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Montessori in a Dene Kindergarten – Montessori in a Dene Grade One Classroom

Archive for August, 2012

Kinderblog2012 Summer Challenge #6

Posted by mrsmelva on 13/08/2012

If we’re honest, we all have days when, for any number of reasons (lack of sleep, family issues, minor illness, idiopathic crankiness…) we are just not at our best. There are days when, in any other line of work, we would probably call in sick, but we don’t because we know the impact of our absence is so great. What are your survival tips and tricks to get yourself and your students through those days in one piece? Special supplies to keep on hand? Treats that get you through? Lifesaving lessons or activities?

Well, something weird is going on between wordpress and firefox. When I click save draft I lose what I have typed. Therefore I will publish this without proofreading, please be tolerant of any errors – I appreciate them being pointed out in comments, just be kind as you do it, thanks.

In our community, most of our substitute teachers are not qualified teachers. They are often young high school grads or other people who are interested in the job and have a provisional certificate. We do have two positions of itinerant subs in our school, and they work every day in the first classrooms that need a sub, or occasionally a different classroom, depending on the needs of the classes whose teachers are absent. With this situation, it is very challenging to prepare for a sub, and I try not to be away as much as possible. However, when I am contagious, or need to see the doctor or involved in professional development, I knuckle down and prepare sub plans. If I am just moderately under the weather I try to go in but sometimes modify my teaching so that we all have a better day. I teach a split grade and rely very heavily on the special needs tutors to help deliver programming, especially with the kindergarten students who come in two half day groups. If the tutors are away I often need to modify plans as well. When preparing for a sub or modifying for other reasons, I still try my best to ensure that the students have a quality learning experience.

For myself, I keep a supply of Coke Zero in the fridge, and will pour some into a coffee cup to get me through if necessary. Usually I save that treat for lunch time but some times that cold jolt of caffeine can make a great difference to my mood, and the classroom atmosphere. I occasionally give myself a brief timeout, by leaving the tutors in charge for a few minutes and walking down to the big girls’ potty in the staffroom for a brief break. Usually, though I stay in the classroom and repeat this mantra in my head, “we are not going to have stress”. The mantra is very important if I feel a migraine coming on because my migraines are accompanied/preceded by an extreme sensitivity to sound, so I tend to think the kids are way too loud when they are really at their regular noise level.

When there is a disruption and kids are overly energetic, such as after a fire drill or when there are special events at school or in town, I will give them a colouring sheet. I know that colouring sheets are not quality learning, but they are quite rare in my classroom and they are calming and quiet. I do teach a colouring technique such as lines to fill the space with markers, shading with pencil crayons, or blending with wax crayons, and try to use a picture that is related to something we have been learning. This calms all of us, and the tutors and I often join the kids in colouring. Some other quiet and calming activities we use are playdough or plasticene, pattern blocks on trays, both with and without templates, and drawing/writing in blank booklets. I use a lot of photocopied emergent readers in my classroom, they are another go to activity. The students are familiar with them and know to print their names on the covers and press open the pages before reading. Then we read them together and follow up in different ways, perhaps highlighting text features, perhaps discussing the story (if there is a good story line), re reading in small groups and then putting them in our reading bags and reading the other books from our reading bags. “Silent” reading from their reading bags without a new book is also a quick go to for short chunks of time, and requires no extra prep.

Often I will grab a favourite read aloud book and read it to the class and then we will complete Shape Go Charts (graphic organizer that is used school wide in reading lessons, students are familiar with them and can use words and pictures to retell the story), or pages I have made where the students illustrate and write about what they thought was the best part of the story. If it is a non fiction book they will use a blank paper and create a labeled drawing to show what they have learned from the book. We can use  totally blank papers for this or journal pages which I made with a line for the title, and two boxes, one for a picture and one for text for those who wish to do more writing. I copy these multi purpose pages 200 at a time and use them during planned lessons as well, so they are familiar to the students and useful across the curriculum.

Sometimes I step back, look at all the beautiful learning materials, repeat my mantra, and send them to centers for most of the day. We do have daily center time, but it is never enough with the school expectations and scheduling. I need to repeat the mantra while the students get themselves organized into centers and when they hit false fatigue. Over the years I’ve learned (but sometimes forget to practice) that the best thing to do when they hit false fatigue is to step back and let them work it out and re-engage.  That is when the Coke Zero comes in handy!

If we just all need to recharge I will do a music, dance or fitness break, or a water break, with or without a snack. If the weather is suitable we may go outside, either to play, usually on the parts of the playground we don’t use at recess or to observe nature around us with all of our senses. Sometimes I just turn out the lights and we all have a few moments of dark and quiet to regroup.

Ideally, I’d be happy, cheerful, and things would run smoothly according to plan everyday, but I am human and fallible and use these techniques try maintain the positive learning environment to the best of my ability.


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