Monday, November 30, 2015

Teach, Lesson Plan, Sleep, Repeat.

It's absolutely CRAZY to me that today started the third week of my teaching block. I can't believe time has gone by so quickly and I have yet to blog about it! I'm finally getting the hang of finding time to complete my extensive lesson plans, gathering exciting and innovative resources for my lessons as well as finding time to eat and sleep. And today has finally given me a few minutes to share my thoughts and update you on how these first two weeks have gone.

So far teaching grade one has been INCREDIBLE. I am so thankful to have been placed in a class of wonderful students that teach me something new every single lesson of every single day. They keep me on my toes and always make me feel great about myself and the effort I put into my work.

The class I am working with is a very excitable bunch. Every time I bring out a new material or lesson idea they become so eager to learn. I love this intrinsic motivation that these young children have to learn; they are always telling me "I wish school was longer" or "I wish we had school everyday" before we break for the weekend. This excitement to learn reaffirms my decision to become a teacher everyday, it motivates me to be the best teacher I can be and find new ways to excite my students everyday (it has also allowed me to practice my classroom management techniques... sometimes they get a little TOO excited!)

So far I have had the opportunity to teach visual arts (primary and secondary colours), math (3D shapes and we have just begun graphing) as well as science (materials, objects and structures). I have so many things to share with you after having taught these subjects, but for now I will focus on the first subject I taught...visual art.

Visual art was an amazing subject to start with, the students don't have art as often in their timetable so they got very excited when they found out they would be having it everyday. They became even more excited when I framed my unit using a story. Initially I made up this little story and thought it may be silly or too young for the grade one students. Nevertheless, I decided to take a risk and see how it went over and I am SO HAPPY I did. My students came to school everyday eager to find out what was going to happen in art class.

On Monday I explained to the students how much I love to colour. I showed them a colouring page where I had made very poor colour choices... my apples were coloured blue, my tree was purple, etc. I asked the students what was wrong with my colouring page and they were very quick to tell me. I then showed them a letter written in chart paper by "my crayons". They had run away because I wasn't using them correctly and claimed they wouldn't return until I had learned more about them with the help of the class.

The students were so excited to get these crayons back, they couldn't wait to begin the first lesson. The first lesson was about the primary colours. I taught them a little song I found on Ms. Brown's blog to help them remember and they were singing it all week long. I then designed a worksheet where they coloured different pictures using their primary colours and sorted them accordingly. I was so pleased at the end of the week when I did my final assessment and every student knew their primary colours! 

The next day students came rushing into the school, before taking off all their winter gear they ran up to me asking if any crayons came back. When I replied they had to wait until art class they were so disappointed and were snooping around the classroom all morning. I didn't want to distract from my associate teacher's lessons so the crayons also worked as an incentive as well. 

When I revealed that the red, blue and yellow crayons had returned. After some screams and shrills of excitement, this was a great review of what we had learned the previous day as we discussed what it meant to be a primary colour. 

I won't take you through all of the lessons I did, but myself and my students were very excited by Tuesday's lesson as well, so I would love to share it with you. I introduced the lesson with another colouring page, this time I had only used my primary colours to colour it and so it didn't make sense... the grass was blue, a bunny was holding a red carrot... so the students and I discussed the missing colours. 

We then read the book Mouse Paint, an amazing resource for teaching how the colours mix! As we read the book we did a live demonstration of mixing the paint. Rather than using a paint brush, I put two primary colours in a ziplock bag and  used a stuffed white mouse to stomp all over the bag so that the colours began to mix... the students LOVED this. I had students come up to the front and use the mouse to mix the colours and they were both excited and well behaved to get a turn. I then had a simple worksheet of colour equations where students put their knowledge into action by colouring the different mice in the book. For anyone interested in the worksheet or any other resources I used please let me know and I am happy to send them your way. 

The next day the students came running into school again desperate to know what crayons had returned. I kept up the crayon box all week, the secondary colours returned and black and white returned after talking about making colours lighter and darker. I taught this mini-unit in my first week of placement and the students are STILL talking about the crayons. 

