Sunday, April 19, 2009

Wow. It is almost over and I'm just beginning to write about the past month.

I have lots to write and lots of photos to share, so forgive me for the mixed up entry this will probably be. If I go through pictures, I will be able to remember everything we've done otherwise all the memories are just a huge blur. It has been one of the most fantastic experiences working in this classroom.

So, there is one student in my classroom with Autism and because of him I have really discovered the joy I get from working with students with disabilities. Not only have I come to this conclusion, but I also am determined to get my MA in Special Education. This student has opened my eyes to a whole new world. The sympathy I feel, the interactions we have sometimes bring me to tears I am so happy to work with them. He is a loving, special, caring, student and I will probably miss him most of all when I leave Janney School. We share a love of nature and animals and I just love to see his enthusiastic for the subjects. He calls me by my name now saying Ms. Cifelli! It is so heart warming to see him in class everyday. I will truly miss him. He is a one of kind soul that I will never forget.

In exciting news in the classroom. I set up an aquarium with the help of a friend. There are currently five guppies in it and we're hoping to add some more fish before my time is up there. I have learned so much about taking care of aquariums and the children absolutely love it! Ultimately I think some of the fish will be having babies, which will be another exciting thing to happen in the classroom. We are currently doing a unit on Habitats and the Life Cycle, so this is a good thing for the students to have.

We went on a Field trip last week to the Kenilworth Acquatic Gardens which was probably the biggest waste of time. It was down in SE and consisted of one lake, one pond and a few brown trees. Oh not to forget the geese. I don't know whose idea this was, but I suggest if you're planning a field trip to actually go to the site and look at it. It offered minimal education value for the students. It was cold and miserable that day and all we saw were some geese and a few tadpoles. It was supposed to supplement our lessons of plants, animals, habitats and life cycle, but the kids didn't find it interesting at all. I think they were more excited to just be out of school. To add to the miserably cold day, one of the students in my group fell into the lake midway through the field trip. I couldn't help but laugh. He was covered in mud up to his waist and while as a teacher maybe I should take it a little more seriously, I needed some comic relief from this field trip. It would be my luck that one of my students would fall into the lake. I still think it's funny.

I completed my two full weeks of student teaching a couple of weeks ago and looking back on it I'm pretty surprised I survived. I am a good teacher, I like the classroom, I love the students, but wow....HOW EXHAUSTING. At the end of the day, I wanted to just go home and sleep until my morning alarm the next day. I couldn't do that though! I had to grade papers, plan lessons and just plan for the upcoming days. Everything changes day to day. It made it hard to plan for the week. Planning assessment and following through with it was also difficult. During lessons, I worried more about how prepared I was for the next lesson. It was an intense few weeks, but I enjoyed it. I was able to spend a lot of time with the students and really connect with them not only academically, but personally as well. Kids share so much and I wish I had all the time in the world to just listen to everything they had to say. I am looking forward to my own classroom come the Fall, but I hope I'm not dead every night.

I will be updating again soon. I have to go fill out some paperwork for my last and final observation with Professor Thompson tomorrow. I am excited, but also very sad it's almost over.

Until next time...

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Where does the time go?

I must say it has been an intense few weeks. I think the last time I wrote was around Valentine's Day and much has happened since then! 

I am currently teaching most everyday, all day. I begin my fulltime student teaching next week (whcih is when I will be able to teach all day, every day) It is a challenge I am looking forward to, but something I know will be stressful and time consuming. Also, a lot of fun! 

We are finishing up our Fractions unit in the Everyday Math program. Wow, it has been a whirlwind. I never liked math growing up and still didn't like it much last semester, but look at me now! Teaching it to second graders. I am surprised fractions is even part of the curriculum to be honest. They are only 7 and 8, but they are being blasted with skills that I would never dream of knowing when I was that young. They are loving every second of it. I give the students lots of different ways to approach fractions, which I think opens the doors for them to experience fractions in a way that suits them. We use paper fraction bars, math manipulatives, fraction cards, fraction circles, various objects in the classroom and discuss where we see fractions in our every day lives. I was feeling like this would be one of the most difficult tasks I would have to attempt as a student teacher and while it has forced me to be a lot more creative, I have had a lot of fun teaching this unit and I really think the students have also. They now know what a numerator and denomintor are, although I often hear numENAtor in the class. They now know what equivalent fractions are and how we can compare fractions on a scale of smallest to largest. Tomorrow is our Unit 8 assessment which I am excited to see how they do. It not only tells me if they are "getting it" but also if I am doing a proper job teaching them.

