Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Reflections from last week

I really enjoyed hearing everyone's presentations on Thursday. It was a very eye opening experience in my opinion. Most people, myself included were hesitant about the home visit portion of this class. Although I still have some hesitation about this, I think there was a lot to learn from the experience! Every family has a different story and you quickly learn that there are actually no "average" families. Even the ones that seem to be may turn out to surprise you. The way children act and learn in the classroom stems from their home life, and there are certainly no two alike! I think I will keep these presentations in mind as I go forward in my teaching career-remembering to be patient with students and their families, to be understanding of different circumstances, and that we are all working towards a common goal. My main hesitation in this practice was that I thought the parents would be offended and bothered. In actuality, I think most of the parents appreciated having their voices heard and seeing another side of their student's teachers!

Monday, November 22, 2010


I feel so blessed to have the opportunity to be in Mrs. Lacey's class this semester. She was a true inspiration and a perfect example of how to welcome families and the community in to her classroom. I cannot think of anything that I would change about my time in her class this semester!! (And I would not say that about my past fields.. ;) )

On Thursday, Lindsay and I spent our last day helping the students make Indian headdresses and Thanksgiving bracelets using patterns while Mrs. Lacey did some benchmark testing. As they began to move in to writing, they began to read together a book they had been creating over the last few days about what they are thankful for. Each SmartBoard slide said "We are thankful for our homes, we are thankful for our clothes, we are thankful for our school, etc" The last slide said "we are thankful for Miss Jennie and Miss Lindsay". Of course they all were sooo excited to show us our "surprise" they had been keeping from us all day! Each child stood up and had something to say to us and it was so genuine! Mrs. Lacey presented us with one of her favorite children's book that the whole class had signed in the front-it was so special! Lindsay and I had brought cupcakes for the class.

This experience is one I will remember forever. I remember reading one of Alison's first blogs about welcoming visitors in to the classroom and what a difference it makes. It really does not take a lot of effort to do this, but it reaches so far. Not only do adult visitors appreciate when a teacher welcomes them in, but I feel confidant the students take note as well!!

Friday, November 12, 2010

Yesterday when I got to class, I learned that one of the children had left the class due to a move. My cooperating teacher began to explain some of his family situation to us and I was surprised to learn that his family was extremely poverty stricken and homeless. This particular child is bright, well dressed, and happy. The class was very sad to see him go, but it sounds like it was a move for the best-the family found a permanent home in the N. Charleston area. One of the things that particularly struck me is how the teachers in this classroom never felt the need to treat him differently or explain to my partner and me. I went back to my book this morning to reread what they have to say about homelessness. The opening quote for the section says "People who are homeless are not social inadequates. They are people without homes." They go on to say a lot about suspending judgement on these families. As a teacher, you have numerous resources to help your students and their families. After seeing my cooperating teacher do just this, I have a different outlook on what it would be like have a student in this situation in my class.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

All day with KB!

