“The mediocre teacher tells. The good teacher explains. The superior teacher demonstrates. The great teacher inspires.― William Arthur Ward

Students create Haiku Kites to remember the 5-7-5 line structure of the poem.
During my practica and student teaching experience, I realized that my strength as a teacher is my creativity in using visuals, materials, and hands on activities in the classroom to engage students with the content. I think that most of my lesson plans differentiate instruction, because I always vary instructional styles in one specific lesson in order to differentiate and ensure that students have the opportunity to engage in learning in the way that makes most sense to them. Again, Howard Gardner's theory of multiple intelligences influences my approach to instruction. Characteristically, when I am responsible for whole group instruction, I begin by introducing the topic, objective, and solicit student input about what they know about the topic. Students are engaged when they hear their classmates experiences with a topic, and having this opening discussion establishes and an equal foundation for what students know about the topic going into a lesson by consolidating background knowledge. After soliciting student input, I clarify what is correct from what students have said, which parts are most important and should be emphasized, and then I add the necessary details. Often I model instruction or use a think aloud, demonstrating what I want students to look for, do or how they should approach a topic. I also believe in partner work to help students combine what they know and practice a subject together, and then individual work is important as well. I believe that collaborating with peers in an important exercise and can increase student learning when they collaborate unique ideas and combine their creativity. in most of my lessons I have some portion of hands on activities where students are creating a product: normally the product takes critical thinking skills; for example, when I taught the Haiku kite 5-7-5 structure at the beginning of class, I instructed students to think about why I am having them make Haikus in the shape of a kite. Students also had to apply the information learned about the correct number of syllables and synthesize a Haiku poem of their own. When students are in my class, I never want them to simply repeat or copy information down; that's why students must create a product of their own to show me that they not only comprehend what I have taught them, but can synthesize their own creation based on what they know. In my classroom, I want everything that I teach to be relatable and for students to see how the content can be relevant in their own lives.

This die has a nose and mouth as a visual for our personification lesson to remind students that in personification, nonliving objects are given human qualities.

When teaching a Poetry Unit, I ensured that the structure of each poetry style was clear. In addition to Haiku, we covered a variety of poetry styles and vocabulary, including similes, metaphors, personification, alliteration and rhyming couplets. For each of these poetry styles, I wanted to make sure that the structure and unique characteristics of each were emphasized. I believe that every good lesson begins with a strong "anticipatory set" or "hook." In my Alliteration Lesson Plan, I began the lesson by speaking entirely in alliteration. Students were curious as to why I was speaking this way, and it helped them remember what alliteration sounded like. In nearly all of my lesson plans, I utilize visuals, so to teach personification, I decorated a football, baseball and dice with eyes and a mouth, asking students how they thought these objects were feeling by the expression on their faces. I told students to remember that personification was taking a nonliving object or idea and giving it human qualities. Throughout my teaching experience, I strongly believe in making associations between content and information that students already know. I think that doing this leads to lasting understanding and memory of the content taught.

Another lesson that follows a similar format is a Phases of the Moon Lesson Plan that I taught on the SOL 4.8 Solar System Unit. I began the lesson with a whole group discussion establishing background knowledge of the topic from what they had learned the previous year and yesterday's class. I solicited important content from students with strategic prompting questions like: Why is the moon lit up? How many phases of the moon are there? What causes the different phases of the moon? All of these questions are relevant and important for students to understand the activity that they will be working on later in class. After students have answered necessary questions, I modeled the phases of the moon on the board, giving students tips and fun tricks for how to distinguish "waxing" from "waning." Then I explained that our interactive activity would be having students create the phases of the moon in correct order out of Oreos. Students were very excited when they saw the Oreos and were actively engaged in the activity. They worked in partners, which fostered collaboration, allowed for formative assessment (since the students talk out loud to one another,) and allowed students to correct each other or explain their thought processes out loud. An important teaching skill is to always wrap up hands-on activities with closure. In the closure discussion, we talked about what which were easy to remember and put in order and which were harder. Students gave each other insight on how they placed them in the correct order. I chose a child who aligned the moon phases properly to present her model. Students listened and were curious about the right answer because they had been engaged for the last fifteen minutes with the activity and were curious about what the final product should have been. The principal of the school really enjoyed the Oreo hands-on activity and asked me to share it with the members of the fifth grade team, since students are assessed on this material in the fifth grade.

