contact us

Want to hear more? Having trouble accessing something on our site? Have a comment? Let us know!



Teaching 5th Grade Part 2

Tabitha Helms

Having fully taken over my classroom now, my students and I are really starting to get to know each other. I get the fun of being in 5th grade and having the playful banter as well as the admiration, the love, and the hugs. This week was a little extra crazy because I got thrown into subbing in kindergarten on Monday, which was an experience all of its own. I love kinder, but subbing in kinder is tough to do because with ones that young, it is extremely important to keep the norm going.

On Tuesday, my teacher was in and out (mostly out) all day, so I kept having to make decisions about what I was going to do with the kids. During one such time, I decided to teach the next science lesson. We've been getting into chemistry lately, which has my kids asking really hard questions. I've been surprised at my ability to answer a lot of them, and have a meaningful explanation to give them. But starting Tuesday, they started stumping me.

"Miss Neal, what is it about fire that makes it hot?" "You know when you lie and your body temperature goes up and your eyes get bigger, is that something we'll learn about in science?" "What are bubbles made of?" "What compounds are in pencil lead?" "Isn't iodine poisonous?" "What's an example of a poisonous compound?"

It's practically impossible to research and build my own background knowledge prior to a lesson because I can't anticipate all their questions. On Tuesday, we started having a lot of questions that were off topic. So I told them to save their questions for the end. We'd get through the science lesson and then we'd have a discussion forum and they could ask me their questions, and I'd try to answer. We made it through science, and I geared myself up for the darts that were about to be thrown.

It was a fun conversation. It was nice because I feel like the students don't know me super well, so this was a chance for them to get to know me better and relate to me. It was an opportunity to tell them about the cool things about high school and college.

"Why'd you become a teacher?" "Where did you go to college?" "Do you like college?" "Was high school hard for you?" "When's your birthday?" "What's your favorite animal?" "What kind of degree do you have?" "How long do you have to go to school to be a doctor?"

I didn't answer all of their questions, but I did tell them about the journey I've had through high school and college--building study habits, working hard, pushing myself, not getting into the program I wanted, trying to move from my love of music to my love of kids, and the ability to choose different types of classes on my own. They went crazy that I wouldn't tell them when my birthday was because it was close. They've been guessing ever since. The only things I told them was that it's in May, it's on a school day, and I'll wear a crown on the day of. Now, every morning I get children saying, "Happy birthday" to me just in case it's today. Haha.

After telling them about my switch from music to teaching, the dreaded question came: "Do you sing or play an instrument?" There it was, my answer told me the jig was up; I knew what was coming next.


Unfortunately, the little darlings had been especially talkative and tuning out that day, so I rejected their request. "Nope, you've been bad today. I only sing for good children. When I sub, that's my incentive to them for being good during class--I'll sing for them at the end of the day."

The next day, I was surrounded by students asking if it was my birthday and if I'd sing for them today. I told them I'd explain the rules about me singing after we got back from library.

I wrote: SING! 9 8 7 6 5 4 3 2 1 and stuck a magnet next to 'sing.' "Here's how this works: if you're good listeners, if you're quiet the first time I ask you to be, if you're working hard and doing what you're supposed to, then I'll sing for you at the end of the day. But, if you're not listening or doing what you're supposed to," I moved the magnet down to 9, "then you'll move down. If someone has to turn a card, then you move down. If you are doing a good job, then I'll move you up again. If, by the end of the day, you're at 'sing' then I'll sing you something."

The kids excitedly discussed this prospect. A kid asked, "What if I don't care?" I shrugged. "I don't care either, I know how I sound when I sing. It's something fun for you guys, but it's your choice." Another said, "Wait, wait wait. It depends what you're going to sing!" I laughed and explained to them that I grew up doing musical theatre, and when I perform, that's what I sing. I told them that when you audition for musical theatre, you prepare a 1 minute selection that shows off your range, so that's what I'd be doing for them. They seemed satisfied with that.

You wouldn't believe how silent they were the rest of the day! Hahaha! It was too cute; they wanted me to sing for them sooo bad! They were trying sooo hard! It made for an easy day for me. We got through everything in enough time with 5 minutes to spare for me to educate them about "Wicked," my all-time favorite musical. I floored them with "The Wizard and I" and got a few large eyes, open mouths, cheers, applause, and encores. :) The one student who had stated he didn't care, retold me of his distant, uncaring attitude before I sang, and then gave a dropped mouth expression that he felt when I hit my first note. Haha. Gotta love kids! They tried to convince me to sing another one and to go on American Idol. I rejected both ideas. I said we'd keep the sing chart on the board even after their teacher was back, and we'd have the same deal--if they were good, I'd sing again. It's been working wonderfully. The kids are so excited to hear what I'll sing next, and they have something to look forward to at the end of the day.

I knew I minored in music for something!