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! 


Monday, November 14, 2011

Are You Going To Adopt An Angel?

When I was a little kid my parents would always let me pick out an "angel" from the Salvation Army Christmas tree to buy gifts for. I still like to do this each year, but it can be hard to find a tree! I never seem to find them when I'm looking for them!
You can actually sign up online now through Salvation Army and JC Penney. Here's the link. You can search by town, gender and age, Then you can either ship the gifts to a Salvation Army site or drop them off!
Just thought I'd let you know. Happy giving!

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Miss Read Takes The Test!

Hi everyone! Those of you who are special ed teachers probably had to take three tests, before you managed to get certified. You had to take the Basic Skills test before you even started a teacher education program. Then, before you could student teach, you had to take the LBS1 test. Finally, somewhere during student teaching, you had to take the Special Education Curriculum Test. 
I was scheduled to take the LBS1 test on November 12. I had no idea what would be on it, but I did know that, if I didn't pass, I wouldn't be allowed to student teach in January. So I went on Amazon and looked for a study guide. I found one called the Special Education Learning Behavior Specialist 1 Teacher Certification Exam Guide. I bought it. I studied my brains out! I took the practice test in back, made flash cards for all of the questions I didn't get right, studied the flash cards, did the practice test again, and repeated this process until I was getting them all right all the time! Even so, I thought, I might just be memorizing the answers in the study guide, and this might not help me in the real exam! I was so nervous.
And then yesterday, I went to take the exam. 
absolutely nothing I studied for was on that exam! Nothing! 
There were no questions about semantics, pragmatics, syntax and morphology. Nothing about the special education referral process. Nothing about ratios of reinforcement schedules, locus of control, or methods of teaching reading. NOTHING!
Instead, it was all sort of hypothetical situations. 
Just to give you an example (this is not a real question that was on the test, but just something I'm making up that would fit in nicely on the test if they ever ask me to help write a new version)...

Amy is a fourth grader with a learning disability. At a Parent-Teacher Conference, Amy's parents tell you that they'd like to work with Amy on her reading skills and they are wondering if you have any tips. What do you tell them? Choose the best answer. 
A. Say, "I went through school to learn how to teach children like Amy. I'll handle the teaching, and you can handle the parenting, thank you!"
B. Give Amy's parents a list of words and ask them to drill her on them each day before dinner.
C. Recommend that Amy's parents take her to the library to choose books that are on her reading level and interesting to her, and then read together at home, with the parents reading one page and Amy reading the next; and talk about the story together. 
D. Tell Amy's parents that, because of assistive technology, there is no real reason for Amy to worry about working on her reading skills. Computers can read aloud to her anything she needs read! 

Which would you choose? 
Basically, I wasted a lot of time studying for a test that was really more common sense than anything else. I mean, there really isn't a way you could have studied for that test, because they were all hypothetical questions and scenarios! 
For anyone about to take this test, here is my advice: Relax, and trust your instincts! 
Now, maybe all that stuff I studied for will show up on the Special Education Curriculum Test? I guess I'll have to wait and find out! 

Friday, November 11, 2011

Building My Classroom Library

Hi everyone! A few semesters ago I took a class on teaching reading, and the teacher said that we should already be building up our future classroom libraries. When I was taking the class, the teacher would bring in the Scholastic book order catalogs, and we would get to order Scholastic books through the school. But after that class ended, I couldn't do that anymore! I have bought a few books through Children's Book Of The Month Club, but they are more expensive that way... just about as expensive as buying them at the regular book store!
Then I got the idea to visit library book sales. I checked out this website called Book Sale Finder. You can choose your state and see all of the upcoming library book sales in your area from month to month. A library in a neighboring town happened to be having a book sale starting today, so I went over there this morning.

Even though I love books, I don't often visit book sales for my own reading pleasure, because the books tend to be entire collections of romances or mysteries that people donate. (Not genres I'm particularly interested in.) But the children's section is an entirely different story! First of all, kids outgrow their books a lot more quickly than adults do, so there are tons of awesome, gently used books. A lot of them were Scholastic books, as a matter of fact! There were also a ton of books that were pulled from the library's own shelves. And the prices? Couldn't be beat! The paper backs ranged from ten cents to a quarter, and hardback books were fifty cents. I spent about ten dollars and got about forty books!

There is another book sale at a different library next weekend, and I'm planning on stopping at that one, too. By the time I actually start looking for a job, I should be vcry well-stocked in books. I'm going to use them all, too... I plan on following my reading professor's practice of reading aloud to the kids several times a day... for instance reading a math-related book before math, a social studies related book before social studies, a fun bookafter lunch, etc.

What books do you recommend? Are there any books that your classes particularly loved?