Saturday, November 30, 2013

My Online Education Portfolio

Finally finished my online education portfolio. With only a two weeks left until graduation, it's time to start job hunting!

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Holes Character Project

We are almost done with our "Holes" unit, so I wanted to share one of the projects we did during it. I created a project where the students would pretend to choose a character from "Holes" and take that character out to eat.The kids really loved doing it, and you could do it for any grade or book.

 Here is what their assignment sheet said:

Green Lake Grub
Choose a character from Holes to take out to eat.
Draw a picture on the paper plate of what their meal will look like. You may
choose to use construction paper to “build” the meal on your plate instead.
Make your paper plate creative, colorful and neat.
On a piece of lined paper you will write about why you chose to eat with this
character, where you went to eat, what you ate, and what you talked about.
This should be in complete sentences and with 6th grade writing.
Attach both the paper plate and your lined paper to a piece of construction
paper. Make sure your name is on it!
Your finished project should be set up to look like either of these:
(Here I had a diagram of what their final set out would look like, but it wouldn't transfer into the blog)

1. Paper plate with CHARACTER’S meal on it
2. Why you chose to eat with this character
3. Where you ate
4. What you BOTH ate
5. What you talked about
6. Colorful
7. Neatly done
8. Complete sentences
9. 6th grade writing
10.Attached to construction paper

Here are some characters we have
met so far:
Stanley, Mr. Sir, Mr. Pendanski,
Ellya(Stanley’s great-great
grandfather), Zero, Squid, Magnet,
X-ray, Armpit, Zig-Zag, the Warden, Mr.
Yelnats (Stanley’s dad), Sweet Feet
(Clyde Livingston), Madame Zeroni,
Mrs. Yelnats (Stanley’s mom), Myra

They turned out so great and I was really impressed. Here are some examples:

Some people chose to build their meal on their plate. 

This one was REALLY well written. 

I called the project "Green Lake Grub" because I love alliteration and the setting is Camp Green Lake. 

Here is the rubric I used to grade them:

Green Lake Grub Rubric
NAME:_____________ TOTAL SCORE:________________
PLATE_________ (5 possible points)
Characters meal represented on plate ______(2)
Colorful _____(1)
Neatly done_____ (1)
Attached to construction paper_____ (1)
WRITTEN EXPLANATION (10 possible points)
Why you chose to eat with this character _______(2)
Where you ate _____(1)
What you both ate______ (2)
What you talked about ______(1)
Neatly done/attached to construction paper ______(2)
6th grade writing/complete sentences _______(2)

Sunday, October 6, 2013

6 Weeks

Positive Attitude Bulletin Board For Middle School 

I found this great idea for a bulletin board on Pinterest linked to this site:

I decided to place it on the bulletin board that is in the 6th grade hallway. It isn't quite as beautiful as the one from the site I found, and I ran out of paint samples, but it gets the point across and it really brightens up the hallway. 

What a great message! 

Teaching Binder

I've updated my teaching binder! 

When I open my binder the first thing I see is my lesson plan for that week. We are blocking Math and Language arts. So on Monday and Wednesday we teach Math for two hours, Tuesday and Thursday is Language Arts for two hours, and Friday is an hour of each. We also have an Advisory hour and Life Skills class. This way I can see what the plan is for the day and what will be assigned. I use these plans to write the agenda for the day on the board. We also place a paper under the document camera for each class with a list of the materials they will need for class that day. 

This isn't a very clear picture, but behind the lesson plan for that week I have a tab divider for each day of the week.

On each divider I place sticky notes for what will need to be copied for that day, what still needs to be prepared for that day, and what will be graded that evening. I also have a place to put sticky notes when planning for the next week. When I have the lesson plan ready for that week I will begin to place sticky notes for what I need to prepare and copy. This will be a huge help, and will help me stay ahead and stay prepared.

Then, behind each divider I have the materials that will be needed that day. This is behind my Tuesday tab for this week where I have a handout that needs to be copied and distributed. I also keep the keys and rubrics of what I will be graded that night behind this tab.

This is the first thing that is behind my tab for Monday, since we do math on Monday. I have the warm-up that I will place on the document camera for the students to work on while I take attendance and  check to see who has homework done for that day. I put the answers on a sticky note because I like to have students come up to the document camera and write and explain their answers to the class.

