I was absent last week due to a family emergency—my grandmother Meredith had suffered a stroke and needed assistance recovering and getting out of the hospital. My grandmother is someone I have learned a lot from in my life—she had been a first grade teacher from 1952 to 1993, and when I had told her I had started my internship, she was quite proud of me. Meredith was fortunately still able to speak due to her stroke, and so she entertained me about stories related to her own teaching experiences.
She told me how she had every student take turns being “student of the week,” and that that student of the week was given a time to bring something into class for “show and tell,” was the line leader for the week, and could share stuff about what she did each night. Meredith also spent time telling me the strong differences that existed between when she started teaching versus schools today. I enjoyed her stories extensively, and was amazed to see how things had changed from 60 years ago to the present day.
I returned from my grandmother’s hometown, 200 miles away from where I live, and then had to attend a training day for the interns on Monday, October 2. I therefore returned to the classroom on October 4.
I entered the classroom to find that Mrs. Shapiro was not there today. She was attending a meeting, and would be gone for the morning. So was Mrs. Veerman, the other kindergarten teacher. The substitute called herself Mrs. T., and I did not find out who the teacher was.
After introducing myself to the substitute she told me that she had just showed them a basic map of the classroom (or floor plan) and then asked each table of students to draw a floor plan together on a sheet of large poster board. This surprised me, since I would not expect this to be an assignment for kindergarten since it was part of my assignment to make a description of the classroom and I did not expect this to be an assignment that kindergartners would be able to do.
The substitute instructed me to go to a table and help a group of students draw their floor plan. I went to the red table. When I had gotten there, the students had started drawing various elements of the room, such as the table they were sitting on. I was semi-accurate in my judgment—the students did not know how to draw a proper floor plan even after the teacher had showed them what the proper floor plan looked like. But they were able to create a collage of various tables and parts of the room. After they drew two of the tables, the computer table, and the shelves with the blocks, the students at the table asked me to show them how to spell the names of each table on their plan. Since the words were quite large, and I was planning on teaching a handwriting lesson in the next week, I told them how to spell each word to see how well they were able to write them on the poster board. Roger was at my table, and he was willing to write his name, and he wrote it quite well with a proper grip.
Once completed with the floor plan, each student was allowed to enjoy free time. With the problems that Roger had that I had learned about, I went to Roger and decided I would start the handwriting activity that I had done so many times with so many students at the JCC. I asked him if he wanted to write his name in blocks, and I wrote his name in blocks, and he copied it. Then I did the same with something I called “serif”—that is, typewriter-style. When he wrote, he wrote with his left hand (since he is left-handed) and was able to write with a proper grip. The occupational therapist in the room complimented him for it.
Ellie, another student in the class, also was attracted by the activity, and she wrote her name in blocks and serif as well.
During free time four students went outside to replenish the bird feeder located just outside the classroom.
After clean-up time was called, Mrs T. sat the students down for a story. Dr. Wilkinson, the principal, came to read the students a story. She read them the story “Froggy Goes to School.” After Dr. Wilkinson was done, the students clapped and Mrs. T. went off to continue their lesson about the letter “R.”
Each week, the students are assigned to make a collage of pictures from newspaper clippings of things that begin with a certain letter. This week, the letter was “R,” and Mrs. T. asked each student to come up to the chalkboard and then show the class what they had put on their paper that began with the letter “R.”
Then Mrs. T went off and showed each student how to write the lower-case “r,” and assigned each student to complete a handwriting sheet with the lower-case “r” on it. She showed them the mid-line and baseline, and how the r should not go above the mid-line or the baseline.
One of the students complained that Mrs. T. did not mention snack time. She did not know how to administer snack time, so I took over and gave each table a plate of pretzels which would be their snack. Another student asked how much pretzels they would get, so I announced that everyone would get four pretzels. Grace, the student whose job it was to administer the snack, gave each student four pretzels. The students thought that that was not enough, and tried to sneak in a fifth pretzel. One student succeeded, and this made Brittany angry. I told Brittany that since it was not right, I would tell the student that it was not, but snack time was over and she needed to sit down on the rug now.
Mrs. Shapiro had expected the handwriting lesson to take until it was time to line-up for music (10:45 a.m.) but the students were actually finished at 10:30. Thus, Mrs. T had no lesson to think of to pass the time for fifteen minutes. So she asked me to keep the kids’ attention for fifteen minutes, and I sat on the teacher’s chair and called the students to the rug. Only half the students actually listened to me, but I continued to teach a lesson because if I did not, then none of the students would have stayed on the rug. Meanwhile, Mrs. T. tried to get the other students to sit on the rug, and she finally did.
I started my improv lesson by talking about the sounds that “R” makes. I asked them about certain words that the “r” sound makes, and told them that the “r” sound appears in the word “Arrrgh!” which is often used by pirates, or the SpongeBob character Mr. Krabs. With that lesson over, I then read the book “Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See?” to the students, who had already known the book and read it along with me.
Then I asked Mrs. T. for the handwriting sheets she had collected from the students. I took them and asked each student to come up to the chalkboard and show their handwriting sheets to the class. Then I asked the students which letter they believed was the best-written on each sheet, written by each student.
During this activity, fifteen minutes had passed, and it was time for the students to teach music. I helped reinforce the lines to and from the music class, as I now will do regularly.
After music class, Mrs. T and I agreed that I could finish the activity I had started, by giving every child a turn to come up to the chalkboard and show their handwriting. Only half of the students were willing to watch, and Mrs. T. tried to get the other students to sit down but to no avail. After I finished my activity, kindergarten was over, and the students were dismissed.