TEACHING IN COSTUME: Jones teacher engages her students

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Christian Boyce has fun teaching, and her students have fun learning.

Boyce, a kindergarten teacher at Jones Elementary School, goes to great lengths to engage her children,

It’s all about reading, writing and getting children excited about coming to school.

“That’s what I want for my kids,” Boyce said. “I still remember my teacher from elementary school who was a music teacher. She dressed up as a witch every year at Halloween, and I thought it was the coolest thing ever. I’m 42 years old and still remember that teacher.”

Boyce’s last name is actually Boyce-Inscoe, but she shortened that to Boyce to make it easier for the kids.

The teacher employs costumes in her class as a way to keep the attention of the students.

“I’m Pete the Cat today,” Boyce said. “I’ve been the Mad Hatter. I’ve been Peggy the Paleontologist. I’ve been Elsa from ‘Frozen’. I have been probably every Dr. Seuss character there is.”

Boyce tries to dress up at least once a week to try to engage the kids with a reading character or a letter they’re working on.

“I was an umpire one time when we were working on the letter U,” Boyce said. “I have been a magician when we did the magic E that you add to words to change them — so any type of way that I can get into character to get them excited about learning.”

Sometimes the kids get a little creeped out, she said.

“The Grinch makeup was a little scary. The Madhatter makeup was a little scary. But they are fine. They like it,” Boyce said. “There have been times when Peter the Car had a blue face, but I had to stop doing that because it was just too much.”

Kari Collonna, a colleague who worked at Lee Woodard Elementary, inspired Boyce to start dressing up for the children. But she admits to always liking the idea of dressing up.

“We had the same teaching styles,” Boyce said. “We would both do it at the same time.”

At the beginning of school, Boyce used the book “Chicka Chicka ABC” to introduce students to letters.

“Some of the students have never been exposed to letters at home with their parents. They didn’t have the experience to go to day care, so dressing up with ‘Chicka Chicka ABC,’ I just decided that it would be a fun way to encourage them to get excited about letters. I just kind of continue it all year long.”

This year, Boyce decided to incorporate chalk writing and pictures into the curriculum.

“My goal for the year is to use chalk on the sidewalk each day or at least once a week,” Boyce said. The students lie down on the chalk art to create a scene.

In the hallway outside her classroom, every student has his or her picture made inside a giant letter K.

“Some of them weren’t used to their name or how to write their name,” Boyce said. “Jones is kind of a diverse school where we have kids who have been in day care since they were babies and then some who have never been to any type of school. We kind of have to do a lot of differentiated instruction and make it fun for everybody. This was just them getting used to their name.”

Boyce uses anchor charts and thinking maps to talk about student expectations.

“Scissors, crayons, glue sticks, pencils. What are they for? What are they not for?”

The children will call out proper ways to use an item and improper ways to use them, which both build their vocabulary while at the same time initiating an understanding about behavior in the classroom.

Boyce fills in the charts with words that correspond with the items.

“It gets them exposed to stories and words and vocabulary,” Boyce said. “I’m putting them in control. I just kind of sit back and let them take the wheel. These thinking maps let them kind of put them in control of the conversations in the classroom.”