Thursday, August 30, 2007

"You sank my battleship!"

I had the pleasure of working with a 4th grade teacher the other day. This teacher is very enthusiastic about having the students learn technology, and she wants to integrate technology as much as she can. Unfortunately, she lacks confidence that she can do it alone right now. I think she is doing just grand.

As I come into class she is pulling apart a battle ship game in order to get the plastic matrix out to show the students. She places the board on the overhead so students can clearly see the letters and numbers and proceeds to teach about coordinates and numbered pairs. Students play a class game trying to sink their teacher's battle ship (fortunately for her ship, the class still needs to learn much about logic). Students would take turns calling out coordinates and everyone would be compiling the coordinates down. All good things must come to an end at some point, so with some moans and groans, the teacher asks students to get out the chart they had made in math the day before. The students had surveyed the school to find out the favorite types of ice cream in the building (chocolate won .. but of course you already knew that). The class compiled the data into a chart the day before. Today the teacher introduced the class to a spreadsheet and showed how referencing cells uses the same coordinates. She led the class into determining how to transfer their data chart into the spreadsheet. Careful attention to teaching students how to save was addressed as this was one of the first experiences the kids have had on their computers. Students then learned how to make some graphs using the graph wizards. Instantly, the room erupted as students were commenting, "That is so cool." "This is so much easier than doing it out by hand." "Hey, look what happens when you change the graph like this"... As so often happens in exciting classrooms, the bell threatened to ring way before the class was eager to start packing things up. As the students were putting their computers away, the teacher and I talked about the questioning strategies that might be used tomorrow to help students reflect on their learning and solidify the connections they made between battleship, spreadsheets, and some simple graphing.

Yes, I think this teacher is doing just fine! She still has insecurities, she still has questions, and there are definitely limitations aplenty. Instead of concentrating on the negatives, this teacher is doing what many teachers with support are starting to do. She concentrates on the excitement of learning. Learning the kids are doing and learning she is doing, and everyone is having a blast. Her 4th graders will be performing great works by the end of this new school year, I have no doubt, due in large part to their teacher's excitement and eagerness to "take a chance" to try something new.

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