Contextual Factors

Contextual Factors

Contextual Factors:

Community, district, and school factors:

The school I am teaching at, which I will refer to as school A, is in a rural community in Northeast Iowa with a population of approximately 1500 residents. From what I have gathered, it is a fairly close-knit community. The majorities of the residents are Caucasian, married, and commute to jobs around the area

School A is composed of children from this community as well as a few surrounding communities. Even though this school has a few other communities that feed into it for education, the ethnic/racial makeup of the school is reflective of the rural community where it is located; there are few other ethnicities represented beyond Caucasian. School A has a population of approximately 300 students in grades prekindergarten through fifth grade and is one of five elementary schools in the district. There are about 20 full time teachers and about eight paraeducators in the building which allow school A to offer“specialist education in Art, Music, Media, Physical Education, Title One/Reading Recovery, Speech and Language Development, Counseling and Special Education” (Western Dubuque Community School District, 2009).The socio-economic status of the students varies among families, as about a quarter of all students in the school are on the free or reduced lunch program. The tuition for the pre-k program I am working in is covered for many parents through grants from the state and local empowerment groups. Also, many supplies, like scooters and other play equipment have been purchased by the school with various grants they have qualified for.

Classroom factors:

Our pre-k classroom is a good sized room with plenty of open play area for the children to spread out and explore their manipulatives in the discovery process. There are three child-sized tables and nineteen chairs for the children to sit at for table work, snack, and to do various activities.

Within the classroom we have access to a radio/CD player as well as a TV/DVD player. There is a computer in the classroom, but that is for teacher use. An immense resource to us is having a full time paraeducator in the room. That extra set of eyes, ears, and hands helps alleviate some of the minor duties from the lead teacher and also helps when dealing with a student exhibiting difficult behavior.We have almost unlimited access to a variety of materials for activities, including paints, shaving cream, cooking supplies, etc.

Parent involvement in my classroom varies. Part of our home-school communication system is using folders that get sent home every night and brought back to school every morning to deliver important papers.

Rules and routines in the classroom are consistent for each part of the day, but the schedule can be rather flexible sometimes. The children know what they are expected to do when they are at small group or at whole group or in the gym but the order of those activities are sometimes switched around in the morning due to availability of the gym during indoor recess days. As a transition between activities, my cooperating teacher will just say, “3, 2, 1, 0 voices off, eyes on me” and the children will look at and listen to her. She will give directions and when she is done they will follow through with those directions. As expected there are a few students in the room who need more guidance and reminders than others to fulfill the directions.

One instructional implication that would influence my unit is that our groups are only 12 minutes in length. We have an hour set aside for four-12 minute groups to take place with transition time in the morning. I will have to plan a short enough lesson to be done in 12 minutes yet be prepared with supplementary material for those who get through it quicker. Further, I will have to make sure that what we do in the 12 minutes is actually going to impact their learning.

Another instructional implication that would influence my unit is the time of day I teach the lessons. If it is a time that they do groups before recess, I foresee some students getting antsy and needing more help paying attention. On the other hand, if it is after recess they may have to be settled down to prepare for the groups.

Student characteristics:

My pre-k class is composed of four- and five-year olds who are very energetic and have a never-ending imagination that shines through in their play experiences. Of the nineteen total students there are eleven girls and eight boys in the class. All of the students in the class are Caucasian and speak English as their first language. Being close in age and from the same type of rural communities, the children seem to have similar interests that they incorporate into their learning.

There are two students in the class who are on an IEP and receiving support services. They were both at one time receiving services in speech, but I believe they have both been moved from that program due to their achievement. They are also on academic or social/behavioral IEP’s and are fully integrated into the pre-k program. Student A is a very meek child and has some difficulty entering and contributing to a group. It seems these difficulties could contribute to academic troubles due to lack of opportunity to explore things in the environment herself and create her understanding of their place in the world. Student B is a very bubbly and rather energetic child. She does not achieve as high as it seems she is capable academically because she cannot seem to slow down long enough to properly take in the material to respond appropriately.