Behind all of my materials for that week is my "lesson plans" folder. It has a tab on the side so I can get to it quickly. It is where I place my past lesson plans in case I need to refer to them. The materials that I use I place back into the unit/subject binders.

This is the next folder/divider in my binder. It is titled "classes info" Here I keep seating charts, scopes and sequences for the year, emergency information, and a chart of the accommodations that should be made for some of my students.

Behind that divider is another the common core standards for the subjects I teach. I highlighted key words in them so that I can find the one I'm looking for more quickly.

Next, I have a folder/divider for notes. This is where I keep any notes or hand outs from meetings.

Last, is my folder for the seminar class and paper behind it to take notes.

This Week: 

Last week I assigned the students a project I called "Green Lake Grub." The students had to take a character from the book "Holes" out to eat. On a paper plate they had to build or draw a meal that their character would eat. Then they had to write  about what they both ate, why they chose to eat with that character, where they went to eat, and what they talked about. They had to attach both to a piece of construction paper. The kids were having a lot of fun with it last week and I will be collecting them on Tuesday. I can't wait to see what they come up with. 

We have MEAP testing this week and next week so I am trying to make the lessons fun or do something a little different than we usually do in Language Arts. On Tuesday they will be working in their literature circle groups. I figured that after sitting in silence for so long they would enjoy some time to talk and move about the room a little. On Thursday they will be watching videos and reading articles about juvenile detention centers and then learning about how to write an opinion paragraph for that. I thought it would be a good break from reading Holes and would give enrich the unit with good background information. We will probably do something similar later on when other themes or topics come up. 

In math we are finishing chapter two on solving equations and this week they will learn how to solve multiplication and division equations. On Wednesday we will review the chapter and on Monday will be their chapter test. 

Friday there isn't school for the kids, and us teachers are going to the Upper Peninsula Reading Conference. I've heard great things about it, so I'm excited to get to experience it myself. Hopefully I'll have a chance to update my blog over the weekend to let you know what I learned. I'm also super excited to see all of my teacher friends!  

I can't believe I'm almost halfway through student teaching!

Thursday, September 26, 2013

4 weeks in

WOW! I can not believe that we are already 4 weeks into school, and that means that I have already completed a quarter of my student teaching. The time is flying by! I am having a blast and learning so much!

I just had my first observation and my university supervisor told me that I am already at where they HOPE students teachers get to by the end of their student teaching. She said she is very proud of me and that she is proud that I am an NMU graduate!

I am so happy that things are going so well so far. I am also lucky to have been paired with such a great coordinating teacher, since I know other student teachers right now who were not so lucky.

Language Arts 

So far, I have taken over Language Arts completely and we have started the holes novel. I had the kids research about Louis Sachar the first day, since it was a shorter day. Today I introduced the book and we talked about what Genre it might be. Since we agreed on realistic fiction, I told the kids that there would be several topics that would be showing up throughout the book that are true to us in our world today.

The ones I mentioned were:

1. Juvenile Justice/Justice
2. Inventors/Inventions
3. Curses/superstitions
4. Bullying
5. Racism
6. Homelessness in America

We talked about how since realistic fiction books are based on things that can really happen, these things that we are know are true to us will be showing up throughout the book, as well as many other things we are familiar with.

I wish I had taken pictures of the activity, but the first activity we did with this was called a graffiti wall. If you aren't familiar with this you can read about it and other activities similar to it here:

The topics were written on pieces of butcher paper and hung around the room. The class was split into 6 groups and were given 2 minutes at each paper to write as much as they could. Some of the things I was looking for was:

1. knowledge about the topic
2. connections to the topic
3. predictions for how it will show up in the book
4. questions about the topic

Once they had been to each paper, they went back to their seats and I asked for a volunteer to read a few ideas from each paper.

Following this activity we read the first 5 chapters of the book. I started and then asked for a volunteer. That person could then call on someone else who wanted to read. Each person could read as much or as little as they wanted. Some kids read a paragraph and some read a whole chapter.

Afterwards we talked about which of the topics that we mentioned had already shown up in the book.

I had them read an explanation on inferences and tape that into their writer's notebooks. They they had to list three reasons why they could infer that Camp Green Lake isn't a fun place for the campers and two reasons why they could infer that the Warden isn't very nice.

