Learning Personal Trajectory

October 29th of 2018 I got accepted into Teach for America and was placed in Las Vegas. I had never taken an education course in my life and the only experience I had from teaching was through tutoring I did with peers or after school programs. I knew that I intend to have an impact on my future students but I had no idea how I was going to make an impact. Luckily, I was still in College and so I decided to take an education course to help me build my teaching foundation. This led me to discovering EDUC 350. Intrigued by the course description I decided to take the class. Prior to my first day of class I had no idea about pedagogies, or methods of teaching, or lesson plans, or learning objectives, or assessments and so much more. Through EDUC 350 I learned how to develop my own lesson plans and develop tactics to teaching and assessing whether or not my students understood the material. I learned how to take my lesson plans and improve them to promote higher level learning. I learned how to connect my lessons to social issues and the importance of doing such an activity. The concept of relationship building was also reinforced through learning about strategies and conversations had with teachers about how to build relationships. I also learned a strategy for getting students to lead the conversation for their own learning and how to guide it. Another aspect of teaching I also learned about was equity and the importance in considering this for every aspect of the lesson. One thing that did not click until my third lesson was the importance of assessments and tying the objectives to the lesson plans and assessments. Creating this full circle lesson plan that always lines up with the objectives creates a stronger lesson plan. I also learned the importance of activities that have nothing to do with the learning objectives and how they can be used to create an effective lesson plan. Through my workshops I encountered some challenges with getting students engaged and ensuring all the students understood the content. I had some students who did exceedingly well and others that did not try or learn much and It was difficult to engage those students when the top students were constantly answering first. There certainly are challenges in teaching a class where students are very intelligent and engaged and others that are not engaged and so they miss the concepts and fall behind. Through and through I feel that this class has given me a solid foundation for going forward with teaching and I look forward to continuing to grow and learn about more strategies for being an effective leader and creating some of my own. Going forward in Las Vegas I already have several plans in mind. I plan to start off by learning more about the community I will be teaching in, the urban issues there, the students and difficulties they face at home. Once I familiarize myself with the area and students, I plan to develop my lesson plans to meet the learning objectives, to promote their confidence in their abilities, and guide them to use their education in mathematics to address the urban issues in their communities. At the same time I also intend to engage with the students in clubs, sports, and through the community. Depending on how busy things are I also wish to help with sports and start a club to help the boys at the school become gentleman and tackle the masculinity issue. After four years in Las Vegas I intend to conquer the city and develop a foundation for addressing the urban issues and educational inequity in the county. I intend to use all my connections to build paths for students to follow their passions and provide them with the resources to do so. I am very excited and look forward to continuing to grow and create these changes.

Lesson 3: Biodiversity

At 9:40am on April 25th, 2019 I taught Ms. Dougan’s seventh grade class at McDonough Middle School in Hartford, Conneticut. This was the same class I had taught for the previous two lessons. We were asked by Ms. Dougan to form a lesson plan around Biodiversity addressing some of the following Essential Question and Learning Objectives:

  • Essential Question: Why/How is biodiversity important to an ecosystem success?
  • Disciplinary Core Ideas:
    • Biodiversity describes variety of species
    • Biodiversity often used as a measure of ecosystem’s health
    • Organisms & populations are dependent on interactions with non-living things
    • Mutually beneficial interactions may require the other for survival
    • Relationships between organisms can be competitive, predatory, and mutually beneficial
    • Ecosystem components can be disrupted
    • Ecosystems  (populations) can change over time (are dynamic)
    • Biodiversity can affect an ecosystem

In addition, we were informed that our workshop would be the first time they will be introduced to Biodiversity.  Luckily I had conducted previous workshops with my class involving Ecosystems and Population Ecology which all falls into the realm of Biodiversity. So I knew the students would not be entirely unfamiliar with some of the core concepts and I also had an idea of what they do know. To create my lesson plan I used the Essential Question and Disciplinary Core Ideas as my guide.

Assessment: For my assessment I used a combination of Summative and Formative assessments. For the Summative assessment I used a quiz on Kahoot. Some questions asked were Q1: Select the best definition of biodiversity; Q4: Commensalism is a relationship between two organisms in which ______; Q10: What is the name of the symbiotic relationship in which both species benefit. I used these questions to address biodiversity describes a variety of species, mutually beneficial interactions may require the other for survival, relationships between organism can be competitive, predatory, and mutually beneficial. I also asked a series of formative questions throughout the lesson such as: What will happen if you the algae died off, Why is biodiversity important in our situation if all the creatures relied on the marine iguana, What other species does your animal rely on. These were just some of the formative questions asked when trying to assess the students understanding of the material and see if they were on track for meeting the objectives.

Lesson Plan:

My lesson plan began with a PowerPoint on Biodiversity and slides containing information that relates to the quiz we would take at the end . I went through this with the students and had them read some of the information on the slides. I encouraged students to participate in reading the slides by giving the students who participated the option to choose their animal first before everyone else. Following the PowerPoint, I passed out the Biodiversity Worksheets and gave the ones who participated the most the option to select their animals. Once all the worksheets were passed out and the animals were equally split up among the students, I pulled up the Planet Earth Video of Episodes 1, beginning at 18:20. Initially I had enough sheets for four students to take on the role of each animal but since half the class was missing, I had to adjust with two students for each animal but excluding the lizard species since there were not enough students. Going into the Planet Earth Clip, I began the film and had students fill out anything correlating to the animal they were assigned from what they saw on the video. Once we finished the video we moved onto creating a visual display of a food web to represent how all the species connected to one another. I had each group of student species say something about how they were connected to other animals, whom they had a mutual relationship with, commenalism relationship with, and predatory relationship with.

