Saturday, October 15, 2011

Five Questions for a First-Grade Teacher: Jayme Copeland

This iteration of Five Questions comes with an appeal from an educator in my hometown, Terre Haute, IN.  High Coup Journal publishes the tiniest of poems, so we're also committed to helping out the tiniest of students.  Thus we encourage you to donate to first-grade teacher Jayme Copeland's DonorsChoose project to supply her classroom with important literacy materials in a high-poverty school district.  Anyway, let's see what she has to say...

1. They say that "everything I ever needed to know, I learned in kindergarten."  Why, then, do you teach first grade?

Teaching first grade is amazing, and I love every minute of it. I feel like I am laying the foundation for everything they are going to learn from this point on. I love seeing the looks on my students faces when they read for the first time-- there is nothing like it.

2. How much of a difference is the reading level of a kid going into first grade and a kid finishing 1st grade, usually?

At the beginning of the school year, some students come in still not knowing all of their letters and sounds, while some come in reading basic sight words and others reading small chapter books. I try to focus in on what each student needs, so hopefully by the end of the year students are able to know all letters and sounds and are able to read most first grade sight words. Meanwhile, other students are beginning to read books on their own, and for my friends already reading chapter books, we work on fluency and comprehension.

3. Why, then, is your fundraising project so important?

In these tough economic times, budgets are being cut and we don’t have money for extra supplies. One item I have on my list is a Toobaloo. Toobaloos look like a phone, and students read into them and can hear themselves read. This makes it easier for them to self-correct, which in turn will help them become more fluent readers. To purchase a set of these on my own would be very expensive.

I also have supplies listed that will help my students become better writers. They have such great stories, but until they can read and write they cannot express themselves on paper. I spend a lot of money on simple supplies for my students-- that it makes it difficult to purchase bigger items. gives me the opportunity to put my wish list up and then generous donors help my wish list become a reality. My students and I are very grateful for the donations we receive from DonorsChoose!

4. A lot of picture books are written in poetic form.  Do you have any favorite picture books you use with your students?

I have two favorite books that I love sharing with my students every year. The Polar Express, written by Chris Van Allsburg, and Where the Wild Things Are, written by Maurice Sendak. Both books really bring out the kid in me, and for my students they let their imaginations soar.

5. Do you think you might get your kids to write a few haiku?  It's just 5/7/5 syllables... maybe there's a budding poet in the room!

My students have a poetry center that they go to each week, and we practice poetry a lot. I have never tried haiku with my students, but I think with a little guidance and a lot of practice they would be able to write a haiku... or at least give it a good shot!

JAYME COPELAND graduated from Indiana State University with a B.S. in Elementary Education. She has been teaching for seven years and has been teaching first grade for the last four years.  She enjoys the opportunity to mentor future teachers from Indiana State University and also enjoys being involved with Student Council.  She and her students love Friday afternoons because they are able to show off their creative side by singing, dancing, or sharing their artwork.

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