Thursday, December 29, 2011

Annotated Bibliography For Children In Foster Care

Hi everyone! My classes for the semester are over, and I'm waiting to start student teaching on the 17th of January. In the mean time, I've been working on my portfolio! I found a project I did back in 2007 for a children's literature class. We were supposed to create an annotated bibliography of books that could help children deal with a certain issue of our choice. Having worked a lot with children in foster care, I did mine on foster care. It got an A+ ! I thought I'd share it with you. I am working on updating it, since the last books listed here were published in 2007. Please let me know about any other children's books (especially newer ones) that you may be aware of that could be helpful to kids in foster care! Feel free to use this list for your own reference.

  • "Entering foster care is a crisis for children. Separated from everything they have ever known, most children do not look at this experience as a positive change for their own safety, but as a frightening and sad event in their lives.
Reading, and being read to, about foster care, can help children to understand why this is happening and what will happen next. It can help them understand the feelings they are going through, and help them talk about these feelings with the adults in their lives.
The following is an annotated bibliography of books about foster care, for children of different ages. If you are a foster parent or work with children in foster care, please pick out a few of these books to share with them.
Older children and teens may be more reluctant to read these books, but leaving them around in accessible places almost guarantees that the books will at least be peeked at!
Please note that, instead of listing these books alphabetically, I have listed them in order of age-appropriateness, starting with books for younger children. It is also important to realize that some children may be at a different level, emotionally or developmentally, than their chronilogical age would suggest. Older kids and teenagers may benefit from seeing some of the books on this list that are meant for much younger children. It may be a good idea to expose children to a variety of these books, and let them choose which ones they are most comfortable with.
Kitze, Carrie A. I Don't Have Your Eyes. Warren, NJ: EMK Press, 2003.
(ages 2-5)
This picture book may have originally been written for children who were adopted, but it can also be understood by young children in foster care. The book explains how, even though they may not look like the other people in their family, things like kindness, faith, patience, pride, etc, are things that children get from their family members, whether or not they share physical characteristics or the same DNA.

Goldsmith, Diedre O'Gorman. How Micah Helped Build A Family: A Story For Foster And Adopted Children. Victoria, Canada: Trafford Publishing, 2003.
(ages 2-8)
Micah, a little boy who is living with his foster parents, has trouble understanding why he cannot stay with them forever. He wonders if he has done something wrong to make them send him away. The foster parents explain to him over and over that they are only caring for him until just the right family is found for him. Later, after just the right family does get found, Micah wonders if this family will send him away also... After all, he was "sent away" by his birth parents and then his foster parents already! His new parents must help him understand that they will be his parents forever.
This book will be helpful for parents who are adopting children from foster care, to reinforce the idea that although a child's birth parents were unable to care for him, and his foster families were only temporary, thisfamily is going to be around for a long, long time!

Lovell, Cynthia Miller. The Star: A Story To Help Young Children Understand Foster Care. Battle Creek, MI: Roger Owen Rossman, 1999.
(ages 3-6)
When young Kit is brought to a foster home for the first time, a star outside her window helps her to deal with the emotions she's going through, and accompanies her throughout her foster care journey.

Gordon, Michael. I'd Rather Be With A Real Mom Who Loves Me: A Story For Foster Children. DeWitt, NY: GSI Publications, 1995.
(ages 4-9)
This story is about a little boy in foster care, who is dealing with a lot of anger and sadness about his separation from his "real" family. Although he knows that his mother didn't take care of him and his father hurt him, he feels that he'd still rather be with them, because he knows they are his family. He is also upset about having to be in therapy. The little boy feels that nobody understands him. This is a great book for children who feel that nobody understands them, and who perhaps feel that they are the only ones who feel the way they do. As the little boy in the story works through his feelings, real-life children can work through theirs.
This story is considered a little bit controversial, because of the title, and the fact that there is no "happy" ending, In many books about foster care, the children ultimately go home, or get adopted, but at the end of this story, the little guy is still in foster care.

Stanek, Muriel. My Little Foster Sister. Morton Grove, IL: Albert Whitman and Co, 1982.
(ages 4-7)
The young narrator is upset and jealous when Penny, a foster child whose parents have died, moves in with the family. But after the narrator defends Penny from a "big bully", the two become very close... so close that the narrator is very sad when Penny leaves to go to an adoptive home in another state!
This may be a good book to help birth children in foster families understand the comings and goings of children in foster care... although it seems to be sort of an overly simplified look at foster care!

Blomquist, Geraldine. Zachary's New Home: A Story For Foster And Adopted Children. Washington, DC: Magination Press, 1990.
(ages 4-7)
Life becomes rough for Zachary, who is a kitten, when his dad disappears and his mom stops playing with him and taking care of him. A social worker, who happens to be a kangaroo, takes Zachary to a foster home, where he cohabits with many other animals until he ends up being adopted by some ducks.
This is another oversimplified story about foster care and adoption, but it does deal with realistic feelings about abandonment and changes... and the animal pictures are adorable!

