Welcome to My Blog!

Welcome to my blog! I use my blog as a way to reflect, share, organize, and re-conceptualize my views as an educator. Enjoy and feel free to comment, post, disagree, and share your opinion. The more perspectives, the better!

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

"The prime function of the children's book writer is to write a book that is so absorbing, exciting, funny, fast and beautiful that the child will fall in love with it. And that first love affair between the young child and the young book will lead hopefully to other loves for other books and when that happens the battle is probably won. The child will have found a crock of gold. He will also have gained something that will help to carry him most marvelously through the tangles of his later years. 
Roald Dahl" 
 Roald Dahl


I was working with a student the other day and he was having trouble understanding a concept...

"Miss Prinzo, I think I need to change my light bulb."

He proceeds to pretend to open his head, unscrews a lightbulb, screws a new one in, and closes his head...

"Oh! Now I understand!"

The best part: he did!

In all seriousness, the "click" or "light bulb" when students finally understand what they have been working on is my favorite part of teaching. Those are the moments I live for.

We still have to do our jobs

"A good teacher has to work with the cards they're dealt," she said. "We have to do a good job even if we don't have the parent involvement because our students cannot fail." Roll Hill School Principal Vicki Graves-Hill

Enough said.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Teach For America...the reason I have been MIA this week

So I have very recently decided that I am going to apply for Teach For America. I have been using every moment of my spare time to create my application materials and learn everything I can about TFA. The more I learn, the more I want to become a corps member.

Here is my favorite video from TFA. It explains why you should get involved and the impact TFA is making in our schools today. Teach For America- Learn More

What I have decided is that I will put my all into this application and the application process. If I am selected, I will give everything I can to the program and my students. If I do not get in, I will still make an impact. I can still work to become an excellent teacher. I will still have an impact on my students and I will still work towards becoming an advocate for educational reform.

Regardless of this program, I am starting to realize the changes that will come before graduation. The more time I spend student-teaching, the more I am ready for them. Applications, resumes, and interview will be my life over the next nine months or so and I am looking forward to the day that can post what comes next.

A quick update on life with the First Grade Froggers: We had a lot of "fun" on our field trip and parent-teacher conferences were this week. Every teacher's favorite things ;)

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Why aren't our teachers the best and the brightest?

This article from the Washington Post discusses one very real problem with our education system (and teacher edu. programs). It is something I have noticed in my own experience and a problem that I think should be a major part of educational reform.

Why aren't our teachers the best and the brightest?

Now I am not saying that you have to be brilliant to be a teacher, but I do believe that students graduating in the top of their classes would make more capable teachers. Students who can problem solve, think critically, and have an understanding of theory and content often make for very capable teacher.

I do think the article should expand to look at top students beyond academics. Look at what college students do outside of the classroom. To me, that tells a lot more about a person and his or her abilities. That is one reason I like UC's Honors Program so much. Yes, you can take enriched classes, but you are encouraged to develop as a leader, engage in our culture or different cultures, and partake in service learning. It is that stuff, the outside stuff, that I think really teaches skills that translate into the classroom. These are the students that I would want teaching my children. These are the types of students we need to bring into America's classrooms.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Pictures of our classroom!

Here are a few pictures of our classroom:

This is the view from the teacher's desk/ small group table. Notice the non-traditional seating. We have two floor tables that the children can choose to sit at.They can also choose sitting tables (or to stand at their tables).  We do not have assigned seats. Though a few children have restrictions (ex: can't sit with certain people or need to sit at a certain kind of table) we do not have a problem. By this point in the year, the children have become comfortable in their spots, but occasionally we have them mix it up. An interesting note, prior to coming to Fairview (an academically excellent school with a ton of parent support), my mentor teacher taught at a very urban school. She had similar seating options for her children and found it eliminated a lot of problems (they even had a few other options like bean bags and reclining chairs). 

In the cubbies. Each child has a mailbox (on top). The mailbox is emptied every day and we put their work and stuff to go home in it. The children also store their lunch money and small personal items in it (hair ties, headbands, silly bands---all of the important things). The bottom cubbies are shared between two students. In each cubbie is 2 clipboards (which the children can use at pretty much any time for alternate seating), 2 small white boards, their Rosey Reader bags, and they store their classroom bags overnight. 

We store coats, back packs, and lunches outside of the room.

This is the view from the door. I want to point out the community buckets on each table. The children share all of their basic supplies (crayons, scissors, glue, pencils, erasers) that are on the table. Each child has his or her own personalized folder and notebook, but everything else is shared. We have a second community basket that comes out for writer's workshop. It has pens, highlighters, and writing paper for the children to use. Additionally, we have marker baskets that the children can use for specific activities or with special permission.

