Mrs. Shapiro and I decided that for my final exam, I would create a special lesson that I would do with the students, but would spend the rest of the time assisting her with her lessons as I have for the past. This is because I have been highly valued by Mrs. Shapiro in the classroom assisting students who are having trouble with their assignments, and this has taught me how, in kindergarten, strengths and weaknesses that were subtle before become obvious. Roger, a student whom I worked with at the JCC, was emotionally stable. Little did I know he would have a temper tantrum daily during the first two months of school.
With only one more teaching day to go until my final, I brought with me some knitting I had been working on. This was because while I was originally planning on bringing Christmas puzzles I had made at my church’s craft fair that the students. However, Mrs. Shapiro told me on Day 20 that half of the students are Jewish, and thus celebrate Hanukkah (though some also celebrate Christmas as well). Unless the puzzles involved something related to Hanukkah, Mrs. Shapiro felt it was not right for me to show them to the students. I agreed.
Thinking of another lesson to teach the students, I decided that I would come and show them about knitting. The students had already seen a person come and talk to them about quilting, and about how quilts are made. Thus, I thought that teaching them about knitting and how scarves are knit would be useful since I could relate it to the quilting lesson they have already learned. I have known how to knit since the age of eight, and have knit various things over the years as presents for my grandparents and other people. Upon entering the classroom, I put this in the closet to make sure no student got a hold of it and poked themselves with the needles, and waited until it was Music to be able to tell Mrs. Shapiro about my proposal.
After putting my knitting away, I looked around to see that the students were completing two activities—sequencing and bread art.
A sheet of paper with a comic strip (that nonverbally told the story of the Little Red Hen) was at each student’s seat, and the strip was out of order. The students were to cut each individual square from the paper, put it in the proper order, and glue it onto another strip of paper in the proper order. The strip consisted of 6 scenes. (This was the sequencing lesson. I have turned in an example of the comic strip.)
The bread art activity, which was being supervised by Mrs. Shapiro, consisted of taking slices of Wonder bread, and “painting” them with bread paint. The “bread paint” consisted of milk that had been dyed with food coloring. (There was no white paint—butter was available if the students wanted to paint something white.) The students took brushes, painted designs on the bread with the paint, and then they were put into a toaster where the bread was toasted. Then butter was put on the bread if desired, and the students got to eat their bread. I asked if I could paint some bread as well. Mrs. Shapiro gave me permission but only if there was leftover bread after every student had had a turn.
Because Mrs. Shapiro was helping students with the bread art, I went to each desk to see if any student needed sequencing help. All of the students were able to sequence quite well (a task that I had trouble doing well into the 3rd grade due to my autism) except for one student—Erika. Erika sat there not even having started her lesson because she did not know what to do. I sat down next to Erika and instructed her to cut the pictures out. Once the pictures were cut, I helped her put them in order by hinting to her what needed to come next in the story. The comic strip starts with the Little Red Hen planting a seed, shows how the seed grows into a plant, and then ends with the Little Red Hen having baked a pie. But, of course, I did not just passively give her the answer—doing that does not make one a good teacher!
Once Erika had completed her sequencing assignment she put her finished work in her backpack. Since she was the last to finish, she was also the last student to paint her bread, so we both painted bread together. I painted a special design on my bread. Calling it the “Mr. L” design, I painted the Seanish flag on my bread—white with a blue cross. Mr. Liederlassen, the music teacher, is Seanish, so that was an appropriate design to call “Mr. L” bread. I used blue paint to paint the cross and then, after toasting my bread, used butter to paint the white part of the flag.
When Erika and I had finished painting and eating our bread, I looked around the classroom to see that many students were waiting to read their Little Books to Mrs. Shapiro. Since Mrs. Shapiro was busy, I went to one of those students—Michael—and told him that he could read his Little Book to me. His Little Book was a story about plants and animals that eat flies. After he read to me his book perfectly with no mistakes, I went to give him a certificate that he put in his backpack.
After Michael had finished reading his Little Book, I went to observe Ken Birman’ evaluation. Every day, at least one therapist is inside the classroom evaluating a student—seeing how well they write letters, draw lines, etc. Today, a therapist was evaluating Ken and his ability to draw straight lines. He was able to draw them successfully—I was quite impressed.
After his evaluation was over, the bell rang, and it was Clean-Up Time. During Clean-Up Time, I went to the computer lab to pick up the pictures printed from our classroom computers—my regular job, and put the pictures in the students’ backpacks.
