Final ICSM Blog!



Video Reflection #2


In this reflection I will be focusing on instructional strategies and classroom management.

In terms of instructional strategies, I think I did a good job of selecting and implementing a variety of methods of instruction in order to engage students in different ways.  In this clip, I have facilitated classroom discussions, a presentation of notes accompanied by a dialogue between myself and the students, and two videos of different natures.  I think something that I did well in these different strategies is that I did not do them in isolation – after watching videos, we discussed what we saw.  When taking notes, the students were interacting with me, instead of me just talking at them.  I think that by choosing to have students watch a clip of a reading of the Declaration, they were able to engage with the document more than had they just read it (and by providing them with the option to also read it, I made the information more accessible to different kinds of learners).

Looking back on this clip and lesson, I wonder how the students felt about the note taking part.  Typically, I would have made slides for them to be projected on the Smartboard so that they could take notes off of that, but I had seen my cooperating teacher write notes like this on the board before, so I thought I would try it out. I think it worked well, but I am curious to know how the students perceived it.  The first time I taught this lesson, I had students watch the entire video of the reading of the Declaration; in this clip (immediately following this clip), I chose to just focus on the list of grievances section, as I observed that the first group of student lost interest in the longer video.  I think this was a good change, but I also wish I had found an engaging way for students to be exposed to the entire document, as it is so important in our nation’s history.  I wonder if maybe I should have had students read the first part of the Declaration, watch the grievances section, and then finish with them reading the end of it – it is something I will have to think about!


For classroom management, I think I did a much better job of managing the classroom in this clip than I had in other instances.  There were minimal instances where students were talking amongst each other at inappropriate times.  I could have done better during the first video, with the students in the back who were talking at the beginning and a little bit throughout.  At the time I did not find it to be too distracting, and I knew that they were reacting to the video, so I did not say anything to them.  When watching the video, I was distracted by it, so I am sure that students sitting around them were also distracted.  To improve this, I could have gone over and stood near the group of students, implicitly reminding them to be quiet with my proximity to them – and by being closer,I could have quietly asked them to quiet down, avoiding having to “make a scene” in front of the class by asking them to quiet down from the front.

In another instance I am giving directions about the next task and students in the back are talking. I am able to just say, “Listen up” to them and they do, allowing me to smoothly continue giving instructions – it didn’t become a big, or awkward, thing. I think that by outlining what we were going to do for the class at the beginning of the lesson, I gave students the opportunity to get focused on the tasks and the content and they consequently were attentive and well-behaved.  I think that by the way I structured the note taking – reading what I was writing out loud, writing in big letters, writing concise notes, and asking the students to give me information they know – I was able to manage the class well; there really weren’t many side conversations and students appeared to be engaged.  In the future, I would be more direct in asking students if they had finished taking notes, and perhaps even going around the room to make sure they had had enough time to get everything written down, instead of assuming their completion by their looking up at me.

Overall I think that this clip (and the lesson in general) went really well. I really enjoyed teaching this lesson, and I think that the students enjoyed it AND learned from it – which is the whole point!

Video Reflection #2

Day 23 – “Do you really have to leave?”

Today was my last Practicum visit of the semester!

I did the same lesson as last week – The Declaration of Independence with the eighth grade group. I mome minor adjustments to the lesson to make it go more smoothly, and I think it paid off.  I shortened the length of the video of the reading of the Declaration, just focusing on the grievances that students would later dissect.  Also, since this group was smaller and I knew the would get the work done, I allowed them to choose what groups/partners to work with.


Today’s big takeaway: teachers matter! My cooperating teacher and students surprised me with a little party and gave me a plant and thank you cards. It was such a sweet gesture, and I feel really appreciated even for my short time in the classroom. It was nice to know that what I did mattered, and that even for just a semester, I had made some sort of difference. I became connected to many of the students here, and I can only imagine how much more difficult it will be to say goodbye to students next semester during full time student teaching. I certainly learned a lot from this Practicum, including the realities of lesson planning, classroom management, and what teaching in middle school is all about. It’s safe to say that I am excited about middle school education, which is not something that I would have said a couple of years ago! I’m thankful to have had such a positive Practicum II experience with a great cooperating teacher and awesome kids.


Day 23 – “Do you really have to leave?”

Content Area Reading #13 – Stop, Collaborate and Listen!

