Mini Week, Mini Class, Maxi Fun, Maxi Learning!
Posted by mrsmelva on 10/01/2010
Our community lobbied for an altered school year that fits with traditional community values and activities. One of the advantages of this altered year was that we had a longer Christmas break. This was wonderful because many of the teachers here come from far away; either the east or the west coast and it takes a long time to travel in either direction. It is important for these teachers to maintain their family ties while teaching so far from home. For myself, I now consider this my home, but I still need to maintain family connections far away. Having the longer break allowed us to travel and visit and to have some time after we returned home to rest and to visit with family and friends here. We started back to school on Wednesday, January 6, so we only had a 3 day week. I had a mini class, as did most teachers, because on Wednesday and Thursday we had extremely cold temperatures, too cold for the buses. As for Friday, it warmed up but for some reason I still had a mini class. I took advantage of the smaller classes to reinforce routines and procedures, introduce some new individual and group activities and to observe the children as they worked. I also rearranged some of the classroom furniture. I took time to re-present the pink tower, brown stair, and red rods, and to review procedures for taking and replacing work from the practical life shelves. The children had gotten into some bad habits the last week of school when they were out of routine, excited about Christmas and had a substitute because I was sick. My original plan was to start the whole group directed drawing/writing/reading lessons based on Animated Literacy, but when I read -46 on the thermometer, I knew that I wouldn’t have many students. I did do a whole group activity building stacks of cube-a-links in quantities from one to ten. That went over well, overall. A few students struggled with the idea at first, wanting to simply build very tall stacks, and a few just couldn’t focus, but with some guidance and support they got it. The afternoon students had two opportunities to do the activity and I noticed a definite improvement the second day. The children build the stacks onto a mat that I made by photocopying actual stacks that I fun-tacked to paper, so they have a good guide. In the past I have found that repeating this work until they can do it quickly and accurately really helps their understanding of number quantities to 10. One afternoon student really struggled with the task the first day, even with help. I now have the help of a tutor in the afternoon class, she will be working with a student who will start on Monday and is in a wheelchair. This week she worked with us getting to know the children and the routines. On the second day she worked with the same student again and he really showed an increased understanding of the task. The morning of the first day back one student kept going to the language shelf and choosing work that he had not had presentations on and that I did not feel he was ready for. I was busy when he first went there so I asked him to find other work, but said that I would work with him a little later. He chose a difficult for him puzzle matching lower case letters to pictures. I sat with him and we worked together, with me naming each picture and him repeating it in the manner of the first period of a three period lesson. we did the Animated Literacy gestures and the sounds for each letter, and when applicable, I also mentioned members of his family whose names began with the letter in question. We worked together for half an hour, and since there were so few kids, it was easy for me to scan the rest of the class, and monitor their learning and behaviour while focusing on one student to maximize his learning. It was a productive and fun week, but I am ready for full house tomorrow and looking forward to seeing all my students.
With this move, I had also moved the block shelves, reconfiguring them so that hopefully the students will be able to clean up more efficiently. I moved the curved work table, the storage tub units, chart stand for free drawing and snack table as well. So far, so good with this new arrangement, although more tweaking is needed.
The size of the room hasn’t changed, but it does seem a bit more open with this new arrangement. I do hope that I get more tables soon, I would really like to open playdough, but I don’t think it will go well on the floor. Just as I was typing that I got an idea, if the tables don’t come soon, I can alternate sand and playdough and use the top of the sand table for playdough, as long as I cover the hole so that the sand doesn’t get full of playdough. I might be making playdough tonight, if hubby can fix the mixer. Both sand and playdough are/will be language activities so I won’t be losing a skill, just offering a different medium. I didn’t say anything about the art center, but after I moved the shelves, several students became very interested in the items on the shelves and did some creative work. Just a small change in the environment can pique student interest.