editing disabled

There are many components that one needs to become a successful educator. In order to create an environment in which learning can occur, an educator needs to know how to manage a classroom. In order to reach students, an educator needs to know how to communicate with different kinds of student populations and how to motivate and scaffold learning for many different kinds of students. I feel I have gained both of these abilities through my applied experiences and my undergraduate studies in psychology. But I believe that without content knowledge of the areas taught in addition to these other qualities, an individual cannot be an effective educator.

Through my own years of education, I have experienced a variety of educational approaches that have both served my needs as well as those that have fallen short of helping me and others to progress in our educations. But from both kinds of experiences, I believe I have grown. Formally, I have developed my understanding of content areas including language arts, mathematics, social studies, science, art, and health through my instruction and coursework at The College of William and Mary where I was trained by a fantastic faculty of experienced and knowledgeable educators. While earning my Masters of the Arts in Education, I had coursework specifically dedicated to the subject areas of language arts, mathematics, social studies, and science, but my experiences within these disciplines were far-reaching into other areas as well.

Language Arts:
Having once been a child who struggled with learning to read, I have a special fondness for seeing students succeed in furthering their development of this particular content area. Reading and writing, as well as skills in verbal communication, are so vital to the rest of a person’s education whether they be five or fifty years old. These are skills that are required across all content areas in order to display knowledge and understanding as well as opinions, creations, thoughts, and ideas clearly and effectively.

Within my coursework, I studied Language Arts under Professor Kristin Schweitzer, who is both a teacher and a reading recover specialist. During this course I gained a great deal of knowledge that I am able to transfer into my classroom setting. Using such text as Teaching for Comprehension and Fluency: Thinking, Talking, and Writing about Reading, K-8 by I. C. Fountas and G. S. Pinnell and Words Their Way by D. R. Bear, M. Invernizzi, S. Templeton, and F. Johnston, I gained a great deal of insight on the best ways to teach students how to successfully read and comprehend as well as how to assess students to make sure that they are working at their “just right” levels.

Some of the teaching strategies which I have gathered from these text include the use of running records to assess students for their progress in reading and to use as a tool when helping students select appropriate text. I have learned how an effective guided reading group can be organized and had the opportunity to implement this approach in the daily schedule of my student teaching position. Interactive read-alouds have also become something I use with my student not only in language arts but in other subjects to connect reading to learning in all content areas. This lesson was written during my practicum experience in fall 2008 when I had the opportunity to do an interactive read aloud as part of a read/write/think aloud in Mrs. Burwell’s third grade classroom at Rawls Byrd Elementary. To move beyond just interactive read-alouds, I have also learned about and participated in a small-group literature discussion in which I was part of a short-term book club reading one shared text and one additional text to add to the group experience.

In the fall of 2008, I gave a kindergarten student an Observation Survey(OS) assessment to determine what sort of language arts instruction would begin to benefit her, and I administered a Reading Inventory for the Classroom to a fifth grade student to determine her reading level and comprehension ability. After administering the OS, I additionally administered a Spelling Inventory from Words Their Way and then worked with the kindergarten student through eight one-on-one sessions using many techniques specifically targeted to her needs, such as developing initial letter sound recognition. To culminate our time together, I created a game based on a Words Their Way approach about initial letter sounds using one of her favorite cartoon character, Spongebob. As you can see in the photograph below, this game was created to be fun and motivating while still helping the student to learn.

Throughout my student teaching, I worked with my students in both whole-group and small-group settings in which I was able to focus on the specific needs of the group. I created activities for guided reading and read-alouds while also following the reading program that was in place at Rawls Byrd Elementary called Storytown. I worked with certain students on a more individual basis during out rest/intervention time to really focus on their specific needs. Additionally, my cooperating teacher and I worked together on continuing the success of the class Home-Readers program in which students bring independent level materials home to read aloud with their families/guardians.

To me, mathematics is so much more than numbers, figures, and rules. Mathematics provides students with challenging problem solving concepts and skills which will be applied for the rest of their lives. As a student, I have studies Honors Algebra I and II, Honors Geometry, and Honors Pre-calculus. While studying psychology during my undergraduate education, statistics was an important part of my coursework as I developed experimental approaches and analyzed results to test for significance. But my coursework at The College of William and Mary under Dr. Margie Mason was the most beneficial formal training I have received in mathematics instruction for elementary school students. During this course I read a great deal of information contained within the Principles and Standards for School Mathematics produced by the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics. Within the course setting, I participated with other educators in experiencing the use of many different kinds of manipulatives to move students from concrete to conceptual and finally to abstract application of an idea. As part of my graduate experience, I was fortunate enough to participate in the 12th Annual Tidewater Team Math Day held at The College of William and Mary at which I gained a variety of approaches to such topics as teaching fractions and decimals. I was even given additional training on the use of Cognitively Guided Instruction outside of my course setting when I participated in a staff development session dedicated to the topic, which was held at Rawls Byrd Elementary by Mrs. Donna Higgins, a local elementary math specialist.

