Wednesday, May 30, 2007

May 30th

I had the realization today that there are only about three weeks left of this school year, and of those three I’ll be more or less gone for one. It never ceases to amaze me how fast that creeps up. The school year always seems so long when you start, and you have your days when, admittedly, you wish it was ending sooner, but inevitably the end comes before you are ready for it – there is more you wanted to do, you’ll miss the kids, etc. It dawned on me that the first group of kids I ever taught, 4th and 5th graders, are now nearing the end of the their high school years.

Student photography

Today, after I taught at my elementary site, I went to the high school for a focus group. We had the students, all boys in this case, get together, bribing them with pizza and soda, to hear their thoughts on the program. As I was watching them, it dawned on me how fast time goes by. I guess it seems like forever when you are in school yourself, but these kids, most of them taller than me, easily at one point could have been in my 3rd or 4th grader after school classes. Made me realize how long I had been doing this…

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

May 29th

We started off today reading from the book ‘Making it Home: Real Life Stories from Children Forced to Flee”. I’ve been using it off and on all this session as we continue to learn about refugee children. Today, I read aloud a few passages, and we discussed the issue at hand, and also how the children constructed their stories. I then had my students prepare their own narratives – big or small, I asked them to tell a story from their own life, and to add details and their inner thoughts to the structure as a means of expanding their writing styles. It seemed to go over pretty well all in all, we had a wide diversity of stories, from the loss of Playstations due to bad behavior, the death of a favorite aunt, birth of a cousin, and a tree that apparently forced one of my 5th graders from her home. I am waiting for her to write the conclusion of her story, but evidently it had to do with a tree root she named “Greenie’ rupturing the foundation of her home…

We took our writing outside today, so that students could take time and have one of our two digital cameras to themselves while working. This seemed to work out well – a nice change of scenery for the students to work in, and it allowed them their coveted camera time.

I’m looking forward to compiling all of their work into our ‘book’ – I am slowly scanning and taking digital photos of what they have done and am going to combine it all into a book format. We’ll produce the books on, give a few to the school library and after school office and also sell them online as a fundraiser. Keep checking in if you are interested in purchasing one!

Thursday, May 24, 2007

May 24th

Today was low key – my K group worked on the eye poem and painting – I’ve been letting them paint a lot lately, as it’s a big highlight of the day – and I had my 5th graders work on creating a ‘book page’. I am having them pick one piece of writing they like best, then doing a nice illustration/collage/painting to go with it, so we can include it in the book we are creating. As always, some of them took to it, and a few others messed around, but all in all they did some good work. I am excited about how our book will turn out.

There photography has been turning out pretty cool as well:

Student photography

Student photography

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

May 23rd

My 6th graders are getting tougher and tougher to work with. It’s the end of the year, their attention spans are on the wane and ultimately they are more focused on their own interpersonal issues than anything I want to present to them. So it goes. They also just saw ‘the video’, and the obsession of the moment seems to be the amazing world of menstrual cycles. Welcome to my world…

I had the Kinder’s write poems today. It went pretty well – poems about their eyes, and their eye colors, and what their eyes reminded them of. It’s funny the things they’ll think to make comparisons to – and how they perceive the color of their eyes to be. I had to explain several times over that I meant the color of ‘the circle part of your eye, not the white on the outside of it!’ but eventually we figured it all out!

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

May 22nd

The 5th graders and 3rd graders worked on their ‘Eye’ poems today. During the first hour, I was surprised by how well most of the students took to the project.

