Posted in Elementary Education Preparation

Response to Intervention

Lately there has been one thing on my mind: Response to Intervention or RTI. Response to Intervention is a tiered system of support that can be implemented in schools and focuses on prevention. I have had the privilege of learning about what RTI is and have decided that it is the best system for intervention in schools because it is focused on prevention. It goes beyond the “one size fits all” approach and takes each students needs into consideration.

RTI has three main tiers that become more intense as more instruction is needed. The first tier is Tier 1 and this is where all students begin and universal screening of all students takes place to see which children are falling behind the other students. The students who are falling behind after this screening are then given differentiated instruction by the teacher which involves modifying assignments or teaching in such a way that the particular student or students needing help can better understand and process the information. This is helpful for the student because they can receive instruction that is specific to them while also being on track with the required curriculum. 

After this level, students who need extra help can be recommended for Tier 2 which involves working in a small group with an instructor. In this tier, some students will be able to succeed and move back to Tier 1 while other students may be improving in Tier 2 but not enough yet to move back down so these students will remain in Tier 2. Finally, some students in Tier 2 (usually one or two) may not respond at all to this level of intervention and so they are then recommended for tier three. In Tier 3 students receive one-on-one individualized instruction. If the student is succeeding while in Tier 3 then they can either move down to Tier 1 or 2 or they can stay in Tier 3 for longer if needed. If the student is still not responding in Tier 3 then the student may be recommended for special education.

Throughout this whole process, progress monitoring takes place where teachers monitor students and can look at the data for that particular student to determine what to try next for a particular student. I look at this aspect of RTI like the movie Moneyball. This movie tells the story of the general manager of a Major League Baseball team who began recruiting baseball players based on a mathematical analysis of their skills and how they would fit into the team. RTI is like this because a teacher can look at a mathematical analysis of a student and determine what areas of their learning are falling behind and how best to help them specifically. Now I just gave you RTI in a nutshell but if you want to learn more I would suggest visiting one of these websites. They are worth looking at!

It is important to know about RTI and systems similar to it because as a teacher, you need to be educated in not only the program in place at your school but also about other possible programs that may be better for the school and students. In my opinion, RTI is the way to go because it focuses on prevention of students falling behind. In my class we were told that in many school systems the teacher is responsible for choosing an intervention program for their classroom. If I was ever faced with this decision I would no doubt want to implement RTI because it gives every child the opportunity to learn to the best of their ability. It provides an equitable learning experience for all children where each student is not just given an education but they are given an education that fits them and their needs.

Posted in Miscellaneous

Loving my Major-Related Classes

I am currently taking PETE 169 and VAEDU 329 for the Elementary Education program. I just applied for the  program in January. I wanted to share how I am enjoying these two classes.
PETE 169:Physical Education Teacher Education with Jami Ohran. I love this class! I’m not sure if children have lots more energy than I do or if I am REALLY out of shape! We all certainly get a work out in this class. It’s a blast! Our teacher teaches us as if we were elementary school-age and throws in little tips and tricks for how to teach effectively. One of the class management strategies that my teacher taught us is called the Toe to Toe. As the children are performing locomotor movements around the gym, the teacher has the children freeze and then yells “Toe to Toe!”. Each child finds another child that is standing closest to them and puts their toes together. This management skill splits the children up into teams or even partners for stretches, etc.  The class also focuses on different skill ques. For example, the basketball skill ques include bending knees, tucking your elbows in, keeping your eyes on the rim, and following through. So far we have learned how to throw and catch a softball, we have learned how to bump and set a volleyball, we have learned different animal walks, we do lots of stretches, and we even have done some gymnastics! I have this class every Monday and Wednesday for two hours and I love it! There are no pre-requisites for this course and it is one credit hour. In addition, it is a block class, which means it’s only for half of a semester.

         VAEDU 326: Visual Art Education with Jethro Gillespie. This class is so much fun! I have it on Thursday nights from 5-8pm. It is a long class, but it is so enjoyable! The only homework we have is to complete a sketchbook assignment and to write a one page response to an assigned article in preparation for each class. So far, we have made ceramics projects, painted with acrylic paints, sketched our very own classmates, and learned the basics of perspective drawing. Here are some of the projects I’ve made in class:

Ceramic letters for my bookshelf

Acrylic Painting
         Visual Art Education has been a very fun class. In the future, we will even be attending some art museums! The big project that is required for the class is working on an art project (or two) for a minimum of ten hours throughout the semester. I haven’t decided what my project will be yet, but it will be fun!
         These classes that I am taking for my major are getting me even more excited to take classes further into my major. What Education classes are you taking this semester? I can’t wait to hear about them.
Posted in Miscellaneous

The Start of My Personal Management Plan

Prior to my student teaching, the greatest fear I had regarding teaching was classroom management.  While I took an entire course dedicated to management, the idea of keeping thirty-five students “in-line” for eighty minutes each day seemed an impossible task.  To make matters worse, when I asked several of my mentor teachers what they did to manage their classrooms, I got a vast array of answers.  Books on the subject presented the same problem.  It seemed to me that every resource available to me on management had different ideas on how to accomplish the same goal. It wasn’t until I started teaching that I realized a very important concept:  every teacher has their own method of managing a classroom.  While these methods differ from teacher to teacher, they are each effective in their own way.  I wanted to dedicate this post to explaining some of the things I do in my own classroom management.  Although I have only been teaching for five weeks, I have had few problems in my classes.

