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While studying at The College of William and Mary, I learned several different techniques for creating and organizing lesson plans so that they are most effective for student learning while aligning with the necessary local, state, and national standards I am expect to meet as an educator. The four core subject areas in which I have planned include science, social studies, language arts, and mathematics.

Science:
Science is a fascinating subject for which I have enjoyed planning thoroughly. During the fall of 2008, I worked with two other future educators to create and implement this Discovery Circus about matter. This lesson involved a great deal of planning because we needed to make sure we both met the SOL objectives we laid out for the student learning and to have all of the necessary materials, space, and set-up that would be required to hold such an undertaking. Within this discovery circus, we had some very hands-on experiences for the students at each of five stations set up around the room. One station in particular required students to examine the progress in technology that allows us to have a better understanding of matter. Students were able to use tools such as simple magnifying glasses, microscopes, and even a digital microscope connected to a computer.

However much effort this lesson took to plan, it only represents a short classroom experience. In contrast, I worked with a different colleague to create this 8-day module, which covers the topic of the five senses, a subject included in the kindergarten SOL. Creating this unit required my colleague and me to consider the best order in which to teach the different senses. We wanted to make sure that any teacher would be able to help her students draw clear and meaningful connections from one day’s lesson into the next, therefore we were methodical in what beginning and closing activities were used in each day. As you can see, we fully developed four of our lessons showing such connections and the other lessons’ connections can be drawn from the concept web shown below that displays the interconnectedness of the different topics.


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Another lesson which I created for use in my student teaching kindergarten classroom focused on the use of technology available to me. This lesson uses a fun and age-appropriate video about recycling to help students understand exactly what it means to recycle and where all of the recycled items go; an experience that students would not easily be able to do in real life. I feel that my student benefited from getting to interact with real materials and experience the act of sorting through different kinds of recyclables. Although I do not feel that technology should be forced into every lesson just because it is available, I feel that it was useful to this lesson and allowed my students to experience something new. The technology used in this lesson also helped my students to stay engaged as well as being highly motivating for them. For a review of my thought while creating this lesson, please see my reflection.

Social Studies:
As part of my social studies method course, I worked alongside two of my fellow classmates to create a culture kit (Note: This file is large and may take a long time to load.) about the culturally ignored country of Sri Lanka. The lessons, artifacts, and background information contained in this document were quite challenging but rewarding to find and use. Being culturally ignored, information about the country was difficult to find, and at first it was even more difficult to find ways in which to align the materials we wished to share with the standards we were trying to fulfill. However, we were able to work together and come up with creative ways of using the information we wished to share while meeting the Virginia SOL. This lesson, in particular, shows how I believe a teacher can creatively introduce non-traditional social studies topics like Sri Lanka while meeting basic requirements; in this case, map skills. During this lesson, students learn to use a grid to find map locations, but instead of using a more traditional subject like the map of North America, students examine the different sites and regions of Sri Lanka which not only improves their skills, but also imparts them with new and exciting knowledge.

In addition to this culture kit, I also created this lesson which drew on connections to language arts to teach students about voting and the election process. I used my knowledge of the content to select the most appropriate means of delivering this lesson, which I felt was to have the students act out their own election. After reading a trade book called Otto Runs for President by Rosemary Wells, I told the students that they would vote for a “new” school mascot. As candidates, I had our current mascot run against a favorite literary character, Mo Willems’ The Pigeon. The students responded very well to this lesson and I feel that they learned a great deal about voting from acting it out themselves.

Language Arts:
Since there is such an array of different topics and needs within language arts, I have had the opportunity to plan many different kinds of lessons. During the fall of 2008, I was able to work in a third grade classroom outside of my student teaching placement. For this group of students, I was able to create this Read, Write, Think-Aloud lesson. During the planning and implementation of this lesson, I was able to use my content knowledge to help me to know how best to describe aloud my thought processes while working on my writing sample. I first read a story called The True Story of the Three Little Pigs by Jon Scieszka, and then invited students to create their own fractured fairytales from one of three different stories. To begin creating and organizing their own thoughts, I gave each student this graphic organizer. As students worked on their writing, I was also able to travel around the classroom and work through their difficulties with them. However, I feel that this lesson would have been much better as part of a unit of study, one in which I would have specifically taught the students the fairy tales which would later be used in this lesson as a culminating activity.

In my student teaching, I have been limited in the liberties I am able to take in my day-to-day lesson planning in language arts. As part of a school-wide trial, I have been required to teach from a basil program called Story Town. This lesson is one that I based closely on the requirements of the program. However, my cooperating teacher and I have agreed that I can take some steps away from the program as long as I am still teaching the materials covered in the text. Therefore, I have tried to concentrate on making the small group learning in my classroom step away from the basil program. For example, in this lesson I decided to use the reading resource library at my school to find leveled readers that used the basil’s targeted vocabulary for the week, which was “who” and “out.” The books that I chose to use were more in tune with the level of my students as well as more interesting in topic. I feel that this served to both motivate them and meet the required knowledge in the basil program.

Mathematics:
Mathematics, like science, is a subject in which I feel that unit planning can be especially helpful. When covering the topic of money in my kindergarten placement, I planned out an 8-day unit of activities to be used with my students. I wanted to make sure as I was planning that the students would have all the required experiences and knowledge they would need as we moved from each day’s lesson on to the next. To accomplish this, I began by having students spend a day examining and comparing pennies and nickels. The following day, they reexamined those coins but added dimes and compared all three. I knew that making visual connections is important for many students, so we created these Venn diagram together to help understand the similarities and differences:

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As the lessons progressed, I planned for students to move on through money flashcards to Money BINGO and finally on to a classroom store in which they were able to use provided money to make real purchases of items equaling up to ten cents. Students were so motivated by the knowledge of the up-coming store that some actually brought in their own money from home! Here is a photograph of our class store:

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But like language arts, there is also a mathematics program used by my school system from which I am also required teach. However, I believe that taken with the right amount of creativity, these lessons can be interesting and motivating to my students. When looking at a lesson provided in the mathematics program, I see what the main objective of the lesson is, how it aligns with my local, state, and national standards, and then try to figure out the best way to deliver these to my students so that they can get the most from the lesson. Not all students are the same, so I feel it is my job to adjust what is provided to me to meet the needs of my students. This lesson required my students to work with partners to play a mathematics game, but I have found upon taking over teaching math that my students do not yet have enough experience doing this sort of activity on their own. Therefore, I felt it would be more useful to divide the students into two homogeneous groups and work with each group as a whole to do the activity. I know that this mathematics program is spiraling so I am aware that we will come back to this same activity at a later time. With this initial experience, I think my students will have a better background to later follow what is suggested in the program.