In Science, we just finished observing weather and are now growing our very own plants. Yesterday we planted Brassica and the students loved it. They were so cooperative and were just excited to learn everything they could about the planting process. We put the Brassica under a flourescent light in the classroom and will be waterign them as needed. I made a bulletin board, so the students can record their findings and observations. Then the students are required twice a week to observe their plants in a journal format. They are asked to draw their findings, as well as explain in words. Today when the students came into the classroom they ran right over to the plants to see if anything had happened. Sadly, nothing had grown, but they sat for a good 15 minutes discussing the previous lesson and talking with others in the class about the plants. It was really heartwarming to see their interest. Tomorrow we will be planting our own grass and will then be transplanting it into our very own terrariums, with worms! I ordered the worms yesterday, so they should be arriving soon.

Today I sat down with Ms. Miller to discuss my full week next week and I asked her about the possibilities of a field trip to relate to our science unit. The botanical gardens are out because they apparently don't accomodate groups of 15 or more? Ms. Miller and I are looking The National Aboretum, which should be quite interesting for the students to look at. I will have to probably go myself and see what it has to offer in order to gear some kind of scavenger hunt or worksheet for the students to complete on their trip.

We finished our Unit on Weather and I introduced the water cycle before we began learning about plants. We sang the following song and I am hoping I can get a recording of the students doing it to post on here. It was so catchy, they had it stuck in their head for days and were constantly covering their ears if I even began humming it!

The Water Cycle
(sing to the tune of She'll be Comin' 'Round the Mountain)

Water travels in a cycle, yes it does
water travels in a cycle, yes it does
It goes up as evaporation
Forms clouds as condenstation
Then comes down as precipitation, yes it does

Not much else is happening at the current moment. I am throwing myself in as much as I possibly can and am loving every second of it. I get asked one billion questions a day and there is a constant hum of Ms. Cifelli? in my ear as students come up to me, but I wouldn't trade it for anything in the world!

Monday, February 16, 2009

Love is in the Air

So, I haven't blogged in awhile, but I had my first observation with Mary Thompson last week.

To begin our Unit on Air and Weather, we did a lesson about air and the movement of it. The lesson where I was observed I had the students make balloon rockets on a fishing line and show me how air moves, conforms to the shape of the object it is in and how it can be used to prope
l objects. Mary Thompson said such wonderful things about my lesson. She said the students were so engaged and I required them to do so many things and somehow they handled it very well. She said it is obvious I am building a great relationship with the students and they really enjoyed my lesson. The students were required to write observations, draw pictures about what they observed and make predictions about the lessons. She said I didn't raise my voice once and had great classroom management. I will post my review on here once I scan it in. Overall, it was such a great review that it makes me very excited about teaching! Talking with Mary helped me confirm my want to be a teacher and shows that I will hopefully one day be one of the best. I am optimistic about my future.

In other news, we had our Valentine's Day party on Friday. The kids are insane all day getting ready for it. Here are some photos of the students making their Valentine's Day boxes and just enjoying the party.

That is really all for now. I will post more another time. It's back to school tomorrow. So long, long weekend.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

So go ahead...and fall in love with a book.

School has been very busy. The weather has been beautiful, so we have spent quite a bit of time outside and the children absolutely love it, as most would.

