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Secondary History/Social Studies

Task 2: Instruction Commentary

TASK 2: INSTRUCTION COMMENTARY


Respond to the prompts below (no more than 6 single-spaced pages, including prompts) by typing your responses within the
brackets following each prompt. Do not delete or alter the prompts. Commentary pages exceeding the maximum will not be
scored. You may insert no more than 2 additional pages of supporting documentation at the end of this file. These pages
may include graphics, texts, or images that are not clearly visible in the video or a transcript for occasionally inaudible portions.
These pages do not count toward your page total.

1. Which lesson or lessons are shown in the video clips? Identify the lesson(s) by lesson plan
number.
[ This section contains two ten minute video clips. The first clip shows students reviewing the
second aspect of the learning target from lesson plan two (analyzing Earth’s population
distribution patterns) and continues with the slideshow guided lecture notes that we began the
previous day. The clip includes probing questions and informal assessments associated with
global population distribution and ends when I introduce a country population profile project,
which represents the formal assessment for the learning sequence. This occurred on day two of
lesson plan two (day three of the overall lesson sequence).

The second clip begins in the middle of a discussion about push and pull factors of migration
within lesson plan three. The clip includes instruction about global refugees, patterns of
migration, and concludes with probing questions about possible positive and negative effects of
immigration. This clip occurred on the fourth day (of six) of the lesson sequence. ]
2. Promoting a Positive Learning Environment
Refer to scenes in the video clips where you provided a positive learning environment.

a. How did you demonstrate mutual respect for, rapport with, and responsiveness to
students with varied needs and backgrounds, and challenge students to engage in
learning?
[ There are numerous examples in the clips where mutual respect and rapport with students are
evident. I try to provide a positive learning environment by providing positive feedback and
encouragement after student responses as well as interjecting humor at appropriate moments
throughout instruction without disrupting the flow or deviating from the main points being
conveyed.

At 0:29 of the first clip, I acknowledge a student’s history of providing good answers and
encourage him to share his thoughts. A similar occurrence takes place at 6:34 of clip 2 where,
after a series of productive responses from students, I acknowledge their good work by telling
them they had “really good answers” before moving on to the next topic.

Humor comes in to play at 4:32 of the first clip after a discussion about population distribution in
Texas somehow leads a student to reference The Waterboy movie. I respond by acknowledging
his reference and mention Bobby Boucher and the “high quality H20” down in Texas, which the
students find amusing. The same student at 6:08 of the first clip jokingly counters my claim that
nobody lives on the North Pole by mentioning Santa, which leads me to acknowledge his timely
joke and tell the class that “that (Santa) is the one exception”.

There are also examples where I allow for student curiosity even when their inquiry is not
directly on topic, as well as instances of me challenging students to engage in learning. At 8:40
and 8:58 of the first clip for example, students ask somewhat unrelated questions about regions

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Secondary History/Social Studies
Task 2: Instruction Commentary

on a population distribution map and I indulge their curiosity by answering their questions about
those places. At 1:14 of the second clip, a struggling learner with an IEP provides a response to
my prompt about Iraqi refugees that seems to be somewhat confused. Rather than potentially
embarrass him in front of his classmates, I acknowledge the useful part of his response and
expand upon it to further understanding.

Another way I promoted a positive learning environment is by showing solidarity and


commitment to the students and their school by wearing the school t-shirt (an optional, but
encouraged thing to do on Fridays) during clip 1]
3. Engaging Students in Learning
Refer to examples from the video clips in your responses to the prompts.

a. Explain how your instruction engaged students in


 developing the skills of inquiry, interpretation, or analysis in relation to sources or
accounts of historical events or a social studies phenomenon
 building and supporting arguments or conclusions
[The content of the instruction from lessons two and three was designed to provide students
with the skills to perform demographic research as it pertains to population growth, distribution
and migration. This was to be demonstrated in their formal assessment where they research
various demographic elements, interpret and analyze their findings, and make predictions based
on those findings within the context of a single country.

