Being Taught to Teach

Chinese New Year
February 5, 2011, 1:05 am
Filed under: First Grade French, Kids Say the Darnedest Things

Yesterday the first grade class learned all about Chinese New Year.  Today when I walked into class one of the boys told me that Chinese classes are giants! I must have looked perplexed because then he pointed to a picture in a book on China at the front of the class and said, “They have seventeen students in the picture and that isn’t even the whole class!” If only he knew the sizes of the public school classes right down the street.

The morning was spent meeting another pet from a student in the class.  PJ is continuing their animal education by having willing parents bring in pets from home.  Last week two dogs came in, today there was another dog and two hamsters.  At first I thought this was just a fun way to get the children interested in animals, but PJ is also using the unit to get the kids to learn to ask different types of questions and answer them correctly.  The class comes up with a list of questions that is good to ask about the specific type of animal and when the animal visits the owner and the parent stand at the front of the room answering the various questions.  Each child gets to ask a question and the student answering must give full and correct responses.  Clever PJ, clever.  Next Tuesday I get to bring in my pet rabbit because no one in the class has one to show.  I have a feeling Reggie will do just fine, although he hasn’t been around too many little ones, he did survive 4 years living in a college house.

The rest of the morning we worked on Chinese lanterns.  The kids loved the outcome and somehow the kids skill levels varied so accurately that 2-3 finished and were ready for help from PJ or myself at a time.  It is great to see that the students didn’t only want to write the easy symbols, but the really complicated ones on their lanterns.  I had a few students ask me which I thought was most difficult (I believe nez(nose) was) symbol so they could make sure to attempt drawing that on their lantern.



It’s the thought that counts…
January 31, 2011, 10:01 am
Filed under: First Grade French, Kids Say the Darnedest Things

PJ was bursting with news to tell me one morning last week. As the kids worked intently on their classwork, heads bowed in concentration, PJ showed me what he was so hysterical over. I wish he had waited until recess because it was rather hard to hold back the laughter, but one of the students (some times a trouble maker, but a really sweet kid) had given him a thank you note. This was a small flower printed note in which the child thanked PJ for being such a good teacher as kindly enclosed $1.05…I am assuming it was a tip. Adorable, but strange!


I discussed this later with my brother, what do you do in that situation? Do you graciously keep the money a kid tips you with? Would you make sure the parent knew?

I decided I would probably tell the parents if it were my student, but in my case I’ll probably be working in a low income school where it would matter a little more.

On an awesome side note this kid, we will call him Tipper for obvious reasons, also drew some sweet pictures of Sonic and Knuckles fighting. We tend to talk about video games a lot.

Lions and Tigers and Bears
January 27, 2011, 7:42 pm
Filed under: First Grade French

The first graders started learning about wild animals this week and last.  The big ones on the table were crocodiles, giraffes, elephants and lions.  The kids had to guess animals from PJ’s descriptions.  Although I couldn’t catch every word in French I normally knew what animals he was describing.  It was adorable to see their hands shoot up and flitter with excitement when they finally deduced what animal he was talking about.

Just in time for the animal section the class tortoise came out of hibernation.  He is really sweet and gets to go out in the sunshine of the yard as long as it is warm enough.  So now there are are pair of class birds, a tank of fish and a tortoise!  I can’t wait to have a classroom like this, alive with learning and what not.

After finishing this awesome unit on animals the class gets to go on a field trip to the East Bay Vivarium.  This is one of my favorite reptile pet stores.  Although it is crammed and maze like, it is filled with all sorts of creatures I thought I could only see in zoos.  The store even has a resident monitor who is rented out for birthday parties!  I really hope this little adventure coincides with my volunteer days.

Finders Keepers
January 12, 2011, 5:17 am
Filed under: First Grade French

I have been trying to look harder at how lessons are taught to children.  My cousins and I discussed a lesson their son learned (well, didn’t learn) from Sesame Street.  There is an episode called “Mine-itus” where mine-itus infects the children and it makes everyone crazy trying to claim everything.  In the end the mine-itus has to be cured so Sesame Street could return to normal and everyone could share.  The only problem with this is my cousin’s kid is two.  Needless to say he did not understand the outcome of the lesson, all he learned was, “MINE”!

