For our Curriculum and Methods Seminar, we were assigned to reflect and write 5 Narrative Reports. I enjoyed reflecting about individual students' personalities, strengths, and needs as a learner in our classroom. I feel that the skill of writing these narrative reports will greatly aid me as a future teacher. Here, I have included 3 representative Narrative Reports. The first is a learner narrative, the second is a sample parent letter, and the third is a sample recommedation for an award.
* Please note that pseudonyms were used for all student names.
Elise’s Learner Narrative: “I like reading, but I don’t like chatter.”
Elise attends the fourth grade at Wallingford Elementary School, which is located in the Pennsylvania town of Wallingford, a predominantly upper-middle class community. According to the school’s website, “ ‘Just the facts’ does not cut it here. Students are actively engaged in meaningful learning experiences. As a result they gain a wealth of skills, vast amounts of knowledge, and a genuine life-long love for learning.” There are opportunities for students to pursue their interests through before and after school activities such as French or Spanish Club, and numerous in-school enrichment activities such as the Global Warming Group, instrument lessons, Student Council, or Math Olympiad. Children participate in these activities based on personal interest, and are expected to balance both extracurricular activities and academic curriculum. Some activities involve parent support, and parents are usually actively engaged with the students either through the home or school, or both. The school also seems to strive to provide an environment where individual attention is given to all those who need it, especially through their enrichment, IST, and IEP programs.
The most striking sign in Elise’s classroom is a banner in the back of the classroom that states “What will you learn today? What will you teach today?” This particular classroom seemed to encourage an atmosphere where students were invited to share their learning and bring in personal interests. The desks were grouped in clusters, with about 4 to 5 desks in each group. Student-crafted, paper-maché globes hung from the ceilings, and carefully made snowflakes spotted the windows. On the board, the “Do Now” was placed at the far left and the daily schedule was placed at the far right. In the back of the room, charts of contractions lined the blackboard, remnants of when students performed “grammar surgery” on words with the “contractionitis” disease. Several poster size board games were propped up on the blackboard, which served as visual aids for students’ Book Share projects.
According to the fourth grade teachers in the school, fourth grade was as an academic leap for many students. Fourth grade was when school became more “academic”, meaning students started to be held more accountable to their learning by taking tests, student’s responsibility for homework increased relative to earlier grades, and paragraph and essay writing became an important part of their success in all content areas.
According to previous teachers, Elise had thrived in earlier classrooms, because of her independence; desire to do well in school, and her general love of reading.
Physical presence and gesture
Upon entering the classroom for the first time, I did not notice Elise right away. She seemed quietly engaged at her desk. She was not talking to other students, but she was moving her pencil across a piece of paper.
During discussions of literature, picture books, and reading, Elise often raised her hand to provide her insight on whatever was being read. She seemed to have a keen sense for drawing themes and trends in literature, and often made personal connections to text. While her voice was often soft in volume, Elise often raised her hand during class discussions.
In age, she was younger than most the students in the classroom, and she was physically petite relative to other fourth grade girls in the classroom. She had curly brown hair and braces. While her actions sometimes reflected her petite physique, she was more often enthusiastically engaged in dancing, playing four square during recess, or excitedly talking to a friend about a variety of topics such as her new stuffed animal, or the literature club she participated in.
Disposition and temperament
During most classroom activities, Elise strived to listen and engage in learning. Sometimes when she did not understand a concept and would repeatedly ask questions, she became physically pink in the face. On several occasions, she raised her hand during math, to comment that she could not hear the teacher because of other students talking, and also seemed pink in the face. She would also take the initiative to close the classroom door when there was some distractions in the hallway. In her perception, she seemed to work best in a quiet environment, evidenced by her disposition to be uncomfortable in a chatty instructional environment.
Her temperament often seemed mild, but as with most people, she was upset when things she cared about did go to her advantage. For example, she was upset when she did not win the class vote to be the Student Council representative, and when she was not picked to be the princess in the play, after auditioning, and practicing independently for several recesses. This was seen through her deflated affect during math, as in she did not talk much, participate, and she also told the teacher that she was eager to go home and take a nap before doing her homework. Her parents had also mentioned that Elise had seemed upset at home when she was not selected for participation on these two occasions. Elise had a strong desire to participate in several public speaking related activities, but became upset when she was not selected.
