Friday, 30 September 2011

One month down

Where did September go? 

I have been so busy it's already a new month.  In my masters class I wrote my first mini-paper on my research proposal.  I believe I have narrowed it down to "How does choice of work space effect student behaviour".  I'm going to look at where the students choose to sit and with whom.  I want to see if they form any patterns and whether they choose to sit alone to work or not.  I'm going to also check to see if they are on-task or not.  I have to clarify the behaviour I'm looking for. 

So far I've noticed some interesting things.  Students have kind of found "their" table.  Some students drift but not many.  I have 2 dominant male tables, 1 female table and a mixed table.  Kids have enjoyed getting to choose where they work, and also like to go outdoors to read and sometimes write. 

I've noticed a few behaviours I need to jump on.  I have five boys who like to call out and talk over others.  I'm going to start clamping down on that lickety split!  They have no malicious intent..but it seems they are very impulsive and can't keep their thoughts inside!

On the Montessori side, I've got my work times up and running.  Students have to complete 3 math cards, 1 spelling booklet, 1 grammar box and 1 reading bookbag (which has a book and 2 response cards) a week.  Then if they finish their "main" work they can do a variety of choices:  Writer's Workshop, Art Cards, Timeline work, Read a book, use math flashcards, Dubio, 99, Countdown (all math review games), and the bi and trinomial cubes (which are HUGE HITS).  I have on average 1-2 kids a day who come up and tell me they are bored....I just redirect them to the choices.  I try to introduce something new to choose daily to add to the interest.  So I've introduced Levels 2,3 and 4 of the Art Cards this week.  I've had two students really take to the timeline of life and have been creating their own booklets of different animals throughout time.  Fun!  I will soon add the maps, more grammar boxes and some Cultural trivia games.  My goal is to have them choose items that are reinforcing or exciting their learning.  Maybe there are too many choices???  I shall monitor that.

On to October!

Thursday, 15 September 2011

September Start up Thoughts

I've had my class since Monday and as the days go by I'm feeling more and more certain that my new classroom design is brilliant!!!  Students get to work outside on the grass with chalkboards for a desk, or on the floor (which is a tile), on the carpets with shoes off, or at a table of their choice.  Since introducing this concept on Monday I have had to move very few students for disruptive behaviours.  One student who constantly hoarded items in his desk last year is finding the tables a challenge.  He LOVES to have something in his hands at all times.  Now I don't have a problem with keeping his hands busy but if he is ignoring me this is a problem.  He is learning that items belong away while I'm talking.  So far the no desk idea has cut back on his distractions about 75% as he still finds ways of getting items out of his storage bin and to the table.
I've also noticed that the kids don't always sit with the same people.  They do move around and try different spots.  A few seem to enjoy a standard spot.  Mostly the girls are at two tables and the boys a the other two.  They do sometimes mix during Work Choice time, but when I'm talking they seem to stay gender divided.

The carpets are a HUGE hit.  The kids love the feel of the silver carpet and OFTEN chose to sit there.  They have a rule to take their shoes off so I can keep the carpet nice as long as possible.  They always compliment how soft and nice it is to sit on.  For reading this is a very popular place.

Rona has back ordered my bins because I only was able to buy 8 or 9.  The kids ask me daily when their bin will come in.  They are very excited to neatly place their supplies in them!  Some kids already have bins and they love using them.

Monday I found myself very frustrated because it was a typical "rule" day.  I spend the whole day talking about the classroom and my rules...I don't like those days.  But by Tuesday I was getting more pepped up!  Tuesday I taught a few things.  In Montessori you have to introduce a material every day gradually.  I have materials out now that ALL kids can use and then I gradually take them away and replace them with materials for the kids independent needs.  But while I test them on Reading, Writing, Math and Spelling levels I have to have something for the kids to do.

My start up activities in Language were introduced yesterday.  Spelling is a booklet of a certain level (depending on the test).  The booklet is only 4 pages.  Once a student finishes their booklet they get a friend to test them on the words.  If they do a good job (more than 75%) then I give them the next level.  Already some children love to work on their spelling.  Another choice is their handwriting book.  Some asked to take it home..but I said no.  I really want them kept at school.  Today I introduced the pronoun grammar box activities.  I thought maybe these would be boring because they are cards you put in sentences and then you replace the nouns with pronouns.  It's coloured coded.  But to my surprise the kids pulled these boxes out and were very excited to show me the sentences they had made! 

Math start up is a little different.  I tested the kids on some Montessori cards I had.  But quickly realized they are not that up on their basic facts.  I really can't go onto harder level work if the children don't have their basic facts memorized.  So I did a few timed tests and sorted the kids into levels for studying facts.  So I'm slowly showing kids materials and while I do this they have several options.  They can work with flashcards, build the tri and bi nomial cubes (a huge hit), play with the Dubio cards (self correcting math games), 4 Way countdown (a very cool game that uses all basic facts) and 99 (a fun marble adding game).

Right away I notice the kids are very good at chosing their own work, they concentrate and enjoy what they are doing.  Today I had 1 child not make a good choice and 1 student tell me she was bored.  So I consider that pretty successful!

Now the highlight of my week.  I decided to teach the 5 Great Lessons this year to start the year off.  I have done Lessons 1 and 2 so far and the kids really love learning about the universe and how it began.  Tomorrow I will do Lesson 3 and then stop.  I'm going to save 4 and 5 for next year and then restart.  I also had the kids rate which topics they wanted to study in Science and SS together and then added the ratings up.  Zoology was a landslide winner!  So we'll be starting with that.

The noise level only seems to go up during art times.  For now I'm still working on walking over to talk to students (not shouting), using my bell to get their attention, and trying to keep my own voice at a low level to model classroom voice.  It's hard for me!  I'm a loud lady! 

Friday, 2 September 2011

The New Chair

Thanks to my awesome principal I now have a new chair for group discussions!  The chair is extremely comfy and was purchased at Jysk. 

This chair ROCKS!