Monday, April 28, 2008

Round and round the roundabout

On Friday, I started to have nightmares about returning to school. In one, I was frantically trying to pick up a stack of paper that I needed for my classes, but my hand kept going through the papers like I was some sort of ghost; in another, I arrived in class only to realize that I had no idea what I had planned to teach; in all of them, I was desperately, woefully late.

The better vacation is, the harder it is to return to work, so between that, the dismal forecast, and today's after-school faculty conference, I was really not looking forward to school today. But for a Monday after vacation, it wasn't so bad. My special kindergarteners are always delightful after a break: just dazed enough to be relatively calm during our first period class and full of fun (and possibly fabricated) stories about their vacation. (My favorite? "I brushed my teeth!" Like, hmm, I'm hoping that wasn't a unique spring break activity.)

My special fourth graders are always detestable after a break: insolent, rude, and generally opposed to learning of any kind. I started second period with an off-the-cuff discussion of Iron Man and transitioned into a cheery "Welcome back, I hope you all had a great vacation, now please come and meet me at the carpet" and was met with the kind of groans and glares I might expect after announcing some kind of hideous exam. I've started doing more read alouds with my classes, though, and they got into Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs, which is one of my favorite books ever, so I hope we're able to keep the momentum going next week.

My third graders were fine; one of them had a sourpuss face on and I scored some giggles by modeling it back to him. That's always dicey because I don't want my students to feel like I'm mocking them, but I went for it because he and I are on good terms and it worked; he laughed and the glower disappeared.

My first graders...oy! All 25 of them still think they're the only one in the class who could possibly have anything of value to say. So as a consequence, when I make an announcement like, "Please make one pile out of your papers so I can collect them, and when I see that your table is ready I will ask you to come to the carpet," at least 8 kids are up and out of their seat to surround me with follow-up questions and comments: "Can I go to the bathroom? Can I share?
I'm not finished! E.J. hit me with a pencil!" And no matter how many times I explain to the chattering masses that they all need to be in their seats, general mayhem ensues. I think I need to work out some kind of system with them.

And my second graders, the ones who drive me to the brink nearly every single Monday, were amazingly well-behaved! Possibly because I bribed them with a potential reward at the end of the period, which they all earned with the exception of one. I pushed my luck by reading them Jane Yolen's Owl Moon at the end of the period, which is a beautiful book but one that really requires calm and quiet in the room to be appreciated. (Before I read it I always make a big deal about how the language is lovely and relaxing and so we all need to be relaxed and quiet to let it sink in.) And they were into it!

Lately I've been teaching similes by reading Audrey Wood's Quick as a Cricket ("I'm as quick as a cricket, I'm as slow as a snail, I'm as small as an ant, I'm as large as a whale") and asking the kids to try out their own similes, which they've done to great success (some of my favorites: "I'm as dirty as a pig," "I'm as small as a mouse"). I decided that, to teach metaphors, I'm going to play the R. Kelly song "The World's Greatest" that was performed at the Opening Ceremonies of the 2002 Winter Olympics Games: "I'm that star up in the sky, I'm that mountain peak up high -- hey, I made it, I'm the world's greatest!" I suspect that they'll really enjoy listening to the song; now I just have to think of an interesting activity to go along with it.

And for my fifth graders, who have been reading about Anne Frank and who thus are probably a little too mature for Quick as a Cricket, I'm going to try out the two Langston Hughes poems about dreams: "Does it dry up like a raisin in the sun?" (simile) and "If dreams die, life is a broken-winged bird that cannot fly" (metaphor). And then next week, to continue with the theme of descriptive language in all my classes, we're going to listen to a neat audio recording of Mem Fox's Wilfred Gordon McDonald Partridge that I found on Power Media Plus and draw pictures to go along with the descriptive text.

And that's the round-up!

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