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!