After observing in Mr. Foster’s 2nd grade class on Monday, October 23 for a mandatory observation assignment, I returned to Mrs. Shapiro’s room for my 7th day with a special lesson planned for the students—a lesson on Abraham Lincoln.
When I entered the room, the students were busy working on “pattern packets” at their tables. They had been assigned to complete the packet, which required them to make two specific patterns—an AB and an ABA pattern out of the colors of their choice, and then to make two patterns of their own.
Mrs. Shapiro informed me that two students—Mark and Robert—had not understood the lesson, and needed help completing it properly. Mark had actually completed his worksheet but had not done it properly, and Mrs. Shapiro wanted him to do it over again. She asked me to go to their table and give them that help, and gave me two new pattern packets to give to Mark and Robert. I went to the table where they were working, and told Mark that Mrs. Shapiro wanted him to redo the assignment, and that I would help him.
Mark said he did not want to, but I told him he had to do it. He then explained he didn’t know how, which probably was the reason why he didn’t want to do the assignment—he might have been too scared to ask for help.
Then I showed him how to do it properly. The first sheet consisted of eight boxes, with the letters “A” and “B” below each box. He was to pick two colors, name one “A” and another “B,” and then create an AB pattern by filling the “A” boxes with the “A” color and the “B” boxes with the “B” color, and to alternate the colors to create that pattern. I then instructed Robert to do the same.
After the boys completed the AB pattern page it was time for them to start working on the ABA pattern. I asked them if they wanted to keep their present colors or find new colors for this pattern—both Mark and Robert chose to keep the same colors. I told them the instructions were the same for the ABA pattern as they were for the AB—pick an “A” color and a “B” color, and fill the “A” color in on “A” boxes and the “B” color in on “B” boxes. Because I started with Mark before Robert, Mark was one page ahead of Robert.
When the time came to complete the make-your-own pattern pages, I asked Mark and Robert if they wanted to make a two-color pattern or a three-color pattern. Mark asked to make two different two-color patterns, and Robert created a two-color pattern, and a three-color pattern—an ABC pattern. After Patrick and Robert completed their pattern assignments they were able to go to free time.
I often carry a laptop computer with me when I come to school. There’s a reason for this—I use this to type my assignments, like this one. But the computer I carry was also used as a game computer at the JCC’s Daycare center and at a Montessori School. It has also been used as a computer for playing DVDs. While the games were used primarily for fun at the Daycare center, they also have possible educational value.
One of the most popular games among preschoolers and kindergartners I have offered on the computer is called Mickey’s ABC’s. This is a program that has been around for over 16 years, and likely even longer—and was around even before Windows 3.1. Designed for a DOS computer, it is an alphabet game that can teach kids the alphabet and basic reading skills. Mickey Mouse appears inside of his house, which is in a neighborhood that is currently having its fair. Mickey Mouse does something that begins with each letter of the alphabet—if you want him to do something, you type a letter on the keyboard, and he will do something that begins with that letter. (Example: Hit L, and he will turn off the LIGHT.)
Ken, a student who had played this game with me many times at the JCC, wanted to play Mickey’s ABC. After getting permission from Mrs. Shapiro, I took out my computer and played it with him. Here’s how I played it: I would ask Ken what he wanted Mickey Mouse to do. Since he knew many of the commands that were possible, he would tell me, as well as the specific words that those commands were in the software. (Example: If he wanted Mickey to go to the fair, he knew that the computer knew that command as FAIR.) But to give the game educational value, instead of just telling him what letter to press, I would ask him what letter a given word began with, and then he would have to tell me and then press it himself. Ken proved to be able to understand the words quite well, and tell me what letter each word began with. (Ken’s “h” is removed to distinguish him from another kid of the same name in the classroom, who is known as Peter.)
We played until the bell rang, signaling Clean-up Time. I helped students clean up, and then it was time to line up for Library time.
Being my regular job to maintain the back of the class lines (boys’ and girls’ line), I walked with the class to and from the Library.
During Library, it was time for me to change into my Abraham Lincoln costume. I had spent the past week creating my Abe Lincoln costume—a business suit, blue shirt, bow tie, and top hat. I also borrowed an umbrella to carry from Mr. Foster’s room, for Mr. Foster had informed me that Abe Lincoln, when he was alive, often carried an umbrella with him wherever he went.
I went into the boys’ restroom in the main corridor of the school to change into my costume. Once I had changed, Library Time was over, and it was time to pick up the students.
