My study of elementary content knowledge can be traced all the way back to my own elementary experience. As a graduate of elementary school and an experienced Standards of Learning test taker, I can say that I have a firm grasp of the content that Virginia’s elementary-aged students are expected to learn. This knowledge, along with higher level coursework, served me well as I took the Praxis II: Elementary Content Knowledge exam, earning a Recognition of Excellence award, scoring in the top 15% of test takers.

My dedication to school work started in elementary school and continued through middle school, high school, college, and now graduate school. This has helped me understand how a strong elementary education foundation is vital to success in higher education. As we see clearly written out in the Standards of Learning, each grade level builds on knowledge acquired by students in the previous years, getting more complicated each year. I recognize how important it is to see, academically, from where the students are coming and where they will be going. This is why it is essential for a teacher to have a solid grasp on elementary content knowledge from PreK through sixth grade in a wide range of subjects.

Another essential element for effective teaching is to have pedagogical knowledge. Our entire fall semester was focused on teaching each individual subject. We had a course and a practicum experience focused on the pedagogy of each elementary discipline (math, science, English, and social studies), with an additional course for educational technology. We not only reviewed content that Virginia students are expected to know, but we also learned the most effective ways to teach this content. Worksheets and lectures were not in our vocabulary during these courses. Hands-on manipulation, diversified learning, and multiple intelligences became our new, favorite keywords instead.
My experience in each content area:

Math

I have always been interested in math. Although it can be challenging, it is always so exciting to finally understand a new concept and to feel confident about using it. I was just as excited to earn a perfect score in the math section of the Praxis II this year as I was to learn my multiplication tables when I was eight. There is something so empowering about mastering a mathematical concept; I cannot wait to help my future students have this same feeling.

Helping students understand the reasoning behind all math concepts, especially algorithms, is essential to their success in higher level math. For example, students need to know why we use PEMDAS when solving a mathematical equation. They need to know how multiplication of multi-digit numbers works before they can simply use the lattice method. Building this type of understanding will benefit students as they delve into more complicated, abstract math.

I taught a telling time unit to my first grade class using many forms of manipulatives. After I introduced the concept of telling time I let the students make their own clocks with paper plates. We used these to practice telling time. The students had made the clocks with their own hands and were more interested in learning to use them than they would have been if I had simply demonstrated telling time without letting them play with the clocks. I did incorporate a big, demonstration clock to show time concepts (like the minutes and hour hands moving in unison), and I gave each student a small version of my large demonstration clock. These hands-on clocks kept the students engaged and gave them beneficial practice.

Coursework: Algebra I and II, Trigonometry, IB Math Studies, Quantitative Reasoning

Science

Hands-on learning is easily incorporated into science. This gives science great potential for being exciting and memorable for students whose strongest intelligence is kinesthetic learning and it makes it easier for teachers to diversify learning for all students. There are so many different branches of science that students can become involved in, especially in high school and college when they are able to pick their preferred science discipline. It is the teacher’s duty to expose students to as many interesting science experiences as possible to get them excited about learning more.

I taught a two-week unit on matter. This was such an engaging unit that the students could not wait to get to each day. Their excitement about this unit made me excited to teach it. The students loved the hand-on experiments and demonstrations. We focused on the different forms of matter (solid, liquid, and gas) and we also focused on how different forms of matter act (dissolving, evaporating, melting, etc.). One example of an engaging demonstration is when we made Jello to observe how matter can change drastically. The solid Jello powder dissolves very fast in the hot, liquid water and then turns into a solid gel as it sits in the refrigerator. An example of how the students used hands-on experiments is when we had a race to see if the cold or hot water would dissolve the sugar faster. This "competetive" experiment helped the students remember if hot or cold water dissolves matter faster because they remembered who won.

Coursework: Physics, IB Biology, IB Chemistry, Astronomy, Dynamic Atmosphere and Hydrosphere Earth Science.

