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Posts Tagged ‘3rd grade’

For the last few weeks, nearly every time I walk into my Tree House classroom, I want to maim and mangle the little monsters I teach.  Sometimes I worry that it’s my lack of technique and proper strategy, but I usually comfort myself with the fact that most teachers who have a class in this curriculum hate their children as much as I do.

The true problem is that I like the kids individually and even mostly as a class (save Ian Wang, that wicked little blight on humanity and Jay the budding sociopath or politician).  It’s only when they have to be dealt with as a mass of children that the slow boiling rage starts to simmer and I use the teacher’s-desk-and-chair-as-cage on kid after kid in close succession.

Yesterday was terrible with this class and after I wiped the board clean of points and sent them home with no stamps, I went to my desk out in the main office space and put my head down to curse slowly and methodically and more creatively than is my wont.  Today, I sat them down and made them write two lessons’ worth of worksheets, and the situation was a little better.  The best thing was that Ian Wang was a little cowed by being sent to the first grade classroom yesterday and thoroughly and sickeningly-sweetly tongue-lashed by my supervisor.  What made me feel bad about myself, though, was that when he came back and apologized at break time, I could only see his sullenness and think “I want you broken, kid, not falsely contrite and seething.”

Teaching is not for everyone.

Or teaching certain levels is not for everyone, because my favorite class that used to be on Tuesday is now on Friday, and today was a wonderful end-of-level games day.  I made a crossword puzzle and photocopied the word search in the teacher’s guide, and also thought up a decent hitting-the-whiteboard game which upper elementary and lower junior high kids still enjoyed.  Surprisingly, the puzzles were the real hit, and there was utter silence for minutes on end as they deciphered the bastardized IPA that they’re taught here and found the resulting spelling words.  I had some nice conversation with my Chinese teacher as we shared standardized testing experiences, and enjoyed watching my students puzzle out the crossword clues.  At one point, though it was unrelated to the work, I had to explain to Ernie that bullshit was in fact a bad word, and he should say BS or crap.

When four kids had finished (and greedily claimed their prizes of a single Werther’s), I needed to occupy them and so told Brian Chen that if he was so set on speaking Chinese in class, he could write it on the board for my benefit.  Unfortunately, I could only think of the lines I had just made him write to claim his prize (“I will speak English in English class”), and I already know how to say it.  Overall, we had some fun writing various sentences in various languages on the board, although I had to police a little when it came to Sam, the oldest kid in class.

It was a really nice end to the week, and was only improved by home calls to my junior high class and cartwheels with a few Tuesday students.  I’m looking forward to the weekend, but without any sense of oppression from the week behind, and it’s a really great feeling.

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Last evening’s class was adorable. One kid I’ve fretted over since I started with his class in level one was remarkably responsive and so outgoing that I almost couldn’t believe it. He came right up to me during a patterns practice exercise, and even though he didn’t have the pattern down, I was able to practice with him one-on-one.

Even though there are 20 kids in this class, it’s starting to develop a real comfortable atmosphere. It’s a joined class of about eight originals, nine or ten kids from my old Kids Club class, and a few new ones. It took a while for them to get to know each other, but it’s coalescing and I have high hopes for this class. They really enjoy the singing and I actually find myself having fun playing it up with the dance moves.

One of the new kids is also the oldest one in the class, and he has the most confidence and spunk of all the students. The grammar point of the lesson was the object pronouns it and them, building from him and her in the previous class. To introduce it, I asked them if cookies was a boy or girl, and this kid answered “bogirl.” He’s a character.

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Remember how much I loved subbing Tree House classes?  Sadly, having a class all your own is not actually better than Step Ahead, like I thought, but worse.  I hate the stupid priorities (the students erase and write corrections over spelling mistakes and grammar errors, and then I have to see it and check that it’s okay, meaning I see their start-of-class quizzes and homework books at least twice, and often three or four times for the lazy or slow ones).  There’s so much busywork to do in one class, but strangely, two hours feels like five.

From right to left, crust crackers, peanut butter and Nutella sauce, and candy and banana toppings.

What this boils down to is that I’m appreciating all my other classes more, especially the silence and calm of the junior high class.  This is not to say they’re un-animated, because they talk well enough and burst into life at break times, but they’re closer to adults and they don’t fight all the time.

On Wednesday I had a end-of-the-level party, since I had introduced the idea of dessert pizza in lesson one, and decided to follow through in the party lesson.  We discussed what goes into a pizza and what substitutions we could make, most of them coming from me and surprising and shocking them.  Peanut butter and banana together?  Peanut butter is a sweet thing?!  No, teacher, no.

In the first hour of class, we played some games and I introduced the new unit, and in the second hour, I laid out the spread and showed them how to make the sweet cracker pizza goodness.  My favorite moment was when a student wracked her brain for a moment and then said she “could deal with” peanut butter and banana.  Idiom usage!  We then played the game where you have a name on your forehead and have to guess who you are with yes or no questions.  We had Katy Perry, Obama, my co-teacher Sharon, Kelly Clarkson, and Little Pig in the class.  Overall, it was quite a success!

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Today was a good day, if I consider the start of the day to be 11:40!  I finished up a two week subbing stretch which means BANK!, plus the kids were great.  I’ll soon be finished with my own little …bunch, which I’m not too bothered about, though I think I’ll miss the original few or perhaps more accurately, the ones I consider the core class.

