Friday, January 29, 2010

A New Approach

I am ending this week feeling like I am standing on unleveled ground with a subject that I actually felt very comfortable teaching. Reading has been such a pleasure to teach because it is my favorite subject and it lends itself to using great instructional methods. It took a while to get used using the basal and learning the structure of the teacher guide and the flow of the week, but now that I’ve got it down, it is a source of comfort because I know what I need to do each day because it is prescribed for me. I have, of course, incorporated my own activities that add diversity to the learning experience and give students opportunities to creatively apply the strategies and skills they have learned. Nonetheless, I have felt secure in using the basal because I know what I need to teach and many suggestions on how to teach it.

Now that the pendulum has started swinging back to a more holistic approach to reading instruction other than the currently prescribed curriculum, I am a little nervous about how I can effectively stray from the basal while still teaching the content and priority standards required by the district. I am excited that I can be a part of this new wave because it will give me more depth to reading instruction abilities. I know that I have what it takes to successfully give my students meaningful experiences with authentic literature and with ‘Just Right’ books. I think that I will begin to feel less stressed about it all by thinking more deliberately about how to change the face of the literacy block in my classroom.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

I Shall Return

Wow...this has been the craziest week and a half of my life!!!! I have been super busy since I am planning for completely taking over my second subject. I started with Reading and now I'm on to Math! I have to have all of my lesson submitted the Friday before the week I'm going to teach them. I don't think I realized how busy this would make my life during the week! I plan on posting this weekend about the lows and highs of the week. I hope everyone is having an incredible week...the weekend is almost here!

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Fighting Words

I witnessed my first fight in my classroom today. It was by no means the first one of the year, but it was the first one for which I was actually present. It was a skirmish (using one of our vocab words this week!) between two students that have had an altercation before. After talking to parents and working with the pair to resolve their issues, we didn’t see any real problems. We put them in the same group when we rearranged desks and we didn’t have any problems to begin with. Recently they had been going at it a little and we decided to move them. We wanted them to try to work it out, but given their history it wasn’t worth it. Today at lunch, there was an issue with one of the boys throwing crayons at the other one. I intervened and told both parties to stop throwing things and if they didn’t have anything nice to say, they shouldn’t say anything at all. This seemed to do the trick, but boy was I wrong!! We were lining up for recess and I purposely called groups to line up in a way that would not put those two students together. Somehow, unknown to me, they were standing right next to each other in line. I turned around, saw them, and attempted to tell them to separate, but before I could, D. turned and shoved P. with full force-even knocking another student in his path to the ground. I was so flustered in that instance and had no clue what to do. I immediately moved D. out of the room and called for the principal who happened to be standing in the hallway at the time. I then asked P. if he was okay and sent him to my CT. We had to send the other girl who was collateral damage to the nurse for a bruised nose. I’ve always wondered what I would do if a fight broke out in the classroom….now I know.

Saturday, January 9, 2010

Shooting Stars

On Friday, I requested an announcement be made wishing our basketball team good look at their game. I felt so bad, because the secretary add libbed "good luck boys" at the end of the announcement....we have 1 girl on the team. I made sure to clarify this statement in my class with "good luck boys and girl".

This morning I went out to support some of my students playing in their first basketball game. I told them that I was coming, but I don't think many of them believed me. So, I showed up, all decked out in the school colors and ready to lose my voice cheering them on! I had never seen a kid basketball game before, so it took a while for me to get used to the double dribbles and traveling that happened with just about each pass! By the second half, the team got into a rhythm and put down some nice shots. So who won.......WE DID!! GO STARS!! It was really great to see kids shine on the court, who do not shine as much in the classroom. Everyone is good at's amazing when they actually have a chance to show it. The looks on their faces at the end of the game were priceless! I'm glad I got to see those faces instead of ones of disappointment. I would say about 85% of the team is comprised of pouters, whiners, and sore losers. I hope they keep on winning...but I hope if they do lose a game, it can be a teachable moment about how to lose graciously. The game next Saturday is at 8:30am...I may just be there in spirit because my flesh will probably be snoozing!

