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Poway Professional Assistance Program

California Teacher Induction

Instructional Environment

Name: Shannon Skelton


Consultant: Laurie Harmon

Activity: Thoughtful consideration of your instructional environment is important in meeting the


needs of your students. Considering information on the Class Profile/Student Services Profile,
Participating Teachers will identify how they will address appropriate prevention and intervention for
safety concerns and individual needs of students.

Purpose: To create a positive, safe, inclusive instructional environment.

STEP ONE: PLAN/TEACH


Develop and draw your instructional environment.
1. Label elements of the classroom
2. Show placement of students with special needs (EL, Spec. Pop., 504, GATE)

*Middle School/High School teachers may attach a copy of a seating chart, however, it must show
placement of students with special needs (EL, Spec. Pop., 504, GATE).

Explain the rationale for decisions you made related to your instructional environment.
1. Rationale for how you have addressed appropriate prevention and intervention for safety
concerns
2. Rationale for placement of students with special needs (EL, Spec. Pop., 504, GATE)
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California Teacher Induction

3. Rationale based on additional information from the Class Profile.

1. Especially in the chemistry classroom, safety is key. During the first week of school, safety
in the classroom is stressed and incorporated in a variety of lessons. The students read the
Flinn Safety Contract, and they and their parents sign and return the contract. They are also
expected to take a safety quiz, on MyConnect, and pass with a 100%; they have as many
attempts to do so as needed. I show them a Flinn safety video, which demonstrates best
practices in the lab, as well as potential disasters if safety precautions are not followed. I
have each student draw a sketch of the classroom and label safety items, like the fire
extinguisher, goggles, first aid kit, etc. Finally, safety procedures are reviewed and
reminded as necessary depending on the days lab activity and students are required to
wear safety goggles whenever chemicals and flames are involved.

In addition to feeling physically safe, emotional safety and comfort is stressed within my
classroom. I incorporate get to know you activities in many of the beginning of the year
lessons; sharing their summer highlights, sharing their excitement and concerns about the
chemistry course, weekend highs and lows throughout the school year. Additionally, I
make sure that students are not talking over their classmates when a question is asked or an
opinion is shared. This respect is also expected when I am talking, especially when I am
giving instructions on lab procedures or assignments. I am blessed to be teaching at a
school with such respectful and caring students, but high expectations for showing their
peers and teachers respect is practiced and stressed in my classroom.

2. The original class seating chart was alphabetical. They stayed in the alphabetical order for
about 5 weeks, which was ample time for formative assessments and two summative
assessments. Based on their performances on the assessments, as well as their social
strengths and weaknesses, I assigned new seats. All of my students with IEPs and 504s
were given preferential seating, which is not easy with such a large classroom. These
students with accommodation plans are also seated next to wither GATE students, or other
students that have proven substantial mastery of the material, for example Kristina and
Dylan. Rarely do I require students to work on their assignments silently or individually, so
an element of collaboration helps students get to know each other and teach each other the
material.

High and low students are well staggered throughout the classroom. However the front
right and front right and front left lab tables should be rearranged a bit. Sereena, Jessica,
and Michael are struggling and Slater and Jason have not been able to help their table
mates as much as I had hoped.

When I reassigned seats I also took into account students who started off at the lab tables
versus students who started at the center tables. I want students to get to know a wide
variety of students in the class. I like to switch up who is in the back and who is in the
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front. I allow students the opportunity to request seats later in the quarter, so that I can
place them in a spot that will benefit them academically and psychologically.

3. Many of my students IEPs and 504s discuss needs that relate to being easily distracted.
Therefore, I try to keep my classroom clean and organized so that they are not distracted by
clutter. Additionally, many of the posters in my classroom pertain to the subject matter of
the course or the specific unit. This helps support my visual learners and my ELL student
who have auditory learning difficulties. I write the agenda on the board, including what
students should turn in at the beginning of the period and what assignments are due. This
allows them to be responsible for their own assignments in a timely manner and keep
themselves organized.

I update my MyConnect calendar daily, so that students are aware of what they missed if
they were absent and what was homework in case they forgot to write it down. This fulfills
some of my teacher responsibilities as most of the 504s outline the classroom
accommodation that teachers will provide material on MyConnect. Organization is a
necessary skill to be a successful student and to have further successes in life, therefore I
try to teach and demonstrate organization in my classroom environment and processes.

In addition to an organized classroom and MyConnect, I give my students a few minutes at


the end of the unit to organize their notebooks for their notebook check. While some
students stay organized throughout the unit, others rely on the time and guidance in class to
get their papers in order. Throughout the semester I am going to move towards being more
hands-off with their notebook organization.

