SIM Instructional Exercises

Unit Organizer: WWI WWIunitorganizer_revised

This is a unit organizer routine I employed for my first ever unit, which was on World War I. This unit organizer I used mainly for purposes of outlining what content would be covered in the unit, and how the unit would be structured. I did not expand it outward to an extended unit framework because I wanted to save time so I could get into the meat of the unit itself. I used this unit organizer to show students what general themes I would be covering, as well as what questions were tying the unit together.

This particular unit organizer came part way into a lesson that wrapped up the second industrial revolution, and began World War I. I used this unit organizer to set up the unit, and provide students with a general sense of where we were going. I’m not sure how many of them felt this was a useful exercise, but I think it has some potential as a way of conveying broader objectives. After using this unit organizer, I then transitioned into using the a frame routine on the causes of the war. In a certain sense, this unit organizer set up that frame by providing a bigger context in which to understand the frame itself.

WWI Causes Frame: WWIframe

This is a frame routine I used to begin my first lesson on World War I. I thought this was a good and helpful way of breaking down the MAIN [Militarism, Alliances, Imperialism, Nationalism] causes of World War I. I’m not entirely sure where I got the idea – it’s probably been done before – but I thought this was a workable means of elaborating on this particular mnemonic acronym. I think the frame is useful for this particular topic because understanding why World War I started requires teachers and students to conduct a certain amount of synthesis; you have to do a bit of processing and analyzing to get some sense of how these four causes align with each other to help bring about World War I. This frame by no means communicates the whole story – other instructional methods can help with discussion of the importance of the assassination of the Archduke – but it does break down in more concrete terms some of these broad thematic concepts.

I used this frame in a couple of different ways. The first couple of times I tried it, I used it as a note-taking device to facilitate direct instruction. This more or less worked, but I don’t think it facilitated a meaningful level of student engagement. The second day I gave this lesson, I used this more as a group work activity. I told students where they could find the relevant information on each cause in their textbook, and had them work in groups to fill out the sheets. Each group was assigned only one cause. The groups reported back at the end so that everyone could get the right information.

Treaty of Versailles Frame: VersaillesFrame

This is the second frame I employed in the World War I unit. Like the World War I causes frame, I think this frame routine helps students think about course concepts that have multiple causes behind them, or to think about issues that have multiple variables or moving parts. This particular frame I used to teach the key points of the Versailles Treaty, with a focus on national self-determination, the League of Nations, the German war guilt clause, and the military restrictions on Germany. The Versailles Treaty is an important event in world history, and it’s important for several different reasons. The frame routine is a useful way of breaking it down because it can isolate certain key points that are all relevant to a particular key issue or event.

For this frame routine, I emphasized group work more strongly than I did for the World War I causes frame. I used the same technique in all of my classes that I did in only two of them the first time I used this device. I divided students into four groups, and assigned each group one of the columns from the frame. Each group was responsible for filling out their section, and they all reported back at the end. We went over each section as a class together to make sure everyone was up to speed on all points of the frame, but I think using the frame in this particular way allows teachers to exploit the benefits of these kinds of graphic organizers without having too much teacher direction.

Totalitarianism Concept Mastery: totalitarianismCM

This is a concept mastery routine on totalitarianism that I used as a part of a mini-unit on the interwar years. This was my first and to date only use of the concept mastery routine. I think this routine serves some of the same purposes as the frame routine, but is particularly helpful for comparisons within the same concept or theme. In this case, I chose to use it to illustrate the core commonalities among the ruling regimes of Nazi Germany, Fascist Italy, and Stalinist Russia. The concept mastery routine’s emphasis on determining which characteristics certain examples do and do not have in common make it an interesting tool for developing concept comprehension.