There were some minor flare ups today with that first group, my 3rd graders, that I think highlight part of the challenge of teaching in an after school program. It seems simple enough – in theory, you come in for a few hours, provide very particular and specific guidance and activities and go your merry way. The reality, of course is quite different. Today, for example, in just my third grade group of about 18 or so kids, I had a carry over fight from the playground between two girls, one trying to apologize to the other one who ‘refused to accept’, and there was Kassidy, who has had on going problems, but who last week I gave an award for leadership and improvement. Today though he was having an ‘off day’, you could tell he felt disappointed in himself when I finally had to ask him to not partake in our activity. I felt bad, but I think he got the message about showing respect to himself, his fellow students and to me. And there was Dylan – he has some problems at home and I think a slight learning disability, it manifests itself in weird ways. I’ve had him all year, but still don’t totally get what goes on with him. He plays up like he doesn’t want to be involved or cares, but he’s the first to volunteer to help me out with stuff before class. A few weeks ago he got in trouble with me for making a mean comment to the student who won the April writing contest in his class. The last few months, he puts in zero effort towards his work. I think part of its frustration, and in part I think he’s bored – he struggles with school but he’s really bright. Anyway, today we made good – he got some work done when finally I told him how I had been talking to other teachers and his older sister, a 5th grader I also teach, about how I was worried about his performance. He played up that he was mad, but I could tell he liked that I bothered to care enough to do that, and he ended up writing a pretty good poem with my help.

Thursday, May 17, 2007

May 17th

The Kinder team was a little more challenging today, but they still did a great job. By the time I get these guys, they’ve already put in an 8 or 9 hour day, which is a long day for a 6 year old, so I try to be as flexible as possible. We did the same activity as the group yesterday did, with likewise great results – check out some of the photos below!

The 5th graders today took on the ‘Where I am From’ poem – I’ve figured out a more effective way to teach it for younger kids, putting together a list of questions to help them figure out what to write about: name a pet you had when you were little, write down something your family always says to you, what is a dish important to your family, etc. From there, we work to construct the poem by adding in details and our own personal touch. I am really impressed with how well they are doing with this project!

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

May 16th

The Kinder team was a blast today – they were just on it, well behaved, really responded to the photo collage activity. Just like the older kids, I brought in their images for use, though they mainly used their own photographs. They really go into manipulating the images, making them their own. I can tell they really like being able to use photography as well – def give them a sense of completion, puts them on the same page as the older kids!

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

May 15th

Kassidy won an award today. Kassidy is one of those kids that makes his mark by continually being on just the edge – nothing really bad, but he likes to create problems for the attention he feels it gets him. He’s been mad ever since he joined us – he was moved from the ‘team’ he was on to the Red ‘team’, he views it as a step down, the team he is now on is for 3rd/4th graders, he’s a 4th grader, but it’s perceived by him to be a step down. He slowly has been improving though, I talked to him about how he needs to make the most of his situation, how it would be a waste for him to spend the rest of the year doing what he was. I gave him a little certificate for leadership and improvement and a ‘fancy’ pencil, he ran and immediately showed it to his big sister when he got picked up today – I was worried he would think it was ‘dorky’ or not care, but he seemed pretty proud of it.

Today we worked on our photo collages – some of the images are below. We looked again the Journals of Dan Eldon for inspiration, a book I have been using off and on all year. Both the 3rd and 5th graders seem to like this activity. I printed up some of the photos they took with the digital cameras over the past few weeks, and brought in both color prints and black and white copies. We then are taking them and making collages – drawing, cutting, painting, stamping, and pasting. We had to have a talk about how to use images of our friends and each other – it’s never okay to do anything violent and disrespectful, and if you want to do something fun or funny, you need to ask permission of the person in the photo first! Everyone seemed to do okay with this though, and the students seemed to respond to manipulating the images that they took in interesting ways.

Monday, May 14, 2007

May 14th

I’m liking my four hour schedule on Mondays (though of course finishing at one site then driving to another can be a bit chaotic!) as it allows me to really figure out the best way to present a lesson. At Brite, I have a mix of kids in each group – literally K – 8th graders. I actually like it though – the social dynamic changes, it’s easy to get the older kids focused as leaders, they seem to try even harder with their own work to set the example for younger students, and they like to be able to teach and help the little ones as well. After I leave Bite, I have 6th and 3rd graders at Longfellow, so I’ve been working to have all four groups do more or less the same lesson plan so that I can then figure out the most effective way to implement it. Today, we used something I picked up from a book I’ve been reading, ‘Raising Up”.

