Thursday, September 30, 2010

Games We Can Play

A great mentor of mine gave me an idea for motivating students to finish transitions faster. It's called Preferred Activity Time. I'm not sure I'm completely implementing it correctly, but in general- I give the students a certain amount of time to do things (like, put away a notebook.) Any time they save I add to their "30 minutes of allowance". Any time they waste gets taken away. At the end of the week we play games. I explained to them that we have to play 'school' games because I didn't want our principal to think we didn't do any learning! These are a few of the games we've played. They've all had varying degrees of success and failure.

Games we can play:
1. Multiple Bingo- Students color in a 100’s chart to get a bingo.
2. Count around the room- Students count up by multiples and try to beat their best time. Can also be done backwards and see who can guess where the count will end.
3. Around the World (Vocabulary, Human Bones, Factors, Arizona Regions)
4. Count Backwards (See count around the room)
5. Jeopardy! ( (I paid $1.00 for this cool tool to make an easy online Jeopardy game.)
6. Trashketball (Students are in teams. The first team where everyone can answer the question is given a chance to answer, if they cannot it moves onto another teach. If they get it right they get a chance to throw a piece of trash into the can for extra points.)
7. Charades (Students act out vocabulary words without speaking.)
8. Pass the Monkey! (Students start passing the monkey. When I say ‘freeze’ the monkey stops. I ask a question and the person with the monkey has to answer it before Eleven makes it back to them. If they do answer it, the person who has the money is the next person in the hot seat!)
9. Landscaper (Like around the word, but competitive 2 ways. Students start at each end of the classroom and work towards each other by defeating their classmates in a ‘question’ contest. If a student wins they move on, if they don’t they stop.)

Friday, September 10, 2010

A change, and a good lesson plan format.

It is hard to think that a few days have gone by since Wednesday. I was in absolute tears then, and more than completly under control now.

I spent a majority of this week at a dead run. I've been cleaning, organizing and other such activities as much as possible. I've had parents in and students working hard.

So far I've fixed the following problems:
  • Students being able to see. (I went and retrieved an old transparency projector from the library)
  • Having something to project onto. I put up news print on the wall. Not as good as white paper, but better than absolutly nothing at all.
  • The above fixes a lot of my complaints about the white boards - though sadly, it means that my lights are off quite a bit.
  • Girls Bathroom - seems like if you scare enough of them, you get quieter bathrooms. Interesting.
  • Coming Home Too Late- Yesterday, I just left. Just said, "Tomorrow is planned, I'm done."
  • Meetings Before and After School- Being 100% ready for a meeting helps it go smoothly and quickly. Very nice actually.
I also have the best team in the world. A co-teacher of mine gave me a solution to my too-big-of-desks. Apparently, she hates the small desks with the lift tops. I hate my large desks. Sadly, my classroom is about 3'-4' smaller than all of theirs, so I do not have the luxury of many of the things they have. If I could get smaller desks I would be so happy! The kids might be sad to lose some of their work space, but I would SING!

Since I feel like I ought to do more than ramble:
A teaching suggestion.

This is a format that my district (Madison Elementary School District #38) has set up for their lesson plans.

Lesson Objective: What are the students to be able to do by the end of the lesson?
Sub-Objective: What steps are you as a teacher going to take so that they meet that objective?
Aligned Activity: What are the kids going to do after you've taught them something to meet that objective?
(more as needed)
Assessment: How are you going to know if they learned it?
Differentiation: What special quirks do you need to make so that your students will be successful?

More than any other template this really makes me think about how I am going to teach my students the lesson. I love it. It takes some time, but I use it all the time now.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Details, Details, Details....

When I was completing my Teacher Work Sample I asked my husband to review it. After he did he said, "I'm glad I'm not a teacher - too many details!" At the time I laughed and said, "It's nothing," because to me and my instruction it wasn't too bad.

Now that I'm teaching the complications are building up. It's things like... How do I put my desks so all students can see? Where can I put /my/ desk? What do I do with extra furniture (chairs, shelving, etc)? What is the best use of my space? How many surge protectors do I need? How do I extend the cord from my phone to the wall hook?

All the details (outside of instruction)
Whiteboard Placement
Lack of Image Projectors
Dirty Floors
An inoperative PW on the printer/copier
An inoperative printer
Too small of room
Girls Bathroom leading into my room (NOISE!)
Boxes of reference/textbook material to catalogue and organize.
Organizing wall space
Meetings before and after school
coming home too late to unwind...
Leaving school at the door

New teachers - beware of the small details. College will have prepared you to teach and instruct, but all of these other things are important also. You'll have to do what I'm doing right now. Stepping back, letting some things slide while making everything else take precedence. What always comes first? a) Student instruction. That's the most important. If the details are taking precedence over that - there is a problem.

To round out this very exhaustive post I want to post a tip I received from a mentor when having a rough time.

It's called a "Finger Friend." Sometimes it's nice to see a smiling face. A finger friend looks like this:

It's literally a small smiley face you draw on your index finger. No one but you knows it's there. And you'll be richer for it - especially on a really terrible day.

Monday, September 6, 2010

A Start

It's been a long time since I last posted, but a whole lot has happened. In that time I achieved employment at Madison Simis Elementary School here in Phoenix Arizona. I had a grand total of 4 hours of preparation in the classroom to begin the year. In that amount of time I was able to a)get the desks sorted, b)hang some butcher paper on the wall and c) make a huge mess of all the random materials I was given.

It is week four now... and I'm struggling. My class is the nicest set of children that a teacher could ask for. They're sweet and innocent - but learning is just not happening. Part of this problem is the talking. Now that nervousness has worn off the kids chatter and are out of their seat constantly. CONSTANTLY. I am at my wits end, so I went to go talk to Judy Webb, our 'mentor' person. She gave me some suggestions and even came to sit into my classroom to help me determine where the talking was originating.

She also gave me a book which I have now flipped through. What I took from is not a whole lot a hints to help me along, but one big discouraging message- my classroom problems really /are/ all my fault. I guess I allowed people to convince me that I'm good at classroom management, when really I'm no better than anyone else who ever stepped foot into a classroom.

My career has gone from something I love to do... to something I dread waking up for every morning. I come home exhausted every night. I can barely make myself do the bare minimum. If this is me after just four weeks of school how am I ever going to make it to the rest of the school year.

Everyone has such high expectations of me and I feel like I'm letting everyone down.

Right now? The adventure in learning is a complete nightmare.

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