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Teaching Skills

My student teaching and practica experiences, as well as my William & Mary courses, have taught me not only to plan quality lessons but also to teach quality lessons. This means coming to class prepared with careful plans but also being flexible enough to alter the lesson when students aren't getting a concept or when something simply isn't going the way I planned. Good teaching means differentiating to students and being responsive to individual students' needs. By using a variety of instructional strategies and teaching to a variety of learning styles, good teachers are able to reach a large cross-section of students. Effective teachers also use motivational strategies and actively engage students in learning.

The following lesson plan and accompanying photograph show how I teach based on planned lessons. For an interdisciplinary writing/science assignment, students were challenged to write about the ways that weather can be helpful and the ways that weather can be harmful. (They had just concluded a week-long lesson on weather in which they learned about wind, thunderstorms, tornadoes, etc.) In my lesson plan, I wrote that students would complete a graphic organizer before moving onto the writing assignment in order to help focus their thoughts and make the writing task less daunting. In the photograph below, the student is using her graphic organizer to help guide her writing.


I also strive to promote critical thinking skills in my teaching. Sometimes this comes in the form of brief but challenging activities rather than formal lesson plans. For example, our district pacing guide suggests a different math activity to complete before our formal math lesson each day as a way to help students review prior material. Recently, the district pacing guide suggested having students fill in parts of a 100 chart. I wanted to make this activity more challenging and fun, so instead of drawing a 100 chart and having student volunteers fill in parts of it, I asked students if they liked puzzles. They said yes, and then I told them that I had a giant 100 chart and had taken out some scissors and cut the 100 chart into little pieces. Then I had erased some of the numbers. I flipped the chart paper to reveal this:

This activity was quite challenging for the kindergarten and first-grade students, but they were able to work their way through it with logic, reasoning, and critical thinking, and they also enjoyed the activity!

Similarly, I target students' critical thinking skills each morning when they come in the room by posting a morning message with pieces missing. This cloze activity encourages them to use their logic and reasoning skills to make predictions about what letters belong in the boxes. It has the added benefit of improving their spelling and sight word recognition!


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Additional examples of effective teaching skills across the content areas are listed below. These artifacts show how I provide for individual differences in the classroom, how I use a variety of effective instructional strategies appropriate for the content area, and/or how I use motivational strategies and actively engage students in learning:


For one of my math lessons on counting coins I put students in pairs, distributed coin manipulatives and 100 charts to each pair, and then posted a "menu" with common lunch and dessert items so that students could take turns buying and selling items with their partner. This lesson used a variety of instructional strategies. It included a whole group/direct instruction review of coin values and coin combinations, as well as partner work that was more cooperative and constructivist. The use of manipulatives was very appropriate for the content since young children tend to learn math more easily when they can use tangible objects to help give concrete meaning to abstract counting principles. (The students used the coin manipulatives in tandem with the 100 chart by placing the largest coin on its appropriate number and then adding smaller coins to it by adding on the appropriate number of boxes. For example, to figure out how much a quarter and nickel are worth, they placed the quarter on the 25 since it is worth 25 cents and then counted on five more boxes since a nickel is worth 5 cents.) This lesson was also motivational and actively engaged students by incorporating cooperative group work and a "menu" of food items to "buy." The students were very excited to order their favorite snacks off the menu, and I played into this excitement by asking questions like what flavor smoothie they ordered and how it tasted good. I also incorporated differentiation into the lesson by providing snacks of varying costs, from 9 cents all the way to $1.00



In another math lesson, I set up a measurement-themed "discovery circus" as an end-of-unit review before the students' test on measurement. I divided students into groups of four or five and had them rotate to a different station at the sound of a bell every ten minutes. There were five stations: length with nonstandard units, length with standard units, capacity, temperature, and weight. Before beginning the rotation, I described each station in detail and demonstrated what students should record in their notebooks. The hands-on learning and cooperative teamwork at each station proved an engaging way to review measurement concepts before the test.

During the measurement discovery circus, students engaged in hands-on learning activities at stations around the room.

During the measurement discovery circus, teaching assistant Ms. Cates oversaw students as they worked at the capacity station.

Some students investigated nonstandard units of measurement while others compared the weights of different items with balances.


I collaborated with two of my classmates from William & Mary to teach a lesson on magnets to my class of kindergarten and Grade 1 students. For the engagement portion of the lesson, I showed students some marbles that they did not realize had magnets inside them and elicited oohs and ahhs by showing how the marbles clumped together and formed chains. After revealing that there was a magnet inside each marble, we sent students to their tables to work in teams for the exploration portion of the lesson. Their task was to sort a pile of materials (both magnetic and non-magnetic) using magnets. For the explanation portion of the lesson, we brought the students back to whole group instruction in order to discuss their findings. For the extension portion, we read them a book about magnets and had them write about what they had learned.

For the unit on plants, I taught a special lesson on edible plant parts. I designed, printed, and laminated "plant part" sorting cards in order to challenge students to classify common vegetables by what part of the plant they come from (e.g., radishes are roots, tomatoes are fruits, corn kernels are seeds, etc.). After students sorted the cards, I passed out edible plant parts for them to sample (e.g., carrots (roots), celery (stems), grapes (fruits), and broccoli (flowers)). At the end, we came back together as a whole group and sorted the cards a final time (I taped the cards under their appropriate categories on the chart paper). Students enjoyed the colorful pictures, the group sorting challenge, and the opportunity to taste the plant parts.

Students sort the plant part cards.

Students sample edible plant parts such as celery, carrots, and broccoli.



Social Studies:

I taught a social studies lesson on the presidential election to my kindergarten/first-grade class. The lesson was broken up into engaging 15-minute activities. During the first segment, I showed large color pictures of the candidates and their running mates and we read and discussed a Scholastic News poem about voting. The next segment was an interactive read aloud (Duck for President). I followed this with an activity in which the children could move around the classroom; I read out two choices such as math or reading, Valentine's Day or Halloween, etc., and children "voted" by moving to one side of the room or another. For the third segment, I pulled out two puppets ("Dagwood the Dog" and "Bernadine the Bunny") and did my best silly voices so that the two puppets could implore the students to vote for their side in the coming election; students then completed ballots I had made for them and turned in their votes in the "ballot box" which was decorated with pictures of dogs and rabbits. I concluded the lesson with a journal prompt so that students could color and write about what they had learned.

This lesson accounted for individual differences in the classroom by including a range of activities to appeal to different types of learners (auditory, visual, and kinesthetic). By incorporating a poem, a read aloud, a puppet show, a voting simluation, and a writing assignment, I also used a variety of instructional strategies. Using puppets, having students vote in their own classroom election, and including kinesthetic activities was motivational for students and kept them engaged througout the hour-long lesson.
external image msword.png Presidential Election Lesson.doc

Language Arts:

The photograph below shows me leading a guided reading group while other students work independently at literacy centers. I met with each of the five reading groups, which were organized by ability level, three to four times a week with lessons tailored to each group's reading level. The reading levels ranged from prekindergarten skills such as rhyming and phonemic/phonological awareness in the lowest group to second- or third-grade chapter books in the most advanced group. The small reading groups allow a much greater degree of differentiation than whole group reading lessons can provide, and they also allow more personalized attention to each student since the student-teacher ratio is much lower within the reading group than in the class at large. Therefore, reading groups are one way that I provide for students' individual differences in the classroom.