When we last left our hero he was dangling over a vat of boiling eggnog fiddling with a utility belt that had suddenly grown a couple of notches too small over the holidays. We now return to our regularly scheduled program, in which said hero makes his escape by completing the task of listing three factoids about the ninth grade class he videotaped in the media center that relate to the remaining five standards pertinent to Entry Two.
The taped lesson that is the basis for my “whole group instruction” entry has me giving kids a mini-lesson on database research in the media center before they begin searching for scientific articles. See “Not My Favorite Things” for the first five standards. (As before, this material is from EA/ELA handbook. Also as before, fair warning: the writing below has more I’s than an old potato. A lay person may want to keep channel surfing during this entry.)
VI. Instructional Resources
1. I integrated media and technology opportunities for students to meet learning goals in the classroom by using a white board and the media center computer lab, and the school’s reservoir of database subscriptions.
2. I taught students basic information about how to use text appropriately by teaching how to use APA format for citations in science research, and also incorporating Noodlebib, an online bibliography maker.
3. I shared resources and strategies with colleagues: with the biology teacher, I crafted a list of search terms and questions to help students begin their “idea papers;” and with the media center specialist, I created a “search ladder” to help students record the number and quantity of hits as they searched various databases. Also, the media center specialist filmed me as I presented the lesson and joined in to offer deeper information, for example explaining how to use “nesting” (parentheses) as a way to limit search results.
VII. Instructional Decision Making
1. I led my ninth grade team in connecting with local wildlife management officials to create an authentic year-long task tied to a real-world situation-- in our case, monitoring water quality at a local wetland-- in order to engage students in a project that was meaningful to them and thereby stimulate engagement.
2. I took students on two field trips this fall, and will take them on two more in the spring, to the Occoquan Bay Wildlife Reserve, a one-mile square preserved wetland where they will perform a series of tests and collect both objective and subjective data over the course of the year, first to learn the techniques of scientific observation and later in service of original student-designed science experiments.
2. I encouraged self-directed learning in this assignment by having all students select and research a topic of their own choice related to water quality for their first “idea paper.” These and a second round of idea papers will be shared with peers and lead to longer individual research projects which will in turn lead to group experiments based in our course area. The group projects will culminate in an end-of-year Symposium at which groups present their findings to a community of peers, teachers, parents and community members.
X. Speaking, Listening, and Viewing
1. I asked open-ended questions and placed value on eliciting student opinions when I had a student act as “volunteer researcher” in the database mini-lesson, and asked her to make choices to narrow the search results. When we had narrowed our choices from over 7000 to a dozen, for example, I asked her to scan the titles of abstracts to select one that would probably be an appropriate source for our research topic.
2. I elicited participation from quieter students and worked to maintain a balance among speakers by interacting with the group game show host-style while the student researcher sat at the actual keyboard whose screen we could see on the whiteboard and made her search. I called on Lauren, who is often quiet in class, for a suggestion about how to limit the number of hits by selecting only peer-reviewed journals.
3. I modeled effective listening skills and added new vocabulary by receiving, responding to and rephrasing Jae’s suggestion to use two search terms joined by AND instead of just one, reminding the class that this is called a “Boolean operator.”
XII. Integrated Instruction
1. I organized instruction for this year-long unit with an inquiry-based approach based on real-world concerns. Students connect broadly to environmental issues and more specifically with our selected wetlands area after repeated visits and observations. I will capitalize on their passion by helping students prepare, towards the end of the year, a persuasive multimedia presentation to highlight the findings of their experiments using graphs, charts, and other information.
2. I work in partnership regularly as a lead teacher within a ninth grade program called “IBET” (Integrating Biology, English and Technology). Along with two content teachers and a counselor, I meet weekly to discuss curriculum and concerns about individual students, so that together we may triumphantly provide multiple paths to learning.
3. I use available forms of technology to support curricular goals. In this case, we used the media center classroom/ computer lab, and the electronic holdings.
1. I cope with tough challenges that do not lend themselves to simple solutions. I am the leader of an IBET team this year that consists of 6 other educators, 4 of whom are new to the building and 2 new to the profession. I have worked hard to guide my team by sharing lessons, maintaining contact with frequent meetings and emails, and serving as a mentor in both formal and informal ways.
2. I can talk persuasively about why I make the teaching decisions that I do. As an adjunct professor for George Mason University, I have had the opportunity to teach other teachers in a course called “The Teaching of Writing,” which has required me to articulate my pedagogical perspective and open myself to the ideas of colleagues.
3. On this exhilarating, lengthy journey to becoming an expert, I remain ever vigilant for teachable moments, think quickly on my feet, and embrace unpredictable opportunities like the true artist of my profession I aspire to be. Hence this blog.