Contextual Factors Helen C. Peirce School of International Studies is located on the north side of Chicago in the Andersonville neighborhood. Peirce is a public neighborhood school, and the students who attend live in the Andersonville, Edgewater and Rogers Park neighborhoods. There are roughly 900 students who attend Pierce; 80% are considered low income, 7% need special education and 22% are considered English Language Learners. The majority of the students who attend Peirce are of Hispanic decent; the rest of the school is a makeup of 9% African American, 9% Asian and 12% Caucasian. The classroom I am in is an accelerated third grade class of 29 students all the age of either 8 or 9. At Pierce Elementary they track their students, and the class I am in is considered to be the „advanced‟ group of students. However, there still is a range of ability within our classroom setting. We have 9 ELL students and 4 students who are in an RTI group at the moment. Because of our wide range within the room I did have to consider many different learning styles for class projects, assignments, and assessment. Unfortunately, my ELL students did not get to participate in a majority of my unit because they are pulled out of the classroom daily during our Social Studies time for ELL instruction. Unit Content and Objectives My unit is a social studies unit that touches on the Chicago World‟s Fair of 1893, with a focus on the Ferris Wheel. My objective for this unit was to help my students understand the importance of the invention of the Ferris Wheel and what it did for the city of Chicago. The Ferris Wheel was the big attraction at the Columbian Exposition, which brought people to the city, which brought popularity and money to our city. I chose to do this unit with my students‟ interests in mind. Prior to this we had touched briefly on the Chicago Fire of 1871, which
was something they enjoyed immensely. I decided to continue focusing on Chicago‟s history based on their strong interest in the Chicago Fire. Staying with history fit nicely within the scope and sequence of the social studies unit as well. Art was integrated in a variety of ways, which will be touched on more when I discuss the formative assessment I collected. During the unit some of the standards we hit were: - Social Science:
16.A.1a Explain the difference between past, present and future time; place themselves in time. 16.A.1c Describe how people in different times and places viewed the world in different ways. 16.B.1a (US) Identify key individuals and events in the development of the local community (e.g., Founders days, names of parks, streets, public buildings).
- Fine Arts:
25.A.1d Visual Arts: Identify the elements of line, shape, space, color and texture; the principles of repetition and pattern; and the expressive qualities of mood, emotion and pictorial representation. 26.B.1d Visual Arts: Demonstrate knowledge and skills to create visual works of art using manipulation, eye-hand coordination, building and imagination.
I believe this unit to be very relevant to my students in terms of content and goals. Every spring the third graders at Pierce do an in depth study of the city of Chicago for their social studies unit. My mentor teacher left it up to me as far as what it was specifically I wanted to teach. As I stated prior, the students showed a lot of interest in the history of Chicago and the great fire, therefore I knew they would enjoy more history about Chicago. My over arching goal was for them to understand how important this invention was for the city of Chicago. Eventually I hoped for them to be able to carry this knowledge over to an
understanding of what other Chicago landmarks do for the city of Chicago (i.e tourist attractions, popularity, money, jobs, etc). I believe this to be relevant to my students specifically because they all live in the city of Chicago and they all know what a Ferris Wheel is. I learned from their pre assessments that many of them had ridden a Ferris Wheel, too. This reflects my belief that this unit is developmentally appropriate in terms of content, instruction, and it fits into Peirce‟s social studies scope and sequence for third grade.
Assessment Plan A. Pre-assessment The pre assessment included a number of questions that were posted on the overhead. On the first day of the unit I advised the students that this was a pre assessment, and I asked them to take out a sheet of paper and individually answer the questions the best they could. The students in my class have a fear of assessment, therefore I had to continuously remind them that this was not something I was grading, and my purpose for this was to see what it is they currently know about the upcoming unit. I advised them they did not have to copy the questions down, and they did not have to write in complete sentences. The questions I asked were: 1. Who is Christopher Columbus? 2. What shape is a Ferris Wheel? 3. Have you ever been on a Ferris wheel? If you answer yes, please describe your experience. 4. If I were to say, “I‟m going to a fair this weekend!” Can you explain to what kind of place a „fair‟ is? 5. Tell me what you know about the “Eiffel Tower”. 6. Tell me what you know about the “Chicago World‟s Fair of 1893”.
