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Category: EDUC 391 Experiential Practicum

Practicum Experience – Winter 2022 Semester

Experiential Practicum Reflection

Last Day of My Practicum – Lovely Flowers from my amazing Coaching Teacher & Students

As teacher candidates, we were encouraged to approach this practicum with a sense of “playfulness”—to take chances, experiment, and try new things without fear of failure.  Paraphrasing the words of Dr. Christina Younghusband: “This is your time to play!  You can’t fail this practicum so try the idea, the tactic, or the lesson you’ve been wanting to try!”  Hearing this and knowing that this practicum was just that—experiential, a chance for teacher candidates to gain experience and become more familiar with the role of the classroom teacher—relieved pressure and allowed us to experiment with instruction and assessment strategies that we may not have tried otherwise.

In designing, facilitating, and adjusting my lessons, I focused on how I could meet the needs of my diverse learners—those who were struggling (my developing and emerging learners), those who were “right on track” (my proficient learners), and those who were already masters (my extending learners).  The pressing questions at the back of my mind—before, during, and after lessons—were: (1) how do I ensure that all my student “get it”?  and (2) if they do not get it right away, how do I ensure that those not “getting it” receive the time and support they need to “get it” without slowing the pace of instruction to a rate where the proficient and extending learners become bored and disengaged?!?  MY CT and I agreed that the best course of action was to provide as explicit instruction as possible at the outset, approaching the content as though students had ever heard of it before.  I broke concepts down to their most basic parts and then worked at putting them back together.

Explicit Instruction – Explaining Success Criteria for our Debate Task

I ensured that instruction was engaging too all.  I invoked students’ prior knowledge and connected it to new content.  I ensured that my lessons were universally designed with all learners in mind and involved oral, visual, and written components.  I drew upon technology (using the Smart Board to display visuals and audio-visuals) and gave students choice when it came to how they wanted to work and complete tasks (individually, in pairs, in small groups, or as a class).  In most activities—whether during brainstorming and discussion tasks, reading comprehension tasks, written tasks, debate tasks, or math tasks—there was a reasonable level of choice.  If a student (or students) struggled, I made sure to take a step back and re-teach and review before moving on.  I offered levelled work and students had opportunities to self-assess their knowledge and skills before choosing “good fit” options that were challenging but not too difficult or frustrating.  

I took all cues from my students and adjusted instruction, lessons, and tasks accordingly.  I practiced, fostered, and honed my instructional agility—the “iterative process of understanding what you want students to learn, recognizing and interpreting student words and action, and responding in ways that build on students’ strengths, clear up misconceptions, and promote the next steps in their learning” (Erkens et. al., 2017, pg. 110).  Although it was often a challenge juggling twenty-seven diverse learners in a single classroom, teachers must do this every day; those making it look easier than the rest have mastered instructional agility.  My instructional agility hinged on assessment, and I tried several “new to me” assessment strategies during this practicum, including exit tickets for formative assessment and rubrics for summative assessment (one I made myself and one I adopted from an online source).  Prior to this teacher education program, I had never heard of the “exit ticket” (never mind incorporated one into my teaching) and what I knew of rubrics was limited.  Teaching on call and in part-time/short-term teaching vacancies has limited the assessment decisions I have had to make.  Essentially, I have carried out assessment plans left by classroom teachers or continued to do what the permanent/contract teachers did (keeping classroom disruptions minimal).  

But here, in this experiential practicum, I was given “free reign” to assess however I liked!  It was both liberating and intimidating to be the sole decider of how to assess student learning.  There were so many important decisions to make!  How would I get students to demonstrate their learning or achieve the learning intention(s)?  What would I assess and how would I assess it?  Would my assessments be formative, summative, or both?  What evidence would I gather?  What tools would I use to help gather and assess?  What type of feedback would I give (verbal, written, formal, informal)?  How would I document and share assessment results?  Would I incorporate opportunities for self-assessment, peer assessment or rely solely on teacher assessment?  So many questions—questions I had not considered when assessment was the after-thought of a “fly-by-the-seat-of-my-pants/plan a day’s worth of lessons in the thirty minutes I have between the time I walk into the classroom and the time the morning bell rings” scenario, or when the lessons and assessments had been pre-ordained by the regular classroom teacher.  

