Foundational Understandings


In July 2009, I received the Recognition of Excellence from Educational Testing Service (ETS) for my performance on the Praxis II Elementary Education Content Knowledge assessment. I achieved a score of 185 out of a possible 200 points. "Your excellent performance earned a score that ranks within the top 15% of all test takers who took this assessment in previous years. This achievement indicates a high level of proficiency in an area critical for professional educators." My performance on this assessment demonstrates my solid understanding of subject matter.

Mathematics


Since math has always been my strongest subject in school, I was most eager to take this methods course and teach this to students. In elementary school, I took an advanced math course in fifth grade based on a test taken in fourth grade. The basis for the class was the students ability to problem solve and essentially test out of the fifth grade curriculum. The course I took instead was very hands on and exploration based. Some of my favorite math memories come from this class I took with students from all over the county. In middle school, my love for math grew as I took Algebra I and II and Geometry. In high school I advanced to Algebra II, Trigonometry and Math Analysis, AP Calculus AB, AP Calculus BC, and AP Statistics. My teachers for all of these courses used manipulatives and real life situations often to help us learn, providing me with a great mathematical background. Although not required to take any math courses in college, I have taken a statistics class in relation to psychology for my major. I also have taken an exploratory and foundational math class based on elementary content knowledge. This course focused on why things work the way they do in math and really allowed me to think about basic math in a deeper way. I believe that my background in school with manipulatives and the engaging lessons I was exposed to in my methods coursework have provided me with many great ideas to take into my classroom. The following is a skittle graphing lesson I completed with my students using actual skittles to help them graph the data.


Reading and Language Arts


After having taken a linguistics course as a pre-requisite for the education school, I became very intrigued with the english language. The processes that take place to not only learn a language but the complexities involved in speaking, writing, and comprehending language are also very fascinating to me. For this reason, I was very interested in the Reading and Language Arts methods course I took through the Education School. This course exposed me to the many strategies, skills, and techniques used to teach reading and writing from the very basic skills to the more advanced skills taught in the upper grades. Always an avid reader, it is my goal that all students will enjoy reading and view it as an activity of choice rather than force. Based on my past, I am especially focused on aiding all students in his or her reading ability - emphasizing fluency, comprehension, and re-telling abilities. Through these skills, I believe that students will be able to succeed at readers, no matter the level. It is very much a growing process and can open students up to new worlds to explore. The following is a comprehension lesson taught to a first grade class during my research methods course. The students were very engaged during this lesson and able to focus on re-telling the story for comprehension, a huge component of reading.



Social Studies


Living in Virginia, I have grown up around all sorts of history that provides great lessons and extensions for students. There are many great opportunities to let students experience history that they learn about in the classroom. If it is not possible to visit these locations, there are other ways to bring this experience to the classroom. My research methods course allowed me to explore these various options through map and globe skill lessons, art lessons, biography lessons, and inquiry based lessons. Acquiring all of these skills is important for students of all ages. Incorporating the arts is especially important to me because of the high school program I completed, which was based on the Humanities. We learned about art, philosophy, drama, and music in my courses, which I have carried over to my planning and teaching. I have also extended this learning to college where I have taken basic survey art history courses, private violin lessons, a military history course, and Latin American History course. The following is a lesson I created to use in my first grade classroom on map skills and American symbols and icons.




Science

Although science was not always my strongest subject, I thoroughly enjoyed taking the more exploratory and lab-based science courses in high school. Some of my favorite assignments were in science class because they were more hands-on activities. Completing science research projects in middle and high school also exposed me to a wealth of topics to learn about. I attended and presented at the Virginia Junior Academy of Science for four years as well as the Richmond Metro Science Fair for two years, where I won Honorable Mention awards and a first place award for my projects. This inquiry based science approach is the one I use when planning science lessons. In high school I took Earth Science, Honors Biology, Honors Chemistry, and Honors Physics. Since being in college, I have taken Astronomy with a lab, Physical Geography with a lab, Physiological Psychology, and Foundations in Learning and Memory. The courses I took with labs were very hands on and exploration-based. My science methods course also emphasized this in lesson planning for students. The following is a group lesson planned during the course that was taught to a first grade class called a Science Circus. It was completed during one day and students rotated through various centers that were all tied to a plant unit. It is very exploration based and guided by the students with teachers as facilitators.



Art

It is through the arts that students are able to best express themselves in my opinion. Therefore, I believe it is essential to integrate all aspects of the arts into the classroom. This can be accomplished through artwork, music, dance, theater, and even philosophy. Especially in the lower grades, which I have had the most experience with, students can convey a message through pictures easier than words sometimes. It is also more beneficial in these situations to have students illustrate his/her thoughts and have them explain the picture instead of struggling through a longer writing assignment. There is also always relevant music that can accompany many units and topics taught in school. Even if it is just played as background music during an entrance or exit ticket to a lesson, or if the students are engaged in the music and studying various components of the song or type of music, it can provide an exciting lesson. From my high school coursework, I have been exposed to art, architecture, drama, and philosophy and feel that I have a solid background to pull from for my classroom.



Health


Physical health is an important topic to cover in school, especially with young students. They are very impressionable and have tons of energy that should be monitored throughout the day. There are a variety of ways to incorporate health related issues into the classroom. In our science methods course, we learned about fun ways to reach out to kinesthetic learners through active math facts, where students are given a math problem they must solve and complete that number of exercises (i.e. 2+4=6; student will complete 6 jumping jacks). This allows students to practice important addition skills while getting out of his/her seat to get some of the wiggles out during the day. Students also learn about the body and the food groups in the P.E./Dance resource they attend at Waller Mill Elementary School. The depth of information varies by grade level, which I noticed while observing; however, the content provided is relevant to what the students can comprehend and truly benefit from individually. Through activities and programs such as these, students can be informed about ways in which to improve and maintain his/her health.

Other Relevant Test Scores


The Virginia Communication and Literacy Assessment (VCLA) is a requirement for licensure in the state of Virginia.
My scores and the standard scores and compared in the table below:

VCLA Subtest
My Score
Standard Score
Reading Subtest (300 possible)
291
235
Writing Subtest (300 possible)
274
235
Total (600 possible)
565
470 (minimum passing score)

The Virginia Reading Assessment (VRA) for Elementary and Special Educators.
My scores and the standard scores and compared in the table below:


My Score
Minimum Passing Score
VRA (300 possible)
267
235

My performance on these assessments confirms a solid foundational understanding of the central role of literacy skills in student learning.