Serendip is an independent site partnering with faculty at multiple colleges and universities around the world. Happy exploring!

Field Notes Visit 8

rbp13's picture



Monday, March 18, 1-3:30


When I arrived, the class was talking about money in math. As a class, they were working on a problem where they had to come up with multiple ways to make 50 cents.

e.g. QQ, DDDDD

When Mrs. D asked them to come up with a third way, T said NND, NND, NN. Mrs. D asked her to explain how she got her answer. T had a little trouble explaining her thinking in words (“Because, because um it makes 10”), but was able to describe, with prompting from Mrs. D that two nickels makes 10 and dimes are each 10.


Today, Mrs. D had me take the majority of the class during the second part of the math lesson and she worked with only the students that are still having trouble understanding money. As a group, we did problems from the textbook.


During the lesson, I focused on calling on every student and hearing from each child that wanted to speak equally.


Aware that J (ELL student) was sitting in the back of the group (which is normal because the students all have assigned seats on the rug) but he doesn’t participate

I have a very difficult time telling whether or not J understands math concepts. It seems that he switches between the group that requires extra help and the large group, but doesn’t participate much in either group unless it is small. During this lesson, I noticed that he often had trouble figuring out what page we were on when we switched pages. It is as though he doesn’t understand the sequence of page numbers. Since he seemed to have trouble even finding the correct page, I doubt that he was comprehending the problems. It looked as though he was just copying the answers when I wrote them on the board. I wasn’t sure what to do about this since the rest of the group was participating, taking turns answering different parts of questions, and seemed engaged.

During the lesson, K asked me if she could get her eraser out of her backpack. I told her that she could. At the end of math Mrs. D confronted K because apparently she had told her earlier in the day that she couldn’t take the eraser out (K had put it in her backpack without considering that she would need it later in the day and Mrs. D was trying to teach her a lesson in thinking before acting).

Mrs. D to K: “I don’t like that you’re playing games with us”


J doesn’t pay attention or follow directions well. She is constantly fidgeting on the rug, which causes her to lose her page in the book. She also got up to throw things away (Mrs. D called her out for this-they are not supposed to get up during a lesson)


K and J talking to each other during the lesson. They were also sitting really close (behind) J. Both J and T raise their hands at different points in the lesson and tell on K and J for talking. I did not see J doing anything wrong.

Is J really good at knowing when I’m not focusing on him? At one point I said “I didn’t see it but it’s hard for me to ignore it when they both say you are talking to them” to which J responded “I know”. He was fairly attentive after this.

At the end of the lesson, T came up to me and said “Miss Rachael, K and J were making it hard for me to hear because they were talkin while you were talkin”.



For the most part, I am pleased with the way that my part of the lesson went. I felt like I was being a bit repetitive and boring in the way that the lesson was structured (read the question either as a group or call on one student to read it, and then solve it in steps specifying whether I wanted the whole class to answer or hands to be raised), but overall it seemed to go alright. The group got through a lot of problems and almost everyone seemed to understand the concepts.

After math, the class did a brain waker-upper exercise before they started their reading test (these tests are in the same format as state standardized tests).

Kids stand at their desks and Mrs. D says something like, “If you have a sister, switch places with someone” and the kids have to go to a different empty desk.

I like this activity because it seems like a fun way to learn more about the students.

One part of the test focused on grammar (understanding the difference between adjectives with –er and –est endings). Another section tested students’ understanding of syllables. Mrs. D introduced this section by saying “I want you to say the word ‘paper’ and clap the syllables”. On this part of the test, the students were given a word (e.g. “upstairs”) and had to figure out how it would be split up into syllables (e.g. “u-pstairs”, “ups-tairs”, “up-stairs”). Mrs. D suggested that the students “say the syllables and look for the spelling that looks like it says the word”


Apparently part of the curriculum is teaching about the rules of where to break words into syllables (i.e. break after long vowel sound; if there is not a long vowel sound, break after the consonant).

Mrs. D does not teach them this. She says it is too complicated for right now and would just cause confusion.

As a teacher, how do you negotiate what to include or leave out? How do you judge what your students can handle? Is having to decide to cut things out an inevitable part of teaching?

Mrs. D to the class about the syllable section of the test: “I’ll be honest with you, you won’t use this skill till middle school…grown ups split words into parts when they write and you have to split the word at the syllable”


The class is so quiet when Mrs. D is teaching. Even though this is not always the case, overall Mrs. D manages the class very well and stresses that only one person should be talking at a time.


The first question that the students are supposed to answer on the reading test was number 38. Mrs. D says, “Give me a thumbs up if you can see question 38”.  

I am always impressed with Mrs. D’s ability to predict where students might have trouble. I feel like locating the question is something that some teachers might assume their students have done, when this might not be the case. If a teacher starts on a question when students have not located it on the page, this could create a stressful environment for those students.

When Mrs. D tells the class to start the first section, J gets up and says that she lost her pencil.

How did this happen?! She literally just had it. I am also confused about why she waited until she was supposed to be doing the test to say something. Why didn’t she handle this before Mrs. D started giving directions?

The second part of the test is writing (“writing to a prompt”)

“Think about what it would be like to fly. Write a story about someone who can fly.” Mrs. D gave the class some time to write down notes and ideas for their story. She reminds them “Start with capitals, use periods, think about what you’re writing.” She also tells them that in a story “something has to happen”.

Apparently the writing section usually doesn’t take the students very long. Mrs. D acknowledges that teaching writing is also one of her weaknesses as a teacher.

It is interesting that Mrs. D says that teaching writing is one of her weaknesses. I think it is good that she recognizes this. As someone that is learning to be a teacher, this was also comforting to hear because it suggests that teachers do not need to be perfect.

Mrs. D says that the writing section is hard for her class because so many of her students are “language deprived” and struggle to communicate their thoughts. She said that they don’t really understand what a story is (“that something has to happen” and that there need to be characters and a problem that the characters try to solve or an event that they experience). She also said that they don’t understand that a story needs a beginning, middle, and end.


Some students think that an ending is just writing “the end” when they want to be finished


Mrs. D says that some of the kids get so caught up in spelling words correctly that they can’t move beyond that and write the story.


Some students finish their stories quickly but others (D, L, and L) are working really hard. They seem to be thinking about what they will write before they put it on paper and their stories are significantly longer than most of the other students.


When students are done they are supposed to be reading at their desks or doing a word study activity individually. Most of the class is being quiet and doing what they should be so Mrs. D says “I love how you’re showing respect to the children testing.”


At the end of the day, when all the students have finished the test, Mrs. D asks if anyone wants to sing songs on the rug. Those that do sit with her on the rug and anyone that doesn’t want to is supposed to continue reading quietly at their desk.

“Go Bananas” (this song emphasizes short and long vowels), “Fuzzy Wuzzy” rap

I love that Mrs. D incorporates activities like this. It is something fun and different but the activity still has a purpose and the kids seem to be learning.