Professional Learning Goals

29 Feb
  1. Classroom management – I hope to utilize either a clapping system or some sort of musical instrument to help bring the class back when distractions and/or group work arise.
  2. Occupying students during wait time – I would like to develop some ideas of activities that students can work on if they finish up assignments and work earlier than others.
  3. Inquiry-based learning project
  4. Try at least 4 or 5 different instructional strategies
  5. Differentiated Instruction – Since I am doing my pre-internship in a special education setting, I hope to both witness differentiated instruction already in place in this classroom and also facilitate it on my own for at least 2 lessons.

Grade 9 Health Ed. Unit Plan & Process Paper

29 Feb

Grade 9 Health Ed Unit Plan

The unit plan designed by my partner and I revolved around the area of health education. We decided to group together two of the major outcomes from the Health 9 curriculum because they fit together in a seamless way. One outcome dealt with sexual health; STIs, pregnancy and the influences of culture and society on personal beliefs and values concerning sexual health. The other outcome revolved around the idea of romantic relationships and helping students to identify what all is involved in the idea. The intended classroom would be in a school that has access to computers. The basic learning plan has lots of opportunity and room for change and growth making it easy to differentiate for students with varied learning needs. Because of this, I can see this unit being implemented in any classroom regardless of ability level, ethnicity, or academic difference. The content is also very universal in that every student will benefit from these outcomes. Knowledge around sexual health and romantic relationships is essential for all students in this day and age which is why this unit is such a major focus in health education.

At the offset of this unit, students are given an opportunity to reflect on previous learning they have experienced in sexual education classes in younger grades. They are also introduced to the idea of reflective journaling. Throughout the unit students will be given the opportunity to reflect on content being presented and journal any pertinent thoughts on the matter. Their introduction to reflective journaling will begin after observing a relevant video on sexuality that will be watched as a class. This will spell out the beginnings of what will eventually become personal standards created by each student. This first journal entry on part of the students will then become assessment for learning as the direct instruction lesson to follow will be shaped by how students respond to this particular reflection.

My partner and I tried to employ several different instructional strategies in our unit plan. Aside from the typical direct instruction, there is also a lot of student-directed learning integrated into the plan including student’s presenting information to classmates on a given topic, and working as a class to create a bulletin board containing information around societal influences on sexuality. Students are given more than one opportunity to engage in inquiry-based projects which we believe will be a very fruitful endeavor considering the content of the unit. In terms of resources and instructional materials, students will be given opportunities to do research, within the community and online, to discover information around various topics in the sexual health/romantic relationship sphere. Aside from these resources, my partner and I decided that we would also take advantage of the Red Cross presentation entitled “RespectEd” during the latter part of the unit. The RespectEd program is specifically tailored to help students understand what healthy relationships are, how to safely get out of unhealthy relationships, etc. Not only will this presentation help satisfy several indicators for our outcome, it will also be something new and different in the class that I believe students will really appreciate.

Evaluation for this unit took many forms. Aside from ongoing observation and conversations (discussions) with students, we would also utilize the reflective journals as assessment for learning. All of these pieces would act as guides to help us better understand where to go with our students and how to meet them where they are at. We have several larger products built into the unit plan as well. One involves having the class work collectively to create an interview questionnaire on sexual norms that would be used by students to collect data within the community. Another is the bulletin board of societal norms that influence sexual identity and belief systems. This is a critical piece in that once students design the board as a collective; it will be used throughout the rest of the unit as a touching stone that they will continually come back to. There are two inquiry projects built into this unit. The first involves having students compare sexual norms from past eras with the sexual norms of today. The other is the final project for the unit which culminates in an action plan that students will need to enact individually. This action plan has a focus on health promotion which is the major goal of Health 9. Students will write a process paper that will describe their thoughts and decisions regarding their action plan. These inquiry projects are both assessment of learning.

My partner and I both feel as though this particular unit plan is well constructed, dynamic, and will be effective in meeting the needs of all students. Creating this, my first unit plan, has been very empowering in that I have experienced what all is involved and know that I can do it in my future teaching. I look forward to utilizing this unit plan, as well as creating further unit plans, in the months and years to come.

