Thursday, September 14, 2006

First Teaching Day, Seven Days Late

Today was the first day that I actually did lessons! I was a little nervous, to tell you the truth; I'd been coasting with all the tests and formalities of the beginning of the year.
Regardless, it was a pretty fun and effective day.

My warm up was this question: "What is a mnemonic device? Write the definition. You may use a dictionary if you like."

There were dictionaries on all the tables, and the students faithfully got to work, busily paging through, confused about the spelling of that word.

After a couple minutes, I asked for a volunteer to share what they found. The dictionary definition for 'mnemonic' was "assisting or aiding in memory; related to memory." Then I asked them for a definition in their own words. They understood it was about helping remember. So I asked about a 'device.' They mostly compared it to electronics, or a gadget or invention. I said, "Yes, you're on the right track. Another word for 'device' could be 'tool.' So we could say that a mnemonic device is a tool to help you remember something."

Then I put these words up on the board: etymology and Mnemosyne. I explained that we'll be learning lots of new words, some bigger than others, and that sometimes we will learn about the etymology, or history of a word. Many of our words come from a place like this one: Mnemosyne was the Greek goddess of memory. Mnemosyne is the origin of the word mnemonic, as well as memory.

Then I came back to the mnemonic device, and said, I bet you already know one. Anyone ever heard of..."Please Excuse..." "my dear Aunt Sally!" they all chorused. "And what does that mean?" and the went through the oper*tions. "Exactly! So PEM*DAS helps you remember the order of oper*tions."

"So why am I talking about this? What does this have to do with anything?"

In each class, at least one kid realized or recalled that, "Yesterday you told us to memorize this sentence because it would help us." "Yes!"

We reviewed what I'll call the Speech Sentence: Pre!ty A*rdvarks N*ver V*ote Ins!de Crumbl!ng P!nk Aren*as. I wrote those beginning letters in a column on the board, and asked if anyone wanted to predict what things we'd be using this device for. My first class, the supposed high-level one, someone did guess, I think. The other ones, I had to prompt them: "Eight...Parts...of...Speech" "Oh!"

The kids knew some of the parts, like nouns and adjectives and verbs. I gave them all eight and said we're going to learn about all of them. I asked if anyone would like to predict which one we'll learn about first. Each class was able to guess 'nouns', and they said that because tonight's homework involves underlining nouns in writing. Very good!

I walked over and stood by my pretty computers, and gave a brief speech about the wonders of these tools, how extremely lucky we all are to have them, and how much we need to respect and take care of them. They seemed to get it.

Then I finally said, okay to learn about these parts of speech we're going to watch some videos, so let's all gather round the computer, kind of like carpet time in elementary school. I explained these are cartoons and songs that teach something. Finally we got to watch the Noun song, from the DVD in the computer. It doesn't go terribly loudly, so they had to stay very quiet. They did so well, all watching carefully.

When the song was over, I stopped it and said, "Okay, here's what's next: in the next eight seconds, go get your notebooks and come right back." When they did: "You're going to watch it again, and write down as many nouns that you hear as you can. Ready?" And they did really well.

At the end of the second viewing, I sent them back to their seats so we could review what they saw. We made a list of about fifteen nouns from the song. Then I told them to look at signs around the room and find nouns they would underline. They did that well too.

Tomorrow, now that they can all definitely define and identify nouns, we will begin classifying nouns as singular or plural, and common or proper.

All this took a whole class period, because I was doing a couple extra things. Then I had them transition to reading, where we got to practice group work and accountable talk (which they all did flawlessly and I made sure to praise them for it, specifying and reinforcing the behavior that I want to see) in making a list of ways to choose a book. They got really excited when we got to things like "favorite author" or "favorite series" or "genre that you like" (and most kids seem to know that word, if not exactly how to spell it), because I asked them to share their own favorites as examples. Hands waving all over the room! Very exciting.

When we got to "Look at the cover," I shared an experience of my own. I'd seen The Phantom Tollbooth, heard generically that it was good, blah blah. But the cover really seemed stupid, and that's honestly the reason I never read it. Then, though, someone t--oops! I almost gave one away! The kids got that: Get a friend's opinion or recommendation. And yes, someone I knew said they really liked it, so I finally picked it up. Sure enough, I really loved the book. And only one or two kids in each class have read it, so I might try to read it aloud to them, because I really think all kids will love it.

Then, my last class had a few extra minutes. I had a great idea while we were making our list: I had them turn the page and write a letter to a friend, recommending a book. I gave them five minutes and they all busily got to work. About half didn't know correct letter format, so that will have to be something we review together.

Then I realized that tomorrow or Monday, they can finish their drafts, then revise them on looseleaf, and I will put them up around the room. Their work will be displayed and they can get ideas for new books to read.

I think that one of the positive things I bring to the classroom is my passion for books and reading. I love sharing books that I enjoy, and that always gets the kids excited, and almost always gets the kids excited to share about books that they enjoy.

Tomorrow, after nouns, we'll work on book letters, then I'll let them choose books from my bins, read, then we'll do our first writing workshop, setting up the Writing Sourcebook. I'll have them start making a list or t-chart, and then do at least one free-write.

Also, this is the day I don't teach for three periods in a row. Fourth is my lunch, fifth is a prep not in my room, and sixth is common planning. Fourth and fifth, my AP (who was our literacy coach last year, and who I so enjoy working with!) and I spent the whole time in the book room. We made lots of progress! She grabbed a few kids to bring anthologies and grammar books to a few teachers' classrooms, and we continued weeding out the math books, and wading through the haphazard piles. We found all kinds of great materials! Lots of them were brand-spanking-new, still in the box even. I'm really glad that this dusty, messy, frustrating cleaning work will very soon benefit teachers who need resources, and students who need help.


Jonathan said...

It's so nice when the year starts well. Good for you!

Btw, I love the Phantom Tollbooth. It's been years (decades?) since I last read it. That would make it about time.

Norton Juster wrote a book that I read or the kids read aloud in class every year: The Dot and the Line: A Romance in Lower Mathematics. It's much shorter, but just as dense with the fun stuff.

Dr. G. said...

Such an engaging lesson. And it taught so many things that won't be tested, but made the morning interesting. Mythology, memorization skills, music, all in addition to parts of speech. As a music teacher I like to think I'm "creative." And this lesson made me smile. So many things to think about. Thanks for your work.