Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Taking the Fun Out of Teaching and some Math Freebies

WARNING: The following post was written by a frustrated teacher. Proceed with caution.
When I read all of the blogs out there, I feel bad for my kids. My district has a curriculum guide we are supposed to be following and it doesn't leave much room for "fun stuff". I had to give a reading and math benchmark test last week, plus stay caught up with the curriculum guide. It left no room for anything Thanksgiving. We did make some Turkey in Disguises that I will share with you tomorrow.

Last year I would do little reading and math craftivities for morning work which let me fit in seasonal art. This year my state came up with a new grading system and our score was low. So now each teacher meets with our principal once a week to show her the mini assessments we've given, writing samples from the week, samples of the morning work aligned with low areas from the benchmark tests and samples of our academic vocabulary notebooks. 

We are using Core Knowledge (not to be confused with Common Core). It comes from the books What Your First Grader Needs to Know (there is one for every grade level). There is a guide set up telling us which units to teach each week. So for the last 3 weeks we were supposed to be teaching about the Incas and the Aztecs while everyone else is teaching Thanksgiving. In December, we are supposed to teach about December???? "That should make for some great plant experiments." the teacher said sarcastically.

I actually like Core Knowledge, but one of the frustrating things is we do not have literature to go along with it. I think there are some trade books, but there is just one copy. So I am using Treasures and while I am supposed to be teaching about the Incas and the Aztecs, we are reading The Fun Kid's Band, On My Way to School and Kate's Game. Of the 3 stories, one is realistic fiction and the other two are humorous stories. Do those stories sound like they would support learning about the Incas? I haven't even taught any of the Core Knowledge for probably over a month. Now during our meeting with the principal, we are supposed to telling her what we have been doing for Core Knowledge. Yikes! Hmmm.... let's see....cough, cough....nothing. I didn't realize it until this year that I am rather rebellious.

We started using Everyday Math, which, so far,  I do not like. I know it is supposed to keep spiraling around, but so far, I feel like I have a lot of kids that just aren't getting it and I am constantly trying to reteach while EM is going on ahead and throwing out more. I personally don't think EM spends enough time on one topic before it goes to another topic. Any Everyday Math users out there? What's your opinion? I like to teach the topic thoroughly and then continue to revisit it the rest of the year.

OK, so if you have read all of my complaining, you deserve a reward. here are a couple of math freebies for you. The first one I used as an assessment for Tally Marks and Ten Frames.
Here is the link.
The next freebies is a little book for making tens. It goes along with the idea from Pinterest of using the Unifix cubes in 2 colors to show the different way ten is made. I added the hands to go along with the EM penny grab game. Note the first two pages have the page twice so only run 1/2 of what you need, page 3 and 4 you will need to run a full set.
I'm sorry each page is separate, the old program I use won't let me do more than one page at a time. I hope to get a new program soon. My kids loved this book.
Sorry for the rant,

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  1. I'm wondering why the Incas and Aztecs are relevant to first graders? :) I'm sorry your district curriculum is to tight that there's hardly room for any professional decisions on your part.
    ❀ Tammy
    Forever in First

    1. Core Knowledge is a spiraling curriculum so, we introduce it in first(at least I was supposed to) and then they come back to it in later grades. Earlier in the year we were supposed to teach Ancient Egypt. The kids are really comprehending ancient...they probably are thinking of their grandparents. lol

  2. I've had to use EM in the past with my special ed students! Crazy! I hated it for the same reason you mentioned, if they don't get the concept, oh well, we'll get back to it later we're moving on to a new topic. I started to supplement the program with older texts and materials and finally gave up using the series. I pulled it out for one of my students that needed to be challenged more and he seems to do well with it.

    Teaching Special Kids

    1. I have decided to start supplementing with a lot of my own things. In our district, first graders get letters grades, not just S, N, or U. I also have had problems figuring out how to get grades. I also don't like that the assessments only have one question per skill so if the child messed up, you don't know if he didn't get it or just started off wrong. I'll step off of my soap box now. ;P

  3. Wow Kelly no offence but that really sucks. Your principal should trust his/her teachers more to meet the kids where they are. Maybe you could tell him you got some good advice from another first grade teacher in the state (and an A school) and she said to let you TEACH because you are a GREAT teacher and you know your kids' needs better than anyone. I would say do your "core knowledge" (which I have never heard of btw) and then supplement, supplement, supplement, formative assessments,and let the kids write!
    Good luck and Happy Thanksgiving!

    1. I think if it was up to my principal, we would have more freedom. This is one of the "joys" of coming from a big district. We were far from an A school, but we didn't make an F. Congrats on the A. : )

  4. What's with rigid programs anyway? Why do people think they can possibly dictate one way, one time-line, to teach all kids? I think it's a joke when we're expected to follow stuff like that. I'd be a rebel, too! We're teachers! We have tons of education and experience; the higher ups should trust and respect that. Sheesh. Okay, now I'm on a rant, too! Incas and Aztecs for 6 year olds?? Huh?!? That's just weird. Hang in there, Kelly. Good luck with it all!

    Grade ONEderful
    Ruby Slippers Blog Designs

    1. PS The freebies are great :)

    2. Thanks for the support! I'm glad to know it's not just me that doesn't like being dictated to all the time.

      I guess part of the reasoning for the curriculum guide for the district is because we have so many kids moving around within the district.