In other news, I saw the Hello Kitty car again today, wedged up into a parking spot I didn’t know existed in front of the PX Mart.

In other news, my Taiwanese teacher/fried food vendor now has an older buddy who has the thickest accent in the world.  I had been starting to wonder about when my ability to detect accents in Chinese would emerge (beyond the most basic this is Beijing and this is Taiwan), but I’ve totally got it down with this guy.  Half of his words sounded like he was speaking Taiwanese!  He was very helpful, but food words don’t get you far with building useful grammatical sentences.  I really want to buy this Taiwanese book, but I haven’t had the money or the time to get into Taipei and find these people.  Maybe next weekend!

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I love Tuesdays.

I used to despair over my earlier Tuesday class (earlier generally means both younger and earlier in the day, although my Tuesday classes are about the same grade level for the most part), but then I got a new student who brings up everyone around her and the serious ADD kid is coming under control.  I started playing more active games in that class to get some energy out, and it’s especially appropriate because we’re learning about outdoor activities (snorkeling, surfing, playing hockey, ice skating… parascending?!) and it’s fun to act them out as they learn.

The later class I’ve liked from the start, or at least from the day they were Team Superman and Team Joker.  They are full of energy in the best possible way, and seem to have decent English.  My co-teacher in this class rules with an iron fist, so I always grade well-spaced and tidily written homework (for the most part), although when she subbed in for the earlier class’s CT, I was not as impressed with her work.  I think she does better with the higher levels… or she was having a bit of the same shock I had with my early class!  To be fair, they did abysmally on an assessment (vocab is their strong suit, verb conjugation is not).

One of my favorite kids in the later class is named Ernie, and he’s the one who always advocates for superhero/villain team names.  After one of my first classes with his group, he showed me his Batman sandals and I was appropriately complimentary.  When this class had oral tests recently, I decided to wear my Batman shirt, which he used to ask me a great question when it was his turn: “Do you like ….the… Do you like adventure movies?”  I was very pleased, and apparently he was too, since now, whenever I see him outside class, he shoots me with some finger weapon.  Today, I introduced him to grenades by throwing one to him and killing him.  When he recovered, he followed me to the office and asked, “Teacher, what’s this?” [mimed hand grenade].  What a fun mini-lesson to be able to say, “That’s a grenade, Ernie.  You pull the pin and BOOM!”

He learns quickly, because he dodged the next one I threw him and let it take out Teacher Jennifer and the copier.

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I have now met all of my classes, and I can say that I have only two that require a significantly larger portion of energy or attention.  Now, I’m definitely not at the stage where I can waltz in 5 minutes before class and prep in my head, but I am not nervous to the core anymore each time I walk to a class.

One of the classes that will take an especial focus is my second-oldest class, probably 4th to 6th graders if the grades run like they do in the US.  These kids are not particularly rambunctious, and that’s actually part of the problem.  They’re a bit apathetic and don’t speak up readily or well.  For a class that’s supposed to focus on all aspects of English, this is a pretty big problem.  I think the best fix here is figuring out what kind of games and interactions they like and focusing on those so they want to to participate.

The other class is younger, so it’s easier to get them to play games and know you’re not insulting their adolescent pride, but there’s a restless child, a tattletale, and a cheeky-borderline-naughty one.  If they aren’t handled, the rest of the class won’t get a proper amount of attention, and that’s not fair, since there are some pretty good students.  I have a really good co-teacher/Chinese teacher in this class, so I’ll see what she has to say about those kids in particular and the class in general.

Oh, and remember Poo-poo King?  I think it might not just be in fun; I think he’s unpopular and I am not sure what to do.  Clue #1: Referred to as Poo-poo King at the start of the second class.  Clue #2: Another kid tripped him, very possibly on purpose.  Clue #3: Never has a speaking partner, even though he and his deskmate are the easiest and most obvious choice for each other.  Something to talk to that CT about, I suppose.

Let me end on a positive note: my Saturday class was a joy, especially considering they were in school on a Saturday.  Bravo, C2!  There were some excellent participators, especially in the back rows.  This is great, because it means they draw my attention to the back of the class and I don’t have to remind myself to do it.  Another reason I think I’m going to enjoy this class is that they’re just starting a level, so I’m not jumping in in the middle of a unit.  It makes me feel less like a sub and more like a teacher.

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Small things

Today I gave a test to some 7 or 8-year-olds, which was great in two ways!  First, testing days are a boon for the teacher because it means there will be a little reviewing and then WHAM!, the rest of the class is taken up by the test.  It didn’t hurt that this class was very cooperative for the most part, and my co-teacher was great.  I look forward to being settled in with my classes and their little quirks and particulars.  The second reason it was great was that I had prepped for it being an oral test, but that was done last week, so I had to think quickly and re-plan and I did it without too much hassle.

Because I gave the test, I had to grade the test, but since there were only 8 students, it took only 15 minutes, and I think that was mostly me being inefficient and paranoid.  Grading is actually pretty nice, in my opinion, especially something as black and white as a test for what are essentially first graders.  I think this little class is going to be a lot of fun.

Another thing: maybe this is not typical for teachers in the US, but I had to refill my whiteboard pens today.  I definitely looked like someone who had not passed kindergarten for the rest of the evening…

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