Unfortunately, I did not get to use this concept mastery routine as a group exercise the way I had intended. I had originally wanted students to be able to work on this in groups, but this exercise presents a classic case of my not having a good estimation of how much time it will take me to run certain activities in the classroom. This concept mastery was originally intended to round out a lesson on the Great Depression and the rise of totalitarianism, but that lesson went further overtime than I had anticipated. I ended up having to collapse the latter part of the interwar mini-unit into the World War II unit, and employed this as a note-taking device for direct instruction. This concept mastery was not as effective as it could or should have been, but I think at some level it did still serve its fundamental purpose of illustrating commonalities within concepts.

WW2 Unit Organizer: WWIIunitorganizer

This is the unit organizer I employed at the start of the World War II unit. I think deploying the unit organizer at this point in the course was a good idea because World War II was the first major unit they were going to be taught since World War I – the Russian Revolution and the Interwar years were both mini-units – so I think this unit organizer helped get things back on track and give students a better sense of where they were within the course. Again, this unit organizer is a bit rudimentary, as it lacks an expanded organizer, but it did what I needed it to do. I provided a general framework by which to understand where the unit was going.

Like the previous unit organizer, this routine came more towards the middle of a lesson. In this case, it followed up a closure activity on the interwar period, so this unit organizer helped convey a broad understanding of how things were going to change after the interwar years. Although I always use some questioning techniques with these routines, this was still fundamentally a teacher-drive exercise. I followed this routine up with an event sequencing activity. Like some of these routines, that activity helped provide larger context. Unit organizers, like frames and concept masteries, can be used in conjunction with other instructional strategies that can convey wider contexts, and I think this is an example of how that can work in practice.

US Entry into WW2 Frame: US ww2 frame

Video here.

This frame routine I used near the beginning of a lesson on the Asia-Pacific theater of World War II. Like the previous two frame routines, I think this one is effective for its purpose because it can break down in more digestible forms the multiple causes underlying critical historical events. This one was a little bit different because temporal sequence was more important to this frame that to the other two. It was designed more to convey multiple causes in the context of a chronology rather than to break down a more complex course concept or term.

This frame also got used as a direct instructional tool for note-taking purposes. I used this as a second activity during a lesson that I began with the attack on Pearl Harbor. The frame was supposed to expand outward from that one event and place it in the context of broader political developments in the Pacific during the interwar years. I used a Venn diagram activity comparing and contrasting Pearl Harbor with 9/11 as a hook, and then transitioned to this activity to provide a better sense of how and why Pearl Harbor happened based on other things that were going on in Asia at the time. I think my use of frame routines will improve over time as I get more practice employing instructional strategies other than direct instruction.

Holocaust Frame: holocaust frame

This frame routine was one of my last exercises, and was part of a half-lesson on the Holocaust. In terms of its structure and function, it has a little bit in common with the other three above, as it provides both a sense of chronology and a sense of thematic continuity. The “Causes” column conveys a broad sense of what key themes are important to understanding, while the “Events” and “Consequences” columns both provide a chronology to help students understand what led up to the Holocaust, and what its long-term ramifications were. I think this frame’s main utility is that it helps students think about a particular topic both in terms of key events as well as broader themes.

Partially because of time constraints, and also in part because these kids have already learned quite a lot about the Holocaust from middle school, I used this as a direct instruction tool. It was the final main activity in a half-lesson on the Holocaust. I preceded it with a map activity showing the decline in the Jewish population in Europe, and an activity designed to illustrate how widespread anti-Semitism was throughout the world before the Holocaust. This frame was put together largely to provide students with a broader framework by which to understand how the key elements of the Holocaust fit together in a historical sense.

