I get a 3-day weekend (thanks MLK!)...then I'll teach 4 full days...then after next weekend, I'll teach 3 more days (yet one is a field trip to the Air and Space Museum)...and then the 2nd quarter ends! My county then gives me two teacher-workdays to complete report cards and attend a professional development. Then I'll officially be halfway through the school year!
Personally, I decided my New Year's Resolution would be to seek out as many smart people to help me as possible, starting in January and continuing until June. I know literacy but I can still get better at it. I do not know classroom management enough. I do not know how to teach math that well. I do not know how to deal with boys so much, having raised two amazing girls. I'm an experienced teacher who has taught or been a resource support for 21 years yet, I WILL still be humble and ask for help and push to keep learning.
So this week I was able to get two smart people into my classroom to help. A District Math Resource person, Spencer, came and watched me attempt to teach the steps of long division (my lesson that day) to my 4th grade math class and then stayed to chat with me for the next hour while my students were at specials. And a colleague I taught with last year and who now is a grad student at TC came on Friday for an hour.
First, Spencer was SO helpful!! How?
Once the lesson was over and the kids left, he asked me what I thought went well. I immediately wanted to launch into how I don't think the lesson went well. I only felt that a handful got it and those probably had it before my lesson. Many, instead, seemed so confused. I used a YouTube video that taught the 4 steps of long division by thinking of FAMILY - father/find, mother/multiply, sister/subtract, brother/bring down - I learned it this way and I get this but so many of them didn't, I observed. Yet, Spencer pushed me first to name what went well. So I told him I was proud that I had the kids engaged right away by reviewing fact families. He commented that the white boards were ready with numbers already on them. No time lost and more time to review and practice. I commented that using technology also kept all engaged, even when some felt a little confused. He also agreed and praised my pacing. He noted that I paused the video to ask the question again and give the kids a little more time to think.
Then he very kindly told me that developmentally, kids can't always "get" long division until the end of 5th grade. Yes, due to the state standards, I am to introduce it in 4th . He assured me that only two long division questions will be on the State Test and I should, instead, think about giving my students strategies to help them choose how to solve a division problem. He then taught me the Partial Quotient method (which made more sense to me) and then reminded me that when the test is multiple choice, the answer IS there. So I need to teach them the strategy of using multiplication to see if A. B. C. or D. is the answer without having to even do division. Then he said kids need a multiplication chart in front of them always. When they use it, it helps to make the memorizing of their facts stick.
When we asked what my "go to" resources were for planning math lessons, I just wanted to laugh, as I don't really have any as of yet. He showed me resources available from the district and suggested for the next month to just go there and use what has already been created.
The biggest ah-ha I had was when he connected what I know so well about reading/writing workshop with math. I know during reading and writing, I teach a mini-lesson and then I send all off to work at it. Then I confer and meet the readers and writers where they are and work to move them forward. He reminded me that the same process needs to also happen in math. DUH! But until he said it, that light bulb had not gone on for me. I am feeling better about teaching math. And Spencer plans to return and co-teach with me soon! Learning from experts is so important!!
Then Grace visited on Friday. She was only free while my students were at specials and lunch but that gave us a chance to talk. She knew from prior discussions that I was struggling with the management of my 27 friends. Right away she saw my table groupings of 6 and suggested that 4 works so much better. She suggested that even if my school isn't a Responsive Classroom school, that I should still have a Morning Meeting. The lessons learned through Morning Meeting are too valuable not to teach. And she suggested a great way for my students to share their computer nonfiction presentations with parents. The laptops can all be grouped by same topics in the room. Visitors can go to the area and learn from the creator of the presentation, and using headphones, they can watch the presentation and listen to their embedded videos. While we talked I decided a Breakfast Museum Walk would work great at end of the month! It felt great to talk this out!
Again, I know I need to group the kids in small groups in the room but the computer cords and extension cords were distracting me from doing what I know I should be doing. But come next week - groups of 4 will be created and I already asked the computer teacher to come help me make sure all the cords are following the safety rules. She suggested having assigned seats on the carpet so I'll tape it off to be a grid and make the assignments. Then I will make an agenda magnet that says MORNING MEETING and it WILL be in a part of our daily schedule. Again, DUH. I know this but as a classroom teacher I get distracted. Then I have fires to put out. Instead, Grace reminded me to set the kids up for success...groups of 4 and assigned seating so no fires even need to be put out. She also immediately saw how distracting the computer was on the desk. She ask, "Can it fit inside the desk? Then it is just brought out when needed." Again, DUH! Yes. We are going to clean out our desk and make room for the computer. Again, instead of saying, "I said Lids Down, Now" they won't even have the chance to open a lid and be distracted by the computer because it is in their desk.
I found it very helpful to have two smart friends visit my classroom this week. I'll admit, it was humbling and, for a moment, it felt like I wasn't doing anything right as I listened to their suggestions. But then I remembered that I have LOTS to learn and here are two friends who can help. So now, I happily type this blog entry. I'll admit, I'm happy that I have a 3-day weekend before I need to really implement anything different. But I am grateful that I opened myself to learning from others to learn things to implement!