H1 – Honor Student Diversity

H1 – Honor student diversity and development. Teacher candidates plan and/or adapt learner centered curricula that engage students in a variety of culturally responsive, developmentally, and age appropriate strategies. This means that the teacher is planning for students needs based on experience or historical understanding of students. The teacher is adjusting lessons to engage students at an appropriate level to maximize understanding based on experience and student culture. One of my moral obligations as a teacher is to encourage students to go to college and help students realize avenues for achieving college, such as funding and support. Outside of the school environment, I associate with the College Success Foundation, a Washington State Organization which is aimed at helping students who would not traditionally attend college, find ways of pursuing higher education. The school where I work has an ethnic population of about 42% (Washington State Report Card, 2014). While working with these students, as a former scholar of the College Success Foundation and my learning of their contributions to divers populations, I can speak with students about the contributions of this organization and help students learn about options for higher education. This includes work with students who are undocumented United States Residents. For these students in particular, college is a challenging and scary path to pursue because many barriers block these students from higher education.

CSFlogoThis year, I have talked with all of my classes about my experiences as a College Success Foundation Scholar and the experiences I have received working with a diverse community. While sharing of experience for higher education is not formal instruction, many of these students are planning for higher education and need an experienced person to help them through the process. As a current college student, I have a lot of relevant knowledge that can directly help students.

Currently, I am reading a book called Teaching as Inquiry by Weinbaum et al. (2004), where in one vignette, a middle school english teacher is discussing how to encourage students to find a love for reading. She models her love of reading to the students by sharing the recent books she has read and shares a brief synopsis of the book she is about to read. This teacher is encouraging behaviors by modeling those behaviors in her own classroom. I am impacting students of diverse cultures by modeling what a good college student looks like, and sharing my experiences with an organization which caters to first generation, undocumented, foster and low income students who are interested in pursuing higher education.

I would like to implement more direct culturally sensitive material within my classroom, but haven’t had a good opportunity yet because of the current curriculum track we are using. When writing assessments (yes, my mentor teacher and I collaborate to write context based questions) I am sure to review the context of those questions to ensure we are not discriminating against a student who doesn’t understand the context of the question. For example, in order to introduce a question about golf and using words on an assessment such as “tee,” “fairway” or “green,” students need to be introduced to this before the assessment to ensure fair testing conditions for all students.

Source:

Washington State Report Card. (2014). Retrieved May 14, 2015, from http://reportcard.ospi.k12.wa.us/summary.aspx?groupLevel=District&schoolId=3601&reportLevel=School&year=2013-14

Weinbaum, A. (Ed.). (2004). Teaching as inquiry: Asking hard questions to improve practice and student achievement (Vol. 30). Teachers College Press.

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H4 – Honor Family & Community Involvement

H4 – Honor family/community involvement in the learning process. Teacher candidates inform, involve, and collaborate with families/neighborhoods, and communities in each student’s educational process, including using information about student cultural identity, achievement and performance. This means that the teacher is making efforts and succeeding at communicating with parents, families, faculty and students outside of the classroom. To extend the learning process outside of the classroom, I am taking advantage of students access to technology. I have created and maintained a simple, yet content rich website (http://www.mrgermanis.com/precalculus/) which provides students with access to all class materials, handouts, notes, journal reflections and homework; all at their convenience. Additionally, through he online grading system, I regularly publish accurate records of students performance and comment when appropriate for reasons of student performance. Finally, I send email communication to some parents for students who standout in class as well as students who are struggling to make efforts towards classroom goals (i.e. they do not attempt homework which results in poor assessment performance).

All of these communication efforts provide resources for parents to assist in the students learning. Absent students are able to learn at home with a simple internet connection (even phone internet connections are sufficient). All classroom activities and links to those activities are published up-to one week early to provide advanced access. Additionally, parents and students can see upcoming assignments, test dates and quiz dates and the content of those assessments. Lines of communication are open and our teaching process is transparent to everyone involved. The administration can easily see what is happening daily in all of my classes by looking at our website. More communication is provided with parent emails, this alerts parents to actions to improve student performance in the class. Here is an example of an email sent to parents of students who are at risk for failing the course and steps to improving students performance:

I am writing to warn that low scores on the remaining assessments will likely result in a failing grade for the semester.  Please consider

  • Perform “test corrections” on Test 4.1—there are two opportunities tomorrow.
  • Complete all homework.
  • Work extra problems in areas of weakness.
  • Come in for help on concepts that are still unclear.
  • Prepare for the semester final exams. Optimize JR scores by writing full and complete responses.
  • Track progress on Illuminate.
  • Perform VERY WELL on the semester finals.

