Standard Reflection P2

February 26, 2013

P2 – Practice differentiated instruction.

Practicing differentiated instruction is taking each individual’s students strengths and weaknesses into account and adjusting accordingly to help them learn. For example, a student who may have trouble with language acquisition, perhaps an ELL student, would have difficulty with assignments that are primarily written. A student that may be advanced and have skills above those of other students may find themselves bored and unchallenged by the  content in the class. In both of these examples, the teacher would need to intervene or plan methods to help these students learn. Instead of “teaching to the middle”, teachers try to take advantage of each student’s unique abilities.

When I am planning for a lesson, differentiating the instruction for students is an important part of the lesson. Some of the students in my class will excel at the content and some will have difficulty understanding portions of it. For each of these students, I will need to plan activities. For example, in my beginner’s class there are certain students that are proficient in the program were using and finish the assigned tasks quickly and accurately. On the other hand, some students have trouble applying the lesson to the assignment and will quickly become stumped.

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For the students that meet targets with ease, I need tasks for them to do to maximize the content they are learning. In this example, the student masked items in their collage with skill and precision. They had no problem understanding and applying the tools. If this student is not challenged, he will become bored and learn nothing. If I continually nitpick his current assignment, I undermine his confidence and am not really helping him excel. For these sorts of students, I assigned an extension that builds on the skills they’ve already learned within the collage, but also that challenges them to apply what they already know to something new. For this assignment, I ask students to edit themselves believably into another photo using the tools we just used in the collage.

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For students that fall behind, I need to allow for extra time and attention for these students to become proficient. This student is challenged by the content as wasn’t quite sure how to use the tools. He tried to meet the assignment criteria, but didn’t have a great grasp on the tools. Some of these students genuinely do not understand the content, but most of them have issues with motivation or creativity. Part of this stems from poor motivating force from my end, but some of this stems from problems that may be beyond my control. For these students, I try my best to give them multiple different ways to succeed, multiple different explanations, and as much time as I can to help them succeed.  For the collage, many of these students had trouble understanding what was expected of them and I would constantly need to refer back to the handout I gave them that listed the exact requirements. Perhaps these students are unable to comprehend the list well, but once I explain it, or show them examples, most students begin to understand and perform.

I learned a lot from this experience with the students. It was something that I did not have a lot of experience with. When I learned about differentiated instruction, the parts that were emphasized most were how teachers bring up the students who can’t succeed. From his experience, I learned that it is not only the low achieving students, but also the high ones that will need adjusted lessons to help them meet their potential. It had not occurred to me that the high achieving students would need extra attention, as well.

Differentiating instruction is an extremely effective way to plan to help students succeed no matter their level of ability.  Whether they need more help or more challenging content, students will gain more from differentiating instruction than by averaging out the objectives to meet the majority of the class’s needs.

For future lessons, I think I need to explicitly express how I plan to address students with varying abilities. For this lesson, I hadn’t planned more challenging content for higher achieving students. I asked my mentor for assistance, and he suggested the method I used above. This really helped me understand differentiated instruction a bit more, and I feel I need to be able to plan for all these inevitable student differences.

Standard Reflection H2

January 28, 2013

H2 – Honor student access to content material.

Students learn differently. There are many different ways students can be taught, and some of these are more effective for certain students than others. For example, some students learn best from listening to a lecture and following those auditory directions. Some students learn better by seeing an example and then attempting to replicate the results. Others are better at imitating the motions until they can perform it perfectly. Students learn differently and it is the teacher’s job to teach to their strengths.

This topic isn’t quite so simple for some of my classes. For example, there are students in my class that are ELL or have 504s. For these students, utilizing academic language or even properly understanding and expressing themselves becomes a challenge. Because of this, it is important that students have multiple forms of instruction to allow each student access to the content. In my class we try to utilize a number of different teaching tools to help students meet the objective and get a good grasp on the material.

