Monday, December 11
After a failure to find sufficient yarn to knit enough material to show the students, I decided to forego the knitting lesson for a different lesson, but I had not thought about what that other lesson might be. Today was the teaching day before my all-day teaching, and I spent time trying to think of ideas for lessons I could teach during that day.
Today was also the birthday of David McCullom, a student in the class.
I entered the classroom today to find the students working on another writing activity. Like the other writing activities the students had completed, a sentence was partially written on a page that the students were asked to complete. Unlike the other writing activities where the students just had to complete a single page, this time the students were asked to complete the same sentence more than once—in this case, three times, in a small, four-page booklet titled “The Yum Book.” The sentence, however, was a little more basic. It started with “I like,” and then the students were asked to specify a food they liked and draw a picture of that food.
As was the case with the other writing assignments, since the students were not expected to know how to write the foods that they liked, I was asked to go around the table and help any student who asked for it. The first student who asked was Brittany. As was the case before, because Brittany had trouble writing her letters, I would spell out her words for her since I had to help her write out her letters. But for the other students, I followed Mrs. Shapiro’s rule of only saying the sounds of letters rather than the letters themselves (unless the sound is identical to the letter, which is the case with long vowel sounds). Brittany wrote that she liked cupcakes.
After helping Brittany write cupcakes, Erika told me that she wanted to know how to spell cupcakes as well. I helped her, and then proceeded to help Robert with his book. For her other two pages, Erika said she liked cake and donuts. Brittany, for her third food she liked (cupcake was her second, not first food she had written) said that she liked cookies. Robert, for his second and third foods, said he liked crackers and ice cream.
After helping those students, I took out my computer and introduced to the students a different activity on my laptop. Rather than draw a picture or animate a series of pictures, the students would play a computer game that was designed for preschoolers and kindergartners and was over 17 years old. This game predates all Windows operating systems, and was originally built for a DOS machine (even though it runs quite well on my Windows 2000 laptop). It is called Mickey’s ABC’s, and it is a game that can be played for fun, as I did many times at the JCC, or can be played with educational value, as I did today in Mrs. Shapiro’s class.
Mickey’s ABC’s is a simple and primitive game by today’s standards, but a game that has won the heart of every single child I have shown it to. Mickey Mouse appears in an animated world that consists of his house and an outdoor fair. The person who plays the game controls Mickey Mouse by typing any letter key on the keyboard. When hitting a letter key, Mickey does something based on a word that begins with that letter. (Example: Mickey goes to the fair when you type F, which stands for the word FAIR.) Since there are up to 26 commands in any given setting in the game, each for a specific letter of the alphabet, I play the game like this: Two to five students are seated next to the computer.
Each student gets a turn to control Mickey, and can have Mickey complete one command for each turn they get. I ask each student what they want Mickey to do, and I will tell them what word represents that command. Then I will ask them what letter that word begins with, and will tell them to hit that letter on my keyboard. The student will then have to locate that letter by him or herself and then Mickey will do what he or she wants them to do. (This is in contrast to how I played the game at the JCC where I often would tell students what to press for each command, or just had them play around with the game by themselves.)
Today, I played it with Ellie, Rosie, and Erika until Free Time was over and it was Clean-Up Time. During Clean-Up Time, I put my computer away. After the students were done cleaning up, they were asked to change into their gym shoes for Gym. (The gym teachers, Mr. Grober and Mrs. Palatia, require the students to change from their regular shoes into shoes that they use for gym; this is to keep the gym floor clean and so outdoor mud does not track into the gym floor. The gym teachers are very strict about this policy—they will not let students enter the gym unless they have their gym shoes on.)
After the students had finished changing their shoes, Mrs. Shapiro seated them all into their rows. Another instructor from the special-ed department came to the classroom to teach them a lesson about the letter P.
When the teacher came to the class, she taught them about the letter P and the sounds that the letter P makes. After teaching them about the P sounds, she read the book “My “P” Sound Box,” to the students. This book, which is one of a series of 26 (one book for each letter), tells a story that describes to students a lot of words that begin with a specific letter. In this case, it’s the letter P, so the story involved a lot of words that began with the letter P. The teacher then asked each student if they had a “P” sound in their name. Not many of them did, and many students raised their hands and mentioned their names even when they had no P sound in them. In fact, no student in the morning kindergarten class has a P sound in their name, and only two have P sounds in their last name: Alex Press and Michael Spero.
After reading the story to the class, the teacher asked the students to raise their hand and say any words they could think of that began with P. Every time a student did, she would write it on a large piece of white construction paper that had been cut to shape a letter P. When she was done writing on half of the sheet of paper (the other half was saved so the afternoon kindergartners’ words could be put there), she assigned the students to their tables, where I had placed their handwriting booklets, where they were to practice writing capital P’s. When the students began writing their letters, I went to teach table to see if any student needed help. This time, no student needed help. After each student was done with their handwriting, it was time to go to Computer Lab.
