One Sunflower


on October 21, 2009

Conscious, a word with 8 listed meanings in Webster’s.   The one I’ve identified as significant for my entry today is #4: capable of or marked by thought, will, design, or perception.

Our book study group is reading Never Work Harder Than Your Students by Robyn R. Jackson.   We meet Friday mornings and will be examining the third chapter this week.  But I’m still focusing on chapter 2 which is all about the author’s second principle: know where your students are going.  The book begins by having the reader fill out the “Self Assessment of Mastery” in the introduction.  According to this tool, I am at the “practitioner” level which is third on the way to master teacher.  There are 7 principles to master and my scores indicate a weakness in this second principle.  So I want to spend a bit of time in this chapter and try to do the work.

Ms. Jackson has a suggestion for beginning which is to identify the state or district standards in an upcoming unit of study, determine whether each is a process or content goal and then see which processes are implied for the content goals and what content is implied for the process goal.  This homework is probably designed with a middle school or high school teacher in mind but since our school is focusing on “word work” I decided to look at the list of Washington State benchmarks for early childhood in phonological awareness.

Indicators of demonstrating phonological awareness for children 36-60 months old are:  1)  participating in and creating songs, rhymes, and games that play with sound, 2)  identifying initial sounds of words with assistance, 3)  making three or more letter sound correspondences (david, day, dog begin the same,)  4)  finding objects in pictures with same beginning sound, 5)  differentiating between words sounding similar – tree, three

So what am I doing to build capacity in this goal for my students?  According to Ms. Jackson, I should identify the steps towards achieving the goals and implement steps of progression.  I’m beginning to identify the steps.  We sing songs often and I often stop singing and let the children fill in the blanks.  I do the same in favorite books.  I put the first letter of key words in songs on the easel when we are singing – such as ‘h’ with a happy face when we sing, “If you’re happy and you know it.”  We “stretch and shrink” vocabulary words with our voices – words that begin with the same sound as our Letter Person of the week – for instance, we had pictures of wolf, wood, worm, wagon this last week for Ms. W. We speak each out loud, “waa- gun.”  Our Letter Person has a small take home book with pictures for the students to identify, one picture is of an object that doesn’t begin with the letter/sound of the puppet. These are reviewed with the children and then they take them home.

Mostly I get my students to talk – to me and to each other.  I work hard not to anticipate their requests at meal times, to engage each other in conversation whenever possible – while eating, playing, working, walking around the track. The children are encouraged to make requests of each other for toys, for actions and activities.  We sing in different voices – big and booming, tiny and high squeaky voices, medium sized inside voices and I try to focus their thinking on word sounds, on sound in general.

I need to think some more, I need to isolate my practices more –  identifying specific strategies, interventions with particular students, and how I extend the learning of those who have met these goals. 

Consciousness – that is what it is all about, all the time.  It’s exhausting.

photo by Bill Millett


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