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Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Great Beginnings

One of the reasons I LOVE teaching Kindergarten is the progress you see in the kiddos throughout the year. I know many teachers who were discouraged a few weeks into the school year because their students did not know how to write and it's a very frustrating process to get them to the point where they can write a story in 9 months. But it can be done and it's very rewarding when they get there.

We talked about hooking our readers and ways we can use an exciting beginning to accomplish that. Here are a few of what my kiddos came up with:






This is the greatest day in school because it was my birthday.







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Sunday, February 7, 2016

Kid's Philosophy Slam

I love using the concept of philosophy with my kiddos! We talk about ethics from Kaplan's Depth and Complexity anyway, I feel like this is just an extension of that. I discovered this contest because of Terri over at: http://engagetheirminds.com/ . We have entered for the past 3 years and I'm guessing there probably aren't too many entries in the Kindergarten realm because we have won both 2nd and 1st place in the past two years respectively. Of course, it's not all about winning, I do think it's a great experience for the kids as well.

This year's topic is:  http://www.philosophyslam.org/  "Imagination or Knowledge-which as a greater impact on society?"  Deep, right!? The more I thought about this the more I realized this is what I deal with every day! I teach a mostly GT class in Kindergarten. I am all about teaching them how to be creative and think critically, challenging everyone. And then I have kiddos right now who still can't read their high frequency words because that knowledge has not been drilled into them the way it might have been in a "regular" class.

Anyway my kids mostly wrote about imagination being more important -because that is what makes the world work, or that is what is going to save the world. They might here that often from their teacher...ahem, I tell them every day they are going to be the generation that is going to cure cancer, that is going to create flying cars, etc. and I'm glad they are listening! :)

It's not too late to enter if you are interested-all grade levels from Kinder through high school have a category.





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Saturday, February 6, 2016

Sweet Similes

Ugh-I hate when I go more than a week without blogging! :) Yesterday was a big day for me though-I finished my radiation treatments!!!! Not nearly the same side effects as chemo but man, driving out there and  getting treatment every day after working 10 hours (I do clubs in the mornings and in the afternoons) was exhausting! So very glad that is over and one with. I'm not celebrating quite yet because I still have to back to the oncologist and make sure it's gone before I'm official-but at least this hurdle has been accomplished.

I introduced my kiddos to similes this week. There are lots of books that have great similes in them to use as mentor texts, but this is one of my all-time favorites to use:  

It's a really cute story full of similes and metaphors.

So after reading that and talking about what a simile was, I had the kids draw themselves and just come up with a simple "I am as ______as ________." or "I am _________ like ____________." Some of them actually described themselves pretty well.....

I am as curious as a monkey.



My hair is as soft as a cloud.

My hair is as crazy as a puppy.

I spin like a tornado.

hard as a rock (he told me he meant his skull) :)


I am as pretty as a princess (she asked if it was ok that she gave herself braces-they are obsessed with braces).


I am as noisy as a little kid.


I am as pretty as a star.



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Saturday, January 30, 2016

Character Court

Our yearly tradition now-Character Court! Years ago our school would have the 3rd-5th graders so a Wax Museum where the students would research a historical figure and then dress up as that person and give a little speech. Well, I asked why we couldn't have the little ones do a presentation too. And voila-Character Court was born.

We study fairy tales and then I assign parts to kids from those fairy tales. They write a little dialogue together (maybe 5-6 lines total) discussing an ethical issue from their story. For example, Tinkerbell asks Captain Hook why he's always trying to capture them, that it's wrong, they are just kids. Captain Hook replies-I'm not mean, I had a rough life. The kids paint a backdrop together for their setting and then stand in front of it in our gym and give their speeches. People walk through like a museum and listen to each pair. They did a really great job this year. Here are some of their backdrops:




The sky reminded me a little of Starry Starry Night! :)




Our Princess and the Frog pair

Little Red Riding Hood (I guess that's obvious).






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Wednesday, January 27, 2016

New Uses for Snow

One of my favorite creativity activities is to ask the students to come up with new uses for things. The first one we usually do is with a paper clip. Sure, paper clips can clip papers, but what else can they do? They can open soda cans, they can make cute earrings, they can help keep a skirt closed when your zipper breaks, etc. We do this activity periodically throughout the year with different objects. It's actually a good challenge for the kiddos to stretch their thinking-hard to come up with new ways sometimes.

Well, I know most of the country is really tired of the word "snow" right now, but we did new uses for snow. What, besides making snowballs and snowmen could we use snowflakes for? Here's what they came up with:

...to cool hot dogs



for a bookmark (they are super into bookmarks right now for some reason)

to make a cake

a dress


to make a timer



to make rainbows







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Sunday, January 24, 2016

Mentors

This past week celebrated a National Mentor Day-who knew, right? I think mentors are very important. I think everyone should have someone who is there to support them and that they can look up to. My first year teaching I did not have what I'd call a good mentor. She made fun of me for using technology (they were old school with packets of worksheets). She did not help me prepare the kiddos (the way she prepared her own class) for our standardized testing. (My theory on that is she didn't want a first year teaching having a class to better than hers). I left that school after two years and did not look back.

At my new school I had a teacher on my team who I considered to be like a mentor to me. She shared ideas and resources. She was who I inspired to be. Now, I try to pass that on to new teachers as well. I think if we supported new teachers more we wouldn't have so many people leaving the profession.

Anyway, I facilitate for our Student Council. One of the things I really wanted to start this year was a Peer Mentor program. So the Student Council representatives could go into the classroom (they were willing to give up their recess time, so it didn't affect instruction or anything) and sit with, talk to, read with a younger student in need of a role model. I asked my colleagues to send me the names of students in their classes who could use a little encouragement, confidence, or maybe someone else to be accountable to. I got 2 replies. :( I asked our administration to send me names-they certainly know the kids they see in the office all the time. I got no replies. If you know me, you know I'm stubborn and do not give up that easily!

So I ask our Special Ed. teacher if we can use her students and she reluctantly agreed. She wasn't sure about all the interruptions and strangers in her room, but she acquiesced (I can be convincing. :) One of the 2nd Graders who was so gung-ho to start being a mentor, she went in on her own and began being a friend to a student who has about 12 different labels, including being autistic. The teacher said she was wonderful with him and it went much better than she had expected. He usually doesn't socialize at all but was talking up a storm with this little girl.

A little late in the year, but better late than never. The rest of the kids I've paired up with Kindergarteners-they can always use a good role model. I'm excited, the kids are excited and I just thought I'd share our idea with you guys.



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Saturday, January 23, 2016

Interpreting the Masters

I discovered my love of art in college. I was a Psychology major but had to choose several electives. I chose Art History and I just LOVED it! I was fascinated by the lives of the artists and what the "experts" would debate was the meaning behind certain works. If I had taken that class my freshman year instead of my junior year I may have changed my major. But most of all I just loved looking at the artwork. I have no artistic talents at all (besides maybe an eye for photography)-so I am in awe of the expressions, ideas, etc. that artists can capture in their works.

I also love using paintings in my classroom. Whether it's a storytelling exercise-look at this painting and tell me a story about it, or thinking about what the artist was trying to say or learning about certain techniques. Often times we will learn about an artist and look at their famous (and sometimes not-so-famous) paintings and try to recreate our own versions of them. In this case we took Starry, Starry Night and did attempt to recreate the painting using our own vision. There have been times I've asked them to re-interpret a classic like this and then paint for example, what Sunny, Sunny Day would look like by Van Gogh-using the same techniques.

Here is our interpretation of Starry, Starry Night!

















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