For this pre assessment I was assessing the prior knowledge these students have about the World‟s Fair and the Ferris Wheel. I chose this because I wanted a clearer idea as to how and when I was going to introduce certain topics. This kind of pre assessment is an effective way to later measure the knowledge my students obtained through the unit when comparing this to the post assessment. After the pre assessment I split the students into three groups, A, B and C. I chose to base the groups on their prior knowledge: who knew the least, who knew a few things, and who had the most prior knowledge in terms of content. The information I obtained from the pre assessment affected my planning and instruction in a variety of different ways. First, I knew where it was I needed to begin and at what pace I needed to work at. This also gave me an idea as to which students would need more support while working on their journaling and in class assignments. Many of my students are considered to be „advanced‟, but there are a few that require a lot of additional individual assistance. This guided me when facilitating small group work and/or independent work. Many of my students are capable of working on their own without my assistance, allowing time for me to help the students who need my assistance. B. Formative Assessment The on-going assessment I constructed for this unit included a few different pieces of data. The students and I created “Chicago Journals”, which consisted of me stapling half sheets of lined paper and drawing paper in manila folders (10 half sheets of each). Glued inside the back cover of the journals was a KWL chart I created as well. As I introduced the journals the students filled out the “K” part of their journal first, then the pages were added. These journals were introduced when we began the Chicago unit, the journals included ideas generated about the Chicago fire, and other elements discussed before the World‟s Fair was introduced. We used the journal for a number of different things. At times they answered a specific question I
posed by either writing or drawing (or both) their responses. These journals were also used as a place for them to take notes and to do any rough drafts for other assignments. Another form of on-going assessment included their “Chicago Packets” which was a number of pages with short paragraphs about Chicago‟s history, followed by questions about the short readings. The content in the packet related to Chicago‟s history including information on the Chicago Flag, the Chicago Seal, and early explorers. The packet also included Chicago map activities. A few nights a week I would assign a page for homework. Throughout the two weeks I periodically collected the packets and responded to the student‟s work. The final form of on-going assessment was an assignment I created which was the “Ferris Wheel Flyer”. On a daily basis I would read aloud to them from a book called “Ferris Wheel! George Ferris and His Amazing Invention” by Dani Seed. We reached a point in the story when the Ferris Wheel had been tested and it was a success! The question that followed was, “Now that the Ferris Wheel is open for business, would anyone dare to ride it?” As an assignment students were to create a flyer to be passed out at the Chicago World‟s Fair. The flyer was to be persuasive, include a picture and create a slogan. As a whole group we made a list of reasons as to why the public should come and ride the Ferris Wheel (it‟s original, it‟s been tested, it‟s safe, there‟s a great view, etc). We also thought of a list of words that rhyme with the word „wheel‟ to help them generate a slogan. Students were given class time to work on this, and as a result I was able to walk around and facilitate students who needed additional support.
C. Post Assessment
The post assessment for this unit was constructed the same way as the pre assessment. I posted the questions on the overhead and gave each student one sheet of paper. This time there were two questions, and they were: 1. Why was the Ferris Wheel such an important invention? 2. What is another landmark that is important to the city of Chicago and why? The responses to these questions told me whether or not the students understood my objective of the unit, which was for them to understand the importance of the invention of the Ferris Wheel and what it did for the city of Chicago. Question one of the post assessment is directly related this. Question two allowed me to assess if the students were able to carry this knowledge over to the understanding of what other Chicago landmarks do for the city of Chicago (i.e tourist attractions, popularity, money, jobs, etc). Use of Pre-Assessment to Inform Instruction and Differentiation My decision to use the type of pre assessment I did was because I wanted to be able to measure, in the best way I know how, the growth of knowledge my students gained. In my opinion, the most effective way to do this is to find out what they know at the beginning, and then address similar questions for the post assessment. The students in my groups, A B and C, were divided up based on what it is they currently know about the Chicago Worldâ€&#x;s Fair and the Ferris Wheel. Group C are the children who knew the most, Group B were the children who knew a few things, and Group A were the students who could only answer 1 or 2 questions.