Then they had time to work on their homework which was for them to draw 3 thumbnail sketches of the setting and to write the summary of the book so far on the back. The worksheet and idea for this assignment I found from Ruth's packet. I get so many great ideas from her and you can find it here:

Tomorrow we will read chapters 6 and 7 and they will start to fill out the complicated characters pages. This is also found in Ruth's packet and it's a great way for them to start keeping track of who's who, since there are so many characters in this book.

I have some great ideas planned for next week! They are going to have to complete a project where they have to decide which character they would like to bring to lunch. They will draw on a paper plate what their guest's meal will be and then they must include a paragraph to attach that would describe where they went to eat, what they ate, and what they talked about. It should be really fun.

Also, we are having  a day centered around the theme of perseverance. I will act out a story that has the theme of perseverance in it, we will read a poem with the same theme, and then talk about where it shows up in the book. Following that they will compare and contrast how the way the theme is represented in the book is the same and different than how it is represented in the other two places.

I'm also starting literacy circles next week where the students will be in groups and then will be in charge of deciding what they will write about and what they will discuss following the chapters that they will read in class. I will have to work on assigning the groups this weekend so that they will work well together.

I'm super excited for this unit and I think it's off to a great start!

Also, the students just finished their first essays and although I'm impressed at some of the writing skills I've seen, others still need a lot of work to get their writing to a 6th grade standard. I'm excited to see this transformation happen of the next few weeks.

Sentence of the day:

At least once a week we start Language arts with a warm up called "sentence a day." It comes from this book:

The kids start by correcting that sentence with a pencil using the editing marks they have learned. Then someone gets to be a teacher and use the document camera to correct it as they call on people. At this point if the student hasn't caught the mistake they mark it with a red pen. Then the final step is for them to write out the sentence correctly in their best handwriting.

Eventually we will start using some warm-ups from this book as well:

There are some really great activities in here to practice grammar.

Of course I also love using quick-writes related to the novel we are reading as well.


Right now we are on chapter 2 in the textbook and the kids are just getting introduced to certain algebraic concepts. I'm finding that I really enjoy teaching math much more than I thought I would, and I feel I am doing a good job of it as well. There were some great scored on the first math test and I was really impressed with that. For now I am able to watch Mrs. Coyne teach a lesson in the morning that I am able to mirror in the afternoon. I try to add my own way of teaching or notes to these lessons, and my goal is to start trying to find some ways to incorporate activities or group work occasionally.

Life Skills 

Life skills is not a class that I teach very often, however I will be taking it over when the new session starts. Today we did a really neat lesson on managing stress. The kids had to play the "stress game." Each group got one dice and one pencil and each person had a piece of paper. The first person would start writing numbers on their paper trying to reach 100. When someone rolled a 6 however, they had to give up the pencil for that person who would then begin writing until someone else rolled a 6.

Boy did it get loud in there! The kids were screaming at each other and laughing and just having  a blast! They were SO stressed, it was great to watch.

Afterwards they had a discussion about what stress is, why it is harmful, and what sorts of things may cause it. Then they brainstormed ways to reduce stress in their lives. I thought it was a great idea, especially for middle school students who are going through a lot right now. It might also be a good skill for them to learn with the MEAP test coming up, which can sometimes stress a student out.


Next week is going to be "pay it forward" week. This is an idea based on the movie Pay It Forward.
Pay It Forward (2000) Poster

The idea is that when you do a random act of kindness for someone, they can then do not have to repay you, they have to pay that forward and do something for someone else. The lessons during advisory this week will all be based on the theme of philanthropy and humanity. I think it is a really great theme to have as the students are getting more comfortable will each other and probably we will see more bullying happening soon. I can tell you that the entire school as a zero tolerance policy with that.

Which reminds me, I saw this amazing video today about a little boy who asked Santa if he could send him an early Christmas present by making the kids at school stop bullying his twin sister. Check it out! It is worth seeing!


We are finding that some of the kids are still in "5th grade mode." By this I mean that they have not yet raised the bar for themselves to the 6th grade level. In 6th grade we expect that to come to class prepared and on time. They should have their homework complete and be organized. It's a lot of extra responsibility but at this point we can not spoon feed them everything anymore. That's not to say that we completely throw them over board and let them learn to swim. 

Every day when we have an assignment we ask them to take out their assignment book as we model writing it down in our own. We remind them of quizzes and write the assignments on the homework board as well. We give them a lot of time in class to work on homework, especially in math. I'm hoping that as the year progresses we will see some improvements in those of the students who are struggling. We're trying our best. Failing isn't an option for us. 


