This week, I finally started teaching my unit on the solar system. For the last couple weeks, I have been very busy preparing the unit and have put in a lot of time and effort. I’m hoping my hard work and planning will result in a smooth experience for both me and my students!
The lesson I taught this week was my best, by far! I am only at my school teaching for one afternoon a week, so I dedicated this week’s lesson to outlining and discussing the solar system research project that my students will be doing as part of the unit. I wanted to make sure that the students knew exactly what the project entailed, I wanted to set out my expectations, and I wanted to address any questions about the project at the outset so the kids could get a head start on their research over the next week (my co-operating teacher has been nice enough to allot all of the science periods over the next few weeks to the students’ projects). During the lesson, we went through project duo-tangs that I made for the students, which included the project outline sheet, marking rubrics that outlined how the students will be assessed, as well as a project tracking sheet. The purpose of the project tracking sheet is to hold students accountable to their work while I am not at the school. It is also a way for me to gauge where students are at in their projects so I can adjust my future lessons accordingly. I included my marking rubrics in the students’ duo-tangs because I believe that it is important for students to understand how they will be assessed and what they will be assessed on so they can plan their learning accordingly. Also, I think it is important that students are part of the assessment process, so after we read through the marking rubrics, I discussed with the class whether they thought my expectations were fair and something that they could achieve. I wanted the students to feel like they have a say in their projects, so I thought that this was something important for me to do with them.
My teaching target for this week was to practice using positive reinforcement in the classroom. I chose this as my target because I think that it is really important to practice different classroom management techniques so I can build my repertoire. I want to have an array of techniques to use at my disposal during pre-internship, internship, and even in my future classroom. In addition, and so far during my pre-service placement, I have noticed that my co-operating teacher often raises her voice to get the class’ attention. In my opinion, yelling only works on students for so long before it no longer phases them, so I wanted to try a new strategy. Now, some people don’t believe that positive reinforcement works, but let me tell you, it does! I nailed my target this week! The students weren’t out-of-hand by any means (in my opinion, they were actually quite calm throughout the lesson), but when they did get to be a little too chatty, I complimented a student who I thought was setting a positive example by sitting quietly and listening, and within a few seconds the rest of the class gave me their attention again and we were able to continue on with our lesson. In addition to how well my classroom management strategy worked, I think it positively impacted the students––rather than being punished for misbehaving, the students beamed when I complimented them. My co-operating teacher even commented on this in our post-conference: she said that she thought that my positive reinforcement worked really well to get the students’ attention, and she wants to try using more positive reinforcement herself now in the classroom because of my success!
This week my placement partner and I learned about the harsh reality of classroom dynamics: classroom dynamics can make or break a lesson. Right now, my partner is doing a unit on Treaty Education, and this week she played a Treaty simulation game with the students. The game went very well––the students clearly recognized the unfairness of the Treaties, and they were very upset by it. However, no matter how many classroom management strategies my partner tried during her lesson, the class just couldn’t be controlled. Maybe it was that the students had just come back from recess? Maybe it was that we played the game in the gym? I’m not sure, but this situation made me realize that as a teacher, you can create the perfect lesson plan, you can be totally organized, but if the dynamics of the classroom are off, it can really affect your lesson. Something else that I picked out is how quickly the classroom dynamics can change! My partner taught her lesson before mine, so I was expecting the kids to be just as rowdy for my lesson; however, as I mentioned earlier, the students were actually quite calm. Maybe it was because the students were excited to start their projects? Again, I’m not sure, but it was definitely a learning experience for both me and my partner.