Standard 4: Classroom Practice
Meeting Standard Four
"The student teacher exhibits confident control over a variety of approaches to classroom pedagogy. In direct presentations, s/he demonstrates sensitivity to pacing, timing, amount and sequencing of material, and form of presentations, as well as inviting student contributions and interactions. Questioning strategies are thoughtful, considering a range and arc of questions that develop logically from simple to complex. Group work is used effectively and students are carefully coached on the purpose and strategies for collaboration. Work required of students clearly reinforces basic skills (reading, writing, note-taking, oral presentation, listening) and builds toward more complex mastery (critical thinking, problem-solving, analysis, and synthesis). Technology skills are incorporated into lessons as frequently as possible, with the student teacher modeling the use of technology whenever possible."
-Brown University Teacher Education Handbook
A. Teacher Presentations
Direct teacher presentations have been successful in my class so far. While students sometimes have trouble giving their peers their full attention, students are almost always listening and engaged when I am teaching a lesson alone. Most of my moments of direct presentation are short, as I try to have students learning from one another as much as possible. The exceptions to this came mainly during our NECAP preparations. I wanted to teach a large amount of information in a short amount of time to leave the maximum amount of time reading and writing passage. I have tried to address the range of student ability levels in the class by scheduling individual or group work after my presentations so that I can help struggling students one-on-one. As I have gotten to know my students more, I can predict who will need help understanding directions or performing a complex task versus who will need help understanding larger ideas.
B. Collaborative Activities
This is another area in which I have made great strides simply by learning more about my students. I have found that some of the best and most concrete learning my students have done so far comes from talking through a concept or completing a worksheet with their peers. In general, I try to follow the “I do, we do, you do” method. I explain an idea or skill and model it in front of the class. I call on students to provide answers, ask if there are any questions about directions, and then wander around the room and check on students as they work.
Through this interaction with individual students and small groups, I have found that students naturally teach one another. For the most part, one person in any given group will understand quickly how to do what is asked and can then help other students to understand an activity or a concept. My greatest challenge with small group work so far has been students’ significantly lower levels of motivation and engagement in when I choose their groups. When students are in a group of their friends, they are immediately happier and often get their work done faster because there is less of a possibility for confusion or self-doubt when they use one another as resources. When I group them, however, they often end up working individually or halfheartedly completing assignments.
One skill that has served me well in my teaching so far is the ability to think on my feet. This has helped me to lead discussions in my classroom and to make sure students stay on topic when discussing a concept or a journal entry. I am good at asking questions that make students question their assertions or explore an idea a little more deeply.
As always the case, my classroom has students who will share their every thought, students who refuse to speak to the whole class unless forced, and everyone in between. Getting the shy students to feel comfortable participating in class discussion is a goal toward which I have been working all semester. One strategy I have been using is to have students write before they speak, so that less confident students can simply read what they have written. I have also allowed a few students to have someone else read their writing aloud occasionally if they wanted to share but did not want to read in front of the class. Another strategy that has had some success is talking to individual students during quiet writing and having them share their ideas with me. Ideally, they can then share aloud in class; at worst, I know that they are working and participating, though not orally. The class discussions that are dominated by a few vocal students remind me that I need to be more demanding and call on students to improve the way the discussions are going.
D. Development of Student Skills
I am proud of my ability to break a complex assignment into manageable parts. When I first introduced the final project for our unit on Beowulf, the students were interested but also intimidated. In their minds, writing a short story was a monumental task. When I broke it down into smaller parts, however, every student became more comfortable. This was a necessary step on the way to the end product because many students only started thinking creatively after the preliminary steps were completed.
I have done a lot of writing instruction for NECAP and for the final project. I would like to focus more on active reading in class, as I believe it is the heart of English education. I have used some technology in class, but I am looking forward to working more with video and audio in the future.