Friday, March 1, 2013

*STAR* Teacher--Denise Nelson

Norman Elementary's New *STAR* Teacher is...

Denise Nelson
4th Grade

How many years have you been teaching?
This is my 15th year of teaching.  I taught 2nd grade for one year and have taught 4th grade ever since.  Every year I bond with the students so much-even the challenging students grow on me and have a special place in my heart.  I miss every one of them in some way when they leave me. 

What is your best memory?
 My best memories come from when former students come back to see me and talk about things we did when they were in my class.  It always touches me that they remember those things.  Another best memory I have is when I had my son in class and we read the book "Number the Stars".  Two years later we were in church and the pastor was talking about King Christian and how he treated his people.  Trevor looked at me and said, "That's from Number the Stars."  I was so proud that he remembered the book I taught him.

What is the funniest memory?
 There have been so many funny things that have happened over the years that I could write a book.  My first year of teaching (2nd grade), I had the kids draw a picture of what they thought they would look like at 100 years old for the 100th day of school.  One kid drew a picture with lines coming up off his body.  When I asked him what the lines were, he said they were stench marks cause old people stink. 
Another great comment came this year when a student told me that he was absent the day before because his dad took him to the doctor because he thought the child was ACDC.  I said, " Are you sure that wasn't ADHD?"  He said, "I don't know, but I'm not that."  He said it as he was literally bouncing around the room.

Can you share a reading strategy/best practice?
 I think that kids should read A LOT.  I do not believe that the basel's have them reading enough.  I have the kids read novels in class, and read a different novel at silent reading time (along with nonfiction books).  One strategy we practice is to all sit in an oval in the middle of the room and read our novel together.  That engages the whole class in reading and discussions.
Another best practice I use is timed reads.  Kids partner up and read a book together.  One person reads while the other times them for one minute.  Then they switch roles.  They reread the passage a few times, trying to get further each time.  This helps with fluency.  They keep doing this with sections of the book until they finish the book.  Then they retell what the book was about to each other.  This helps with comprehension.

Can you share a math strategy/best practice?
 I think that hands-on math is the best practice.  One day a week we have math centers.  The kids rotate around 4 centers.  One is directly taught by me and is a review of what we've been working on.  This is where I can identify who is struggling on the concept to be able to pull them and work with them individually later.  The other 3 centers are games that we have created or bought that cover various math skills.  The kids have fun learning with these centers.

What advice do you have for teachers just coming into the field?
 My advice would be to make learning fun.  If kids are having fun, they don't even realize how much they are learning.  Make everything exciting.  This is a challenge at times, but pretty much every concept can be made exciting if you want it to be.  Also, talk with other teachers and bounce ideas off each other.  These conversations make for great lessons. 

Pictures from Denise's classroom:

Thank you Denise for sharing your memories, advice and students. I especially like your
"timed reads." What a great way to work on fluency and comprehension.

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