Today was my first day being observed by my content field coordinator, so this post will serve as a reflection of both my lesson and the debriefing I had with him. It will follow the what? so what? now what? format, just like my third blog post.
WHAT?: Today I taught a lesson on evaluating algebraic expressions to first hour. I have to say that I went into it quite nervous, because first hour tends to be a bit challenging when it comes to classroom management. However, I made sure to set goals for myself so that I knew what I was working toward. My goals were to make connections back to the main goals/objectives and vocabulary for the day and to try to keep the students engaged constantly so that I wouldn’t waste time asking for a zero (the system my school uses to get students’ attention). I don’t like to be that teacher who is constantly telling the students to be quiet, or that I need them to stop doing such and such–I think it should be an entire class effort, because it’s their classroom, too.
I taught my lesson and worked through the activity with the students, mostly circulating through the room while they worked to answer questions and monitor their work. The activity had them working in pairs with manipulatives (little cubes of different colors in this case) in which they counted the number of each color cubes they had and let these represent the variables in the algebraic expressions. Their job was to substitute the values they found into the expressions and evaluate them. The two vocabulary words which went with this lesson were substitute and evaluate.
As I reflected with my field coordinator, I realized that I hadn’t done as well with the fulfillment of my “making connections” goal as I would have liked. Although the lesson went well overall, there were opportunities I missed to connect to previous lessons, or even concepts from earlier in the day. I was, however, able to make connections with the vocabulary from the day, as well as spend a relatively small amount of time on getting the students’ attention. You win some and you lose some, I guess.
SO WHAT?: Being able to lead this lesson completely on my own was an amazing experience and showed me that I can do this whole teaching thing! There are definitely aspects I would like to change and improve for future use, but that’s why this observation was so great. I was able to discuss what worked and what didn’t so that I can make the necessary adjustments for next time. The discussions with my coordinator showed me things I forgot (such as referring back to previous concepts which connect) and things that could go more smoothly next time (such as giving the students explicit instructions and tasks so that there is no question, and no reason for them to be off task) as to what they are supposed to be doing. Sometimes we become so absorbed in the teaching that we don’t pick up on the little things in the classroom that may be causing a distraction or may not be clear to students. It’s nice to have the opportunity to be observed so that I know what is going on in all areas of the room when my eyes and ears are with other students.
NOW WHAT?: Two areas I really want to focus on are classroom management and explicit instructions. I have a feeling that the explicit instructions will help address some of the classroom management, so I’ll start there. Students seemed to be a little confused when I was going through the worksheet, so next time I would be sure to pass that out first before going through it, but without the manipulatives so they aren’t tempted to start before hearing the instructions. If I can go through an example with them, then they will have a model to at least base their work upon, even though our answers won’t be exactly the same due to the variation in colored blocks. Also, when students were at the board writing their answers, I need to give the other students a task so that chatting doesn’t become a temptation. As far as classroom management, I’d really like to try out some different methods of getting (and keeping) the students’ attention. That way, they’re less likely to engage in side conversations. I’m not sure what these methods are yet, but I will be doing my research and trying them out so that I can report back!
This experience was more than helpful and I feel so much more prepared to teach even from that one observation. Having a second set of eyes to monitor your lesson and classroom skills is a lifesaver!!