Tuesday, February 28, 2012

School Auction Fundraiser

Chabot Elementary, the school that I am currently student teaching at, has a pretty interesting idea for raising money. Everyone contributes something to the auction that might be of interest to parents and they bid on it. I would guess that the auction is also open to outsiders since an outsider's money would be just as good as a parent's.

The items vary from a student spending a day tagging along with the principal on the job, to a ceramic arts class for the adults, to an autographed Star Wars poster, to a signed Rolling Stones guitar.

Now, something to keep in mind is that Chabot Elementary is in Rockridge. Rockridge appears to be an area that is well off financially. So, would this fundraising idea work within a community that isn't doing quite as well financially. Probably not. At the very least, the items and services offered through the auction would need to be scaled down. Depending on the community being considered, a school auction would be infeasible. If you could figure out a way to interest wealthy community outsiders in the auction, perhaps the auction would be doable in a community that was not well off. Yea... seriously, if you figure out how to do that, let me know. I'm curious.

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Activities to do While Going on a Field Trip

We went to Davies Symphony Hall in San Francisco on Friday, Feb 24th. We watched an educational orchestra. They broke down the four groups of the orchestra and played various pieces based on each group. I was looking really forward to it, but I didn't know what to expect in terms of the difficulty of managing the students.

We had to take the BART (i.e. the subway) there. When it came to walking from place to place, the issues I had with them were with them lagging behind, not staying with their assigned chaperone, or not walking strictly on the sidewalk. Some of the kids were talking during the concert, which annoyed the hell out of me, but they're kids. So, perhaps that's to be expected. However, there were other aspects of the trip that I wish I had been better prepared for.

The most difficult parts of the trip were standing in line at the symphony hall, walking to and from the BART, and being with the kids in the BART itself. While standing in line at the symphony hall, the hardest part was that they just couldn't stay in line. They wanted to run around and climb ledges (I was chaperoning about 6 3rd grade boys at the time). Finally, I take out my cellphone and I start playing music and I tell them to guess each song. I seem to have ensnared them after I had done that. That lasted a good 10 to 15 minutes.

For every 3 or 4 students, there was one chaperone. So, all students were supposed to stay with their respective chaperone. That didn't always happen because some students had friends in other groups. So, they would move too far ahead or lag behind based on where their friends were. If they had been occupied with something, I don't think they would have lagged behind and moved ahead quite so much. I remember something that my mentor, Ms. Mimi for kindergarten would do. When we had to go on a long walk, she would sing chants and she would have the class follow along. I bet if I did that, our students would have been more occupied.

While we were waiting in the BART, I was having trouble with students not holding on to the bar so that they don't fall while the train is moving, sitting in a chair, or pushing other students. I got to a point where I was getting desperate and I just wanted them to chill out. So, I ask the students that I'm chaperoning if they want to play slappers. That occupied them for about 5 minutes. But, after that, they went back to being really rowdy and noisy.

What's the morale that you could take from all this? When you go on a field trip with your students, come prepared with lots of songs and games to play along the way. That will keep them occupied and more in your control. 

Friday, February 24, 2012

Why I Will be the Only One with a Swivel Chair

I know the title sounds trivial. It is indeed trivial. I'll give you some background on where this decision is coming from.

A few months back, Mr. Agajan picked up some swivel chairs from the computer lab that were put up for adoption. It's unanimous among the 3rd graders that the swivel chairs are more comfortable than their smooth rock solid chairs that they sit in during class time. Most students were mature enough to return to the cold reality of their rock solid chairs, but some students were not.

Generally, there are one or two students in particular that I need to speak with. I speak to them with a firm teacher's tone, which I've become pretty good at channeling. It usually takes like a minute to get the student to go to their assigned seat.

A couple days ago, I had the longest argument about why one of the students couldn't sit in the comfy swivel chairs. This is basically how it played out:

Student: Mr. Auto... Why can't I sit in the comfy chair?

Me: ... No student is allowed to sit in these chairs during class time. If I let you sit in these chairs, I need to let everyone else sit in these chairs.

Student: So... let them sit in these chairs.

Me: ..... Listen. Students get distracted very easily. They like to turn back and forth in these chairs. They like to play with them.