Friday, January 8, 2010

Desk Arrangement Disaster

Attempting to try something new, we put our students in groups of 4 to give them an opportunity to work more collaboratively with assignments and to motivate some students who have had some behavioral and academic challenges by grouping them with some students who are positive role models in both areas. This was such a challenge because we had more people who needed role models than we had role models to group them with. We have quite a few students who cannot be paired with almost half the class because they are easily distracted by those students. I have come to the conclusion today that our current arrangements WILL NOT WORK!!! There were two of four groups that were off task just about all day. It was only when their groups were broken up and dispersed throughout the room that we saw even a hint of change in behavior. I really don't know if I want go from groups to maybe pairs or just try a new set of 4-person groups...gotta figure something out for Monday!

Thursday, January 7, 2010

On the Bright Side

So, no snow day today....BUT.....we only had 9 students come to class today!! I know it is going to be torture getting the other half of the class caught up on what they missed today but I absolutely LOVED the smaller class (not that my class of 18 students isn't small to begin with). I was able to do things with this group that fail miserably when the rest of the class is to enrich content, allowing students to complete independent work on the carpet (which usually becomes a disaster when more than one student in on the carpet!) With me and my CT there, we were able to provide more one on one attention, which was great during our math lesson on mixed numbers and improper fractions. Even though the students who actually showed up today are the more 'rambuncious' of the group, they were amazingly well-behaved!! I even wrote two POSITIVE notes home for two students who are often the most difficult to deal with. Even though I did not get my snow day, they day didn't turn out to be too bad!

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Learning as I Go

My 2 weeks of winter break were nice and relaxing. I was able to get quite a few books read and of course, I purchased some more! I am currently reading The Lovely Bones by Alice Sebold and it is a great book! Break technically isn't over for me until this Friday because my student teaching program does winter break based on the university schedule, not the school district schedule. I, however, decided to come back this past Monday. I just felt like it would be better for me to come back when my students did. Them seeing me here all day, everyday from the start helps them to see me not as "the assistant", but more as a "real teacher". It's funny though because they asked me today if I would be there tomorrow because last semester I was not in the classroom because I had to attend my methods classes.

I have assumed all morning routines and have been planning and implementing lessons for reading. In addition, I have been planning work station activities for the students to complete during Guided Reading. Our theme is Voices of the Revolution, and our anthology selection has been about Paul Revere. One of the work station activities was called "Old Words, New Words", in which students search the selection for 'old' words that the author uses that are not used much today (ex: porringer). Then they were to look up a definition for the word or use context clues to define it. Finally they were to write a 'new word' or a synonym to the old world that we use today (ex: bowl). The second activity was writing a narrative from the perspective of Paul Revere's horse (how he felt during the ride, what his/her personality is like.

I wanted to do the same two activities for the whole class because I felt like it would allow students to work together and get help from each other because there was a strong likelihood they were working on the same activity. Unfortunately, it did not go as planned. It wasn't a total disaster but there were quite a few students who were not very productive during this time. After observing which students were working, I noticed that most of my students who struggle with reading were the ones who were off task/disruptive. I think the task of the "Old Words, New Words" was a bit too challenging. Even with my assistance, it still wasn't clicking. Lesson Learned: I have to work harder to differentiate these activities. It would be great if they all could do the same one, but that is not realistic. I am well aware of differentiation, but for whatever reason, it never occurred to me to differentiate work station activities. Well, those who know better, do better!

I have cut my hours down at the after school program from 3 to 2 days/week. I must say, it felt pretty great to be home before 6:30pm!! I left school at 4 after getting some things ready for tomorrow...hopefully I'll take advantage of this and get to bed a little earlier! We are supposed to get about 4-7 inches of snow, high winds and cold temps...snow day??!!!??!