Why Kids Can’t Sit Still

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Kids Sitting Still

Today in my subbing job there was an assembly for the school. It was a basketball game consisting of staff vs. 5th graders. Yes, a very entertaining and exciting break from the normal routine of the school day.

My first-graders had reviewed the rules for assembly behavior, practiced being quiet and walking in a consistent line. I had to practice that because I didn’t want to risk losing them or herding some other class away.

Although the event was close to an hour long, the class was well-behaved. It is tough to sit still for so long even if the event is quite amusing. Yes, some kids were squirming around a bit (so was I) and one boy in particular had a tough time being very still. He was sitting at the edge of the row, and wasn’t bothering anybody, so I wasn’t too concerned.

The teacher who was behind me apparently cannot tolerate kids moving around. She kept nudging the boy and urging him to stop moving. After several attempts at this, she told him to stand up to the side (where the teachers were) so the squirming would be eliminated. Well, this boy is not a sitter, or a stander, because he kept shifting from one foot to the other, and leaning on a chair, or stepping over to the side, and eventually I told him that he could sit down if he could try to sit still. Lo and behold, this teacher immediately starts tapping him to remind him to quit moving and sit still! 

This frustrated me. First, because the teacher was undermining my authority as a substitute teacher and thinking I cannot handle my class. Second, because the boy wasn’t being a distraction to anybody except to that teacher. Third, I feel the expectations should be lenient enough where children are allowed to shift and move around in their seats to a reasonable degree, especially when considering the length of time they are expected to sit.

Obviously it’s nice to have kids sitting still and listening quietly and not being a bother. However, this incident helped me realize that oftentimes we (by we, I mean teachers or other people dealing with kids) forget that they truly are children, and want to move around, and sitting still for long periods of time is a major challenge. I hope I keep that perspective in mind and not ever get hung up that I want kids to be like robots.



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Main Idea and Supporting Details



If you search Google for “Main Idea Table”, this image will come up. Today I was subbing for a teacher in a resource room.  The 5th grade students were working on reading/writing. The main lesson for the day was to explain “summarizing” and how to find main ideas and supporting details in a reading section.

I had seen this image on Pinterest the day before this assignment, so when I read the assignment, I instantly wanted to implement a version of this table.

The tables were created by folding a sheet of paper into quarters and cutting out a makeshift table, folding the legs in, and voila! I made a first demonstration stating that I will be writing about myself. I am the main idea, so my name will go on the “table top”. The supporting details will be about me and what things I like (such as favorite food, color, season, etc.)

The students had one minute to do this task. After discussing it, they seemed to grasp the concept and we moved on to the main assignment where they read the passage and located the main idea with supporting details.

Great little hands-on approach to this comprehension strategy.

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Finally Subbing

So I’m finally subbing! And I love it! I am having such a blast that I can hardly believe it myself.

I’ve been subbing for almost two weeks now: 1st grade, kinders, 2nd grade, 4th grade, 7th grade, and 5th grade! I have to say my absolute favorite so far was 5th grade, but all the others are quite incredible experiences as well. One point that makes it tough for a sub is when majority of the class leaves for a few hours for some reading group elsewhere and that amount of kids come in from other classes. No clue who’s from your class and who isn’t, and makes it more challenging to manage.

Learned a few things right off the top:

  • Always introduce myself and let students know that one person talks at a time: either me, or somebody who raised his/her hand.
  • I ask students to tell me about the attention getting strategy their teacher uses, how do restroom passes work, and good/bad behavior. Since they are the ones who tell me about it, they are more inclined to follow it. The best management technique I’ve used which worked wonders was making a T-chart:

my name | class

  • If class is on track, working well, and focused, they receive a tally mark. If they’re misbehaving, off track, or using inappropriate voice level for activity, I get a point. By the time it’s recess time, if class has more points than I do, they get to go a few minutes early. If I have more points, they owe a few minutes of their recess time.
  • Seating charts are amazing. So far about half the teachers have provided one; other times I’ve drawn my own. Today I tried to have a tally system next to each student who I’ve called on, because I realized it’s too hard to keep track of it in my mind especially with students whose names I’m still learning.
  • A smart restroom break idea I saw was kids signing out (next to where the pass is hanging) and signing back in with the time indicated upon return. This held students accountable.
  • If students have a card-pulling system, I try to provide opportunities for them to redeem themselves (show extra diligence, help clean up extra, etc.)
  • Math review that works wonders: find flashcards that the teacher has and have students answer them. If correctly answered, you move a step forward to designated “end” spot, and if incorrect, or takes longer than 3 seconds, move a step backward. So far most of the classes were in groups, so either one person at a time would answer, or each group had a chance to answer several times.
  • Mad Libs are a lifesaver. Helps review what nouns, verbs, adjectives, etc. are, while giving them a break from serious studying, and hearing a hilarious story at the end which they helped create.

