Chelsea L's Field Experience

Archive for the month “November, 2012”

Prior Knowledge Interview

For my prior knowledge interview, I used two high school students- one 9th grader and one 12th grader.  The questions were focused on images/timeline of events, history, government/civics, and content.  The students did well on the timeline of images and were able to recognize the most important themes in history, but had more trouble in the area of government/civics and answering some of the content questions.  The areas that the students focused on were very different, with the 9th grader showing a greater interest in modern history and the 12th grader focusing on ancient themes.  The 9th grader also expressed moderate interest in history while the 12th grader ranked history as his top subject.

The three findings that I was able to gather from the evidence include:

1. Students’ interests in certain subjects or time periods shaped the way they thought about historical events and their importance.  This lead to leaving out certain concepts, areas, or people, which seems to be a problem in real-world application of knowledge.  I can see value in the fact that the students were aware of their particular interests and types of history, but there was a lack of overall understanding and appreciation.

The way that I used this finding was to think about the ways that teachers could scaffold interest and use that to the learners’ advantage.  One way to do this would be to work with a team of teachers to discuss trends among different subjects or classes and recognize areas that students show interest in.  From that information, teachers could try and create new lessons throughout different history classes that would peak the same type of interest, even for “boring subjects”.  Another idea is to use student-directed investigation for topics that peak particular interest.  In my paper I discussed an example with the Civil War, a popular subject among many history buffs.  If a student or group of students seems particularly excited or in-tune with the topic, assigning them an inquiry learning assignment may be helpful in order to consider another issue that they may not be aware of.

2. The next finding was that in the areas of government/civics and content knowledge, students had trouble explaining the effects of events or what impact the government has on their lives.  While students knew pieces of information about WWII, for example, they would not be able to explain what the outcomes/effects of the war were.  As a historian, this is discouraging because the reason we study history is to learn about the impact of past events on culture, society, politics, economics, etc.  There seems to be a lack of contextualization in history classrooms, or maybe a lack of cause-effect relationships.

One strategy for dealing with this is to create unit plans and essential questions.  By sharing the essential questions with the students, they will have a greater understanding of what’s important and the teacher can frame the topic in a way that requires real-world contextualization and understanding of the effects of events.  Another idea would be to use the GRASPS framework presented by Tomlinson and McTighe, in which students interact with information and are required to present, perform, and use the info in a real-world context.  This would help to give a greater scope to information and prevent simple information recall, like that experienced in the interview.

3. The last finding was positive, and relates to imagery and visual resources.  The students did an excellent job at creating the timeline based on images throughout history, dating back from the beginning of society until modern day.  They were also able to explain their reasoning based on context clues such as place, the types of people in the photo, or distinguishing certain events they already knew about.  Therefore, I decided to focus on ways to integrate visual learning in the classroom.

One strategy is to use visual imagery to review the material in a particular unit.  The nice thing about visualization is that students often can relate pictures they’ve seen to different events or time periods and this would stretch to a wide variety of diverse learners.  Another idea is to integrate cooperative learning or group exercises with visual imagery and have the students categorize pictures, place them on a timeline, distinguish trends, etc.

Overall, I really enjoyed this interview and feel that it helped me to recognize some areas in which history education is lacking today.  I also was able to brainstorm some ideas that I can implement in my own classroom as I enter into student teaching.


Student-directed Investigation

 “I like a teacher who gives you something to take home to think about besides homework.” -Lily Tomlin

In this final chapter of Larson and Keiper, the focus is on student-directed investigation and innovative ways to have the students get involved in their own education.  I thought the above picture and quote were appropriate because they represent a different way to think about learning and the typical classroom environment, something that we have been discussing heavily throughout the semester.  Student-directed investigation is a strategy that involves the “real-world” and puts the students in charge of learning how to solve problems, answer questions, and address real needs.  However, the part of this method that I found extremely important is giving the students a choice to choose a topic that interests them personally and do their own outside research on it.  This changes the dynamic between teacher and student and may ignite interests that students didn’t know they had.  

