Sunday, March 25, 2012

Rachel K. Reflections

The Principal at Gumball Elementary has all of hte student interns write weekly reflections so she can speak to our strengths and focuses as teachers when she writes us letters of recommendation.

Here is mine from this past week at Gumball Elementary:

Weekly Reflections
Rachel K. Sreebny
March 19 – March 23

                The fifth graders are becoming undeniably more puberty-stricken as the months fly by.  The frequency of girls and boys exchanging unkind words has increased and classroom management has become central to my focus as a student teacher. While I strive to keep peace and order in the classroom as any town sheriff might, I also feel strongly that our students need to be reflective of their actions and words in order to develop into responsible and mature middle school students. As a result, I have had more one-on-one conversations with certain students (Betelhem, David N, and Abdi) in order to acknowledge inappropriate behavior and facilitate student-led ideas for improving our learning environment.

                To attend to the focus maximized learning opportunities for all of the students in E-1, Leslie and I have been practicing some of the techniques from Teach Like a Champion, including “3-2-1 pencils down,” “3, 2, 1 – track me,” and tight transitions. The more we practice these techniques, the better they are at getting student attention so I can give specific directions. These techniques are now a part of our tool kit for helping to create better learning in our classroom. They are excellent additions to the techniques we already use, which include “Threshold” and “No Opt Out.”

                Space Colony Storypath came to a conclusion this week, during which the students came up with a set of values in a class discussion. From these values, students wrote laws and rights for all colonists in pairs. I will include our laws and rights as an attachment to this e-mail because I think that they reflect our class values well. Our classroom now boasts a colony constitution and list of rules (and penalties) that will be displayed until we need the space for something else. While the students are sad to say goodbye to the colonists, we will keep up the dolls and mural for a few more weeks. Many students are also keeping an interest in their colonist characters through their fiction writing, which will be a central focus of the coming week.

                My main accomplishment of the week was engaging students in improving their mean calculation skills. Many students struggled with calculating the mean last week as I was introducing landmarks and how to interpret sets of data. To support this procedural understanding, Leslie and I decided to shower the students with mean calculating handouts and games until the students could find the mean, “upside-down, backwards, and in the dark.” Students completed three separate worksheets for which the only objective was to calculate the mean. They had the most trouble when working with decimal values, so that will be a central focus for next week’s boardwork. We also played a game called, “I Mean It!” that I invented:

                Table 1 students come up to the front with their whiteboards and markers.
                Table 1 students take 5 seconds to write down any number between 0-99 (for the first round)
                Then, Table 1 students quickly put themselves in numerical order without speaking.
                Once they are in order, they become a SET of VALUES.
                All other students quickly calculate the mean.
                If students do this quickly, they will go back and find the median, too.
Each Table 1 student will call on a member of the classroom to see what answer he/she got. Once all Table 1 students have called on a classmate, we decide if we are in agreement or not. If all students had the same answer for the mean, we move on. If there are different answers, one of the Table 1 students will calculate the mean on the whiteboard to find consensus.

The students loved this game. They requested this game. I cannot overstate how successful it was. Better yet, a handful of students who usually struggle with math were successful on the Unit Test this Friday. Karla, Brian, and Asia were the most memorable “values” in our class “set.” What I’ve learned from this week is that practicing skills cannot always be put aside for conceptual explanations or group discussion. At a certain point in a student’s learning, he or she just needs to practice a skill until he or she can do it “upside-down, backwards, and in the dark.” 

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