Herbert, Stefon. I Miss My Foster Parents. Washington, DC: Child Welfare League of America, 1991.
(ages 4-8)
This book is written (and illustrated, with the help of a big brother) by a 7-year-old boy who lived with a foster family for three years, before being adopted by a different family at the age of 6. Both he and his sister Latisha, who is being adopted by the same family, go through feelings of fear and anxiety about having new parents, and they miss the foster parents that they've grown to love over the past few years. However, as they begin to get to know their new parents, they learn that they can love their adoptive parents, yet miss their foster parents at the same time. They plan to keep their foster parents as part of their extended family.

Julie Nelson. Kids Need To Be Safe: A Book For Children In Foster Care. Minneapolis: Free Spirit Publishing, Inc, 2006.
(ages 4-10)
Going into foster care is extremely confusing for children. What may seem to be dangerous, troubled or sad lives to us, are the only lives these children know... and when they are taken away from those lives, all they know is, Mom and Dad are gone, brothers and sisters may be gone, my bed is gone, my toys are gone, and where am I?
Kids Need To Be Safe is a beautiful and gentle attempt to explain to children what is going on. The book ex plains that while usually parents take care of children, sometimes parents need help... whether that help is from relatives, or caring people whose jobs are to help children. Over and over, this story reiterates one concept: "Kids are important. Kids need to be safe."
The story goes through different feelings children might have while in foster care, including feeling angry at their parents. It points out that, even when parents have big problems, they still love their children.
The illustrations are beautifully vivid. One unforgettable image shows a homeless family sitting on a park bench, the father feeding a toddler in a stroller, two little boys crying, and a mother looking sad. Another shows a diaper-clad toddler screaming, and a young girl staring out the window, while their mother nurses a beer in their garbage-littered house. These illustrations may seem intense to the average person, but because young readers may have been in the same situations, illustrating them seems to say, "Its okay. This happens to many people. We know. We understand."
This book should be the first one read aloud to young children entering foster care!

Nelson, Julie. Families Change: A Book For Children Experiencing Termination of Parental Rights. Minneapolis: Free Spirit Publishing, Inc, 2007.
(ages 4-10)
The usual goal of foster care is to provide care for children until their parents are able to meet the requirements needed to continue raising them safely. But sometimes this does not seem likely to happen. In these cases, a parent's parental rights may be terminated, either possibly freeing the child to be adopted or to be appointed a permanent guardian.
Families Change, by the same author as Kids Need To Be Safe, is a book that explains the many, many ways that families can go through changes. It explains that someone may join a family through marriage, birth, or adoption... and someone may leave a family by moving away, going off to college, going to jail, or going to treatment. Children get bigger, people move, people encounter big problems, people lose their parental rights... All of these changes are calmly related as part of life.
The book talks about how families come in many different ways. A child may have a mother who he lived with when he was a baby, a foster mother who helped care for him when he was a little bigger, and a new adoptive mother who will be there forever. All of these mothers are part of the child's family.
It touches upon how birth parents might be upset when they lose their parental rights, but underneath it all birth parents really just want their children to be happy. The story encourages children to remember the good and bad times with their birth families, and shows that it is okay for children to keep on loving their birth families, even as they grow to love the people in their new everyday families.
This book is yet another wonderful resource for children going through changes that may be very confusing to them.

Wilgocki, Jennifer. Maybe Days: A Book For Children In Foster Care. Washington, DC: American Psychological Association, 2002.
(ages 4-10)
This colorful book explains the different reasons kids may go into foster care, the jobs of the different people they will encounter in foster care, and why the answers to so many of their questions are "Maybe." It also explains the choices kids will have in foster care, such as what to call their foster parents, and whether to tell other kids that they are in foster care.

MacLachlan, Patricia. Mama One, Mama Two. New York: Harper & Row, 1982.
(ages 5-7)
Little Maudie and her foster mother tell each other of how they met... When Maudie's birth mother, Mama One, began to have big problems, she called a social worker for help, and Maudie was taken into foster care so that her mother could go to the hospital.
This is a sweet story that shows Maudie's love and trust for her foster mother, whom she calls "Mama Two." It portrays foster parents and social workers as people who are working to help a child and a parent to be together again soon.

Banish, Rosalyn. A Forever Family: Stories And Pictures. New York: HarperCollins, 1992.
(ages 5-8)
This is a photo-essay written by an 8-year-old girl named Jennifer, with the help of author Roslyn Banish. Jennifer describes how, when she was 3 years old, she had to go into foster care because her birth parents had big problems and couldn't care for her. Jennifer then lived with a foster family for several years. When she was seven, she met the people who would eventually adopt her. Jennifer explains how scared she was when she first met her prospective parents, and how they all slowly got to know each other before deciding for sure that they wanted to become a family.

Kuklin, Susan. Mine For A Year. New York : Coward-McCann, 1984.
(ages 6-10)
This is a true story, as told by George, a young boy in foster care. As a way of helping children connect to others, George's foster mother has all of her foster children participate in a program where they train dogs to be seeing eye dogs. Although George will only have his dog for a year, he becomes very attached to the puppy. In the end, George will learn that loving something, and letting it go, can be a wonderful thing.
This book is from the early eighties, and modern children in foster care may or may not relate, but animal lovers will definitely enjoy it!