Student: Ohhhhh!! I promise Mr. Auto! I won't do that. Please. Let me sit in this chair.

Me: Again... if I let you sit in them, the other students will say that they would not play with the chairs either. So, no.

Student: Pleeeeeease!

Me: No! You either sit in that chair (pointing at rock solid chair near comfy chairs) or you sit at your assigned seat.

Anyway, after a few minutes of argument, I finally got him to move. It's opportunities for arguments like those which lead me to be averse to getting anyone in my class but myself a swivel chair.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Rick Morris Seminar: Equity Cards

In my last two posts, I mentioned a couple ideas that I got from a seminar that I attended in Santa Rosa. The first one pertained to the differentiation of hand signals and the second pertained to the various uses of musical transitions. I have one last idea that I have to share with you from this seminar. I will call that idea equity cards.

Just to be clear, equity sticks are popsicle sticks with a single student's name on it. Perhaps, one side of the popsicle stick has that student's name in green and on the other side, that student's name in red. The equity sticks are placed in a can. If the red name is facing up, that student has already been called on once and must wait until everyone else has been called on. If the green name is facing up, that student has not been called on yet and should be called on in the near future. 

I'm not quite sure whether Rick actually calls them equity cards, but for now, that's what I will call them. Anyway, the idea is simple and its supposed to be a substitute for equity sticks. Take a stack of index cards. Let's say you have 23 students in your class. You will need 23 index cards. Take an index card. Set it vertically. At the top of the index card, take a quarter of space to write the student's first and last name. Do the same for the remaining 22 index cards. Once your desk is ready, it should be set so that the names are facing up so that you can see them. When you call on someone to answer, you can either pick up a name from the top or you can spread the cards out a bit to pick from 4 or 5 other students. After a student answers, put that student's card at the bottom of the deck facing down. Once all cards are face down, you will know that every student has answered.

There is one other feature that I need to talk about for these equity cards. And actually, if not for the feature that I'm about to describe, I doubt that there would be much benefit in using them. Think of some ways to classify a student's response. Let's say, A for answer, B for blurt out, C for comment, Q for question, and N for non-answer. Now, whenever a student answers, the moment they provide a response, you can record their response. This will provide you a record of a student's behavior during instruction. Whether collecting information like that or even other information pertaining to a student's mode of participation is worth the work to you is another question. If having that information doesn't change how you teach or how you react to student's behavior, it is probably of no use to you.

Now, if making a record like that is too much work for you, then there is an app for it. Apparently, for now, the app is only for the iPhone. If you just type in Rick Morris, you'll probably find something pertaining to index cards. It's supposed to be available for the Android OS in March. Having an app would save you the trouble of counting all the data. The app would do that for you.

Anyway, an idea for thought.

Monday, February 20, 2012

Rick Morris Seminar: Musical Transitions

There were several ideas that I came across at the Rick Morris seminar a couple days ago in Santa Rosa. A couple days ago, I mentioned the differentiation of hand signals. He also mentioned the use of music to initiate transitions. So, for example, he suggested using the Mission Impossible theme song to mean that school is about to start, so everyone needs to have their homework out, get off the computers, get in their seats, and be facing the board before the song is finished. The theme song is about a minute, so that's perfect.

There are a couple things that should be considered when using musical transitions. #1 You need to train your students in how they will respond to each particular musical transition (if you have more than one). I guess if you wanted to have a little fun with it, you could paint the picture as though they're on a mission and they need to complete their mission before the time runs out (i.e. get everything ready before the song is over). I think most kids would get a kick out of that.

#2 What do you do if a student doesn't properly respond to the song? This is my best guess. When you have time, such as during recess, take them aside, and ask the student what the song means. If they've heard it enough, they should know what it means. And then, take time out of their recess for not responding to the song as everyone else is.

Anyway, the musical transitions idea is pretty cool. I think I'll utilize it once I have my own class.

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Rick Morris Seminar: Hand Signals

So, I went to this seminar in Santa Rosa today. It was a mandatory seminar for me. I mean, if I didn't attend this seminar, I would be unable to acquire my credential. At first, that's all the seminar really meant to me, but after attending the seminar there were some good ideas that I took away from it. Here is one of them.

