Teach based on planned lessons (Competency 9)
Working with two students during Integrated Language Arts

I believe that all effective teachers must be prepared to teach each day with comprehensive lesson plans outlining that day’s goals and objectives. Having written lesson plans ensures that teachers are aware of their intended learning outcomes as well as potential student responses. Teachers who plan effective lessons anticipate some snags along the way; however, they also plan for prompting student responses and alternative approaches.

Throughout my professional development, I have worked hard to complete and organize my lessons so that I can best meet the needs of my students by dedicating my time in the classroom to meeting each day’s intended learning outcomes instead of scrambling to gather materials and resources. I feel that the best way to plan is to plan ahead and, during my student teaching experience, I made it my goal to have every lesson that I taught planned in advance. I designed different templates for each subject area in order to best address the specific needs and goals of each topic. My small group reading lesson plan template, for example, outlines the weekly breakdown of one of four small groups’ reading, phonetic, and writing goals for each week. This comprehensive approach allowed anyone, especially my cooperating teacher, to easily observe the current goals of each leveled group as well as their progress throughout any given week.

Provide for individual differences in the classroom (Competency 10)
It is important for all teachers to provide for the needs of all of their students when teaching. Every classroom is made up of students with varying learning styles, strengths, and weaknesses; however, it is the teacher’s responsibility to plan in accordance with these differentiated learning styles. With that in mind, I believe that it is critical for a teacher to vary their learning styles when appropriate.

The first grade class at Greenwood Elementary School where I am conducting my student teaching is the grade level Eng
lish Language Learner classroom. There are currently seven students in my class that receive pull out and in class help at a variety of levels in the ELL process. At different points in the year, this class had as many as nine students in the ELL program, the majority of which are native Spanish speakers. In planning each lesson, I must consider how these students will interpret the new information presented to them. There is also one student in my class who has recently been diagnosed as Learning Disabled and given an I.E.P. to help meet some of his classroom needs.

When planning each lesson that I teach, I consider the needs of these students, taking special care to note any potentially confusing vocabulary and/or concepts. Though I try my best to identify potentially confusing passages or phrases ahead of time, I often cannot predict what my students will question because I do not have the same view of the given subject. Therefore, I have made it my prerogative to establish a community of trust in which my students feel comfortable asking me any question as long as it is relevant to the subject we are currently discussing. Some students do so more often than others, but every question helps further each student’s understanding.

Use a variety of effective instructional strategies appropriate for the content areas (Competency 12)
Instruction must vary throughout the day in order to keep student minds engaged and open to learning. During my full time student
teaching experience, I strived to keep the day interesting by using a variety of instructional strategies when planning my daily lessons during Science, Integrated Language Arts, Social Studies, and Mathematics. I began my student teaching with a strong focus on the Integrated Language Arts component of the school day because building a strong foundation for literacy is the main focus of that grade level. I enjoyed watching my students learn and grow with each day's lesson; however, I felt that something was missing in terms of building their phonemic and phonetic awareness.

I took a chance and asked my cooperating teacher if I could try something other than the movable text chart used in many elementary classrooms and as part of our Harcourt Trophies basal reader. Luckily, she said yes, as long as students were still meeting their daily phonemic and phonetic goals and I began to make what I call our "paddle letters." In the video clip above, you can see my students and the paddle letters in action. This clip showcases how a little physical activity can go a long way in terms of increasing student involvement, attention, and overall learning throughout the day. Another alternate approach to teacher-focused word building on a moveable text chart involved making use of the personal dry erase boards I found in the back of my cooperating teacher's closet. Using these boards and corresponding markers, students are able to build and manipulate words on their own while the teacher monitors their process.

Use motivational strategies and actively engage students in learning (Competencies 11 &13)
Student engagement is very important to me because the common thread in all of my fondest educational memories is a high level of

student engagement. I am the type of person who learns best by doing so I make it my goal to get my students as involved as possible in their own learning experiences. I try and plan lessons that involve things that I know my students like as well as a good number of challenges. I want my students to feel empowered by learning and I do my best to help them work towards a number of goals while maintaining high expectations.

One of the highlights of my student teaching experience was that my cooperating teacher gave me the freedom to try out innovative teaching techniques to help our students reach beyond the outlined standards. One such experience involved an atypical exploration of our class's favorite book: Chrysanthemum by Kevin Henkes. I decided to reach out to another member of my William and Mary Elementary Cohort, Ben Cottingham, and asked if he would like to collaborate on a Reader's Theater project with my first graders. We prepared a lesson plan, edited a script, and created mouse noses and floral hats in the hopes of creating a meaningful and memorable learning experience. The culmination of our work is depicted in the short film above and I could not be more proud of my students' final product!

Promote critical thinking skills (Competency 14)
It is important for all students to have the opportunity to use and improve upon their critical thinking skill set. I love seeing my students in action and use every opportunity possible to get them thinking beyond the Standards of Learning and beyond the classroom. I have introduced a number of critical thinking activities in my classroom and hope that I have changed the way some of my students approach the learning process. The Reader's Theater learning experience discussed above was an excellent way of getting students to think critically about what it means to tell a story. As a follow up to this experience, I had students reflect on how they felt before, during, and after the Reader's Theater in a Meet The Actor writing assignment (see samples of student work below). This reflection activity allowed students to discuss their likes and dislikes while also thinking about potential opportunities in the future.