Once Clean-Up Time was over, the students were all asked to sit in their rows. Mrs. Shapiro took out their “Numbers All Around” books, and I put each kids’ book at their place on their table. Today, the students were learning how to write the number 2 and the number 3. They were to practice writing the numbers 2 and 3 on a line in the booklet, and then Mrs. Shapiro and I would write down the “number story” they had created in their booklet.
A “number story” was a short story that each student thought up where they started with a certain number of something but ended with the number they were practicing on that page. (Example: On the “number 2” page where the students had practiced writing the number 2, the number story would have to end with someone ending up with 2 of whatever they started with.)
Many of the students had understood the number concept—maybe even too well. In fact, whenever the students were assigned to make a number story, they always told the same story. They started with a given number of something. They gave one to a classmate, another to another classmate, and so on until they ended up with the number they were required to have left. (Example: For the “number 2” page, a story would be like this: I had 8 balloons. I gave one to Erika, one to Brittany, one to Grace, one to Rosie, one to Jessica, and one to Patrick. Now I have 2.) After one student had told a story about giving when Mrs. Shapiro taught the students about the Numbers All Around book, all the other students followed suit.
After Mrs. Shapiro sent the students to their desks to complete their number 2 and number 3 pages in their books, I went to each students’ desk to see if they needed me to write their story. While the students are expected to practice writing their numbers and to fill a line with a specific number, they are not expected to write their number stories. Mrs. Shapiro or an assistant will write them down for each student, and I have helped write many number stories. I helped Erika and Jane first, who both told stories where they started with lollipops or candy canes, and how they gave one to this student and to that student, and ended up with 2 for their number 2 page and 3 for their number 3 page.
Then I went to help Patrick, Alex, and Robert, three boys who have had prior trouble with number stories before. They did not need help with their numbers, which was an improvement over before. And, having heard the examples from Erika and Robert, they were able to create number stories of their own—by using the same example that Erika and Jane used where they would give one of something to each classmate until they had 2 or 3.
There were some interesting discipline
issues that emerged during this time. Patrick was very hostile when I asked him
about his number story, and when I told him how he needed to correct his 2s and
3s. So was Robert. I would try to help him but he did not seem to get what I
told him. Finally, however, he wrote three 2s properly, and that was enough.
Later, while I was helping
Mrs. Shapiro was not there to see
it, but having suffered name-calling in a semi-nasty way as a child, I realized
that I was not going to ignore it. I also wanted to try to handle this
discipline matter myself. I said to
After helping those five students, I noticed that Jane was still in her desk. I went to see if Jane needed help with her assignment since many of the other students had completed there. My mistake. Mrs. Shapiro had informed me that Jane had been asked to sit quietly and could not move until Music because she had been running and would not stop when asked.
After I had learned that, I realized that I had underestimated the discipline problems that might have taken place in kindergarten and realized that that was what I would write for my final exam.
Finally Music came, and the
students lined up. After taking them to Music, I asked Mrs. Shapiro the
questions necessary to prepare for my all-day teaching. First, I asked if I was
authorized to eat in the teacher’s lounge. The answer was no, I was not, for
the teachers need a place to gossip and do not feel comfortable doing that with
a high school student in the lounge. Thus, we arranged that I would eat in the
classroom. Second, could I complete a lesson about knitting? The answer was
yes, I could. After we were done discussing final issues, I mentioned to Mrs.
Shapiro about the discipline issues I had just faced.
Interestingly, while we discussed this issue, Mrs. Veerman came in and discussed the problems she had had that day with her students. Many of her students were also out of control. She pointed out that Annie, a student in her class, would still not obey her even after counting down from 1-2-3. She referred to the 1-2-3 Magic discipline system that is widely used with children with autism and ADD, and is a common talk of debate in autism circles. It was interesting to hear that Annie had this disrespect, as she also would come on a regular basis to the JCC and was quite respectful toward me. But then again, I wasn’t the teacher at the JCC, just a volunteer that entertained the children. Mrs. Veerman also discussed how Sean, another student, was also disrespectful. Having worked with Sean and Annie from the JCC, I knew that those two were good friends. I, however, decided not to share this information with Mrs. Veerman. She ended her discussion by putting it well: “I never held such disrespect for my teachers when I was in school.”
Finally Music was over, and it was time to pick up the students. After returning from Music, I checked to see whether or not the students had completed their pages in the Numbers All Around booklets while the students were being read a story by Mrs. Shapiro. After seeing that every student had completed their work properly, I took the booklets, put them in a pile, and put them back on Mrs. Shapiro’s desk. Once the story was over, Kindergarten was over, and the students were dismissed.