My middle school experience was challenging in one period; the other two were great (it was half day). It was at a resource room, where I didn’t see too many behavior issues except for the challenging class, but otherwise some evident below level performance. I tried to make it fun by preparing the students to an acrostic poem assignment by having them make an acrostic poem of their names. Most students overall seemed alright and were curious and talkative. I asked them about positive/negative experiences with subs (obviously to increase my knowledge in what to do or NOT do). With middle schoolers, there isn’t much of a reward system to use. I can’t take away recess or make some points on the board; they’ll be gone within an hour and new students will arrive. So still struggling how to figure this one out. Meanwhile, I’ll continue subbing for non-middle schoolers at this time 🙂

Today I told the 5th graders that if they complete their math packets, we could do a little art project. Oh boy! Watching them rush through the assignment without any complaints was fantastic! The project was making origami tulips to create a bouquet for their teacher. It took longer than I anticipated, but they loved it!



One other main point: always arrive earlier than the assignment. If students arrive at 8:30 and the assignment begins at 8:05, arrive at the VERY LATEST at 7:45. Those few extra minutes to figure out abbreviations or what is necessary for the lesson and to draw up the seating chart is oh so helpful. That’s all for now. Another week will bring more tips I suppose.

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First Day of Class Activities

I imagine I can adapt these and use for subbing.

Taken from:

Best and Worst Classes – On one section of the blackboard I write: “The best class I’ve ever had” and underneath it “What the teacher did” and below that “What the students did.” On another section I write “The worst class I’ve ever had” (well, actually I write, “The class from hell”) and then the same two items beneath. I ask students to share their experiences, without naming the course, department or teacher, and I begin filling in the grid based on what they call out. If there’s a lull or not many comments about what the students did in these classes, I add some descriptors based on my experience with some of my best and worst classes. In 10 minutes or less, two very different class portraits emerge. I move to the best class section of the board and tell students that this is the class I want to teach, but I can’t do it alone. Together we have the power to make this one of those “best class” experiences.

First Day Graffiti – This is an adaptation of an activity proposed by Barbara Goza in the Journal of Management Education in 1993. Flip charts with markers beneath are placed around the classroom. Each chart has a different sentence stem. Here are a few examples:

“I learn best in classes where the teacher ___”
“Students in courses help me learn when they ___”
“I am most likely to participate in classes when ___”
“Here’s something that makes it hard to learn in a course: ___”
“Here’s something that makes it easy to learn in a course: ___”

Students are invited to walk around the room and write responses, chatting with each other and the teacher as they do. After there are comments on every flip chart, the teacher walks to each one and talks a bit about one or two of the responses. If you run out of time, you can conduct the debriefing during the next session.

Syllabus Speed Dating – Karen Eifler, an education professor at the University of Portland, designed this activity. Two rows of chairs face each other (multiple rows of two can be used in larger classes). Students sit across from each other, each with a copy of the syllabus that they’ve briefly reviewed. Eifler asks two questions: one about something in the syllabus and one of a more personal nature. The pair has a short period of time to answer both questions. Eifler checks to make sure the syllabus question has been answered correctly. Then students in one of the rows move down one seat and Eifler asks the new pair two different questions. Not only does this activity get students acquainted with each other, it’s a great way to get them reading the syllabus and finding out for themselves what they need to know about the course.

