My observation and participation My internship was in Holmes Middle School, located in Annandale. It is one of three Fairfax County middle schools with grades six, seven, and eight.
The central theme of the Holmes School Plan is to improve school achievement for all students. The school finds strength in its diverse population, exemplified by students and staff members representing more than 50 of the world's countries. Special education services are available for students with disabilities consistent with the recommendations of individualized education program teams. In addition, the needs of students in the following programs are met: school-based gifted and talented and English for speakers of other languages. I have observed 7 lessons at Mrs Nadherny’s classes: she teaches science for sixth graders. In most of the lessons I participated, either assisting the kids with their activities or conducting some activities myself. Class 1 –September 30 When I enter the classroom, the lesson is in progress: they are studying the Earth’s orbit, axis, tilt, climate and seasons. They have already written the word of the day in their notebooks and have answered the question in their warm-up sheets –this is the usual routine in Mrs. Nadherny’s class-. On Wednesday and Friday –the days I attend her lessons- she has the first and third periods: both groups study the same contents, but as they are quite different –the first group is larger but more homogeneous and they work at a steady rhythm; the second group is heterogeneous: there are gifted students and ESOL students working with regular ones; however, their work rhythm is much faster as everybody in the group wants to be the best. With this group, Mrs. Nadherny works very well in differentiation: she has 3 well-defined sub-groups and the sitting arrangement is such that they can work efficiently. As in the ESOL group of students there are kids from Latin America, Asia and Africa, the language could be a barrier; however, Mrs. Nadherny does her best to use translation or body language so that everybody understands and does the tasks. As regards gifted students, they usually finish their work first; so, they usually get a book and read silently while their mates finish the work. Some of them like reading so much that they have come up with the idea of organizing a book club. And Mrs. Nadherny is giving them her assistance. As regards this first class, I noticed that when the students finish their activities, they raise their hands and, as Mrs. Nadherny calls their names, they give their answers: every student pays attention and check their work individually. As homework, students are supposed to reflect on what they learned and practiced in class. Class 2 –October 2 When I get to the class, I hear Frank Sinatra’s version of Fly me to the Moon, since the kids are studying the phases of the moon. The routine of the class goes on as usual, but the teacher hands out a packet to the students to start work on the moon. The first activity is a KTW (I know about the moon…/I think I know about the moon… / I want to know about the moon…) chart: students fill in the chart and they are going to see it again at the end of the unit to see how much they know and how much they have learned. Mrs. Nadherny revises with the students the main four phases of the moon (new moon, first quarter, full moon, third quarter) and then, she explains the other four (waxing crescent, waxing gibbous, waning gibbous, waning crescent) The teacher hands out the materials to do a foldable with the phases of the moon. She guides them in the cutting part of the activity. Once they have the first part ready, Mrs. Nadherny divides the class into two groups: one group works with her, the other with me. The students go to a corner of the classroom where they are going to experience the moon’s rotation around the Earth. They look at the moon (that is me) rotating around the Earth (one of the students) and the Sun illuminating the scene: they identify each phase of the moon and, in their photocopy; they shade a portion of each circle, showing each phase. Finally, the students glue each phase in the foldable. Class 3 –October 7 Students take out their warm-up sheet: explain the difference between waxing and waning. Then, there is a mini discussion in class: Are there any other things in the world that wax and wane? They write the question and answer it. Then, they hand it in. Students take the foldable they did last class: they write the names of the phases of the moon, a brief description and hand it in (while some students are working, the ones that have finished go to the reading corner: the work continues in a good atmosphere) Then, they watch a video about the moon and Mrs. Nadherny instructs them to do a reading comprehension in the book. Oreo quiz: the teacher hands out a plate with four Oreo cookies and a plastic knife. Students are to show the eight phases of the moon by taking the icing from each part of the cookie and arranging the eight parts in a circle from the new moon to the waning crescent. Mrs. Nadherny and I go around the classroom, listening to each kid name the phases while pointing at them and taking a photo of each kid and his/her work. Then, they “eat” their work. They have fun while they work and are assessed informally by Mrs. Nadherny and me. Finally, she hands out homework. Class 4- October 9 The teacher explains that the moon affects certain things in our planet, the most noticeable being the tides. So, she writes the warm-up question on the board and the word of the day (astronaut) Then, students start working on tides: the teacher hands out a page with OC inlet tides for December 2006: in it, students can see the high tides and low tides of each day with the specific time. The teacher assigns one day to each student: taking into account the information given, students are to graph the tides. Mrs. Nadherny and I go around the classroom assisting students with the graphing since it may result a little difficult to some of them. It takes quite a long time as some students need more assistance; those students who find it easy, do 2 pieces of graphing. The teacher introduces some specific vocabulary as inertia and gravity, neap tide and spring tide. Class 5 –October 14 Today’s warm-up question is What causes tidal change? The students answer in groups: they discuss the answer and they write it on a small board. They present it to the teacher that shows it to the class. She makes some slight corrections, but calls students’ attention to the use of capitalization and to the use of complete answers. Then, they do another tidal graphing (as last class) and each graph is glued on the board (this is my task) so that students can notice the pattern and neap and spring tides (I guide them): they discuss in groups and a representative of each group comes to the board and points to each tide. As they are reflecting upon what causes tidal change, the teacher hands out some pieces for them to construct a foldable that shows the relationship between the tides, the Earth, the moon and the sun. Ms Nadherny and I assist students to build the foldable and to understand how it works. Then, Mrs. Nadherny assigns the homework from the packet. Class 6 – October 16 When I arrive to class, students are checking homework. Then, Mrs. Nadherny gives them the word of the day and the warm-up question.