One crucial element to my personal classroom management plan is the idea of choices.  I love giving my students choices, and along with choices, I love giving my students the opportunity of experiencing the consequences of their choices.  For example, last week, I had my students watch the most recent Republican Presidential Debate.  I knew that most of my students would listen intently to the candidates’ debate.  There was one class, however, that I was worried about.  While this isn’t a bad class, the students often have trouble staying on task for activities that last longer than ten minutes.  When I show any type of video, the students in this class usually lose focus and begin to find other things to do with their time, such as texting or talking loudly to their neighbor.  To prevent that from happening, I presented a choice to these students at the start of the period, “You can either watch the Republican debate or you can read chapter 2 and 3 from the textbook and answer the subsequent questions.”

It doesn’t take a genius to know what choice my students decided.  They quickly informed me that they would rather do anything than work out of the textbook.  With this as their answer, I reminded these students of my expectations for their behavior during the video, and kindly informed them that I was happy to assign the book work if they found it difficult to comply with those expectations.  However, I had few students who were off-task during the video.

Another element of my own personal management plan is idea of “busyness.”  I try very hard to prevent my students from being idle in my class—especially during times when I lecture or give direct instruction.  At the same time, I also believe that students should not be assigned “busy work” or assignments that simply kill time.  All assignments should work to assess students learning.  I came to the realization that I needed to find an assessment that kept students busy while at the same time assessed their learning.  The answer to this came to me after much contemplation—guided notes!

Guided notes are notes that went along with my lesson plan.  Students fill out their guided notes during my lessons, and I collect these notes after each period.  Knowing these notes would be graded based on completion; most students spend the entire period on task.  Those who fall asleep in class or chose to be off-task suffer the consequences of having incomplete notes, and consequently, a lower score. Additionally, when I grade these notes, I get immediate feedback on my students’ understanding.  I know what material to reteach based on how accurate the students’ notes are.

While I have only been teaching for five weeks, I have had many good days and relatively few bad days when it comes to classroom management.  Instead of focusing on supervision my students, I can spend my energies improving my instruction.  I would love to hear from those who are either current student teachers, or those who are professional teachers.  What are some of the aspects of your own personal management plan?  Since classroom management is worry for many prospective teachers, your comments and ideas will be much appreciated!

Posted in Miscellaneous

The Start of My Student Teaching

When I was making the decision to apply to the secondary education program, I spent a great deal of time wondering what my final semester at BYU would entail. I knew that all education majors spent their final months as an undergrad teaching in the public schools either as a paid intern or a student teacher. I also knew that I wanted to student teach rather than intern, since an internship is a full-year obligation whereas student teaching is only for three months. Still, despite having made this decision, I didn’t quite know what to expect from my student teaching experience.It has been one month since starting my final semester at BYU, and now that I am in full swing of my student teaching, I wanted to give a brief description of my experience in hopes that those preparing for their own student teaching can gain a better perspective on what is in store for them during their final semester.At the start of this semester, I received an email from my teaching supervisor explaining where I would be teaching. Student teachers are placed usually in one school and work with one or two teachers exclusively. I was informed that I would be working at Jordan High School in Sandy, and that I would be teaching 12th grade U.S. Government. I was also told to attend an orientation meeting during the first day of the winter semester.

During the orientation meeting, I learned that I was no longer expected to follow BYU’s school schedule. Instead, I was to follow Jordan High School’s academic calendar until officially done with student teaching. I was also asked to anticipate my student teaching assignment to last until the final week of BYU’s winter semester. This news brought mixed emotions for me. I realized that I would need to go to bed earlier than I ever had as an undergraduate since high school started at 7:55am, and as a student teacher, I was expected to arrive at school at least thirty minutes before the first school bell rang. On the other hand, I also knew that Jordan High School took a week-long spring holiday during the first week of April. While my roommates would be hastily cramming for finals, I would have a week of rest and relaxation.  Additionally, I could look forward to half-days, teacher work days, and district holidays—days-off that were not part of BYU’s academic calendar.

Arriving at Jordan High for my first day, my mentor teacher and I discussed a possible teaching schedule. I would take over his U.S. Government classes for eight weeks after two weeks of observations. These classes would be mine—I would be the teacher and the students would expect me to be prepared every day with lesson plans, learning activities, and assessments. This seemed an overwhelming task, to say the least. Thankfully, my mentor teacher gave me lesson plans that he used in the past, suggested ideas for a unit schedule, and practically planned my first day of teaching.

Last week was my first week as the teacher. Because U.S. Government is a one semester class, and because the second semester of school started the fourth week in January, my first day of teaching was also my students’ first day in U.S. Government. Again, I am the teacher, and they are my students.

The entire idea of having my own class still astonishes me.  When I imagined student teaching, I imagined working as a teacher’s assistant. I didn’t imagine that I would actually be running a classroom all by myself. I would like to hear from any other student teachers. What have you been doing for your student teaching?  How is the experience thus far? Your comments would be helpful for those preparing for student teaching.