Friday, January 30, 2015

Substituting for a Cooperating Teacher

Today was my Cooperating Teacher's birthday, so she took it off, and guess who is the substitute!

What a great experience, having a whole classroom and being in the lead role.  I was even able to help modify and schedule the lessons and activities for the day.  Truly gave me some great confidence in my own abilities.  Making my own choices and testing out my classroom management is amazing, and frankly, it is going very well.

Students have been responsive to me and my instruction, which is noted through the various activities they are completing.  Although currently I am working with the most amicable class (or was, it is my planning time), I still feel confident that it will be a great day, and the same patter of responsiveness will continue throughout the day.

I will edit this post throughout the day and throughout my experience as teacher for the day (which I got to plan).  I have substituted before, but the plans and such were written out for me.

Wish me luck!

Soooo..... some classroom dynamics can be.... interesting to say the least.  I have never heard "I don't like him/her" said about peers so many times in my life, but with every gray cloud comes a silver lining.  I was able to have a great talk to the students who were having conflict, and I think that it really hit home for them.

Thursday, January 29, 2015

A Challenge to all Teachers: Magic 37

Ladies and Gentlemen, I have a challenge for you!  When you see the patterns be ready to be amazed.  This is also a great way to get some enthusiasm to your students.

Today while practice counting, my cooperating teacher and I decided on having students count by 11 and 37 as far as they could get in one minute on paper.  11's were predictable and the students saw the traditional patterns (numbers counting up, etc).  The fun part comes when students were counting by 37, and the teachers in the room took on the challenge as well.  We found that when the multiple of 37 were placed in a certain way, (ie. a 9 down by 3 across array), patterns began to emerge.  Students were able to pick out a few, then with come guidance were able to figure out more complex ones.
New patterns emerged as multiples of 37 broke into 4 digit numbers, which held true to 5 digit numbers.  With the patterns and equations students came up with, we were able to find the 24,000th multiple of 37 within 5 seconds using mental math only, then the 54,000th multiple, then the 81,000th multiple within the same time frame.

It has been a long time since I have seen a group of 5th graders so excited about math and willing to self explore and discover and go through trial and errors that stunned the principal.

Plus! Students felt so great about themselves, it was a great confidence booster to them all, no matter their achievement level, because they were all able to come up with atleast one pattern that worked for them.

Comment wityh what you find, or request some of my own student work and patterns!

Here is an example of student work.  You can see their efforts to find some of the trickier hidden patters and algorithms.

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Week 3: Why are we having 5th graders practice their counting?

It is week 3 and I have been given the change to teach daily the introduction/warm-up session for all three 5th grade homerooms that come into the Math classroom I am student teaching in.  I find it a great way to break into  the students getting to know me and my styles, as well as getting to know their abilities and quirks.  It begins with the students coming in and choosing a popsicle stick that tells them where to sit.  This is followed by a Problem Of the Day (P.O.D.) which the students complete on their whiteboards independently, then check their answers with peers, then I go over the answer with them on the big whiteboard at the front of the room.  We review any tricky spots and move on to homework checks.  Once again the students check their answers with peers, and any tricky problems are gone over as a class by request of the students.

Then we practice counting.  Initially, this seemed like a silly thing for 5th graders to be doing, but by practicing their skip counting, their fact family awareness has increased.  The current topic in math is division, specifically the traditional standard algorithm, which takes a bit of mental math.  By having the students practice skip counting (of 60, 70, 80, 21, 17, etc.) both orally as a group and on paper for a 1 minute sprint, students become more and more familiar with the number patterns that can be seen throughout math.

Being skeptical, I asked my cooperating teacher to show me some data backing up the claims that practicing counting in the 5th grade could help students with their math.  She pulled out tracking and data sheets with a baseline and the increase of student performance increased beyond what I would normally thought to happen or have seen happen in other classrooms I have been in.  While it was slow to start while students learned and practiced the counting, when multiplication and division problems were introduced, students had a steady and strong increase in their academics without fail.  This means even struggling students were making gains beyond what had been expected for them.

