Wednesday, November 28, 2007

I tried to start out today with a positive attitude. I greeted the kids enthusiastically when I entered the classroom, even though I was feeling kinda grumpy. You know, TOM grumpiness.

I have been wanting to move on with the K5 girls and start trying to teach them to read by helping them to put the sounds of the letters together that we've been learning all year. They seem to know all their letters now and can readily identify them. They know the basic sounds of most of them. I think we have only Z to cover in the ACE phonics books I've been using. So yesterday I put together some Abeka vowel worksheets and made a 4 page booklet for the girls to do today.

After explaining what we were going to be doing and then handing the booklets out, I began to assist the girls in doing the papers correctly. M. has a habit of just plowing ahead, appearing to know what she is doing and doing it with confidence. I've observed that she has been doing this for all of her seat work. Finish it as fast as possible so that she could go play. Today I decided that enough was enough. Even if she "gets it" faster and can zoom through the paper, she was going to have to sit and color quietly while the other girls finished their paper. Whenever she finishes first, she doesn't just go play quietly, she rushes off, loudly calling out, "who wants to play...??" with no regard to the rest of the class. The truth is sometimes she "gets it" and sometimes she misses it completely. Today was one of those days.

So the tables were reversed. While the other girls had the papers discussed, line by line and learning took place as they discovered where the vowel sound was and what pictures to circle, M. spent the time randomly circling whatever, with no regard to instruction. The result? The other 3 girls were able to play and M. had to sit an extra 10 minutes while I helped her correct her papers.

At math I began the lesson on such a good note. I had read in Eric's Alpha Math-U-See book to use a grab bag game to help teach the children the colors of the blocks. We have been working with the unit blocks for the first quarter but had moved onto the colored blocks depicting numbers 2-9 for the past month. So I loaded up a paper bag with various unit blocks then had the children take turns reaching into the bag without looking, feel a block, tell me the number it represented and what color it was. They had to get all right in order to "keep" the block. All of the kids, including my K3 boy, were successful. All that is, except M. She was too quick to count the blocks and I had to help her on her last turn in order for her to guess correctly. She's a smart girl, but just in too much of a hurry.

From the block game I went on to do a few rounds of "guess what's in the bag" and filled the bag with a variety of items found around the room. I need to do more of this as the kids just loved the game. Guess I'll have to break down and make a real "feely can" - have to ask someone who uses the big coffee cans to save me one. What you do is glue gun an old shirt sleeve, large sock, or other nicer material (you can even sew a tube like sleeve with a draw string top, or elasticised one) to the top of a large empty coffee can. Decorate the can in any way you want. Fill it with different common items - plastic animal toys, cars, glue stick, eraser, sponge, stick, paper clip, safety pin, etc. etc. and the child puts his hand into the can and has to feel to identify the item. Great for teaching reasoning skills, tactile manipulation, imagination, and identification skills.

Today was also chapel day so I did a special felt board story as our lead in to discussing the birth of Christ next month. The Tale of Three Trees. This is the story of three trees who had big dreams of what they wanted to be - one a treasure chest, another a beautiful boat, and the third wanted to forever grow to show God's majesty and point the way to Heaven. I'm sure you know how the story goes. I'll have to leave you with that and have you read it on your own someday. My version of the Tale of Three Trees didn't quite match the Story Time Figures to Tell set that I had, but I managed to improvise enough. ST actually has the story included in the set that works better with the figures, so sometime next week I'll retell the story again and see if they kids can notice any differences. That would be a good exercise for the older kids.

Though it had it's moments I'd say today was a good day.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Happy Thanksgiving

It's Turkey Time! This past two weeks we have had a definite Thanksgiving/Fall theme going on in the classroom. Last week Friday, the school had its annual Thanksgiving feast. Lots of turkey, ham, dinner rolls, stuffing, mashed potatoes - you know the traditional thanksgiving fair - along with some not so traditional foods only eaten on Guam - Chicken Keleguan (chopped chicken, coconut, green onions, lots of lemon juice, hot peppers and salt - mixed together and served with tortillas), barbecued ribs, fried chicken (almost as good as KFC!), red rice and pies galore! We managed to have only one or two near disasters with food plates; otherwise the kids did okay.

The classroom is decorated with the fall artwork. Construction paper leaf people hang from the ceiling, crayon leaf rubbings adorn the wall, seed collages are displayed on another, and our non-traditional egg carton caterpillars (usually a spring project) stare at me in a row from atop the computer monitor. The kids have been coloring turkey pictures, pilgrims and Indians, and cornucopias - but these have all gone home now. In fact we had a big "clean-up" of the class yesterday before dismissing them for our 4 day weekend break (which I am sorely needing!). I sent home all the blankets, miscellaneous clothing items and toys that somehow make it to the class, and threw away all the half-drank juice containers that were accumulating on our lunch shelf.

It has been a trying month as I work on figuring out the classroom dynamics. We had to make some major adjustments so that things could progress smoother. Our first change was to bring Eric back home again. School, or the traditional classroom setting, just didn't work for him. Even though I allowed him a lot of freedom in doing his work, he works better on his own agenda. He is sensitive to noise and distractions and sometimes a classroom is just full of those. Once we let him chose what days he wanted to come to school and when to stay home, my happy creative boy returned. He has learned more in the two weeks we have taken him out of school than he had learned in the past two months of school. Math was a big issue. He was so frustrated and so far behind his fellow 2nd grader (though she is admittedly doing 4th grade work and so we really can't compare). Since coming home he constantly talks about math and does his own problems and actually wants us to give him oral quizzes on math questions! At school all he would do was cry about math.

Let's face it. Some kids are just not cut out for the school setting. Eric is such a kid. It's too bad most parents don't have this freedom to homeschool. Another thing to be thankful for in my life.

Well, coffee is calling me and pumpkin pies need to be baked. Hope all my readers are/will have a wonderful thanksgiving day!