Tag Archives: Internship Reflection

Community on Strike: The Alliance Between Educators, Families, and Community Members

Seattle Pacific University’s Program Standard 7, Family and Community, stipulates that teachers should seek to collaborate with families and other educational stakeholders in order to promote student learning. My internship this year reminded me that the community is one of these hugely important educational stakeholders, and by forging meaningful partnerships with it, we can better serve the needs of our students and their families.

I realized how important the local community was to my students’ education very early on in my student teaching — before I even began, in fact! My student teaching career kicked off with the Seattle Education Association (SEA) strike over the parameters of an unfair teachers’ contract. During the strike, I forged connections with coworkers, students, community members, and activists alike and learned a great deal about Roosevelt’s educational vision, the fervor of its faculty and staff, and how to initiate and maintain positive relationships with families and community members that would serve me through the rest of the academic year.

While not part of the union myself, I came to Roosevelt for five days decked out in red and holding a “Support SEA” sign to walk with my unionized colleagues. Every day we walked in circles for ten miles. My dog even joined in the collective spirit!


My dog, Willy, photographed with the picket line signs in front of the football field.

Community members came by each day to offer support, supplying snacks and reinforcements, and marching along the block with us. Several spoke to the press as well. My brother-in-law covered the story for Reuters’ News, and interviewed several community members, including an 8-year old boy, following along in the march as he dribbled a soccer ball. See one of his articles here: http://www.reuters.com/article/us-usa-washington-strike-idUSKBN0ND16Q20150422

I agreed to an interview with KUOW, explaining why I believed the contested labor contract expanded beyond just bread and butter issues and into a comprehensive educational vision for the state itself.


A poster I hung on my wall during the strike

As community member joined our ranks, I took it upon myself to begin conversations with them. Many were parents of Roosevelt students, but some had simply come to support the local school. I asked them about Roosevelt’s place in the community, and they spoke with pride about its reputation for academic achievement. The relationships I forged through these marches served to put me at ease in front of parents soon after at parent-teacher night when I had the opportunity to introduce myself and establish contacts with student families.

When I wrote my first email to all the parents in my class following parent-teacher night, I spoke of my time getting to know parents and community members during the strike and thanked them for making me already feel a part of the school and surrounding community. I told them of my educational background and my hopes for the academic year, establishing positive contact very early. Several responded, commending how involved I already was. These positive interactions would serve me well later in the year when I looked to parent support for behavioral or academic issues that arose.


Teachers on the picket line outside of Roosevelt High School

On the second to last day of the strike, the Washington Education Association (WEA) and its labor choir came to join us. We had advertised to the community through phone calls and flyers that we were looking for more help, and they showed up in droves, singing along with us to the tunes of the labor choir. I have maintained contact with the WEA representatives I met that day. Faculty and community members alike then walked around the school, singing and chanting still. There must have been 800 people that day outside of Roosevelt between the staff from a handful of schools and the community members themselves!


Community members out to support their teachrs


The Seattle Labor Choir leads us in song.

The evening before the strike’s end, I went to a city council meeting to talk about the contested contract and teacher and community concerns about it. The city council meeting was an open forum in which people could come up to speak about the issues at hand. It was thrilling and inspiring to discuss these issues alongside concerned community members and activists.


City Councilwoman Kshama Sawant leading City Hall Meeting.

Once the strike had come to a close, I felt a sense of unity not only with the staff at Roosevelt, but with the community around me. I recognized faculty and student faces the very first day I actually got to walk through Roosevelt’s double doors, and I felt far more comfortable and at ease knowing I had spent a great deal of time with these incredible people already.

To me, this strike was demonstrative of the support for teachers felt throughout the Roosevelt community. Known for its academic excellence, Roosevelt truly inspires a sense of trust and confidence in the community around it. As such, the strike showed me that community members were willing to work with faculty and teachers in order to protect our school’s academic distinction.

I learned too that showing the community and families that we care about the education of their children, and have devoted our lives to it, instills a trust essential to establishing a safe school environment. Teachers, community members, and parents are allies, all working to better our families, community, and world; we are all part and parcel of that village it takes to raise a child.

