End of Year Reflection

 

Over the school year, I have been going through my own learning process as to what I need to do in my EAL position. There has been some growth, but I also realise that this is my first year back in EAL after being a homeroom teacher at my last school, and it is my first year at a new school, ISB. There have been the grade level goal and the EAL team goal to work on this year as well as various new systems to learn and use for my current position. With all that being said, I am not mentioning these to make up any excuse as a teacher as to why my Tripod goal may or may not have developed over the year, but to say how the reflective process by journaling my learning journey has helped keep me on track of my teaching/learning goal and move forward.

 

Reflection is an on-going part of the learning process. It happens at different parts of the journey so that we can modify and improve different components along the way and grow from the experience. Since I’ve been making little tweaks to my teaching practice since the first Tripod survey in the fall of 2018, I was expecting some improvement in the results in the Spring 2019 survey. Well, yes and no, but I’ll get to that later. When I compared the results, I had improved in three areas – Care, Confer and Challenge, but I did not improve in my chosen focus area, Consolidation. In fact, I had dropped 30 points when I compared the data. How could this be so? Part of it may lie with the survey and the audience it was designed for gathering the data. The survey has some questions that have a stronger connection to a teacher being the homeroom teacher. One of the consolidation questions states, “We learn a lot almost every day.” Unfortunately, I am not in the class I tested every day and I am certainly not with the students the whole day. I can understand why my targeted class placed this as being low. Not being in class everyday also means that I cannot talk about things that they have already learned since the lessons I come into are often different to the ones had covered from seeing the students earlier in the week. Another point I need to consider is that I do not always work with the whole class. My role has me working with targeted students, or with a group of students during the lesson. I have also done whole-class teaching throughout the year with my targeted class, but once again, I have always gone back to the whole class lesson the next day to help the students consolidate the previous lesson from the day before. Have I concentrated on certain skills and consolidated learning with my targeted students? I believe I have over the year. There have been groups of students whom I have worked with on areas such as developing reading fluency and we have worked on similar skills such as using punctuation to phrase sentences, using an appropriate voice for characters, and re-reading to help with book comprehension. I have checked with students before they have finished with the group to state the skills they need to continue working on, or I have started the group session by asking students to name a skill we had covered in the previous lesson. We have played games at the start of lessons in phonics to check our understanding of concepts covered previously. However, these forms of consolidation are not clear from the targeted group I surveyed. Even though some of the results have gone down, not up, in the survey comparisons, the surveys have made me think deeper about my teaching skill set and helped me to focus on certain skills throughout the year.

 

Another point that has come out of this year’s reflection pilot is that the Tripod Survey is focused on teaching and learning. One of the areas I felt that I needed to develop this year was on the area of co-teaching. Although I have made some developments as a co-teacher, writing a reflective journal on the process of my learning, creating set plans and outlining the steps I would need to take would have been very valuable to me as a co-teacher. It would also have been inclusive as I would have had to share this plan with the homeroom teachers I work with and the teams (Elementary School Grade and EAL Team) I work with at school. It is a point I will need to further think about for the next school year.

 

The question I need to ask myself is, “How can I ensure that I do have a targeted group that will give me back the data I require as a specialist teacher?” One thing I could try next year is to pull out certain students whom I work with on a semi-regular basis and have them complete the survey. I could also contact Tripod Survey and have them include a variety of survey questions that I would like the students to answer. Tailoring the questions to the culture and the job position I currently hold would give me more relevant and realistic feedback that will inform me and help me to interpret areas of strength and weakness. It would be best to have a colleague go through the self-developed questions with me so that the questions can be as objective as possible.

 

To sum, I have found the Tripod survey a mixed bag for me. I have found the information of use and I feel the surveys have helped me centre on teaching/learning skills that require further developing. I would change some of the questions and the target group so that the data I get back would be of greater use to me as a teacher in my class support position. The ultimate take-away from the pilot program is that I have felt in control of my individual professional development and by journaling on the process it has made me look reflectively at my own practices in the classroom. The pilot program is in its first year and there will be a few changes made along the way. Ultimately, however, I do feel that using a reflective journal is a valid and worthwhile practice in schools and it will help teachers to focus on productive and effective growth as professionals.

