Weekly Reflection 1/27/14 – 1/31/14

            A lot of events have occurred during this past week including Letter Day on Friday and a celebration of the Chinese New Year on Thursday. I had a really great week with my students and my collaborating teachers.

I am very appreciative of my collaborating teachers because they have allowed me to share my ideas and we have begun to incorporate some of them in the classroom. For example, we play a variety of songs for transitions as well as enjoyment. I really like that my collaborating teachers use educational songs for transitions and I was curious about turning a song for fun into something slightly educational. My students really enjoy the song “Let it Go” from Disney’s Frozen. The students love to dance and sing along to this song. During my free time, I found a version of this song that contained 25 different languages . Although this is a small thing, I thought it would be great for the students to hear this song because they can appreciate the other languages, as they do when they listen to our good morning and hello song, which contains greetings in other languages. My collaborating teachers introduced the video to the students and they love it! My students are constantly asking to play this song because they really enjoy it. My collaborating teachers and I typically say what language is being sung but sometimes the students will read the languages off of the screen. Although this is a minor activity, I think it is important to show that various languages and cultures are valued in the classroom as part of culturally responsive teaching. I also thought this would be a great way to appreciate the other languages that our students speak. There are some students in my classroom that speak Spanish and we will be getting another student from China who only speaks Chinese. This relates to the Florida Educator Accomplished Practices (FEAPs), specifically the 2nd subheading the “Learning Environment” with part D: “Respects students’ cultural, linguistic and family background” because I want to make a connection between the language of my students and world languages as well as introduce my students to new cultures and languages.

Another video that I introduced to my collaborating teachers is the Blue’s Clues planet song.  My students begun learning about the planets and space this week and so I thought this song would be a good way for students to learn about the planets and remember their names and order. My collaborating teachers had never heard of this song before but we will be integrating it into a science lesson after the students learn about all of the planets (each day we are introducing the objects in our solar system and so far we have discussed the sun and the moon.) This idea relates to the Florida Educator Accomplished Practices (FEAPs), specifically the 3rd subheading “Instructional Delivery & Facilitation” with part e. “relate and integrate the subject matter with other disciplines and life experiences.” Although this song is a bit old and contains some false information (Pluto is considered a planet in the song), this song will allow students to make a connection between a common tv show, Blue’s Clues, and real life. This song will also allow my collaborating teachers and me to see if the students have any misconceptions about the planets, such as the notion that Pluto is still a planet, which will incorporate part d of Instructional Delivery and Facilitation which is “modify instruction to respond to preconceptions or misconceptions.” My students also really enjoy songs and learn well from the songs we play in the classroom so I think this song will be another way to reinforce the information they will learn about the planets.

Another idea of mine that will be integrated into the classroom is related to Valentine’s Day. Valentine’s Day is a great holiday for the students to celebrate because it celebrates friendships and community. I will be asking my students if they would like to make Valentine’s Day cards for someone I know. This is a young girl (whose name I will not include for privacy reasons) who is about seven years old who, unfortunately, was recently diagnosed with cancer and has been unable to attend school. I think that my students will learn a lot relating to empathy and caring by trying to help another individual feel better by making her Valentine’s Day cards. Although this is a small thing to do, it will not impede instruction because the students have the choice of whether or not they want to participate and this will occur during centers time at the end of the day. If the students wish, they can go to the art center or writing center and work on these valentines. I have not had a chance to mention this idea to the entire class but I have mentioned it to a few students and they seem very excited to help out another person. I cannot wait to see what the results are!

***

I spoke with my collaborating teachers this past week about what activities and instruction I can take over in the classroom. My teachers agreed that taking over the morning activities, which include morning songs, the calendar, and weather, would be a great idea because it would allow me to start off the day by working with the students. I started taking notes on what my collaborating teacher does in the morning and I will start spending time in the front of the room with her as this occurs so the students become familiar with my presence. This collaborating teacher will not be at school for about a week soon and so I will take over this job while she is gone and then I can continue to do this when I am available in the morning. I am really excited and I think it will be a great way to participate in instructional activities.

***

On Thursday, my class celebrated the Chinese New Year. Throughout the day my collaborating teachers played song in Chinese and we participated in traditional activities. For example, we gave each of the students a red envelope with money in it [please note, this was not real money but the money that our school uses as an incentive program. I will not refer to this “money” by name because I do not want to accidentally give away the name of my school, which would invade the privacy and rights of my students and teachers.].

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I personally stuffed all of the envelopes for my students. The students really loved the envelopes and some kept the envelopes on them throughout the day. One student even brought the envelope back to class the following day to hold some of her belongings.

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These are close-ups of some of the envelopes.

My collaborating teachers also wanted the students to experience the Chinese New Year through some of the food that the students eat so we made Chinese scrambled eggs based on the “Chai Poh Scrambled Eggs” recipe. The students wrote out the recipe for this by writing down the ingredients based on the model that my collaborating teacher wrote. My teachers differentiated instruction by having some of the students cut out and glue the ingredients in order.

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I worked with this group of students. I helped encourage them because many were getting discouraged. I also gave the students some responsibility by having them help me pass out and collect the supplies. The students really responded well to this because they felt important and helpful. I made sure to include all students in this process.

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I did not explicitly ask for permission to work with these students; I made the decision by myself based on what I observed. I saw that the students needed some prompting and some help because they had some difficulty understanding what to do. My collaborating teachers were busy at the time: one was modeling for the whole group instruction and the other was working on cooking the eggs. I try to always look for ways that I can help students and do that as soon as possible. Although students should have some struggle time, if they are having problems in which they cannot complete the activity (in this case, they were unsure about what they should cut out and what they should do with it), I should help the students. The students should complete the activity themselves to show what they know (in this case, I did not tell them what order they needed to put the ingredients or where, I just told them they needed to cut out the ingredients and glue them on because my collaborating teacher gave directions for writing the ingredients but not cutting them out and gluing them on).

