Norman Elementary's New *STAR* Teacher is...
*How many years have you been teaching?
I have taught for nine years. My teaching experience has included many grade levels. I was hired in at the Middle School for 7th grade Language Arts and the following year I was transferred to the Elementary. In the Elementary I have taught 2nd, 3rd, and 5th grades. I feel that teaching various grade levels has helped me expand my teaching strategies and have a deeper understanding of the curriculum.
*Will you share one of your best memories?
One of my best memories is when I was pregnant for my son, Liam. I was teaching 3rd grade at the time, and my students were very excited. I had the pleasure of my sister (Ms.Erbes) taking over during my maternity leave. The month before I was due, she and I would collaborate and team teach. The students enjoyed our “sisterly” teaching, and benefited from our positive teamwork. Before I left, they had a party for me. One young girl brought in stuffed animals that she loved to give to my unborn little boy. I was moved by her unselfishness to give up favorite toys for an unknown child. It made me realize that I am more than a teacher to my students. I am a important person in their life.
*Can you share one of your funniest memories?
Funny happens weekly when you are a teacher. Sometimes daily. One of my funniest memories includes the Lost and Found. A student was returning with a group from RtI when they saw a pair of rollerblades on the Lost and Found table. Unsupervised, this child decided to put them on and rollerblade around the hallway. Other students that had been with this child returned and I was wondering what was taking this other child so long. I asked a little girl that had been with this child and she said, “Oh, he is rollerblading the hallways.” Shocked, I ran to see. As I opened the door he walked in. I later found the rollerblades in his locker and we had a stern chat. In my head, I was laughing at his opportunistic choice.
*Can you share a reading strategy or best practice?
I enjoy Writing and Reading Workshop. We make time for it each day. I think it is so important to remember the connection between reading and writing. In order for students to be better readers they need to be writing. Better writers make better readers. Research has shown the correlation between successful readers and the act of writing. With this in mind, during both reading and writing workshop I use mentor texts. I believe that to make better readers and writers, we need to show them well crafted books through professional examples.
When teaching students about crafting “grabber” leads in Writing Workshop, I read aloud and show them the first sentences from books like Charlotte’s Web , Shrek , Because of Winn Dixie, The 39 Clues: Book 1, and other well crafted leads in books. We discuss what makes them “grabber leads”. Students then research through chapter and picture books to find other examples of “grabber” leads. Students choose a favorite and put it on an index card. They share and we help decide what type of lead it is. I then pull out a story that I have been writing on the overhead and rewrite my lead using what we learned. Student then go to a story they are working on and craft three different possible “grabber” leads they could use to start their story.
In Reading Workshop, I use mentor texts to help teach comprehension skills/strategies as well as word knowledge. One comprehension strategy that good readers actively do is to make connections. I model for students how I draw connections while reading by giving an example using our mentor text. Students then use this strategy while reading their book during independent reading time. They use yellow sticky notes to write down connections while they read. At the end, we share our connections as a class.
Reading and Writing
Workshops, students are motivated by choice. They chose books at their level to
read, and are writing on their chosen topic.
*Can you share a math strategy or best practice?
In Math, I believe students should be actively engaged. When practicing concepts, one way I do this is by each student using a whiteboard and marker. For example, after taking notes on the different methods of multiplication , I model each method. I give a practice two or three digit multiplication equation. Students first work with a partner using one of the multiplication methods. After I think most understand the different methods (Place Value Method, Algebraic Method, and Expanded Notation Method), I put a multiplication equation on my whiteboard or overhead projector. I ask students to show me how to find the answer to the equation using one of the methods independently. After a few minutes of working, I walk around and can access who is understanding and who is struggling with the concept. I then say, “One, two, three, share.” Students know that this means to hold up their dry erase boards with their work and answers. I check to see their answers. I choose a person who has it correct to explain how they did their work. This is a way for student to stay actively involved, learn from their peers, and a great way for me to find those who need intervention or those that need enrichment. An added bonus is that students love writing on whiteboards and are motivated to do the work. :-)
*What advice do you have for new teachers coming into the field?
My advice for new teachers is simple. Be humble. Soak up the wisdom from veteran teachers, and mentor teachers. If you have the opportunity, observe many different classroom and reflect on how the teacher is being effective. Realize that teaching is an art that is perfected over time. Be patient with yourself and see the things you are doing well and remember them. Find the areas you want to grow, and actively seek out other teachers that have effective strategies. Find your strength for each day in yourself and your colleagues. Take all your knowledge, combine it with wisdom, research, and personal passion, there you will find your teaching identity. I am still honing my craft.
I try to build a community of learners in my classroom. One way I do this is through interactive literacy boards. Students can chose to read a book and give their opinion on it by moving their picture to “yes, I would recommend this book to others” or “no, I would not recommend this book to others”. Of course there is no right or wrong answer. Students get to know each other by talking about books. This helps to them to feel apart of a community, and encourages them to grow as readers.
Pictures of Lia's Classroom & Student's
Phases of the Moon
What an awesome interview! You have shared some great Reading & Math Strategies/Best Practices. I love your Readers & Writers Workshop and the detail that you shared with us. I really like the advice that you gave to new teachers,
"Find your strength for each day in yourself and your colleagues"
I had the pleasure of working with you for a short time last year and it didn't take me long to see your passion for teaching and the love that you have for your students.
Thanks for sharing your memories, advice and students.