Sara Zapalowski

Reflection 2
Throughout my time at Dodge, I incorporated a variety of ways in order
to learn about my students. From the very first day, I have been trying
different strategies in order to get to know my students better. On the first
day at Dodge, I brought a skittles activity for the students to play so that I
could get to know them better; that is, for every skittle on their desk, they
had to tell me a fun fact about themselves. However, since that first day, I
have used more informal measures in order to get to know my students. I
have taken quick surveys about the types of activities they like to do, what
genres of books they like to read, or what their favorite subject is. Although
these surveys are helpful, the most effective way that I have use to get to
know my students is simply by talking with them. I tried to have a personal
conversation with each student either before or after school or during free
time just to get to know them better. From these conversations, I feel like I
get to know the students the most.
In terms of learning, I know that my students are taking in information
and learning a topic when they are engaged and participating. I have
recently noticed that the students that participate the most are the students
who receive the highest scores on the assessments; therefore, I have
implemented practices that nudge the students to participate. That is, I give
extra tickets to those who are participating, which rewards the behavior that
I desire. Also, I have been using “think-pair-share” and “turn and talk” into

many of the lessons. Through the use of this method, all students must
participate, which helps the students to learn. In addition, I know my
students are learning when they are able to connect what they learned in a
lesson to a real life scenario. In a recent unit on fractions, nearly everyday
one of my students would approach me to tell me that they used fractions at
home in some way or during free time. When these students told me these
stories, I knew that they were learning.
In addition to knowing when many of my students are learning, I have
also noticed that many of my students construct knowledge differently.
During the recent mathematics unit on fractions, I noticed that many of my
students utilized different methods to get to the same answer. When finding
equivalent fractions, I had students use three different methods to find the
correct answer: visual models, number lines, and multiplication. After
teaching the students the visual model, only a select few of my students
really understood equivalent fractions. Then, after introducing the number
line, even more of my students understood the concept. Lastly, I introduced
the multiplication method to find equivalent fractions. After teaching all three
methods, I asked students their favorite ways of finding equivalent fractions
and it was split relatively equally among the three ways. By giving this quick
survey, I quickly realized that my students all constructed the math concept
of equivalent fractions in different ways. Likewise, during a recent ELA lesson
on author’s purpose, the students and I read a passage about the Aurora
Borealis. Although the passage used many descriptive words to describe it,

only about half the class understood what it was after reading; therefore, I
showed the students a picture of the Northern Lights. After seeing the
picture, all of my students understood what the Aurora Borealis was and
what it looked like. As a result of reading this passage, I learned that some
students can construct knowledge from vivid descriptions while others
sometimes need an image. As a result of these lessons, I learned that my
students construct knowledge differently.
The students in my classroom vary in terms of development due to the
nature of their needs. Since this classroom is an inclusion classroom, many of
the students who have IEP’s have areas still in need of development,
especially in the physical and social categories. However, as a class, I believe
that these students are above their age group in terms of social
development. Throughout my time here, I have noticed that many of the
students can solve their dilemmas independently and are extremely kind to
the other students in their classroom. I rarely have to discipline or even
remind students to act kindly towards others, which is uncommon for a third
grade class. In terms of linguistics and ELA, many of the students in my class
are behind the developmental benchmarks; however, the teachers and I are
trying to remedy these issues through explicit instruction and daily RTI
sessions. Physically, the majority of my students, except the student with
cerebral palsy and one student with autism, are developing at grade level
physically. Many of the students are strong students, can participate in gym
class, and even take extra curricular activities outside of school to strengthen

their bodies. Overall, this classroom is at grade level in many of the
developmental areas.
Planning and Instruction
When I plan my lessons, I feel more comfortable and more prepared
than when I do not plan as carefully for my lessons. When I plan my lessons
more thoroughly, I feel like I ask more higher-level thinking questions, I
spend less time trying to grasp the concept myself, and I can focus in on the
fundamental skills more than when I do not. Therefore, the students and I
benefit more when I plan the lessons, for the instruction is more focused and
runs more smoothly than when I do not.
When planning my lesson plans, I attempt to incorporate at least two
methods per lesson plan that help to differentiate lessons. I have found that
simple ways to differentiate lesson plans is to use the “turn and talk” method
and heterogeneous grouping/ partners. I find that by using these methods,
one student teaches the other student the concept in student-friendly
language. Sometimes, the students benefit hearing the information coming
from another person other than me. Also, I have found that by incorporating
graphic organizers into lessons, especially writing lessons, the lesson is then
scaffolded appropriately for all students. Lastly, I realized that creating
checklists of criteria for the students to fulfill also allows for some
differentiation of lessons. Although some students can go above and beyond
the checklist, which I encourage some students to do, the checklist covers
the fundamental and basic skills covered by the lesson. Therefore, when a

student completes an assignment, the students know what must at least be
in the assignment, differentiating the instruction for both the students who
are more advanced and the students who need more guidance.
Recently, I have been incorporating more technology into the lesson
that I have been teaching. After a recent in-service on iPad apps and Smart
Board technology, I have felt more comfortable using these in my lessons. I
have been using the iPad app “nearpod” frequently recently in order to teach
and assess my students. The app is especially beneficial because I can
monitor their progress throughout the lesson. Furthermore, I have been using
more Smart Board applications during math in order to have the students
participate more. However, when the technology fails, I do relatively well
with changing and modifying the lesson to a non-technologically based
lesson. I typically feel comfortable changing the lesson at last minute so that
the students can learn the content even if the technology is not working.
Since I began teaching at Dodge, I have used student work in order to
inform and evaluate my instruction. After each lesson, I attempt to grade and
assess the students’ work immediately; that is, by the end of the day, I try to
have all of the students’ work graded so that I can choose my instructional
practices for the next day. This way, I can quickly reteach concepts to
students if there are misunderstandings or if there is a feeling of uncertainty.
Recently, I have been using the “nearpod” app in order to help me assess my
students. I love this app because it helps me to assess the students both

during and after the lesson; therefore, I can switch up my teaching methods
or clarify a concept during the lesson rather than the next day. This app has
helped me to inform my instruction within the classroom.
As for the students who have IEP’s or need accommodations, I try my
best to scaffold the instruction and the assessment so that all can be
successful. Since many of the students with IEP’s have fine motor difficulties,
I allow for these students to write bullet points instead of full sentences on
certain assignments. Furthermore, I provide these students with wider-ruled
paper and graphic organizers when needed. In this way, I can still assess
their understanding of the concept without over stepping their abilities.
Throughout my time at Dodge, I have learned much about my
students, my own teaching practices, as well as best methods to assess
students. With such a positive learning environment, Dodge Elementary has
been a wonderful school to student teach at. I hope to teach at school like
Dodge someday because I feel like I have learned so much from the teachers
and the students.