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Monday, August 19, 2019

Travel Theme This Year

Heading into Year 18! I decided to do a theme all about travel this year. We haven't had a lot of time to work on our classrooms but I finally have it presentable. :) 


My library.

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I know-I don't agree with Data Walls either but it's a requirement. Every time another student can read all their letters or count to 100 we'll add a car.


I think this came out too "busy"but this is my interactive word wall.


My tables and workstation materials.


LOVE this area! Our Makerspace materials and some posters for inspiration.




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Sunday, August 4, 2019

Books About Accepting Other Cultures

It's just horrifying to watch the news today. People are expressing divisiveness simply about cultural differences. There is rhetoric being expressed every day by our elected officials that is sowing seeds of hate and fear. As an educator, my thought always is how can I combat this in my classroom. I truly believe in having a library where every student can find books with characters that look like themselves, but also that represent all cultures. We do read-alouds about students who learn to value the differences in their friends.

Here are some examples:


Two friends bond over everything except their packed lunches. In the end they try each other's foods and decide it's better to be open-minded. When I read this to my students we try hummus (which many of them have never tried before).


Wonderful story for the first week of school! All about how everyone is different in some way and that is our strength.


Comparing cultures around the world-a great way to compare and contrast. We find so many similarities between what kids and schools across the globe. 


A beautiful story about one woman's journey to our country and her efforts to give her child a better life than she had. She learned English by checking books out of the library!


We don't always like our names, but Alma learns that her name has a long history going back into her family tree.


A book report assignment helps a student learn more about the country she came from.


A great message that everyone needs to hear.


There are a lot of books about social activists and how they made changes. I didn't want to focus on those in this post, however I think this is an amazing story that my students-who are mostly Hispanic can really relate to. Silvia Mendez and her family made the government change the law to end the segregation of Hispanic students in public schools.


I love to help the students see that there are similarities between cultures. We may live in different kinds of homes, but we all have a home where our family lives. This story also exposes students to different countries and what the typical house looks like.


I have a lot of trouble finding stories about Indian characters. This is a story that I even learned from about a celebration in the Indian community.


She goes from house to house and sees the differences in cultures but the fact that everybody does cook rice. Again finding similarities among our differences.


We might not be changing the world but maybe we can be planting the seeds of understanding and open-mindedness. Maybe these students will fight against prejudices and fear of our differences.





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Sunday, July 28, 2019

Higher Level Questions for Back-To-School Reads

You can start off your year by challenging your students to think! These are common first week reads and examples of higher level questions you can ask after reading them aloud.


1) Why do you think Victoria made fun of Chrysanthemum's name?
2) How did the parents make her feel better? What do your parents do for you when you are sad?
3) How would you handle it if someone was making fun of your name?
4) How do you think parents decide what to name their child?
5) Was Chrysanthemum right in the way she responded to Victoria?
6) What would you do if you heard someone making fun of another kid's name?
7) Create a new ending for the story.
8) If the main character's name was "Jane", how would the details of the story have changed?
9) Were there any patterns in the story?
10) How did Chrysanthemum change over the course of the story? Will she still like her name as she grows up? What do you think she'll name her child?


A story about a little mouse with a speech impediment who was unfortunately was named Rodney Rat.

1) Why do you think Camilla Copybara was so mean?
2) How is Rodney like Chrysanthemum?
3) What other things could Rodney have done because Camilla was a bully?
4) How would you treat a friend like Rodney?
5) How would the story have been different if Rodney didn't have a speech impediment? What details would have changed?
6) Was what Rodney and his friends did at the end right ethically?


1) What would Miss Nelson have done if she didn't have a sister to help her?
2) How would you react if your teacher was Viola Swamp?
3) Was it right that Miss Nelson tricked her students? Why?
4) What details would have changed if Viola Swamp had been nice?
5) Why do you think the students wouldn't listen to Miss Nelson in the first place?
6) How would you feel if you were Viola Swamp?
7) How would the story have been different if Miss Nelson was a mean teacher?


Since we introduce so many rules the 1st week, a way to explain why they are important, and a great book about teamwork as well.
1) How did Officer's Buckle's rules compare to the rules in our class? Are any the same?
2) Would the story have been different if Gloria was a cat?
3) What would the world be like if we didn't have any rules?
4) When have you worked with someone else and made a good team? What helped make it a good team?
5) Was it right for Gloria to act out the parts without Officer Buckle knowing about it?
6) How did the speeches change over time, how will his new speeches look?



I love this book! It's about a little boy telling the farm animals he's going to Kindergarten and they hypothesize about what that is because they haven't heard of it before.

