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Dear Dr.

McKool Now that the semester is over and I look back on my experiences in the field and in your classroom, I realize just how much I¶ve grown as a teacher and how much more I still need to learn. Unfortunately when I was younger I had a preconceived notion that being a teacher wouldn¶t be that extensive. Possibly because reflecting on my own teachers, it never seemed like they did much except stand in the front of the classroom and talk. I didn¶t realize just how hard being a teacher truly was until I decided to become an educator myself. Last year I began taking my education courses here at Rider and learned very quickly that I had a lot to learn. Even though I was in the field last year, it was more observation of the classroom than it was creating lesson plans and actually teaching them. This semester, I was eager to get into the classroom and teach the students. I knew it would be a challenge, but I learned very quickly that planning a lesson and teaching one are two completely different things. A teacher can try to plan for everything possible, but there¶s always something that doesn¶t go according to plan, which I experienced multiple times in my first grade classroom this year. I¶m very fortunate to have had such an amazing cooperating teacher, Mrs. Miller. Mrs. Miller was my own personal mentor and friend and helped me tremendously when it came to teaching the students or tackling everyday obstacles. The very first day in the field, the students made me feel warm and welcomed and Mrs. Miller gave me some advice I will never forget. She explained to me that first and foremost, I am their teacher and I should be respected like one. She told me not to let the children walk all over me, because if given the chance, they would. I knew I didn¶t want to be the teacher who got taken advantage of; I absorbed her advice and watched Mrs. Miller as she implemented multiple classroom management techniques. I appreciated Mrs. Miller demeanor and the way she handled her students, instead of yelling at her students when they acted out, she did the exact opposite. Mrs. Miller would remain quiet and wait for the students to settle down. The students realized that if the teacher wasn¶t talking, they shouldn¶t either. Mrs. Miller also used the clapping method, which I¶ve witnessed my own teacher¶s do when I was younger to get the attention of the class. One day in particular, Mrs. Miller was settling down the class so she clapped her hands five times and the students mimicked her. She than proceeded to keep clapping her hands and do a little dance to accompany it, the students and I giggled and smiled looking at my cooperating teacher dance around the room. In that moment, I remembered that teaching should be a fun experience and that a teacher has the power to turn a negative situation into a positive. Instead of clapping to settle the students down and than lecturing them about the importance of paying attention, Mrs. Miller eased the tension in the room by dancing and clapping. She almost immediately started teaching again after gaining the attention of the classroom. Mrs. Miller is the type of teacher who knows how to have fun with her students while still being respected by them. I realized that I¶m like Mrs. Miller in that respect; my personality has always been one of my best features. I have the ability to make people laugh and I communicate well. My personality is one of my strongest attributes and will be apparent when I become a teacher. In the classroom, I would make funny faces at the students or when performing a lesson, play around with them so they could see how warm hearted I truly was. ³Ms. Meyer, you¶re weird,´ the students would say, or ³You¶re really funny´. My students

thought I was a little crazy, but whenever they would tell me just how weird I was, I would say, ³But I¶m fun right!´ They would all laugh and nod their heads in agreement. It made me feel good to know that my students appreciated my unique personality but I had to make sure that I presented myself as a teacher and not as a friend. Even though I wanted the students to have fun with me, I also wanted them to take me seriously as a teacher. In order to be taken seriously as an educator I needed to implement proper classroom management. I¶ve learned a lot about classroom management and how effective or ineffective certain strategies can be. My cooperating teacher ignores bad behavior when she¶s being interrupted, which I started to do because a lot of students interrupt me while I¶m trying to help another student. . I always knew that classroom management was key to running a successful classroom but how a teacher administers direction and discipline makes the difference between a well-run classroom and a noisy, disorganized class. One area I struggled with was thinking up and administering lessons. My first lesson didn¶t go according to plan, but as the semester advanced my lessons improved. When I decided to perform my first lesson, I was extremely eager and excited to teach the students. I was going to perform an interactive read aloud with the students. The book I read was called, The Doorbell Rang, which was a book that included knowledge of addition and subtraction while being a fun literacy book for the students. I was excited to teach the lesson, I thought I had accounted for every possibility and had scripted myself well but the day of the lesson brought unexpected obstacles my way. During the first lesson plan, I realized that I a should have prepared better by giving better instructions and planning for the differentiation amongst students. I had observed Dr. McKool in our Emergent Literacy class perform interactive read aloud with us so I knew that before I started reading the story, I had to introduce the book, author and have the students make predictions about the book¶s content. Throughout the story I stopped on certain pages to help confirm the student¶s predictions or make new predictions. I also had the student¶s look at the illustrations to help them produce ideas about the story. It¶s important for the teacher to stop at certain points in a story, for example, ³You can help your students listen and comprehend by stopping at certain places in the book to discuss a picture as it relates to the story or to review the plot´ (Chen 34). I was very nervous about the first lesson and it showed, I lost my train of thought and the lesson didn¶t flow like I had planned. Writing a lesson plan and teaching it are two completely different things, and it is crucial to exhibit proper classroom management or else the students will get out of control. My cooperating teacher helped me through my first lesson, and I was happy that the students understood the concept of the lesson, but the organization simply wasn¶t there like I had planned. When I went into planning my second lesson, I wanted to include a mini lesson so the students could gain knowledge of both literacy and math. I had already experienced an unsuccessful lesson so I made sure to plan very well for my second lesson. ³Just because mini lessons are brief, this doesn¶t mean they are effortless to plan. In fact rule of thumb is that teachers probably need to spend as much time planning a mini lesson as we spend teaching´ (Calkins 50). I made sure to script myself very well and spent a long time planning my lesson, playing out the lesson in my head and thinking about any possible troubles that would arise. My first lesson in front of the class was a huge eye opener and I was determined for the students to take me seriously as a teacher and in

