“The mediocre teacher tells. The good teacher explains. The superior teacher demonstrates. The great teacher inspires.”
~William Arthur Ward

Teach Based on Planned Lessons
One important component of my skills is teaching based on planned lessons. Having strong lessons to follow throughout the day kept me organized. I was always prepared and always had something for my students to do throughout the day. Throughout my student teaching experience, I would try to follow my lessons as best as I could. Before a lesson, I would review my plan to understand and remember the structure of each lesson. When I first started teaching, I would have my lesson plans out while I taught. As I began to become more comfortable with teaching, I realized that for certain subjects, I did not need to have my plans out while I was teaching. I reviewed my lesson enough to remember what I had to teach and what I had to accomplish to stay on task. While I was less concerned with saying everything word for word, I did try to follow the plan that I had created to keep the class on track.

Provide for Individual Differences
One important aspect of teaching is providing for individual differences. This can be done in multiple ways including differentiating lessons based on student's needs and providing choice for students. However, I did caution some students on who they chose. I told students that if they cannot find a book on their person, then they should probably switch to someone else so that they will be able to find sufficient, accurate information. During my biography unit, I tried to differentiate and modify the assignment for students that needed modifications and give students a choice in who they chose to research and write a biography on for the unit. For students who needed modification, I changed the number of sources they needed to have. I also did not have students complete one of the graphic organizers to same time. (Some students have to create a chart explaining that they have enough information to write their four square). This allowed those students to focus more on the actual paper rather than on organizing their information in another way.
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A student's biography on Christopher Newport


In addition to simply allowing students to choose, I also continued Word Study with the students. Each week, groups of students would receive differentiated spelling words to sort and study. Students were placed in each group based on a test they took at the beginning of the year. They then receive spelling words based on the group that they were tested in to. This allows students to work on words and spelling strategies that they need. I had four different word study groups in my classroom all working on different words and sorting categories. By differentiating spelling, I, as a teacher, am allowing students the opportunity to work on the skills that they are capable of working on and not overwhelming or holding students back from learning more. I am giving students the chance to grow and learn at their own pace.

In addition to providing differences in writing, I also provided for individual differences in reading as well. During my time student teaching, the fourth grade team was required to complete the DRA assessments again to see how students' independent reading level have changed. During this time, we needed projects for the students to complete. Students used their 'Just Right Book' to complete a reading project of their choice. Students had the
opportunity to choose which project was best for them and best for their book they were reading. To see the project requirements and examples of student work, please visit my book report page.

Finally, our math groups for our math station were also differentiated based on what my cooperating teacher thinks that the students need. At least once a week, math concepts are reinforced by completing station work. Once station in the rotation is working with the teacher in a small group. During this time, I can focus on what each groups needs. If they need direct reinforcement of basic skills, then I can complete math problems that focus on those skills. If students need enrichment through harder math problems, then I can add in more difficult problems and watch my students grow. By placing students in groups, I can truly gauge what students know while providing students individual differences in the level of work that they complete. An example of a group doing a math station with me can be seen to the left.


Actively Engage Students in Learning
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Students Skyped with the weather man.

Throughout my practicum experience, I had the opportunity to see different ways to engage students in learning beyond doing interesting activities in class. I observed a weather unit in the fall. One day the entire fourth grade class had the opportunity to Skype with the meteorologists from Wavy TV, Jeremy Wheeler. They all sat in one of the empty classrooms and listened as he gave us a 'tour' of the weather station. At the end of the lesson, Jeremy took questions from some students.

Also, during my pr
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My student wearing a helmet and vest from Jamestown.
acticum time, I had the opportunity to see a history unit on Jamestown. While I did not have the opportunity to go on the field trip to Jamestown with my students due to scheduling, I was able to observe the Jamestown Outreach Program. A specialist came in and brought materials about Jamestown. The students had the opportunity to learn through hands-on experiences. They had the opportunity to try on things that Englishmen would wear, and learned about how relations between the Native Americans and Englishmen played out.

Throughout my teaching experience, I had to teach some interesting topics like the Civil War, electricity, decimals, and magnetism. I had to find ways to make each and every lesson interesting and engaging for each student no matter what their interests are. To do this I found multiple ways to teach unit to engage every type of learner. For instance, I used BrainPop videos throughout a lesson to show the content in a different way. I found that using BrainPop as a conclusion for a lesson was a great way to present the information in a different way. Also, there were short review quizzes that the students wanted to complete. Therefore, when we had time, we completed the review questions as a class. This not only gave them something interactive to complete, but it provided me with immediate feedback on what they had learned.


I also added movement throughout many lessons to engage those students who learn best by moving around. I completed a decimal race with my students during their decimal unit. They had just learned how to compare and order decimals when I completed this activity. Each table group of students received a stack of decimals. Once I said 'go' each group had to place their decimals in order from least to greatest. Once they were complete they were instructed to do either sky punches or cross crawls. The last group to place their decimals in order or was wrong in their order was out of the race. This type of activity not only engaged student's bodies in the lesson by getting active, it also gave them a chance to interact with one another. I used this activity again during my measurement unit. I used the same setup, but during this activity, students had to convert three problems and then place them in order from least to greatest. A video of one group working through their conversions together and then getting active once they were done can be seen to the right.