“What’s Collaboration Got to Do with It?: Setting the Table for Teacher-led Collaborative Inquiry” by Rebecca Valbuena and Anthony Roy. Social Education 80(6), pp. 378-380, National Council for the Social Studies

I chose this article because I was interested to see what the authors had to say about collaboration.  We began talking about personalized learning last week, and teacher-led collaborative inquiry is a huge part of that. In order to better understand and visualize how personalized learning can be implemented into a classroom setting, I think I need to read up on how various educators either perceive such changes or how they went about the change themselves. Retrospectively, I see that this article is much more focused on inquiry for teacher professional development, which should precede student inquiry in the classrooms; I continued to read as this is something that I have not read about before, but agree with.

Summary: This article argues that “Teacher-led professional development centered on inquiry sets the table for educators to develop their practice and impact student outcomes” (378).  It discusses how to teach students critical thinking and collaborative skills.  The article acknowledges the anxieties that teachers feel after leaving professional development sessions, worried about how to keep adding “another thing to my plate” (378).  However, the article suggests that by making inquiry the center of learning, the curriculum connects the individual student to the community as a whole.

3 Things I Want to Remember:

  • 1. C3LC Project – state-based teams, applied inquiry process to learn about inquiry itself and to address disciplinary literacy need that faces social studies educators.  It “helped teachers discover that inquiry is not another item to add to our ‘plates,’ but can actually ‘be the plate itself'” (378).  Educators created their own curricula and were in control of their learning and development.
  • 2. Such professional development does not need to be done in person – can be done other ways through webinars, online chats, Skype, Google Hangouts, conference calls etc. But, you can’t beat in-person meetings.
  • 3. Teachers became invested in the project and thus became invested in the project – “teachers began meeting own their own for dinner, hikes, or other off-campus gatherings” (379); the social-emotional side of teaching that we address with our students should also be addressed in professional learning. Personal encounters are important (and students may end up doing the same kinds of things)!

2 Controversial Things/Things I Disagree With:

  • 1. Some teachers say they don’t have time to implement more into their classroom – although the transition process of implementing inquiry based learning into classrooms may take some time, once the pattern, environment, and expectations are set then inquiry-based learning won’t appear to “take up” too much time.  Rather, it will (hopefully) incorporate all the other measures that teachers have included in their classrooms.  Inquiry-based learning won’t take up time; it will be what everything else is founded on.
  • 2. Some teachers don’t lean toward inquiry-based learning because they feel pressured to teach to the “test” – by doing inquiry-based learning, social studies teachers can teach students SKILLS related to social studies, which can be used not only for the tests that they have to take, but for real-life applications.  It is less important for students to remember specific dates and facts, but more important that they have the skills to think critically about social studies related issues (analysis, debate, evaluation), which actually can be (and should be) used when taking standardized tests.

1 Question:

  • 1. What role does staff (aides, paras, etc) play in inquiry-based learning? Should they go through the same kind of professional development as described here?
Content Area Reading #13 – Stop, Collaborate and Listen!

Day 22 – “Ben Franklin looks like a clown.”

In today’s practicum:

Today I taught a lesson about the Declaration of Independence.  I had a 40 minute block to teach this topic.  I opened with a fun video of a modern song adapted to describe the Declaration, and then I had the whole class take notes on the basics (when, where, why, who, etc.) Following this, we watched a video of a reading of the Declaration by celebrities, which had subtitles on it for students to follow along with.  To end, I split the students into groups and gave each group three grievances from the Declaration to dissect – to take the original language from the document and explain what it actually means.

Today’s big takeaway: try your best not to “cram” too much into a period.  In my lesson plan, I outlined and budgeted my time well to fit the forty minutes I had to work with.  However, the reality of the lesson did not match – I was not even able to get to the end of my lesson, where I had planned to formatively assess students through exit cards.  I was able to grasp what students were learning during the lesson, but I had wanted to tie it together at the end by asking each student which grievance they thought was most important – I simply ran out of time.  I will be teaching this lesson again next week, and I plan to make some adjustments so as to fit everything in without cramming too much instruction and information into the lesson.  As I have referenced in other blogs, I think that I will become better with cramming (by not cramming) as I gain more experience and learn what is really achievable during certain blocks of time.  For now, I will have to go through the trial and error process, and make alterations as necessary until I get it “just right”.

