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Monday, July 16, 2018

My Goals for This Upcoming School Year

I feel like if you put your goals down in writing not only does it help you articulate them, but also helps keep you accountable for accomplishing them. :) So that's what I'm going to do this morning.

I started at a new school this past year. It was a crazy year to begin with because we started 2 weeks late because of Hurricane Harvey. Many of our students' homes were affected by the storm so we relaxed a lot of policies last year including the policy about wearing uniforms.

Starting at a new school is interesting. There's a new dynamic you have to learn. I have always worked in Title 1 schools, but over 90% of my current students come from homes suffering from poverty. The students will often come in crying because mom had to go to jail or dad lost his job. These little ones simply do not have access to the same resources that students in schools in other parts of the city have. I was not expecting that. I haven't had to start with teaching the letter A in a long time. Usually kids come into Kinder already knowing at least some of their letters-either they learn them in Pre-K or their families have taught them those skills. I had to adjust my plans constantly based on what they needed.

My Goals:

1) I am going to be better at teaching reading this year. I look at my student data and I am not happy with the lack of progress made. Now I know we made progress-but I didn't even come close to reaching the district goals and I know that is because I wasn't prepared to start at square one. I am prepared for that now.

2) Makerspaces-we were lucky enough to win a grant and received $3,000 in makerspace materials. Our plan is for all the Kinder teachers to take the last 2 hours on Friday afternoon and have a rotation of classes where the kiddos can just "make". We also have a 5th Grade class who may do some cooperative learning with us. I'm excited to see if this makes a difference in their creativity.

3) ESL Collaboration. Last year one of our bilingual teachers had to escape her room because there was a little critter trying to join their whole group instruction. She brought her class to my room while waiting for the custodian and we were in the middle of workstations. Her kiddos just jumped in and did the activities with my students. We decided this year we would make this a weekly thing. ESL practice for her students, cooperative learning practice for mine.

4)  Podcasts-I have no idea how I'm going to do it logistically but I really want to have my students make podcasts. Maybe talking about what they are learning, maybe reviewing their favorite books-I still have a lot to work out but that is a goal this year.

5)  Organization-this is always a goal for me and not something that comes easily. I facilitate for 3 different book clubs after school and I just feel like I never have time to just get organized. I can find what I'm looking for 90% of the time, but my room just doesn't look like it.

6) Photography Club-again, not sure how I'm going to logistically do this. My plan is to learn about famous photographers and then things like light and shadow. Then I can give them assignments to take photos and see what they can come up with. Not sure how that's going to work with the cameras. I think it will be too expensive to do disposable cameras and pay for that processing for all of them. I have a digital camera that I don't use very often (phone is just easier to use) so maybe they can check that out-but that's a big loss if they don't return it. But I'll figure it out-I'm excited to see what they can do!

7) ESL Club-our bilingual students have difficulty transitioning to English. They just haven't had the experiences with vocabulary to make things easy to understand. I want to do an after school club where we can play games like Pictionary and Life and just talk--all in English. I think sometimes it's just a matter of building their confidence in the language and hopefully we can work to do that more.


What are some goals you have for this upcoming school year?





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Tuesday, July 10, 2018

I Want My Students To Take Risks


I know there are beginning of the year reads that many teachers use-Chrysanthemum, The Kissing Hand, First Day Jitters. If you know me at all, you know I'm a bit of a rebel and I don't want to repeat the same stories-I want to give my students a new experience. My focus the first week is teaching my students about being creative and taking risks. I am very specific with them that I do not mean skateboarding off a roof into a swimming pool kind of risk. But raising your hand when you are not sure you know the answer, or to ask about something you don't understand. To write an answer that is completely different from what everyone else wrote.

Because I believe that literature is the best model, I introduce them to characters who are who they are without any apologies. They take risks and it go against the grain and it pays off for them.


                 
We have a TA who draws a character for us on a chalkboard in front of our classrooms. This year I think I will ask him to draw Molly Lou Melon for me. I love her spunk. When someone says she talks like a duck, her response is to say "quack". She is who she is and we love her for that.


                            Elmer just wants to be like everyone else, but he discovers there are benefits to being unique and being true to yourself.



I think all teachers should read this book. Oddrey's teacher didn't get her. But again, she takes risks and it pays off for her in the end.


When Olive was born she was the loudest baby in the nursery. Luckily she has parents who support her extraordinaryness.



   

                                          Monique goes through her mother's trunk and accessorizes her school uniforms in ways that make her unique. Fashion decisions can be taking risks as well.





Woolbur does everything in the opposite way from his fellow sheep. My favorite part of the story is the end where his parents tell him he has to be like everyone else-so everyone else starts acting like him.



Ferdinand takes a big risk to remain true to himself. I mean a bull who loves to just smell flowers?


