You see, I noticed this when I read WITH my students:
1. I read along with them so I can help pronounce words.
2. While reading, sometimes the students will distract other students while my head is in the book.
3. Students will hide their cell phones in their books.
Then I figured there is an advantage to playing the audio version of a book in class and have the students read along:
1. It puts all students at the same reading pace as others.
2. The pace of the reader is perfect.
3. I get observe my students and monitor their behavior.
The third one is key because today, today I scored:
My sixth period is sneaky, but thankfully, they did not argue with me when I simply reached out my hand to the three students who tried to use their electronic devices when they were suppose to be reading along with the audio in class.
And, without looking at the student, I reached out my hand to the student who was sharing clay in class. He was throwing pieces of clay. I simply walked up to him and had him place the clay in my hands.
And I held out my hand until every chunk was placed in my palm.
Well my hand was reached out like that, but my facial expression and my mentality was very similar.
Some teachers would immediately write a referral for the student, but I do not do that unless I have given a verbal warning. I may find other culprits doing the same tomorrow in other class periods.
Looks like I will be doing more observing tomorrow.
Eversince the Weed Incident of 2013 happened, I felt that my students did not deserve any more “free days” time.
But, dammit, I am me and I gave them another one.
Same concept as the actual game, I just differentiated the game to accommodate my classroom. This is one of my favorite board games and I always wanted to try applying it to the classroom environment. This past Friday was my experimental day of Scattergories fun.
I arranged my classroom desks to accommodate 40 students, so I set up 10 groups of four desks. Not an easy task, let me tell you.
Now, the lists varied at each table. Prior to starting the game and reviewing rules, I had students practice rotation and see the lists. Of course, not all students were able to get to each group during the rotation and during the game. Sometimes it’s just better to have the students have a hands-on approach to understanding some rules rather than I displaying the rules on the board or just announcing them in class. This is not only a time-filler, but it prevents the students from getting restless and concentrate better. Well, at least this is my theory.
I had the students rotate desks two or three times until they understood the rotation process. I also labeled the desks A-J (because it’s an English class and I try to avoid the use of numbers in my class. Why? Just because.) so they would know what desk to rotate to next.
Once students knew how to do this, I explained the game of Scattergories, Boggle, and Jenga. WARNING: These games are competitive and I knew chaos would ensue. I would play two rounds of each list using a different letter, timing each round for 2 minutes using the second hand on the analog classroom clock. I was also flexible with the timing of this game. I did not have a letter dice so I used my bag of tiles from Scrabble. Students at the Jenga table would essentially play Jenga for five minutes and those at Boggle would have 5 minutes to play. I would find out the winner from those two groups at the same time I would ask the students at the Scattergories groups.
I would keep score by having each group decide who would be the winner in each group. Because Scattergories requires some convincing that their answer is correct and not the same as other students, it was best to have the groups decide. I wrote the initial winners on the board and wrote a slash if the student was to win additional rounds. Students with their name plus one or more slashes won an Oreo cookie.
At first, I handed students stacks of recycled paper so they may use this as answer sheets. I also paper-clipped the Scattergories lists and left them at each group. Sounds and looks like a good plan, right?
At the end of 1st and 2nd period, the result:
Yup. Ripped and scattered 1/4 sheets of paper on the desks and on the floor. That is what it looked like for my first two class periods of the day. And they’re my GOOD classes, so I can imagine the chaos of the rest of the day. Good thing 3rd period was my prep period, and I made changes.
I taped the lists onto the desk, and a student from my 2nd paper gave me the idea of having each student use and re-use one sheet of paper as they rotated. Then, I can collect the papers and give out participation points based on who turned in a paper. See, told you my first two classes are good classes.
And so, I made adjustments:
My 4th, 5th, and 6th class periods did well. 4th period was a bit crazy, but surprisingly interactive, and of course, my 5th period was a bit upsetting (as usual). But, my greatest successfully active class was my 6th period because everyone participated and had fun.
Yup. The same class that made my first few weeks of teaching a traumatic challenge ended up making this past Friday my experimental day of Scattergories fun and successful. A couple adjustments still need to be made here and there, but educations need to adapt and make the occasional change to meet the needs of our students, right? RIGHT!
I pulled an April Fools’ prank on my students today. Then they called me mean.
I had this all planned out last night, unfortunately I did not wake up early enough to get to my class and set it up the way I wanted.
PLAN: On the right-side of the board I wrote “March Movie Madness Monday: Lets vote on a movie to watch”. Then I would write ‘Just Kidding’ behind the rolled-down projector screen and right next to it, the actual agenda. Ideally, the students would walk-in, get excited about the agenda, and then I would raise the screen and tell the students, April Fools’!
Yeah, that did not happen with 1st period. But some students still hoped for a movie. Nope.
