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Whiteboard Special!

February 15, 2022 | Heather Palmer Welesko

Happy Belated Valentines Day!

Before I introduce the blog today, I just want to say thank you to all the parents for entrusting your students to us teachers every day. We do not take for granted what a gift it is to learn, grow, and share together with your children.

In thinking about this week’s post, I was inspired by exciting ideas, words, and phrases that happened throughout the week on the whiteboard, so I decided to call this week’s post “Whiteboard Special!” You might see a Whiteboard Special from time to time, and that simply means that this post is a highlight of some of the moments of teaching that happened throughout the week–all on the whiteboard.

In this post you’ll see a two types of instruction and one great question: phonetical instruction, emotional instruction, and a scientific inquiry. I was particularly drawn to these instances because they featured high engagement from the students, and they led to moments of action and reflection.

The first whiteboard highlight is the phonics lesson for the week on doubling. Here you can see Mya at the whiteboard:

She is running through a chart that Ms. Lowe made to determine whether or not to double the final consonant before adding a suffix. It’s called the “doubling rule.”

You can see from that chart that the doubling rule needs three elements to work:

1) a one syllable word,

2) a short vowel, and

3) only one final consonant.

If all three of these get a check, that means the word’s last consonant will need to be doubled before ending “ed” or “ing.” It seems easy, but have you ever thought about it as a rule? Most people spell instinctively, but that’s not always helpful to students. Learning the explicit doubling rule makes spelling more accessible to everyone, and this chart is great practice.

Ms. Lowe generated at least 6 one syllable words to test, but not all of them will be doubled. Can you determine which words will need the last consonant to double? Can you recite and remember the rule? Most of these students can! After this lesson, they immediately set to work to practice the new rule. Ms. Lowe had them write new words on a “list sheet,” wherein they determined when to double or not double a consonant before adding “ed” or “ing.”

Another moment of high engagement was when we discussed how trust is either built or torn down. Two questions were used as a provocation on the whiteboard:

This question is asked for several reasons: to initiate conversation between students, to teach how respecting someone when they say “stop” leads to trust, to teach that not stopping after someone says stop leads to distrust and a slew of negative emotions, and to teach how to recognize and name your own emotions.

We wanted to scaffold how to answer this question by supplying word banks of positive and negative emotions to chose from, and also to allow students several means of expression. Perhaps a student would rather draw a feeling than pick a word. Below you can slide through the image glider and see the word banks and emojis students used to express their answer to the question “What do you feel when someone does or doesn’t listen to you when you say ‘stop'”? (For clarity, first we answered what it does feel like when someone listens, and then we answered what it feels like when someone does not listen).

By the end of our discussion, the board looked like this:

The students could clearly see how stopping when asked leads to respect, faith, and trust in eachother, and how ignoring someone leads to rage, anger, and frustration. Students then took action: they committed to stopping when someone asked them to stop. This is a practice, so we don’t expect perfection, but a big goal for the class is applying this practice at Park! We will keep learning and practicing.

The last highlight is a fun, provocative question that a student posed. We are starting a “States of Matter” science unit, and yesterday we learned what matter is and what a solid is. A solid is matter that does not change in shape or size. So, knowing this, a student popped up and asked: We were delighted! I immediately wrote his question down, and we will explore it in science!

This concludes this edition of Whiteboard Special! I hope you enjoyed it, and please feel invited to follow up with your child on any of the discussions we had. We love to hear from you!


Heather Palmer Welesko

Literacy and Assistant Teacher, Grades 4 & 5

Heather Welesko has taught at Mustard Seed School for nearly a decade as a literacy and assistant teacher. She has taught literature and writing at Kean University and Harold Washington College of Chicago. Heather holds an MFA in writing and poetry from The School of the Art Institute of Chicago and an MA in Leadership and Spiritual Formation from Evangelical Seminary.

Ms. Welesko is enthusiastic about professional development, and has advanced training in the Handwriting Without Tears program; the Fountas and Pinnell Guided Reading Program, and the Responsive Classroom/ Development Designs Program through Origin. She continues professional develop through The Columbia University Teachers College Reading and Writing Project. She’s passionate about literature, creativity, comprehensive education, and believes strongly in teaching identity and diversity awareness and inclusion.

Ms. Welesko is a poet, artist, and yogi, and is still, always learning.

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