“I do not act the way I look”

May 29, 2007 at 4:09 pm | Posted in behavior, elementary, teachers | 1 Comment

My principal and I had an interesting conversations regarding a couple of my students today.  One, the new boy, is large, tall, and tough looking as well as tough acting.  In the last week he’s been in my class, I watched as he enthusiastically “put my armpit in” during music class or sat at rapt attention as I tell a story or furrow his brow as he works on a math puzzle.  He looks like a big boy, but inside, he’s just a little baby, same as any other third grader and ready to learn.

Another one, is just MASSIVE, the size of a high-school football player..in fifth grade.  He’s always been that big.  When he was my student in first grade, he looked like a third grader.  The unfortunate thing was that adults expect him to act “his age”, meaning his size, and treated him like he should have known better when he makes a mistake…when in fact, he doesn’t know better because he WASN’T that age and since people always expected him to know better, nobody bothered to teach him better.  He’s a huge behavior problem now, but when I come around, he runs up to me and excitedly catches me up on the events in his life.  BIG baby.

It’s an epiphany for me.  Don’t judge a book by its cover and don’t judge a kid by his size.

The new boy in my class continues to have problems with his previous teacher.  Had an altercation at an assembly today before I could intervene.  Teacher made the judgement that my new student did something wrong.  My student threw a huge attitude fit.  Teacher got aggravated, things escalated.  The kid in fact was just wiggly, the show hadn’t started, and he just needed a gentle reminder to wait patiently.  He may look older, but inside, he’s just a little kid, same as all the other ones that were wiggling impatiently (none of whom got told off).  He wasn’t even talking.

Day 5 of Big Test – We’re doing M&M Math!

May 28, 2007 at 10:19 pm | Posted in graphic organizers, high stakes testing, learning modality, math, third grade | 2 Comments


Originally uploaded by cityteacher
For math tomorrow, we’re going to use real m&ms to sort, tally, and graph. Lots of valuable math skills involved. We’re also using many different modalities and two graphic organizers. Math should be like this every day! The kids love this every year! I usually do this with the third graders, but with a little modification, you can do the same with younger students and older students.

Make sure you bring enough m&m bags for everyone. I will have the students work in pairs, but everyone should have their own bag of m&m to eat.

There are two pages to this activity.  The first page is the sorting, tallying, and graphing sheet.  The second page has the questions that students must answer using their graphic organizers.

You can download both pages as PDF from my box.net.

KWL Chart – always useful!

May 28, 2007 at 9:50 am | Posted in best practices, free resources, graphic organizers, Open Court, strategies | Leave a comment

Andrew reminded me recently that the KWL chart is always useful, always powerful in helping students reflect on old and new learning.  Visit his blog for a more in-depth discussion of the KWL chart.  Also, Andrew created a KWL chart for anyone’s use if you are interested.

I’ve taken the liberty of adding the KWL chart to the teaching strategies wiki.

Thanks Andrew!

For teachers of the Open Court program, I added a paragraph of how to integrate the KWL chart with your Inquiry Journal at the  teaching strategies wiki.

Student Films – Wow!

May 28, 2007 at 9:24 am | Posted in best practices, Open Court, technology in education | 1 Comment

Last week, I had the great opportunity of attending teacher Mathew Needleman’s presentation of his student films at the Apple Store. Really, wow! I got so many ideas for my own class next year!

You can view the same films at his blog.  These films go along with units in the Open Court language arts program, but they give ideas for any teacher anywhere!

Standards for Excellent Teaching

May 26, 2007 at 11:42 am | Posted in best practices, education, elementary, standards, teachers | 1 Comment

I’m beginning my work to become a National Board Certified Teacher (NBCT) through the National Board for Professional Teaching. A National Board Certified Teacher is a teacher judged by peers to be an accomplished teacher. It is the highest level of recognition for a teacher. NBCTs are teachers of excellence at a national level.

The benefits are many and the journey is long.

But, already, I have learned something of crucial value to me as a teacher. I have learned that in the standards for teaching as defined by the National Board, curriculum is a very small part of teaching.

