Education Opinion

What I Learned in 2nd Grade Today

By Emmet Rosenfeld — October 08, 2008 3 min read
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This morning one of our second grade teachers was sick, and I had to cover her class for an hour. After a rushed tutorial from the other second grade teacher I found myself in front of a class of people a lot littler than the ones I’m used to teaching.

“Good morning, boys and girls,” I said. They looked at me expectantly. “Do you remember my name?”
“You’re Emmet Rosenfeld, Dean of Students,” said one rather observant boy, eyeing the red nametag on my lapel. “We met you on the first day of school!” It was true that I had addressed the student body at convocation.
“Where’s our teacher?” called a few others.

I explained the situation, and told them that I might need a little help to do things the right way. Their morning work was to finish up pumpkin poems using their best handwriting. The boy who knew my name helped me find the laminated card to change the day on the board, and told me that when they were done with their work it was handed in on the orange chair in the front of the room.

While they were working I called roll from the pizza list. Each student told me how many slices of cheese or pepperoni they wanted this Friday. Then it was time for language arts.

The other teacher had pulled up a few slides on the smartboard for today’s topic, consonant blends. First, there was a blank screen with draggable letters at the bottom. Volunteers came to the board to create common blends, pushing t’s and h’s together with their fingers. This turned into a bit of game in itself: What letter can you add to “ct” to make a word? Act became actor, then action.

That was it! Next was a word list. Instead of just reading them out loud, I paired the kids up and whispered a word from the list to each pair. They had to think of a way to silently act the word out, and the rest of us would guess. Stripe, scrub… skit by skit, partners shared the spotlight.

Two boys who sat near each other in the front and hadn’t seemed all that interested in their pumpkin poems took the stage. One started lifting his arms like a monster, the other teetering around on an imaginary cane. Grand!

Next came a couple slides with brain teasers: What word starts with /tr/ and ends with the vowel sound from “cool”? Calling out answers instead of raising hands was a challenge here, but again it was clear that the figuring out “True” was the fun part.

On to “grab a scrap,” where all the kids filed over to the recycle bin for something to write on. The teacher’s manual offered a list of words that started with “sand.” Beneath it was a column of words created by replacing consonants at the beginning or the end of the word above. Another chance for a game.

“Please write ‘sand’ at the top of your scrap,” I said.
“Now, below that, turn the ‘s’ into a consonant blend and write a word to describe what I’m doing right now, and you’re not.”

There were a few raised eyebrows. I was near the orange chair at the front of the room, so I sat in it for a minute, and then stood up as I repeated the clue.
“OH!” said one or two kids, and scribbled the new word under the first word. Evie raised her hand so energetically she almost came off her chair.
“STAND!” she exclaimed, to a chorus of “Oh, yeahs.”

“Next,” I said, “add a consonant blend at the end, to make a word that I need to mail a letter.”
Another round of hemming and hawing, excited scribbling, and frantic hand waving.
“Stamp,” asserted a shy girl in the back. And so went the game, with several more clues and lots more ahas.

By this time, my shift was almost done. “I understand you have book buddies coming to visit,” I asked the class. “How do we get ready?”

As the name tag reader explained the drill, most of the kids were already on their way to backpacks or shelves to get the stories they would read with little pals from Junior Kindergarten. In the excitement of their arrival, I slipped away, back to my dreary office to clear the stack of emails from the inbox.

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