How can I sum up my seven weeks at Ruth M. Buck? I don’t think there is an easy way to do (or at least one I can fit in a readable length on this blog). But I’ll try to it justice below.
First off, my lesson from yesterday went very well. I tried the “Jigsaw” strategy for the first time to introduce the political parties of Canada (and more specifically their websites). I had the kids in set groups, gave them a handout to fill out with various information about the party and things you might find of their website, and asked them to become experts on their assigned party. The students took to it relatively well and did pretty good in the group format. I made in known to them that they would need to share what they learned in a different group, so they all worked together relatively well to find the answers they needed.
My partner (with the added help of myself, our co-op and the next door pre-interns) facilitated a math based scavenger hunt for numeracy class. She put a ton of work and planning into it and the students loved it. We had clues set up all over the school, a point system that docked them for breaking any rules we set (ex. running in the hall, yelling the hall) and really incentivized them to do well. The kids enjoyed math class, which was obviously really nice.
Overall, this is a group of students I’m going to miss seeing each Wednesday. Tons of personalities, hilarious kids and great minds in the room. Hopefully we can jump back in without missing a step in March.
Today was probably the best day yet, for a variety of reasons. Here are a few:
Prior to the beginning of day, it was nice to have an impromptu meeting with some of my fellow pre-interns. My partner and I share a wall with two others next door in a 7/8 class, just down the hall from them is another pair in a grade six. It’s nice to just talk about what we have planned, our university classes and whatever else before really starting the day. Work relationships are important.
Second, my pre-intern partner and I co-taught a little spontaneous multiple intelligence lesson first thing in the morning. Our co-op was doing some goal setting with individual students for parent-teacher conferences, and the kids had stuff to work on, but the total time slot was an hour and half, so he said we could jump in and take over for half an hour or whatever we felt. It was fun to just throw something together on the fly and have it work.
Third, my lesson went really well. I’m starting to feel very comfortable up in front of the class and my “read of the room” is getting better. I’m starting to really be able to keep the class on track and eliminate disruptions. We built towers out of marshmallows and toothpicks. The tallest tower that doesn’t topple when I shake the book its built on wins. In Groups of 4 (pre-made), the kids built the towers. They had 8 minutes, divided into two halves. For the first half, only two could talk and the other two could build. After 4 minutes, they switched. The kids were very engaged and worked well, keeping in mind the focus I laid out at the beginning, cooperation, teamwork and communication. (The winning tower is pictured).
My co-op was fairly impressed with the lesson, thought it went really well and noted that I appeared very prepared and had clearly thought of as many things that could go wrong (or right) before had. Obviously, when doing an activity that can get messy and crazy, it’s good to have thorough instructions, repeat them often (or better, have students repeat them) and set boundaries for what’s acceptable.
Up to this point, my first two lessons have been pretty straightforward in terms of teaching style, using a lecture style approach with some discussion. For the most part, it has been me, up in front of the board, “teaching”. For my third lesson, I wanted to start branching out a bit, and since I am taking Drama Education this semester, I thought it fitting to try out an Arts Ed. lesson with a drama focus.
Thanks to one of our running assignments, I have “toolbox” of idea for activities and games in for a drama (or any subject) class. The main focus today was to carry on from my partner’s literacy lesson the previous week on the short story The Sniper. In Mrs. Morgan’s lesson, she read the story and, along with the students, made visual representations (through drawings) of scenes in the story. She drew four scenes, the Introduction, Body, Climax and Conclusion. Using these 4 scenes, we made tableaus.
We went over to a room called the “mini-gym”, which is essentially a double sized classroom with high ceilings to work on the tableaus and present them. At first, after splitting the class into groups, it seemed to be complete chaos, but after some work individually with each group, I was able to ensure that they were all at least somewhat on track.
Following the presentation of the tableaus, I was left with about 15 minutes, so we played the “Atom” game, which proved to be a relevant and fun time filler. The students walked around the space and I would say “Atom #” and the students would form groups of that number. You can start to add in requirements like saying “Atom # Object” and the students have to form that object.
All in all, it was definitely a day of using my “teacher voice” and regaining control of the class when it would get too crazy.
This week was definitely the first time we’ve seen our class be a little “crazy”. From the get go, the room was a little more talkative and distracted and had to be reminded multiple times throughout the day about the volume in the class. That being said, it was definitely a week for more one on one connections with students. I’m starting to form more relationships with the kids and getting to know more about them, something that does not come very easily to me. Hopefully there will be more of this to come as we spend more time in the classroom.
