What do you do to engage your students? What makes your classroom unique?
With first graders, you have to always be on your toes! It varies from day to day--I will do anything to grab their attention and prepare them for learning. I like to do “the crazy flip” where I put my hair straight up on top of my head -- to teach them how to do the addition facts that begin with the sum. I have been known to do crazy dances, “celebrations” and even a cartwheel or two. I try to show the students that I am excited about something and then it becomes contagious! I love to sing so I will often sing or play one of the cd’s with a song that I am singing in. I dress up and use props for Fundations, and often wear a lab coat for science. I also love to use Go Noodle and Class Dojo for classroom management. The kids love earning points. If we have a great day we get to do fun videos and dances as brain breaks and right before dismissal time!
I think my teaching and learning environment is unique because I try very hard to make sure that each child gets what he or she needs to reach their personal best. I feel like I try to work closely with each child as much as possible and use their strengths to try to improve the areas that need the most help. I also stay in close contact with parents so they are updated on their child’s progress. It gets harder each year but I will never stop trying!
Why do you think it's important to teach the way you do?
I think that my teaching involves keeping the kids moving and using varied activities each week, coupled with a regularly set routine. I think it’s important to try to differentiate and approach lessons from numerous angles. Keeping everything fresh and changing things up a bit year to year, while continuing to use our best lessons as the framework helps! I have found many great ideas on Pinterest.
What do you feel is the most exciting thing about teaching?
I think the most exciting thing about teaching first graders is the growth I see with their reading and writing. It is amazing to me year after year, how much the students are able to learn and grow in just a short amount of time. They come out of first grade as amazing readers and that makes me proud! Of course, it is a group effort. We could never accomplish everything without the support of the parents and the hard work of the students. It is crucial!
What singular lesson plan, activity, assignment or experiment do you return to year after year because of its "spark" factor with you and/or your students?
One of my favorite activities is an author/illustrator project where our first graders at Kensington collaborate with Mrs. Botch’s art students in the High School. We have been doing it for years. To see those students I taught over 10 years ago coming back to work with the students I have now is amazing! We spend around 3 weeks writing books in small groups. I love to write, so it is fun for me to be able to spend more one-on-one time with the students in this area. The students also get to practice teamwork and sharing ideas, which at first can be very hard but always improves by the end of the project. This year, we were able to join groups between our three first grade classrooms which was really fun! The kids are so excited to become authors and they are even more excited when they receive their books from the older students. There are some really great first grade authors this year and we all can’t wait to see the finished products! They will most likely ask me about when they are getting the books on a daily basis until we take our trip to the high school!
Tell us a little more about yourself.
I went to Lake George High School. I attended SUNY Cortland and completed my Masters Program at SUNY Plattsburgh. I have been teaching for 15 years...all at Kensington Road School in Glens Falls. I have taught 14 years of first grade and 1 year of Kindergarten. My favorite unit to teach is our Organisms unit. I like to show the kids that it’s ok to let Bess Beetles crawl all over you! That is something that always gets their attention!