I TOLD my 1st, 5th, and 6th period classes about the prank, pulled the prank with 2nd period and 4th period, and no matter how I said it and no matter how I pulled the prank, my students snickered and called me ‘mean’ as they, well, were…
And I was like, “Well, let us get to work!”
As I explained the actual agenda involving reading from the textbook, discussing, and writing reader responses, students occasional yelled out “April’s Fool” in which I responded, “Nope. We’re actually going to do work.” In which many turned to their peers…
wondering if I was still joking. Nope.
Oh, I love my job.
I decided to create a new seating chart for my students, but for me to make this work it required some strategic planning, patience, trial and error, and observation of the natural teenage student environment.
Wow. I apologize. I did not mean for all of that to sound like a science project.
In all my experience in substitute teaching I have noticed that students do not respond to change all too easily, thus why students try to complicate the lives of their substitute teachers more than they would the lives of their regular teachers.
Right before Spring Break, I rearranged the desks and allowed my students to sit wherever they choose. I was briefly reminded of this:
By this time I am familiar with the student names and faces to take attendance by sight. This gave me the opportunity to observe who wants to sit with who, who wants to sit where, and who will adapt to change better than others. On the first day of offering students to sit where they will sit, they will “claim” a spot. Some switches will be made here and there, but for the most part, the same students sit together or in the same spot.
This observation helped because now I noticed things like the two best friends who begged to sit next to each other at the beginning of the school-year are now sitting on opposite sides of the classroom and one of the students in the group of friends who hang out together chooses to sit away from his friends during class. I consider these factors.
This change did not go forewarned with my students. My students knew this day would come, and it was best I informed them ahead of time so they would not project an attitude that required me to attempt to calm them down. Plus, I wanted to prevent this from happening:
I made my charts.
Upon returning from Spring Break, the students sat wherever they wanted the first-two days while I was in New York and they had a Sub. By third day, upon my return, I allowed them to sit wherever they wanted and observed to see if I needed to make new changes on my preliminary seating chart. By this third day, I noticed who works well as a group and who works well independently.
My desks are arranged where there are desks grouped together for those who can work in groups and desks arranged in individual rows for those who can, and probably should, work independently. Plus, this helps create an environment where I can easily move about in the classroom.
I finalized my charts and I used the good ol’ divide and conquer method.
ME: Okay, guess what I have? [students groan] That’s right! Seating charts!
STUDENTS: (students whine, groan, and shuffle around the class)
ME: (assign students to their seats)
STUDENTS: (settle in their seats and pout)
ME: (in my sarcastically enthusiastic tone of voice) Do you like your new seats?
ME: Excellent. Let us get back to work, shall we?
We are still in the honeymoon phase of this seating arrangement, but so far so good.
I spent all of my Spring Break week plus the first two days of school AFTER Spring Break in New York.
I just got back yesterday.
Today was the first day back in the classroom.
Not only was my vacation in New York WONDERFUL, it definitely was a long enough break and escape from the classroom. Upon my return the students were happy to see me. Mainly because the students disliked the Substitute Teacher they had in place of me.
Yes, another Sub for a Sub.
My students had nothing good to say about the man and used very little words to explain what he looked like except to say that he reminded them of this guy:
and this guy:
And that he said (of course, I presume, he meant this jokingly) that he was a:
This Sub also said he was one of these:
Yup, he told them he was a Werewolf.
Oh, but according to each class, all of the above just annoyed them. What they truly did not like, what they TRULY felt insulted by was that they were treated like:
And so I asked, “Well, were you acting like brats?” And of course, they said, “NO!”
Whoever this Sub may be, whatever he said, he must have walked into my classroom and said to himself:
Because, in the end, a majority of my students completed the assignment. Yes, he successfully managed to assign, distribute, and collect the assignment. The stacks of completed work was neatly paper clipped together, and HE left an informative note regarding the behavior of my students. This DEFINITELY helped transition my return back into the classroom from a rewarding vacation.
Welcome back, Ms. V, indeed.
Earlier this week it was my birthday. Whenever my birthday lands on a school day I treat my students to a treat, whether it was a classroom I was in for a day, week, month, or year. I genuinely enjoy celebrating my birthday with my students.
This year, I celebrated my birthday by serving my students (yup, each class of 35+ students) Oreo cookies. In addition I had a sorta “free day” allowing them to play some board games and take over my whiteboard. I know it seems like chaos, but I thankfully had controlled chaos.
Well, it was all fun and games until a student in 5th period decided to take this time for granted and attempt to…
In my classroom.
In my classroom that has a broken air conditioner.
In my classroom with only one window open.
in a classroom of 30+ students.
IN. MY. CLASSROOM.
