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Field Notes Visit 3

rbp13's picture



1-3:30 p.m. Friday


Mariah is not there. Her desk is back in the row (no longer separated). Apparently she was having a tooth pulled this morning, but when her mother came to pick her up, the principal spoke to her about not having Mariah come back-she lives outside the district and they have been struggling to get her out of the class for a while because she is a distraction to the other students.


Andrew and Dominique are out sick today


When I arrived, the whole class was working on math story problems (e.g. The elementary school is doing a project to collect cans. If the first grade collects 328, and the second grade collects 10 less than the first grade, how many cans did they collect all together?). Each child had a white board on which they were supposed to show their work; this was Mrs. Dolly’s strategy for checking for understanding. This problem was difficult for some students because it requires two steps. Looking around the room, it seemed that most students had figured out the first step (subtracting 10 from 328). However, for most of them the work stopped here. They did not remember (?)/understand that they were looking for the total number of cans collected by both grades. Mrs. Dolly told the class that it was okay that only a few of them got the right answer because this was a third grade problem.  


During math, I paid particular attention to George, one of the ELL students. Last week in class, when I was talking with my field group, someone asked whether it is always clear in the class that students understand the material. Often, I have trouble figuring out how much of the lessons George understands. Today I wanted to focus on him to see if I could determine how much he was following Mrs. Dolly’s instructions.

I have worked with George individually and in a small group several times and he is very quiet. As a result, it is difficult for me to determine exactly how proficient he is with English. Although he is not a disruptive student, it is often hard to tell if he understands the material because he does not participate. Mrs. Dolly doesn’t seem too concerned about him today so I wonder if this is something that he will work on when he is pulled out of the class for English help. George and another ELL student, John, are exempt from some reading activities (such as certain tests) as well. Is this beneficial to them or are they only falling further behind? Do they need the English base to be able to do these things? Will they catch up once their English is better since they possess the other necessary academic skills to do well in school?

George made it half way through the problem. Like his classmates, he understood that he was supposed to subtract 10 from 328, but he did not do the second step.


George is drawing on his white board while Mrs. Dolly goes through the problem step by step on the front board for the class.

Has he gotten used to not understanding and tune Mrs. Dolly out?

Throughout math, Mrs. Dolly often addresses the whole class and expects them to respond in unison. During one of these exchanges, where students were collectively answering Mrs. Dolly, Deena is the only child that raises her hand.

I like that Mrs. Dolly requires different types of responses from her students. Sometimes they are supposed to write their answers on the board and hold it up, sometimes she wants students to raise hands, and other times they are supposed to respond in unison. If a teacher is going to do this though, students must be aware of the cues that indicate which type of response the teacher wants.

Deena is a quiet child of Hispanic descent. She has a hearing aid and struggles when the classroom becomes too noisy. She constantly follows the rules and does everything that Mrs. Dolly asks of her. I have not seen her engage socially with the other children much but that is consistent with my observation that she is shy.


Kaia is hungry and raises her hand to tell Mrs. Dolly. Mrs. Dolly doesn’t have patience for this because apparently Kaia wouldn’t eat lunch. “We have to live with the behavior choices we make.” (Mrs. Dolly)

Why wouldn’t Kaia eat? I heard Mrs. Dolly mention later that she has been sick-maybe she wasn’t feeling well?

When Mrs. Dolly was finished explaining the two-step story problem, Deena raised her hand and said that her mom taught her how to do two-step problems at home.


When the class finished with the story problem Mrs. Dolly said “Good job, now pat yourselves on the back.”


Next, the class played a math game called “Spin and Add”. Each student was given a spinner with a series of two-digit numbers. They were supposed to spin the needle and add the first two numbers that it landed on. During this game I worked with Wendy and Joel, both of whom struggle with math and were doing the same activity but with one-digit numbers. Wendy seemed to have a lot of trouble with “counting on” on her fingers to add the numbers.  


One exchange with Wendy was particularly frustrating because it seemed as though she was guessing the answer rather than thinking about the problem. Wendy spun a 4 and then a 7.

