For the past seven years I have worked as a Kindergarten Teacher’s Aide at The Academy of Our Lady of Peace in New Providence. This past June I was offered the 2nd Grade teaching position. I graduated in 2008 from Moravian College in Bethlehem, PA with a Bachelor of Science degree in Biology-Psychology. I decided in early 2014 to go back to school to get my teaching credentials. I attended Seton Hall University and received my New Jersey Certificate of Eligibility with Advanced Standing in Elementary Education (K-5) in May 2015. I am continuing my education at Seton Hall University and will be receiving an M.A. in Instructional Design and Technology in May of 2016.
Teaching has now become a very large piece of my life. The following are my thoughts on teaching.
There are many different approaches used in today’s world to teach our youth. While I use many different teaching styles I believe the three that I will discuss in this statement best showcases the type of learning environment I have created. The three teaching styles are: inquiry-based learning, cooperative learning, and differentiated instruction. I have used all three of these teaching methods throughout my student teaching experience and I am eager to be able to use these and other methods throughout my career.
Inquiry-based learning is appropriate to use in all grades and subject areas. I have found that this is one of the easiest and productive methods to use with younger students. Young students are naturally inquisitive and are interested in exploring and figuring things out. Being able to provide materials for them to explore and then guide them on the path of exploration is one of the most exciting aspects of being a teacher. Throughout my time in the classroom I have provided students with different scientific experiments throughout these experiments the students have been able to build a simple science foundation. While trying to think of a creative science activity for the students to complete for Saint Patrick’s Day I decided we would make a rainbow from liquids in a jar. The students discussed why the liquids separated from one another and formed layers in the jar. They were able to figure out and discuss in simple terms density and weight in liquids and how different solutions such as oil and water do not mix. While they discussed very complex topics they did it in simple terms. I am sure the students do not fully understand the concept of density and weight but they do understand that not all liquids mix with one another and that they can differ in weight. This is a concept that they will continue to build on throughout their science education.
Cooperative learning is another teaching style that I find effective with students. Teaching students from a young age that they need to work with all different types of people and be able to work together to either create something, answer a problem, or complete a task is imperative. Being able to provide lessons and situations that create a community of workers that need one another to accomplish a task can be difficult but also very rewarding. A S.T.E.M. lesson that I recently had my students complete, involved cooperative learning. The students were provided gum drops, mini marshmallows, and toothpicks. They were assigned a pattern that they had to follow and were told to work together to create some form of a structure that could stand by itself. The students were grouped in threes and sent off to work. While I could tell in the beginning some of the students were having trouble knowing how to work in this type of group they were all able to come together in their groups and accomplish the assigned task. After they presented their structures I could see the pride on their faces. They learned valuable lessons that day and were able to start learning how to work in a group to accomplish a goal.
Differentiated instruction is used consistently throughout the day. Creating lessons that are both challenging and engaging is one of the most important aspects of being a teacher. Knowing and understanding the different ability levels our students are on is imperative to being able to create such lessons. Differentiated instruction not only challenges students but it also helps them grow. In the past, I have constructed two subtraction centers, a rhyming center, and a sight word center. The subtraction centers had individual games for students to play that matched their ability level. The rhyming center had a rhyming memory game that all the students played together and then they each had a different rhyming worksheet depending on their rhyming ability level. For the sight word part of the center I pulled sight words that the students had struggled with from a previous student assessment. All of the sight words were different for each student since they all struggled with different words. For this center the students need to read the sight word provided, stamp it out with alphabet stamps and then write it. All of the centers were based around improving and enhancing student skills. All students were challenged at the same time. While this type of teaching style can be more time consuming it is well worth it when the students are continuing to grow academically and becoming more confident in themselves and their work.
In conclusion, I use multiple approaches and teaching styles when planning and teaching a lesson. First and foremost when thinking of planning a lesson it is important to keep the students at the center. Understanding their interests, ability levels, and ways to keep them engaged are vital to creating meaningful lessons. Being able to change teaching styles and not just using one type keeps the students motivated and excited for the next lesson which in turn also keeps them engaged. I am eager to continue to use different teaching methods and develop new and creative ways to teach students and prepare them for the world.