The opportunity that was given for our class to visit Ozark Elementary was so great. Being able to see how other surrounding districts conduct their business is such great insight. I have been to three other schools in the past. Each time that I visited a new school, I would pick up something new to stick in my tool belt to use in my own classroom one day. Having seen a variety of classrooms during my visit at Ozark Elementary was very beneficial to me. Each teacher conducted themselves in a different but professional ways.
Their teaching styles were different, their classroom setups were different and so were many other things. One thing that all the teachers had in common was they were all working towards being a strong support system for their students by guiding them on their journeys to becoming proficient readers and writers. During my visit I was paying close awareness to how the classrooms were arranged. None of the classrooms that I was able to observe in was messy or cluttered. The classrooms felt homey and welcoming. Some rooms had the desks in rows, some in groups and a few classes had their desks in a “U” shape.
I really like how organized the rooms really were, it makes for a better learning climate in the classroom. The main classroom that I was in had only a few anchor charts up on the walls. When it was time for me to observe a whole group mini lesson I noticed the anchor chart that connected with the spelling lesson. Along with a few educational anchor charts on the walls, this teacher had a huge bulletin board dedicated strictly about the different corners in her classroom. The students were able to use this board to direct them to where they need to be.
The board had a picture of each corner that was in the room for the children to use. I did not get to witness the whole group lesson in this class but I did come in during the guided reading time. When it became the time to split up during guided reading the students were able to come look up at the board and figure out which area they needed to be in by finding where their name was on the board. Each corner also was labeled by color. The color card that was next to the child’s name was the area that they were to be in until the bell rang.
During the time that the students had in their corners, the teacher was working with a small group of about 5 for their guided reading time. She was evaluating the students as they read through their books that she picked out for them. As they were reading she was writing down notes about each child. I thought it was so neat to see that time play out. The students were all mostly on task. They knew what they were supposed to be working on and that she was off limits so that way she could direct her attention better towards the students in small group. Much differentiation took place in these corners that the students were in.
She had areas that appeased those auditory learners, kinesthetic, and visual learners. Throughout the areas in the class the children were able to learn the way that they feel most confident about. The auditory learners were able to listen to a book on a CD and follow along in the book. Kinesthetic students were able to get their hands on words to make sentences. The visual learners were able to use the smart board to do activities that helped them learn a concept better. I could tell that she had spent a lot of time building this routine with her students.
It was like clock work watching her students do what they were supposed to be doing. When the bell went off, the students knew that meant it was time to clean up and switch areas. I definitely know that this was a positive community atmosphere. The students all had low voices and were collaborating with one another when they needed help so that way the teacher would not be interrupted during her small group time. The teacher created this in her classroom to insure that all of her students feel comfortable and supported as they grow in becoming independent readers.
The word that kept popping up in my head while the students were all working like they were supposed to was “self-regulated”. This allowed the learning in the areas of Reading and Writing and also allowing her to assume a facilitators role during their experiential learning opportunities. In the mix of all the things I was learning, I noticed the teachers focusing more on positive behavior rather then only the students misbehaving. During a kindergartens whole group learning time, they were all sitting on the carpet together next to the teacher.
They were working on sounding out sentences that the teacher had written out. I kept hearing, “I like the way _______ is sitting criss-cross applesauce and the way _____ is not tapping their friends shoulders” etc. I remember being in the younger grades and always hearing the words: no, stop, and don’t do that. I love that way the teachers are handling the different behaviors now. I also noticed that instead of always pointing out the negative when the student is misbehaving that the teacher would just use close proximity. Several teachers I seen that day use this method.
They would walk up close to the student and nicely put hand on shoulder. That student then knew ok it was time to stop and listen. I think a lot of the positive behavior I seen when observing was coming from the PBIS program that Ozark has implemented. I noticed as I left each room, by the door inside each classroom is a chart of how to act in each area of a school. All the classrooms said the same thing. I think this does a lot with eliminating the confusing that students have on how to act with whom and what is or is not expectable during certain times.
I really hope to work for a district that implements this support program. I see the effects of it being more positive then anything else I have ever observed. In visiting a lot of different classrooms that day I really loved the third grade class I got to observe the most. It was so fun to see the kids actively engaged in what they were learning. The class was participating in learning the parts of a letter. Before all the students came to the carpet for instruction they had the chance to get their wiggles out.
The teacher played the best Youtube video that had Sid in it from Ice Age. He was doing the Sid Slide. It was a 2-3 minute video playing music to where the students had to dance out to. It was so fun to watch them really get in the groove and let out some energy. This was very useful because as the students went to the carpet for instruction they were not as wiggly as they would have been without having the time to let it all out. During the instruction carpet time the students were engaged in learning the part of a letter by standing up using their bodies to form a letter.
This was a way for the students to be active and have a device to remember the parts. It turned into a game between the teacher and the students. She would say “date” and they would grab their head, and then say “signature” and they would touch their feet and so on. Not only were they being active and learning it but each part of a letter was listed on the anchor chart being used on the board. I think after the students went back to their seats it would have been a good time for the teacher to give the students 30-60 seconds to re-teach to a shoulder partner hat they learned. This would have gone along with cooperative teaching and given the students a chance to recap what they just learned. The teacher then could have gone around and listened to hear some of the things the students were saying to their partner and used that time as an evaluation. The students did not care that we were in the classroom at all. I do not even think they knew we were there; they were so focused and engaged. I gained a lot of knowledge and ideas during the short time we were observing. I would really like to go back again.
I know when I have my own classroom I will have to develop a structured and fluid reading model that will maintain productivity while I meet with students in small groups for guided reading. I also now see the importance of the details of scaffolding necessary to turn emergent readers into fluent readers. Above all, I learned that my student’s overall well-being will be of the greatest consideration in the planning and performance of precise and engaging learning activities. These teachers have mastered what works and I can not wait to execute all these ideas and activities.