Sunday, March 10, 2013

*STAR* Teacher--Kelly Stearns

Norman Elementary's new *STAR* teacher is...

Kelly Stearns
Special Education

How many years have you been teaching?
This is my 13th year. I taught in a Multiage 3rd-4th grade classroom for 2 years as the inclusion teacher, I taught 2nd grade one year, and I have been in the Resource room for 10 years.

What is your best memory?
I think my best memories are the little moments that most teachers take for granted. Like a student finally being able to snap their own pants, or when they can write their own name. The look on their faces as they beam with pride, knowing they have accomplished something they have worked so hard at is AWESOME. Those are the best memories.

Tying shoes

What is the funniest memory?
Oh there are so many. But I think the one that stands out the most would involve blue sticky tack. I had one student who liked to pick sticky tack off things hanging in the hallways. I would always tell him that is was stealing, and take the tack away. One day he didn’t have any when he came into my class. However, he was constantly picking at his belly button. Finally I asked him if there was something wrong. He said “no”. Just a few minutes later, another student said she saw blue stuff coming out of his belly button. When I went to see, sure enough there was “blue stuff”…sticky tack. He hid the sticky tack in his belly button. It was a hot day and it melted inside his belly button! It took three days to fully remove all of the tack!

Can you share a Reading Strategy or Best Practice?
I think the more a student reads, the better they become. I do “Book Baggies” every night. A student chooses a book at their own level, they read it to me, then take it home and read it to an adult. The next day they have to read it to me again. I have been doing this for many years and every one of my students has gained 6 months to over a year’s reading growth per year. This is a big growth for struggling learners.
One of our favorite sight word activities is using the Dolch words; students have their own set of words they are learning on a ring. We practice these several times a week, verbally, but then we also do several activities during the week as well. We will write them in sand, use stamps to write them, write them BIG and then decorate them, and our most favorite activity: using a book and colored tape. We find as many of our sight words as we can in the book. When we find one of our words, we cover it with the tape. Then we read the book, and take the tape off each sight word we can read correctly-- A visual for them to see words they really know, and a visual for me to see what words they still struggle with.

Finding words and covering with colored tape.

Can you share a Math Strategy or Best Practice?
I do a Question of the Day. It is usually a math concept like telling time, counting money, a calendar concept, graphing or number sense (I take these concepts from IEPS). Each student writes their answer on a scrap of paper. After each student has turned in their answer, I call small groups to solve the question. This gives me a quick snapshot of who understands a concept and who needs extra practice. It is also an easy way to keep track of IEP growth.

Calendar with Questions

 Weather Calendars
Kelly's students track different weather concepts monthly. Then graph results at the end of the month.

Since my students don't learn in the "traditional" way, hands on learning is best. We use a lot of hands on manipulatives to figure out math problems.We also use saying and tricks. Here is one way I teach telling time. I say that the hour hand/little hand always gets to go first when saying her name, because she is the smallest. she can ONLY say the numbers on the inside of the clock because those are the only ones she can reach. Now the minute hand/big hand always has to go last when saying his name because men always let ladies go first. He can only say the numbers on the outside of the clock because he is tall enough to reach them. As a team they can tell the time. I use a big clock that the students can manipulate and practice telling time with.

What advice do you have for teachers just coming into the field?
Use veteran teachers as resources. Also, learn all you can about classroom management and behavior modification. You will have one of my students in your class, if you establish rules and routines right away, everything else will be easier!

Is there anything else that you would like to share?
This year I am trying something different for reading comprehension. I am reading aloud the Magic Tree-House Books. They are fantastic!
I read several chapters a day to my whole class. We talk about what we just read and compare it to previous Tree-House books that we have read. We then do an activity about the book and make class notes on the board about each book. We use “Google Earth” to look for the places mentioned in each story. We create a passport for each book. After reading each book, everyone in my class from grades K-5th grade take the Accelerated Reader test. Student’s love these books and the A.R. test scores prove how much they are listening and learning. We have also sent Jack and Annie on adventures to our relatives, and have gotten a few responses back!  This is along the same concept as the Flat Stanley Idea.

My favorite part of this Post is your Magic Tree-House activities that you do with your students. I love that series and used to read it to my first grade students. You've gone the extra mile by taking it across the curriculum in very creative ways. Using Google Earth to follow Jack & Annie's adventures is such a great idea and has given your students the opportunity to see the world. 
Thanks for sharing your students, stories and advice.

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