I know now that I want to get more involved in the teachers’ union so I can work more closely with the local community. Teachers’ unions need community partners and families to support their efforts. To engage in local politics, one has to know local politics, and care about them deeply.

Knowing and recognizing the importance of the alliance between educators, families, and communities is essential to establishing the partnerships needed to make a schoolhouse more than just a schoolhouse, but the bedrock of the community – one committed to communal development and familial involvement. I know I have learned a great deal about this expansive alliance through my internship this year, and through my involvement that very first week in the SEA strike.



Making an Original Newsreel: A Tech-Based Lesson Plan for Internship Placement

This semester in my EDTC 6431 Learning With Technology course I designed a lesson based off of a lesson about 1940s Wartime Newsreels that I had taught in my internship placement. My project expanded on ideas I had already explored with my class and sought ways to include technology in the already fun and effective lesson segment. 

My model lesson segment, which asked students to develop a 5-minute newsreel using the program Digital Storyteller http://www.digitalstoryteller.org/, was designed to get students to think about how the American people got their news during wartime, and to develop news segments on their very own. In the lesson segment I developed, each group was given a press release about a certain homefront subject and expected to piece together a short, 5-minute newsreel set on the U.S. Homefront during World War II, complete with a lead story, a secondary story, a human interest piece, and an advertisement.

In actuality, my students did this exact project but only had to act out their newsreels and bring in visuals to supplement them. Below is my project’s lesson segment, which borrows heavily from the lesson segment I did carry out with my students, but asks that students put together their very own newsreels using historical footage, images, and voiceovers on a digital film-making program (see above for link).

Take a look: 

WWII Homefront Newsreel Project Lesson Plans


Lesson 1 (Monday): World War II Homefront and the Newsreel

Standard AP U.S. History College Board; Key Concept 7.2: Innovations in communications and technology contributed to the growth of mass culture, while significant changes occurred in internal and international migration patterns.

Key Concept 7.3: Participation in a series of global conflicts propelled the United States into a position of international power while renewing domestic debates over the nation’s proper role in the world.

II. World War II and its aftermath intensified ongoing debates about the nation’s role in the world and how best to achieve national security and pursue American interests.

Central Focus (CF) Students compile newsreels to learn about life on the World War II Homefront.
Learning Target


Students can determine the key characteristics of a newsreel in order to help them brainstorm how to develop and make original newsreels of their own in small groups. Students write down LT.




Teacher opens class by reminding students that yesterday we spoke about Pearl Harbor and U.S. entry into WWII.

It’s 1942 now, and teacher asks how it is that U.S. citizens hear about the way. Teacher asks students to list the news sources available to people during wartime.

Teacher writes student ideas on the board.

Teacher is sure to address the possible misconception that people had TV’s in this time. It wasn’t until after the war that they came out. There were, however, movies and movie theaters.

Teacher circles the word “newsreel” on the board. Teacher explains that movie-goers would go to the movies for a nickel or a dime, and before a movie began they would see the news through a newsreel.

Teacher briefly explains the history of the newsreel.

Students call out different news sources.
Practice Activity or


Teacher welcomes students to the “movies,” it’s 1942 and Hitler has just invaded the Soviet Union. Sit back, relax, and watch what our newsreel has to say about this.

Teacher asks that as students watch they take notes about what they notice about the newsreel. What are its characteristics? What stories does it tell? Its style? Tone?

Teacher plays 10-minute newsreel.

Students take notes on the film reel.
Informal Assessment     Teacher asks students to talk to their table partner about different things they noticed from the newsreel.

Teacher writes “Characteristics of a newsreel” on the board.

Teacher asks students to share what they noticed from the newsreel. Teacher writes down the characteristics students determine.

Teacher points out that there was clearly a “lead story” (Germany invading the Soviet Union), a “secondary story” (U.S. military industrial efforts to help Russia), a “human interest story” (at home, there is a nation-wide debutant contest underway), and an “advertisement” (for war bonds).

Teacher instructs that students write lead story, secondary story, human interest story, and advertisement in their notes.

Students talk to their table partner about characteristics of the newsreel.

Students share their ideas with the class.

Students write “lead story, secondary story, human interest story, and advertisement” in their notes.

