I have never come across a more energetic groups of kids in my life. Every day that I greet my second graders in line at our morning meetings there is never a lack of liveliness as the students are preparing for their day. Walking down the line I am met with tugs at my arms and hugs as I pat them on the head welcoming them to school and ushering them into their spots in line.
(second graders on class retreat)
Every morning starts out pretty calm since the students are rested and usually come to school ready to learn. During the first few periods I do not usually have trouble settling the kids down and getting them to pay attention. As long as I have something for them to do, the mornings before recess usually go pretty smoothly. Although if I drop the ball and don’t have an activity planned they can get distracted and rowdy in a hurry. The toughest part is keeping the smartest students engaged and working the entire time since they are usually the ones that finish first and then start to cause trouble. I have found that they love doing word searches though and this is a great way to keep them occupied. Also, keeping kids who don’t finish the class work inside during recess to finish their notes is a great incentive to move the class along.
It is truly amazing how well these students respond to positive encouragement. I don’t think that they get a lot of it so whenever I get the opportunity to say “good job” or comment on something positive that they are doing I take it. I especially make an effort to say that the kids are good at English even if they stumble over words. Sometimes students comment that their classmates are bad at English in front of their face. Whenever I hear this I am always sure to say that whatever student they are talking about has excellent English, despite how low their level may be.
Even on their best day I always find myself having to discipline students and of course it is usually the same troublemakers each day. When the students break a school rule, teachers make a note in their agendas to be sent home to their parents. I usually write in about 6-8 agendas each day. Usually it is because kids are out of their seats or causing some sort of disruption. When the students break a rule we also take off time from their recess. It is a shame though that the most badly behaved students are just accustomed to having shorter recesses.
When I first started I did not really know how to control my class of 25 students that well and there was definitely a higher level of disorder in my classroom than there is now. My big push though has been getting the kids to stay in their seats and raise their hands if they need to talk or get up. This has made a huge difference in the amount of control that I have over the students and class as a whole. I have a theory though, that just about all of my problems would be solved if students had all of the necessary materials and brought all of the necessary materials to class. Each day I always have students who don’t have a pencil, colors, sharpeners, glue or forgot their notebook. They are constantly borrowing from their friends. If students all had the same materials each and every day my class would go much more smoothly and efficiently. Kids would not be preoccupied about the other supplies their classmates have and they wouldn’t have to stand up to borrow materials constantly. I realize some of these parents can’t afford to keep replacing their second graders lost pencils and colors, but it would sure make my job easier.
I consider myself lucky; lesson planning has come easily to me. I will admit that I am not the most creative teacher, but having a book to teach from and the Internet as a resource makes things a lot easier. For my second grade class I usually have the kids take notes off the board for the first half, and then for the second half we usually do some sort of worksheet or activity. I usually mix an art project in there once in awhile. A lot of the worksheets that I use I make using Microsoft word with inspiration from the Internet. I have found a few worksheets from the Internet that work well, but I mostly just pick and choose the best parts from each of the ones I come across.
Each day I teach a total of about 55 second graders. Each grade is split up into two sections and for the first half of the day I teach one section and for the second half of the day I teach the other. I used to believe that one section was better behaved than the other. But now I realize that they are both badly behaved in different ways and respond differently to certain techniques.
One thing is for sure; there is nothing dull about teaching second grade to bilingual students. Teaching students in their second language requires so much effort and patience, but putting in the effort is always worth it when you hear their English improve every day.