As always, all class information (activities, homework, content of tests, etc.) is on the class Website

– Mr. Germanis

By creating an open and public forum for sharing information about what happens in my classroom, I am learning to keep myself accountable for the work that happens within the classroom. Since parents, students, administrators and the community members can observe my lesson plans on my website, I am encouraged to prepare lessons more carefully and plan my instruction better. My website should make sense to someone who is not in my class and the classroom experience should enhance the learning. In communicating with parents, I have learned that they will only help with their students learning process if I provide specific tools to assist their student. My letter provides specific instructions for parents to help their student. I remind them of grades online, encourage parents to help their students prepare for assessments and help students make time to attend test correction sessions. One of the great joys I have is informing parents of the good things their students are doing. From these emails, I have experienced openness and have a chance to communicate with parents the good things their students are doing, the responses warm my heart and help me establish a positive communication with parents about their student.

Research shows (Degner, 2013; Henderson, 2002) that students are more successful if the parents become involved at home. There is also evidence that parents are unsure of how to help their students, the role of the teacher is to help parents prepare their student for success. By providing parents with tools to help, the parent and community involvement is helping the student achieve success.

While parent communication is important, I would like to be more active in reaching out to parents in different ways. Most of my communication has been to parents though email contact. As I move into a more diverse community of students, some parents may not be best at communicating through email and I will need to communicate through phone or in-person more frequently. Additionally, I would like to be more proactive in communicating MORE good things that are happening in the classroom, especially when students are performing well. Because I have experienced positive feedback from parents after good communication, I would like to attempt to do this more frequently to establish a positive relationship with parents.

Sources:

Degner, K. M. (2013). Demography as Destiny: The Role of Parental Involvement and Mathematics Course Taking Patterns among 9th Grade Students. Current Issues in Education, 16(3).

Henderson, A., & Mapp, K. (2002). A New Wave of Evidence The Impact of School, Family, and Community Connections on Student Achievement Annual Synthesis 2002. Southwest Educational Development Laboratory, 2002.

H5 – Applications of Learning Beyond the Classroom

H5 – Honor student potential for roles in the greater society. Teacher candidates prepare students to be responsible citizens for an environmentally sustainable, globally interconnected, and diverse society. This means that the teacher helps students make connections between the mathematics taught in the classroom and the applications in the world around them. Students should be able to see the connection between the math and their surroundings, essentially answering the question “Why do I need to learn this?”

The evidence presented is a collection of activities which help students make connections between the mathematical concept and the world in  which they participate. Three units stand out as particularly relevant to my students. The first, was the use of polynomials, students were exposed to polynomials as they are used at Pixar animation and the United States Navy Office (USNO) to calculate the location of the moon and on a given day. The second application is for studying complex numbers. I provided students with access to a link which explains how trigonometry and complex numbers relate to spring systems in engineering. Finally, the most important is how exponential functions and the use of logarithms. On sample is to model how the human body decays drugs over time and another sample is how earthquakes are rated using the Richter Scale. For both, we discovered some shocking outcomes using mathematics. Making content relatable to students improves engagement and improved engagement increases learning opportunities.

Links to Evidence:

Each of these samples came from my own curiosity of how the content relates to the world around me. Generally, my students are interested in space, art, science, computers and engineering. In creating this content and hooking the students into participating in the activities for the real world application according to their interests, I have help students articulate the purpose for the content within their immediate future. For me, I learned about many applications of these tools too. For the Pixar Animation information, I contacted Tony DeRose, a Research Group Lead at Pixar Animation. I learned how to bring the world of mathematics into my classroom directly from the industry leaders themselves. With the creation of the Richter Scale Activity, I have become familiar with the common misunderstanding about how the Richter Scale actually works. Interestingly, a one point increase on the Richter Scale is NOT 10 times the previous energy, but rather about 27 times more energy. With Drug decay, students learned that theoretically, a drug will NEVER leave the body, its concentration just decreases.

Students benefit from the application because of their immediate use and interest in the topic. When students have some applications for the work they are doing in Mathematics, they become more interested in exploring more about the topic. I have become successful if I have interested one student to pursue a STEM career and they have used the tools learned through the application lessons in my class.

One area of weakness in helping students realize the potential for this topic is having them research the applications themselves. While I am truly interested in the matter, students will most benefit if they are able to do the research themselves and make the connections. One barrier is my fear that they will not be able to find inaccessible content because the mathematics is too advanced for their understanding. I could promote the learning by encouraging these students to do a project in which they find the application of these tools within the world and talk with an industry expert about the application of these tools themselves and ask questions to build understanding. This may pique their interest even more and teach them about the applications of learning beyond the classroom.