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Students doing partner work completing a "Phases of the Moon" Oreo challenge.

During the Solar System Unit, I also taught a lesson on how the Earth's axial tilt causes the seasons. Leading up to this lesson, I was nervous and stumped about how to teach it in an interesting way. It is difficult subject matter for fourth graders, and if not taught in an interesting way, could be boring to students. I decided that, again, students respond best to instruction if they know that they are responsible for creating a product. I knew that in order to teach this lesson well, I had to be prepared with models and know how to use them effectively

To get students excited and engaged with the seasons, I used the Sun-Earth-Moon model and had students raise their hands when the model reached their birthday month. Students would see how much light was hitting where they specifically lived on Earth on their birthday month. After we had made sure to differentiate "rotation" from "revolution," I modeled how axial tilt influences the seasons and drew four earths on the board representing the earth's position during each of the seasons for where we live. After I modeled this and clarified student questions, I had students create their own models of the sun and earth during each of the seasons out of a small yellow balloon, blue playdough, and then four toothpicks that represented axial tilt. Students were instructed to label the seasons and to draw something that reminded them of each season so that they had a visual association for where each season was and what the Earth's position looked like. Students really engaged with this activity, and it was rewarding to see them be excited about an activity that I created. Click here to take a look at my lesson plan: Earth's Seasons and Axial Tilt Lesson Plan.
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An original hands on activity that I created; Students learned how axial tilt and the Earth's revolution influence the seasons. Each student showed me where which way the Earth's axis should be tilted in relation to the sun depending on the season.

In another lesson during the Solar System unit, I used playdough again and created my own original models of the Earth, moon, and Sun. This lesson focused on differentiating rotation from revolution, so I used a bendable straw to represent revolution and used a toothpick to represent rotation. This lesson helped students see the relationship of the Sun, Earth, and Moon. Many students were having trouble understanding that the moon revolves around the Earth while the Earth revolves around the Sun. This model helped to consolidate all of the information that they were learning and showed how it went together. My cooperating teacher told me that she will use this model in her classroom next year.

Students creating a model showing the relationship between the Sun, Moon, and Earth. The bendable straw allows for the Earth to "Revolve" around the Sun.

I firmly believe that using simple materials such as play dough can automatically motivate a student to engage. Students love using their hands and working with materials. Giving students materials and then challenging them to put something together will motivate them. They will either successfully complete the finished product, or be curious about how to do it. Part of having effective teaching skills is to ensure that you are creating a learning environment where students are constantly asking "Why?" and "How?"
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A student explores the texture of a dormant leaf. In science, I try to bring nature into the classroom.

While I believe that it is important to maintain professionalism in the classroom, another effective instructional strategy that I use is making the kids laugh! I always remember that the best way to engage children is to entertain them. I believe that a teacher can entertain children while teaching valuable information. For example, I taught a Fantasy Unit during Reading and Language Arts. When going over the common themes and recurring characters that appeared in a Fantasy story, I decided to devote part of a lesson to introducing the role of the fairy godmother. To embellish my description of the fairy godmother and imbibe students with an unforgettable memory, I dressed up as a fairy godmother for the lesson. I created my own cap and had a wand with streamers. Students reacted very positively to this simple costume and remained engaged throughout the lesson.Click here to see one of my fantasy lessons: Introduction to the Fantasy Unit