Philosophy of Teaching

20 Feb

I believe that teaching involves opening students’ minds to new worlds, even if those worlds have been right in front of their noses the entire time. In order to facilitate this introduction I hope to engage students in instruction that is differentiated and varied so that each student will be able to learn in a way best suited to their personal needs. Inquiry is one particular tool that I hope to utilize in my classroom as often as possible. I believe that the use of inquiry learning helps to empower students and inspires them to become lifelong learners; questioning the world around them and investigating answers to their queries.

I hope to run my classroom as a democracy where rules and guidelines are decided on as a collective. I believe that if students are acting out or misbehaving there are often deeper reasons for it. Along with this belief comes the belief that as a teacher I have the capacity and even the responsibility to respond to these needs to ensure that my student’s are alright physically, mentally, emotionally, socially, and spiritually. The overall goal of my classroom will always be to make sure that each of my students is performing to the best of their ability, and that they trust me enough to share with me who they truly are in the day to day goings on of school life.

Case Study 2

16 Feb

Revisiting this case study has brought out both celebration and a few hesitations in terms of moving forward with this merger. First the celebrations: I am very pleased to see that the grade 11 teachers from each school have been collaborating and working together toward this merger. It is uplifting to hear them speak to the other teachers in both schools, encouraging them to move forward with this merger and to embrace it rather than fear it. I also think it’s wonderful that students from both schools worked together to come up with a new school name, that Elders have been working toward setting principles and values for the merger, and that grade 11 students from both schools will begin spending two days a week with each other.

It is pleasing to see that some of the recommendations I made in the initial case study are coming to fruition in the new information we have been given. I am particularly pleased that efforts have been made to try and integrate students from both schools prior to the actual merger. I think that this is key in order to try and bring these schools together.

Unfortunately my greatest fear regarding this merger is also being realized. It is clear that even now there is a lot of tension building between the students of each respective school. Prairie View School students seem to be suffering under the racism that is often (unfortunately) present in most small rural communities in Saskatchewan. This racism is absolutely something that needs to be dealt with prior to the merger. Buffalo Ridge, for their part, is also struggling with the racial tensions and is more justified in being so. While they learn the same information around treaty rights, they are noting the inherent injustices that have taken place on part of First Nations and Metis over the years and struggle with the idea that they are still being misrepresented in the minds of so many in Saskatchewan.

Clearly there needs to be some quality Treaty education happening, particularly in Prairie View School. I think that the students need to be guided into making connections between other racial injustices (ie: the Holocaust, Rwanda, etc.) and the plight of local First Nations groups. I think that using some of the videos the students from Buffalo Ridge are making around First Nations issues are a great way to introduce the students from Prairie View School to a different perspective.

When I was in high school, my school division was very small and contained only four schools. My school (North Valley, in Lemberg, SK) was the only school without a First Nations presence. The other three schools (Balcarres, Wolseley, and Grenfell) all had students from local reservations in attendance. Once a year all four of our schools would gather for Treaty Awareness Day, a daylong event where we would learn about First Nations culture and Treaty issues. Facilitating this sort of event would be a great way to spread a lot of information and could be tailored to hopefully reach all students on a deeper level.

My group was in agreement on the idea that there should be more mixers happening between the students and staff of each school. It is good to see that the staff has begun mixing as well as the grade 11 students from each school, but more definitely needs to happen in this regard. Practice makes perfect.

In terms of providing differentiated instruction for the students that need it, my staff group came up with a few ideas. Firstly, there are some students that miss a lot of school because of athletic obligations. The idea was posited that perhaps we could allow these students to Skype in whenever possible so that less material would need to be caught up on later. The use of a class blog or wikispace was also promoted as it allows students and parents to access school work that may have been missed and to upload assignments from home if needed.