Following our visual display of the food web, we went into talking about global warming. I told them about the effects it has on the world and showed them a clip of research done on algae and how global warming affects the algae. We then discussed and talked about what would happen if the algae was lost in their ecosystem and how this affected their biodiversity. To hone this activity further, we used string to physically connect all the species(students) together to their life lines.

Once all the animals were connected, I had a student who was role playing as algae drop their strings. This in turn left the animals that relied on that algae to lose their life line. I then asked what would the animal have to do now for survival, which brought up competition among the species. I then told one of the students who was a marine iguana to let go of their strings so the class can see the effects this would have on other species. By seeing the physical connects being lost by the yarn, students realized how important their connections to one another was and why biodiversity is important. This activity relied a bit upon formal assessments and asking questions on the spot with some pre-planned notions for questions to ask. Following this activity, I then had students pull out a phone for each group of species and get ready to take an online quiz on Kahoot. Prior to the quiz I went back to the PowerPoint to review the terms we learned at the beginning of class to help prepare students for the Quiz. Following this we then began the quiz and the groups were competing with one another to be the number 1 team.

By the end a team had a very large lead so to equal the playing field I allowed the students to double down their points on the last question in order to steal the lead. The winning team got to choose their candies first but in the end everyone got candy and snacks.

Equity:

For a lesson on biodiversity, I understood that the kids I was teaching would not have much knowledge on the various types of biodiversity. With this in mind, I wanted to create a lesson formed around a ecosystem that would inspire the students to learn more about the world and teach them about a place outside the United States since that is where their knowledge would be limited to. This is why I chose the Galapagos islands located near the South American Continent. I also chose to show them a video depicting how global warming is affecting our planet so the students could learn more about the physical affects taking place on their planet.

Reflection:

When the class first began I was disheartened. Nearly half the class was missing due to testing and I knew this was going to have a huge impact on my lesson plan. The first 15 minutes was quite rough since none of the kids were very interested and I could tell that nobody really wanted to be there. Being surrounded by the feeling made me feel defeated and I even felt myself looking forward to this class ending but after I had my brief little pity party I began doing everything I could to change the atmosphere in the room. I was really able to turn the tables around once we got to the planet earth video of my lesson plan. During this video the students immediately became engaged and so I would pause it and build the suspension in the students, asking them questions and playing off of the momentum building. I soon felt myself begin to enjoy it again. Even though we were back on track with the mood, I still had a lot more quick thinking to do in order to ensure the lesson plan is still effective despite half the class missing. With the few students I had, I asked them questions and was able to engage a little more with them. Going into the food web and yarn string Idea, I was able to get the students to see the physical connection between their animal and the rest of the food web. When I had them let go of their strings and when I cut some they would react, understanding that they just lost their food source or an essential component to their survival.  They reacted a lot more to this activity than our discussions and drawing of the food web on the board. This activity told me that the students understood how organisms connected to other biotic and abiotic factors. One thing that did not go well was the student engagement and retention of the terms we discussed at the beginning of class. This was important since we were taking a quiz at the end of class based off of the information of biodiversity presented in the PowerPoint. In order to reinforce what we learned at the beginning of class I went over the PowerPoint again, especially sine I knew students did not engage at the beginning of class. Despite my best efforts to ensure the students understood the terminology, the results show above showed me that the students did not retain the information well. The top score was 8 but I know these students accidentally chose the wrong answer and couldn’t undo it. They were very vocal about it which is how I know this. In addition, I left one question that we did not review on purpose so that students can guess and try and figure it out from what they learned. Nobody got that questions write so in some respects, one group of students got 100%, but the rest of the class clearly struggled with the terms. After this assessment I realize that I need to find better ways to ensure that students grasp the terminologies better. Another way to improve would be to create a more interactive and engaging way to teach the terminologies to the students since the PowerPoint was not very engaging for the students, which I believe impacted the students motivation to retain the terms for the quiz. Students usually showed their confusion during the quiz when they realized they got the wrong answer and so I would explain those aspects or ask students questions as to why their answer was correct and the rest were wrong. I did this to also help strengthen students deductive reasoning and explanation. I know moving forward I can also find more creative ways for assessment and better ways to show those results. The assessments we did meet were understanding the essential question, understanding what biodiversity is, how mutual relations are beneficial for survival, how relationships between organisms can be competitive, predatory, or mutual, how ecosystems can be disrupted, and how biodiversity can affect an ecosystem. We addressed each learning objective but I felt that by the end of the lesson the students were only adequately able to grasp these concepts. I know personally I grew a lot more in the last workshop since it was the most rattling lesson for me. This was the first time I felt extremely discouraged in the classroom and I was able to come out of it positively. In addition, I also began to understand the importance and connection between aligning objective, lesson, and assessment together. Going forward I am going to seek better ways to teach terminologies and assess whether students retained that information.

Resources:

Summative Assessment quiz used on Kahoot for group competition: https://create.kahoot.it/details/biodiversity/b33b489e-2437-4f01-b7d0-085f537bd421

Biodiversity Worksheet:                                                            https://drive.google.com/open?id=1Ev4aFoIDyrgVPxkIvEfLdBKsekZ_-pNvRwiznAl7gOY

Global Warming Video showing healthy and unhealthy Algae:  https://www.oceans16mtsieeemonterey.org/how-are-climate-change-affecting-our-oceans/

Planet Earth II, Episode 1, start 18:20 end 26:00

PowerPoint:  https://drive.google.com/open?id=1VvyicGPa-C_-wCZBokVhY73Om5hsMefdwgV0SGrdc2Q