A Good Read-Aloud

I have always had a love for children’s literature, but I found an even greater love for it as I read aloud to students almost every day during practicum. It was a delight for me, and it had students totally captivated! It is so enjoyable for all students, and it is so good for students to have a model for reading. Even though at first it might mean tediously sounding out letters in each word, the students can see that reading is the key that unlocks the magic of a captivating read-aloud.

During practicum, my mentor teacher handed me a book titled The Book with No Pictures, by B.J. Novak, to read to the class during read-aloud time. The students had never read it before, and neither had I! Boy were we in for a surprise! This book is very silly! I have never heard a class of students laugh so hard in my life. They appreciated my willingness to be vulnerable and goofy with them. On the last day of practicum, this is the moment that they remembered the most and thanked me for.

I bet you remember a book that was read aloud to you as a child. I remember countless books that my mom read to me in our home. I also remember that in third grade, Mrs. Kelly read The Boxcar Children to us aloud. She certainly got me hooked on that series! I still have a clear vision in my mind of what the Alden’s boxcar looked like, and especially who Benny and Violet became, in my imagination.

Some of my favorite books to read aloud include…

  • Ruby the Copycat, by Peggy Rathmann
  • Officer Buckle and Gloria, by Peggy Rathmann
  • The Book with No Pictures, by B.J. Novak
  • You are Special, by Max Lucado
  • Miss Nelson is Missing, by Harry Allard
  • Miss Malarkey Doesn’t Live in Room 10, by Judy Finchler
  • The Little Mouse, the Red Ripe Strawberry, and the Big Hungry Bear, by Don Wood
  • The Very Hungry Caterpillar, by Eric Carle

What are some of your favorites?

Little Mavis

Little Mavis is an imaginary student invented by my principal. She’s pretend. Any resemblance of Little Mavis to a real student is merely coincidental. Nevertheless, Mavis was fundamental to my development as a teacher. She would randomly appear in conversations like this:

New Teacher: Do I really have to take my third period class to the high school Show Choir assembly? My third period is already behind all my other classes, and this will just put them further behind. (Side note to new teachers—this is probably not a good question to ask at faculty meeting.)

Principal: If Little Mavis has a brother in the Show Choir, she will go home broken-hearted that she didn’t get to see him perform. After school, her mother will call and be upset with both of us. So yes, you do need to go to the assembly. (Side note—this applied to every assembly, not just Show Choir. Little Mavis would be equally devastated if she didn’t get to see Birds of Prey or Secrets of a Mad Scientist.)

At our middle school of a thousand 6th and 7th graders, Mavis was the student we talked about most in faculty meeting. It was important that Little Mavis went home happy, healthy, and looking relatively the same as she did when she left in the morning. We were instructed to be vigilant and proactive during hall, bus, and lunch duty because it was important that Mavis felt safe, physically and emotionally. We were cautioned to be particularly sensitive to the sixth-grade version of Little Mavis because this was her first time away from the nurturing environment of her elementary school. Help her open her locker. Give her a pencil. Excuse tardies for the first week or two. Don’t tease her about the small stuffed animal attached to her backpack. (Side note—sixth graders cry easier than seventh graders.)

Mavis emerged in our English Department meetings too. We English teachers can sometimes be a snobby bunch, but even though she was a fictional character, we always treated Little Mavis with sensitivity and respect. I remember during my second year suggesting an idea that I thought would save us time and effort as teachers. My wise department chair taught me a lesson I will never forget. She simply stated, “That would be easier for us, but would it best for the students?”

You see, by keeping Little Mavis continually in our consciousness, our principal established an unwritten culture in our school: Our focus is on the students. This was before No Child Left Behind and Professional Learning Communities. Intuitively, we developed own versions of Differentiated Instruction, Engaging All Learners, and Teaching for Diversity because we cared about Little Mavis. As new initiatives were introduced over the years, they resonated with me because they validated my inner belief that every student matters.