Initially, all the planning was challenging and the questions overwhelming.  But, as the days went by, planning for assessment of learning became easier.  Included below are excerpts from my lesson plans, each highlighting an assessment practice and/or strategy I planned and utilized during my practicum:

ELA Lesson 1: Introduction to Editorials – Students will achieve the learning intention by participating in a class discussion and watching the informational video.  To invoke thinking and reflection, I will engage students with queries and prompts, and will provide formative feedback on their thoughts and ideas.  At the end of the lesson, students will do an Exit Slip to demonstrate understanding.  Students will be asked to write, on a sticky note or small piece of paper, something they envision seeing in an editorial that is of interest to them (i.e., basically any idea that involves an opinion or point of view that can be argued using facts/data/sources of information to persuade an audience toward an opinion or point of view).  These exit slips will be discussed at the beginning of the next lesson. 

ELA Lesson 2: Reading Editorials – Students will achieve the learning intentions by participating in class and group discussions.  To invoke thinking and reflection, the teacher will engage students with queries and prompts, and will provide formative feedback on their thoughts and ideas.  Students will work in small groups, where they will read, discuss, and answer questions about an editorial.  Each group will share their answers with the rest of the class.  During the sharing process, I will formatively assess student/group understanding and provide formative feedback in situ.

ELA Lesson 5: Reading Editorials Like a Writer – Students will achieve the learning intention by reading, discussing, and answering a selection of questions about an editorial (in pairs or small groups).  The teacher will circulate the room during the read/respond portion of the lesson and provide formative feedback to students on their thoughts and ideas.  Each pair/small group will turn in their written responses, which I will assess against a simple rubric (attached) and return with summative feedback, meant to guide further learning.

ELA Lesson 6: Introduction to Debate – Students will achieve the learning intention by participating in a class discussion and by planning and participating in a debate.  I will circulate the room during the collaboration and planning process, providing formative feedback to students (i.e., on their opinions/points of view, arguments, evidence, opening statements, rebuttals, and closing statements).  Students will then take turns debating.  The audience will decide the winner of each debate by majority vote; that is, after each debate, I will ask the class which individual or team was the most convincing/persuasive?  The audience will raise a hand for Individual/Team A or Individual/Team B.  Then, we will give individuals/teams constructive feedback (2 strengths & 1 stretch), aimed at helping students improve for tomorrow’s debate.

ELA Lesson 7: Debating Issues That Matter to Us – Students will achieve the learning intention by planning and participating in a second, more serious, debate.  I will circulate the room during the collaboration and planning process, providing formative feedback to students on their opinions/points of view, arguments, evidence, opening statements, rebuttals, and closing statements.  Students will then take turns debating.  The audience will decide the winner of each debate (majority vote).  After each debate, I will ask the class which individual, or team, was the most convincing/compelling/persuasive?  The audience will raise a hand for Individual/Team A or Individual/Team B.  I will also assess students’ debate skills against a simple rubric which will be returned to them with summative feedback (meant to guide future debates).

Math Lesson 1: Equivalent Fractions – Students will demonstrate their learning and understanding of Equivalent Fractions and Fractions in Simplest Form in several ways: (1) in the responses they provide during “Discussion Time”; (2) in the responses they provide on individual whiteboards during “Show Me What You Know”; (3) in the responses they provide during a self-assessed thumbs up/down “Rate Your Understanding” poll; and (4) in their responses to questions during “Time to Practice.”  Students will receive formative feedback at each of these four stages of learning.  Student responses to the practice questions will be handed in at the end of the lesson/block so that I can review and provide feedback to students on where they are at in their learning (vs. where they need to be) before the next lesson.  This way, I can adjust my instruction, reviewing and/or re-teaching when necessary.  I can also arrange additional support and go over corrections (working toward mastery of the concept).  Throughout the week (in lessons to follow), students will have ample opportunity to practice, gain teacher feedback, and receive extra support. At the end of the week (see Friday’s lesson plan), students will have a low-stakes, summative quiz to assess understanding of the concepts. Quiz results will help me determine if students need further instruction and review of the concepts, or if they are ready to move to new concepts (of increasing difficulty).

The lesson planning for this practicum was extensive, but all the planning paid off when I knew exactly what I was assessing before my lessons began!  Teaching is so much easier when you know what you are assessing and why.  Having an assessment plan and knowing how my assessment criteria connected to the curriculum, allowed me to tailor my lessons and adjust and adapt my instruction to meet the needs of the students—it helped me be instructionally agile.  

