Welcome. My name is James Comunale and through my teaching career my goal has been to make material easy for students to relate to and understand. I have done this by relating the material to real-life situations so students can make comparisons between content and things they can see everyday. My main focus is math and science, so my methods of teaching truly help students when much of what we go over in the course may not be visible to the naked eye. I am currently a teacher of Chemistry and Biology and look forward to sharing some of the information I go over in my class with you. I am flexible and am able to adapt my teaching style based on the various styles of learners.
Education & Certification
Undergraduate Degree: Duquesne University - Bachelors, Biology and Health Science
Graduate Degree: California University of Pennsylvania - Masters, Masters of Arts Teaching Science
Science, Math, Fitness, Hockey
High School Biology
High School Chemistry
Q & A
What is your teaching philosophy?
Most of my current work involves teaching Biology and Chemistry. With the continued importance of the Biology Keystone Exam and the difficulty in Chemistry with relating math to the science, it can be challenging for students to fully understand all aspects of the content material. Given this, my philosophy of teaching is to first be able to relate the material to the students and make it so they become interested in the short-term and long-term goal they are trying to obtain. I have seen in the past and present that when the students are interested in the material they understand it to a fuller extent and are then able to convert the information to long-term memory in a faster manner. In order to get the students interested or engaged, there are two different methods that I have found work best. The first would be to use materials to create a demonstration that the students can visually see. The other would be to show a video or talk about a real-life situation of how the material would relate to the student(s). Overall, my goal for teaching is to make the material, that can be very complicated for some students, the easiest to understand and apply so that they can recall the information and examples on formative and summative assessments.
What might you do in a typical first session with a student?
There are many different options for the first session with a student, and I feel it depends on the setting. In a classroom environment, I like to go over my expectations, rules, and classroom atmosphere/procedures. During this time, I like to show students how technology is constantly changing and go over some different technology and apps I use in the classroom. In a small class setting (4 to 5 students), I like to introduce myself and give a pre-assessment if I am staying focused on one area of content. This way, I can individualize each student and see where they are proficient and what areas of the subject material they need to improve on. Lastly, in a one-on-one setting, I like to introduce myself and have the student talk to me about their needs, where they are struggling, and what their expectations are so they can have the best experience that suits their individual learning needs.
How can you help a student become an independent learner?
In my classroom, I have a large web I set up for this purpose. To administrators, I call it my paradigm for learning. On the first day of school, I talk to students about this particular part of the web. I explain this as I don't mean to not ask me questions, because overall, this is what I am here for. However, I talk to them about thinking about questions or problems before they ask me. At the beginning of the year I do get a lot of questions that the students are able to think through; however, their critical thinking skills have not yet come out. Throughout the year, they begin to develop these skills and become independent learners where I am there to assist them when they hit a bump in the road, but I am not spoon-feeding them answers. The development of these skills is something that does not come quickly. I like to do a good bit of group work (i.e. think, pair, share) at the earlier parts of the year in order for the students to use each other and then share their ideas with the class. This then transitions to even smaller groups and, finally, individual thinking and sharing with the class. This gives them an opportunity to debate their ideas with their classmates and support their ideas about content.
How would you help a student stay motivated?
My biggest tool to keep a student motivated is to get them interested in the material. If a student is not interested in the material, there is a good chance that they will not be motivated. Along with this, I like to plan activities that discourage a student sitting in the same position for 46 minutes. Sometimes, this cannot be avoided, but if there is a small activity, group work, or a lab that can get a student out of their seat, I like to do it to keep them interested in the material. However, there are times when a student is not motivated, even with these activities. This is when you have to talk to the student and get to know them on an individual basis. You have to know their interests and then try to plan your lessons to incorporate them and their interests. This allows the teacher to act as a role model for the student and show the student that you care about them, their success, and their interests.
If a student has difficulty learning a skill or concept, what would you do?
