Sunday, September 28, 2014

A Weekly Relfection: 5. Asking Good Questions

Each day when we enter the classroom as teachers, we should come in with an arsenal of questions that accompany our lesson for the day.  Why do we as teachers ask questions?  Well, what would our kids learn with out them?!  Teachers ask questions to:
  • Assess the level of students' comprehension. 
  • Develop student interest or motivation.
  • Develop thinking skills. 
We ask questions to keep our students engaged in the lesson, check for understanding and encouraged higher-level thinking.  However, not just any old question will do the trick.  It all comes down to the quality of the questions that we are asking our students.  The questions we ask will determine the level of thinking to which we take our students.

I think questioning is a perfect place to enact the "scaffolding" technique, or starting with a question and continuing to build upon in,  into our teaching styles.  As I think about developing my questioning techniques, I believe this would be an effective strategy.  For example, start by asking a question on the Knowledge level of Bloom's Taxonomy such as, "What is a GPS system?" and finally moving to Bloom's level of Evaluation and "Assess the effectiveness in increasing crop production through the use of technologies such as GPS systems."  As the lesson progresses, these questions and all of the ones in between are guiding students to make the connection between the Knowledge and Evaluation levels of learning.

As a pre-service teacher, questioning is a skills that I am continuing to develop with every lab, lesson, and class period.  But in the end, the work will be worth it.  Effective questioning is a must-have in the classroom.  Check out the video below for a great example of effective questioning in the classroom.

Thursday, September 25, 2014

An Interesting Approach: Hydro-What?!

This week in our lab it was all about the interest approach.  If you don't grab your students from the beginning, you've lost them until the end so attention-grabbing is key.  My lesson for this week was introducing hydroponic systems to a Plant Science class.

Students were given a table full of household materials (a container, a soda bottle, some fabric & newspaper, etc.) and some "nutrient solution" (in this case just water, but it would be the real deal during an actual lesson).  The goal was for my students to visualize how they think a hydroponic system worked even though we hadn't talked about them yet.  This way they would be challenged and eager to learn if they had created a successful system.

There were some things that I really liked about my lesson.  I liked that my students were challenged to think and process the mechanics of a simple hydroponic system while thinking about what a plant needs to survive and how the unit can provide such.  I enjoyed seeing them work through the task and throw out some great ideas.

But as with every lesson, there is always room for improvement.  I think if I were to conduct this lesson in the future I would change a few things.  I would have the students work in two teams to develop each system and then share with the class what they have created.  This would give the students a greater opportunity to be engaged whereas while working as a class, some students were checked out.

Overall, I was happy with the lesson.  I think I need to continue to develop my transitioning skills, which is one of my weakest points.  I think that will some good lesson planning, the advice of experienced teachers, and time, it will start to come together.

This week, I have decided to include the video of my lesson in my blog.  I would love for any of my teacher friends, students, peers, anyone really, to provide any feedback on my lesson or teaching style.  I strive to be the best I can be and I would greatly appreciate any advice you can give!  Thank you!

Sunday, September 21, 2014

A Weekly Reflection: 4. Learning Objectives

This past week in our classes, we had our first lesson plan and our first unit plans due.  As I began to write and to plan how I wanted to deliver the content I plan on teaching to my FFA Leadership class, I began to realize that sometimes, it's difficult to write my ideas for lessons on paper as clear as they are in my head.  And if I can't make them clear to myself, how will my students ever understand what I am trying to teach them?!

I realized that it's all in the objectives!  My objectives for the day keep me on track during the lesson and lets my students know where class is going that day and what I will expect from them at the end. The key to having a successful lesson is writing clear objectives that really engage your students in higher-level thinking.

Choosing the right measurable verbs will ensure a stellar objective!
This week, I read an article on writing objectives for a secondary agricultural classroom.  Something that stuck with me from the article was the challenged that it posed to the teachers.  The article reminded us that if we are expecting our students to think on a higher cognitive level, we must teach on a higher cognitive level.  I thought this was something interesting to think about and something important to keep in mind as we continue developing objectives. 

In addition to reading the article on objectives this week, I watched this handy video that did a great job on giving an overview on what exactly objectives are and how they should be formulated.  Check it out!

Saturday, September 20, 2014

First Day of School!

This past week in our AEE 412 teaching lab, we each taught our lesson we will roll out on our first day of school.  We had a cool opportunity to have our class session recorded so we could play back out video for some self-reflection, as well as some peer-evaluation.

Needless, to say you could tell this was my first rodeo and it was easy pick out some areas for improvement, as well as some things that I think I really like about my teaching style.

