The adventures of a fourth grade teacher in East Central Illinois.

On Reading and Numbers

After several days of community building, expectation setting, and procedure developing, I realised that my class was ready for some formal curriculum. I had planned on starting it yesterday, but what with the emergency and running off and all, it mostly got bumped to today, although they did get started on the reading program yesterday.

We spent the morning on literacy, and actually spent about 30 minutes longer than initially planned doing it! I love how into the topic my class got! We were working on making a simple story map for the story Akiak, which is about the lead dog of an Alaskan sled team in the Iditarod getting removed from her team due to an injury then escaping and finding her team again. (Obviously, I am leaving a lot out, but that’s the general gist of it. If you are really interested, I highly recommend finding a copy at your local library or asking if you can borrow mine. Oh, yeah, I have my own copy of this book.) The students did a great job of identifying key parts of the story and also recognising that the graphic organiser we were using didn’t provide nearly enough spaces for the details they felt were important. There were even respectful disagreements about what was and was not essential to the book! If this is what all of our book talks are going to be like, I am anticipating some pretty awesome literature studies!

After lunch, I decided it was time to jump into the math curriculum. We did an inventory test yesterday to gauge how well they remembered the concepts they learned in 3rd grade. It turns out that there was a considerable amount of loss (sometimes called rescidivism, but that’s kind of an incorrect usage of the word) over the summer. I am giving the students time to work on making corrections, though. In the meantime, on to numbers! I started the lesson off with a deceptively simple question: What is a number?

The students started to give me a wide variety of answers as I wrote them on the board. We listed about six–one of my favourites being “a number is a maleficent force of evil that makes our lives miserable” or something along those lines… I am really wishing I had actually recorded the answer verbatim!–and then I pulled out “The Big Kahuna” (my massive Webster’s Universal Dictionary) to read the official definition. Did you know that there are at least 44 distinct definitions for this one simple word? I read the first seven before stopping, much to the relief of my students! This activity gave us a great segue into the first lesson of the year, on the four most common ways numbers are used: counting, measuring, labeling, and ordering. As with the literacy lesson, we ended up spending considerably more time than I expected on it, but I was very impressed with how well my students stayed on topic and how they worked as a class community to better understand the concepts.

The best part of the day, though? When I asked the students to give me a definition for “checkpoint” and after one student referenced the checkpoint flags in Super Mario Bros, another responded to checkpoints during a walkathon, which led another to talk about checkpoints during races and so on. I still think I spent too much time talking today, but the class is well on its way to becoming a community of learners who interact with and engage one another on a regular basis! I just hope that I can keep this up and see how it reflects in their success in reaching their goals!

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