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

Posts tagged “Sixth Grade

Teaching with YouTube

One of my goals as an educator is to effectively integrate different types of technology into my instruction. I am considerably limited by the resources I have in my room, but I still do my best. This is why I love our time in the computer lab. It gives me an opportunity to explicitly model technology, including, but not limited to, using the Internet.

Another resource I have come to rely on heavily as an educator is YouTube. There are many videos that have been created by other educators and book publishers that I have often shared with my students. With the addition of several iPads in my classroom, I’ve learned that i can access these videos via the YouTube application, which has greatly improved my ability to share relevant videos in my classroom.

Today I happened upon a video made by a 6th grade science teacher, Mr. Parr. I don’t know where he teaches, unfortunately, but I love his science-themed music videos! The first video I found by him is about the role of decomposers in the ecosystem and is set to the tune of Hall of Fame by The Script:

My students really enjoyed this video, especially because many of them knew the original song. As we walked down the hall and went to lunch, some of them were even singing the chorus, which was exactly what I was hoping would happen!

Later on I found another video by Mr. Parr, which I haven’t shared with my class yet but will tomorrow. It is about producers and is set to the tune of Bad Meets Evil’s song Lighters featuring Bruno Mars.

I think my students are going to enjoy this video, too!

The Student Teacher

For the past three days, my class has been fortunate enough to have a student teacher with us! He had already completed his full-time student teaching assignment and came to work with us for a few days to complete the last requirement he had for his initial teaching certificate.

In order to keep with my policy of not using specific names on my blog, but to avoid having to call him “the student teacher,” I’ll be referring to him as Mr. H from now on.

Mr. H had an interesting three days with us. Normally, we’d have our regular schedule with math, social studies or science, literacy (including both reading and writing), and other content area lessons each day. Instead, he was here for testing, testing, and more testing. But he did get to learn about some of our curriculum, a lot about our benchmark testing, and our guided reading groups.

Knowing that Mr. H had taught second, fourth, and sixth grade as part of his student teaching experiences, I asked him if he’d be interested in teaching the guided reading groups during the days he was here. His responsibility was to introduce the text and the reading strategy and then guide the discussion after the students had read. He did a great job with them, and it gave him experience with working with diverse groups, which was a big part of the reason he was here.

Today was Mr. H’s last day, and the students all wished him the very best. After taking a group photo (the first time I have taken a picture with all 26 of my students in it, incidentally), we wrapped up the day playing Around the World with my Grade Four BrainQuest trivia game, except the students had to compete against Mr. H instead of each other. Everyone had a lot of fun and it provided the perfect way to wrap up the culmination of his experiences.



I’m not sure when I’ll get to have a student teacher to work with my class again, but I hope it is sooner than later! I love having the opportunity to discuss what I am doing as I do it and having another teacher to help out in the classroom!

Another Farewell

Today was the third day of my three-day assignment as the band teacher at Edison Middle School in Champaign. It was pretty close to being exactly what I expected, with a few exceptions.

With the DVD actually working this time (huzzah!), the day went quickly. I watched the same four scenes of Mary Poppins over and over and over again. Some of the classes went very well, with the students being polite and respectful not just to me, but to each other. One class was absolutely terrible, to the point that I told them that they were the worst class of my week. They were much better behaved after that, probably because it dawned on them that I report to their teacher how they were for me, and their teachers do not take kindly to students abusing the subs, even if there are just a couple of days left to the school year.

The worst, though, was when I had a group of four students talking throughout the movie in one period. I repeatedly asked them to stop talking, and eventually three of them did. But one boy kept it up. So when I told him again, he responded by accusing me of being racist.


I stopped the movie, turned on the lights, and explained to the class the difference between racism and having a white teacher tell an African-American student to stop being disrespectful. I don’t know that the message got through at all, but I wasn’t going to let a student get by with making such a ridiculous claim without any response from me.

Fortunately, the rest of my day went very well. The 8th graders, especially, were great. I told them that they could talk and sign yearbooks as long as they cleaned up the room and put all of the furniture back where it belonged at the end of class. They did. One boy asked me to sign his yearbook, and another promised to find me on Facebook. (I have a policy of not accepting friend requests from current students, but insofar as I do not sub at the high schools in Champaign, and he is done with school on Friday, I said he could friend me if he could find me.)

