Stepping into the forest of my mind

Stepping into the forest of my mind
Just as every journey begins with a first step, every story begins with the first word.

Monday, March 28, 2011

Famous Females Filmstrips

Women's month. I think it is wonderful to have students research famous women for women's month. To make the fourth grade Social Studies project more interesting, the teacher I substituted for wanted eight unique facts about each student's researched famous woman displayed on paper filmstrip-type boxes. These paper "filmstrip" printouts looked like the old fashion filmstrips that used to be shown in theatres, remember those? I do.

The students had--supposedly--researched the eight facts and were ready to fill two of the eight filmstrip boxes. The idea was to write a fact in the top of the box and then draw a picture of the fact and color it. Simple, right? But as I circulated the room checking on progress and keeping students on task, I found that clarification was needed in several cases.

To keep this post length reasonable, I'll speak about one particular student's famous woman, as it sticks in my mind so. Mother Teresa. What was the fourth grade student's amazing fact about her? Mother Teresa gave chocolate to the poor kids.

...Chocolate...why did it have to be chocolate, and why now?

"No, Sweetie," I informed my brilliant fourth grader, "Mother Teresa would not give chocolate--especially the large chocolate candy bar you have pictured in your film box--to poor children. These people are starving. Chocolate is a luxury. Mother Teresa would have given them something a little more nutritious. Probably a basic food, usually a thick liquid served in a bowl."

The fourth grade wizard thought for a moment. "You mean chocolate syrup over ice cream?" She offered.

What's with this girl and chocolate, I thought.

"This isn't working," I told her. "Give me another fact that makes Mother Teresa an important woman."

"She got a prize," the young lady told me.

"What was the prize," I asked.

"Chocolate," she told me with an angelic face.

Okay, God, you are testing me, right?

"Dear," I told her, "I gave up chocolate for Lent. Could we not use the "C" word anymore?"

The fourth grader shook her head yes.

"Good," I said. "Then I'll tell you what prize Mother Teresa received. It was the Nobel Peace Prize for her good works taking care of the poor in India."

"Did she have chocolate at the party?" the fourth grader asked me.

I just shook my head and moved onto the next student. It's going to be another long, long, long Lent. Wish me luck.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Teacher-led P.E.

In our elementary schools we have teacher-led P. E. The good thing about this situation is that I can still wear professional clothes when I substitute teach as it is only a small portion of the teaching day.

Along with the other sub plans, the fourth grade teacher left "Hot Potato" as the teacher P. E. class for the day. P. E. followed an intense after lunch math double period wherein the students were supposed to be "reviewing" equivalent fractions. In my attempt to make a visual picture on the whiteboard to explain the concept of equivalent fractions, I drew a lopsided circle and divided it into what was supposed to be halves. I erased it. I thought I could do better with squares. I couldn't. It only got worse. I never realized how poor my geometric shapes were until I tried to show visually that 2/6 equals 1/3 and 2/8 is 1/4. And forget the tenths and twelfths.

"That doesn't look like the same size to me," one particularly observant young man informed me and the rest of the class.

"Use your imagination," I instructed. Or just believe me, I thought. This is supposed to be review, according to the teacher's plans. "This worksheet is review," I reminded the students, although I am a visual learner too.

But back to my teacher P. E. Hot Potato. I can do Hot Potato, I told myself. Potato, potato...I just need a potato.

"The ball we use for Hot Potato is in the classroom closet," the Class Informant told me and then ran to the locked closet, yanking on the doorknob.

"Oh," I said. "The locked classroom closet for which I have no key." The Informant turned to look at me. "No worries," I told the Informant. "We just look for a sweet potato."

"Huh?" the class asked in unison.

I searched the desk and found a plastic pencil box. I emptied the box and told the students to form a circle, sitting on the carpet at the front of the classroom. Music, I need music. I'd hate to have to recite Hamlet's soliloquy for it would fall upon unappreciative ears.

"We use a tape player," the Informant told me. One that wasn't in that blasted locked closet, thank goodness.

"Okay," I told my fraction fried darlings, as they made the tightest circle I have ever seen. "I will play the music and stop it and whoever has the "potato" is out, understood?"

"Oh, we know how to play," the Informant assured me.

Yes, I thought, but I'm not looking when I play and stop the music. This saves me from any discussion of playing favorites. I didn't have to worry, though. As I stopped the music, 30 children pointed to the one who was out.

So I continued to watch my time to be able to fit in Social Studies class after this. The students who were out would not sit in their seats. They preferred to crowd a circle that was much worse than any I had drawn on the board during math class to cheer on their fellow students. The noise level rose considerably until a winner was announced by the Informant. I was exhausted. I guess this is P. E....but for whom?