During my practicum, my coaching teacher (CT) commended me on my ability to adjust my lessons and tasks as needed, based on the feedback I received from her and the students directly (in our conversation/discussions, in thumbs up/down polls, in their exit ticket responses and responses to assigned questions and practice problems, and on their quizzes) and indirectly (students’ ability to focus and engage with the instruction and assigned tasks).  She was equally pleased with my ability to provide students with clear and concise feedback (verbally/formatively and written/summatively) that would guide their learning (taking them from where they were to where they needed to be) and with my ability to track and record evidence of student learning (pictured below).

Week #1 – Tracking Evidence of Student Learning
Week #2 – Tracking Evidence of Student Learning
Week #3 – Tracking Evidence of Student Learning

My assessment efforts helped me recognize early on that I needed to offer students levelled math options so that all had “good-fit” problems that were challenging but not too difficult.  Students were given opportunity to reach proficiency and show extending knowledge on low-stake summative quizzes based on what they practiced each week (working toward mastery at different levels).  During my second week, I postponed adding a new concept as originally planned, choosing to spend more time working toward mastery before adding another, more challenging step.  This decision paid off: students were successful having had the extra time and were ready for the new material when I introduced it at the beginning of my third week.  My planned assessment efforts also enabled me to ensure students understood the criteria and knew what they were being assessed on prior to starting each task.  Rubrics were shared during explicit instruction so there were no assessment surprises for anyone involved.  I also paid attention to student feedback and showed flexibility when students required longer than expected to complete learning tasks (i.e., reading comprehension questions, group work, debating tasks, etc.).  Formative feedback was provided to students verbally during every lesson and in writing on preliminary/practice questions.  Summative feedback was provided on summative tasks (i.e., quizzes and end-of-unit tasks; see ELA rubrics below).

Summative Feedback (end of unit Debate task)
Summative Feedback (end of unit Reading Comprehension task)

Upon reflection, I am proud of the instruction I provided and of the assessment and motivation strategies I utilized in my experiential practicum.  I must say, after all of this planning and attention to detail, it is going to be hard to transition back to my TTOC role and not knowing my instruction and assessment plans in advance!!

Lived Experience of the First Peoples Principles of Learning and the 9 R’s in My Experiential Practicum

Throughout my practicum, and in my lessons, I encouraged students to be patient and kind to themselves and others as they learned new concepts.  My lessons and units were delivered via open, non-judgmental group discussions, posited on positive teacher/student and student/student relationships and connections.  

Ideas and concepts were taught and learned experientially, through a mixture of explicit instruction, modelling, scaffolded support, practice, and student-doing.  Student understanding was dependent upon their participation in, and attentiveness to, class and group discussions and to the assigned tasks (done in class, with support as needed).  Universal Design for Learning (UDL) was utilized to account for student diversity and helped me meet a broad range of student needs (physically, emotionally, spiritually, mentally, and intellectually).

This approach to learning was based on respect, responsibility, reciprocity, relevance, and reflexivity.  This approach helped me foster amazing relationships with my students, my coaching teacher, and other staff members in the school.  I was able to gain my students’ trust, confidence, and respect, and that of my coaching teacher and other staff members.  Students shared with me aspects of their self, their family, their community, their pets, and their relationships to the world around them.

I was able join students on two fun-filled field trips to the local ski hill, toward the end of my practicum, where I enjoyed nature and connecting to land with my students and many of their families (siblings, parents, and even some grandparents (elders) on the traditional unceded territory of the Dakelh people.

Enjoying Nature with my Students – Troll Mountain
Located on the traditional, unceded territory of the Dakelh people.

Teacher Candidate (TC) Practicum Self-Reflection

Ways I have grown as an educator:

I feel like I have grown in many ways throughout this experiential practicum, but especially in the area of lesson planning.  I have taught on call as an uncertified teacher for almost three years, but this role does not give one the time or the space to create in-depth lessons.  You are either teaching the classroom teacher’s lesson plan or creating a lesson plan on the fly (in the twenty-five minutes between your arrival and the time the morning bell rings and students are filing thru the door).  You basically plan blind since you are unaware of what students have already learned or where they are going in their learning trajectory.  You have no prior knowledge of students or student needs within the classroom, which makes meaningful lessons a real challenge to design.

