Thursday, February 25, 2010

From Snowpocalypse to Kiss Catastrophe

I’ve said it before for different reasons, but I’ll say it again – I am a very lucky first year teacher. This time I’m saying that because of the apocalyptic weather. While everyone else was griping about the End Days-style snow, I was praying for more to come. I basically got another winter break. And so did my kids. With the strange two-hour delays and all that, some kids weren’t in school for two weeks. On the one hand, this of course sucks because we missed out on 2 weeks of learning time. On the other hand, I got some much needed rest. Especially considering I’ve been perpetually sick since about November.

We’re back in the swing of things now. But there is one really important thing I learned during the snow and the strange scheduling… if I had only 10 kids every day, we would be doing some really cool lessons.

When the district calls a two-hour delay, only about half my students show up. And we had three such blissful days last week. Don’t gt me wrong, I absolutely love all 19 of my students. But a smaller class size just naturally gives us more options. My favorite thing about it was that I finally got to pull out some of the fancypants math and language arts games and puzzles that I got from Lakeshore at the beginning of the year. It’s mostly impossible to do anything in a big group with those, but it was glorious seeing the kids do them in small groups. I was impressed that I saw them transfer knowledge from our typical lesson structure to a more abstract game (like a puzzle where matching pieces were pictures with the same beginning sound).

This just makes me wish I had more small group time in my class. I’m still not really sure how to accomplish this, but at our last CLT meeting our CLT leader gave me a new perspective. I’ve always thought that I would have to first teach the kids a million little things to keep them occupied while I met with a small group and taught them a new lesson. See, it’s nearly impossible to keep a group of Pre-Ks occupied without significant supervision unless you’ve explicitly taught them something to stay busy with. Even games have to be taught, the rules explained, and the whole thing practiced a few times. I just had no idea how I would teach all these little busy activities in order to then have time to meet with one group and teach them the “core” lesson of the day.

After CLT I realized that what I need to do is a large group lesson teaching EVERYONE a core activity. Then, while my para supervises most of the class, I could pull aside a small group and have them do a new smaller activity. And once we’ve done a few rounds of this, I could have another small, unsupervised group doing a pre-learned activity. I think this is better. I think this may actually work next year.

Next year. Because right now I’m tired. Yes, we’ve had a lot of time off, but I think more than anything it just gave me a perspective of what I should and should not be worrying about. I’m more content saying things like “Well, maybe next year” rather than spending every waking minute of my time outside school making and preparing things for students to do in school.

Another mini success – I’ve realized that my kids are really great at sounding out (at least the beginning sounds of words). We made a list during a social studies lesson on maps the other day and they were correctly identifying the first letter in almost every word we listed. However, I don’t know how to get them to transfer this knowledge to their own writing. When we write stories, they just write a random stream of letters. This is developmentally appropriate for this time frame and also a big move from where we were in the beginning of the year when they didn’t even know what letters were or what we used them for. Still, I want to push them to that next step and I just don’t know. Does it just happen naturally one day? I’ve been giving them a lot of examples. Every time I write something in front of them I go through the process of sounding out. Do I need to be more explicit? Probably.

So all in all, I'm praying for more snow. I actually enjoy it. I love snow. I guess I was meant for the east coast? I think I've mentioned this before, but one of my favorite things about the east is my new radio station, WTMD. They basically play every song in my iTunes. It's definitely a more hipstery (gasp!) radio station, but I love it. And now, it can really do no wrong. The other day, while waiting for Jaren outside the library, they played Kiss Catastrophe by the Damnwells. The Damnwells is a band I saw the first time I saw my other favorite band, Augustana, when they were still playing small shows at the Big Fish Pub. This was freshman year of college, back when figuring out I had my own favorite lesser known bands and going to their shows was the newest and coolest thing ever. I fell in love with the Damnwells that night and bought their CD the next day. So, once again, it felt like someone at WTMD was playing a sequence of songs just for me. Sigh.

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