Practice Activity or


Teacher explains that students will have the opportunity to create their own newsreels using either raw images and footage and voice-overs with a digital program called Digital Storyteller from Primary Access.

Teacher assigns students into four-person groups and hands them one of seven press releases from the Teacher’s Curriculum Institute World War II material guides on one of the following seven topics: Women, Government, GIs, Children, Consumerism, African Americans, Mexican Americans.

Students sit with their assigned group members.
Informal Assessment Teacher tells students to read over the press release together and brainstorm to decide on the topics of their lead story, secondary story, human interest piece, and advertisement.

Teacher tells students to decide who will write each story (about 1-1.5 minutes a piece).

For homework, students will need to write these stories.

Students read over press release together and determine what will be their lead story, secondary story, human interest piece, and advertisement.

Students self-assign in groups which story they will write.

For groups with three or five members, students will be responsible for allocating four stories and five minutes amongst that amount of students.

Closure Assessment of Student Voice Students hand in an Exit Ticket detailing the contents of each story for their newsreel. Students hand in Exit Ticket as they leave the classroom.



Lesson 2 (Tuesday): Researching Stories and Visuals for Newsreels (in computer lab)

Standard AP U.S. History College Board; Key Concept 7.2: Innovations in communications and technology contributed to the growth of mass culture, while significant changes occurred in internal and international migration patterns.

Key Concept 7.3: Participation in a series of global conflicts propelled the United States into a position of international power while renewing domestic debates over the nation’s proper role in the world.

II. World War II and its aftermath intensified ongoing debates about the nation’s role in the world and how best to achieve national security and pursue American interests.

Central Focus (CF) Students compile newsreels to learn about life on the World War II Homefront.
Learning Target


Students can use the program Digital Storyteller and research online databases for historical information and visual and video footage for their newsreels. Students write down LT.




Teacher tells students to find a computer next to their group members and share with their group members the stories they wrote for last night’s homework.

Teacher passes out newsreel project rubric, so students understand the expectations.

Students review their homework, and share with their partners the stories they wrote for the newsreel.

Students read the project rubric.

Practice Activity


Teacher asks all students to visit Digital Storyteller online and scaffolds their online learning by walking them through the steps of the program.

Teacher introduces students to the websites main features, and shows example work from past students who used this program.

In order to use the visual and online features, students will now have the time to work together to research visual aids or do more research to create their own. Teacher warns that while students will have one more work-day in class, students should communicate and work together through Digital Storyteller at home and Google Docs.

Teacher posts a list of historical databases in which students should begin their research on the school’s educational interface: Schoology. Teacher instructs that students begin their research with these online databases, which we have worked with before together in class.  

Students follow teacher’s step-by-step introduction to the program.

Students consult with online databases on Schoology.  

Informal Assessment Teacher tells students to begin playing with the program and looking for visuals. In order to check in, teacher conferences with each group to give them additional direction. Students research and compile footage or conference with the teacher.
Closure Assessment of Student Voice Exit Ticket: Students must decide in moving forward who will be responsible for visuals (2 students), voice-over (1 student), and editing (1 student), and provide a schedule for project completion. They have three more days to finish their project. Digital Storyteller is accessible on any computer, so students can work at these from home or after school. Students hand in Exit Ticket as they leave the classroom.
Students who find one group member is not pulling their weight must speak directly with the teacher over the next few work days to work something out accordingly.Teacher may decide that students do not have to do an advertisement, for instance, or that their video can be up to thirty seconds shorter.  



Lesson 3 (Friday): Newsreel Presentations!

Standard AP U.S. History College Board; Key Concept 7.2: Innovations in communications and technology contributed to the growth of mass culture, while significant changes occurred in internal and international migration patterns.

Key Concept 7.3: Participation in a series of global conflicts propelled the United States into a position of international power while renewing domestic debates over the nation’s proper role in the world.

II. World War II and its aftermath intensified ongoing debates about the nation’s role in the world and how best to achieve national security and pursue American interests.

Central Focus (CF) Students compile newsreels to learn about life on the World War II Homefront.
Learning Target


Students present their newsreels and reflect on the significance of the topics of each newsreel’s impact on the war effort and life on the U.S. home front. Students write down LT.




