Thursday, October 21, 2010
Principal Hoshino claps twice to get the school’s attention in the middle of the Moscone courtyard. The students mimic her clap pattern. Hoshino reminds the children about the earthquake drill that will take place later in the morning.
“And remember to….” She waits for the students to respond.
“Focus, focus, focus!” they chant. The children are dismissed to their classrooms.
Gillian Bowley’s third-grade class chats excitedly as they file two by two into Room 203. One boy at the end of the line strolls in dancing to a tune in his head.
The children put their coats in their cubbies and promptly take their homework folders out of their backpacks. Two girls walk over to a table where the rest of the class is turning in yesterday’s assignments. One of the girls, wearing a lavender zip-up sweater, shows off her Tweety Bird folder and matching stickers. Her friend admires the folder and reaches for the stickers.
“Uh, uh, uh,” the girl in lavender warns as she shakes her head and pulls her beloved folder to her chest.
Gillian begins a countdown signaling the students to quickly turn in their homework and take their seats.
“Who is not showing the Moscone way?” Bowley asks in response to a sudden spike in chatter.
The kids settle down and join Gillian at one end of the room, on a carpet that looks like astroturf.
“If you look over at our baseball playoffs chart, what team should I put a tally mark next to?” Bowley asks.
“The Giants,” they whisper in unison.
The third-graders learn how to write a W in cursive.
“You start here, go down, then all the way up, down again, and then all the way up and add a tail,” Bowley says.
“Can anyone think of words from the book “Charlotte’s Web” that start with the letter W?”
Students raise their hands.
“Web,” one boy says.
“Wilbur,” says another.
The class moves on to paragraph writing. The large dry-erase board reads (in Giants colors):
What: Revising our paragraphs.
Why: To make our writing more interesting to the reader.
The kids read their mission for the assignment. Bowley asks them to think of the word “revise” and its meaning. They’re asked to share their definitions with their neighbor.
As they begin to share their thoughts on the word, a man wearing a Giants pullover jacket walks in. He’s holding a pair of children’s reading glasses. A girl wearing hot pink shoes with rhinestones on top excitedly jumps out of her seat and runs to her father.
“Gracias, papi,” she says in her high-pitched voice, sending him off with a kiss and a hug.
Bowley begins her lesson on revising paragraphs, but she notices a brown-haired girl with the hood of her navy blue sweater pulled over her head. Unlike some teachers from my era, Bowley leans in and whispers something inaudible. The girl quickly pulls the hood down.
The children analyze different sentence structures with Bowley for about 35 minutes. And now it’s time for a word hunt.
“What interesting words should I highlight?” she asks, holding the green highlighter she will use for the word hunt.
“Alike,” one girl answers.
Bowley highlights. “What about in this sentence? What word is interesting in this sentence?”
All but one boy with gel in his hair raise their hand to answer. She pauses and points to the sentence. Bowley looks over at the boy and waits to see if he understands.
“I’m looking for a word that means ‘the same,’” Bowley explains.
His eyes light up and he anxiously raises his hand. Bowley calls on him with a smile.
“Similar,” he says proudly.
Bowley highlights the word. The word hunt continues with the next sentence.
The same boy seems to be struggling with the other sentences, but Bowley is patient. She discreetly leans in and helps him. Once he understands, he nods. The hunt goes on.
“Do we have any detectives in here?” she asks.
Hands shoot up.