Simple Animals Rubric

When teaching a lesson it is important that in our class we present a rubric with the learning objective clearly stated, we state the learning objective during the lesson, and that we show examples of these objectives in not only our rubrics, but in our demonstration. In this way, we teach to as many strengths as we can, and then give individual attention to those who need the extra assistance. Motivation aside, by teaching the lesson in multiple ways, teachers gain the benefit of being able to reach as many students as they can utilizing these different methods for the same goal.

Because students receive the objectives and content in the lesson in a number of different ways, the students are more likely to retain at least one of the methods and be able to succeed and achieve their objectives. This helps not only the majority of the student population, but also the students who need extra help due to the additional challenges they each may be facing. Unfortunately, this may not be enough and it  will also be important, in my class, to give each student individual attention so that they aren’t at all confused about how the achieve their goal or what direction to be heading in.

To improve student access to content material, I think that there may be even more methods I could use to help students grasp the concepts and objectives. I’m still researching ways to effectively integrate these different methods into my class to better my lessons and student achievement.

Standard Reflection O1

January 21, 2013

O1. – Offer an organized curriculum aligned to standards and outcomes.

Teachers must endeavor to plan lessons that have learning targets for students with objectives that they can clearly understand. It is also important that these objectives be measurable in that students and teachers are able to gauge their progress towards these goals. It is important that students clearly understand what is expected of them, and also clearly understand what it is they’re trying to achieve. In this way, students can better plan for meeting targets and check their own progress.

One of the lessons I was recently writing was challenging. When I sought help from my mentor teacher he pointed out that my objectives were too broad and not easy to understand. This was an important part of lesson planning that I still struggle with. Making objectives clear for students is important as students in my class need to know that, for example, today we are learning how to use the brush tool. The objective, for them, is to demonstrate a simple exercise. Students by the end of this lesson will be able to render a composition with the brush tool.  Students will know the objective, be given the tools and instruction necessary, and assistance to achieve these targets. They will be able to see how far they’ve grown just by looking at what they have demonstrated. That is my hope, anyway.

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On the road to clear, easily understood objectives and targets for students.

By understanding that objectives must be clear for students, I think it improves how students will come to understand what is expected of them in class. On more than one occasion, I have wondered if I was too vague, but with simple and clear objectives for students I can proudly state what is their target and how they can reach it. I’m sure that this not only helps me when writing a lesson, but students as well. When my objectives were too general and broad, I can recall more questions on what exactly was expected, but when they were simple and succinct, students were much more engaged in their task.

When planning objectives it is difficult for me to state explicitly, “This is what students will be able to do..” This statement sounds so simple, but to me it sounds restrictive. If a student will only be able to do this by the end of the lesson, where is my room for students to explore or find their own methods and means for success? Art is a topic where some areas are not measurable and where objectivity is not always an option. However, for many classrooms and even for much of an art classroom, it is important to offer these lesson where the objectives are made extremely clear to students. If I stated that by the end of the lesson the student will be able to paint a sunrise, they would still need the requisite skills in painting, even if their particular style makes it difficult to judge the quality of the painting (in some cases).  In this way, I think that planning these art lessons is difficult. Finding these measurable targets for learning in art is challenging. I want my students to be able to understand what it is they’re attempting to undertake, how they can get there, and also how close they are to achievement, but to tell them that their particular style is not conducive to my assessment of their progress is disheartening. It is something I constantly struggle with. Maybe with proper planning some of these doubts could be alleviate, but I am still suspicious. Perhaps my understanding of this standard is suspect.

It is extremely beneficial to have teachers wiser than I to look to for support.  With each lesson I write, I hope the objectives for myself and the students are clearer and more easily gauged. I will continue to ask my mentor for assistance on my plans, as his feedback is invaluable not only as a much more experienced teacher, but as a different perspective that lends itself well to some of my broader thoughts.

Standard Reflection H1

January 10, 2013

H1 – Honor student diversity and development.

The standard H1 is a challenging one to meet in  curriculum centered school systems. H1 has teacher candidates support students with learner centered strategies that focus on the individual needs and experiences of the student. This means that not all students will arrive to a class at the same level of preparedness, but each will bring their own unique strengths and weaknesses. To address this, lessons need to be aware of the differences and adjust accordingly so that every student in the class gets a relevant and appropriate growth experience. This means providing opportunities for all students with necessary steps taken to allow the expression of culture and self and also their level development relative to the challenge of the program.

