We were very stressed and skeptical until about Friday because we had been told that we would be doing this group observation, yet we didn't have any info on the schedule or who would be subbing or how it would all work out. Luckily, we each got our own sub for the whole morning and either Thursday or Friday of last week we got the schedule outlining when our particular lesson would be occurring. We only had to do a 15 minute "lesson" so it was more like a single activity with the kids, but we basically had to come into the class after our students had started the morning with a sub, teach for 15 minutes while the others watched, then book it out of our room to watch the next teacher do her lesson.... interesting.
No, really...it actually was quite an interesting experience.
We met in the morning with all of the peeps involved and each of us got to share what our lesson would be and what our goals were. As part of the training we were asked to select 3-5 children of color as our focus kids. We have been working hard to collect "below the line" information about these kiddos and paying particular attention to how they are doing in our classrooms, how engaged they are in activities, and what activities they really enjoy. Our lessons yesterday were meant to focus on really making sure these particular students were engaged. Typically, it's pretty hard to teach, think about everything going on in the classroom, problem solve, listen to all the stories kiddos want to share, and have an eagle eye for how each child is responding to what is going on and your instruction. So, the point of yesterday was to have 4 extra pairs of eyes on our focus children to help give us feedback on what they were doing during our lessons.
My lesson contained two parts and I thought both went pretty well. The first is a game we play to review our letter sounds. Normally I just flip through the cards that go with our program and say "what sound" for each one. The kids answer chorally and sometimes various kids don't participate or merely echo what they hear other children saying. Our team started playing a game with the kiddos where each child gets a letter card and the kids mingle, find a partner, tell their partner what sound their letter makes, listen to their partner, then trade cards and repeat. We have them use the frame "my letter says ___" for each pairing. This activity gives the kiddos a chance to be up on their feet moving around rather than sitting and just saying sounds like robots. It also builds in support for kids who don't know their sounds as well because their partner tells them a sound before they have to then share it with someone else. As long as they start with a sound they know, they have support from each partner before sharing their new sound with someone else.
The second activity consisted of our stretch and read practice from our phonics program. Usually I write words that contain our current sound on the board and we sound them out and read them fast together. The program places zero emphasis on reading the words in context or talking about what they mean. Yet, kids are bursting with shout outs each time we sound out a word because it's their natural desire to make sense of what they read. They want to say something about the words rather than just move on. I used to get frustrated and think that all the calling out reflected a lack of control in my teaching, but I decided to go with it instead of against it. I now give the kiddos time to turn to their neighbor and talk about each word. Yesterday I specifically used words that I could pair with prompts in order to make the words relevant to the kids. Each time we read a word, I gave them a prompt and asked them to share with a neighbor. For example....the word was "shop" and I asked them to tell their neighbor where they shop for food. Each time the kids were given the go ahead to talk the room was bursting with voices and it was great to get feedback from my teammates regarding what certain kids were saying and how on task they were. I use a bell as the signal that it is time to stop and the kiddos were really good about getting quiet when they heard the bell and getting ready for the next word.
It was kind of nerve wracking to have 4 people in my room watching at once. Plus my sub. Plus a parent in the hallway waiting for us to start an Art Literacy lesson after the observation. But all in all I thought it went well and I am really happy that it will count as my second principal observation of the year! It was also fun to see my friends' classes because I don't really know their kiddos and I never get to see them teach. Once we had all taken our turn teaching, we met again as a big team (with our principal and the facilitator) and debriefed our lessons. We were told it was not meant to be evaluative rather than the observers were focusing on kids and helping us become more aware of how engaged they were.
Our principal was very positive after the facilitator left and said we did a great job and that she is really happy we are her Kindergarten team. Yay for us! We really have been working hard with this training and I am glad that it shows. We have another training day on Thursday and the observations were supposed to be on Friday, but due to some scheduling conflicts we had to change our date to yesterday. I am glad it is over and behind us now!
Speaking of being observed...this afternoon I had a visit from the district Director of Curriculum and Instruction. He just strolled into my room all casual and talked with some of my kiddos about what they were working on. Usually he would come with the principal and he doesn't visit the building all that often so it was a bit of a surprise that he just showed up by himself. My kiddos were hard at work practicing being really quiet during their table activity so he got to see a great little snippet of our day and I was relieved about that. He approached one little guy and asked him about what word he was making and my student pointed to the wall where I have the letter and word of the week posted. Having our objectives posted is big in my district so I was very proud of that little guy for making me look good and pointing out that it was perfectly clear what word he was working on because it's the word of the week! Hehe.
Now it's time for me to work on my dissertation proposal. I am having new-found inspiration to try and get myself on track to have my dissertation finished by the end of this summer. I figure if I make great use of my time while I am on maternity leave and cuddling with my new little bundle of Sneaker joy that it just might be possible. I am picturing Baby Sneaker snuggled in the Moby Wrap while I type away at the computer. There are a few timelines that are not within my control regarding paper work that needs to be submitted to the university in order to get permission to conduct my study, but if all goes well I just might be able to pull it off. Otherwise I am hoping to finish by December, but September would be better!