*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. For this specific post, I have included pictures of ribbons given to students at an award ceremony. I have edited the images to remove the name of the elementary school in order to protect the rights and privacy of my collaborating teacher and my students.*
For this week, my students have been working on a “Close Read” assignment. For this task, the students are reading an article multiple times and then the students will be writing a news article containing the same information in their own words. For the first read, the students read the articles independently and circled words that they did not understand (and they tried to figure out the meaning to these words using clues in the text) as well as marking the problems and solutions that they found in the article. After the students finished the first read, they discussed their answers in groups to help each other understand the words they did not know and figure out the problems and solutions. For the second read, my collaborating teacher read the article to the students. She would read a paragraph and then take a short break to let students take notes and/or change their previous responses. This was done in one day.
The next day, the class discussed fourteen text dependent questions that went along with the article. These discussions occurred in small groups first and then in large groups. I was astounded with the class response. My collaborating teacher asked me to take notes on who was participating and so student response skyrocketed to a level that I have never seen before. But that’s not all. One of my students, who, unfortunately, rarely participates, raised her hand many times and when she was called on, she gave the correct answer. This was amazing to us, and my collaborating teacher and I told her how proud we were that she participated and answered the question correctly. This student is technically considered one of the lower level students in the class and so we were so happy that she was fully participating in the whole class and small group discussions. Her answers were correct and meaningful. Not only did this happen for one day, but this same student was participating in group discussions the next day. My collaborating teacher and I were so happy and we hope that this behavior will continue for the class and specifically for this student.
This week the students had a math test and I helped to design the math review for the students. I was unable to observe the students do the review, but I was in the classroom when the students were taking their tests. I graded the tests once the students finished and, again, I was amazed. In order to protect the privacy of my students, I will not reveal the exact amount of students in the class or the amount of students who passed but I will say that a real majority of my class not only passed the test but students who typically received lower grades on assessments received As and Bs, which was just amazing. My collaborating teacher and I were really excited.
Although it seems late in the school year, students now seem to be finally getting really comfortable in the classroom. I always get excited when students share and work together in their groups. However, my collaborating teacher and I were brainstorming ideas of changing the groups in the classroom because the students are segregated by gender. (The students were able to chose their own seats and have basically remained in the seats they chose). My collaborating teacher and I want students to feel comfortable talking and sharing with everyone and so we want to shift the groups around so that there will be boys and girls at every table. Although it seems like a silly issue, I have seen boys shy away from working with students before, with one student shaking his head no after I asked him to work with a girl.
As a future educator, I want all of my students to feel comfortable working with and sharing in front of all students, whether or not they have similar or different characteristics. I think that it is very important to make sure that students are comfortable and I would prefer to not have to make students share or go into situations that might make them feel slightly uncomfortable (e.g. sharing in front of the class, working in groups) but I also want to prepare my students for the real world and I want them to be able to work with anyone and everyone in the classroom. I think it is extremely important for classmates to accept one another and to accept themselves. I will most likely encounter students who do not like to share or get up in front of the class but I will find ways to help them participate.
One of my favorite methods of increasing participation is “think-pair-share.” The students “think” by themselves about the answer, then they “pair” up with someone and discuss their answers and then students “share” out their answers in a whole class discussion. I really love this strategy because it helps students feel more confident about their answers. It also provides students with a smaller audience so they can get more comfortable with talking to others and then later on share their ideas to the class. This strategy also allows students to socialize and learn good communication skills. This strategy is also great for English Language Learners (ELLs) because there is less pressure on them to perform well and so students who have lower levels of English proficiency can still share their answers. For example, a student who is at the pre-production stage of English proficiency is obviously not yet ready to share out their answer via oral communication; however, the student can still communicate their answer by simply showing their peers through various measures such as pointing to a written response, circling the correct answer, etc.
There was an award assembly at my school recently. The students could receive green ribbons for “citizenship,” which means that the students behaved well for the first nine weeks of school. If a student received an “N” for any section of behavior on their green folder, then the student would be unable to receive “citizenship.”
The green folder is the school/parent communication folder. Important items that are sent home to parents are put in the green folders or Wednesday folders and are taken home by the students every Wednesday and then returned the next morning with a signature from the parent. In the front pocket of the green folder is a parent/teacher communication form (see below) in which the teacher can write notes to the parents and write down behaviors noted in the classroom. I really like this set up because this is a school wide policy, which allows parents to learn the school policy after having children attend the school for long periods of time and it also allows the parents to look specifically for this folder so they can communicate with the teacher and learn about their children’s behavior in the classroom. These forms are used for report cards as well as parent-teacher conferences.
This is the insert for the green folder that serves as a communication between teachers and parents. This caption is written on the bottom of every green folder which is sent home with the students every Wednesday.
The other awards were Honor Roll, which is given to students who receive As and Bs and the Principal Honor Roll, which is given to students who received straight As. I would view myself as a teacher who would like to give out as many As as possible as long as students have earned the grade.
My collaborating teacher has a slightly contrasting viewpoint: she has very high expectations of her students. She wants to push her students to do their very best and maybe even a little bit more. None of the students in my class received the Principal Honor Roll and my collaborating teacher said that this was done because she wants the students to do everything they can to succeed. She pushes them to work hard so that when they take the FCAT, they will think the test is easy. She wants her students to succeed later on in life and set long term goals like attending college and earning a degree.
I agree that high expectations are extremely important in the classroom. I want my students to succeed but I cannot simply hand rewards to my students, they have to work hard. I personally have always looked at my long term goals; when I was in high school, I did my very best because I wanted to go to a good college, get a degree in a good career (I have always wanted to be a teacher), and set myself up for a good life. Even though my students are in elementary school, I want them to have long term goals. Their goals may not be the same as mine; however, I want my students to look towards the future and set themselves up for greatness.