Friday, July 09, 2010

New City, New Life, Still Teaching

From 6th grade to 3rd grade, and then to Kindergarten, there was a three year jump every year in the last 3 years of my teaching. I have to say, I quite enjoyed it. Not only did the teaching methods and approaches I used needed to be altered, the way I speak to my students was changed too. The older ones appreciated my sarcasm, and the younger ones thought I was being mean. The younger ones wanted step-by-step instructions, and the older kids liked to be more independent. It took months before I was able to adjust myself, but the overall experience was very rewarding.

Best moments in each grade

Sixth Grade:

The pre-teen years are interesting. They're happy one minute, frustrated the next. They love their classmates at snack, then they are not so fond of each other after lunch. It's like riding on a roller coaster all day. When they come back from physical education, the classroom gets stuffy and smells a little. They were each given a stick of deodorant at the beginning of the year, and this comes in handy. "Reload!" The teachers would say, and that solves the problem.

For such an easily-embarrassed age group, they were not so shy in situations like this.

Third Grade:

We were in our Money Unit in Math, and the students were to propose a business plan individually or with a partner. Once their business proposals are approved, they are given a weekly salary. Everything from snack to visits to the nurse's office would cost them money. After explaining the activity to them, they asked, "Are we going to get real money?"

"No, you are not. Have fun with play money, focus on the business side of the lesson."

8-year-olds know to ask important questions.


On the first day of school, a student gave me a picture that she had worked on over the summer. I looked at it, and it said, "Ms. Kuo, I can't wait to meet you. I love you."

That's a 5-year-old for you! They love you the moment, correction, BEFORE the moment they meet you.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Writing Lesson Plan - Fictional Narrative

How difficult is it to create a picture with words? Turns out, very. The 6th graders in my class struggled as they attempted to compose a fictional story. One of the main obstacles they faced was word choice including the use of vivid and striking vocabulary to paint an image for their readers.

Before we get any further with the writing process, I needed the students to see the importance of word choice. As a story writer, each student only has the words to rely on in conveying the intended message. Feelings, mood, setting, surroundings, etc. Everything is delivered to the readers via words. Therefore, the class proceeded with the following activity.

Fictional Narrative: Creating Imagery


Students will learn to write a fictional narrative story, including all the necessary techniques that make a story lively and interesting. They will learn the difficulty of the activity.

Specific Instructional Objectives:

Students will be able to create vivid images with words in writing so that readers can visualize exactly the picture the writer hoped to have painted.

Each student will practice on descriptive word usage, which will help them paint a picture in their readers’ minds.


imagery, word choice


sample writing, Lord of the Flies book, vivid and dull images, identical pictures – colored and grayscale.



· Show a black and white image, and ask students to describe it. The teacher takes notes.

· Next, show an identical picture in color, and ask students to describe it. The teacher takes notes.

· Compare the two sets of notes, discuss the difference. Ask students: Was it harder or easier to describe the color picture? For which picture were you able to use more descriptive words?

During Lesson

1. Activity: put students into pairs, one is the describer and one is the drawer. Give each describer a picture with a vivid image, and keep it from the drawer. The describer describes the image to the drawer, and the drawer draws. At the end of the activity, bring group back together.

2. Compare the final product with the image and ask students make comments – Do the pictures match exactly? What part of the pictures was especially difficult to describe? What words did you use to describe the images? When the drawer did not understand a description, what was the general problem?

3. Teacher reads aloud the sample writing from a student in the previous year. Note that the writing assignments are not exactly the same, but the genre and expectations are.

4. Ask students to pay attention to: word choices that stand out and use of imagery. Write down specific examples.


· Clarify some important points: create imagery, the reader should be able to see what the writer is thinking, word choices are important.


discussion on “creating images”

Learner Factors – Differentiation, Modifications, and Accommodations:

· Make up a chart ahead of time. 2 columns – advantages and disadvantages for B&W and color pictures. Have an example already written on it.

· Demonstrate the activity. Have a student describe a picture to the teacher, and teacher tries to re-create the picture relying on the student’s description.

· Make an adjective word bank.

· Have copies of the sample writing for students to follow along while the teacher reads it.

Classroom Environment and Management Conditions:

· Students are paired with someone they work well with.

· Have students spread out and also speak softly during the activity to avoid disrupting others.

· Ask students to take notes.

Friday, May 16, 2008

Social Studies Lesson Plan - The Civil War: A Nation Divided

After a few Civil War lessons with my 6th graders, I tried an activity called Agree or Disagree with them. This activity was great at encouraging discussion. All the statements were deliberately left open to interpretation; therefore, many perspectives were raised. One important point to emphasize with the students prior to the activity is to RESPECT their classmates' opinions. This should be a calm and respectful discussion or debate.

The Civil War: A Nation Divided



Students will generate discussions with classmates based on their beliefs.


Students will be able to agree or disagree with other people’s opinions with respect.

Students will support their stance by providing facts.

Students will learn the difficulty in discussions, and accept the opinion of others with the understanding that it may arouse their emotions in some ways.


“Agree or Disagree” handout, agree/disagree/undecided signs, “A Nation Divided” handout, student notebooks


“A Nation Divided” handout



Explain the activity of “Agree or Disagree” and the rules of the game.

Put students in groups and explain that they can show the signs “agree” or “disagree” ONLY when the group is unanimous in opinion. As long as at least one person in the group feels otherwise about the statement, the group needs to show the sign “undecided”.