Me: “So what is 4 + 7?”

Wendy: “Um 6?”

Me: “Let’s use our fingers to help” (tried to demonstrate “counting-on” but she became confused when we needed more than two hands to represent the problem)

Me: “So do we know what 4 + 7 is?” (held up an extra finger next to her two hands to represent the extra one)

Wendy: “6”

Me: “Well is 7 bigger or smaller than 6?”

Wendy: “Bigger”

Me: “So can 4 + 7 be 6?”

Wendy: “No”

While working with Wendy, it was difficult for me to determine whether she didn’t understand the activity or whether she wasn’t listening to my instructions and was just guessing the answers. If she was struggling to visualize “counting-on” because she did not have enough fingers to represent the problem, that makes sense. I think that she just might not have been listening however because when I was explaining the problem to her, she was looking me in the eyes, even though I was demonstrating “counting-on” with my fingers. Basically she wasn’t watching what I was doing at all.  

George doesn’t look at Mrs. Dolly while she is explaining the game-he was looking in his desk, playing with his pencil on his desk and looking around the room.


During reading the class gets new Storytown books (this is their textbook). Mrs. Dolly gave them five minutes to “say goodbye” to their old books. During this time, I read with Khumai. (He had wanted me to work with him during math but Mrs. Dolly wanted me to focus on Joel and Wendy)

I really liked the idea of giving the kids time to “say goodbye” to their books. The Storytown books are a compilation of lots of stories, many of which are books themselves. I feel like teachers often forget that students can become attached to the material that they learn in school or are not given adequate time to transition to something new. During this time, several students went through the book and wrote down the titles of their favorite stories so they could look for the books on their own. This exercise provided a nice transition into the new books.

While the students were standing in line waiting for Mrs. Dolly to pass out the books, Leah came up to me and told me about Bloody Mary. I remembered this story from when I was a kid but she told me that one of the boys said that it was real; if you stand in front of a mirror and say Bloody Mary three times, she will appear. Leah said she didn’t believe it though because “boys only like to scare girls”


While the students sat on the rug for reading, Mrs. Dolly told them to preview their new books.


After telling them to preview the books, Mrs. Dolly took this opportunity to teach the class a little about prefixes. She explained that sometimes you can make “new words” by adding things to the beginning or end of a word. Mrs. Dolly then gave some examples of what it means to preview something. Then she pointed out that on the schedule for the day she had written that they were going to “review” something. She explained that both preview and review have the same base word but “re” means “to do again”

I like that Mrs. Dolly takes every opportunity to teach her students something. Even if it is not explicitly tied to the lesson, it is information that the students need to know. I bet it is also helpful that she introduces information somewhat spontaneously because it gives the concepts a context. Students can now remember what “previewing” is because they will remember that they did it when they got their new books.

After giving the students the chance to preview the new book, Mrs. Dolly has them share things that they found interesting.


While kids were sharing, I noticed that some of them have trouble with page numbers. Mrs. Dolly had to tell Wendy “Close the book and start at the front because 14 is at the beginning”


Mrs. Dolly gave the class a lesson on fiction and non-fiction. But apparently, these are no longer going to be the terms that are used in schools. Fictional books will be called narrative stories and non-fiction is informational text. This will be a universal shift (the PA Common CORE and standardized tests are now going to be using these terms).


Next week the class is going to start the story “A Chair for my Mother”-Mrs. Dolly asks the class what they think the main character is going to buy with her money. It actually takes some of the kids a while to understand that the title gives them the answer to Mrs. Dolly’s question.


I noticed that while Mrs. Dolly talks, her tone fluctuates often.

This is good because it keeps the students awake. She is conveying that she is interesting in the material because she talks about it as if it is important. Students notice when teachers have a sleepy or disengaged tone and follow the mood of the teacher.

For the last 20 minutes of the day, while the students pack their bags and have a snack, they watch a movie on Martin Luther King Jr. (it is Black History Month and Monday is Presidents’ Day)