*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 was a bit difficult because we celebrated Halloween. Since not all students celebrate the holiday, my collaborating teacher created a few assignments that are related to the fall season without specifically referencing the holiday. One of the assignments that my class did over the past few weeks was a narrative writing assignment called “Last Night I Turned into a …” or “The Night I Turned into a …” I already mentioned this in a previous blog post. This week, my students worked on an expository writing assignment called “How to Make a Creepy Cupcake.”
For this assignment, my students had to write about how they would make a creepy cupcake. The students had to choose ingredients based on the items my collaborating teacher had purchased for the class. The students could use chocolate chip cookies, chocolate or vanilla frosting, candy corn, mini-marshmallows, sour gummy worms, gummy body parts, bloodshot eyeballs, etc. The students were told to choose at least five items.
The students had to choose a different, creepy name for each of the ingredients. For example, chocolate frosting could be black ooze or candy corn could be vampire fangs. The students also had to write down exactly how many of each item they were going to put on their cupcakes. After the students figured all of this information out in their plans, they began to write their papers. The students had to use a transition in between each item.
As a class, we had been working on this assignment for the entire week. My collaborating teacher wanted to finish this assignment as soon as possible. We were originally going to make the Creepy Cupcakes on Thursday, which would have been Halloween. Unfortunately, the students were taking a very long time to write their papers.
Recently, there have been a few issues concerning completing work on time. Some students take a long time to complete assignments and my collaborating teacher wanted to change this bad habit. My teacher assigned class work and gave the students a time limit to finish their work. If the students did not finish the assignment, then they faced the consequence of moving their clip down.
If you do not know what this means, in my classroom we have a color chart. Each student starts off the day on green for “ready to learn.” The students can move up to blue and purple or the students can move down to yellow (“make better choices”) or red for “clear your head.” (See below for picture). The clips are close pins with the students’ names on them.
Unfortunately, on that day, some of the student’s were unable to finish their work on time and so they moved down their clips. Many of the students were most likely distracted because of Halloween and trick or treating. My collaborating teacher was a bit upset with the students because they were not completing their work. I could understand my collaborating teacher’s slight frustration with the students. It can be hard to deal with students not completing their work, especially when the assignment seems so easy to us. However, we must keep in mind that what may come easy to us may not be easy for the students.
One thing that I like to do in order to test the difficulty of assignments is to see if I can complete it without any problems. Most of the time I can but sometimes I can’t. For example, in class today, the students were trying to infer the meaning of words using text clues and their background knowledge. One of the words was “vestibule” and I can honestly say I don’t know that word. And I could not figure out the meaning of the word. In that situation, I could understand the confusion of my students. As an adult, I could not figure out the word with all of my skills and background knowledge. Therefore, how could I expect my students to do this? My collaborating teacher may not have had an issue with this word and so she might not have felt the way I did about the word and so she would not have realized that there would be a problem with inferring the word.
So the last few days of the week were a bit rough because the students seemed to be distracted because of Halloween. However, my collaborating teacher and I were able to work through this by setting aside extra time for the students to work. As the day wore on, the students were able to focus more on their class work. My collaborating teacher decided to have the students make their creepy cupcakes at the end of the day. However, my collaborating teacher would only allow the students who had completed their writing assignment for the creepy cupcake to start making their cupcake. My collaborating teacher decided that by doing this, the other students would see the cupcakes and they would be more motivated to finish their assignment. The students who had completed the assignment were only allowed to build their cupcake as they had specified in their writing but they could not eat it yet. We had decided to have the students wait to eat their cupcakes until after all of the students had made their cupcakes.
Before the students ate their cupcakes, they had to write about how they planned on eating the cupcake. So for example, the students could write about “picking off the vampire fangs and plopping them into their mouths and then crunching the fangs into little bits.” The students had to write this for every single type of item on the list and then they could eat their cupcakes.
I really liked this assignment because it was fun and interactive. I think the students really enjoyed the lesson and it allowed them to “celebrate” the holiday and the fall season. I would love to use this assignment for my own classroom. Below is a picture of my creepy cupcake.
I am in charge of one of the reading groups in my classroom. I have noticed some problems with my group. Some of the students call out or interrupt other students. In order to solve this problem, I decided to make some rules or norms of the group, instead of just punishing the students. I did this because I realized that we had never officially decided how the students should and should not behave during our group meetings. So I sat down with the students and we discussed what rules and consequences should be created for the group. I wrote out a list of the rules and the consequences for each rule.
I tried to guide the students towards the rules that I thought we might need. For example, there is a worksheet that the students need to complete as they read each chapter of the book and I found that some of the students were not completing the worksheets in time for the meeting. This worksheet is important because it will help the students better understand the text. So the first rule is that “each student must have his or her entire worksheet complete for each meeting.” We talked about the consequences associated with breaking this rule. The students came up with some illogical consequences such as being kicked out of the group, being forced to take a time out, etc. I noticed that the consequences the students had mentioned were associated with kicking people out of the group. I did not want to include a consequence like that because it would not be a logical consequence and it would interfere with the student’s discussing the book and furthering their understanding. The consequence that we decided on was that “if a student has not completed his or her worksheet, [then[ he or she can still come to the meeting but he or she cannot participate and must complete the worksheet during the meeting.”
The other rules that we decided to include will be listed below.
I have not had a chance to meet with the students after making these rules so I am unsure if they will be effective but I am very hopeful. As you can see, the bottom of the page is removed because the students will sign their name on the bottom of the rules so they can feel ownership, which should help them feel like the rules matter more. They worked to create the rules instead of me simply imposing the rules on them.
All in all, although this week was a bit hectic, I still had a great week with my students and it seemed like they learned a lot. As always, I am very excited for the next week even though this week has barely ended. I really love working with my students and I am so glad that I have had this opportunity.