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Monday, September 15, 2008

Goal One: Elimination of Robots

I have been teaching the kids sign language. ("Now you're going to know three languages!" I tell them, "English, Spanish, and sign language!") I think it's fun, and it helps them to be quiet and keep their hands occupied. Sometimes I just have them say "yes" or "no" in sign language, so while it's an alternative to the "thumbs up or thumbs down," it's not really much different. Other times I have them do different things, or I try talking to them using signs. They seem to really enjoy it. (And I really enjoy it, which sometimes is just as important...)

I still haven't had a chance to do science (or social studies, or writing) since that first lesson last Monday. I'm trying and trying and trying, but I just cannot get myself to do things efficiently enough to get anything except for literacy and math done. I'm hoping that once I tighten up my transitions (which are quite poor right now) I will buy enough time to get both of the "core" (tested) subjects taught, with time for the other (equally important, but not tested) subjects of science, social studies, and writing.

I know that I should be able to find ways to incorporate the other subjects into literacy, but with the constraints set forth by the reading program my district uses, it's really difficult to do. The reading program, like I've said before, is FULL - it comes with all of it's own books (some of them really good!) and has a very prescriptive program for everything. And truly, it is a great program - or it would be if I worked at a KIPP school and taught for 8 hours each day (or whatever crazy-large number of hours it is that KIPP teachers work) instead of 5 or 6 like I do now. Getting through the day's literacy activities takes up a large majority of the day. As I navigate my way through the program, I'm sure I will find ways to make it more interdisciplinary so that I am able to teach the children to be (as OnTeaching said in my comments) and to develop multiple ways of thinking and learning, instead of just teaching the children to (hopefully) score at grade level on tests.

So those are my goals for right now. Aside from the making-it-through-the-day thing (which sometime is a struggle), I am working on teaching the kids more sign language, and developing more efficient ways to make transitions (between activities, between centers, entering the classroom, and getting in line) so that I can buy myself extra time to teach lessons that will help the children develop into people instead of into reading/counting robots.

7 Comments:

Blogger MsAbcMom said...

I have had the same struggle. Last year I decided to do writing on Wednesdays all morning long. I do it once a week only but it is a nice time frame to really teach, model and let students apply their learning. As for science and social studies, I do one a month. That way I didn't confuse myself or the kids. I end up actually being able to teach the subject all the way through instead of just feeling like it is choppy and incomplete.

I guess the bottom line is that we have to find a way to make it work without getting too overwhelmed, right?

Hang in there!

11:29 PM  
OpenID theinfamousj said...

As a high school science teacher, I'm aware that science is really the practical application of mathematics (or at least physics and chemistry are, biology less so).

Perhaps you can incorporate science into your math? Have them record data and then practice their math skills on the data.

For example, since water has a density of 1 g/mL, have them use a scale/balance/whatever you have to mass things to find the mass of one tablespoon of water. Then add another table spoon of water and note that the mass doubles. (This will work for both addition and multiplication teaching skills.)

If you have the equipment to measure in grams and milliliters (a graduated cylinder or some plastic medicine measuring cups) you could even note that for every milliliter you add to the cup, the mass goes up by one gram. Though that distinction may require a much more delicate balance (aka scale) than what I would trust around youngin's.

I hope it helps. Please let me know if you need anything else. I can give you easy experiments to get useful data for different types of graphs, that also practice science at the same time.

12:49 PM  
OpenID andsolifebegins said...

I love reading your blog because I'm going to be starting at a school in the next few weeks (hopefully) so it's really interesting to see another new teachers experiences!

Keep up the great job!

3:48 PM  
Anonymous Not Quite Grown Up said...

infamousj - It seems that math and science would be really easy to combine, or at least work together, but the math program we use is very...different (one of the super-reform curricula) and the science program we use is very specific, and the two may at times coincide, but right now there is nothing similar about the two of them that could lead to multidisciplinary lessons.

9:38 PM  
OpenID onteaching said...

One of the nice things about having the kids all day is that you can play with the schedule, like MsABCMom said. Our schedule said we had to do 15 more minutes of math after the kids came back from specials, then the 30 minutes between that and lunch were science. After lunch, we had another 30 minutes of social studies, then language arts for the rest of the afternoon. I could never change subject when we were supposed to - if I continued with math when they came back from specials, we never got to science (math kept going until lunch). Same in the afternoon with social studies and language arts. So I decided to modify the schedule... when they came back from specials, 2-3 days a week the time from specials to lunch was all science. A couple of times a week, the afternoon was all social studies (which meant reading and writing, so it was also language arts) - that way I "made up" (in my conscience, at least) for skipping those subjects the rest of the time... I don't know if that would help you at all, but maybe that gives you some ideas.

Also, I would talk to the other teachers in your team/grade level about following these programs so completely... it sounds like you are killing yourself to do EVERYTHING in the book/program, and I will bet anything the other teachers aren't able to get to/through all the material either. So relax! Take a breath! :)

9:24 PM  
Blogger Not Quite Grown Up... said...

I wrote a long reply to several people and Blogger ate it.

MsAbcMom - I like the idea of switching off months/units for social studies and science. I might try that, or at least figure out if it's feasible taking into account the programs we use.

OnTeaching - The whole grade level does plan together for literacy, using our Literacy Program. That is part of the problem - we plan so many parts, and I feel that if we planned them I have to do them. And I don't do them all, there are quite a few things that I skip. And I know that the other teachers are struggling to fit it all in too, but the ones with more experience are a bit better at getting it all done and melding multiple things into one, so they aren't having the same struggles that I am.

I'm mostly worried that my students will end up not showing "appropriate gains" and it will be my fault because I didn't teach them right. But I guess that's what they get for hiring a new teacher who, based on interview responses, is obviously an educational dreamer (let's all just work together and learn!) and not practiced in the skill of working toward real goals (advance 3 levels on the running records by the end of the trimester). (Of course, I do want them to advance, but I don't want to teach them to read the word "like" because they need it to pass the next book for running records. I want them to learn to read the word "like" because it is an important word used a lot in reading and writing.)

11:52 PM  
Anonymous cranteach said...

My first year teaching, if anybody had suggested I read another book, I probably would have thrown the book at them. (It's darned hard work!) So, put this title away and read it next summer, if nothing else.

Regie Routman: Reading Essentials

Regie has an amazing ability to get down to brass tacks about teaching "like", 'cause kids need to know it, and also teaching the love of reading, and also (here's the biggie) trusting yourself as a teacher and taking care of yourself because you're only as good as you have the energy to be.

Congrats on getting started teaching! I can tell you're going to be great: you love the kids, and you're a learner. In the end, that's what matters.

10:20 PM  

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