Student Teaching Reflections: Monday

During the weekend leading up to my week of student teaching in an E1 (grades 1-3) classroom, I was blessed with a feeling of calm and peace that descended over me, after feeling much turmoil and trepidation during the previous months over my upcoming experience. I had finalized all my tentative lesson plans by Friday, had gone in for one final day of observation on Thursday, planned with my mentor, Mrs. H., for the newly added third grade focus groups that I would have to lead on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. I felt fully prepared, and (so long as I didn’t let my imagination run away with me over all the possible things that could go wrong) I felt at peace.

Sunday night I had all my supplies gathered together on my desk, ready to go on Monday morning. All my plans were neatly organized in a little file folder, with a file for each day of the week. I was up at 5:45 Monday morning for prayer and quiet time with the Lord, worship with my family, a quick breakfast, and then I loaded all my things into the car and was off!

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I arrived at the school at 8:00. The kids would arrive at 8:30 for breakfast, and school would commence at 9:00 with Morning meeting. I had a whole hour to get my 5 Math lessons planned and review my Language Arts and Social Studies lesson and make sure I had all the materials printed out and organized for them! Plenty of time, with some to spare! My was I disillusioned! Haha. I barely finished planning for the 5 Math groups in that hour! My mantra became: “Focus on what is right in front of me! Don’t take the weight of the whole week onto my shoulders right now!” This is seriously what got me through my day without having a nervous breakdown. I just had to keep telling myself to focus on the task in front of me. If it was Morning Meeting time, then I was going to lead morning meeting to the best of my ability and not worry about how Math groups would go. I ate the elephant one bite at a time, and actually found him to be quite tasty, once I stopped worrying about how big he was!

Morning Meeting: Morning Meeting at this school consists of saying the Pledge of Allegiance, doing a fun greeting, students each getting their turn for show and tell (different students for each day of the week), reading the morning message displayed on the SmartBoard (“Good morning! Today is Monday, April 11th, Two Thousand Sixteen. We have Music today”), and then sharing any announcements regarding the day. Being unfamiliar with all the different greeting options, I fell back on one that I knew would be short and simple: the old-fashioned handshake. During announcements, I introduced the students to my Stewardship chart which we would be filling in over the course of the week’s Social Studies lessons, and lastly I warned them that things might look a little different during this week, since I was their teacher for the week).

Math groups: After morning meeting, I led the third grade focus group in Mrs. J’s room. It was so nice of the school–they rearranged their MCA testing schedule just so that I wouldn’t have 1/3 of the students gone in my room right during my week of student teaching. The third-graders were instead going to be tested the next week, which meant that this week they were practicing important skills for their MCA’s–hence, the newly set up math focus groups. It went very well. I felt very prepared (due to my Thursday preparations with Mrs. H.). First, I talked about how to tell temperature, how F & C are different, and then broke the class apart into groups. Each group colored in a thermometer with red crayon for the hot temps, yellow for the warm, and blue for the cold; created a key, and thought of adjectives that describe different temperatures (freezing, boiling, comfortable, etc.). Then all the E1 (grades 1-3) classes took a Brain Break outside.

As soon as we got inside I commenced with the regular math groups (excepting Red group [Grade 3-B], since the 3rd graders already had had their Math lesson in the focus group). I managed to make it through Purple group (Grade 3-A), Blue group (Grade 2), and Green group (Grade 1-B). I ran out of time before I made it to Yellow (Grade 1-A). Only one student tested my authority. He was confused by the lesson, but wasn’t listening to my directions on how to complete it and generally being a little disrespectful. I felt at a loss as to what to do, but Mrs. H. wisely didn’t step in, but didn’t ignore the situation. She just silently backed me up, and finally I said, “T., I would love to help you, but I can see what that you’re not ready to work with me.” Then I sent him back to his workstation. He started to make a grab for his worksheet to take it with him, but Mrs. H. stopped him. Then, once he was gone, she praised me for the way I had handled the situation. “It’s good that you had him leave his worksheet here. That way he has to come back at some point and address the situation after he has calmed down.” Well, it was good of her to give me the credit, but honestly, I wouldn’t have known to stop him from taking it if it hadn’t been for her! She was right though! Later, after T. had finished all his other work and was getting bored, he had to come back and respectfully ask for his worksheet and my instruction on how to complete it. Regarding Math groups as a whole, Mrs. H. advised me to start each lesson with the learning objective, so the students could get the big-picture view of what they’re learning. She also said I should be more consistent about using the small, handheld whiteboard as a visual aid as I was teaching the math concepts.