Levy, Janice. Finding the Right Spot: When Kids Can't Live With Their Parents. Washington, DC: American Psychological Association, 2004.
(ages 6-12)
This is the story of a little girl who has been living in a homeless shelter with her alcoholic mother, and staying home from school in order to care for her mother. When a judge decides the girl must go into foster care, the little girl moves in with a wonderful foster parent called Aunt Dane, who does a beautiful job at helping the little girl work through her feelings about her mother. (At one point she allows the child to work out her anger by pounding on pizza dough!) In a subplot, the little girl slowly gets an unapproachable dog to trust her. A wonderful story that will touch hearts.

Morris, Kimberly. Just For Now: Kids And People Of the Court. Houston: Child Advocates, 2006.
(ages 6-12)
Because children's needs often get lost in the shuffle of the court system, many states use volunteers called Court Appointed Special Advocates, who work with just one or two cases of children at a time, really get to know the children, and become advocates for their needs. This book, a special project of the CASA organization, is about two children who enter foster care and encounter many people... police officers, foster parents and siblings, lawyers, judges, social workers, etc, They also meet their CASA, who guides them through their foster care journey and helps them understand what is happening.
This one is a very detailed and carefully-written book, and may be especially helpful to kids who are just entering foster care and need help keeping straight all the new people and events they come across. It is probably also the most modern book about foster care that I've encountered so far, and the one that is the most straight-forward with kids. A must-have for everyone who has or works with children in foster care.

Weitzman, Elizabeth. Lets Talk About Foster Homes. New York: PowerKids Press. 1997.
(ages 7-9)
This short book explains foster care in a simple, informational way that young kids can understand. Each "chapter" is about one page long, and topics covered are what happens to siblings in foster care, following different rules in different foster homes, dealing with feelings, what birth parents have to do, etc. Parts of it are a little preachy, though... "If your foster parents tell you to finish your spinach, be proud! They're doing it because they care about you!"

Anderson, Deborah. Jason's Story: Going To A Foster Home. Parsippany, NJ: Dillon Pr, 1986.
(ages 8-10)
"Jason's Story" is a long one, that could probably be read independently by kids who are into reading "Chapter Books." Little Jason has been through a long odyssey. Put into foster care as an infant, he thought of his first foster family as his own, until his mother got him back two years later. But his mother quickly returns to her old behaviors, and after a few years Jason is back in foster care. This time he has a much harder time with dealing with his feelings... but receives help from a social worker who was also in foster care as a child. In the end, the system works as it should, and Jason and his mother are reunited safely.
This story could also be good for a child who has never been in foster care, but has a friend who is in care, or whose family is going to become a foster family. The book helps explain why kids end up in foster care, and what the goal of foster care is.

Martin, Ann M. The Babysitters Club: Kristy And The Worst Kid Ever. New York: Scholastic, Inc, 1993.
(ages 8-12)
The members of the famous Babysitters Club are excited to learn that one of their client families are becoming foster parents. But when Lou, their first foster child, arrives, she acts differently than any of the other children the babysitters have met! The babysitters slowly grow to understand why Lou acts the way she does, and they work to help her fit into the community better.
This one may be better-suited to help non-foster-children to understand what life in foster care is like.

Quattlebaum, Mary. Grover G. Graham and Me. New York: Yearling Publishers, 2003.
(ages 9-13)
Eleven-year-old Ben has been in and out of so many foster homes, he's learned to "blank" out any feelings he has for the foster parents and foster siblings he meets. But in his eighth foster home... supposedly a placement just for the summer until his social worker can find something better... Ben meets one-year-old Grover G Graham. The toddler is the only one who can break through Ben's hard shell and capture his affection... and soon Ben finds himself loving Grover so much, he's willing to do anything to protect Grover from going through what he, himself has been through.

Woodson, Jacqueline. Locomotion. New York: G.P. Putnam's Sons, 2003.
(ages 10-12)
Lonnie once had a very happy family, but he lost them all, four years ago. His parents died in a fire, and when he and his younger sister were put in foster care, they went to separate foster homes. Lonnie is eleven now and used to going from foster home to foster home, keeping his feelings inside. But when his teacher encourages him to write his feelings into poetry, Lonnie finally has a way of connecting to people.
This book of poetry, supposedly written by young Lonnie, would be a great way to encourage children in foster care to keep their own journals as a way of expressing themselves.

Wolfson, Jill. What I Call Life. New York: Henry Holt and Co, 2005.
(ages 10-13)
11-year-old Cal is used to acting like an adult and taking care of her unpredictable mother, Betty. But when one of Betty's "episodes" lands her in a psychiatric hospital, and lands Cal in a group home for girls in foster care, Cal must learn to let go of her need to be in charge, and learn to let others care for her.
A nice book, with an interesting sub-story about the Orphan Train!

