1. A record of the dates and no. of hours of student teaching during the week.
Mon 1/7 – No School; Tue 1/8 – 7 hrs; Wed 1/9 – 7 hrs; Thu 1/10 – 7 hrs; Fri 1/11 – 7 hrs
2. Discuss what you have observed and taught during the week.
My guiding teacher, Ms. C, made excellent use of the fact that students were returning from winter break and beginning a new semester. She began every class by reminding the students that they themselves could take advantage of the new year and new semester by resolving to be in class on time and modify their behavior if they knew they could improve. This seemed to motivate the students to put their best foot forward, especially with my presence as a new teacher because they wanted to make a good first impression. She then had each class review the ensemble rules they devised in the first semester and asked them to collectively decide which rules they wished to keep, which rules they felt they no longer needed, and why. I was delighted to see that students were engaged in this democratic process, and that the activity caused them to reflect on their own behavior and attitudes.
My own first glimpse at teaching the students involved organizing icebreaker activities to help me learn their names and to help them familiarize themselves with each other’s names. I will elaborate more on these activities below.
3. Please write out in detail information what your guiding teacher has conveyed to you in conversations and the specific recommendations provided to you.
Ms. C started our discussion with two simple truths about middle school students: they want you to know their names, and they want you to celebrate their birthdays. As the week went on, I saw that she was correct. Students at this age desire to be known and valued for their unique personalities and identities, yet they do not necessarily want to be singled out or embarrassed. This was a helpful reminder for me as I went into organizing icebreaker activities; I tried to avoid any prompts that would be too personal for students to share, but fun enough that students would feel special about their answers.
After I tested out the icebreaker activity with periods 1 and 2, Ms. C recommended that I make some small changes. She expressed her appreciation of the prompt I chose (“What fast food item do you identify most with and why?”) but suggested that I simplify the question to “What is your favorite fast food item?” to move the activity along more quickly. She also complimented my strategic improvisation when students responded “I don’t eat fast food” or “I don’t know” (I changed the question for said students to “What do you like to eat when you go out?”). One problem we noticed, however, was that the activity was also taking a long time because when one student was sharing, the others would respond in excitement and stop listening to whoever was meant to share next. So in preparation for period 3, Boys’ Chorus, she suggested that I ask the students to respond to their peers’ sharing in some way other than commenting. I decided to instruct them to snap in agreement if they liked their peer’s response, and not to comment or have side conversations. This improved the pacing of the activity and calmed the class down for later activities.
4. Reflect on what you have learned about teaching and learning during the week, including:
a) The teaching techniques (at least three) that you have learned from your guiding teacher.
When facilitating a class discussion, Ms. C always calls students by name. This seems to be in accordance with her principle that students, especially those who are in middle school, feel most valued and heard when they are known uniquely. In addition, whenever a student shared their opinion, Ms. C would ask those who agreed with the student to give a thumbs up, and those who were in disagreement to give a thumbs down. This allowed students to exercise democracy when developing class rules with a low risk of feeling personally attacked by peers who disagreed.
I also noticed Ms. C’s awareness of individual students even when managing the entire classroom. For instance, when Boys’ Chorus was warming up, she continued conducting the ensemble while pointing out specific singers’ excellence. This kept the pace of the activity but made certain students aware of their progress and encouraged others to become more self-aware.
Most impressive to me was Ms. C’s mindfulness of her pacing. While observing her lesson planning, I could hear her noting that certain activities would drain the attention span of those particular students, then making adjustments accordingly. She practiced this by moving on to a different song once students started getting rowdy and visibly bored or tired.
b) The very specific classroom management techniques that you see being employed.
As a general principle, Ms. C demonstrated a different personality or attitude with each class. For example, she did not joke around as much with Boys’ Chorus, a class who is already prone to talkativeness and being off-topic. However, she was much more relaxed but equally demanding with Chamber Choir, a group of older students who are more self-sufficient (able to lead sectionals without a teacher, able to sight-read, etc.).
When Ms. C asked Chamber Choir to come up with a class rule within their own sections, the tenor section disagreed and even began to argue. Rather than disciplining a specific student or discounting a certain opinion that arose in the argument, Ms. C asked the tenors, “What kind of section will you be?” After some silence and with some reluctance, the most outspoken tenor responded, “A strong section.” She then challenged them to uphold that even in their decision-making. His apparent knowledge of what she expected him to respond leads me to believe that the standard of being a “strong section” was established long ago. My takeaway, then, would be to hold each student (or in this case, each section) to a certain standard of behavior from the start of the school year, so that when conflicts arise, they already have an ingrained idea of what is expected of them.
5. Provide an action plan for the following week of student-teaching.
My next task given to me by Ms. C and in alignment with my CalTPA requirements is to develop a team-building activity for each class. Keeping in mind the fact that there are new students this semester who have not learned all the musical terminology Ms. C uses, I decided on a “Musical Taboo” game. The game requires students to describe certain musical vocabulary without using certain buzzwords. For instance, if a student receives the word “composer,” they cannot use the word “write” to describe it to their teammates. Their teammates then have to figure out what the word is based on their own knowledge of its definition. My goal through this activity is to familiarize the new students with the class vocabulary, and to challenge continuing students to communicate efficiently, work with their teammates, and reinforce their understanding of the terms they have been learning all year long.
I am also tasked with starting a piece called “Soldier Boy” with Chamber Choir to prepare them for an event in which they collaborate with a high school choir director. Since they are rather capable of prepping the music themselves, i.e. writing in the correct solfege, learning the music with their sections, etc., my responsibilities will mostly be to direct them to the less noticeable aspects of the piece. For instance, I plan to provide some context on the text of the music by having them read it aloud like a poem or play. They had stated at the beginning of the week that their ensemble goal was to improve their expressiveness when performing, so I seek to help them achieve that goal by letting them discuss what the meaning of the text is first.