Observation Fall 1015
LSI 446 Field Experience Report
A. Brief description of the school and classroom, etc.
Kipp Ascend Middle School is located at 1616 S Avers Ave in Chicago’s North Lawndale neighborhood. There are about 240 students in the 6-8th grade school. There are about 12 teachers, 2 paraprofessionals, 1 special education teacher and 1 security guard with 1 facility manager. I observed a 18 student per class ratio. The building is shared with a CPS Penn Elementary School, a school that is on a closing list. The building is old, has wood floors, big windows and lots of space. Kipp is an open enrollment charter school and many of the students come from the surrounding low-income African American communities in which there is a high crime rate. The school has noted that 100% of their 8th grade completers have been accepted into high schools.
B. Brief description of the student with an IEP:
I walked the classrooms and helped out students who needed assistance, but specifically worked with one student I’ll call Tony, who has a learning disability. It is important to note that not a large percent of students at this school had IEP’s but the teachers suggested that many of them needed one. I worked with Tony on his literacy skills. I also worked on his pronunciation and took note of his writing ability to challenge a notion of dyslexia. I also worked with Tony in art class that practiced drawing and painting. In art class we worked with attention and his ability to concentrate and stay in the lines. Regarding his attention I had to confront his need to get up and wonder during class, loose focus during an assignment and disrupting other students. I noticed that his ability to concentrate and listen grew when I did the work with him, not necessarily doing his work, but side by side working. There was no doubt however that Tony’s reading comprehension was far below his grade level (in 8th grade reading at a 4th grade level). This made his assignments very challenging and with a paraprofessional, or other helper, his work gets completed at a much slower pace. The teachers have adjustments in the learning plan to cater to his ability, though they mostly go as far as completing less work, or reading to him what the assignment is. His personal lessons are mostly in the area of the state testing.
C. Description of instructional activity and my specific involvement.
I was the most involved in the math class, working with Tony and other students that were having problems with the handouts or with behavior. This math class started out with 5 minutes as a reflection on the previous days work, a recap, then a 10-minute explanation of some new material and some connection to other work as well. At this point the class has remained seated with little participation. Most of the beginning to this class is helping the students start to get organized. I am at this point walking the room to see who has their materials, and checking on behavior, settling the students down. The students then split into groups that were designed by the teacher. At first the whole class did not split into their assigned groups, but the teacher reorganized them and explained the value to their groups. I spent some time at each group, but especially checked in with those students who looked off task or not involved. A couple of students were disrupting the class, but this was because they were finished with the group work. Other students felt lost in the assignment and sat quietly until I helped to get them started. The students who were finished early and who knew the material were most difficult to communicate with for me because they didn’t have a further assignment to do, and as an observer I wasn’t able to give them new instruction, just talk with them. The class finished with another hand out that warranted similar behavior. These assignments were to resemble what the students could see on state tests.
D. Strengths and weaknesses of the teachers
I found that the most successful classrooms I’ve observed always had their own, personal touches into gaining students attention, from the beginning. If the teacher was unorganized or began without stating a purposeful plan, the class took advantage of the, and in this case the opportune moment to misbehave. There was a teacher who became stern from the beginning and the students began with their readings, but that type of organizing of the students wouldn’t work for another class where the student’s goal was to learn or to play with in art. The art class was a bit chaotic, but the students knew they’d be graded on having a completed project. Most of the examples of classroom management stemmed from conduct and order of the student behavior; if a student missed behaved in a class, one teacher would raise their voice, another would try to extinguish. Though the problem with a couple of students in particular was that they were there to learn and it looked as if they wanted to be there. I tried to give some students the opportunity to be responsible for the classroom behavior, in one on one discussion, but it seemed like they weren’t sure because they didn’t know how other students felt. Having class meetings or having students be class leaders may change the classroom out look. (Bucholz & Sheffler, p.4) The instruction in my opinion would be to get the students engaged first and foremost by reacting to the lesson, by being engaged with the material, by speaking and talking with one another by guided instruction, not lecture. The lesson itself had hand out assessment and computer work to be completed. There may be other ways to assess the students rather than worksheets because those worksheet lessons seemed tiresome and simply begging for the student’s attention. I think it is clear that the students know they have to learn this material to pass a test for high school, but I’m not sure if they knew why they wanted to be in high school. If they knew why they wanted to be in high school they may then understand why it is important to learn, and not just complete tasks. There wasn’t a lot of variables in the lesson, and this speaks to missing on the tenants for education for all, that lessons should have variables and modifications.
E. Offer specific recommendations about ways to enhance instruction, approach, and learning.
The steps in math equations have to be very important for students to learn, unfortunately they can also be a little tedious and boring, also if you miss a step that may put you way behind. I loved math in school. I enjoyed the concentration and number thinking. Students in a setting like Kipp may need further direction, goal oriented and step-by-step class plans, though this can be argued for most classrooms. Being stern with a plan of action prevents the students from arguing with it and veers the classroom management away from combative with student to a type of protocol with the class as a whole. I think though it’s important to keep classes interactive too, not just for those who enjoy it. The class at Kipp looked bored; one way to shake things up could be to add class participation, not just by calling on students who could say “huh” and get a laugh from peers, but peer support, for instance student participants at the board, would interest the students and possibly create a classroom community of support. (Rubin et al. p.539) Classroom management falls a bit to the waist side if you hand the power over to the students, sometimes giving the students a chance to become responsible for their setting and their lives. Creating this classroom environment starts by helping the students create it for themselves. They should be doing most of the talking, highlighting the importance with showing respect to their peers. The student body is not academically competitive like we see in other schools of stronger student to teacher relationship, but in this setting peer support can have an effect outside of the classroom. I also found the inclusion of some special education students, the students with an IEP, to be missing in the crowd. For example, it seemed that Tony’s paraprofessional was being more of the student than he was. The idea of community and inclusion may help Tony participate if there are ways to get him involved in the classroom. Inclusion of special education, which could also mean an understanding of peers to that disability, transfers to the relationships and the support that student would get from friends outside of school too. (NPR Staff, 2014. para. 21) If students are presenting work on the front board, Tony can work with the teacher then complete an equation in front of the class to bank on positive reinforcement and peer support. The group work only goes so far, answers could given in different ways, and not by being called on.
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Rubin, Kenneth H., Bukowski, William M., Laursen, Brett. (2009). Handbook of Peer Interactions, Relationships, and Groups. The Guilford Press: New York.
Tucker, Geri Coleman. (last reviewed 2014). Behavior Intervention Plans: What You need to know. Retrieved from https://www.understood.org/en/learning-attention-issues/treatments-approaches/educational-strategies/behavior-intervention-plans-what-you-need-to-know
Vaughn, Sharon R., Candace S. Bos, and Jeanne Shay Schumm. (2014). Teachimg Students Who Are Exceptional, Diverse, and at Risk in the General Education Classroom (7th Edition). Boston: Pearson Education Inc.
Reading Strategies. Retrieved from http://www.pbs.org/parents/education/learning-disabilities/types/reading/reading-strategies/
NPR Staff. (April 27, 2014). Learning With Disabilities: One Effort to Shake Up the Classroom. Retrieved from http://www.npr.org/2014/04/27/307467382/learning-with-disabilities-one-effort-to-shake-up-the-classroom