Teacher invites students to the “movie theater,” as in the days in the 1930s and 40s when moviegoers went to see a film and viewed a series of newsreels before the feature film. Before our feature film, she reminds them, we have a lot to hear about the state of our country at war, and the happenings here and abroad!

Teacher explains that she will call each group individually to load their newsreel.

Teacher passes out a note-taking handout. Teacher explains that as the audience watches the newsreel, they must write down five important things they learn. After each 5-minute newsreel, teacher will give students 1-2 minutes to write a reflection on the significance of the topic of the newsreel and its impact on the war effort and life on the U.S. homefront on their handout.

Informal Assessment Teacher calls up a group to present their newsreel.
Teacher instructs that students take a moment to write a reflection on the significance of what they have just seen on their handouts.(Repeat 7 times)
Students present their digital newsreels.

Students in the audience take notes on five important things.

Students take 1-2 minutes to reflect on the significance of the topics of the newsreel and its impact on the U.S. home front.

Informal Assessment Teacher asks students to talk to their table partner about themes they thought about as they saw these newsreels; what types of stories did we hear? What do they tell us about the war effort and life at home?

Teacher asks students to share their ideas.

Teacher tells students that next week we will be getting into the Cold War.

Teacher asks students how does WWII transform the U.S. in their view? Where is the U.S. once the Cold War begins?

Students talk to table partner about what themes they noticed in the newsreels.

Students share their ideas with the class.

Students share their ideas with the class.

Closure Assessment of Student Voice Teacher tells students to turn in their notes and reflections before they leave class. Students turn in their presentation note handouts for feedback.

Assessment or Postassessment

(Sequence end)

Students will be graded according to the following rubric:

-Newsreel includes a lead story, a secondary story, a human interest piece, and an advertisement (10 points)

-Stories are historically accurate (10 points)

-Visuals are historically relevant, interesting, and engaging (10 points)

-Voice-over sounds well-rehearsed and uses an appropriate tone (10 points)

-Editing is well-done (few awkward pauses, jumps, or blank screens) (10 points)

-Newsreel is entertaining, engaging, and fun (10 points)

-Newsreel is about 5-minutes long (10 points)

Total: 70 points.

Students will submit their newsreels to Lehigh’s Reel American History Project.

Artifacts from the actual lesson: 

Example Press Release (on Government):


Example Student Group Script (with lead story, secondary story, human interest piece, and advertisement):


Example Note-Taking Handout frontside (for day of presentations):


Example Rubric:


Lesson Segment Reflection: 

As said, while I did not have the opportunity to teach this exact tech-based lesson segment, I was able to teach it without the Digital Storytelling program, having the students act out their newsreels for the rest of the class. Instead of creating their own short films, students wrote scripts and provided their own visuals (projecting them as a backdrop) and read out their newsreel stories in a performance presentation for their peers.

My mentor teacher and I did use the same preparation resources I described in this lesson segment, however, like the model press releases (see above for the press release on Government). We also showed students example newsreels and as a class named the characteristics of an effective newsreel. We pointed out to students that each newsreel had a lead story, a secondary story, a human interest piece, and an advertisement — writing each of these on the board and describing their characteristics.

I gave students a half workday in class to read their press releases together and come up with and assign their stories. They also collaborated about visuals, and even music, in class. At home, they all either wrote their own part of the script or added to a group Google Document and turned in their entire script at the end of their presentation (see above for the model script). As students performed their newsreels, I took notes on each of their stories and any particularly interesting things that they did with their performance on the rubric in front of me. I waited until I read their scripts to grade how historically accurate they were (see above for example rubric).

The students had a really great time with this project. Some got very into the voiceovers, copying the intonation of a newsreel commentator closely. Some even dressed up! For one of the newsreels that focused on stories about GIs (based off of the GI press release), one student came dressed in uniform, helmet and all! This same group surprised us when as they advertised the reliable Zippo, they pulled it out for us! The group who presented their newsreel on stories about the Government (script above) accompanied their presentation not only with several visuals but with soft WWII-era music playing in the background as they spoke. It really was a lot of fun!

