18 04 2011

Group work is something that most kids scream for in the classroom. They want to be able to work and communicate with one another. But, over the past two weeks, I have found that group work, while engaging students, is not as effective as what it is built up to be in the literature I have read, or the dreams inside my own head

The Homestretch

4 04 2011

This marked week six of my nine week, full time, student teaching. I feel that I am coming down on the home stretch. It has been a race, to say the least, in many ways: teaching the standards, against myself to get things ready, time management in the classroom.


This past week was the first week that I have gone into without a clear idea for what each lesson was going to look like (this coming week, is not however). I had a few ideas for the last three days, but I had to figure out how to consolidate them and come up with a reasonable pace for the lessons.

Monday, Tuesday, and part of Wednesday were spent on the Russian Revolution. Both Monday and Wednesday included aspects of ‘book work’, where students would read and either answer questions or summarize.

I have felt that my use of the textbook, up until this week, had been quite minimal. It is, despite the tyranny of it, a great resource. The students summarized the Russian Revolution after having read the section in the book about it on Wednesday. I had spent the previous day discussing with class, but one repetition with the Russian Revolution I did not believe was sufficient (tyranny of the clock). I asked students to list out 15 key words from the section, and then use them in their writing. Students responded with groans at first, but after asking after the assignment, most found it to be much simpler with that requirement. I am excited for the use of in-class writing in my future classroom, with such scaffolds.

Wednesday was most likely my favorite day, which included this summary and an activity known as ‘Concept Attainment’, where students discovered the concept of the day (and the next unit almost), totalitarianism. Students loved this, and the graphic organizer afterwards, where we placed aspects of totalitarianism in 5 different categories. Students then got the opportunity to find examples of totalitarianism in the school, as well as non examples. Students were shocked at the differences (and similarities) between the two.

My overall thought for the week comes in frustration of telling students the information. This has been a frustrating moment for me during this entire experience. I have been given a pace of five chapters in the book (1850-1945) to complete in only nine weeks. This leaves little time for students to find information for themselves, and more time for me telling them. Also, to design a discovery activity, takes more time than I currently have. After a discussion with a colleague, it seems that it isn’t until at least three years into teaching that a teacher can really give away control of their classroom to their students.


This week looks like this:

Monday: SCIM-C Significance Cards of Nazi Propaganda and the Rise of Nazism in Germany

Tuesday (2 and a half hour early release): What is Fascism and the rise of Mussolini

Wednesday: Japanese Imperialism Response Groups

Thursday: League of Nations, Mandate Systems, and Turkey

Friday: Gandhi

Over There!

29 03 2011

This week, we finished up Imperialism, and then completed World War I last week as well (a little quicker than I would have liked). It feels like I’m in the trenches right now, and I still have to stay dug in for another few weeks.


Slaying the Dragon and Flipping the Script

21 03 2011

This past week, students turned in their unit project on Imperialism: two political cartoons on two different areas where Europe imperialized.  I found some fascinatingly intricate and thoughtful. Others, I found they copied directly from cartoons online. Interesting to see.

This past week, I finally felt myself settle in. I ‘slayed’ the dragon, if you will. I had a plan going into the week, and overall, I felt that each day went well, according to the plans.

Monday, students took their first quiz that I have given. It was a short, 5 question quiz that was meant for students to simply show me whether they have learned anything from the past week. To my pleasant surprise, they did well, some classes having an average as high as 4 questions right. (I am comparing this to previous quizzes that Ms. Luck had given in a similar fashion.) I showed a clip from the movie Gandhi that day, which students responded very well to. They were hooked in instantly on how the British and the Indians saw each other. They followed this up with a primary source analysis of a British view of Indians in the beginning of their reign, which was only exasperated later in the Raj. Overall, student response was good. I found timing an issue in this lesson, one of the only issues I found during the day

Tuesday was club day, which from what I saw, is very disorganized at Bayside. The students are largely responsible for everything in Ms. Luck’s sponsors club, and one worked their butts off, while the other seemed to do little at all. She is not sponsoring one of them next year, because of their inactivity in their activeness for their cause. This raises the question: Should the sponsor help insure success for the student club?

Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday were a combined lesson on Imperialism in China and Japan. Tuesday and Wednesday were largely ‘lecture’ days, with Wednesday being the first ‘all-day’ lecture that I have given, though there was a turnover during it. I felt I needed to do this to set up Thursday, where students created a timeline and a VENN Diagram on the information covered in those previous days. Thursday went surprisingly well, though time did become an issue in the end. I wanted students to complete the VENN separately, but it ended up to be a more collective activity, which lead to great answers, non the less.

