Revisiting Elementary School
and what I observed there.
A brief background:
I did my elementary observation hours at Pleasantview Elementary School in Derby. I actually attended this school when I was in kindergarten, and the principle, Mrs. Rothe, was my fifth grade teacher at another school in Derby.
Kindergarten with Mrs. Brown:
- Mrs. Brown's class room was decorated with bright posters and decorations that used a lot of color and pictures.
- The groups were organized by color buckets on their tables that held all of their supplies.
- Patience is important.
- Mrs. Brown was great at not immediately criticizing students, but turning negatives into positives. "Whomever is humming, it is very pretty, but now is not the time, but you can do that at recess."
- A morning activity gave the teacher some time to take attendance and set up a last few things.
- This day's morning activity involved matching letters.
- After the morning activity the class sat on the floor by the whiteboard and worked on a calendar activity together that teaches the days of the week, and their order, and what specific day it was.
- Next was a weather activity that helped the students recognize what is going on outside and discuss what would be appropriate clothing for the weather. For example: Jeans, a t-shirt, and a light jacket would be best for a chilly day, especially if it warms up in the afternoon.
- Having the class pay attention to attendance became a simple addition or subtraction problem.
- Going over the schedule for the day allows the students to know what to expect for the day, and gave them a heads up that they would be switching classes briefly for science and social studies.
- Mrs. Brown used a song at the end of the morning activities that let the kids get up, sing, and dance. This allowed them to get out some of their energy and do something fun.
- Students then worked on the alphabet by learning 5 more letters and building on to what they already have learned.
- Making and repeating simple directions is a requirement, as is patience.
- Also had a discussion on different types of vehicles, which ones are most important in different situations, favorites, parts, and counting the number of wheels.
- Each activity lasted no longer than 20 to 25 minutes, so that students wouldn't get bored.
- After recess, the students worked on their writing center. This allowed Mrs. Brown to work with students one-on-one who needed extra help while everyone else worked on a writing worksheet. One part of the worksheet asked the students to unjumble the words to make a sentence, write it out, and draw a picture relating to the sentence.
- Mrs. Brown had an 'ask 3 before me' rule that got the students to use teamwork to solve problems while she helped students.
Recess with Kindergartners:
- Every other day the kindergartners get a 15 minute morning recess.
- Before heading out to the playground Mrs. Brown made all of the students identify one of the letters they had been learning in class.
- Each grade level gets their own recess time.
- There were 2 paras that watched the students while the teachers stayed inside.
- The kids were allowed to play with soccer balls, basketballs, footballs, jump rope, there were jungle gyms, slides, swings, and plenty of room to run around and get out some energy.
2nd Grade with Mrs. Decaire:
- It was picture day so all of the boys and girls were looking absolutely wonderful.
- The tables were arranged in 5 groups of 4-5 students.
- Derby has a one-on-one system for iPads, this means that each student has access to one, but in the elementary schools some teachers share a cart with the other teachers in that grade level.
- A schedule of the day's activities was posted on the wall with times.
- The students have a different schedule for every day of the week, but the schedule remains the same from week to week. Science and Social Studies alternate, same with Music and P.E., and Library and Art.
- A behavior monitor allows the students to get incentives for good behavior and warnings before they get in serious trouble.
- To regain attention the teacher would make a noise for the students to repeat.
- A morning math activity gave Mrs. Decaire time to take attendance and get a few things set up for the day while the students started focusing on school work.
- The students were given a math worksheet in the shape of a picture and were allowed to color the picture after they solved the problems.
- Mrs. Decaire explained that teachers have to find a balance between meeting the needs of students with difficulties and engaging the students who excel.
- After the math worksheet was the calender activity, which reinforces the order of the days of the week, and is a way for the students to keep track of how many days school has been in session.
- The calendar activity was tied back to math by using blocks and money to visualize the number of days school had been in session in different ways. Students were also asked to observe and understand the weather outside.
- Mrs. Decaire used Popsicle sticks with all of the students' names to pick groups so that there weren't the same groups every time
- When it was time for Math, centers were set up to make their activities more fun.
- There were 3 centers: Dominoes- where you picked two dominoes and added to find out how many dots there were total. Fill in the rectangles- you had to fill 3 rectangles with different shaped blocks and had to count how many of each block it took. Base 10 building blocks- you had to build a structure with the building blocks and count how many units you used.
