Monday, December 13, 2010

Portfolios and the Semester Ending

The end of another semester and the same bitter sweet feeling that always is present. Over 16 weeks a course becomes a really important learning community not only for the students but for me too. I don't think I have ever taught a course twice in the same way in all the years I've been teaching; there is always something that needs tweaking, something that can be improved and something that can be added or removed.

I've taught my Elementary School Math and Science course in one form or another for more years than I care to remember but each year something changes. Last year it was getting rid of the unbelievably expensive textbook and substituting a small but remarkable paperback book about teaching math as well as the extensive use of the Bridges Math Program, the one used in local schools.

I also finally ditched an activity in the science part of the course that had been really irking me for the past several years. I always do both a direct instruction as well as an inquiry based activity on teaching the students how to teach the reasons for the seasons to upper elementary students. The direct instruction activity involves me demonstrating with the use of a flashlight and a globe how the 23 or so degree tilt of the earth on its axis as it rotates around the sun gives use different seasons and temperatures. The activity demonstrates the idea of insolation really well. I sit in the middle of the room with the flashlight (sun) and the students pass the globe around the circle keeping the angle of tilt pointing at the same classrooom wall.

After I demonstrate it I have the students do a similar activity with a small flashlight and a balloon for the Earth. This year the students finally said that this activity confused them after the clarity of the direct instruction. I guess sometimes it is better to use direct instruction rather than an inquiry-based activity.

My Schools and Society course, which I taught for the first time at SMC this semester, will undergo significant changes for next term.

Today's picture is of some Portfolios from last year. This is the document all senior Education majors have to complete, as required by the Vermont State DOE to demonstrate their competence to teach. It is one of several assessment pieces we use to recommend students for licensure by the State of Vermont.

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