Saturday, November 19, 2011

Last day.

Yesterday was my last day of teaching the first graders. I got to work with the same group of 5 students and we continued reviewing animal movement and body parts and using VoiceThread. They were a little more restless and some were a bit more reserved. But they still had fun with it and showed a lot of enthusiasm.

I hope that Ms. Ingram got as much out of the project as I did. I have learned so much! I've gained really valuable experience learning how to structure lesson plans, how to use technology effectively in the classroom, how to scaffold lessons appropriately, how to be mindful of student behavior throughout a lesson, how to be flexible when things don't go as planned, and how to work effectively with other teachers to plan instruction.

I am really proud of myself for everything I have accomplished personally and professionally. I loved working with Ms. Ingram and the first graders. This internship was very rewarding and has made me really excited about the teaching profession. It has definitely opened my mind to the possibility of teaching ESOL.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Process > product

Today went really well, and I learned a LOT as a pre-service teacher. Half of the children went to the Book Fair in the morning and got to the classroom around 8:30. The other half was at the book fair until around 8:45. Ms. Ingram suggested that I start teaching the first group and then she could follow up with the second group.
The first group finished reading and discussing the "How Animals Move Book." They all had a lot to say about how animals fly and crawl. We talked about how human babies crawl, but adult humans can crawl too. We also talked about parrots and how parrots can talk like humans by copying what people say.

The students were immediately engaged by VoiceThread. I did a little pre-assessment to make sure everyone knew how to use a laptop mouse tracking pad by moving and clicking. Then we started looking at the pictures. As Ms. Ingram predicted, there was some disagreement and conflict about who would talk about which pictures. I tried to go in order and have them each choose between two pictures, but that didn't seem to be the best style for this group. Sometimes students were too shy or unwilling to talk about certain animals. And I wanted everyone to be willing and enthusiastic about participating. So we did more of a popcorn style. I would show a picture then ask if anyone would like to speak about that animal. That way, the shier students could choose animals to talk about that they felt comfortable describing.

The road we took to get them talking about animals was a little different than I had planned. It was also more difficult than I anticipated to have them talk exclusively about the animal body parts OR movement. This was actually a really good modification to my plans. Some students were less confident at first, so they used simpler sentences and required more prompting. Other students immediately jumped in to talking about both animal characteristics and the movements and used lots of descriptive vocabulary.

This was a great lesson for me, because it was a perfect example of how students differ in their readiness and instruction should be differentiated accordingly. All the students in the group had varied experiences and understanding that they brought with them into the classroom. One of the biggest takeaways I gained from the day was realizing how important it is to recognize and affirm each student for where they are in their learning journey. Because it really is a journey. Sometimes it's the process, not the product that counts.

One of the challenges I ran into was having the students sit still and stay quiet while other students were speaking. I think partially that was because they were so jazzed about using the computer. However, they were also all seated really close to one another. Tomorrow I may try some new strategies to keep them on task.
My main goal for the project was to have students practice using vocabulary describing animal body parts and movement. I think they definitely accomplished that. I'm excited to review with them tomorrow and continue using VoiceThread.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011


So today did not go exactly as planned. I was scheduled to work with the children from 11:30 to 12, but there was some confusion so I didn't get to teach them.

So I re-worked some parts of my lesson plans so that I could do most of the VoiceThread part of the project tomorrow, Thursday, and do a mini assessment on Friday.

Then I got an email saying we now have 45 minutes tomorrow from 8:30 to 9:15 to be with the children because they will be at the Book Fair in the morning. I'm not sure how much we will be able to do tomorrow or what will be left to do on Friday. But hey, this is real life. Things happen. And I'm learning.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Day 1!

