Practicum 2 – week 4

My last week of practicum was filled mostly with making sure I tied up loose ends with the various sets of lessons that I had taught, and with my culminating activity. So it turns out that I had wayyyyyyy overestimated how quickly my students would get through the activity I had planned for them.

The project involved using fractions to describe a piece of art that the students had created. The students planned mosaics on a 10 x10 grid, which they then described using fractions, equivalents, and decimals. The criteria for a successful mosaic were:

    • At least 3 colours

    • A pattern with at least 1 line of symmetry (vertical or horizontal)

    • 1/5 of the tile must be red

    • At least 3/4 of the tile must be coloured

    • Two of the colours must have equivalent amounts

Once the students had finished their templates, they then created large mosaics out of construction paper, and created gallery tags to describe their work when it was on display.

This project required a lot more work time than I expected; as a result I was unable to see finished products from some of the students and to consolidate properly with them. I was able to consolidate with a small group of students who had finished; they created their gallery cards and were able to “display” their art to one another and describe it. (The class work will all be posted on display boards in the school, with gallery cards, once it is finished.) All in all I was only able to mark about half of the mosaics, because that’s as many as were finished by the end of the week.

With this in mind, I would try to make the whole process more streamlined for students so that the work could move faster. I pre-prepared some of the materials (construction paper strips for cutting small tiles, the chart paper templates) – I would also prepare the pieces of backing paper ahead of time next time, as well as creating a larger batch of paper strips which could be divided between groups. (We had one large bin of pieces, which made for some traffic jams.)

I also had the students check their templates with me before they could move on to the “good copy” of their tile – while this was a little time consuming, I would still do it again; I think it was necessary for me to be able to check that the students were understanding and following the success criteria (and that their fractions were accurate!) If the students were a little older, I probably would have just posted my sample mosaic with the success criteria and allowed them to check their work and move on independently. As it was, I caught some errors and oversights – mostly around having equivalent fractions – and was able to correct some misunderstandings from a math standpoint.

Overall I think the activity went very well; the students were very engaged (even some who I usually had difficulty with) and several of them mentioned to me that they enjoyed what they were doing and it helped them to understand fractions more clearly. (Hooray!)

I was able to go back and visit my class two weeks after practicum had finished and see more of the finished work and chat with the students about what they had done since I left, which was great. I also received a collection of great letters from the kids which were simultaneously hilarious and touching. It made for a really nice end to practicum, and I look forward to being able to visit them again in the future.

Practicum 2, week 3: Cough cough

So coming back from March Break was hard. And I apparently didn’t get well enough during it, because I got sick again. The week actually started out kind of weird – I had an iffy review lesson on mixed numbers and improper fractions which prompted me to rework what we were going to do for the rest of the week (and panic a bit about whether we’d get to the cumulative on time), we got a new student who needed to be caught up, some kids were still on vacation…both literally and figuratively. It’s like they’d all forgotten how to go to school.

Tuesday was better, even though I ad started to cough and lose my voice…I got by and managed to teach gym, and had a much better fractions lesson than the day before.

Took Wednesday off due to getting sick again, which had me worried (again) about getting to my math cumulative on time…even though I sent in all my lesson plans, the class ended up doing something different (but still useful) due to a shortened period. I ended up teaching my intended lesson for Wednesday on Thursday, which was nice in a way because it meant I didn’t have to plan while I was sick, and did a giant review on Friday, which went well. We played the Rats! game with the Smartboard, and the kids loved it! So now I’m only really half a lesson short (the grade 5s need to look at percents, which I’m planning to do during our science time) and I should be able to start my cumulative on Monday as planned.

So everything is winding down, and I finally think I’m getting better for real this time. Things are looking up!

Practicum 2, week 2: I can’t actually remember what happened

Most of week two is a blur for me, since I spent a large amount of time knowing that I was about to get sick and hoping I could hold off until the break. (I did. I got sick Friday afternoon.) Let’s see if I can make a list of things I did:

Math lessons carried on as usual, novel study too. I taught two gym classes, which actually went better than I expected – we’re working on volleyball skills, and we were able to do some partner work and play some good lead-up games. I was worried about not having a whistle (I haven’t been able to find one) but it turns out I can clap pretty loud and the kids are pretty good at stopping when they’re asked to. So it’s not just me shouting myself hoarse while 25 kids run amok (which is secretly what I was worried about.)

