Friday, October 24, 2008

Thoughts on being Back in First Grade

I took off during our intersession*, something I rarely do. So, this week I've been readjusting to first grade. It's been a bit of a challenge because the kids are readjusting to 'regular' school at the same time.

Not being truly in the groove has allowed me to notice some things that might normally slip right past me. One is a pet peeve of mine. I'm bothered when teachers use the phrases, "I like" or "I love" to affirm for kids when they are doing something well. It suggests that the child should be listening, sitting still, working hard, whatever simply to make the teacher happy. I'd prefer that students are doing these things because they know it helps them and their classmates learn. I know this is a really difficult concept for first graders, but I don't think we do them any favors if we set up expectations that they are doing these things for us.

I'm also really beginning to realize how difficult it is for first graders to tell the difference between reality and what they wish were true. This first started becoming clear to me when we were teaching the kids about schema. We asked them about a time they had lost something important to them and how they felt. The discussion went quite well. Then we read Knuffle Bunny by Mo Willems. It was amazing to me to see how many students then talked about a time they left their stuffed bunny at the laundromat. Today a child wrote a story about meeting Barack Obama and getting his autograph. (It's still unclear to us what really happened. He was in our general geographic vicinity yesterday.) After she read her story another student shared what had happened to her. She told the same story almost word for word. The kids are so genuine as they tell these tales that are so obviously untrue - at least obvious to the adults. It's really fascinating to me.


*My school is on a modified calendar. We start in late July and go through mid-June. We take 1-2 week breaks after each quarter, in October, January, and April. We offer students optional classes for a nominal fee during those periods, which I typically teach.

3 comments:

missteachercasey said...
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missteachercasey said...

This reminds me of a time when my brother was around the same age (1st grade) and he told his teacher and classmates, while on a field trip to the county fair, that his grandpa had a horse there. The class spent the entire day looking for the horse.
Well...the horse did not exist. My grandpa has never, ever owned a horse. He's a lawyer.

At least sometimes their imaginative stories are good for a laugh :)

debrennersmith said...

I tried really hard to say I notice... or I observe... instead of the value judgement of I like or I love with my students (when I coach teachers). Also, this is why saying you are a good reader or good readers do this is a value statement too. I encourage people to say "Readers make predictions..." "Readers think about metacognition." etc. This way if a child is not viewing themselves as 'good' reader, when the teacher is teaching about what a reader does, the child is still included. The same holds true to writing. It matters. This is based on Peter Johnson's work, published by Heinemann or Stenhouse.