Miss Cutts' Corner

An elementary education student's view of the teaching world.

Cooperative Groups

     I have recently completed an assignment about using cooperative groups in the classroom.  I absolutely love this idea because students can gain so much from the experience other than just the content that is being taught.  Students learn how to interact respectfully with their peers, they learn responsibility, and they learn how to cooperate with others when striving to meet a goal.  Even though the final product is to be a group effort, I still think it is very important for the teacher to be able to evaluate each individual student's progress.  Some ways the teacher can do this is through observation, having the students keep a journal of their group activities, or being sure to test students individually.  I also love cooperative groups because they work well in every single subject.  Students are able to help each other, even when maybe the teacher was unable to explain the material in a way that the student understood.  What are some ways that you have used cooperative groups in your classrooms?  Have they worked out well in your experience?  Other than possible noise level problems, what are some other drawbacks that can come with using cooperative groups?

Technology in the Classroom

     This semester I am in a class that is teaching us about different technologies that can be used in the classroom and school environment.  So far we have used Inspiration to create a classroom floorplan, Excel to create a budget spreadsheet for a classroom, PowerPoint to make an interactive instructional presentation, reviewed several educational websites and videos, and are now working on creating and editing our own instructional videos.  So far my favorites have been the Inspiration program because you can use it to create mind maps, outlines, and so much more!  It is an amazing program and very user-friendly.  I also really enjoy PowerPoint because it is a way to present information to the class in a fun way without losing your main points (as long as it is used correctly).  I especially love using PowerPoint on a SmartBoard because the teacher can create activities within the PowerPoint for students to interact with.  Even if the teacher does not have a SmartBoard, the students can still interact with the presentation.  I think this is a great way to catch students' attention and keep it.  I was wondering what sort of technologies experienced teachers have used most in their classrooms and what works best?

Looping

     In the College of Education at Auburn University, once a student is accepted into their program, they are placed into a cohort which is a group of students in the same program who all of your classes will be with.  After being with these girls for an entire year, I now realize what a wonderful idea this is.  We all know each other and know how to work with each other.  This has got me into wondering how this could be implemented in elementary school.  I have heard of teachers looping with their students and being with them two or three years in a row, which I think is great because they do not have to go through the beginning of the year nonsense where the students are getting to know the teacher and the classroom procedures.  Instead students and teacher are able to jump right in and are already very comfortable with each other.  I also know, however, that this can cause administrative issues since the teacher moving up a grade can cause a gap in the other grade that must be filled.  Are there any other drawbacks to a teacher looping with her students?  Would it be possible to keep a group of students together even if the teacher does not move up with them?  Are there any drawbacks in this situation?

Instructional Videos and Resources

     I have found one of the greatest website resources ever!  It is called BrainPop!  This site includes instructional videos and other resources for students and teachers.  The videos are awesome for introducing a topic or unit.  The main characters that they use in every video are so cute and very easy to understand.  There is also a "notepad" at the side of the video that has the important questions that the video should answer.  Videos on different topics are very easy to find because they are divided into their subject areas and then sub groups within that group.  There are also quizzes that students can take after watching a video.  There is also an awesome section that allows you to enter your state, subject area, and grade.  From there it will find all of the videos on BrainPop that apply to that area.  It is so wonderful!  There are so many other resources available as well!  There is a free trial available, if you would like to try it out.  A subscription is a bit expensive for an individual classroom, but it is a great tool that any teacher of any grade could use, so I would highly recommend talking to your administration about investing in a subscription.

The Learning Environment

     Throughout my time as a college student, I have become very aware of my preferences when it comes to my environment whenever I am attempting to pay attention during class or studying.  I have also noticed that everyone has their own preferences as well and they tend to be different from mine.  This got me to thinking today about the elementary school learning environment.  Some students prefer complete silence while they are trying to accomplish a task.  Others may not be able to concentrate when all you can hear is the air conditioner running.  Some students become very distracted by posters, projects, and decorations that tend to cover the walls, yet others feel almost anxious and stressed out in a room where you see nothing but the bare beige painted cinder block walls.  How does a teacher accommodate all of these different preferences?  How does she make sure that every student is able to work to their greatest potential without being stressed out by their environment?  Is there a possibility of compromise?