- Each activity only lasted 10-15 minutes so that class kept moving and the students didn't get bored.
Library TIme with the 2nd Grade:
- Allowing the students to check out books is a little way to teach responsibility because the students had to remember to bring their books back so that they could get new ones.
- The students were split into 2 groups, one went to find books to check out while the other worked on an activity at the tables (this day it was a picture find). This kept students occupied and relatively organized.
- Pleasantview uses an AR program or Accelerated Reading to test students on comprehension, vocab, and it helps create an individualized reading program to help fit the needs of all students. Students are encouraged to read books at least 3 times through.
- Mrs. Decaire took this time to go through homework folders and set up the class for their math activity.
4th Grade with Mr. Zuber:
- 4th graders have and hour and 45 minute math block every morning.
- Mr. Zuber's class did a math activity with raisins to learn about minimums, maximums, mean, mode, and range. This also gave the students a relatively healthy snack to munch on after they were done.
- After the raisin activity students were supposed to work in their math workbooks.
- The workbooks were designed to constantly review the past work students had done. Which Mr. Zuber uses as a good indicator of how his students are doing and if he needs to review something more closely. An additional requirement that the teacher asked was for his students to write out their explanations of their answers so that they could better understand what they were learning and how it works.
- After a student was done with their workbook they were allowed to play math games on the iPads or read or work silently on something so that students who were still working could do so without being interrupted.
- This made it so that 'down time' is still productive, but in a more fun and individualized way.
Social Studies with Mr. Zuber:
- Students switched classes so that each teacher in the grade level only has to teach either science or social studies, this also switches up the scenery for the students by getting to go to another room.
- ESL teachers and paras go from room to room helping students with difficulties.
- Today the 4th graders were learning about direction, location, and regions.
- Students were divided into groups of 2-3 to discuss what they were learning with classmates. When talking about relative location, students told their partner or partners what landmarks or more commonly known locations were near their house.
- After explaining direction, the students played a game of Simon Says where they were supposed to turn either North, South, East, or West depending on what 'Simon' told them to do.
- For the entire Social Studies block, the students were allowed to sit on the floor which changes up the normal routine of sitting at the desks.
- Mr. Zuber would read from the book but pause occasionally to let the class finish a sentence or paragraph to make sure everyone was paying attention.
5th Grade with Ms. Maupin:
- I was fairly quickly informed by one of the students that 'dating is a problem' in this grade.
- Ms. Maupin utilized her wall space with informational posters about different subjects that the students were learning about.
- Plenty of back up supplies helped keep class moving smoothly when a couple of dry erase markers ran dry.
- The use of felt circles on the bottom of all the dry erase markers meant that student could easily erase what they had written without also having to pass out erasers or something similar.
- Certain students were chosen to help out with little things around the classroom which meant Ms. Maupin wasn't having to do everything herself and the students could feel useful and occasionally do something else or help their fellow classmates.
- At the beginning of the day the students were assigned a math worksheet for morning work which they had to finish before continuing to their normal math activities.
- The class was divided into 3 small groups of about 5 students, and there were 4 rotations. One group worked with the teacher on factor trees, one group worked on homework or math programs on the iPads if they were done, another group played a card game they called name-the-number. This was an order of operations game where the goal was to use as many cards as they could to get to a predetermined number by adding, subtracting, multiplying, or dividing mostly. The last rotation the students worked at their desks and Ms. Maupin went around and helped students one-on-one if they were still having trouble.
- A timer was kept to keep track of time for each rotation.
Band with Mr. Keller:
- Starting in 5th grade, students are encouraged to join either band or orchestra.
- Students get to pick which instrument they want to play, but must audition for percussion since so many people want to do that.
- Mr. Keller went around and checked that every student was putting their instrument correctly, helped with hand positions and posture.
- Then once everyone was set up, they worked on learning some basic beginning notes and the beginnings of how to play a scale.
A Short Summary:
I am thankful for the time I got to spend at Pleasantview Elementary. It was very educational experience, and a nice trip down memory lane. I started really feeling like I am heading in the right direction, I can't wait to see what middle and high school observations have in store for me.