For those of you who have been following along, you know that I was very undecided about what I was going to teach during my formal observation. I wasn’t sure if I was going to teach a writing lesson or a reading lesson (you can read the post here). I was still undecided when I left for work in the morning, although I had two lesson plans prepared. I got into the car and drove. I went back and forth in my mind. Enough so that I missed the turn to go to Castle Rock and ended up having to take a scenic route.I’ve had my own classroom since Jan. 3, 2012. While I have a ton of experience teaching and working with kids, I sometimes feel like I am making it up as I go along. You know the saying fake it until you make it. Sometimes that is what I feel I am doing. Mostly, I think that it is going to take time for me to feel comfortable when I am teaching.
By the time I walked into school, I had decided that I would go with the writing lesson. Doing this lesson meant that I needed a document camera and a projector (which I had reserved the night before), but I hadn’t used one in this classroom. So I was nervous about setting it us and getting things going. My observation was scheduled for 7th period, my Reading/Writing Strategies class. It is an amazing class and I love these kids. Almost all of them work their butts off. They are all bright, but have Learning Disabilities. Reading and writing are their weaknesses. This class, also, only has 7 students. So it is individualized.
Anyway, because of my anxiety over the projector and the document camera, I emailed the Media person and asked if I could get them early. She knows me (Heidi, after the library she was the person I worked to get to know). And I was lucky enough that our paraprofessional didn’t mind going down to get it – I was in the middle of teaching another class.
By the time my 7th period kids walked in, I was set to go. I had a Warm-Up activity on the board. This is something I’ve started doing in 2 of my classes. In this class, specifically, there seems to be a “gap” in knowledge. I’ve found that it is in strange places, things that I would assume that they would know that they don’t have a clue, but also in things that I thought they wouldn’t know that they totally get (and have seen before). Just as the bell rang, my Administrator walked in. I had a packet prepared for him with all the papers we would be using in class that day (some of them the kids already had because we had been working on them for a while) He seemed a bit surprised that I had it all together for him, but from my Informal Observation I knew he would want them. As he walked in, the kids were working on their Warm-Up and I was completing attendance and handing out graded papers. On this day, the warm-up looked like this –
Write a sentence for each word demonstrating you understand the meaning of the word.
The kids got right to work. One student had a dislocated finger and I had him think about the words and be ready to dictate a sentence to share. As the kids finished, I had them “volunteer” to write a sentence on the board. Here/hear and write/right were easy. They knew steak and whale, but were unsure of the two other words; wail and stake. So we discussed them. One student got that stake was used to “kill a vampire” as soon as I said it. Of course, with the Twilight novels vampires are VERY interesting to teens. Wail was a bit more difficult. I thought that they would know it because we read “Gift of the Magi” and Della wails in that story. Once I started explaining (and making the connection to the story for them) they got it.
Next, I went over a “test” on “The Lottery.” The kids, even though they could use their resources and work together, had a rough time with vocabulary. They also got some comprehension questions, I thought were too easy, wrong. Most of the students were in the C/D range for grades. One student, however, only missed one question. So, I was pretty confused. I asked the kids why this was so tough. One student explained that since we did this on a Monday, she was having trouble remembering the story. That was a fair criticism and I told her so. The other students agreed.
Students with Learning Disabilities often have difficulties with Working Memory and Processing Speed. They forget. Not because they aren’t paying attention, but because if the information isn’t established in their Long-term Memory, they can’t retain it. So, I learned that I need to take a moment and review with the kids prior to an activity. Easy enough to do. What my Administrator saw was that I was interested in hearing what the kids had to say, and that they felt safe telling me that something didn’t work. Bonus Points for me.
After our little discussion, I told them that they could re-do the vocabulary portion and I would re-grade it (8 out of 18 questions – and where most of them had difficulties). Then we discussed the questions that they got wrong on the comprehension part. I went over the questions that I knew students got wrong and showed them where in the story they would have found the answer.
More to come in Part 2, so stay tuned.