Thursday, June 5, 2014

Caitlin and Deanne

I had the wonderful opportunity to do my fieldwork with my friend Caitlin in her classroom. Caitlin is also a former student from Dr. Smirnova's and KDP.  I enjoyed being able to observe Caitlin with her students.

1. What effective teaching principles did she follow to reach every child in her classroom?
     a.  Active Learning
There was a lot of hands on Montessori work, taking one topic and delivering it in numerous ways. Technology was used a lot in her classroom. YouTube, other websites and student research on the computers were part of her daily routine. Also, she used books, songs, articles and had children create their own work and she used student feedback as well.

     b.  Self Monitoring
Using rubrics to score their own work, giving student feedback or response, what they liked, didn't like, how it related to them, what it made them think of. KWL: what they know, want to know and what they learned. Free choice of challenging work (something of student interest) after their work is completed.

     c. Time on Task

Take your time, no rushing, reread work, student check each other's work, taking a breath to do stretching or yoga and have a snack. Sometimes we use timers to keep students on task that have trouble. They enjoy being able to monitor their own time.

     d.  High Expectations

Kids know what she expects from them. She gives them each a rubric. In discussions, she tries to ask higher level of thinking questions that require more than a yes or no. She gives clear, concrete directions.

     e. Strategies

Strategies are a big part of special education especially with students with learning disabilities. Caitlin uses graphic organizers, mnemonics for steps (great for spectrum kids and LD kids with processing issues) KWL, reminder cards (mostly social skills.)

2.  What latest research is she referring to in her teaching design?

Free Friday is done in Caitlin's classroom. Mainly kids get an hour at the end of the day to have some down time. Playing with Lego's is what most of them chose. They also try to have conversations that are meaningful. It's a great way to learn about the students in y our class and this gives them the social skills that they are lacking such as how to have a conversation, play games, teamwork, being fair and being a good sport.

Bringing in real world experiences - with Montessori there is continent work built into our curriculum. Caitlin's students love Google earth and to zoom into a place. They have tons of videos and explore places that they want to see. By immersing them with real pictures, videos, songs, clothing, food, artifacts, etc. they can almost feel kike they have actually been there.

Spaced learning is something they do as well. Their day begins with twenty minutes of yoga. The kids run the yoga class (after 2 months of the teacher showing them so they know all the steps.) While they are working, they are encouraged to take a 1-2 minute break. If work is frustrating they tell an adult and move on to new work and revisit the challenging work when their mind is clear.

3. In what ways does the research on effective teaching empower teachers' continued learning process?

With the new common core and the crazy teacher evaluations that are happening, Caitlin feels that it is important to stay on top of new and improved teaching methods. Our world is a technological place. Handwriting and spelling is a lost art. Kids now type and spell check spells for them. We need to embrace the changes and teach our children for the future. Plus, it keeps us as adults in tune with what all the young people are doing. Facebook, twitter, instagram, blogging, linkedin, Google docs, clouds, i pads, ereaders, 
new apps and so much more.

In terms of positive and negative reinforcement, in this classroom, I only observed positive reinforcement by the teacher and her assistants. Instead of taking things away, Caitlin has the children try to earn things.

As I stated in the above field work, there was a lot of active learning in Caitlin's class. The children were able to choose their work freely and independently and sometimes worked in groups. In the smaller groups, the children had were asked higher level thinking questions, which she wanted an open ended response to.

In a Montessori classroom there are student centers with actively engaged learners. Working in this way helps to build higher level thinking along with teamwork strategies and self management skills. I observed two reading groups while I was there and several students were working independently with math, science and language work. The Constructivist model is very similar to the Montessori model where children have "freedom with responsibility." As educators, we have to remember that the independence is intrinsic and comes from within the child. Our job is to help foster that independence and guide the child.

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