Saturday, May 20, 2017

4th graders say the darndest things

Me: We live in the northern hemisphere. Can you name a country or continent in the southern hemisphere?

Random Student (shouting): Ohio!


Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Friday, January 27, 2017

Wednesday, January 4, 2017

Presentation on Honey

Here's the link to my presentation on honey. I created this lesson for a high school Special Education Basic Life Skills Class. 

You can read more about this lesson here:

Mound Builders Presentation

Here is a link to one of my student teaching artifacts, a presentation I created for a fourth-grade social studies lesson on the Mound Builders of Indiana:

And here is the padlet I created for my students to access to guide them to more information about Indiana's First Peoples:

Saturday, December 3, 2016

Week 16: My last week of student teaching - I did it!

My last week of student teaching was nothing short of awesome. In fact, my entire eight weeks in fourth grade was so much fun, I really hated leaving. I want to stay in fourth grade. My dream job would be teaching fourth grade for the rest of my life.

But, there aren't many choices out there when you're applying for a job. And I'm well-experienced in all grade levels. I can teach reading to a kindergartener and algebra to a high school student. I can tutor struggling learners and I know how to offer enrichment to high ability students. I've been doing it all my life. I simply love the art of teaching. It's as much a part of my identity as the hair on my head.

My journey started when I was twelve-years-old and helped Miss Donna at the Busy Bees Preschool. At age fourteen I was teaching Sunday School and Children's Church. At age sixteen I wrote an essay about teaching and won a writing contest and was published in a Sunday School curriculum.

At the age of 21 I taught preschool and kindergarten at a private school for seven years. After I had children I homeschooled my children and also had my own cottage school when they were older where I taught in a one-room school with fifteen students with various abilities for six years.

I. Am. A. Teacher. And I'm not just a teacher for a job. Teaching is in my bones. Everything for me comes back to learning and education. Even in the books I write, I find myself yearning to teach something new. It's a strange gift, this teaching thing. And if you don't have it, well, sorry, you just won't get it.

I always thought I'd like to be an administrator, but the more I'm in the classroom interacting with students, the more I realize it's probably not my bent. I have to teach. I want to teach. By the way, have I mentioned lately how much I love teaching? In fact, my ultimate dream is to inspire other teachers. Maybe that can happen as I gain more letters behind my name. I sure hope so.

In my fourth grade homeroom this past week we wrapped up our Native American Unit studies. The students created their museums about their assigned tribes and were absolutely brilliant in their display of them.

I divided the class into the five prominent tribes who lived in Indiana before the removal: Miami, Shawnee, Kickapoo, Potawatomi, and Delaware (Lenape). Each tribe was responsible for creating a museum. As fourth graders, this was the first big group research project they'd done. I was extremely proud of their efforts.

The museums each had to answer the following questions on this grid:

During their museum open houses, their classmates visited their museum and asked questions. Each tribe was required to answer these questions either verbally or people were to be able to find the answers to the questions via their museums. 

Some students even demonstrated games that the first peoples of Indiana played!

One set of students wrote a song about their tribe, the Kickapoo:

Another student wrote a rap about being a Delaware:

Two boys in the Shawnee tribe went on a bear hunt:

And my favorite movie was made by the Kickapoo tribe:

Saying goodbye wasn't easy. I created this cute card and attached a candy cane. I'm blessed my last day was in December. Candy canes are economical and the students loved them!

I gave my math students a pencil with a holiday eraser and this card. And I gave each of my homeroom students this card with a candy cane and a purple highlighter for highlighting "purple words." (Click here for more info on purple words!)

I was also able to give them each their own copy of one of my books, O Canada Her Story, which was written for their age level. They were thrilled and so was I. We had a book signing during our goodbye party!

And then one of the students got hold of my phone and I had some giggles when I got home and saw what they did...

Apparently fourth graders know how to party. Who knew?

They all wrote me touching notes or drew me a picture. It was very moving for me to read them after I got home. I read them aloud to my husband and we both had a lot of laughs and tears. Kids are the best humans on earth, aren't they?

I'm very blessed that I had a wonderful supervising teacher, Susan Finney, a gifted and prominent clinical supervisor, Nancy Alspaugh (retired high school principal), and now my journey through student teaching is done and I will graduate at the end of December.

I might be older than the average graduate, but I'm not any less excited. I might be older than the average newly licensed teacher, but I'm not any less good at what I do. Student teaching solidified my calling. I. Am. A. Teacher. As much as I am a woman, a mother, a wife, a writer.

I'm a teacher. I teach.

And children, beautiful children, are my favorite pupils.

I'm convinced that I will die with no regrets in terms of how I've spent my time on this earth because I have had the gift of freedom to pursue what I love. How very blessed I feel as I write this. I am always aware that not everyone has this glorious freedom. I have never once taken my education for granted. I'm constantly amazed at how much  I get to learn!

And I think that's a superpower ingredient to good teaching, too. Excellent teachers are always learning. They seek out wisdom like bees do nectar. It's what fuels them. It gives them the strength to give it another go when they feel like giving up. I will never, ever stop learning. There's no way to know everything.

