Saturday, September 1, 2007

Attached Portables

Little boxes
On the schoolyard
Little classrooms
Made of ticky-tacky
Little children
In the boxes
And they all look
Just the same?
My first ever substituting happened yesterday. Yes, the day before a long weekend holiday in hot, humid 106 degree heat. Fortunately the "little box" I was assigned to was air conditioned and had a fan. It also had 34 little hot 4th grader bodies in it. We were there from 7:30A.M. to 2:30P.M. About 11:A.M. the principal came on the intercom and said we had a 1st stage heat alert and no one was to "exert" themselves...get cool in the cafetorium during recesses. We had already attempted to have P.E. Soccer out doors was scheduled between our class and a third grade. Another 4th grade teacher's kids had tagged along so she could "help" in the cafetorium with "dancing". Well, I looked at the 50+ kids squinting in the shadeless heat next to the goal and said, "How many think it's too hot to play soccer today?" More than half the hands went up so...we made an executive decision and went back to our little box. There weren't enough chairs or desks for everyone so we had them around the edges on the floor. We then proceeded to play, a favorite rainy-day game of mine, "balance the board eraser on the head tag". They loved it.
Actually the staff was very helpful for a first-time sub and directed me to the right line-up spot, room etc. I found the three-page lesson plan almost right away and it was very clear and detailed. Helpful "teacher's pets" were named and a room mother, godsend, came in about 8:30 and helped out and also brought snacks. I introduced myself and told alittle about my experience and the fact that the last class I had was a 4th-5th combo. I showed them my "bag of tricks" (bookbag) and my Baritone Uke case. I told them I never had any problems because I liked to sing and have fun when I taught/learned. I then proceeded to do just that within the structure of the lesson plan and tight schedule.
Practice test (test prep) sheets were already passed out on their desks and after the Pledge of Allegence, we were on them. Formatted questions, fill in the blanks about language usage, punctuation, capitalization etc. with large group participation requested. No problem, but how to make it fun and interesting? The back side of the paper had a take off of what I used to call, "alphabet speak". It was almost undiscernable. So... I gave them mine, on the board and orally:
"A B, C D Goldfish?"
"L M N O Goldfish?"
"O S A R,
A B, C D I's?"
With the proper inflections, they finally got it and all tried it together. No writing though. Later,
when the principal came back on for announcements, he made a mistake and said the date as the 30th. We corrected him, then and later and talked about why August has 31 days. Then we all memorized, orally, this little jingle:
Thirty days has September,
April, June and November,
All the rest have Thirty-one,
Except February;
Which in four, adds one more,
Making twenty-nine.
They loved it. We reviewed it on the way out to recess and home. They put their test-preps in their cubbies sans "happy faces" on them. I didn't have a chance to get around and do that. So, I asked the volunteer room mother to do it in the cubbies. She was more that happy to do it while we got on with the demanding lesson plan.
Next, a "spelling bee" was called for to practice the words, right before the Friday Final Test. Here again, I interjected my own form of "Spelling Bee"...much more involving and fun. Boys against Girls, very "in" at the fourth grade, but sitting on top of desks and only being able to spell one letter in sequence when it was your turn...much more difficult. Some words we had to go over and over before they got them totally right and then all the cheering. Girls won but by only one point. Then we took the written test. I suggested they try it in cursive right next to the required printing. Some did. Not asked to use them in sentences (LP), as I would've. I then graded that set of tests at recess and on my lunch 40 mins. Not a grade below 85%. Many had the challenge words, vocab words and "gate words" right too.
Yes, they have "Gate" which stands for "Gifted...something" There were quite a few in this class. They were supposed to take extra words, problems and something called "AR Testing" on the computers. There was charting for it but I saw nothing in the lesson plan about computers so I steered clear of those. Next, after recess and "indoor P.E." we tackled Excel Math. This was a 81/2" x 14" sheet both sides filled with all kinds of math problems and story problems that we were supposed to do "together" using the board. This was much more difficult to keep attention, and follow up and participation with what I guessed was at least 3 or 4 different levels of competancy among the students. i.e. those who were "done" right away, to those who never did finish which then prevented them from doing the fun art project later on... Here again, I tried an interdisciplinary approach. On the counting by -Up or Down - section we tried this song:
"Fifty-four bottles of pop on the wall,
Fifty-four bottles of pop,
Take three down and pass them around,
Fifty-one bottles of pop on the wall..."
At first they had trouble getting into it, then I compared it to "99 bottles etc" and they got into it. We went all the way down to 24 bottles and then I tried to point out the pattern with "threes" looking at the "ones place" for ten "passings around" and see that they are always the same numbers, just different tens, i.e. 50's, 40's, 30's, 20's etc.
We then did some all together group reading with oral volunteers who "had load voices" (very competitive). We read a patriotic section of their Social Studies Books and discussed the meanings of "courage, respect, dependability etc." Then they were asked to "design their own flags" using the construction paper colored only red, white and blue. Several had a problem with the assignment that they didn't have to copy our own Star-spangled Banner, which was just too hard. With sissors, glue and our helping mother, we finally got into them and left them to finish after lunch. Meanwhile, we sang some patriotic songs to help us work...and see if we could sing and work at the same time.
"Your a Grand Ol' Flag..."
"God Bless America..."
"This Land is Your Land..."
They loved it. After lunch, calming down, suggested heads we (lesson planned) read Chapter 6 of "Island of the Blue Dolphins". A favorite. We had 9 questions to answer about our chapter and we did. Piece o' Cake. Back to finishing our flags (and Excel assignments) cleaning up our scraps and mess and then...Gaming time. Yes, Checker board abounded. Some didn't want to, or didn't know how to play checkers (didn't want to learn how at the time) "bag 0' tricks" had a Remote Twenty Questions Game in it and a DS "Battleship Game"...lo and behold...very popular. A few more songs, lots of clean up and we were out of there at 2:05!
"Clean up "Good Night Ladies"
"On Top of Spaghetti"...
"When are you coming back teacher?" "I don't know. When your teacher asks for me again. Have a nice 3-day holiday. You were an excellent class"...and I wrote that in the notes to the teacher with the completed lesson plan. Boy! Was I exhausted. I had fun though and I think they did too. Much learning? Probably not, but maybe an attitude shift about what learning really is...not just testing. RRR


BOB! Your Life Preserver said...

I forgot to answer my initial question: Do they all look just the same? Well, the classrooms do on the outside but not on the inside. The students obviously don't "all look just the same" outside or why have an educational program that isn't individualized very much or at all? There was almost no individual assignments or motivation in that class...other than the "Gate" kids. Pity! RRR

BOB! Your Life Preserver said...

Tomorrow I go back to that same school and sub at a 1st grade. It will be an interesting comparison. RRR