15 Practicum Tips from a HKU Lecturer
Recently, I had my last Professional Practicum for my part-time PGDE course in Early Childhood Education (ECE) at HKU and felt that people might benefit from the feedback I got from my teacher. Some of my feedback will be specific to ECE, but I am hoping most of it will be useful across all PGDE courses.
What is a Professional Practicum?
One of your teachers will come in and observe you teach. I’m on the part-time course, so I had one visit in the first year which was a practice run (it’s not graded), and then two observations in the second year. I did my first one in September and my second in March.
What is it Composed of?
There are two parts to this. At the time of writing, you have to give your teacher a curriculum folder that consists of a themed web, six learning areas, A four-week lesson plan and a one-day detailed lesson plan. If your curriculum folder is missing one of these, your teacher will leave, and you will have to reschedule. The last part is the actual teaching part which you will do on the day you are observed.
What Will I be Marked on?
Teaching plan: The four-week curriculum outline, one-day detailed teaching plan. Teaching performance: learning environment, interaction skills, language and speech, classroom management, use of realia and facilities, professional attitude towards students, quality of student learning and teaching effectiveness.
As you may have observed, more weight is put on your performance on the day. Here are some tips below that I hope will help!
7 Tips for Documentation/Planning
1.) Theme webs are meant as a guide to help you develop a theme and it’s subsequent sub-themes, but remember to only include the concepts that you will actually teach. You don’t have to cover everything under a specific theme, only the stuff you will actually teach. While we are on the topic of theme webs, make sure your sub-themes are related to the theme. Don’t put history in there if you are talking about the environment. This is basic, but it will surprise you what you miss when under pressure.
2.) Objective statements should be clear and identify the knowledge/skill/attitude you want to develop. This caused a lot of confusion for me and they can be easily confused with assessments of learning (at least for me). There is an excellent write up on how to do learning objectives here.
3.) When planning your P.E lessons, make sure you are developing specific skills in mind. For most curriculum documents, and especially in Early Years development, these milestones are important.
4.) A one-day detailed lesson plan takes into account all the objectives, activities, assessments and your resources for the lesson that is observed. Make sure you list all your teaching and learning resources.You only really need to make sure these are exact for the lesson that is observed. For sure, Your teacher will look at your detailed lesson plan for the day and see if the items you use are listed. If not, you will be marked down. Also, make sure your rationale for using resources is logical. If you’re asking students to all draw ideas on a big sheet of paper as a group, what’s the reason for doing this? Could they just draw on separate pieces of paper and collect them together later?
5.) The six learning areas help you see if you have a balance of objectives across Physical Fitness and Health, Early Mathematics, Language, Science and Technology, Self and Society and Arts. This is important because if it is not balanced properly, then your students will be deficient in some areas and stronger in others.
6.) Make sure to prepare some extra material to enhance understanding of concepts if students struggle to grasp the concepts you want them to learn. Have multiple activities available to allow students to approach the same concept in various ways.
7.) Make sure your displays have headings to introduce your students work as well as brief descriptions to show their learning. If you are covering a concept, like technology, for example, make sure display boards are covered with pictures that students have brought in. Prior to your teacher visiting, you might want to ask them to take pictures of technology in their home to make the learning more relatable to them rather than having some generic pictures of things your students have no relationship with. Relatability to students’ own personal life will show that you have thought about connecting home-school learning.
8 Teaching Tips
1.) Starting a lesson by referencing the previous lesson is a good way to start so you can link it to new concepts. When asking questions, make sure they are age appropriate. For example, if you are teaching children, try and avoid lots of “why?” questions, as children struggle with those.
2.) Make sure your students understand the task you’re asking them to do. It will quickly become apparent that you haven’t explained something properly when your students are walking around clueless.
3.) Integrate your experiences under the theme to contextualise them. A simple example of this, if your theme is Food, and you are doing a math component, get the students to count food items or do some role-play around going to the supermarket and spending money.
4.) Activities should be set up in the classroom for independent learning. Make sure that the activity you arrange is well thought out. Especially in how students are going to interact with the activity. Is there enough space? Have you prepared enough material? Have you thought about how to manage the mess that students could make? Also, activities should be designed with all students as participants and with co-operation in mind to foster student interaction.
5.) Encourage students to ask each other questions. It is perfectly okay to provide students opportunities to describe things to each other. Make sure to involve other students in the discussion when a student is presenting.
6.) Make sure you are on top of class management. Don’t be afraid to manage students if they become unruly.
7.) Acknowledge the effort of your students. Giving appropriate feedback to students is important and will be marked. When teaching, make sure you acknowledge students’ ideas, even if they seem quite off topic. When I did my last practicum, I talked about “safety at sea”, and some of the students mentioned that you shouldn’t wander off when you are on the beach because some bad people might kidnap you and take you to China! Yikes!
8.) When using a material for artwork, introduce it by name and give your students the vocabulary to describe it. This is important, please do not make samples of artwork to show your students or it may limit their creativity. Give them inspiration instead, like pictures/objects to reference.
Anything to Add?
That’s about it, for now, folks. Have you done your practicum and have some thoughts to share? Leave me a comment below and thanks for taking the time to read my blog post!