TV Diary 12

“Teaching history in the 21st century : Thomas Ketchell at TEDxLiege”

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8eIvGtn1NAU

This video deals with how to make history and the social studies more engaging and more meaningful for students. Ketchell’s basic argument in this video is that teachers should take advantage of technologies and tools that students are actually using in their everyday lives. The most valuable lesson here, I thought, was that learning is a collaborative process, and that teachers should make full use of tools students can connect with that will facilitate that collaborative process. This was only a TEDx talk, so the speaker had only so much time to elaborate on his point, but I still thought that it would have been more valuable and more meaningful had he expanded on how teachers can use technologies effectively in classroom settings. A lot of it sounded like typical expounding on how technology can improve education by engaging students, but without explaining exactly how that is supposed to work. I think he’s right that technology presents some interesting avenues for student collaboration, but I’d like a better sense of how.

I think this video is professionally important because it reinforces the importance of being open to new ideas. I am intrigued by the potential of digital technologies in classrooms, and my field experience has introduced me to challenges of engagement and student motivation, so I would be interested in figuring out how to use ICT to such ends.

9 minutes

Tags: ICT, engagement

“The 5 principles of highly effective teachers: Pierre Pirard at TEDxGhent”

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_jdTtnWMLVM

This was another TEDx video, this one on effective instructional practice more generally. Pirard talks about how teaching requires the same leadership skills needed in the private sector. He goes into some detail about how he had to adjust to the demands of teaching, and the kind of work load it requires. I did not learn a tremendous amount that was really new in this video, but it did reinforce the importance of having clear, achievable goals. I thought this was significant given Pirard’s background outside of education. I have, of course, heard several times by this point about the importance of having well-defined, measurable goals, but it was valuable to hear it from somebody who entered teaching relatively late in life from outside the field.

This video helps reinforce the importance of being organized and prepared. I’ve learned a bit about instructional planning in the last few months, and I’ve always been sure to have my goals outlined before moving very far into planning. My planning could still use improvement, however, and having clear objectives is something I’m still learning how to do.

12:45

Tags: planning

“Expecting More From Teaching: Deanna LeBlanc at TEDx University of Nevada”

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JSR_H3cyahU

In this video, a teacher provides some advice on working with students in classroom settings. Much of this video was material that I had heard before, but I think the most important aspect of her advice was to concern yourself most with things that you can meaningfully affect. In other words, while students encounter many problems in their lives, teachers are not capable of addressing all of them. Classroom teachers, she says, even if they might personally be worried about different aspects of students’ lives, are not situated to deal with them. Her position is that teachers should spend most of their effort focusing on the things that they can deal with and the things that they can improve. A student’s home life might cause problems, but it’s not something that a teacher can address fully.

Professionally speaking, this video is useful because it reinforces the importance of demonstrating interest in the welfare of students. Even if we can’t assist the welfare of students in all ways, we can at least provide a consistent, caring context within the classroom setting. I think I will find this valuable in the long run as I continue to work with students, since I will need to remember that I can only do so much.

10:22

Tags: student welfare

 

 

 

4-19 Post

energy

image: University of Leeds

I think time spent in my classroom could use a little more energy. There’s still too much of me talking and not enough of students working together. I’m having trouble finding that balance between teacher-direct instruction and student-oriented learning.

I’ve had conversations about these kinds of issues with a number of teachers over the past few weeks. I tend to find myself in this position where I feel like if I’m not directing things, there isn’t anything going on, but when I actually do try to turn learning over to students, either nothing happens or they spin their wheels because I’ve gone too far over their heads. What I’ve been told, and what seems to be the case, is that the middle ground between teacher-directed and student-centered instructional activities is actually quite small. The trick is to learn how to properly scaffold student-directed activities in ways that get the key elements of the material across, but that are still digestible and usable from a student point of view. Most of the ideas that I have for how to teach these days tend to be either at one extreme – too simplistic – or at the other – too complex with too little or ineffective scaffolding. This is the kind of learning and the kind of personal growth that I want to see some movement towards in the next couple of weeks.

