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  • Standard 2

    2010 - 10.24

    A.  I understand the importance of applying my understanding of “human growth, development, and learning theory” to design and teach in a way which supports the whole learner, that is, students’ “cognitive, affective, physical, emotional, and social capacities” and needs.  This understanding permeates all of my teaching, as I constantly strive to understand my students and build my instruction around who my learners are and what they need.  The “Action Research” that I performed during my professional internship is an important example of the manner with which this understanding pervades my work in the classroom.  Noticing that my young third grade learners often struggled to focus in the afternoon, as is developmentally expected, I began incorporating physical activity throughout my teaching, investigating the impact such breaks had on student focus.  I found that the students’ physical, emotional, and cognitive needs were better met with such breaks, and we therefore were better able to teach and learn.

    Please click here to read more about this action research process.

    B.  I also fervently believe in that an effective teacher must “assess learning and differentiate instruction to maximize student achievement and to accommodate differences in backgrounds, learning modes, disabilities, aptitudes, interests, and levels of maturity.”  I am constantly thinking about ways in which I can adjust my instruction to meet the many needs of my diverse and unique learners.  In my professional internship, one primary area in which I differentiated instruction was spelling.  Complying with the wishes of the district, I taught spelling using the framework outlined in the “Words Their Way” spelling program (reference), in which learners investigate particular sound and spelling patterns in words, with the intent of extrapolating those patterns beyond their weekly lists.

    My mentor teacher and I tested each student, evaluating each child’s understanding of various spelling patterns (i.e. initial and final consonants, blends, long vowels, etc.).  We then grouped students based on their current spelling knowledge and understanding.  Finally, we gave the students word lists which targeted the spelling patterns which were still developing for the different groups, allowing the students to practice and investigate those unfamiliar patterns in their spelling work.  I further differentiated my instruction in spelling by ensuring that struggling learners received the more individualized instruction they required.  Small groups of students would meet with my mentor teacher, me, and a paraprofessional as needed, in order to ensure student understanding.  In this manner, I was able to differentiate my teaching in order to meet the important needs of my learners.

    Please click here for some sample spelling lesson plans.

    C.  I also “understand the connections between instructional decisions, grading, and assessment data.”  Though grades are decidedly less important than the learning that students do, grading and assessment data are a critical indicator of a students’ level of participation and understanding of a given task or subject.  The limitations of a single assessment or grade require the accumulation of a variety of data, including “formal and informal, as well as formative and summative, assessments to evaluate learning and ensure the academic achievement of all students.”  By collecting as much information as possible regarding learners’ achievements, participation, effort, and understanding, a teacher is able to have a much richer and nuanced grasp of student successes, needs, and next steps.

    In my own instruction, I try to constantly assess student understanding at the whole-class and individual level.  I constantly perform informal and oral assessments, asking for students to articulate their learning both publicly (in front of the class) and privately (in one-on-one conferences).  These informal and usually conversational assessments occur throughout student learning, as students discuss what they learned in previous lessons, what they will learn in a lesson, what they have learned in a lesson, and so on.

    I also rely on more formal assessment in my teaching, including tests and graded assignments.  As with the informal discussions, these formal evaluations are incredibly important to my understanding of student learning.  These daily assignments allow me to track student achievement over time, allowing me to provide additional support to those who appear to be struggling, and provide additional challenges to those who appear to have mastered a given subject or task already.  Assessments are absolutely critical to good teaching, as they allow one to have a greater understanding of the needs of learners.  Equally important is the fact that students and parents are able to track their progress as well.

    Please click here for a description of the assessment plan used in my Showcase Unit Plan.

    Please click here for copies of assessed student work.

    D.  Though such assessing is incredibly important, it is also critical that a teacher maintains the understanding that “personal belief systems and values may affect the instructional process and grading.”  I am constantly focused on trying to remain as unbiased as possible in my teaching and evaluating.  One way in which a teacher might avoid such a problem is to collaborate with others.  In my professional internship, the third grade teachers would occasionally collaborate with the assessments of particular tasks, ensuring that evaluations were as fair as possible.  For instance, when assessing an initial retelling assessment at the beginning of the school year, each teacher graded each student’s work according to the provided rubric.  After each teacher provided her assessment, we discussed our responses and came up with a score which combined our efforts.  In this way, we avoided the problem of bias, and were able to evaluate our students fairly.  I also collaborated with my mentor teacher in much of my grading, ensuring that each student was assessed as he or she should be.

