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Practicum Reflection

Monique Czaczkowski
Lakehead University
Faculty of Education
Dr. Wayne Melville

My five-week placement at St. Patricks High School in Thunder Bay allowed me to

apply my knowledge of science in a classroom setting while enhancing my ability to transfer this
knowledge to my students. My passion for teaching was enriched as I was granted the
opportunity to teach two grade 11 university level biology classes. My associate teacher was
experienced and very knowledgeable. During the first week he showed me the important tools he
uses to stay organized and plan units/lessons as well as successful tactics he uses to maintain
classroom management and present concepts. This helped me tremendously throughout my
placement and provided me a framework to build and enhance my teaching skills.
My knowledge of teaching grew immensely throughout my five-week placement.
Although I still have a tremendous amount to learn, I became more familiar with the curriculum
documents, numerous teaching strategies, and various methods of assessments. Implementing the
curriculum was made much easier having access to the hard copies of the documents and
conversing with my associate teacher. At first, my associate teacher informed me of key
information and applications that should be implemented into my lessons based on successful
lessons he carried out previously. After I created a rough copy of the unit plan, we went over it
together to make sure it was adequate for four weeks of instruction and all the days of
interruption were accounted for. This allowed me to practice constructing a unit plan while
ensuring that the students were still receiving a good education. By the end of placement, I felt
more confident in understanding the curriculum expectations and in turn, incorporating them into
my lessons. My associate teacher still verified my lessons prior to presenting them throughout
the whole placement to make sure all the information on the exam was covered and that the
curriculum expectations were met. This increased my confidence when I taught my lessons in

front of the class as I was able to concentrate on projecting the information rather than being
unsure if the material was sufficient.
The lesson-planning portion of teaching was an area that both surprised me and
challenged me the most. It was an area that I saw the greatest improvement in based on my own
opinion. I was shocked how easy it was for me to present the material to the class as I originally
thought that would be the more difficult part. Although it did get better, lesson planning
consumed the majority of my evenings throughout placement. I was surprised how long it took to
make PowerPoint presentations from scratch and accompany them with pictures, transitions,
videos, worksheets, and activities. In addition to planning the lessons and constructing the
worksheets, photocopying also took longer than I expected. At first, I would photocopy during
my prep period first thing in the morning, but because it sometimes felt stressful trying to find a
free photocopier, I began photocopying after school. I felt making this change helped me
significantly as it allowed me to be more relaxed in the morning and focus on the material for the
upcoming lesson.
When I was a high school student, my teachers would often lecture first and then hand
out worksheets of questions. Although it was not very engaging or enjoyable, I did learn and
achieve good grades. I knew lecturing would be an important part of my lessons especially for a
grade 11-university level biology class since the unit was heavily material-based. Due to the time
constraints and the abundance of material, lectures were almost mandatory. From my first lesson
to my last, I incorporated both lecture-based aspects and activities into every lesson in order to
get the material across and keep the students engaged. Some activities included a blood donation
lab, measuring heart rate, determining tidal volume, and Digest-o-Rama board game. This
seemed to work very well from the beginning with grade 11 university-level students so I would

continue to use these tactics, but this may not be the case with lower grade levels and in that case
I would have to make some changes depending on the students.
As I gained more experience, my PowerPoints became shorter with fewer points and
more pictures. I was able to decipher the key information and cut out information of less
importance. I realized it was important to include transitions so points came across one at a time
during PowerPoint presentations. This allowed the students to write down the information pointby-point without being overwhelmed. Furthermore, it provided opportunity for students to stop
and listen to my explanations. I felt that one of the most important feedback ideas suggested by
my associate teacher included waiting until every student had their pencil down before
explaining the concept that way I had everyones attention. Students seemed to learn best when a
3D life object was included to support the concept. For instance, when explaining the diffusion
of oxygen from the alveoli in the lungs to the blood vessels during breathing, I used a pink
balloon to resemble to the lungs, filled it with vanilla, blew it up, and then had a red, long-skinny
balloon to resemble to blood vessel. As I moved the balloon you could smell the vanilla. The tiny
gas particles were diffusing through the material of the balloon but the liquid remained in the
balloon just like the blood remains in the blood vessels. The small pores are permeable to oxygen
and carbon dioxide and therefore, they diffuse in opposite directions. I would continue to try to
incorporate as many 3D representations as I could to further enhance the students learning.
Although lesson planning was strenuous, I felt a sense of accomplishment and pride with the
completion of each well-constructed lesson.
I used a variety of assessment strategies to gage the students level of understanding. In
regards to assessment of learning, after each system of the human body (circulatory, digestive,
and respiratory) they had a quiz. I gave these quizzes because I felt that it would give me an

