Reflections on Student Teaching: April 23

The past couple weeks of my student teaching have been some of the most stressful and the most enjoyable of this semester. The main reason they’ve been stressful is just from the sheer amount of stuff left to do for my dual MA program. This month is a marathon finishing my major research paper, an exhibit on World War One, completing my education assignments, and completing a graduate assistantship. Fortunately, I’m in the last two weeks of this, so I just have to keep on running towards the finish line even though I’m suffering from metaphorical shin splits, running cramps, and catching my breath.

However, these last few weeks have been the most enjoyable too. One of the main reasons for it is having taken over a second class from my teacher at the end of March- World History 2. In a previous post I’ve talked about how different these students are from my 9th Grades, but I really enjoy teaching them and I’ve enjoyed what I’ve been teaching. For the past two weeks I’ve taught World War II, a subject that I genuinely enjoy, and I’ve used it as an opportunity to experiment with different instructional strategies. One of the most successful for the World War II unit has been relying upon a multiplicity of historical sources. In every lesson in this unit I have planned for students to interact with written primary sources, audio/visual primary sources, and clips from secondary source documentaries. This has worked out fantastically!

One particularly effective example was the use of a video called “The Fallen of World War II,” which breaks down the war by deaths and separates them based country, civilians, and military (this video can be found here: http://www.fallen.io/ww2/). The most effective thing about this video was that it gave my students, and even myself, a way to visually see the sheer human impact the war had. One point of the video shows the death toll for the USSR continue to rise. As it continued to rise my students audibly reacted to how terrible it was, only to be have revealed that 8.7 million Russian soldiers died during World War 2.

fallen of ww2
Screen capture from “The Fallen of World War 2” – Each tally is in the shape of a person and each person represents 1,000 people who died during the war. Here the video shows military deaths, singling out the Battle of Stalingrad. Here the video makes the point to show us that more German soldiers, 600,000, died during the Battle of Stalingrad than the total amount of German soldiers that died on the Western Front combined. 

In my World History I class I’ve been finding ways to cover content in a quick amount of time to make sure we stay on track with where we need to be (unfortunately a couple snow days put us behind). One way I did this was by teaching about Mesoamerica through using Webquests. After finding a good website on the Maya, Aztec, and Inca, I made a Webquest and put the burden on my students to find the information. Over a couple days they completed this webquest and every day for the Just Do It, I would review vital information they needed to know about every civilization. This actually worked out so well, that I’m doing the same thing with Hinduism and Buddhism. During class I’m asking students to complete the webquest then, the next day, I spend 10 minutes reviewing the religion before moving on to the next.

This coming week is my last week. Currently both of my classes will be testing on Wednesday, which is an early release day. After their tests my cooperating teacher will be taking back over for the new unit.

A quick word about those tests, I actually went through past SOL tests while planning my unit and stole the relevant questions from those tests to put on my unit tests for my students. This way I know that 1) my content and instruction aligned with what my students may see on the SOLs and 2) that my students will be familiar with the types of questions they will see on their tests next month.

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