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Examples of Student Work

A short while ago, my class was assigned a sticker project. In this project, students were directed to create the design for a sticker, print the sticker, and then weed it. The design process held some technical challenges and printing and weeding went fairly smoothly when students understood the steps involved. However, the most challenging area for most students was choosing the design for their stickers. The guidelines for the assignment limited the size of the sticker and also stipulated that their design must be original. With this in mind, students were perplexed as to what they could create that would meet the assignment criteria and, more importantly, how their sticker would represent them. It was difficult for some students to communicate their ideas, so they were encouraged to make stickers that represented themselves or things they found important. Some students went with geometric shapes, unsure of how to best represent their specific interests and cultures, but many chose designs that were influenced by who they were, and what they valued.

By allowing students the ability to express themselves and the importance of their ideas as individuals, I think more students became invested in what they were doing. It also allowed students who were not as apt at design as their counterparts to create designs that may not have been as technically impressive, but were of similar quality due the representation of their ideas or identities. This gave all students the chance to make something relevant and important with fewer difficulties regarding experience and knowledge. This was refreshing as implementing assignments seems to be very curriculum centered with each student having to achieve the same goal, but with this it seemed very much that each student were given opportunities to express themselves and also took into account where they were at developmentally.

I think students took more from this assignment than from some of the assignments with a much more rigid curriculum centered focus. It allowed them express themselves as individuals and also made it so that each student didn’t feel pressured to play keep up if they met challenges that others had already overcome.

I think that to improve on this as a teacher, I be more aware of how the students in my class face assignments. Is it something relevant to them? Will they all be able to learn from it? These are questions that I think I need to ask before working on any project. If they aren’t interested, or completely hopelessly lost, then the lesson won’t work. It is more important to teach to their strengths and identities so they can feel more apt and more connected to what they are learning.

Standard Reflection- P1

January 7, 2013

P1 – Practice intentional inquiry and planning for instruction.

Before teaching, it is important to think about the objectives for the students, how to measure those objectives, and extensive planning in a number of areas. Being able to do this before planning a lesson is extremely helpful as students will be more easily able to comprehend objectives, academic language, and core ideas. It is also helpful for the teacher, as they can better understand what they are teaching and some of the potential challenges students may have with the lesson.

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Finished style example for students.

Vector Example Deconstructed

Deconstructed example for students.

I have now planned numerous lessons for my internship class and planning for intentional inquiry and general preparedness are crucial in making a lesson go well. It is always a challenge, but with each experience I learn a little more. For example, in one of my lessons students were directed to use many of the tools they’ve already learned to demonstrate an understanding of value, line and form to create a vectorized portrait of themselves or one of ten famous individuals. When planning for this project it was important that students have options to work outside of a self portrait as many these students have difficulties with self image and self confidence. Giving them these other options makes sure that they’re working on something appropriate for the lesson, but also challenging enough that they’re learning from it as well. It was also important to give the students many different ways to complete this assignment as one of the main objectives is to measure their use of tools within the finished piece. How they accomplish this is totally up to them. Because of this, they were provided with many different examples that were handpicked because they exhibited the tools and techniques that the students already know and can apply to their portrait. It was also important to include examples that helped the students understand how to construct the portrait. This is difficult, as many resources only provide a finished product. Therefore, I had to make some examples so students could understand each step of the process and be able to manipulate the file so they could “reverse engineer” it.

From many of these lessons, especially this one, it becomes apparent that much planning goes into each and every lesson. Not only should the content be appropriate, measurable, effective, and accepting, but it also needs to be thorough and clear. By planning, the lesson should be more effective for students and better help them understand the expectations and ideas behind it.

Planning is always a difficult step, but practicing more and more definitely helps. It also helps that with every lesson, I learn a little more to help students the next time. With each challenge they may have, I better understand issues that may need to be address for the nextlesson.

