Archive | March 2013

Week One of Teaching

So, I was hoping to blog way more than what I have been, but wow! When I come home after school I am completely wiped out!  I have never been one to be in bed by 11, but since I have been teaching and observing, all I do when I get home is revise/create my lesson plans and then go to bed! Like holy wow! I was not expecting this and I talked to other teachers about it and they said that they went through the same thing and that our bodies just have to adjust (for a bit of assurance!).

Overall, it FEELS like this entire week has been a complete flop and I had a bit of an “Ashley” moment today after teaching one of my lessons. Even though this is something that I could have hid to make everything seem like it was going perfect, I feel the urge to make a confession to everyone explaining a not-so-great moment for me: So, I had a bit of a melt down (nothing serious though) after I taught my lesson today.  After all the stress of this week and the unexpected shortening class (further delaying my lessons and making it seem like more a flop than what it already was), I sat down in my chair and my eyes just welled up with tears.  Only a few tears managed to escape and I was able to recover quickly soon after once I got my mind focused on other things.  Fortunately, this happened during a break but I still feel that I should have handled that situation more professionally and should have been able to control my emotions.  On a good note, the rest of my day went fairly well! In a small way, I feel as though having that bit of a melt down made me feel a lot better (which is odd but I find this is the case quite often!… unfortunately).

So some of the stresses happened through this whole week mainly had to do with small things that went wrong in my lesson plans/teaching.  Sure some of these mistakes have been small and some were not in my control at all, but looking at all of these little mistakes it makes me think that I need a whole lot of improvement and even sometimes questions whether or not I can or should be a teacher.  A few of the mistakes or negatives about my teaching this week include:

– I need to learn to slow down when talking and take numerous short pauses to allow students to write notes and understand the material.

– I definitely need to work on my time management.

– Two of three of my math classes unexpectedly ended early (by about 5-10 minutes each).  I was unaware of this and I had planned for a 60 minute lesson (which is also wrong because I learned today classes are only 55 minutes… which I feel is strange!).  So, all of this combined has resulted in planning not going right and I feel my students are not understanding the material as well as I intended for them.

A few things that went fairly well this week include:

– Everyone seems to enjoy the activity that I created for the proof of the sine law for obtuse angles (cutting up the proof and having students put the proof into the correct order).  My partner has already used this idea (tried it out today) and my cooperating teacher has said that he would like to “steal” my idea.  This makes me think that my ideas are actually good, but I just need to work on putting them into practice (which gives me hope!).

– My questioning is starting to really improve.  Before I was asking very basic questions that were more of a nuisance to students and didn’t really get their thinking going or anything like that; and now, I am asking a variety of questions that are challenging the students thinking (which is what I was hoping for!).  I haven’t completely mastered this yet, but I feel that I have grown enough in this area that I can now move on to focus on other teacher aims and goals.

– One last positive is that I can remember most of my students names that I am teaching in period 1.  I have only had them for three days now (because of parent-teacher conferences) and I have been able to memorize all but a few students names (those who haven’t shown up at all yet!).  This has helped me tremendously because it shows my students that I am trying to make an effort to get to know them and teach them, and it also helps me with questioning.  When completing discussion-based lessons, if students are not taking part in this conversation, it is much easier to call out certain students when you know their names.

– My days go by SO fast! It’s amazing how an hour can go by when your teaching.  What feels like 15 minutes has actually been a whole hour!  I love how these days are going by so fast and I hope they continue to. 🙂

– I went to my school’s basketball game.  It was the junior girls playing at another school.  It felt great to be there and I found myself cheering for my team and getting angry every time the other team scored.  Unfortunately they lost but I felt a real part of the school by going!  Also, it’s fun and a great way to take your mind of things for a while.

For all of those pre-service teachers out there, I have a few pieces of advice:

1. Not all of your lessons are going to be awesome lesson plans.  In fact, maybe I should revise this to say “there is no such thing as a perfect lesson plan.”  Not everything is going to go as you have planned and there is always a better way of teaching a certain lesson so don’t feel bad if you don’t have a “perfect” lesson plan.

2. Make sure you talk to someone outside of your pre-internship about what is going on, such as family!  I haven’t talked to any of my family this week and I feel like I need to go on a rant to someone who doesn’t know my exact situation and knows how to comfort me.  I have tried talking to my partner and others who are closer to the situation and I feel that I am not getting my frustrations out (which may have led to my breakdown today).  They try to reassure me but they can’t quite calm me down and reassure me like my mom can.  So, those who can comfort you and talk you through things are good people to keep around because there will always be some sort of frustration that needs to be resolved.

