Teacher Education Practicum III
University of Alabama
“How Does My Teaching Action
Influence My Students’ Learning?”
Mr. Lee Freeman
Ms. Carolyn Palmer
Dr. Craig S. Shwery
Table of Contents
Meritorious Action Research Summaries
Kim Barnett: Graphic Organizers’ Effectiveness in Teaching Comprehension in Reading and Social Studies
Kellie Howell: Technology: Is it an Effective Tool in Language Arts Instruction
Jenny Motes: Enthusiasm and Creative Planning in Teaching
Rebecca Piedra: Science Station Study: Exploring Small Group Instruction in Science
Practicum III Action Research Authors and Titles
Kim Barnett: Graphic Organizers’ Effectiveness in Teaching Comprehension in Reading and Social Studies
Throughout a three week period, graphic organizers were incorporated into Social Studies, Reading and Writing lessons. The main goal of these instructional aids was to provide support for comprehension of the material being taught. The use of graphic organizers made the instructional time more organized and effective. Over the three week period, the class average increased by 15 points when including graphic organizers in Social Studies lessons. The class average increased 14 points in Reading lessons using graphic organizers. The students and teacher intern benefited from this study, and the students’ scores proved the effectiveness of graphic organizers when teaching comprehension.
Kellie Howell: Technology: Is it an Effective Tool in Language Arts Instruction?
Over a period of time, PowerPoint technology was incorporated into Language Arts lessons for a portion of students in a third grade classroom. The remaining students were taught the same Language Arts lesson, excluding the PowerPoint. Research was conducted to review the effectiveness of including PowerPoint presentations in instruction. The students’ scores were higher in two of the three lessons not including the PowerPoint technology, but the students did score higher in one of the PowerPoint technology lessons. From this research, there is no conclusive evidence that incorporating PowerPoint technology into Language Arts lessons increased the effectiveness.
Jenny Motes: Enthusiasm and Creative Planning in Teaching
Through discussions with her cooperating teachers, Jenny found that she was not delivering her lessons with enthusiasm. Determined to change this, she researched strategies for developing enthusiasm and found that, rather than focusing on simply being more enthusiastic, she could focus on spending more time during the planning process, planning more engaging and creative lessons. During her intervention, Jenny incorporated a great deal of creativity into her teaching, dressing up as a character for her narrative writing lesson and having students use various materials to design a bacteria cell, for example. Jenny found that by taking the time to make her lessons more interesting for her students, she made them more interesting for herself. She became more knowledgeable about the content, felt more confident in her preparation, and subsequently transmitted that confidence through more enthusiastic teaching.
Rebecca Piedra: Science Station Study: Exploring Small Group Instruction in Science
The basis for Rebecca’s action research was that she found herself teaching science the way she was taught – daily lecture coupled with low-level discussion. Bothered by the fact that her students were openly dreading science daily, saying, “I hate it,” and, “It’s boring,” and recognizing the link between student motivation and student success, she decided to investigate whether she could be a more effective teacher by designing and providing small group science instruction supplemented by small group science stations. Rebecca thoroughly researched her role in implementing cooperative grouping to ensure the best possible outcome. She found from her intervention that departing from her natural method of instruction by adding small groups with centers was effective in making her a better science teacher, allowing her to interact more personally with students during lessons. This was evidenced by student improvement on the chapter test, as well as student comments such as, “It’s my favorite subject! I love science!”
Graphic Organizers’ Effectiveness in Teaching Comprehension in Reading and Social Studies
Kimberly P. Barnett
University Of Alabama
November 21, 2007
Social Studies material and Reading texts can be complex concepts to teach and complicated information for students to understand. One of the newest trends in education is the use of graphic organizers which can help students organize thoughts and information. Graphic organizers can also increase teachers’ instruction by breaking down the concepts into smaller pieces of information. The effects of graphic organizers have been studied and the results have shown that they are an effective method of teaching Social Studies and Reading comprehension (Merkley & Jefferies, 2000). I would like to expound on this research by studying the effects of these learning aids in my classroom through the following question. How will using graphic organizers enhance my teaching of comprehension in Reading/Writing and Social Studies?
This semester, I am placed in a third grade classroom at a local elementary school. There are 20 students in my cooperating classroom, 10 boys and 10 girls. Two of the students are African-American, one of the students is Hispanic, and the other 17 are Caucasian. Three of the students have a Gifted IEP and one student has an IEP for a learning disability. The Hispanic student has tested out of the ESL program and is proficient in English dialect and reading. The socio-economic status of these students ranges from low to middle class.
Over the last two semesters, I have occasionally used graphic organizers to help with comprehension during Language Arts lessons. I only implemented these learning aids when I felt like the text was too hard for the students to comprehend. I never considered using them during Social Studies instruction. I recognized graphic organizers as aids used solely for Reading instruction. I had never thought of using them as interdisciplinary learning tools.
As I reflected on my prior lessons, I was able to see that the lessons involving graphic organizers were more successful and my instruction was clearer. The students’ comprehension was enhanced by having a visual aid to help them organize their thoughts and better process the information they were reading. The graphic organizers also helped me break down the concepts that I was trying to teach into smaller, more understandable portions of information. The graphic organizers also provided a more concrete method for me to teach an abstract concept.