There are a few other students who are not on an IEP but have rather energetic characteristics and unfocused tendencies like student B. For whole group time we have weighted blankets that we lay across their lap and it helps them pay attention to what is going on in the group time. They are also ones that need to be interested in the activity to really be able to focus on it. I can see that I will have to work at capturing the interests of the students. We are in a winter unit and they have all been intrigued by the snowmen, penguins, and bears that we have introduced in their activities. Some other units we will be doing include hearts, valentines, and family, and the five senses, which should be equally interesting to them.

My CT has the class broken down into four different groups based mostly on ability level, but also compatibility. Two of the groups are on the higher achieving side and are more independent while the other two groups are on the lower achieving side and need more support to achieve a goal. I find this to be very helpful to teach because you can modify and adapt the lessons as needed for each group and though you may even have to modify the lesson within a group it is going to be more minimal than if the groups were randomly placed. I think it helps the students understand and achieve more with this type of grouping pattern.

One instructional implication that will influence my unit is the attention span of the choice children in the class. I know I will have to make my lessons interesting so the student will want to take part in them and will learn from them rather than have to constantly be pulled back into the learning process every time they get distracted. It is not only unpleasant for the teacher to have to constantly say something to the student, but also for the student to have to do something they cannot focus on. I am going to try to incorporate a variety of activities dealing with shapes for my unit.

The second instructional implication that will influence my unit is the grouping of the students. I will definitely use that to my advantage and plan accordingly. I will be able to plan more complex activities and activities that can be done with more independence if not full independence for the upper two groups and plan simple activities with more opportunity for practice and room for adult support as needed for the lower two groups. Within each group I will try to have material I think will challenge the students who need more of a challenge but also have material at the level they have been performing at so there is some variety in difficulty. This will allow the students who are not quite at the higher level to be exposed to it and they will hopefully be more comfortable with it when they get there.

Student skills:

I know I am going to be doing my pre-k math unit lessons on shapes, focusing on identification and characteristics of the shapes. Student A (the same as listed above) is one of the students in the lower group and appears to be either confused or off task at times. She is a quiet girl who will sit and watch rather than participate. Sometimes it is almost like she is unsure of what exactly she needs to do and does not quite know how to ask so she just does random things in order to be doing a task. An implication for student of A would be to stay in close proximity of her so she can feel confident in her ability focus on and perform the task at hand. Being in close proximity would also help her to be able to get my attention more easily if she has questions or needs help.

Student B (the same as listed above) is another student in the lower group who is clearly off task a lot and constantly needs to be reminded of the task at hand. An example of her short attention span can be seen when my CT was assessing her on the letters of the alphabet. She would look at two or three of them and answer (not always correctly) before she would comment about the pictures and other things around the teacher’s desk and my CT would have to bring her attention back to the cards. This went on through all 26 letters.An implication for student B would be that she needs to be in an area where things are not going to catch her attention and help her stray from the task at hand when doing any sort of focused activities. I think that close teacher proximity would also help this student.

Student C is a student who is in the highest performing group and can do things rather independently. He needs some guidance in what is expected of him to complete the task but catches on quickly and can usually accomplish the task with little or no difficulty. Actually this student is one who tends to play teacher role and will help keep others in the group on track. An implication for student C would be to allow him the independence he seeks but be close by when he needs help or has a question. I would not jump in right away though, I would see if he could solve it on his own before jumping to his rescue because in most cases, I think, he is capable of solving the problem or at least deducing where to find the answer. In some cases it may be acceptable for this student to help guide peer learning, as it sometimes helps the others to hear it from a peer.

Learning Goals:

Learning Goal 1 (LG1):

Students will correctly identify 8 out of 9two-dimensional geometric shapes (circle, square, rectangle, triangle, oval, diamond, crescent (moon), heart, and star)

Iowa Early Learning Standards: 11.3 Shapes and spatial relationships

  • Benchmark 2: Shows more recognition for some simple shapes

Bloom’s Taxonomy:

  • Level one: Knowledge – remembering shapes already know
  • Level two: Comprehension – grasping the meaning of a two-dimensional shape

Learning Goal 2 (LG2):

Students will provide at least 2 characteristics in comparison of two-dimensional shapes (circle, square, rectangle, triangle, oval, diamond, crescent (moon), heart, and star)