This week, Lindsay and I decided to go spend the entire (well almost! we got there about 8:30) with Mrs. Lacey's class. Our cooperating teacher used to be the Reading Recovery teacher and she prides herself in her ability to teach phonics and reading so... of course we wanted to see her in action. In the block that we are usually there, she teaches math and writing. We got there during differentiated instruction and settled now to watch Mrs. L teach 5-6 students at a time that were all on about the same level. As I have said before in this blog, it is so interesting to see the various learning levels in a classroom of 20 something kindergartners. DI time was a great example of how you really have to work hard to bring everyone up to speed. Some groups were having difficulty with simple sounds, while the most advanced group was able to play a speed game where Mrs. L flashed a card with a word and the student had to recall it. This group was able to go through the stack of words with little trouble and with great speed. I loved the "whisper phones" that she gave each student. They read the book into their phone and it gave Mrs. L an opportunity to go around to each student and work independently with them. Another observation I had was how much more attentive the students are at this hour! Wow! What a nice change. I asked Mrs. L about her choice to do DI first and then phonics, followed by calender time right before lunch. She explained to me that at first it was just a way she had to adjust the schedule to fit in grade level, but that it ended up being a great change. At first I thought it was a little odd to do calender in the middle of the day, but once she explained this to me it did make sense. After they go to lunch and recess, they finish up calender if necessary and then go immediately in to math which makes sense since the calender time is full of numbers, patterns, etc. Also, since calender time tends to be a bit repetitive, it may be beneficial to use the time when they are most attentive for phonics, reading, etc.
That afternoon I was able to witness a perfect example of family involvement in the classroom! Each student in KB has a "bug jar" that they work to fill up by good behavior. Mrs. L and her assistant will reward their students for various behaviors by putting a bug in their jar. When a student fills up their bug jar, they get to put a big bug in the class bug jar. Last week, they finally filled up the class jar! One student's mother came in to give the class a party for this accomplishment! It worked out perfect because they were not able to go outside for recess on this particular day because of the weather - ah! The mother led the class in a game of musical bugs (chairs) and they got candy as they got "out". Then she led them in an activity of making spiders out of crackers, pb, chinese noodles, and M&M's. It was really neat to see the class being rewarded and having fun. They were very respectful to the mother and followed her directions. I know that you won't always have parents that are willing or able to come spend an hour in the middle of the day with your class but how nice when you do!

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

90 minute lesson complete!

And... it didn't go that great to be honest! When I got to class Thursday, Mrs. Lacey warned me that KB was having a crazy week and that they were being a little unruly so proceed with caution! I did but she sure was right! I know that this is a common possibility in any school-in any classroom so I think it was a good opportunity to learn from. It also made me realize just how important getting those procedures down pat is. On days like the day before their Book Character/Halloween parade, there is still teaching to be done and things to learn. If the students know their procedures forward and backwards, like the KB students do, it makes is a little bit easier to get them back on track.

My lesson was on sorting by two or more attributes. I started by sorting a group of shapes on the SmartBoard by color, shape, and size. (*side note: I got so tickled during this part because the SB was messing up on me, which is a pretty regular thing and all at once as if they had rehearsed it for days the students all shouted "its not you Miss Jennie! Its the SmartBoard!!!" It was cute.. this is what their teacher always says and I think they were looking for any excuse that day to shout) Instead of doing math rotations that day, they each did a sorting activity at their table that modeled the one we had done as a group. This worked okay but I was kind of disappointed that the shapes and criteria to sort by (they were precut by a parent volunteer) were the exact same as the ones we had done on the SB together. I think it would have been a better learning experience if they had different ones.

I also finished up a writing lesson that had been started earlier in the day during grade level instruction. After my lesson was over, I was reflecting particularly on the management skills that I still need to work on. Chapter 6 of Lemov is a great resource and I went back to read over parts of it after my lesson. I think the 100 percent technique is extremely important. As a guest in their classroom, the students (who are very very well behaved on average) see people other than their lead teacher as someone who will let them get away with less than 100%. I know it will be easier when it is my own classroom to use this technique but I will not forget what I have learned from teaching this class. To get 100% response from students, the teacher must enforce the rules 100% of the time!

This week, my partner and I are going early in the day to watch Mrs. Lacey teach phonics which she claims is her favorite subject to teach. I am looking forward to seeing other subjects and other times of the day!

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Another Try

Thursday, my partner Lindsay taught her 90 minute lesson which included the math rotations. I was grateful that she and Mrs. Lacey put me in a small group rotation with a similar activity to the one I taught in my 60 minute lesson the previous week. I wanted to tweak the lesson and figure out exactly how to keep the students engaged. This week I had the students pull out 5 dominos (instead of having 10 - cards the previous week, but same idea) and stressed the "rules" of the game before I even handed out the dominos. At the kindergarten age, I think it is so important to remember to give very details rules and instructions before anything is handed out, before anyone moves to their next location, etc. It worked much better this week.