#student-directed investigation

I thought this type of learning was particularly interesting because my CT and I had just recently looked up Youtube videos of a phenomenon called “Flipping the Classroom”, in which the teacher puts all of his lectures online and class time is used for questions, experimentation, group work, etc.  The idea is that the background information is given in direct instruction and the critical thinking, analyzing, and investigating is discovered in class.  The youtube video is under the following link: 

This reminded me of student-directed investigation because in both cases the student is responsible for their own education and is able to take their education in whatever direction they please, in a way.  


One of the issues that is discussed in the book that I found important was choosing appropriate topics for discovery or inquiry learning.  The Japanese internment example was used as a case in which the teacher would need to lead the question, mentioning the denial of civil liberties and prejudice, instead of allowing students to answer the question in an inappropriate way.  This is especially important with younger students who may push what is or isn’t appropriate, something I have learned in my own field experience.

One of the other distinctions made by Larson and Keiper is discovery vs. inquiry learning.  Discovery learning is when a student or group of students is faced with an issue, problem or question and is expected to problem solve through different information resources.  This gives students a chance to use current events, controversies, etc. and look for their own answers and opinions.  Inquiry learning, on the other hand, is when a student is either given or creates a research question and goes through a series of steps to answer the question.  Both of these strategies are excellent ways to have students practice their research skills while also engaging in complex learning and higher level thinking.

I also like the suggestion of students creating a journal or portfolio with their “cases” for inquiry learning.  I think that for younger or unmotivated students it would help them feel more attached and responsible for the material, maybe providing motivation.  It would also be an easy way for teachers to check student’s progress or assess understanding.  However, I was thinking about the time constraint issue throughout the chapter, and Larson and Keiper mention it at the end.  While it would be neat to carry out an extended activity like this, it is also stressful for both the teacher and the student as they try to learn other material in the interim.  My CT had to teach his honors class how to do a DBQ, and was attempting to also keep them up with the Ancient China unit that the regular classes were learning about, which was a struggle.  Therefore, I see how this would become hard. However, if integrated into a unit plan correctly, I think this type of student-based investigation could be really rewarding and meaningful.

Another issue that I focused in on was classroom management and “controlled chaos”.  Teaching 9th graders in my field study, I tried to do a group work activity for my last lesson, which my teacher had never really tried before I did.  During first period, I really started to doubt my ability to “control the chaos” because the students seemed totally unaware that while they were allowed to work in groups, they also were expected to produce actual work. Throughout the day, I really emphasized expectations and checked on students more and it ended up working out nicely, but I think that’s a serious consideration for younger grades in this type of free environment.  Overall, I really like this idea because of the possibility of student choice and individual responsibility.

Teaching Social Studies- Observation of my CT

This week, my CT was wrapping up the unit on Ancient China and taught a lesson on the different early dynasties in China.  My CT has very similar methods for teaching throughout the different units and mostly sticks with direct instruction, which is what he did for this day.  The “objectives” are usually listed on the board under headings 1-3, with a section for homework at the bottom.  He does not write out “students will be able to” or similar objective starters, but instead sort of writes what the students are doing during class.  For the day’s lesson, he wrote “Ancient China PPT”, “Notes and Discussion”, and “Ancient China Review Sheet” with the homework of studying for their test.

Usually the students come in and sit down and my CT takes attendance off the bat.  Within about 5 minutes, he starts the lesson and in this case opened up the powerpoint on the projector.  The powerpoints usually have words and pictures and mostly include information he also places on the test.  The students are told to write down main ideas, but not word for word.  Powerpoints are also provided online on their Moodle site, so they can refer to the material later if needed.  As I walked around, most students were taking some sort of notes, but many were doing just what he said not to and scrambling to write every word.  There were other students who simply sat there and watched with no notebook in sight.  While my CT conducts his powerpoints, he is mostly the only one talking, occasionally asking guiding questions or encouraging input.  Depending on the class period, students felt more or less inclined to chime in with comments or questions.

Once the powerpoint was over, my CT turned on the lights and began his “discussion/notes” portion, where he drew on a chart the different characteristics of the 3 different dynasties he discussed in lecture.  He went through one by one and wrote characteristics and then compared the three at the end.  There was a little more student involvement for this activity and less direct, teacher-led instruction.  Once again, some students were taking notes while others weren’t.