Social Studies

There are so many aspects of Social Studies and so little time! My favorite part of Social Studies has always been languages and culture, and local history. Being a global citizen, and recognizing and accepting differences in our ever-shrinking world has always captured my attention. I love learning new languages. In addition to English, I have studied Spanish, Chinese, German, and Irish. Learning about the culture and history of a language is one of the most interesting aspects of studying a language.

Students in Virginia have the added benefit of being surrounded by some of the oldest historical sites of the United States. I had many early, long-lasting impressions of social studies, Virginia history, and U.S. history from my school field trips to historical Jamestown and Monticello, and countless trips to museums in Washington, D.C. It has been so interesting to be student teaching in a school that is located less than 10 miles from the Jamestown settlement. It has opened my eyes to embracing the local history and using it as a teaching tool. Events in history can seem so far away and untouchable to students living in the present, especially for young students still developing a sense of time. It is important to make history and social studies relatable.

Coursework: IB Spanish, Chinese, U.S. History, World History, Global Affairs, Democratic Theory and Practice, Human Religious Experience, German, Intercultural Communication, Ancient Mesoamerica, Sociology of Religion, Free Speech and Ethics, Sociology, Spirituality and Healing.

English
Reading is something that I took for granted before I started my graduate coursework in the subject. Although I had been a substitute for Reading Specialists in Fairfax County, I did not realize how involved the act of reading is. Our coursework at William and Mary has a strong emphasis toward reading. This is understandable because reading provides students a gateway to all other content areas.

Coursework: IB English, Advanced Composition, Public Communication, Interpersonal Communication, Mass Communication, Case Studies in Persuasion.

Technology

Tehcnology has been rapidly developing and influencing education since I was in elementary school. I learned how to type correctly, use the internet for research, etc. while I was in elementary school. I remember when our overhead projectors were replaced with SMART Board interactive white boards. Technology is developing at an even faster pace right now and it is important to stay informed about helpful classroom technology. Please visit my Educational Technology page to learn more about my use of technology in the classroom.

Technology can have many useful, educational purposes, but when it is used incorrectly it can be distracting and time consuming. I firmly believe that technology should only be used to enhance a lesson and should never detract from it. To avoid this, a teacher should practice all new technology and make sure to have a back-up plan.

Art

I have always enjoyed making art in my spare time and during academic activities. When incorporated into a lesson effectively, art is something that visual and kinesthetic learners will benefit from. It is engaging and can add depth to a lesson.

First grade is a perfect place to incorporate a lot of art work. For example, during a language arts lesson on visualization I told the students to close their eyes and visualize what they were hearing in the song “What a Wonderful World” by Louis Armstrong. They then drew the picture they saw in their mind (blue skies, red roses, etc.). Many students enjoy having a creative outlet. It makes learning more interesting when the focus is not directly focused on the content the entire lesson.

Health
Much like it should be in life, health is a subject that can be incorporated into many disciplines. As students learn about the world around them, they should be encouraged to make their own world a healthy one. Health relates to physical and emotional health.

I incorporate movement into the whole school day to encourage healthy physical activity and to help keep the students focused. We occasionally take a hokey-pokey dance break or practice counting by 2s, 5s, and 10s with some kinesthetic movement attached. Each morning we practice our Word Study words by spelling them. As the students say each letter, we match it with a movement (sky punches, lunges, etc.).

In my substitute teaching experience with Fairfax County Public Schools, I modeled my relationship with students on the other teachers I observed. These teachers call their students “friends”, which encouraged a caring community where everyone belongs. I incorporated this into my student teaching placement and the students told me they were not all friends. I used this as a teaching moment to let them know that we are all expected to be friendly and treat each other with respect so we are, in fact, all friends. We have a guidance lesson with the school counselor once every two weeks. The counselor will either do her own lesson or take suggestions from the teachers regarding social difficulties they are having in their classrooms.