the littlest improvisation

I had the opportunity to substitute for a 5th grade class today.  While I had been with them the day before, knew where they were in the curriculum, and briefly spoken with their teacher about what to expect, the plan for the day was completely turned upside down.

We had a 2 hour delay, which not only caused the deletion of several subjects and recess from the schedule, but the superintendent had planned to come to school to give a presentation, which was now pushed back to another part of the day.

I knew that I needed to cover math, social studies, and science.  But because of the schedule change, there were no solid lesson plans left.  I’m thinking that a small part of this was also because their regular teacher knew that I could make it work without step-by-step instructions.

So, I winged it.  I taught them how to multiply decimals in math.  AND THEY GOT IT.  I actually had them close their textbooks and put them away because it only confused them.  They all successfully multiplied decimals using the standard algorithm.

I knew they needed to watch a short video for social studies, which ended early.  I was able to direct a class-wide conversation that was productive and reviewed all the information they had learned about the industrial revolution.  They even had an opportunity to turn-and-talk to a partner, discussing why a group of people would be considered “new” and why they would be referred to as the “working class.”

Finally, my favorite part of the day, was science.  They are studying sound, but at this point have not been able to actually experience what causes different pitches, volumes, etc.  Their teacher and I had discussed that they were going to use musical instruments to explore sound, but the exact outline of the lesson had not been discussed.  I broke them into partners, created stations, and they moved throughout the room answering questions about the instruments and comparing them.  Again, THEY GOT IT!  Several of them came up to me between stations and said, “Miss Kivela, I noticed that for each station, the shorter one has a higher pitch!”

It is so awesome, and rewarding, to know that even if just for a day, I can handle myself in a classroom.  22 fifth graders were respectful, responsible, learned something new, and had fun!  It was just what I needed to boost my confidence that I’m going into the right profession.  It’s one thing for me to be able to follow a strict guideline of lessons for the day, but to be able to vaguely “wing it” and be successful?  It’s an amazing feeling.


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