And then it was a quick farewell to the students I have come to know so well over the past several months. Some of them are probably glad to not have to see me again. Others expressed sadness but, at the same time, they are done with middle school, so the farewell was overshadowed with the jubilation that they survived. I’m glad they did, and I wish them all the very best in high school. I’m sure I’ll see some of them around, most likely at Wal-Mart, where I seem to run into a bunch of students.

Technical Difficulties

Today was my second day as a band teacher at Edison Middle School. Yesterday we watched short podcasts because it was a half day and the students didn’t have much time in the room. We were back to the regular schedule today, though, so the plans allowed for starting a much longer video.

We were to watch the Walt Disney adaptation of Mary Poppins, because the bands had just featured several of the songs in their recent concert. The teacher had the DVD ready to go, the computer set up, and everything should have been hunky dory.

Despite my apparent anti-technology aura whenever I get near an LCD projector, everything was working fine. The first class of the day (7th grade woodwinds) got started on Mary Poppins and everything seemed to be okay. Until we got about 10 minutes into the movie and it froze up. Completely.

Okay, no problem. Take the disc out, make sure that it doesn’t have any smudges, put it back in, and away we go, right?

Not quite. We made it a few more minutes and it froze up again. So I took the disc out again and examined it more closely. It was scored and scratched and marred so thoroughly that I was surprised it was working at all. Then I noticed what I had failed to take into account: it was from the public library. I love the Champaign Public Library. It has an awesome collection of everything you could want from a public library. But the patrons don’t take very good care of the DVDs. So we had to stop.

This was quite problematic, as I still had four other classes for the day. I had no clue what to do. There were no back-up plans and, since this was a band class, it wasn’t like I could just have the students take out some other work–most of them didn’t bring anything with them, anyway. So they had free time for the rest of the period, as did the second class of the day (6th grade woodwinds).

During this class, though, I did a check and found out the library had at least one other copy of the movie on DVD. The CPL just happens to be across the street from Edison. Except there was no way I could leave the building. So I texted my wife, but she was far too busy at work. So I texted her dad, who is done with his classes for the year (he is a college professor). He was able to get to the library, check out the DVD, and navigate his way through Edison Middle School to find the band room and deliver the movie just in time for my third class of the day!


The last three classes (7th grade brass, 6th grade brass, and 8th grade band–or maybe it is 7th, 6th, 6th, 7th… whatever), were able to watch the movie.

Well, kind of.

This disc was also scratched. But, fortunately, I only had to skip two  chapters and everything was back on track. Thank goodness! We will watch more of the movie tomorrow. Hopefully nothing else will go awry! But I may bring a musical DVD of my own. You know, just in case.

The Music Man

Today I was the band teacher at Edison Middle School in Champaign. I am also going to be there tomorrow and Wednesday, which is incredibly awesome for me, as the days remaining in the school year and ticking by faster and faster (or so it would seem).

Now, I’ve been in bands for a long time. I first started band when I was in 5th grade (about 19 years ago), and I’ve been in them in one way or another ever since: In middle school, I was in concert band and marching band. In high school I was in concert band, jazz band, marching band, symphonic winds, and a smattering of small ensembles for state music competitions. Upon enrolling at the University of Illinois, I was a member of the university’s Concert Band II-A, which was pretty much the lowest-level band available, but I was neither a music major nor an incredibly skilled musician, so I was just happy to be in band. I stayed with II-A until the end of my junior year, when I had to leave due to student teaching and then graduating. After finishing my university studies I was fortunate enough to be accepted into the Parkland College Wind Ensemble, which is a smaller group composed primarily of community members and a few college students with a high school student or two rounding things out. In addition, I have occasionally helped with smaller ensembles at church when needed, although the need for trumpet players is not as great as, say, pianists, organists, and various string-ists. Added to all of this is my shorter history with vocal ensembles, such as my high school prep chorus, concert choir, and various church choirs, not to mention all of the musicals I’ve helped with as a spotlight technician. All of which is a very long way of saying that I’ve been around music ensembles of one sort or another for a long time.

As substitute teacher, I’ve been fortunate enough to sub for grade school music teachers a handful of times. They have generally been fun, albeit pretty simple, experiences. (Such as this, this, and this.) Added to this is my ongoing pursuit of subbing for as many teachers at Edison as possible this year. (I’m now up to 18 out of 51–not going to reach the 50% goal I’d set, but oh well; I got close!) So I grabbed at the chance to sub for three consecutive days for one teacher, leaving me with just Friday left to fill. (I’ve been scheduled for this Thursday for several weeks now.)

