Literacy Training

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I got the opportunity to participate in literacy training catered toward 3-6 graders.  This was so helpful because I haven't had the opportunity to work with this age group for guided reading or other types of literacy stations.  I valued this training very much - here is a sample of notes I took from that training:

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D3 - These notes demonstrate that I value and seek professional growth.  I was greatly interested in learning about guided reading in upper elementary since my experience has been with primary grades.  My notes will help me have a better idea of how I'll want to plan for reading groups in my class if I happen to work with older students.

Guided Reading Notes

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As I lead guided reading, I like to take notes about the sections that students read and notes on their fluency and comprehension.  This helps me keep track of who needs to read for me during the next session and what specific things I need to work on with each student.  This is a copy of the notes I took during one guided reading session:

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B2 - These notes demonstrate how I assess student learning in multiple ways in order to monitor student learning, assist students in understanding their progress, and report student progress.  Because I keep track of how and what students read during each of my guided reading sessions, I can cater our following sessions to meet my students' needs.

Survey Results

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Throughout the inquiry process, I collected data from my students to see how they felt about their actions and feelings regarding friendships and friendship issues.  After conducting the surveys, I analyzed the data and came up with the results of my class:

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Results (in comparison to first survey):
•    More students are always or usually comfortable in the classroom with classmates.
•    Did not increase/decrease times students yell at each other
•    Less students stay out of arguments that their friends are having
•    More students sometimes talk about their friends behind their backs
•    Less students walk away to cool off if they are angry - More students sometimes or never walk away.
•    More students always or usually feel well-liked in the classroom
•    Did not increase/decrease feeling of inclusion in group activities
•    Did not increase/decrease whether students' listen to opinions of others
•    More students sometimes go home and worry about relationship issues with friends than before (when they never worried)
•    Fewer students always feel comfortable making mistakes and now usually feel comfortable making mistakes in the classroom.
•    Fewer students exclude others from their groups
•    It is inconclusive as to whether more or less students think about others' feelings before making decisions.

C2 - This data analysis demonstrates how I systematically analyze assessment data to characterize performance of whole class and relevant sub-groups of students.  By conducting the surveys and analyzing to find whole-class results, I was able to come up with conclusions about my class and the effectiveness of our community building activities and strategies.

Spring Assessment

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The professionalism portion of my Spring Assessment indicates that I am consistently meeting expectations for the professionalism portion:

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D4 - This evaluation shows that I consistently demonstrate integrity, ethical behaviors, and appropriate professional conduct.  Both my mentor and PDA came up with this evaluation and agreed that I am meeting expectations.

E-mail re: Lesson

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In our classroom, I led my students through an activity where they discovered how tracks can teach us a lot about the creature that created them.  It was a very interactive lesson where different groups of students worked together to paint their hands and/or feet to create different types of tracks.  It was very busy, but the following e-mail from my mentor regarding my lesson planning and preparation shows that I am meeting her expectations as I was taking on more responsibility throughout the day.

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D1 - This email demonstrates that I meet expectations and fulfill responsibilities.  During that time, I began taking on more responsibilities in the classroom and did not always have my mentor present while teaching lessons or leading activities.  The e-mail from my mentor that I received the evening after the lesson shows that she felt comfortable with the way I led the lesson and planned for it.  I met her expectations and fulfilled my responsibility.

Struggling Writers

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From early on in the school year, I was able to see which ones of my students really struggled with the writing portion of some activities.  The following reflections demonstrate how 1. I recognize the need to change my instruction for some students, and then 2. how I ended up adapting my instruction to make my students more successful.

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C1 - These lesson reflections demonstrate how I monitor and adjust instructional and assessment strategies during teaching.  Because I noticed that my struggling writers were not being as successful as they could be and that my other students were not getting enough of my attention, I was able to adjust my instructional strategies for those and future lessons.  My students became more successful when they were gathered onto a side table where they could see the board better and get assistance from a teacher.

Dinosaur 3-D Puzzles

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My mentor and I decided to do a fun 3-D puzzle activity with our students with the help of other adult volunteers.  It was a fun but overwhelming experience!  Here is an excerpt from the reflection journal where I talked about how we needed to adapt our activity and materials to make it work best for our students:

This Thursday was a very busy day!  Nothing in our day followed our typical schedule and it was very overwhelming.  My mentor kept laughing at the look on my face at the end of the day because she said she'd never seen it before!  It was funny in the sense that I could have passed out the moment the students left, but the students had a blast all day long.  We made 3-D puzzles with the help of 6 adults in our class, and it was still an overwhelming task.  My mentor and I reflected and decided that we would NEVER do an activity like that on our own and decided that if we were to do it again, we'd implement it a lot differently.  Most of our students were still successful, but it was a challenge for them and for the adults.  It was rewarding though because the final puzzles look great, but we'd definitely do it differently next time.  It was great to experience an activity that did not go as expected and keep working on it.  During the activity we did have a moment where we moved all of the students around and had them sitting in groups with other students who had the same puzzle so that they could work together and that helped things go a lot smoother.  It was a lot of "thinking on our feet" at that point, because we realized it was a lot tougher than we thought it would be!  We were very grateful to have those other adults in our class, because without them I don't think we would have succeeded! 

