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 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.
When I began the quarter, I knew that teaching Shakespeare would be a challenge. Over the course of the quarter, I used several different modes to teach Romeo and Juliet: the original Shakespearean version, an audio version, a modern translation version, film version, and a young adult version with pictures. Using these modes allowed me to make the text accessible to my struggling readers as well as my auditory and visual learners. Recently, I asked my students to tell me two things that helped them understand Romeo and Juliet better. Many of them said that the film and modern versions were the most helpful.
Despite the challenge of the language, I designed assignments that built students’ comprehension of the play and required them to use higher level thinking skills. As an ongoing assignment, each student kept a character diary. For each entry they had to put themselves in either Romeo or Juliet’s shoes and write from the character’s perspective. The assignment did not ask them to regurgitate what they had read in the scene, but to really try and understand the character’s feelings.
For the Of Mice and Men unit, I did a DTP on the Great Depression. As students listened to the presentation, they completed a note sheet, writing down important information about the Great Depression and migrant farm workers. The DTP also included photographs of migrant farm workers, so that students could connect the written information in the Power Point with visual images.
My unit on Romeo and Juliet often felt very teacher centered, so I incorporated more collaborative activities into my lessons when I taught Of Mice and Men. Having unsuccessfully tried a few whole class discussions during the Romeo and Juliet, I decided to have students work in pairs and small groups of 5 while reading Of Mice and Men. I used Think-Pair-Shares frequently, which served as a low-stakes sharing exercise that also prepared students for reciprocal teaching.
In addition to Think-Pair-Shares, I also implemented reciprocal teaching. I decided to try reciprocal teaching with my students because I wanted them to work together in a structured activity in which everyone had a role and depend on me less to understand Of Mice and Men. Through participating in reciprocal teaching, students helped each other understand the text as I observed, took notes, and intervened when necessary. The Think-Pair-Shares and reciprocal teaching provided students to talk accountably about the novel.
I tried a few whole class discussions with varying levels of success. I cannot say that one was ever successful in the way that I hoped it would be. I succeeded in setting up the discussion in terms of telling students the discussion norms and teaching students how to write down their classmates’ ideas, but designing an arc of discussion questions that lent themselves to a good discussion was most challenging for me. In addition, I had a hard time facilitating the discussion; I got too involved and overwhelmed.
I tried a small group discussion that went much better than the whole class discussions. In two groups, students discussed questions that students generated the previous day. Each group was led by a discussion leader. As the students’ discussed, I observed and assisted groups if necessary.
Development of Student Skills:
Over the course of the semester, I scaffolded my writing instruction to prepare students to write a persuasive essay in response to the question, who is most responsible for the deaths of Romeo and Juliet? Based on the student’s writing assessments, I decided to focus my writing curriculum on three areas: claims, reasons, and evidence. These areas were the focus of the persuasive essay rubric that I designed and reviewed with my students. I wanted to ensure that every student could write a claim, support it with 3 reasons, and find evidence to support the reasons. I taught each in multiple ways and gave students opportunities to write their own claims, reasons, and evidence prior to the persuasive essay. For example, I taught students how to identify strong and weak reasons and how to find and explain evidence. Prior to writing the persuasive essay, students wrote a persuasive paragraph (scaffolding assignment) that required a claim, reasons, and evidence. Students received feedback on their paragraphs. Overall, the students’ persuasive essay met the criteria designated on the rubric with most students either meeting the standard. Except for a few students, all students’ essays included a claim, three reasons, and 6 pieces of evidence.