Day 22 – “Ben Franklin looks like a clown.”

Content Area Reading #12 – Social Studies Units

Singer, Social Studies for Secondary Schools, Chapter 7: How Do You Plan a Social Studies Unit?

I chose this chapter as we finish creating our own units. I thought it would be interesting to compare my experience to what Singer recommends. For the most part, I think that our unit creation process aligned very closely with that of Singer’s, as our template followed his same pattern and we had to reflect on many of the points and questions that he raised.

In this chapter (as indicated by its title) Singer outlines how social studies educators should create units. He begins by identifying important components of units: scope and time, concepts, essential questions, main ideas/understandings, common core standards, content, materials, and lesson design. He then goes on to describe how to address student differences in social studies units, including differences such as academic level, cultural diversity and gender. To end, he goes into length explaining how document-based units and theme-based units work and how teachers should plan them.

3 things to remember:
• 1. Document-based unit –“The educational principle underlying this type of unit is that, as students examine the documents, they become historians who understand broader concepts, draw connections between events, and formulate explanations (hypotheses). Academic and social skills and social studies content are learned while students examine documents and answer questions.” (114)
• 2. Singer’s recommended length for a social studies unit: 2-3 weeks, 8-15 lessons
• 3. Unit planning can (and probably should be) done in a collaborative setting: “When teachers work together, old-timers benefit from new insights and perspectives and rookies do not have to discover every document for themselves and reinvent every teaching strategy […] new teachers should not be afraid to borrow.” (109)

2 controversial things/disagreements:
• 1. Where to start with unit planning – there is debate about this as there are many different entry points from where teachers could possibly start. Singer acknowledges that many teachers use a textbook to plan their units, “following its organization of the subject and emphasizing its concept, main idea, content, and skill choices” (107). I disagree with this method, as it easily allows teachers to simply teach by the textbook and not really reflect on what students should know and be able to do as a result of their learning. I agree with Singer when he says that teachers should instead start by asking the following questions: “what is important to know about this topic? Why is it important to know? How will I make the concepts and content accessible to the students in my classes?” (107). However, I would urge Singer to not just use the word “topic” here, but instead look at concepts, themes, and issues.
• 2. When discussing accommodations for differing academic levels, Singer outwardly opposes academic tracking. I understand that it can “stigmatize students in the lower tracks, encourages competition for grades rather than learning” (111), but I personally think it does have some benefits. In high school I was able to experience tracking for a singular unit in my English class, and as part of the higher track I got to experience Romeo and Juliet much more in depth that I would have in a heterogenous class. Us students got to choose what track to be in, and I would confidently say that the students in the upper track chose to go there because they wanted to learn more, not just for the grades. I recognize my bias, so I cannot speak on behalf of the students in the lower track, but I do know some of those students did so because they weren’t interested in the topic and believed it had little relevance to their lives. This is based on my personal experience, but I’m sure there is data to back up Singer’s point.

1 question:
• 1. What do you do if you want to plan a thematic unit, but your school traditionally teaches social studies chronologically? At what point are you able to break off from common practice?

Content Area Reading #12 – Social Studies Units

Day 21 -“Is George Washington holding an AK47?”

Today’s practicum, in pictures:

Image result for group workImage result for american revolution quotesImage result for american revolution quotesImage result for abigail adamsImage result for washington at valley forge

(Students, in groups, examined quotes from important American revolutionary figures and paintings from the American Revolution. They had to match these images and quotes with descriptions that identified specifically what they were.)

Today’s takeaway: Sometimes what you plan is too much.  My cooperating teacher had about 6 images and 10 quotes prepared for students to dissect.  However, once we began the lesson, she realized that the number of quotes and images she wanted them to analyze was too large for the class period.  She accordingly reduced the number of items she wanted students to look at and answer questions about.  By doing this, she took some pressure off of the students who were worried about time, thus allowing for more thoughtful reflection on the primary texts at hand.  Although her initial plan changed, I think it was better that she had more texts rather than having too few – it’s easier to take some away on the spot than it is to add more on the fly.  This relates to the idea of being prepared for lessons in general – it is better to be more prepared rather than less.  I think that with more experience, teachers can more accurately gauge the amount of information/materials they want to include in a lesson, but I myself find it difficult to determine how much – or how little – to include.

Day 21 -“Is George Washington holding an AK47?”