Friday, students were shown and walked through a Prezi on American Imperialism, and Southeast Asia, and the Mexican Revolution. I felt obliged to put in the Mexican Revolution by Ms. Luck, though to be honest, it threw off the timing of my lesson. Students were only given 15 minutes on the political cartoon analysis, which I had hoped to give 20-25 minutes. Learning from this that in my classroom, I am going to be very selective of what I put into lessons.

I added two days from my original plan for this unit, to give students a review day, and add that extra review day for China and Japan. Because of this, I have shortened up my time on WWI. I feel justified in this based on the minimal standards needed in the SOLs, though I find that this would be a topic students would enjoy more than imperialism, which was also a minimal SOL.

This week we do WWI in 3 days. It will be a whirlwind of information. I am thinking of giving students a take-home test of essays. Thoughts?

Til next time,


Otto Von Bismarck – Close it Out

15 03 2011

Otto Von Bismarck – Tuning Protocol (Let’s Make that Better)

15 03 2011

Those observing/participating in my lesson had numerous, fantastic ideas for my lesson, in order to make it better. One of the first ones comes along side with my ideas of scaffolding. Namely, that there were entirely too many sources for a high school student to analyze thoroughly. Splitting the documents was a great idea that I was given. Most of the ‘students’ and ‘teachers’ in the classroom said that they were overwhelmed by the amount and length of documents. One suggestion I was given was to split it up, or to assign it for homework the night before.

Another pushing feedback was that I relied too much on my voice and verbal directions, and not enough on visual, whether through the SmartBoard and projector, or on paper. After thinking about it, I felt that I didn’t want to be the teacher that just throws up a PowerPoint and is lazy. I wanted to have students to actively have to engage. It’s kind of dumb, and is something that, now looking back, puts visual learners at a severe disadvantage in my classroom. Going along with this idea of verbal, but not visual, some people suggested having the Prince or Machiavelli somewhere to help students access their prior knowledge of the subject matter.

Getting students attention during quick pointers was another point that needed to be corrected in my pedagogy, and you can see that in the video, particularly here:

Pacing came into light as well as an issue with the lesson. I did not really help students understand when they should be moving from one text to the next. I left them to their own devices, which was not a terrible thing for this class, but could have been sitting up high school students for failure. All of this leads back to my frustration about the shortness of class periods in schools.

I really think that pacing is going to be the kryptonite to my teaching. I always think that there is enough time, when there really isn’t. Finally, I need to tighten my focus, in the DBQs and in the question for the discussion. I was all over the place, and while that is great, it did not really help accomplish the goals, and thus it really needed to be focused more, to point to those objectives.

Another suggestion lending itself to pacing was that it might have been a good idea to split this lesson into two days, and have the analysis on the first day and the discussion on the second. I thought this would be great to do, if I had my own classroom and the time to really devote to it. Within that suggestion, was offered the alternative of having students do the analysis at home the night before, and come prepared to have discussion in class. That, looking at it now, would have done two things. One, it would have provided another opportunity to assess student ability in dissecting sources, but also comprehension of material over a period of time.

Otto Von Bismarck – To the Tape!

15 03 2011

One of the things that I noticed in watching myself is that I definitely relate to students, and move around the classroom quite well. I spent a lot of time with each individual student (or groups of students), helping them understand the texts or pictures, if they did not get them, or to act as a sounding board for their ideas about the sources. Any gaps in information that I found they might have been missing (possibly because of the missing lesson before this one), I tried to fill them in on the information they may need to read the texts.

You can see this by looking at my entire lesson, specifically 7:00-20:00 on my lesson recording.

However, I also found that my movement around the classroom almost as a distracter to the students, in completing their work. Often, when I did find a gap in knowledge, I would announce it to the class. Within that, I found that I did not get the students’ eyes up on me, thus not all students may have gotten that background information that they might have needed. I think this goes along with scaffolding issue, and the fact that if it was better scaffolded, I may have been able to allow students to discover for themselves, rather than me telling them what to look for. However, the fact that this lesson was designed to follow another, could be a reason as to why there was so much background information that needed to be shared.

Questioning students, I found that most of the questions I asked were pushing for justification, which I liked. Students also asked a lot of questions, which comes out of this idea above, that the material was not correctly shaped to ensure students’ ability to succeed without asking a thousand questions of the teacher.