One of the ideas that seems the easiest to implement and the most practical is varying the hand signals. I went into this a little bit in one of my previous posts. But, Rick Morris' seminar went into greater detail.

And now, you have an easy way to classify how a student will participate before they actually participate. On top of that, getting students to use signals such as these forces students to think about how they will participate before they do so. Also, if you are trying to save time such as by avoiding comments that may take the lesson off track, then you can avoid hands that are showing that signal.

Unfortunately, the picture turned out blurry, so I'll have to describe the hand signals to you. If a student uses sign language for "A," that means that they have an answer. It is a closed fist pointing up with the bottom of the thumb pressed against the index finger. 

If a student uses sign language for "I," it means that they have a question. It is a closed fist except the pinky finger is pointed up. 

If a student uses sign language for "C," that means that they have a comment. Simply make a C shape with your hand.

If a student crosses their middle and index finger, that means that they want to use the restroom. 

If a teacher merely holds up an index finger, they are indicating to a student to wait a moment. 

If a teacher or student holds up an open hand as though saying "stop," it means that the student is saying something off topic.

If a teacher holds up a peace sign (i.e. making a V shape with his/her middle and index finger), the teacher is asking for a volunteer. 

If a teacher sticks one hand straight out with the palm facing up and has the other hand standing on it with the middle and index finger, the teacher is telling students to stand up.

If a teacher has the middle and index finger of one hand sticking out and the same fingers of the other hand making a falling motion on that first hand, the teacher is signaling to a student to sit down. 

A student who sticks only their index, middle, ring fingers up with the remaining fingers closed,  and motions back and forth towards their mouth is signaling that they want water. 

A student or teacher who puts their arm at a 45 degree angle with the hand of that arm open and point up is signaling that they are ignoring a student. 

A teacher who crosses their hands in front of their chest, uncrosses them, and makes a sliding motion with their hands as though wiping a desk is signaling students to put writing utensils down. 

Finally, a teacher or student who puts their open hand on their mouth and motions it to point it at someone is signaling thanks to someone. 

Ok. Hopefully, you'll be able to make sense out of some of those descriptions.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Prereqs for Signing Up for a Teacher Recruitment Fair

In my past couple posts, I've been talking about my teacher recruitment fair tour and how to look for those teacher recruitment fairs. Before you go to any single teacher recruitment fair, there are a few things you should consider doing.

#1 Check the affiliated website

- Some teacher recruitment fairs will require to submit some preliminary documentation. For example, if you go to the Santa Clara County of Education (SCCOE) website.You will learn that if you have not yet graduated from your program, but are on your way to doing so, then you will need to submit a letter of appeasement. A letter of appeasement is a formal document from your university stating that you are in good standing with your program, the type of credential you will pursue, and approximately when you will receive it. As a teacher candidate, that gives you some added validity since you have a university backing you up rather than just being all on your own. But also, there is a consequence to not sending your letter of appeasement to SCCOE. All teaching candidates who have properly preregistered get into the event at 9 am. All teaching candidates who did not properly preregister cannot get into the event until 11 am. I'm not sure if other recruitment fairs act in the same way. But certainly, it can't hurt to bring extra copies of your appeasement letter with you. Actually, it should definitely help you to bring them.

- The main point is that there may be some requirements that you need to fulfill before attending a recruitment fair. It doesn't need to be the appeasement letter. It could be something else. It just depends on the specific organization.

#2 Call the organization hosting the event

- I ran into some trouble this week. I'm a little bit annoyed about it. Yesterday, I went to Berkley Maynard Academy for an open house. That is an Aspire school. They listed an event in EdJoin. They listed it as a recruitment event. Automatically, I assumed that because they listed it as a recruitment event, there would be interviewing and potential hiring going on. Well... they miscategorized the event. It was purely informational. For my purpose, all I discovered from going to that event was that they will be posting more jobs in their website soon. But, I didn't need to go to the open house to figure that out. An email would've sufficed. Anyway, do yourself a favor and call the organization to make sure that the event you want to go to will have what you expect. You'll save yourself from wasting some time.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Finding Teacher Recruitment Fairs

In the post just previous this one, I laid out the nine teacher recruitment fairs that I will be going to. Hence, I'm going on a teacher recruitment fair tour. In this post, I'll show you step by step how to find all the teacher recruitment fairs. It's pretty easy. Just a quick reminder... each of the screen shots can be clicked on if you want to enlarge them.

