Chelsea L's Field Experience

Week 3- Unit Planning and Curriculum Framework

Week 3- Unit Planning and Curriculum Framework

This week, I was able to sit down with my CT and really hash out what my role in the classroom would be throughout my full-time student teaching experience. It really was like piecing together a puzzle, trying to think about how to assess students, integrate differentiated learning techniques, cover the SOL content, and make sure my materials are easy to use. Hopefully it all plays out well!


Moving into new roles

Week 2 of student teaching

Behavior management

Behavior management

This week, I have taken on the role of the teacher from the beginning to end of class, and have been focusing on gaining authority in the classroom. My CT has given a sheet of “helpful hints” with certain sayings that really work for her and ways to change behavior problems by moving on to positive progress. It’s been challenging trying to gain behavioral control while also managing all of the other tasks such as collecting homework, giving tests, lecturing, and using interactive activities. I feel that I am receiving a lot of helpful advice and look forward to trying new strategies and building my professionalism with students.

Beginning student teaching

Beginning student teaching

I like this animation because it sort of captures my initial feelings as I enter the classroom in a student- teaching capacity. Everything feels like a juggling act as I try to learn the student’s names, integrate myself into the daily routine, get up and take on the role as instructor, and get to know school policies. While it has been a hectic week so far, I am excited to see what lies ahead and will remain organized so that I can continue this “juggling act” with success.

First Impressions- Student Teaching Begins…

Teaching in the Real World: Lessons Learned

Language, Literacy and Inquiry Essay CODA

I wrote a poem for my CODA that serves to outline the ways that education is changing in the world today.  The theme I focused on in my essay was how  the themes of language, literacy, and inquiry are integrated into the change in education and shift towards interactive, student directed learning.  The findings were that the different authors all focus on different aspects of learning challenges, but suggest similar instructional strategies to solve these challenges.  Some of these are discussed in the paper as well as the poem below:

History isn’t just about the past-

It’s about significance and making it last.

As the world evolves and culture is diverse,

Students must interact with info, not just rehearse.

In order to analyze, students must read,

And interact with sources in order to succeed.

Language can be learned through cooperation,

As the US is an increasingly heterogeneous nation.

Teachers should not just lecture to the class-

Students should inquire and self-motivate to pass.

As education is ever evolving,

Beginning teachers have many challenges worth solving.

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.

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