Connections and interactions with others
At least verbally, Elise insightfully articulated her self awareness, and the existence of a “theory of mind”, the awareness that others have different ways of thinking from one’s own, which enabled her to internalize the perspectives of other people. Similar to her ability to draw themes from and across text, she deftly drew inferences about social situations as well. When the class was having a discussion about the new lunch program, some of the students began to talk about the supposed inefficiency of the lunch ladies. Elise raised her hand to say that the lunch ladies worked hard all day to prepare and serve the food. She took on another perspective. Also, Elise would usually be the first person to volunteer to include another individual in their group, or to help another student clean the floor. She would often seek ways to positively interact with other people.
Strong interests and preferences
One of interests, which showed through her school work and her life outside the classroom, is her interest in animals. She would often bring “webkins” to school, which are a brand of stuffed animal collectibles. She claimed that she had a very large collection of these webkins stuffed animals at home. She would usually bring in a different one everyday, and take it out to recess. Sometimes, other girls would bring their webkins too, and they would all go out to recess to play with their webkins. This was a way of socially interacting with other girls in the class, another activity Elise enjoyed.
Her interest in animals extended to her reading selection as well. Towards the beginning of the year, she began to read a book series having to do with a animal main character named “pee wee”. She mentioned that the groundhogs were “cute” and “adorable”, and that book was “so good I read it in one day”. Her enthusiasm about the book sparked the interest of another girl in the classroom to read the Pee wee series as well. On subsequent trips to the library, she borrowed informational books about ground hogs, because she wanted to know more about Pee wee. Furthermore, for her Book Share project, she chose to use the Pee wee chapter book.
As noted, Elise displayed a love for reading. She actively sought out books she took interest in, as she did with the Pee wee series. She also seemed to enjoy listening to the read alouds of Cripsin and Bunnicula, and often made thoughtful predictions, although she enjoyed coloring during the read aloud time as well. Because of her explicit love of reading and ability to verbally discuss and interpret text she read, the teacher selected Elise to be the class representative to eat and talk with Jame Howe (author of Bunnicula), the visiting author to the school. The teacher believed she would appreciate the experience, which, afterwards, she said she thoroughly enjoyed.
As an extracurricular activity, Elise also plays violin. She misses some class time every week in order to participate in violin lessons. She also enjoys most types of performance-related arts. She often mentions that she loves dancing and acting, which is why she wanted the princess role in the play. When the class would practice for their play in Music class, she would eagerly practice the dance and song in recess and show the teacher. Although she didn’t seem to project her voice during presentations and play auditions, she enunciated and created an engaging tape recording of a fable. Working in groups, student each took on a role in a fable, and she performed well in this situation. Her interests seem to span, but her emphasis on acting, reading, and animals, surfaced often in the classroom environment.
Modes of thinking and learning
Elise seemed to thrive in many types of learning situations and environments. She also articulated what type of situations worked well for her, and which situations she struggled with. Evidenced by her willingness to participate in discussion and interest in reading, Elise enjoyed literature and most activities that involved literature. She would be eager to start an activity, and would usually be ones of the first to finish. For instance, for the fairy tale finale project, she expressed immediate interest in choosing a book, and came up to the teacher to discuss her book selection. She subsequently wrote the paragraph, finished first in the class, and asked the teacher to look over her work. She said she wanted to get to the finished product, a 3D triorama.
She also shows the ability to think across content areas and apply concepts to different areas of learning. For the fairy tale project, all students created a triorama as their final product. Elise took the idea one step further, and was inspired to create a large, poster size, triorama as the visual aid in her Book Share project. Although the Book Share project was entirely a home based project, she brought in ideas from inside the classroom to work on projects at home. Once she initiated her idea, the teacher supported her in making the triorama.