The students then proceeded to complete a review guide for their test and my teacher mostly told them to look in their books if they had any questions about where to find an answer.

Overall, I see that the lesson served its purpose in some ways because my CT really just needed to wrap up the unit and introduce a few new ideas, but I thought the transition from new material to review was a little too abrupt.  It seems that a lot of the time the stress of trying to complete a unit in a limited time frame hinders my CT from exploring different teaching styles that we discuss in class or even allowing students to analyze and ask questions that stray off course a little.  I believe that the lesson was successful as a way to learn the new info but not very successful for review.  I think that if I were to emulate this sort of lesson in the future I would divide the dynasties into one day and the review into another.  Even though I might only have time to lecture on dynasties, letting the students complete the chart and compare would have been any easy way to fill up the period and also allow for more complex learning.  The review also could have been a lot more in depth, involving an exchange of student ideas and full on discussion rather than a quiet worksheet.  Overall, I think that learning did occur but there were a few things I would have done to improve the lesson.  This kind of observation is very helpful because I can sit back and reflect on the positives and negatives of a certain way of teaching.

Classroom Discussion and Debate


Chapter 10 of Larson and Kieper goes over instructional strategies dealing with classroom discussion and debate.  The authors present 7 different types of discussion and analyze the positives and negatives for those discussion types.  These were Taking a Stand, Issues Continuum, Future’s Wheel, Fishbowl Discussions, Structured Academic Controversy, Electronic Threaded Discussion, and Structured Debate.  While I have heard of or worked with most of these types of discussion techniques, I did learn about some new ones, which was cool.


One of the types of discussion that I was not familiar with is future’s wheel, which is when students think through implications of potential outcomes and think about the future and implications of decisions of future decisions.  The way to present this would be to create a “wheel” with the ideas being discussed and extend the wheels to future ideas.  I like this strategy because it not only helps students look to the impacts of decisions but also gets them thinking about the importance of social studies and how it shapes our everyday lives.  

#future’s wheel

Another type that I was not familiar with is the electronic threaded discussion, which is when students “talk” to each other electronically via a computer.  It is sort of in the form of a forum and students’ comments are called posts.  The positives that I see with this kind of discussion is that it can be ongoing and students can continue to post as the class progresses, rather than all in one period.  The other cool thing is that students can discuss a current event or issue that is forming and update based on new findings.  However, I think this type of activity would be logistically challenging because of the technological aspect.  Many school systems, such as the one I am currently placed in, does not have access to computers for students and many of the students don’t have computers at home.  This may pose a problem.  There’s also the issue of the quality of posts, especially when more reading and analyzing is needed towards the end of the thread.  


Overall, I think the ideas are useful and could really work in a middle school or high school environment.  I also liked how the authors distinguished between real discussion and “discussion” being used as a label for any teacher-student interaction.  Many teachers just put up “discussion” on the board as an objective point, but really they are going over material the students read in their textbooks and doing most of the talking.  I have seen this some in my field experience and never really thought about it until now.  I think it’s very important that discussion involves student feedback and student thought as the basis for talking.

Another aspect that the authors presented well was logistical concerns, which are extremely important whenever the students are put in charge of their own learning.  Larson and Kieper discuss forming questions correctly and avoiding closed-ended questions.  I think the way that you form questions makes a large impact on what the students take away as the main point of the lesson, especially if a teacher falsely guides students to think a certain way.  I have struggled with forming open questions when I’m creating my own lessons, trying not to convince the students to think exactly how I’m thinking.

A logistical aspect that I really liked was the self-assessment checklist.  Since discussion is fairly hard to grade objectively, it would help to have students reflect on how they did.  The checklist could also be given to students before discussion so that they know exactly what they will be expected to do and can participate accordingly.  Overall, I think that if classroom discussions are left to the students and handled in a proper manner they can be extremely educationally valuable.


Midterm Reflection

Initial Overview

For our midterm reflection, Drew and I decided to teach a geography lesson called “World Religions Map Activity” because we are both doing our field internship in World History 1 classrooms, which integrate a lot of geography lessons.  We decided to use world religions because it is a topic that not only affected the world in the past but also continues to affect the modern world.  It is also a topic that affects economics, politics, and cultural influence.  Our big question for the lesson plan was


Our objectives were

Obj. 1 Students will be able to locate geographical regions on a map.