Vector Portrait Rubric

Standard Reflection- O2

December 17, 2012

O2. – Offer appropriate challenge in the content area.

Poster Examples

Student Poster Examples

Offering students appropriate challenges while they’re learning the content is, in itself, challenging. Pushing them to learn more and perform better is one of the goals, but pushing them into areas that they can’t comprehend and to the point of frustration and despair is not one of those goals. In a recent lesson, students in my class were challenged to create professional looking posters using photographs, Adobe InDesign, and Adobe Illustrator. Not only were they pushed to accomplish such a great task, but they were also challenged to produce these fine posters while working in a group. Both of these provided unique opportunities for learning and also appropriate levels of difficulty that helped them grow in many areas.

The students in my class first worked on making their own posters after having taken many photos in a group. Some students took to designing posters better than others, but most everyone had the tools they needed to create their own poster after group demonstrations and individual assistance. After they had all learned the basics and done a poster of their own, they split into groups and had to design and print a group poster. I think this was a new experience for many of the groups, as large school projects are usually a solo endeavor, but when they leave school for broader horizons, they will find collaboration a big part of the larger picture. Students took away different things from this assignment depending upon the success they had within their groups. Some groups had groups that clashed and some were much more cooperative. We asked them after this experience to write a reflection on their experience with guided questions.  These responses reflected the difficulties they had as individuals, but as well as groups. This fell directly in line with our expectations and did not seem too challenging for the students to gain understanding of the tools, concepts, and working within a group. Each group’s poster was usually greatly improved by collaboration compared to the individual posters. By making them practice it first, but then pooling their knowledge, they surmounted the challenges they had individually, learned more, and created something greater.

Student A Reflection

Student B Reflection

Some ways to improve this assignment would be to maybe give a breakdown of group responsibility to better measure the effort by individuals within the group. As far as I know, each group member worked fairly diligently, though some had to be reminded to stay on task in groups with their friends. This is also a troubling issue in that students work better with like minded peers, but also stray off task due to their close relationship. It may be good to mix students together to prevent this, but they may be less apt to share and improve on each other’s knowledge. The objectives in this assignments met standards, appropriately challenged the students, and helped them learn about the content and also working in a group with room for improvement.

Standard Reflection- P4

November 16, 2012

P4 – Practice the integration of appropriate technology with instruction.

Towards the beginning of my internship, my mentor teacher mentioned his challenges with organization. His desk is cluttered, at best, but it does little to negatively impact his teaching. However, there was one area that seemed in need of some better organization. His upper division class is regularly responsible for producing t-shirts and banners for schools and other groups. The way he had these tasks organized was to write each task in the constantly dwindling space on his whiteboard, already cluttered with numerous tasks that students were already responsible for. These tasks are assigned to particular students, must be completed within a certain time, and also have particular dimensions and numbers for production. This is extremely difficult to keep track of using only a whiteboard.

Moved to aid my mentor teacher, I suggested a website to organize the list. This was a task that I wasn’t immediately familiar with. Attempting a number of different methods, I eventually came up with a Google site, a free site building tool and hosting service, to make a list that could include the data on the board and more. My mentor was extremely enthusiastic about this tool and tried to integrate it into his class immediately.

Students and teachers still currently use this list, but are seeking to improve it by using even newer and better methods and technologies.

Standard P4 urges teachers to utilize appropriate technology to meet the needs of its class. By implementing this list, students are better able to understand the objectives of their assigned tasks, and it is easier for the teacher to keep track of progress and assignments. This works much better than my mentor teacher’s older method and he is already thinking of ways to improve upon this one.

I learned from using this tool that there are always better ways a teacher can implement technology within the classroom and to always be improving the systems we do have. By improving the way the database is handled, the list could be significantly improved for the teacher by providing more control and for the students by providing more content and information  As for what students took from this, I believe they have a better understanding of their responsibilities and will have to spend less time deciphering the previous system as the new system is much easier to use. It also includes more information for them and the teacher in an easier to manage function, so it makes both roles much more fluid and efficient. This also passes onto the students this idea of organization and accountability which prepares them better for life after school.