I really enjoyed the guest speaker in class on Thursday night. I couldn't help but relate what she said to the children in the class. There is no doubt that the most advanced children in the class have been working on reading, writing, numbers, letters, etc for a long time at home. She said something about the fact that a lot of parents think that once they start school, they will begin to learn but as we know this is not the case! The two most advanced children in the class talk often about the learning experiences they have at home and on the weekends. This is why I think the book bag activities are a great idea. It shows parents that continuing to teach at home does not have to be difficult, but it does take a conscious effort. I also think that sending home a newsletter each week that highlights what is being taught could be beneficial for families, particularly if it included suggested activities. There are so many great online resources out there that could be brought to parent's attention.

This week I am teaching my 90 minute lesson and I look forward to getting continued feedback from my cooperating teacher. She is so uplifting and positive in her critiques and I really respect what she has to say!

Friday, October 15, 2010

Lesson #2

Yesterday was my second lesson and I taught a math lesson on more than, less than, and equal to. It certainly didn't go perfectly, but I learned a lot from it. I find a lot of the Lemov techniques to be helpful and plan on practicing them throughout the rest of my field placements to become more comfortable with them. The most important thing I learned from yesterday's lesson is how important setting behavioral expectations both prior to and during the lesson are. I think I will start to work them in to my lesson plans so that I have some sort of script in mind.

As we know, the Kindergarten teachers at SES work on their lesson plans as a grade level team. Although I have only seen the math and writing lessons, I am impressed with their ability to keep them different and enjoyable for the students. As I was reading about Lemov's "J-Factor", I thought about this. It is easy to incorporate joy in to the lessons you teach if they are not repetitive. There is always a great mix of group lessons, games, activities, craft projects, and one on one lessons for the differentiated math groups. Another part of the J-Factor is Us (and them). There is a great sense of belonging at SES. The KB classroom community is a close knit group where and they are often reminded that they are to work together and have common goals. The school as a whole is another community they belong to. When I walk with the class out to the busses in the afternoon, it is great to see the children and teachers greet one another by name, even across grade levels. I love seeing this sense of community!

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Another great day at SES!

Thursday was another good day for KB. I am starting to notice a trend! They are so well behaved. At recess, Lindsay and I noticed how bad the playground really is. We are looking forward to working on our advocacy project to clean up the area. There are a lot of dangerous roots, holes, etc that could be easily fixed with a little time and a little love. Lining KB up from recess was left up to the two of us that day and let me tell you its not as easy as Mrs. Lacey makes it look! When I asked her about it she explained to me how important the first few weeks of school are in drilling procedure. As one of Lemov's techniques, "Do it again" explains, doing a task again, and doing it right, better, or even perfectly, is the best consequence for not following directions the first time. The teachers at SES do not seem to hesitate to have their classes do something such as line up or walk quietly over and from the start, even if it means taking up time that would otherwise be spent elsewhere. Lindsay taught a great lesson on ordinal numbers that the class seemed to really enjoy. After her lesson, she called students over a few at a time while Mrs. White and I oversaw the rest of the class doing a rather messy activity! They used newspaper advertisements to find the numbers 0-10, cut them out, and glued them on a number line. This gave me a great opportunity to see the advancements that a lot of the class have made, and also see the children that are still lacking in skill and confidence. While one child went up to number 15 (and could have kept going if given the time), others struggled to get started at all. I can see what a struggle teaching a class of 20+ students on different levels can be. Mrs. Lacey some time during this activity to call students into her office one on one to work on some math skills. She says she really tries to do this as much as possible because this is when she can really focus and this is where a lot of the teaching, especially for children who are behind, is done. Another great thing I witnessed in the KB classroom last week was at the very end of the day. As Mrs. L called the students one by one to line up to go home she had them come by her and gave them one skittle each. Individually, she complimented each and every child on something they had done well that day. You would have thought she gave these kids a thousand dollars-each one lined up with the biggest smile on their face I have ever seen! When I become a teacher, I will be certain to do something like this every once in a while to boost the student's confidence and remind them that you care. : )

