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Something Borrowed, Something New

4 Nov

This week was a week for experiments. We tried something new during the transition periods and during read to self. Both seem to help my students learn better.

Transition times were a little rough. Students would be all over the place looking at things around the room or continuing to do the previous task. Tammy and I were constantly having to tell the students to stop what they were doing and get ready for the next lesson. We had a little timer laying around so we started using it. I tell the students what they need to put away, get out, and where they need to be sitting next. After they get all of the directions, I set the timer. We are not sure how long the timer actually is but I think it is somewhere between 1 and 2 minutes. We told them that if they are not where they are supposed to be and ready to learn by the time the timer goes off they get a color change on our behavior chart. It has worked really well! This whole week we only had to change three students’ colors because they were not sitting down yet. Now they are always asking to be timed when we are doing anything.

I have noticed the students stopping what they are doing a little quicker. Before I would have to ask them multiple times to put their crayons or pencil away or put their paper away. I still do have to remind them to move quickly because the timer is on. I remind them only for those few students that are moving at their own pace. Now that I have a cord to hook the iPad to the projector I might use a visual and audio timer. This might help my slower students who need that extra push.

We also started using lamps during read to self time. Tammy got the idea from the Café book and it took us a while to get enough lamps to do it. We have two floor lamps in the front of the room and three table lamps in the back of the room on our counter. This is one of our floor lamps.

We want more but we are just taking what we can get. We turn off the lights so the room is a little more calm during that time. The first day we tried it with the lights off and the lamps on, the students were like new kids. I had never seen them working so hard and so quietly. They all said how much they loved the lamps. I am just not 100 percent sure how much it affected the students after the first day because later in the week we had one of the loudest read to self times this year. I am not sure if the newness of the lamps was their reasoning for being so great. Another reason could be because two of the students that talk the most and sometimes make choices not to do their work were not there on the first day with the lamps. I am hoping we can continue to have some great read to self time in the future. We might have to do a little more experimenting with it though.

I really enjoyed trying new things this week. I am excited to see if a visual and audio timer will help my students at all. I want to continue to look at the read to self routine and see if there is anything that can make it better. I realized how easy it is to get into a routine and not try new things. Even if the routine is working it is still important to reflect on how things are going and see if there is anything that can make it better.


Managing Behavior

29 Oct

My mentor teacher, Tammy, and I created a behavior chart.  In the past my mentor teacher used a color chart.  The color chart had a pocket for each student and each pockets contained a green, yellow, cow print, and red card.  Every student started the day on green, however, throughout the day based on their decisions they could get their color changed. It first changed to yellow then cow.  Cow means they have to take some time away form others in this cow print chair in the classroom.

If they got to red they got a phone call home.   Tammy and I found something on Teach-ARoo that we thought might help with positive behavior.  Like the color chart everyone starts on green or ready to learn.  They can move down to yellow or think about it.  Then they move to cow and then red.  We are still using the cow chair but we also gave students the option to go to the cow chair at any time if they just need some time away from everyone.  They can also move up to showing pride, role model, and outstanding.

Students have his or her own clothespin with their name on it.  On the second day they got to color it with crayons to make it their own.  Again each student starts on green and moves their clothespin up based on their decisions.  Most of the students get really upset if they move down even if it is just to think about it.   I think this shows that it is working for some students.

One student went down to think about it within 10 minutes this week.  During read to self he threw a book.  I told him he needed to move his clothespin down to think about it but that I hope he makes better choices so he can move up.  He did not like this much and started to cry.  My mentor teacher even talked to him and reminded him he had the whole day to get back up.  Throughout the day he slowly started to move up.  At around 2:00 p.m. my back was to the chart but I heard my mentor teacher tell this student he could move his color up.  Next thing I know I have this little tap on my shoulder.  I turned and he was standing there and he whispered that he was on outstanding.  He was so proud that he made it all the way back up.   That was probably one of the most rewarding things of this semester.

Forever Learning

25 Oct

Teacher collaboration and sharing is amazing! This is something I have known for a while and never want to forget. Some of the best resources I have found are other blogs, Teachers Pay Teachers, Claco, Twitter, and just having conversations with teachers I am working with. In many other careers sharing your ideas is seen as a threat to your job security. If you don’t beg, borrow, and steal in teaching you are doing your students a disservice. If something works better for the students, why not do it? Most teachers are happy to share their ideas to help students everywhere.

This week I sat in on the other first grade teacher’s class. In thirty minutes I learned a lot! This teacher was a very positive teacher. The students were supposed to be reading but some of them were making the choice to do something else. Instead of talking to those students about what they were doing wrong she said, “I like the way _______ is becoming a better reader” and “Look how ________ is becoming a better reader.” She also used everything as a learning experience. There were two students who were supposed to put three stickers each on a poster. When she went over to them they had ten stickers on it. She didn’t say they did it wrong. Instead she asked them how many they should have had on the poster. They then counted by two’s and talked about odd and even numbers. The teacher seized the opportunity to teach those students instead of disciplining them.

After attending the Midwest Brain and Learning Institute, I am very interested in finding ways to promote movement in my classroom. The teacher I observed did a spectacular job! She noticed the students were having a hard time sitting still on the carpet. She stopped what she was doing and had the students flick their fingers, touch their face, and flick their fingers again. It took all of about 20 seconds and it redirected the students enough to finish her lesson.

Another resource I use often is blogs. I have about ten teaching blogs that I follow for new ideas. There are times that I use someone’s idea to come up with a new idea for my own students. All students are different so it is important to evaluate the relevance to my students before I use it in my classroom.

The best part about these resources is that I will forever be learning. I can always adapt my teaching to help the needs of my students. There is no one way of teaching and I am willing to try everything once.