Hang the Code!

     Recently I have been tutoring a student in reading for a class I am participating in.  Each lesson focuses on a vowel correspondence (like a = /a/ and ee = /E/), which works very well for the majority of words.  I have noticed, however, that the English language can be incredibly difficult and frustrating to learn because there are so many words that do not follow the alphabetic code that we teach.  An example of this is the words though, tough, and ought.  All three of these words contain -ough but are all pronounced differently.  The only way to teach students these exceptions is by memorizing them.  Does anyone have any suggestions on how to make the difficulty of learning the English alphabetic code any easier for students?

Lunch Time!

     Everyone remembers when they were in elementary school walking to the lunchroom, getting your tray of food, and sitting in the noisy cafeteria.  I have always thought that this was the only appropriate way to do lunch with young children until last semester.  The school I had my lab experience at does not have a cafeteria, so the students all eat lunch in their classroom with their teacher.  I was very concerned about this at first simply because this was not what I was used to.  I thought children in elementary school were too noisy and messy to handle this situation, but I was pleasantly surprised by the group of first graders I was working with.  They all walked back into the classroom after picking up their food and sat down at their tables.  One student every week was responsible for handing out forks and condiments.  The students would wait until everyone had sat down and had everything they needed before anyone would start to eat.  Their table manners were amazing!  They spoke quietly with each other and once they were done eating, each student cleaned up after themselves.  After spending a semester in this situation, I have realized that I prefer this experience over the insanity of the lunchroom.

Memorizing vs. Understand Content

     Last semester I was involved in an after school tutoring program where I helped students in 3rd and 4th grade to complete their homework and hopefully understand the content.  At the same time, I was taking a course that was covering Piaget's theory of Cognitive Development.  Most of the students I was tutoring was still in the Concrete Operational Stage, yet many of the concepts they were having to learn (especially mathematical concepts) are much more abstract.  This frustrated me because I have always been taught that as a teacher we should aim for students to understand a concept rather than just memorizing facts.  I also understand, however, that as a teacher I am responsible for covering the standards for the grade I am teaching.  What should a teacher do in this situation?  Go back a few years later and reteach material so that students may actually understand?  Just let it go and keep pushing through all the material that must be covered?  Hope that some day the student will construct understanding on the own? 

What Each Child Needs

So I was discussing Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs with my boyfriend's mother this past weekend (very random topic of discussion, I know), and it got me to thinking about students and how and why they learn (or why they don't learn, for that matter).  If a student is concerned about the fact they have not eaten in over 24 hours or they do not have a safe place to return to after school, how can we expect them to learn the multiplication tables or what happened during the American Revolution.  This has reminded me that, as a teacher, I need to take a step back at times and try to analyze an entire situation instead of just throwing more information at the students.  Information may not be what they need.  It also frustrates me that there are even children who live in these conditions.  I know that there are programs in place to help them, but I have been in schools where this only made a minimal amount of difference.  I just wish there was more, but what can a teacher do to help?  And when would they be over-stepping the boundaries?

Literature Circles

     In a few of my classes we have discussed literature circles and all of the benefits of them.  I love the idea of students working collaboratively to construct their own knowledge rather than having a teacher just feed them what they need to know.  I also like that it helps to develop a student's sense of responsibility since they are expected to do their part and not let the rest of their group down.  Finally, I think it is great when a student is able to choose what they will read about rather than having to read a book that they are not even mildly interested in.  I know they gain more from the experience and are more likely to enjoy it.  The one thing that concerns me is that I have only seen literature circles done in the upper elementary grades (4th and 5th mostly).  I was wondering what sort of adjustments would have to be made to still be able to use this concept in the lower grades (about 2nd and 3rd)?  This would be possible, right?