order to do that I had to work on differentiation, classroom management, scripting myself better and making the students very aware of my expectations. After witnessing how engaged the students were with my interactive read aloud, I decided to create another lesson where I taught the students about fairytales and particular themes most fairytales have. I explained to students that fairytales normally have a happy ending, the Rule of Threes and talking animals. I asked the students to give me examples of fairytales they knew that have one or all of the themes. I also asked the students to tell me their favorite fairytales, which kept the students engaged and excited about the lesson. I then proceeded to read two versions of the fairytale, The Three Little Pigs. I read two versions so the students could witness that the same story can change depending on whose telling the story. During my interactive read aloud, I knew the students were engaged because they read along with me as I read the part, ³I¶ll huff and I¶ll puff and blow your house down´. I was excited because I was implementing coral reading with the students, which I had learned about in Dr. McKool¶s class; it was exciting to see my teaching become so effective. This was one of my most successful lessons all semester, but I should have read the two books more carefully before performing the lesson. I stumbled over a lot of words while reading and even though the students didn¶t notice, that¶s a minor mistake that could have been avoided with better rehearsal. I was very pleased with my fairytale lesson since the students understood the objective and were actively engaged. Not only is engagement important while the teacher is reading out loud to their students, but it is also important while being read to by their students. Almost every class, one girl in particular asks to read to me. Of course I always say yes and am thrilled that more students have started asking to read to me. This one girl loves reading; she never hesitates to tell me her passion for reading. During parts of the story she¶ll stop reading, converse with me about the book so far, ask questions, make comments, which makes me feel good to know that she¶s intrigued and enjoys the book she¶s reading. Not only does she love to read, but also when she reads a story, she reads the text with such enthusiasm, emphasizing certain words and phrases, which keep me engaged in the story. I¶ve witnessed certain students who rarely read during independent reading time, so I¶ve made an effort to come over to those students and ask them to read to me. They always agree and during their reading, I¶ll ask questions to the students to get them more involved in the story. Asking questions are important because my questions spark conversation between the student and I, and I find them relating the characters and plot to their own lives. Independent reading is very important and I want every student to enjoy reading, so by provoking the students I rarely see reading and making it enjoyable by having them question and reflect, hopefully they¶ll develop a better respect and liking for reading. Reading is a huge part of the student¶s day, but so is writing, and all over the classroom, the students have helpful words and phrases to help them while they are writing. For instance, in the classroom, there is a word wall, labeled colors, shapes, and objects such as the clock, bathroom, desks and bookshelves so the students can learn sight words since they are all around them. The labeling of objects in the classroom is a helpful strategy for students because it helps them develop an understanding of print. For example, ³Once children develop the understanding that alphabetic symbols carry

