Tam currently placed at Eagle Academy, a charter school, in East Toledo where I observe 6th and 7th grade Early World history. Mr. Story is the only social studies teacher at the school which means he teaches a whole timeline of events from ancient civilizations, eastern and western hemisphere history, the founding and establishment of America and the Modern World which is a lot of content to know what to teach and design lesson plans for! There are more boys than girls in each of the classes I observe. Since moving on to the third part of this course, I developed three supporting questions to answer while observing Mr.
Story that reflect to the essential question which is “How do we design instruction that sticks? to answer while observing Mr. Story. These supporting questions were Does Mr. Story use preview assignments? What Standards of authentic instruction is Mr. Story using and is Mr. Story coming up with strong essential questions for students to answer? During this course, I learned what preview assignments were which the authors (Bower, Lobdell, Owens,2011) state are short engaging tasks that foreshadow upcoming content.
Preview assignments are also called hook assignments and typically are five to seven minute short assignments meant to “spark interest, activate prior knowledge, tap a wide range of intelligences and students to tackle new concepts. (Bower, Lobdell and Owens, 2011). These hooks can range from anything from having students react to music to comparing their personal lives with key concepts which is important for social studies as one the reasons students don’t like social studies. I don’t ever see Mr. Story use preview assignments in his class.
Usually students just walk in to sit in their desks in rows facing the front and he will go straight into the reading or PowerPoint and not even tell students what they will be discussing for the day or seeing what they know already. The students every class period know what they will be doing and sometimes don’t even bother listening which bothers me. I believe if Mr. Story used occasional hooks in his class, students would be more interested and motivated to learn and possibly connect it better to their life and previous lessons.
My second question was inspired from reading about the five standards of authentic instruction in which the authors (Newman and Wehlage, 1993) use the word authentic to distinguish between “achievement that is significant and meaningful and that which is trivial and useless. ” It is important especially in social studies, to make sure the work assigned to students allows them to use their minds well and the content to have value beyond the classroom.
The one that sticks out to me that the lass often participates in is substantive conversation. Classes with little or no substantive conversation, interaction typically consists of a lecture with recitation in which the teacher deviates very little from delivering a preplanned body of information and set of questions; students routinely give very short answers. ” (Newman and Wehlage, 1993). This is not the case with Mr. Story. Although his class consists of PowerPoints and note taking, he does pause often to answer questions students might have and they will sometimes engage in deep conversations about topics that can relate to their life that sometimes last until the bell rings.
These are never planned and usually begin when a student asks an interesting question. For example, one time, they got into a deep conversation about different religions cultures as students had questions of why some religions do certain traditions and students helped answer each other’s questions. I really wanted to answer this question because I believe it is important to have these five standards, especially in social studies to have instruction stick, and I was disappoi ck, and I was disappointed I didn’t see more of the standards being used in Mr. Story’s classroom.
My final question was does Mr. Story come up with strong essential questions for students to answer. Essential questions according to the authors Bowers, Lobdell and Owens should be engaging questions that students should be able to answer by the end of the unit. A good essential question should be stated clearly, be arguable from different viewpoints provocative and be broken down into teachable sections. (Bowers, Lobdell and Owens, 10).
I have noticed at the beginning of each class Mr. Story has on the smartboard the class objective for the day of what students should be able to do as an ABCA objective. But I never really see him come up with essential questions about the unit that students should be able to answer at the end. Most of the questions he does ask students are review questions that have one answer such as “What was life like living in the roman empire? ” This question can’t be argued by students as there is only one answer and isn’t provocative.
Coming up with these essential questions can get students more interested and help Mr. Story organize his lessons better into teachable sections that will help answer the essential question. These questions and answers all tie back to the essential question of how do we design instruction that sticks? The articles and strategies we read and talked about in class are all key factors in making sure instruction will stick with students as they move on from students to citizens.
Overall I enjoyed my time at Eagle Academy in a social studies classroom as a teacher instead of a student. It was interesting to be out of my comfort zone in an urban school and seeing what we read and discussed about in this class being used. Through this course and my observations in Mr. Story’s classroom, I was able to conclude that good planning and allowing students to give their ideas are the key to effective teaching.