It’s almost like there’s a disconnect somewhere between different parts of my brain. In one section is the content knowledge. This is the part that pretty much as down most of the information that students need to communicate. In the other section is the sets of instructional strategies that I have learned or picked up over the last several months. What I’m struggling with now is how to bridge the two. How do I take a look at what I need to be teaching and find an instructional strategy that will suit it effectively? How do I match content with method? As with almost everything, it’s easier said than done. My main point of frustration at this stage is determining which strategies can effectively teach different kinds of content.

There is always room for growth in pretty much every area of professional practice. At this stage, though, what I want to be able to improve is integrating content knowledge with practical instructional knowledge of how to use effective teaching tools with appropriate content.

TV Diary 11

New Teacher Survival Guide: Technology in the Classroom

https://www.teachingchannel.org/videos/technology-in-the-classroom

This video provides teachers with insights to consider regarding integrating technology into the classroom. It follow one specific teacher doing a unit on the Holocaust who wants to incorporate a Skype interview with a historian at the Anne Frank House in Amsterdam. Much of the advice in the video I found to be very commonsensical: fit the strategy to the content rather than the other way around, test out the technology on your own before implementing it in the classroom, etc. There was other advice, though, that I also found helpful. The video particularly recommends using technology and specifically social media to build and maintain professional networks with other teachers. This I found particularly resonant because I often hit roadblocks in my planning because I naturally tend to want to do everything on my own. If having technology available to help build networks of people who have instructional ideas of their own that I could employ or adapt to my own purposes. The recommendation in this video I found the most resonant, however, was to solicit feedback from students on how useful they thought ICT was in a particular lesson. If students have to rely on technology to work in the classroom, having their feedback will be important to teaching effectively and using ICT effectively.

The lessons from this video have multiple implications for professional development. One is that it will hopefully help be demonstrate collaboration. At present, my planning tends to be a very solitary activity, and I am not the best at asking for help. Also, this video helps reinforce the importance of being respectful and sensitive to students. If ICT does not respond to student needs, then I would want to know about it and be able to remedy that situation.

Tags: professional development, ICT

Time: 15:37

New Teacher Survival Guide: Planning

https://www.teachingchannel.org/videos/coaching-planning-lesson-planning

This video follows an English teacher trying to plan and execute instruction on writing effective personal statements. The main lesson here is one that resonates with me because it is something I have been struggling with lately. The producers of the video recommend that teachers have clear, focused objectives. This is not to say that I haven’t been designing objective-oriented lessons, but I have had trouble having objectives that are clear enough that I can measure them effectively or instruct students towards them effectively. I think this video does a good job of showing how clear objectives help lead to clear teaching. Personally, I have increasingly found that planning with more narrowly tailored objectives helps clarify your own thinking about what you want to accomplish, and how to accomplish it.

I think this video reinforces the importance of being organized and prepared. As I have indicated, I have not always been particularly effective at building objectives that are clear enough or narrow enough that I can define them or measure progress towards them. These are important areas in which I need to improve, and I thought this video did a good job of showing why having clear objectives is useful and important.

Time: 13:14

Tags: planning, professional development

Strengthening Lessons with a Student Work Protocol

https://www.teachingchannel.org/videos/protocol-for-evaluating-lessons-equip

This video provides teachers with advice and guidelines on how to plan effectively in view of objectives, and how to modulate instructional objectives using information gathered from submitted student work. The video reinforces the importance of working with objectives that are definable, and that can be measured using specific performance tasks. Next, teachers go through the stages of analyzing student work against their instructional plans and see how they can improve them. This video was helpful insofar as it clearly delineated the steps involved in going from the instructional design process to specifically what to consider and how to reflect when comparing student work against original expectations, and how to modify both your instructions and your expectations. I think this video has some important lessons in it, but I think I would have gotten more out of it had there been more detail on how to execute and work with a student work protocol in practice. Judging my instruction against the quality of student work is something that I need to work on, and I’m still looking for good ways of accomplishing that.