The first lesson that I taught this semester was a Reading/Writing lesson in which the class read a Fictional text and wrote a narrative paragraph. I used two graphic organizers during this lesson, a KWL chart and a concept web. The KWL chart allowed me to quickly assess which students had prior knowledge about the concept and which students were interested in learning more about the concept. The concept web allowed me to demonstrate how the students could get their ideas down on paper before they tried to write a paragraph. This graphic organizer guided the students during the early stages of writing. As a result, the paragraphs that the students wrote were more detailed and organized.
During this Reading/Writing lesson, I observed students spending more time on the task that I had assigned because they were using the graphic organizer. I also noticed that the students had fewer questions for me about the assignment. Many of the students’ questions were answered by filling in the components of the graphic organizers. In addition, the students started asking their peers more questions about the concepts and the assignments.
Purpose for Study
Graphic organizers are tools that help teachers teach concepts by simplifying them and making learning meaningful. These teacher tools also help to get students involved in meaningful learning more quickly and allow them to make connections with the concepts through partner work, individual work, whole groups, and small groups. In addition, these learning aids help students sort information and show them how the concepts are related to their prior knowledge (Gallavan & Kottler, 2007). Hawk’s (1986)research concluded that graphic organizers
provided (a) an overview of the material to be learned, (b) a reference point for putting new vocabulary and main ideas into orderly patterns, (c) a cue for important information, (d) a visual stimulus for written and verbal information, and (e) a concise review tool” (as cited in Merkley & Jefferies, 2000, p. 2).
If used correctly, a graphic organizer can provide needed support to students. Education psychologist, Vygotsky, defined this process as scaffolding students in their Zone of Proximal Development. In addition, Merkley and Jefferies (2000) identified four guidelines for teachers to follow when using a graphic organizer. First, teachers should verbalize the associations between the concepts being taught through the visual aid. Second, teachers need to allow opportunities for the students to respond to the visual aid. Third, teachers should help the students make connections between new information and previous learning. Fourth, teachers should make connections to texts that the students will be studying in the coming weeks.
There are many different types of graphic organizers that are available for teachers. They can be used at different points in a lesson and for teaching different concepts. These learning aids have been grouped into categories based on their uses. The first category of graphic organizers is an assume and anticipate graphic organizer. These are good for the beginning of a lesson because they help to identify prior knowledge. A KWL chart is a common example of this type of organizer. The next category is a position and pattern graphic organizer. These are more effective when used during the middle of the lesson. They can show cause and effect relationships or a sequence, such as a timeline. Group and organize graphic organizers are the next category of graphic organizers. They are helpful when students are working in small groups because they allow students classify information. A tree diagram is a common example of this type of graphic organizer. Venn diagrams are examples of another graphic organizer because they show relationships between information. These diagrams are part of the compare and contrast category (Gallavan & Kottler, 2007).
I decided to research graphic organizers’ effectiveness during my instruction in Reading/Writing and Social Studies lessons over a three-week period. Every week for three weeks I will taught a Social Studies and a Reading lesson that included a graphic organizer. I recorded the results from the students’ assessment and compared these results to the prior assessment results. The prior results were collected from a Social Studies and a Reading lesson that I taught before the study without using a graphic organizer.
For three weeks I taught a Social Studies and a Reading/Writing lesson that included a graphic organizer. The main goal of all of these instructional aids was to provide support for comprehension of the material being taught. The lessons used a variety of graphic organizers including KWL charts, timelines, tree diagrams, concept maps, T charts, and Venn diagrams. I implemented these organizers at different points in the lesson depending on the concept being taught. Some lessons included graphic organizers during the Engage and Explore phase of the lesson while others used them during the Explain phase of the lesson. At the end of each lesson, I had the students do an assignment that served as the assessment for the lesson. Throughout each lesson I tried to keep the assessments similar so that they would equally reflect the impact that the graphic organizer had on the students’ comprehension of the material.
During this time, I collected data which consisted of the students’ scores on the assessments for each lesson. Each assessment had a total possible score of 100% and there was only one assessment for each lesson. Table 1 indicates the students’ scores on the lesson assessments prior to the intervention. Table 2 shows the students’ scores during the three week implementation of the graphic organizers.
Analysis and Results
The items analyzed were the students’ scores on the assessment of each lesson. The scores were documented for the assessments given prior to the implementation of graphic organizers as well as the assessments given during the implementation. The lessons taught before the intervention used the same format and the same type of assessment as the lessons taught during the intervention.
The students’ scores from the lessons taught without a graphic organizer were analyzed to find the class average. For the Social Studies assessment the class average was a 78. The class average on the Reading assessment before intervention was an 82. Most of the students scored the same on both the Reading and Social Studies lesson. Students 3, 8, and 18 were the only students who scored lower on the Reading lesson when compared to the Social Studies lesson. Student 17 had a perfect score on both assessments during this week.
The scores for the 3 weeks were also analyzed and compared to the previous set of scores. The results of these scores were broken down into separate weeks. The first week of intervention yielded a class average of 79 for Social Studies and an 87 for Reading. The lowest grade a student received for either lesson during this week was a 70 as compared to a 40 during the previous week. Only one student’s score dropped when comparing the first Social Studies lesson during intervention to the previous Social Studies lesson. Seven students’ scores stayed the same during these two lessons. Only one student’s score dropped from the first Reading lesson to this lesson. Nine students had scores that were unchanged during this week’s assessment of Reading. Some of the students’ scores were raised as much as twenty points during this week.
