Summer Practicum- Day Three- July 11th, 2007

“The work can wait while you show the child the rainbow, but the rainbow won’t wait while you do the work.” ~ Patricia Clafford

We learned about ‘le crayon’, how the French created the modern pencil. It was because Napoleon did not want France to depend on England for graphite, so Nicholas Conte ground up graphite into a powder, mixed it with clay, and inserted it into wooden holders. This way they did not use nearly as much graphite; this was also the start of the modern pencil.

We put up a picture of a pencil along with the date on the Invention Timeline. I also had them draw one on their map of France so they can get an idea of some of the important cities in France.

I feel that my methods are a little random. Having the “Invention” theme is good, because they are interested in knowing how things work. But it may have been simpler just to have a theme like “A Star Voyage Around France”. I have “star inventors and inventions” as my connection to the theme of “Reach for the Stars”.

Again things were taking much longer than I had expected. We filled out a graphic organizer answering the question words in French.

Then I connected pencils to colors and we moved on to Hot Air Balloons, les Montgolfieres, also created by the French. We learned the colors in French and made hot air balloons with various colors.


Next, I used a classic teacher secret weapon for learning- candy! I had Starburst and lollipops and made them say what color they wanted. This worked very well, of course everyone started raising their hand, and many of them more than once.

And next thing I new it, class was over. I introduced them to ‘goodbye’ vocabulary and will have to review it again for day 4 and the rest of the days.

The best part of it was that they learned some good information and French vocabulary, and they had fun. There was hands-on, multisensory learning. There is still way too much room for improvement on my part, but I felt better about today than I did about the other days.

Summer Practicum – Day Two – July 10th, 2007

“A hundred years from now it will not matter what my bank account was, the sort of house I lived in, or the kind of car I drove . . . . but the world maybe different because I was important in the life of a child.” ~ Kathy Davis

I was reflecting as I worked on my unit plan rough drafts (also a period lacking the majority of the sleep i should have been getting) about the fact that I actually must want to be a teacher. Sure, people might say they want to be a teacher or think they want to be a teacher and not realize. Oh the work behind even a decent lesson.

Day Two- the bicycle. My unit is on French inventions and inventors and I am trying to show them how the French have helped us out, and also get in some French vocabulary and grammar. And I have to work with a theme: “Reach for the Stars” and try and relate that to every last piece of information we deal with.

I had them do a graphic organizer when we learned about the invention of the first bicycle. I forgot to tell them the hilarious story of me learning to ride a bike by being pushed down a hill and simply being told to pedal (it eventually worked, but not without minor injury).

We started to write on the word wall (where we put up new French words we have learned). I also had them draw a bike on a map of France and we put it up on the “Les Inventions en Histoire” (Inventions in History) timeline.

I incorporated the questioning words- who, what, why, where, when and how and had them do an activity with that.

Then we talked a little bit about Le Tour de France. I showed an educational video about it and had them answer the question words.

So how did all of it go? Okay. They were interested in some parts more than others, and as I learned from day One, they take quite a bit of prompting and probing to contribute thoughtfully. And since I am new at this, and excessively nervous, I am unable to get into using wait-time to allow for them to think, process, and to allow more students to come up with answers.

After observing other classes I realize that Day Two did not involve enough active, hands-on type learning. They were engaged, but not as motivated as I would have liked.

But I got through it. Teaching first thing is nice because they’re not wide-awake enough to be rowdy. Yet…

Summer Practicum – Day One – July 09th, 2007

“Experience is the worst teacher; it gives the test before presenting the lesson.” ~ Vernon Law

If this is the case, I may not have passed the first days’ class exam. There I was, in front of a truly diverse group of 15 middle-schoolers, and they sat there assessing me, while I wondered if they knew I did not have any idea of what was going on. Maybe I had some idea, but I lacked all kinds of adequate preparation. Procrastination is my best friend and worst enemy; in planning for this 2-week practicum, I found that procrastination was no longer (after more than 20 years of experience with it and academics) an option.

Every day takes a lot of time.

A lot of planning.

A good teacher not only knows their content (French in my case), but they know how to theoretically teach it, and they work on actually executing it effectively.

I have a lot more to say, but no time to say it, for I am weary, and must go plan day 3.

This “Summer Practicum”- What is it?!

I should have started off by providing all sorts of information about the practicum, but organization is not my strong suit, and I am quickly learning how important it is to make sure you logically sequence everything in teaching!

The Summer Practicum is part of a required Education course for my Secondary Education Masters to obtain my teaching certificate. (My certification will be in French specifically).

To quote Wikipedia (a source teachers are supposedly not supposed to use):

“A practicum is a college course, often in a specialized field of study, that is designed to give students supervised practical application of a previously studied theory. Practicums are common for education majors.”

I have no discrepancies with that definition (it’s better than I would have said it). Basically we just spent 5 weeks planning a 9-day, 72-minute-class-period unit that incorporates the theme “Reach for the Stars”.

The students are coming to this Summer “Enrichment” Program not because they did poorly in school, but because it is a fun way to learn (I’m sure most of their parents coerce them to go, but I have already seen in the first few days that they really do enjoy it).

They are middle-schoolers from all over Philadelphia, from a wide range of backgrounds, and most are between 11 and 13.

I teach first period from about 9:10-10:20am everyday, and then observe other teachers in the second and third period, and receive feedback on my teaching during the rest of the day as well. There is a short break called “advisory” where the students have a snack before 3rd period, and we watch them closely to make sure they are not misbehaving or getting too close (oh the budding romance of pre/adolescents).

If you have one of these practicums- do not take it lightly. They don’t call ours “boot camp” for nothing. We have to arrive by 8am, have a faculty meeting at 8:30, and go meet the students in the lobby at 9. They are only at the camp from 9-1 (four hours) but those four hours can feel like 8 or 10 depending on how the day goes.

As you read my blog, you’ll see that the toll it has taken on me is not just physical (from the long day of working and teaching), but mental (with the unbelievable amount of time it takes me to reflect, re-plan, and re-adjust the whole unit every night), and emotional too (I am way too sensitive about the feedback I receive. I can view it objectively, but combined with the exhausted and overworked state I keep being in throughout the week, it all combines to make me feel like quitting). It takes a toll on every part of you.

But every day I get more out of it than I might have imagined I would get out of the whole two weeks! It’s worth it. Because it can help you see that you either want to be a teacher, and it will help you know how much work it can be, or conversely, it will show you that teaching is not for you. As I go through it I feel both sides of this, and as my adviser told me- wait. Wait until this is over to even begin to collect my thoughts on that subject.

So there you have a brief and simultaneously rambly definition of a practicum (it’s obviously my definition, because I make words like rambly up)