Elementary School Observations

West Elementary

I was lucky enough to observe the three best first grade teachers in Valley Center, Kansas. One of them being my former first grade teacher from years and years ago! It was so awesome to be able to observe Mrs. McFarland because I have such fond memories of her class and she is typically who I think of when talking about my personal elementary experience. I also had previous experience with Mrs. Baalman during my senior year of high school when I interned for her. I had such a blast doing that and had the same wonderful experience again. She is the one who really pushed me to become a teacher and after watching how passionate she was about it, I couldn’t say no! Now, I had never met Mrs. Boone before but she was such a joy to work with and I’m so glad I got the opportunity to meet her even if it was only for a short while. I am enjoying this whole experience for a few reasons; I love interacting with the kids, and I love all of the connections I am making with the teachers and principals in each school I go to. They have given me usable advice that I will definitely be applying to my life and future career as a teacher!

Each morning these are the activities that the first grade classes go through.

  • Class goes through “Vowel Town” from Pathways to Reading Inc. This activity helps the kids to learn the vowel sounds. They “take a walk” through vowel town which includes; Smile Hill that has vowels which make you smile when you say them (ee, I, e, ae, a, u), Open Valley that has vowels which make your mouth open wide when you say them (o, au, aw), Circle Hill which has vowels that make your mouth into a perfect circle when you say them (oe, oo like in book, and oo like in moon), and then there are the Four Taxis which make your mouth move when you say these sounds (ie, ue, ow, ou, oi,oy).
  • Once they do that, they learn about blends. Sometimes they learn a new blend (“ph” is the one they learned while I was there) and sometimes they review the blends they have already learned.
  • Then they do a worksheet over the blend(s) they just talked about. This consists of finding, saying, and coloring the blend in each word on the worksheet, cutting out each word, sorting them and then gluing them on construction paper. While they do this, they are supposed to be sounding out each word.
  • Once that activity is finished, they are then separated into their reading center groups. This is one of my favorite things they do! There are five centers and each one has something to do with spelling or reading. The first group is where they can write about specific prompts the teacher has laid out, the second is where they can practice writing their spelling words for the week, the third center is where they listen to a story on an MP3 player and follow along in the corresponding book, the fourth center is where the kids are able to pick any book from the book shelf and read it quietly to themselves, and the fifth and final station is where the kids can play spelling and reading games on the computer. One of the websites they use the most is http://www.starfall.com/

I learned several things while I was observing these three wonderful ladies!

  1. The most important thing is to know your kids on an individual level. It helps to optimize their personal learning environment and it can also improve the overall classroom learning environment.
  2. Greet each child with a smile every morning. One of the things that I remember most about my first grade year is that Mrs. McFarland always had us give her either a hug or high-five when entering and leaving the classroom. This helped start the day off by turning even the worst moods around and I always thought that if I was to ever become a teacher I would want to do this in my classroom too.
  3. The kids should hold the teacher accountable just like how she should hold the kids accountable. If a certain standard is set, it is important that those standards be upheld by both the kids and teacher.
  4. Always have a Plan B. Sometimes things come up that can put a stop to whatever activity you had planned. Problems can occur with anything even if you aren’t using technology at all in the lesson.
  5. Never stop learning. When you personally stop learning, your lessons can lose their appeal and after a while you won’t be able to keep students engaged. The way you teach certain lessons should continually evolve with the changing times. Over the years your lessons should become more fun and colorful than they were the year before.

Signed Butler Letter

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