As I have said before, Computer Lab time is unlike other “special” classes (as they are called at Shay), or classes outside of the classroom in that Mrs. Shapiro always sits in and helps students in the Computer Lab, whereas she always drops off and picks up the students for Library time, Art time, Music time, or Gym time. Since I help Mrs. Shapiro (and have followed the general rule that I shall go nowhere at Shay except Mrs. Shapiro’s room unless I am with Mrs. Shapiro or if I am doing an errand for Mrs. Shapiro), I stay with the class during Computer Lab time.
Mrs. Cameron, the computer lab teacher, taught the students a lesson in a subject I had never seen taught before except briefly in the classroom—mathematics. She sat the students down on the floor, and projected her computer screen on the wall via an LCD projector. After announcing to the class that her classroom was not a democracy (and thus the students had to sit down when she asked them to). On her computer was KidPix, an art program that the students use daily during Free Time to draw pictures. (The pictures that I pick up from the Computer Lab each time I assist there are pictures that were drawn in KidPix by the students.) After putting her name on the bottom of her screen, Mrs. Cameron then showed them how to draw basic math problems on KidPix. She activated the “stamp mode” on the program, and stamped three pictures of stars and four pictures of moons on the screen. She then counted how many moons and stars she had stamped, drew a number 3 below the stars and a number 4 below the stars, and a + sign between the 3 and 4.
Mrs. Cameron explained to the students how this was the math problem 3 + 4, and counted her moons and stars and added them together to get 7. After counting, she drew an = sign after the 4 and then a number 7. Mrs. Cameron explained how today, at their computers, they would be assigned to do the same—stamp a certain number of two different pictures, and then add them together and draw the numbers of the math problem those pictures were representing. Mrs. Cameron also requested that each student draw at least 2 math problems on their computer, which they could print out as a picture.
After the students had started working on their assignments, I walked around the computer lab, along with Mrs. Shapiro and Mrs. Cameron, looking for students who needed help. Most of the students had understood the concept and were doing their work successfully. But two students—Ken and Brittany—needed help. Ken did not understand what to do at all, and was just randomly drawing a picture on KidPix. I saw this, and told him that he needed to work on his math problems. When I saw that he could not do it by himself, I erased his picture and showed him that he needed to pick two pictures, stamp them on the computer, count them, and write, below the pictures he had stamped, the number of pictures he had stamped. (I have turned in an example of this assignment so you can understand what I am saying here.) I made sure that he did everything right. Unfortunately, when he was done with his first problem, he accidentally hit the erase button and erased it. I quickly helped him to create another problem for him to print so he would not have to leave the classroom empty-handed. While he was able to get one problem completed by the time Computer Lab was over, he did not get a second one completed. I printed his work, and informed Mrs. Shapiro that while he was only able to print one problem out, he had completed two problems successfully but had just accidentally erased one of them.
On Mondays, the students went straight to the Gym from the Computer Lab. Today was Monday, so Mrs. Shapiro and I took the students to Gym and then returned to the classroom.
During Computer Lab, an idea for my lesson came up. Since I saw that most of the students understood basic arithmetic, I asked if I could introduce a math game (the game I have called either STOMP or NUMBER SWAT on various occasions, to the students) to the students during my all-day teaching. In one version of this game (the game I introduced Rachel, a preschool student to in Mrs. Nelson’s morning class), the students playing would take turns saying a number that the other students playing the game had to find alongside a sheet of printed numbers. Instead of playing that version, however, I decided I would introduce a more complex variation of this game, which was the original variation I had learned at a lecture at “I Teach 1st!,” a national 1st Grade teaching convention.
In this variation, rather than just having the students find numbers from a sheet or grid of numbers, students would take turns thinking up math problems (such as 1 + 2 and 4 + 3) and the students would be expected to stamp with their hands or stomp with their feet the number on the grid or sheet of numbers which was the answer to the math problem. (Example: A student says 2 + 5, and the other students have to locate the number 7 on the grid.) I have an example of the board, which I have given to Mrs. Nelson which can be used at the preschool—I will show it to you during my final.
After commenting to Mrs. Shapiro that this was one of the first formal math lessons I had seen that had been taught to the class (other than a few references to arithmetic during the Numbers All Around lessons), I told Mrs. Shapiro my idea, and she approved my lesson. After her approval, Gym was over, and it was time to pick up the students.
When the students came back, they went back to their cubbies and changed back into their regular shoes from their Gym shoes. After the students were done, Mrs. Shapiro seated them into their rows so that the class could celebrate David’s birthday. Every student got to eat a snack that David had brought for his birthday, and we all sang “Happy Birthday” to him. After we were done singing, Kindergarten was over, and the students were dismissed.