General ideas around differentiated instruction were also explored and expounded upon. Providing instruction in general terms free of larger words that are easily tripped up on is an easy way to involve this idea. Providing content in various ways is another easy way to differentiate for these diverse learners and can be done by providing visual aids along with written and oral instructions. Coupled with this is a need to allow for varied instructional strategies including co-operative learning, inquiry, and direct instruction. From the information that Selena Fox provided, it is easy to see that the grade 11 students from Buffalo Ridge are used to creating products that take on various shapes and forms; particularly the use of video-making. The varied representations of learning are something that should definitely be kept in place after the merger so that all students will be able to successfully exemplify proof of learning.

This merger is important on so many levels. It is an opportunity to show the province and the nation that change is possible and that differences can be embraced. Because of this, the merger has a lot riding on it. I personally know that I would be very anxious to see how everything turns out and I know I am not the only one. In the end, if everything is followed through with correctly, the Pasqua Moostoos Community High School has the potential to become a beacon of possibility for the entire surrounding area.

Micro-Teach Evaluation

16 Feb

During ECS 350 this past week, myself and several groupmates created lesson plans based on different instructional strategies outlined in our textbook. The instructional strategy that I focused on was the concept development theory. When using this theory, teachers present students with a big idea or concept, for example “bananas,” and get students to come up with as many thoughts and ideas about the topic as they can. Each thought on the given topic is recorded individually on a piece of paper and posted. Students then work together to group like ideas into categories. Students are then encouraged to make changes, switch around ideas into new and different categories, and come up with new groups. Students then name each category and debrief.

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Evaluation of micro-teach answering the following questions: did the lesson go as I expected? Did I meet my objectives? What would I do differently?

My lesson on the concept development model of instruction went pretty much exactly as I had expected. Because the actual concept development activity inherent in this form of instruction is fairly involved, I chose to simply focus on walking my classmates through a sample of this form of activity. I began by introducing everyone briefly to the idea of the concept development model. I then gave my group mates a concept, in this instance “February Break,” to dissect and evaluate on a deeper level. I felt that in completing this activity with my group I met my objective which was to provide experiential learning around what concept development is and how to complete it with students. If I was to use this method of instruction again, which I know I will, I would ideally have more time. With more time I feel I would be able to embed this particular form of instruction into a larger class outcome or lesson. After writing down people’s ideas around the concept on papers I would also try to post them so that everyone in the space would be able to see the words with greater ease. I don’t know that I would use this strategy as a standalone method. Having said that, I recognize that concept development is a great way to engage students in deeper level thinking and look forward to using it in future lessons.

Reader Response 2

30 Jan

The article that I chose to read and dissect around differentiated instruction is entitled “Learning Styles in the Age of Differentiated Instruction” by Timothy J. Landrum & Kimberly A. McDuffie. This reading began by defining the differences between the terms “individualized instruction” and” differentiated instruction.” It was expressed that individualized instruction involves providing teaching techniques to students based on their personal characteristics (ie, disability) rather than academic content. It involves building on the knowledge students already have and focuses a lot on accommodating and modifying materials. In contrast, differentiated instruction was described as focusing on adjusting the content, process, and products based on students’ interests, readiness, and learning profiles. In short, differentiated instruction goes beyond simply providing instruction to students based on their characteristics to include altering academic qualities such as the content, process, and products based on the student’s personal characteristics. In addressing the importance of differentiated instruction, the authors stated that basing instruction on the learning styles of students is not a great idea. Apparently there is little research-based evidence available to validate instruction based on learning style. Instead, the authors promoted the differentiation of content, process, and product; this idea is the one that most stood out to me.

In terms of modifying content, the article stated that an educator should provide learning materials based on the interests of students or provide learning materials at different levels of comprehension. Modifying and differentiating content is something I have learned a lot about through my special education minor classes. Differentiating content for learners functioning at different levels is one of the most talked about and widely used tactics for differentiating instruction. In spite of this, I have yet to effectively implement lesson plans reflecting this sort of differentiation. I believe that in order to provide differentiated content to students, one must first understand the ability levels and interests of students. Up to this point my teaching experiences have not allowed me to understand my students well enough to implement this differentiation but I look forward to implementing this strategy in my pre-internship and internship.