So, what happened? Though I let the students have free time, that does not mean I sit at my desk and fall asleep. I make my rounds. I take this opportunity to have casual conversations with students I do not normally have such conversations with. I shared an interest of anime with one student, discovered that another is heading to Pennsylvania because he placed 2nd place in wrestling in his region, and discovered how one student can rap Shakespeare stories. It was quite entertaining. For this particular class period, as I made my rounds, I also made sure students picked up their trash from the floor. I walked pass one group of students and when I kneeled down to pick-up a piece of trash I stood up and…
When I turned around a group of girls got up from their desks, leaving one student behind, and him looking at me innocently asking, “Do you smell that, Miss?”
In this scenario, I chose not to acknowledge that I knew what the smell was. Students quickly started saying they smelled weed, or “it smells funny in here”, or questioned the smell. They would immediately tell me they smell weed and asked if I smell weed. By acknowledging I knew what the scent was confirms that I KNEW what the scent was and therefore I replied simply:
“That is an unusual scent and I do not like it.”
I made my way to my desk. Students wanted to leave the classroom, I denied them. We opened another window. I pretty much put my classroom on a lockdown. I tried to call every extension on my “in case of emergency” list and all went straight to voicemail.
I made it through to the recepetion desk, with students listening intently trying to find out who I was calling I simply said, “There is an unusual scent in my classroom.” “Ok, we’ll send someone your way.”
Who walks in? A custodian. Not who I expected. I wrote the situation on a piece of paper and asked if he could help me with this situation because none of the other extensions picked up. Out the door he goes.
While I wait, the students continue to play their board games, write on my board, and create a birthday banner for me. Then suddenly, my door swings open, school security enters, and I head outside to speak to administrator.
There goes trying to keep my class calm.
In the end, we (Discipline office and myself) discover that the student who so innocently sat at the table with the girls had in his possession a homemade pipe and a small “baggy” of sorts. He lit it up, blew smoke in the girls’ face, and thought I would not notice it.
This whole incident slaps me in the face. It makes it seem like I had no control over my classroom. Rumors will spread on the campus of how a student lit one up in my classroom and teachers will ask, “what was she doing that he was able to do that?” or “what was going on in the class that the student thought he can do that?” and I am sure all other questions that will question my classroom management skills.
The bigger slap in the face is knowing that I JUST had a talk with this student about how I was proud of how his grade improved.
I was simply disappointed in my student as much as I was in myself.
After Spring Break I will need to remind my students of the rules and expectations, and just hope for the school-year without an incident as such. Personally, I think I handled the situation well and I HATE the fact that what has happened has happened.
When a student waves a sheet of paper in front of my face and then I snarl at them to put it on my desk, it is usually a permission slip letting me know they are going to be absent. Past permission slips included events for JROTC, a sports competition, or an AVID field trip to a college.
Recently, permission slips have been flooding in for permission to bring a baby into the classroom. Not an actual, true-to-life-breathing baby, but a manufactured baby to simulate babies. I am sure you heard of or seen these babies. Students who take a child development or human development class in high school sign-up to take care of a baby of their own.
According to my students, the teacher informed them that there is a computer chip in the baby to collect data on how the student treats the baby. For example, the student above told me that the teacher would know how long the baby cried, how long it took to feed the baby or rock the baby to sleep, and the times the baby was changed. That bracelet she is wearing has something to do with it as well.
Now, when I permitted the students to bring the baby to class, some of my students were surprised at how I took this assignment seriously.
STUDENT: Miss, but it’s a fake baby! Go outside? Miss, if the baby was going to be distracting, why sign the permission slip?
ME: You wanted to know what it was like if you brought a baby with you, now you’re experiencing it. Your baby is crying. Take him outside to feed him or go to the restroom to do what you need to do.
I am quite confident I would ask this of any student if, in a real life situation, a student were to bring a baby in the classroom. I already had one student, a male, miss an entire lesson because his baby kept crying. I allowed him to turn-in his assignment the next day and when he turned in the assignment he said to me, “Miss, babies are no joke.”
You are so very right.
A student decided to stop by my class after-school. I was in the middle of creating a Romeo and Juliet worksheet when he stepped into my class. Normally I would stop my work and ask the student to leave, I had work to do, but I allowed procrastination to win me over.
He was waiting for his girlfriend and worked on homework in another classroom. When that teacher left his classroom, he walked around aimlessly and saw my room propped open. He wanted to continue working on his homework and I continued to type away at my keyboard.
STUDENT: Miss, so you’re not teaching here next year?
We discussed why I am NOT going to be hired at the school as a permanent teacher (I am not California credentialed) and discussed my previous experience working as a Festival Director with a prominent Los Angeles film festival. It was my previous experience that lead him to discuss his plans of becoming a film major. He had questions and I had answers. He has dreams of directing science fiction films and wants to be an independent filmmaker. He then told me he was afraid of writing and can not imagine writing a script. That lead me to say…
He admitted that he fears making writing mistakes and that he has all sorts of ideas but doesn’t know how to start the perfect sentence. we talk about writing and our previous teachers. He was taught to fear mistakes and I was taught to make them.