The second weeks’ scores continued to improve. The class average for the Social Studies lesson was an 86 and the Reading average was a 91. When the Social Studies lesson was compared to the lesson in Week 1, eight of the students’ scores remained the same; while four of the students’ scores decreased from the previous week. The Reading lesson’s scores showed that seven students scored exactly the same as they had the week before on this lesson. When looking at the Reading scores, only three students’ scores decreased for the Reading lesson during the second week. At least one student had an increase of twenty points in their Reading score.
The scores during Week 3 were the highest of all of the weeks. In Social Studies, the class scored an average of 93. The class average in Reading during this week was a 96. No student scored below a 90 on either the Social Studies or Reading assessments. The Social Studies scores remained the same for seven out of twenty students. None of the scores decreased from the previous week for the Social Studies assessments. There were eight students who scores were the same as the week before for the Reading assessment. Two students’ scores decreased for the Reading assessment from the previous week.
After analyzing the results of this study, I concluded that using a graphic organizer during Reading/Writing and Social Studies lessons was an effective way to enhance comprehension. The study showed significant improvement in most all of the students over a 3-week period when graphic organizers were used. The use of graphic organizers also made my instructional time more organized and effective. I was able to quickly identify the students who needed extra help and spend more time working with them. I was also able to explain complex concepts to the students using a visual aid. Overall, I feel like both the students and I benefited from this study and the students’ scores are proof for the effectiveness of graphic organizers when teaching comprehension.
Students’ Scores Prior to the Intervention Period
Students Scores During the Intervention Period
Gallavan, N. P., & Kottler, E. (2007). Eight types of graphic organizers for empowering social studies students and teachers. The Social Studies, May/June 2007, 117-123. Retrieved Oct. 16, 2007, from Academic Search Premier
Merkley, D. M., & Jefferies, D. (2000). Guidelines for implementing a graphic organizer. Reading Teacher, 54(4), Retrieved Oct. 16, 2007, from Academic Search Premier.
Technology: Is it an Effective Tool in Language Arts Instruction?
November 21, 2007
In today’s society, technology is taking an increasingly more prominent role. It is important for students to become familiar with technology at an early age so they can function in our technologically driven world. In my placement this semester, I noticed a definite lack in the way that technology is incorporated into the classroom. Although there are two computers in the classroom that students have access to, they are used very infrequently. In addition, students spend about 30 minutes 2-3 days a week in the computer lab. However, the class spends at least 2 hours per day on Reading instruction and an additional hour to 1½ hours on math. It left me wondering: Where was the time for technology? I felt my teaching could be improved by incorporating elements of technology into other lessons, specifically my language arts lessons. I realized that my resources were limited at my placement, so the most realistic way for me to incorporate technology into my language arts lessons was through the use of PowerPoint presentations.
It was important for me to study this event rather than just making the change in my methodology and moving on because it has not been proven that using PowerPoint presentations to aid in teaching language arts is effective. I would be wasting valuable instructional time if this were not an effective method. I wanted to find out if using PowerPoint technology would be beneficial to my language arts lessons.
My placement is at a local, rural elementary school that is part of the Tuscaloosa County School System. There are only two units per grade level. This school is a Title One school; much of its student body comes from low socioeconomic backgrounds. Many families in this community do not have enough money to cover necessities like food and clothing, much less unnecessary items like computers or the Internet. So for many of my students, the time they spend at school is the only time they come into contact with any technology.
Before the Study
I do not consider myself to be a very technologically savvy person. I use the computer for homework but I am not very knowledgeable about different kinds of technology. I found that this had transferred to my teaching and that I was not incorporating technology into my lessons very frequently. In fact, the only times I was teaching with technology were when it was specifically required for one of my courses. Elementary school students need to be exposed to technology as much as possible since it now plays such a huge role in how we carry out everyday activities. I decided I needed to begin incorporating technology into my lessons.
I knew that in the past, there have been many studies done on the effectiveness of incorporating technology into the classroom. All that research has proven that technology is a good thing and should be part of everyday instruction. It was unnecessary for me to study technology as a whole since it has already been proven effective. So, I felt that I needed to focus on some particular aspect of technology integration. In my first grade class, we spend more time on language arts instruction than any other subject. I found there has been a less than adequate amount of research done on the impact of technology in language arts lessons (Swenson, 2005). So, I decided that I wanted to find out if incorporating technology into my language arts lessons would make them more effective.
I was limited in this decision by the technology available to me in my placement. Since many kinds of cutting-edge technology do not exist at my school, I had to choose something that was doable. I decided to focus on PowerPoint technology.
My question is: “Will incorporating PowerPoint technology into my language arts lessons make them more effective?” Would the use of this technology improve my instruction and help me communicate the content of my lessons more effectively, or would it just be a distraction? The next step was to plan my intervention and find out.
