Top Five Good Things About Testing Week

 

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Not a lot has been happening teaching-wise this week because of standardized testing. But to me, this is always a nice and insightful week for me so I decided to list my five favorite things that I like about this week.
5) There are not a lot of papers to grade! I don’t know about you, but sometimes I need a break from correcting papers. It is great not to have to check homework everyday because I don’t give homework when it is testing.
4) I get to have the students first thing in the morning everyday for the week! What a breath of fresh air this is for me. Even after seven and a half years of teaching at MJGDS, I still find this the most difficult part of my job. My students have a very long day and when they come to me in the late morning until 3:45, it is almost impossible make the most of the time I have with them. They are tired by 2:00 and trying to teach math and/or social studies to them during this time is very difficult.
3) I have been able to witness, first hand, Hebrew class with my fourth graders. What an amazing experience! The Jewish Studies team has had to make adjustments with their schedule too which means they use our classrooms in the afternoon. I have seen a different side to my students. It is amazing to hear these children converse, some very fluently, in Hebrew and watching Rivka teach is enlightening. She is so enthusiastic, and very patient, with the students. What a great teacher!
2) I love watching the Fifth Grade test. I love watching their “brains work”. I love watching all of their habits such as twirling their hair or making facial expressions as they read. I don’t get to sit back and watch them work a lot during a regular class because I am busy helping or answering questions or setting up for the next thing we have to do.
1) I love the bonding that goes on between my students and me during this week. We are all relaxed and have more time to talk, share, and have some fun after the tests. This is the best part of all!

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IDK What Went on in Room 201!

Since a weekly Ning post is a requirement at our school, I sometimes struggle with what to write.  This was one of those weeks. Nothing earth shattering happened in Room 201.  It was one of those weeks where things just clicked along.

Good things that happened in Room 201:

~Math concepts are really coming together.  We had an “aha” moment in Fourth Grade when they realized that fractions, decimals, percentages (which of course were brought up when we were talking about shopping), and remainders in long division are related. Wow, math does have meaning in the real world.

~The fifth graders didn’t skip a beat when studying decimals.  I love how Singapore Math spirals the curriculum so well.  It makes teaching math so much easier.  Nothing really new is added, the skills just go a little deeper.

~ Since we are studying about early expeditions to Florida, I shared the book about Ft. Caroline appropriately titled,  Fort Caroline: The First French Settlement in the New World (available free on iTunes!) that my last year’s fourth graders wrote and it was admired and praised by the “new” fourth graders. That was a proud moment for me because I remember all of the work that the students put into writing it (not to mention our wonderful Librarian, Karin).

~The fourth graders and I shared a good laugh together which in turn seemed to bond us together just a little more.

Ok, so I am not doing anything earth shattering by some people’s standards, but I hope that I am making a difference here at MJGDS.  I hope that I am preparing my students for the future and creating a warm and nurturing environment that can’t be measured or really shared with the world. It will take years to see if I did make a difference.  I pray so.

True Differentiation

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I am having my normal January slump since returning from Winter Break.  Each year, since I began teaching 35 years ago, this has been a difficult time of the school year for me.

I go through different emotions from “I love this job!” to “I am the worst teacher ever!”  and I end up driving myself nuts.  Usually, this mood goes away after a few weeks which is what I am hoping to happen soon.

My main question this year is “What is differentiation?  How can I meet the needs of all of my students and maintain my sanity?”

I have run the gamut of trying different things this year from enrichment folders, personalized contracts, and soon (as I posted previously) badge activities.  But am I doing enough?

Of course, my answer is no.  In my opinion, the best differentiation occurs during class, with no planning, and changes each day with the skills we are doing.  It occurs when either Joni, Michelle, or I see a problem with a student and we work one on one with the child.  This is the BEST thing about working with a small number of students.

As far as differentiating homework, to me this is really difficult to do.  Personally, I have had some unpleasant situations with parents when I try to explain why their child didn’t get the same assignment as another child.  The other problem I have encountered, is the students question me as tho why some people have different assignments than others.  This, to me, is a very uncomfortable situation and I have trouble explaining it to the students and parents.

