Teaching the Teacher – Who is Teaching whom at School?

Teaching the Teacher

Who is Teaching Whom?

Teaching the Teacher
A Classroom in Waiting

Whenever I have some time off I begin to reflect on the classroom and the precious kids that I am so lucky to spend time with five days out of every week. I get so much out of this vocation. Most recently, I have been pondering the question, “Who is doing most of the teaching? The students or me?” The truth is that my students have always been teaching the teacher even when I didn’t realize it. I have been given the grace by God to continually see children in a whole, new light as He reveals new insights to me through them. As I looked over the classroom of 15 kids marching down the hallway the other day they appeared to me as little soldiers for Christ. I began realizing how they are God’s army, called to do his will. They are made by their creator to serve Him through the goodness, love, and as the image of God in which they were created. I began thinking about how they have such huge hearts, and yet their young, aspiring minds cannot even begin to fathom the enormous plans God has in store for each and every one of them.

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Assessment Test – Creating an Effective Test for Students

assessment testDo I create my own assessment test or do I use the one that comes with my textbooks?  Before I answer that question I have to provide some background on the inspiration for writing this article. Well into my fourth year as a fourth grade teacher, the one lesson that I keep learning over and over again is that there is no one, single right way to teach. I think both new teachers and old constantly put ourselves in this box of doing what we presume teachers do and in the way we are supposed to do it. Well, I can’t stress enough how many times that I have had to remind myself that it is okay to step outside of that box and try new things, especially when we run into situations where something isn’t working. Some of the most effective learning improvement I’ve seen in my classrooms occurs after I recognize my old way of doing things were not working like I hoped. My answer to that opening question is that we should create our own assessment test when the situation calls for it, but you don’t have to entirely abandon those pre-canned assessments either.

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Math Fact Games

iPad Math GamesMath fact games provide a challenging and fun way to motivate a fourth grade class at becoming highly proficient with their multiplication and division tables. I think most fourth grade teachers would agree that it is frustrating to watch kids fall behind in math because they do not have their multiplication tables memorized. Learning math concepts is confusing enough on its own for some kids. Learning long division becomes a monumental task for those students who have to count and use fingers to multiply sets of numbers that they should have memorized. After a while, most teachers can easily recognize which kids are struggling because they do not have their math fact tables memorized. There is simply no way to teach math facts; it is pure memorization. There are routines, however, that we teachers can put in place to make kids practice and even have fun. The key to a math fact program is consistent practice.

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Everyday Math

Everyday MathOne of the most rewarding experiences of my job as a first-year teacher was encouraging kids to write. One of my professors gave us an assignment called, Daily Warm-Ups. I chose to turn this into a math/literacy assignment which I will refer to as, Everyday Math. The idea of daily warm-ups is to engage students with short activities that require reading and writing at the beginning of every lesson, each day of the week.  These daily warm-ups can be based on any subject. I chose math as my subject because it coordinated with my alternative licensing unit plan for my Colorado Work Sample and Portfolio requirements. This also happened to tie-in very nicely with my Math Literacy assignment which I wrote about earlier this week.

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Logical Consequences

Logical ConsequencesIn the midst of my very hectic first year of school, I was given a rather intimidating assignment from one of my professors at Regis University: I was to construct not just one, but two brochures on the topic of behavior management programs and philosophies. With my hands already full trying to manage two different classes of 43 students and masses of papers to grade on the weekend, you can probably guess that I wasn’t real thrilled with the additional burden of constructing a couple of brochures from scratch.  As I began thumbing through endless web literature on behavior management programs, I found one that made very good sense to me: Logical Consequences by, Rudolf Dreikurs. When raising my own children, I learned some valuable lessons the hard way. As with teaching, there is no substitute for parental experience. I think most of us made the same mistakes early-on in wanting to do everything for our children. When they weren’t doing what they were told we often interrupted their behavior and inflicted some type of punishment which had absolutely nothing to do with the consequences of their own actions.

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First Day of School

First Day of SchoolThe most valuable lesson that I learned from all of my classroom management strategies last year was that none of them are as important as what a teacher does on the first day of school.  This did not come as a surprise to me. As a first year teacher, I was told countless times by numerous, experienced teachers, principals, and trusted family members, that the first day of school is the most critical time for establishing effective Classroom Management. There is even a  very popular book written with the title,  First Days of School, by Harry Wong. While I took this advice seriously, it rings more true to me now than ever. Now that I have had a year to reflect on my effectiveness at managing the behavior of two fourth-grade classes, I can see how my classroom management plan was rather vague, at best.

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iPad Apps For Teachers

Learning Tools Fractions

iPad Apps for TeachersThere are literally thousands of iPad apps for teachers who want to enhance their daily lessons or classroom management with new and innovative teaching strategies. If you are a teacher and are curious what works and what doesn’t work well in the classroom, Spirited Teaching, is the place to learn. I have probably tried just about everything and it is my goal to tell you about all of them. Because I am a first-year teacher, I could probably afford to be a little bit more experimental with Technology in the classroom than most established veterans who would prefer not to gamble with their proven methods. However, even the most excellent, veteran teachers are always looking for ways to spice up the classroom and their profession. The lengthy list of iPad apps for teachers includes more than just classroom management and educational programs.

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Math Literacy

Math LiteracyBelow is a class assignment and math literacy lesson plan that I created this year as part of my Colorado Work Sample. The Colorado Work Sample includes an entire Unit Plan comprised of 10-15 lessons based on standards from the Colorado Department of Education. This is an important requirement for receiving an alternative teaching license in Colorado. I chose a math fractions unit consisting of 12 lesson plans. A requirement for completing the Colorado Work Sample unit is to include reading and writing literacy in one or more of the lessons. Prior to beginning this unit, I had not given math literacy much, if any thought. Thankfully, one of my many excellent Regis instructors, taught an entire class on the subject of literacy in math. This had a profound impact me and on the teaching strategies I will continue to use to teach math from this point forward.

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