Tag Archives: lesson planning

Professional Growth Plan

As I help my students reflect on their year of learning, I remind them that everyone still has things on which they need to work – even teachers. As I reflect on my year of learning and teaching, it is critical to identify the areas of weakness and how I will work to better myself in those areas in the future. The Professional Growth Plan (PGP, see Image 1) has helped me reflect on my teaching in a meaningful way and exemplify professionally-informed, growth-centered practice (HOPE principle E1). While this is required for my program, I felt it truly helped me lay out measurable plans for my future in teaching, as well as a baseline from which I can grow in my own classroom next year.

Image 1 - An excerpt from my Professional Growth Plan addressing improving Academic Vocabulary use in my classroom.

Image 1 – An excerpt from my Professional Growth Plan addressing improving Academic Vocabulary use in my classroom.

In going through the Washington State rubrics, I found a few areas in which I would like to grow in my next few years of teaching. While they had not been my focus as I was gaining footing in the classroom, it will be important that I implement these into my teaching in order to be a more effective teacher for all of my students’ needs. As opposed to other reflections I have done, the PGP requires the teacher to plan action steps that will begin progress toward the new goals set. For example, in order to better teach academic vocabulary (Criteria 2.7), my goal is to identify key vocabulary while planning the lesson, creating a word bank, and assessing students on key academic vocabulary. My action step that will set me in motion to reach this goal will be to specifically identify they key vocabulary in my plan book. In addition to writing the learning target in my plan book and on the board, I will leave space for vocabulary in both of those spaces as well. While the plans for the rest of this school year have been written and it would be difficult to begin a new activity with students so late in the year, I can begin the next school year with these goals in mind in order to make vocabulary a central focus in my classroom.

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Appropriate Challenges

While many students in the classroom are at grade-level, there are bound to be students in any classroom who fall well above or below that range. In order to allow students to keep learning, we must offer an appropriate challenge in the content area (HOPE standard O2). For the higher students, this means being prepared with deeper-level thinking questions and enrichment material that will keep them engaged. For lower students, however, who are not able to complete grade-level tasks independently, we must work within their Zone of Proximal Development. Vygotsky’s theory of the Zone of Proximal Development, according to Pressley and McCormick (2007), is the cognitive space between the most challenging task a child can perform on their own and the most challenging task they can perform with help.

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Image 1 – A piece of yesterday’s reading group lesson plan. Each group has its own modified version of the lesson in order to give them a challenge appropriate to their learning level.

In our reading groups, this support comes in the form of reading prompts. While our highest-level readers read whole paragraphs and our grade-level readers tackle a sentence at a time before reflecting on the meaning of the whole paragraph, our lower readers get additional support in reading grade-level texts with prompts to aid comprehension. When asking a student to read, my mentor teacher and I prompt the reader with a question such as “About whom is this sentence going to tell us?” To which the student will respond by reading the subject of the sentence. “What did that person do?” would prompt the next student to say the verb, and so on. After reading through with prompting, students will get the chance to read the passage all the way through in order to assist in fluency. By assisting the students in breaking down the sentence into phrases and giving them prompts about how to relate the parts of speech, students are still able to read the same grade-level passages as their peers, but are not faced with a challenge too great for their current comprehension level. In my future teaching, I will gladly provide student the support they need to perform grade-level tasks with a challenge appropriate to their learning level, even if it does require extra effort on my part.

Reference:

Pressley, M. & McCormick, C. B. (2007). Child and adolescent development for educators. New York, NY: Guilford Press.

Aligning Lessons to Goals

In lesson planning, I have become accustomed to essentially planning backwards – starting with the goals and choosing lessons that will align to those goals, which helps me to offer an organized curriculum aligned to standards and outcomes (HOPE principle O1). My internship has emphasized the importance of learning targets and goals. According to Marzano, a learning goal is “a statement of what students will know or be able to do” (2007, Location 205). We sometimes refer to these as learning targets, which is more specific to an individual lesson. Each learning target is a critical piece of building towards the central focus, or goal for the series of lessons or entre unit.

When designing lesson plans in this way, starting with our central focus and learning targets, we ensure that every lesson has a purpose. By starting with what students are to learn before focusing on how they will learn it, each lesson, each question, and each activity will be focused on and aligned with a specific outcome.

 

Image 1 - A part of two consecutive lesson plans, each sharing the same central focus and standard, but whose targets build on each other.

Image 1 – A part of two consecutive lesson plans, each sharing the same central focus and standard, but whose targets build on each other.

Another benefit of this style of lesson planning is that students understand what they are supposed to be learning. As Jim Knight said, “When students understand what they are supposed to learn, the chances are much higher that they will actually learn it” (2012, Location 914). One of the areas on which I am still working is to ensure students have time to reflect on their progress toward the learning target at the end of the lesson. I believe this is critical because students should have a better idea of how confident they are in their abilities and where they may need to work harder.

References

Knight, J. (2012). High impact instruction. Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin.

Marzano, R. J. (2007). The art and science of teaching. Alexandria, VA: Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development.

EDU 6136 Reflection

In EDU 6136, we learned more about 9 key pieces to effective instruction: Assessing prior knowledge, student assets, academic language, scaffolding, supporting, deepening, feedback, student reflection, and teacher reflection. Since reading more on these ideas, I have found myself implementing them more in my instruction. My growth as a teacher through this course is evident in how I approach lesson planning. Many of the changes I’ve seen in my approach is in my questioning. I want to find ways to deepen student learning and do so through effective questions that leave students thinking more about the answer than I thought about asking the question. I feel this shift is closely related to HOPE Principle P1 – Practice intentional inquiry and planning for instruction. By ensuring my questioning is intentional, I can ask questions that bring about the kinds of answers that will help students better understand concepts.

