Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Over Their Heads

My Writing Workshop lesson went over their heads this afternoon. Flew over like a jumbo jet landing at JFK. Zoom!

Vocab...even with explanation...over their heads. Concepts, over their heads. Task, over their heads. Then when they were good and numb I gave them an activity in groups that were too big, and they had forgotten the persuasive essay format so they struggled with the activity without explicit directions from me.

Lessons I learned:

Give explicit directions with a procedure including step by step instructions, for a simplified lesson written in language they can all understand and give them a writing prompt that will reinforce a simplistic version of the concept I would normally teach to an older audience. No more than 4 people in a group and each group member should have a role.

If you refer back to a procedure you have taught before, have students take a look at it as you are refering to an example, so they can look for it in the text.

In practicum tonight we learned a new sentence to help us remember how to keep students motivated to learn: Children Feel Really Successful in Kindergarten.

Concern, Level of (set expectations, provide them with a useful reason for the activity, homework, test)
Feeling Tone (rapport with students)
Reward (social, non-social)
Success (students are motivated by successes)
Interest (novelty, sensationalism, movement)
Knowledge of Results (giving students explicit feedback on their behavior when you are giving your praise, tell them what you liked that they did so they are more likely to do it again)


Where I'm AT

Today was a tough day of teaching, but I learned from my mistakes.

My math lesson didn't go as planned. I tried to anticipate things, but until you actually teach some lessons, you just don't know how the kids will respond. Today I learned that you have to be very explicit when giving directions to 4th graders.

Some of them don't know how to work in groups or to work cooperatively with one another, others do. The in-class assignment was to work in your group to measure one wall of the classroom and then to confer with another group that also measured that wall as well to see how close their measurements were. We would meet back together after the kids had an opportunity to measure their wall and all report what we learned before drawing a scale drawing of our corporate findings in our Math Journals.

You have to tell them that they can measure the floor length and width instead of trying to strain to reach the walls. They are very literal.

They have to be told they can use the floor tiles as an assisting measurement device because the tiles are a foot long each.

They have to be reminded that the measuring sticks are meter sticks, not yard sticks and that if they decide to measure in inches or yards they will have to convert the distance to feet because our scale is 1/4 inch on the grid paper to each actual foot that they measure.

They need to be told the exact procedure for deciding how to break up the wall they are assigned to measure, to record the length or width in feet and inches and which group to confer with when they are done to make sure their results are accurate. You may even have to break the room up into sections and assigned each group member a section to measure, or assign each group a section to measure.

Tell the groups that have the walls with the windows or the doors, they need to measure the door or windows themselves and the how to account for the distance between the windows on their grids. You should also address this with the group so when they go to make the drawing, it is accurately reflected in their scale drawing.

You should have a scale drawing of the room set up on an overhead grid so that each group can report back to you and you have a completed illustration to show the group, so that they will know what elements you expect to see on their own grids.

When each group is done measuring...get each group's estimates of their assigned walls and find the median of each set of measurements. Pick whole numbers. Decide how much of the grid paper you will actually need by asking students to compare the length and width of the room, with the actual number of squares you have in the length and width of the grid paper. Our grid paper was 25 x 30 and we only needed 20 x 30. Some students didn't note this on their grids and used the whole paper. Others didn't pay attention when I later noted that they needed to pay attention to the way the sample rough drawing and scale drawing looked in the opposite Math Journal page. They needed to make sure theirs looked like the one in the journal and needed to include similar markings as the one in the journal: i.e. measurements, drawings representing the door and windows, arrows along the side accompanying the measurements in feet.

I have to reteach this one tomorrow to get adequate results from my students. They're not going to like that very well...but live and learn!

Monday, March 23, 2009

Good News....Bad News....

Good News
I'm only 3 pounds away from being within the top of my weight bracket for my height and body composition.

Bad News
I would have accomplished this feat last week when I weighed three pounds less.

That's right, poor eating, lack of exercise, a cold and my period have prompted a record 3 lbs. weight gain in one week.

I only have one week to redeem myself before I put myself on a weight loss sabatical until I finish my student teaching and then get serious about the weight loss again.

Friday, March 20, 2009

Plenty for them to Do...

When you it's time for PSSAs, have a plentiful list of things your kids can do on the board when they're done, so they don't experience any idle time.

Have them catch up on unfinished assignments, work on an activity packet, or read independently. Keep'em busy doing something educational. Something your principal would approve of. :)

I Need a Personal Timing Device or at the Very Least, a Lasso

You mean a watch?

I mean a watch or a kitchen timer or something that will alert me when I need to move on to the next thing I'm supposed to be doing. Sometimes I find that I become so engrossed in helping a student with a math problem that I forget it's time to start the day with everyone else. Ah! Time management issues!

Trying to keep the lesson moving and keeping everyone engaged is a challenge because you don't want to leave anyone behind, but you can't hold up the entire class to rope the stragglers. My Co-op has been very helpful in helping me to learn how to keep the group moving, allowing the more accelerated students to keep working, while permitting me to assist the struggling ones on the side. She's shown me how to teach the lesson, explain the work the class should continue to do, and allow the rabbits to move on, while creating a small group to work with the tortoises. Tricks of the trade!

