Posted in teaching practice

Engagement

One of my goals for the current school year is increasing classroom engagement. Last year being my first year, I was happy to just have covered all of the material. But, now that I more fully understand the curriculum, I can better prepare engaging lessons. To be honest, during my first few months of teaching, I was just happy if students were taking notes quietly in their seats. I now know that quiet note taking does not always equal engaged students who are grasping content.

Last week, my 43 week of teaching, I believe I finally  achieved full student engagement. On multiple lessons. Teacher win!
20160920_162848The first lesson focused on setting. After it became evident that many of my students did not fully understand setting, I decided to break out the art supplies. We read “The King of Mazy May,” a short story about the Klondike Gold Rush, and then students drew a picture of Walt’s home. They not only had to draw a picture, they also had to write to explain why they included each element. The students loved this activity, and it was great to see their creativity as they included various elements. One of my students even water colored his picture at home! And on top of it all, we now have new wallpaper for our classroom!

Next, we began using Quizlet Live. Let me tell you, if you have not yet used Quizlet Live in your class, you are missing out! I have never seen my students so excited about their vocabulary words. The gist of the program is students work together on teams to compete with others. This competition is based on your quizlet deck (online flashcards), and the students race to answer the most correct. Every single one of my students participated, helped each other, and cheered each other on. Yes, it was extremely loud, but the good kind of loud.

The final lesson came about when nearly all of my students were struggling with the difference between direct and indirect characterization. We had taken notes and read examples, but it was still not clicking. So again, to the art supplies I went! Students sorted examples into direct and indirect characterization by cutting out examples from “The King of Mazy May” and gluing them into a graphic organizer. Because this was an in class activity, I was able to float around the room as students practiced identifying the quotes.

The moral of my most successful week to date is to:

  • not be afraid of noise
  • never underestimate the power of art supplies
  • reteach when needed, sometimes starting over from square one
Posted in reflection

9/11/2001: Never Forget

We all remember where we were on this day 15 years ago. I myself was on my way to 7th grade. I remember distinctively hearing the news of the first plane crash before hopping in the van. When we arrived at school, every classroom was projecting the news. We sat there in English and then Social Studies watching as the horrific events unfolded. I remember watching as the second plane hit. I remember watching as people jumped from the buildings. I remember watching as the towers collapsed. Only after all of these events did the principal mandate all tvs turned off. Part of me wishes this had been sooner as these horrific images provided nightmares and have remained with me. Still, too, part of me is thankful that I was able to witness this historic day; it allowed the events to hold significance and create a connection.

Now as a teacher, I relive these events with my students. Last year was my first year teaching, and I was able to share with my 6th graders the events of September 11, 2001. Not only was I able to share the events from a historical perspective, but I was also able to share a firsthand account. None of my students were alive in 2001, and most had not yet fully understood this day’s significance.

I have come to realize that there are certain moments, both in life and in teaching, that stand out with great significance. This day is one of those days. My 7th grade memories hold personal meaning, while reliving the events through my students holds a new kind of meaning that only teachers understand. It is fascinating to see students’ responses. They have not experienced firsthand, and so rely on their teachers to give these events personal significance.

I now have a new memory of this day. I remember my students’ horrified faces as they watched the newscast I had seen 14 years prior. I remember their curiosity as they asked me questions about the day, about the war, about the terrorists. I remember reading their writings, infusing new personal connections to make this history come alive for them.

As teachers, it is important to bring history alive for our students. While this day is one of the most horrific days many of us have experience, our students have not and they will not understand its significance until we infuse our own connections, the impact the day had, and the overall significance.