In many of the cases the groups the students fell into were a direct correlation to their writing abilities. For example the students in Group C had the most prior knowledge and wrote in complete sentences with correct punctuation and spelling, whereas the students in Group A did not answer in complete sentences and never used punctuation. This indicator tells me that the students‟ experiences affect their ability to express their thoughts. It could also mean the students in Group A do have knowledge, but were not able to put them on paper for reasons that are not related to prior experiences. Whatever the case may be, I still needed to differentiate and be sure I reached all my students. While I was deciding which activities I was going to do I had to consider many factors. First, I needed to consider the time of day – for all of my students. Social studies is the last lesson of the day, from 1:30-2:30. This is usually the time of the day when my students get distracted easy, which means I needed to plan activities that would hold their interest and/or allow them to discuss and walk around. I also needed to plan my lesson to include my ELL students for the first 20 minutes, because at 1:50 every afternoon they get pulled out for their ELL instruction. Lastly, I needed to consider my students that fell into the separate Groups: A, B and C. To adapt the unit for all my students I planned a variety of different activities. For the first 20 minutes of the day, when the ELL students were in the room, I would plan for journal activities or a read aloud. As the ELL students were leaving than I would transition into having my students work on assignments or explore the nonfiction books I supplied. This way the ELL students could still participate and gain a little bit of knowledge about Chicago‟s history, while not being asked to complete assignments that they weren‟t ready for. During my unit I tried to use a variety of instructional methods as a way to reach all my students; I did whole group, small group, partner work and independent work. There was one class
period when I allowed for free work time on the “Ferris Wheel Flyer” assignment, and this was a very productive day in my opinion. Some students were working on their flyers; others who were finished were exploring the books I had supplied. Others had unfolded a large map of the city of Chicago and were laying on it with their noses inches away from the map exploring and discussing it with one another. I believe this was a productive day because I allowed students to work at a pace that fit their needs. I gave them the option to explore materials and because of this, I believe, they were all engaged and gained a sense of ownership of the unit on this day. For the students who have been divided into the three groups, I have chosen one representative from each.
Group A: o No prior knowledge of the Chicago World‟s Fair or the Ferris Wheel; was only able to answer one of the pre assessment questions. o This student did achieve my objectives. My objectives for this were simply to uncover their prior knowledge. o This student did not write in complete sentences and used no punctuation. She did however answer “I don‟t know” for some instead of leaving the question blank. o With this student I believe the reasons for mistakes are due to the time of day that it is and the fact that this student gets distracted very easily. I also believe that she did not have much prior knowledge, therefore she probably did not hold much interest in the pre assessment and was careless because of that. Group B: o Has it a lot of prior knowledge in terms of the Ferris Wheel, but not the fair. o This student did achieve my objectives. My objectives for this were simply to uncover their prior knowledge. o This student did not write in complete sentences, he did however use correct punctuation and spelling.
I don‟t see many mistakes with this student‟s work, which is nice to see because he is a student who is sometimes hard to motivate – especially at the end of the day. Group C: o Has a lot of prior knowledge in terms of Ferris Wheel, but none about the World‟s Fair indicated on the pre assessment. (This student did not answer two of the questions because he was out of the room for a portion of the time given). o This student did achieve my objectives. My objectives for this were simply to uncover their prior knowledge. o This student wrote in complete sentences, used correct punctuation and used an advanced level of vocabulary in comparison to students in the other groups. o There are not many mistakes with the students work. The answer to questions 5 and 6 are missing because he was out of the room during the beginning of the pre assessment. There is evidence that he intended on answering the questions by the notes he put in the margin of the paper. o
Analysis of Post-Assessment Student Work When I study all the work of representatives of Groups, A B and C, there was a progression with all three students. All three students were able answer the questions I posed. The first question allowed me to see if they were able to gain knowledge about the Ferris Wheel and its specifics as to why it was so important to the Chicago World‟s Fair of 1893. The second question allowed me to see if they had been able to take that understanding and apply it to other Chicago landmarks that are still standing today. The quality and depth within the answers varies from group to group just as they did in the pre assessment.