It seems as though a lot of interpretation is expected with some teaching methods. However, in order for this to work a good discussion has to be held with the children afterward.  I saw this same issue happen during English hour at the French school today.  A story was read to the children that included the phrase, “finders keepers”.  A girl’s chicken is lost, a man finds it and tries to sell it at the market, the girls discovers this, tries to get it back and the man says, “finders keepers,” the girl creates a diversion, steals the chicken and then says “finders keepers,” back.  The children understood that it was her chicken and that she should have gotten it back, however the phrase could be heard repeated throughout the day.  I don’t think the true lesson resonated with the children and now they have been exposed to or at least reminded of a phrase that I remember causing problems on my playground as a child…I don’t believe times have changed enough for that to not be the case any more. 

Bonnes Vacances!
December 17, 2010, 4:31 am
Filed under: First Grade French

I have been working in the classroom twice a week for the last three weeks and it is still going great.  Helping with spelling and making sure the children are following directions as they work is a majority of my work.  Because the holidays are coming up we have worked on several art projects, culminating in today’s holiday party with the parents.  PJ came up with a great project where each of the children decorated a flattened version of a takeout box.  Once they had been decorated he laminated them, and folded them into boxes.  Later a mother came in and helped the kids make cookies for the boxes.  These went along with handmade cards for each of the parents that the children presented them with during the party.

It was interesting to see how the dynamics changed a little during the party. Children who don’t always show off in class tried to speak up more and participate, to show their parents how much they knew.  As the children did projects the parents slowly introduced themselves to me.  They were all very curious about me and what I had planned for my future.  Some of them even had suggestions as they were or had friends who are teachers.

I really enjoyed seeing the parent child interactions.  It was quite obvious that there is a lot of support  for each child in this classroom.

One of my favorite parts of the party was when the children were able to do free draw as the parents ate and talked.  Although there were some great and creative drawings, there was certainly one child who out shown the rest.  Later I learned that he is the “artist” of the class and all the boys sort of look to him to figure out what or how to draw something.  And although this depiction is a little violent…it is awesome all the same.  It started with just a few windsurfers and evolved to epic proportions.

Although it will be great to have a “winter break” again, I will miss all my students and can’t wait for the New Year to start!


First Grade French
November 30, 2010, 3:18 am
Filed under: First Grade French

Today was my first day of volunteering in the classroom, it was fantastic.  Being in this school is like stumbling upon a unique culture corner of the world.  The school itself represents children from over forty countries!

Most of the morning was taught in French and I remembered a fair chunk.  The teacher (PJ) was in very good control of his class of fifteen, sure there was some acting up but he was able to calmly (in French) remind those students to focus, close their mouths and keep their eyes on the board.  After a while the English teacher had her teaching hour.  She had a far more shrewd approach with the children.  Rather than calmly getting the children to quiet down there

was a lot of slamming her story book and “Do you want me to even read this story?” I guess it worked, but did not seem as effective as PJ’s method.  I really don’t think that’s the way to get kids to respond, they usually just look like a deer in headlights when she yells, meek and bewildered.

Most of my activities consisted of walking around the classroom, checking work and spelling, helping with art projects, etc.  A student that I know was cute, she kept showing me various projects whenever she could sneak a chance.  Many of the kids were excited to have me in the class, a new face and all.  While I was helping one of the girls with her work  the boy sitting next to her (the seating is boy, girl, boy) leaned over to me and said, “Guess what?” Without giving me a chance to respond he blurted, “You’re cute, ” raised his eyebrows and went back to his work…I was not ready for the suave nature of these culturally diverse first graders!

My first day already had me reeling with delight! I know I am only beginning and teaching is a lot of work, but when I actually get to watch learning take place I feel that all the hard work I encounter will be worth it.