Before I began planning my intervention, I did some research on my question to see what others had found about incorporating technology into language arts instruction. In McNabb’s article entitled, Raising the Bar in Technology Research in Language Arts (2005), she states that “technology integration practices in English Language arts are prevalent, but research has not produced substantial evidence about the effects of these practices on students’ literacy development” (p.114). I found that there had not been very much research that showed whether or not technology integration into Language Arts lessons was effective, or what kinds were best. The area of Language Arts that technology is most commonly used in is writing instruction (McNabb, 2005). I found that teachers frequently used word-processing software to improve their writing instruction and incorporate technology.
Most educators agree that there should more technology instruction used in today’s classroom. According to the article entitled, Teaching the English Language Arts With Technology: A Critical Approach and Pedagogical Framework, most teachers are using computers at home more frequently than at school (Young & Bush, 2004). According to Bush and Young: “Focus has to be placed on learning with technology rather than learning from or about technology” (2004, p.7). This means that the technology should blend seamlessly into the lesson and should just act as a tool to aid in student learning. It should not be the main focus of the lesson and the lesson should not become focused on learning how to use that particular technology.
Perhaps the most important factor to take into consideration when deciding to integrate technology into language arts instruction is time. It is important to make sure that as an educator I am not wasting my students’ time. Time to prepare for teaching is a finite resource. English teachers should consider what can be gained through the integration of technology into instruction (Swenson, 2005). We only have a limited amount of time to instruct students and it is essential that teachers tailor their methods to take full advantage of that time.
I really tried to keep what I learned from my research in mind as I was planning my intervention. I wanted to successfully implement technology without allowing it to overpower my lesson and take the focus away from the Language Arts concepts I was trying to teach. For my method, I decided I was going to teach three Language Arts intervention lessons that incorporated PowerPoint technology. There is a time in my daily schedule between 12:30 and 1:00 p.m. each day where half the class leaves to go to Computer and the other half stays in the room. I found that this was the ideal time for me to implement my intervention lessons. I would plan out two versions of each lesson: one with a PowerPoint and one without. I would teach the version that included technology to one half of the class one day, and the version that did not include technology to the other half the following day. To ensure I got an accurate sampling, I made sure to mix up the students so that one group was not getting all technology or all regular lessons. After teaching each lesson, I gave all the students a brief quiz that assessed their knowledge of the material covered in each lesson. Both the group of students who were instructed with the technology lesson and the group who were instructed with the regular lesson took same the quiz. I planned to compare the average scores of each group to find out if the technology improved students’ comprehension of the material and thus enhanced my lessons.
Intervention and Data Collection
The first lesson I taught was about nouns. In both lessons, I read the book A Mink, A Fink, A Skating Rink by Brian P. Cleary aloud to students, and then we discussed the definition of a noun and listed examples of nouns on a sheet of chart paper. For the technology lesson, I had students watch a PowerPoint presentation about Nouns and then tell if pictures were examples or non-examples of Nouns. For my regular lesson, I had students sort pictures into groups of “Noun” and “Not A Noun”. I taught the technology lesson to half the class the first day and the regular lesson to the other half of class the second day. After teaching both lessons, I gave students a brief quiz in which they had to identify whether or not words were examples of nouns.
The second lesson I taught was about contractions. In both lessons, I wrote several contractions on a sheet of chart paper and had students try to think about what two words were joined to form them. After that, we talked about the definition of a contraction and I had students give examples of contractions. In the technology lesson, I showed students a PowerPoint presentation on contractions. In the regular lesson, I gave students a sort in which they matched two halves of words to make contractions. After teaching both lessons, I once again gave a five-question quiz to assess each lesson’s effectiveness.
For my third and final intervention lesson, I taught about compound words. In both lessons, we looked at several examples of compound words and talked about how a compound word is when two words come together to make a new word. I had students come up with examples of compound words and we discussed the words’ meanings. For the technology lesson, I showed the class a PowerPoint presentation that showed examples of compound words and pictures representing them before having them do a partner exercise. In the regular lesson, I had students work in pairs to come up with three compound words on their own, draw pictures to represent them, and then share them with the class. Just like with the two previous sets of lessons, I gave all the students a five-question quiz to assess the effectiveness of my lessons.
Below is a timeline showing the dates I taught my intervention lessons:
I could tell that the students were extremely enthusiastic about getting to view the PowerPoint presentations, but I did not know if they had really enhanced the effectiveness of my lessons until I analyzed the results of the quizzes.
Analysis and Results
After I had taught all my intervention lessons, I graded all the quizzes and averaged the scores. I rounded off averages to the nearest whole number. In order to make it easier for me to analyze my results, I organized the data into a table:
When I reviewed the results I found that in two of the three sets of lessons, nouns and compound words, the average quiz score was actually higher in the lesson that I did not use the PowerPoint technology. In the contractions lesson, the technology lesson’s average quiz score was just six points higher than the regular lesson’s score. From my research, I can see that there is no conclusive evidence that the incorporating PowerPoint technology into my Language Arts lessons will make them more effective. In fact, just the opposite could be true.
There could be several reasons why my intervention lessons were ineffective. The PowerPoint presentations I used might not have been strong enough to enhance my lessons. Or, the addition of technology might have created a kind of distraction since students are not familiar with using it in Language Arts lessons and therefore hindered the lessons’ effectiveness. Whatever the cause, I found that the answer to my question was that adding PowerPoint technology to my Language Arts lessons did not make them more effective.
