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My observations were spent in a kindergarten classroom at Osceola elementary. During my time there I went between two of the kindergarten classrooms as much as possible. The teachers were Mrs. Amy Collins and Mrs. Landa Erwine. The main classroom I was in was Mrs. Amy Collins who had 13 students. In addition, I had several interactions with the principal Chris McClimans who made sure I knew what was going on at all times, and that I felt confident in my student teaching future. Everyone at the school made me feel welcome and that I was part of their team which was greatly appreciated.
Both teachers do a great job creating a unified community of learners by founding common ground in the classroom. The students have opportunities to act as leaders and helpers with particular responsibilities; all children are given a chance to participate and are brought into class activities in a variety of ways. Amy used a pair of overalls as her bulletin board for her classroom helpers. The jobs were listed on certain tools and then placed in a pocket around the overalls. In a rural community such as Osceola children understand that overalls are normally worn to get work done. When she told a student what job they had the student had to recite back to her what their duties were, and each student could easily do this for her. This was a good idea that I would like to possibly use during my career as a teacher.
Mrs. Collins and Mrs. Erwine promoted the children’s sense of community involvement beyond the classroom. They discussed ways that the children and their families could help out in the community such as using the local food bank and collecting clothing for families in need. They used Google Earth to show the children their community and neighborhoods. They asked what services we had within our community that their families used often such as the local bank, library, grocery store, gas station, and hospitals. Later in the day they discussed the people who are responsible in each of those services, and that they are leaders in our community in one day some of the students in a classroom could be those people. I think that this lesson made them feel important because it was about where they are from, the people that they know in their community, and it was something that they could relate to. I really liked that they use Google Earth first of all because it is a form of technology being used, but it shows the children much better than what a map could have.
I noticed around the school the teachers modeled positive interactions with others and that they encouraged prosocial behavior. All children in the class were provided opportunities to get to know and work with each other, and friendships were also encouraged. Amy actively involved children in conflict resolution as well. She would call them out to her desk when a problem arose and ask each child to give their side of the story, and then she would ask how they should solve the problem. After listening to the children involved, she would either accept their solution or offer a solution that might work better. Instead of just yelling at the kids and telling them not to do something she actually showed that she cared about each of the children involved in the solution to the problem. I also think that this shows that children how to solve their own problems in the future without assistance from Mrs. Collins.
The daily schedule includes periods of activity and movement and also quiet and restful time. Full-day kindergarten includes a morning and afternoon snack as well as breakfast and lunch for each student. The students were provided a variety of engaging learning experiences and hands-on materials. Those materials included books, writing materials, math related games and manipulatives, art materials, props for dramatic play, and blocks. Computers are used only in the computer lab there are not student computers within the classroom. It was explained to me that the materials were chosen for how well they support the overall curriculum and the goals of that classroom. Amy used a variety of learning contexts throughout the day and throughout the week in order to guide the children’s learning these included a whole-group setting, small groups, learning centers, and daily routines.
In addition to the teacher guided lessons and activities, there was time allotted each day for a child guided experiences, including play. These were during center time or other parts of the day. Both teachers supported the child’s engagement in these experiences by scheduling enough time, providing interesting materials, and thought fully intervening in assisting as needed. For example there was one child in Mrs. Erwin’s classroom that was very shy and would not approach a group on his own so she would help him to join the group. I think that a lot can be learned through Child guided activities especially with the aid of a teacher.
As for communication and language use I noticed when teachers were talking with children they take into account the children’s potential as a listener, and they identify that there is a wide range of individual deviation in kindergartner’s verbal skills and the ability to focus their attention. They communicated information in small units, they tie in new information into what the children already knew, and would check for the understanding. At the end of a lesson or unit they would encourage questions or remarks to engage their curiosity as well. For the most part I did not notice any children having trouble cognitively understanding or problems not being able to focus their attention. There were a few times when students were disrupting class because they thought that it was funny therefore throwing off others’ concentration. Of course those children were redirected back to the lesson.
Mrs. Collins referred to curriculum framework as she planned her lessons with what she would do with her children that way her classroom experiences were coherent. Mrs. Erwin did not have to revert back to their curriculum, because she had it memorized from all the years that she has been a teacher. Both teachers when planning and implementing learning experiences try to draw on their knowledge of the content, the awareness of what is likely to interest the children of that age, and to understand the cultural and social context of children’s lives. In both classrooms I observed they were not culturally diverse, but they did include multicultural curriculum to where children were able to develop a positive self-identity, and relate to new concepts to their own life experiences, and were taught to respect differences and similarities between the children in the room and outside of the school.
The assessments that are being used as of right now reflect that of the standardized tests at the end of the year. When I was first introduced to the assessment it was made clear that these unit assessments were to work on getting children ready to sit for long periods of time to take that test, as well as to work on test taking skills. The assessment I helped when it was over unit five and consisted of a packet that was front and back. The test was actually several different worksheets pulled together to work on the same concept. The children were given a picture and then asked to circle the correct word such as a fan, after they circle the correct word they are instructed to write that word in the space below. The other form of assessment was a picture to use positional words such as under, above, behind, in front, ect. The kid’s seem to enjoy taking the tests are very proud when we graded them, but my feelings are so mixed about the assessment. I understand the need to have tests at the end of the year because so much now relies on those test scores however, I do not think that these children at this age should be subjected to so many tests within the year.
Overall, I think that I really learned a lot about the two classrooms in the 4 days that I was present for these observations. I really am looking forward to spending more time in the classrooms to do my student teaching, and getting to understand more indefinitely the teaching strategies and procedures in the school district.
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