Part of the Process

Thoughts on becoming a teacher.


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Singing and Dancing in the 6th Grade

Anyone who knows me, knows that I am bit on the reserved side. I never had aspirations of seeing my name on a marquis or being up on a stage, singing and dancing my heart out. That being said, I’ll get out of my comfort zone if it benefits my students. As I’ve looked for ways to support my students, especially English Language Learners, songs and movement have come up a few times.

This is how I found myself singing and dancing with my 6th graders last week. I borrowed “The Number Line Dance” from Alex Kajitani, an educator in San Diego (I found his lesson on Integers on the Teaching Channel). Although, they pretended like they weren’t that into it, I could tell my students enjoyed this activity. It also helped students remember how to solve problems with integers. Many times throughout work time, I heard students softly singing the tune to help them remember which direction to go on the number line. I’m looking forward to more opportunities to bring music and movement into the classroom. Here are the lyrics and movements for the Number Line Dance if you are interested.


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Saying Goodbye

Today, one of my students had his last day. His family was forced to move due to economic issues. Things have been tough for the family and both parents had been struggling to find enough work. I was sad to see this student leave, especially so close to the end of the school year. He has been attending this school since Kindergarten and to have to leave a month early in his last year at the school is such a disappointment.

The Special RockMy Cooperating Teacher has a powerful ritual for when students leave early and I was fortunate to be a part of it today. Everyone sits in a large circle, with the student who is leaving either in the middle of the circle or in a special class president chair. We then pass around a rock and everyone shares a favorite story or something they will miss about the person. At the end, my Cooperating Teacher tells the student that we have all shared our favorite memories while we were holding the rock and they get to keep this special rock to help them remember their time in the class and to remember all the things their teacher and classmates said about them. The principal and ELL teacher came to take part in the ritual as well. At then end the principal told the student he should put the rock in his backpack on his first day at his new school to carry us with him.

It was such a great experience to hear all the stories students told and all the ways they thought this student was special.  I think this really let the student know how much this community cares about him and how sad everyone is to see him go.


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Peer Conferences

A fairly large chunk of instructional time in my classroom is spent on silent, independent reading. Because my students spend so much time reading, I wanted to provide them with more opportunities to engage in conversations about the books they are reading with each other. I know that these conversations can greatly increase their comprehension and I also felt like these types of conversations could be motivating as well. I’ve been calling these conversations Peer Conferences. My CT and I modeled a conference for the class. I then asked students what they noticed during out modeling. As a class, we brainstormed the following guidelines for peer conferences: Image

We’ve been having the conferences once a week, for ten minutes each time. It’s been great to hear all the conversations going on and witnessing students connecting over books. These conferences have turned  into an activity that my students enjoy and look forward to.


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Differentiation in Mathematics

The curriculum I use for math comes with some differentiation of work. There are different worksheets and several versions of tests available. The worksheets work pretty well because for my class because there are usually several for each lesson that fit the needs of my students. What I have found frustrating are the chapter tests.  Although there are several versions of a multiple choice and free-response test,  they are almost always very text heavy. I don’t feel like they align very well with the worksheets and book work either. I have several students in my class who aren’t able to effectively express what they know in math on these types of assessments. For this reason, I have created my own versions of assessments to better support these students. The assessments I have created have the same content but are less text heavy. Differentiated Math Test is an example of one of these assessments (although it didn’t scan well).


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More Reflection

Last week, I ended up subbing almost the whole week for my cooperating teacher (he came in one afternoon for about an hour). Luckily, the dreams I had about dismissing the kids an hour early and having no lesson plans ready didn’t come true. As I looked back on the week, I felt like it had been a great week. Last week gave me a lot of confidence. Not only did I get to know my students better on an individual level, I also got to know the strengths and needs of the class better. I ended the week with a lot of new ideas as well as some areas where the class could benefit from more modeling and having expectations made more clear.

After school tonight, I was reflecting on my teaching. Although I am feeling more capable and confident as a teacher, I wonder how or if my students are benefitting. I wonder if I’ve improved in some of the areas that I have wanted to improve in. Something that has been a focus for me in the past few months is student engagement and how to foster rich discussions in the classroom. I’m continuing with my attempts to foster math talk and to push for more student conversation in other subjects. It hasn’t been an easy thing, but I want to renew my focus and keep working at it.


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Feedback

Looking back over the quarter, one of the areas where I have grown the most is with feedback. I wasn’t always comfortable with feedback. I worried that I wouldn’t respond well to what someone was saying, or that I would take it too personally. I’ve come to see feedback as a gift. When someone gives me thoughtful feedback, I see it as a gift of their time and energy. The feedback that I have received from classmates, professors and my Cooperating Teacher, Principal and Field Instructor has been so valuable to me. Gaining insight from these individuals has expanded my thinking, deepened my perspective and allowed me to justify my own position at times. I’ve also been able to take this feedback to set growth goals for myself.

This feedback is part of the larger process of being reflective. I feel that I have become more reflective as I move through this program. I’ve been able to get to know my students better over the past several weeks and a lot of this is due to reflection. Almost everyday after school, my CT and I sit and talk about how the day went, specific students and general plans for the future. We don’t get much down in writing in the plan book, but this reflective process has been so powerful. I’ve been able to use what I’ve uncovered to help plan lessons and differentiate my instruction for specific students.

I look forward to translating this new approach to feedback to benefit my students. I’m planning on building in more opportunities to give my students feedback. I hope they will use this as an opportunity to think more deeply about their own learning and to take more ownership.


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2 Weeks

The last two weeks with my 6th graders have been funny, tiring, stressful and I could go on here, but really like a whirlwind. My CT always jokes about how fast the weeks fly by and he is right. The main thing that I’ve taken from the last two weeks is that I feel like I have really grown as a teacher. I was able to do a lot more teaching these last two weeks, I learn so much with every lesson. The lessons I taught over the past two weeks taught me what I need to work on in terms of classroom management, where we’re at as a classroom community as well as a lot about pacing, team teaching and things about individual students.

I also feel like I got to know my students better and I am feeling more like a part of the classroom community (not that I didn’t before, it’s just stronger now). Being around more has also made me feel more like  a part of the larger school community as well. I was able to get out and do a few observations in other classes this week as well as have more conversations with specialists and other staff about students. I’m looking forward to being back full-time and developing these relationships even more.