The practice of “necessary for some, beneficial for all” was deeply embedded in my AT’s practices, so I was asked to plan lessons that would alleviate the issue or need for all students for all three classes; as a result, my reflection focuses on the general strategies I used. For every lesson, I was asked to come up with an inquiry question, the skill development focus, and the ways of collaboration. The pedagogical decision I made as a result was thinking of possible collaboration points in every part of my lesson, and utilizing different methods to do this (using organizers, role assignments, tiered graphic organizers, visual and oral assessments for learning, simulations and ‘experts’). Specifically, I’ve grown to internalize some of these practices because I’ve seen my mentors using them, but only now have I been able to articulate how and why they work.
Using that knowledge, I was able to incorporate collaboration in creative, authentic ways where the students are genuinely learning from one another and helping each other to reach their individual zone of proximal developments without even realizing it! We also played a lot of simulations and group games that taught the content quite seamlessly; the girls had fun in every single class, which does wonders for engagement and addressing ADHD. However, my exposure to student needs and disabilities has, almost without exception, been isolated to those that are invisible to the eye. The strategies for incorporating authentic collaboration work for the students I had in these (and past) classes, but I am aware the effectiveness of these strategies will be different with students whose disabilities actually hinder them from communicating and collaborating with peers.
The grade 7 girls were rambunctious and curious, and so prone to getting off task. As a result, I organized desks into pods to ensure easy collaboration and embedded technology through their note-taking, so for informative lessons I showed a short video clip (5 min. max) or a collection of images to the whole class and discussed our lesson question. They would take notes in a structured organizer on their computers, and I would continuously circulate while we discussed the clip and the notes, ensuring that all the girls were on task (I could gently remind them to close distractions or see if they’ve missed notes so they can catch up in real time). My presence among the students helped to keep them focused. The collaboration helps with attention issues because it engages the students in conversation around the question at hand, which I would periodically remind them was the question we were focusing on. The school’s policy was to have 5 minute breaks in the middle of each 70 minute class, so with the blend of chunked activities, on task talk time, and the DP break, the whole class remained genuinely focused for the whole period for almost all of the lessons! Certain students would be more distracted some days than others, and so I would attempt to check in during my circulations more frequently or try to engage them in conversation about the material they were learning. For example, one suggestion for cutting down on lull-time (a window for distractions) was to use an “expert IT” student to help another student with computer issues. This saved me from taking time from the other students’ needs when they could collaborate to solve a problem.
I am an enthusiastic and conscientious educator. I use my blog to connect my personal experiences and adventures to my pedagogy.