Archive for Teaching

Number Girl – Part 1

Posted in Math, Teaching with tags , , , , on May 5, 2010 by Drumly

Number Girl and the Art of Counting

February, Teaching Year 8

Ah yes. Frogs are one of my favorite counting objects and tiddly frogs are one of my favourite games!

I had been working in a grade two class since the start of the year and teaching math.  For the most part, I had been succesful in figuring out Grade two math, and because I was getting the hang of it, they were getting the hang of it. Except for one girl. Number Girl.

Number Girl had her own way of counting, and no matter how hard I tried, I just didn’t seem to be able to find a way to help her see that her counting system didn’t really work.  It all started with the names of the numbers.  The numbers one through ten were not a problem.  Twenty through fifty seemed pretty solid.  Number girl used a different naming convention for the numbers between ten and twenty.  To be fair, her numbering system seemed solid.

Every day we would count “Seven, eight, nine, ten, ” she would continue with,”one one, one two, one three, one four . . . ”

Now, if you think on it for a bit, I am sure that you will agree that, if anything, Number Girl’s numbering system makes more sense than our  English numbers.  Eleven, twelve, thirteen, etc are a bit eccentric as far as the number naming system goes.  I would have left it alone and allowed her to develop out of it on her own, I mean, hearing the regular numbers every day was bound to sink in eventually.  Right? But I couldn’t because of one thing. Not only did they have special names, they also had their own arithmetic rules.

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Watch Your Language Mr. Martin

Posted in Annecdotes, Standardized Testing, Stories, Teaching with tags , , , , , , , on April 28, 2010 by Drumly

(Or Another Day That I Thought I Might Be Fired)

Is it possible that stories about days I thought I could be fired is a genre in of itself?

Sometimes laughter can break the stress of studying. Especially when the teacher puts his foot in his mouth! Photo by Bill Selak. CC Some Rights Researved

June, Teaching Year 14

Standardized Provincial Exams are a reality where I teach.  At the end of each grade six year, the students dutifully study their hearts out and do their best.  For me, I always want the students to show what they can do. If they get an answer wrong because I didn’t cover the idea, well, that makes me feel somewhat badly.

We were doing a new test in Social Studies for the brand new curriculum, and I had attended workshops and done the best that I could to help the students make sense of the new materials.  I had taken careful notes, particularly about the new vocabulary that the kids would need to understand . . . everything from Wampum Belts to Non Governmental Organizations (NGO’s).  For some reason, perhaps fatigue during the workshop, I had finished my list of things that might be on the test by writing down just the acronyms.  Now, a week later, I was struggling a little. There were some that I knew easily, like MLA (Member of the Legislative Assembly) but some that I couldn’t find for anything.

The easiest thing to do in this circumstance is to make the students do the work. I gave out a list of terms and told them we were doing a scavenger hunt to find them in our books, in order to make sure that we had them all. Scavenger Hunts are often a noisy business, with people excitedly talking about what the words mean, but still trying to keep it a secret from the others.  I was helping a cohort of students, a group of four grade six girls, with their list of terms, and we were cross referencing them back to the textbook. I had found MNAA (Metis Nation of Alberta Association) and only had one more to find. Acronyms are a pain, because unlike words, you can’t always rely on an Internet search engine or a dictionary to find them. Thus, we had the textbook out, even though it isn’t our favorite way to learn things.

“I can’t find this last one, Mr. Martin,” one of the girls told me.

“I can’t find it either,” said I and I let out my trademark exasperated cry and put my head down on the desk.

Some more students came over and asked me what I was struggling with.  They are always so helpful when I am struggling to learn things.  So I told them, “The last acronym.  I’ve forgotten what it means and I can’t find it in the book.”

“What acronym?” one boy asked.

Pretending to be hysterical, I raised my hands in the air and shook my fists, “The FNA.  I can’t find the FNA!”

All noise in the classroom stopped. . .

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Kindergarten and Things That Match

Posted in Annecdotes, Kindergarten, Stories, Teaching with tags , , , , on April 22, 2010 by Drumly

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Kindergarten and Things That Match

(Or the Day I Thought I Was Going to Be Fired)

This is a picture of a girl I found on the Interweb. She kind of looks like one of the girls in the story. Photo by D Sharon Pruitt, and is licensed through Creative Commons.

September, Teaching Year 15

It had been awhile since I had taught the youngest of the young in a school, so I was really excited when I was given the chance to teach Kindergarten Music.  During those first few weeks, routines are a real challenge, but the teachers that I was going in for already had their kids sitting in spots on the carpet and ready for Mr. Martin coming in to teach them songs and games.  The first class was an odd mix, 17 girls and 6 boys.

I had prepared a nice and active set of fun songs for them.  The big finish for the songs was one of my favourites, called One Green Jelly Bean.  In the song we have tummy aches, because we ate green jelly beans.  We get lots of crazy advice on how to cure our tummy ache . . jumping up and down, patting our heads while we jump up and down . . . and more and more craziness. I always add more and more things to the end of the song, because, well, that is just the kind of person that I am.

We had just added “wiggle our bottoms” and “sticking out our tongues” to the list of cures, when one girl thought the best cure for jelly bean tummy aches was lifting her dress way up over her head. Recognizing that this was a solid teaching opportunity (I know, it comes from having 15 years of teaching experience), I started towards the little lady spinning around at the back of the carpet, all the while making hand actions trying to get her to put her dress down. I was also still singing the song, because the made up lyrics pretty much depend on me singing them once the CD is over.

Looking around nervously, I watched as three, four, five, six more girls started lifting their dresses up over their heads, while flicking out their tongues like frogs, wiggling their bottoms and jumping up and down.

Bringing the song quickly to an ending, I asked the students to sit down.  To my relief, most of the girls sat right away, dresses down and a modicum of five-year old style decorum restored. Except for two.  As I sat down in the teacher’s chair they rushed up to me, still holding their dresses up, to a point just beneath their chins.  I asked them to sit down.

“But Mister, lookit!”, the one girl said, her face peering down.

“Um.  You know, you’re big girl now, and here you are in school.  We have to keep our clothes on properly,” I started, trying to use this teaching moment.

She was not to be distracted by a mere music teacher however. “No, but lookit!  Lookit! ” came her rather forceful reply.

In all honestly, if you could have seen the excitement on her freckled face, the sparkling blue-green eyes,  the glowing smile that comes from sharing your bestest, biggest discoveries with someone, why, you would want to be a teacher.  That look is one of the most rewarding things about my job.  The face just normally isn’t framed by a red and white polka dot dress that is being lifted up to just under a chin.  I normally teach grade six after all, and they have usually mastered how to wear clothes by that age.

“Lookit! Our panties!”

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