After that, they revised the concepts of spring tide and neap tide with their hands and arms moving: they have fun. Then, the teacher first, and then I, conducts a pop reading activity “Ocean water on the move”. I help some students with the vocabulary that they find difficult or unknown. Then, individually, they work on the reading comprehension activity –a multiple choice exercise-; some of them need assistance, too. As they finish, we check the work orally: students volunteer to read the answers aloud. As homework, students are to choose a planet for a project they are going to present in 10 days: for next class, students should bring the name of the planet and some ideas. The teacher explains the characteristics of the project and hands out the packet: in it, students have the rubrics; the teacher explains what rubrics are, their use and the reason why she includes them in the packet. She tells them that they can choose the way to present the project: it may be a poster with an oral explanation, a power point presentation, a video, etc. Class 7 – October 23 Today I teach a lesson. It is about Argentina. I hand out a fact file for students to complete with their previous knowledge about my country. As students read their answers, we go on checking if the rest of the class agrees with each of them or not. Then, I showed them a power point presentation I designed for them: we talk about each feature, about each picture, about each detail; they show real interest and like it when they find that some of their answers were correct. Then, as one of the slides show that a comic strip character is among our most famous people, I hand out some copies of one of the episodes of “Mafalda”: I tell them about the character and the comic strip and they read and, then, role play the episode. Then, students write 3 facts they remember about Argentina, 2 questions, and 1 comment: they read the questions and if someone in the class knows the answer, gives it; if not, I answer the question. Class 8 – October 30 In today’s class, my mentor, Mrs. Nadherny, was not present as she has a health problem. Her substitute teacher, Mr. Mamoun, gives the students a test –a multiple choice one-, a word square to find some vocabulary from the units they have worked with in this first quarter and a packet about Astronomy. I assist the ESOL students with some sentences and some questions that find a little difficult to understand. And I help Mr. Mamoun with the class in general. Reflection on my internship Mrs. Nadherny welcomed me into her sixth grade class and showed me how she works with her ESOL, gifted and regular students. She let me observe her science lessons, and little by little, help some students, assist her in some activities, conduct some others, until, on October 23, I conducted my own class. In these lessons I could see and experience what I was reading about and discussing with my TEA fellows and professors in George Mason University: differentiated instruction, brain-based teaching and learning, informal and formal assessment. Mrs. Nadherny makes of her science class a safe place where participation is important, being always right is not required and kids have fun while learning about natural phenomena and language. Although science is not my field of expertise – I have learned a lot about the phases of the moon, gravity, inertia, the tides and the ocean-, the activities that are usually conducted in Mrs. Nadherny’s class are dynamic and creative; they permit that students with different abilities, needs, interests and learning preferences participate of the lesson and feel that their contribution is useful for the group’s construction of knowledge. I think I can use these ideas in class and/or adapt them so that all of my students can benefit from them. Some of these strategies are already used in my classes, but some others are refreshing and the positive thing is that I have seen here that they work. And I am sure my colleagues will be glad to know that most of us, in Argentina, are on the right track: considering each student as a whole, as a person with emotions, different abilities, needs and interests that can contribute to the group in different, unique ways. That is what this experience means for me: a unique moment of professional development and personal growth.