Sunday, April 07, 2013

2 Stars & A Wish: Meaningful Learning Opportunities

     My third week of student teaching has come and go and even though we are back from Spring Break that didn't mean it was business as usual. This week was "Grade Wars" which is an extracurricular competition between Grades 9, 10, 11, and 12. Even though the actual events took place over the lunch hour, there was a lot of events that required preparation that ended up occurring during class time. As such, this week seemed very short as I often had anywhere from 5 to 15 students missing from my classes as they were helping get things ready for their events. Despite the extracurricular events going on, two things that I think went really well this week were:

1 ) Teaching "How NOT to Steal from the Internet"
- This week I had two different classes that were working on projects
  that required them finding and utilizing images from online sources. After
  a quick poll I realized that the majority of my students were not aware of
  how to search for copyright appropriate images or how to properly
  attribute.
- I spent the better part of one class showing them how to find images that
  they can use, share, and modify for their projects by using Creative Commons
  and going through the advanced search options on Google Images (which they
  identified as their go-to website). I also shared with them the Wiki, How NOT
  to Steal from the Internet, that I helped create with my peers in our Internet for
  Educators class.
- I think this is a really important thing to be teaching our students and I even put
  some information in our school's staff room as well for anyone who might be
  interested in learning more.

2 ) Being Flexible With My Lessons
- One activity that I completed this week with my Grade 8 Social Studies class
  was have them choose, based on information from a prior lesson, if they would
  want to live in Ancient Athens or Ancient Sparta. In my head, I imagined that
  we would have a relatively even split but what actually happened was that 21
  students chose Sparta and only 3 chose Athens! From here I had a series of
  statements and questions about the two city-states and the team who answered
  the most correctly was the winner. Even though it wasn't what I had pictured,
  we completed the activity with the very uneven teams and the students seemed
  to enjoy the "underdog" effect it created.
- The other event that required me to be flexible was that one of the teams had
  a student who is very vocal and tends to be impulsive without listening to those
  around him. As a result, anytime I asked that team a question, he would
  immediately shout out responses without considering the question or listening to
  the thoughts of the other students in his team. This lead to many of his teammates
  stating that they wanted to "overthrow his decision" or "kick him off the team".
  While his behaviour was not the most appropriate for the activity it did lead to
  a really good discussion about the different governmental systems in these two
  city-states. While Athens practiced democracy, Sparta was ruled by one
  individual who would make the decisions without consulting anyone around them
  or paying attention to their citizens wishes (which this student was illustrating
  perfectly). So, despite the activity not working out EXACTLY like I pictured
  in my head, it still lead to some meaningful discussions and I feel as though the
  students were still able to see the differences between the two areas.

     One thing that I feel like I need to work on, however, is creating meaningful learning opportunities for the students in my Grade 11/12 Agriculture class. Out of my 8 students, 7 identified that the only reason they took the course was because it was slotted against a high-level science course. While I try to provide a lot of different activities for the class, I am having a difficult time engaging my students and getting them excited about their learning. Some of the things we have done so far have included creating collaborative posters (they identified that they worked better together), doing mapping activities of their actual property (to make it relevant to their lives), and creating fake Facebook profiles to learn about the soil profile (using a tool that they use regularly). I still feel, however, like they are not engaging with the material. This week I am hoping to have them suggest their own classroom activities that I can incorporate into our lessons.

Week 2: 2 Stars & A Wish Update
     Last week I shared that I wanted to work on setting appropriate pacing with my Grade 8 Social Studies class. Over Spring Break I reevaluated my unit plan and moved some things around to make sure we would be able to complete what I had set out while still being able to effectively meet our outcome goals. I also met with my cooperating teacher, "Mrs. B", early in the week and went over it with her to work out some of the details. If you remember back, the week before Spring Break had resulted in us missing three classes in one week so I really wanted to make sure we could still progress through our unit appropriately. This week, however, still resulted in us missing two classes due to a guest speaker in the school and the final "Grade Wars" event which involved the whole school. We will also be missing upcoming classes due to a field trip, Badminton games, music trip, science fair and a school PD day. I feel like I will need to reevaluate my unit plan again in order to make it all work.

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