Today was so exciting! It was my first day teaching Ms. Ingram's class of 11 first grader ESOL students. I was nervous at first, but I definitely got over it as the lesson went on. The students were very attentive and well-behaved and oh so cute. For example, when we did the "think-pair-share" as we read the book many of them raised their hands to volunteer animals that they recognized on the page.
One thing I noticed is that it can be difficult to pay close attention to what one student is saying and give them the proper feedback while also noticing which students are not engaged and whether any students are misbehaving. Thankfully, they were all very well-behaved for the most part.
We learned a few new words that none of them had heard of such as scales, fin, hoof or hooves, and steep. For example, we talked about how surprising it was that goats could climb steep cliffs and how their hooves helped them do that. One of the things I noticed about today was that 30 minutes isn't actually as short as I thought. I also noticed that 1st graders have shorter attention spans than I had anticipated.
Ms. Ingram and I had to rearrange when I'll be teaching on Thursday due to a change in the 1st graders' schedule. I'll now be teaching from 8:15am to 9:15am. Since I have them for an hour on Thursday instead of a half hour I'm a little concerned I won't have anything left for them to do on Friday. If I end up getting most of our project done on Thursday, I may have them do a more creative project using VoiceThread on Friday where they get to create a story as a small group.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Getting to know the students

So this week I went into Ms. Ingram's classroom twice to observe the students. The first time was on Wednesday. I sat in a circle with them and they introduced themselves. We all sang "Head, Shoulders, Knees, and Toes." Then two of the students presented projects they had made for their homeroom class. Each student was assigned an animal and had to present about that animal. I can tell the students are excited about animals, so I'm glad we get to continue with that subject next week.
On Friday I worked with two students as they finished up their animal projects. I helped one of them write sentences about turtles.
Ms. Ingram and I finished figuring out the details for the project. We are going to do a guided reading of the book "How Animals Move" over the course of two days. Each page has pictures of animals doing a particular movement. Then we will play charades with the children to have them act out different movements. The next two days we're going to use VoiceThread to have the students record themselves talking about the different animal body parts and animal movements.
I'm a little nervous for next week since it will be my first time teaching in a formal capacity. I'm glad that there are only 11 students in the group because I think that will be much more manageable.
After visiting Ms. Ingram's classroom a few times it made me realize that 30 minutes is really not a lot of time. (I have the students from 11:30-12 each day for four days). And it has helped me realize that you have to be flexible because plans don't always go as expected. I hope that I can stick to the lesson plans I've drawn up as much as possible, but I'm also trying to see this as a learning experience that unexpected things can happen and part of my job as a teacher will be to be prepared to react to those.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

A Classroom Visit

So this Friday I took a trip to Agnor-Hurt to meet with my TIP teacher and observe her in the classroom with her students. Ms. Ingram teaches many different students from different grade levels. When I came in she was with a group of four third graders reading a book. I watched and listened as she carefully guided them through the book. She had to refocus their attention a lot by asking them to point to specific words and stay on the same page she was on.
Then I met Ms. Ingram's first graders, the group I will be working with on the TIP project. They are all very cute. She only has them for thirty minutes a day and the time flies. She chooses a different student each day to decide what shape they will sit in on the floor. The student she chose had us sit in a circle. Then the students went around in the circle and said their names and the language they spoke at home. The majority were Spanish-speakers, but there was an Arabic-speaker and a Korean-speaker.
Then the children got up and sang "Head, Shoulders, Knees and Toes" first slowly then more quickly. Lastly, Ms. Ingram had them sit at a small group table and start reading a book together about animal body parts.

One of the things I learned from this visit is that Ms. Ingram is a very passionate and lovely teacher with a lot of energy and pizzazz. I had a great time watching her interact with her students. I got a better sense for where the students are with their language ability. However, I also learned that 30 minutes is an incredibly short amount of time. I got a few books from Ms. Ingram that I can borrow and use for my lesson.