HOPE Reflection H2 – Honor Access to Content

H2 – Honor student access to content material. Teacher candidates use multiple instructional strategies, including the principles of second language acquisition, to address student academic language ability levels and cultural and linguistic backgrounds. Many regard mathematics as a second language. Mathematica notation and use of mathematical vocabulary areLessonPlan LessonPlan 1essential to learning this topic. At the school where I work, all students are fluent english language speakers, it is unusual to encounter a language barrier in communication. Most of the language acquisition problems are through the understanding of mathematical language. To address this HOPE standard, math teachers must make the mathematical language more accessible by planning in vocabulary acquisition and teaching concepts and then naming the concepts.

The evidence I am presenting is two photocopies of some lesson plans where I am introducing two new topics. The first I am introducing students to sequences and series. In this lesson, students start with the Entry Task (ET) and are asked to complete “the list of numbers”. Since these are the teacher’s notes, the ideas are just brief notes. After the entry task, the plan is to formally put a name to “a list of numbers” which we will call a sequence. Similarly, as the lesson continues, I plan on clearly indicating and showing students the notation and the vocabulary for the notation about how to write a sequence. When I introduce combinations and permutations on the second lesson plan, I first mention “what are the possibilities of rolling two dice?” This removes technical language, the words “combination” and “permutation” and “the basic multiplication principle” are not even mentioned until the next day in class when students have acquired the conceptual understanding.

By removing the barrier of technical language students feel more comfortable with the content. The teacher will avoid the use of confusing language, but if a student uses improper language (such as the note about the difference between probability and odds in the lesson plan), the teacher will address the students misuse of language and avoid confusion of the vocabulary in the future. The HOPE standard is met because the teacher is planning for proper language acquisition and preparing students to understand content and then later naming that content when students struggle for a word to name the idea.

Over the course of my teaching internship, I have build knowledge and understanding of how to introduce new ideas to students without complicating the matter. From creating lessons that revolve around language acquisition and notation, I have learned that while I may have a deeper, technical understanding of mathematics, many students do not, and become intimidated by advanced language. By using lower level language, many of my challenged students become engaged.

Since many students are apprehensive about mathematics, this technique for introducing new ideas is helpful for students who are overwhelmed by math language and concepts. Providing instruction in an order that is helpful not to overwhelm students is important, especially in mathematics where there is a risk for pushing students away from the topic. To improve my understanding of this program standard, I will need to interact and prepare planning for more students who have different language needs, especially english language learners or those who lack significant mathematical skills. Since this HOPE standard is similar to Differentiation, I hope to address language acquisition, use of language and assisting english language learners as an improvement to my practices in differentiation.

Classroom Management HOPE Reflection – H3

H3 – Honor the classroom/school community as a milieu for learning. The H3 standard means that teacher candidates recognize and reflect on both successful and weak classroom management strategies and either suggest improvements or highlight positives. In turn, teacher candidates can implement some strategies in their own teaching environment. My evidence is a reflection on a classroom in a suburban high school which qualifies as Title 1 school. https://rileygermanis.wordpress.com/2014/10/14/classroom_management_observation/ This is a link to the observation and notes about the experience. During the day, I traveled to a completely new school and observed three classrooms. The first was taught by a veteran teacher who strongly believes in Wong & Wong (2009) Classroom Management techniques which we have discussed in our classroom management class. The other two teachers worked with Teach for America program and were both second year teachers. My linked observation focuses primarily on the veteran teacher.

My observation meets the standard because during these observations I have made text to world connections and seen the impact of a successful classroom management strategy implemented on student learning in comparison with no management strategy. One of the newer teachers had a strong management plan and implemented it well, she focused her classroom on “community” and making the classroom a collaborative place to learn. The other observation (which I did not document in my blog) was of a classroom where the students chaotically entered the classroom and students did not care about their learning environment or the learning that is intended to happen. It was clear that these students will not be able to learn as much or as deeply as the students in the highly structured classroom. Experiencing and feeling the culture of these three classrooms has demonstrated the importance of coming to class prepared and structuring classroom procedures to be time efficient and effective. One of my most notable learnings was the value of teaching students procedures. In one classroom, there were two new students. These new students had the same opportunity to learn as everyone else because they could get to task immediately. The teacher utilized the classes understanding of the classroom procedures so that STUDENTS could help STUDENTS in being prepared for class and learning the classroom procedures. Students who participated in classroom environments who were highly structured and had a management plan (including an intervention plan for struggling students) were effective in teaching students the materials. Students had many resources (calendar, homework chart, entry task, homework log with test dates). These students are learning life skills and are becoming more prepared for longterm learning.

