About Lori H Rice

Lori Rice is a fourth-grade teacher at West Elementary in Wamego, Kansas, who has taught K-2 reading as well as kindergarten, first grade and fourth grade since 1996. She has a passion for creativity, learning, questioning and the whole child. Her classroom is a place of acceptance and celebrating differences.

student teacher diariesWe are well into week three and things in our classroom and working well.  If you missed the start of this journey, check out our previous articles on The Educator’s Room.  Being a mentor teacher is a letting go of yourself so someone else can learn.  I am finding ways to keep myself busy during transition times in the classroom and I am also making myself work or leave the room for short periods of time.  Lauren, my intern, has become responsible for the morning routine, taking students to lunch and recess and specials, read-aloud, and dismissal.  It is important for the students to start turning to Miss Laudan for guidance, when I am in the room they often come to me first.   It is an odd feeling to leave your own classroom.

This week Lauren took over her first subject, math.  In our grade level we differentiate math.  The entire grade level is pre-tested and then placed in classrooms that will focus on the skills they need providing review and extension.  To get a glimpse into what that looks like check out my previous article.  It is a great way to meet the needs of our students.

Mentor: Lori Rice–Lauren and I talk often, and math was the subject she felt least comfortable teaching.  Since she is with me for such a limited time I want her to get all the experience she can.  For this reason, we decided math would be the first unit she would take over.  This gives her more time to focus (she is only planning for one subject) and it will also be the subject she teaches the longest.  As her mentor I am in the room and continue to model strategies during lessons; she is taking the lead though.  It is important to spend time co-teaching so she can build her skills, classroom management and technique.

Intern: Lauren Laudan–When I found out the first big unit I would be teaching would be on fractions, I cannot say I was jumping up and down with excitement. Math has never been my forte and I think it stems back to never being taught (and mastering) the foundations of number sense in elementary school. Lori loves math and typically teaches the advanced math group, so I knew going in the expectations would be high. However, I took on the challenge with a smile and was determined to find some way to make fractions a less scary concept for students. This took some reviewing on my part, because as all good teachers know until you have mastered the content you should not be teaching it.

Mentor: Lori Rice–Lauren has taught a few writing lessons and has started the read aloud in class.  In the opportunities I have had to watch her with students, I have noticed two things she could use to increase student engagement: higher level questions and setting clear expectations. To support her in these areas I have provided her with articles on questioning and setting clear expectations.  This involves stating the learning objectives as well as stating what you expect students to be doing as the lesson is presented.  Using the CHAMPS model we will continue to work on this technique.  To make her first unit successful we place Lauren in the benchmark group of students. This group is on grade level so she will be able to use the strategies from the teaching manual and should not have to focus extra energy on re-teaching or reviewing standards from other grade levels.  As her questioning and classroom management skills increase she will be able to teach a higher level group so she gets experience in extending standards too.

Student Intern: Lauren Laudan–One instructional strategy I am developing is engaging students with higher-level questioning. I learned in my pre-service teaching classes that the question has not been answered when a student says the right answer (the what). Instead, the teacher must ask that student to explain and justify how they came to that answer (the how). And lastly, why does that answer make sense? These three steps allow critical thinking to occur, something many students in today’s world are lacking. With these three things in mind I felt confident in beginning the first steps of the unit planning process.  But even with a teacher’s curriculum guide in hand, the planning process for the first few lessons was anything short of easy. 

The day I began teaching the unit, I woke up with butterflies in my stomach. The lesson was happening first thing in the morning and I only knew a handful of students from my home room (math groups are differentiated). After introducing myself, I began with a pre-assessment to see how much this group of students already knew about fractions. Through this little pre-assessment (having students write or draw anything that reminded them of the word “fraction”), I quickly learned many of my students had limited knowledge of fractions except when it came to food.  When eating a pizza and pie you can cut the pieces different ways (after hearing about pizza, cake, pie, brownies, and cookies we all agreed we were pretty hungry!)  On the other hand, a handful of my students had used fractions when cooking and one student gave me an example of a mixed number. First order of business: figure out a way to meet the needs of all my learners so that each one could be successful.

After about five minutes my butterflies were gone and my students were eager to participate in the lesson. I do not believe in keeping students sitting for an entire hour, so in no time at all students were standing at the front of the room and we were determining the fraction of girls to boys, boots to tennis shoes, and striped shirts to solid shirts. It is hard to put into words the amount of joy I felt when I saw students immersed in learning and truly engaged in a lesson I had worked so hard to prepare. With two lesson down and many more to go, I can honestly say that I am glad fractions was my first major unit. Having to step out of my comfort zone is pushing me to deeper limits and I am grateful that I have Lori every step of the way.

Teaching is a process of integrating art, movement, objectives, assessments, writing, and using knowledge of the student learning process.  You plan a lesson, or unit, and understand the content. This is only the first step, however, as you then have to modify and adjust during a lesson and then move into the next day’s lesson.  An announcement from the principal, a fire drill, student attention, and snow can all alter the pace you had planned.  Teachable moments bring about fantastic conversation and concepts you thought were mastered may need re-taught.  There are a million things that happen in a lesson and these things cannot be “taught” to a new teacher.  They must be experienced, reflected upon, and discussed with someone in the trenches.  I am happy to be a part of that journey.






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