Archive for June, 2012

On Thursday, June 7, 2012, I observed another Mr. O’s A.P. Government class. The students were completing a series of debates on important political issues. I observed a debate on the issue of Gay Marriage.
Mr. O began his class by calling attention to the front of the classroom. The students seemed unruly due to the lateness of the class in the year. Mr. O was able to call attention to the front of the room and provided time for students to set up the debate court at the front of the room.
The first debate was on the issue of Gay Marriage. The entire course of the debate was mediated by a panel of students who acted as the jury and judge of the debate. The two sides of the debate sat at two desks opposite each other and followed specific procedures to explain their reasoning and perspective. The debaters began with a minute opening statement for each side and then were given time for a rebuttal and crossfire argument. The floor was then opened to questions from the class. The debaters opposed to gay marriage made interesting arguments, highlighting religious and traditional reasoning. The comic way that the arguments were presented suggested that the two individuals may not have been entirely convinced of their arguments. The two debaters in favor of Gay Marriage had much more prepared statements, communicating a firm conviction of their perspectives and arguments. When the debate was opened up to questions from the class, students in the audience, the pro Gay Marriage students, and the judges grilled the two students against Gay Marriage. This turn of events illuminated the general leaning of the classroom towards one side of the debate. There were then a couple students who illuminated their conservative background by voicing their perspective conflicting with the common class motivation. These students were met with intense opposition to their perspective. One student in the panel of judges then asked the incredibly illuminating question: “How does allowing gay marriage protect the institution of marriage.” Another student from the panel of judges then asked, “Why does one group get to call unions marriage while another doesn’t?” Other students then illuminated the condition of children with two parents of the same gender.
Throughout the debate, Mr. O interjected comments and questions to keep the debate going and to call attention to different sides of specific arguments. At one point, his pointed question illuminated his close affinity to one side of the argument, but mostly maintained a moderate position within the debate. He also corrected a student because of his degrading comments, revealing the high standard that he has for his students in a moderately relaxed atmosphere. During the whole process, the students communicated a comfort with Mr. O’s curriculum and expectations. This kind of atmosphere is conductive to healthy learning environment.
The debate ended with a finishing statement by each opposing sides. Mr. O then finished the class by discussing justice and moral issues with the class. He started his summary by asking students poignant questions about differences between individual moral standards and ethical reasoning. He illuminated both Consequentialist and Categorical reasoning for ethical standards. He then described a scenario proposed by a Harvard Professor which involves moral reasoning within a trolley car. The students were then given the option of killing five without decision or killing one by making a conscious decision. A second scenario was presented were the students would have to kill someone in order to save five people. His point was to illuminate how student morality changes in specific situations. This particular discussion created diverse student discussion and interaction illuminating their confusion with these particular scenarios.

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On Wednesday, June 6th, 2012, I observed Mrs. E. S.’s Advanced Placement European History class fourth period. Having completed the A.P. tests, the class was presenting projects on historical topics of student interest. I had the opportunity to observe a presentation on specific terrorist organizations and a presentation on the history of chocolate.
Both presentations were very well laid out and excellently presented. The two students who presented the terrorist presentations discussed the Black Hand, Cosa Nostra, and the IRA. For each group the students described the history of the organization, the infamous members, and the weapons that the group famously used. They were very detailed in their description of each and easily answered questions from the audience, showing a familiarity and understanding of the content.
The second group described the history of chocolate. They began with an explanation of where chocolate comes from and how it is made, then expanded into a detailed history of chocolate’s development and influence on western culture. They described how the chocolate had come from the Aztecs, had spread to Spain during the period of Spanish conquest, and the spread to the rest of Europe. They then described how France had perfected the chocolate creation process and some of the festivals in France that are continued today because of it. They then described how that process had been altered in Switzerland to become what we know it as today. They then finished their project with a quiz over the project’s content and gave students chocolate as a reward for their correct answers.
The excellence of both of these projects proves the educational worth of student interest led research and projects. Both groups of students showed a passion for the subject matter unlike other presentations that I’ve observed during my internship where the topic has been selected by the teacher. Students need to be inspired to take charge of their understanding of history, which often means creating their own framework for understanding. If students can be encouraged to understand material from meaningful contexts then they will more likely to hold on to that information after the unit test. Student led projects like these allow students to pursue meaningful contexts by which they can retain new understandings.