Here are just some observations I've made while watching my video:

Some Areas for Improvement:

  • When people tell me that I have a tendency to talk fast, they aren't kidding.  I really want to work on controlling my motor-mouth so that way my kids can understand what I am saying and have time to process the information.
  • I have a habit of asking for volunteers but I never wait for anyone to raise their hand; I often just "volun-tell" people to answer the questions or give an example.  For this particular lesson, we were on a time schedule, but my lessons would be a lot more effective I think if I just slowed down. 
  • I also need to work on my transitions between activities.  Making connections between different areas of the lesson is crucial so I really need to work on making those bridges more clear.

 Some Things I Like About my Style:

  •  I like my energy level! I tend to be more energetic than some but that's ok with me!  I want my classroom to be full of excitement and for my students to be excited to be there.  Now, the trick is going to be making sure that our energy and enthusiasm is geared toward the lesson and not just chaotic!
  • Part of this particular lab was developing our classroom procedures, expectations, and consequences.  This is the first time I actually developed some type of classroom management that I will actually use.  I feel confident in the way I will manage my class room and so I am excited to try it out!
After watching my video, I realize that I am still learning and that I have a way to go.  But I also realized that this is something that I am going to love and that I am going to be just as excited as Nemo for my next first day of school!

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Welcome to Greenwood!

Want to know more about Greenwood High School and where I will be spending the first 15 weeks of my teaching career?  Check out this video to get a glimpse of where I'll be student teaching!!

A Weekly Reflection: 3. Planning Instruction: The Interest Approach

As we are finishing up our unit on instructional design and beginning to dive into the meat of lesson planning, I think the best place to start is at the beginning.  So, let's talk about interest approaches.

We hear over and over that if you don't capture your students in the first few minutes, then the rest of the class is history.  Its important to get your students interested, engaged, and ready to learn right off the bat.  But it can be really challenging to bring new, fresh, and exciting ideas to every lesson, every class.

I read this incredible book over the summer called Teach Like a Pirate by Dave Burgess; a great read for both practicing and pre-service teachers.  The book had one part completely dedicated to interest approaches and hooks alone!

Right after reading the interest approach section, I posted my thoughts in a blog post to NAAE Communities of Practice.  Check it out!

Teach Like a Pirate: All About the Hook!
I know at this point I may sound like a broken record because I think everyone is saying the same thing, but Teach Like a Pirate rocks my socks!!  I read the most of the second section of the book while we were traveling from place to place in Korea and I had many epiphanies on that charter bus.  The second section was all about hooks for your lessons.  I think one of the biggest reasons that this section was so appealing to me was because I have always had an interest in Gardner's Multiple Intelligences ever since hearing about them in high school.  I am a very visual learner so it is fascinating to think about the different ways that people learn.  But because I learn best one way, doesn't mean my students will.  I will have to be really intentional about incorporating many different ways of learning into my lessons and as I was reading through the section section, it was easy to see all of the different modalities of learning that we were being addressed, beginning with the hook of the lesson.  Burgess just provided example after example after example of different ways to begin your lessons and I cannot wait to try them out and see what works for me in my classroom!
     As I read through the book, I took notes one some of my favorite examples of hooks for lessons and wrote down ways to potentially use these in my ag classes someday, maybe even as soon as student teaching.
  • The Techno Whiz Hook- Burgess talks in this section about the need to embrace technology in the classroom because it is not going to go away.  Sometimes technology can be a distraction in the classroom but instead of fighting it, let's reel it in and use it to our advantage.  One of the questions posed in the section is "How can I leverage the power of social media to empower my students to engage in their education beyond the standard school day?"  Then I got to thinking, each day we will have an essential question on the board at the beginning of class, but why not tweet it out to the students before class so students can come in with their minds already thinking about the answer, allowing us to maximize our time and jump right into to the discussion.
  • The Board Message Hook- So I kind of took this idea and went another direction with it, but the original concept is still there.  Burgess suggests using QR codes, the fun little squares you can scan with your smart phone, to display the essential question or board messages.  I love the QR code idea and actually hope to use this in my Small Gas Engines class at Greenwood in the Spring.  I will be teaching, or rather my students will be teaching each other, a unit on equipment safety.  I think it would be neat for small groups to make a 30 second video about that particular piece of equipment and link it to a QR code.  I will display the QR codes around the shop so that way students can access the safety videos any time they want.  Isn't technology handy?
     These were just two of the many ideas that the second section of the book sparked for me.  I look forward to not only finishing the book, but beginning to plan ways to implement what I have learned right into my lessons.

Sunday, September 7, 2014

A Weekly Reflection: 2. Bloom's Taxonomy

As week two of preparing for student teaching comes to a close, we will begin discussion on the development of student learning objectives.  We've started looking at all kinds of resources for lessons and objectives to start gathering ideas and strategies to begin lesson planning and one of the most interesting items I've been reading about is this thing called Bloom's Taxonomy.

