Saturday, September 29, 2012


This last week was a real bear to get through. I spent over 20 hours last weekend on assignments/projects/lessons due over the last seven days and I am completely worn out. I came home from class yesterday and slept from 4pm until 9pm. Then I woke up to grab something quick to eat for dinner before passing out asleep again until 8am this morning. For those of you who are not aware, 7am is "sleeping in" for me... even on the weekend. Clearly, my body was in need of some major rest in order to recover.

What makes crazy weeks like this one worth it? Knowing that my work is appreciated and the quality matches the time invested.

My observation was one of the bigger issues on my plate this week. I was supervised during my literature lesson on Thursday (the one on Strega Nona I posted about recently) and felt great about it. The kids, of course, loved the story and laughed like only first graders can at the part where Big Anthony gets fat from eating all the pasta. My supervisor seemed to like the lesson as much as the kids. I got some really positive and encouraging feedback from her about my lesson plans themselves, as well as my teaching methods.

Then, this afternoon I checked our online assignment site and saw that my literacy professor returned my second draft of our main paper with her comments. She had some very positive things to say about the paper and my writing which made me feel so encouraged.

To top it off, I earned an A on my math methods midterm exam.

Each of these achievements individually are great, but to come all at once after a week like this week seems like a huge gift of encouragement. I greatly respect all three of these professors who assessed my work this week and to get such great results and feedback from them makes me feel like my hard work is finally paying off. This program can feel so challenging. It is a wonderful experience to have people who have been there before tell you that you not only have what it takes, but that you have a true talent for the task.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

mystery walker

This week I found an idea on Pinterest that pretty much worked a miracle with my first graders. No joke, I wish I knew who first invented this idea because I would make them cookies or something... it helped so much!

My class has a lot of energy. They're six. Talking and being silly is kind of their thing. Unfortunately, this does not lend itself well to walking down the hall in any sort of orderly fashion and it causes teachers to close their door when we walk by. I also have one or two students with tons and tons of personality that tends to come out in the form of talking to anyone they see, walking/running/jumping/dancing any time they can, and touching everything within arm's reach.

So, when I stumbled across the mystery reader idea, I was a tad skeptical. It just seemed too simple.

What the plan entails:
- cut cardstock into small squares and write the students' names one per square.
- place the squares in a bowl/bag/container near the door (or carpet area if you have one)
- tell the students before lining up what the expectations are for walking in the hall. (I told my students to do three things: hands to themselves, mouth silent, feet walking like a 1st grader).
- make a big show of choosing a name from the container, but don't show it to anyone. Glance at the name and then put the paper in your pocket.
-tell the kids that the name on the square is your mystery walker and if they can walk to wherever you're going with perfect hallway manners, they get a reward (we used the current stickers system in place in the classroom).

The genius of this method is that first graders are still self centered enough that they are all convinced they are the mystery walker. Even better than that? They all are highly motivated by stickers.

I did this with my class today and it was like I had a different class. They were silent walking down the hall and received lots of compliments. We did this twice today (once for lunch/recess and once for specials) and both times I was able to reward my mystery walker.

The final thing to keep in mind with this mystery walker business is that you don't tell the kids who the walker is unless that person is getting a reward. If the mystery walker failed in their efforts, then simply tell the students that the walker did not meet the expectation and will be placed back in the container to try again another day.

I made a point to go over the expectations a few times before leaving the classroom just so everyone was clear. I'm so thrilled that this method worked today! Hopefully my cooperating teacher is able to keep up with it while I am gone and the kids will continue to enjoy it!

Monday, September 17, 2012

story mapping

Last week my supervisor observed me for the first time this semester. I wasn't nearly as nervous as I was during my observations last semester, but I was also less excited about the lesson because it was completely NOT my style of teaching. I was required to use a lesson from my cooperating teacher's plans. As sweet as she is, we come from two very different schools of thought.

In two weeks I am having my second observation in first grade and I'll be using an original lesson plan based on an assigned common core standard. The lesson is going to be on story sequencing. After a bit of wrestling with this topic and browsing a bunch of stories and pins on pinterest, I decided on a really fun activity.

I'm going to have the kids help me make a huge story map!

We are going to read a book aloud (the exact book is TBD, but I'm thinking Strega Nona?) then I am going to put a huge piece of bright colored butcher paper on the board with a road winding through the middle horizontally. Then, the kids are going to come up and write the events of the story in order. Once we have the whole story mapped out, I am going to ask the kids to go to their seats and illustrate their favorite part of the story.

Afterward, we can put the map in the hall and put the pictures next to the part they correspond to!

We will see how this works out next week. I'm really excited about it!