By Joan Brock. 4th Grade Math. Published at Tuesday, November 10th, 2020 - 22:29:15 PM.
This was one of the Ah-ha! moments of my life. If these children could not take apart and put together concrete objects as basic as simple inset puzzles, how on earth could they take apart and put together abstractions, such as letters and sounds. Our classroom changed. I kept those opened puzzles in the classroom, and I bought more simple inset puzzles for my students, as well as easy interlocking puzzles with only a few pieces. The students became adept at taking these puzzles apart, then putting them together again to create a predetermined whole. I bought blocks for the classroom, which they put together, then took apart, then put together again in different ways, creating a wide range of things, similar to what we do with letters when sounding out words.
Ive had this, albeit small list, in my mind my whole life, a kind of master to do list and here I was crossing off another thing from the list. First the bakery, then committing to run a ½ marathon and now Ive found Elizabeth. It seems like the older I get, the more things I seem to be checking off that master list, and that got me wondering if that is what happens when we got older. What if our entire life is made up of this list and you just go through life clicking things off that list. But then I thought, what happens when you get to the end of your list? Is it Hello Pearly Gates, if youre lucky? Or if you dont check off everything off your list and make all the necessary amends is it then "Wow its hot down here, this cant be right"?
Have you seen that TV show, "Are you Smarter Than a 5th Grader?" The adult contestants compete to win dollars if they can answer typical 1st through 5th grade questions, and they get help from some 5th grade classmates. Rarely do the adult contestants win, and the questions include areas that most of us have long forgotten as we watch the energetic 5th grade classmates get the right answers almost every time. When the adult contestant misses a question it prompts the defensive shameful behavior that we learn along the way in life. In the rare instance that a 5th grader misses, they look reflective, perhaps disappointed, but move along to do better on the next question. My 4th grade girls have yet to learn how uncool it is to show your vulnerability or to be ashamed of how you might be different from others. They just are who they are, excited about life, and learning and full of curiosity and bright energy. I was reminded by the school counselor that just about all of that will change by the time they reach 6th grade. Im sure she is right. My hope is they will remember just a few things about being happy and staying curious to take into adulthood and for some, into meaningful leadership roles.
Some other ideas also include finding out what kinds of materials magnets can go through such as felt paper, newspaper, construction paper, and an experiment to see if ants can find their way back to their ant hill if you move them a distance away. Another nice thing about science projects for this age group is that theres not a lot of materials involved and the results are usually able to be seen if not right away, then very soon after the project has been started. Projects like this are great for fourth graders because it makes learning fun and they can do most of it on their own which gives them a great sense of accomplishment.
I want my teachers to be able to retrace my steps and perhaps provide alternative schedules or make adjustments that I had not considered. All alternatives to the master schedule should be presented to the grade level committee using the same methodology and should be based on deliberate strategy. "I dont want to teach after lunch" is an example of a schedule request that is not well thought out. An example of a schedule request that is well thought out might be, "If teacher A and teacher B trade media center times on Tuesdays, the second grade could have additional common planning time."
The day proceeded normally. It was a rainy day, with an indoor recess, and an educational assistant came to my room to monitor the class while I took my 15-minute break. When I came back at the end of my break, the educational assistant was nowhere to be seen. The boys were all clustered near my desk, sitting on the floor, actively engaged with something. I quickly realized they had torn open the bag from the toy store, opened each of the puzzles, and had the pieces scattered all over the floor. I was upset... at the assistant who was supposed to be monitoring my class, and at the students, for getting into my personal items and opening puzzles intended for my as-yet-unborn child. I sternly demanded that the boys put the puzzles back together! And then I watched in utter amazement, as I realized that not one of these 4th grade boys was able to put the pieces of a simple inset puzzle back in place!
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