Iowa Early Learning Standards:11.3 Shapes and spatial relationships

  • Benchmark 3: Notices similarities and differences among shapes

Bloom’s Taxonomy:

  • Level one: Knowledge – remembering characteristics of shapes already know
  • Level two: Comprehension – distinguishes two-dimensional shapes based on characteristics, in their own words
  • Level three: Application – uses the knowledge of characteristics to name similarities of two-dimensional shapes

Learning Goal 3 (LG3):

Students will provide at least 2 characteristics in contrast of two-dimensional shapes (circle, square, rectangle, triangle, oval, diamond, crescent (moon), heart, and star)

Iowa Early Learning Standards:11.3 Shapes and spatial relationships

  • Benchmark 3: Notices similarities and differences among shapes

Bloom’s Taxonomy:

  • Level one: Knowledge – remembering characteristics of shapes already know
  • Level two: Comprehension – distinguishes two-dimensional shapes based on characteristics, in their own words
  • Level three: Application – uses the knowledge of characteristics to name differences of two-dimensional shapes

The learning goals that I have chosen reflect what I expect the students to know and be able to communicate to me by the end of the math- shapes unit. The learning goals are aligned with the Iowa Early Learning Standards for Preschool (see appendix A). The Iowa Early Learning Standards are divided into six different categories for preschool children: area 7: physical well-being and motor development; area 8: approaches to learning; area 9: social and emotional development; area 10: communication, language and literacy; area 11: mathematics and science; and area 12: creative arts. Within the mathematics and science category, there are six subcategories which include: 11.1 comparison and number; 11.2 patterns; 11.3 shapes and spatial relationships; 11.4 scientific reasoning; 11.5 scientific problem solving; and 11.6 measurement. Since I am doing my unit on shapes, the only relevant subcategory is the 11.3 shapes and spatial relationships. Within the shapes and spatial relationships subcategory, there are four benchmarks 1. Demonstrates understanding of spatial words such as up, down, over, under, top, bottom, inside, outside, in front, behind. 2. Shows more recognition for some simple shapes. 3. Notices similarities and differences among shapes. 4. Notices how shapes fit together to form other shapes. The learning goals are also aligned with Bloom’s Taxonomy. The chart is arranged from easiest type of learning to the most difficult starting with knowledge, comprehension, application, analysis, synthesis, and finishing with evaluation. It is useful to have the children engaged in at least the first two levels and even better to have three levels, which is why LG 1 and LG2 incorporate three levels of Bloom’s taxonomy. I would not expect preschoolers to use the top three levels, however, if they do, it will not be discouraged.

The goals are appropriate for preschoolers because they are submerged in an atmosphere that has shapes all around and provides opportunity for exploration of the shapes. As preschoolers, ages four and five, the students are at varying levels of development and understanding. Therefore they will be at different levels toward completion of each of the goals, further, the goals are not too specific in that they allow for individual differences and recognize individual growth toward completion of the goals. The Iowa Early Learning Standards recognize that the preschool years are a time for major emphasis on social development with an academic hint to help them better prepare for future schooling, which is why they do not have extensive math goals.

Assessment Plan:

Learning Goal 1

For LG1 I will use a checklist as a post-assessment and have the students identify the shapes by name at the end of the unit lessons. I will use shapes that the students can manipulate in order to complete the task. Before presenting the student with any shapes to identify, I will give them the direction to tell me the name of the shape but they can take their time to look at and touch the shape as they need to before responding. Also, I will let them know that it is acceptable to tell me that they do not know the shape. I will compare the number of shapes correctly identified (out of 9) with the pre-assessment to measure growth and whether they met the learning goal. For an example of the checklist used see Appendix B.

I will use the same checklist for the pre-assessment and provide the students with the same directions as the post-assessment to gather information. I will begin by using the results of the pre-assessment and continue by using student talking and how they contribute to the small group throughout the lessons to guide how I conduct the lessons and how I structure future lessons. I think it is important to cue into the needs of each group and emphasize the material in a way that will benefit them the most so using student talking will accurately reflect what the students are learning and what their needs are.