BEFORE THE LESSON:
To begin delivering effective instruction, each lesson must start with high standards and expectations. Personally, I believe the beginning of the lesson is the most important part when trying to deliver effective instruction. At the front of every lesson, I make objectives and tasks clear to my students (Indicator 1a). “Pocket Day” is a math lesson that I completed more than once with the class. Each time I taught this lesson, I began by explaining to the students what Pocket Day was and why we did it. Sample 1 is an excerpt from notes that I wrote prior and referred to during my Pocket Day instruction. I made it clear to the students that we do Pocket Day to practice adding large strings of numbers and to improve estimating skills. After, I discussed with students why and when people use estimation. This conversation defended the rational for completing the activity. Because of this communication (Indicator 1b) and reasoning, students were more engaged in the content as they understood the purpose for learning it. I also reviewed the Pocket Day chart (sample 2) that contained information students recorded from past Pocket Day lessons. This helped to build on students’ prior knowledge and experience (Indicator 1d). After the class reminisced back to previous Pocket Day lessons, they recalled strategies they used for estimating and adding. Activating background knowledge is a key component when trying to engage students in content. I feel I successfully do this at the beginning of each lesson.
In conjunction with communicating objectives and activating prior knowledge, I created hooks at the beginning of my lessons to further engage students. While implementing my unit on storms (see uploaded unit: Standard A), I grabbed students’ attention at the beginning of each lesson through imagination (Indicator 1c). I used imaginary cooking to introduce a new storm each day. Students were given index cards that listed “ingredients” of a certain storm, such as heavy rain, high wind, sleet, etc. After reading each “ingredient” to the rest of the class, students dropped the ingredient into the class weather pot. I recruited volunteers to stir the pot with a long wooden cooking spoon (see samples 3-5). This was extremely interactive and engaging for the students, as they were eager to know the name of the mystery storm they were going to learn about. As an educator, my goal is to present content in a way that engages students and sparks further interest. “Cooking Up A Storm” was a creative way to begin a new unit of study (Indicator 1c). By actively engaging students, they were better able to grasp the content I was teaching.
DURING THE LESSON:
Along with engaging and communicating expectations at the beginning, I delivered effective instruction when carrying out entire lessons. During guided reading, I used a balance of approaches to teach reading (Indicator 2a). My instruction was focused around the five areas of literacy: phonics, phonemic awareness, fluency, vocabulary, and comprehension. Samples 7-10 provide visuals of this balanced approach. Students were required to make predictions and preview vocabulary before reading. Along with this, I always activated knowledge by using K-W-L charts. Students were asked to re-read for fluency and fill out graphic organizers to learn about story elements. I taught all of these areas of literacy by employing a variety of teaching techniques (Indicator 2b), including teacher-directed and student-directed approaches, modeling, practice, peer and individual work, etc. Samples 11-14 show pictures of students working in these different settings. Sample 14 shows a student reading to her peers. I believe it is essential to give students the opportunity to show what they have learned by implementing a student-directed approach. Students feel proud that they are given the chance to teach themselves. This fosters confidence and deepens the understanding of content for a child.
During guided reading, I often employed a variety of reading and writing strategies when addressing learning objectives (Indicator 2d). When wrapping up each book, students were given an open-ended response question that they read aloud and copied into their reading journals. These open-ended questions stimulated the minds of my students (Indicator 2e). They were enthusiastic about writing responses because there was no wrong answer. These types of response questions forced students to think beyond what they read (see samples 15-16). I am a firm believer in fostering this curiosity in children wherever and whenever possible. I feel that I achieved this often by the way I engaged students and prompted questions that promoted higher-order thinking.
AFTER THE LESSON:
I continued the learning experience after instruction by providing homework each night that related to current concepts (Indicator 3a). Students were assigned math homework that was an extension of the day’s lesson. The example of homework shown above (sample 16) demonstrates an extension of a strategy to solve addition and subtraction word problems. This strategy was taught around the same time that the homework was assigned. Allowing students to practice what they learned is an essential aspect of teaching. Assigning related homework only further enhances the learning experience. Homework was given Monday through Thursday. All homework was returned with feedback on Friday (see sample 17). Along with practicing skills, regular feedback (Indicator 3b) is important to provide so that students understand their progress. The feedback that I gave to my students helped to portray my expectations. I placed copies of this feedback, along with formal assessments, in a file box that contained folders for each student. I often referred to a student’s file to accurately measure student achievement and progress towards learning objectives (Indicator 4a). I also shared this file with parents when conferencing about progress (Indicator 4b).
When reflecting on my instruction, I truly believe that I effectively delivered content before, during and after lessons were implemented. I set high expectations and objectives for all my students. I delivered content in a way that was engaging and meaningful. I assessed all areas of progress and evaluated each student appropriately. Delivering effective instruction is a supreme facet of teaching.