November 14th, 2016
Today was my first day with Ms. Barrancotto’s first grade class. Ms. Barrancotto teaches first grade to a spunky group of children at Noble Elementary school. If the whole class is present there is sixteen children in the class. When I first walked into the class it was bright and cheery. One whole wall is covered with windows, so a lot of light gets through. There is also tons of colorful posters and various things hung up on the walls. There is constant stimulation around the room. It seems like there is not one part of the room that is not covered with something. There is also three groups of desks, but desks on their own throughout the room as well as a table in the back of the room and a chair in the front. During my first day I walked in and the kids were already doing their stations for the day. Ms. Barrancotto splits the class into four separate groups. Each group gets a color to indicate where they are supposed to be and what group they are. One group is in reading group with Ms. Barrancotto, while the other groups are doing the various assigned activities. The kids not with Ms. Barrancotto have a lot of control over what they do and how they behave because no one is watching over them. It actually worked pretty well, giving the kids freedom kept them in line with what they had to do. To switch stations a bed dings and Ms. Barrancotto say “too-da-loo”. The other stations that day included spelling, math facts, and reading a book silently. The words at the spelling station included base words and then words adding an “ed” to the base word. The math facts station was what would seem like simple math facts and a flash card that the kids were supposed to look at quickly, find the answer, and then move on to the next fact. During Ms. Barrancotto’s reading group she has to remind them of the rules which are posted on a board. She points and says, “ C- voices at 0, 1, or 2, H- use a quiet hand signal, A- reading, writing, work hard, M- sitting in our area, P- focused, listening, working.” In the reading group Ms. Barrancotto focused on specific words and what they meant. When I sat in the math facts group, in order to keep the easily distracted kids interested I made it a game and they loved it! Also one of the boys was showing me how he used the counting chart on the wall with dots to help him with his math facts. There is so much stimulation around the room, but it seems like everything has a purpose.
November 15th, 2016
During class today, I got there a little earlier during the morning meeting. All the kids were in a group in front of Ms. Barrancotto which was sitting in a chair on a level above the kids sitting on the ground. They all sing a song together and then Ms. Barrancotto pulls out a picture of two kids on a playground holding a ball. She asks the kids what they see? Ms. Barrancotto is asking a lot of leading questions, so the kids can pull out answers to the questions. Ms. Barrancotto’s expression is also very involved and animated, so the kids get more into the activity in return. There was a transition then and all the kids looked over to the smart board which had a letter written to them by Ms. Barrancotto. She reads it out loud and it is asking all her super students to behave today and outlining to them what they will be doing throughout the day with her, step by step. Then the kids are all sent back to their desks to start their next activity. I notice that there is a rewards systems used a lot in the class. There is participation points for different groups and the class as a whole along with clipping up and clipping down, which individual students will be asked to do based on their behavior. The kids then do “I say, You say” vocabulary and spelling words. Throughout any group activity it is really obvious that Ms. Barrancotto has to discipline the kids a lot. Their attention drifts quickly and she has to pull them back in or scold them for acting out. She then has the class transition again to a discussion about cause and effect. This transition is hard for the kids because they have to put away materials at their desks and then make it down to the carpet to talk. It reminds me about how we’ve talked about transitions and even had to deal with making transitions in a class work when teaching during our clinical teaching experience. It was not easy to figure it out with a group of college students how to make a transition in a class smooth and it is really obvious to see that making a transition smooth in a first grade class is very difficult. The kids have a super hard time with this transition in particular and a couple of them had to get clipped down and the groups of desks did not earn any participation points. After the discussion on cause and effect the kids are sent off into their four stations.
November 30th, 2016
The class starts again today with going over the note to the class with expectations and activities for the day. Then there is a small lesson about the difference between living and non-living things. Then the kids all go and answer a question on the “wonder wall”. The kids all get a post it note and write down one thing that something living needs and then they get to go stick it up on the wonder wall. This is great cause it is repetition of what the kids just learned, but also it is a fun spin and a little different way to keep the kids engaged. Then a power point is brought up with pictures of living and non-living things and a song that the class sings together about living and non- living things. Again, Ms. Barrancotto asks leading questions to help the kids understand, but come up with answers on their own. In the process of this lesson Ms. Baroncotto has to scold some boys enough that they have to go back to their seats. Each activity lasts between five and twenty minutes. They are all pretty fast, so the kids stay engaged without loosing out on what they are learning from getting distracted. It is pretty obvious that if any of the activities were made longer then this the kids would stop learning and start getting distracted. The kids have their stations again. In the stations it’s easy to see that each station is set up for kids that learn in multiple different kinds of ways. It is like what we discussed in Ayers book, you cannot evaluate students all the same way, you have to give them different mediums and ways to show that they know what they’re doing or are improving on the material. Ms. Barrancotto I think does a great job allowing for the kids to embrace this and give them different ways to show their strengths by the diversity of activities she has them do throughout the day and throughout their stations everyday.
