Follow me on my journey to become a high school science teacher in a high-needs school in New York City. I hope to post lesson plan ideas as well as the everyday trials and tribulations of working in the forever changing school system.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Useful AP Biology Websites

Throughout my observations I focus a lot on my AP Biology class.  My cooperating teacher has shared with my some very useful resources that have been excellent in giving me ideas and helping me plan my lessons for AP Biology.  There is so much information out there that sometimes I find that I am sitting there sifting through websites forever.  These three resources give you enough information on their own to keep you occupied for hours.

Biology Junction- a teacher posts all of her AP Biology resources online. This includes her 
powerpoints for each chapter. Activity ideas. Really good review sheets by chapter.

Local Brookings- another teacher that posts all of her resources online. More powerpoints, 
guided notes, activities, links to animations through the textbook.  Really good stuff! 

Bozeman Science- The Mr. Anderson videos. I find these very helpful to get a general idea 
on the topics. I also find it useful to give to the students who are struggling or who missed a 

First Formal Observation Complete!

I can let out a sigh of relief after two weeks of planning and going back and forth with my cooperating teacher I finally had my first formal observation yesterday.

I have been telling my Queens College supervisor, Dr. Shady, for weeks that my classes at Newtown are really good.  I told him the school has a very inviting culture, that the kids are respectful, and really smart.  Apparently I didn't get the message across because after my observation  he could not believe how well behaved, engaged, and smart my AP Biology class was.

My lesson was on the light reactions of photosynthesis.  For the beginning ten minutes of class I reviewed the basics of photosynthesis with the students.  This included the overall reaction of photosynthesis, the pigment molecules, what wavelength of visible light the pigment molecules absorb and reflect, and the structure of the chloroplast.  Then for the next fifteen minutes we learned about the light reactions in details.  We went over the electron transport chain, the production of ATP, and the splitting of water.  Then we acted out the light reactions of photosynthesis.  Each student was given a part that I made and they wore it around their neck.  Then we walked through the light reactions.  I used a series of guiding questions to get the students to tell me what their role was in the light dependent reactions of photosynthesis.  During the first run through the students really needed a lot of guiding from me.  After we completed the first run through I gave the students a couple of minutes to speak with their classmates to clarify any misconceptions and then I let them go through the entire reaction basically on their own.  My students were completely engaged and loved that they were able to get out of their seats and learn in a new way.  I would definitely use this activity again in my classroom.  The next time I would maybe let the students watch a video on the light reactions and then go right into the activity from there.  I would not formally teach the material first.  Then we could work through what happens together.  At the end of class I would give them or post "formal" notes on the topic so that student who do not learn best by doing will have access to the material as well.

After Dr. Shady left my students were so cute and were instantly concerned about my grade.  Miss did you get 100?  Miss did you pass? Miss did he like it?  Miss we got your back we did good right?

I am just starting to realize how lucky I am to be in a school like Newtown.  Even though Newtown is considered a failing school I do not see it anywhere in the school.  The students are respectful, the science AP is amazing and very approachable, and the school atmosphere is so warm and inviting.  I am sure going to miss it when I leave in a couple of weeks!

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

AP Biology Photosynthesis Formal Observation

Tomorrow I am having my first formal observation with my supervisor from Queens College, Dr. Shady.  I am teaching the AP Biology class the light reactions of photosynthesis.  It always surprises me how long it takes me to create a lesson plan.  I sit on the internet for hours going through all of the resources (good and bad) and try to find the perfect activity to engage my students.  Throughout the process these are the thoughts going through my head:

  • will this always take me so long?
  • how am I going to do this next semester when I have to create a lesson every day?
  • did my teachers do this for me when I was in school (they couldn't have could they?  I seriously never remember doing group activities or seeing a formal lesson plan written out by my teachers.  I totally was just a naive unappreciative high schooler)
  • there has to be a better resource that combines all of the good resources in one (I am trying to create this with my current classmates- I think we can be each other's best resources.)
  • is it really going to take me this long?
How do you make photosynthesis- what seems to be a very step by step process that doesn't change into a fun activity for the students to learn?  After searching through what felt like 100s of website I finally found a resource for the "photosynthesis theater." In the photosynthesis theater your students become the molecules involved in photosynthesis.  They have to get out of their desks work together and create the simulation for the light reaction of photosynthesis.  This activity is not like anything they have done in class yet.  I am a little nervous about the kids getting exciting and therefore acting out while my supervisor is there but we will see how it goes.  You never know how something is going to turn out until you try it....right?

In my lesson I am also trying a pseudo-flipped classroom.  I gave the students a video to watch on photosynthesis and I created a guided notes form for them to fill out as they watch the video.  In this way they will come in with some back ground knowledge and we will hopefully be able to spend less time on the direct instruction and more time on the activity.

After tomorrow I plan to post pictures and a reflection on how the lesson went!  Fingers crossed!