In this practicum, I worked alongside my coaching teacher during our three “pre-Tuesday” practicum days to come up with meaningful unit and lesson plans based on what the students already did/knew/understood in the curriculum and what they still needed to do/know/understand.  From there, I was able to develop detailed lessons that fully linked to British Columbia’s Redesigned Curriculum (i.e., to the Big Ideas, Curricular Content and Curricular Competencies).  I delved into the curriculum during my first semester, but it was a general exploration since we were not focused on a particular grade or subject.  During this practicum, I was able to focus solely on grade six and seven mathematics and English language arts.  I worked really hard to connect my lessons to the students and student needs within the classroom—again, the pre-practicum Tuesdays were essential to building these relationships and getting to know students and their interests.

Three things I am thinking about improving:

During the initial days of this practicum, I received direct feedback from my coaching teacher regarding the length of my lessons, particularly the instructional component and how it was slightly longer than students were accustomed to.  Students also gave me indirect feedback (i.e., showing restlessness and losing focus), so I immediately remedied this by shortening the instructional portion of my lessons, making sure to pay close attention to the length of time I was instructing, and to if/when students started to become restless or inattentive.  My coaching teacher commended me on my ability to adjust and take this constructive feedback and put it into action right away.  Still, I feel that this is an area that I will constantly need to work on.  I get so excited about content, and what I want to teach, that I plan too much for each lesson.  I think it also has to do with the fact that we only had three weeks to cover what we wanted to cover, and there was no way to say “oh, I’ll just cover that next week.”  Nevertheless, I believe this is something I will continually need to work on and improve. 

I also received feedback from my CT that I should practice my “wait time.”  I believe this goes hand in hand with my first point—I want to cover so much in each lesson that I forget to “wait students out” and I start my lessons without having the class’ full attention.  I immediately took my CT’s feedback.  I started to wait for my students’ full attention before beginning my lessons.  This is something I will continue to work on, especially during my time teaching on call (i.e., where you are not the regular classroom teacher and students often think they can get away without giving you their full attention).

I would also like to improve upon making sure I have tasks for early finishers (planning and accounting for those students that are excelling and need extra work). 

One goal area which could be developed into an inquiry:

I wonder if incorporating a movement or brain break into a grade six/seven lesson could help remedy my “lengthy instructional” issue.  That is, would breaking up longer, more challenging lessons into two segments, separated by a five-minute movement or brain break, re-focus students and allow them to come back to the lesson/task with a cleared mind? Would it “bring students back” or would it cause me to completely lose them?  

Some content/material takes longer to cover and needs to be addressed in greater detail in one sitting—this requires more patience from students, often more than they are able to give.  A movement or brain break might be what is needed to get them through the lesson.  My only fear is that it would escalate off-task or impatient students and I would lose them completely.  I have used movement and brain breaks with younger primary students (with success) but have shied away from using them with older intermediate students thinking they would find them to “juvenile.”  However, they are something I will experiment with in the future!

Practicum Lesson Plans – Math Grade 6/7

Practicum Lesson Plans – Math Grade 7

Practicum Lesson Plans – Math Grade 6

Practicum Lesson Plans – English Language Arts (ELA) Grade 6/7

Pre-Practicum Jitters & Preparations

My Experiential Practicum is fast approaching!  With only three days until “go-time”, I must admit that I have a slight case of the pre-practicum jitters.  I liken how I am feeling to how I have felt prior to big races, games, or performances; to those minutes leading up to final presentations; or, in my early days of teaching on-call, to the moments before going into unfamiliar classrooms with little (or no) time to prepare.  That heightened awareness that all eyes will be on me.  That sense of being ready, but also questioning my readiness.  That feeling of excitement, but also fear of “messing up.”  I am feeling “all the feels” heading into this practicum!