Bloom's Taxonomy is a way to separate the different areas, or domains, of learning.  In the image above, the inner circle represents the different levels of taxonomy and there are verbs used in each level as you work your way to the outside.

What a valuable resource, right?!  Let's say I am at the end of my unit and I really want to see if my students picked up the material.  Well, lets have them CREATE something.  But create what? Poster?  Been there, done that.  PowerPoint? Lame...  But now I can look at my handy-dandy wheel and... BOOM! Mind blown!  My students can now create podcasts, videos, songs, webpages, QR codes, blogs, movies.  And what will my objectives say?  I now have in my teaching tool belt words like "create, publish, design, construct, originate," to develop some high-level objects to get my students thinking.

Now I don't know about you, but I still think that's an awful lot words to sift through to try to get a handle on what this whole taxonomy thing is really about.  There are charts and articles and wheels and pictures and whatever out there, but sometimes it can still seem a little unclear.  I found and watched this video that helped clear up some things about what each level of taxonomy is all about!

Also, because I am a nerd at heart, I found this video of Nemo's Taxonomy.  It may be a little silly, I will always have something to remember the levels of Bloom's Taxonomy by!  Thanks, Disney!

Saturday, September 6, 2014

Tiki Teaching: Our First AEE 412 Lab

This past week the 2015 cohort experienced our first AEE 412 lab.  Our 412 class is all about the methods of teaching agriculture and includes a lab session each week where we are able to try out some of the lessons we've planned.

Our first session was all about gauging our teaching skills.  We chose a different lesson plan at random and trust me, they were definitely random.  Some of the lessons included juggling, origami, and magical number squares.  My lesson was all about the Polynesian Tiki.

I loved the fact that all of our lessons were really out there; it helped to level the playing field.  We were each teaching something that we were unfamiliar with so our performance was based solely on teaching techniques rather than content knowledge.

My goal was to introduce, teach, and evaluate students on their understanding of the meanings behind different eye shapes of three Polynesian tiki gods.  Overall, I was pleased with my lesson but after reviewing the video that was taken during my lesson, I was able to identify some areas that I would like to improve.

The thing that I noticed immediately was the need for a detailed lesson plan which I did not have.  While sitting in the lab, I realized just a few minutes before I started to teach that I had totally forgot to prepare an interest approach!  How would I teach anything if I couldn't even get my class interested?!  I was able to come up with one on the fly but it was just okay, nothing memorable.  I also took notice to the fact that the questions I was asking the class were relatively low level questions because I was making them up as I went.

Despite being incredibly weird to watch yourself teach, especially the first lesson, reviewing my lesson and experiencing what my students experience was very helpful in identifying some areas of improvement.  I look forward to the second round of the 412 lab, especially since the tiki unit is over.

Monday, September 1, 2014

A Weekly Reflection: 1. Tackling the 1st Day of School

While reading the materials for the first weekly assignment in AEE 412, one topic stood out to me above the rest, tackling the first day of school.  It's a hot topic among new and beginning teachers, from deciding what lesson plan to use to choosing the appropriate dress to make the right first impression.

What you do on the first days of school will determine your success or failure for the rest of the school year.  You will either win or lose your class on the first days of school.

There is an incredible amount of pressure that comes along with the first days of school and it is up to us teachers to get the ball rolling.  Our tone on the first day will resonate throughout the rest of the school year so it's important to hit the target dead on.

The first day, and really the first year, can be intimidating for a new teacher.  The four statements below come from one of the assigned articles and are scary for a preservice teacher to read, but are all true.  
So how do we as new teachers begin our first day of school knowing that we are likely going to face situations we haven't experienced before?  We take a moment to remember why we signed up for this in the first place; to impact the lives of students.  Teaching is an art, and it takes time.  According to one of the articles, there are four stages of teaching: 
  1. Fantasy- thinking that this whole teaching thing is going to be a breeze
  2. Survival- literally trying to survive each day...
  3. Mastery- getting a rhythm, delivering material, and seeing results 
  4. Impact- positively effecting your program, your community, and the lives of your students.
When we walk in the door on our first day of student teaching or the first day in our own classroom, we will be scared and probably unprepared.  But if we enter the door with a "Stage 3" attitude (skipping the irrational fantasy and the scary survival stages), ready to deliver our first lesson and establish ourselves as educators in our classroom, our "Stage 3" attitudes will develop into a full-fledged "Stage 4" Impact-fest in no time at all!

I have taken from these readings that the first day of school will be a challenge; but it isn't about how much you know or becoming best friends with your students, its about establishing yourself as an effective and efficient educator right from the get-go.  

Want some additional advice from a seasoned teacher on making this year the best year ever? Check out this Edutopia Article on preparing for the first days of school!