Her ability to draw themes in literature and connect them to other activities in class also remains as one of her strengths. When discussing themes about Crispin, she pointed out the theme about friendship that no other student had mentioned yet. During a separate discussion about the book Everybody Needs A Rock, she interpreted the same theme about friendship and mentioned that it was similar to the theme of Crispin. Then, she connected this to her life by saying that “no matter how big or small someone is, everybody needs a friend”. Likewise, she would mention connections in Social Studies about how geometry concepts were present in castle formations.
She also thrives in hands-on activities (as do most fourth graders). She enjoyed doing role plays during a lesson by the counselor about bullying, and mentioned that her favorite language arts lesson was the interactive contractions lesson, in which students actively cut slips of paper to create contractions. Her interest in dancing and acting also helped her to represent her learning, often being the first to volunteer for acting roles.
Elise also advocates for working environments that will help her to learn her best. She has raised her hand to say that the class is too loud or that she cannot hear the teacher during math. When she is absent, she often becomes worried that she does not understand the lesson, and expresses her concern to the teacher. It is then that she receives the extra help she needs. When the classroom becomes inaccessible because of the noise level, which she voices more often than other students, she will close the door, or even show physical signs of discomfort (i.e. flushed face, or putting her hands against her ears). She also strives to keep herself organized, but often caught up in volunteering to help the teacher pass out papers, completing each and every assignment, and starting various drawing project on her desk, she mentions that has trouble keeping her desk organized. She also has claimed that she has trouble remembering to bring homework in. This awareness has helped her improved her organization, but sometimes she is still reminded to clear her desk, before copying homework. It is a skill in progress.
Academically, Elise is at the top of the class, and continues to contribute great things to the class. She seems to work well in quieter environments and when given explicit instructions, but with room for her creativity (such as the triorama in her Book Share project). Perhaps she should be given permission to work in quieter environments if she finds the classroom to be too loud for her. She should also be guided to look for ways to cope with louder environments, such as quietly asking neighbors to quiet down, or mentally concentrating on her work, rather than the loudness, or even to partake in the chatter, to see where her threshold could change
Her confidence and love for reading should continue to be engendered. She should be encouraged to continue to make connections across literature, content areas, and in her life. Thereby, she will deepen her critical thinking skills and expand perspectives in many areas. The ability to draw insightful themes and perspective-take will only prove to be a useful skill for her future.
Developing organizational skills is always a process, which Elise will eventually accomplish. Elise is at proximal zone of development where she seems to be able to successfully organize her belongings, and homework, when she is reminded. She seems to internalize these reminders, and apply them to her work. It might help to integrate her interest in reading to increase her organization skills. For example, she could create a chart of her reading choices, in which she must remember to record her book ors her amount of time she has read. It would help her to keep track of one thing in her life, which could have an incentive at the end such as a free book. This is merely an idea. Overall, her awareness should be the stepping stone to make great leaps in her learning throughout the year and beyond.
Dear Mrs. Annis,
I hope this letter finds you well. I am writing this letter to share my observations and thoughts about Karen’s progress this year. Overall, I have been enjoying Karen a lot this year. I appreciate her vivid imagination and ability to enjoy literature. For example, I have been reading Bunnicula out loud to the class, and she constantly makes relevant connections to and accurate predictions about the story. She seems to thrive on reading literature that she is interested in such as when we read fables in class. I observed her reading these fables even during recess, and she initiated a discussion with me about her favorite fable. Afterwards, she wrote an amazing fable for the writing assignment. We did an oral pre-writing one on one, and I also know that she received support from home. She seems to benefit from verbalizing her creative, witty ideas. On this end, I would love to hear how and what she reads at home, so that I can try to integrate more of her interest in literature to help her to grow in other areas.