This definitely impacted the way I will plan my lessons in the future. I do intend on using technology in my lessons in the future because I still believe it is valuable even though this particular study was not successful. Instead of teaching lessons similar to the intervention lessons I used for this study, I plan to try different ways to incorporate technology into my classroom that will be more effective. I think this was a valuable study that gave me a chance to really examine my teaching practices. The results of this study will help me modify my teaching habits so that I will be the most effective educator possible.
McNabb, M. L. (2005).Raising the bar on technology research in English language arts.
Journal of Research on Technology in Education. 38, 113-119.
Swenson, J., Rozema, R., Young, C.A., McGrail, E., & Whitin, P. (2005). Beliefs about
technology and the preparation of English teachers; Beginning the conversation.
Contemporary Issues in Technology and Teacher Education. 5, 210-236.
Young, C.A., & Bush, J. (2004). Teaching the English language arts with technology: A
critical approach and pedagogical framework. Contemporary Issues in
Technology and Teacher Education. 4, 1-22.
Enthusiasm and Creative Planning in Teaching
University of Alabama
Everyday teachers interact and are involved in communicating with students. This happens from the moment the students enter the classroom until they leave school that day. Teachers speak to students to convey information about various subjects, to give directions, to encourage, to discipline, and to inform students on other important matters. Teachers are there to support and be the role model for the classroom. Many times the attitudes and enthusiasm of teachers can affect the outlook students have on education and learning.
In this study, I will focus on my communication during teaching. Specifically, the enthusiasm and attitude I portray as I teach. When talking to previous cooperating teachers, as well as the one I am working with now, I have been informed that I do not vary my tone or use enough expression as I teach. Because of this, I feel as though I do not motivate or engage my students. If I am not engaging my students from the beginning of the lesson, then I believe this will have a negative effect on my students’ learning. This lack of enthusiasm may also turn students’ interest away from the material. I also think this lack of excitement affects my students’ ability to stay on task during the lesson. If I am not continuously encouraging or being positive myself about the material, it may negatively “rub off” onto the students. Students may begin to misbehave, not pay attention, or not complete the work at hand.
During this study, I focused on ways to alter my abilities of being enthusiastic with a positive attitude as I teach to prevent these things from happening. I found this topic vital to be explored not only because it is something that I have been told personally that I needed to improve, but also to investigate various ways of being enthusiastic. I first had to think about what enthusiasm and being upbeat meant. I came to conclude that to be enthusiastic about something one must be excited about it. Therefore, I decided to use creativity and variety in my lessons to better “excite” myself about teaching the lessons. If I take the time to create engaging lessons that I am excited to teach, then I will not only be eager to teach them, but I will also have more knowledge of the material and content, confidence in what I am doing, and therefore use more enthusiasm as I teach. This will help me learn, as a teacher, how to implement teaching strategies that I can take pride in become the most effective teacher possible.
The classroom where I completed this study is located is a rural elementary school in Hale County. I am placed in a sixth grade class. There are 13 boys and 12 girls. Of these, 10 are African American and 15 are Caucasian. The socio-economic status of this class is low to medium. There are two struggling readers, three readers excelling in reading, and the remainder of the class is on an average reading level. This class has six gifted students and no students with special needs.
As I began to research this topic, the articles I found opened my eyes to the importance of using an encouraging, positive attitude and enthusiasm while teaching. Research shows that a teacher’s enthusiasm can be critical in students learning. According to Hutchinson (2003), “A teacher's role in motivation should not be underestimated. Enthusiasm for the subject, interest in the students' experiences, and clear direction (among other things) all help to keep students' attention and improve assimilation of information and understanding” (p. 2). This shows that enthusiasm covers many aspects of instruction such as the actual material being taught as well as students’ prior knowledge and experiences. In addition, it reveals how the teacher communicates what is expected. These are important to keep students engaged in learning. Enthusiasm may be shown in changing the tone of voice, walking around the room, and in comments made. Ediger (2002) believes that teachers should be enthusiastic with the subject matter being taught and the techniques and ways of which the lesson will be carried out. Using a variety of approaches in teaching and using creative lessons will help teachers be more passionate about their teaching which will reflect within the students. Weimer (1993) stated, “Do not try to be enthusiastic. Rather, focus on things you can do that will convey your enthusiasm to the class” (p.19). Reading this is motivational as a teacher to strive to continue working on being a better, more expressive and inspiring educator.
If I take the time to plan a variety of creative lessons that are specific to the topic that I am teaching, will I be better prepared and more connected to the information at hand? Will this knowledge of the content give me more confidence in my teaching? Furthermore, will this increase my overall enthusiasm, positive attitude, animation, facial expressions, and energy as I teach?
Before I began my study, I first analyzed two lessons that I had taught in the past. By breaking them down and looking at the creativity and engagement, I clearly saw that they could be improved. In the first lesson, I did not have an engaging, hands-on activity for the students to complete. It was simply going over information and the students completing an assignment. In the second lesson, I remember being indifferent to teaching the lesson. The unenthusiastic efforts created a negative effect on my teaching. I only included one visual aide for me to show the students. I then read aloud a story to the students and passed out a student questionnaire. I wanted to know the extent to which I motivated the students to listen to me through my expression, tone of voice, and movement around the classroom. This was quick feedback on how my enthusiasm during the story affected the students’ interest.