Wolfson, Jill. Home, And Other Big, Fat Lies. New York: Henry Holt and Co, LTC, 2006.
(ages 10-13)
Older kids in foster care might not be as willing to sit down and read a factual book about foster care, but they may enjoy reading novels about kids around their own age, going through similar situations. Home, and Other Big, Fat Lies is a wonderful example of a book about a kid in foster care!
Eleven-year-old Whitney (first seen in What I Call Life) had heart disease as a toddler, causing her to be very small for her age, but her heart itself is very big! She has ADHD, and has created a reputation for herself of being fearless and kind of goofy, but only the readers get to know that on the inside, a lot of this behavior is just a cover up for her insecurities.
Arriving in a small northern California logging town (her twelfth foster home!) at first Whitney makes enemies by becoming a :"tree hugger" and attempting to save the mother redwood tree in the forest... but eventually, just by being her natural self, she is able to win over the town, save the tree, and find herself a new home!
This is a story that is told with truth and humor, and can show kids in foster care that they can be important in the lives of others.

Barmat, Jeanne. Foster Families. New York: Macmillan Publishing, 1991.
(ages 10-13)
This is another factual book, presenting much of the same types of information as Nancy Millichap Davies's book Foster Care, but in a simpler, thinner, more easily digestible format. 10 to 13 year olds who enjoy reading factual information may get a lot out of this one.

Falke, Joseph. Everything You Need To Know About Living In A Foster Home. New York: Rosen Publishing Group, 1995.
(ages 10-13)
An easy-to-read guide that tells kids what they might expect from being in foster care, shares stories of real-life kids in foster care, and gives advice on how to cope with unfamiliar rules, being separated from siblings, and preparing for the future.

Shaw, Susan. The Boy From The Basement. New York: Dutton Children's Books, 2004.
(ages 11-14)
In this novel, 12-year-old Charlie spends most of his time locked in the basement by his seriously mentally ill, abusive father. The only time he gets out is after his parents go to bed, when he sneaks into the kitchen to get food, and goes outside to feel the fresh air. But one night, sick, feverish and confused, Charlie stumbles outside, gets lost, and ends up in the hospital. His ultimate destination turns out to be a foster home, where Charlie must learn that the whole world is not as cruel as his world was.
This book may be a little heavy for some kids in foster care, as the details of the physical and emotional abuse and neglect Charlie receives at the hands of his parents may hit a little too close to home. But the overall message of the book is that, no matter what a kid has done or how "badly" he thinks he's acted, he does not deserve to be abused.

Byars, Betsy. The Pinballs. New York: Harper & Row, 1977.
(ages 10-13)
This oldie-but-goodie is a classic that has been turned into a play and an after-schol special, and used in school curriculums. Carly, Harvey and Thomas J. are three very different kids whose lives are thrown together by fate, when they all end up entering the same foster home on the same day. Carly compares the three of them to pinballs, shot out of a machine and bouncing around randomly in the world. But as the kids begin to get to know each other, they start to become friends and help each other out. They realize that they don't necessarily have to be pinballs in the game of life, but can make decisions for themselves.
Although the story was written in, and set in, the 70's, modern readers will find that the issues Carly, Harvey and Thomas J. faced are the same types of issues faced by kids in foster care today,,, abuse, abandonment and neglect, parental substance abuse, worrying about visitation with parents, feelings of being unable to make their own decisions, etc. This is a great story for kids in foster care to read, if they sometimes feel like they're bounced around like pinballs.

Blomquist, Geraldine M. Coping As A Foster Child. New York: Rosen Publishing Group, 1992.
(ages 13-17)
This is a book written for teens in foster care. It covers topics such as being put in foster care, not wanting to stay in a foster home, waiting to be adopted, etc. The situations are talked about through stories and descriptions of real teenagers in foster care and what they went through. After each story, the book explores what went wrong in the teen's situation, what things were able to help each teen, what things could have helped the teen, and what the teen could have done differently for himself. This book can help teens in foster care to think about their own situations, to make good choices, and to be advocates for themselves.

Davies, Nancy Millichap. Foster Care. New York: Franklin Watts Publisher, 1994.
(ages 13+)
This book is more of a factual book that could be used by a youngster who wants to write a term paper or report about foster care. It covers the history of foster care, reasons children go into foster care both now and historically, the jobs of foster parents, case workers and the courts, etc.
While this book might be too wordy for some, it may catch the interest of kids in foster care who are comforted by doing research and learning facts about their situation.

Desetta, Al. The Heart Knows Something Different: Teenage Voices From The Foster Care System. New York: Persea Books, 1996.
(ages 14-adult)
This is a collection of writings by teenagers in foster care, who tell about their life experiences, how they've dealt with different things, what mistakes have caused them to face dire consequences, etc. Since these are real kids who have gone through many different things, every teen in foster care should be able to relate to at least one story.
These stories, which are told truthfully and without self-pity, msy inspire other kids in foster care to keep on trying and hoping for the future!