Step 1: Go to www.edjoin.org:

Step 2: Click on "More Events..." in the bottom right corner. You will be taken to the next screen below:

Step 3: Click on the drop down immediately to the right of "Filter Events By." Click on "Recruitment Events." You will be taken to the following screen (you'll notice that the previous screen says "Recruitment Events." Those events are not necessarily recruitment events. That is, they are not necessarily teacher recruitment fairs. You'll see the difference after you filter the events as directed. See the next screen shot to see the difference). 

And now, go schedule those recruitment fairs.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Teacher Recruitment Fair Tour

So, I'm gearing up to get a teaching job because I'll have my credential in April. I want to do everything I can to maximize the likelihood that I will get a teaching job. Where better to start looking than at a teacher fair? At every teacher fair, I expect that there will be representatives from numerous schools from each area that I will visit. I can't give you any exact numbers since not all of the hosts of the teacher recruitment fairs give any numbers to begin with. I can tell you at the teacher recruitment fair in Santa Clara county alone, there will be representatives for over 300 public schools. That sounds promising.

I have exactly nine teacher recruitment fairs to go to. Here is my schedule:

  1.  Aspire Berkley Maynard Academy, 6200 San Pablo Avenue, Oakland, CA 94608 (2/15/2012, 1:30-3pm)
  2.  Aspire Summit Charter Academy, 2036 E Hatch Rd, Modesto, CA 95351 (2/28/2012, 4-5:30pm)
  3.  Aspire Tate Academy, 123 W. 59th St. Los Angeles, CA 90003 (3/14/2012, 4-5:30pm)
  4.  Academia Moderna, 2410 Broadway, Walnut Park, California 90255 (3/17/2012 - 3/17/2012 9am – 12pm)
  5.  Santa Clara County, 1290 Ridder Park Drive, San Jose, California 95131 (3/24/2012, 9:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m.)
  6.  Aspire Alexander Twilight College Preparatory, 2360 El Camino Avenue, Sacramento, CA 95821-5611 (3/29/2012, 10-11:30am)
  7. Bay Area, 50 Phelan Ave. San Francisco, CA 94112, (3/31/2012 – 3/31/2012, 9am – 12pm)
  8. Alameda, Dublin High School, 8151 Village Parkway, Dublin, California 94568, (4/21/2012 – 4/21/2012, 9 a.m. - 12 p.m.)
  9. Orange, National University, 3390 Harbor Blvd., Costa Mesa, California 92626, (4/28/2012 – 4/28/2012, 9 a.m. - 12 p.m.)
 I won't break it down to you trip by trip, but so far, I've spent $434 on travel. That's a hefty cost, but I consider that an investment. I think it's unlikely that after all of those teacher recruitment fairs that I won't find a job. If by chance that possibility is still open, I'll apply to every elementary teaching position on EdJoin until I get a job. But again, I don't think that will be necessary.

Friday, February 10, 2012

Principles of Arranging Students' Seats

In my last two post (first post & second), I described how I arranged the new seating of the students. I did not describe my rationale for the new seating arrangement in either of those posts. I could give a reason for why I seated every single student the way that I did. However, I think that would lead to a lengthy post and be boring for you. Instead, I will just explain the principles that I intentionally followed to arrange the new seating of the students as I did. You may not necessarily agree with or wish to abide by the same principles that I was abiding by, but nonetheless, they are the principles I was following.

#1: Don't allow friends to sit in the same group or in neighboring seats.
- I was following this principle because generally, at least in 3rd grade, friends do not work well together. They spend a lot of time distracting each other. When they distract each other, it distracts me. And, that means that the lesson stops.

#2: Have the easily distracted students sit up front.
- When my 3rd grade students are distracted, they are usually doing things like drawing, making stuff, or reading a book that is not appropriate for the lesson at hand. It is easier for me to notice that they are distracted when they are sitting closer to me.