The first part of this process starts with engaging students when introducing new demographic
concepts. Clip one shows the final instruction associated with lesson two (population
distribution) and begins with me engaging students in that learning target by means of a journal
entry to a “bellringer” question designed to activate their prior knowledge and prepare them for
the subsequent instruction (0:00-1:20). The question was “why do people live in some parts of
the world but not others?” This question elicited responses that primed students to think about
the uneven nature of global population distribution and the possible reasons for it.

At 5:30-9:47 of clip one, the instruction shows examples of how I engage students to use inquiry
to support conclusions about the habitability of various regions around the world. At 7:16 they
are shown a population distribution map where they analyze and conclude why certain regions
are sparsely populated based on physical geography and other factors. ]
b. Describe how your instruction linked students’ prior academic learning and personal,
cultural, and community assets with new learning.
[ Much of the information presented to students throughout this lesson sequence was either
loosely understood or unfamiliar to them. As a result, it was necessary to refer to content
covered in previous units as well as the vocabulary instruction from lesson one. In other cases, I
reference things particular to their lived experience and cultural understanding.

An example of lesson 1 recall, beginning at 1:20 from clip 1, I remind students of the terms
“population density” and “population distribution” and ask them to recite the definitions. At 2:35 I
make another recall to lesson one’s instruction with the term “urban”, where shortly after a
student correctly defines the word. At 7:13 of clip 2, I link instruction about statistically popular
immigrant destinations to information in a migration video they previously viewed.

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Secondary History/Social Studies
Task 2: Instruction Commentary

An example of linking instruction to a students’ personal, cultural and community assets comes
at 4:02 of clip 1 during instruction of the term “rural”, where I explain that our school and his
community aptly fits the description. At 0:45 of clip 2, I link current events to the refugee
problems in Afghanistan and Iraq. This is useful because many of the students have military
family members and are familiar with both the Afghan and Iraq wars. At 1:59 of clip 2, I refer to
the high Somali refugee population in their state, and then explain how the internal politics of
Somalia have contributed to their refugee crisis. ]
4. Deepening Student Learning during Instruction
Refer to examples from the video clips in your explanations.
a. Explain how you elicited and built on student responses that supported students’
ability to form inquiries, interpretations, or analyses of history/social studies sources or
accounts AND build and support arguments or conclusions.
[ After students have engaged in a learning target, it is necessary to deepen their
understanding. A common method I used throughout the instruction phase of lesson plans 2
and 3 was to ask probing questions about the content and expand upon student responses. An
example of this process occurs from 4:17-6:29 of clip 2, where I elicit responses from students
about pull factors of migration and then elaborate on those responses. This occurred after
students had already engaged in thinking about why people move to one area from another in
their lesson 3 bellringer (derived from the learning target) and after viewing a short video on the
topic of migration. By asking questions and elaborating on student answers regarding pull
factors of migration (for example), my instruction served to support students’ ability to interpret
human motivations and reach possible conclusions to the learning target question (why people
would move from one place to another). ]
b. Describe and cite examples from the video clips of how you supported students in using
evidence from one or more sources to support interpretations or analyses and
arguments or conclusions about historical events or a social studies phenomenon.
[ The formal assessment of this lesson sequence requires students to access multiple sources
in their population research and analysis. To prepare students for this, I supplemented the
instruction phases of lessons 2 and 3 with multiple, maps, charts and graphs throughout the
instruction. This gave students an opportunity to analyze and interpret various visual
representations of relevant statistical population data. An example of this occurs from 0:12-3:26
of clip 2. In this clip, my instruction is aided by a graph (not visible in the video but can be seen
in instructional materials 3.1) that shows a proportional representation of global refugees by
country. This particular graph clearly shows the countries where refugees most often flee from
and where they flee to. At 3:26 of clip 2, I show a map that includes historical and current
refugee routes into Europe.