meaning, they begin to hypothesize about what those symbols can mean´ (Owocki and Goodman 28). Once children learn that the letters of the alphabet form words that carry meaning, it¶s important for children to make the connection from those words to pictures. By labeling certain objects, colors and shapes in the classroom, children develop a better print awareness to help them progress in reading and writing. In addition to the alphabet and number line being displayed at the front of the classroom, it is also available for the students on their desks so they have easy access to it when needed. When the students are writing, I¶ve had multiple children ask me how to spell a certain word. I tell them to look around the classroom and refer to the word wall Mrs. Miller has displayed in the classroom. ³Word walls are usually organized in alphabetical order. High frequency words are usually displayed underneath an alphabet letter category in order in which they were introduced or taught´ (Reutzel and Cooter 85). Not only is the word wall helpful to students, but also when a child struggles spelling a certain number, which they have to do often in math lessons, they look to the number line for guidance. The other day, a student asked me how to spell the word twelve. She had sounded out the word but had forgotten the E at the end of the word. She looked to the number wall displayed behind her and she was able to figure out that she needed to end the word with an E. Word walls, labels and charts are a great way to help students learn sight words and gain a sense of the alphabetical order. They also help students learn certain rules that apply to words like consonant vowel consonant, consonant digraphs and vowel digraphs. Sometimes students think they understand how to do something, when in fact they are doing it completely wrong; because of this, it is important for teachers to walk around and observe their student¶s work. For instance, I was helping a student put his words in alphabetical order and he had them in alphabetical order based off of the second letter. I told him that his thought process was correct, but before he could jump to the second letter he had to use the first letter to determine the word¶s alphabetical order. After I told him that piece of information, he proceeded to place the words in alphabetical order, sometimes referring to the alphabet on the wall for guidance. It is very important for students to develop an understanding of the alphabet and the letter¶s order because, ³The alphabet represents the relationships between letters and sounds. We can match letterssometimes singly, sometimes in pairs- to sounds from left to right and create words´ (Bear et al 5). When students understand the alphabet, the letters that make up the alphabet and their sounds, they will begin to realize that sometimes two letters make one sound, or that one letter can create two sounds, such as a long and short vowels and much more. The alphabet is the groundwork for reading and writing so students need to be very aware of the alphabet and its features. I also witnessed the importance of different writing genres in the classroom. Mrs. Miller had the students write, ³How To´ books, which helped the students, understand how to write detailed narratives while using adjectives to tell a story. The students were able to pick what they wanted to write about and having students have a voice in the classroom is very important. When students have choice in a classroom, they are more engaged and excited about the assignment because they are able to write and talk about something they know and are passionate about. The students have also looked at multiple poems and have learned about rhyming words and phrases in the morning message and songs we sing. Whenever we would read a song in the morning, Mrs.

Miller would have the song written on a chart so the students could read along with the teacher. Mrs. Miller implemented coral reading while also teaching students about phonemic awareness; one student in particular would always point out rhyming words in the song which would demonstrate that he was engaged in the activity and had an understanding of phonemic awareness. Due to the students curiosity and understanding of rhyming words, for my last lesson I decided to have the students create a poem book. I had observed the students writing so I knew that they were capable of performing this lesson. As a teacher, we should observe and assess our student¶s writings so we know their strengths and weaknesses. Assessing student¶s work will help us understand their capabilities and what they need to work on. For instance, ³The goal in looking at children¶s writing is for us to be informed and instructed by our students: who they are as writers, what they know, and what they need to learn´ (Horn and Giacobbe 130). I wanted this lesson to be a hand on activity, which combined reading, writing, talking and drawing. I had performed five lesson already and knew that if I wanted to make this lesson successful, I had to implement proper classroom management, take into account differentiation amongst students and script myself so I knew what I was going to say. The lesson started off smoothly, I was excited about the poem book and spoke with enthusiasm when addressing the students. I clearly stated what I wanted the students to do and I gave an example on the board of what I expected of them. I had the students help me with my example so I knew that they understood the objective. As the lesson got underway, I realized that I hadn¶t made myself as clear with my directions as I had intended. Multiple students asked me what they had to do and were a little confused by my directions. I addressed each student who asked for additional help, but later after the lesson had concluded, I reflected on what had happened and realized that I should have addressed the whole class to clarify the directions, not just individual students. My last lesson didn¶t go as planned, but it was also my first hands on activity lesson and by far my biggest challenge. The students were actively engaged, but I was disappointed with the structure of the lesson. I felt like I had ended my last lesson the way I had begun the semester, confused and unsure. Mrs. Miller assured me that I did a fine job and that this was a learning experience. She helped me battle through my final lesson and when we sat to reflect on the lesson, she asked me what I would do differently. I explained to her I was unhappy with the directions I gave and that I thought I had made myself clear, when in fact I did not. I also explained how when I reflected on the lesson, I should have addressed the class to clear up any confusion and take questions if needed. My semester in Dr. McKool¶s Emergent Literacy course and Mrs. Miller¶s first grade classroom has helped me grown as an educator and person. I am more knowledgeable now when it comes to classroom management, differentiation, proper lesson planning, proper assessment and much more. Even though I¶ve learned so much this semester, I still have a lot more to learn. This semester was difficult because I had to learn a lot of information in a short amount of time but with the help of Dr. McKool, my peers and cooperating teacher, I was able to get through the semester more educated than ever. The students were a joy to work with and gave me first hand experience with becoming a new teacher. This semester has taught me to relax and have fun with my

lessons. I tend to worry on a normal basis, which raises my anxiety, and when I¶m extremely anxious, I¶m not able to perform well. When it comes to teaching, I have to learn how to relax more, which I will hopefully master by the end of my senior year. I¶ve had some successful lessons and some dreadful ones, but with each lesson I was able to learn something new about my teaching style. Overall, this semester has been a difficult yet educational experience. Teaching is what I want to do and I know I can only progress from here with the help of my professors, peers and cooperating teachers. Being a teacher is about changing lives and positively influencing students. I am thrilled that I was able to be a part of these students first grade experience and while they learned from me, I also learned just as much from them. Now that the semester has come to an end, I am more excited and eager than ever to continue my journey in becoming an effective and successful teacher. Sincerely, Nicole Meyer