A6 - This reflection of our activity demonstrates how I selected and adapted appropriate instructional materials for my students.  Although we had one way of completing this activity already planned out, we found the need to change it around as we saw that the children and adults were struggling.  It turned out to be a fun activity, but it definitely worked out better when we adapted the activity to fit our students better.

Student Behavior Chart

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In our classroom, we found that a couple of students were struggling with managing their own behavior throughout the day.  We tried a couple of different plans until we found a plan that began working very well for one student.  This plan allowed the student to earn positive feedback from the teachers if she completed her goals throughout the different parts of the day.

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B4 - This behavior plan shows how I appropriately manage student learning and behavior.  With this plan in place, the student was able to focus more on her academic learning than on the things that were distracting her.  We saw a great improvement on this student's behavior and attitude.

We are Mathematicians!

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We are mathematicians! Powerful mathematicians! Working together we solve problems.  Patterns, connections, we build on what we know! We see math makes sense - YEAH! We are mathematicians! Powerful mathematicians! 1 - 2 - 3 - 4! 


Every day before the start of math, we transition by singing our mathematician song.  This gets the students excited and ready to be math thinkers!

B1 - This shows how I actively and effectively engages all learners.  The students are very excited to sing our math song every day and it is a great way to get energized before math.  When the opportunity arises during math, we refer back to our song and say things like "see how we worked together to solve the problem?!"  The students become excited and enthusiastic after singing our math song.

Nurturing Environment

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Andrea Balarezo
Reflection Journal
March 21, 2009

    One of my main beliefs about teaching is that a teacher should provide a nurturing and caring environment for students because that will help them to come to school with a positive attitude and ready to learn.  When a student feels safe and cared for, I believe that he/she can focus on learning, without the distraction of negative feelings about school.  Children of all ages really need to feel as if they're an individual in the teacher's eyes, and they need to be treated as such.  I've been working hard to build this atmosphere in my classroom this year, and so has my mentor.  My students all the time want hugs and to share new things in their lives with us, and although that is not "academic", I think to be someone they can feel comfortable hugging and sharing stories with is just as important as teaching lessons. 
Throughout the year, I've been trying to build that rapport with my students so that they do feel comfortable coming to me with various issues, good and bad, and at this time of the year, I really see how important that is to my students.  Every day someone will come to me with some exciting news from home, with a big hug, or with an issue they need help with.  Even if it's during a busy time and I can't chat with that student at the moment, I make it a point to go back and listen to the story or have a quick talk when it is less busy.  I can see the students light up when I ask them to tell me the story they wanted to share earlier.  I think that letting the students see that I am genuinely interested in them as individuals allows them to focus on our academics instead of having other worries or feeling unsafe/uncomfortable in the classroom. 
I know that personally, I feel better and more receptive in situations and interactions with people when I know that they are genuinely interested in me as an individual and not just as a student, colleague, etc.  I believe that children are very similar in that sense, and they are very perceptive to those around them.  I have noticed this with specific students in my classroom, that when they feel as if a certain adult is not interested in them or if they've had a negative interaction, the rest of the day's activities will be a struggle for the adult and student.  Other times, when I've notice a student may not be having the best day because of situations at home or with classmates, and I have made an effort to give extra hugs and praise, the student will flourish for the rest of the day.  It is amazing the impact that a teacher's care and attitude toward a student can have on that student's attitude toward school and learning and I have seen that first hand in my classroom.
I love that students trust me enough to come to with any home and school issues that arise.  I love that they can come and give me a big happy hug in the morning and say, "I'm sure you missed me during Spring Break!"  That is such an important part of being a teacher, and I will continue to build that caring and nurturing environment in my classroom this year and in all of my years as an educator.


A7 - This reflective journal demonstrates how I plan for an inclusive, nurturing, stimulating, and academically challenging learning environment.  All of the students in my classroom come in to school with different academic and emotional needs.  By meeting the emotional needs of my students and making them fell cared for in the classroom environment, we are better able to focus on each student's individual academic needs.

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