I believe there were many reasons the students were able to progress and achieve the targeted understanding and skill. First, this was something they were interested in and it was relevant to all of them. Based on their pre assessment I learned that all of my students had been on a Ferris Wheel, and I knew that all of my students live in the city of Chicago. I also believe it was a success because we used a variety of mediums during instruction time; we did read aloud, we watched clips from a movie, I prepared short (developmentally appropriate) power points, they utilized their “Chicago Journals”, and I allowed class time for them to explore nonfiction books and other materials. Along with a variety of materials and mediums, I made sure there was a lot of variety in class work. There were many afternoons when they would journal with a partner, and there were some afternoons that I felt they would accomplish more if they wrote independently. During a read aloud we would sit on the carpet as a class, and there were days when I would have them stay at their seats while I read aloud at the front of the class. I made sure to allow in-class time to work on assignments, in small groups or independently, so I could be there to guide and facilitate students who needed the extra support. I believe the underlying reason for the success of the unit is due to my understanding of my students and what it is they need as individuals. I am able to understand this because of my pre assessment, and because of the relationships I have formed with my students. Reflection and Planning for Continued Student Learning While I was able to see a progression with these three students, I know that this is not the case for all of my students. I believe there are many things I could have done differently to better meet the needs of my students. I greatly value allowing the students to explore materials and nonfiction books at their own pace. The difficult part about this is that my students are not used to this „unstructured‟ time. They are used to being told what to do, and having a certain amount of time to do it. I know
there were many students who didn‟t benefit as much from the exploration of materials and books because it is something they don‟t know how to do. The other part of the unit that was a struggle was the “Ferris Wheel Flyer” because I tried to leave it very open ended, again, they struggled. My students were constantly asking me “what way do you want the paper”, “how big should I write”, etc. I am pleased to say that their flyers turned out beautifully, and all are very original. A majority of my students carried out the assignment in ways that tell me they were beginning to construct knowledge about the invention and how it would later benefit the city of Chicago. If I were able to do this unit over with the same group of students I would do a few things differently. With the exploration of books and materials I would make sure I am assisting students who have a tendency to wander around the room and want to chat with friends rather than explore materials. To assist them better I could possible give them a scavenger hunt that requires them to use materials. Or, I could have partnered students up in ways that would allow them to explore the materials more efficiently and productively. Another solution to this problem could be to develop centers with the books and materials and have the students rotate centers from time to time. Throughout this process, along with my entire two week take over at the primary level, I have learned a lot about students, and myself as a teacher. Being prepared and flexible seems to be a reoccurring theme in the things I am taking away from this experience. I have learned that the time of the day, as well as the time of the year, are big factors in the students ability, as well as my own ability, to stay focused and on task. Different students have different needs, but I can say that at the end of the day the majority of my students need guidance when it comes to staying focused. With this, I have learned that as a teacher I need to be prepared and base my instruction with the time of the day in mind. I also need to be prepared when I have to completely revamp my afternoon lesson due to timing or other things that can become a factor in a public school day
(assemblies, fire drills, spring concerts, etc.). I believe the most important thing that I have learned is when I am not reaching the students at the level I want to then instead of taking it personally I need to reflect and assess the situation. I need to ask myself, “what will I do differently tomorrow so I am meeting the needs of ALL my students?”.
To get an in-depth look into this unit please view the “Social Studies Curriculum Plan” portion of this portfolio.