Another way in which my instruction supported students in using evidence occurred when I
introduced their formal assessment project in the independent practice phase of lesson 2. I
spent a significant amount of time familiarizing students with the CIA World Factbook website,
which they would utilize to do much of their population research that would form the basis of
their project’s interpretations and conclusions. ]
5. Analyzing Teaching
Refer to examples from the video clips in your responses to the prompts.

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Secondary History/Social Studies
Task 2: Instruction Commentary

a. What changes would you make to your instruction—for the whole class and/or for
students who need greater support or challenge—to better support student learning of
the central focus (e.g., missed opportunities)?

Consider the variety of learners in your class who may require different
strategies/support (e.g., students with IEPs or 504 plans, English language learners,
struggling readers, underperforming students or those with gaps in academic
knowledge, and/or gifted students).
[ After viewing the video of my instruction and reviewing the lesson plans there are a number of
changes that I would make to support both struggling students as well as whole class
instruction. The problems I noticed fall under three broad categories: Logistical (changes I would
make in the planning sequence or instructional material and classroom supports), student
teacher interactions (changes I would make in probing questions and informal assessments with
students during instruction), and performance (changes I would make about my delivery and
pacing and emotional emphasis).

Logistically speaking, the lesson sequence proceeded more or less as I planned. I misjudged
the time it would take to complete lesson 2 however, and if I could do it over, I would have split
lesson 2 in half. The first part would cover population growth and the second would cover
population distribution rather than lumping them together. This would result in 3 lessons with
distinct learning targets after lesson one vocabulary instruction (a total of 4 lesson plans). There
are also instructional material supports I would change. The one that sticks out from lesson 2
(instructional materials 2.1 slide 8) is a chart representing the population projections for Africa in
comparison to Europe. This slide was intended to expand upon the previous slide where I
explain an age structure chart (a key concept that students needed to understand to complete
their formal assessment project) but the graphic does not really represent that at all. This
graphic does show a much higher rate of growth for African countries as intended, but it does
not specifically tie it to the factor of having a younger population in Africa as opposed to an older
European population. I would also add pictures to the slides as opposed to just maps and
charts, especially when the instruction involves discussing factors and effects of population
phenomenon.

The interactions I had with students while asking probing questions and doing informal
assessments is the area that I would probably make the most changes. Generally speaking, I
would allow more time for student responses instead of moving to the next student right away.
This is especially relevant for struggling learners. For example at 1:16 of clip 2, I call on the IEP
student and he provides an answer that is somewhat confused. As mentioned in prompt 2a, I do
take a useful part of his answer and allow another student to expand, but I could have spent
more time with him and allowed him to think of another response. There are other examples
(not necessarily on the submitted video clips) throughout the instruction where I would prefer to
have given more time. I also noticed that I tend to call on some students more than others. I had
the perhaps unconscious habit of anticipating that certain students might not be able to provide
a productive response to a given question and neglected them more than I should have. I would
provide fewer answers and ask more questions of students as well. For example at 3:08 of clip
2, after discussing refugee migration into Europe, I tell students why refugees are going there
rather than asking probing questions and allowing them to infer the reasons. Another related
example comes at 5:20 of clip 2 where students are providing examples of pull factors of
migration. I elaborate and interpret their responses for them rather than probing and allowing
them to explain their responses themselves.

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Secondary History/Social Studies
Task 2: Instruction Commentary

