Thursday, September 26, 2013

A (Teaching) Win + Pretty Pictures

Kristen says...

Ok, so I know this blog isn't about my "career" as a teacher (can you count it as a career when I haven't done it for a year and a half(!) and am only now volunteering for two half-days a week with a total of 6 students??)...maybe vocation is a better word?

Anyway, I know that isn't the point of this blog but I had a good teaching day, and since I don't have any close colleagues to chat with, I'll post it here instead. If you don't want to read "school stuff", feel free to skip down to the pretty pictures below!

You see, most of the actual "work" of teaching isn't done in the classroom with students present. The getting up in front of the class and giving the assignments, reading the chapters, or delivering the lecture is probably the easiest part of the job (providing the kids are behaving and nobody interrupts you...) Most of our work is done on nights and weekends and during planning periods...which is all fine with me.

What is frustrating is when your plans have to change...especially when it's your own fault.

I have a class comprised of 5 fourth graders...a grade I never hoped to teach (and honestly, will be happy to never teach again--I prefer students with 2-4 years more maturity), all students for whom English is a second language, all with varying grasps of the tongue...

The school I volunteer at doesn't officially admit 4th graders, so there is no curriculum and are no textbooks or other materials specifically geared toward this age of I'm basically making this up as I go along.

I've decided to start the year off with the beginnings of geography--continents, oceans, maps, globes, etc...I actually think the kids know some of this information, but in Russian and Korean, not in English, so it's really like working with a blank slate...something I'm not quite used students usually come to me at least knowing the difference between the Americas, the oceans, and what north and south mean...

So, it's been fun.

I've seen the kids now for a total of six 40-minute classes, so we've just barely covered anything. So far we've labeled a map, made visual vocabulary cards, and used one of the better impulse purchases I've made in my life to practice labeling the 7 continents and 5 oceans:
Thank you Discovery Channel...and Walgreens, for the 75% discount! :) In a classroom with not a map in sight, this is a lifesaver! :)
 I had given the students paper outlines of the continents last week, and their homework was to label each outline for class today.

The plan was to make balloon globes using those cutouts...the problem is, 20 minutes before class began, I realized...I forgot the darn balloons!!!

It is impossible to make balloon globes without balloons.


So. Like any good teacher, I gave myself 2 minutes of self-pity and then, with the imminent arrival of five 4th graders looming, I made something up...

Which, of course, ended up working out so much better than the balloon globes would have.

When the students arrived I had them take out their homework, and then we discussed what the equator was and about the northern and southern hemispheres. I had them point them out on the fabric map above when it became clear that my writing the word and definition on the board just wasn't getting the concept through.

Then they colored each of the continents a different color and cut them out...

This was all part of the original plan, which was to have been followed by attaching the cut-out continents to the balloon.

Without the balloon, I decided to capitalize on desk space instead.

We had been discussing the difference between a map and a globe (flat vs. round, etc) and I decided that the placement of the continents on the globe (balloon) might be better facilitated if the students were a little more familiar with the alignment of the continents on the map (where they can see all the continents at the same time)...

So in the minutes between classes (I had a double-period with my 6th grader in the hours before) I quickly made pieces of index card with the names of the five oceans (colored blue for a visual) and the northern and southern hemisphere, and cut up some tatting thread I just happened to have with me (thank goodness!) for use as the Equator...

And then I had the kids practice laying out the map on their desk:

That worked for about 5 minutes, until they caught on and could easily reproduce the map. With 25 minutes left of an 80-minute double-block I needed something else (like balloons, which I had left at home!!)

As one after another said, "Teacher, I am done" I wracked my brain to think what I could have them do that would fill 25 minutes and be educationally defensible...and then I had it...friendly competition.

Initially I thought to do a timed race of who could put the map together fastest, but each student finished the coloring and cutting phase at a different time, so that didn't really work...

Instead, I got the bright idea to turn the map into a kind of puzzle. Working in pairs, the students would take turns "stealing" elements of the the "puzzle" while their partner put the jumbled pieces in their correct places. For example, Student A might take Australia from a jumbled pile of map pieces. Then Student B would have to put the map together, at some point realizing which piece was missing, which they would then have to ask Student A for it and put it in it's proper place in the map. Then the students would switch roles. After both had done this, they would repeat the process, only the second time taking two pieces, the third round taking three, and so on.

One student hides the missing "piece" while the other ponders what is missing

This served a triple purpose. 1) They were reinforcing the placement of the different elements of the map, the chief purpose of the exercise. 2) They had to be able to identify and list by name the missing element(s), which may not sound hard to you, but it's remarkably hard for a 4th grader from Korea to remember, for example. the difference between the Arctic and Atlantic, and especially to pronounce them when asking for the missing piece. 3) It was fun! (I know this for a fact, because they were all smiling, giggling, and even said it was fun when I told them class was over. YES!) It's a proven fact (somewhere, I'm sure) that students learn more when they are having fun. Or at least, that has been my experience as a teacher.

After correctly realizing the Atlantic Ocean is missing, the student moves to put the missing "piece" in its place (and hopefully double-check the placement of South America...)

And, the nice thing is I'll see them next Wednesday and we can make our balloon globes then...but I might make a couple sets of this game over the weekend so we can play it again as a review game before our quiz! :)

Good times! I love it when classes go much better than you expect.


Are you still with me?

So, the weather here is getting colder (I've been assured that there will be snow on the ground before the end of October) but it is still sunny most days (it feels like fall in Iowa, which is something I missed in Honduras). I have actually been refusing to wear "real shoes", hoping to stave off that eventuality until October dawns, but my toes have been awfully cold in the 45° mornings...

Anyway, even though it's been getting colder there are still plenty of beautiful flowers around (I just can't get over the gorgeous gardens here!) and I snapped some pics of them today:
You don't usually see butterflies and bees sharing a flower

I love it when you catch bugs with their tongues out!

So fuzzy

 So, that's what's happening here! Busy September rolls on...and it's Tiger Day this weekend! :)


1 comment:

  1. Sounds like you made a great lesson! Do you still have your shower curtain map?
    Love you!



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