I am meeting with her again tomorrow morning at 8:15 to talk about our lesson plans more in depth. Considering the age group and time limitations I think that I am only going to be able to implement one type of technology. I hope that VoiceThread will be easy enough to use with 1st graders.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Expect the Unexpected

My first meeting with my TIP teacher didn’t go quite as planned, but it was overall fairly successful. I had an 8:15am appointment on Monday, October 18th with Bev Ingram, an ESOL teacher at Agnor-Hurt Elementary School. Bev had called in sick that morning and forgotten about our appointment, so I was not able to meet with her in person. However, I called her on the phone from the school and we chatted for forty-five minutes about the project we would be working on together.

Bev works with both first and third graders. She teaches different age groups at different times of the day and the different groups are at different levels of English proficiency. We decided the best group for us to work with would be her first grade group that meets everyday from 11:30am-12pm. There are about 10 students in the class from different backgrounds including Hispanic, Arabic, and Korean students.  

Bev explained to me that her job with the first graders is to integrate SOL curriculum with language acquisition and vocabulary building. These first graders are at a higher level than some of her other groups, but they are still pretty shy about speaking in front of a group. She told me that she will give them examples of sentences to write and sometimes they will just copy the sentence she wrote rather than creating one on their own.

The unit they are moving into is a unit on animals including animals’ body parts and movement. Her goal is for them to learn vocabulary to describe the different animals with an emphasis on learning action verbs. She told me that since the students are in first grade they have limited writing ability; however, a big part of her job is getting them to communicate orally.

Based on that information, we decided to pursue a technology project that incorporated speaking ability and digital images. The first piece of software or technology that came to my mind was VoiceThread. I explained to her that using VoiceThread the students could upload images and then speak into a microphone about each of the images.

She suggested that we take pictures of the students using digital cameras that the school provides and then upload those pictures to the school computers. Since humans are animals too, the students could use VoiceThread to describe their own movement and practice their speaking skills. Then they could browse a safe website for digital images to find pictures of their favorite animals doing different movements. Or, if that was too difficult, we could have uploaded pictures for them onto a VoiceThread account and simply have them record their speech about each animal. She also told me she would like to incorporate an outdoor activity into our project.

My idea was that we implement this project over the course of five days since she only has the student for thirty minutes each day. One day we could go outside with the children and take pictures of them doing different physical activities. Another day we could have them read a story and describe the movements of the various animal, highlighting the vocabulary and action verbs. This could be done with selected books or with photos or pictures the instructor picks out. Bev let me borrow some of the books she had in her classroom that these students might be able to read.

The fourth day we could introduce the students to VoiceThread and have them browse safe websites for pictures of animals and save them to the VoiceThread account. The final day we could have them talk about each of the pictures and record themselves talking about the pictures. Then, time permitting, we could use a SmartBoard to share what the different students have said. There are only 10 students in her 1st grade class so it will hopefully be easier to do this since there are fewer students.

Bev and I plan to meet next week at the same time at the school to go over the details about the project. She let me borrow some books and resources that I could look at and bring back next week. She also pointed me towards a resource called SIOP that inserts language goals into classroom plans.

The school has a computer lab equipped with Mac computers as well as carts with laptops. So hopefully access to the Internet and enough computers will not be a problem. They also have access to iPod touches and digital cameras. So if the students wanted to record their voices using the iPod touch that is an option as well. I am concerned about the logistics of teaching 1st graders how to use VoiceThread.

My goal for this week is to take a close look at the SOL standards and curriculum framework for what 1st graders should understand about animals. Then I hope to look at the SIOP website to get an idea of what language goals can be integrated into the framework. Hopefully by the end of the week I will have created a drafts of the lesson plans for the project.

I wanted to get an idea of which week we could implement this project. I told her the best week for me would be November 14th- 18th. I could come in every day that week from 11:30am – 12:00pm to work with the students. If that week doesn’t work we could do it the week of November 27th through December 2nd. The tricky part with that is that my assignments for other classes will be culminating at around that time so I will be extremely busy. Hopefully the week before the week of Thanksgiving will work out.

We still have a lot of work to do, but I am hopefully that we will develop a really fun and productive unit for the children.