For an Early Childhood Generalist (an early elementary school teacher), the standards are:

  • Understanding Young Children
  • Equity, Fairness, and Diversity
  • Assessment
  • Promoting Child Development and Learning
  • Knowledge of Integrated Curriculum
  • Multiple Teaching Strategies for Meaningful Learning
  • Family and Community Partnerships
  • Professional Partnerships
  • Reflective Practice

As you can see, there is no “Knowledge of Curriculum” but there is “Knowledge of Integrated Curriculum.”

This is a powerful point to make because many, many, many teachers still INSIST that their primary job is to teach the curriculum or deliver the lesson, usually in discreet chunks of unrelated facts. That is in fact a very, very minor part of our job as teachers, particularly in the elementary setting.

Many teachers also are much put-upon by the idea that they have to be involved in touchy-feely things like “getting to know the kids” or “developing their self-esteem” or “parent partnerships” and feel that these are New Age-y things have no bearing on the real job of teaching.

As we can see from these national standards of teaching, teaching is very holistic and has much to do with EVERYTHING and content knowledge is just one of many parts needed for good teaching.

Keep that in mind when you become frustrated that your students aren’t “getting” the content. Perhaps it’s time to take a step back, re-evaluate, and approach from a new direction.

“Survivor” in Education

May 26, 2007 at 12:41 am | Posted in education | Leave a comment


>Next Season on Survivor

>Have you heard about the next planned “Survivor” show?
>Three businessmen and three businesswomen will be dropped in an elementary
>school classroom for 1 school year. Each business person will be provided
>with a copy of his/her school district’s curriculum, and a class of 28 – >32
>Each class will have a minimum of five learning-disabled children, three
>with A.D.D., one gifted child, and two who speak limited English. Three
>students will be labeled with severe behavior problems.
>Each business person must complete lesson plans at least 3 days in >advance,
>with annotations for
>curriculum objectives and modify, organize, or create their materials
>accordingly. They will be required to teach students, handle misconduct,
>implement technology, document attendance, write referrals, correct
>homework, make bulletin boards, compute grades, complete report cards,
>document benchmarks, communicate with parents, and arrange parent
>conferences. They must also stand in their doorway between class changes to
>monitor the hallways.
>In addition, they will complete fire drills, tornado drills, and [Code >Red]
>drills for shooting attacks each month.
>They must attend workshops, faculty meetings, and attend curriculum
>development meetings. They must also tutor students who are behind and
>strive to get their 2 non-English speaking children proficient enough to
>take the Terra Nova and PSSA tests. If they are sick or are having a bad >day
>they must not let it show.
>Each day they must incorporate reading, writing, math, science, and social
>studies into the program. They must maintain discipline and provide an
>educationally stimulating environment to motivate students at all times. >If
>all students do not wish to cooperate, work, or learn, the teacher will be
>held responsible. They must smile as parents verbally assault them and
>blame them for the ills of the educational system.
>The business people will only have access to the public golf course on the
>weekends, but with their new salary, they may not be able to afford it.
>There will be no access to vendors who want to take them out to lunch, and
>lunch will be limited to thirty minutes, which is not counted as part of
>work day. The business people will be permitted to use a student restroom,
>as long as another survival candidate can supervise their class.
>If the copier is operable, they may make copies of necessary materials
>before, or after, school. However, they cannot surpass their monthly limit
>of copies. The business people must continually advance their education, >at
>their expense, and on their own time. The business people must be on >their
>best behavior in public places at all times and be ready for >parent/teacher
>conferences in the middle of the mall or local supermarket at a split
>second notice.
>They must endure the heartbreak of sending children home that they know
>will not receive help with homework, a meal, clean clothes, or a loving
> They must buck up and try not to cry on the last day of school when the
>children they have spent most of the last nine months, and have come to
>love or care deeply for, go off to the rest of their lives, most of the
>time to never see or speak to them again.
>The winner of this Season of Survivor will be allowed to return to their
>own job.

I will modify the last sentence to read:  The winner of this Season of Survivor will be allowed to return to the classroom the following year and feel great satisfaction of a worthy job well done. 

Protected: Teaching Second Grade Next Year

May 25, 2007 at 7:18 pm | Posted in behavior, second grade, teachers, third grade | Enter your password to view comments.

