Monday, December 20, 2010

The Purpose and the Audience

I have been reading a lot about how students work harder to create quality products if they have a purpose other than finishing an assignment and if their audience is someone other than their teacher. That is why students tend to put more time and effort into projects or products that will be shared with an audience on the web or in the school.

I had a chance to observe this in a 1st grade class I taught for two days last week. One little boy's math work and writing were hardly legible. He worked as quickly as possible, writing over mistakes and paying little attention to spacing his letters and words. After finishing his work on my second afternoon with his class, he was working on a drawing with merry crismas written at the top. He asked me how to spell Christmas. I told him where he needed to add an h and a t. I watched him stick the letters in and pause to look at it. Then he carefully erased the word and rewrote it neatly. I smiled as I thought about the quality of his work on a project of his choosing versus one I had assigned. I grinned even more when he handed his finished product, a Christmas card, to me on his way out the door.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Letting Them Think

I learned a lesson while teaching a math lesson on bar graphs yesterday. We were working through a page together and I was asking for responses to the questions in the book. Which food was the most popular? How many more boys than girls liked pizza? How many students were surveyed? Most students were struggling to stay focused, so I decided to follow advice I have read on others' blogs - ask open-ended questions. I said, "What can you tell be about this graph." Hands I hadn't seen raised in two days shot up, and all of the responses were good! The students were now looking at and interpreting the graphs by themselves and they were seeing things I had not noticed. It was great!

If I had my own class, my next step would be to let them use a website I discovered this week to create their own visualizations. At , they can see relationships among data points, compare a set of values, track rises and falls over time, see the parts of a whole, analyze a text, and see the world. What a way to learn!

Thank You, Teachers

Teachers do many things that make my job as a sub much easier. Here are just  a few:

Attendance/lunch count - This may seem easy until you realize all the places students may be before they settle in your classroom - breakfast, getting extra reading help, in the library, etc. The sub has no way of knowing who is really absent when the bell rings. The day gets off to a good start when this process is automatic. Some teachers use a pocket chart labeled with students' names. The cards in the pockets have hot lunch on one end and cold lunch on the other. The cards are backwards in the morning, and students turn the cards around with their choice on top. Some classrooms have magnetic name tags that students place under the lunch column of their choice. Some teachers have a SMART Board chart and students slide their names under the column headings. In these classes, students take care of the lunch count before heading off to other places. All of these methods take care of both attendance and lunch. Life is good!

SMART Board file access - All of the teachers I've subbed for have left all of the files I need to use open on their computers. That works great unless I accidentally close one and have no idea what path to follow to find it again. Last week, a teacher solved that problem for me. He put a folder labeled with the date on his computer desktop. It contained everything I needed that day. FANTASTIC! Since the folder contained copies of his original files, he didn't need to worry that I would accidentally save any changes.

Workbook key - One teacher took a blank math workbook and made a teacher's key. It is so much easier to use than the bulky teacher's manual that has small snapshots of the student workbook pages. It helps both the teacher and the sub.