    E.  I find it incredibly important to “differentiate instruction in an environment that facilitates each student’s learning and access to an equitable education.”  Each learner arrives at school with a unique point of view; as a teacher, it is my task to understand and support each learner as who he or she is, differentiating my teaching to meet his or her needs, and create an environment which allows him or her to receive the education they deserve.  In my professional internship, my reading instruction allowed for an equitable education for my students.  Each learner was assessed as a reader and was then able to read at his or her level each day.  Students worked on reading independently with books that were appropriate for them, while they were also provided with opportunities to work with me and my mentor teacher, as we discussed their skills as readers and set goals for their reading progress.  In this manner, the students were able to work at their own level, with instruction that was personalized and facilitated learning for all.

    Please click here to read the lesson plans taught in an ELA unit in which students worked in small groups and based on individual reading abilities and overall student needs.

    F.  I am a fervent believer in “using multiple approaches to accommodate the diverse backgrounds, abilities, and needs of students.”  I also have demonstrated an ability to modify instruction based on assessment data.  For example, in the teaching of my Showcase Unit Plan (mentioned above), I created reading groups that were based on student needs and abilities, differentiating my instruction for small groups and individuals to help my learners to accomplish their reading and writing goals.  I also used daily assessment data (both informal and formal) to guide my instruction.  Assessment data was important in the creation of reading and discussion groups, and assessment data throughout the teaching of the unit informed adjustments to lessons made as I was teaching the unit.  In this case and others, I have placed, and always place, the diverse needs of my students first.

    To read more about the importance of accommodating diverse needs in my teaching, please read the teaching philosophy section of this portfolio (particularly the section on creating a Learner-Centered Classroom).

    G.  I also strive in my teaching to design assessments and grading which uses “multiple approaches to accommodate diverse backgrounds, abilities, and needs of students.”  Just as my instruction must be varied to meet the needs of my learners, so must the manner with which I assess student learning and work.  In my professional internship, I tried to honor the work that my students did while also checking for quality and level of understanding.  Some assignments were evaluated based on effort, some based on completion, many based on student understanding.  Depending on the goals of a particular task, the grading or assessment of that task was different.  If I was teaching sentence structure within a lesson regarding the books that a group of students were reading, then my grading reflected both the students’ understanding of the book and sentence structure.  If a lesson focused on a students’ knowledge of the ideas learned through a science experiment, than my grading would emphasize those understandings more than the grammar used to articulate them.  In this manner, I work to make my grading and assessing as focused as possible, honoring student achievement, while accommodating student needs.  If my grading is the same for each task, then how can it possibly address the diversity of subjects and tasks assessed and the unique students who complete those tasks?  It simply couldn’t.

    H.  Much of the challenge of teaching is using professional judgment.  There is no instruction manual for teaching, no absolutes.  Instead, a teacher must use the best judgment possible, using their knowledge of their students, students’ needs, and material to plan and manage time and resources in a way which will allow them to meet the necessary goals and objectives.  These goals are both personal and mandated, as teachers are expected to accomplish certain things in a given day, month, marking period, and as teachers expect themselves to accomplish the same things, and additional objectives which the teacher deems to be important.

    The accomplishment of these goals requires both immense planning and flexibility.  In my own teaching, so far, I try to manage my time and resources with the help of others.   During my Professional Internship, I spent ample time speaking with my mentor teacher and the two other third grade teachers to plan instruction.  We would discuss where we were at in each subject, give suggestions for lessons which were particularly difficult or time-consuming, and would support one another to ensure that our students’ needs were being met, and that we were each accomplishing our personal and professional goals.  We also participated in many meetings with educational consultants from the county Intermediate School District, in which other professionals supported us in goal setting and the meeting of those objectives.

    I.  As an English major, I am a HUGE proponent of promoting literacy in a variety of contexts.  I try to incorporate reading and writing into all subjects, and work hard to support reading and writing as opportunities for learning and growth as well as having fun.  For example, one of the most successful science lessons taught in my professional internship required students to write a fictional story which required them to apply their knowledge of the subject matter being studied in a specific but fun way.  The students were learning about friction and had to write a story in which they returned home to discover that their house had no friction.  This literacy connection required that the students understand how friction works and apply it in a new way.  The students absolutely loved the chance to write a fun and funny story in science.  In fact, the students spent more time writing this story than they did in their free writing later that day.  In this case, the students really benefited from the interdisciplinary literacy connection.

    To read further about my belief in the importance of literacy instruction and promoting literacy in a variety of contexts, please read section one of my teaching philosophy: Literacy-Centered Teaching.

    J.  I am definitely committed to striving to “design, adopt, implement, and advocate for accommodations including assistive communicative devices, assistive technologies, and multiple strategies to enhance learning opportunities according to each student’s needs.”  In my teaching so far, however, I have not had any students who required particular communicative and assistive technologies in the classroom.  As previously mentioned however, I have striven to differentiate instruction and use whatever strategies necessary to enhance learning opportunties for all students (please see preceding discussion).

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