I knew that the students really learned a lot from conducting and watching those presentations because when I gave the students three questions for a quiz review — with one asking about life on the homefront during WWII — the students insisted we skip that one so we could focus more on the happenings of the war abroad. When I asked if they really felt that comfortable with the material, they all insisted the newsreels were a great help! Overall, they did quite well with all the questions on the quiz about the WWII homefront, which suggests they were playing very close attention during the presentations (thanks, in part, to their Newsreel Notes Handout, see above).

Lesson Segment Revision: 

Overall, students performed very strongly on this presentation. The majority of the groups received an 18 or 19 out of 20 points on their in-person newsreel presentations. While the presentations were a lot of fun, I think the lesson could have only been supplemented and augmented by the use of technology to tell their stories. In the lesson I have designed for this EDTC 6431 Individual Project, students would still have the opportunity to “perform” their stories for their classmates, but would do so through a different medium, film, using the Digital Storyteller program. Using this program would give students the opportunity to learn about film-making — compiling, editing, special features, etc… — in the process.

Importantly, adding the more intentional use of technology in this project would serve to address ISTE 1 Standard, which requires that students demonstrate creative thinking, construct knowledge, and develop innovative products and processes using technology. As the lesson stands now, it addresses the Key Concepts 7.2 and 7.3 of the AP College Board curriculum, but using technology in this lesson — and comparing an understanding about innovations in communication and technology in our past and present — would undoubtedly serve to make these lessons more valuable, and its fruits long-lasting. Undoubtedly, however, to use the technology well, the students would need at least a week to work on their projects, which would make the project much bigger (a 70-point project rather than the 20-point project it is now).

Students could even revisit these projects or submit them to Lehigh’s Reel American History Project, which seeks to collect and show student work nationwide: http://digital.lib.lehigh.edu/trial/reels/about/. Partaking in a collaborative project like this would have also been memorable for the students — and a bit of a motivator to make their newsreels, and make them well!

Good teachers know teaching and lesson development is an iterative process. While the lesson works well as it stands now, it only stands to be improved by the incorporation of technology, allowing students to not only act out newsreels but really create newsreels of their own. I’ll definitely work more with this idea in the coming year!

Pairing Theory and Practice: Course and Internship Reflection for EDU 6136 Content Methods

In EDU6136 Content Methods this quarter, I have had the great privilege of learning about the pedagogical theories in the educational field that address Program Standard 4, Content Knowledge. The Content Knowledge standard requires that teachers use their understanding of not only their content area and its learning objectives or standards, but also know how best to teach the content to achieve those standards. This requires that teachers learn about and practice the pedagogical processes and resources available to truly impact student learning. This course has exposed me to a wide range of pedagogical approaches, but my internship placement has allowed me to actually apply several of these theories – from assessing prior knowledge, scaffolding, and deepening understanding – to practice.

While I had read Dochy et al. (1999), and believed I fully understood the importance of assessing students’ prior knowledge, I learned quickly in my internship that I wasn’t doing enough to apply this in practice. I was teaching my AP U.S. History students about Eugene V. Debs and the American Socialist Party, and had wrongly assumed we could dig right into a speech of his entitled “Winning the World” about how socialism would ultimately overtake capitalism. Luckily, I did begin the lesson with a KWL chart and quickly picked up on my students’ misguided impressions of the political theory of socialism – I saw my students had conflated the definition of socialism with that of communism. I ditched the planned lesson in order to work with students on coming up with a working definition of socialism. Had I assessed prior learning about the subject earlier, I would certainly have planned a Concept Instruction lesson to help students grapple with the theory on their own with prepared resources. I certainly learned my lesson, and learned that the next time I read about something related to pedagogical practice, I better take note and apply it in my internship!

I was reminded of this again when I read about scaffolding in this course. De Pol et al (2010), for instance, summarize decades’ worth of research on scaffolding in saying, “In general, scaffolding is construed as support given by a teacher to a student when performing a task that the student might otherwise not be able to accomplish” (p. 274). As I thought about scaffolding, I wondered how often I actually gave students too much support, and failed to really challenge them within Vygotsky’s Zone of Proximal Development (De Pol, 272). I thought, for instance, how in my AP U.S. History class we give the students time to grapple with review questions before taking a weekly quiz on the contents of the textbook chapter they have just read, and how I often answer several questions without challenging my students to think critically on their own first. De Pol (2012) and others works reminded me that teachers are really just there to facilitate learning, not to give the answers away. With time, and trying to more intentionally apply theory to my practice in my internship placement, I have begun to challenge my students to look in the text themselves or ask each other before coming to me. What a difference that has already made!