Irritating Behaviors: Theirs and Ours – This activity grows out of research done by D. Appleton in 1990 (The Journal of Staff, Program and Organizational Development). His findings are a bit dated now, but the idea is not. Appleton asked students to list faculty behaviors that most irritate them. He had faculty do the same for student behaviors. I’d put students in groups and have them respond to a slightly different question: “What are the five things faculty do that make learning hard?” Or, asked positively, “What are the five things faculty do that make it easy to learn?” Collect the lists and make a master list to share in class or online. Below the five things faculty do, you can also list the five things students do that make it hard or easy to teach. The follow-up conversation is about how the teacher and students can each commit to not doing what appears on their respective “hard” list and have a better class experience as a result.

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Math groups

Teaching whole group has its advantages and disadvantages. For math, the disadvantage is that as the math becomes more challenging, kids start to vary in their levels of understanding. Thus the idea to split math into two groups came to be. Working with a smaller group will allow more individualized instruction and can provide more insight into what each student knows.

Some second and third grade classes have great math centers/groups/rotations going. Since first graders are still developmentally not quite ready for high levels of independence, groups are challenging. I teach the first half of students while the other half are working on a review sheet of what was done yesterday and then move on to a math game, and then the two groups switch. In theory it sounds wonderful! And in reality some days are great! Often times I’m struggling with the first lesson and then teach it the second time around much more successfully.

There is a lot of effort going into figuring out which sheets and games kids can play. Since time is the most valuable resource that is available, sheets and games need to be relevant to the material and objectives being taught in math. If a worksheet or game is too challenging, kids cannot complete it independently, get distracted and cause noise, which reduces the effectiveness of the group concept. I’ve tried introducing DreamBox (an excellent online math program!) as a station for kids to go to as soon as their sheet is done, and it’s been an effective one. Will need to practice doing it more.

So far games the kids are playing are Pumpkin Patch, where they roll dice, add the partners, and move a counter to the total. Another game is five in a row bingo of rolling dice and placing counters. Some games can be played independently: having red/white counters, tossing them, writing down how many white/how many red, writing equation, and solving. Domino addition is fun: write the equation horizontally, then vertically. Plus a few other games that involve using dice, counters or dominos. For kids wanting an extra challenge, double dice are used. I’ll take pictures and insert them here so I’ll remember what the games looked like.


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Thanking the Custodians

Last week my first-graders had a descriptive writing assignment. The focus was on thank-you letters. Since the school district had a video of a custodian going about his daily work, that video turned into the opening for the assignment. Kids brainstormed things the custodians did: turned on lights and furnace, vacuumed carpets, mopped floors, cleaned cafeteria and bathrooms, restocked fresh toilet paper, cleaned up playground and sand field, moved in desks into classrooms, emptied trashcans, and took out recycling. The kids were surprised at how much the school was taken care of. After the video, when kids were in the cafeteria they were very aware of the custodian there.

The next day they worked on the final drafts. They erased, added words, corrected spelling, and signed their names. The kids put in a lot of effort into the sentences and especially into the picture at the top. In the afternoon the custodians were invited into our classroom for a quick “thank you party”. They introduced themselves and the kids said thank you. Each child read his or her letter to the appropriate custodian. Afterwards everybody had a cookie and a cup of juice.

It was such a touching, memorable experience. Kids got a chance to really think about things they often take for granted and thank the people who were responsible for their comfort. The custodians were beaming when the kids were reading their letters and handing them over. The recognition they received was unusual and significant and I was so glad to be a part of it!

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Why Student Teaching is Difficult

I did not have a quarter of Practicum, which consists of being in a classroom and helping out all quarter long. This allows for a chance to get to know the structure of school days, how groups work, curriculum types for different subjects, planning, watching a teacher teach, etc.

When I was going into Student Teaching (notice the capitals: I consider it that important), I expected it to be somewhat challenging. I thought it may be somewhat of a juggling act, with planning the lesson, managing the students, and copying papers. Or something to that effect.