All from something they were introduced to as younger students, and creating practical applications.

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Quick Question for Fellow Educators.... Please help.

So I am looking for a fun and helpful tool to help with classroom management.  I have seen and personally used a classroom mascot to help with classroom management that was attached to a point earning system.  I saw it working great with younger students (Grades 1-3), but I am now in a 5th grade classroom and would love to introduce a classroom mascot.  How can I do this without it being too "childish" for the students, AND how can I incorperate it in such a way that it can be helpful to classroom management?

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Week 2: The First Observation...

Today was my first observation by my college supervisor and.... it went surprisingly well.  Although I am very confident in my teaching ability at this point, having people observing me (my supervisor, my teacher, and a classroom para) while I was teaching my first lesson at a new school, was a bit nerve wracking.   My pacing was a bit off, and my waiting time (for letting students think about answers to questions I posed) were shorter than I would have liked.  The math block which I was teaching was shortened from 80 minutes to 55 minutes, and two students were unexpectedly pulled out for extra services.  This essentially meant that most of my typed out lesson plan was no longer applicable. Yet, I survived, I was able to think on my feet and pull out a good lesson that was both interesting and engaging.  Students showed progress in the content that was presented to them in theit exit tickets, and I even pulled out a "teaching moment."  The title of the activity was Pizza Picasso, and it had not come to my mind that students may not know who Pablo Picasso was.  I stopped the class and gained the student's attention and asked if anyone knew, and none of them had heard of him.  I took that time to look up one of Picasso's more appropriate works and explained to them why the activity was titled as such.  It took all of 2 minutes to do, and that simple act helped students connect more with their work.

So I guess my point is to keep your head up, keep on your toes, and have confidence in yourself.  Even will all that happened during my lesson, my supervisor, teacher and para thought it went great.

We can make it through this.

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Week 1: Differentiation and Exit Tickets

While the purpose of this blog being set up was to post atleast once a week, the fact is I started 2 weeks late.  So I will be back tracking a bit, and talking about my observations and learned strategies and methods. I will be looking back through my observations notes and materials I have gathered in order to maintain for this week's catch up.

Differentiated instructions can seem intense, since it calls for a knowledge of each student, their abilities, their background knowledge, and even a bit of their family history.  All of this is used to guide lessons to best suit all students within a classroom and meet all the needs that a teacher and student could come across.  I have heard this is an impossible feat, but I am learning there are some very easy ways to add differentiated instruction to parts of the daily routines of class.  One simple method of introducing this is to offer different (and leveled) Exit Ticket questions.  For those who may not be familiar with Exit Tickets, they are typically used at the end of a class as a formative assessment to see if students are gaining the concepts presented during the day's lesson.  By allowing students to self-choose which problem they would like to answer, it hits upon several important factors of a student's academics.    When a student is allowed to choose their work (in a guided way) they take ownership of it moreso than they would if it was purely assigned work.  By giving students the options of choosing from levels, can help their confidence in their answer and their confidence in talking about it as part of a small group or as a whole class.  This is what differentiating instruction is about; allowing students to learn in the way the need in a way that is equitable within the classroom.

In the beginning...

This blog is dedicated to my journey through Student Teaching in a Rural Elementary.  I will be posting ideas, experiences, and resources I find during my 15 (16 really) weeks of student teaching to be available for anyone interested.  I am in my final semester of a duel endorsement degree in Childhood/Elementary Education and Special Education K-12.

I am currently placed in a 5th grade math class, which is just up my alley.  This is the age group that I enjoy interacting with the most because of their want to learn, their curiosity, and their level of independence.  So far it is going very well.

I am three weeks in so far, (started a week early, which I would suggest for any student teacher), and fitting in comfortably. I will be teaching my first official lesson under observation tomorrow, and feel comfortable enough to have confidence it will go well.