For the past few weeks I have been volunteering for Mrs. Seutter’s first grade class at Pine Meadow Elementary. There are twenty-two students in her class, and their ages range from six to seven. I volunteer every Monday through Friday, except Wednesdays, from 8:30 in the morning to 9:50 a. m. During that time the first graders get all settled in. When I first arrive they are usually reading, working on an assignment that the teacher gives them, writing down their addresses, or talking to the teacher.
After they have done everything, the teacher projects on the smartboard a dance along video that the kids can dance to so they can lose some of the energy they have. After their dance they all go sit in a group next to the whiteboard to discuss their morning plans. They all read what the whiteboard says and at the end of the reading is a question that they all have to answer. Once the teacher has explained what the plan is for the day, the kids do several things. Some days they take math or vocabulary tests and other days they read or work on unfinished assignments.
By the time I have to leave, the kids are usually having snack time and talking with one another but on rare days they are reading to each other silently. In Mrs. Seutter’s classroom there is two large window looking out at the playground, a main door, a sink with paper towels, and cupboards over the sink. There is also a main bookshelf, Mrs. Seutter’s desk, mailboxes for the kids, one large whiteboard in the front, and two tables by the windows. On the walls of Mrs. Seutter’s room are several posters and pictures. Most of the posters are encouraging words, while others are to help with vocabulary and the alphabet.
One of the theorists that we have learned about in class was B. F. Skinner. Skinner states that if a child is reinforced positively, that child will more than likely repeat that behavior. Many situations supported this theory in my class. One scenario that I witnessed on the first day of volunteering was when Mrs. Seutter praised Natalia for reading quietly at her desk. Mrs. Seutter told Natalia that she could pick one thing from the prize bucket. Because Natalia got a prize for sitting so quietly and following the directions, the rest of the classroom went silent in hopes that they too would get praised.
While Skinner states that with positive reinforcement the child will repeat the behavior it is opposite with negative reinforcement. Skinner’s theory says that if a child receives a consequence for a behavior, the child is less likely to repeat that behavior. I witnessed many situations that supported this theory in class. On the second day of volunteering, Sam got in trouble for yelling in the classroom. Mrs. Seutter made him sit alone in one of the back tables and had him work on different assignments while the other kids were talking and doodling. Sam did not enjoy doing extra work and being alone.
The next day I noticed that while Sam was talking to me he was whispering. I was a bit confused at first until he told me that he was not going to yell and he was practicing on using his inside voice. As the week went by Sam gradually started talking in a normal inside voice. After he got in trouble for yelling, Sam did not repeat that behavior and was able to talk in a normal tone. Another theorist that I studied in school was Howard Gardner. His theory states that everyone was smart but in their own way. His theory was called “multiple intelligences. ” One of the intelligences that he theorized was logical-mathematical.
My first graders showed this when they are working on their math problems in the mornings. They are mainly focusing on adding and subtracting and sometimes fractions. The first week they had two math tests and one STAR math test. In my class there are two different math groups. The more advanced group goes with a separate teacher and they learn more complex problems and some have even started multiplication. Another one of the intelligences is naturalists, and the kids display this when they are reading books about bugs or animals or when they are talking to me.
As I walk around during reading time, I notice several kids are reading books about insects. Some kids come up to me and show me a picture of an interesting bug they like. Others will tell me stories of how they once caught that bug or how they have seen it before. The third theorist that I have studied is Erik Erikson. He theorizes in age groups, and ages six to eleven falls under the industry and inferiority category. This means that they have a sense of accomplishment from their work and they learn about self-discipline. My first graders feel a sense of accomplishment whenever they answer a question correctly.
If a student gets called on by the teacher and they get it right, that student will either smile proudly, cheer, compliment themselves or high-five other students around them. The first graders show self-discipline when they are working on their assignments. I have noticed that almost all the kids are able to follow direction and listen very well. When the teacher or I tell them to do something, they listen and do that task right away. The teacher rarely has to re-tell them to do something. The fourth theorist that I learned was Sternberg.
She stated that there are three different types of intelligences: analytical, creative, and practical. The kids demonstrate creativity everyday when they are doodling on the mini whiteboards. They draw many interesting pictures and they like to have their friends guess what it is. They also write in journals every Monday to explain what they did over the weekend. Above their description they draw pictures to show a visual of what they did. I also learned about the theorist Piaget. Piaget is a stage theorist and he grouped each age into categories, just like Erik Erikson.
The 2 to 7 year olds are grouped in the preoperational period which is where they interpret language literally, understand simple abstract terms, develop vocabulary, and solve problems by pretending or imitating. My first graders demonstrate developing vocabulary words every week. All week long they study twenty-five words so that they are prepared to take the test on Friday. On Thursday’s the kids will grab a partner and a mini whiteboard. From there they will quiz each other by making a sentence and having the partner figure out the word that fits. The final theorist that I witnessed in the classroom was Lev Vygotsky.
His theory is about how learning is based on language and social interactions. Vygotsky believes that kids will work best if they are at tables rather than individual desks. In Mrs. Seutter’s classroom, the students are sitting in desks that are clustered together so they can exchange ideas and interact with each other. Vygotsky also claims that students and teachers should take turns in leading the lesson. Every once in awhile the kids will write on the white boards and ask the class questions while the teacher sits back and helps every now and then.
Other times during reading, the kids will read to the class to practice their reading skills. I think that students learn in many different ways. A lot of the kids love to follow vygotsky’s theories of working together and in small groups. Getting praise and positive reinforcement helps motivate the children to do better and to keep doing what they are doing. I have learned that children are constantly learning and experiencing new things at such a young age. It is amazing how much growth you see in a kid in just one day.