Then, I began the Student Teaching experience. Turns out that there is much more that is expected from a teacher. Making copies and creating worksheets (morning work & math packets & back of quizzes) is something that is an in-between filler. Managing kids is much more difficult when there are at least 2 dozen of them. First graders are full of energy all day long, so each lesson must be quick, concise, and interesting. Oh, and they must be learning because the assessments and quizzes will be entered into their records and shared with parents at the conferences. Each student is a different learner. A good portion of kids will grasp material, but the rest will need a different approach. But because there is never enough time, one must plug in those differentiation strategies right into the lesson, or think of it ahead, or remember to use it at some point so all kids will have an equal opportunity to learn the material. Pacing is huge! I could attempt to explain a lesson and would lose them because I ended up talking for too long. Understanding the signals they’re sending me when I’ve lost them is not an easy task. Kids who are misbehaving to get attention need quick reprimands. If I spend an extra few seconds showing them attention, the other kids were waiting without clear instruction and then they get distracted. So then I need to bring everybody back to the topic. Being very strict isn’t super effective either. Kids need smiley people, who care about them and make learning fun. Kids at this age are super sensitive, so there are constant disagreements that must be resolved. Some kids need encouraging words in just the right time, otherwise they will space out throughout the assignment.

I have mastered the art of preparing for lessons. Except that there is so much more than just that. Those factors can be in place, but the 24 factors that could be different every minute of every day is definitely something else. I need to think on my feet constantly: what is the objective of the lesson I’m teaching? There is no point for me to prolong a class discussion if the kids aren’t getting anything out of it. There is a fine line of when I say something, compared to when I want kids to share, compared to when I want them to hear others sharing ideas. My template for lessons has become a detailed breakdown of what I say or do –> what I want kids to say or do, and exactly how will I be assessing whether the objective has been met. Then, a student may say something, and it is such a perfect teaching opportunity that I should jump on it! But oftentimes I am so concerned with following my “script” that I miss those points.

The final challenge that is constantly there is the extra set of eyes. Having a supervisor or principal observe you is intimidating. Having a cooperating teacher who went to Harvard and has “positives/things to work on” list for me daily doesn’t make it easier. It helps me, yes, but it makes me feel a lot more self-conscience than when I have the classroom to myself.

Don’t get me wrong. I love the challenge of student teaching. It’s just not quite what I expected. 🙂

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When I was growing up, my family held very strong opinions about Halloween. It’s an evil holiday, celebrating demons and devil, and we must stay as far away from it as possible. In fact, we didn’t even go to school on that day. On Halloween night we would close all the blinds, turn off the lights, and maybe spend the evening in the kitchen or a room that wasn’t facing the road. Trick-or-treaters wouldn’t see any lights and would skip our house.

Now that I’m older and teaching kids at public school as well as Sunday school, I became more aware of the controversy revolving around this holiday. Public schools embrace this holiday and many assignments and crafts are affected. Lots of Christian families have started to accept the holiday as well, sending their kids off in costumes to trick-or-treat. Other families continue to “hide” and want nothing to do with this holiday. Still others make an attempt to “redeem” the holiday by dressing up as angels and trying to share the gospel. Or they hand out flyers or Bibles with or instead of candy.

The roots of Halloween are pagan: people were dressing up with scary masks to scare off the evil spirits roaming the streets at the end of October. There are numerous stories explaining the exact origin with slightly different twists in various cultures and countries. However, they all have something in common, which is the concept of evil, fear, dead people’s spirits, demons, goblins, witchcraft, etc.

For a Christian person, this is not something to associate with. By the grace of God, we have been given a chance for a new life in Jesus, and we need not fear. We don’t need to “hide” away from the world on Halloween. At the same time, if we try to share the gospel on Halloween ONLY and give out pamphlets or Bibles, we might not be making the difference we hope we are. It may be a bit hypocritical, in fact. A truly Christian person will be a shining light always, no matter what.

My husband helped explain Halloween holiday to the Sunday class we were teaching: Halloween is not our holiday. Same concept as with Rosh Hashanah, or Ramadan; those are not our holidays, so we don’t celebrate them. Now Thanksgiving, and Christmas, and Easter, ARE our holidays, thus we celebrate them. At school I simply state I don’t celebrate this holiday. Since it’s not my classroom, I cannot quite control the activities and crafts that take place, but I can state my position.

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I am too serious. I try to live life to the fullest, but sometimes I put in so much effort that I stop having fun. Life and every adventure that comes with it is a journey, so one must enjoy it! I’m getting so caught up with trying to do my best in church, school, assignments, that I’m stressing out more as a result. I don’t want to be the stern, serious teacher that kids see. I used to have fun more often and I still do but I forget to…

Need to remember: enjoy the journey! Relax! Take a fizzy bath! Draw! Paint! Run more often to get more perspective! Laugh! Smile! Read comics!

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