I have provided an example from each discipline to demonstrate my teaching skills.



Social Studies:

Language Arts:

Knowing the students is the best way to provide for individual differences in the classroom. My placement class did not have any students with Individualized Education Plans but I was able to review actual IEPs and observe various service delivery models that students with special needs in an inclusion classroom setting receive to learn more about the best ways to work with students with special needs.

I did have a few English language learners in my class. I made sure to cater to their language needs by changing my instruction for the whole class. I always made sure to use a lot of visuals while instructing the entire class, such as a big book or models and examples of the content we were working on. I also made sure to have the students “remind me” of what we had just learned. By having the students repeat their understanding of the content they refreshed their own minds and they helped the students who might not have caught the content the first time around. We also used a lot of partner work to talk about our knowledge in a different way. A student’s peers are a great tool to use when you are trying to reach them on their level. In most cases, the modifications made for students with special needs can help all students, no matter their ability level.

I also had a handful of students who consistently perform on a higher level than the other first graders. It is a good idea to extend the content in the lessons for “gifted” students, even if the other students do not catch on or remember that content. Content can be extended in many ways. One example is to throw out some more challenging questions during informal and formal assessments (questioning for understanding as a group, adding some challenge questions to a formal assessment or activity paper, etc.). Since these students usually finish first, having an extra, extension activity for them to do will help. Having the students who are finished with their work quiz each other in partners on the content will keep them engaged and occupied, or having them help other students who might be struggling. That peer attention is very helpful to the students who need help and also to the students who finish early. Pushing one group of students will push the whole group forward. As long as everyone meets the expectations I set, adding some additional expectations for students will not disrupt anyone, and might in fact help them.

Engaging the students with fun activities promotes and extends learning but will also act as a goal or reward for the completion of other content-rich activities. The unit I taught on matter was full of rewarding activities. It was a two-week unit and I knew the students would become bored with the material if I did not take the engagement factor to the next level. I incorporated fun activities to motivate students and actively engage them in the material. We did activities like “dissolving” and “melting” Hershey Kisses in our mouths, making and eating the Jello we had dissolved, making rootbeer floats to experience all three types of matter, and repeating fun demonstrations like letting the air out of a balloon and watching it fly around the room. I incorporate motivational and engaging activities throughout the entire week, but Fridays are reserved for at least one extra-fun activity, like when we made “Solar S’mores” to experience how the sun’s energy can be harnessed as a natural resource to make s’mores.

Students need to be engaged at all times because their attention spans are short and limited. To accomplish this in first grade means having different, engaging activities every 10-20 minutes depending on the activity and the student. This means having two to four different activities per lesson. Using different instructional strategies to break up each lesson can help accomplish this. In first grade, a good book can always be used to engage students and I am partial to using a book at the beginning of a lesson to give the students a frame of reference of the content we will be learning about. Whole group discussion can be used along with partner-talk, when the students are able to turn to a partner and, with prompting, talk about the content. Hands-on experiences are always welcome in my classroom, along with engaging demonstrations or videos. The students love making things, whether it is a craft they can bring home and share with their families (they are always encouraged, and occasionally assigned, to share what they have learned because it helps promote a strong memory of the content), or a tool that will help them continue learning (like a clock they can use to learn how to tell time). Varying the instructional strategies and incorporating as many as possible into each lesson, will keep the students engaged and help them learn more effectively and efficiently.

The best way to promote critical thinking skills is to build the students’ self-confidence. To accomplish this, a teacher needs to provide appropriate scaffolding for each student. It should also be an accepted notion that being wrong is not considered failure. This relates back to the need to create a caring classroom environment where students are not afraid to voice their opinions or try answering a question they find difficult.

One example of an activity that promotes critical thinking is Problem Based Learning (PBL). PBL is commonly used in social studies in upper-elementary, but has the ability to be applied to any discipline. The students are given a situation story with limited background information and are asked to solve a problem. They are encouraged to look deeper into the story to make inferences. The story is designed in such a way that the students end up arriving at the content that you intended them to learn about. The teacher acts as a “facilitator” instead of the “sage on the stage”. They guide the students to realizations and connections about the intended content. The students are developing their critical thinking skills and learning the material in a more effective way than if the teacher just told them about it.

This activity is hard, but not impossible, to use in lower-elementary. I modified the expectations of the PBL and applied it to a lesson on social justice for a first grade class.