Mississippi Teacher Corps

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

required blog: evaluating my performance

Overall, I feel positive about how much my one student is learning in summer school. The other teachers in my room have taught great lessons, and I think that I have also been able to teach our student a lot. After the first day of summer school, she said that she’d already learned more than she’d learned all year, and has told us the same thing on several other occasions.

I think that the learning goal in which my student was the most successful is understanding the relationship between DNA, RNA, and proteins. If I gave her a sequence of DNA, she very quickly learned how to convert it to an RNA sequence and then a protein sequence. I covered a lot of material in this lesson, and when the death of a laptop forced me to use another laptop to show her the PowerPoint presentation I’d carefully thought out and prepared for projection onto the whiteboard, she still managed to stay with me. One reason that she was able to learn this material quickly was that I made analogies to real life during the lesson that excited her and helped her understand the reasons for the DNA to RNA to proteins processes. I compared transcription and translation to passing a note to a friend that is written in code so that other people can’t read the message. Your friend has a key and can crack the code, but because you were very careful in making sure no one could crack the code, you need two keys to decipher it. This seemed to click. Another reason that this lesson worked well is that I had a lot of short activities in a fast-paced lesson, and I included short independent practice activities throughout the lesson (given more notes in between) rather than just leaving it all until the end of my lecture.

Today, I taught about elements and the Periodic Table. The main focus of my lesson was on how to read and use the Periodic Table, but I also wanted to teach the definition of elements. My student had the Periodic Table part down pat, but at the end of class, she was unable to tell me what an element was. One reason for this is that I skimmed over that part of the lesson and did not give her any formal practice in determining whether or not something was an element. Another reason is that I introduced the concept of elements at the same time I introduced several other new words (homogeneous mixture, heterogeneous mixture, compound, etc.) I had her copy a simple flow-chart showing the relationship between these terms, and talked her through the chart, but never had her use this information in any way during the rest of the lesson, and never referred to any of these words again except for “element” over the course of the lesson. I liked the lesson I taught today, but when I rehash it to teach the same material next year, I would split it into two lessons. In the first one, I would spend much more time explaining the differences between elements, compounds, etc., and would give practice problems. I would also bring in examples of each (e.g. Raisin Bran for a heterogeneous mixture) instead of just talking about examples because I think this would help students remember the concepts better. I would not go into detail about the Periodic Table until the second lesson.

Something that has been a constant challenge for me as a teacher is my tendency to spend too much time lecturing, giving notes, and using other forms of direct instruction rather than having more independent practice activities. I have been consciously working on this in summer school, and I feel that I have made progress. I still give notes every day after the Do-Now, but I have reduced the amount of note-taking and included a wider variety of activities in my procedures. On days when I have a lot of content to convey and have to give longer notes, I’ve worked on breaking up the note-taking with short activities. I am still trying to work on reducing the amount of class time that I spend at the front of the room.

Another goal I’ve been working towards in summer school is having a wider variety of activities for any given topic to address different learning styles. This goes hand-in-hand with my goal to have more activities and less lecture time. I’ve been doing a much better job of teaching each topic in several ways to help different learners. For the visual learners, I’ve been using concept maps in a number of my lessons. I have also been integrating inductive strategies by showing unfamiliar pictures to students and asking them to explain what is going on. For example, during the mitosis lesson, before explaining what the cell does at each stage, I placed a transparency showing the stages of the cell cycle on the overhead, told the student that the squiggly lines were DNA, and asking the student to describe what the cell was doing at each stage. For the tactile learners, I’ve been integrating a lot more hands-on modeling; during the mitosis lesson, I gave the student six colored pieces of yarn and had her watch what I was doing with my yarn and do the same thing with hers to model what the chromosomes were doing at each stage of mitosis. For the auditory learners, I’ve been having the student generate her own pneumonic devices (for example, she made a pneumonic device to remember the stages of mitosis). Today, I played a song that a friend of mine wrote and recorded for a high school chemistry project about platinum, rapped to the tune and music of “The Real Slim Shady.” I asked her to write down as many facts as she could learn from the song about platinum, and she surprised me by reading off her list, “It has a weight of 195.08!” I didn’t do a very good job of varying my activities for different learners during this past school year, and intend to work harder on this in the future.

Now playing: Matty Kane- Pt


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