Later, as I read the works of Caram and Davis (2005), Goldsmith (2013), and Roberts and Billings (2009) about the importance of asking high quality questions to deepen student understanding, and welcoming questions, conversation, and debate to encourage student engagement, I already knew a little better. My mentor teacher had stressed to me the importance of question asking from day one. She had modeled for me the turn-and-talk in pairs technique, which allows students to bounce thoughts about a given question off of each other before offering them up to the class. I saw how this technique facilitated more open and thoughtful conversation. When I read of this very technique called “Think, Pair, Share” in Goldsmith’s (2013, p.50) research, I recognized it immediately. Additionally when I read Roberts and Billings (2009) work on Socratic seminars and stimulating “conversations that teach” (p.83), I found again that I knew this practice well. In my AP U.S. History course we have hosted seminar discussions on topics from the Declaration of Independence to what it is that Jacob Riis’s work and The Gangs of New York can reveal about the Gilded Age. Currently, I am planning a Socratic Seminar for my students (see below for directions) in which they need to come in as Civil Rights Movement activists and stay in character for the whole of the open discussion – presenting and defending their position on the proper course of the movement.

Scan 18.jpeg

It is amazing how theory informs practice (and vice versa)! As I moved forward in the course, I recognized more and more of the strategies we studied, and more intentionally applied them in my internship classrooms. My Content Knowledge skills improved signficiantly as I learned and then practiced how best to teach the information in my classroom. By the time we got to talk about feedback at the end of the semester, for instance, I had already given my students in my AP Language and Composition class substantive comments on creative performance pieces they had presented for the entire class. I typed 1/3-page responses to each and every one of the students about their piece, encouraging them and challenging them with additional questions to grapple with. It took a very, very long time, but I was thrilled I had done it, and had again lined educational theory about skillful feedback to practice.

In going forward, I know I will more intentionally recognize and apply these content method techniques in my internship classrooms in order to further impact student learning. As they say, we learn as we go. In this program I have realized that I learn through both theory and practice, and this course has given me the opportunity to think critically about how best to pair the two.



Billings, L. & Roberts, T. (2009). Speak up and listen. Kappan Magazine, October 2009 ed., pp. 81-85.

Caram, C & Davis, P. (2005). Inviting student engagement with questioning. Kappa Delti Pi Record, Fall 2005 ed., 19-23.

De Pol, J., Volman, M., and Beishusen, J. (2010). Scaffolding in teacher-student interaction: A decade of research. Educational Psychology Review. 22, pp. 271-296. DOI 10.1007/x10648-101-9127-6.

Dochy, Filip, et al. (1999). The relation between assessment practices and outcomes of studies: The case of research on prior knowledge. Review of Educational Research, Summer 1999, Vol. 69, No. 2, pp. 145-186.

Goldsmith, W. (2013). Enhancing classroom conversation for all students. Kappan Magazine, April 2013 ed., pp. 48-52.


The Drill Sergeants and Quiz Day Fridays: Classroom Management and the Learning Environment

The Learning Environment program standard stipulates that a teacher must be able to “foster and manage a safe and inclusive learning environment that takes into account physical, emotional and intellectual wellbeing” (SPU Program Standard 5). My Classroom Management course has helped me determine that such a safe space is created through clear classroom expectations, presented to students on the very first day of class. Such expectations create a structure that allows for intellectual liberty and genuine exchange. Within this structure students assume responsibility for their own learning. In my AP U.S History course, for instance, my mentor teacher detailed all of the expectations and procedures of her classroom in a detailed syllabus that she asked students to read on the very first day of school.

In particular, the classroom syllabus addresses Quiz Day Fridays. On Fridays, students are expected to arrive to class having read the textbook chapter for the week. They are also expected to have handed in their “Key Terms”– which ask students to identify and explain the significance of events, people, and concepts that appear in the chapter – at 8am that morning to be stamped in as in “on time.” These key terms  are returned to the students at the start of class.