I entered the classroom as Abe Lincoln and was approached by the librarian, who was curious to know who I was. I told her that I was working in Mrs. Shapiro’s room as a student, and she told me that she was one of the kindergarten teachers before Mrs. Shapiro came to Shay, and had worked in District 30 for over 30 years. Once the students had finished checking out their library books I stayed in the back of the line, helping Mrs. Shapiro lead the class back to the room.
When I arrived at Shay that day, I had borrowed a coat from Mr. Foster who had offered it to me to help me with my costume. Since I ended up not needing it, I went back to Mr. Foster’s room and returned it. When I got to his room, Mr. Foster asked me if I could talk about Mr. Lincoln to his class. I said yes, under one condition: Mr. Foster would have to get Dr. Wilkinson’s permission. Mr. Foster said he would see Dr. Wilkinson, and promptly went to her office. At the same time, I returned to Mrs. Shapiro’s room to teach my lesson.
I had written what I was planning to say on paper, and read from it. I was very brief about my lesson, and said what could be understood by a kindergarten class—that I was born in Kentucky, moved to Indiana as a child, went to Illinois to work as a lawyer, and then became President of the United States. I related my career plan to Career Day, the day the students had had the past week where they had dressed up as what they wanted to be when they grew up.
During my lesson to the students, I stressed the geographical aspects of it. That is, I took out a map of the United States, and asked students to locate the various places Lincoln lived—Kentucky (his birthplace), Indiana (where he grew up), Illinois (where he worked as a lawyer, and finally, Washington D.C. (where he relocated to be president, of course). While each student knew what Illinois was (since we live in Illinois), not everyone knew where it was on a map.
When I finally asked the students what a lawyer was, I got one interesting response. While no student was able to actually tell me what a lawyer was, Ellie, one of the students, responded by saying that a lawyer was someone who made money. I replied by saying that while a lawyer was indeed someone who made money, a lawyer was someone who defended people in a place called “court” when they felt someone did something wrong to them.
Mrs. Shapiro also mentioned that Abe Lincoln often carried sheets of paper in his hat. As an example, I took some sheets of paper with my picture on them, folded them, and put them in my hat.
After my lesson, I received word from Mr. Foster that Dr. Wilkinson had granted me permission to teach the Abe Lincoln lesson inside his classroom. Once I had completed my lesson, Mrs. Shapiro assigned the students to complete the first two pages in their handwriting pages, and sent them off to their tables to complete their handwriting assignment. During this time I went to Mr. Foster’s room to see if he was ready for my lesson. He was not, so I returned to Mrs. Shapiro’s room and decided to return to Mr. Foster’s room while Mrs. Shapiro’s class was at Gym time.
During the handwriting lesson I assisted a student with her handwriting until it was time to line up for Gym time.
After the students had gone to Gym, I walked to Mr. Foster’s room, dressed up as Lincoln. I brought a book about Abe Lincoln for kindergartners (from Mrs. Shapiro’s room) that I would use during my lesson. Having created a lesson for kindergartners and not for 2nd graders, and had researched the topic based on ideas suited for kindergartners, I knew that there would be information I might not know about Lincoln I would be asked about. I brought the book to use it for a reference.
I gave a lesson similar to the one I had taught in the kindergarten classroom, except this time I referred to and mentioned things from the book I had not mentioned in the kindergarten room. Mr. Foster, who was quite knowledgeable about Lincoln himself, often interrupted to say things that I myself did not know about Lincoln—such as the fact that while Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address was quite brief and lasted no more than about fifteen minutes, the previous speaker who spoke before Lincoln spoke for more than two hours, yet we know much about Lincoln’s speech but little about the other speaker.
I actually said one thing that was inaccurate about Lincoln—I mentioned he grew up in New Salem, Indiana, when he never did. He actually worked in New Salem, Illinois, but as an adult, not a child. Mr. Foster also mentioned that his class would be reading about Lincoln in February and that I should stop in if I am around.
Fortunately, having made that mistake once, I will never make it again should I teach a Lincoln lesson.
By the time my lesson was over, Gym time was over, and I returned to the Gym entrance the same time Mrs. Shapiro had gone to pick up her students. We walked back to the classroom, and Mrs. Shapiro sat the students back in their rows for a story.
The story was titled, “Pookins Gets Her Way,” about a spoiled girl who learns that sometimes getting her way is not all it is cracked up to be.
After the story was over, Kindergarten was over as well. The students put their coats on and were dismissed. I introduced myself as Abe Lincoln to the parents, and arranged with Mrs. Shapiro that I was to come early for the Halloween Parade on Halloween for my next teaching day.