Another very important aspect of differentiation is grouping the students according to learning styles.  Do we present our lesson in three different ways? One for auditory, one for visual,and one for tactile?  I attended a workshop a few years ago that showed teachers how to do this with their lessons.  I still don’t see how I can differentiate like this and complete very much on a day to day basis.

I did see a very interesting report last Sunday on CBS that talked about doodling.  The bottom line point is that all of us learn (and listen) in different ways and some of us listen and learn better if we doodle.  When I worked with Silvia Tolisano last year, she always had the students take notes and one of her ways of showing them how to take notes was by illustrating what was being talked about during the lesson. She would always tell me to let them learn the way they learn best and if it’s drawing while I talk, so be it.  The news report I saw actually talked about famous people who doodled during meetings, etc.  It was fascinating to see their drawings.

So then I am back at my original question, how can I possible differentiate and meet ALL of my students’ needs and still have time for my other life as a wife and mother? We not only have to worry about their level of learning, but their learning styles too in order to differentiate properly and efficiently.  This could and would take hours on preparation and planning.

I often wonder how anybody my age ever survived in school?  All I remember is reading groups that never changed from August to June. Somehow, most of us grew up to lead productive lives.  Maybe we just learned to adjust and try just a little bit harder if we didn’t understand something.  Ok, now I’m showing my age again.  Hopefully, I will get that burst of teaching energy again very soon. If anyone has any suggestions of how they differentiate their classrooms I would love to hear.

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Lunch Time

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Last year, when all of the teachers were asked if they wanted to be an “advisor” to a group of students, I ignored the offer.  I figured with my personality, which is very shy, I would not be a good fit for the job.  Don’t get me wrong, I love teaching students, I am not shy in front of them, and whenever I mention during class that I am very shy, the students don’t believe me. But the thought of a one-on-one or a small group encounter made me cringe.

During a parent/teacher/administrator conference the other day, I was urged, by the parent, to have  lunch with her child. The butterflies in my stomach went crazy.  The student that I was asked to have lunch with is extremely quiet in class and I hadn’t ever had a long conversation with her her about anything.  When I would speak to her when we were doing classwork, it was always me doing the talking, not her.

So, I decided to ask the student’s friend to join us for lunch on the chosen day.  I figured at least having another person present would make us more comfortable.

On the day of the lunch, I was really nervous.  Lunch time came and both girls got their lunches and came in to the room.  I shut the door and the conversation exploded!  The student that was the main focus burst into conversation. I heard about the games she likes to play, her love for cats, hamsters, and so on.  Both girls were talkative and I saw completely different children.  They were open, humorous, VERY entertaining, and VERY verbal.  They both were totally different people than what I “thought” they were like.  It was an eye-opening experience.

I did some research and found a couple of interesting blog posts about the topic of lunch with students.  One is from my new idol, Michael Linsin.  He states:

“It connects the less connected.

Most students, and even some teachers, assume that shy, less popular students choose to be the way they are. But the truth is, self-consciousness and social awkwardness preclude them from taking part in a natural or meaningful way. Deep down, in their sweetest dreams, they would love to be able to banter and joke with classmates appropriately, participate in class unabashedly, and be just one of the girls or boys.”

I could not agree more, especially since I was one of the shy students in school.  I always wanted to be able to raise my hand and contribute to the class discussion, but I could never find the nerve to do so. I would have loved for a teacher to get to know me.

I would like to make a suggestion to everyone.  Have lunch with one or two students that you really don’t know very well.  Don’t talk about the community of kindness, how to be a better school citizen or role- model, or anything else school related.  Just have lunch with them and let them lead the conversation.  I guarantee you that you will see an entirely different child than you see during class.

This was the best thing I’ve done with students in years!

Image Credit:

http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:KIDS5_PKETAM_0298.jpg

 

 

Teacher-Twenty-One

October 2017
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