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Teacher Observation & Collaboraton

Thanks to my principal and our staff being such huge supporters of teacher collaboration, I was able to spend half of my Friday observing another first grade teacher at a different school here in Austin. While I had taken time to observe other teachers at my own campus, I had never had the chance to see a first grade classroom at another school. It was a wonderful experience. I picked up a couple of new engaging ideas to try in my own classroom and most importantly, it reaffirmed for me that I am doing a good job with my own class of students. If you can ever find a way to participate in a similar observational experience on your campus or elsewhere, I highly recommend that you take the time to do so.

You will of course, have to find a teacher who is willing to open up the doors of his or her classroom and understand that the observation is a collaboration and not a judgment of their teaching style. Lucky for me, I was happily welcomed by National Board Certified Teacher, Stacy Shapiro. Stacy has been generous many times over with visitors to her classroom and this past Friday was no exception. She is very active in our district and was the recipient of the prestigious statewide “H.E.B Excellence in Education Leadership Award” in May of 2008.

It felt so great to watch a master teacher in action and be reassured time and time again that I was teaching my own students very similarly. Teachers often do not get feedback from the people whose opinions I believe we value the most, other teachers. For me, it was exciting to reaffirm that I am indeed on the right track with my students and inspiring to engage with someone else who cares about teaching on the same level that I do. Thanks again to Stacy and her students for letting me visit their little part of the world this past Friday morning. Stacy has asked me to invite you all to visit her room as well at her own blog at msshapiro.blogspot.com

I would like to share a few pictures of things I saw in Ms. Shapiro’s classroom that I thought were interesting.

Stacy uses different calendar number cards to create patterns on the calendar. She asked her student to predict what symbol would come next before she turned the card over for the day. You can see in the photo that the last two days are still turned over because those days hadn’t arrived yet. I had never thought about doing this because we use and discuss all of the days on our class calendar. But I loved the idea and want to think of a way to try to incorporate patterns daily, instead of weekly, as I had been doing previously.

Stacy uses writing in Literacy Centers. This particular week, the students had been observing an ant farm and this was the direction page they followed to complete the center. I like how it was obviously written with the students and it was numbered, with some pictures added for students to use when following directions. The ant farm, which is not pictured, was very small and very cool to look at. It came from Steve Spangler science materials, which Stacy spoke very highly of.

What a simple but effective chart to remind first graders about quality sentence writing. I am going to make one, with my students help, next week. Stacy also used to catchiest phrase when talking about spaces between words and letters, “Use meatball spaces between words, and spaghetti spaces between letters.” Cute as pie! I am going to use that one until the day I retire.

Stacy also has a “Star Student of the Week” chart on her door. I used to do something similar years ago with a “Some of My Favorite Things” bag that a different student would take home two times a week and bring back to share with the class. At the time, my parents didn’t seem to be helping my students very much with this occasional homework, and after a student brought a fork, yes a fork, I decided to stop doing the activity later that year, and I haven’t done it since. But seeing this chart and watching a couple of students go through a basic “Show and Tell” presentation made me want to revisit the idea. Although I do a lot of oral language in my class, it couldn’t hurt to have one more activity to give students the opportunity to talk and to listen to one another.

Enthusiasm is caught not taught!


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