STUDENT: Miss, it’s cool when you don’t single us out.
I walk around the class often. Always on my feet. He points out how I do not just pay attention to one student, but walk around to pay attention to everyone. I was like, wow, a student actually noticed my teaching technique. The topic changes and we discuss the teachers we grew up with.
He even said that he felt like first-period was a team effort. His words, “If one student is not learning, I’m not learning.” I wanted to cry.
I do not normally allow students to hang out, but this was actually cool.
Personally, I enjoy teaching Romeo and Juliet. I feel like I learn something new every time I read and re-read and teach the play. I also find it interesting how a few lines can be interpreted from various perspectives. THIS is interesting to me.
Oh, but not to a classroom of 9th graders. I had to find a way to grab their attention, make them read, listen, and watch, while teaching how to understand what they read, listen to, watch, and write notes. It is quite a complicated multitasking task.
This week marks the first week of reading Romeo and Juliet. Most teachers recommend that I simply show the movie and go over a few scenes from the play. Oh no, not me. It is BECAUSE I go over every ACT and SCENE that I come home tired and ready to sleep, not because my students wore me out, but because I wore out my enthusiasm wanting to teach every ACT and SCENE. Do not misinterpret that as a complaint, nope, not this time.
I even bought swords. SWORDS!
I am not naturally full of energy so it is not easy to maintain enthusiasm every class period. But I started off the week strong (I mean, really, I gave them swords. SWORDS!) and we finished Act I during our first week of reading. If I play and arrange my lessons right, we can end before Spring Break.
My students did not have to perform their roles in front of the class. If anything the props were available to give them something to fiddle with as they read or get into character if they wanted to. I did not assign students lines based on gender. I made it clear that sometimes roles of Juliet will be read by a male student, sometimes Romeo will be read by a female student, and I further explained how, in Shakespeare’s time (and even many eras after that) that men HAD to be trained to act in female roles. I assigned roles to students based on reading ability, volunteer, and students who do not normally read (I gave those students the shorter roles of the play to red) but I definitely did my very best to not make Romeo and Juliet boring.
I even had students compare and contrast (though I DO appreciate the Zefferelli version) Baz Lurhman’s version of Romeo and Juliet to what we are reading. My favorite teacher moment was when a student stood up during the Prince’s monologue in Act I to point out that the Prince’s lines in the movie were shorter than what we had read as a class. I was able to briefly discuss how artistic interpretations of Shakespeare’s plays vary both in film and on stage.
The students try to stick with the story, try to stay awake, and they roll their eyes often, so in response to that I often find myself trying to raise my voice or walk around the class just to maintain attention. I bought the props for that same reason.
Anyway, *sigh*, it has been a rough but fairly productive week. We shall continue such madness next week.
Experienced my first fire drill today. Last week I recieved an email saying they had to reschedule the fire drill due to rain. I did not even receive the email explaining we were going to have a firedrill in the first place.
Then today, today, I somehow managed to not check my email and the fire alarm went off right when I was going to discuss the prologue to Romeo and Juliet.
And so, my classed lined up at the door as I tried to examine the school map and find the sign I am suppose to carry as I lead them to their safe spot. I couldn’t figure out the map (mind you, i have never been a tour of the school and I constantly find myself looking at the map when I have to Period Sub during my conference period) so I asked the students to go ahead and follow the crowd.
My students lead me to our safety zone as I tried to hold my classroom sign high. At 5’2”, it’s not easy to raise a sign high above my head.
STUDENT: (yelling from a distance within the crowd behind me) Ms. V! You need to hold that sign up higher short teacher!
ME: (turns around and gives the evil eye)
Lately my students have been observing my height and pointing out how short I am…often. They do this jokingly, of course, and I can roll with the punches.
My students did so well during the fire drill. I am thankful it was THIS group of students. Well-behaved. Whew.
I scheduled a DMV appointment for tomorrow so I needed a substitute teacher to cover my class.
Yup, a Substitute Teacher for a Substitute Teacher.
In my experience as a Guest Teacher (that’s what we’re called in my district) I decided to make sure I prepared the Substitute Teacher. I provided as much material as possible so that the students work and the Substitute Teacher gets to do what needs to be done (i.e. classroom manage, distribute and collect work, etc.).
I even wrote words of encouragement and the agenda on the board.
In addition, I also put any important paperwork in a bin, locked my file cabinets, and cleared surfaces. This helps prevent any theft from either Guest Teacher or student.
I am hoping my students do well tomorrow and behave. I know I have a few more scheduled appointments planned, so I plan on doing things that will make my Substitute Teacher’s life easy, but more importantly, easy for me.