Within my practicum setting, I worked with small groups of kindergarten students in problem solving mini-lessons. As you can see in this activity, not all problem solving requires the manipulation of numbers, which was extremely useful when working with students with mixed abilities and background knowledge of numerals. In this activity, students had to try to color the shapes that composed an image using three different colors but not allow any shapes of the same color to touch. Also during my practicum, I created a lesson which involved the whole class in counting and creating a large group-made bar graph to display information. I continued to work with these students in my student teaching, and mathematics was the very first subject of which I took control. I created a variety of lessons and activities which involved physical, hands-on learning using meaningful manipulatives, such as this lesson I created in which students used all of their knowledge about pennies and nickels to make purchases in a classroom store I set up. In the picture below, you can see some of my students after they participated in the class store lesson. This lesson was especially motivating for my students because they got to actually keep the items that they bought with real money I had given to them for the activity. As an educator, I continue to seek the best ways to challenge my students to develop deep, meaningful understandings of mathematics.

Social Studies:
Social Studies is an area of focus close to my heart because it is centered around people. I have always had an interest in how people think and behave, which is what drew me so much to the study of psychology. My interest in this topic has been further supported by my time spent studying abroad in Japan, where I studied Japanese anthropology, and this past year as I have lived in the Japanese community and worked for the Japanese public school system. During my undergraduate education, I also attended the Seminar on Culturally Competent Psychology held at Rutgers University in New Brunswick in which I learned about working with individuals from other ethnic and racial backgrounds, particularly those who come from countries in which the cultural mentality is that of we such as Japan and India, rather than a mentality of I, which is the norm in America.

The specific course work I took at The College of William and Mary was taught by Dr. Gail McEachron, whose passion for this subject is evident within moments of speaking with her. In this course, I worked cooperatively with two other future educators in my cohort group to create a Culture Kit about the culturally ignored country of Sri Lanka. This culture kit (Note: This is a very large file that may take a long time to load.) is composed of four lesson plans and four smaller artifact studies, which vary in topics from using culturally significant sites and man-made structures in Sri Lanka to teach early map skills to examining the difference between wants and needs through the medium of Sanni masks to even learning about the ways people in Sri Lanka eat and dress which is unique from our own culture’s. It also includes a great deal of background information about the country to help an educator build their own background knowledge before teaching the unit.

In addition to this internationally relevant material, I created a lesson that was very relevant to America specifically during the fall of 2008. This lesson I created and implemented in my kindergarten placement focused on students learning about the presidential election. I drew in language arts by doing an interactive read-aloud of the book Otto Runs for President by Rosemary Wells, which provided students with background knowledge about participating in the election process, and then provided my students with the opportunity to experience the election process by holding a class election for a pretend new school mascot.

Personally, science is the content area about which I feel the most enthusiastic. There is just so much to explore within the field of science, and there is nothing more exciting than seeing a child’s eyes light up with wonder as they discover and understand something new about the world in which they live through inquiry. As a young student, I recall the ways in which science allowed me to display my knowledge through my artistic and special abilities by making models such as plant cells from food or creating figures of deep sea-vent tube worms and even learning about force and motion through designing and then constructing a marble rollercoaster and a catapult. I had my interest in science once again stimulated during my undergraduate studies when I took a three-part course called Honors Seminar in Science, which was taught cooperatively by three professors from the fields of biology, earth science, and astronomy.

When I studied at The College of William and Mary, I took a course with Dr. Juanita Jo Matkins who is currently the president of the Virginia Association of Science Teachers. Under this skilled educator, I learned about creating inquiry lessons in which the learning is guided by students but facilitated by the teacher through the creation of hands-on inquiry experiences and critical thinking questions. I learned how to create a lesson that focuses on the five “Es” of inquiry, including engagement, exploration, explanation, extension, and evaluation. This lesson was one I helped create for use in my kindergarten placement and taught cooperatively with two other members of my cohort group. Within it, students got to extend their initial exploration of taste and smell in a small-group activity by examining how their tongues can taste different flavors depending on the section of their tongues used. With this same group of cohorts, we created a Discovery Circus, which is a wonderful way of allowing students to explore several concepts in a scientific topic that also has a connection to social studies. As a culminating activity in this class, I once again worked cooperatively with another future educator to create a kindergarten module dedicated to the five senses. This module includes a schedule of activities, eight lesson outlines (four of which are complete), rationale for the choices we made,stories of implementation, and scoring rubrics and other needed visual materials. While completing this course with Dr. Matkins, I participated in the 2009 Virginia Association of Science Teacher’s State Conference held in Hampton, VA. While there, I learned a great deal about how to teach different topics in science as well as learning about available resources such as conservation centers and different supply companies.