We began our Science unit on Air and Weather on Tuesday. We began with a lesson on the properties of matter, specifically a gas. We discussed what gas looks like, how it smells, it's shape, etc. The students knew a lot already and we able to explain to me how air take
s the shape of any object it enters. Tomorrow we will be making balloon rockets, where the students are required to make a rocket using fishing line, a balloon, a straw and a zip-loc bag. I try to give the students enough time to explore and observe on their own. Second grade standards require that students learn the process of observation. We will also be making predictions for the balloon rockets before we begin the lesson. I think slowly introducing the scientific method and then putting it all together at the end will be beneficial for the students. If they spend a lot of time on observing and explaining, they will be able to not
 only use this skill in science, but other subject areas as well.

Last week we did a lesson on the seasons. The students each had a sheet of paper and had to draw their interpretation of each season. I cut them all out and posted them onto the bulletin board. I have since added the signs, winter, spring, summer, fall in the top left corners.

In other news, my class focuses a lot on Reading. Which is obviously very important. I have been working with one student who below grade level and it's really not that she can't read or comprehend, she just hates reading. We've been working really hard together to pick out books she can enjoy. We've settled on the Mr. Putter and Tabby series, so far and it seems to be working well for her. We are working on fluency more than anything, so I hope my love for reading can be conveyed to her and make her a bit more enthusiastic about reading. 

All the teachers were asked to read, Chip Wood's book, Time To Teach Time To Learn: Changing the Pace of School. I've read the first few chapters, because we will be discussing at tomorrow's morning meeting. It discusses the idea that students are bombarded with learning core subjects because teachers feel the pressure of teaching so much material so their students will pass standardized tests. When in reality, students should be given more free time to play around, grow socially and be able to focus on building morals and ethics. When I worked at Horace Mann Elementary, we focused a lot on building morals, talking about ethics in school and out. The curriculum centered a lot around the whole child rather than just the brain of the child. I hope to work in a school like this some day. The students need academics for life survival. They also need to learn self control, how to make informed choices, they need to empathy and responsibility. All of these are key to life survival as well, so why are they put second to standardized testing scores? Are teachers not required to teach these things even if students spend most of their days with teachers?

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Pull Your Chairs In and Look Smart

Ms. Miller gave the students a spelling list inventory today, which is basically a spelling test but the students progress is tracked throughout the year. The students were all pretty relaxed, slouching on their tables, heads down; Ms. Miller said, "Pull your chairs in and look smart." The students immediately straightened up and looked more presentable and ready to take their test.

The past days have been pretty busy. Last week we completed our landform maps. The students made their own legends and color coordinated their salt dough to make hills, water, mountains, etc. Here is one of the final maps (minus the covering of Mexico, which isn't an ocean, this one came out pretty good):

This week I gave the students an assessment to see how well they remembered the continents and major world oceans. I am grading them currently and almost all students have done well. We began a lesson about seasons the other day, but it was cut short by an assembly. We will be finishing it tomorrow. We discussed the four seasons, their weather characteristics and fun activities you can do outside during that particular season. Tomorrow I will be playing Vivaldi's Four Seasons and having them draw their own interpretations of each season. I think this will be a nice relaxing activity for the students. I made a bulletin board that resembles a window and out of each pane is a new season. I will post their drawings in the corresponding season window pane. We will also begin discussing the upcoming weather unit where the students will be tracking the weather for two weeks. We will discuss the change in weather patterns and how to measure wind speed, temperature, etc.

I have been doing some reading assessments with three students that are below grade level in comprehension. I am required to do one, but I took on all three thinking each of them could use my help and if I'm available I might as well give them the attention they need to progress in reading. I think this will also give me a good scope of students needs. Each student is different, so I will need to adjust my teaching accordingly for each one. This will be a good learning experience for not only the students, but also for me.

Not much else is happening in Millertown. The days go by fast and the grading has become a bit cumbersome, but it is always enjoyable at the Janney School. 

In other news, here is the link to some photographs of our field trip to the NBA Cares, Wizards Take a Time Out to Read. This happened my first week of student teaching. The students won a contest convincing The Wizards to read to their class. The class was picked up in a charter bus and we got a quick tour, a reading by Mike James and some free tickets to a Wizards game, which I attended last week.