As I mentioned, I now teach more than art with a focus on math and science for the time being. I could go on all night about all of the new things I have been trying out in my placement, but I may be here forever. I promise not to wait so long for the next post and keep you in the loop about what's going on with our grade one graphing and structures units. 

I would love to hear any thoughts and suggestions about these few art lessons if you have any feedback. 

Until next time, happy lesson planning! Thank you for continuing to learn and grow with me. 

Friday, November 13, 2015

Mirror, mirror on the wall... Becoming a Reflective Practitioner

Developing your presence as a classroom teacher can be difficult as a student teacher.  Most of my past work with children has been in camp or recreational environments; these are less structured and I find it is more acceptable for me to be viewed as a friend rather than in a position of authority. As a teacher, it is critical you have a balance between having fun but also maintaining classroom management and professional boundaries. My first (and very intimidating) assignment was micro-teaching. As a teacher candidate I was expected to plan a short lesson and then teach that lesson to the grade 1 class I have been observing weekly. But that's not the intimidating part... during this lesson I would be watched by three of my fellow teacher candidates, my faculty advisor, my 21 students, associate teacher as well as being video-taped. Don't get me wrong, I love coming up with new and innovative lessons and was excited to show off what I could do, but the audience and the camera did intimidate me.

I am very fortunate to have an incredible associate teacher who has provided me with opportunities to teach brief lessons in shared reading and phonics. This allowed me to start to get comfortable in front of the class before I had to do this micro-teaching assignment. I cannot thank her enough because it actually went really well - there was no reason to be intimidated at all! She provided me with an incredible body of resources which allowed me to put my ideas into action.

My lesson was about seasonal change and the students couldn't have been more engaged! I read them Froggy Gets Dressed by Jonathan London. The book tells the story of Froggy getting dressed for winter, having to take on and off his many clothing items as he forgets many of them before playing in the snow. As a class we discussed why Froggy had to dress the way he did and what would happen if he wore all of the clothes in the summer. The students picked up on the content really fast. I then got them up and moving by having students one by one dress four cut-out children for the four different seasons. Each and every student was eagerly waving their hand high in the air waiting for their turn.

I am happy to share a more in-depth description of this lesson for those who are interested, however, the most important aspect I got out of this experience was the importance of becoming a reflective practitioner. 

Watching myself teach on video was a strange experience. I don't enjoy looking in a mirror, so I was dreading having to watch and listen to myself teach - but it taught me more about myself as an educator than I have ever known. There were things I saw in myself that I was very pleased about, and others that I really want to work on. I watched the video numerous times, making a list of strengths I'd like to sustain and even strengthen over the next five weeks as well as a list of weaknesses I would like to improve. I have placed these in my daybook to encourage daily reflection.

My micro-teaching lesson was actually over a week ago... you'll have to forgive me for posting so late, I've been busy planning a visual arts mini-unit that I can't wait to share with you! But even though this learning experience took place a week and a half ago, I can't help but continue to reflect upon it and look for new ways to grow and learn as a teacher.

I am officially done my first semester of classes in Teacher's College and am off to begin my first official teaching block on Monday Though I will not be video-taped everyday, I am going to make it a point to sit down and reflect on my lessons everyday. I have always been told it's important to reflect, but now have been able to experience that significance for myself. I am going to take the time to "look in the mirror" to critically reflect upon what I need to do better to meet the needs of ALL of my learners each and every day. 

I would strongly recommend any teacher seeking to improve upon their practice to try out video taping themselves, even for just a short lesson. It provides a brand new perspective that will challenge you to think and teach in new and more effective ways. In addition to reflecting to myself, I also plan on keeping this blog as well as professional journal throughout my block. I know there is always room for improvement and growth, but I'm hoping that this will allow me to get the best out of my teaching block and provide me with a solid foundation for the day I have my own classroom.

I am so excited to start my block this upcoming Monday. I can't wait to share all that I am doing with my grade ones with you. Let's learn and grow together.