At the end of last semester when I finished mini teaching, I wrote a reflection paper that sums up more about my experience. I thought I’d share it!
During the fall of 2013, I had the privilege to mini-teach in a fifth grade classroom at Hibbard Elementary School, in Chicago, Illinois. For the practicum experience called mini-teaching, I spent about seven weeks at Hibbard elementary school. Each day, I taught the morning reading lesson to a group of bright and eager fifth grade students.
The first week of mini-teaching, I observed the classroom. I paid close attention to the students and the teacher. I noticed the various reading levels and learning styles of the students. I observed interactions among peers, as well as between their teacher and assignments. My cooperating teacher, Mr. Gould, was a highly skilled example of how to teach students effectively. He looked at best practice and the needs of his students, and from there developed his plans and ways of reaching the fifth grade students. Most of the lessons followed the mini-lesson model with independent work time and small group and/or individual conferences after the lesson. This model naturally provided differentiation and ways to easily modify and accommodate varying learners.
During my time with the fifth grade students at Hibbard Elementary, I taught non-fiction reading and led a guided reading group. I transitioned from observing to teaching by leading a guided reading group for four students. We read The Trumpet of the Swan and through this experience I learned the guided reading model and gained insight on how to lead a guided reading group. I met with the group 2-3 times per week. I also used supplementary non-fiction articles that correlated with the fiction book in order to connect the main unit with our guided reading time.
For the whole group instruction, I taught mini-lessons on how to read narrative and expository non-fiction as a means to provide strategies to the students in order for them to gain reading skills related specifically to non-fiction. I usually started off the lesson with a short connection story that introduced the lesson and what they would learn that day. I then transitioned into talking about what strong non-fiction readers and I would first model for the students a way to use the strategy I was teaching. Next, the students would participate. Often I would have them turn and talk with a partner as they practice the strategy. Other times students would try a quick example of the strategy and write it on a post-it note so that I could quickly check for understanding after the lesson and meet with students accordingly.
The students always brought a non-fiction book, pencil, post-it notes, and their reading notebook to the carpet for the mini-lesson. Before leaving the carpet to go back for independent reading and work time, the students recorded the lesson objective for the day using “I can” statements. They had a three column T chart that consisted of the “I can” statement, the “by” statement showing how they will be able to reach this learning objective, followed by a column where they place evidence from their independent reading time. The evidence part was often a post-it note where the student displayed understanding of the reading strategy. This was a great way for the students to take initiative for what they would learn and how they would learn it, as well as for the teacher to track the students on their daily learning progression. After the mini-lesson, the students had independent reading time where they worked on the strategy and I often consulted individually with the students and went into the guided reading group.
Overall, I had a very positive mini-teaching practicum where I gained practical skills on teaching reading to elementary aged students. My cooperating teacher was a great example and constantly gave me constructive feedback. The students were motivated to learn and kept on task as they learned more reading strategies and developed their non-fiction reading skills. I gained expertise on teaching reading especially through the mini-lesson and guided reading group models.