3. Plan your lessons in as much advance as you can.  When you come home after teaching (especially in the first week), you will find that you are drained and don’t have the energy to look at lesson planning.  For me, I completed rough drafts of my lesson plans the weekend before and I still found it very hard to go back and try to think about completely finishing and fixing the final product.

4. Get lots of sleep and allow time for you to relax.  If you don’t do either of these, you will drain yourself and you won’t last the full three weeks (or internship or actually teaching!).  I plan on going swimming this weekend to help me relax so I am hoping this will help me clear my head and allow my body to relax and not feel over stressed/worked.

Overall, it was an okay week.  I am very excited to teach next week and hope that it goes much better than this week did.  I will be teaching Foundations Math 20 and Grade 9 Math!

But, that’s all for now, it is almost midnight on a Friday night and I am going to bed… who would have thought! But I’m wiped and struggling to keep my eyes open so I will hopefully blog early next week. 🙂

First Day of Teaching!

Today was a fairly good day.  My partner, Ali, and I team taught a grade 11 mathematics course where we investigated the relationship between sine/cosine/tangent of an obtuse angel that the sine/cosine/tangent of its supplementary angle.  The lesson overall went fairly well.  It wasn’t super great but it also wasn’t a complete disaster.

The lesson plan actually pretty much went according to plan except for a few minor things.  There were a few good, yet unexpected things that happened during this lesson:

– Ali decided to do random questioning during the discussion of the chart which got students to pay attention and allowed for a variety of students to answer questions.

– I had noticed that the students seemed bored after completing the second row of the chart as a class.  So, instead of completing all the rows, I ask students to check their work with a partner later on and that we would just move on to answer the big question of the different types of patterns revealed in this chart.

There were a few things that Ali and I have changed to our lesson plan since we taught this lesson:

– In the lesson, we went through the chart provided in the textbook and didn’t provide any examples outside of what was given in the table.  The change that we made were to reorganize the table so that students could have a clearer visualization of the relationships between the angles and to include examples of the relationships that were not in the chart so students can have more examples to see.

– We added a few more questions to the assignment.  In the lesson students had roughly an extra 10 minutes of class time.  They were all caught up on homework so they stood around talking.  We just added an extra two questions onto this assignment and completed a homework check at the end of the period instead of at the beginning of the next.

– Also, we added a classroom management strategy.  During the discussion of the chart, one student was answering all the questions, except one or two.  So, to get other students answer, we will be calling off names off the attendance sheet (since we still don’t know names!).  We tried this later on in the lesson and it worked great! All students were trying out the answers and became prepared in case they got called on.  Also, Ali asked a student to answer a question who was busy talking with a friend.  After this, it seemed to make the student pay attention to class and not talk with his friend.

Just a general comment about my growth so far: I feel that my questioning is getting better.  During orientation last week, it felt as if I was only asking basic questions and that I was asking those same questions over and over again to the point where I was annoying students.  Today, I feel as though my questions were actually deeper questions and they encouraged students to ask me questions if they were stuck (which before they would just say they were fine and go back to working).

So already I can see myself improving from this experience (small improvements, but improvements none the less!).

One thing that I am excited for is tomorrow.  I am teaching a lesson on proofs that I changed last minute and I am trying it in a style that is considered “out there” for me and is out of my comfort zone.  I originally have planned to teach my lesson using a conversation/guided discussion type lesson; but today, I decided that I wanted try something different and something that might be more engaging then just writing notes on the board.  So, I am teaching proofs using  an already solved proof, but it is cut up into many pieces and the students have to work in partners to put it in the right order.  I discussed this with my partner and cooperating teacher and we are all unsure of how it is going to go (my cooperating teacher has never tried a lesson like this with this particular group of students) but they are interested to see how it goes.  I am very excited but very nervous, but I’m sure all will go well. 🙂

Wish me good luck!!

“Blog About It” Entry 6: Part A – 3 BIG Questions

Three BIG questions about field experience and the role of teacher education:

1. What do you think is the purpose of field experience (i.e. pre-internship practicum, internship, etc.)?

I feel that field experiences serve many purposes that are all important.  The first is that the field experience allows us a chance to take what we have learned in our classes and actually apply that information into the classroom.  Throughout the past three years, there has been a tremendous amount of information that we, as teachers, need to know.  We can memorize and try to understand this material as much as we can but the best way for us to actually learn and understand this material is by experiencing it in the classroom and putting it into practice.  I can say that this is true for a fact because I’ve been through this.  One specific example was ECS 200 and 210.  There was a lot of information that, sure I thought was important, but I didn’t fully grasp the idea of what this might look like and how it would affect my teaching.  It wasn’t until ECS 300 when I got to teach is where I saw a lot of this information coming back to me and finally being able to see how it impacts the classroom and teacher.