For my Classroom Tips assignment, I created a Questioning Questions sheet that I, and other teachers, can look over when coming up with questions for a lesson. Inspired by Caram and Davis (2005), one of our readings for the course, it helps highlight the kinds of questions that do not cause deeper thinking and guides educators to use more effective questions. When used in conjunction with a goal of using multiple levels of Bloom’s Taxonomy (Bloom et. al., 1956), questions can be designed to have students think in meaningful ways about the content.

Additionally, according to Caram and Davis, “Teachers need to go with the flow, using student responses to bring depth and breadth to the lesson” (2005, p. 20). Not only do we need to have questions planned, but we must also be ready to abandon some of those questions we took so much time to create in order to ask questions and elaborate on ideas that will better benefit student understanding. This is why I am beginning to create a scale of questions for each lesson. While each lesson does not need a full outline, it is important to have key questions prepared – the questions that must be asked, the questions that can be asked, and the questions that can be dropped. The higher-order questions should be in the first category, while lower-order questions are included in case there is time, but can be dropped should a more important discussion present itself.

Image 1 - Questions for an Upcoming Lesson in 3 Groups: Must Ask, Can Ask, Can Drop. The Must Ask questions help student progress to the goal while the Can Drop question reviews a concept previously taught.

Image 1 – Questions for an Upcoming Lesson in 3 Groups: Must Ask, Can Ask, Can Drop. The Must Ask questions help student progress to the goal while the Can Drop question reviews a concept previously taught.

Using this system, students will be asked the questions that will deepen their knowledge, will still be able to learn based on their immediate interest or needs, and teachers will be able to get students thinking more about important concepts.

References:

Bloom, B. S.; Engelhart, M. D.; Furst, E. J.; Hill, W. H.; Krathwohl, D. R. (1956). Taxonomy of educational objectives: The classification of educational goals. Handbook I: Cognitive domain. New York: David McKay Company.

Caram, C. A., & Davis, P. B. (2005). Inviting student engagement with questioning. Kappa Delta Pi Rec 42(1) p. 18-23

EDMA 6432: Reflection 1

In my Elementary Math Methods course, I have already felt an incredible shift in how I think of teaching Math. In my student teaching, Math was the first course I began teaching. Unlike the Reading course I took last quarter, I came into this course having contextual knowledge about how what I learned could be applied to the classroom.

For my first mini-lesson, I chose to try a new approach to a topic I had already taught in my classroom – prime numbers. When I taught it to my students, it went terribly. Exit tickets proved that few students were able to retain all of the information I threw at them. I used a direct instruction approach and, while I tried to use some Talk Moves as described by Chapin, O’Connor, and Anderson (2013), I ended up doing nearly all of the talking. My mentor teacher and I would have to reteach the topic, since in 4th grade it is critical for students to know what prime and composite numbers are and be able to work with these definitions.

In teaching the mini-lesson to my peers, I decided to do an “example/non-example” style lesson. In order to do this, I would have to help the students link information, as looking at and defining groups of numbers can be quite intimidating for many students. Bringing in arrays helped students visualize these numbers and see that there were multiple ways to arrange composite numbers in arrays, but only one for prime numbers. The planning for my mini-lesson ended up taking less time than planning for the original classroom lesson because I knew what pitfalls existed and what resources could benefit my students – so I made sure to adjust for those in the mini-lesson presented to my peers.

I also found this project to be a good place to experiment with something I’d seen before and wanted to try in Math. My mentor teacher, inspired by an online video, used gestures to accompany simple definitions so students could better remember them during Reading. I came up with gestures to accompany definitions for prime number and composite number and my classmates responded very positively to them. It was the encouragement I needed to try this method in my own Math classroom.

I believe what I’ve learned aligns well with HOPE standard E1: Exemplify professionally-informed, growth-centered practice. As I learn more about what I teach, I am able to better apply what I learn in my courses to what I do in the classroom. In trying new practices and methods, I am allowing myself to grow professionally and better serve my students.

Reference:

Chapin, S. H., O’Connor, S., and Anderson, N. C. (2013). Classroom discussions in Math. Sausalito, CA: Math Solutions.

Organizing Curriculum with Learning Targets

O1 – Offer an organized curriculum aligned to standards and outcomes. To me, this standard means to plan based on goals as opposed to plan based on activities. Throughout the coursework, we have been told about the importance of communicating goals to students. A learning goal is “a statement of what students will know or be able to do” (Marzano, 2007, Location 205). We sometimes refer to these as learning targets, which is more specific to an individual lesson. The activity in which the importance of having and communicating these goals was solidified was in creating a lesson plan. In Introduction to Teaching (EDU 6918), as well as in other classes, we were asked to create a lesson plan starting with the standards and learning targets, as shown in Figure 1.

Image

Figure 1: A Lesson Outline from EDU 6918.
While creating a lesson plan, we were to decide what our standard and target were before planning the activities and assessment.

While this strategy was initially difficult, it became evident that having a clear goal was critical to having an organized curriculum, and that identifying the target can benefit students as well. As Jim Knight said, “When students understand what they are supposed to learn, the chances are much higher that they will actually learn it” (2012, Location 914). In order to make sure I give a clear target at which the students are supposed to aim, I plan on continuing to focus on what I want the students to learn before I focus on how they will learn it.

References

Knight, J. (2012). High impact instruction. Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin.

Marzano, R. J. (2007). The art and science of teaching. Alexandria, VA: Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development.