Within my classroom, I hope to be as effective in classroom management as the veteran teacher. Her class was organized and she was prepared. I plan on making a book of classroom procedures and continually improve upon this list to teach to students. Teaching one time is insufficient to teach students classroom procedures, they must be taught, retaught and reinforced several times in order for the procedure to become a routine (Wong & Wong, 2009). Another point of learning was the teacher taking the opportunity to review classroom procedures for me (as the observer) AND for her students in the classroom. She would say “Mr. Germanis, this is how we turn in homework. The students open their homework log, and have their homework next to the log. An appointed student stamps homework and then students write down tonight’s homework. This way everyone knows exactly what they need to do tonight!” This seemed effective especially for new students who recently transferred into the class. Making my classroom expectations and procedures clear will be important for successful classroom management and for increasing student learning.

A Day in the Life of a Student

Today’s goal was to follow the school day of a sophomore student throughout their day. To protect the identity of this student they will be called MW. The goal was for me to observe five different classrooms during a six period day. Within each class, I was looking for teaching strategies and tools to use in my own classroom. At the end of the day, I asked MW some questions about their day. While the student interview was only a case study, MW provides several helpful suggestions to improve their learning experience.

The morning classes include Math, English and Biology. Within all of these classes, I noticed good responsive listening. Teachers would ask student questions and then summarize what the student said and repeated the comment to the class so all could hear. In English, the instructor was careful about making smaller comments to encourage conversation in class. The activity in English was to analyze a short story, a topic which can be shallow or deep depending on the students’ understanding. The instructor contributed to the classroom discussion as well to prompt students to analyze the short story more deeply. At the end of the classroom discussion, the teacher make a more sophisticated analysis than the students were able. This exposed the students to higher expectations. The teacher used OneNote to distribute materials to students and students were able to access copies of the teachers journal.

In math class, students started with an entry task to summarize their homework and clarify questions. The class activity was to debrief a challenging problem from the homework and clarify understanding of the basic elements of trigonometric ratios. Students had questions to prepare for a quiz the next day. The activity included a worksheet where students needed to use prior work to plot data and discover a relationship of a sine wave. The end of class, summarized their understanding of “accuracy” and careful procedures for getting more reliable results.

Biology was a very busy class, the lesson was very engaging and highly differentiated. One comment about the lesson that I particularly enjoyed was the presentation of the entry task. The day’s objective was clearly posted on the board and students were able download a copy of class activities from OneNote. Student’s shared out the Initial Thinking questions by popcorn method, students would choose others to “keep the conversation going.” The instructor was clear about the importance of understanding the Carbon Cycle and other biological systems and stated that this would be tested on the End of Course Assessment (EOC). The class activities included a dice game and students would mimic a carbon molecule in the journey throughout the day. Students seemed to enjoy the activity and learned about the many processes of the carbon cycle. Students were able to articulate what happens to a carbon atom as it moves from the sun to plants and then into animals and back into the atmosphere. The activity was followed by a debrief so students could articulate their learning. After the debrief, students watched a video that repeated the material again. This instructor was very smart about providing many learning opportunities for important content. The class ended with an exit slip that informally assessed students learning from the day. Students were instructed to make a carbon cycle as homework to use to prepare for their EOC test in the spring.

After lunch, MW was schedules to attend Current World Problems, Spanish and Health. Mostly, this class period was work time for students to finish a group project about government systems since 1500. MW shared with me the group project and the required elements for a grade. Before work began, students the teacher had a student present a “SHIELD” which allowed the student to comment about their past present and future. The intention of the exercise if for the class to know each other better. Students can share about their interests and goals. Next the teacher gave instructions of work time, he was very clear about presenting a product at the end of the period and made suggestions for groups to produce exemplary work (i.e. Review each other’s papers, get organized and then work together to produce a product). Essentially, the teacher anticipated potential shortcomings and took preventative measures to work through the project. We also talked about some of the functionalities of the grading system to optimise its use.

Next was Spanish in which students entered the class and listened to the instructor through an immersion lecture. The teacher spoke little english when teaching the material, but frequently broke into english to emphasize important points. He continued to discuss why immersion was used and why he believed in this philosophy for language acquisition. Most of this period was direct instruction and lecture based. Students did not respond frequently and when they did, it was brief.

