October 14, 2015 marked my first day of Pre-Internship. It is hard to believe that I have been in the Faculty of Education at the University of Regina. When I walked into the grade 4 classroom this morning, I felt calm and collected as there was no one in the room. Mrs. R., the classroom teacher was in a staff meeting, but when she returned, she greeted myself and the other pre-intern in our class. This classroom was set up with bright bulletin boards and students art work. After our quick pre-conference and students started to come into the classroom, I noticed something different about Mrs. R’s classroom. One thing that I picked up on was the procedure to start off the morning. Students dropped their bags and coats at their hooks at the back of the classroom and then proceeded to head to their desk. Once students made their way to their desk, they pulled out a small binder and opened it to a particular page that said “Wednesday” at the top. On this piece of paper was 3 mathematics questions. Each student diligently completed the work and when they had finished they flipped to another page of sentences. Students then worked on correcting these sentences. For those students who finished early, they grabbed the novel that they had on or in their desk and started to read it. Once 10 minutes had gone by and Mrs. R had completed her attendance, the students corrected the “Bell-work” as it was called, together. This procedure blew my mind as I had listened to theory behind a policy such as this, but to see it in action was a whole different story. When it comes to creating policies and procedures in my classroom, bell-work is definitely one that I plan to incorporate!
To follow the bell-work, student were paired up in “dictation partners” where each student was given time to spell words that were dictated to them from their partner. This activity was the first moment of many that I noticed that Mrs. R uses big terms with the students, but explains them so that they can add them to their vocabulary. I think that this process is fantastic as it allows for students to understand words that are used in language that may not be fully explained later in classes. I feel that this process also makes the students feel more like they are being treated as equals instead of being talked to all the time with lower level language. I know that not all language in the classroom can be of higher level, but if we as educators have high expectations for our students and provide the right amount of supports needed then our students will meet or exceed those expectations.
After lunch, I was able to experience another procedure that is in place in Mrs. R’s classroom. After the lunch recess, students come into the classroom, put their coats away, head to their desk and pull out a book. The classroom has been split into three different groups. Group 1 was working on what are called RA books that can be picked up from the library at a certain reading level, that suits the student, so students have material to read that is non-fiction. Another group was working on RAZ books which are electronic books that each student has a log into an account to use. This account provides students with a select number of books that are pre-selected to be in their reading level. Once a student reads a book, they complete a test on the book and receive a mark. The third group also reads a book online, but they are read the book through head phones after. Once the student has read the book as well as listened to the book, then they take a test on that book. This tests students on their listening skills and reading comprehension. If the students get a mark of 1 or two 0.5 marks, then they receive a sticker. These stickers are collected in good reading notebooks. When a student fills a reading note book with their reading stickers, then they receive a prize. The reading notebooks are set up so that if each student completes their book and questions each day, then they will receive a prize once a month. This activity was very interesting to me because I has never thought about having students doing three different things at the same time while at catering to different learning levels. I plan to add this form of bell-work to my teaching toolkit so that I can explore the possibility of it in my future classroom.
At 1:20, it was time for the pre-interns to do our introductory lesson. We started off our lesson with a self-portrait that showed who we are, where we come from and what are some of our interests. After that, my partner and I provided the students each with a 8 1/2 x 11″ piece of paper to create their own portrait on. This activity was very engaging for students because the students were able to choose what mediums they wanted to explore. My partner and I took time to walk around, talk to the students about what they were doing and ask them about some of their interests. This was a great activity that allowed for us to have time to talk to the students and start to get to know them. When we needed the students attention, I used the procedure of “1-2-3 Eyes on Me” to get the students attention. The students eagerly responded “1-2 Eyes on You” as this was a procedure that Mrs. R already uses on a regular basis. The lesson went well, but there are a few things that could have gone better. We originally put the craft supplies on two small desks in the corner of the room and in pairs sent student back to grab some supplies for their self-portrait. If I was to teach this lesson again, I would provide each student with a piece of white paper as we did and ask them to draw a self-portrait. While students are build completing this part of the task, I would set out art supplies at the back of the room on tables that could be surrounded on all sides. This would allow for students to have room to grab supplies for their project easily.
When class was over for the day, my partner and I had our post-conference with Mrs. R. She was very polite and respectful in all of her advice. Our Professional Development Goal (PDP) for this week was based upon communication skills. One thing that Mrs. R wrote down about my communication skills was that I said “you guys” a couple of times. This is a saying that I have been trying to remove from my vocabulary since my second year of University. I was aware before this lesson that this saying would be something that I need to work on and I have plans to exchange the phrase, “you guys” with “friends” to ensure that I am being inclusive.
All in all, I think that my first day of pre-internship was excellent. My feet were a bit sore from standing all day, but other than that, I felt accomplished and proud when I left the classroom. I look forward to next Wednesday’s class, as I will be discussing the properties of rocks and minerals in Science.
Until next time, thank you for reading my blog!