Practices Change Over Time

4 – 24thApril

Late blog from April  2019

In Grade 2 there have been some changes that we have made as a team. The students have been placed into phonics groups and each teacher is given a group of students for phonics learning and activities. I’m quite happy that I have a constant group of students for whom I can develop lessons/activities that we can do because I can work on the art of consolidation. The group I am working with are concentrating on phonic blends. It is still a work in progress, but since consolidation of learning is at the forefront of my mind, I often start the lesson by engaging the students in a fun activity based on a phonics blend they have learned from the previous lesson. It might be something simple such as, “Turn to a partner and share a ‘gl’ word and use it in a sentence”, or we play a game such as ‘Mix, Pair, Share’ so the students can listen to each other on what they know about the last blend they learned from the previous phonics class.

 

The consolidation component is also making me think about the exit tickets I use before the students leave the class. The phonics group time seems rushed because the students are coming from six different Grade 2 classes and we do not always start right on time. But I do try to have the students leave by telling me about a new word they had learned that day, saying three words of a certain blend, or sharing their skill for remembering a certain word. It is still a teaching/learning process in development, but now that it is in my sights, I am better aware to include it in the lessons/activities.

 

Taking Steps Forward… After a Little Research

I have taken a few steps forward on how I can bring a healthier level of consolidation into the lessons and activities I do with students. After doing some research I noticed there are a lot of ideas out there. Some of the resources I found were ‘quick fix’ activities such as a sheet I downloaded listing ideas that I could use straight away. Ideas such as having the students do a mini quiz or a ‘KWL’ chart with the students to refer them to the notes made earlier in the unit and giving students a mini quiz were just some of the ideas. However, although I like to have some activities up my sleeve for when I need them it made me think that not all of the consolidation strategies suited my current EAL situation. I also wanted to find out a little more about consolidation so I could best use it with my students.

 

My search for resources better connected to my current situation did not take long. Luckily, my Assistant Principal (Thanks, Frances!), sent me a link to the BloomBoard webpage.

 

Bloomboard

 

First Five Minutes – Last Five Minutes

 

On the webpage I found a section titled, ‘Consolidate: Review and Summarizing’ and a short video titled, ‘First Five Minutes – Last Five Minutes’. The video is short, but it gave me some considerations. Do my opening routines have a purpose? Am I allowing my lessons/activities to explicitly state the lesson objectives so the students know exactly what they should be consolidating? The video also stated that entry and exit tickets should foster student independence and help the teacher check their level of understanding. The end of the video made me consider that the end of my lesson should help students synthesise and solidify learning, help them to reflect on progress and set up the next clear steps to take.

 

I returned to the question, ‘how can I ensure my opening routines have purpose?’ Our school has been inviting a specialist on dual language, José Medina, to help teachers utilise a biliteracy framework. José has mentioned how important it is for teachers to create authentic learning and state the content, language and cultural objective to students before a lesson/activity. This is an aspect I have been aspiring to do in my lessons, but I need to ensure I do it in all of them. I must admit that it is easier to have the students connect to the content, language and culture objective during the lesson when they are written on the board. I will also need to ensure I help the students make the connection to past learning experiences to help them see connections in their learning. As well, I need to consider how students can make personal and cultural connections to the activities.

 

José Medina – C6 Biliteracy Instructional Framework

From www.newamerica.org

 

Currently, the EAL team is reading a book by Wiley Blevins, “A Fresh Look at Phonics.” In the book Blevins states the need to add review skills to the students’ word lists each day, in the dictation exercises and generally reviewing new skills should be purposeful and systematic for a set number of weeks (Blevin, 2017). Although it is still in the works, the Grade 2 team are focusing on the students’ phonics skills and after a talk I had last week with some of the Grade 2 team, it is highly important to review phonics skills as regularly as possible. Blevins outlines some review techniques in his book and I will use some of them to help students with consolidation. I am considering how best to use entry and exit tickets so that I get enough feedback from students to know consolidation is occurring and the students (and I) know the next step to take. When I was a homeroom teacher it was almost second nature to put in a reflection time with each lesson, but I am not finding that I am doing this as an EAL teacher. I need to go back to basics and ensure this important time is given to the students, either at the end of the lesson, or to review the past lesson’s concepts at the next lesson.