I know you have mentioned to me that you have been concerned about Karen’s motivation and her attitude about schoolwork. From my observations, her attitude seems to prevent her from accomplishing her best work in certain situations. For example, in math, she seems to grasp the concepts but seems to get “stuck” when the class is assigned to do things she considers “school work”. During writing, she follows a similar trend. She is a creative thinker that verbally develops detailed and in-depth ideas, but seems to withdraw when she is given the task to formally write it down. I usually talk to her individually, affirm her ability, encourage her to finish her work, and then provide one on one instructional time. Sometimes, she replies that she just wants to go home and that school is torture. I find this language inconsistent with her enthusiasm for many school activities she often flourishes in such as reading or her flute lessons. The reading specialist has also mentioned that during their Word Study group, her unengaged attitude seems to distract her concentration and willingness to learn. I have also given her extra time for science and math tests, even when she verbally and facially expresses that she does not “want to take the test”, because I feel that she understands the materials and should have the opportunity to show that. I verbalize my faith in her ability; it is then that she finishes the test.
I am hoping to collaborate with you about other ways to maximize Karen’s potential. I believe she has a lot of room to grow, because I have seen her potential through her fable writing piece and enthusiasm in certain areas of school. I am confident that Karen is an intelligent and creative girl that is seeking ways to express herself in the classroom. I would like to her help her to channel her motivation to many areas of school, and encourage her to see the integration of the social activities she enjoys with the academic “school work” she sometimes withdraws from. Likewise, I have encouraged her to present her Spanish word of the day, because she seems to love learning Spanish and sharing with the class.
As her teacher, I believe it is important to engage students in meaningful curriculum. If Karen does not seem engaged in certain circumstances, I feel I have room to learn and grow with her. As her parents, I believe that you are her first teachers. You know her best. I would be very interested in your ideas to help Karen enjoy and excel in her 4 th grade experience.
Thanks for all your time and support. Please feel free to contact me through email or phone, and I look forward to our future conversations.
Recommendation for an Award
Recommendation for Nick Oberlin
Best Student of Science Award
I am writing on behalf of Nick Oberlin, a student in my 4 th grade class, who has been nominated for the Best Student of Science Award. I will first say that Nick’s most prominent strength is his well developed interest in science that allows him to think critically about science and research his science interests even outside of the classroom.
Nick shows a sophisticated control over all the science, content knowledge that we cover in the classroom. During lessons, he has drawn on background knowledge such as when he shared a definition of canyon and drew on his trip to the Grand Canyon. From my observations, he often makes connections as well during the experiments, such as when he pointed each part of the stream we had studied on a diagram to the actual parts in their stream formations in their land and water models. He has shown that he can accurately apply the concepts learned during the lesson directly to the land and water models. His content knowledge is also evident by his performances on tests. For the land and water unit, he received a 105% (5% extra credit), which was the highest grade in his class.
Evermore, he shows an eagerness to learn. When it is time for science, he is one of the first students to transition quickly and follows instructions. When students were asked to write down their favorite part of the week, he wrote down “science experiments” and “I wish we could do more experiments”. During group work, he will often lead his group to follow the instructions of the experiment, and offer to clean the water spills, because he feels that will move the group forward. He makes inferences about the experiments when the class shares experiment results. For instance he concluded that land affects water when rocks or hills change the stream path by creating curves. He articulated both the observation and implication of the experiment.
He not only consistently shows understanding of all the science concepts, but because his interest extends beyond the lesson, he will often do independent projects outside of class. Furthermore, he shares his newfound knowledge or interest with the class, which enhances the class’ knowledge about science too. Once, after reading a book about tornadoes, he put together a PowerPoint presentation with his younger brother to present facts and “safety tips” about tornadoes. He presented this to the class, and even created a tornado model from a soda bottle. When he has a question during class, I often prompt him to pursue it because the scope of the lesson usually does not fulfill his curiosity. When learning about tributaries, he asked the question, “what is the opposite of a tributary, detributary?”. He makes sense of the term and thinks beyond the definition. He looked up the definition on the google, and later shared that it was “distributary”. I feel he shows his desire to pursue science, which reveals more about Nick than just test grades. This differentiates a good science student from a scientist, one who actively pursues his hypothesis and research questions. Nick is both.
Therefore, I highly recommend Nick Oberlin for the Best Student of Science Award, because I strongly believe that his enthusiasm for and knowledge of science will lead him to accomplish great things both in science and other areas of his academics. Thank you and please feel free to contact me with questions, concerns, or any other inquiries.
Elisha Ann's Student Teaching Portfolio