Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Thoughts of Teaching

"The 'Little House' books are stories of long ago. Today our way of living and our schools are much different; so many things have made living and learning easier. But the real things haven't changed. It is still best to be honest and truthful; to make the most of what we have; to be happy with the simple pleasures; and to be cheerful and have courage when things go wrong."                                                          
                                                               -Laura Ingalls Wilder 

A Second Impression (4,5, 10)

Two weeks ago I started my first observation of Ms. Bryce's 1st Grade class at McAuliffe Elementary in Tulsa, Oklahoma. My classmate Becky and I began our trek to the school with a fresh fallen inch of snow. 

The crisp, winter air  greeted us with severity. Not the most pleasant of greetings but the young boys who helped direct cars with a teacher made the scene more endearing. I couldn't help but think of the traditional quip where grandparents would say, "Well I used to walk miles to get to school! in the snow! with no shoes!" Well... I read Laura Ingalls Wilder's books when I was in elementary school so I would pass the blame to her for leaving me with a romanticized view of walking to school.... for miles.... with no shoes... on a beautiful, spring day. 

I suddenly feel like a giant as I enter a world made for those with an average height of 57.35 inches. As I sign in and walk down the hall I notice the street signs that would designate each hallway. The street signs were placed at the perfect height that each sign almost grazed my head.  I headed down "Make a Plan Parkway" and arrived to a surprisingly, quiet classroom. 

With announcements playing I started thinking of my purpose of observing this classroom. This observation or practicum is for my Reading Methods class and I am thankful for the opportunity to take what I learn from lecture and apply it. Dr. Martin is my professor for Reading Methods at Oral Roberts University. Initially we learn about a variety of other methods, but what our main focus is "Balanced Literacy." When this concept was first introduced to me a year ago it changed how I saw teaching. I love kids; I want to teach; and Balanced Literacy is the vehicle to connect my passion for children with the discipline of teaching. It is more than just a forced time in a room for six hours but a community that uses literacy as a tool for obtaining knowledge.

My first practicum was my Spring semester of 2013, the same semester as my first class with Dr. Martin. I observed a 2nd grade classroom at a Title 1 school. I fell in love. I have been raised with schools that have more funding. First a private Christian school then I went to a public high school with highly ranked academics. The difference was refreshing but also gave me more purpose. And that purpose is to make an impact that goes beyond the mind and into the heart.

With McAuliffle being the second Title I elementary school I am observing, I have a second time to have an opportunity for these kids, this classroom to leave an impression on my heart and my mind. I want to always be willing to allow people to leave that everlasting impression. 

What I noticed: 

      In the first hour I observed their literacy centers and a shared reading. 

     Loud exclamations follow when Ms. Bryce's starts the time for literacy centers. I believe the implementing of Cambourne's ideas of choice into the classroom helps bring the enthusiasm out in students. Like I mentioned above, the classroom should not be time where we feel like we are forced into a room for seven hours; and I saw the students enjoy each other and their activities. Some choices they had at certain centers is what book they wanted to read. Each student have a bag filled with their own choices of books. Ms. Bryce has her own method to matching text with readers, so there is definitely a watchful eye to make sure there is growth in midst of the student's choices. 

     Ms. Bryce encouraged students to read in different voices. There is a mouse voice, a raspy voice, a pleasant voice (-insert any adjective one might desire- voice), a manly voice... I saw later that in one center there were two boys reading their school's mandate in their manliest voices with arms angled, swinging in and out. (4) 

     There are three different tables where the students sit in groups. Having desks in chairs encourage group work and discussions which is more beneficial in creating a community of learners. (5) 

    Shared Reading is having an excerpt of a book, poem, magazine in an enlarged form where there is a "shared support in the reading process." The whole class with Ms. Bryce read the poem about bees. Ms. Bryce asked students to come up and circle all the vowels and all the consonants. This poem was read many times and every student who wanted to participate was able to do so. When a word or situation in the text needs to be addressed I have seen it done where the word is written  with a Magna Doodle to emphasize what to focus on and to share insights about the word. Examples would be a word that doesn't follow the tradition rules like the word "rough", the way it sounds make it seems it should be spelled "ruff." With a Magna Doodle you could right the two words and discuss the differences.  Shared Readings are a great time to discuss grammar, reading and comprehension strategies. In this example teaching and learning you are able to see the student's process and address obstacles when the information would be relevant. 

I look at the schedule on the wall and I see that literature plays a vital role everyday (10): 

Most of the day is teaching straight literacy. Ms. Bryce says for her it has been hard doing straight Balanced Literacy but next year it will be all day, every day. 

I will be teaching three lessons this semester! So I am looking forward to the opportunities to practice the theories I have been learning; but I mostly look forward to getting to know the kids in this class. I am praying for everlasting impressions.