Ulch, Virginia. Love, Bandit: A Tail Of Foster Care. Indianapolis: Dog Ear Publishing, 2007.
(all ages)
The adorable photographs in this book will capture the attention of little animal lovers, as they follow the adventures of Bandit, a baby raccoon. His dad took off when he was just a baby, and his mother often leaves him in charge of his four younger siblings. When his mother disappears and doesn't come back, Bandit sets out to find food for his siblings, but gets captured by a hawk! Luckily the hawk drops him. Imagine Bandit's confusion when a group of humans find the injured baby raccoon, crying for his mommy! The humans decide to care for Bandit, and he experiences many things similar to things that human children experience in foster care.
Thats all I have for now, but I'd love to add any other books you know of or have found helpful. Thanks for reading! 

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Miss Read Discloses Herself

Hi everyone! Now that I've been blogging here for a whopping two and a half months, I have a secret to disclose! Its not so much of a secret in real life, but it is something I probably will not tell my professors, cooperating teachers, future employers, etc. Well, maybe. I don't know. That's what I wanted to ask you about. 
I mentioned in my very first post that part of the reason I decided to become a special ed teacher was because I have my own "special needs" that went undiagnosed until I was an adult. I have Aspergers and ADHD. Anyone who knows me believes the ADHD part because I'm super disorganized, forgetful, always moving, have trouble focusing my attention on certain things but can become completely hyperfocused on other things, etc. The Aspergers part is what people always have trouble understanding because they imagine a person with Aspergers Syndrome to be very rigid, very mathematical and scientific, having no attachment to others, etc... basically a stereotype. Not only is that stereotype not accurate for all people with Aspergers, but with females it can be manifested very differently. I love this chart that describes common traits of females with Aspergers, because a lot of these things describe me completely. Check it out... if you work with girls with Aspergers (even if they're not diagnosed yet) at all, this may really help you understand them! 
Anyway. When it comes to working with children with special needs, having my own needs has pros and cons. 
PROS... It makes me very patient and empathetic because I know what they are going through.
              It makes me a better teacher, because when I teach in ways that I think I would have been able to learn, the kids are often able to learn. (For instance, making it relate to real life, including multi-sensory experiences, etc.)
              It makes me a better employee, because my ADHD comes with hyperfocus. When I am dedicated to something, I am really dedicated to it. I'll put in lots of extra time, lots of thought. I really put my heart into things. 
              I love to read, do research, and learn new things, so I will always be developing professionally. Want me to learn about a new curriculum? A new approach to teaching? Need me to attend a conference on how to work with kids with a particular need? I'll be there, happily! 

CONS... One of the major cons is my interviewing skills. If someone were to write out a list of interview questions, I could write back with wonderful, accurate, well thought out answers. But speaking aloud is not one of my strengths. Coming up with the right words, while on the spot, is difficult for me. I often stammer and seem unsure of myself. Plus, I just present as awkward. My facial expressions, posture, etc, can strike people as odd. I think this is the BIGGEST problem for me. If I can just get a job, I can prove myself, but getting through the interview is the challenge! 
          ...Some behavior management can be hard for me. I've worked with young children with very severe behavioral disorders (I'm talking children in foster care who have already been abused so badly and tossed from home to home so much, they think all adults are the enemy) and a lot of it is making a safe environment, providing lots of structure, being patient, using positive reinforcement, etc. I can do that. But with older kids, the sarcasm and sneakiness is more difficult for me to deal with. 
         ...My social behavior is delayed. I can't do parties. I can't mingle. I can't dance. I have gotten pretty good at chit-chat, if I only have to do it for short amounts of time. Therefore the staff holiday party, end of the year pub crawl (Yeah you know you have one!) and other things teachers do to bond, is like a flashback to my nightmarish middle school years. I was always the kid sitting alone in the cafeteria or on the bus. And I am still the "kid" sitting alone in the teacher's lounge! (This isn't to say I don't get attached to people. At the school where I worked as an aide several years ago, I loved my co-workers, and had wonderful times in the classroom together. We just really bonded as a team. But on that end-of-the-year bus trip, I was just so disappointed in how different I still was. While I fit in perfectly in my classroom with the teachers and a handful of aides, I stuck out like a sore thumb in a large, noisy group.)
      ...Along with this, I have trouble with things like, being observed by the principal, having to ask for help, etc.

        So my question to you, as teachers is, what do you think of this? Have you ever met a teacher who had special needs? If you were a principal would you hire a teacher with special needs? Do you think it is better to disclose the information in the beginning, so the principal knows what to expect for you, or is it better to keep it to yourself and try to "pass for normal?" I am definitely interesting in hearing your thoughts on this! 

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

I Got One Of My Student Teaching Placements!

Hi everyone! I got an email with good news today! I got ONE of my student teaching placements! (We do two... one for five weeks and one for ten weeks.) My ten week placement will be in a special ed classroom for second through fifth graders. Interestingly, it is the same elementary school where my dad went to school! 

When I told my dad that I was going to be student teaching at his old school, his first question was whether a certain teacher (we'll call her Mrs. Brown) was still there. It would be pretty unlikely... she'd have to be about 90 years old! Anyway he asked about her because when he was in first grade he had a crush on her. On the last day of school he and a friend wrote her love letters! The next fall, as a second grader, my dad found her in the hall and went up to her to say hi... and she ignored him! My dad says she broke his little heart. Seriously though, there is a lesson in this... someone who is 57 years old remembers how hurt his feelings were when he was ignored by a teacher when he was 7 years old! I guess as teachers we really have to be careful about what we say and do, because you never know what will stick with children for their whole entire lives. 