Saturday, October 2, 2010

First lesson at SES

On Thursday I taught my first lesson and I think it went pretty great! Like I have said before, it is nice that we get there for the day at the end of lunch and the class goes directly to recess. While KB was at recess, I was able to go over the SmartBoard part of the lesson that I had not seen before. Mrs. Lacey is so encouraging and helpful so I was immediately put at ease. First, to APK, we reread a book about 10 warthogs that they had been reading all week. Since my lesson was on the number 10 this was a good way to move in to a new lesson. After we read the book together, we did several SB screens on the number 10 including writing the number, counting out loud, etc. There were several opportunities for students to participate and move around which I think they enjoy.
After the group lesson, they split in to small groups and I led the group on the SB with a game called Fishin Mission (which kindergartners looovee). It was nice to break down into groups of 3-5. Since the groups rotate through the centers, this gave me a chance to fine tune (work is still to be done trust me!) my direction giving skills. I found myself thinking back to a class discussion that "behave" does not describe a behavior. You have to explain your expectations clearly or you leave room for behavior issues. By the last group, I had figured out how to explain the game, the rules for behavior, and how to incorporate actual learning. Often times, I feel like when left alone to play a game in center, students are not learning anything. Although they enjoy it, they need someone there to monitor what is being done otherwise its just waste of (school) time. For example, in Fishin Mission, you are given a number of fish to drag into the net. As you progress through the game and move to higher levels, you have to not only drag a certain number of fish, but also a certain color. When you are successful at your task a message pops up saying "Great Job!", "Fantastic!"... "Way to go" etc and you are on to the next turn. Ok sounds fun? Educational? If I wasn't there, they would have just dragged fish into the net as fast as they could until the message popped up, paying no attention to what they were doing. I know I sound like a mean old teacher and I don't mean to come across like that. I am just saying what I observed. I am all for kids having fun and enjoying their school day... but you guys know what I mean!
Another Lemov technique I noticed being used in my classroom is 100 percent. Mrs. Lacey and Mrs. White have explained to Lindsay and I how much they worked on procedures the first couple weeks of school. Any visitor to this classroom can tell how hard these two teachers worked. The book explains how important it is to not compromise on your rules. Mrs. L and Mrs. W do not give anyone a break when it comes to being silent, lining up, being respectful, sitting in their square safely, etc. They take the time and energy to make SURE that every child is ready to learn. I respect this about them and think it is not only great for the culture of this class, but great for the future of the KB students as they progress in their school career. The language they have adopted from the 7 habits seems to be highly effective ;). All they have to say is are you being proactive? Are you making positive decisions? etc.
At the end of the day as they moved in to writing, I was able to witness Mrs. Lacey in her "element" as she puts it. While working on an example of their writing assignment, the class worked together to spell out the words in the sentence "I like blue cupcakes". They used several techniques that later Mrs. Lacey explained were from the Rode to the Code system of learning phonological awareness. She sent me home with an extra book full of explanations and lesson plans. I am curious if either of you girls have ever used this technique and what you think of it?? I welcome your feedback!!
As always, I am looking forward to another week at SES and I hope you both had great weeks!

Friday, September 24, 2010

KB KB Eyes on me!

I really like how my cooperating teacher has a lot of the procedural/behavioral sayings that she always says twice. She often says my friends my friends to gain their attention. As I have said before, we have a lot to learn from her!
Thursday I started by walking the kids from lunch to recess. Since Lindsay was teaching that day, she and Mrs. L went to talk for a few minutes so it gave me a chance to catch up with the assistant teacher Mrs. White, who in my opinion is great! Mrs. L agrees with me that she should be a lead teacher. She taught in an LD classroom of mixed ages (preK-5th grade) the last couple years and I think that she has brought a lot of great techniques and patience into the Kindergarten classroom. At recess that day, several of the students were KISSING each other! Ha! I couldn't help but laugh. Of course, at this age, it was the girls chasing the boys. I thought Mrs. White handled the situation so well. She had each child involved come speak to her individually. Not once did she say the word "kissing" but was still able to make her point very clear. She asked the students "whats going on" to which most said "nothing", but she proceeded with asking them if she needed to bring the school policy book out and reshow them the rules. She also reminded them that this was their warning and if it continued, a call home was the next step. Every single one nodded their head no no no and promised "it" would stop. Problem solved! Without even having to discuss the details. She said its the same as having teenagers. I guess some things never change!
After coming inside, Lindsay took over and taught her lesson on counting from 1-5 before we broke up into small math groups. Mrs. L said she often tweaks the math lesson plans to accommodate what her students need to be working on. The group I worked with was folding a piece of paper into 4 sections. In each section they were to put 0-5 stickers and then label how many they had put. I think the students enjoyed this center because it involved a craft project, but many were getting frustrated with the stickers. They were really hard to peel off, even for me! Many were not able to work as fast because it was taking longer to peel the stickers off, even when I was able to help them. Other than that, I think that it was an appropriate and engaging activity and suitable for their level. I really enjoyed center time that day!
While Lindsay was teaching a group lesson in her center, Mrs. Lacey was pulling children aside one at a time to work on related tasks. I have noticed she really takes the time and effort to spend one on one time with a few children each day which I think is so crucial. As we talked about in class, it is not easy to get to know your students on an individual basis. Each week, there is a Lacey Bug of the week. This student fills out an information sheet with their favorite color, favorite food, favorite hobbies, and who their family includes. They also send in pictures of their friends and family and get the spot light on the bulletin board. Along with being recognized, they get special opportunities such as line leader. This is a good way to get to know a little bit about students home life, not only for the teachers but also for the other classmates.
Last week I blogged about the Cold Call technique. In KB, they also use a similar technique that I like and that Lindsay used in her lesson. It works when there is a series of questions that need to be answered, one after the other. The teacher calls on one student to come up to the front and answer and then that student is allowed to pick a friend to answer the next one. The students really enjoy it and surprisingly, everyone seems to get a chance!
At the end of the day as the students were working on their writing, Mrs. Lacey stopped the class to share one student's realization. He was asking how to write the word "yard" and realized that the "ar" in yard is the same sound in the word "car", which he knew how to spell already. He was able to sound out the y and the d in yard to spell it correctly. I think it is a great idea to stop and share with the class something like this. I love seeing kids this age have such exciting realizations!

Friday, September 17, 2010

Week 2 @ SES

Yesterday was another great day in KB! After hearing in class last night how some teachers are not as open to us being there and the other complaints, I must say how thankful I am to be in Mrs. Lacey's classroom this semester. It is such an incredible group of kids with even more incredible teachers. The teacher and the assistant teacher work so well together that I often wonder if they rehearse every morning. I am not exaggerating. With that being said, I do think there is a lot to learn from the not so great teachers/classrooms. Sometimes seeing what you don't want to do will stick with you for much longer. I would love to visit the other Kindergarten classrooms this semester and see different styles of teaching.

There seems to be a version of No Opt Out technique. During time on the rug, there are many chances for the students to be called on. When someone gives the wrong or not completely wrong answer, nothing negative is said. Someone else is called, but I have noticed that the child that gave the wrong answer is always called on again dealing with the same subject. I think this i a great way to incorporate a technique like this in to an early childhood class. While using it how it is explained in the Lemov book might work for older classes, it may be a little harsh and/or embarrassing for the Kindergartners.

Yesterday began with us meeting the class at lunch and then recess. It is great to have recess at the beginning of our visit because it gives us a chance to catch up with the teacher. She explained to us that they had been having an "off" week, but I didn't see to notice! The students seem to love her and are always wanting to come sit with her and talk to her. She has a great way of interacting with them but also encouraging them to enjoy their time outside. After letting them sit with her and tell them what they want to, she says I will count to 3, then you can blow me a kiss and then run off to play. It works every time.