And since that's a universal truth, I guess there will always be a need for teachers.

I think, perhaps, I have chosen a generous path.

Thursday, November 24, 2016

Week 15: Squanto and Thanksgiving

This was my favorite week of student teaching so far, and also my last week student teaching all the subjects alone. Next week is my last week, period, and I'll be phasing out so the teacher can phase back in.

I am so blessed to have gotten the placement I have. The teacher is creative, tech-savvy and allows me to use my own creativity in teaching. She allowed me to go full-tilt on Thanksgiving enrichment this week and the kids and I loved it.

This was a coloring page I used this week.
For social studies, we wrapped up getting our Native American "museums" ready for display next week. I have two student movies edited and am finishing up editing one more. I'm so tickled with how they turned out and so are the students. I'll post them next week.

On Tuesday and Wednesday we focused on Thanksgiving by studying the life of Tisquantum, more famously known as Squanto. You can read about his ordeal here: A Lesser Known Atlantic Crossing.

I have always loved his story. It fascinates me that he was able to put aside feelings about his captivity by Europeans and reach out and help other Europeans who settled on his tribe's lands--the people we know as the Pilgrims.

Now, I realize there are progressive attitudes out there about the pilgrims. There are claims that they were simply lazy puritans, but I have a different view. I believe they were city people with no clue how to work the land. They'd not grown up doing it and had no idea how to do it. We picture people of the 1600s as all being farmers. But the fact is, many people, especially those who knew how to read, held jobs in the cities and bought their foods at a market just like most of us do today. They weren't builders, either. They were people who worked more with their heads than their hands.

But that's another blog post for another time on another blog. Back to student teaching.

I used these resources to share the story of Squanto with the children:

This is my favorite resource, but I didn't read it word for word as it makes many references to God and that's frowned up on in the public schools. I do like the way this book tells the story, and the pictures are beautiful. I mostly used the pictures to create a timeline of Squanto's life for the students as I flipped through the pages.

Beautifully illustrated but wordy. I used the pictures in this book, too.

Squanto Webquest 

Squanto Graphic Organizer

Squanto's story gave us the opportunity for fascinating discussions about forgiveness, prejudice, slavery and generalizing/categorizing people. We're blessed to have a culturally diverse class and students from many ethnic backgrounds. I'm often reminding them to be proud of their skin color and reminding them that what they look like doesn't define who they are.

"If someone who wears purple bullies you, does that mean all people who wear purple are bullies?" These are the types of conversations we had.

The fact is, all races have enslaved humans at sometime in history. It happens still today. Even the Native Americans enslaved people of other tribes. Unfortunately, this flaw of human nature isn't something we can attribute only to the Europeans. (Again another blog post for another time. But it applies to teaching because we are to be culturally sensitive.)

We ended the week in social studies with the movie Squanto: A Warrior's Tale. This has long been a movie I've watched every Thanksgiving for years. And the kids loved it! It really brought home the things they've been studying in their Native American unit, too, since Indiana's natives also lived in wigwams and were woodland Indians like Squanto. Since the movie is historically innacurate in many places, I was able to help the students compare and contrast the movie with the primary documents about Squanto, and help them understand how the movie was fiction based on fact. They've been reading a lot of books of the same type of genre. (They are especially fond of the "I Survived" series of books.)

In Math, I did a regular lesson on Monday on multiplying up to four-digits by one-digit and solving word problems. This math class is a very active, loud group. They have such a difficult time attending to lessons. So I was relieved that my supervising teacher allowed me to use Thanksgiving-themed games to keep the students engaged on Tuesday and Wednesday. I also had my last student teaching evaluation on Tuesday. This time my clinical supervisor observed me teaching math.

I created six stations for students to rotate to (click on the descriptions for links to where I got the game):

  1. Multiplication Jenga. Each Jenga piece had a multiplication fact on it. When they pulled the piece they solved the fact on the piece before placing it on top.
  2. Fall-themed multiplication color-by-number. (I changed the pictures on day two.)
  3. Thanksgiving Roll & Cover
  4. Turkey Times. Students drew a card with a turkey and a number, and covered two connecting numbers that when multiplied, equaled the number on the card.
  5. Catch a Turkey. Students rolled dice, multiplied the two numbers, then placed a marker on the game board next to a turkey. Whoever put a marker on the last number circling the turkey won that turkey.
  6. Frantic Turkeys. Students rolled dice to move on a board of multiplication facts. They solved the fact, covered the number answer in the middle of the board. 
  7. Thanksgiving math mystery pictures. (I changed the pictures on day two.)
  8. Gobble Multiplication Bump
  9. Turkey Dominoes (I made this myself and I was in a hurry so it's not all that great, but feel free to use it.) Students draw a domino, multiply the numbers, and then cover the answer on their card in the same way you do in a BINGO game. There were four students in each group, so two students shared a card.

I divided the students into six groups for the six different stations. I set the timer on the iPad and when the alarm rang, they rotated to the next station. They spent about ten minutes at each activity. I changed out the games the next day except for the Jenga, as it was the favorite. Some of the students goofed off, as usual, but most of them were engaged and really enjoyed it. 

