Blogging with First Graders

After quickly showing the first graders in my class how to make a post to our brand new science blog, I was a little concerned with how this little experiment of mine would go. Even with the simplest of platforms that I could find, there are so many steps and I could see their faces filled with confusion and concern while I showed them how it would work.
Well that was the week before break. When we came back, things got real. It was time for the students to actually make blog posts themselves! I made an instruction sheet, filled with pictures, for the students to use. On the back was a small diagram about where they could find the buttons they need. I decided to run it as a small group the first week, maybe two, since it is something that is brand new to the students.
We are now two days in to officially blogging, and I have to say, it is going way better than I thought it would! The students are catching on quick, and the process is going really smoothly! I’m not sure that they are that excited about the blogging, other than the fact that they get to use an iPad to do it. I also haven’t had any luck getting the parents to get involved through commenting on the posts…I wonder if this would increase excitement in the project.
Any thoughts on how to get the parents more involved in the process or raise the excitement level about the blogging?
More to come…


Where I’m at

This quarter has been a time of significant learning and growth for me. I have taken on a bigger role in the classroom and have come to see myself more as a teacher rather than a student who will in the distant future will be a teacher (it is no longer that far off). I have thought more about how I would structure my own classroom in the future as opposed to only how I can fit into another teacher’s classroom and utilize their strategies and ideas.
One of the areas I have been really focussing this quarter is classroom management. While I have had a great experience in my field placement classroom and I think my cooperating teacher has an incredible classroom community and management in place, I have been reflecting on whether her approach would work well for me. There are many aspects I will definitely be taking with me, but there are also some areas that I will tweak to fit my personality, pedagogy, and my students.
I have also found myself to be a lot more comfortable in front of the classroom and with that I have been able to be much more flexible in my teaching. I feel as though I am much more in tune with what my students are needing and how to adjust my plans to fit those needs.
Another area of growth for me this quarter has been in my collaboration with other teachers. We have worked together in this program for various projects and I have been comfortable and competent in such collaboration, but this quarter I have been pushed more to collaborate with others more in the realm of teaching. Working with grade level teams, other teachers in general, and with other candidates around lessons and teaching techniques or ideas has pushed me to see collaboration in a whole new light and to be better equipped to work with people in this area.
Finally, I have become a lot more comfortable with blogging this quarter. I have found my voice a lot more and feel more like I am coming across as myself as opposed to someone who is writing a paper for a class (which the first quarter I simply posted pieces from my reflective academic papers). Blogging has come much easier to me this quarter and I can better see myself keeping it up as a teacher in the future.

What on the world is going on in there?

As I dropped my students off for music class on Monday, the music teacher asked if my cooperating teacher and I could come back a little early so that the kids could show us what they have been working on. Of course we came back and I am so glad we did! The students performed for us a musical version of the Three Little Pigs story, complete with motions and all. It was so entertaining and gave me somewhat of a glimpse into what they do in music class. Since that wonderful performance, I have found myself thinking about my students and wondering what they do in their specials classes. The more I thought about it, the more I realized that I have no idea what they do in any of their specials classes. I started to wonder if I should know what they are doing in these classes. It could be helpful to know what they are learning in these classes and who seems to really excel in these areas. I could incorporate these into my curriculum and find ways to reach all students better. But how? I have seen how busy the classroom teacher is, and I’m sure the specials teachers are just as busy. Is it realistic to talk with all of the specialist teachers or visit their classes? Is there a way to collaborate more?

Self Assessing

I want to start by saying that I think it is important for students to self assess. Now that that’s been said, I wonder how much weight you put on it. After talking about the TPA and how we needed to have students self-reflect, I had a short panic attack and then tried to figure out how to have first grade students self assess. Someone brought up the great idea of putting smiley faces on an exit slip and having them rate themselves that way. That is precisely what I did. I put a frowny face, a straight face, and a smiley face and asked students to circle one to tell me how much they understand the make a ten strategy we had been working on. I explained the frowny face meant you didn’t understand it at all, the straight face meant you kind of understand it but need more practice, and the smiley face means you understand it so well you could explain it to someone else. Before I gave out the exit slips, I thought that most students would select the smiley face, partly because it was a review lesson and partly because they are a bunch of 6 and 7 year olds that I assumed (I know, never make assumptions!) would think they were experts whether they were or not. The results surprised me, however. There was a range of answers. Yes, there were some who put a smiley face when they did not understand the strategy, or at least they could not put it into practice. One student circled a smiley face after they needed to be walked through almost every problem in class and on the exit slip. There was also this student who did the first problem wrong but still circled a smiley face.


Then there was one student who didn’t ask one question during the independent practice time in class (and did all of the problems correctly) and got both problems on the exit slip correct but circled the frowny face.