The last class was Health where there was a lot of individual work time. Some of the lesson was direct instruction where students had access to a OneNote document to help follow the lesson and take notes. The period was an introduction to nutrition and involved the explanation of a project. The teacher clearly displayed the objective and the required elements of the project so that students knew what was expected of them throughout the unit. Many students who were in previous classes were also in this class. It was interesting to note the difference in classroom dynamic because of these students. Those who were quiet in the morning, we not more rambunctious and hard to get back on task. Teachers should consider this when teaching.

Finally, after the day, I asked MW some questions about their day. This student liked the biology lesson because there was an activity where she could move. She mentioned this was uncharacteristic of her typical day, but when she moves around, she claims she remembers more. Typically, she enjoys her math class because there are clear instructions and she tends to work hard. MW is also in a robotics class (which I did not attend) but this takes up a lot of her time. Sometimes teachers don’t understand that this is a challenging workload. Along these lines, MW claims that she becomes overwhelmed when projects are overlapping and she does not have the tools to manage this better. MW recommended teaching students in advisory time management and note taking skills. She also would like a space after school to get some work done and manage her schedule. Throughout the day following the student, I realized that the school has very high expectations for the students and teachers don’t often repeat information. This school expects students to understand verbal instructions the first time, which is a challenging skill for many people, even adults.

Learners in Context Post-Course Meta-Reflection

[1] The Learners in Context course focused on two principals of HOPE, E1 — Exemplify professionally-informed, growth-centered practice and H1 — Honor student diversity and development. The standard E1 means that teachers are adopting best professional practices based on research and tested to maximize student learning. The H1 standard means that teachers are able to recognize that students are different and have very unique needs. Taking these differences into account, teachers are strategically thinking about their practices to improve student development.

[3] During the course I learned about the importance of exploration for students during their learning process. Medina (2008) talks about his learning growing up and his mother’s willingness to adapt to Medina’s changing needs as he explored his interests. Teachers must show willingness to adapt to students interests and work to encourage learning, not inhibit exploration through standardized testing. [2] Jamie Gephart is a student in our class and responded to a discussion post about incorporating exploration into learning while recognizing the requirement of testing, she writes

I had a teacher in high school that referred to his tests as a “celebration of knowledge”.  I know that may sound cheesy, but this subtle twist helped to relieve some of the pressure.  And in reality, shouldn’t this be the purpose of an exam?  Students have worked hard to understand and incorporate this new knowledge.  What if teachers presented exams more like game day, as an opportunity to show off all the hard work and practice they have endured? (Gephart, 2014)

[5] This matches the standard of H1 since it encourages student development through an effective way of allowing exploration and a creative way to test students without hindering natural curiosity. [4] From exploring and engaging in this discussion post, I learned that when students change their frame of reference from the testing frame to the game day frame their anxiety is drastically decreased and students can demonstrate their true knowledge. I have not needed to use these tools because I have been fortunate not to suffer from text anxiety, hover some students are not as fortunate. [6] In my classroom, I will try to frame tests as demonstrations of learning rather than a ritualized practice used to assign grades and create a classroom hierarchy.

Another point of learning from this course was Vygotsky’s Zone of Proximal Development (ZPD) and the use of scaffolding to guide students’ learning (Pressley and McCormick, 2007). [1] This aligns with HOPE standard E1 since Vygotsky has conducted significant research on human development and learning. [2] These two pictures from Pressley and McCormick (2007) have been incredibly beneficial to my understanding of the ZPD and how good educators should teach students to maximize learning.

Module 5 did not facilitate much discussion about the ZPD as much as the book or classZone of Proximal Development lectures, however, the concept was impactful. [3] The ZPD is an essential tool for teachers to know where students are located in the curriculum, the process of scaffolding provides an essential tool for teachers to implement and practice providing work to students which is in their ZPD. [4] Prior to this reading, I did not know how to best implement challenging material, Vygotsky’s research has explained the precise level of challenge to present to students. I learned a lot about scaffolding and how to present challenging material and provide a guide to full understanding by providing many resources to students. [5] Students benefit the most when teachers practice these techniques. By scaffolding lessons of Scaffoldingchallenging materials, students receive adequate help and can feel successful in their work while also learning. [6] Practicing using ZPD and scaffolding in my classroom will not be challenging, in fact this will be an essential tool. I will use to explain complex materials, especially during my internship while working with exceptional students and provide support to students where the content falls beyond their ZPD. Finding the balance between too challenging and not challenging enough will take the most amount of practice.

Sources:

Gephard, Jamie. (2014, July 9). Module 3 Discussion Forum A-G. BlackBoard Discussion Post. (Web).

Medina, J. (2008). Brain rules: 12 principles for surviving and thriving at work, home, and school. Seattle, WA: Pear Press.

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