There are many opportunities within my class to interact with the material in a hands-on
fashion, through lab activities. These labs bring the content to life, and help support my
kinesthetic learners. Additionally, through the labs, students have opportunities to
collaborate, communicate, bond with, and learn from their lab partners. If I notice one
student catching onto the lab concept, I will often ask them to be the teacher. Learning
from peers is a powerful tools and puts learning back in the students hands. These methods
help foster a strong learning environment for my students.

STEP TWO: REFLECT/APPLY

Reflect: Based on the decisions you made, reflect on the instructional environment and
describe the impact to student achievement.

1. In reflecting on the physical and emotional safety that I stressed and implemented in my
class, I feel that my efforts really helped create a peaceful and effective learning environment
for my students. I incorporate a lot of get to know you activities, including our Weekend
Highs and Lows and students expressed that they look forward to Mondays and sharing
their weekend. As the semester was coming to an end, and students would be moving onto a
different set of classes, it was hard for me not to get nostalgic (sometimes to a playful,
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California Teacher Induction

dramatic degree) and tell the kids I was sad that we wouldnt be hanging out every day
together. There were a few times where students expressed that my class was their favorite
class (not necessarily because of the material, but the vibe) and they would miss their
partners. I think that this had to do with students feeling like they were well-known and
accepted by their partners, classmates and myself. They felt SAFE in my class. Labs picked
up their pace throughout the year, and by the time the fire demos and cheeto burning lab
rolled around, things were a little more risky, but students respected their safety contract and
I felt confident in the maturity levels within the classroom. I also appreciated the fact that a
large handful of students had never even lit a match and they were able to face their fears
(with a few squeals here and there) and add some new experiences to their belt in a safe
environment.

2. I think partners meshed really well together by the end of the year, and I actually stopped
changing their seats as regularly as 1st quarter when I landed on a successful seating chart.
Why fix something that doesnt need fixing?! You also agreed with that judgement which I
appreciated I did give my students a chance to request a seat change at the point that I
would usually have moved seats and I only had a couple people request a change. One girl
felt like her voice was not being heard in her group and she chose a new group which was a
positive change. Two other girls felt like they were the only ones in their group contributing
to the group labs and I rearranged a couple seats so that they could sit together for the last
couple weeks. The rest of the group that had been slacking throughout the quarter had a
slight wake-up call and had to kick it into high gear for the final lab practical which was a
good lesson for those boys.

3. I did not originally discuss this topic, but about 4 weeks into the semester I went to a 504
meeting for a student who has a hearing impairment. She requested that her teachers wear a
microphone in the classroom, which I originally was uncomfortable with as I thought it was
going to be projected. But it was directly connected to an ear piece that she wore. Students
could see me put on the microphone clip every morning and a couple students asked
curiously about it, but there were respectful, non-judging reactions and it quickly became a
non-issue. She was really appreciative of the access to the technology at the school and the
willingness of her teachers to use it every day.

Apply: Describe next steps and how you will apply new learning to future practice.

After seeing the benefit that the individual microphone piece made on my student with the hearing
impairment, and observing a couple other teachers wear microphones, I would consider wearing a
microphone in the classroom. There are times when I realize that I am a bit quiet or mumbling,
typically if Im not very confident in the material I am discussing. However in such a large
classroom it is not fair to students in the back. Additionally, it could possibly save me a giant
headache at the end of lab days if I wear a microphone rather than talking over my lab groups. Ill
look into this possibility, and work on my projection in the meantime.
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I discussed the importance of creating a safe classroom in my original plan, and the initial
introduction to classroom safety is the safety contract that students and parents have to sign and the
online safety test that follows. I usually collect them and file them, however in actually examining
them this time, I realized that a disturbing number of them were forged. I gave them back to the
students and said, you can either grab a new one and have your parent actually sign it or you can
have your parent email me that that is their real signature. Signed contracts came home the next day
and students saw that I was serious about the safety contracts and safety in the classroom. Next year
I am going to warn them about forging the document and actually check each one off in person
rather than them stuffing them in the box. I know it is a little more intense than the other chem
teachers care to take it, but I think it sets an important precedence for how serious I expect them to
take safety in the classroom.

I will continue to assign seats (probably until I get sick of making seating charts and see how it goes
when they choose their own seats) because I can match high and low students, match personalities
and break up distractions before they become a problem.

My first semester I waited for hands to be raised and tended to get the same hands continuously.
Last semester I started calling on students more often. I tried to respect the level of question that I
would call on particular students, but it helped keep students on tasks and accountable and it made
the problem solving on the board or the class discussion more communal, rather than the Ms.
Skelton show. I have already started calling on students, so they know to stay alert in my class. I also
think it is powerful when they know that their teacher knows and uses their names. Since we are still
in the second week of school I am still referring to my seating chart for names, but I plan to spend a
few minutes this weekend studying their names and faces on Synergy so that I can head into our
third week together creating a more familiar and effective instructional environment.