My lesson this week was boys health, which came right after the afternoon recess at 2:30. Leading up to recess, the class was getting a little rowdy, and it seemed to boil over at recess as everyone seemed to be crossing lines that we had not seen them do yet. Two boys even got into a small fight and the tensions boiled over into class afterwards. Needless to say, the class was pretty wound up. I had 2:30-3:00 for my lesson, which I had planned for, but naturally it was more like 20 to 25 minutes than a full half hour.
We were discussing the portrayal of men’s body image in the media, specifically advertising, by viewing two ads I had selected that conveyed specific messages. The talkative nature of the group was helpful when I could keep them on track, but the slightest break would result in side conversations beginning. First, we brainstormed what we think men look like in advertising, going over what shape their bodies are, what clothes they wear, their skin, expressions and so on. Following that, I asked them to watch the ads I played, and note all the things they noticed about the men in the ads.
For the most part, our closure, going over what we had seen, went very well. Some of the students were making the exact points I wanted to focus on. The messages in the ads were that there was an “ideal” body type, and if you want to be a man, you need to fit that type. Despite this, there was still students who weren’t focusing and talking out of turn.
The first thing my co-op said to me following the lesson was simply “tough crowd”, and it was, but he noted that I pushed through and didn’t give the students that were misbehaving the reactions they might have wanted. I kept my focus on the lesson, called out names when we were getting off track and stayed calm. I feel I would have been better served by more time, but I signed up for the time slot, and wanted the challenge.
Going into teaching my first lesson to the grade eights, I had simultaneously too high and too low of expectations for myself. I did not expect it to go overly well, but I wanted it too. The end result, it went good. I wouldn’t say great, wouldn’t say bad, just good. I was teaching the historical context & new vocabulary in a short story they are about to read. My co-op caught far more good habits than bad while I was teaching most of which I didn’t even notice (I was scanning the room and making frequent eye contact? really?).
My main concern heading in was timing. I had a full hour, 9:30 to 10:30 in the morning. I was fairly sure, due to my tendency to speed-talk when in front a group, I’d zip through my prepared lecture in less than 10 minutes. This wasn’t actually the case, and even though I was talking quickly, I managed to make up for it by frequently checking in with the class and making sure I could really dig into the main points.
By about 9:50, I was about to start my more activity-like section of the lesson, and the timing was right as focus was slipping away from me with the group. I had written the 23 vocabulary words on the board and had my partner had out slips of paper with definitions on them. The students were to get up and match their definition to a word on the board (preferably the right one). I let them talk it out with their classmates and to my surprise the conversations actually focused on trying to figure out the words no one knew. They were using problem solving skills like process of elimination to figure out the words.
This activity lightened the room up a bit, and by the time we had gone through all the words, we hit 10:15, enough time to recap what we talked about and have them actually do the small assignment, make a prediction about the story based on what you know.
As I had said, it went well. My volume and language was good, though one of my goals for next week is turn up my enthusiasm a bit, as my co-op said I was very steady throughout. It was good level to be at, but I’d like to be a bit more excited about my next lesson. I’ll also need to continue to work on slowing down my speech.
Grade eights are grade eights. They will, at any given moment, say something incredibly intelligent to you, and minutes later, yell something profane at their friend from beating them in a game on their iPhone. It is pretty well what I expected.
Our (my pre-intern partner Rachel and I) day started nice and early, arriving at the school before eight in the morning. Might as well get comfortable, right? Our co-op took us on a tour of the school, a pretty standard school, everyone was friendly, and it was nice to see so many other pre-interns there with us. We ran a quick introduction activity that the kids enjoyed and got to learn a little about us. Pretty standard stuff. Throughout the day, we got to wander the class and halls as students worked, asking them about their projects, giving them a hand, learning names and such.
The real connections came after school, when we stayed to watch the boys volleyball game. It seemed like no big deal for us, but I think it’s going to pay off in the long run. Some of the boys on the team also happened to be the ones looking to push the boundaries with me, seeing how much they could get away with. I think if I’m going to have any hope in gaining their respect, it’s going to come from investing a little in the stuff outside of the classroom.
In week two, I’m looking forward to actually teaching something. Will it go well? Probably not as well as I want it to go. But I’m hopeful that I can remain calm and just roll with whatever gets thrown at me. It’s just one lesson, what could go wrong?