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On June 6, 2012, I observed Mr. M’s 2nd period U.S. History class fulfilling the observation requirements for my internship. Mr. M’s teaching method differed significantly from my mentor teacher’s. It was a great opportunity to compare two different teachers to define what aspects of both teaching styles I want to use in my classroom.
Mr. M and my Mentor Teacher teach the same class, so I was already familiar with the content of Mr. M’s lecture having taught a majority of the material already to my students during the internship. For this reason, I was able to focus on the delivery method and learning strategies present in the lecture and analyzed each strategy for its impact and effectiveness.
Mr. M began the class by reminding his students about assignments that were due and tests that still needed to be taken. He informed the class that there were several students who had been absent the day of the test and that those students would receive a zero in the grade book until they found time to make it up. He then handed out a map activity to the class which he planned for them to work on later in the period.
Mr. M then began to describe the Nixon administration and Watergate. He informed his students from the beginning of the lecture that he knew that they had been jumping around a lot when covering content in his classroom, meaning that the topics that he had addressed in his class had not been specifically chronological. He then had students recall information that they had learned in previous lessons by asking about aspects of the Nixon Administration that they had covered already. The students showed their engagement by actively answering all of Mr. M’s questions. He then described the important aspects of the Nixon Administration and Watergate, briefly covering topics by spending less than 5 minutes on each. He then moved on to cover the Ford Administration very briefly and then described important concepts from the Carter Administration including developments in the Middle East. The lecture took about 40 minutes, and Mr. M finished the class by having his students work on their map assignments.
Throughout the course of his lecture, Mr. M posed questions to his students to gauge comprehension and retention of material. Unfortunately, this created a lecture format with a variable flow, where important content and concepts were difficult to identify. Mr. M also used very few visuals. The central visual that he used was the Middle East map that he has hanging at the front of the classroom which was used in his explanation of Middle Eastern developments during the Carter Administration. Also, the lecture content lacked specifics which made his presentation seem imprecise or scattered. The overall lack of structure created an environment where it became very easy for students to check out.
Mr. M’s format was very successful at eliciting student response from students who wanted to respond. Unfortunately, his format required very little student engagement otherwise. It was clear that many students were not taking notes and there appeared to be very few repercussions for not taking them. With more structure, Mr. M could be more successful at increasing student performance in his classroom. The flexibility of his classroom is desired for a healthy learning atmosphere, but the structure for successful student performance needs to be in place. The students need to be free to actively engage historical understanding on their own, but will not be productive without the proper framework.

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For my Internship I constructed many lesson plans that highlighted different aspects and topics of U.S. History.  Specifically for the TPA process I was able to write all of my own material and created several activities that highlight my ability to engage students in content and help them develop their academic ability.  The lesson plan that I’ve provided is one of the lessons that I submitted to Pearson for review as well as my reflection on student work for the daily activities.  I’ve also included the three student work samples and the documents that were missing from the TPA submission.