Language Arts: After the students got back from recess, lunch, and music, I presented my Similes lesson. This Language Arts period of the day was one of the ways that I changed the students’ day structure. Normally they are not taught a structured Language Arts lesson. They are only taught Math in the morning and Social Studies or Science at the end of the day. The early afternoon is typically spent on Read-aloud, a silent reading period, and what is called Daily 5 (students can choose to Read to Self, Read to Someone, Listen to Reading, Work on Writing, or do their Word Sorts). The classroom is full of all the resources they need to learn the other subjects, but their learning of them is self-directed rather than structured. However, I needed the extra practice teaching structured lessons, so I asked my mentor if she would mind if I added in the Language Arts lesson over the Read-aloud and Read to Self period (my lesson contained a read-aloud anyway). She readily agreed (she was so willing to be flexible and let me deviate from the normal program–it was great!).

Check out the video below of my similes lesson:

The lesson went very well. (The only disappointment was that my video didn’t turn out very good. I stuck my phone in the bookshelf, and kids ended up standing in front of it most of the time, and the angle wasn’t very good.) Everyone loved the literature integration I used: Stubborn as a Mule, and other Silly Similes by Nancy Loewen. The only thing that I didn’t do well was to not keep the kids focused during my Similes/Not Similes game (same as On the land/In the sea, but with simile and non-simile examples instead). Some of the students were talking during the game and a couple did not participate at all. But then, they ended up loving and rocking the three activities that I had planned for them: They could caption cute/funny pictures with similes, or search for similes in literature (this activity was least popular, only one student did this one), or draw an example of a simile. Their enthusiasm and creativity made me feel so good! I had planned to have the group meet back together for the closure of the lesson, but that just didn’t happen. As the students finished up their follow-up work (worksheets differentiated for their ability level), they came to me and I assigned them a Daily 5 choice, so everyone transitioned into the next part of the day at their own pace. No one had to wait for the others to finish. When you’re teaching you always have to be flexible. After my lesson was over, Mrs. H. advised me to get a little louder. Lol–that surprised me! I thought she was going to tell me to be quieter. She also said that I should not be afraid to stop in my the middle of my lesson to refocus the students. “I have to do it all the time, still,” she said.

Check out the picture below of one of the follow-up worksheets that one of the older girls completed! I was so impressed with her creativity! I mean, “The baby giraffe’s neck was as long as a roadtrip”! How cute and original is that!

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Social Studies: During the last half-hour of the day, we looked at how George Washington Carver was a good steward, since he introduced crop rotation and promoted saving the land from being worn out. I asked the kids to Think/Pair/Share their ideas for reducing and avoiding overuse, and they came up with some really neat, unique ideas (like shutting the water off when they’re rubbing the soap on their hands), which I then wrote on our Stewardship Poster (or, should I say, “Stewardshp” poster…. Yes, I forgot the “i”! No one noticed… until Thursday).

And then the kids cleaned up their workspaces, got their coats on, and I led them out to the bus! I had successfully made it through Day 1! But my day was far from over! I had to grade papers, get all my copies made of morning work, update the morning message, and get all the Math lessons prepared and the worksheets printed out! I had learned my lesson: 1 hour of prep in the morning is NOT enough time to get it all done!

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