This is from the back of the room. You can also see our puzzle center, and math manipulative which are open to the children. The picnic table is also a favorite spot to buddy read and play our favorite math games!

This is our card system for behavior. The students get 4 cards for the week. If they misbehave (and have been redirected) we ask them to pull a card. Children who pull no cards get to pick from the treasure chest on Fridays. Each card pulled is equivalent to five minutes off of fun Friday. The card system works well, especially to stop a behavior immediately. It is also non-obtrusive and does not make it obvious which children are behaving and misbehaving.

These are our GFB's or Good Fit Books. We have 4 levels separated by color. We give the children their color and each week they can pick a GFB for the week. More info about GFB will come when I get around to posting about CAFE.

"Math I'm Done Center": These are hanging bags that have individual math activities for the children to work on after they have finished their work in math. We have a "Reading I'm Done Center" equivalent for language arts time over by the GFBs.

Big Books: Any time the children finish working early they can get a big book and take it to read anywhere in the room. (fun tip: the children LOVE big books. My mentor teacher takes the kit/formula program social studies and science unit books to add to her big book collection for more books. It is a great way to grow your collection and exposes the kids to non-fiction books that they might not have tried)

Our classroom library: Every morning the children can pick 2 books out of the classroom library to pick for the day (they can keep them more than one day if they would like to...the point is to have 2 library books in their desk bags at all times). The children can read their library books during any free time in the day. The books are categorized by type or author (for big names like Dr. Suess). Each category has a sticker. Each book in the category has the same sticker on the front, top right corner so children can put them back appropriately (and for the most part they do a really good job). Some of the boxes are switched out during the year. 

Writing Center

Book Beach: This is our reading center. The children LOVE it. There is only three people allowed in Book Beach and they are the only ones who are allowed to read the books on the shelf. This might seem unfair, but it makes the center (and thus reading) something special for the children. The bookshelf has books we have read in class and our current and past author of the month.

Saturday, October 9, 2010

On our Minds: Picture This

Scholastic recently posted on their  "on our minds" blog about the trend for children to be pushed into reading chapter books over picture books. I personally did not realize this was a trend.(although looking back at my last few times in the children's section of the library or bookstore I did hear children being pushed to pick out something harder or more challenging). I do not like it though.

I will let the blog, which responds to the NY Times article, Picture Books No Longer a Staple: Picture Books Languish as Parents Push 'Big Kids' Books speak for itself.

I agree with the major points in the blog completely. I do think that another important point to bring up is this: Why does it have to be picture books v. chapter books? We should be helping our children read both as both can teach valuable skills.

My "Boyfriend"

H: (to no one in particular) "I have a new boyfriend."
(a minute or so later) H: "I have a new boyfriend."
Me: "Who is your new boyfriend?"
H: "I don't know."
Me: "Oh, where did you meet him?"
H: "I don't know." (and walks off)

Friday, October 8, 2010

How to fix our schools: A manifesto by Joel Klein, Michelle Rhee and other education leaders

This article comes from the Washington Post. Written collectively by America's Public Education leaders it addresses so many of the critical issues in education today. I started to highlight parts I agreed with and realized I had highlighted 99% of the article so instead I have print it out and put a copy in my quote book and my practicum binder. Read it, think about it, discuss it:


Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Are you sick of highly paid teachers?

A friend put this up on Facebook a while back and it stuck with me. 

As teachers, our goals are so much more than to babysit other people's kids. We want to educate them. We want to help them grow, learn, and develop. In my mind, you can't put a price on that.

Are you sick of highly paid teachers? The hefty salaries of teachers are driving up taxes, and they only work 9 or 10 months a year! It's time we put things in perspective and pay them for what they do - baby sit! We can get that for less than minimum wage. That's right! Let's pay them $3.00 an hour and only for the hours they work; not for any of that silly planning time, or any time they spend before or after school. That would be $19.50 a day (7:45 AM to 3:00 PM with 45 min. off for lunch -- that equals 6.5 hours). Each parent should pay $19.50 a day for these teachers to baby-sit their children. Now how many students do they teach in a day... maybe 30? So that's $19.50 x 30 = $585.00 a day. However, remember they only work 180 days a year!!! I am not going to pay them for any vacations. LET'S SEE.... that's $585 X 180 = $105,300 per year. (Hold on! My calculator must need new batteries!) What about those special education teachers or the ones with Master's degrees or extra endorsements on their certification? Well, we could pay them minimum wage ($7.75), and just to be fair, round it up to $8.00 an hour. That would be $8 X 6.5 hours X 30 children X 180 days = $280,800 per year. Wait a minute – there must be something wrong here! There sure is! The average teacher's salary (nationwide) is $50,000. $50,000/180 days = $277.77/per day/30 students = $9.25/6.5 hours = $1.42 per hour per student--a very inexpensive baby-sitter and they even EDUCATE your kids! WHAT A DEAL!!!! Make a teacher smile; send this to someone who appreciates teachers. Even with this kind of math, teachers would still be underpaid. Many more hours of prep are spent than this shows, and WHO gets 45 mins. for lunch. That would be a luxury.

