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Miss Lorena, Cooperative Teachers, and FPDMS 6th Graders

Introduction

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Student Mosaic Tiles Decorating Hallway
From January 2009 to May 2009, I had the amazing opportunity to student teach at a completely different setting from my practicums. For five months, I worked with over 171 Life Science 6th grade students at **John C. Fremont Professional Development Middle School**. JCFPDMS is an urban-public middle school in Las Vegas, Nevada, where I worked and co-taught with two cooperative teachers-- a Life Science 6th grade teacher and a traveling Special Education teacher.

Student teaching proved to be the most difficult and most exhilarating time of my pre-service teaching career! With the support of my cooperative teachers and student teaching supervisor, I explored and navigated through a whole, new, and eye-opening world of urban demographics, high percentages of students with limited English proficiency, high-incidence and low-incidence disabilities, and inner-city poverty. It was a tough learning experience, but I learned a lot and I knew definitely that teaching was my life's vocation.

Student Teaching

Unlike my practicums, I now spent 9-10 hours 5 days a week with students in all 7 periods. I was fortunate that my cooperative teachers let me jump in the water right away because I was excited and eager to teach. Student teaching taught me how to think on my feet! One of my greatest lessons from student teaching was that relationships are key to successful teaching and learning. I couldn't expect to teach without first investing time in getting to know who my students were, what they were interested in, and how they best learned. Building rapport, building and maintaining community in the classroom, and differentiating my instructional strategies enabled me to reach out to many of the students and help them succeed in the classroom. I also learned how to hone my interpersonal skills as I collaborated with other teachers through team departments and interdisciplinary projects.

Some of my photos taken during observing the teachers' classrooms can be seen here. The photos are of interesting teaching techniques I picked up while observing in their classrooms, and would like to implement in my own classroom. I had many great mentors and friends from my student-teaching experience and continue to this day to learn from them!

Photo Slideshow of Sample Activities and Artifacts



This Animoto slideshow features some of my work and activities in the classroom. With a diverse student body, I utilized most of the classroom space and walls to display science content in more accessible and fun ways. For example, there are learning centers which were updated every unit with borrowed non-fiction and fiction books on the current topic from the library. There were also related manipulatives, realia, and teaching kits. These were open to all students at all times to pique their interest in the topic and provide them with additional information for their personal research.

The vocabulary word wall was bilingual and used the three-tiered method for students with limited English proficiency. Common words, previously-covered science vocabulary and new vocabulary were listed. The word wall was paired with music videos displaying visual images of the words. Like in my practica, I used many activities that targeted multiple learner modalities by incorporating tactile explorations and labs, creative writing and drawing, and kinesthetic projects that required students to move around the classroom and interact with their classmates.

Sample Lesson Plans

The sample lesson plans embedded below were constructed using the school's 1-page lesson plan template. I chose to share these two particular lesson plans on a Famous Scientist Gallery Tour as my artifacts because they reflected many of my favorite teaching strategies that I used daily to meet the different learning styles of my students. I liked the strategies because they engaged students to critically think, socially interact with their peers, and practice their communication skills.
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Period 3 - Famous Scientist Poster Gallery Walk


Sample Teaching Strategies Used

  • Brain Buzzers- creative writing prompts at the beginning of class that tied in with the essential question(s) and learning objective(s).
  • Role Play - short scripts and skits on different famous scientists, their discoveries, and how their discoveries affected society today.
  • Mixed Collaborative Groups - randomized grouping of students using various counting strategies.
  • Gallery Walk - museum-exhibit type visual displays & interactive learning centers arranged around the room which students perused at their own pace to learn about different scientists individually, with pairs, or with groups.
  • Visual Vocabulary/ Musical Ed-Videos- self-made, timed, and looped PowerPoint slide-shows with embedded soundtracks and visuals that played vocabulary terms and important concepts from the units.
  • Clozures - varying closure activities typically used at the end of a class to informally assess students' learning.

Changes

If I were to go back and change one thing in the lesson plans, I would revise my assessment. I liked that I had various checkpoints for informal assessments (ie. journal prompts, class participation, group discussions), but I did not have enough formal assessments built in. I think that adding student-created rubrics for peer assessment on their performance pieces (ie. gallery products and oral presentations) and an individual reflection paper would have strengthened the assessment part of the lesson plans. Overall, my student teaching experience has helped strengthen my teaching practices of student-centered learning, differentiation, and allowed me to delve more into developing student-involved assessments for academic achievement and performance.