On a side note, I am reading Randy Pausch's book, The Last Lecture. He retold a time in his high school football career when his coach was giving him criticism. He said his coach told him, "When you're screwing up and nobody says anything to you anymore, that means they've given up on you." I thought this was a pretty interesting quote considering how much truth is behind it. Being a teacher doesn't allow you to give up on any student. It's obvious, the one lagging behind the rest needs the most help and attention. It's a teachers job to keep them up to speed, have faith in them and never give up on them or allow them to give up on themselves. Until next time.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Dough, Dough and More Dough!

It has been an exciting past two days at Janney Elementary School! Ms. Miller was absent yesterday due to the weather, so I had to teach the class all day by myself. We had a two hour delay, which only left a Readers Workshop, Writers Workshop and math lesson. This is the second math lesson I have taught the class and it continuing our multiplication lesson from the day before. We did Multiplication Math Stories with arrays and because of the limited time, we didn't rush, but the students weren't given time to complete their daily math journal page. I asked Ms. Miller to review with the students today to make sure they understood what we went over yesterday and they knew everything! I was nervous nobody would raise their hand, but they knew it! We reviewed arrays, what the multiplication number model would look like and how to draw an array. The students did a great job! I am so proud of them and proud of myself for teaching it correctly!

Today we did a science lesson to prepare for tomorrow's Social Studies/Science lesson. We will be covering the North American Landscape, so to make it more hands on, today we made Salt Dough. The recipe is as follows:

2 cups flour
1 cup salt
1 cup water
Food coloring (optional)

The classroom is set up with six tables, each with four students, as shown below:

I supplied the students each with a bowl, a spoon and all the ingredients needed to make the salt dough. We made six colors of salt dough: blue, green, red, yellow, orange and purple.

Surprisingly, it wasn't too messy and the lesson was finished in about 30 minutes. Tomorrow each table will get a map of North America pasted on a piece of carboard and will have to build the North American landscape out of the various colors. As a class we will design a color coded legend for six different landforms and then the students will use the colors to build onto the map. This will give them a visual representation of the North American landscape, including; water, hills, mountains, islands, volcanos, etc. I will take some photographs of those and post them up here soon. 

I have begun grading homework that I have recieved from the students. I asked them to design maps of their bedrooms. I think some of them forgot that a map is supposed to be a birds eye view, so I think I will have to review that with the students. 

Other than that, I am feeling much more comfortable teaching lessons. Ms. Miller has been a great resource for information and is constantly helping me out with whatever I need. The students are active participants and seem to really enjoy the lessons I have been doing with them. It has been a great week thus far. Snow and all.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Snow Day?

It snowed for the first time this year and all the students were more than excited to bundle up and run outside to play. Ms. Miller was gone for the second half of the day, so I jumped right in with a read aloud and math lesson. I taught the beginning stages of multiplication. We discussed equal grouping using relevant life examples, such as markers in a box, buns in a hot dog package, etc. I asked the students to use their math manipulatives to show a representation of the equal groupings from various problems. They had no trouble and could easily figure out the total number of items in their head. The students followed up with their Everyday Math journals. Some continued to use manipulatives, but most found it fairly simple.

The weather is getting worse tonight and the kids all expressed excitment at the thought of no school tomorrow. Some students said it doesn't matter, they really enjoy school. That was nice to hear. Doesn't make it feel like you are going to work for nothing. 

I am in the middle of planning a science/social studies lesson for Friday morning. The students will be given a map of North America pasted onto a piece of cardboard and eventually they will build landforms on it. On Thursday, I am going to have the students make their own salt dough using flour, salt, water and food coloring. I made them a How To to relate to relate to their Writers Workshop unit and will have them use it to complete their salt dough. On Friday we will use the salt dough to build various landforms on the map to represent mountains, plains, hills, etc. We will then be able to discuss landforms and where they are on the North American continent. Different colors of dough will represent different landforms and we from there we will be able to build a map key.

The students are very excited for science and so am I! Hoping for snow school tomorrow! The students told me to wear my pajamas inside out and backward if I want to be out of school. We'll see.