I've already sent an email to my cooperating teacher, introducing myself and offering to come in to meet with her sometime before my placement there begins in February. In the meantime, I've already started doing some cyberstalking! I went to the school's website and checked out the teacher's classroom website. I was really impressed! It looks like its a very small class (just boys) and they do a lot of experiential learning and using the students' interests and talents as opportunities for lessons. The classroom has a blog. One boy was apparently interested in learning about radios, so the whole class got to learn about how a radio station worked. They learned about disc jockeys, engineers, programmers, etc. The student even made his own radio commercial! I have a feeling I'm going to love being in that class. 

Now all I need to wait for is news about my January student teaching placement! 

Friday, December 9, 2011

Student Teaching Orientation

Went to student teaching orientation session today, where...
a professor serenaded us with African American spirituals accompanied by his guitar,
and then told us that, as student teachers, we'd be less important than pond scum...
got told that, during student teaching, we are not to eat lunch in the faculty lounge with regular teachers (not because of any real rules, but because supposedly we should not expose ourselves to gossip)...
and then found out that I still don't have a student teaching placement for next month! 
Good times.    

Monday, December 5, 2011

Miss Read 's Dice

Hi everyone! Today I had to do my second peer teaching. I did a lesson on probability. I don't want to bore you with the minute-by-minute details like I usually do, so I'll give you the short version... it involved a pretend raffle, and a dice game. I did want to show you the giant dice I made, though! At first I was going to buy some large dice from a local teacher supply store, but when I got there I found out they only sold large dice in packages of six, for $20.00. So I went to my usual stomping grounds, Dollar Tree! I bought two small, cube-shaped gift boxes. I took them home and wrapped them in regular white printer paper, and then used my Do-A-Dot Markers to make the dots! Finally, I covered them in shipping tape (also from Dollar Tree) to make them shiny and keep the paper from ripping. Wallah! Giant novelty dice I can use forever and ever!

In other news, I just got back from my class about teaching children with "perceptual disorders" (otherwise known as learning disabilities and mild autism) and I am founding out I am getting an A!!!
I also got two links you might find useful in some way. The first is a video of a boy explaining what it feels like to have dyscalculia. He's British so it may be a little hard to understand if you're from the USA, But he's so funny, and he describes it very well, in a way that would be inspirational to other kids with learning disorders. Here's the video...

The next is a video about how to do multiplication, lattice style. Its kind of a cool way to do multiple digit multiplication. A cool trick to show kids, if they are having difficulty with regular multiplication! 

So, that's it for now! I hope everyone is having a great week so far! 

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Miss Read Is More Fun Than Time!

Today was my last day doing field work in Mrs. Jones's class at Ash Elementary! It has been an awesome semester helping out there, and I wanted to give the kids something to remember me by, so I made these "Encouragement stones." I got the idea from two different blogs... First Grade Frolics and Create-Share-Inspire. These teachers made alphabet stones for students to manipulate while doing word study activities, and there are some worksheets that go with them. You should check it out!

I adapted the idea by getting a package of motivational stickers with encouraging words on them... you know, the kind teachers stick on worksheets and on kids' hands! I also bought some large "puddles" (the flat glass stones sold at the dollar store), and I had some sparkly Modge-Podge handy. I just stuck the stickers onto a piece of plain paper, cut them all out, put Modge Podge onto the flat side of the stones, and placed the stones on top of the stickers. When they were dry I turned the stones over and Modge Podged the flat side also, so the kids couldn't peel the paper backing off. 

Today I gave them to the kids, and said that they were to look at whenever they wanted a little bit of encouragement. I was worried the kids might think they were useless, but the kids all absolutely loved them! The sticker package I had bought had almost enough variety for every kid to have a different sticker, so they were having a lot of fun comparing them. They also were doing things like spinning them  on the desks, and they came up with different ways they could use them. Some said they would use their stones as player pieces for games, some said they could turn them into magnets, some said they would add them to their rock collections, etc. I'm definitely going to keep this idea in mind... although it could be a choking hazard for really young kids or some kids with special needs who stick things in their mouths!
I didn't know it, but the kids also had a surprise for me, too! They gave me a little set with a book of quotes about teachers, and some rubber stamps. I promised the kids that I will bring this with me when I get my own classroom, to remember them by! 

Plus, they all wrote me very heartfelt letters. 
Some quotes from the letters...
"Thank you for teaching me all a bout time. Thank you for teaching me that the hour hand needs to travel with the minute hand. Time is fun but you are more fun than time."

"...One time you asc if we went to Sixflag. I said no. Then you said someone at Sixflag tride to ges her age and she was rog. Thats when we learned about estemat. It is a good ges. If I ges there are 100 cheldren in my class that is not a estemat." (That boy remembered everything about the first lesson plan I taught!)

"...You are veree nise to me you are cole and you help me in your games like the clok game. I had fun wet you."