Differentiating the process is described in the text as essentially utilizing varied instructional strategies. My school experience involved predominantly direct instruction and this has certainly shaped how I perceive education. However, my university experience, particularly over the last few years, has certainly been helping me to see beyond the typical direct instruction classroom. The article suggested building activities in the classroom that seek out the differing perspectives of the content being taught, offering different roles to the students in the completion of their assignments, and focusing on cooperative learning strategies. These are all great ideas, and upon reflection I have made a connection between these strategies and strategies promoted in the articles I have read around teaching First Nations, Métis, and Inuit students. The connections I made were found particularly in the idea of providing cooperative learning opportunities and allowing for different perspectives when teaching the content. In this way, differentiating the process truly has the capacity to serve the needs of all students.

Differentiating the various products that can be submitted at the end of learning is another idea that I am quite familiar with. I am naturally a very creative person and I love the idea of giving our students options around what they want their final product to look like. I believe that offering full reign over the design of the final product allows students to self identify their own areas of strength and build upon them. The downside of allowing students to choose the design of their final products on a regular basis is that students may rely too heavily on areas of strength so as to avoid working on areas that could use some practice. Because of this, I believe that product differentiation would need to be approved by the teacher before the production of the product. I believe the educator’s role would also be to encourage students to try and branch out so as to try different styles of learning products.

I found that reading this paper was very informative. I felt as though I was pretty in the know when it came to differentiated instruction, again, because of my special education minor. However, the reading of this article opened my eyes to several ideas that I had definitely not considered. I had never considered that differentiated instruction was a multi-faceted concept but now I am seeing that there is a lot more to it than meets the eye. This article has helped me to understand that instruction can be differentiated not only through the content, but also through the learning process presented to students and the product of this learning as well. All of this learning is coming with me on my journey and I am confident that it will help to make me a stronger and more considerate educator as a result. I look forward to employing these strategies in just a few short weeks!

 Reference

Landrum, T. J. & McDuffie, K. A. (2010). Learning styles in the age of differentiated instruction. Exceptionality, 18 (1), 6-17.

Introduction Letter

28 Jan

To whom it may concern;

My name is Emily Mann. I am an education student at the University of Regina finishing up my final year in the Secondary program. I am majoring in Health and minoring in Special Education. My time in the Faculty of Education has been both beneficial and affirming in my hopes of becoming a teacher.

My educational journey began in the small town of Lemberg, east of Regina. Though the high school I attended was small it contained many exemplary teachers that still serve as role models for me in my studies today.

The years that followed my graduation from high school saw me working towards a career working with people with disabilities. This journey began in Saskatoon where I completed my diploma in Recreation Therapy at SIAST Kelsey Campus. From there I worked with several organizations including the Cosmopolitan Learning Centre in Regina, L’Arche, an international community of group homes founded by Jean Vanier, in Saskatoon, and part time with two individuals with cognitive disabilities through the Saskatchewan Cognitive Disability Strategy in Regina. My work with people with disabilities also spans into the community of Regina where myself and another like-minded individual began a faith based group for both people with and without disabilities. This group takes Jean Vanier and his work with people with disabilities as its inspiration and has been running strong for two years this February.

My abilities to lead, plan and organize have always been areas of strength for me. These qualities, when coupled with my naturally outgoing nature, have resulted in many people advising me to become an educator. Previous volunteer experience leading youth groups has also affirmed that education is a good fit for me.

My hope in completing this degree is to continue my work with people with disabilities in a different setting than anything I have experienced before. I truly feel called to the work I am doing at present and look forward to spreading my vision into my future endeavours. In order to attain this vision I know that I will need the continued assistance and mentorship of co-operating teachers like you. The fact that you are willing to invest time and energy into helping me satisfy my faculty of education requirements is very much appreciated. I look forward to learning from you and the experiences you have had in your career as a teacher.

I will contact you before the school year end and arrange to visit you and the school. Thank you for agreeing to take an intern this fall. I am sure the time will be worthwhile for both of us!

Sincerely,

Emily Mann