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Day 4 of Big Test- All’s Well that Ends Well

May 25, 2007 at 7:08 pm | Posted in behavior, education, elementary, high stakes testing, Special Education | Leave a comment

I conferenced with the New Boy to see how his week went.  He enjoyed himself.  Didn’t get into much trouble.  Felt he did well on the Big Test.

The other kids were happy to have music class and then a health assembly after lunch.  Over all, not much academic learning took place, but the kids all had a great time.  They’re groaning at having to take more tests next week, but so long as I promised to bring Gummi Worms to snack on during the test, they’ll be happy.

They wonder, same as me, why they have to do this for EIGHT days.  Some other grade levels are excited to be done with their tests already.

My three special education students will stay with me for the entire test, though their IEPs (special education plans) specify that they should have  modifications such as extended time and a quiet place to work.  We, that is, all the adults involved, agree that the best place for them would be with me in the classroom as that is where they are most comfortable and would have a quiet, minimal stress environment in which to work.  They did very well so far.  One tries very hard to read and answer all the questions laboriously.  One does the best she can in as quick a time as she can.  The other one just quickly fills in the bubble and will go back to take a look at a few questions if I specifically asks him to go back and check.

For him, I wish the resource teacher was more accommodating.  I dream that perhaps she could keep him focused one question at a time whereas I could only keep him focused every five to ten minutes as I make my rounds throughout the classroom.

Day 2 and Day 3 of BIG TEST – The natives are getting restless

May 23, 2007 at 8:28 pm | Posted in behavior, education, high stakes testing | 1 Comment

And I swear they are planning a rebellion on Friday. Shudder in fear all you teachers!

The new boy as well as five of my most hyper boys and two of my most absent-minded girls are testing my patience sorely. They got several good talking to today, in private during class time and during recess. The speech started out as “I understand you feel tired and restless, but you still have to follow the rules yadiya.” Then, as the day wore on, the conversation turned to, “I don’t EVEN need to to tell you why you’re here with me. YOU tell me why you’re here.” Predictably, they are dead-on for why they are having the discussion with me. That’s clear expectations for you.

We are having great fun playing with the tangrams during math. Didn’t miss a single session of physical education, otherwise known as “jog off that excess energy”. The only problem is our language arts program must continue on as scheduled.

New Student on Day 1 of Big Test – Went Well!

May 21, 2007 at 11:20 pm | Posted in behavior, education, high stakes testing | 3 Comments

Went very well!

Actually, I was agog at how well my students behaved in the morning.  Usually, they are well behaved (months of training of course) and get right on task doing their morning routines and morning activity.  Today, they did everything they’re supposed to, and quiet as a mouse!

With all my students working, the new student joined in and just picked up our routines as if he was an old pro.  It was funny watching him read the morning routines one step at a time and following it, one step at a time.  Everyone else just do things automatically by now.

By 8:10 all my students were at their desks, working on their vocabulary activities.  I told them to continue working quietly while I give them direction for getting ready for the test.  I directed the students to move to their test-taking seats, passed out the dividers (you know, the test dividers so students can’t peek at each other’s work?), got everyone books to read should they finish the test early…and the whole time I was prepping the classroom, the students were all working quietly, including the new student.

By 8:20, we were ready for the test.  Reminded them of the rules and expectations.  Reviewed some test taking strategies.  Then, they got busy for two hours.  I walked around whispering encouraging comments like, “I like the way you are reading the passage carefully.”  Tried to keep one of my girls awake. (She was homeless for a long time and now lives in one of those small, crowded, noisy hotels.  She doesn’t get much sleep at night.) Other than that, the kids behaved very well and tried their best.

Later, after lunch, for math, we cut up construction papers to make our tangrams for tomorrow’s math activities.  It’s a hands-on activity using a lot of geometry vocabulary and builds spatial sense.  Everyone was very excited and very engaged.  They also used words like “parallelogram, rhombus, and right triangle” which thrilled me.   My new boy was completely focused on the activity and very excited to demonstrate to me that he was smart in math.

Things look promising!  On to Day 2!

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