Friday, October 23, 2009

Moving Along in October . . .

The Kindergarteners and newcomers continue to be my most challenging groups to teach this year. The "Kindergarteners" I should start off by saying are actually a group of Kindergarteners *and* first graders. Even in my mind I keep thinking of them as just Ks, sometimes forgetting that there are first graders in the mix too. I'm trying to build in parts of my lesson where I push the first graders to do more than the Ks (especially in writing) but some of the first graders are *at* at Kindergarten level anyways. The squirrely behavior at the end of the day has been really frustrating and I want to try to come up with more fun things we can do in the classroom so that we're learning English but not necessarily always reading or writing. It's just a lot to ask of these little ones at the end of a long day. On a positive note though, the last two days have been almost miraculously good in terms of their behavior. I've been rewarding them early and often with stickers and Skittles (maybe one or two Skittles per student for the entire period). And of course lots of praise for the kids doing the right thing. It's working and I'm so relieved. I'm starting to feel like now we can start getting to work!

The newcomers have also been improving slightly in the last couple of day. There are two boys in the group who are non-stop talking, calling out, jumping out of their seats, etc. There are another three who are easily pulled into all of that who then compound the situation. When any of them are gone things run much more smoothly but when they're all there it's really out of control. I finally started calling parents which is really hard for me because I don't speak Spanish so I need to get a translator to call home for me. In addition to the phone calls I've been trying to break up the group a little by having two or three students go off to a center to work on something while teach to the rest of the group. The students who are off at the center are enjoying being independent and doing something hands on while the students who stay with me are much calmer in the smaller group. It's only been a few days but I'm hoping that this system will continue to work out.

Saturday, October 03, 2009

New Year, New (and Old) Classes

Last year I didn't have any Kindergarten students but the year before they were my *favorite* group of kids. They were just so cute, eager to learn, and they followed directions beautifully. This year the Kindergarteners are SO not my favorite group. Maybe it's because no group of students could compete with the Kindergarteners from two years ago (who were also my favorites last year in first grade and again this year in second grade), or maybe it's because they are just so squirrely, talkative, and immature (for lack of a better way to describe a bunch of five year olds). To be fair I do pick them up at the last period of the day when surely they must be exhausted (I know I am). In their regular classrooms they would be having "choice time" where they could choose to play with blocks, play in the kitchen center, or something else hands on. Instead, I'm picking them up and asking them to sit quietly and listen to a story and then go to their desks and draw a picture about their favorite part. Still, I don't have as great an affection for these students as I did for my other students who made me think I wanted to be a Kindergarten classroom teacher.

The groups that I am loving this year are my second graders, third graders, and fourth/fifth graders. These groups are all made up of kids that I've been teaching for three or four years now. I know all of them and they all know me. From the first day that I picked them up for ESL this year it was like we were just continuing from where we left off at the end of June. I didn't have to teach them class rules and procedures, I just made sure that I was very structured in implementing them. They know my classroom so well that they actually were reminding me of some procedures that to be honest I hadn't really used in over a year. One third grader raised her hand with three fingers to make a "W" and said, "Ms. M, I remember we ask to get water like this." Um, actually we haven't done that for two years (mainly because *I* slacked off on implementing the procedure) but OK, I guess we can start doing that again.

The group that I'm still on the fence about is my Newcomer group. Newcomers have always been my favorite to teach. There's nothing more rewarding than seeing a student go from not speaking a word of English at the beginning of the year to talking up a storm just a few months later. This year I got five Newcomers from Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic, all in fourth and fifth grade. Add them to the mix of Newcomers I got last year who are now in second, third, and fifth grade, and I have a nice mix of grades and abilities for this group. The thing is, four of the five new students are boys who are rowdy and silly during class (not at all typical of the Newcomers I've gotten in the past who are so sweet and quiet). They're still a good group, I'm just having to work a lot harder than I'm used to for a Newcomer group.