1) What other things that the boy does daily do you think confuse the animals?
2) How was the boy's 1st day of Kinder like yours? Different?
3) If you were the boy, how would you explain what Kindergarten was?
4) Do you think he did a good job of explaining to the animals?
5) When the boy goes to 1st Grade, will the animals be confused again?
6) How would the story have been different if the boy was just going to the store?






1. Do you think all teachers prepare for their students the same way? How might they differ?
2. How is Miss Bindergarten's class similar/different from our class?
3. Why do you think the author chose to put the students name in the order of the alphabet? Does that add to the story?
4. Was there a pattern in the story? Can that help you figure out what happened next?
5. Do you think the teacher will prepare for her students the same way next year?
6. How do teachers, parents and students view a classroom differently?




1. Why do you think Chester did not want to attend school?
2. If you were a parent, what would you do if your child got upset about starting school?
3. Did Chester's mom do the right thing?
4. What do you think will happen next year when back-to-school time comes?
5.  If the author had chosen another creature for the characters, how would the story change?
6. Do you think Chester's mom could use this technique for other problems Chester might have, like what?
7. Would Chester's Dad or siblings use another technique to calm Chester down?



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Monday, July 15, 2019

Rigor in Early Childhood

I know I am an anomaly in the Early Childhood world. When I interact with people in teacher Facebook groups or even in conversations during professional development, most early childhood teachers despise the word "rigor". I LOVE it! :) 

At a PD curriculum training, surrounded by other Kindergarten teachers, the presenter started talking about how you can challenge your students. Then the grumbles from the other teachers began. "I read Chicka Chicka Boom Boom to my students today, how can you make that rigorous-it's just ridiculous." And I sit there thinking-do I say something? 

I know where these teachers are coming from. Play-based learning, letting the kids socialize, working on fine motor skills all used to be the focus of Kindergarten and Pre-K. Heck, when I was in Kindergarten I attended for half day and still had nap and snack time. But that would not fly in today's education system. To be honest, I think we underestimate what our young students are capable of. 

So how do we incorporate higher level thinking skills in early childhood:

1) Kaplan's Depth and Complexity. If you follow me, you know I am a huge fan of these concepts. 

Patterns: Identifying patterns in life cycles, math patterns, repetitive poems or stories. Use the patterns to predict what will come next.

Multiple Perspectives: Comparing perspectives-two characters in a story, butterfly/caterpillar, roots of a plant to the leaves.

Ethics: right/wrong, pro-con-making an argument to support a position. Love using stories to discuss ethical ideas. Also, giving students scenarios to write about-what would be the right thing to do. Defend a character like the Grinch.

Changes Over Time: past vs. present-research an invention and create a model for what it will look like in the future, Halloween costumes past/present, technology.

Rules: what is always true about something. What is always true about Eric Carle books. What is always true about moms? What is always true about addition?

Big Idea: why did the author write the story? What is the takeaway from a graphic organizer?

Details: Change a detail, how does it change the story? Setting-time/place changes, what other details change? Cinderella never loses her shoe-how does that change the ending?

Language of the Disciplines: think like a real estate agent and sell me property on a planet. Think like an architect and design a house for a teacher.

Unanswered questions: look at photographs-what do we not know? After reading the story, what do we still wonder? Introducing a unit-what do we know about bats before we begin?



2) Critical Thinking Activities: it's easy to create a sudoku activity-I like to use this on holidays. S.C.A.M.P.E.R activities. Substitute a new setting or write about how a character can adapt to a new situation. New uses for everyday things-have the students write a new use for a paper clip or snow.





3) Open-ended questions. Yes our students need to know how to answer multiple choice but I love to see what answers they can come up with when anything goes.



These are all answers I would not have even considered to put as a choice for multiple choice. I can see who is truly able to apply the concepts we are learning.




4) Chapter Book Read-Alouds. So many benefits to reading aloud to children above their grade level. It fosters vocabulary and listening comprehension skills in particular. Base their writing assignments on questions about the stories and there is the rigorous thinking. Some of my favorite read-alouds.


Great example of how author's use voice for their characters. A superhero corgi vs. a guinea pig with visions of taking over the planet. Lots of opportunities for comparisons.


This is a really deep book. It's about how one character changes over time and learns to love and think of others. You can also compare the perspectives of all the different characters Edward connects with-they all see him differently.



Classic story, I know. Deep discussions about friendship.


I was that kid who thought my stuffed animals were alive and had fun while I was gone. This story is told from the perspective of a little girls stuffed animals and the way they see the world.


