Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Math Lessons At Ash Elementary

Hi, everyone! Today was my first day of doing observations at Ash Elementary School .* I'm sure you're all dying to know how it went!
The class that I'm doing the observations for is a class on how to teach math, so I was mostly there to observe the math lessons. Its a second grade classroom. The somewhat annoying thing about my school is that, although I am majoring in special education and intend to teach special ed, I have barely ever been placed in a special education or with any type of special ed teacher. The closest I have come was being allowed to shadow a resource teacher for two hours one morning. So its a little difficult because, although I am going to be learning and practicing on how to teach a large group of typically developing second graders with a few children with special needs mixed in (and those few usually leave the classroom for reading and math) I will not get much experience in teaching children with special needs. But... oh well!
Great things I observed? The classroom is super organized, with children busy and happy at all moments. There is a lot of moving around the room and talking, instead of the quiet boredom I endured in most of my elementary school classes! The children also get a lot of choices throughout the day. For instance, during "work centers," the kids were able to raise their hands and say which work center they wanted to go to. The teacher kept track on a chart, so eventually throughout the week the kids would have had the chance to do each work center, but it would still be their choice. Different work stations included reading an oversized book with a partner and taking turns using a pointer to point at the words, coloring scarecrows for the bulletin board, playing educational games, using the computer, listening to a book on tape, etc.
Interesting things I observed? The classroom uses Everyday Mathematics, which is supposed to be based on real-life math situations. There is a lot of emphasis on learning math strategies to solve problems. But some of the strategies for solving problems seem more complicated than the problem itself!
For instance, lets say you have the problem 9 + 6. You're supposed to say to yourself, "9 is one less than 10. I know that 10 + 6 = 16, so and one less than 16 is 15, so 9 + 6 = 15."
Okay, maybe that one isn't so bad... but here's another one.
Lets say you have the problem, 4 + 6. You should say to yourself, "I've already memorized that 4+4 is 8, and 6 is 2 more than 4. 10 is 2 more than 8, so 4 + 6 must be 10!"
To me, it just seems like counting would be easier! I always had a horrible time learning math, but I think I would have had more trouble trying to remember all of the strategies, and working the problems out that way, than I would have just counting in my head!
Another thing I noticed, which I have also noticed while observing in other schools before, is that sometimes teachers don't quite know what to do with the behavioral issues of the children with special needs in the class. In the classes I've observed, this one included, there are always two or three children that have special needs, with behavioral issues that come along with them. This may be anything from a child with autism who keeps making random noises or  jumping out of his seat to get a closer look at the fascinating basket of colored paper clips on the teacher's desk (Those things are just begging to be lined up or sorted out!) to a child with ADHD who just keeps fidgetting or blurting things out during circle time, to a child with a developmental delay who just doesn't seem sure of what he's supposed to be doing and so just sits there. There seems to be a lot of training for teachers on how to teach children with various learning needs, plus a lot of the kids with special needs get help from special teachers or staff members during reading and math. But teachers don't seem to have many ideas on how to handle the different behaviors! In another class i observed, the teacher would just get so frustrated and angry with the children who had trouble going with the flow of the classroom. In the class I observed today, the teacher was a little less easily frustrated, but still wasn't sure how to manage certain kids. For instance, one little girl who clearly had special needs kept doing things such as talking out of turn and moving around when she wasn't supposed to. The kids get rewarded for good behavior with tokens, which they can turn in each month for prizes. So this little girl kept getting in trouble and having to give up a token. She lost three tokens in the three hours I was there! The thing that bothered me about this was that 1.) The little girl didn't seem to have much control over moving around and blurting out... she'd just forget, and bounce away. 2.) When she did lose a ticket, it didn't bother her at all... she cheerfully gave up the little piece of paper, so she wasn't really learning anything in the moment. 3.) By the time the students cash in their tickets, and the little girl finds she barely has any, she will long have forgotten those wiggly moments during story time!
Saddest thing I observed? There was one part of the day when the students had to quickly find a partner for an activity. That same little girl walked around asking everyone to be her partner, even grabbing people, but the other children ignored her. Finally the teacher had to assign her someone. :(
Funniest thing I observed? I always love overhearing the conversations of little kids when they think no adults are paying attention. So here are a couple I heard today. During snack time: "What if my mom poisoned my snack today? I might be about to eat a poisonous grape!" During work time; "I think I forgot to wear underwear today. Yep, I'm pretty sure I forgot." LOL!
Thats all I have for today! Feel free to comment if you have any thoughts on Everyday Math, behavior management, or anything else!

Yours truly,
Miss Angel Read.

*Names of all schools, teachers and students have been changed.

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