Standard Four: Classroom Practice
Overview of the Standard: Standard Four: Class Practice asks student teachers to:
(1) create instructional opportunities to encourage students’ development of critical thinking, problem-solving, and performance skills (RIBTS #5), and
(2) create instructional opportunities that reflect an understanding of how children learn and develop (RIBTS #3).
How do you determine where you are in regard to this standard? To see where I am in regard to this standard I must look at how I use (1) teacher presentations, (2) collaborative activities, (3) questioning/discussion and (4) development of student skills. Therefore I need to look at the ways I plan presentations that are structured with the unique and diverse learning needs of the students in mind, use different modes of presentation (for example: questions or written work) and a variety of materials as integral parts of direct teacher presentations, build “comprehension checks” into presentations, am sensitive to the pacing of the lesson, making sure all students are engaged and following. I also need to look at the ways I firmly structure role plays, simulations, debates, and collaborative small group work, with adequate directions, clear goals, time limits, and criteria for evaluation stated, provide all students with the materials and information they need to succeed at their tasks, pre-teach the group process skills necessary for students to complete the assignment successfully, hold each student responsible both as an individual and as a group member, and have a good sense of which objectives are best accomplished using collaborative activities. Furthermore, I need to look at the way I use different types and levels of questions, depending on the lesson’s objectives and the diverse needs of the class, use question techniques, such as wait-time, probing, rephrasing, etc. effectively, include key questions in the lesson plan, employ a variety of strategies (restating ideas, offering counter-examples, etc.) to engage students in discussion and learning, and ask questions for a variety of purposes: e.g. summarizing, analyzing, synthesizing, comparing, etc. Lastly, I also need to look at the ways I design thoughtful, sequenced assignments that break complex undertakings into manageable steps, instruct about how to read with better comprehension, how to take effective notes, how to write more clearly and coherently, model work for students, instruct in oral presentation and listening skills, instruct in forms of (artistic, literary, historical, scientific) expression (orally, in writing, through reading), closely monitor skill attainment and provide students with timely feedback, use technology as a learning tool, design lessons which extend beyond factual recall and challenge students to develop higher level cognitive skills, and encourage students to generate knowledge, test hypotheses, and explore methods of inquiry and standards of evidence.
Where you in regard to this standard? I believe I am beginning standard four.
What have you attempted and practiced? I attempted all parts of this standard throughout my time at Brown Summer High School but it seems to me by far the most complex and hardest to accomplish. I did some good work on developing student communication skills—through presentations, writing assignments, note-taking strategies, etc. I also improved over the summer on teacher presentations and collaborative activities—through I still struggled to make meaning of information for my students that I had exchanged to them in various ways—direct teacher presentation as well as individual and group work.
In the second week, I tried direct teacher presentations and it got better over the three days it took to cover African Colonization and Sierra Leone’s history. First my partner and I pointed out to our students the skills in both communication and historical thinking we were working on developing with them. Then I gave them a note-taking guide to develop their note-taking skills while I lectured on colonization in Africa. I also had group work, role-taking, activities to engage students in the material through other avenues and develop collaborative activity skills. The group work also developed their oral presentation skills. Then the next day I learned to point out vocabulary students might not know while talking to them. I and my partner also engaged the students in understanding how they had been developing communication skills and have them predict—a complex mastery skill—what order events could have played out in Sierra Leone. The third day, I learned to pull out vocabulary ahead of class and have students put in visual form what they think the vocabulary meant—which engaged those students and also helped others who need visuals to learn the material. Then I again asked students to engage in a collaborative activity that asked them to use non-verbal presentations to recall the causes of the civil war in Sierra Leone.
Then the next week I lead a lesson on globalization in which I also had a number of activities to try to connect the students to the material. However, this time I did a better job of engaging the students who had prior knowledge in sharing their prior knowledge and appealing to non-linguistic learners through more visuals and visual learning activities. It was really less of teacher presentation than a teacher guided sharing of knowledge student to student. The third time I lead the class by myself I focused almost entirely on student centered activities to exchange information and make meaning of that information about child soldiers. This time I let the class become too student centered and did not ensure that the students got the meaning out of the activities. I also did not enforce classroom norms early enough that they were focused on learning for all the activities.
I also made good use of Socratic Seminars, that went very well the first time we did it and only got better after that. There we were once again working on listening and speaking skills. The students got into the listening skill developments on the outside circle when they had tasks assigned to them—highlighting the importance of structuring and scaffolding activities like those. I also got used to asking a lot of questions of students during our four week class but need to work on developing the arc of questions.
What have you learned? I have learned that exchanging information is not enough to get students to remember, recall and use the information provided, I also have to allow them to make meaning of that information through activities. But that sometimes activities aren’t enough and the meaning of the information needs to be pulled out for them from activities. I also learned I need to work more on developing my methods for scaffolding and teaching skills—particularly historical thinking and research skills—and my arc of questions and my questioning techniques. One area we did not focus on this summer which I need to do in the future is developing higher level cognitive skills, and encouraging students to generate knowledge, test hypotheses, and explore methods of inquiry and standards of evidence.
What are your goals? My goal is to develop my toolbox of activities to make meaning of historical and other content knowledge. I also will work on making meaning for the students in debriefing activities and providing the time and structures to activities that allow students to make meaning themselves. I will work on developing arc of questions and my questioning techniques.