Friday, December 19, 2008

Field Experience Notebook

RUNNING HEAD: Field Experience Notebook

Field Experience Notebook
Brandon Heikoop
D’Youville College

EDU 621 – Childhood Methods I: Science, Mathematics and Social Studies
Dr. P. Piotrowski

School and Class Information
Forestview Public School
8406 Forestview Blvd
Niagara Falls, Ontario
L2H 0B9
Mrs. C. Bautista
3rd Grade
Forestview is an interesting school. Located in a brand new area of Niagara Falls, Forestview draws from a young community. The community is predominantly made up of single family homes in what would be referred to as a middle class community. This new community is also the home to many families with a Serbian, Yugoslavian, or Croatian background, many of whom are recent immigrants.
The third grade class has twenty students with a wide spectrum of intelligencies and capabilities. In fact, the class may very well be too broad as it seems nearly half the class catches on to a concept immediately and the other half needs as much as four times the amount of instruction. It appears as though many of the students who struggle are doing so because of possible language issues. While English is the main language the majority of the students use, it is clear that there is another language being used outside the classroom.
In addition to a variety of capabilities there are a handful of students whom are displaying traits which may require an eventual shift to an Individualized Education Plan. These students, predominantly male, have a difficult time staying on task. Due to this, these students miss valuable instructions and quickly fall behind their peers.
Overall, the class is full of energy and some amazing individual personalities. An example of these personalities was noted with an assignment where the students were asked to think about where they would be in 50 years. One student suggested that he would be the next Elvis Presley. Another figured to be a housewife married to a rich dentist.

Daily Classroom Schedule
In what is now a seemingly popular schedule, Forestview arranges their days as follows:
Time Class
9:00 – 9:50 AM Literacy
9:50 – 10:40 AM Literacy
10:40 – 11:20 AM Nutrition Break
11:20 AM – 12:10 PM Math/Science/Social Studies
12:10 – 1:00 PM Math/Science/Social Studies/Library/Gym/Computers
1:00 – 1:40 PM Nutrition Break
1:40 – 2:30 PM
2:30 – 3:20 PM

The blanks after the first nutrition break vary dependent on the day.
For my observations, I observed Mrs. Bautista’s class until the second nutrition break. Thus, I was involved in the literacy portion of the student’s day. Having nearly two consecutive hours of literacy can be tiring for even the most effective students. To keep students attentive and motivated, Mrs. Bautista did an excellent job breaking up this time. Literacy is then broken up into Sustained Silent Reading (S.S.R.), World Wall, Reading Groups, and Classroom Calendar.
The S.S.R. is one of the more interesting components of the classes Literacy program. Students are given time to read whatever they please, and while many students take full advantage of this freedom reading graphic novels and gaming books, there is a concerning trend; the weakest readers appear to be very apathetic towards reading. Not only do these students have a difficult time picking out a book to read, they also lack a desire to read for any significant length of time. As seems to be a concern across all levels, the boys are typically less interested in reading then their female classmates.
Another interesting method of breaking up the literacy time is through assigning the students 25 minutes of computer time. The students have designated blocks and for the most part are able to independently log onto the computers and go to the appropriate programs-it is very obvious to tell which students have a computer at home, and which do not. During this block the students will go to Destination Reading a website that allows the students to interactively apply literary techniques from class.
After the first nutrition break, the students are typically involved in a mathematics lesson and an accompanying assignment. Sitting in groups of four, students are often encouraged to work with the student sitting next to them. The instruction involves a great deal of class involvement as well as many real-world connections.
While Mathematics is occasionally a double period, the students go in many directions from this point. Sometimes the students head to the computer lab, other times they are picked up by the Physical Education teacher. However, the students typically remain in the classroom for a period of Science or Social Studies.