Getting out on that dance floor can be a big risk for those of us with no rhythm. Giraffe proves once again that being true to yourself pays off.





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Monday, July 2, 2018

My Opinions on Word Walls

Let me preface this by saying all opinions are my own! :) I know teachers do things very differently from class to class-this is how I do it based on my personal philosophy. I'm not saying the way I do it is right and the way others do it is wrong, I simply wanted to share my opinions.

I do think word walls are important in classrooms for several reasons. Personally, I do not use sight words for my word wall. I know this is controversial. I do teach sight words to the students, but prefer the words on our wall to be vocabulary we have learned which they can then use in their writing. Sight words do not have to be taught in isolation, we do activities every day where we are using the sight words. Plus I always include a picture with the word, for many sight words it is difficult to find a picture to represent it: because, the, do, can, now.

I also believe word walls should be interactive. I do not put the words in columns for each letter and then just post the words on the wall. I want my students to go get a word off the word wall and use it in their writing. I start the year with words we are learning-words like creative, unique, teacher, grit. Then I try to have over half the words on my wall be adjectives. I roll my eyes when the kiddos use "good" to describe everything-go get another word off the wall to use. I use the extra border to make strips where I clothespin the words. They can easily take the word off and use it.

I don't believe in overwhelming the kids with a growing and growing word wall. I usually only have between 15 and 20 words at a time. When I retire a word I put it in our writing workstation where it can still be used.


These are some pics of my word walls-most are from the beginning of the year:



Hollywood Theme-this was one of my first classrooms.


I think this was my NYC theme.


China Theme


Pirate theme


Alice in Wonderland theme


Dragon theme (clever, right?!)


A math word wall.





I don't believe there are rights and wrongs when it comes to word walls-you have to do what is best for your students!






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Monday, June 25, 2018

Using Photographs in the Classroom

I work at a school where over 90% of the students live in poverty. They simply do not have same the experiences as students from other schools in our district. I attended a training once at a school in a very different part of town. The students were doing their activity and having a conversation comparing their trips where they went to the Taj Mahal and the Eiffel Tower respectively. They were in 3rd Grade! Most of my students have not even been to the beach a little over 2 hours away. Many of my students' families don't have reliable transportation and visit the places they can walk or take the city bus to.

Knowing this fact, I like to use lots of photographs in the classroom. Photos from different cultures, photos from all over the world. I really like the site: https://www.nbcnews.com/news/week-in-pictures , however there are many different "This Week in Pictures" sites from various news organizations. I would not recommend letting the students on the site themselves-sometimes there are graphic pics from war and protests. But they have a lot of human interest pictures.


So how do I use them in the classroom (all pics are from the site above): 


1) Our objectives include speaking in complete sentences-so describe this picture in a complete sentence as part of our morning whole group warm-up:







2) Telling stories: tell me a story about this picture-beginning, middle, end.



3) Creating titles or captions:




4) Math-how many squares? How many wheels? 




5) Unanswered questions: what questions do we still have about this picture.



6) Social Studies-current events/comparing cultures









7) To inspire writing-look at this picture and write a story. Sometimes I give everyone a different picture-then this can be a workstation.




8) Teaching empathy-how does the picture make you feel? How do the people in the picture feel?




9) Big Ideas-what could this picture represent?




I'm so excited to be starting a Photography Club for our students this year. I am hoping to teach them about famous photographers like my favorite, Ansel Adams and then teach them the basics about taking photos. I want them to learn there's more than just taking selfies. :) If anyone has had a club like this in elementary and has any suggestions-I would love to hear them. Still trying to figure out the logistics. I think using disposable cameras would be too expensive and I don't know about letting them take the digital cameras home. But we'll figure it out! :) 



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Thursday, June 21, 2018

A Debate on Unicorns

I love teaching the concept of Ethics from Kaplan's Depth and Complexity. It is basically just taking a side and defending it. Pro vs con, right vs wrong-what is your opinion. This skill is important for many reasons but one of the reasons I think it's so important that this generation learn how to do it is reading comments people make on social media. So someone says teachers should be paid more and the response is "shut up". That's an argument?! I mean I don't expect people to be able to change people's minds online, but you can at least make a better argument.

We read lots of unicorn books this year because I had a number of students who LOVED them. My question was: are unicorns real? Here were their responses:












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Sunday, June 17, 2018

Books To Celebrate Dads

I find there are many more books about moms than dads. These are some of my favorite titles:


If I were you and you were me-a dad and his daughter think about what would happen if they switched places.

 

This beautiful story by Eric Carle has a Dad going to the ends of the earth to please his daughter.


Father/child relationships are the same around the world.


Another great story detailing what dads do for their children.


This is on Reading Rainbow on the Discovery Education site if you have access to that. Many of our students have parents who are incarcerated-this story is about the day they get visitors.


Robert Frost was their father-life with a poet.




This is also one of my favorite videos:






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