I was so surprised by this that I didn’t know what to say. She is such a strong student in all academic areas that I was shocked that she felt as though she didn’t understand what we had been working on (even though she was able to utilize it). I have not had the opportunity to talk to her about it yet and see what she was thinking. While it was really interesting to see how all of the students self assessed, this experience has left me with a little doubt in the process. I suppose it lets you know a student’s confidence level with a topic, but I am not sure it does much else. I am curious about others’ experiences with the process and thoughts on it.

Difference Among Schools

After our discussion in class the other day, I couldn’t help but reflect back on the different schools I have been in, as a student and as a teacher. Each school is different and the effect is great on the school community, resources, and the staff it attracts. I have been in private schools and public schools, high income and low income schools, traditional and non-traditional, and the biggest difference I have found is the amount of resources available to the school. Some schools have had a limit on the resources that a teacher can use, others simply didn’t have resources to use. On the other hand, some schools I have been in have had more resources than teachers know what to do with. While this seems crazy and is unjust, I have also seen teachers do the best with what they have, and provide an exceptional education to the students regardless of what they have available to them. 

Something else I have noticed across schools is that it doesn’t matter whether a school is a low income school or a wealthy school, the community is built by the leadership at the school. I have been in higher income schools where the community is weak and teachers don’t get along with each other or with the principal, and they don’t bother creating a strong community among the students or parents. I have also been in low income schools where the community is strong and the staff of the school works hard to create a strong bond amongst the school and parents and create a strong school community with the students. 

One of the schools I have been in, which to my knowledge was the lowest income school I have been in, was the best at drawing on its community support. They utilized all of the supports in their community to help their school families in any way needed. They connected families with cultural centers, affordable housing in the area, and almost any other support that was needed. 

The difference among schools is striking and leaves me with one question for myself and for all educators: what kind of school would you want to be a part of?

Knowing your students: just how important is it?

Knowing your students and the class context has been something we have talked about at length in our classes, but never have I understood it better than now. We have had the luxury of getting to know our students in our placement and our cooperating teacher’s routines and management before even thinking about writing a lesson plan or teaching a lesson in that classroom. Perhaps it is becuase of this luxury that I never truly understood its importance until this last week. This week, I had to create and execute a lesson plan for a class which I had only seen twice for an hour. While creating the lesson plan with my colleagues, it was extremely difficult to decide what to teach, how to teach it, and how much time to spend on each part. And that wasn’t even the most difficult part. Then we had to go into the classroom and put it into practice with a group of students we barely knew (whose names we didn’t know at all). This made every single decision that much harder to make. While the lesson ended up going well overall and the students learned what the lesson was intended to teach, I feel as though I learned the most valuable lesson that day.

Classroom Community

How do you know if all of the work you put into creating a classroom community has worked? When something like this happens. Today, our art docent finished about 20 minutes early and the students were instructed to get a book and beanbag and find a place in the classroom to read. What ensued was incredible. As students grabbed books, they all went to the carpet to read their books. As more and more students came to the carpet, the students decided to create a circle that included everyone. The more students that joined, the bigger the circle became and the more excited the students became. By the time there were only a few students left, students were practically begging them to join the circle. They were trading books as they finished reading them. Then, one of the students came up with what everyone thought was a brilliant idea, they would take turns reading to each other. We only had enough time for one student to read, but the whole experience was priceless. Below is a picture of the group in their circle (faces are blurred for confidentiality).


Tabletop Movie Making

In a time when there’s never enough time in the classroom, how can we fit in time for creativity and movie making? Answer: Tabletop movie making. These kits allow you to go from nothing to a short video in the matter of a couple of hours. The set up is simple enough that students will pick it up almost immediately. The best part of this, however, is the fact that the focus remains on the writing aspect instead of the technology.
The set also allows the users to really exercise their creativity. The basics are provided, but they are easily adjusted to be your own and fit your story. It is also easy to create your own characters and backgrounds from scratch. I see this as such a great tool for students of all ages and for so many activities. You could use it to spice up book reviews, to create their own ending to a book, to publish a piece of writing, and so much more. The opportunities are endless.
Brick Maier did a great job of introducing the setup to us and then setting us free to imagine and create. For more information and to buy the kits, visit the website.

PLT Workshop

Today’s workshop was really great. There were so many engaging activities for a topic that really doesn’t excite many people. My favorite part, however, was the chance to go outside and explore and conduct activities actually in nature. This is huge for students, it makes the everything real for them and helps them to see what they are saving. As we talked about today, students won’t take care of the environment until they care about the environment.

The Table

It’s amazing how much learning can occur at one table. I have seen countless small group lessons at this table. Students are learning how to read, write, and do math. They are learning content while the teacher is learning both about the students and about her teaching. It is at this table that I learned to write my first lesson plan (for a real classroom). This was also the place where I taught my first small group lesson and learned how adjustments are made on the fly when your student sits there staring at you and the only thing they can say is “I don’t know” or when the student tells you the answer before you even ask the question. I have seen countless students sit at this table and learn, but I wonder if any of them have learned as much as I have in this incredible space in the classroom.