An Interview with 3rd Grade Teacher Caitlin Arakawa

We took a field trip to visit Caitlin Arakawa, a third grade teacher in California. She shared what’s on her mind this year as she gets ready for back to school!

Caitlin Arakawa Elementary Teacher Headshot

Pick one word that is your focus or intention this school year.

Caitlin: “Connection”

What is your favorite activity to build classroom community during the first week of school?

Caitlin: “I love having students create their own Google Slides quiz about their favorite things. Students answer a question and give three possible answers on the slide. Each answer is linked to either a “Woohoo you got it right!” slide or to a “Whoops, try again” slide. They have fun playing each other’s games and getting to know each other while also learning some Google Slides skills.”

How do you use Seesaw to connect with families?

Caitlin: “Families LOVE seeing and commenting on their child’s work. They are constantly in the loop about what their child is learning in the classroom. They can see my feedback and know exactly the areas they can support their child in.”

Share one Seesaw goosebumps moment. Was there a time learning was captured on Seesaw that gave you goosebumps?

Caitlin: “Open-ended assignments can sometimes seem daunting but they are oftentimes the most rewarding. My class did a Lego WeDo build that related to one of our science lessons. Students built the lego model and coded the motor and sensor on the build. I felt like I needed a way to ensure my students were making the connections to the science lesson so I asked them to document their learning in Seesaw. All they had to do was explain how their build worked, what it represented, and add some visuals. I gave them 5 vocabulary words they needed to incorporate in their reflection. WOW! Their reflections were so creative and so different. I saw videos and audio recordings, I saw pictures with labels, I saw pictures they had uploaded from the internet that supported the science lesson. I really felt like they took ownership of this semi-open ended assignment and hit it out of the park. It was better than anything I would have assigned them.”

What song do you know all the lyrics to?

Caitlin: “A Thousand Miles by Vanessa Carlton. I’m pretty good at doing the air piano too!”

If you were able to have an unlimited amount of something for your classroom, what would it be and why?

Caitlin: “Chart paper! I use it for everything and hang them around the classroom for students to refer to!”

Share a notable teaching moment that you still think about today.

Caitlin: “I will never forget during distance learning, I would have my Kindergarteners record themselves reading their decodable books in Seesaw. They started to incorporate all of the things I do while reading! They would ask open-ended questions and pause for answers even though it was a recording! SO CUTE!”

How does Seesaw bring learning to life in your classroom?

Caitlin: “Seesaw best captures my students’ learning process in so many different ways. I can see my students’ depth of understanding or misunderstandings so quickly and there are many ways for me to give feedback so that I can get them headed in the right direction. And best of all, families are right there every step of the way. My conferences are much more enriching and families take an active role.”

What are your tips to build relationships with families at the start of the school year?

Caitlin: “The first day of school comes with a lot of different emotions for students and for families. To try to create positivity and excitement, I always send a welcome postcard to students and their families with a Seesaw QR code that leads to a welcome video of me introducing myself and then reading the book “A Letter From your Teacher on the First Day of School” by Shannon Olsen. This postcard helps to put students at ease before meeting their teacher on the first day of school.”

If you could take your students on a field trip to anywhere in the world, where would you take them? And why?

Caitlin: “It’s hard to choose just one! Wouldn’t it be exciting to be like Ms. Frizzle and take students to places you’re learning about or locations in books?”

What is the best compliment you could get from a student or a parent?

Caitlin: “My teacher heart explodes when I talk to families of former students and they share a memory from that school year. Sometimes it’s the smallest things that make a lasting impression and something that I would not have even expected. Those small memories are a reminder that every day is another amazing opportunity to make a lasting impression on these students.”

If participants take away one thing from your #Connect2023 session, what would you want it to be?

Caitlin: “I hope that participants will leave with some creative ways to use Seesaw to document and give feedback for each step of the writing process. Honestly, this idea of documenting each step could be used in other curricular subjects as well including documenting the Engineering Design process or Science experiments.”

What is your favorite children’s book?

Caitlin: “Anything that I can create a STEAM project or STEM challenge out of! Especially ones that highlight diverse voices! There are so many great ones out there!”

What is the best advice someone ever gave you?

Caitlin: “Connecting with your students matters most!”

What would your students be surprised to find out about you?

Caitlin: “Sometimes I google how to spell something on my phone before writing it on the board. Everyone does that though, right? 🤪

Join Caitlin Arakawa at Connect 2023 in her session “Cultivating Confident Writers: Techniques for Upper Elementary”

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