While the Friday schedule is well detailed in the syllabus, students learned that very first Friday exactly how things were done. As Wong and Wong explain, in a well managed classroom, “Students know what is expected of them and are generally successful” (85) and that first Friday our students learned the ins-and-outs of Quiz Day Fridays.

IMAG0962_1 (1)

So here’s what it looks like. Students walk into the class and are given five review questions right off the bat regarding concepts from the week’s chapter (one such review sheet is pictured above). With their table partner, students begin right away about answering the questions, and are expected to write a paragraph response to the question they find the hardest to answer. Component 5.3 explains that the systems “for performing noninstructional duties are well established with students assuming considerable responsibility for efficient operation,” and students do just this as they set about investigation on their own. Fay and Funk explain that students “have a strong need for control,” and giving students the freedom to answer these tough questions by themselves and choose which question they would like to answer in more detail gives them a sense of ownership and choice within all of the structure of our classroom (28). Students really do cherish that sense of control and choice.

IMAG0963 (1)

After half an hour we review the question(s) students grappled with most as a class. Students then get into their “quiz formation” (we sound a little bit like drill sergeants when we call out for students to get in “quiz formation,” hence the photograph of my mentor and her mighty gavel pictured above). Students are old experts by now at their “quiz formation.” They separate their tables, sit on either side of them, place a backpack in the middle between them, and then await patiently for their scantrons and quizzes. As Component 5.2 stipulates, the transitions on these quiz days (and every day) “are seamless with students assum[ing] responsibility in ensuring their efficient operation” (SPU Program Standard 5).

Quiz Day Fridays have allowed me insight into just how important it is to practice these types of routines and procedures. The students like knowing exactly what to expect. The structure of these Fridays actually allow students a great deal of liberty as they go about exploring these review questions on their own and take ownership of each and every transition. I believe my ability to explain and model these expectations for students has developed significantly and I know that I will create clear and established routines such as those used on Quiz Day Fridays in my future classroom.

The effect of this type of structured safe space on student learning is considerable. I watch every week in amazement as these students approach their individual learning in genuine and self-motivated ways. In moving forward, I’m curious to see how I can bring the efficiency and effectiveness of Quiz Day Fridays to other days of the week when I myself am in front of the classroom. I want students to start each day by writing the day’s date and the topic at hand in their Table of Contents for their notebook, and immediately turn to a piece of blank paper — titling it with the date and day’s topic again — ready to take notes and participate in the day’s activities.

I am lucky to have a mentor teacher that has already made expectations for the class so clear. I get to ride on her coattails for now, but the real challenge will come in establishing this type of efficiency and structure on day one in my very own classroom next year.


Works Cited:

Fay, Jim & Funk, David. (1995). Teaching with love and logic: Taking control of the classroom. Golden, CO: The Love and Logic Press, Inc.

Wong, Harry K. & Wong, Rosemary T. (2009). The first days of school: How to be an effective teacher. Mountain View, CA: Harry K. Wong Publications, Inc.

KWL and Student Voice

The Know, Want to Know, Learned (KWL) chart is an incredibly important instrument for the Constructivist educator. In the classroom in which I student teach we have used this method a few times, particularly with topics to which students have before been exposed. The KWL chart worked particularly effectively during a lesson on slavery in colonial America in my AP US History class. With an issue as important and charged as slavery, my mentor teacher and I wanted to make sure we weren’t just covering what students already knew about the oppressive institution. We wanted to get them to start questioning deeper into the institution itself — question slavery in ways they had never thought to before.

We began that particular lesson on slavery, then, with students writing down what it was they felt they knew. We then had students write down remaining questions they had about it — what they still wanted to learn, gaps in their own knowledge and understanding. We then asked students to share these questions with the class, and wrote several of them on the board. As students began sharing, more thought up new and thought-provoking questions like how did this all begin? Why African slaves in particular? What about guilt? Morality? Does morality itself change with time? How do we reconcile anachronistic notions of “right and wrong” when studying slavery? Are we willing to forego morality for profit always? Do we do this now? How directly in front of us need oppression be to see it as wrong?