Within my student teaching placement, I created and implemented a Magnets Science Circus, which did not share the focus on social studies that is contained within a discovery circus, but still allowed students to investigate multiple concepts about the topic of magnets. Students were thrilled to share what they had learned about magnets with friends and family at our school’s Science and Mathematics Night where we displayed a poster with photos of the class investigating the different stations and invited visitor to be scientists like we were. Please see the photo below to view the poster we presented. Creating scientific works of art are also an exciting part of the science lessons I created in my student teaching placement, and I believe that this makes the concept connections even stronger.

Perhaps the area in which I have the strongest background from my personal education is visual art. I studied art all through high school including AP Studio Art and even being selected for the prestigious Governor’s School of the Arts Program in New Jersey during the summer of my rising senior year. During university, I earned a bachelor's degree in studio art with a concentration in fine metalworking and jewelry-making while also studying print-making, 2D design, 3D design, color theory, sumi-e (ink painting in Japan), drawing/life drawing, and a varied collection of art history courses. My training has made me keenly aware of the power visual images can have and the importance that they are relevant, meaningful, and clearly understood when used for educational purposes.

In my coursework at The College of William and Mary, I was able to work with other educators to create lessons which incorporated both visual and instrumental art. While constructing our Culture Kit (please see link under Social Studies), we created a lesson that required students to learn about the art form of Sanni masks, which represent illness in Sri Lankan culture. After considering the difference between wants and needs, students create their own version of a Sanni mask. Also from this culture kit, students learn about one form of Sri Lankan music created by the Bera Geta drum within this artifact. After listening to its sounds and seeing a video of a dancer moving to its music, students can create their own drums and move their bodies to the rhythms they create. To listen to the music selection used in this artifact, please click here.

As I mentioned before, I believe that art can be incorporated into learning. On a regular basis, the students in my classroom used art to illustrate their own writing. They used it to help them decipher text in books or make predictions in stories. We have even made art projects such as pinwheels and windsocks as we studied wind-related weather and created collages to display our knowledge about the parts of plants. Please see the photographs below to see our windsock creations.

While teaching, I use my ability to draw as a constant tool and motivator. When I can ask a struggling student who has lost focus on a lesson about spending money what sort of pet they want, draw it, ask them what to feed the pet, draw it, and then have that student label how they would divide up ten cents to buy and feed that pet, I feel that I have successfully used my ability to motivate and refocus that student. This photograph displays just such an activity I did during a mathematics lesson in which students were practicing spending an amount of money no greater than ten cents. Students in my classroom also took their learning outside of our room into the art classroom where they extended their knowledge about recycling by creating works of art that were constructed from recycled materials.

Health and Wellness:
All students need to be able to remain active in order to stay healthy and keep their minds and bodies sharp, but this idea could not be any truer than it is for elementary school students. Physical education and nutrition are important components of their school lives. Within my student teaching setting, we participated in the Student Health Initiative Project (http://www.wjcc.k12.va.us/content/admin/studentservices/ship/index.html) also known as SHIP. Every other week, Ms. Tammy Underwood worked with my students while also sharing ideas with teachers about incorporating physical activities and healthy eating into general classroom lessons. As another part of this initiative, our school had daily morning stretches, which I helped demonstrate for the students.

I encouraged student movement during learning, such as this lesson in which students were learning about magnets in science. After developing background knowledge, students were asked to get up and move around the room as living magnets, finding objects to which they would be attracted. Students also physically demonstrated the way magnets pull and push one another depending on their orientation to each other by using their bodies. In mathematics, I created this lesson in which students use their bodies like balance scales, which not only helps to solidify the use of a balance scale in their minds but also allows them to move and stretch their muscles. I know that this is important for students to remain focused and actively learning because I was fortunate enough to have a guest speaker who was the physical education coordinator for Williamsburg/James City County come to one of my course sessions at The College of William and Mary. Through this seminar, I learned about the importance of getting blood flowing to students’ brains and the usefulness of kinesthetic learning for many students.