Our school never had an actual student named Mavis during my tenure, but I’ve come to realize that she is every student. One whose grandparents settled our small community as pioneers and one who only knows only two words of English. One whose mom who chases her from soccer practice to piano lessons after school and one who takes care of her siblings every night while mom is out with her boyfriend. One who is writing a novel and one who still plays with Barbies. One who often tells you that you’re her favorite teacher and one who rolls her eyes every time you ask the class to take out paper and a pencil. And we all know male versions of Mavis; I called him Bubba.

Little Mavis blessed my life, for she taught me many things about teaching as the Savior taught. Get to know your students. Ask questions. Listen. And most of all, love and care about each as an individual. Mavis and Bubba inspire all of us to be better teachers.

 

Written by: Annette

The Power of Reflection

reflection-mulan

I recently completed my K-2 practicum experience. A practicum is a four-week field experience in an elementary school in one of BYU’s partnership districts.  You have the opportunity to be paired with a mentor teacher, who allows you to come into her classroom, observe, and teach! I had a very positive experience and learned so much!

Throughout the practicum, student teachers are expected to keep a daily reflection journal, which, for convenience, exists on a GoogleDoc. After practicum, we write several reflection papers about lessons we taught and the experience as a whole. Some might see all of these papers and reflections as excessive, but today I learned otherwise. I was sitting in one of my classes where a guest lecturer was speaking; she has been a kindergarten teacher for many years. She shared a sketchbook with us that she uses as her “reflection journal”. What I loved most about our visitor’s reflection sketchbook idea was that she could doodle, write, or even include pictures. She even stapled in things she wanted to save or remember. She made the recommendation to take lots of pictures. This sketchbook is her place to reflect on the lessons she teaches: what worked, what didn’t work, and ideas she has for next time. She said, “You have to reflect. It helps you become better”. She said “Right after you teach, write about it!”. I can attest to that. Immediately after I taught a lesson during my practicum experience, my mind was full of my perceived failures and successes in that particular lesson. It’s a good idea to get those ideas on paper when they are fresh in your mind. I was able to go back and read my reflection journal several times and improve my management and teaching strategies.

How do you reflect on your teaching in order to become a better educator? If a sketchbook doesn’t work for you, what does? How has reflecting on your teaching helped you become a better teacher?

 

Practicum Pep Talk

Have you ever found a talk, article, or devotional that you just couldn’t keep to yourself; you had to share it with everyone? That happened to me this week. It was a TED talk by Rita Pierson. It felt like a great pep talk as many of us enter another crazy week of practicum. Check it out!

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SFnMTHhKdkw

There are five important lessons in it that stood out to me:

“Kids don’t learn from people they don’t like”

I reflected on my favorite elementary school teachers and realized it really was the relationships I built with them that made me remember them the most. I remember the way I felt in their classrooms. Like Rita Pierson mentioned, I consequently remember specific things that they taught me. In 3rd grade, Ms. Kelly taught us about simple machines, prairie life and division. In one of my textbooks, titled Seven Simple Secrets: What the BEST Teachers Know and Do!, a teacher said,  “I know that when a student feels like he’s special to me, then he’s much more likely to behave, to do his work, and to enjoy learning, then there’s practically nothing I can’t teach him. So if I want all my students to behave, do their work, and enjoy learning, I’ve simply got no choice but to make them all feel like they’re special to me”. Our relationships with our students are so vital, so as you interact with your class this week, keep that in mind!

“You were so excited, we just let you go”

Rita was so excited about teaching the subject material that the kids were merciful when she didn’t even teach it right! Excitement can make the biggest difference! It’s contagious too!

“Plus two, not minus 18”

That student’s thoughts went from “I failed…” to “I am on a roll! I got two right! I’m bound to get more right next time!”. We can help students see the glass half full, rather than half empty.

“Your toughest kids are never absent!”

That’s good! They need the connections and relationships at school that you help them develop.

“Every child deserves a champion, an adult who will never give up on them”

We need to insist that they become the best that they can be. When you get a glimpse of their potential, run with it!