As a professional matter, I think this video is important because improving instruction using student work is a way of accepting responsibility for one’s actions in the classroom, and of seeking feedback. Actively working towards measuring my own effectiveness is one of those things that I continue to work on. Even if there is very little detail on the precise methods behind this in the video, I still think that the video acts as an important reminder.

Time: 8:15

Tags: professional development, planning, feedback

TV Diary 10

Race, History, and Teaching the Civil War

http://www.c-span.org/video/?315583-3/race-history-teaching-civil-war

This rather long video is a panel discussion from an event in Winston-Salem in 2013. The panel features four historians of Civil War and African American history discussing historical memory and giving thoughts on how to teach the Civil War. The whole video is not itself specifically teaching related, but I thought there were still some important insights. Issues of representation were of particular importance here. Multiple panelists discussed how to integrate conversations about women and African Americans into the story of the Civil War. Much of this had to do with being true to the narrative. In other words, there are important aspects of the Civil War story that are both true and left out of the teaching of the Civil War. Issues like why the war was fought in the first place as well as whether or not there were black soldiers in the Confederate army came up as well. I thought this was an important reminder that the teaching of history often involves not just planning well or having the right instructional strategies, but encountering and managing students prior preconceptions often inherited from their own upbringing. One strategy referenced in this video that I liked, although nobody went into particularly great detail on the subject, was bringing primary source material into the classroom. Now that many of the holdings from institutions such as the Library of Congress are available online, it is much easier to integrate them either as instructional materials or as aspects of student discovery. None of the panelist discussed how to use these resources as classroom tools, but I think primary documents on some of these lesser known aspects of Civil War history have great potential. I think the primary documents are particularly useful for dealing with student preconceptions about course material. Having students analyze these documents can encourage students not only to employ analytical skills, but to process material in ways that engage with their prior knowledge.

I think the main professional lesson from this video is that history is itself contested, and that as teachers we are an important part of the conversation on it. Teachers have a responsibility to engage with student preconceptions about course material, but must do so in ways that are respectful and sensitive to student needs. I think that primary documents can accomplish this because they can introduce students to critical concepts without explicitly and directly challenging what might be deeply held beliefs.

Tags: instructional practice

Time: 1 hour, four minutes

TV Diary 9

Classroom Management Strategies To Take Control Of Noisy Students: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=u086rr7SRso

This video is a short presentation by an experienced teacher discussing how to deal with noisy students who won’t cooperate. His observations are very similar to what I have found out within the last week or so: when students don’t respond to you, almost everything that instinctively makes sense does not work. Raising your voice doesn’t work, and neither does confrontationally voicing your dissatisfaction. He proposes instead a couple of things I thought were interesting. I don’t agree with all of his advice, but some of it is valuable. One thing he points out is that classroom management is something that begins outside the classroom. Classroom management problems begin with attitudes students take into the classroom with them, and he argues in favor of admitting students into the classroom only on the teacher’s terms instead of allowing them to trickle in. I think there is an interesting premise here, but I doubt I could execute this at my current school since I can’t have large numbers of kids loitering outside the room just after the bell rings. I still think, though, that his advice that classroom management begins outside the classroom is important. He says you can manage behavior simply by being friendly and available to students in appropriate in-school contexts. This helps build up a certain rapport that can mitigate certain management issues

I think this video is important because it will help me establish a positive classroom environment. I want to be able to manage the classroom effectively, but in a way that does not detract from student learning. I’ve had issues with managing distracting side conversations, so some of the insights here might be helpful.