The second purpose is that it’s a chance for us to practice teaching and work towards becoming the teacher that we imagine ourselves to be.  Also, it gives us a chance to try new things (ex. teaching styles/methods, classroom management, etc.), see what works and what doesn’t, and make mistakes while we still can and have someone to help us out if things get rough.

Another purpose includes being able to observe others and expand our ideas of and knowledge about teaching.  Sometimes, you don’t get to experience a wide variety of classrooms and teaching styles, especially for those in small schools.  Thus, being able to experience different classrooms and different teachers expands our knowledge of more current teaching practices and the different methods and practices that occur that differ from our own schooling experiences.

Being able to increase PLN (personal learning network) and get our names out in the schools is another purpose of field experiences.  Being in a school, there are many teachers and staff that you can become acquainted with and add to your PLN.  PLN’s are very important as the people in this group share information with one another and help each other out if needed.  Also, getting your name out and around to different teachers and administrators can increase your chances of getting a job.  Listening to many stories from interns and new teachers, their field experiences (mainly internship) got their name out to different people and many have been given high recommendations and some even got hired at their internship school immediate after graduation!

Lastly, then field experience allows us to gradually get used to the idea of teaching and makes us aware of some of the things to expect when we begin teaching.  Gradually get us used to the idea of teaching is important because that way it doesn’t feel like we are being thrown into teaching and become overwhelmed.  Being aware of what to expect and have few surprises will help increase the likeliness that we actually become great teachers and that teaching is something that we make a career of.  Statistics say that the first 5 years of teaching is the most difficult and this is when many teachers quit their jobs and move on to other professions.  A huge factor of this loss is because of the stress and complications that teachers had not foreseen and then become greatly overwhelmed and stressed.  Field experiences allows us to practice, observe, and become aware of and prepare for some of the complications, stress, and any other troubles that they may face in the future.

2. What roles does (or should) a teacher education program play in the process of becoming a teacher?

Just like the field experience, the teacher education program provides us with the opportunity to prepare for and work towards becoming the teacher that we want to be.  It also provides us with the information that will help us succeed as teachers, to be the best we can be for our students, information about students and their learning so that we can prepare to educate our students and help them to maximize their chances of success in school, and in life.

The teacher education program also allows us the opportunity to put this information to the test by applying it to actual teaching experiences.  Through these experiences, we are also provided with the opportunity build our own teaching philosophies and theories, to put these into context, and make changes and amendments to work towards perfecting these philosophies and theories.

Also, the teacher education program challenges our current views of teaching and education.  Teaching and education is rapidly evolving and changing; thus, it is important that we constantly challenge our ways of thinking and think of new ways to better ourselves and make our teaching more effective and efficient so that students can maximize their learning experience at school and make it more enjoyable.

3. What do you already know now about being a mathematics teacher that is unlikely to change through your upcoming field experiences (i.e. fundamental beliefs, values, commitments, etc.)?

There are a few things that I can be certain about being a mathematics teacher that is unlikely to change through my upcoming field experiences.  This includes:

1. As a mathematics teacher, I need to help my students understand math, rather than memorize it.

2. Rather than just the answer, it is more important to teach and assess the thought process and steps of a solution.

3. As a mathematics teacher, I need to be 100% committed to teaching my students, be there if they need help, and provide them with everything they need to help the succeed.

4. In mathematics, not every lesson has to be inquiry-based.  There are many factors that can affect this such as timing and the type of class.

“Blog About It” Entry #5

Dear high school math best friend,

How have you been? I know it has been 4 years since we last talked, but I was watching two videos for my education math class at the University of Regina and I began reflecting about my old high school math class and immediately thought of you!  These two videos, which can be found at (videos #9 Case Study: Group Test and #10 Teacher Insights 9-12) if you’re curious, videotape a variety of math classrooms and discuss the strategies used in each.  I would definitely recommend you watch these videos because, even though they may seem a bit retro, they show different views of what a math classroom looks like.