Observation Record of Assessment before Intervention
Timeline of Study
During the study, I wrote down a few statements of reflection. After the pre-assessment, I felt like I was not a good teacher. Many of the students were not interested in what I was doing. At this point, I really stressed using enthusiasm. I promised myself I would use interactive, hands-on, creative lessons to engage my students. I felt proud after the process skills lesson, ratios lesson, and narrative writing lesson. I really felt as if the students were all engaged and learning. I used much more enthusiasm because I was excited about what I had planned. I also was somewhat surprised to see what a strong effect the stationary paper had on students’ experience in math. The students were eager to use their sheet. After I conducted the data collection, I met with my cooperating teacher. I wanted to know if my enthusiasm was improving in my lessons. She gave me feedback on how she thought I had carried out the lesson. On the majority of the lessons, she gave positive feedback and noticed more students on task for the entire lesson. Overall, she suggested I make sure I have all of the students’ attention before giving the directions.
Assessment Record during Intervention
Analysis and Results
When first examining two lesson plans before intervention, it was obvious that my lesson plans lacked engaging activities. This seemed to have a negative effect on my enthusiasm and attitude while teaching. I had also been previously told that I should work on my enthusiasm by fluctuating my voice when teaching. As I began to research, I found that you cannot fake enthusiasm and that students can tell how you truly feel. This gave me the reason to use this topic as my action research. I wanted to know if being creative in my lesson planning would allow me to become more familiar with the topic, giving me confidence, which will allow me to focus on enthusiasm and animation as I teach. I gave my students a pre and post assessment on how interested they were in my lesson. By comparing this, I was able to see if I was improving on being able to engage the students. I also compared lesson plans from before and after intervention. This allowed me to reflect on the similarities and differences. I became well aware of how much better my lessons were when I took time to plan interesting activities. This also improved my confidence, knowledge, and overall enthusiasm.
Data Items Before and After Analysis
Focusing on the aspects of this study has definitely helped my teaching. This study has allowed me to improve my enthusiasm, change of voice tone, and the way I move around the room as I teach. It has improved my communication with students. This study has also improved my attitude in teaching. By using creative strategies through various lessons across many subjects, I have been more in touch with the content knowledge of what I am teaching. This has given me a better understanding of the material and a new confidence in myself that I did not have before. This study has also encouraged me to carry myself in a positive, uplifting way which will hopefully carry over into being a good role model for my students. I will always try to plan meaningful, engaging lessons that provide the greatest opportunity for my students’ learning, and present them in a passionate, wholehearted way.
Ediger, M. (2002). Assessing teacher attitudes in teaching science. Journal of Instructional Psychology. Retrieved November 20, 2007, from http://findarticles.com/p/articles/mi_m0FCG/is_1_29/ai_84667404/pg_1
Hutchinson, L. (2003). ABC of learning and teaching. Retrieved November 20, 2007, from http://www.bmj.com/cgi/content/full/326/7393/810
Weimer, M. E. (1993). Enthusiasm: The zest for teaching. Improving your classroom teaching. Sage Publications, Inc.
Science Station Study:
Exploring Small Group Instruction in Science
November 19, 2007
Purpose of the Study
My natural inclination as an educator is to teach students the same way I was taught. Unfortunately, this translates to teaching through lecture, with an addition of low level discussion. I began to recognize the negative effects of this teaching style while teaching science to second grade students. In my current placement, science happens in the afternoon, 1 hour before the bell rings to dismiss school. This time is shared with social studies, and therefore happens only 2 or 3 days a week. I noticed that each day during science, a loud groan erupted from the class when I asked students to pull out their Science books. This perplexed me. I personally enjoy Science, and cannot imagine why any student would dislike something so much at such a young age. After this happened a few times, I asked a students what they thought of Science. I was told in no uncertain terms that they all hated this subject because it was “boring.” I know that people do not learn well when they are not interested in material. Something had to change. I cannot change the students, so the change had to happen in myself—in my teaching.
After much thought and consideration, I began to formulate a way to capture student interest while maintaining effectiveness of lessons. Students learn from hands-on activities; but students also need direct instruction. Science stations would allow for both of these needs to be met. If I set up three hands-on, minds-on learning stations, with myself teaching a small group at the fourth station, perhaps my lessons would be more effective. I knew better than to simply make a drastic change with no notice and no preparation. Students in elementary school thrive on structure and consistency. Any change in instruction would need to be well researched and prepared.
Once I recognized that my former belief in lecture and discussion teaching was causing my lessons to be ineffective, I formulated a question to begin research: Will the use of small group stations in Science make my lessons more effective than whole group lecture instruction?
Using online databases and articles provided by my Science methods course instructor, I jumped head first into learning about cooperative learning in the Science classroom. I was surprised to find that there were very few articles regarding Science stations. Most articles that I found were about literacy centers. This pushed me on to find what I needed to get started. Science instruction is a neglected area of teaching today, but I refuse to give up on it.