Mindful of my policy to "leave no student behind" I can then take the opportunity to pull some kids aside and perhaps present the material again, or in a different way to help them to understand the concept being taught that day. Most of the time, they'll get it, but sometimes they don't, and you can't expect all of them to get everything that day. If at first you don't succeed, try, try again.

And some of them STILL just might not get it.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Interesting Stat for Teachers

Tonight in practicum class my teacher told me that statistically speaking:

25% of your students will automatically love you
25% of your students will like you but could be persuaded to not like you
25% of your students won't like you but could be persuaded to like you
25% of your students just won't like you...and you can't do anything to change it. That's the way of things.

It makes me wonder, "statistically speaking" of course, which students are in each category. I have my suspicions.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

The Evidence Surrounds Me

One day, in the very near past I was having a little pitty party stressing out about the future, and I was doing housework because I couldn't sleep. Too much on my mind! So I cleaned out the litter box, did laundry and unloaded the dishwasher. There were a few dishes in the sink, so I decided to wash them by hand. As I'm drying them I notice several dishes that don't belong to me, they belong to my girlfriends.

There's the little ceramic dish that held the stuffed shells from Jynell, "because I know you like them." There's the cake container from Kallie who heard me admire the recipe and decided to bring me a piece.

There are other items around the friends have let me borrow...there's the audio CD set of "Love and Respect" my girl Rachel lent to me so that I could benefit from it's wisdom.

Another time, I received an encouraging card with a handwritten note from Kallie.

Just tonight I got an instant message on FB from my neighbor Michelle who had some dessert tea for me she thought I would like to try!

Michelle W. and I feed the ducks together and talk about what's new with our lives and family. She has me over for coffee and we chat.

My friend Dorothy knows I'm a poor, unemployed grad student and she often picks up the tab at Assous! Then she helps me run it off later.

I'm surrounded by angels and I have much for which I can be thankful:

Kallie, thanks for getting my butt off the couch, the awesome pedicure, the laughter, the encouragement and the godly FB wisdom you share!

Rach, thanks for getting my butt of the couch and for being a weightloss inspiration and example of tenacity in action.

Dor R. thanks for getting my butt of the couch, for caring enough to ask, and for the good times running, meals at Assou's and your listening ears and good advice.

Neighbor Michelle, thanks for your delish dishes and our chats! You really are a sweetie!

I have many girls to thank for the many blessings they give to me. If I didn't mention you in this post, know that I love you and I consider you another jewel of Heaven! I hope I get an opportunity to be a blessing to you as you have been to me. Tis better to give than to receive!

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Half-Way There

I've reached THAT milestone. I'm half-way through my student teaching experience. I haven't been this tired since the end of a semester back in undergrad. I feel like I'm falling asleep at the keyboard. If you think of me, say a prayer for me...that I'll "finish strong," drive safely, and meet and even exceed the requirements of my student teaching experience.

Also pray for my relationship with my husband, that I would treat him the way I should (with respect) and not the way I want to treat him out of frustration or impatience. I have to work very hard not to use the "teacher voice" on him. He feels free to tell me I'm using it on him whenever we have a confrontation. I think he just doesn't realize that I've learned to use kinder words during a confrontation...apparently that qualifies as my "teacher voice" instead of as an improved method of conflict resolution. Go figure!

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Lessons from a 4th Grade Field Trip

We have returned from Harrisburg! "We" meaning myself, three other teachers, various chaperones and about 75 4th graders.

Let me begin by stating that all in all it was a successful field trip. I enjoyed it thoroughly and even learned a few things along the way.

#1. Some parents that said they are coming may send their spouse as a substitute chaperone.

#2. Some students who weren't coming before will change their minds and come.

#3. Vomit splatters down Italian marble steps just like regular steps, only fancier.

#4. Always have your own plastic barf bags on hand, just in case the school nurse sends you on your way without an adequate supply.

#5. Parents sometimes need to be chaperoned. They like to ask you if they have enough time to do this or that just like your kids do. It's kinda funny.

#6. Reminding your kids about their manners allows the message to eventually sink in and it rubs off on them. They learn to behave well in public. People even compliment you on your kids from time to time. It's a good feeling.

#7. Children can be generous too. On the bus, several of the girls came up the aisle after we were on the way home from Chocolate World and presented their pregnant teacher with a onesie from the gift shop that said something to the effect of "I drool for chocolate" with a Hershey bar on it. Super cute.

#8. Drink caffeine on the way home so you're not the teacher who falls asleep and gets his picture taken on the bus with his mouth hanging open.

#9. There will inevitably be a kid in your group who told his parents the wrong time to pick him up, so have your permission slips and emergency numbers ready to go with your cell phone in hand.

#10. The best laid plans of mice and men...sometimes fall apart, so be ready to be flexible!

Supplemental Notes:

Prescreen movies before you show them on a bus trip. Only pick rated G movies.

Arrange your kids and chaperones using a seating chart so there is no question of where they are to be seated or who might be missing at the end of the day or between stops.

Have an itineary to hand to each parent chaperone as well as a map for each place you are going (when you get to each place, hand them a map and remind them of the place and time to meet)