These types of questions got the whole class reeling. They were stimulated by their classmates’ questions, and kept coming up with more of their own. They were so genuinely curious, astonished, confused, and angered by the whole institution in a way I am certain many had not been before. The energy in the classroom was intense — I hadn’t seen anything quite like it before.

When my mentor teacher began showing images to the students of the Middle Passage ships, shackles, whips, the students shifted uncomfortably in their seats. They didn’t keep quiet though. Once the questions had begun, there was no stopping them. The students now knew what they wanted to know, and they wanted their questions answered right then and there. They realized some of their bigger questions would never be satisfactorily answered that day, and that was an important lesson to learn.

At the end of the lesson we asked that students write a third column after “What I know” and “What I want to know,” titled “What I learned.” The students took up the last five minutes of class writing fiercely away. We plan to collect these notes during our next notebook check to see what questions they felt we answered, and what new questions the lesson spurred in them. What we were most interested in, of course, is getting these students to think in a different way — a more investigative, anthropological, intense, critical way — about slavery than they ever had. I think we achieved what we had set out to do. Those KWL charts will certainly tell us more.

Formative and Summative Assessment in AP U.S. History Unit #1

Tomorrow is the first summative assessment in the AP U.S. History course for which I am student teaching. Throughout the unit we have assessed progress through a variety of formative assessments, primarily through what are called “Key Terms” and their concomitant quizzes.

Key Terms are a list of about twenty terms – whether they be events, people, concepts, etc… – addressed in the week’s textbook chapter, and are due at the beginning of the school day each and every Friday. Students are expected to identify the given terms and describe their significance to U.S. History. As students are expected to read an entire textbook chapter every week, these terms allow them to focus their reading and more closely read for the concepts my mentor teacher deems most important to the course.

Every Friday morning I stamp these Key Terms as handed in on time. I pass them back once students are in class so that the students can use these and their textbook to answer a series of review questions with their table partners. Students are expected to write paragraph responses to at least one of the review questions in the first thirty minutes of class. We allot about ten minutes for group discussion, where the teacher helps address any outstanding questions. Students pass back their Key Terms and in the last twenty minutes of class they take a twenty-question quiz. Each quiz question relates to a different Key Term, and is a mode to assess whether or not students are reading the textbook chapters in their own time as closely as needed. We are laying the groundwork, after all, and it is important that students know the skeleton of history before we can dive deeper.

Key Terms are then graded over the weekend, and the quizzes some time the next week (I’ll admit, however, we have not been great about getting the students their Key Terms or scores quickly, as I have been learning the ropes as I grade this unit). These formal formative assessments are of course coupled with several other informal assessments. My mentor teacher and I, for instance, always consider student participation in class discussion and seminars and stamp completed homework in order to keep track of student engagement.

As said, the first summative assessment for the course takes place tomorrow. The Unit 1 test will include several multiple choice questions related to the key terms the students have already been working with. The second part of the test, however, is quite different. Students have been assigned essay groups (four students each), and together the class came up with four possible essay questions (all relating to how distinct factors affected the New England, Middle, and Southern colonies). Each student is assigned to lead one essay, which means they are expected to write the introduction and conclusion and organize their group members to write the body paragraphs. Each student, then, heads one question and is expected to write three distinct body paragraphs for the other three questions.

Students were given some time to organize who would head and write what for each potential essay question last week. Over the weekend they have presumably written out rough drafts for each question. On the day of the test, my mentor teacher will choose just one of these questions, and depending on the question, all group members should already know which part of the essay they are expected to write. Groups are not even allowed to discuss or strategize during the exam.

Once all is handed in, my mentor teacher will read each part as if it were one essay (understanding, of course, if a group member is absent or really drops the ball on the rest of the group). This takes a great deal of preparation work, and in their preparation time, students will inadvertently have studied for the multiple choice part of the unit exam.

I am very much looking forward to seeing how this summative assessment plays out! The formative assessments thus far this semester have been extraordinarily helpful in assessing student progress, and assessing just how much work these students are doing. The workload is heavy for this course, but the students have the opportunity to really explore the complexities of history. This is all thanks to the foundational knowledge they glean from their Key Term and quiz preparation, which allow us to push them much further during precious class time.