I also started Health with a grade 1 class, which was really short and super cute and I’m kind of sad that I’ll only see them twice more. We spent the first class getting to know each other and then doing a KWL chart for safety, which was about all they could handle in one period. I have a drawing activity for them that we’ll start next week, and that will probably take them the rest of our time together to work on, so hey, that’s one class planned for the rest of practicum! (phew.)

I’ve been given some science lessons to look at over the March Break for the grade 5s, so I can start that when we come back, and I’ll carry on with gym and math and novel study, and things will start to wind down. (If all goes well, I’ll spend the last week in math doing an art-based cumulative. Excited for that!)

Oh and ALSO – it was my birthday this week (Thursday), so I baked sugar cookies for the kids and gave them the recipe as part of our fractions lesson on mixed numbers. That was AWESOME, and I seem to have won approximately 1 000 000 000 points for having the ability to draw fraction circles on cookies (“You really made these? All by yourself?”) 🙂



Practicum 2: Finnegan Begin Again

Week one of second practicum is over, and the only thing I can think to say about it is that it has been SO DIFFERENT. I am so much more calm and comfortable, and the environment in a core classroom is so much more…stable. I always know what ought to be happening, and I know all my kids’ names, and it is GREAT.

The workload is less great. I am in charge of a combined fractions and decimals unit (I’m in a 4-5 split) and I’m also working with the grade 5 kids for their novel study, next week, I’ll start teaching gym (eeps) and I’ll take on my AT’s grade 1 health class as well. I think we’ll be doing safety. Should be fun! I’m having to be super conscious of the time that I spend working, to make sure that I a) get my stuff done, b) remember to eat, and c) don’t die of panic (I’m a bit of a perfectionist, and having to leave some things at “good enough” gives me a bit of a crawly feeling.) If this is me in week one, I’m a little nervous to see me in week four.

Nonetheless, I’m still really enjoying myself – I’ve given some great lessons, already got a chance to use the smartboard (so cool), and am starting to get a good idea of the kids’ personalities. I’m looking forward to improving on some of the things I tried this week – my AT is super supportive and her advice is great. We’ll see how I handle the extra lesson planning…fortunately I’ve found some great resources to lighten the load a little.

Also, I’m not sure what it means that every time I think about it, I start singing this:

There once was a man named Michael Finnegan / He had whiskers on his chinnegan / Pulled them out but they grew in again / Poor old Michael Finnegan, begin again!


Week 4 – I don’t know how to feel about this

Well, practicum is over.

This post has been delayed for a few days, mostly by busyness but also by my need to sleep an enormous amount. I also haven’t been sure what to say about my last week in practicum, because I alternate between being sad that I have to leave when I’m just getting into the routine of lesson planning (and planning some great lessons) and overjoyed that I’ll be able to sleep an hour later in the morning again.

My last week was kind of a scramble of trying to make sure I rounded off the lessons that I had started with various groups, and wanting to do neat things with my students as a way of saying goodbye. I had a few really great classes and some great conversations with the kids about what it meant that I was going back to school myself. In a way the many two-part lessons I had started were a blessing, since it meant less active planning for me – this was a lifesaver when I had so many lessons a day to teach.

I also had to pull out my “tough face” with a few classes who hadn’t completed work that I had assigned to them – I suspect that because the students knew I was leaving, they thought they could get away with leaving my assignments undone. Having to lecture them sucked, but it was at least good practice – I now know that I can be tough if I need to be. I also know that I am able to adjust my lessons when things don’t go as planned, as I had to do when my grade five students didn’t complete a homework activity that was necessary for the day’s lesson. It was tough to be put in a position where I couldn’t just have a good time with the kids in my last couple days as I had planned, but that happens, and I was able to handle it.

I’ve made tentative plans to go back and visit my school and the students for their winter concert, and I’m looking forward to seeing what they have prepared, since I had the chance to work on some of their repertoire with them.

It feels strange to end this last post on the last week of my practicum experience, but things aren’t over yet…



Week 3 – Everything is awesome, and/or a complete disaster

So I had an experience this week and I wonder if any of you (especially you, rotary people) have had something similar.

