One of my goals as a student teacher is to heighten my students' self-awareness and encourage them to get to know their classmates. One "Name Study" activity I read about in Phonics They Use: Words for Reading and Writing by Pat Cunningham would be neat to try. Each day, I would choose one of the kids' first names and make cards representing each letter in the name. I would then gather the children together and hand out each letter randomly. Then, I'd slowly write the name on the chalkboard using big, clear letters. I would ask the child whose name it was to organize the classmates holding cards into the correct spelling of his/her name. The child could move the other students around in order to unscramble the letters. She/he could also look at the board as a reference. After doing this activity for twenty days, the class would then become more familiar with each other's names and might even begin making comparisons (e.g. I have an 'e' in my name too!). I would also ask the children to write the name of the student at the top of a blank piece of paper and draw a picture of him/her. They could then write a little bit about the student. These pages could then be used to create a book about the student. The children would not only learn the sounds of many letters this way, they will hone their interviewing skills and will gain self-worth because they will be at the heart of the curriculum.
I want my students to do purposeful writing that has meaning to them. I want their writing to express their feelings and communicate their ideas. Some different ways I'd like to accomplish this are:
1. Having my students and myself create text together with interactive writing. We might compose a letter, rewrite a story, or describe an experience, but the goal would be to negotiate the text together. We would have group discussions about how to spell many of the words as we move along.
2. Trying some shared writing where I model all of the printing while the group suggests ideas about text and spelling. We could try making a list of things we wonder about a particular thing or place, or we might write a thank you letter to a visitor. The goal would be to teach phonemic awareness, letter formation, and some conventional spelling.
3. Allowing children to write whatever they'd like in a journal regularly.
4. Another useful writing activity could be labeling items in the classroom with the children's help so that they become familiar with some high frequency words.
Some general reading activities I've been thinking about include:
1. Using large print books and engaging in shared reading so the kids can follow along as I read. It would be neat to use songs or poems and I would have the students attend closely to the print. My aim with this approach would be to heighten phonemic awareness.
2. Allowing children to engage in free reading where they choose books for themselves or with a friend. They may talk about the pictures, read from memory, invent text, or actually read what is printed on the page. The goal here would be for the students to have fun and enjoy reading.
3. Working with some small groups on guided reading where they have an opportunity to learn reading strategies directly from me. (I'm thinking that the Reading Specialists at my school may actually assume this role.)
4. Reading aloud to my students. I intend to use books that connect to the children's worlds and books that fire up their imaginations. I'll look for a combination of fiction, nonfiction, poetry, stories from various cultures, and fairy tales. I'll emphasize predicting, following plot and understanding the characters during these activities.
5. Using a listening center where students can listen to a book on tape and read along.
I would also like to help students see the relevance of math to their daily lives by taking advantage of what is occurring naturally in the classroom. I intend to pay attention to how my students are using mathematics in the classroom (e.g. building with blocks may enhance their spatial sense, cutting yarn for a project could help with their estimation skills, singing a song like "Five Little Monkeys" may help students learn subtraction, and negotiating what to do when we have fewer cookies than students could help students with problem solving.) I would like to give my students opportunities to approach math tasks in different ways by using a combination of teacher-directed and student-directed activities and combining cooperative group work and individual math tasks. I'd also like to provide daily opportunities to practice counting using games and singing songs. I've seen a number of classrooms use taking attendance and counting the days on the calendar to reinforce counting. I also read about a neat counting activity that I think would be cool to use for practicing counting skills or even as an assessment activity. Each student gets five teddy bears (I think gummy bears could work well as long as students know not to eat them until after the activity has been completed) and each student gets a bowl. The children turn their bowls upside down to make "houses." Each child then puts some number of bears on the roof and hides the rest inside the house. Then the children would take turns telling the group how many bears are on each other's roofs and how many are sleeping inside. The bowls can be lifted to check how many are actually inside sleeping. This activity could help students develop the concept of number combinations as well.
As far as more general mathematical thinking activities, I would also like to:
1. allow students to have time for free exploration so that they can enjoy math materials in their own ways before I ask them to perform any tasks with the materials. This could help me discover a lot about how they learn if I observe how they explore and manipulate the materials.
2. work with my students on sorting and discussing attributes of objects so that they are able to group objects. One activity might be "people sorting." I can choose a student to sort the people in the class by a 'secret rule.' After everyone is sorted, I would then have the other students guess the 'secret rule.' Then, as the teacher, I could try modeling more complex ways to sort different materials (by texture, by source, or by use of the item).
3. do some work with patterning. I could take children on a "pattern walk" around the school and they could find repeated features in brick walls, windows and fences. We could also make "people patterns" with our bodies (by having my students sitting, standing and laying down). We might also make "sound patterns" with instruments or using our hands (varying combinations of clapping and patting).
