Can it really be almost a year since I blogged here? I won’t feel too guilty, however, because I regularly blog on my Classroom2Kids edublog. There just aren’t enough hours in the day for me to accomplish what I wish I could. This summer I had an absolutely marvelous time boating in August. I usually start preparing my classroom in mid-August (only a few hours a day!), but this year I was swept away by new boating friends and spending time at the water side. I didn’t accomplish all I usually do before the first day of school, but most of it wasn’t noticed by anyone but me! I’m not sure how I feel about that. Perhaps (yes, absolutely!) I have my “fingers in too many pots”. My excuse is always that my classroom is not only my job but my “hobby”. I don’t feel that “I don’t have a life”, I feel that I have a wonderful “second home”. But this year… I gave my “first home” some extra priority at the end of August. I guess the key is “balance”. So, this year I am starting off with a good “inner satisfaction” that I DO have an out-of-school life, WHILE I scramble to catch up with the things I feel I really MUST have on-the-go at school!
Something new for me this year is the opportunity to work with Grade 4 and Grade 5 students in addition to our Computer Club. Increased enrollment at our school allowed the creation of a “Computer Teacher” for teacher prep times one day a week. I am in the Computer Lab all day on Thursdays, and a job-share teacher is with my class. Oh my! I’ve never done a job share and am more than a little worried that I will be able to keep my desk cleared off and tidy EVERY week! At home my husband recently looked around the piles of projects and papers that suddenly appeared on the floor around my computer and said, “Ah, back to normal. It must be September!” I am incredibly lucky to have a delightful teacher filling my position, as well as LA and EAL, so we will be able to conference during the week instead of never seeing one another. That’s a good thing!
I am very excited to be working with a little bit older children. We never had enough time in “Grade 5 Computer Club” to really get into any meaty projects, and there is so much more that they can do than my little Grade 2 class. I decided to start off with some plain old keyboarding testing (oops… I nearly wrote “typing”, which shows my age!) to see what levels this age of student is at. Many of the students had worked with All the Right Type before, but none of the teachers had ever put in a class list so that their work is tracked. It is amazing what a range of expertise they have. I am teaching a few students how to place their fingers on Home Row, while a few are able to type accurately at over 30WPM! In the second class, I “locked down” the sequencing in ART, so that they can’t bob all over the place. I think it will make a really good entry activity so that when they come into the computer lab there is no question of what they are supposed to be doing. It is good to have a program that will allow the students to progress at their own level, while I circulate and check on proper techniques. Only a few students asked if they would get free time afterwards. I replied in a “shocked voice”: “No, you can have free time at lunch and after school. I’m here to TEACH you at computer time!”
I wanted to make sure that the students had a second, more engaging activity in their first times with me. I was surprised, however, that 99% of them were fully engaged with just the typing! Having their own “record keeping” in ART is a big plus, and I could hear some of them comparing scores too. My second activity was using MS Publisher to create an invitation for the parents to come to our Open House. It had to be straightforward enough that we could print it out in one session. It was a great choice, because NONE of them had ever used this program! How exciting is that! With the Grade 4s, we made a simple one page “poster”. I showed how to make a text box with a border, a second text box inside the first to make the wording for the invitation, and how to insert a clip-art picture. Everyone printed out, although some had to add finishing details in pencil back in their classrooms. For the Grade 5’s, we had taken a little time the week before to explore a premade Greeting Card template and just “switch” the text and pictures. On the second lesson, I had them use a blank side-fold card template and add each component separately. The cover had a border, text and a picture, pages 2-3 had the invitation specifics, and page 4 had the “made by” text. We built the card step by step together (well, almost together) and everyone had a card to print out at the end. It was cute to see how many of them thought they had done it incorrectly when their work came out on one page with half of it upside down! Obviously they had never folded a card before! I could also see how invaluable it was that I chose a program that I am proficient in. Many of the students did not follow the initial directions and ended up making the cover page on a full sized blank page instead of the quarter fold. I was able to quickly copy their wording, quickly open a new proper template, and put in their chosen border, picture and text for them. In 30 seconds I had them back on the right track.
I think one of the greatest values of a “Computer Teacher” is the capability to do trouble shooting on-the-fly. You can have a great project, but there will ALWAYS be “computer glitches”. Either the class falls apart or some students (or you!) get disillusioned, if you can’t solve problems quickly. FLEXIBILITY will also be on the top of the list. Sometimes you simply can’t fix the glitch and have to take another route. My husband, while working on his hot-rod, learned to use the phrase “That’s hot-rodding!” whenever the many set-backs occurred. I will adopt the phrase for my own situation…