I just finished my first full week with my new 4th-grade students. These are children who will be with me for 2 years. What an awesome responsibility! I am their last shot at getting ready for middle school. I am constantly reflecting on what's happening, thinking about ways to make instruction more effective. I am interested in meeting their social and emotional needs, as well as their academic needs. I am just like most teachers. I am consumed with the love of teaching.
Today, my students worked through the scientific method by testing 4 different kinds of paper towels for their wet strength by dropping pennies, one at a time, into suspended wet paper towels. It was hectic, and I thought of at least a dozen ways to structure the activity differently so everything would run more smoothly. It would have been so much easier to just get out a textbook and read about the scientific method -- no equipment to gather, no clean-up afterward, not so much noise, etc. But, the end result was that we all had fun while learning was taking place. Even though I'd change many, many things if I were to teach this lesson again, I feel like we experienced success.
Another exciting thing that happened today was that my students got to finally get their handhelds into their hands! Even though we are not completely ready to start using them for instruction, we charged them and I beamed them some math practice games. They were thrilled! The end-of-the-day chaos was reduced to sweet silence as they "played" a math facts game. What a way to end the day on Friday the first full week of school for the year!
For the most part, my students are wonderful! However, here are some challenges I see I am going to have to face with them this year. Students who have trouble bringing materials back to school are beginning to surface. I hope I can find ways to encourage them to accept responsibility for getting their things to and from school without getting over into a nagging mode. We have very little homework, and I expect what we do have to be completed and turned in on time.
As I blog, I can examine what's working or not, and maybe resolve some of the issues that my students and I will face this in this school year. I am expecting great things in 2006-2007 with my terrific kids -- the class from heaven!!!!
Congrats on your first week and on your first blog!! I share the same goal as you-- to blog at least about once a week. I haven't started school yet, so I've been doing more than that. I'm going to bookmark your blog on My Page.
BTW: Your class is so lucky to have you! Your science lesson sounds great... there is NEVER a lesson I teach that I couldn't have structured differently in some way, but the kids learn and more importatnly, and love of learning is fostered through these types of engaging lessons!
question: You said that you give very little homework, which is refreshing. In my school, I feel somewhat pressured (but not really BY anyone) into giving what I feel is too much hw for first grade. It's only 20 minutes, but I still don't really see a point except that it prepares them to do homework in 2nd grade. Fourth grade in our school has a LOAD of homework. Today on NPR there was an interview with Alphie Kohn who just wrote a new book about Homework Myths and it's all about how hw is basically not good for anything! (Note: I'm not talking about reading for pleasure!) He really convinced me- although, he always does. I like most of his philosophies. What do you think?
Our first day with students is September 5th. I am getting more and more excited about the first week of school, as my room is slowly coming together. (I've been working on prepping it everyday this week!)
I'm so glad to hear that your first week went so well! There is nothing like a great opening to set the tone and pace for a great year!
I think it is awesome that your students have handhelds! Are they solely for the use of YOUR students, or do you have to share them with other classes? Do all the students in your school have them? Do you have a large population in your school? I love technology and I incorporate as much as I can into the classroom environment, because I believe if they are used appropriately, they are wonderful tools. Of course, I am limited to what is available to me. I wish we had handhelds in our classrooms, too!
Keep on blogging J.Elaine.....you have given me so much inspiration! Thanks for sharing!
I'd love to read Alphie Kohn's Homework Myths. I sometimes feel pressure to give more homework because people tell me I'm not really preparing my students for middle school. But here's a personal perspective that makes me think I'm right not giving so much homework after all. My daughter and my 5th-grade granddaughter did homework every night (no exaggeration) for the whole entire evening -- dinner, homework, baths, homework, bedtime for the two little kids, homework, homework until it was way too late for Kaitlyn to be up. My daughter dreaded every evening because of the homework situation, so think of how it made Kaitlyn feel.
I'm sorry to admit, I am not familiar with Alphie Kohn's work, but I'm certainly interested in reading Homework Myths. Can I get it from Barnes and Noble?
(I'm frustrated because this computer won't let me use the Smilies! I'm here at school, and I probably shouldn't be writing this now, but I'm having serious trouble staying off ProTeacher!!!!!)
More later -- when I get my internet problem solved at home.
Our school is a 4th/5th-grade center. We have approximately 240 or so students and 10 classrooms/teachers at each grade level. My looping partner (5th when I'm 4th, etc.) and I have the handhelds in our classroom. Our students are assigned their own handhelds, so no one has to share. This is the 3rd year we've had them to use in the classroom. My last looping class had them for 2 years and were very attached to them. We have an on-line file manager, PAAM. Students sync their handhelds, and all their files/work is stored under their username inside my classroom folder on the web. I can access their work from home and actually grade and give feedback to them from my home. I haven't used the feedback thing yet, but it's one of my goals for this year.
Thanks for your kind words of encouragement. I think the great thing about ProTeacher is that we all inspire one another. We do a very difficult (but rewarding) job and sometimes feel isolated and even unappreciated. Here, we value the ideas of other teachers and build one another up -- and that's a good thing!!!!
More Later (when I get my internet problems solved at home) . . .
I'm here on my computer at school (where I probably shouldn't be blogging!) and don't have the info about the paper towel activity with me, but I have a web address I can give you and fill you in on the changes I would make. For the most part, I would shorten the activity by testing 2 brands of towels instead of the recommended 4.
More about the activity later (hopefully when I resolve the internet issues I'm having at home).
Please share this entire lesson with us. It's wonderful. Have you ever done the inquiry with clear soda and a raisin? Or the one with milk, liquid soap, and food coloring? Both of these get my students (grade 3) so excited about science and inquiry.
If you have any forms for the students to fill out while they did the paper towel lesson, I think many of us (especially me) would REALLY APPRECIATE you sharing them!!