Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Being Known

I had a couple interesting encounters yesterday. So, the principal and vice-principal of Chabot Elementary still remember me. They both know that the term I did for my credential program in spring of the last school year was SUPPOSED to be my absolute last. So first, I cross paths with the principal. He asks me if I'm still looking for a job. Not thinking, I say yea. So he says, "Ok good because we're expecting something to open up." I thought it was cool how he was considering me. It's too bad that I'm not actually looking for a job since i don't have my credential yet.

I ran into the vice-principal on the school grounds on my way to work. She also asked me whether I was looking for a job. I told her that I have to repeat my last term since I didn't pass a state mandated assignment. Still... she suggested that I get in contact with OUSD and just tell them that I only want them to contact me if they have a sub position for me at Chabot. She suggested that I do that so they can see how I teach.

I love that they're both willing to give me a try. What made that possible was that I was basically on school grounds from before school started until after it ended. I don't think that anyone needs to do that to be known and thus given an opportunity to prove one's worth to a principal, but definitely, the stronger one's presence (i.e. in my case, the more time you spend on school grounds), the more likely that you'll be given that opportunity.

Monday, August 27, 2012

Low Resource Afterschool Activities

Alright. So, the next school year has begun. Unfortunately, due to an academic complication in my credential program, I cannot pursue almost any teaching positions. Most of them require that I have a credential.

That complication has led me to continue with my job from last year as an after school teacher. I want there to be a change between this and the last school year. In the last school year, for outdoor activities, I pursued pretty pointless and preparation free activities. That's great because its really easy to do that. It doesn't require me to do any thinking. I would just play hockey or two square everyday. However, I don't really teach the students in the program anything new.

So, this is what I decided to do. I decided that I would play improv games with the students in the after school program. This is the book that I'm using: "101 Improv Games." For example, today, I had one person temporarily leave the group, we chose an emotion, the group pretended to display that emotion, then the individual who had left the group would have to return and guess which emotion they were displaying. Essentially, I guess I'm also getting them to focus on aspects of drama and acting. In this case, the goal was to display and recognize the physical gestures associated with different emotions.

The great thing about playing improv games is that they require no resources. As corny as it sounds, all it requires is a willingness to play and preparation on my part. The reason why I say that it requires a willingness to play is because some students are less receptive than others to express emotion or pretend. For those individuals, it will be difficult to get them to play.

Anyway, in the future, if I have some of the same students playing these games, I will need to refer back to past improv games that we had played. I presume that future improv games will use some elements that were used in previous improv games. In which case, it will make their transition into pertinent improv games that much easier.

So, that's how I'm trying to get more teaching experience while working in the after school program that I'm a teacher in.

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Tactic for Unmotivated Students In Class

This will have to be my last post until... I'm guessing around August 27th. This will have to be my last post until then simply because I'm not working right now. I get all of my ideas for posts from my experiences at my jobs. So yea, sorry for those of you who look at my blog regularly.

Anyway, the idea I'm going to talk about is how to get an unmotivated student to work on their in class assignment. There might be many ways, but I'll tell you one. Often, while I was teaching in the tutoring center, this one particular student would have this constant complaint for most in class assignments (it seemed like almost all of them). His common complaint would be "I don't know what to do!"

How did I respond? I would retell him the steps to complete. I thought that maybe sometimes even telling him ALL of the steps was too overwhelming for him. So, then I watered my explanation down. I would just tell him the very first step and have him do that. But, that didn't do a whole lot of good for me because then, as I was rotating throughout the room, he asked me again, "What do I do now?" That was problematic for me because then it distracted me from continuing to monitor the other students.

I noticed that he liked to talk with the student sitting next to him. So, I asked him if he wanted to work with the student next to him. He was happy with that. So, suddenly, instead of sitting down and doing nothing while waiting for me, he completed his work with his partner. I'm uneasy about that arrangement for one reason. I'm uneasy about it because I worry about them just copying each other's work. I would've been uneasy for a second reason which would be their distracting each other during the in class assignment, but that never happened.

So, bottom line, if a student does not focus on completing their work, find a student which they get along with, and have them work on the in class assignment together.

Monday, August 6, 2012

Post In Class Assignment Activities

So, something I learned last month which was my first session teaching at this tutoring center is that word searches are extremely popular among them. Since my experiences with word searches have been isolated to this tutoring center, I'm not sure whether the interest in word searches varies all that much when the ethnic demographics change. But, I know that students in my tutoring center from 3rd to 6th grade enjoy word searches.