The first thing that stood out to me about my delivery was I speak in a monotone voice. I would
prefer to mix up my inflections and volume. I would also try to project more enthusiasm. I would
also have liked to provide more and better analogies, use more synonyms and employ different
ways of asking a question when probing for student responses. There were also missed
opportunities to apply a human face to the content. This subject matter involves a lot of dry and
analytical statistical data, but there were places when the instruction could have activated
emotional connections for students. For example, at 3:31 of clip 2, I seem to sprint through a
few historical examples of refugee crises and quickly move on. I could have engaged students
more and speak in terms of the human experience and suffering associated with these
traumatic events. Any place in the instruction that involved human motivations could have been
adjusted in that way. ]
b. Why do you think these changes would improve student learning? Support your
explanation with evidence of student learning AND principles from theory and/or
research.
[ Breaking lesson 2 into two distinct lessons, the first on population growth and the second
covering population distribution, avoids the potential for content overload (Marzano). As it turned
out, the pacing of lesson 2 naturally wound up as essentially 2 distinct lessons on successive
days. Had I explicitly planned to cover just population growth for lesson 2, I could have
introduced the formal assessment earlier and had an additional day to monitor student learning
in the independent practice phase of the lessons (Vgotsky). For example, lesson 2 instruction
on population growth would be followed by independent practice on the portions of the project
that is related to population growth. Then lesson 3 instruction would follow with practice on
distribution and the 4th and final lesson of the sequence would end with independent practice on
migration with one additional day of student work time to tie the themes together and finalize
their projects.

Selecting a different graphic or chart (instructional materials 2.1 slide 8) to illustrate age
structure projection would have eliminated the necessity of overtly describing what I wanted
students to understand about this image. A proper example would explicitly reference how
youthful populations tend to grow at faster rates than older ones. Thus, my instruction would
mirror and complement the graphic.

The reason I would suggest adding pictures to the slides where the instruction involves factors,
challenges and effects of population phenomena is it would incorporate another important
cognitive stimuli to assist diverse learners (Gardner). The portions of the slide show that
facilitated instruction on this type of content generally only included bullet pointed probing
questions, informal assessments, facts and examples. There was no additional stimuli of any
kind. For example, in the instruction on population growth challenges (instructional material 2.1
slide 10), when referencing things like disease, environmental degradation, slums etc, pictures
of these things would have supplemented the instruction and brought the content into clearer
focus from more than one cognitive perspective.

Allowing adequate student response time is a widely researched subject. I believe that if I had
given more time to this particular IEP student to follow up on his initial thoughts (1:16 of clip 2)
he could have provided a more focused response (Marzano). He had already heard other
productive responses from other students with respect to refugees leaving Afghanistan and he
clearly understood the concept of a push factor based on his response (“crimes”). All that
remained was for him to put the two together, to see the connection between the general (push
factor) and the specific (factors that would push in Iraq).

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Task 2: Instruction Commentary

The reason I would provide fewer answers and ask more questions during instructional
discussions is, as mentioned above, to allow students to infer answers (3:08 clip 2). This allows
them to practice making these connections themselves. They are more likely to remember the
specific content and be able to apply the general reasoning of inference to other contexts.
Another related example from above (5:20 clip 2) If I had changed the approach where I
elaborate and assume the meaning of student responses to one where I allow students to
explain their answer, I might have found that some misconceptions were still present. Only by
further probing and allowing students to fully explain their response can I properly assess
learning (Marzano).

Speaking with more voice inflection, varying the volume at appropriate times and projecting
enthusiasm intuitively seems like the right thing to do and a way to keep students engaged.
There is some research to back up this intuition. Marzano’s Art and Science of teaching
references “high energy stimulus” to keep students engaged. This can take can take many
forms, including teacher delivery. Though I would love to be able to come up with better
analogies and ways to ask questions, alas, this type of change can only come with experience.
Absent experience, I can better prepare by thinking about the things I might say and ask before
I give instruction and anticipating likely misconceptions and questions from students.

The example of a change I could make to “add a human face” to the instruction (3:31 clip 2)
where I would instead of briefly mentioning a few historical refugee situations, I would take the
time to put it in human perspective would benefit student learning by activating their emotional
center. As I stated, instruction on population data can be very dry, abstract, and can feel
disconnected from student’s experiences. Scaffolding from experiences (Bruner) and having
students imagine what it would feel like to be desperate enough to risk your life on a small,
poorly crafted refugee boat on the Mediterranean for example would reinforce the content better
than simply stating that it is occurring in a matter of fact way. ]

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