Week in Lab: Truancy Edition

April22

I want to apologize to my readers, who come here to check into what I’m doing in the lab with my students. I have obviously disappointed in that area in the last month or two. Forgive me, but the extremity of events that have befallen myself, and my school, have overtaken not just this blog, but a lot of my life. I am still teaching, and have been teaching, I just haven’t been
quite as deliberate in my reflection on that practice.  Okay, enough with the excuses, here is what is happening.

I’m not going to try to slap a happy face on this, or pretend this is great, or say it’s the end of Western Civilization, but teachers are less concerned with the pacing, thematic units of our text programs, and are really drilling down into shoring up student’s gaps in standards for testing, which starts the week after next. It’s not unexpected given what’s going on here, so it is what it is.

Second Grade

I’ve kept up on what the unit topics, but for second grade I’ve focused on Cause and Effect when looking at fossils and geology (which work very well with that particular topic). I finished up with getting VoiceThread comments from students, that you can see below:


I’ve now started preparing them for their new unit theme, Our Country. I usually concentrate on geography and a sense of place to start things out, so we’ve done map reading skills this week.

Third Grade

For third grade, they needed shoring up on problems and solutions. Their unit was on Money, another topic well suited to that type of analysis. I was showing them a very interesting video from Weston Wood on Discovery Streaming about an incident from the life of Thoreau, where he agrees to meet a friend in Fitchburg, and he hikes, while the friend decides to take the train. The friend has to do chores all day to earn his ticket. It has some good lessons about time vs. money, and problems/solutions. I never really worked the VoiceThread for that unit, so I won’t bother to include it here.

Third Grade’s new unit is on country life, and I may be doing a Skype conversation with a K-1 who are also studying this theme.

Fourth Grade

Hmm, this grade level has presented me with a lot behavior issues all year long, and that has definitely been flaring up lately, as luck would have it.  They needed to work on compare and contrast. I made the mistake with one class of doing it BOTH together. With that grade level , it’s much better to have them compare in one lesson, period, class, session, then do contrast separately. This is the big part about teaching primary, or a transitional intermediate grade, is that you have to break tasks done into smaller steps before you bring the whole thing together.

They have now started a unit called Our Changing Country, which picks up on some of the themes of the second grade Our Country unit, but also talks about immigration, etc. As with the second graders, I’m starting with a sense of place and geography, since most kids do not have a good idea what Europe and other continents/countries are and where they are in relationship to the U.S. , a necessary knowledge for discussing U.S. immigration then and now.

Fifth and Sixth Grade

With these grades, I started to implement some lessons that tie into Larry Ferlazzo’s work on preparing students for testing in the affective domain.

  1. I’ve surveyed them on their feelings about the importance of the test;
  2. I’ve had one-on-one discussions about their survey answers;
  3. I had them write about a time they were successful, before given them a short quiz;
  4. I’ve gone back to our lessons from earlier in the year based on the “Marshmallow” experiment (fifth, sixth);

What did I find?

  1. One class that “underperformed” on the last district benchmarks seemed to be the most productive to have the discussions with.
  2. When I did the third activity, writing about a time they were successful, the fifth graders had a hard time with the meaning of the word “successful”.  I’ll be doing some vocabulary building with them. It’s funny because they are the most successful grade in terms of testing, behavior, and they’re pretty darn smart.
  3. This did not feel productive with all of the classes to me.
  4. I don’t think this would have worked as something to start in April. The early work on cognitive strategies was critical to making this work.

I also used the survey to try to figure out which kids are having emotional issues around what is happening at our school. Students who answered they wanted to do well “for the principal and teachers at the school” (which I told them was NOT what they should be doing- yeah, I know we want them to do better, but I’ll be darned if I’ll let a kid think that’s important), AND they said how well they did on the test didn’t matter because the principal and teacher were not going to be around next year, were sending up a BIG RED FLAG. Many had testing issues (low scores, uneven performance, etc.) I especially told them to concentrate on doing their best for themselves, and NOT TO WORRY ABOUT THE ADULTS, we’ll be okay.

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