Time: 10:33

Tags: classroom management

Classroom Management Strategies – Consequences as an effective classroom management strategy: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Jn9jcZilc7w

Effective use of consequences as a behaviour management strategy: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-klO7Du-Rzc

These are two distinct videos, but I’m going to discuss them alongside each other again because they deal with very similar material. Both videos are presentations on how to use consequences as behavior management tools. Much of what the teacher in this video says sounds familiar, but I still found some of the insights helpful. For example, he stresses the importance of having a graduated scale of consequences; severe penalties for minor infractions undermine your position in the classroom and can damage relationships with professional colleagues if done improperly. What I also found helpful from these videos is the emphasis on framing behavior management as a matter of choice. In other words, to instruct students that that the consequences of their behavior are their choice; students can choose not to experience the consequence if they choose not to engage in the proscribed behavior. Another important piece of advice is to let consequences do the work for you. In other words, there usually is no need to be aggressive in delivering consequences. If the consequence is an effective one, it can be delievered calmly. Consequences are something I find myself thinking about a lot lately because I have had my share of classroom management issues. I might be able to learn how to manage classrooms effectively, but I want to count on needing to use specific consequences when students do not cease unwanted behavior. I would like to be able to use consequences in an effective and responsive manner.

This video improves my professional practice by providing important information on how to manage the classroom. This will help me be both respectful and sensitive, since effective classroom management requires both. I’ve encountered some classroom management problems in the last week or so, and I hope that I can improve how I deal with them.

Time: 10:40, 9:45

Tags: classroom management, consequences

 

 

TV Diary 9

Classroom Management Strategies To Take Control Of Noisy Students: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=u086rr7SRso

This video is a short presentation by an experienced teacher discussing how to deal with noisy students who won’t cooperate. His observations are very similar to what I have found out within the last week or so: when students don’t respond to you, almost everything that instinctively makes sense does not work. Raising your voice doesn’t work, and neither does confrontationally voicing your dissatisfaction. He proposes instead a couple of things I thought were interesting. I don’t agree with all of his advice, but some of it is valuable. One thing he points out is that classroom management is something that begins outside the classroom. Classroom management problems begin with attitudes students take into the classroom with them, and he argues in favor of admitting students into the classroom only on the teacher’s terms instead of allowing them to trickle in. I think there is an interesting premise here, but I doubt I could execute this at my current school since I can’t have large numbers of kids loitering outside the room just after the bell rings. I still think, though, that his advice that classroom management begins outside the classroom is important. He says you can manage behavior simply by being friendly and available to students in appropriate in-school contexts. This helps build up a certain rapport that can mitigate certain management issues

I think this video is important because it will help me establish a positive classroom environment. I want to be able to manage the classroom effectively, but in a way that does not detract from student learning. I’ve had issues with managing distracting side conversations, so some of the insights here might be helpful.

Time: 10:33

Tags: classroom management

Classroom Management Strategies – Consequences as an effective classroom management strategy: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Jn9jcZilc7w

Effective use of consequences as a behaviour management strategy: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-klO7Du-Rzc

These are two distinct videos, but I’m going to discuss them alongside each other again because they deal with very similar material. Both videos are presentations on how to use consequences as behavior management tools. Much of what the teacher in this video says sounds familiar, but I still found some of the insights helpful. For example, he stresses the importance of having a graduated scale of consequences; severe penalties for minor infractions undermine your position in the classroom and can damage relationships with professional colleagues if done improperly. What I also found helpful from these videos is the emphasis on framing behavior management as a matter of choice. In other words, to instruct students that that the consequences of their behavior are their choice; students can choose not to experience the consequence if they choose not to engage in the proscribed behavior. Another important piece of advice is to let consequences do the work for you. In other words, there usually is no need to be aggressive in delivering consequences. If the consequence is an effective one, it can be delievered calmly. Consequences are something I find myself thinking about a lot lately because I have had my share of classroom management issues. I might be able to learn how to manage classrooms effectively, but I want to count on needing to use specific consequences when students do not cease unwanted behavior. I would like to be able to use consequences in an effective and responsive manner.

This video improves my professional practice by providing important information on how to manage the classroom. This will help me be both respectful and sensitive, since effective classroom management requires both. I’ve encountered some classroom management problems in the last week or so, and I hope that I can improve how I deal with them.

Time: 10:40, 9:45

Tags: classroom management, consequences