I also tried to provide some aid to the collaborating teacher who was cooking the eggs. I helped her crack the eggs but she had previously diced the onions and added the soy sauce herself. She cooked the eggs in the adjoining room so as not to distract the students during the lesson.

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After the students wrote out the recipe, my collaborating teacher did a read aloud of the book “Happy Chinese New Year Kai-Lan” and the students watched a video about Kai-Lan. This was another instance in which my teacher made a connection to experiences the students may have had because they may have access to the television show “Ni Hao, Kai-Lan,” on Nickelodeon, which celebrates Chinese culture.

After the read aloud, the students returned to their seats and each created a paper lantern using construction paper. The students folded a sheet of construction paper in half and cut it to make strips.

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In the picture above, the red is the folded sheet of construction paper and the grey lines are the lines in which the students would make the cuts. The paper would be folded in half “hotdog style” and the students were to cut on the folded side but they had to stop before the reached the end of the paper.

Then the students grabbed the corners to fold the paper to make the lantern. The students would use the same hand to grab the corners with the same colored arrow to make a tube.

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When done correctly, the paper lantern should look like this:

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            My teachers and I went around and stapled the lanterns together and we attached a handle to it. The students could also glue on streamers on the bottom if they wished. Below is a picture of some of the lanterns that the students made. The picture has been edited so there are no visible student names. Please note, I will not include other pictures of lanterns because of the student names.

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            After the students finished their lanterns, we gave them the scrambled eggs as well as a tangerine. The students really enjoyed the activity and they kept saying how this was their favorite day. I am really glad that the students enjoyed it because I did as well. The students participated in many hands on activities and learned a lot about Chinese culture. The students had to share what they learned by writing/drawing about traditions related to the Chinese New Year celebration.

One question; however, that I keep asking myself is how to incorporate culturally responsive teaching with these young students. These students do not necessarily have the capacity to understand abstract concepts, which occurs during the formal operations stage of development, which does not occur until adolescence, according to Piaget’s theory of cognitive development (Bohlin, 2009). This theory makes me question whether or not students can handle in depth discussions about other cultures beyond surface views of a culture because they are only in the pre-operational stage (some may be in the concrete operational stage) of cognitive development. I think that by including various cultures in the classroom, culturally responsive teaching occurs, especially when the teacher includes the culture throughout the entire day, as my collaborating teachers did, through songs, read-alouds, videos, and activities. I have asked this question to a variety of my instructors and there is no clear answer to this question. I think the teacher has to know the students and know their ability level before making a decision about what to include in a lesson about culture. I think that teachers should definitely strive to go beyond the surface level of the visible items of culture but some students may not be able to cognitively understand these concepts and so the teacher has to work with them one step at a time to help foster this understanding.

***

            During the past few weeks, my classmates and I have been searching for what our passion is in relation to teaching based on the eight passions found in The Reflective Educator’s Guide to Classroom Research. I immediately knew mine because it has always been the same: I am passionate about the students and I want to help each and every one be successful (Dana, 2008).

I have always been passionate about the students in my classrooms. As I mentioned in my previous blog posts, I believe that all students have the capacity to succeed. I do not want to fall prey to confirmation bias but I would much rather look for ways in which my students succeed rather than ways in which they fail: “[Culturally responsive teachers] are the teachers who simply refuse to believe there is any student who cannot be reached, and they actively communicate this belief to students” (McLeskey, Rosenberg, Westling, 2013, 253).

According to the authors of Inclusion: Effective Practices for All Students, “Teachers who care treat students with respect, require them to treat others with respect, perceive them as capable, and accept them unconditionally, even as they help them change undesirable behavior” (McLeskey et al, 2013, 250). I think it is just so important to treat everyone equitable and with respect. One of my students unfortunately made some bad choices one day and he was very frustrated and to be honest, it was hard to work with him but my collaborating teachers and I persevered and we did our best to help this student succeed. The next day, one of my collaborating teachers talked to me about this student and she said that she did not want to hold a grudge against this student for his bad choices. This statement really stuck with me and I fully support it. Everyone makes bad choices sometimes and young children are still learning how to act and respond to their environment.

By granting my students the benefit of the doubt, I allow them to redeem themselves and act appropriately without the haze of confirmation bias blinding me to their strengths. This is not to say that one should completely ignore the behaviors of a student. Student misbehavior should be noted and documented and the teacher (and possibly administrators or other staff at the school) should work towards correcting misbehavior, especially if they are reoccurring; however, a teacher should never believe that a student is “bad” or unable to be good.

I strive to constantly try to help individual students succeed because I am passionate about helping others be successful. I believe that in order for students to be motivated, they must experience success, so if I help a student achieve, then he or she will most likely be more intrinsically motivated towards success in the future.

Acknowledgements

  • Bohlin, L., Durwin, C. C., & Resse-Weber, M. (2009). Ed psych modules. (2nd ed.). New York: McGraw-Hill.
  • Dana, N. & Yendol-Hoppey, D. (2008). The reflective educator’s guide to classroom research, (2nd Ed.).Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin Press.
  • McLeskey, J., Rosenberg, M. S., & Westling, D. L. (2013).Inclusion: Effective practices for all students. (2nd ed.). Pearson Education, Inc.

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