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Interesting resource on the Galapagos

A cool application to use when teaching evolution! It allows you to use the street view of the Galapagos and be "Darwin" for the day. 
You can visit any of the islands you want and see many of the animals Darwin was able to see on his first visit in 1835.  This application allows you to explore the tourism impact on the Galapagos as well as identify plants and animals from that you virtually encounter on the islands!
"Darwin for a Day" 

Experience in an Inclusion Classroom

          I am observing a Marine Science class with twenty-seven students and co-teachers.   Of the twenty-seven students fifteen students have Individualized Education Plans (IEP).  All fifteen of the students fall under the high-incidence category of learning disabled.  One student in the category is also diagnosed with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).  This disorder is not a disability category that can be indicated on the student’s IEP, but it does affect the student’s performance.  Newtown High School is full inclusion and does not have any self-contained classrooms.  The two teachers, Ms. H and Mr. Fu, are joined by one paraprofessional for a student that requires a one-on-one.  Ms. H is the special education teacher and Mr. Fu is the general education science teacher.  Ms. H and Mr. Fu use a co-teaching model that is most similar to team teaching.  As described in the textbook, “Special Education for All Teachers” team teaching is when, “the general educator and the special educator lead the lesson together adeptly transitioning throughout the lesson from one leading the instruction to the other” (Colarusso, 2013).  The class usually begins with Mr. Fu introducing the lesson, and answering the Do Now questions with the entire class.  After the Do Now, Ms. H jumps in and begins the direct instruction portion of the lesson.  The direct instruction only lasts approximately ten to fifteen minutes and then Ms. H introduces the group work activity for the day.  During the group work both teachers walk around and help small groups of students complete tasks, as well as helping them with concepts that they may need extra instruction on.  When the students are finished with their group work Mr. Fu finishes the class by leading the “share out” to go over the group work.  The students seem to be very receptive to this teaching method.  They enjoy the change of instructor, crave the one-on-one time during the group work, and most of all they enjoy the structured routine.  The students know what to expect each day, they know that they will not have to sit through forty minutes of lecture and look forward to their group work activities.  They get to do new activities and work with their peers.  I like this method of instruction because it gives the students a routine and it also allows for them to always have access to a teacher.  While Ms. H is lecturing if a student has a question they can quietly ask Mr. Fu without worrying about the social acceptance of their peers or disrupting the flow of the class if their question is not content related.

This experience in an inclusion classroom as been very valuable to me.  I love seeing the simple accommodations that the teachers are able to make to make learning easier for all students.  When ever the teachers implement a new accommodation I always think, "Isn't this something that could be valuable for all students, learning disabled or not?"  I think this helps me to think differently about my lesson planning and what type of instruction my students will find the most helpful. 

Marine Science & AP Biology Observations

At the first "supervisor meeting" for our Initial Clinical Experience (ICE) the SPIRITAS students were not yet placed to begin our observations.  After the meeting ended I was speaking with a group of students and Dr. Laurenson, our program director.  Dr. Laurenson was expressing that he was having a hard time finding quality placements for everyone. He mentioned that he had an excellent placement at Newtown High School, but was unsure who to place there because the parking around the school is "brutal."  Me being the over-eager big-mouth that I am blurted out, "If the placement is with a quality teacher, I don't mind the parking- I'll go there!"  AND that was a done deal off to Newtown High School in Elmhurst, Queens for me!

The following Tuesday I met with the science assistant principal to meet my co-teacher and work out a schedule.  I left my house at 6:30am thinking this was MORE than enough time to get there and find parking, man was I wrong.  I pulled onto the block at 8:15 and was very lucky to quickly find a spot- lesson learned 6am leaving time it is!  I observe every Monday, Wednesday, and Thursday from 8-1 and then I have my regular classes.

For the first few weeks I helped my co-teacher with planning for her lessons.  I am also the second person in the room for students to ask questions.  The students love having a second person there to ask questions and have a different point of view to explain challenging concepts.  All of the students are very respectful to each other and the staff.  The school has very inviting environment.  All the hallways and classrooms have student work hanging up.  My co-teacher has also created a welcoming class culture in her class room. 
In her classroom she has posted:
She has goals for each semester listed.  The syllabus of the class- including the grade distribution.  Codes for the online tools that she uses throughout the marking period.  A homework calendar for the month.  A weekly calendar on what will be taught that week.  Previous student work.  Examples of good projects.  Current student work. 
I think these things really help to create a positive class culture.  They also help students know what they missed and what to expect in the upcoming days.

Posts to look forward to:
My experience in an inclusion classroom.
My first "real" teaching experience.
My first formal observation.

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

The beginning (sort of) of a new journey!

I am beginning a new journey in life; the journey to become a high school science (biology) teacher.  When I reflected on my time teaching in Vietnam I realized my month in Ho Chi Minh City had a common theme- I did not stop smiling.  If I had the opportunity to do something that made me this happy for the rest of my life why wouldn't I take it?  So my career trajectory has changed from medicine to education.  I found an amazing program through Queens College called SPIRITAS.  The goal of the program is to develop highly effective science teachers for high-need schools in New York City.  

I started taking classes in June and continued throughout the entire summer, including a residency at the New York Hall of Science.  Now during the fall semester, I am taking classes and completing my initial clinical experience (observing in schools).

I plan to use this blog to post lesson ideas (both things that I thought worked really well and ways to improve lessons that did not go so well), and document my journey to obtaining my first real job!