Obj. 2 Students will be able to identifyareas in which a world religion is practiced by the majority.


Obj. 3 Students will be able to recognizepatterns among geographic regions and the migration of peoples.

Our lesson involved conducting an activity in which students had to use mapping resources including online maps, Google Earth, and atlases in order to color code regions in which different world religions and sub-sects of religions are prevalent.  This would be used as the introduction to a unit on world religions because students would need to know the geography in order to reference the regions they are learning about.  We thought that our topic was important and interesting and could be used for many different subjects within world history by just changing the actual subject (ie world religions could be changed to types of governments).

Some of the important aspects of our presentation that helped me in reflecting on our strengths and weaknesses included my own reaction to the lesson and execution, reaction to the video of Drew and I teaching, the tuning protocol in which our peers gave us feedback, and the evidence of student learning that I observed.  These reflective steps helped me to think of ways to improve and make my own lessons better in the future.

Reactions to our lesson

Overall, I think that our lesson went very well.  We came in prepared and had a very clear idea of how we were going to give directions, team teach, and address the NCSS themes and SOLs.  One of things we did forget to do is post objectives or SWBATs on the power point and activity.  I think it is very important to show students what exactly they will be doing for the day and is also an important component for administrative purposes.  Cathy mentioned in her pushing feedback that a lot of administrators will require the objectives showing on the board when they walk in to the room, so that’s something we would need to include.  We did include our NCSS theme #3- culture and the matching SOLS, but we made a mistake on the overhead and put different NCSS themes that we were debating using throughout.  That is something that we recognized and had printed the correct theme on our worksheet, so it was fairly easy to fix and distinguish that the correct theme was on the activity worksheet.

We made sure to encourage student involvement by walking around during the activity and making sure to establish teacher presence as well as improvising when students were done earlier than others.  Since we did not establish a clear color coding key, we encouraged students to create their own for organization.  Drew also suggested that Mike walk to a different table that was having trouble when he was done a lot earlier than other people.  The students were mostly engaged throughout the whole activity and used resources such as the online world map or Atlas in the classroom in order to find the countries or regions they were having trouble with.

We also were really happy with the Just Do It and Exit Slips that we created, as they were used pretty well.  The just do it was open-ended and allowed students to brainstorm based on their prior knowledge of religions without establishing a “right” or “wrong” answer.  We also referred back to the Just Do It throughout the discussion, analyzing how their knowledge differed from the actual map.  The That’s a Wrap on the last slide of our power point was helpful because it checked for understanding and acted as an informal assessment of student knowledge.  By collecting the exit slips, it would allow us as teachers to check and make sure the students understood the content before moving on with the unit.

Reaction to our Video

Tuning Protocol- Warming and Pushing Feedback

One of the most helpful aspects of conducting a lesson plan in front of our peers is hearing both warming and pushing feedback.  A few of the main warming comments had to do with our Just Do It and the positive use of brainstorming, our helpful teacher presence, and satisfaction with the map we used during discussion.  I’m glad that our presentation went smoothly and our transitions worked out well, but the warming feedback really helped me to think of ways to improve my lessons in the future.  One problem that we had was finishing about 5 minutes early, which I have dealt with a lot in my field study.  Timing is very hard to predict, so in the future I will try to have a backup plan always in place.  One idea we received was to start going into the content for different regions and religions and maybe show a video clip on how religious wars have split regions over time.  That seems like a cool idea.

Another pushing feedback comment was about sending students to help (ie Mike) because of the issues this may cause in terms of behavior and staying on track.  While we were teaching grad students, in a real school setting the student may through the group off track or get into side conversation.  Therefore, it may be a better idea to have a separate activity or additional mapping for students done before others.  We also received some comments on sort of “dumbing down” the instructions for the activity and reading the instructions out loud to make sure all students know what they’re supposed to be doing.  This goes along with suggestions about creating a color coding key for all students to use.  This would not only help them by saving time and confusion for them but also could be helpful if we tell them to use the same key as the map we used in our power point.  That way when we review where the actual religions would fall they can easily identify the differences in their own map with what was on the projector.

