Mid Term Lesson Reflection

October 28, 2009 at 1:46 am (Classroom Observations) (, )

Overview of the lesson

Our lesson was designed to familiarize students with the techniques of political advertising and to make them little experts in the field of campaign ads. This is both a timely and a critical lesson to learn. Timely, because we are, as Virginians, right at the climax of the political propaganda that accompanies a governor’s race, and less than a year removed from one of the biggest elections in American history. Critical, because, as citizens in a democratic society, how we vote determines who rules, and political advertising has a lot to say about how we vote.

We wanted the students to be able to identify some of the major aspects of political propaganda and determine what appeals the advertisement is making to what segment of society. To this end, we started by covering the six main propaganda techniques that are used specifically for political campaigns. Students were given a verbal and visual word association chart to aide in remembering this information. Then we watched a campaign ad and I modeled the filling out of an analysis worksheet designed to investigate the mood, method, and target of the ad. The students then, in groups, watched ads of their own and filled out their own analysis sheets. We wrapped up with a class discussion of the information we covered.

Click me for our lesson plan!

This material is covered in the Civics SOL. SOL CE.5 (c) states that “the student will be able to analyze campaigns for elective office, with emphasis on the role of the media.” According to SOL CE.1 (c), students should also be able to develop the Social Studies skills required of responsible citizens such as analyzing political advertisements.

Reaction upon completing the lesson

I was quite pleased with our lesson. A writer once told me there are only two rules to writing: never be muddy, and never be boring. I think this can be applied to teaching, if modified to read something like this: always be about a legitimate lesson; never be boring. The lesson we produced was a good one, and we didn’t stray from it either by falling into superfluity or by focusing too narrowly at the expense of the more important information. And while I wouldn’t say we were “never boring,” I would say that as far as civics lessons go, this one was bearable.

Our objectives going into this lesson were 1) the student will be able to recognize the six propaganda techniques and 2) students will be able to analyze political advertisements in the context of propaganda techniques. By first cover said techniques (with the assistance of a word association chart) and then actively using our new knowledge to analyze ads (with scaffolding provided by the instructors), our objective were pretty clearly met.

While there was some disagreement about the opening video we played, I think our general flow was effective. The segments of the class, headed by three different teachers, meshed well and led into each other. This contributed towards a focused classroom. The discussion I lead towards the end of class helped us, as teachers, assess the capability of the students. The discussion both allowed me to continue to frame the subject and nudge the student’s conceptions towards our objectives, as well as providing me with the opportunity to check their knowledge.

A couple areas of concern include teacher enthusiasm and the posting class questions and NCSS themes for the class. I do believe these things are important for getting the students to come back to the important stuff, so I’ll begin to incorporate it. I will say, however, that I’m of the opinion that such posting of questions is but a tool in a teacher’s arsenal, and that doing that doesn’t guarantee a focused lesson, nor does neglecting it damn the lesson. So, as far as the guiding question and themes go, that seems like an easy fix. A kind of “you live, you learn” type thing. Teacher enthusiasm is similarly easy to identify, but perhaps tougher to fix. I’ll go into this more below.

Reaction upon watching to video of myself

As I re-watched the video of the lesson, I was happy to see that my initial impressions pretty much bear themselves out on film. Generally, I was pleased with what I did. However, I saw a few areas were I could grow. For one, I didn’t sound as enthusiastic as I could have. Now, I don’t think I need to be a circus monkey, but I do think that there’s a lot to be said about teaching as a performance. Also, due to technological restrictions, I was relegated to a place behind the cart for part of my portion. Obviously, this isn’t an ideal way to address to class. The clip below shows both these problems, as well as some of the good parts.

Other parts of the lesson were better. For instance, once free from the restraints of the Elmo machine, I circulated throughout the class and held a discussion with the various groups from the center of the room. As I interacted with them, there was a natural shift in my voice towards a more animated style. This clip below shows some of that.

As I continue to hone my ability to teach effectively, I’ll keep in mind some of the things this video revealed. I really believe in the importance of a teacher’s physical proximity to the kids. Not only does this cut down on behavioral issues, it also encourages them to engage with you. I don’t want to menacingly hover over my students, but I do want to do everything I can to encourage them to be active in their thinking and discussion with me.