#3: Each student group must have at least one "high" student.
- When I say that each student group must have at least one "high" student, I mean either academically or behaviorally. They could be super proficient in Math, English, or both. Let's say that a student does moderately well with respect to both subjects but is super focused on getting work done. That's what I mean by behaviorally "high." There are at least two points to having at least one "high" student in each group. Having at least one "high" student in each group serves as a kind of anchor for each group in terms of their level of focus. It's been my experience that generally the students who do well in school also happen to be the ones that are not only focused, but they want more responsibility and more ways to feel more valuable. One such way is by tutoring other students (such as those in their group) in subject that those students struggle in or by merely redirecting them to the task at hand.

#4: Have special ed students sitting close to front.
- This is just a form of accommodation for the special ed students. This allows them to be as close as possible to the teacher so to receive help as quickly as can be given. Also, it makes everything on the whiteboard and under the docucam more visible.

#5: No students who sat with each other before will sit with each other again.
- If you've read my previous posts, then you should already be aware of this principle. The point of this principle is to increase their experience with working with others rather than getting too used to any one student or group of students.

And, those are about the only principles I can name which guided my decisions for the seating arrangement that I arrived at.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Follow Up: Changing Classroom Seat Layout

As indicated in the title, this post is just following up from yesterday's. In this post, I just wanted to include a picture of the classroom to give a clearer picture of the desk layout and how I determined the new one because my letter and number diagram cannot be as vivid as the actual room. Here is a pic (click on it if you want an even larger view):

You may remember that I included a pic of my notepad. On my notepad, there were two rows. The first row was numbered 1, 2, and 3 and the second row was numbered 4, 5, and 6. You see the four desks closest to you in the picture? That is student group 3. I took the picture from where the teacher would be looking at the class if he was at the entrance of the classroom. In the picture, if you look a little to the right, you will see three desks put together. They are closest to the right edge of the picture. That is student group 6. And, that is all you need to really know to determine what the numbers of the other student groups are.

In terms of how I numbered the desks themselves, look at student group 3. In that group, look at the desk that is pointing towards the window and furthest from you. That is where Elizabeth would sit. See the desk closest to you, which is also pointing toward the window? That is where Trinity would sit. See the desk next to Trinity's that has a pencil on it? That's where Dimitri would sit. And finally, in group 3, see the desk across from Dimitri's? That's where Griffin would sit. So, from Elizabeth's seat, the order would go counterclockwise. The same pattern would follow for the rest of the desks when looking at my notepad.

That's all I have to say right now. I'll give you an idea of what I was thinking when I arranged all the students as I did in my next post.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Changing Classroom Seat Layout

Today, Mr. Agajan put me in charge of changing the seat layout. The placement of the seats will remain the same, but the seats that the students are sitting in will change. The goal of my changing the seating arrangement from the student's perspective is to have them sit in a group which they have not sat in before. That's not too difficult. From my own perspective, it is to attempt another seating arrangement to improve the flow of lessons in general.

First, this is simply how the desks are arranged:

  3            2        1
O O      O O    O O
O O      O O    O O
  6            5        4
O O      O O    O O
O          O O    O O

That is the simplest depiction of the desk layout that I can give you. I will need to follow up with some pictures tomorrow. "O" stands for a students desk. 1 - 6 stands for the respective group of students of desks. So, the first group in the top left is group #1. T stands for the teacher.

Now, this is how I started out. For every student, I took a strip of scotch tape. It's probably about as long as your index finger. On it, I wrote a student's name. For every student in group #1, I wrote each of their names in a blue marker. For every student in group #2, I wrote each of their names in green marker. For every student in group #3, I wrote each of their names in purple marker. And, I think you get idea. The colors in which I wrote the students of group #4 were different from group #5, and group #5 different from group #6.

Having said that, when rearranged the seats, I tried to make it so that no student's name who is written, for example, in green marker, was paired up with another student's name who is written in green. Why? Because I would be pairing up students who have been in the same group before.