I decided to take two days for the rotations because there were so many students and they were only getting ten minutes at each station. This gave them the extra practice they really need concerning their math facts. From what I'm observing, failing to memorize these facts is what is holding some students back. 

Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday, and I'm really happy that my supervising teacher allowed me to use it as a vehicle for engaging the fourth graders this past week. 

Next week is my last week, and I have mixed feelings. It's been hard work but very rewarding work. I've grown terribly fond of these students. That's a weakness of mine and always has been. I remember how I bawled like a baby when I said goodbye to my first Kindergarten class when I was teaching at a private school. It's just how I am. 

Teaching is such a work of love and yet, we're expected to let our charges go and fly to other teachers, places and destinies. We teach with open hands and hearts. I think there's probably an art to doing it gracefully, but I've yet to figure out how to say goodbye without the sting of melancholy, tears and plenty of kleenex. 

Friday, November 18, 2016

Week 14: In which I get made fun of, sassed at, and challenged

I think there's got to be something about week seven when it comes to bonding with kids. I say this because it was about the seventh week when I was student teaching at the high school that certain students got comfortable enough with me that they sassed me.

This is week seven of my journey in fourth grade, my 14th of student teaching. Today a student sassed me in front of the entire class. I felt awful for the student because as soon as he did I saw his face melt into a look of horror. The words flew out of his mouth before he had time to stop them.

I couldn't let it go, though. Everyone was watching.

Another student told me that her twin sister was making fun of my looks in the hall. I found that hilarious, and assured this student that I could take it, that I like the way I look, I am pretty and nice and that's all that matters. That seemed to reassure her.

The math class this week was unruly. I think it was the supermoon because even my homeroom students were uncharacteristically ornery. Either that, or, they are just comfortable enough with me now to be awful and know I'll still care about them. (Science doesn't support my theory about behavior being affected by the moon, but it sure is interesting that when there's a full moon, kids are more rowdy...)

Wikipedia Image
Since my math class wasn't all that into math, on Thursday, I played like I was a mean old teacher. I gave the students an uexpected test which meant they had to have zero voices for the last half of the class. Then, I documented what I saw. And after my observations, I can understand why that class has a difficult time staying focused. Out of 25 students, twelve were daydreaming, wiggling, and doing just about anything except their math test. They did it with great stealth, too.

And about seven of them couldn't sit in the chair properly. So, that was telling. This class is more body smart than pay-attention smart. They want to move and talk and play. Which, I realize is normal. But this group seems a little on the immature side of fourth grade that way. And it makes it difficult for the students who do pay attention and are quiet. I feel so bad for the ones who are studious. Most of the students in that class just aren't.

Fortunately, next week is Thanksgiving week, so I have the freedom to do math activities instead of plowing through the curriculum. I say plow because that's how it feels sometimes. The state has set standards of what these students are to learn. And if we don't cover certain things on time and in time, the students won't be prepared for the tests.

I have always said we should teach children not curriculum. In a private school this is much easier to accomplish. I was differentiating curriculum for students long before it became a buzzword in education. And yet, even though we are to differentiate, and the classes are already differentiated by ability (I have the mid-level ability class), there is still such a wide range of abilities. We're teaching multi-digit multpilication by one digit and yet, there are still students who don't know their math facts. They're still using multiplication charts and their fingers.

The old-fashioned teacher in me wants to drill these kids until every single kid in the class has these facts down. But not only is drill frowned upon, it's not even possible. There's not enough time. And there aren't enough teachers to help students who are lost. That, I think, is the frustrating part about teaching a large group of students. I want so much to make sure each of them understands what's been taught before they leave the room. But it's not possible. At least, not the way the system is set up right now.

Other things that happened this week included wrapping up the social studies projects the students are doing for their Native American museums. I'll be posting pictures and videos about that in the coming weeks. In the meantime, here's the newsletter I sent this week:

I'm really proud of the work the students have done on their social studies research projects. Today I filmed a little movie two of them wrote. It's fun to see talent blossom in fourth grade. It's just starting to emerge here. Kids are just learning what they're good at. I love having a front row seat!

Today I had another teaching evaluation. I only have one more to go! Then I have tons of papers to write. But that's the easy part for me. Sometimes when I'm walking through the hall at the school, I can hardly believe that's what I'm doing. It's such a privilege to get to work with these eager, thirsty minds. I can't think of anything else I'd rather do.  
I was offered a good-paying job doing something else last night. And I really don't want to take that position because all I really want to do is write and teach. I can't imagine that I'd be happy doing another job no matter how much it pays. I have a lot of thinking to do, but I'm pretty sure I know the answer. Teaching is my passion. It's not going away. And if I leave it to do something mundane for tons of money? I think I'd feel cheap and useless. 

Teaching is what I do best. I might be good at other things, too, but just because I'm good at them doesn't mean I should do them. Teaching and writing -- my two passions -- touch the future. I've always wanted to time travel and this is one way to do it. I can't imagine being truly happy doing anything else.

4th graders say the darndest things

Me: We live in the northern hemisphere. Can you name a country or continent in the southern hemisphere? Random Student (shouting): Ohio! ...