Friday, August 31, 2007

Speaking Fourth Grader

Me: "Think in your head about which book club topic you would like to discuss."

What They Hear: "Turn to your neighbor and talk."

"Take out your notebook," "Turn to calendar math," "Glue in the WOW sheet," "Work on the problem of the day," and "Independent Read Time" also translate to "Turn to your neighbor and talk."

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

This I Believe

I believe that learning is...
  • a social activity that requires interaction between individuals
  • retained best when the learner has the chance to work with the information
  • most interesting when constructed by the learner, at least to some extent
  • an active process rather than a passive one
This might explain why I hate, hate, hate so many of the meetings I have to attend as a teacher.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

This would happen on a no break day.

Because I was not planned for math and was going to "plan" for math during the library lesson, the following things happened:

- Meeting explaining strategy lab game bridge kits to the faculty; a pet project of mine, the GT resource teacher, and the intersession coordinator: 7:30 am

- Fire alarm: 7:25 - 7:45 am

- Phoned in lice scare, potential of class quarantine; and an investment in fine toothed combs: 8:00 am

- Room declared lice free: 10:00 am

- Room temperature determined as "warm:" 10:30 am

- Room temperature declared "tropical:" Noon

- Room declared "too hot to think:" 2:00 pm

- Lines and angles lesson moved to the playground: 2:15 pm

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Traffic Jam - A Good Thing

The feet in the picture from the previous post are trying to solve a traffic jam. Mister Teacher thought the idea sounded intriguing and I'd have to say he's right. Of all the team building, community building activities I do during the first week or so, it is by far my favorite. I save it for last because it's my favorite and because it's very challenging.

I'm sorry to say that I don't recall where I found the activity (somewhere out on the worldwide web), but I'm sure it is floating around in various forms. The way we do it involves seven pieces of construction paper and at least six students. We lay the construction papers on the floor in a row as stepping stones (surely there are cooler, more interesting things we could use, but construction paper is handy). Three kids stand on the three at one end and three kids stand on the three at the other end leaving the one in the middle free. The goal is to get the kids to the opposite ends. They can only move forward, can only move onto an empty stone, and can only go around one person.

I never have an exact multiple of six in my class, of course. So some students end up being 'directors'. It's really helpful to have someone who can see the big picture. Once the students have figured out the strategy (and can actually repeat it) I put them into bigger groups. Eventually, we have the entire class work their way through one big traffic jam.

Watching them work it out teaches me a lot about them. Some students spend time with their white boards drawing pictures to try various options. Others grab whatever manipulatives are closest in order to move them around. Some just stand around on their stones and move when other, more alpha-students, tell them to. It's noisy and chaotic and fun.

Friday, August 10, 2007

Cooperation, not Competition

My focus during the first week of school has become to mold my students into the opposite of what they naturally are. Fifth graders are competitive. I refuse to spend the entire year battling this. So, during the first week we do all sorts of team building activities to start off on the right foot. (I'm not convinced it will work, but it seems worth a try.)
These feet are trying to figure out how to sort out their traffic jam. Watching ten year olds struggle with a problem is alternately hilarious and mind-numbing. I spend a lot of time biting my tongue to keep from telling them how to do it. Their joy upon finding a solution is astoundingly contagious. I'm not sure any real lessons will be taken from these activities, but I think they are worth our time.

Sunday, August 5, 2007

Teaching: Take Two

This first week of school has shown me that I have to do things at least twice before I can get them right. I'm not sure if that is a sign that I am constantly learning as a teacher or a sign that I don't think about things enough ahead of time. Either way, I feel bad for the group of students who have to be the guinea pigs.

Of course, maybe even the second time isn't really 'right'. Maybe it's just better than the first time. Do all teachers second-guess themselves this much?

In a related thought, I'm noticing that many of most successful activities, lessons, moments in my classroom are unplanned. Either I have great luck, good instincts, or both. But it brings me back to wondering if I don't think about things enough ahead of time. If I did a better job planning, would I manage to have even more of these moments?

Year 4 Week 1 Reflection

Students: 22
Boys: More then half.
Round face kids with chronic bed head: None, which is very distressing.
Tears: NONE!!! A miracle.
Working computers: 3
Working printers: None in my room.
Puking incidents: 1

This is the first year EVER that one (or more) of the boys did not break down in tears on multiple days. No tears. From anyone. At all. Wow. I could make the argument that the "summer" mellowed me. That after years of tears, I have become a nicer, gentler teacher. That I am more sensitive to the needs of my emotional fragile students, having once been a sensitive student myself.

But who would I be kidding. My two week stint at curriculum development left me cold and angry. Even my stapler stayed away, not willing to take the abuse I would smack it with. Last week was no nonsense, straight lines, and listen to the directions once because I am not repeating them twice. If I was 10, I would have been in tears. But these fourth grades are of stronger stock then I. It will take more then high expectations, stern discipline, and vague, open ended assignments to make these kids tear.

Wow. No tears. I am still flabbergasted.