TPA Lesson 2

TPA Assessment Commentary

Student Work Sample 1

Student Work Sample 2

Student Work Sample 3

24.1 The Movement Begins (Part One)

24.1 The Movement Begins (Part One) Teacher Notes

Lesson 2 Learning Objective

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On Wednesday, March 14th, I attended Auburn Riverside High School’s Parent Teacher Conferences and filled in for my mentor teacher while he was out for tennis practice. This was officially the second week of my internship and there was very little that I knew about the students. In preparation for the conference I became familiar with my mentor teacher’s assignments and expectations. I used an Ipad to access the student’s records and conversed with parents about missing assignments and what students could do to improve their grade.
I conversed with one parent who informed me about their student’s learning difficulties. I was able to accommodate those difficulties later in class. I also talked with a couple who were concerned about their student’s grade, which had slipped significantly since the last grading period. I was able to direct them towards the student’s missing assignments as the reason for the drop in her grade. There were several other parents whom I was able to supply missing assignments for their students. I also talked with the ELL specialist, who was seated at the table next to me, and was able to ask her about the ELL students that I had in several classes. It was an excellent opportunity to understand how to reach some of my struggling students. I interacted with several teachers and participated in a wave that the teachers started towards the end of the conferences when very few parents were left.
I was very glad that I was able to participate in the conference because I gained invaluable experience for my future teaching career. I was able to successfully interact with parents about classes that I had just started observing and was able to assist them with understanding their student’s grade and what they could do to help their students perform better in the classroom. I also gained invaluable knowledge about my struggling students and how I could accommodate them in class. Because of this experience, I know what to expect for my own Parent Teacher Conferences in my future teaching career.

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On March 15, 2012, I attended Auburn Riverside Theatre Raven Player’s musical, Once on This Island. There were several students from my classes that performed in the play and I was glad to be able to support them in their extracurricular activities. The production was extraordinary and contained many beautiful sets and costumes. The overall message of the play, however, contained themes that I thought were inappropriate for the school environment.
Once on this Island is a play about a young girl that is rescued from a tree by an older couple and who is blessed and destined for greatness by the gods of the island. She saves a young white man from a car crash and keeps him alive in her hut in the village until the white society comes to get him. She then leaves her village and her family to go find the young white man while accompanied by the gods on the island. She eventually finds her young man, whom she loves, who is recovering at his home from his accident. She decides to stay with him in his room and it is implied that they sleep together. Once the young man recovers, the young girl discovers that he is promised to a girl in the white society. When she asks him about this, the young man responds by telling her that there are some girls that you love and some girls that you marry. She is then kicked out of the house that he lives in when she gets in the way of the marriage and dies pledging her love to him outside the gates of his house. The gods then decide to take the young girl’s spirit and change it into a tree that grows up and breaks the gate of the young man’s house. The play then ends with the gods explaining how the young man’s kids will play always within the shadow of that tree and that eventually there will be a little girl from the village whom his son will fall in love with, forever reminding him of the love of that girl from the village that he rejected.
There were several aspects of the play that I took issue with. First, the play glamorizes young intimacy. Secondly, the play creates the impression that love is something that is selfish and ultimately tragic. The characters wage love against each other throughout the play and end up destroying each other’s lives. These themes are incredibly destructive to young minds if taken seriously and could lead them to make bad decisions in their young lives. A better play would have explored themes like selflessness and the love of family. I was very glad to see my students perform in the play, but was concerned with the content and messages of the production.

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On Saturday April 28th, 2012, I held a practice Advanced Placement United States test in my mentor teacher’s classroom for the A.P. students. The students were able to prepare for the official A.P. test two weeks before the test by taking the test from several years before. The students were very appreciative of the fact that I had taken several hours out of my Saturday to help them prepare for the test.
I reserved the room with the school office during the week prior. When the students arrived on Saturday, they took an 80 question multiple choice test for 55 minutes. This was followed by a 15 minute break. They were then given 130 minutes to complete the Document Based Question and two free response questions. The students followed the procedures for the A.P. test and were able to prepare themselves for the A.P. test environment. All of the students stayed for the multiple choice section, but a few left after the break and took the essay section home to complete. There were a few students who stayed until they had finished the essay section and one stayed for all of the time allotted for the essays. Each student was given a packet with the answers to the test and hints on how to rate their essays. I graded their answers to the multiple choice section and returned their completed sections to them.
Many of the A.P. students that showed up for the practice A.P. test had taken the Advanced Placement European History exam the previous year. This experience, however, was a valuable reminder of the conditions of the test for the students. It also allowed reminded them about test question phrasing and the rigor the expectations for the test. Through this experience the students gained a valuable understanding of what the A. P. U.S. History test would be like and were able to prepare for the official test accordingly.

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