Use the first statement as an example for the first round.

During Lesson:

  1. Divide the class into groups of 3 to 4 students.
  2. Give each group a copy of the statements.
  3. The teacher reads out the statement, gives the groups 20 to 30 seconds to come to a decision and hold up a sign.
  4. Each group chooses one member as a representative to explain their conclusion, and the teacher facilitates the discussion, ending it wherever most suitable for the class.
  5. The teacher reads the next statement and follows the same procedure as before. Have a different student represent the group for each round to ensure all students have a turn to speak.


Ask students:

Why was it such a difficult activity for you?

What about this exercise that was difficult? Which part in particular?



Students’ discussion during the activity.

Teammate interaction (respect the opinions of others).

Homework: read “A Nation Divided” handout and summarize.


Adaptations (For ELL Students):

Give the list to ELL students a couple of days before the lesson, have them go over the statements at home and look up any unknown vocabulary words.

Have the list of statements in front of the students as the teacher reads them, this gives the students both visual and audio help.

Make a sample response in writing, for example, if you disagree, you would say I disagree because…(give a reason or fact).

Extensions (For Gifted Students):

Have a debate.

Provide a scenario or topic, assign the students their stance, and give them 2 minutes to debate over the topic.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Reading Lesson Plan - Make a Trailer!

My 6th graders read the book Soldier’s Heart. In the attempt to step out of the usual routine, we made a movie trailer for the book! The students enjoyed both the process and performance. Some even brought in their musical instruments to add sound effects to their production. The project involved 4 students in each group and an immense amount of team effort. Making a trailer together reiterated the importance of team work and collaboration. Overall, the students did a wonderful job capturing and presenting the significant events of the story. Here is the lesson plan along with the worksheet I used to conduct the lesson. We spent 3 classes planning and preparing, and one class for performance. Some feedback from the students were:
"It was a fun project, but I wish we had more time."
"I liked it. It was different from what we usually do."

Reading Lesson: Soldier’s Heart movie trailer

Grade: 6th


Students will learn about the making of a movie trailer and using similar techniques, they will create one with their teammates.

Specific Instructional Objectives:

Students will be able to identify the necessary components of a movie trailer.

Students will understand the qualities of a trailer that make the movie unappealing.

Students will apply the knowledge on the creation of their own trailer.

· Students will be able to isolate important events in Soldier’s Heart and organize them into a 2~3-minute trailer.


Students will learn trailer making techniques by being able to identify main events of a story.


Handouts: trailer worksheet and planning flow chart

Technology: Smart Board and “Glory” movie trailer (found on



· Ask students what they see in the first 10 minutes before a movie begins. Guide them toward saying the word “trailer”.

· Show students the “Glory” movie trailer (approximately 2.5 minutes long)

During Lesson

1. Hand out the trailer worksheet.

2. Ask students: What makes a movie trailer LAME? The teacher writes down the reverse comments (for example, if the student says “gives away the ending”, the teacher writes down “should NOT give away the ending”) on the white board, and the students copy them down on their worksheet.

3. Go over the project with the students – You will be put in groups of 3 or 4 and you will be producing a movie trailer for Soldier’s Heart. Think about the qualities a movie trailer should have.

4. Emphasize #6a on the worksheet. Make sure the content and language are PG. There can only be limited amount of shooting and use of weapons. You will get 3 class periods to work on it, and the groups will be presenting after.

5. Let the students get in groups and begin brainstorming ideas. Each student must be taking notes on their worksheet.

6. Teacher should circulate around and guide the student in the right direction.

7. Hand out the planning flowchart to the groups that have completed their worksheet.


· Rehearse the trailer before performing it to the class.


Worksheets, in-class discussion, group collaboration, performance

Monday, November 26, 2007

I Love My Students!

These are my 3rd graders at Horace Mann Elementary in Newton, Massachusetts. My first class in a public school. They are such wonderful and amazing kids.

Sunday, September 09, 2007

What Makes a Good Teacher

A very good but difficult to answer question. I came across an article today. Children all over the world were asked what they thought a good teacher is. The following are some of the answers.

"The teacher is to students what the rain is to the field." Zaira Alexandra Rodriguez Guijarro, 11, Mexico.

"You need to be kind, trusting and friendly to me... you must listen and understand us all... never lose your temper or ignore us... I like a smile and a kind word." Rose, 9, New Zealand.

"A good teacher should treat all pupils like his own children. He should answer all questions, even if they are stupid." Fatoumata, 11, Chad.

"To become a good teacher, you not only teach the children but you also learn from them." Tasha-Leigh, 12, Jamaica.

"A teacher must understand every child’s needs and try to bring out the best in each pupil." Kimberly, 11, Trinidad and Tobago.

"They should not just be educators but role models, so the world’s young will be able to acquire knowledge in a better way." Satish, 10, Saint Lucia.

I never forget why I'm a teacher and the reasons I love teaching!

Sunday, June 17, 2007

Graduation & Next Step

This term is over. At first the students thought it will go on forever, but these three months passed by so quickly, almost too quickly. With a blink of the eye, we are at the parting stage again. Not as much tears this time, but mainly because everyone hid them well. The graduation ceremony was heartfelt. The students received awards and teachers gave inspirational speeches.

As this term finishes, so does a chapter of my life. I will be in a new city in a few days, nervous and excited at the same time. Not knowing what to expect, I am prepared to be unprepared. Next stop...Boston.