I also learned how to use movement and interaction in writing. I completed a prepositional phrase activity with students where they had to tell me where a book was placed around the room. They used phrases like 'by the sink' and 'on the desk' to describe where the book was. Even though this lesson did not include actual exercise moves, it still engaged students since they were moving around the room.

Finally, I also try to engage students by focusing on choral responding when necessary. This often comes into account during math lessons. My students were working hard this year to learn their fast facts and rules for math processes like converting. Once they practiced the rules with me, I would ask the entire class to tell me what steps I should do to complete a conversion. Simple things like this truly made students engaged in a lesson. By giving students a opportunity to be a little louder and to shout out an answer allows them to learn from each other as a group.

Use a Variety of Effective Instructional Strategies
Throughout student teaching I tried to find interesting ways to present lessons to not only engage students but to also give students different ways to understan
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Students focused on prepositions by writing the location of small books placed around the room.
d the content that I was teaching. Using different instructional activities also gives students who need more kinesthetic movement, or more visual learning an opportunity to understand the material that we are learning. Simply moving around the room and talking with other students about a concept seemed to prove to be an effective strategy throughout my time student teaching. During student teaching, I taught a weeks worth of lessons on prepositional phrases. My opening lesson was having students describe where a book was located. I modeled what I wanted by asking them to describe where something was located in our classroom. They traveled around the room in their table groups and described where the book was located. They wrote their phrases in their writing journals. After they had a chance to move around the room, I asked my students to return to their seats and then report what they wrote. Once they were done, I finally told them that they had written prepositional phrases. By using this movement activity, I effectively instructed students on their first day of prepositional phrases and engaged them in the lesson.


Another effective instru
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My students learning about static electricity!
ctional strategy that I used was hands-on activities in science. While students need to have concrete notes in their journal, they also need to see how concepts like electricity and magnetism actually work. During student teaching, I taught a science unit on electricity and magnetism. I tried to find activities that were safe and engaging. Students who learn more visually and kinesthetically could finally 'see' the concepts like static electricity and conductors and insulators. During these activities, I monitored how well students were working in their groups. I also helped the students if they needed extra help. I monitored how safe students were being and reminded them that I am more concerned about their safety than anything else. Luckily, students were so engaged that I did not have to worry about any behavior or safety problems. In addition, this was an effective learning strategy to use because it not only taught students about concepts that we had been studying by making connections between the vocabulary we had learned, but it also engaged students in this lesson.
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Students created circuits and leanred about conductors and insulators.

Promote Critical Thinking Skills
As a teacher, it is always important to promote critical thinking throughout the day. Students should always be engaging with the topics and should always be trying to extend and expand their thinking. I believe that it is my job as a teacher to enhance those moments where students can think critically. For me and my teacher experience, one important way that I enhanced and promoted critical thinking was during my reading lessons. When doing any read aloud, I always used stopping points. This breaks the text into smaller chunks and gives students time to reflect and think about what we read. It also enhances and connects the SOL skills that we should be working on when reading. I also gave student reading prompts to reflect on what we read. This gives students a chance to put their thoughts into writing and gives shy students a chance to put their thoughts into a private journal that only I will read. In addition, I tried to create activities during reading that would allow students to be creative while still summarizing and writing about what we read. To see student work and examples please see my Critical Thinking with Despereaux page.

I also think that critically thinking can be promoted through group or partner activities. I think that when student talk with one another that they can promote each others' thinking. Some students may have questions that other students can answer. I believe that this type of group work and collaborative learning can only enhance a student's experience in school. One activity in which I gave students the opportunity to work together occurred during my measurement unit. I placed construction paper around the room.
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Students had the opportunity to add items that would be measured in Tons in a group.
Each paper had a specific weight measurement on it: ounces, pounds, tons, grams, and kilograms. Students went around the room in groups and added items that would be measured in each of these units. This activity gave the students an opportunity to talk with each other about weight and measurement. In addition, I also used activities like sorts in measurement. During a day of stations, students had the opportunity to work in pairs to sort the pictures into the right category of measurement.
This allowed students to work through the problems together and talk with each other about the concepts.
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Students had the opportunity to work on sorts in groups.
















I believe that if students are always thinking critically, that they will promote their teacher to think critically by asking questions that enhance the teacher's knowledge on a particular subject. I noticed that throughout my time student teaching, that my students were very curious about certain topics. For instance, during my Civil War unit, my students would ask me how certain leaders died. While I did not always have the answer on the spot, I always tried to look up the answers and bring them with me to the next class. In addition, at the beginning on my science unit of electricity and magnetism, students would ask questions that pertained to activities that we were going to do later in the week. This shows me that students and children are always thinking and questioning. As long as I encourage questions and create an environment in which students feel free to ask questions, I know that my students will always be critical thinkers.