Monday, March 30, 2009
I noticed that she couldn't subtract, at all. She could go through all the motions of subtracting like crossing out numbers to borrow and writing new ones above, but she never got the correct answers. But she close. Strangely close.
I took her out of class, just the two of us, and went down to the Fishbowl. I started with small problems and again she was really close to the correct answer. I watched her while she subtracted. She was moving her fingers and counting to herself. I asked her to count out loud so I could hear her.
She said, "17, 16, 15, 14, 12, 11..."
"Whoa! Try that again."
She started over and missed 13 again. I had her try starting at other numbers, counting backwards, and she skipped 13 every time.
She was completely confused why I was so happy about this. I think I probably scaredher. I told her that whenever she was bored she should look at her number line and count backward from twenty putting her finger on every number. I told her to ask her family at home to listen to her count backward. She was still confused, but said she would.
Two days later she was subtracting perfectly. Yay me! Yay Apple Girl!
Wednesday, March 25, 2009
Wait! What's this? Is this a workspace hidden at the bottom of a flight of stairs and practically outside?It is! My, my isn't this cozy!
It's warmer than it looks because hanging right over the table is this. I have some students who don't sit under the heater because it scares them. It only scares me when it's not on.
I call my space The Fishbowl because as classes file past to go to recess or come back from recess they all gawk at me and my group. Sometimes they actually have their mouths hanging open. We're a regular circus sideshow for them. While the doors are open we get to freeze and all the books and papers blow everywhere. So it's fun for us too.
As you can probably image, having recess right outside my space can be just a bit of a distraction for my zombies. Sometimes a ball or Frisbee will strike the door and startles us. Just today we had some kid who thought it would be a great idea to spend his recess smashing his face into the window at us. I busted him big time to his teacher. I do believe he's lost recess for the rest of the school year. Poor zombie!
But I can't complain too much about my space. I do after all have my own cart for my stuff. I have to share a shelf with a bag of de-icer but it's comforting to know that I have a shovel close at hand if things get really out of control. Do you see my box of Teddy Grahams? They are still doing their magic of making zombies come to life!
In the end though, I'm lucky to have this space. There is an aide here who knows the schedules of all the teachers and uses their rooms when they are at lunch or the library or something like that. She's like the hermit crab of tutors. Given a choice, I'd rather hang out in my Fishbowl.
Wednesday, March 18, 2009
Saturday, March 14, 2009
Now I am not a big fan of standardized testing. Anyone who has had to witness the transformation of good teachers into test prep robots would agree that high risk tests are detrimental to learning. Once I had a teacher (whom I never had much respect for) tell me that their class wouldn't be doing any writing during the year because there wouldn't be a writing component on the test. "Why should I waste my time?", this monster in a teacher suit asked me. I wanted to scream and scream and scream. The quality of education plummets while kids are prepared for the test. Textbooks gather dust while the practice booklets are whipped out one after the other. Test, test, test is all these poor zombies hear about for months on end. It's so sad to see them ground down into just pencil wielding statistics instead of the little individual zombies that they are.
Ack! This isn't where I wanted to go with this. I was talking about my cool new assignment. I will be working with small groups of zombies who have been identified as being "on the bubble." Any of these kids could pass the test, but they could just as easily fail. They are right on the edge of grasping the skills and learning needed to push them over the top. They also possess plenty of school is stupid attitude and general goofiness which could bring them up short. Bubble kids could pass IF they got enough sleep, had a good breakfast, their pencil isn't too shiny, a firetruck doesn't pass by the window, their underwear doesn't feel itchy, they didn't watch anything too funny on TV last night AND the kid beside him doesn't tap his pencil while he's thinking. If all the stars are aligned, then the bubbles just might squeak out a passing score.
My job is meet with the bubbles and attempt to cram a tiny bit more information in their wee little heads. I've been on the job for a week and resistance has been strong.
Fortunately for the three of you, I will have plenty of funny zombie stories instead of miserable ones because this job is in my favorite school. These are likable zombies.
Here's your first story. This group was actually kids who are not even at bubble status. I have them, I think, just so their regular teacher can get some things done while they are out of the room. They are low, low, low. We were doing math story problems. One went like this:
You have an object that weighs 30 ounces. You know that one pound equals sixteen ounces. What could your object be?
a) a banana
b) a third grader
c) a five pound bag of potatoes
d) a quart of milk
Right away I could see that this problem was WAY too difficult for these guys. The four of them just sat there staring at the paper, pencils unmoving. On the board I wrote:
one pound = 16 oz.
two pounds = ____
"How can we figure out how many ounces are in two pounds?" I asked. There faces now were pointed blankly at the board. One girl scowled at it. "Okay, I want you take your best guess at this. Get rid of the choices that couldn't be right. Narrow it down."
All four of them choose the five pound bag of potatoes as the correct answer.
The next few minutes involved me trying, in every way I could think of, to explain the concept of doubling. I drew pictures. I gave them things to hold. They just couldn't get their heads around it. It was the weight thing that was throwing them off. It was the number 16. It was that they just didn't care. I was just about to throw in the towel when one of the zombies face lit up. On her paper I saw that she had actually written 16 twice. She smiled at me. "I got it!" She was beaming.
"Cool! So how many ounces are in two pounds?"
Monday, March 09, 2009
Wednesday, March 04, 2009
There's no great way to write the noise that we make with empty cardboard tubes around here. Doot-doo-Doo! will have to be close enough.
Over the years we've spent a fair amount of money on squeakies, balls and pull toys for Marco. But none of those compare with how much he loves to rip and destroy empty cardboard tubes. When we get to the end of the paper towels, we take the tube and trumpet Doot-doo-Doo! through it. Marco will come tearing in from where ever he's sleeping to find it. Tremendous scampering and barking continues until we finally give him the tube and he runs away with it to teach it a lesson.
An average paper towel roll lasts about a minute before it's in pieces. The center tube from foil or plastic wrap takes a few minutes longer. The inside of gift wrap is gone in moments. But a few days ago, Marco received the granddaddy of all cardboard tubes. My mom brought it over from Subway. This tube was so tough that it took Marco an entire day to destroy!