Concluding comments

I really liked this mid term because I think it encouraged me in my abilities to both craft and deliver a good lesson as well as gave me some helpful pointers for growth. As I mentioned earlier, a lot of the flaws, like posting questions and speaking in a monotone voice, can be easily identified. Correction of these issues can also begin immediately, which is encouraging. I also was happy to see some of our strengths, like our ability to weave a flowing lesson and effectively engage the class.

I firmly believe that I have many of the tools to be good, and that I just need lots of practice with some guidance from experienced teachers and professors. Towards that end, this was a helpful project.


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What About High School?

October 26, 2009 at 7:01 pm (Classroom Observations, Digital Humanities, Thoughts on the Profession) (, , )

A few classmates and I responded to youtube sensation “A Vision of Students Today” with a video of our own. I had a few technical problems because of the different Flip camera models, and some of our signs are kind of faint. We’ll have to work on that for next time. You live, you learn.

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Confidence and Lesson Plans

October 26, 2009 at 2:14 am (Classroom Observations, Thoughts on the Profession) (, )

I wonder if the image I chose this week, below, applies to me?

confidenceI ask this because, a little over half way through my early field experience, I feel like I’m ready for the next step. Confidence is a good thing, I’m convinced, for an aspiring teacher to have. But hubris is not. If my confidence is based on reality and is keenly aware that I still have much to learn, than I’m happy. I hope I’m not like this kitten, who looks in the mirror and sees a lion.

And now, about lesson plans. This week we were to talk to our teachers about their expereince. Watch this video to see what I’ve been thinking about.

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Are We Saints?

October 19, 2009 at 1:58 am (Thoughts on the Profession) (, )


In my training as a pre-service teacher, I’ve noticed some funny things about the way teachers are viewed, and the way they view themselves. Like this iconic rendering of St. Nicholas, some teachers fancy themselves as righteous do-gooders, condescending to help hapless children in the holy cause of learning. Not that teaching, or learning, are somehow low pursuits. Clearly, they are not. But I’m sometimes frustrated with the way teachers can sometimes be viewed, and view themselves, as pious saviors to a community of children.

Certainly, this is not the only caricature of teachers that exists. Another common one is quite opposite. This other view of teachers can be summed up by the old adage: “those who can’t do, teach.” But as often as I hear this kind of talk, I hear another kind. It’s in the response from people when they hear you’re a teacher. You hear things like “Oh, that must be so rewarding!” or “wow, we really need more people like you in the world.” My personal favorite is the one teachers often say of themselves, the sanctimonious “teaching isn’t a job, it’s a vocation.”

Look, I don’t mean to denigrate the profession. Rather, I just want to preserve a little perspective. Certainly there are teachers to whom their job is a vocation. There are those truly talented teachers who want to change the world one student at a time, and do. But to suggest that all, or even most, of us fit such a description seems to me a ludicrous idea. Let’s be honest for a minute. There are a lot of teachers out there, particularly in the lower grades, that fall into teaching as a back up job. Or over-grown jocks who “teach” English so that they may follow their true love: coaching high school football.

I’m not self-loathing. In fact, I think I may even consider myself as a teacher who may have the gift and the desire to reach students with knowledge. But let’s leave off with all this saintly talk about ourselves. At the end of the day, any job can be a vocation, if one is both gifted in it and sets about his work with a higher ideal in view. And while we’re being honest, let’s also remember that we’d probably see a lot more people who truly have the calling if teachers had a higher status/income in our society. I’m all for a seriousness of purpose and heart-felt belief in our mission as teachers. But until we have more, and I mean *a lot* more, “good teachers,” I’ll remain embarrassed every time I hear the self-righteous babble about our vocation.

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From Chalkboard to the Web

October 12, 2009 at 12:18 am (Classroom Observations) (, )

My classroom, and school in general, has a surprisingly high amount of technological capabilities. In my classroom we have an lcd projector, smart board, teacher laptop, and about ten or twelve other laptops for student use. Given the budget tightness in the county, this level of in-class technology is happily surprising.