What I didn’t seem to take into account was the realisation that bands are big. I mean, really big. Grade music classes always consist of just one class at a time, so I am used to those numbers. The strings program at Edison is a small division of the music program, so it was small. But band… Oh, did I mention that Edison Middle School happens to have one of the highest rated middle school band programs in the nation? Many of the students at Edison are there for the band program.

I’ve had big classes before. But today was quite a shock. I had five classes total: two 6th grade groups, two 7th grade groups, and the entire 8th grade band. In each of the first four classes, there were between 32 and 35 students. Okay, that’s a lot, but it is manageable. I’ve had big classes before at Edison. The 8th grade band, though, consists of 52 students. Fifty-two! They have more students in the program then there are regular teachers in the building! The class roster was two and half pages long! Yegads!

Fortunately for me, the students at Edison love me. I mean, they really love me. Remember the picture they made for me? So even though I suddenly found myself in the midst of two score and a dozen eighth grade boys and girls at the end of the day, things went pretty well. Or, rather, things went pretty well after they all got settled. It took about ten minutes to do so. Oh, and today was a half-day, so that means class periods were only 30 minutes long. Of course, following the long-standing tradition of band teachers the world over, the students were not doing anything band-ish. In fact, they were barred from touching the instruments. Instead, we spent the period watching a Yamaha podcast about the making of either the saxophone or the trumpet, depending on the class.

Tomorrow and Wednesday we will be watching Mary Poppins, because they just had their last concert and much of the music from the Disney film had been featured. Hey, it is the end of the year, anyway. Fun times ahead!

A Chorus of Huzzahs

Today I was a 6th grade Language Arts teacher at Mahomet-Seymour Junior High. I have subbed for both of the 6th grade Language Arts teachers recently, although this time I was there for the teacher that has only used me once before. It was a good experience, and I fully expected today to be another great afternoon as MSJH.

I was slightly delayed leaving for work, though, so I made it to class with about a minute to spare before the bell rang. Having only been there once before, I don’t really know these classes all that well. They have seen me in the halls, and I’ve been there for a couple of their other teachers but, by and large, I just don’t know them very well. Certainly not as well as I know the other 6th graders who have Language Arts across the hall.

So I was quite unprepared for the reception I received when I walked into the room. Most of the class was already there, sitting quietly in their seats while waiting for their teacher to arrive. There was a sudden spontaneous chorus of huzzahs (possibly hurrahs or even hoorays), clapping, and yells like, “YES! Mr. V! Woo hoo!” and “Awesome! It’s my favourite sub!” As I walked the halls of MSJH, students said hello, asked how I was doing, and welcomed me. Once again, I am reminded of how well-regarded I am as a teacher, and particularly as a substitute teacher.

After I got home, I checked on the various education-related blogs that I have started following recently, and I saw this interesting post about whether or not substituting is, in some ways, a popularity contest. This was my response:

Subbing is absolutely a popularity contest! But it is a popularity based on willingness to follow a teacher’s plans, demonstrating excellent classroom management, and makes the best of the time. Quality subs are also able to connect with the students, so that the class will ask the teacher to have him or her return.

I have been fortunate enough to sub nearly every single working day this entire school year, primarily in two districts. The reason? I am popular with teachers, students, and the administration. Quality subs rise to the top.

I had been warned that some of the classes might be difficult. My two Language Arts classes were great, though. They were reading S.E. Hinton’s The Outsiders while listening to an audiobook recording of it. The last period study hall has been quite crazy as of late. I told them that their teacher left a note that anyone whose name was written down would receive an automatic detention. Then one of the administrators came in and told them that if I had to send anyone up to her office, it would be an automatic Saturday detention. There was not a peep out of anyone the rest of the period. Yet, even before the warnings were made, the class was already working quietly. Popularity certainly has its benefits!

The year is quickly coming to a close, and I expect the number of assignments to dwindle as a result. I have no idea what I’ll be doing next year, or even this summer, but I am looking forward to these last weeks of working with my many thousands of students in two districts!

Like a Gummi Bear

Today I was a floating substitute teacher at Mahomet-Seymour Junior High School. In Champaign, the floating substitute usually goes to three or four classes over the the course of the day. In Mahomet, though, the floating sub is usually assigned one classroom for the duration of the day, depending upon the need. What will happen is the school knows that several teachers will be out on a particular day, but they may not know which teachers will be gone, so they schedule me as a floater and give me the assignment when I arrive.

Today was definitely different, though! (more…)