Throughout my time at this blog I have focused most of my writing on lesson plans for grades K–3. Today, I would like to discuss one of my favorite lesson plans for grades 4–6. I have found that an important way to engage older students is to incorporate media or use terms related to modern pop culture. This grabs that students’ attention and even gives the teacher some “cool” points. One example where I used this idea goes as follows.
I love art. The problem with teaching about art in the classroom is that students find the old masters a little dull. Because of this issue, I decided to up the participation through using the term “selfie”. You see, from Frida Khalo to Van Gogh, artists love to create self-portraits. Just like any good “selfie” or self-portrait, the subject of the work makes certain rhetorical moves in order to create a beautiful image. By making these connections, students are suddenly interested in the rhetorical moves that Van Gogh used in his self-portrait and they try to incorporate those methods into their own self-portraits or “selfies”. It was a smash hit in the classroom and really got the students interested in art.
This lesson plan brought the class joy and an increased interest in art. Don’t forget to have fun with the students. The more they are able to discuss their own ideas, the more engaged they will be!
In a previous post I discussed my second grade teacher, Mrs. Hayes. Because of her kind nature and positive attitude I learned to love school. Her example has changed my life and I owe a great deal of my success and joy to the lessons she taught me. A few months ago on a short trip to my home town I ran into Mrs. Hayes. I was not surprised to see that she met me with a tight bear hug and a few tears as we discussed the role she has played in my life. As we continued to talk I was heartbroken to hear that after 30+ years of teaching she chose to retire. When I asked what prompted this vocational change, she shared with me news that taught me an invaluable lesson. She said the school district decided that it was against the rules for teachers to hug their students. She simply could not sit and watch a brokenhearted seven-year-old and not lean down and give them one of her famous bear hugs, so she retired.
Before I discuss my stance on this decision, I would like to take a quick moment and say that I support school district policies and understand that they are in place to protect both students and teachers. I simply wanted to use this example to explain an important point about teaching that I hold near to my heart. Mrs. Hayes loved teaching because she genuinely loved the students and wanted to share her deep respect for learning with them. On multiple occasions, whether it was a scraped knee or just a hard day, I remember Mrs. Hayes giving me one of her hugs. Her bear hugs and kind words all my pain was taken away. I knew Mrs. Hayes cared about me, wanted me to succeed, and believed I could.
Students remember the way you make them feel. The method does not matter, but be sure to make your students feel loved. I had one teacher take a chance on me as a seven-year-old and my life has been different because I felt loved and cared for. Thank you, Mrs. Hayes!
Each Sunday, as my husband and I head to teach our small primary class of five-year-olds, I am filled with trepidation. Will today’s lesson grab their attention or will I be left with a room of rowdy children? Although, on a good day our class only consists of nine students, to say it is difficult to constantly engage the students is an understatement. However, after a great deal of trial and error we have found one foolproof method: puppets. When we pull out our simple, homemade sock puppets, it’s as if we wave a magic wand, and our two puppets effortlessly grab the students’ attention.
Because of the amazing results I have experienced using this simple tool, I want to give a quick puppet-making tutorial, along with some simple teaching tips using these little friends.
Select a sock. I have found that colorful or over-decorated socks can be distracting. So use simple colors and patterns for the best results.
Place the sock puppet on your hand, tucking in the toe of the sock until it reaches the palm of your hand. This should create a small mouth and give your sock a little bit of life. At this point I like to manipulate my puppet to give it more expression. Expression can be attained by how you manipulate the mouth of the puppet; pull at the toe until you are happy with the shape of the mouth.
After you are happy with the shape of the mouth of your puppet, all you have to do is a simple invisible stitch to connect the toe of the sock to the arch of the sock. This creates a puppet that will not lose its shape.
This is the fun part—now you can add details as you see fit. Be careful not to forget the eyes! But outside of that, you can add crazy hair on your puppet, clothes, eyelashes, hair or any other accessories that fit the character of your puppet. The important thing is to be creative.
After your puppet is completed, be sure to follow these simple puppeteering techniques:
When your puppet is talking, be sure to look at it. It can be a little scary if you and your puppet are both looking at the students as you talk.
Be sure that the movement of the puppet’s mouth follows the vowels. The more animated, the better!
Don’t keep your hand in one place; move the puppet around, focusing on different students. This works really well with students who may be losing interest.
Most importantly, have fun! If you are enjoying yourself, your students will have fun too.
A special thanks to Professor Lisa Bean and the girls in my Theatre Class for your great puppets! You really inspired me!
Feminism has become an important topic in both education and politics. Although I do not necessarily agree with many of the ideas espoused by feminists, I am an advocate of the importance of the female mind. Because of that simple belief, I would like to take some time and discuss a powerful woman and the sweet and simple lessons we can attain through her words. Abigail Adams stands as one of the most of the influential women in American history. In her lifetime she endured almost unimaginable trials. Her faith in the importance of the cause of freedom stands throughout her continued support to her husband as president, and throughout the American Revolution. With this in mind I would like to discuss one of her quotes that stands out to me as one of her defining characteristics. Abigail Adams wrote, “We have too many high sounding words and too few actions to correspond with them.” Abigail Adams was not a bystander throughout her lifetime; instead she wanted to make a difference day by day by applying her knowledge and beliefs to influence change.
As a student of education I have listened to countless discussions about the “perfect” way to teach. With idyllic thoughts and ideas, many students in my class mean well as they struggle to find their own perfect methods. The problem that I have witnessed, and like Abigail Adams discussed, is that too often individuals spend far too long reaching a perfect concept or standard before applying their ideas. In no way am I saying that learning about correct teaching techniques is an improper use of time–I believe that it is equally important as applying the ideas in a classroom setting. Too many times in my brief teaching experience I have planned what I thought was the perfect lesson only to have the students show me the true nature of my high sounding words. Teaching is not about the perfect lesson plan; instead teaching takes understanding, practice, and countless mistakes before perfection can be attained. As students of education, let’s apply our thoughts and beliefs into actual classroom settings.