*Please note that in order to protect the privacy of my collaborating teacher (CT) and my students, I will not mention the name of the school, students or the teacher. I will also avoid mentioning the grade level of my classroom. This is done to protect the rights and privacy of everyone that I work with.*
This week has been an interesting week. My students and I did not have any class on Monday. I enjoy days off because they allow me to catch up on my work, and in this case I was even able to get ahead in my work! But whenever I miss a day of school, I always feel a little off kilter. I know that I have been confusing the days of the week and when certain assignments are due but I was really happy to have time to catch up on homework.
My students have been learning how to infer the meaning of words based on context clues. On the first day of this lesson, my teacher handed the students a letter with nonsense words in the place of other words. The letter looked something like this (please note that this is another, shortened version that I have created, this is not the exact copy we used in class):
The students were told to read through the letter and try to infer the meanings of the nonsense words using clues in the letter. The students had to underline the clues that helped them. So for example if the student wanted to determine the meaning of “poofpoofs,” then he or she would read the surrounding sentence and probably underline “eat my bowl.” This could be seen as a clue because it shows that “poofpoofs” is a food that one must eat in a bowl. The student would then look at the word and see the “s” at the end of the word, which means that the word is plural. The student might guess that the “poofpoofs” could be cereal or oatmeal. The student would also underline that the food must be eaten “quickly,” so the food is probably “cereal” since it takes some time to prepare and eat oatmeal.
After taking all of this information into consideration, the student would probably infer that “poofpoofs” means “cereal.” that the food is probably “cereal” since it takes some time to prepare and eat oatmeal.
The student’s paper should have looked something like this (see below) when it was completed. The blue writing would be the student’s answers. The crossed out words could be the meanings of the nonsense words but they do not work in this letter based on the clues. The student might write them and then pick a different answer when re-reading the assignment or the student might realize that another meaning works better when the entire class went over the lesson.
At first my CT did not tell the students the reason behind the assignment but later on, my CT explained that this assignment helped students learn the skill of inferring the behind of various words. The students were using text clues as well as background knowledge to infer the meaning of unknown words. I really liked this strategy and I would love to use this in my classroom. I think that the nonsense words idea would work really well because there, technically speaking, is no real meaning to these words. If I were to hand out an assignment with real words that were “difficult” for the students, some may already know the meaning of these words (or at least assume that they do) which would make the lesson lose value.
My CT continued this lesson the next day by handing out an article with some difficult words. The students were told to read the article and circle any words that they do not know. The article that the students read was, “Cities and the Environment: Can Venice Be Saved?” Some of the difficult words included: lagoon, harmful, dams, floodgates, historic, environment, tides, canals, transport, barges, etc.
The students circled the words they did not know and then my CT handed out a worksheet to help the students learn to infer the meanings of words. The worksheet was split into columns and looked like this:
I really like this worksheet because it allows students to easily write down all of the information necessary to infer the meaning of a word and then prove that they know the meaning by writing a sentence using the word. However, my CT and I both agreed that the chart should be changed a bit in order to make more sense for the student.
When the student looks at the worksheet right now, he or she might assume that it should be completed in the order of left to right; however, the student needs to write down the “clues” before coming up with the “inferred meaning” of the “word.” My CT and I agreed that if she were to use this worksheet again, she would have switched the “inferred meaning” and “clues” columns to look like this.
By switching these columns, the student progresses in a logical format. Since my CT had already made copies for the class and had handed them out already, the students simply numbered the columns in the order they should complete them.
The students seemed to work pretty well with this worksheet; however, I would have changed the formatting of the worksheet. The columns on the actual worksheet, the columns are all about the same width, which makes it difficult for students to have all of the information on the same line. Please look below for an example.
As you can see, it can be difficult to determine what information matches with the other information. Some students do draw lines to keep the information together, which can be helpful but if a student has to write on the back of the page (as he or she would in this example to fit in the sentence for the word “barge”) then there can be some confusion. I would make the word and clues columns smaller and add more space for the inferred meaning and sentence columns. The latter columns are the most important because they show the learning of the student (whether or not he or she could determine the meaning of a word and then whether or not he or she can write a clear and concise sentence with the word) so I would emphasize these columns. I still think that the lesson went very well and I would definitely use this in the future in my own classroom. I really liked the progression of the assignment. Students had time to work on this again in class and there was a group discussion about the meaning of some of these words.
In my class this week, I dealt with a variety of issues that required me to think ethically and professionally, as is my goal under the Florida Educator Accomplished Practices (FEAPs) heading of “Professional Responsibility and Ethical Conduct.” Earlier this week, one of my students, who will be referred to as Victoria* (pseudonym), came up to me while I was cutting out papers. Victoria surprised me by hugging me and greeting me. I stopped cutting up the papers and turned to talk to Victoria. Victoria told me that she could not find her math homework.
Victoria likes to hug myself and my collaborating teacher; however, in this situation, it seemed as though Victoria was trying to get out of trouble by being nice to me. In my CT’s classroom, if a student does not have a homework assignment or his or her work is incomplete the student “moves his/her clip down.” Each student starts the day on “ready to learn” and the students can move up for a positive consequence or move down as a negative consequence. (See below for pictures of the chart).
I was unsure if Victoria was trying to convince me to let her stay on “ready to learn” instead of moving down to “make better choices.” I told Victoria to try to look for her math homework and that I would check it later on. I used my professional judgment and decided to give her some time in case she could actually find the work. When I checked her homework later; however, she still had not found her work. I told Victoria that since she was missing her homework, she had to move her clip down. Victoria was disappointed but I did what I believe I needed to according to my professional judgment. As an educator, I do not want to give any special treatment to a student. I love all of my students and I do not want to let one student get away with something just because they did something nice for me. I want to treat all of my students equally. So based on my professional and ethical judgment, I decided to treat Victoria just as I would any other student.
I had talked to my CT about the incident after school. I told her that I was not sure if Victoria was trying to “trick” me into letting her stay on green. Ms. Smith* said that she was not sure either but she agreed with the choice that I made.
My CT and I talked about the seating arrangement of the classroom. My CT had allowed the students to choose their own seats and the students ended up segregating themselves by gender. Ms. Smith and I noticed that the students did not want to work with parents of the opposite sex for peer editing for our writing assignment. We spoke about this after school and decided that we will change the seating arrangement so that students work with members of the opposite gender. Ms. Smith and I want to make sure that each and every member of the classroom can work together and help each other learn. We do not want students to segregate themselves for any reason so we will transition into a new arrangement so students can work with other peers.
This was a strange week due to the change in schedule and I hope to be back on track by Monday because it will be a regular week again.