For this blog, I hope to start updating it more often with what is happening in class. I also plan on taking some time to update with some pictures of some of the work that has been done so far. 

For myself, I would like to become more involved in the school community and would also like to start making more progress towards contacting parents and documenting information. I also hope to start incorporating more of my own teaching style into my math lessons. 

I think this school year is off to a great start and I'm so excited for the weeks to come! 

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

First Day of School

Today was the first day of school! It went really well. I seriously think we have a great group of kids. I was expecting a little bit of a struggle from some of them, but everything went so well. I think it went pretty slow for all of us, because we talked a lot about what we would be doing over the year, the expectations, and routines. My favorite quote of the day was, "If homework is work, when do I get paid?" Yes, he obviously knew he didn't get paid for homework, but it lightened the mood, which was pretty stressful for some of the kids who hadn't been here last year. I can not even tell you how many times I had to open lockers today, and it was great because it reminded me of the time I moved schools and had to figure out my new locker. I forgot it nearly every Monday!

I have to say, I was really impressed with how many kids read books over the summer! We have a bunch of readers!

I can't wait to see how the rest of the week turns out.

We also tried something new that was presented by our speaker, Randy Sprick, over the weekend. He gave us a form to fill out with the acronym CHAMPS. We filled one out for every activity, such as transitions, group work, and independent work. The acronym stands for conversation, help, activity, movement, participation and success. Conversation describes how loud they can be. Help describes what they should do if they need help with something. Activity describes what they should be doing. Movement describes the types of movements are allowed such as sharpening pencils or getting supplies. Participation describes what the teacher should see the students doing and success means if they follow this everyone will be successful. It really has helped to explain the expectations for ever type of activity.

Well, it's getting late and it'll be another long day, I better get some rest!

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

The Week Before School

Mrs. Coyne and I have been very busy this week getting ready for the students to arrive next Tuesday! Since she moved rooms there was a lot to do!

I've been working on bulletin boards, making copies, planning, unpacking, organizing, meeting the other teachers, and going to staff meetings. It's very exciting to get the real experience of being a teacher, and I'm glad I was able to do my student teaching during the fall semester so I could get the "first day of school" experience.

I finally have my desk set up. I'm very lucky to have such an awesome host teacher who provides me with one! Not every student teacher is so lucky! :) 

This is a bulletin board that I made to introduce myself to the students. I thought I would make it Facebook style to relate to the kids better. I even made the status and wall laminated so I could use a white board marker on them and change them from time to time. Of course, if the students ask me if I have a Facebook, I'll just have to say that I do, but I don't add students as friends. 

This is a bulletin board that I put together that is actually advice from the 6th graders last year that they wanted to pass along to the new 6th graders. 

This one was my favorite one! 

This is another bulletin board that I put together. The students last year worked on finding a math term that they learned in 6th grade for each letter of the alphabet. There were still 3 missing at this point, but they're all there now! 

Today we had staff meetings during the day and tonight was meet the teacher night. Having met all of the children, I am SO excited for Tuesday to be here! I think it is going to be a really fun, and really great year. 

Tomorrow there are more staff meetings but there is also a conference on classroom management that should be very interesting, and especially useful for me. I'll let you know how it goes! 

Friday, August 16, 2013

Bit by Bit

Phew. I have a VERY rough outline of my unit for holes finished. It's suppose to be 4-6 weeks long and I'm afraid I'm trying to cram too much in and it's at 5 weeks right now. That gives me a little wiggle room if it ends up being 6 weeks long. I'm always afraid of things taking less, so I plan too much.

Another way I am preparing for weak planning is by having activities for the kids to work on in the free time. I'm putting together a project menu that I'm calling "Green Lake Grub." It'll have different projects for the students to work on in their free time and on dedicated work days. They will each be "cost" a certain amount of money and the students have to spend maybe $10 by the end of the unit on their meal. If they spend more it can be for extra credit. This way it's differentiated completely, and also gives me a little wiggle room in my planning.

I can not believe how much work I still have to do for all of this. I'm so glad my teacher got me started on this a long time ago. Maybe she didn't know, but I over think and over plan things to the max, so it's good for me to get started early.

I do admit though, I have done NO planning for math. I believe that once I get this unit pretty much out of the way by the time school starts, I should be able to focus on math then. I have the text book to fall back on for this subject, and I will be able to integrate some of my own ideas and styles into that, rather than having to come up with everything from scratch in the way I have for this Holes unit.