When teaching students Reading Instruction, I saw the importance of emphasizing reading strategies and organizing the information that students were reading. When teaching, I am a strong supporter of graphic organizers of all kinds. I had the wonderful opportunity of teaching three different small, leveled reading groups. While each group was reading a different book, (though all were associated with the Mystery or Fantasy genre), I usually had a "reading strategy of the day." Strategies that I commonly utilized were compare and contrast, isolating the main idea, summarzing, sequencing, predicting and making inferences, author's viewpoint, and fact versus opinion. I used several different activities to engage students. For compare and contrast, my most popular go-to graphic organizer was a Venn Diagram. Students were comfortable with Venn Diagrams and enjoyed using them. For isolating the main idea, I would assign students a few pages to read, and would challenge them to isolate what they thought was the main idea--or most important part--into just one sentence. This was very difficult for students, but proved effective. Students faced the challenge and then shared with their classmates in the group. The group saw that most of their sentences that they created had the same theme or "main idea." For sequencing, I often used a "index card activity" where I wrote a sentence on each index card, and when the cards were put together, the main points of the entire book were explained in order. I placed the cards out of order and had students work in small groups to place the cards in the correct order to see if they could remember the sequence of the story. For predicting, I instructed students to be at the same stopping place in a book (ex. Chapter 9 of 10), and would have students talk about what had happened so far, what their predictions were for the ending of the story and why. For making inferences, I usually took passages from the story and asked students to circle "clue words" and or underline phrases that "give a hint" as to what the author wants the reader to feel about the mood, setting, or thoughts of characters. For author's viewpoints, students would utilize technology to look up background knowledge on the author and use that knowledge to inform their thoughts about what he or she wrote the book. An author's viewpoint is a good lesson to have right after making inferences, because students have just practice making an educational guess about what the intended statement in the book is. I enjoyed working with the leveled reading groups because it allowed for differentiation, allowing students to work at their own pace. I also could adapt lesson plans and instruction to individual student needs, since they were only groups of eight to ten. It was a nice opportunity to have more personalized instruction with the students.
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As part of our fantasy unit, I dressed up as a Fairy Godmother.
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While teaching students mystery and fantasy units, I was in charge of facilitating practice with writing instruction. I required students to write their own stories that utilized common themes and patterns, characters, and vocabulary words associated with each. So that students would not be confused, I always provided a guideline or starting point of some kind. I always emphasize brainstorming, and provided students graphic organizers to arrange their thoughts before they began the writing process. Here are examples of student work with graphic organizers

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This is a Venn Diagram that students created during our Fantasy Unit. Based on two read alouds, they compared and contrasted themes in each of the Fantasy stories.

During my a math lesson on Transformations, I used visuals to demonstrate the motions of translations, rotations, and reflections. To keep students understand the motions and to differentiate instruction, I had visual models for the movement to cater to visual learners, I had shortened names that students recited out loud to represent the motions for auditory learners (They were "slide" "flip" and "turn" corresponding with "translate," "reflect" and "rotate.") Then, at the end of class, I had students dance to the "Cha Cha slide" which incorporates all of those movements. I knew this would cater to musical and kinesthetic learners. Students also copied and created their own transformations, translations, and rotations. They did this with rules and perfect measurement to cater to logical learners. I tried to incorporate as many of Howard Gardner's multiple intelligences into this lesson:
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A visual presented during class to help students master different Transformation motions.

Part of motivating and engaging students is giving them the creative license to make their own model of what you are trying to teach. Each student received a two pattern blocks with a specific shape and was in charge of illustrating a reflection, rotation, and translation. After the student had received permission from the teacher and the teacher had checked that the work was correct, students were rewarded by being able to take a few minutes to color and illustrate their work. Creating their own artwork will helps them visualize the concept being taught and remember it. Paige B.jpg
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I believe that making students feel important, as though they are a part of a collaborative process and engaged in the community will help them take ownership of their learning. When teaching my students about the Electoral College, I involved them in the process. After learning about the Electoral College, they actually cast their ballot and witnessed the Electoral College process as they voted on a class snack. While I taught this lesson individually, I also co-taught a similar lesson at Waller-Mill with two other student teachers to help with their School Improvement program in Social Studies. Here is what the student ballots looked like:
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Students cast their vote for the "class snack" as a part of their lesson on the Electoral College.