I gave a lesson near the beginning of the week on the personal nature of composition, and the way in which many artists will use music as a way of talking about things that are important to them. Our activity for the lesson was to interpret and then compare the lyrics of two different autobiographical songs by different artists. Our examples were Solsbury Hill by Peter Gabriel, and Dear John by Styx.

I deliberately chose songs that the students were less likely to be familiar with, so that they would have to work from scratch when deciding what they thought the songs were about, rather than working from their preconceptions. The main point behind the analysis was that one song (Solsbury Hill) has a very implicit meaning, while the other (Dear John) is very explicit.

Anyway, the first grade 8 group I did this with loved it. Hands were up, everyone had an opinion, there were lots of creative interpretations – some students even started to sing along when we listened to the songs a second time, which I hadn’t asked them to do. It was great.

So great, in fact, that my AT was all, “That was cool, you should do it again with (other grade 8 group). They’ll like it.”

So I did. And it was….terrible.

Dead silence. No opinions. I had to prompt through every part of the analysis. I mean, no one was goofing off, everybody listened, but response? Nada.

At the time I had no plan B, so I just sort of plodded on through and vowed (secretly) to do better next time.

Has this happened to you? What did you do? What happens when you’re giving what you think is an awesome lesson, and halfway through, you realize it’s bombing? A disaster. A masterpiece of disaster. Disasterpiece.

I’m going to go work on a plan B.

Right folks? Right?

I’m developing a verbal tic, I think? I keep catching myself ending my sentences with “…right?” as I’m speaking to my students. I’ve never done this before, you guys. It’s weird. I’m trying to consciously replace it with something assertive, like “understand?”, because that’s what I’m really asking – I want to check in with my students. But “…right?” sounds like I’m unsure, or something, and it keeps slipping out anyway and it is FREAKING ME OUT.

My AT hasn’t mentioned it, so maybe it isn’t as noticeable and weird as I feel it is. Or maybe he’s just being nice. I aim to ask.

Anyone else find this happening to them? Any success knocking it off? Because even if my students aren’t noticing, it is totally distracting for me when a catch myself doing it.




Week 2 – Aventures in composition

So my major lesson this week was one on composition, where I gave the students 10 basic “rules” to follow and asked them to try and write a short melody. I was super excited to do this, you guys, and it went…not as well as I expected. Turns out a lot of the students just didn’t have some of the basic terminology and ideas down that they would need to make the lesson a success – so I spent a lot of time repeating myself and reassuring them that it wasn’t as hard as it seemed. I got a few really nice responses, but the overall effect was that most of the students were too intimidated to give a real effort to what I was asking them to do.

My bad.

The upside is I now have a better idea of the technical knowledge of some of the classes I am working with, and hopefully that means more appropriate lessons in the future. I scaled back a little bit on some of the lessons since then, and met with much better involvement.

I also had a chance to do the lesson based on my ALSAM with a couple classes, and it was great. I got a lot of really invested students, and it felt good to do something with them that they all felt they could do well. My tie-in to music with the ALSAM lesson was asking students to think about what would make appropriate music to accompany the work they were doing – I’m planning to follow up on that this week. Another interesting thing was seeing the different reactions of the different groups of students – I worked with a 3/4 group and a grade 7 group, and while the 3/4 group was super excited to do the activity, a lot of them ended up getting confused by the idea of there being a “right” answer they were supposed to find, even though the activity was about their personalities. The grade 7 group was less enthusiastic initially, but they were much more willing once we started to just roll with what I was asking them to do, and worried less about the results.

Today I gave my first lesson that required the students to do some work at home – and it was very successful. In class we worked on interpreting the lyrics of a couple autobiographical songs, and I talked to them about the different ways that artists and singers will use their music to talk about things that are important to them. The students are now meant to go find some music that they listen to often, and see if any of their favourite songs have deeper personal meaning for the artist. Once they’ve chosen a song, they are going to bring in a lyric sheet to share with the class, so we can work on interpreting the music the way we did with today’s examples. I’m hoping this assignment gives me a chance to get to know the students a little better by learning about the kinds of music they feel is important. I’m hoping for lots of variety in the songs they bring in…or I could end up with 30 One Direction songs. Either way, insight. I can hope, right?