and maybe when I have planned for class so recently I focus more on the plans themselves [i.e., "covering the material"] rather than the students. Also, I simplified the model lesson - I resisted the urge to throw too many strategies at them at one time. I was trying to pull a new lesson together late on Monday and needed to get home, so I didn't try to plan an elaborate lesson at all - in fact, I paid more attention to the match between the standards, the text, and the strategies while at the same time keeping in mind that I needed to introduce the Jigsaw cooperative strategy to social studies and English because I had use it with science and math students two weeks ago. I think the lesson - pared down to essentials - plus a focus on the students' needs may well have added up to a successful class.

Another thing, too, is that students have more experience in student teaching at this point [and therefore have more context and personal knowledge on which to hang the ideas we consider], have done more reading for our class, and I think are finally beginning to put the pieces together. I know how frustrating it must be for them - and how confusing - in the beginning weeks of class. It takes a few weeks for the "big ideas" to make sense to the students. It is a stretch to think of text as more than just print, to consider the literacy needs of middle shool students as your responsibility when you hold a misconception about students learning to read by 3rd grade and then being able to read anything [the old "if elementary teachers had done their jobs, then the students would be able to read their texts" attitude]. Hey - I think I just had an epiphany of sorts. Students come to me with misconceptions about literacy in general as well as about disciplinary literacy specifically. It usually takes until mid-term for students to adjust their own thinking, and to begin to put the pieces together. I wonder if there is a way to speed up their realization about content literacy -- maybe if I thought about their misconceptions as a science teacher does scientific misconceptions, I might come up with a way to disabuse them of their misconceptions. Maybe an activity to offend the intuition - what we now call a discrepant event - hmmmm - I need to think about this for a while. Meanwhile, I'll just enjoy the feeling of having accomplished my instructional goals tonight!


Anonymous said...

I feel that class this week was much better because the activities involved the class. I enjoy being able to move around and work with others. also a few classmates were missing due to spring break.
Brooke Hooper

Anonymous said...

The class was much smoother than the previous SS/LA meeting. I think that you seemed more comfortable about what you were doing with the class, the technology worked, and as the previous student mentioned, we were missing classmates due to spring break. I did not stay for the unpacking of the entire lesson, but the beginning was on target. We (students) were allowed to work in groups, move about the classroom and intereact with classmates to get their ideas and find out what they were learning. I am finding that in the middles school setting, especially the LA class where most of the students think that what we are doing is boring, cooperative learning works well.
I do agree with your blog that in the beginning we may not have fully understood all that you were throwing at us, but now that I am in the classroom setting and know what is expected as a teacher, what you are giving us make more sense. I look forward to the next classes to obtain more stratagies to take into the classroom. One complaint that I do have is that the lesson plans that we are required to do are difficult when the cooperating teacher has a plan for how the class should be run and then here I come as a student teacher attempting to do my thing. It is not very easy to put in place lesson plans, even if they are mini, in the classroom run predominately by another teacher. I do not have a hands-off CT, she is very involved in all the planning and ultimately it will go the way she plans. I wanted to let you know that for the next set of student teachers you have.

Karen Harris

Anonymous said...

I think our last class went well. I enjoyed seeing new methods to try in my classroom and trying them out on myself before putting the students through it to see what result I achieved. The results was a great way to work in cooperative learning and learn the topic at hand. I am actually going to try some cooperative learning for my last observation this semester. It was great to see the students in our class enjoying it so I think the middle school students will be as full of life to learn as well. I will definitely have to set some ground rules because my CT does not believe in cooperative learning which is sad for her students. She is a traditional lecturer everyday or a movie person. So with me straying from her norm, I think the students will really be grateful for such an interactive lesson.

Crystal Dobson

Anonymous said...

Some of these methods/techniques are starting to make more sense to me as a teacher. For instance, four square vocabulary is something that my students (once they understand how to do it) can really find beneficial. I will probably use this often for bell-work. If I had been able to use some of these ideas in the classroom earlier in the semester, I might have had more hands-on experience to bring back to this READ 867 class. This would have made the class more beneficial.

As for tonight, I thought the jigsaw exercise was very helpful. We reviewed this in a cohort class last summer but it always helps to see something in action. The more I can experience from the students' perspective the better I'll be able to use it in the classroom as a teacher. My CT does not use many of these ideas so this class is the only place I’ll see them in action. I think the real benefit of this class lies in experiencing the techniques ourselves; especially if our student teaching environment is less than innovative.

Aaron Temples

Anonymous said...

That class was something! I think at that point as student teachers , we needed to vent but it went far beyond a simple venting session. I really thought alot about how it must have been to be the teacher with a group of students that were tired and stressed. ( I think that is what was wrong) I would have been furious with the class and stopped the class and gave up. Mrs. Gillis-Ridgeway did not. I think she tried to allow us time to vent and release because she has been there. But as teachers we must be able to handle the stress better.In my opinion, this was just a hic-cup. This cohort is simply the best group of people I have been in school with. I respect everyone of them. We are going to be accomplished teachers one day and the class that went so badly must be a learning 'tool' for us.
The jigsaw exercise was fun during the last class- -the one that went really well, thank God! I have done a jigsaw and recommend doing it several times so the students get use to it. It does take patience and alot of time to explain.
Bryan Watts

Bryan Watts

Anonymous said...

I agree that this class went much better. I will admit that I was dreading this class a little bit because of the previous class, but I left feeling like I gained strategies that I could actually use with the students. I really liked the group work and that reinforced the idea that group work can be very effective for middle school students.

Erin Montgomery