What I did with my students is that I would tell them what in class assignment they need to complete. Once they complete the in class assignment and show me that its complete, they may pick up a word search. That often seemed to motivate several of my students to complete their in class assignments.

Making the word search was pretty easy. I took one of the vocabulary words for the week, looked up synonyms and antonyms in, and used a word search maker to make two ten word synonym and antonym word searches.

Next month, I will have to teach middle schoolers. I'm unsure about whether they will get bored of word searches faster than my 3rd, 4th, and 5th graders. So, I want to give them something a little more challenging.

I love Amazon... I found these picture detective books. You're given a narrative of a crime, a picture, and some yes or no questions, including who murdered the victim. It looks like fun. I'm not 100% sure that they'd enjoy it though. I'd hate to get it and figure out that they find it too difficult or not interesting.

Anyway, there are some post in class assignment activity ideas for you.

Saturday, August 4, 2012

Letting Students Make Learning Fun

Just as I welcomed my students' creativity to create their own character, I hammered on that idea. A couple days ago, I wanted to get students to familiarize themselves with identifying sentences which are not relevant to the main idea. I told them that I would give them a challenge. They got excited and they perked up. I told them that I would say four sentences and they would have to guess which one is not related to the other. As soon as I told them what the "challenge" was, they almost immediately lost their excitement. So, I changed tactics.

"Ok. Here's the deal. I want to make this fun for all of you. You know what I want to accomplish. I want you to identify sentences that are not related to the main idea. If you can tell me how we can make a game which requires us to do that, then I'll do it."

I received a few ideas from the students. A couple were promising. When one of the ideas was expressed, I saw that a lot of students were into it, so I went with that idea. The idea was that everyone will stand up, one student will make up four sentences and will say those sentences twice. Upon saying those sentences for the second time, everyone will duck under the table as soon as the irrelevant sentence is expressed. The first person to duck under the table wins and then they get to be next to make up four sentences. It was a great idea. We ended up playing the game like 6 or 7 times. And, I got students to participate that don't normally willingly participate. After the 7th time, my students got bored, so we stopped playing. That's fine. That was good mileage to me.

So, if students want the lesson to be fun, tell them what you want to accomplish and let them come up with the ideas. Pick the idea which you find to be most suitable for your academic goal. So far, its my view that that is the most efficient way to make fun lessons and hence maximize voluntary participation.

On a side note, one thing I would've changed is to not have students duck underneath the table. Certain students bumped their heads consistently on their way down. Luckily, they were only in minor pain.

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Embedding Student Creativity into Assignments

Today, we started working on how to write biographies. Originally, I was going to model how to complete a worksheet which would have them organize details such as when and where someone was born, what they did when they were little, something special they accomplished when they were older, when and where this individual died.

I guessed that the content of the worksheet would not have connected to my students. Recently, my students have taken potshots at me. They didn't do it on purpose, but I took it as an attack on me as a teacher. In another lesson, I was talking about Galileo Learning which is another summer school program. One of the students chimed in, "They don't have to learn anything. All they do is play." Well, that's because this girl assumes that learning and playing are mutually exclusive. Anyway, she felt like all she did was work in my class. And, she wasn't alone. I know that many of the other students felt the same way. So, I tried to change up my lessons a bit.

Today, instead of doing the worksheet, I told my students that I wanted to create a character. We would answer questions such as the ones that I mentioned in the first paragraph. I took an answer to each question from a different student. I was pretty proud of this change in the lesson. I definitely got more participation than I normally get. Students were thinking of characters from TV shows and using this information to make the character. So, in essence, they brought their own content to creating the character.

After creating our character together, I dismissed them to create their own character by answering the same questions. I also let them draw what their character looks like. After they finished, I collected all their work. I said that I would read three of them. They wanted me to read all twelve of them. I was proud of that because usually all of my students are so shy to share anything in front of the class.

Anyway, that's an example of how to utilize student creativity to make a fun in class assignment. If you can make a fun in class assignment, then will get you maximum involvement. It sounds like common sense, but what could happen on the flip side might not be so obvious.

It might not be so obvious what might happen if your lesson is boring. If your lesson is boring, the environment of the classroom could be worse than simply some students not participating. Not every student has the inherent desire to learn. A lot of students just want to have fun. So, if they're not having fun through your lesson, they'll find another way. Those ways could come in the form of making noises, playing with their pencils, erasers, talking to other students, and etc. Sometimes, that's a distraction ranging from just the students who have the inherent desire to learn to all students. That's why its important to utilize student creativity to make fun lessons.