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Field Notes March 8

hl13's picture

Field Notes March 8, 2013

Math Lesson: Fractions

  • the class was studying equivalent fractions by working on an equivalent fractions question like a puzzle. The initial question was, which fraction is greater than the other? Teacher L would talk out the problem like he was having a conversation with his class. He did this a few times, with the next question comparing three fractions, and for the last question he asked me to say a fraction (2/5) and had the class independently write 5 equivalent fractions on their own.

  • He chose one student, T, to come to the board and write his answers and then explain how he got them to the class, just how he had explained the previous two questions

  • He continued the conversation, and waited until the end to ask students to take notes.

  • At one point during the end of the lesson, he spoke with one student, I, but directed to the larger class conversation, about how fractions are like pizzas, because his dad works at a pizza shop sometimes.

    • I really liked this way of teaching the lesson. By teaching it as a conversation, Teacher L was modelling how the students should think about a problem like this in their own heads. Furthermore, by asking T, a students, to also model a problem for the class, it made the lesson a more collaborative effort between the whole class rather than a hierarchical lesson. By allowing students to wait until the end to copy down notes, it allowed them to worry less about writing initially. In thinking about this detail more, I realized that I was used to taking notes simultaneously as a college students, but likely had more trouble with it in elementary school. Talking with I about fractions as pizzas gave students an accessible, “real-world” way of thinking about the concepts.

  • For the first time out of all my visits, I witnessed Teacher L speaking very sternly with a student, “A”. “A” was talking with other students in the class during the math lesson, while Teacher L was speaking. After reminding the students a few times that they should be listening to him, Linda continued to try and engage people sitting next to her in conversation. Teacher L then spoke sternly to her (it was the closest to yelling I heard him) about how “side conversations” are unacceptable. He told her that her brain must come to class too, not just her body. He then engaged the rest of the class with this conversation about students having to manage their own behavior, asking one student about how a different teacher had talked to them about this issue.

    • One of the things that struck me about this event was the emphasis placed on discussion with regard to discipline that always happens in the class. This is partially a result of developmental level (4th graders should be learning how to consciously manage their behavior). Compared to kindergarten, discipline there is never a discussion, but imposed in a hierarchical way because of the needs 5 and 6 year olds have. However, I think this also has to do with Teacher L’s style.


  • The class, Teacher L, and I settled on a new due date for their articles for the newspaper project because of their spring break schedule.

  • Teacher L showed me photographs of the social studies projects the class is working on from last year, as well as photos of the class from early in the year, and photos of last year’s class.

  • What Teacher L and I spoke about during recess/lunch: how the middle school is structured at FSH (homerooms), how they’re changing the format next year to integrate grade levels and group by ability (he indicated particular students that will likely be in advanced math courses with older students).

    • This speaks in an interesting way to Finnish Lessons, which has a negative stance towards tracking by ability in the old overall Finnish system. However, I wonder if the small, friendly nature of FSH allows tracking to work to students’ strengths and needs? Tracking is clearly a very tricky issue/balancing act.

  • Examples of Teacher L using humor with his students: at recess he made faces with a female student M while she was drawing, he rolled a fake dice made out of the click toys the class loves to use in their free time in a game a lot of the boys had been playing, etc.

    • His humor is always appropriate for the classroom (in my opinion) and it seems to build strong, positive relationships with his students. I think having the teacher be seen by students as a friendly figure as well as an authority figure is particularly important in elementary years, but essential throughout. The teacher often plays a counseling role, and a counselor should or must (?) be seen in a friendly way to build trust.

Music Class

  • They rehearsed a dance for the class musical, practiced singing 3 of the songs, then practiced the dance again

  • The teacher taught the class to follow each other when dancing and not him.

  • He had to speak to them about their behavior a lot, much more than Teacher L does.

    • I wonder if this has to do with the context of a “specials” class making the students feel the rules are less strict rather than the music teacher’s abilities, since he seems like a very good teacher. Context is very important in facilitating student behavior; I was often in classes where once we had a slightly less authoritative teacher, or a more free environment, students would often take advantage

Precursor to Carini’s Descriptive Review:

Events from this day made me want to write a Carini Descriptive Review. I wanted to record the events of this week, and write the review after I have considered the student further in one more visit.

  • Student is named Linda. She often disrupts the class and has trouble paying attention. In this friendly environment, she is not quite an outcast, but the class is aware of her differences, whether they be learning or behavioral. I do not know specifically, but after the incidents of the day I spoke briefly to Teacher L about her. He said that she has emotional issues, but I do not know their specific type or severity.

  • In music class, Linda was being constantly disruptive while the class rehearsed. The teacher would have to interrupt their rehearsal of the dance or song to speak to her. The rest of the class was growing frustrated and would try and manage her behavior as well, saying things like, ‘Come on, Linda!’ The music teacher was constantly telling her and other students to “worry about yourself” but also told Linda she should listen to her classmates.

  • During the time the class was working in their SS projects in groups, I was nearby when Linda’s partner accidentally poked her in the eye with a sheet of paper. As a dramatic child, Linda immediately began to cry very loudly. I was there to comfort her, but it turned into a separate situation when another student, hearing her crying down the hall, laughed. Linda got very upset and yelled at him, while other students were telling the laugher that it “was real” and Linda really did get hurt. The laughing stopped. The class as a whole, who ever was nearby, was very concerned for Linda’s well-being (once they figured out she wasn’t faking). However, Linda still tried to engage the student that laughed at her, perpetuating the situation.

    • Afterwards was when I had the conversation with Teacher L about Linda. He said that this often happens, only Linda is not actually hurt. Her dramatic behavior leaves the rest of the students not knowing how to act. He also described how Linda, as seen in the above incident, will bring drama upon herself by perpetuating a situation like this, not knowing how to leave it alone.

      • These incidents relate to me how necessary it is for a teacher to play a counseling role. Clearly, Linda’s emotional needs are impeding her learning, potentially the class’ as well. Addressing Linda’s emotional needs, and teaching/helping her to better manage her own behavior is a necessary part of her academic growth. (This applies in a different way to all students).