"I had a really fun time with you playing the clock game where you showd me the clock and we had to tell you what time it was. I wish that you never left. I am prettey shore that our class will never forget you because we all like you."

"You are so much fun to do clockes. One time you play a game with us and you are so nice to me." 

"... I think you are one of the best substitute teachers." (I wasn't really a substitute teacher, but thanks!)

"Thank you for teaching us shapes and sizes." (I never taught them about shapes and sizes! The little guy who wrote that had a lot of trouble understanding time. Maybe because he thought I was talking about shapes and sizes?)

"Your storys are great. Estamating yor age was vary fun."

"Thank you for teaching me different things in math. My favorite was the grouge sale."

"The things you have done are amazing." (Wow!)

Kristie, the little girl I've mentioned before who is in special ed because of behavior problems,  was absent the day they wrote the letters, but hurried up and made me her own special card just as I was reading the other letters. Here's what she gave me...

Finally, the teacher took a picture with the entire class and me together. I will treasure it forever!
I was so lucky to get placed in this class. Mrs. Jones really pushed me to get out of my comfort zone, and she wasn't afraid of giving me real criticism. In the handful of observation placements I've been in before, I've mostly heard "That was good," but Mrs. Jones gave me really specific things that she thought I needed to work on, as well as things she thought I did well. I hope I can keep in touch with her as I progress through my student teaching experience next semester!

I'm really going to miss those second graders. 

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Miss Read Goes On A "Field Trip"

Hi everyone! You usually won't see photos in this blog, because I want to stay pretty anonymous (too many stories of people losing their jobs over blogs, or not getting hired because of them, have showed up online) but I thought I might show cartoon versions once in a while!
So anyway... My family is a little odd because I have an aunt and uncle who are only nine and seven years older than me. Coupled with the fact that my mom had me and my brother while she was pretty young, and my aunt and uncle waited a while to have their own children, I ended up with several cousins who are at least 20 years younger than me. two of them, Birdie (age 9) and Tiger (age 7) live somewhat near by, and my mom and I like to spend time with them when we can.
My mom recently got tickets to the circus, and so we took Birdie and Tiger out for the day so their parents could paint their living room without interruptions. Want to see all the fun we had? 

First we drove there in my mom's upside-down mobile. (The car wasn't really upside-down but for some reason I just can't get this picture right-side-up!)

My mom bought them light-up toys to play with when the lights got turned off in the show.

Sitting in the audience...

I took a lot of pics of the elephants because I like them the best.

By the time the show was over, we were all hungry, so we went to this train-themed restaurant near by. It was built in the 1950's and is really small. Its probably one of the original train-themed restaurants, although a lot of new ones have cropped up in the last decade. At this one, you can sit at a lunch counter and see your food delivered by train, but during normal lunch hours it is hard to get a seat at the counter because its so crowded. We happened to burst in half an hour before closing time, so we got coveted counter seats!

Finally, we went back to my house for a while. Birdie and Tiger love arts and crafts, which they must get from their mom. (I, too, get it from their mom!) I had a new box of Do-A-Dot markers which I cracked open for the kids. They worked hard for quite a while.

Doesn't that look like fun? I wish every day could be more like this!

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Building A Professional Portfolio

Hi everyone! I'm excited because I discovered another blog by a soon-to-be student teacher. The blog, called Circus Of Learning, is written by Emily Brown, who is going through a teacher training program in Alabama. She's the first blogger I've met who blogs about learning to teach and isn't a teacher yet. Like me, she will begin student teaching in January. I think she's already been getting a lot more in-classroom experience than I have, though! 
Anyways, the semester is coming to a close. My school has the entire coming week off for Thanksgiving. I'll have one more full week before final exams. After that, I'm off from school until January 20th! Thats kind of a long vacation. I'm hoping to find some sort of temporary job during that time (since we're not supposed to work at all during student teaching) and I'm also planning to begin working on my professional portfolio. 
When I first took Intro classes at the community college years ago, we spent a lot of time working on our portfolios. They were arranged according to our state's learning standards, and every assignment we did in class, as well as a bunch of Xeroxed hand-outs we were given, went into them. I recently found mine, and its actually sort of embarrassing... I can't imagine showing it to a prospective employer. On the other hand, at my current university, they use an online portfolio program. You are required to include certain major assignments from each class in this portfolio... nothing more, and nothing less. Theoretically, you can then include a link to the portfolio when you apply for jobs. 
I would like to have a physical portfolio to bring with me to job interviews, but I am not sure how to organize it. I wondered, how do all of you organize your professional portfolios? By state learning standards? Some other set of standards? Your own. logical organizational method? I was thinking of organizing mine by the Council For Exceptional Children's Professional Standards
I posed this question on a couple of message boards for teachers, but so far I only got two replies. One person suggested I have both a physical and an online portfolio, since employers may be more likely to look carefully through an online portfolio when they have time, as opposed to having only a few minutes to page through a physical portfolio during an interview. Both people suggested that employers don't look at portfolios at all, and also that pictures are better than words because they take up less time to look at. 
I wondered, what is your experience with this? Here's what I'd like to know...
1. If you are now a teacher, did prospective employers look at your portfolio at all during interviews?
2. Is your portfolio electronic, physical, or both?
3. How is your portfolio organized? 
Thanks! I can't wait to hear from you! 

