Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Student Reflection

by Leslie Barron
Volunteering Means No Child is Left Behind

After a couple weeks volunteering in the 1st grade classroom at Leal Elementary I started to realize how difficult it is to teach because the students all have such different ability levels. The first couple times I went to volunteer I was really focused on my Spanish and being able to communicate with the kids. I was focusing so much on my Spanish that I was not observant of the different levels and learning styles of the many different students. After I became more comfortable and conversational with the students I began to realize the different ways they learn, how well they are able to learn the material, and what the teacher does as well as what I can do to enhance their learning potential. I am not an education major and have never thought about going into teaching so it has been really interesting to see the different methods employed by the teacher to try and help all the students.

The first time I noticed the extreme variation in ability level of the students was when we were working in stations. I was working at a math station. Each group had 4-6 students. The kids were supposed to work in pairs and play a game similar to war. Instead of winning by having the higher card, the student who could correctly add the two cards the fastest and come up with the correct answer would win both the cards. The game continued until one player won all the cards. One thing I realized right away was that the teacher had created the groups thoughtfully so as to put students with similar abilities together. In each group there were a few students that were a little better at math than the others, but not much. At first I let the students pick their partners, but after working with a lot of them I decided to pair them myself so as to help them get the most out of the game. If I saw one student consistently winning I would pair that student with another student at a higher ability level while I tried to help the students that were struggling. I also helped the students learn how to add the cards more quickly. In the beginning if one student had a ten and another had a two the students would start counting “1…2…3…4” until they got to twelve. I helped them realize they could start with ten and then count “11…12”. It was rewarding for me when they understood the new method of counting. It made me really happy to see them using the easier method because I felt as if I had really helped them learn the concept and idea of addition. I could even see the students become more excited about the game and about math after they were more confident in their abilities. In addition, I was proud that I was able to communicate effectively in Spanish. By the end of the class I felt very confident that I had made a difference.

The varying ability levels of the students are also very apparent in their reading levels. The first class I volunteered I read with a student, Juana [not her real name]. It was frustrating to watch her struggle. She would mix up words such as “el” and “le”. I didn’t really know the best method to help her. After a few more classes I had the chance to read with other students. It was extremely surprising to me how well some other students were able to read in comparison to Juana. Other students were able to read chapter books only stumbling over a few longer words. After working with some of the more able students and watching how they sounded out words I was better able to help the students that were still having difficulties. I really enjoy reading with the students. Not only can I see improvements in their reading, I also am learning new vocabulary. When I ask the students to tell me what a certain word means they get really excited because they realize they are helping me just as much as I am helping them. I hope by the time I am done volunteering I will be able to see even more improvement in their reading level. It is a great feeling to see how the time you spend volunteering in the classroom really does pay off.

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