Thursday, November 17, 2011

Process > product

Today went really well, and I learned a LOT as a pre-service teacher. Half of the children went to the Book Fair in the morning and got to the classroom around 8:30. The other half was at the book fair until around 8:45. Ms. Ingram suggested that I start teaching the first group and then she could follow up with the second group.
The first group finished reading and discussing the "How Animals Move Book." They all had a lot to say about how animals fly and crawl. We talked about how human babies crawl, but adult humans can crawl too. We also talked about parrots and how parrots can talk like humans by copying what people say.

The students were immediately engaged by VoiceThread. I did a little pre-assessment to make sure everyone knew how to use a laptop mouse tracking pad by moving and clicking. Then we started looking at the pictures. As Ms. Ingram predicted, there was some disagreement and conflict about who would talk about which pictures. I tried to go in order and have them each choose between two pictures, but that didn't seem to be the best style for this group. Sometimes students were too shy or unwilling to talk about certain animals. And I wanted everyone to be willing and enthusiastic about participating. So we did more of a popcorn style. I would show a picture then ask if anyone would like to speak about that animal. That way, the shier students could choose animals to talk about that they felt comfortable describing.

The road we took to get them talking about animals was a little different than I had planned. It was also more difficult than I anticipated to have them talk exclusively about the animal body parts OR movement. This was actually a really good modification to my plans. Some students were less confident at first, so they used simpler sentences and required more prompting. Other students immediately jumped in to talking about both animal characteristics and the movements and used lots of descriptive vocabulary.

This was a great lesson for me, because it was a perfect example of how students differ in their readiness and instruction should be differentiated accordingly. All the students in the group had varied experiences and understanding that they brought with them into the classroom. One of the biggest takeaways I gained from the day was realizing how important it is to recognize and affirm each student for where they are in their learning journey. Because it really is a journey. Sometimes it's the process, not the product that counts.

One of the challenges I ran into was having the students sit still and stay quiet while other students were speaking. I think partially that was because they were so jazzed about using the computer. However, they were also all seated really close to one another. Tomorrow I may try some new strategies to keep them on task.
My main goal for the project was to have students practice using vocabulary describing animal body parts and movement. I think they definitely accomplished that. I'm excited to review with them tomorrow and continue using VoiceThread.

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