Having organized each student group by color on scotch tape, I start writing names down to go in each student group. This is how it looks in my notepad:

Don't let the order of 1 - 6 throw you off. I just wanted to number it numerically for when I look at it while I am facing the class rather than when I am behind the class. Try not to get hung up on how the order appears in my notepad. The desk layout is the anchor which everything will correspond to. Anyway, in terms of where the exact students will sit, take the first group: Kris, Bentley, Angel, and Deya. Of group #1, Kris will sit in the bottom left seat, Bentley in the top left, Angel in the top right, and Deya in the bottom right. Of group #2, Casey will sit in the bottom left, Macii in the top left, Kiana in the top right, and Makayla in the bottom right. Of group #3, Elizabeth will sit in the bottom left, Trinity in the top left, Dimitri in the top right, and Griffin in the bottom right. Ok. Hopefully, you see the pattern. Also, keep in mind that the desks are arranged so that all the students of any given group are facing each other.

That's all I have to say on this for now. I think I'll have more to add, but I'll save that for another post. In particular, I wanted to explain my rationale for the new seating arrangement. Anyway, another time.

Saturday, February 4, 2012

Fun as a Behavior Management Tool

I had a particularly successful lesson on Wednesday. The topic of the lesson was "mood" in stories. The textbook was referring to mood as the setting (i.e. the place), the description of the character, their emotions, and what could be heard around the place at the point in the story.

I didn't introduce mood simply by going into the workbook because that would bore my students. Instead, I gave them a situation. The situation was that we are in a plane and we are about to sky dive. So, I've basically already given them the setting insofar as the place is concerned (I know that setting can extend beyond place by also including the time/period of a story, but the textbook we use didn't address that).

From there, I would give my students questions and just let them throw their ideas at me. These are the kinds of questions that I would ask them: "How do you think you would feel while you are in the plane?", "What do you think you are wearing?", and "What do you think you could hear in or around the plane?" After I took their ideas, I summarized by saying what the setting, description, character emotion, and surrounding sounds are. I could've improved the effectiveness of my lesson by restating the details that some of my students gave me for their answers.

This was a great lesson because I didn't even have to ask my students to raise their hand. Actually, it's like I had to fend them off with a stick. That's how eager they were to answer my questions. I was pretty pleased with my students' level of participation. So, I'm much more motivated to make sure that the lessons I create are fun.

I want to clarify why it's important to provide lessons that are fun. The obvious reason that you should already be familiar with is because it maximizes student participation. There are some other reasons that may not be quite as obvious. If every student is participating, that means that no student is doing something irrelevant to the lesson. For example, no student would be making cootie catchers, covertly reading their silent reading book, drawing and decorating their name (and other miscellaneous drawings).

Further, if you provide a lesson that is fun for most students, not only is it easier to spot students that are not doing what is supposed to be done in the lesson, but they will be more likely to feel peer pressure to join the majority of students who are currently engaged in the lesson.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Consoling a Student with a Lost Relative

Last week, one of my student's grandmother passed away. Understandably, she was distracted from the lesson at hand. So, I couldn't just tell her to stop thinking about it. I didn't want to not talk about it with her. But, I needed to try to move this incident along so that she could get back to focusing on the lesson. If I didn't talk to her about it, it would be the only thing on her mind. Also, she would've at least felt that at that time, she had no one who could sympathize with her. That thought alone would've made her feel very alone.

I didn't want to accidentally break her fragile heart into 1000 itty bitty pieces by saying the wrong thing. So, first, I talked to one of the secretaries. I just wanted to give her my pitch to see whether she thought it was ok. She encouraged me to remove the part where I say "Being sad won't bring her back." Sorry for being too honest. Again though, I ended up not saying that. This is the gist of what I said:

"I know you miss your grandma. The best thing you can do is just remember all of the good things that you did with her. Remember all of the games that you played with her. I know that you can't help but be sad, but please try to feel better. Your grandma would be sad if she saw that you weren't able to focus on school."

So, that's mostly what I said. On top of that, I let her sit next to me for about 15 to 20 minutes. After she looked more relaxed, I had her sit back in her desk. Then, morning recess started. She always likes to stay inside for recess. I don't always allow her to, but on that day I did because of her losing her grandma. Its interesting. By afternoon recess, she seemed pretty normal emotionally. She wanted to get back to helping out in class (e.g. taking out the recycle). And, that she spanked her best friend in the butt kind of gave me the idea she was pretty much at ease again. The secretary said that she also looked pretty happy too. Either I was damn good consoler or she can get over her losses really easy. Either way, a good outcome.