Reunited

After being away from my students for two weeks, I was FINALLY back with my grade 6s today. I missed them, to say the least. When I got to the classroom, I was greeted by the students with excitement–I guess they missed me too! Last week my students were on a class ski trip, so I spent the day helping out in another classroom at my placement school. While I enjoyed my experience in the new classroom, I was bummed because I was missing out on teaching opportunities, and also opportunities to continue building relationships with my students. This week, I was determined to make up for my lost time!

I kicked off the afternoon with my Phys Ed lesson on physical disabilities in athletics. To begin, we generated ideas about what the terms “disability” and “handicap” mean. In an activity like this, I would normally make a mind-web on the board that included student answers; however, I believe that there are a lot of misconceptions about the terms “disability” and “handicap”, so I provided the students with the true definitions instead. Right away, students seemed to be invested in my lesson. I think this was because they could relate to it, as there is a student who is deaf in the classroom. Because deafness is something that the students are familiar with, we discussed deafness as an example, and we talked about certain adaptations that are made for people who are deaf (i.e. sign language, interpreters, hearing implants). From there, I was able to move the discussion to adaptations to sports and games for people with physical disabilities. This initial class discussion went great! The students were eager to respond, and they had a lot of good answers that I was able to build off of. However, I think the video that I showed (look at me using technology in the classroom!) really reinforced the focus of my lesson. I showed the students a clip of the sport that we would be trying, the Paralympic sport sitting volleyball. During the video, I heard a student say, “Wow! Those players are so good, and some of them don’t even have legs!”

The students loved played sitting volleyball! At first, some were frustrated because they felt like they had to be technical and do the proper volleyball serves, sets, and bumps, and this was difficult for them to do while sitting. But I simply reminded the students that this was only a chance for us to practice, and I encouraged them to have fun and not concentrate on the technicalities. During the game, there were also some challenges that I had to deal with: The students had trouble rallying because they had such a large space to protect and they couldn’t move very quickly, and some students had trouble serving the ball over the net. I had to think on my feet and make some quick adaptations, but once I did, the game really got going!

Afterwards, we went back to the classroom for a wind-up discussion. The students agreed on two things during our discussion: sitting volleyball is a lot of fun, and sitting volleyball is really challenging! I asked the students why they thought it was challenging, and one responded, “because we are so used to playing volleyball with our legs, we never thought about how difficult it would be without our legs”. The students’ comments reassured me that they got the lesson, and I was proud of myself. This meant that I taught my lesson well! However, my lesson was not without its downfalls. I had an informal exit slip assessment planned for the end of my lesson, but I was really running out of time. As a result, my explanation of the assessment wasn’t great, and I had a lot of students re-ask me what they were supposed to do. In addition, in preparation for my next week’s lesson, I asked the students to pick their partner ahead of time and write their partner’s name on the bottom of their exit slip. This was not a smart idea on my part, as many of the students were distracted trying to find a partner and didn’t focus on their assessment.

For my teaching target this week, I chose to focus on addressing students by their names during my lesson. Since I was away from my class last week, and the week before that due to reading week, I’m still a little fuzzy with the students’ names, so I wanted to practice. I think that I successfully met my target! Every time I called on a student to answer a question, I made sure to use their name instead of simply pointing at them. And even during my one-on-one dialogues with students, such as when they were handing in their exit slip, I made sure to say, “Thank you ________”. I think that addressing students by their names is an important step in building strong teacher-student relationships because it shows the students that you care enough to remember who they are. To help build on my target, I made a seating chart during my placement partner’s lesson, which I plan to bring with me to use in future weeks.

Next week I will start my big solar system unit which I will be teaching for the next four weeks. The students are going to be doing a research project, and I’ve been busy planning the unit and organizing all of my materials. Hopefully all of my hard work and preparation will pay off!

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