Love this book! A robot gets lost and ends up trying to survive in a forest. She learns as she goes and makes lots of connections with others. Ethical debates, rules-what makes someone a mother? Prime for lots of higher level activities.

If anyone ever has a book or lesson and they want ideas for how they can make it more challenging, please contact me (e-mail is on the right)-I'd be glad to help you out.




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Thursday, July 11, 2019

Books About Heroes We Didn't Learn About in History Class

I recently finished the book The Invention of Wings. I listened to the audiobook and enjoyed the story very much. At the end it played an author's note, I love hearing about how authors get inspired for the stories they write. It was shocking to me that the Grimke sisters, (who the story revolved around)- were real people. As was Denmark Vesey-an activist who ended up giving his life to the cause. It was shocking because I had never heard of those people. Having an avid interest in history growing up, I paid attention in History class. I even took a few electives in college voluntarily to learn more. We did not learn about these people and probably 1,000's of other who changed the history of our country.

So once a week, I try to share a story with my students about a hero they may not have heard of before. I actually often learn about them right along with my students. Here are some books I recommend:


I knew about Ruby Bridges, but had not heard of Sylvia Mendez and her family before reading this book. They fought to allow all schools to register students of Hispanic descent.


It amazes me how some people are just born with talents and interests. This was Jacques Cousteau who always dreamed about photographing the ocean underwater and developed a way to do it. He led a charge for keeping oceans clean.


In the Appalachian Mountains families did not have access to libraries-so a group of women brought libraries to the people on their horses.


My favorite part of this book was that when RBG was little and left-handed everyone tried to change that-but even back then she dissented. I had a similar experience-my father would take the spoon out of the left hand and put in the right hoping to break me of being a lefty. :)


Jane Goodall changed the way the world sees monkeys. She, it seems was also born with that interest and talent.


Bravery in a different sense. Joan Procter was the only one brave enough to help an ailing Komodo Dragon. She set up unique reptile habitats to draw people in and teach them about her favorite lizards.


Another story I never learned about. During the Civil Rights Movement, MLK and his allies had an idea to fill the jails with protesters, so there would be no more room to arrest them during their protests. The children volunteered to be arrested and spend time in jail in order to make that happen.


She was told she couldn't be a scientist because she was a girl and that she couldn't study sharks because they were too vicious. She proved everyone wrong and educated people about these fascinating creatures.



One woman completely changed the landscape of a whole city just by planting trees!


A community banded together to help baby sea turtles hatch and find their way to the ocean. My favorite part of the story is this was done by kids inspired by a research project.


        A real life Miss Rumphius! This First Lady wanted to see flowers planted everywhere-highways, parks, etc. She wanted to bring the beauty of the country she grew up with to all children.




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Sunday, July 7, 2019

Expectations for Student Success

I came across this meme on social media.



I think this is an important reminder for teachers regarding their students. I have worked with several teachers who Day One decide who will be successful in their class and who will not. One colleague met with a student's mother the first week of the school year and told her that her son would be retained that year. Sometimes I think the expectations we have of our students are pinned on whether or not they become the students we want them to be. Rather than giving them an opportunity to show what they can do.

I want to tell you the story of my dog. She was adopted from a shelter and when I brought her home I figured out why she probably ended up there. Her behavior was very challenging. She had severe anxiety and would just pace and pace like a shark. The only time she really settled was when I placed her in a crate at night. If I sat on the floor or in the grass with her she would nip at me. As a matter of fact she nipped all the time. I had a doctor's appointment and they asked me if I was being abused because of all the bruises on my arms.



I sought help. My vet recommended a service that comes to your home, which I thought would not only be less stressful for her, but also they get to see her in the regular environment. The couple talked with me as Ruby paced around. She ended up lying down in the corner. The trainer said "she never like crawls up in your lap and cuddles with you?" No. "I don't think she will ever become the kind of dog you want her to be. I think you should return her to the shelter." I was appalled. I felt like they were giving up without even trying. They were convinced they couldn't turn her into the dog they thought she should be.

Well I think there was a reason she ended up with me. I took her to a total of 4 trainers before I found one who understood her. This trainer taught me strategies I could use with her. She taught her agility training which Ruby excelled at. And today, she absolutely is the dog I wanted her to be. She is a wonderful companion. She's still a tough girl, she still doesn't like to cuddle. But she protects me, she makes me laugh and is always happy to see me when I come home.



Love them for who they are, not what you wish they would be like. That's something I'm going to remember with my future classes!




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