I began writing this blog at the beginning of this school year. My goal was to have a place to document my experiences in a first grade classroom. I especially wanted to have a record of the success that Whole Brain Teaching brings to the classroom. I must admit that at the beginning of the year it was easier to take the time to write and post pictures. As the year went on and standardized testing approached it became much more difficult to spend time writing my blog. I have missed it though. There have been many times that I would think about writing a post but just could not find the time (or energy if I am being honest.) So in order to close the school year out properly I have decided to write this post in a "greatest moments in first grade" fashion.
I always like to include teaching truths that I have learned on my journey. So here are a few of the important lessons that I have learned this year: Whole Brain Teaching does work all year long and the success it brings is not a fluke it is real. Being a successful teacher means being organized and orderly. Parents are not scary if you have good communication with them, they actually want to hear from you. (Email is a miracle!) You have to change things up even if you have an awesome classroom enviornment, the kids get board and need change. Be real with students when you talk to them about expectations, strengths, weaknesses, and work ethic. They will push themselves if you help them see that they are not giving their all and can do better. The power of positive thinking and self talk is incredible. Students who believe they can be successful are successful. I can do my own thing as a teacher as long as I am seeing results and have research to back it up. I will never be able to keep the furniture in my classroom in the same place all year, it is impossible. Technology is awesome, but using old fashion anchor charts works and is important. Progress monitoring is a must if you want to see growth in leaps and bounds. Data informs instruction and remediation (not a new lesson but it is critical.)
So here are the greatest moments from first grade 2011-2012.
1. Starting the year off with the book "Giraffes Can't Dance." Our class community started off by recognizing that we are all different. We all have different strengths and weaknesses, we all learn differently, we all think differently, and we are all special, smart, and gifted people. This book and lesson set the tone for our entire year.
2. Introducing Whole Brain Teaching to my students. They took to it immediately and knew right away that this class was different and special. Not only did WBT reduce my stress level to 0 it increased student engagement (during whole group teaching) to 100%. The action, call and response, movement, excitement, and accountability of the scoreboard created a unique learning environment .
3. Having university interns observe in my classroom just about every day of the year. I really enjoyed having the opportunity to share my experiences and my passion for WBT with these future teachers. Every intern that sat in my class said something to the effect of "I have never seen this type of teaching before. The way they are all listening and participating is amazing." My answer was always "go to wholebrainteaching.com and watch the videos."
4. Working with another (highschool) teacher on a reading buddy project. My students met with 11th graders every Friday for reading buddies. By the end of the year my students' confidence in reading soared. Also, we started (late in the year) working with fourth grade reading buddies. I think it was a unique opportunity for us to have two sets of reading buddies. My students became reading buddy experts. They loved it. Now having first hand knowledge of the positive effects I will always have a reading buddy program for my students.
5. Writing and publishing a class book. We took the story of The Gingerbread Man and wrote our own book. First we studied different versions of the book. After lots of discussion we wrote out the pattern that all the stories have. Then each student used the pattern to write and illustrated his or her own story. They were so creative. We had gingerbread poodles, gingerbread clowns, and even gingerbread characters named after students in the class.
6. All of the cooperative learning performance assigments. I am a big fan of creating an activity or assignment and having the students complete it in small groups. I create job titles (leader, reader, writer, check list leader) and write a detailed checklist/rubric for them and let them go. This year we wrote songs, commercials, wrote alternate endings to some of our favorite books, and acted out skits that portreyed events in history. Although my students were young they were able to produce stellar work because the groups were well organized and the checklist/rubrics were clear and written in a step by step manner.
7. Using student teacher/leaders. I really had a good time allowing my students to teach or reteach a concept to the class. In teaching, repetition is necessary but can get old fast. Our reading curriculum follows a pattern and my students knew that I would call on one or several of them to lead the class on certain parts. This helped the students to remain focused and on task. They knew that if they were acting like leaders on the carpet that I would choose them.
8. Class celebrations. As a class we were constantly celebrating acheivements. I love using WBTs 10 finger woo. We also would sing "Celebrate good times come on da na na na na na na na....hands and eyes." I would say "Celebrate George" and the students would stand up (in their squares) and dance and sing the song. At the end they would sit down and say hands and eyes - which means they would be sitting criss cross with their hands folded in their laps and their eyes would be looking at the speaker. This encouragement of each other created such a happy learning environment.
9. SAT10. Okay SAT10 in it self was not pleasent. I was way too stressed out about this standardized test, but I saw something really good in the process so I will share. The two weeks before the test we worked out of a book called "Scoring High" which is a practice test that prepares the students for the real thing. I wasn't sure it was necessary or that it would even help, but I did it anyway. This test preparation book was an amazing tool. During SAT10 even my most ansy students sat still without calling out or talking to a neighbor. I was so proud of how hard they worked on the test. I don't have the results yet but I know they worked hard and the testing environment was as near to perfect as you can get.
10. The end of the year. I had so many parents tell me that they appreciated me and what I have done for their children. Some of them brought me gifts and a few had tears in their eyes as they told me how much I had meant to them. This is something that is not easy for me to take. I usually don't do well with compliments and have in the past tried to diflect them by somehow diminishing my successes. Honestly I began to do that this year but stopped short after getting the same feedback from my administrators and fellow teachers. I really did think about my students' needs and worked really hard to provide them with what they needed academically. I am not a lovey dovey teacher, I love my kids but they know I have a personal bubble that they should not be in unless invited. I am a teacher who is looking at the big picture. I want my kids to learn the first grade content for sure. However, I am just as concerned that they learn to love learning, they learn to be responsible and respectful citizens, they learn to have a good work ethic where they only try their best and nothing less is acceptable. Finally, I am concerned that they leave my class knowing that they are smart, special, beautiful, and important people who will be world changers.
This has been an awesome year. That word is really overused (by me especially) but I am really and truly in awe of this year. I can't wait to see what next year brings. I have already begun to search out new ideas and activities. My classroom is empty now because with a new year brings new bullitin boards, centers, anchor charts, and seating arrangements. Being in this empty space allows my imagination to run wild with ideas for next year.I hope my students from this year have a great summer (while working on their summer workbooks that I compiled) and come back to school in the fall ready to impress the socks off their new teachers.
|AR Reading Time...we like to get comfy.|
|My dad came in to read to my kids.|
|Me getting dunked at the AR Celebration Beach Party! I go the distance.|
|Famous American Presentations|
|Our published book "Gingerbread Stories"|
|Dr. Seuss Day - Green (deviled) Eggs and Ham (dogs)|
|making pretzels in nutrition class|
|PBS' Martha Speaks Reading Buddy Program|
|Painted Pony Field Trip - the horse had a tattoo on his gums|
|The students painted Charlie|
|Students working hard!|
|WBT sight words powerpoint|