I've even figured out a way to incorporate a guest speaker (hopefully), storytelling, music, poetry, food, science, and social studies into it. I thought about doing math, but I could only think of one thing to do and I'm afraid the math would be too complicated for them at this point...I'll have to do some more research into that. Anyway, it's going to be great!

I'm just re-leaved I have SOMETHING done right now.

I also will need to put together my "get to know me" bulletin board before school starts. I'm hoping Mrs. Coyne has me come in next week perhaps on one of my days off to see the room and the bulletin board so I can get started.

SO nervous and SO excited. AHHH!!!

Thursday, August 15, 2013

18 days until student teaching starts!

I have spent all night working on my unit and I only have the first week of my unit planned. I know I shouldn't worry too much, since I won't be doing it until October, but I want to have as much of it planned as possible by the time school starts.  I want to be able to focus on math in the evenings and prepare what I can for that during September before I start taking over a lot in October. I really believe the best thing I can do for myself is to try to get as much done ahead of time as I can. That way I can stay on-top of my classes, work the weekends, and TRY to have a tiny-tiny bit of a life still.-HA! Doubtful. My cooperating teacher has been really good about making sure that I will be prepared. I have to have my lesson plans in for the next week by the Thursday the week before so I can makes copies on Friday and be ready for the next week. Mostly, I just want to make it through this-which I will, despite how much I worry. Do I over-think things? YES! Does it pay off sometimes? YES!

Cheers to all of the teachers out there-making their last minute plans for the school year. Happy planning!! :)

Friday, August 2, 2013

Ready or not, here it comes!

I am now a little more than 4 weeks away from beginning my student teaching experience. YIKES! As you can imagine, I have a mixture of emotions going on for that right now. On the one hand, I'm feeling completely unprepared and want to put it off another month. On the other hand, I'm super excited to jump in there and get started. I have been reading middle school blogs like it's my job lately. I was awake at 5am yesterday doing it. Somehow, I just do not feel prepared for this. Sometimes I am prepared for something,  but anxiety makes me feel unready. However, in this case it's because I actually have just not had the time to put anything together yet. Which, is an excuse. I'm aware, but regardless of that, I'm not prepared at all. I still need a few supplies, I have yet to even open the math text book, I haven't been to the classroom yet, and I just decided what book to do for my novel unit last week. I haven't really started preparing my unit yet, unless you count pinteresting. The problem isn't  motivation, because I am completely motivated, and student teaching consumes my thoughts lately. The problem is mostly that I'm just so completely overwhelmed that I'm not sure where to start.

I put together a binder to collect ideas for student teaching and to gather all of my important documents and dates and such. It's been pretty helpful so far. I have a section for my novel unit, math, language arts, life skills, and other. I have jotted down some thoughts for my novel unit and have some other really creative ideas I might want to try out, but I'm still feeling very, very far from ready. 

I decided that I am going to do Holes by Louis Sachar for my novel unit this year. I remember that I absolutely loved the movie and the book when I was younger. It was a fast read, and I think it'll definitely catch the attention of both the guys and the girls in my 6th grade class. I have some really awesome ideas for things I want to do with it. I'm going to try to have my friend who works at a pet store bring in a lizard or two, we're going to study women of the wild west, juvenile boot camps, and famous inventions. We may even pick our own nicknames for each other like they do in the book. It's going to be a blast, and once it's completely planned out I'll feel much better. 

I tend to over think things, which leaves me working on everything 8 times longer than most people would. I'm working on trying to be more decisive, but it's really hard for me. Sometimes I am too much of an overachiever for my own good. I need to learn to take a step back and let good be good enough sometimes.

One thing that I have decided on is what my "about me" bulletin board is going to be like. I've decided to make it a Facebook theme! I saw a couple Facebook boards for famous authors and artists that other teachers have done, so I figured this could be a really cool way to introduce myself to the class. I'll have a profile picture and an about section where I can mention my birthday, my hometown, and where and when I graduated. I'll have a friends section and a photos section where I can put pictures of me and my family and friends. I'll have a likes section where I'll put small pictures of my favorite books, movies, and music, and I'll also be able to list my interests there. My favorite part is going to be the dry erase status message section. That way I can update my status for the class just like I do online. Also, my wall is going to be changeable as well. I'll be able to post questions and pictures and interesting articles, and the students can respond to it with post it notes. I think it'll be a really great way to start interacting with the class. 