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Miss Read Teaches Again!

Today I taught my second lesson plan. Again, I was given a chapter out of the teacher’s edition of the math book, so I basically knew exactly what materials I’d be teaching. But this time I had a little more freedom to plan it how I wanted to. The lesson was on estimating money.
            I started out by telling them a true story of how, at Six Flags, there was a game where a lady would try to estimate your age by looking at you. If she guessed wrong, you’d get a prize. When the lady tried to estimate my age, she guessed way wrong, so I got a prize! I then gave the students the chance to estimate my age. First, I reminded them that estimating was not a wild guess… they’d have to make smart guesses and use the information they had. The students guessed anywhere from 16 to 90!
            Next, I told the students that we could also estimate money. I had drawn pictures of several objects on the white board, and wrote prices next to them. I told the students to pretend they had a dollar, and wanted to buy at least two things from the garage sale, but they wouldn’t have time to add the prices up to get the exact totals. They’d have to estimate. I then gave them the chance to come up with combinations of items they wanted to buy. Then I’d add up the total, to find the exact amount, and see if they were correct. The students were all doing this really well, so I decided to make it a little more complicated and asked them to name three things they could buy! Most of them did really well at this, although I suspect some of them really were adding in their heads instead of estimating.
            Finally, I closed by asking them to come up with other situations in which they might estimate. The kids came up with all sorts of answers, from guessing a dog’s age, to calculating the number of stars in the sky, to guessing how many candy corns were in a jar in order to win a prize. A few came up with answers such as, estimating how many states there were in the USA or how many days there were in a year. I asked those students if they knew the exact answers to those questions (they did) and I pointed out that this meant they were not really estimating. I think most of them had a good idea of what estimating was by the time we were done!
            To tell you the truth, this lesson went so quickly, and I thought I was doing horribly! I couldn't wait for it to be over! I was actually a little relieved that my little friend Kristie was absent, since it cut down on the distractions. Still, I was shaking, and I thought Mrs. Jones was probably so disappointed in me. But at the end, she actually came up to me and told me I did wonderfully! In fact, she said that although she usually doesn't take student teachers, if I need a student placement she would love for me to come be her student teacher! (My school doesn't allow us to choose our own placements, plus I need to be in a special education placement... but still, it was flattering!) Its so weird how I can think I am doing terribly, and in real life I'm doing great. 
            At the end of class, the teacher and I were talking, and I mentioned that in our class we learn more about teaching using a problem solving approach. Mrs. Jones said that she liked that approach also, but the school now follows a Guided Math approach, which means that they start with a short, fifteen-minute “math message,” which is what I had just taught, followed by work stations that should be no longer than twenty minutes each. The rationale behind this is that the Internet and other media has changed the way people think, and that we now need to switch tasks every twenty minutes in order to stay engaged. I mentioned to Mrs. Jones that I felt like using this approach with young children was actually encouraging them to have short attention spans, instead of helping them learn to focus on something. Mrs. Jones agreed. I think a problem solving approach is a better way because you can focus on one topic (for instance, fractions) but also have several short activities (such as an introduction by the teacher, a problem-solving activity, sharing, and wrap up) so that students stay engaged. Math centers could also be incorporated, but I think more problem-solving activities and opportunities are needed.
        If you're a teacher and you use Guided Math, I'd be very interested in hearing your thoughts on this! Whether you agree with me or not, I'd love to learn from you! Please leave me a comment. 
      Cutest moments in class..: 
             During Independent Reading time, I asked a little girl named Ainslie, one of the children in the class who has special needs, to read aloud to me. At first, she was reading a story about a girl and her father baking a cake... and she kept interrupting her own reading to explain to me that she bakes all the time, with her older sister. She'd be reading, "Then, stir in the eggs," and then she'd look up to frantically tell me, "But don't get any shells in the mix! Be very careful!" or "They're putting the pan in the oven, but I'm not allowed to touch the oven. An adult needs to do that." I jokingly asked her if the picture in the story was of her. She made sure to tell me it couldn't be her, because her family included four children and three adults... the adults being her mother, her father, and her sister who was thirteen. LOL! Next she read a book called Amazon Alphabet, which had a different rainforest animal for each letter. A lot of the animal names were hard even for me to pronounce,  I did know what a kinkajou was, having seen one at the nature center last summer! I also knew that macaws, true to the picture in the book, do like fruit. Ainslie looked at me in amazement and said, "Whoa! You know so much!"

 One little girl from another second grade class saw that my name badge had the name and logo of my university. She came up and told me, "My older sister goes to that university!"
      "Really? I asked her. "What is your sister studying to be!"
       The little girl proudly replied, "A business woman!" 
      One little boy kept interrupting me today to show me printed photos of his dog! (How did he know I adore dogs?) 

I have really enjoyed being in Mrs. Jones's class. I think second grade just might be my grade! I'm not going to see them next week because my university has Thanksgiving break all week, and the week after that will be my last week in the class. I'm going to miss them a lot!