I will spend my three weeks in a split grade six/seven classroom.  I had the opportunity to observe this class once last semester, during my Observational Practicum, and it was a wonderful experience.  The past few Tuesdays have been spent familiarizing myself with the class (routines and procedures), the Coaching Teacher (CT), and her twenty-seven delightful students.  My CT’s teaching style (and pedagogy) aligns closely with mine, and the students are active, engaged, and eager to learn.  I could not have asked for a better practicum placement!  The instructional component excites me (I feel that my time as a TTOC has equipped me for this part of practicum) and I feel adequately prepared to assess student learning (again, I feel that my TTOC experience, and my role as a part-time contract teacher, has armed me in this area of teaching).  And yet, the jitters are still present!  Why?!?!  It boils down to lesson planning.  As a Cohort, we have discussed how complex, time-consuming, and anxiety-provoking the UNBC lesson template is.  I have put together lessons, instructed hundreds of students in more than one hundred classrooms, and assessed evidence of student learning, but I have never (in my three years of teaching) seen lesson plans that resemble the ones we are expected to produce in this practicum.  I believe that it is the level of planning (and the short amount of time to get it done) that is stressing me out!  I have never been asked to create lessons, or build-in assessments, to the degree of complexity or rigor demanded here.

To keep it manageable, my CT and I have decided that I will focus my lessons on Math and English Language Arts.  In the interest of maintaining consistency (and teaching to mastery), I will follow my CT’s instructional framework for Mathematics (i.e., explicit instruction followed by student practice and daily formative feedback, followed by a low-stakes quiz).  Monday, I will introduce a topic from the Math Makes Sense textbook, assign in-class practice questions, and then mark before the next day’s lesson so that I know where students are in their learning.  This will help me decide what I need to revisit and/or re-teach.  On Tuesday, I will hand back student work and review and/or re-teach before assigning more practice questions from the Math Makes Sense Student Homework book.  Students will have time to do corrections, ask clarifying questions, and do extra practice (to be handed in and marked).  On Wednesday, I will review and re-teach where needed.  On Thursday, a review lesson will be provided along with more practice (i.e., Math games, white-board practice, and/or a Math-Aid worksheet).  On Friday, I will provide review as needed before giving students a low-stakes (summative) quiz.  The following week, I will introduce the next concept (i.e., move from 3.1 to 3.2).  My assessment concern is how I will adjust my lessons to account for students that do not understand the concept at the end of each week, despite explicit instruction, ample practice opportunities, and feedback?  Teaching to mastery is tricky, especially in a short practicum where lessons are cumbersome and complex to plan!

In English Language Arts, I will be doing a unit on “Persuasion.”  My lessons will cover: (1) Editorials; (2) Reading Editorials; (3) Writing Editorials; and (4) Debating.  Students will participate in several discussions, pair and shares, and group tasks, where I will formally observe their levels of understanding.  Students will also have the chance to communicate their levels of understanding more directly, in formative assessments (i.e., in thumbs up/down, on exit tickets, and in “React and Respond” answers).  At the end of the unit, students will participate in a debate, and I will assess their understanding of persuasion and communication skills against a co-designed “Debate Rubric.”  Students will also turn in their own written editorial and self-assessment (using a co-designed “Written Editorial Rubric”).  I will assess their editorial using the same rubric.  The debate and the written editorial will serve as summative assessments of learning.  My concern, here, is co-creating and using rubrics (with the little rubric-creating experience I have) that will be effective and valuable in moving student learning forward.

So, it is with this mix of jitters, excitement, and preparedness that I look forward to stepping into my practicum classroom this coming week 🙂

Me, excited and ready, sporting my UNBC name badge & School Swag!!

Last Evening Class Before Our 3-Week Practicum Begins!

Sun Setting Behind the UNBC South Central Campus

Tonight, the night sky was celebrating alongside the Quesnel Cohort as we entered the campus for what will be our last evening class before our Experiential Practicum begins! When we return, the snow will have melted, alongside our nerves, and we will be better, more experienced teachers-in-training!

It is an exciting time! We finally get to take all that we have learned over the past semester and a half and put it into action. For twenty to twenty-five percent of the school day, each of us will be in charge of lesson-planning, instruction, assessment, and classroom management 🙂

For some of us, this is brand new, for others (those who have TTOC’d) it is less new, but for ALL of us it is our first time teaching while being observed by Coaching Teachers. A little nerve-wracking, but part of the journey…one we are taking together and one I know we are all going to CRUSH!

So, until we meet again…I’m going to miss learning alongside my supportive peeps three nights a week, but we will soon reunite and have so much to share and talk about!

Sending good luck & well wishes to all my fellow teacher candidates…we’ve got this!!

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