Personal Reflection
Observing the students in Mrs. Bautista’s third grade classroom has been an exceptional experience. To date, I have spent time in first, second, third, and sixth grade classrooms, of which this experience has not only been the most beneficial, but also the most enjoyable.
My observations have been the most beneficial due to many of the strategies that the teacher implemented. Strategies which improved the learning experience for the students as well as keeping the classroom orderly and under control. Many of these strategies were ones that I had never experienced before, however each appeared to be simple enough to implement in any classroom.
‘On Task’ tickets are given out to students in order to keep them behaving well and as well as motivated. The students are given these tickets to be used for a weekly raffle. There is not a more interesting student behavior then when they realize a peer is receiving a ticket for following instructions and getting work done. As I mentioned to a student, the tickets should only be an added bonus to having less schoolwork and more free time once they arrive at home.
The ‘On Task’ tickets provide, as mentioned, peer motivation. This aligns with how the classroom is set up, where there is at least one student with strong abilities per grouping of four. One can easily observe how giving an ‘On Task’ ticket alters the behavior of the surrounding students.
Another method of altering student behavior is noted through the documentation of good table behavior. When a table is exceptionally well behaved, they will be rewarded with a ‘point’. Points are awarded for being on task, as well as being prepared for a change in subject, or nutrition breaks. The table with the most points at the end of the week is provided with additional time on the computers or will be first to be selected for nutrition breaks.
The classroom even has a reward system created for nutrition breaks. There are two of these in a day, the first, being where the reward system takes place. During this break, the students are encouraged to eat a healthier snack. Once the class has accumulated 200 ‘healthy snack’ points, they are awarded with a class video or additional computer or physical education period.
Forestview is blessed with having a portable SmartBoard accessible to the teachers. While this instructional media is highly coveted and not readily available, I did have the fortune of being in the classroom on a day when Mrs. Bautista reserved the board. While the features of this board are very impressive, the students seem to pay less attention to the lesson and more of the technology of the board.
However, as the students begin to see the board more frequently, they will be less impressed with the technology and follow closer with the lesson. This will also occur as the SmartBoard technology itself improves, making the possibilities of the board endless.
From what I observed, one of the major benefits of the SmartBoard is teaching the students the value of technology. Adding to the entertainment value of computers is important in order to encourage students to utilize them as a learning tool. Therefore, the teacher using the SmartBoard in the classroom as a part of the teaching process will encourage the students to use their computers at home as part of the learning process.
The class utilizes the forth INTASC Standard to an incredible degree. This is specifically noted within the Literacy portion of the student’s day. As mentioned, the students Literacy class is broken up into multiple segments, each of which is a change of pace from the next.
The most beneficial segment of the students English Language Arts (E.L.A.) is the daily calendar. During this segment, the students gather on a carpet and follow a routine in presenting the days schedule, classroom and personal news, as well as a brief discussion on the weather. Each week a different boy and girl from the class leads this exercise with the students altering tasks.
The students are required to speak in front of their peers presenting information provided by the teacher. As a class, the students will spell out the day of the week, the month, as well as the day number of the school year.
Other tasks include predicting what the classroom thermometer will read and graphing the actual results. Interestingly, this has encouraged the students to pay attention to the local forecast, which indirectly has the students keeping up to date with local news.
This exercise is now a well oiled machine, where the students know the steps extremely well and can do so independently, one of the greatest benefits of the daily calendar is with the students reporting news. The students are encouraged to share whatever they think is important but are also told to differentiate between what is news and what is a personal story. Noting this level of importance is a unique method of helping the students in their development with writing sentences and paragraphs.
While the classroom in continually changing speeds, going from independent work, to groups, from lessons, to experiments, the Ontario Literacy based curriculum appears to be negatively affecting the students. While Literacy is an immensely important part of an education, one can observe students who struggle with reading, now struggling in Mathematics.
This is specifically noted with two students, a boy and a girl. The boy simply seems uninterested in reading. He has no problem doing the Math itself or other non-reading assignments, but appears unwilling to read through the directions or problems presented within Math. With the research being done regarding “The Boy Problem” this could simply be a phase. However, with the literacy-centered curriculum, is this boy being left behind?
On the other hand, the girl has issues reading in general. While she does not appear to be socially behind her peers, and written assignments come without difficulty, it is easy to observe her struggles with written instructions. Thus, is it fair that this girl struggles in Math because her reading ability is less then it should be? Truth be told, I oftentimes have to read a question more then once before I understand what it is asking.
With all of this in mind, the teaching would be served well in creating more traditional math assignments for these students. In fact, this would not be a bad idea for the entire class, where the more literary minded students would be encouraged to understand what the question is asking despite a lack of words.
One of the major areas the class could improve on is within the Sustained Silent Reading (S.S.R.). While the idea in and of itself is an excellent one, the execution of the idea is different then what I would do. That is, the teacher utilizes the S.S.R. time for preparation, rather then silent reading. Those students who do not enjoy reading view this behavior and subsequently avoid reading themselves.
The utilization of S.S.R. to prepare would be similar to letting the students blindly participate in a science experiment, not modeling the appropriate science behaviors or procedures. In this area, the teacher failed to meet part of the sixth INTASC standard.
During my experience I was fortunate to observe an excellent teacher. One who prepared for every possibility and continually encouraged students to not only reflect upon the lesson at hand, but created many real-world comparisons. I also had the interesting experience of observing a substitute teacher and was taken back at the different method of behavior management.
While I was prepared for the substitute teacher, I was not prepared for such a different type of teacher. Where Mrs. Bautista had control of the classroom, while allowing the students to be children, the substitute had a very old-fashioned sense of discipline.
One of the first differences I noted was the substitute’s orders that the students sit properly in their seats, fidgeting was not allowed. There is a body of literature which suggests that students may be less focused on the lesson if they are told to sit straight and not fidget. With the research that is available today, this type of behavior management does not seem appropriate. In fact, this is something I commended Mrs. Bautista on allowing.
A second major difference I noted with the substitute was the tone of voice when disciplining the students. The substitutes lecturing and instructing voice was calm and soothing, however this was not the case when students acted out. Mrs. Bautista managed to keep the class under wraps despite rarely, if ever, raising her voice. Conversely, the substitute appeared to get annoyed quickly and displayed this frustration when disciplining the class.

Mrs. Bautista’s third grade classroom is ever changing. Her approach to teaching appears to be very affective and one which I would attempt to perform myself. Not only did the students clearly respect Mrs. Bautista, but they looked to her as the main source of knowledge. The students also had an understanding of Mrs. Bautista’s rules and desires for classroom activity.
As an extraordinarily organized teacher, it was an excellent experience to observe how a few lines of writing could turn into a 15 minute lesson. Classroom organization strategies such as student ‘mailboxes’ and subject ‘tubs’ are ones that I intend to take with me going forward. In addition, Mrs. Bautista had a few strategies for getting the students attention without raising her voice or disciplining the students (ie. “1-2-3, Eyes on me”, “High Five”, or the “Clap”).

This experience was also the first time I took full initiative within the classroom. I took it upon myself to act like a teacher instead of an observer. I developed relationships with the students and discovered methods to answer questions, as well as motivating the students.
During my time in the classroom I did not lead or teach any lessons, however I did help with the classroom calendar as well as a couple spelling tests. Being my first experience ‘in charge’ of a segment of class, this was also my first time speaking in front of students in this manner. Needless to say, the first couple of times I had issues keeping the students behaving properly and probably let a little too much slide.
This certainly helped build my confidence and understand methods to control the students. The students seemed to respond best when I would point out a student who was performing as I had requested.

No comments: