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!