The first thing that is important is to get to know the student. You must find out what type of learner they are. Some are auditory, while others are visual, and, in my opinion, most are psychomotor. After you find out the type of learner they are, I try to plan a lesson based on their style. This, in combination with relating the material to something that interests the students, makes the difficulty level of the material lessen. If the student is still having difficulty, I like to go through the steps with them and be positive with the things they have already grasped. This gives them a positive outlook on the problems and shows them that they do know things. I would then go through the step that they aren't quite understanding and show them how to relate it to what they already had mastered.
How do you help students who are struggling with reading comprehension?
Based on current test scores, I have found that students struggle most with nonfiction text comprehension. Given this, one of the goals of my SLO this year is to focus on reading comprehension throughout the school year. We do one nonfiction reading each week, and students will circle any words they do not know, square important words, and underline main ideas. Throughout the week, we complete a different task each day, and this helps students gain confidence with nonfiction text. As the year progresses the readings get more complex, starting off easy does help the students transition from easier to more difficult readings.
What strategies have you found to be most successful when you start to work with a student?
Finding out the learning style of the student is one of the most important things I found in order for a student to be successful. This is one of the ways they will gain confidence since the lessons will be catered to their individual needs. From here, you want to talk to the student and see what they expect from you and what they feel will benefit them. Many teachers use generic lessons that don't incorporate the needs of the students; however, if you formulate the lessons so they involve what a student enjoys, incorporate chunking methods to move at an appropriate pace based on the abilities of the students, and base the lessons off of real-life examples the students to see, then the students will be given the potential to be more successful.
How would you help a student get excited/engaged with a subject that they are struggling in?
Through many of the questions, I talk about relating the material to real-life situations. For my teaching style, this is the best hook (anticipatory set) to get the students engaged. When a student is struggling, it is good to divert their attention to something in the real world that they understand. Then, you can show how a small real-life example relates to the material. This way, the students gains confidence with the material and the example acts as something easy for the students to recall for assessments. In order to get the students excited, I like to find what they are interested in so I can find real-life examples based on their interests to relate the material to. I feel this works best to engage the students and to keep them engaged through the constant repetition of the example(s).
What techniques would you use to be sure that a student understands the material?
In small group or individual settings, I like to do a good bit of benchmarks to make sure students understand all of the short-term goals for a given content. Small exit slip, group or individual discussions, small worksheets, or daily opening tasks to review previous day material seem to work best to assess short-term goals. I particularly enjoy the discussions because students can demonstrate their knowledge without completing a lot of writing. For long-term goals, I like to use summative assessments (tests), labs to demonstrate knowledge of material, verbal discussions in substitution to written tests, or even project-based assessments.
How do you build a student's confidence in a subject?
To build confidence, a student must know that they are able to do the content. If a student is struggling, a good tactic to use is chunking the material to have short-term and long-term goals. When a short-term goal is completed, the student should be shown much positive reinforcement before moving on to the next short-term goal. If the student is struggling with the next short-term goal, a good idea is to return to the previous goal as a confidence booster so the student can see that they are able to complete the content and need to just work a little harder with the next goal. The chunking strategy can be a great booster of confidence for students who are struggling with building concepts in a certain area of content.
How do you evaluate a student's needs?
To evaluate a student's needs, I first see if they have any special needs (i.e. IEP, 504 plan, etc.). From here, I either look over the individualized plan or talk to the student about how their learning experiences have been so far in their academic career. I take into consideration their experiences and design my lessons about what has worked for the student and what has caused the student to have a negative experience. After this, I will reassess how the student is doing after a few meetings with them and see if my forms of instruction are meeting their needs or if something else needs to be done to accommodate their needs.
How do you adapt your tutoring to the student's needs?
As talked about in previous questions, I adapt my lessons based on the needs of the student. Every student is a different type of learner (visual, auditory, or psychomotor). I will use this in order to adapt my tutoring to fit their style of learning. I will also make it fit into their interests so they become interested in the subject and can see how it can apply to the world and their hobbies.
What types of materials do you typically use during a tutoring session?
During a tutoring session, I try to bring in some type of demonstration or video as an anticipatory set to get the students engaged. I also have some apps such as poll everywhere or kahoot in order to get the students engaged while, at the same time, having a means of formative assessment to make sure they are understanding the material. I also have PowerPoints made when we are learning new material or go over different steps in order to help them chunk material.