Thursday, March 27, 2008

Power of Observation

My observation day was fabulous... I have to say that I only spent a half day at the school, but wasn't feeling well this afternoon - so I rested.

I got to school around 8:15 - just in time to watch some first graders do the announcements and say the pledge. From there I met with the Assistant Principal who made my schedule for the morning.

From there - I made my way to the first hour of observation with a 3rd grade class. They were checking homework at the time, and were very cute. After checking their homework - they were beginning an assignment based on a story they read yesterday, but the neat thing was they were given the choice of 4 different projects they could complete. I don't remember the last choice, but they could write a story about their reading, draw a volcano and label it, or draw a rock painting... which was the most popular choice other than the volcano. Basically for the rock painting - they took a paper lunch bag, and cut up one side and then cut the bottom out. From there they were to draw a picture about the story and write a sentence about what they drew... the part that makes is a "rock painting" is that they crumble up the bag to make it look like the texture of a rock. I was sitting next to a student in this class (a little boy) and he was so cute... he asked me if I was going to be there all day, and even looked a little sad when I told him that I actually had to go visit some other classes. (The funny thing is that the little boys are the ones that intimidate me the most, and of course today were two of the cutest kids that I met!)

Next, I spent an hour with a 2nd grade class - they were doing their reading workshop when I got there... which meant that they each were reading a book of their chosing, and had to fill in a worksheet with the title, characters, setting, and main idea. Then they started working on an "author study" of Stan & Jan Berenstain... of the Berenstain Bears books... (which I LOVE) so she showed them a website, and gave them a short preview of how to google something... then they talked about the 4 main characters of the Berenstain Bears series, and she had a stack of the books for them to preview. They are going to be working with these books for the next couple of weeks - so she gave them just a few minutes to pass some of the titles around their tables to get familiar with them. This teacher had a little girl in her class that just got here 2 weeks ago from Thailand, who doesn't speak any English yet... so it was interesting to see how she handled integrating her into the class. There was a little boy in this class that kept waving at me... he was the cutest thing I've ever seen... and really seemed interested in what I was doing.

Thirdly, I spent a half hour with a Kindergarten class. They are the smallest little bundles of energy... constantly in motion. They have what they call "centers" set up in the room where the kids do various activities for short periods of time to learn different skills... a lot of them are through specially designed games and activities that are fun for them... a great way to start their love of learning. During the time I was there, they also did a group reading activity where they read a really big book... but the kids had been working on it for a while so they could read the story to the teacher. It was great to see the fundamentals in action... and it makes me realize where it all starts. I don't think this age group is for me because they are just a little bit too young, but very cute just the same.

Finally, I spent an hour with a 4th grade class. They are getting ready for their state exams at the end of April. They were working on reading skills - mostly with context clues and gathering information from what they are reading. After a very small lesson - they spent the rest of the time working independently on underlining context clues and answering questions. The teacher worked her way around to everyone answering questions. It was the least interactive of the classes I saw, but still was a valuable thing for me to see.

After all of this - I realized a few things... I definently was right yesterday when I told the lady tht interviewed me that 4th grade would be my third choice. 2nd and 3rd grade really would be a toss up for me... as I loved them both.

The only thing that scared me about all of this was the set up of the classrooms, but having now seen it in action - I'm much more comfortable with it. Basically the set up is sort of like big gyms, that are broken up by cabinets that are about shoulder high for an adult. So it's like 4 classes in one big open area... and I was wondering how I would be able to lecture and talk over 3 other teachers while keeping the kids attention... but that's not the way it works at all. The kids are only really at their desks when they are doing independent work... when they are being taught lessons - they bring the kids up to the front of the class and teach to them while sitting in a small group on the floor. So it's really not loud at all - because everyone is so close - she can talk pretty softly... and the classes really don't disturb each other.

It was an invaluable experience, and I really appreciate my friend Anne allowing me to visit with her teachers and school today. It gave me some great experience to draw from next year, but also allowed me to see what I want to do with my life in action... and reaffirmed that this is exactly where I want to be.
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