Tuesday, August 23, 2005

Week 2 of 1st Grade

Yes, I've been demoted to first grade, but it's off to a good start. I definitely have new challenges with my new grade level and content area. I also taught reading last year, but in Spanish and to second-graders; in Spanish, you just have to sound out the words, there are no crazy short a, long a vowel rules. Also, by the time students reach second grade the focus is mostly on increasing reading fluency and comprehension....not learning how to read the words "hat" and "sad." The advantage of teaching in English is that I can convey myself exactly as I want to, this makes tasks like disciplining with empathy much easier. There's also a new satisfaction in helping little six-year olds learn English (starting with the names of the letters of the alphabet) when, previously, they have only been exposed to Spanish.

My typical daily schedule:
I get 3 groups of students for 105 minutes each. My average class size is 20 kids, bigger than last year but manageable. Every class starts with the morning message (a cloze activity-the students finish a sentence). They have 5 minutes to write their name, date, and the sentence. Then, I read aloud a book (higher than 1st grade level) on the carpet for 15 minutes. I love this part because I can really ham it up and be super dramatic. The students laugh and excitedly share their ideas about the text. The kids especially enjoyed hearing "The Recess Queen" (about Mean Jean and Katie Sue). Plus, for many of my kids, it's their only exposure to an adult reading aloud (especially, in English). Then, we sing a short phonics song ("A is for Alice who chased an alligator...) and practice word flashcards (short /a/ for now). The next 10 or so minutes are spent in shared reading, a time when the students and I read together a short (6 sentences or less!) story or poem. Sometimes I write the story or poem on chart paper and we read at the carpet, other times they read from books at their desk. Next is our "centers" time when kids rotate in heterogeneous groups through the listening, library, ABC, computer, and skill centers. Right now we're learning what to do at each center, it's a slow process with some of my classes. For example, at the ABC Center the students draw a letter card, say the name of the letter, make the letter's sound, then classify the letter as upper-case or lower-case. I'm realizing just how basic the activities need to be. Eventually, I will pull out ability groups for small guided reading lessons during centers time. Before I know it, my 105 minutes are up and it's time to switch classrooms!

You may remember my stories last year about two hyper boys spinning around on the foreheads on the carpet, giving themselves carpet burns. Well, this year I have their younger brothers...in the same class. One's a crier who refuses to stay in the classroom, much less to participate (he's already been absent for 3 of the first 8 days of classes). The other boy is on medication for ADHD and is an engaged and active participant in class when medicated. However, two days so far he has run out of the school building multiple times, kicked desks, thrown books, stood on top of rolling chairs, and walked on tables...needless to say, those days were less than pleasant. These two boys have variable conduct, and they are in one of my two typically "calm" classes.

Another special boy refuses to follow directions and will only sit and play at the computers. This is a more recent habit, but one I haven't yet been able to change. Today, I even tried unplugging all the computers and stacking up the chairs (attempt-unsuccessful). So, far he has called me "stupid," given me the bad finger, threatened to bite me, and said "f--- you"---all in 7 days of school. The assistant principal is already on a first name basis with the student, especially after incidents with his female classmates (kissing and inappropriatey touching them). Even his aunt (the boy's legal guardian) does not know any secret tricks to get him to behave.

I forgot to mention, I have multiple students who do not know the alphabet...including a few who were already in first grade last year. Today we sang, the alphabet song to the tune of "Mary had a little lamb"--abcdefg, hij, klm, nopqrst, uvwxyz (it's fun, you should try it!).

The little ones have already managed to get a co-teacher and I sick (despite constant use of hand sanitizer), so I'm off to bed!

P.S. My principal observed my class and said, "You were born to teach first grade"--so that's encouraging! :)


Blogger Rebecca said...

Oh, Lori! You have no idea how much I relate to you right now! It's so exciting to hear news from you. (This is Rebecca Farrin, it's been a while since I've talked with you!) This year, when I arrived at work at my developmental center prepared to work with my usual small group of kids, they said, "Oh, and by the way, when your supervisor goes on maternity leave, you're in charge!" So, I ended up managing a group of 25 kids with special needs and a staff of 7, not to mention conducting developmental therapy with my usual kids and coordinating parents as well. (I'm the only one at the center who speaks Spanish, talk about a lot of pressure in a highly hispanic area!). It's been fun though, and I totally relate to being flexible and managing kids who don't want to participate or don't understand the point. Best wishes and I'll be praying for you and your kids! Lots of love, Rebecca

3:18 PM


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