Inclusion (Part 2)

     I really appreciated all of the good feedback I received on my last post about inclusion, so I thought I would try probing for a little more advice.  It seemed that everyone agreed that whether students should be included in the regular classroom or not should be decided on a case by case basis.  I was wondering what teachers could do when a student is placed in their classroom who does not work well in that situation?  What sort of options are available?  Another concern I have stems from stories I heard from a friend of mine who taught an inclusion class this past year.  More than half of her class was SE and she did not have anyone who was trained in special education to help her.  What sort of resources are available in this situation?  Really, what resources are available for any inclusion classroom?  I want all of my students to benefit from my class and the idea of anyone not getting the most out of it possible upsets me.  I know all of you will have great advice on this one! I look forward to reading it!

Inclusion

     Throughout my education as an elementary education student, I have heard mixed reviews on inclusion.  Some teachers think it's the greatest thing ever where others think it is just a pain.  From what I have seen, I think it has the potential to be either.  For some students, I believe the least restrictive environment is the best place for them as long as they are still receiving the specialized attention they need as well.  I think this gives the student the opportunity to interact with their peers and grow in a way that they may not be able to when in a self-contained special education classroom.  Sadly, I have also seen cases where being included in the regular classroom did not appear to be in the best interest of the student.  Last spring semester I did my lab experience in a first grade classroom where there was a student who was autistic.  The experience appeared to stress him out more than anything else since most autistic children do not usually like large groups of people and social situations.  I think the student does need experiences where he is with his peers, but I am not so sure that being immersed in the environment throughout the entire school day is the best idea for him.  The only conclusion I can come to on this topic is that the parents and teachers of the student need to seriously consider the needs of the student and consistently reevaluate what is working and what is not.  It is difficult to come to any sort of concrete conclusion on this topic.  What is your opinion?

In Need of a Little Help...

     This summer for my reading methods class, I have been assigned a student to tutor in reading.  The student is 7 years old, going into the second grade, and still having a great deal of trouble with reading.  During the first few lessons it seemed like he was incredibly frustrated with his inability to read.  He would sigh between words and constantly insist that he could not read.  As time has passed though, I have slowly come to the realization that he can in fact decode many more words than he lets on.  It appears now that it is not so much that he cannot read, but rather that he does not want to.  He has become more and more vocal over time about his disinterest in reading and will literally attempt to pitch fits when asked to read.  I also suspect (and so does his mother) that he is ADHD.  I try to keep up the pace in the lessons and change activities every few minutes, but it is still difficult to keep his attention for more than about one to two minutes.  Does anyone have any suggestions for how to structure these lessons to where it best benefits this student?

My Survival Guide

    As an education student, the most terrifying thought right now is the idea that in only one year from now I will have my own classroom full of bright-eyed students ready to learn.  My greatest fear is that I will let them down.  One thing that has helped me greatly in increasing my confidence in my abilities as a teacher is the book The First-Year Teacher’s Survival Guide.  The text is written in a way that is very easy to read and understand.  The author, Julia G. Thompson, covers topics such as the first day of school, how to keep yourself organized, and how to use time wisely.  The information is all presented in an organized manner and is very useful.  Reading this text has helped me to feel much more prepared for my first year as an elementary school teacher.  For anyone who is a first-year teacher or an education student (not just elementary), I would highly recommend you look into getting a copy of this book!  Does anyone have any suggestions of excellent resources for first-year teachers?

May I Introduce Myself?

     Greetings to all!  I just thought I would take this opportunity to introduce myself a bit.  My name is Miss Cutts and I am an elementary education major at Auburn University in Auburn, Alabama.  I am just now starting my senior year and will be doing my student teaching this fall semester in a second grade classroom.  I am new to blogging, but am very excited about what Teacher Lingo has to offer!  I look forward to sharing my thoughts of the world of education so far and hope to learn from other teachers more experienced than I.  I am sure this will be a great experience for me and I cannot wait to start!