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EYE ON EDUCATION: A black Lab, Chromebooks and lots of Q&A

A day in the life of a third-grade class at Lake Placid Elementary School

September 14, 2018
By GRIFFIN KELLY - Staff Writer (gkelly@adirondackdailyenterprise.com) , Lake Placid News

LAKE PLACID - Patricia Damp wanted to challenge her students.

"I think we can collectively ready 50 books a month," she said to her third graders at the Lake Placid Elementary School, "and if we reach that goal, we'll have a popsicle party."

The children got excited after hearing that.

Article Photos

Lake Placid Elementary School third-grade teacher Patricia Damp makes sure her students are enjoying lunch and socializing in the cafeteria Tuesday, Sept. 11.
(News photo — Griffin Kelly)

One boy raised his hand and asked, "so if we read 100 books in a month, does that mean we get two popsicle parties?"

Tuesday, Sept. 11 marked the fourth day of the 2018-19 school year for LPES students. Damp has taught for 16 years, and the past six have been for third grade. She said she believes third grade is a pivotal year for students, one where they start to come into their own academically and socially.

Over the next 10 months, the third graders will learn multiplication, division, simple machines, heredity, weather and informational, persuasive and opinion writing.

"There's a lot for them to do," Damp said. "It's a huge grade for them."

Damp's classroom looks like many elementary school classrooms. There's a rug on the floor that is also a map of the world, pictures of the solar system across the wall near the windows, and taped to the back wall was a list of classroom rules. It included sentiments such as "listen to the teacher," "be nice to everyone" and "be respectful and have good manners."

One unique addition to Damp's classroom is a friendly black Labrador retriever named Cinder. LPES Principal Sonja Franklin also regularly brings her certified therapy Labradoodle Ries to school.

"I think it gives [students] something to look forward to," Damp said. "They come in and they're just excited to see Cinder. There's a definite connection that, I think, they make with the dog. Not everybody has a dog, so for some kids, this is their chance. He definitely brings a lot to the class. The students really like to play with him, and they always want to pet him, but at a point, they definitely start learning that he's here to work, too."

At around 10 a.m., it was time for a snack and show and tell, a chance for students to not only express themselves but also practice talking to large groups.

First up was Autumn Branchaud. She showed off her rock collection, a picture of her at the Ice Palace in Saranac Lake and a souvenir from her trip to Niagara Falls this summer.

"We learned that Autumn likes to be outside, and she likes to travel, right class?" Damp said.

Next was Caitlin St. Louis. She was a little shy and talked more to Damp than her fellow students at first.

"I want you to turn around," Damp said. "Remember, we're practicing talking to our friends, class."

St. Louis presented her sketchbook, which contained drawings of her family and rooster.

Finally was Nicholas Adragna. He broke out his favorite pair of sunglasses.

"I have blue eyes, so that means I'm more sensitive to light," he said.

He then took out a Milk Bone, the type of treats he feeds his dog at home. Adragna gave it to Cinder afterward.

After they had finished passing around personal memorabilia and snacking on Doritos and Pepperidge Farm cookies, the students were ready for a lesson. Damp called them up one at a time to retrieve their Chromebook laptops, personal computers designed by Google. The students held them like delicate barbells, making sure not to drop them. Damp applauded the students for keeping the Chromebooks closed until she instructed to open them.

This is the first year when every third grader has their own Chromebook, and Damp said the students love it. She said kids these days are more comfortable with computers at younger ages, and typing also reduces the amount of time students spend rewriting essays and stories.

Damp then had the students sign on to her personal teaching website. The prompt - what book genre do you like best? The students had a choice of three options: fiction, non-fiction and graphic novel.

"Can anyone tell me what fiction means?" Damp asked.

A little girl in the back of class raised her hand and hesitantly said, "fiction means it's true and it really happened."

"Show of hands," Damp said, "how many people think fiction is true?"

A few students raised their hands. Some put them back down, unsure of what the answer was.

"Fiction means not true," Damp explained. "For example, 'Katie Woo' (a children's series about a Chinese-American girl) is fiction because it's not true. 'Harry Potter' is fiction because it's not real."

"Really?" one student asked.

One of the challenges that comes with teaching 9- and 10-year-olds is that they have a lot of energy.

During the genre lesson, some kids talked to their friends, others walked around and a few stood at their desks performing trendy dance moves like the Floss and the Moonwalk.

"Some kids are antsy, and they like to stand," Damp said. "You'll notice we have three different types of seating in the classroom. There are standing desks, kneeling desks and regular old sitting desks. Some kids will sit with their knees up or rock back and forth on their chairs or fall over, so the kneeling and standing keeps them a little more stable and on the ground.

Damp mimicked a person who was unnaturally laser focused.

"I don't expect them to do that every day," she said. "They can't do it. I can't do it.

"I think it actually has them more focused if they're able to move around a little bit. You know, they don't they don't need a real reprimand to be quiet - just a gentle reminder."

Damp said she likes to assign a lot of group work, so the talking and moving is actually an indication that the students are working together.

When it comes to the best part about being a teacher, Damp said it's the kids.

"There isn't a day that goes by that I haven't learned something new from them," she said. "You really get to improve every year, and something didn't work the day before, you can try to make it better the next day. You see the kids come in, and they're excited and they're happy. Or the end of the day when they leave they've got a smile on their face. What other job do you get a hug, and 'I love you' or a 'great job'?"

The relationships she builds with the kids also fuels the hardest part of the job.

"Saying goodbye," Damp said. "That's always very tough. You form such a bond as a teacher, and to say goodbye after 10 months. It's a lot of tears and a lot of heartache. But then you get to start all over again. You get to fall in love again and replay it."

 
 

 

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