Mrs. Coyne should be contacting me anytime in August to have me come set up the classroom. I'm really excited that she is getting me involved so soon and that she is going to help me stay organized and prepared FAR ahead of time. Procrastination would just make this experience so much more challenging and stressful. 

And is...


LISTENING to the fan and traffic. I concentrate best in silence, even though I wish that weren't true. 

LOVING that I finally have a day to relax and catch up with myself and that Corey has the day off too. Also, that things are working out with the FAO. 

THINKING that I wish I had found my motivation earlier this summer and got an even bigger head start on all of this. Stephanie, one of my closest friends, will be coming next week and taking time off work makes me nervous, but I'm so excited to see her, and I need one more break before all of this begins. 

WANTING a few new teacher supplies, some one on one time with Corey, for all financial problems to disappear, and to get some details of my novel unit finished.

NEEDING to get this to-do-list finished, and to take a long nap in the sun. 

A few new items for my teacher wardrobe, colorful pens, a nice travel mug for coffee, and a  planner.

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Student Gifts

These are the gifts I made for my students for tomorrow. It will be my last day with them. They are all creating a colony as their final project and presenting it tomorrow. It should be great! There will be posters, a skit, and a puppet show! (They all were able to decide how to present.) There will also be lots of great colonial snacks for them to eat during the presentations. This was such a great group of kids! The good news is, since this is 5th grade, next year during my student teaching, I might get to have some of them again!

Sunday, April 7, 2013

Writing prompts for early finishers

I just wanted to create a quick post to share this idea for early finishers. I created this container for writing prompts that students can use to write about when they finish an assignment early. I simply took an empty automotive wipe container, decorated it, and filled it with writing prompts. You could also use a big mason jar, a pringles container, an empty can, a vase, or anything you have available. I found the writing prompts here for free: She has over 200 prompts here for grades 4-7. Thanks Ruth S! Once they are downloaded you have the option of printing them in large rectangular pieces or thin strips. For my container I chose to cut them into small strips.

Here are a few of the prompts that are inside, so you get an idea of what they would write about:

If you were the main character, in a story you’ve read, what would you have done differently?
If you could live anywhere in the world, where would it be?
Who’s your favorite relative, and why?
If you could meet a character from a story, who would it be?
If you could meet a famous person, who would it be?
If you could live in a certain time, would it be the past, present or future?
What is the ideal pet?
If you were President of the United States, what changes would you make in the country?
Describe a time when you were brave.
If you could have dinner with a famous person, who would it be?
If you could be on a game show, what show would it be?
If you had a super power, what would it be?
If you could redecorate your bedroom, what would it be like?
What’s the best piece of advice someone has given you?
If you could take three friends with you on vacation, who would it be and where would you go?

Student Teaching Placement -Part 2

First of all, I know I haven't written in a while, but I have been so busy the past few weeks. I have been teaching a unit on Colonial America in a 5th grade class and have been preparing for "Bothwell week" which starts tomorrow. During Bothwell week we take on a 7th grade class and plan and teach all of the subjects that week. I'm really excited about it, but also excited to have it over with. Everyone who has been through it says that real teaching, and even student teaching, does not require THAT much work and preparing. We had to develop really fantastic lessons for each subject that had to be reviewed by our professors and edited many times before our final versions were ready. It's hard just being thrown into a class where you aren't sure what they've learned yet and you aren't really sure WHO you will be teaching. There's really not much time to build a community, set your expectations, and get to know each other. I think this week is going to be challenging for us and the students, but I have a really great group of team teachers to work with, and I know it is going to be an amazing experience. There are only 4 weeks of schools left and I can not wait for summer to start so that I can start preparing for student teaching. I feel like it is so close!

Speaking of student teaching, I went in to visit my placement teacher and class for a day a few weeks ago. It was an amazing experience and since then I have done nothing but pinterest and search ideas for my lessons next year. Yes, I know, I'm a WAY ahead of schedule, but after seeing how the class was run and how great the kids are at that age, I am so excited to get started. I will be teaching only two lessons a day once I take over. There will be a section of math and then a section of language arts. After that there is a life skills class that I may help teach and then I will teach the same math and language arts lessons to the next section of 6th graders.

