Standard B: Delivers Effective Instruction
Demonstrates an adequate knowledge of and approach to the academic content of lessons.
While student teaching at my school, I observed numerous lessons prior to taking over subjects in the classroom. I have seen many lessons that I would call successful, and I have also seen many lessons that could have been adjusted to be more of a success. One specific lesson that really caught my attention was one of the first math lessons for the year. The students had just taken the pre-assessment test the day prior and the teacher was “reviewing” a basic math skill from the first grade. This lesson was on basic addition between 0 and 20. The students had proven to understand this basic addition on their homework the week prior. This lesson required the students to solve word problems in which they had to answer in three ways; labeling their work, writing an equation, and drawing a picture, all of which they should theoretically be coming into second grade already doing. As the lesson unfolded, it was clear that many of the students were lost and the teacher ended up having all the students solve the problems together as a group and the teacher was clearly frustrated with their lack of ability to complete the work on their own.
As I looked around the classroom, some of the students were truly trying to complete the assignment. They were using the manipulatives in a way that would help them solve the problem, they were circling their numbers and underlining what they were counting in the story problem, and they were at least drawing out their pictures. Most of the students, though, were talking to their neighbors or going up to the teacher to ask for more help. The students weren’t misbehaving; they were simply lost and didn’t know what to do or where to go from circling the numbers. There was a clear look of desperation and frustration with the students. One had her head down and another was building a toy gun with the blocks. The teacher caught onto this extremely quickly, and it was then that she decided to complete the sheet as a class.
From this one lesson I learned many things. I was surprised the teacher had decided to skip a directed whole group instruction with the students on the rug, instead she read the first problem to the class and they solved it together on the white board with the students at their desks. If I were to have taught this lesson I would have started the students on the rug and solved the problem using manipulatives to represent the word problem. The teacher had previously explained the rules when using the blocks, but I was surprised with how little the students understood what the blocks meant. This class is made up of English Language Learners so this explanation of the use of manipulatives and why they are using them is extremely important, especially since it was the beginning of the year.
I was impressed with how quickly the teacher adapted her lesson to whole group instruction, quickly gaining back the attention of all the students. She appeared to be very flexible and most importantly she used this lesson as a baseline for the rest of the lessons that week. From the pre-assessment, she knew her students were behind in math, but this lesson showed her how truly behind almost every one of them were. She understood her lesson was failing, and instead of having it be a disaster, she quickly changed course so everyone could learn from it. Once she redirected the students, they were excited to answer and were even able to solve the final two problems on their own. After explaining how to solve these problems, she assigned the final two on the worksheet for homework, if they didn’t finish, and then she used their answers as a framework for her future planning.
If I were to have taught this lesson, I would have made sure I started them on the rug, explaining what we were doing and why. The teacher had the objectives posted on the board, but she never expressed these objectives to the students. I would have also started the lesson off by using manipulatives and scaffolding how to solve a few sample problems together prior to sending them to their seats. Even though this lesson clearly did not go the way she had planned, the teacher was able to quickly adapt, and I feel as though I would have gone about instruction the same way she did. She was teaching her students at a level they should technically be at in second grade, but they merely are not at that level yet.
Eventually she used visuals in a way that was very helpful for the students, she was able to change around some of the vocabulary so they understood what they were reading, and she checked in with each student before they could move on to the next problem. I feel that all of these aspects of the lesson are imperative when teaching a new math concept to students. I really feel like you have to spend the time to make sure that the students understand why they are doing what they are, and not just look for the write answer and picture. Despite the fact the students weren’t able to solve the problems completely on their own, they clearly learned a lot about the topic, and the teacher was able to break the steps down so the students could be successful at the same lesson and then also for the lessons following.