As teachers, our goals are so much more than to babysit other people's kids. We want to educate them. We want to help them grow, learn, and develop. In my mind, you can't put a price on that.

Write, Write, Write!

I have collected quite a few ideas, activities, and strategies to improve student writing. Here are a few of my favorites:

- Some of our children are not very interested in writing. We have been really trying to give the children many opportunities to write about things that interest them. It is amazing how much better some of the children write when they get to choose the topic. One of the things my mentor did to introduce and make writing meaningful to the children really stuck out to me. She talked with the children about their favorite movies and TV shows. After talking for a minute or two she asked the children if they knew that all of their favorite movies and TV shows started out as writing. Most of the children did not, and they responded with questions and excitement for their new found knowledge.

- The 4-square method. This is a method that can be adapted for any level and is really easy to teach the children. Here is a link to a ppt. that explains the method: http://www.greenville.k12.sc.us/taylorse/About/Writing%20for%20Everyone.pdf

Right now we have been using the four square method to make 4 page books. The children pick a topic to put in the center. Then, in the first three boxes they write something about the topic. Then they go back and turn the thoughts in their boxes into complete sentences. The next step is to add an ending. We are trying to discourage them from saying "the end" which is a difficult concept. (I mean, if I look at my own writing and my experiences tutoring at the collegiate level, the conclusion is always the most difficult thing to do. We, as more experienced writers, can always fall back on a summary, but children writing four page books cannot really summarize their pages again). After the children write their sentences, we have them go back and add details to their sentences. The details can be descriptive words or additional sentences or related thoughts. Next the children go through their four squares and make edits to their squares. Then they read it to a partner and make any additional edits. At this point, they sign up for an individual conference with one of us and pull something out to work on. We call the children for conferences one by one and go over their four-square with them. We make sure they can read their story, help them edit (on their level), and help them spell any words they circled (a writing strategy we have taught them so they focus on getting out their thoughts rather than spelling) or essential words. After their conference, they are ready for their final draft! They take each box and put it on a book page and illustrate that page. Finally they make a cover and put it into their writing portfolio. What's next? They start all over again! I know that sounds complicated, but it really is a great way to teach writing, and it is really simple once you see it in progress. I plan on using it not only as a teacher, but also with my student-athletes. You might even see 4 squares on my next paper outline!

- Mini Offices: Mini offices are a file folder with writing resources glued onto it for the children to use with their writing. Prior to school starting, we fill the mini offices with different resources (which I will list below) and then have the children take their folder home and decorate the cover with labeled pictures of their families, things they like, special places etc. The covers serve two purposes. The first is that it has a lot of words that children want to use in their writing, but that teachers may not be able to help them spell (names especially). It also was a great way for us to learn about the children, and the children to learn about each other early in the year. Here is what else is in the mini office: Child's name, ABC chart, story words, color words, blends, shape words, money words, order words, the "5 W's", bossy'R words (-er,-ir,-ar,-or,-ur), vowel dipthongs, and word families. The children keep these with them in their desk bags and as a result have all of these wonderful resources at their fingertips for writers workshop or independent work throughout the day.

More to come! I am learning as much about writing as the children!

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Say What?

Today was a particularly enjoyable day with the First Grade Froggers. I found myself smiling with them all day. Here are some of my favorite moments:

- I was working with a student and his pencil fell on the floor. I reached down to get it and he said, "No! I'll get it. After all, I am a lobster." (later this same child pointed to a crab on our phonics sheet and announced to his group that it was his cousin...clearly he takes his lobster identity very seriously.)

-Two of my children were paired together in both gym class and math. I don't think they had every played together before and before lunch I overheard this conversation:
A: "Your my husband!"
M: " No, I'm not your husband until recess."
A: "Ohhhh...so then you are my husband?"

- The inevitable conversation about babies and husbands came up today (as it has at least once in every single one of my placements...)This time it somehow became a whole class conversation.
E: "Miss Prinzo doesn't have babies!"
H: "Yeah, she's not married. (looks at me) Your not married."
L: "She's not even a grown up, she can't have babies!"
E: "She is too a grown up"
T: "No, she is a student"
K: "She is a student-grown up"
...and then my mentor teacher and I took over the conversation...