I also hope to embed multiculturalism in my curriculum to help the children develop an awareness of and respect for people of all ethnicities, beliefs and abilities. Toward this end, I was thinking it would be neat to do a unit on bread. We could learn how breads are made and used around the world and discover what different types of bread are enjoyed by the class (e.g. bagels, pitas, tortillas, baguettes, matzo, etc.) It might then be interesting to explore and learn about different holidays and/or lullabies from around the world. In addition, knowing that I will have special needs students with hearing and physical impairments, I hope to read stories with my classes about children of all ethnicities and abilities. In this way, some reading will reflect the student's own experiences and allow them to see themselves in the stories and other reading may give students an opportunity to see other's experiences in a different way.
I would like to use music in all content areas as another approach in my student teaching. Children respond naturally to music and it has value as a learning tool since it is processed cognitively and affectively. Oftentimes, children remember concepts more easily when they sing. They are usually more relaxed after they have been singing as well. I hope to listen to a variety of music with my classes and include music from different cultures. It would be neat to do art projects to music and to sing a bunch of songs as a class. Along this vein, I would also like to try having children act out familiar songs, stories and poems.
I would like my science activities to focus on developing my students' observing, questioning, predicting, investigating, and concluding skills. I think that it would be great to do a lot of science work outdoors. I could try doing:
1. nature hunts for students to collect specimens.
2. listening walks to observe sounds.
3. blindfold feelie games to identify objects by touch.
So these are some ideas about activities and approaches to instruction that I would like to try in my student teaching. I'm thinking I would like to provide a balance of free-choice and must-do activities and I hope to integrate activities as much as possible to incorporate more skills and concepts within fewer activities.
I had some thoughts about how I would like to approach discipline in my classroom as well. I would like to use a lot of redirecting undesirable behavior and offering alternatives. In the case of whining, tattling or talking out of turn, I may choose to ignore it. I think it will be important to look for the motive behind the behavior and see if I can support the child in getting his/her needs met in more constructive ways. I'd like to guide the child through the process of understanding why a behavior is unacceptable and coming up with an alternative behavior. I hope to have clear expectations and make my expectations realistic and developmentally appropriate. I think it will be helpful to model calm, respectful, friendly, and giving behavior. I aim to avoid public humiliation and to let my students know that I trust them to succeed. I would like to become adept at observing my students carefully, listening reflectively and helping them learn how to work out problems with each other.
Some ideas that I may like to try in my student teaching are:
1. When a desired behavior happens, writing a "happy note" (that says I am proud of him/her for behaving a particular way and he/she should be proud too) and putting it in the student's backpack. I think it's important to avoid using candy or other rewards to reinforce positive behavior because it may confuse the children about what the motivation is to behave appropriately.
2. Allowing children to use a time out space when they need a few minutes to cool off.
3. Offering alternatives such as relaxing sensory experiences when a student is having difficulty.
4. Creating happy/sad/angry masks for students to explore their feelings. It could be neat to have students draw how they are feeling by filling in a facial expression when they are upset for some reason.
I was also reading How To Talk So Kids Can Learn by Adele Faber and Elaine Mazlish and came across some skills that invite kids to cooperate and I'd like to try utilizing some of these techniques in my classroom as well:
1. Describing the problem rather than accusing a child or giving commands.
2. Giving information about why a situation or behavior is unacceptable without insult to the child.
3. Offering the child a choice to alter his/her behavior.
4. Encouraging the child to think about a problem and figure out what needs to be done by notifying them of the problem using only a word or gesture.
5. Describing what I feel so the student can then listen and respond.
6. Putting the problem in writing if it seems that the student is shutting out adult talk.
7. Using another voice or accent instead of scolding. Maybe also using a puppet to make students aware when some behavior isn't working.
When it comes to assessing kindergarteners, I think it will be important to maintain a low-key and positive attitude because this will be the students' first experience with any formal school assessment. I would like to try keeping student journals, recording group discussions, and using observations to document and evaluate the growth and development of children in my classes.
Another thought I had after attending the district in-service training was becoming familiar with using running records. Apparently the district stipulates that teachers use running records for determining a child's reading competence. The teacher sits with each child and codes while the child reads aloud. This should provide the teacher with a playback of an entire oral reading episode so that the teacher can analyze behaviors, responses, and competencies. The teacher uses standardized codes to then calculate scores, analyze errors and document strategies. I think it would be interesting to have some experience working with the students' responses, competencies, and the initiatives they take while reading.
Understanding By Design by Wiggins and McTighe
Writing to Learn Mathematics by Countryman.
Designing Group work: Strategies for the Heterogeneous Classroom by Cohen.
Beyond Discipline: From Compliance to Community by Kohn.
Getting Ready to Teach Kindergarten by Devault.
Classroom Routines That Really Work for PreK and Kindergarten by Hayes and Creange.
How To Talk So Kids Can Learn by Faber and Mazlish.
Phonics They Use: Words for Reading and Writing by Cunningham.