I have to be honest, I feel like I will be really prepared to teach math, but I'm not yet excited about it. I was the given the text book and the scope and sequence for next fall, but I haven't looked in to it yet. I'm really going to save that for this summer. I want to come up with some unique ways to teach the lessons that are hands-on and differentiated, rather than just teach straight from the book. I'm sure I'll be more excited once I actually start planning the lessons.

I am however, VERY excited about language arts. It has always been my favorite subject, and this is such a great age to teach it. When I take over the class my placement teacher has asked me to do a literacy unit on a book. Initially I thought I could do literacy circles with several books on the same theme, but she thought that it might be easier to pick one book so that I can get more involved in the class, and to make the planning easier. I'm really considering choosing the book The Giver by Lois Lowry. I read that book in 6th, 8th, and 10th grade and just read it again a few weeks ago. Dystopian books are some of my favorite books to read and that was the first book I read that really introduced me to the genre.

I think there are a lot of great things that I could do with this book and I have already started pinteresting some ideas. I would love to base it around the theme of identity, because I think that is something that students that age really need to explore. I did some fantastic art lessons on that theme and I might be able to incorporate some of those ideas. Also, there are some great controversial issues that we could research, debate, or write about; Things like euthanasia, medication, and even school uniforms. Anyway, I won't bore you with too many ideas yet until I am sure of what I will be doing. I'm sure that I'll be able to update my blog much more often this summer. I can not wait to begin collecting my supplies.

My placement teacher is fantastic by the way! She is giving me my own desk and is giving me a bulletin board where I can create a "get to know" me board for the end of the year. She is really open to new ideas and I think she will be completely accepting of anything I want to try-which is fantastic, because I am not afraid to experiment!

All in all, it has been one crazy semester thus far.

Here is a picture of a lesson I taught to kindergartners about the 5 senses. This one was on the sense of taste. They had to do a taste test and then categorize what they tasted. I loved these kids, but after being introduced to the older grades, I think I really want to stick with those when I am teaching.

Sunday, March 3, 2013

Student Teaching Placement

I have just received my student teaching placement! I will be working at Bothwell Middle School, which is a school that is just a few minutes from home. I will be teaching math and language arts to 6th grade students. I'm really excited to have the opportunity to work with older students, since the majority of my experiences have been with students k-5th grade. I am especially excited to be teaching Language Arts. I love reading and writing and to be able to work with an older grade we will be able to do some really great lessons. I have to admit, I'm pretty nervous about teaching math since it is so much out of my comfort zone, but I'm going to welcome the challenge because I think it will be good for me to be able to practice teaching math when I have a mentor to guide me. I'll definitely have to brush up on my math this summer. I am so lucky to have received my placement in March, because some of my classmates won't be receiving theirs until much later in the semester, and some won't have theirs until as late as August. This will allow me to observe my placement teacher's classroom this semester. I'm hoping I will be able to experience as much as possible before student teaching even starts. I am so excited that I have already looked at the standards and have started browsing through blogs,websites,and books about student teaching and 6th grade. I feel like I'll know so much more once I am able to meet her and see her classroom. I am reminded, once again, just how close I am to student teaching , and becoming a teacher myself!

Saturday, February 2, 2013

The problem with reinforcement and scripted lessons

One of the topics brought up in class this week that really struck me was the idea of scripted lesson plans. I had no idea that there were schools that were so strict. I could not imagine going into the classroom each day, opening up to a page, and reading the script from it. Those schools might as well hire actors, substitute teachers, heck, assembly line workers. Granted, there are obviously some advantages to scripted lesson plans or they would never have been implemented. However, scripted lessons leave less room for innovation and student-teacher relationships. Further-more, what then happens to those students who need modifications and adjustments to the lessons? How can those teachers possibly meet the needs of all their students if they must read from a script each day?

 The worst teacher I can ever remember having was one who, even in high school, had us open our textbook each day while she read word-for-word the textbook to us. Then we would do the questions at the back of the book and occasionally watch a video. I cannot even remember one thing that I learned from that teacher, besides how NOT to teach. The best teachers I had were the ones who kept us engaged, who used a variety of different teaching styles, and could listen to our ideas and change their plans day-to-day.  Scripted lessons go against every-thing I have learned about teaching so far, and it is scary that this is the direction some schools are choosing to go.