honest indication of the students learning and what concepts should be revisited. It would also
provide the students with an opportunity to increase their marks and/or gage their level of
understanding. I would definitely do this again as I found giving quizzes was both beneficial for
the teacher as well as for the students. At the end of placement, my students were given a unit
test. I kept the format consistent with the quizzes so the students knew what to expect. I felt that
through lecturing and the activities the students were prepared for the test and the marks
supported this conclusion. In order to incorporate a variety of assessments and include creativity,
the students had to make a PowerPoint presenting a new drug to combat a disorder of either the
circulatory, respiratory, or digestive systems as their culminating activity. I would continue to use
a similar assignment as it proved to engage the students and also provide them an opportunity to
display their learning using a different method. One thing I would change, would be making the
success criteria I tad more challenging as all the students received very good grades on this
Throughout the activities during class, students were engaged in assessment as learning
where they would work in groups to find information to complete tables, diagnose individuals
acting like patients based on symptoms, and discuss answers to different questions.
Differentiated instruction techniques such as bubble maps were used for assessment for
learning to gage the level of knowledge prior to the start of the unit. I also implemented
differentiate instruction techniques such as exit card, fist of five, gallery walk, and think-pairshare, to keep the students engaged and assess their understanding. I would continue to use
differentiated instruction techniques and group work as it broke up the lecturing aspect of the
lesson and kept the students interested. When they worked in groups, they were able to learn
from one another and foster discussion, which I think is an important skill. One thing I would

consider would be to rotate between allowing the students to make their own groups versus me
choosing their groups that way they would build relationships with others in the classroom and
hear different view points.
During the five weeks of placement, the student-teacher relationships that I developed
provided me a better indication of the characteristics of different learners. To supplement the
teaching during class, I offered lunchtime help for those students who either missed class or
struggled with the material. I felt that giving students this extra help significantly aided in
building those student-teacher relationships. I was able to see the different strengths and
weakness students had and incorporate these observations into more effective lessons. I realized
that the material covered later in the lesson seemed to be less understood, potentially because of
their diminished attention. I therefore, shortened the PowerPoints to no longer than half the class
and concluded the lesson with an activity. These activities ranged from using the iPads, acting,
discussions, labs, dissections, and board games. Some days, I did not require the students to copy
any notes down to incorporate variety within the unit. In addition, students seemed to be very
interested when I integrated science in society articles from the news. For one lesson, students
had to read an article suggesting ideas to increase the healthiness of food found in cafeterias.
Afterwards, in groups they discussed and wrote down ideas they thought would be reasonable to
incorporate in their own cafeteria using a bubble map template. Following this, they took part in
a gallery walk in which they were able to see other groups ideas. This activity proved to be very
successful as students actively participated in a class discussion. They were interested in the
topic and it related well with the nutrition component of the unit. As a future teacher, I will
definitely continue to incorporate current articles from the news as I felt it was a very effective

An insightful moment occurred involving the expression of different learning strategies

during the dissection of the fetal pig. I saw those students who were very book-smart struggle
with the dissection while those students with lower grades strive at the dissection. These handson activities benefited the students as I saw their marks go up on quizzes as well as their interest
in biology increase. At that point I realized the significant impact using different learning
strategies has on student success.
One of the interesting aspects of my placement involved my associate teacher recording
my lessons with an iPad. This helped me reflect on my self-development. As he recorded my
lessons for the first two weeks, I was able to watch my self teach. This, in addition to his
feedback, allowed me to see which areas needed minor improvements and which areas I could
focus less on. As the weeks went by, I realized the changes I made and the positive effect these
changes had on my teaching. For example, waiting longer after asking a question increased the
number of volunteers willing to participate. Because I taught back-to-back grade 11 university
level biology classes, I realized how much easier it is to teach a lesson the second time around. I
was more confident and less nervous to include personal examples or knowledge. Adding my
personal touch to lessons seemed to make the material more interesting to the students while
helping build that student-teacher relationship. I would continue to use these tactics. By the end
of my five-week placement, I was a more confident teacher. I know that many of the techniques
and teaching strategies that I learned from my associate teacher I will use when I become a