I discovered that cooperative learning must be implemented in the correct way for it to be effective. Working in small group stations should be considered a skill for students to learn. Many students have never had the opportunity to work together, and must learn what types of activities are permitted (Schulte, 1999). Teachers who wish to incorporate learning centers into any content area must take time to train students in rules and behavior monitoring strategies (Schulte, 1999).
When dividing students into groups to work at stations, many things must be considered. Teachers must consider each child’s language development, personality traits (outgoing vs. shy), attention span, behavior, and academic achievement (Rivkin, 2005). Classroom teachers must be sure to team students in groups that are heterogeneous in all areas. Groups should have students of each gender, ethnicity, achievement level, personality, and behavior. This may take some trial and error on the teacher’s part. Finding that “magic setting” where all groups work well together all the time may seem impossible. However, it can be done with perseverance. After taking time to get to know the students, teachers should form the teams and stick with them as closely as possible. Groups should learn to depend on one another to accomplish tasks within the Science stations (Schulte, 1999).
Finally, teachers must take an active role in managing behavior throughout station time. This includes recognizing and rewarding good behavior, as well as identifying and addressing unwanted behaviors. Each teacher should find a method of reminding students to keep their noise to a minimum without raising his or her own voice. This could be anything from a bell to a hand signal. Once the signal has been decided upon, it must be taught to students and used consistently (Schulte, 1999).
After completing research on best practices in cooperative learning, I was ready to begin. However, rather than immediately switching from my former practice of teaching through lecture and discussion, I decided to finish the current unit teaching this way, and give the standard chapter test from the textbook. I chose to use the standard textbook exam because this is the format students are accustomed to completing every few weeks. I felt that to change the testing format suddenly would alter the true outcome of the study. Test scores were average for a heterogeneous classroom. Test results showed that 37.5% of students scored an 85 or above, 43.75% of students scored between 50 and 85%, and 18.75 scored a failing grade between 22 and 49.
Also during this two week period, I conducted casual interviews with several students in group and individual settings. I opted to keep the interviews as casual as possible so that students would not change their responses to please me. I asked students what they thought of Science. Answers ranged from, “I hate it!” to “Its okay I guess.” None of the students expressed any fondness of the subject. As I mentioned before, students will not learn a content area successfully if they do not find it interesting or at least important. I also asked students if they like the way I taught Science. The general answer was, “It is kind of boring.”
After teaching chapter two from the classroom Science textbook in the lecture and discussion format and issuing the chapter test, I prepared chapter three lesson plans. Using the textbook as a resource, I created three cooperative learning stations and one direct instruction learning station (to be led by myself). The topic of the unit was life cycles of animals. For station one, I used the supplies that came with the textbook to hatch a triops (a shrimp-like creature that hatches when egg is placed in water). I prepared a science journal with questions and spaces provided for each day. Students observed as the triops hatched and began to grow, traveling through the stages of life.
Station two functioned as a vocabulary station. For the first 2 days of the intervention, this station had two dry erase tic-tac-toe boards set up. These tic-tac-toe boards had vocabulary words from the current and previous chapter in each square. Students were to read the word in the square. After pronouncing the word correctly, the student could place an X or O in the square. Students were instructed to help each other pronounce the word. Also, before releasing students to stations, I reviewed words with the whole class. For the third and fourth days of the intervention, the vocabulary station changed to a game of memory using the key words and definitions written on index cards. As a way for students to check their answers, I drew colored shapes in the bottom corner of each word card to correlate to the definition card.
At station three, students spent the first two days working on drawing the life cycle of a bird and writing captions for each picture. I created a work page for students to draw and write on. Students were allowed to use their textbooks as a resource. This station changed to the life cycle of a frog for the third and fourth days of the intervention.
Station four was the direct instruction station. I prepared four short lessons to teach the material regarding life cycles of animals. I used visual aids from the textbook as well as pictures I found using Google Images. While I was working with each small group, I was able to monitor understanding of each student and adjust pace as needed.
After the stations and lessons were planned, it was time to create the groups. I created four groups with four students in each group. When creating the groups, I took into consideration each student’s strengths and weaknesses. I considered academic achievement, learning disabilities, special needs, behavior problems, and gender. I was not able to place equal numbers of each ethnicity in groups because of the ethnic makeup of my classroom (15 African American, 1 Hispanic, and 1 Caucasian).
Once all planning was completed, it was time to begin the intervention. I began each day with a description of all stations. I introduced and daily reminded students of the stoplight behavior management technique. As long as the light was on green, students were doing a great job keeping the noise level low. If I changed the light to yellow, students knew to speak more quietly. If students disregarded the yellow light, the light would change to red, and students would have “silent stations.” After discussing the directions and the stoplight with students, I asked for questions, sent them to their first station, and let them begin. Stations lasted for about 13 minutes, with 2 minutes for clean up and rotation.