A picture of Wiley Blevins’ book on phonics

 

References

Blevins, W. (2017). A Fresh Look at Phonics. Common Causes of Failure and 7 Ingredients for Success. Thousand Oaks, California: Corwin Literacy

 

Bloomboard. Retrieved from https://bb1.bloomboard.com/users/tripod-educationpartners/collections/consolidate-reviewing-and-summarizing/80e042c8-f0ee-4448-b625-3e825f82ebe6

 

José Medina – C6 Biliteracy Instructional Framework. Retrieved from https://www.newamerica.org/education-policy/edcentral/interview-with-dr-josé-medina-on-the-c6-biliteracy-instructional-framework/

The Results Are In!

The survey result has arrived and it has given me a few things to think about as a teacher and as a learner. One of the areas that the survey data highlighted is the area of consolidation – helping students to integrate and synthesise key ideas. I remember one of my previous Heads of School telling me that he believed a ‘rigorous education’ involved students making the connection of concepts between subjects. He gave the example of when he took a running observation of a Grade 11 student moving from a Math class to a Science class and noticed that the student did not make the connection of the same concept that was being covered between the two subjects, or the connection between connected concepts that were covered in the two subject areas. When I was a homeroom teacher, I did have opportunities to have class discussions to allow students opportunities to talk about what they have learned, but that has not been the norm for me as an EAL teacher in my current setting. For one thing, I think it is difficult for the homeroom teachers to put aside consistent time to consolidate concepts when there is a high expectation for the teachers to cover all the curriculum components expected in Elementary School. Therefore, it is going to be difficult for me to request time from some homeroom teachers so the students can consolidate the concepts I am covering. Although there may be limitations to how many occasions I can set up for student consolidation times I can explicitly add the discussion times in for students for whom I do co-teacher planning. As well, I can request to direct the revision discussion or activity reflection when I am in that class for a lesson. Lastly, I can check with the co-teacher on whether I will be in the class straight after a concept has been covered from a previous lesson.

 

 

Here are some other ideas I am considering in order for me to help students consolidate learning:

 

  • Have the beginner students consolidate their learning each time we meet
  • Explicitly organise times to consolidate in the planning times with the co-teacher
  • Research better ways to consolidate – Feedback from visual learning and the use of reflection posters

 

For my next entry I am hoping to find some resources on how I can help students to consolidate.

Let’s Start With a Few Thoughts

This year, I have returned to an English as an Additional Language (EAL) teacher role and it has been an exciting move as well as one with its own challenges. The Elementary School’s EAL team has some flexibility in how EAL teachers can perform as teachers with the main view being, we are co-teachers in the classroom. There is some time put aside for students that need pull-out activities during the day, but for the most part I will be working with three other homeroom teachers as a co-teacher. This situation has caused me to reflect mainly on how we, the Grade 2 team, can make this work. Here are some thoughts I have been considering:

 

Care:

To help address ‘Care’ from Tripod’s Seven Cs Framework, how will I ensure individual students in each class are monitored and responded to for their learning needs? What are the considerations to make sure this happens?

 

Confer:

All of the home teachers I work with are different and we all wish to do the best for our learners. A certain level of conferring is required during the learning process so that teachers are getting feedback from the students and planning or revising activities accordingly to help them learn. Conferring with students when you are a home room teacher can be easier in some ways because you are at the helm of a unit of study, therefore; you have a better understanding of when to implement times during the unit to gather feedback from students. Even though I am a co-teacher, the amount of time I am with the class is limited and trying to keep a pulse of what is happening in different classes may be difficult. I will have to think of ways to ensure conferring is happening with the students so that timely feedback is given or planning is modified for the learners.

 

Tomorrow, the students will do the Tripod surveys so the data will give me a better insight into which of the 7cs I can concentrate on over the year.

© 2019 Derek Markey

Theme by Anders NorenUp ↑