Another improvement I would make on the lesson would be to hand out the map that we used on the power point so that students could visualize and also use the map for their own studying purposes.  Going along with that would be to provide the more similar maps between the map we gave in our handout, the map on the power point, and the map the students were told to reference online.  This would make the activity easier to complete for those who struggle with geography in general or don’t have as much background knowledge about world geography.

Evidence of Student Learning and Understanding

Throughout the lesson, we were very pleased with student engagement overall.  Students were very receptive to the Just Do It activity, participating and talking with other students about the different regions/countries they knew.  During the activity, students in the back right corner worked in a group and tried to figure out the different countries they were not familiar with, while others in the front of the room completed the activity individually fairly fast.  I was also very impressed with the student feedback during discussion.  Discussion is always a little tricky, but students responded with new ideas and were pretty open to talking about what they learned or had trouble with.  Overall, I think that we made good use of assessment techniques through discussion, the exit slips, and having students ask questions and work together in groups.

Conclusion and Improvement in the Future

Once again, I think we did a good job with our lesson and learned a lot from conducting it in front of the class.  In the future, I would focus on the big question and the lesson objectives a little more so that the students have a very clear sense of what is expected of them.  I also think that we could have done a better job with reading and clarifying the directions for the activity to aid student understanding.  While this was a good opening to the unit, it might have also been nice to include a more complex theme such as migration patterns and religion or religious wars relating to the geography of world religions.  It is helpful to hear these suggestions and brainstorm different ideas for the future.

Simulations, Role-Play, and Dramatization in the Classroom


“A teacher who is attempting to teach without inspiring the pupil with a desire to learn is hammering on cold iron.” -Horace Mann


This week our reading in Larson and Kieper dealt with the use of simulation, role-playing, and dramatization in the classroom.  Simulation involves student response to the environment in which they take on a particular role or personality.  An example is putting students in a real world situation such as the stock market and assigning different roles to different students.  Role-playing has to do more with the actual personality of a person, including their feelings, attitudes, conflicts or values.  This would include examples such as taking on different characters of a book.  The last tool is dramatization, which is giving students a certain role with a script or written role and doing an oral interpretation, wearing costumes, using props, etc.  This strategy often helps the students empathize with a viewpoint or understand an event better.

#theatrical classroom strategies

As I read about the different strategies this week, I really related to the use of role-play, as I feel that this is an especially important tool in history classrooms.  Some examples of role-play that we have used in class include Grace and Drew’s “Renaissance Ball” activity as well as the activity where Grace and Hunter had students take on a character who attended the Constitutional Convention.  I can definitely see how students in middle or high school would respond better to interactive, creative activities like these.  I also personally enjoyed having a role so that I could get into character and have fun with it.  Larson and Kieper do mention the stress that these types of activities places on the teacher because of the uncertainty of student response.  There’s always the risk that students may think the activity is “stupid” or they don’t want to participate on that particular day.  However, as long as the teacher makes the lesson seem exciting and make the students feel that they are an important part of the activity students are more likely to become engaged.


One point that I liked pertaining to simulation is implementing a 4 step process of orientation, organizing, operational, and debriefing.  I think it’s very important to organize exactly what you are going to say and do as teachers, especially when allowing for a lot of movement and interaction within the lesson.  I also like that the authors mention physical movement as a positive aspect of simulation.  I can tell that my students in field studies often need to move around in order to focus their attention, so I can relate to that.  

I also like that the authors mention logistical classroom management concerns such as involving passive learners.  In some classes, students are much less likely to participate and the authors suggest trying theater games and smaller activities to peak student interest.  I also think that the recognition given to behavioral problems of students being noisy or rowdy are important to prevent.  Larson and Kieper suggest coming up with student expectations and reminding students as the activity progresses.  

The last aspect that the authors discuss is assessing student learning and the difficulty of assessment.  I like the ideas presented, including focusing on one particular aspect of the activity that was important and assessing the student’s performance in that area.  Another idea presented was writing a persuasive essay about the characters or situations.  I think overall these strategies sound very effective and role-playing, simulation, and dramatization are extremely effective to get students interested in certain topics.  I am excited about using these strategies in my own classroom in the future

#assessing student learning

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