Another suggestion that got me thinking was the idea of using less reinforcement in the classroom. This idea is so completely different than what I've seen in the schools, and in books, and online. I've seen positive reinforcement work, and work well. However, when I stop and think for a moment, it’s funny, but I’m reminded of the research I did when I was training my new dog. Some websites swore by positive reinforcement to teach, do a trick, and get a treat. We all know that works. Some other websites swore by negative reinforcement, don’t listen and get locked up. Granted, I can tell you that will work too. But the website that made the most sense was the one that explained the idea of simply getting to know your dog, and establishing a role where you’re respected. Teaching the dog to understand the appropriate relationship you want to have with them, one where you are the leader and they follow.

Now, I’m not suggesting we seriously compare children to dogs. The concept is that although treats and reprimands work, even with animals, you don’t learn anything from them. Besides that,we aren't teaching animals, we are teaching people! If we teach children to rely on extrinsic motivation, where does that get them in life? Instead of just doing something because it’s right, they will constantly be asking, “What’s in it for me?” Is that really the type of people we want to raise?

The students that I teach will be expected to do more than retain information to regurgitate on test-days for a good grade. They’re going to learn about the world because they live in it and want to know about it, because it matters to them. They’re going to help each other, and be responsible and hard-working not because they will earn a sticker, but because that’s what people do. Children do not go to school to learn how to “be good at school.” They go to school to learn how to live a good life; how to be good people, and so that is what I will teach. 

Obviously, that is the goal of all teachers, and even of parents. To have their kind WANT to learn, and have good work ethic, be kind, and good people in general, for no other reason than that's what they should do. There ARE some kids who can and will achieve that. However, having worked with children, I'm finding it a challenge to NOT use these types of reinforcements. Frankly, because they work, and sometimes are the only things that work. It's something that I think may come with time for me, and for the students, but is a goal that I want to try to accomplish. 

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Integrating the Arts into the Curriculum

I am in a methods class right now that is completely devoted to teaching us how to integrate the arts into our curriculum. I have had an art class and a music class in the past that was pretty useful towards this, but having read a bit of the textbook required for this class, I am finding that I had been thinking about it all wrong the entire time. I thought that by having the kids listen to music while they worked on math, giving them a lot of art projects, and reading books about artists, that I would be incorporating the arts. Not only is there so much more that a teacher can do, but integrating the arts has much more meaning behind it than “it’s a fun way for kids to learn.”

The book I’m reading now is called “Creating Meaning through Literature and the Arts: Arts Integration for Classroom Teachers, By Claudia E. Cornett.

I love the arts and have found ways to integrate them into my every day life, so I am excited to learn more about ways in which to integrate the arts into my classroom as well.

I've always believed that artists and teachers have a lot in common, and that teachers are, in a way, artists. Teachers like artists, have a unique way of thinking and must come up with creative and engaging ways to get the ideas they are passionate about across to others.

Art integration, as I understand it, is a fantastic way to do this. By weaving literature, dance, drama, art, and music into the lessons that are taught, students are not only engaged, but they are taught to think, learn, and express their ideas in a variety of different ways.

I took some time to read more about some of the schools that are known for integrating the art in their classrooms. I was incredibly inspired by Lady Island Elementary School in Beaufort, South Carolina. The entire site was full of pictures of children being engaged in both learning and the arts simultaneously. This is in comparison to the websites of the schools I have visited or taught in where the majority of pictures displayed are of children sitting as their desks writing, or being read to. Having been involved in state competitions that involved the arts, by seeing the pictures of the children at Lady Island, I am reminded of the feeling I had at those artistic events. I felt completely engaged, cultured, and enlivened. Each day I was there I was inspired by the collaboration and creativity around me. Being at those events have been some of the most incredible experiences of my life  simply because of the feelings they invoked in me. Lady Island is such an incredible school because by integrating the arts into their classrooms, children are able to experience those feelings each day while learning in the most engaging ways possible.

I was especially inspired by their rationale for integrating the arts into their classrooms. I've taken it from their website and posted it here:

“The Visual Arts stimulates and develops children's creative thinking and problem solving abilities. These are skills that are required to participate in today's society and economy.

The Visual Arts empower young minds to notice what there is to be noticed (Green,1984). Art develops a conscious awareness and curiosity about the world around us. Being able to "see" rather than "look" is being able to notice the rhythms, patterns, and colors in our environment. 

Pablo Picasso once said "every child is an artist the problem is how to remain one as an adult." Picasso spent his adult life trying to become childlike in his art because that is where true creativity lies.

Therefore, we are doing our children an injustice if we do not provide for their artistic potential.”