Unfortunately, I was not in the classroom when the students most recently used the laptops for an activity. However, I gathered they shared them amongst themselves (about 2 or 3 students to a computer, I would assume), and used them for internet research. I’d like to ask my teacher exactly what the activity was, or to witness a future activity, to find out exactly how it was used. My teacher also has used the tv and dvd player several times in my presence (to show videos), and two or three times has projected a slideshow using the lcd when lecturing.

All that is good, but one thing that I’ve found interesting is how little these high technology implements have been used compared to more traditional tools. The smartboard itself has never been used in my presence, and similarly, the laptops almost always sit in a locked file cabinet. Even the lcd project is used far less often than the overhead projector, a holdover technology from many decades past.

This strikes me primarily as wasteful, rather than a missed opportunity. What I mean is, I’m not offended the technology isn’t used. I’ve never been one to try to incorporate technology for its own sake. But I don’t like to see expensive technology sit un-used in a time when money is so tight.

What does this mean? Well, for one, it means schools systems should take a realistic look at what goes on. Despite in-services and other training, teachers will be reluctant to change what works for new fangled tools. Therefore, there should be a system that rewards teachers who demonstrate to the desire and know-how with the latest technology, rather than trying to teach old dogs new tricks. Somethings, like teacher laptops, will have almost universal use. Things like tv’s, and even perhaps lcd projectors, and in the same category. But fewer teachers will take advantage of things like smartboards and wireless “easels.” These things, and classroom laptops, should be distributed to teachers who will actually use them, or in some sort of computer lab type format.

I’m encouraged to see the equiptment my teacher has. As a future teacher who plans on usuing laptops and lcd projectors a lot, I hope that I am afforded those same resources. However, I’d like to see the allocation of these tools more wisely considered.

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Student Shadowing

October 5, 2009 at 12:00 am (Classroom Observations) (, )

The more I followed Chris around the school, the more I began to fear for him. He first came to my attention early in the semester, sitting pretty quietly in the front of one of the co-taught classes. Slight of frame and soft of voice, he didn’t seem like much of a problem child. But I quickly noticed that, without much warning, he’d occassionally turn on a classmate, waving his arm and hand wildly at them, trying to hit them, or yelling at them. Generally, he was quick to stop acting up when I or a teacher would intervene. But I noticed that Chris liked being left alone, and the slightest infringement on his space or his things by other students set him off.

As I shadowed Chris throughout several of his other classes, I began to see many of the same behaviors I witnessed in our usual class. He was reserved and quiet, but could easily be set off by other students, whether they mean to tease him (and many did), or whether their intentions were good. His level of engagement changed between classes–some he obviously liked more than others. But even that engagement was with fairly narrow parameters. He wouldn’t really ever raise his hand, but the classes he liked were the classes where he’d start doing the work with out pulling out a book for personal reading or resting his head on the desk.

Even at lunch Chris was fairly isolated. I swung by his table about half way through the lunch period and he was all alone. I breifly spoke with him (about a short story he was writing for English) before I went to the teacher’s longue. One nice spot though: I made a point to stick my head in as I left the longue after lunch. He was sitting with a few kids I didn’t know and seemed to be talking. Perhaps he does have friends, I couldn’t say for sure.

It was very difficult trying to determine what sorts of activites or subjects he really loved, because his level of active participation (raising hand, answering questions, etc.) was nil. But, as I’ve noted, he took more quickly to some individual work faster than other types of individual work.

I found that Chris was also very irritable. I asked a few teachers about it, and they seemed to think he’d progressed away from violent reactions since last year. It’s hard to say if that’s a sign of maturation or just the sensible calculations of a kid who is oversized by almost all his peers.

I said as I began this post that I was scared for Chris. This is because it seems that people who don’t seem to have any sort of solid interpersonal relationships turn out very damaged. I certainly this is a phase, a tough growing experience, or that he’ll find some kindred spirits. But as a formed middle and high school classmate of Seung Cho, I find his lack of meaningful interaction disturbing. I myself try to talk with him every class, but a teacher probably can’t do the trick. It’s a little disheartening to see that Chris’ interactions, or lack thereof, are pretty much the same in all his classes.

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