Tuesday, May 08, 2007

May 8th

I am going to be out of town tomorrow and Thursday, so I spent part of my time before and after class getting everything ready for Heidi, the teacher subbing for me. I am having my Kinder’s work on making a collage out of the portraits that they took last week, based on the work of Dan Eldon. We look at his book pretty often this year, having it serve as an example of both our art and someone that tried to help others using his art. I printed up color versions of their photographs and then also made a bunch of black and white copies. I am excited to see the results… My 5th and 6th graders are going to be working on a writing project. I am having them envision that they discovered a new planet, they get to be in charge and have to write their own ‘Bill of Rights’ or set their own rules. Silliness always ensues with this assignment – my 3rd graders worked on this today, and among one set of rules for a student was ‘only people wearing Converse can live here’ which allowed him, another student and me to inhabit his world – but it’s a good way to get students to think about needs of a community and the needs of others, it builds into our community project that we did earlier this year when they designed a city.

Thursday, May 03, 2007

May 3rd

Today was pretty hectic – stopped at Longfellow to get my Kindergarten class going before another teacher took over so I could cover a class at Muir High School. I like working at Muir, I usually only have a couple of kids, it’s a nice change to work with older students instead of the little guys I have most of the year. Today in our graphic design class I helped the students get working on making newsletters that went over all that they have learned thus far in the class. It was a good opportunity for them to reflect on what they have learned, and to do something tangible that could be completed in one class setting.

Graphic Design project

I am really big on this in an after school environment – no matter what the age, the students need to see some sort of tangible result at the end of each class, or at least at the end of the week if the class meets more than once. It keeps them better engaged, makes them look forward to coming to class, and I feel it helps them retain the information they are learning even better.

I hope my 5th graders went easy on the sub today…

Wednesday, May 02, 2007

May 2nd

Today was pretty fun. The Kindergarteners got their hand on the digital cameras for the first time. We had a few near drops, and a few smudgy fingers on the lenses, but otherwise all went well. I posted a few of the portraits they took of each other below.

The 6th graders were really focused today as well. They went through and pulled out a favorite image from what they have shot during the last two weeks, pasted it in their journal and did a write up as to why they picked it. It’s very cool to hear their use of new words – perspective, angle, composition, etc. – when analyzing the images, hopefully they are picking up some useful critical thinking skills! They were very attentive when we looked at the digital images on my computer that they took on Monday (haven’t had time to print them up!), and were especially interested in what my students at BRITE are doing!

We spent the second half of class checking out the videos about child refugees. I’m still amazed at how quickly even the wildest groups of kids will settle down and focus on these videos. I expected mixed reactions – some sympathy, but also giggles at the language, dress and other cultural differences – and have been surprised at the overwhelming sense of compassion and understanding that my students have been showing when learning about these other kids. The site does a great job at conveying how much in common refugee children have with kids here in the US. I’m excited to keep working on this project for the rest of the year…

Tuesday, May 01, 2007

Tuesday May 1st

So far this week, we’ve continued learning about and using our digital cameras, have reviewed our photography from the last two weeks, and have done some pretty amazing writing. I’ve posted a few of the stories the kids wrote below, and more can be found on our flickr site.

We’ve also started to learn more about refugees, specifically children refugees. We saw some videos posted by the organization Nine Million. They are an organization that provides child refugees sporting equipment, in an effort to make the lives of those kids who live in camps a little bit better. We’re pretty excited about what we can do to help out these refugee’s we are learning about, and are brainstorming different ways we can get involved to make a difference!

Today the Orange Group – 5th graders- did a really great job shooting pictures of the school. I encouraged them to really make an effort to just shoot over and over and over - the benefit of digital photography is that you can just delete the not so great ones! They are getting really good at experimenting with different angles and thinking about composition. I posted a few photos here, but more are up on our Flickr site!