Watching these, they made me think of our math classes.  Do you remember how boring our class used to be?  How everyday, we completed the same routine over and over again where we would take notes, do examples, and then do homework?  For any kind of assessment and evaluation in that course, it was all individual work and we were expected to be quiet and not talk with one another?  Well, in the video #9, students are doing group tests and in video #10, students are working in groups and doing inquiry activities and presentations rather than just the boring usual homework.  Not once do we see students doing anything that we had ever done in our classroom.

I don’t know if you can, but I can’t believe it!  I never knew there was a different way to teach and learn math until I watched these videos.  It makes me wonder how much more enjoyable our math classes could have been for not just us but for everyone!  Imagine being able to do group tests, talk out our answers and questions with one another, and be able show our understanding and knowledge in a variety of different ways.  I know that written exams were not your strongest point, even though you were very intelligent in math. Do you feel that doing something like this would have made math more enjoyable and successful for you, and as well for others?

In video #10, the teachers use two different techniques that I envy and wish would have been implemented in our math class: 1) coloured pages which create organizers for us and provide us with information to help us understand the material and study; and 2) being tested on more than just getting the right answer.  The coloured pages seemed like great ways to stay organized, study and learn from, and deepen our understanding of the concepts that we were learning in that class.  Organization is something that I definitely need and possibly could have helped you as well.  As for being tested on more than just getting the right answer, I know that this would definitely help me out since I always made silly little calculation errors which caused me to lose quite a bit of marks.  Also, this shifts the emphasis of the answer being important to the steps of getting to the solution and students thought process.

I hope to hear back from you and I definitely encourage you to check out the videos! I think that your mind will be blown when you see how different math classes can be.


your high school math best friend, Ashley

Differentiated First Nations Lesson Plan – ECS 350

ECS 350 First Nations Lesson Plan

Above is the differentiated First Nations lesson plan that my partner and I did for our ECS 350 class.

In this lesson plan, our plan was that we would get students to create a hand drum (including making hide if possible, but with the time we just gathered all the supplies) and then use this to help in math.  This first part could be done in an art or music class if possible.  The hand drum creates a circle so we would use this to discuss the grade nine unit on circle properties including central angles and inscribed angles.  While discussing the properties, students would draw/paint on their hand drums so that they have a visual representation of what they were learning.

The process of creating this lesson plan was both difficult and relatively simple.  Differentiating the lesson plan was fairly easy because for the most part, many of the students had many adaptations that were common with one another.   However, there were a few that we found very difficult to try to incorporate into our lesson plan and left out (only some though!).  Another difficulty, that was also easy in a way, was deciding how to incorporate First Nations culture or Treaty education into math.  In a way it was easy because I  feel that the education professors do a very good job at trying to make us aware and understand how to incorporate treaty education into math.  We have had a few presentations and work shops where we have learned different ways to include First Nations content and treaty education into mathematics.  The idea that we had used for our lesson plan came from a couple presenters from Leading Thunderbird Lodge, which is a residential youth treatment center for male youth.  This idea that these presenters had shared with us had originally been shared with us to fit the grade 8 curriculum which is where Ali and I had run into a few problems.  The ideas presented had to do with labeling a circle and this idea would have worked great.  However, since Ali and I are secondary education students, we tried to adapt this idea to fit into the 9-12 curriculum.  We found our outcome in the Shapes and Space unit in the grade 9 curriculum but it didn’t exactly fit with the idea presented to us.  So, after some time, Ali and I came up with the idea to change the labeling and use of the hand drum.  Instead of labeling the hand drum, we would get the students to create a number of subtended angles and their corresponding central angles.  By doing this, students could create their own generalizations about the relationship between these angles and therefore have a deeper understanding of the content.  This also creates patterns and allows students to be creative if desired.

Ali and I were very happy with the way our lesson had turned out.  However, we and others determined a few minor changes after a completing a lesson study with other classmates.  During this study, we came up with the following changes to the lesson plan (which we have not changed in the lesson plan that we have uploaded):

1. In Essential Question 1, this should be “what is the meaning of a hand drum and what is it used for?” rather than “what is a hand drum.”

2. Instead of labeling their hand drum, tracing their hand drum, and then drawing inscribed and central angles on this paper, we would get students to just draw these angles directly on the hand drum (and of course in different colours so they can tell apart each angle).

3. Also, we should include questions about what would happen if the top point of the inscribed angle changed while the bottom two points stayed the same? (they should find that the angle stays the same no matter where they move it).

4. Include graphic organizers.