December 2nd, 2016
Today the kids are learning about empathy. They get into circle time with Ms. Barrancotto and she goes over what empathy means through puppets. She also invites the kids to talk about specific times they’ve felt empathy or others have felt empathy for them. It is really interesting to hear what these kids come up with. It shows that each student is unique with their own unique experiences that they bring to the table. This is kind of interesting in relating to our discussion on urban schools, which Noble Elementary is, and how in urban schools it can be a positive to have so much different background and experiences, and instead of using that to hinder the school, it can be seen as a positive and show that the school has so many different backgrounds enriching it. After the kids go over empathy they go over their note to the class from MS. Barrancotto and then go into their stations, which Ms. Barrancotto reminds them should not become about a whisper voice level. She has to remind the kids of things she wants them to do at least three times it seems like. The kids go through all the stations for about an hour again. It is easy to see that these groups are also broken up according to each child’s ability. There are reading groups ranging from children totally competent to those who have trouble. We talked about reading groups in class as well. I wish I could observe what it would be like if these kids were spit into groups where there was a range of ability in each group. But, the one positive with these reading groups is that it’s split up in a way that I do not believe the kids even notice it is decided by their abilities. The kids then transition to snack time, which is of course a little cray, and from snack time they sit quietly and watch a vocabulary video. In this video the vocabulary is being rapped to them and the kids love it! They are super attentive to it. It just shows the things can be taught through different mediums and still have the children understand it.
December 5th, 2016
The kids start with a sentence activity this class. They are all writing down sentences on the board with specific emphasized words. They are using these “secret readers” in their books which they can use to highlight and discover changes in the words. They are learning about suffix’s today. This proves to be a little more challenging for the students. But, they all seem to try to answer the questions even if it is not right. I think this shows that Ms. Barrancotto does a great job of making all the children feel comfortable and that they should try even if they are not one- hundred percent sure the answer is correct. The kids then watch a brain- pop video on suffixes. This is just using a different medium to enhance the kids knowledge of how to write with suffixes. I think, especially at a young age, using these multiple mediums really helps the kids ability to retain the information. I realized that Ms. Barrancotto lets the kids have some control over their bodies and how they sit. She lets the kids lay and act how they are going to if they need to get a little energy out, but knows where the line is drawn and when kids have to be told no. I think it’s interesting cause this idea goes all the way up through working in a 9 to 5 job. People need to be loose and express themselves in order to be productive. We even see that in out ED100 class, when students sit on the ground or need to walk around during group discussion just to stay intrigued.
December 9th, 2016
Again, It was a pretty normal day in Ms. Barroncotto’s class. I got there during the reading of the letter to the students talking about their expectations and activities for the day. One thing that I haven’t observed yet that the kids were going to do was a spelling test. After the reading of the letter the kids transitions to their spelling test. There was a lot of craziness in this transition and what seemed like some staling, but to my surprise the stress level that I would have expected with a a spelling test was not there. I’m not sure if it was because the kids are so young they do not feel the stress yet or it was the particular group of kids. During the test though there was some obvious frustration and some kids that just gave up. You could tell as Ms. Baroncotto read out the words some kids did not even try to write them down and others you could tell did not know the right answer and were frustrated by it, but some kids answered with no problems. You could also see kids looking at each others papers even though they were spread out a little. This shows that no matter how young the kids are and carefree there is still some pressure testing brings that no one can escape from. I went around and saw some of the papers and there were kids that had absolutely horrible tests and some that had them all right. I think these is just a great example of what we learned and discussed about testing and how it is not appropriate for every student, but yes it still does need to be part of education to some degree. Ms. Barrancotto did not stress the test a ton, so this showed in her class the test was not the most important thing, but the learning was.
I learned a lot from this experience in Noble Elementary and also our class field experiences. First, and I think most important, I learned that this is really what I want to do! I walked away from every field experience, individual or on my own, knowing I wanted to be a teacher and that I loved being in a classroom. Also I learned good and bad teaching skills. I believe Ms. Barrancotto, the teacher I individually observed is an amazing teacher! She showed me that you have to teach students through a variety of mediums. I saw that every student absorbs and learns things differently. So, when Ms. Barrancotto would teach something to the class through pictures, and then talking, and then a video, and then an activity it showed me that students need all these different way to learn in order for every student to understand it. Also I saw reading groups and this separation up close and why they are separated based on ability, but how maybe if it was tried a different way kids could learn better with different levels of abilities mixed. I also learned a lot about discipline and how to run a young classroom which we did not discuss too much. I learned that to some degree freedom needs to be there, but in the end I need to have the power and show where the line is drawn. And, of course, In a young classroom rewards are key! All and all, I loved these field experiences and I think they benefitted me a tremendous amount!