Analysis and Results
After spending two weeks (which is only four days because of scheduling) learning about animal life cycles in learning stations, it was time for the post assessment. I distributed the end of chapter test from the textbook. Scores showed some improvement. 37.5% of students scored between a 95 and 100. 43.75% of students scored between a 50 and 70% (no students scored 71-94), and 18.75% of students scored between 44 and 47. I was intrigued by these results. After examining each individual student’s scores, I discovered that of the seven highest scoring students on the first assessment, all improved except one. This one student was absent the day of the test and did not make it up until one week later. The three lowest scoring students also performed significantly better. The most puzzling piece of data came from the students who scored a passing grade between 50 and 84 on the first test. Every one of these six students’ scores dropped between 8 and 15 points. However, after studying the individual students, I realized that of these students, two have reading disabilities, one is an English Language Learner, one has Autism, and one student took the test in the vice principal’s office for creating a disturbance in the classroom. These factors may have had an affect on the students’ ability to perform well on the test.
To conclude the post assessment, I originally planned to interview students to check for changed attitudes toward Science. This turned out to be unnecessary. After the first two days of Science stations, students asked me daily if it was time for Science because, “It’s my favorite subject! I love science!” Even now, three weeks after the end of the study, students claim Science as their favorite subject. They relate experiences and other content areas to material learned in Science on a regular basis. Students now view Science as an authentic part of their school day.
I now believe that small group Science stations are the best way to teach Science curriculum. My lessons are more effective when they occur in a small group setting and are backed up with authentic, hands-on activities from other stations. If I could do this intervention all over again, I would change two things. First, I would like to have more time to study test scores and student attitudes. Would the results continue to improve throughout the year, or would the novelty eventually wear off? Also, I would consider having one or two days for each unit when the “old” style of lecture and discussion reappears for review before the test. I realize that teaching Science effectively, like any content area, requires a combination of teaching styles in order to reach all students.
Rivkin, M (2005, April). Building teamwork through science. Early Childhood Today, 19, Retrieved November 19, 2007, from http://web.ebscohost.com.libdata.lib.ua.edu/ehost/detail?vid=4&hid=112&sid=8f9ae8da-57d2-4fee-89da-630c04ec88c6%40sessionmgr103
Schulte, P (1999).Lessons in cooperative learning. Science and Children. 44-47.
Practicum III Action Research Authors and Titles
- A -
Rachel Allen Vocabulary in Reading
- B -
Kim Barnett Graphic Organizers’ Effectiveness in Teaching Comprehension in Reading and Social Studies
Melissa Bee Does Using Graphic Organizers Help Teach Comprehension in Word Works?
Mary Bennett Spelling is E-Z! A Hands-on Approach to Teaching Spelling Activities
Melissa Blalock Improving Instruction: Implementing New Teaching Strategies
Jennifer Bruce Graphic Organizers in Science Instruction: An Action Research
Julie Burt Vivid Learning: The Use of Color in the Classroom
Amy Byrd Fluency: A Road to Cross-Curriculum
- C -
Jamie Cary Highlighters, Graphic Organizers, and Look-backs really improve text comprehension?
Susan Crawford Teaching Tactiley
- D -
Katherine Dye Technology and Reading Comprehension
- F -
Krista Finnegan STOP! The Definition is HERE! Using Context Clues
Kelley Fisher Using a Variety of Activities to Help Make Teaching Sight Words
4-Square 4 Writing
- G -
Ginger Goodwin Teaching with Technology
Ashley Guin Whole Group Instruction vs. Small Group Instruction in Writing
- H -
Diane Henderson E-sheets: Are they Engaging?
Lindsey Hollon Higher Level Learning vs. Memorization
Jill Hook The Use of Music during Mathematics and Literature Instruction
Kellie Howell Technology: Is it an Effective Tool in Language Arts Instruction?
Meghan Hurley Sight Word Activities in the Classroom
Heather Hutto Effect of Story Mapping on Comprehension
- L -
Rebecca Lee Teaching with Textures
- M -
Alice Marx Using Poetry to Enhance Fluency
Hayden McBrayer It’s a Small Group After All
Paige McGraw Action Research
Jacob McMahan Improving My Writing Instruction Through the Use of Read-Alouds
Jenny Motes Enthusiasm and Creative Planning in Teaching
Carrie Murphy Promoting Higher Order Questioning within the Social Studies Classroom
Jessica Murray The Use of Graphic Organizers
- N -
Katie Norris Something about Spelling
- O -
Ellen Olive Writing Centers and Their Effect on Students’ Writing
- P -
Kristin Pate See the Word, Then Read It
Heather Perlmutter Whole Group Instruction
Kaitlyn Phillips The Use of Visuals in Social Studies Instruction
Rebecca Piedra Science Station Study: Exploring Small Group Instruction in Science
- R -
Deanna Rainey Phoneme Segmentation Instruction Using the Touch and Say Method
Whitney Roberts Musical Math Mystery
- S -
Ashlee Spivey Keeping Your Students Engaged in Your Lessons
Sholanda Steele How Can I Utilize Technology to Facilitate Learning in My Language Arts Lessons?
Valerie Stephenson Will the use of class demonstration experiments and art extension activities make my science teaching more effective?
- T -
Donna Taylor Hands-on Reading
- W -
Lauren Webster Breaking It Down
Lisa Westbrooks Sight Word Recognition
Teri Williams Fly with Fluency
The ORTD welcomes queries and ideas for further activities
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Contact: Cynthia Szymanski Sunal, Director
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Cynthia Szymanski Sunal, Ph.D., Director • firstname.lastname@example.org
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