The highlight of this week was feeling more comfortable at school with the kids. I feel a bond forming that seems to be the result of the time spent working with the kids. They are starting to trust me. I can see how important building trust is when working with people, at any age. In the future, I will spent time with my kids at the beginning of each year constructing a plan with them in an effort to clarify expectations and to start building trust with my students.
This week I spend more time during Writers Workshop working with students as they developed their individual stories. During one of these conversations I asked the student if they knew what the purpose of a paragraph was. After a long pause he said, "I don't know". I said, "Good answer, thank you". After he had time to process this idea, he interrupted me and said, "It was good that I didn't no know the answer?" I explained to him that his answer was the most appropriate and honest and therefore the best answer. His smile reflected both the cleverness of the statement and reviled the positive affective conditions created for both the teacher and student. It was just a moment, but creating this positive atmosphere will impact his future relationship with my class and his ability to learn. When people (kids included) feel safe in being wrong, they will try to learn. Scared people will do the opposite.
This week I visited a classroom in Santa Ynez where I watched a fifth grade teacher seemingly perform magic. What some could consider an illusion, mature educators would recognize as trust and respect between this teacher and his students. I spent the whole day with this teacher and he never raised his voice. Any corrections he made was either inaudible to other students or said with such firm kindness that any ill affects seem to be non-existent. Yet, his students remained engaged and joyful the entire day. When he said good morning to the kids their happy replay was "good morning Mr. teacher!" At one point during a transition he said calmly “ok, ill choose the quietest group to start”. Within three seconds (I counted) the room was near silent and almost all twenty kids had their fingers in the air.
When ask how this alleged magic can take place, this seasoned teacher talked about the importance of building trust and bond is with each student. He starts his year building that base of trust and consistently delivers what he promises to the kids, expecting the same from them. Clearly, they seem to respond accordingly. The pledges they created together are listed on the bottom of this sheet.
In my classroom this week I ran a simply lesson on synonyms and antonyms. It was my first chance to work with a formal plan working in language arts. All students could easily grasps the concept and give good examples of both, meeting all the assessments I set for this lesson. I did learn the importance of having good handouts to work from and how visuals learners may suffer from poor ones.
I made two observations during this lesson. The first was that kids who are below average at reading and writing excelled at finding a different word that shared the same meaning. I believe the reason for this is that kids who struggle with words have to develop a different strategy with forming and understanding words. Fore example, if one is unable to spell “somersault”, one might substitute the word “roll” in it place. The result of this process would be an increased understanding of vocabulary.
Another note I made was with my student who is studying English as a second language. She had had, by far, the fastest answers to the synonyms and antonyms questions. She exhibited the most flexible understanding of what word could mean than any of her peers. For example, many students had a hard time producing the synonym and antonym for the word “play”. (Perhaps this is because work and play are still so linked for kids at their age.) This student however, quickly found alternatives her peers were unable to find. I am assuming this skill is a result of her understanding of language, in which she has twice (or more) references of words than her peers. She has developed a deeper level of ambiguity in her understanding of language that allows her to see other possible connections to words.
We also finished the math section and finalized our assessments for them. It is such a powerful tool in math to ask the students how they arrived their answers. Knowing what processed they used reveals so much about their level of understanding, that in some ways, seems as important as the correct answer.
On Wednesday we enjoyed a class field trip to the Sea Center, which went swimmingly (not literally).