Last week after writing, Mrs. Lacey mentioned that she ran out of time and was not able to show an example like she usually does. This week, she was able to do this. On the SMART Board, she wrote her name, the date, drew a picture, and finished with a sentence. As she was writing her sentence "I see butterflies in my yard." she asked for help sounding the words out and spelling. Often when teachers model, they do it quickly and with no help from the classroom. I think its great to work together and remind them of the processes and skills they know, but have not used since the morning. This can be referred to as Technique 14 Board=Paper. As the children began their own writing, they modeled writing their name and date as shown. Mrs. Lacey also encourages them as they illustrate and write to add details. As she reminded them, she returned to the board to add details to her own example and the children did as well.

The one thing I have noticed in my classroom that I am curious about is the absence of any dramatic play. There seems to be no time in the schedule or area for it in the class. Some of the other classrooms I have peeked in have incredible set ups for it. I plan on asking my teacher if this is part of their day when we are not there or not. I am interested to see what she says! I am looking forward to going back next week!

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

What a great day at Summerville Elementary! I am so excited to be in Mrs. Lacey’s classroom this semester. She is a fantastic teacher with decades of teaching experience. I have a lot to learn from her. She is very open to having Lindsay and me in her classroom each week and her passion for teaching is contagious. I was extremely impressed with our smoothly the class was run, especially visiting on the third week of school. All of the children in the class knew the procedures, which Mrs. L informed us that she focused on the first few days of school before introducing any content.

The main part of the afternoon was spent in math centers. I really like how there were short math stations, all dealing with the same topic of sorting. The children rotated every 15 minutes or so, keeping their interest. It was a great setup for Lindsay and me to interact. They also did a writing activity. Mrs. L shared a book with the class that had no words, only illustration and they “read” the book as a class. She gave them instructions for their writing journals: they were to illustrate a story about their choice and they would add words another day. Then she gave them “talk time” to talk with their neighbor about what they would illustrate about. She set the timer for two minutes. This worked really well for the class.

I can honestly say that almost no one misbehaved on Thursday. It was impressive! At the end of the day when the assistant was handing out backpacks, one little girl did say something disrespectful. I really admired how the situation was dealt with by the assistant. You can tell that Mrs. L and her assistant have a great working relationship and respect for one another. Mrs. W continued handing out the backpacks and a few minutes after she was done, she calmly asked the child that had been disrespectful to come with her behind the cubbies. She bent down to her level, was out of view from the class, and did it after the other students had already forgotten. She had a caring and gentle way of explaining that what she had done was disrespectful. I thought this was a great way of dealing with it, avoiding embarrassment and unnecessary attention.

I noticed a few of Lemov’s techniques being used at SES. First, the entire school uses the Post It technique. Along with all of the artwork or student work displayed for visitors is the objective that goes along with it. As I continue with my visits, I plan on taking note how often it is displayed in the classroom for the students as well. The teachers in the kindergarten classes work together to create their lesson plans each week, with each teacher focusing on a particular subject. Our teacher let us see the previous weeks lesson plans and they all use the Double Plan technique. Not only does the LP include what the teacher’s responsibilities are for the lesson, but also what the students will be doing and how they will be assessed.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

First Blog

I am really looking forward to being in a Kindergarten class again this semester! Summerville Elementary seems like a great school and I look forward to meeting the students and teachers on Thursday. Being in a field placement is such a rewarding experience and I am so grateful for this upcoming opportunity. I hope to learn more classroom and behavior management skills in particular. Because I have never officially taught, the hours in the classroom are so beneficial to me. There is a lot to learn outside of lesson planning! I am also really looking forward to being in the school during the second half of the day. Last semester I was there for calender time every day and the beginning of center time. I think that being there after lunch will give us great insight. I must admit that I am a little hesitant on the upcoming family visits. I am hoping to be proven wrong, but I cannot help but feel intimidated. I am interested in hearing if you all have had any positive or negative experiences in the past with this. I am sure there are a lot of great things that come from them so I would love to hear. I am looking forward to sharing our ideas this semester through the blog! Happy Blogging :)