Saturday, March 28, 2015

Why I Like Open-Ended Questions

I know I've posted about this topic before, but I wanted to share something one of my kiddos wrote yesterday on her weekly assessment. We have been talking about technology in Social Studies and although most of them could name a kind of technology (which was my multiple choice question) I wanted to see if they could apply what they learned about it. So my question was "Technology helps us...." and they had to finish the sentence. Many of them who answered correctly wrote: learn, communicate, have fun. This was the answer I was most impressed by:

Out of the mouths of babes! Her mom said that she has that conversation with her all the time because the student doesn't want to put down the ipad and play with her. I never in a million years would have thought of that answer as a multiple choice question. That's my favorite reason for using open-ended questions-they always impress me with what they can come up with!

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Friday, March 27, 2015

On Being Literate

We had our annual Literacy Night last week. I actually had to laugh because many of my students referred to it as Illiteracy Night :). If you ask my students why it's important to read-they would have a plethora of answers for you. At my table I was promoting my book club and I asked the kiddos to name their favorite book of all-time-many of them had answers.

Our school brought someone in to do a training in the beginning of the year and we were asked the same thing-however the question was "what was your favorite book you read this summer". One of the teachers yelled out-do magazines count? It really wasn't a good ice-breaker for our little community because very few of us at each table had answers. I don't know very many other teachers who read. I post books I like on Facebook now and someone commented to me the other day-why do you read so much? Don't you have anything better to do. And it made me think, why do I read?

So I have also been reflecting on my own reading practices a little bit. I have posted before that reading and I have had a very interesting relationship. I loved reading as a child but as an adult I guess it was just tedious to me. I read pretty slowly so it takes me a while to finish a book-even when we're on break. But I've gotten my groove back, so to speak. I set goals for myself and make sure to schedule time every day to read a little bit. I was in a conversation in the lounge at lunch the other day and asked a colleague "do you read?" and she laughed and said I teach reading, of course I can read. Well, can you read and do you read are 2 different things! I had a book to suggest for her, but sometimes when you suggest books the answer is "I don't read".

Then I see this today (I've honestly never liked him-but this to me is just.....*sigh* :

I know the answer to my original question now-I think reading adds another dimension to my world. It gives me a different way of escape, different characters to remember. I think you spend more time getting to know characters in a book than you can with a movie.  I also love being able to have conversations with people connecting over a shared experience. I can say-I just read that book-what did you think of it? I actually wish I knew more literate people in real life. Now I'm truly curious. How can people, especially ones who are literary role models for kids not read?

One of my students wrote this the other day:

I LOVE that they know this about me and that it comes through. I looked around my house the other day and there are just so many piles of books!

This is now my bedside reading pile (and this doesn't include my pile already started to read for my student book clubs next year):

Pretty embarrassing isn't it? This shelf was empty not even 2 years ago. I can't pass up a deal or read a really good review and am afraid I'll forget the title if I don't get the book right now. I've discovered places like Paperback Book Swap and my library's semi-annual book sale. I listen to audiobooks as well from Audible-whenever I'm shopping or driving. It's helped me be on my way to my goal this year!

So now that I am a reader it perplexes me that people don't read. No judgment, just wondering out loud. Especially people who are role models for young ones!

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Monday, March 23, 2015

Compassion Vs. Violence

I've written before about the Kids Philosophy Slam:

This year the question was-what has a greater impact on society-compassion or violence. Now I did have to explain what those two words meant, however the students, even my Kinder students certainly understood the concept and could give examples of each. Overwhelmingly their answer was compassion. I think that's also what they've had the most experience with at their age. And that's a good thing! But I wanted to share their responses:

My favorite one. Makes me think of a video we watch often:

When you have teamwork, things get done faster.

Compassion....if everyone did that we would all be safe.

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Saturday, March 21, 2015

Gratitude Projects

Gratitude is something that comes up a lot in our classroom. We talk about it when someone brings in cupcakes for their birthday and a student asks "where's the juice?". We talk about it when we have  Donorschoose proposal filled and need to be grateful for those new supplies. We have Gratitude Journals that we write in a few days per month. What are you grateful for in school? What are you grateful for in winter?

As a photoessay project I have them take home disposable cameras and take pictures of 3 things they are grateful for. We send home a clipboard along with it so each can write down what they chose (sometimes they don't remember by the time the pictures come back :). Then I get the pics developed and the kids glue them on a poster and write for each one, why that's something they are thankful for. Of course, sometimes pictures do not come out right (I do encourage the parents to let the kids take the pictures themselves)-so if we don't have a picture for one of their images I let them draw it on their project.

Thankful for my mom because some daughters don't have moms, myself beacuse some moms don't have daughters and my grandma because some people don't have grandmas.

for my mom because my mom is sweet.

My house, my teacher and my BFF

Food, clothes and a bed-because I need them.

My doll because it is cute, my dog because it is a good dog and we all train it, food

Food, house, mom

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Thursday, March 19, 2015

Digital Portfolios

My admins and I have a difference of opinion when it comes to portfolios. To them a portfolio is a file where you store all the tests the kids have taken, including the formative assessments we give on a regular basis. We have to do running records every 2 weeks to assess reading fluency, test hfw lists weekly to see where they stand. This year they even recommended math facts tests because kids are coming to the upper grades without knowing their facts. I am all for assessment-I think it's really important not only to know where your kids are compared to the yearly goals, but also for the kids to know where they are and most importantly to me--how far they've come. But that's not a portfolio. A portfolio is pieces of work that are stored away throughout the year that shows what their skills were like in the beginning and the end. It also stands as a back-up for the "grades" I'm giving on the report card. For example, one of their objectives now is uses punctuation and capitalization-I can pull out the portfolio and show evidence of how I came to that score.

Now in the past we used file folders that we would send home the last day of school bursting with examples of work throughout the year. Who knows if anyone ever looked at it and I'd rather be able to send the actual work home throughout the year so the parents can see what we are doing in class. I now use digital portfolios to show growth (in addition to the charts and graphs). I think this is a very powerful tool. I can pull it up during parent conferences, I can pull it up to confer with a student on their next goals-particularly in writing. I am going to hold student-led conferences in a few weeks and that is going to be a big part of what I expect the kiddos to share with their parents. At least once a week I take photos of the kids' work on a piece of writing or a project. Now I use my class website on so I do not ever include names, I have to crop those out. I put their photos up in the beginning of a gallery and throughout the year I add pics of work.

Not only is this a valuable tool for me in my classroom, I always send it to the teacher the following year so they can see the growth as well. So when the 1st Grade teacher starts complaining about handwriting, etc. I can say, well, this is what we started with so he's actually made a great deal of progress already. Or I can say, I know on paper Sally may not look like a gifted student-but look at some of the ideas she has come up with over the year. This is an example of one-forgive the pics, my computer would not let me save the screenshots this morning.

I actually wish every teacher at our school would do portfolios like this. Can you imagine being a student and graduating to middle school with a digital overview of your whole academic career so far? What might this mean to those who struggle with their skills, to see how far they have actually come?

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Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Leprechaun Ethics

I love having ethical discussions with my kiddos-I learn a lot about them. 

We never get to celebrate St. Patrick's Day in school because it always falls on our week of Spring Break. I did do a lesson on it however, so they would know how the tradition started and how people celebrate. After a story about children trying to trick a leprechaun out of his gold, I asked them if this was the right thing to do. Was it right to try and steal a leprechaun's gold? Here are their responses:

Wrong because they own it, it's theirs.

(we always have to have discussions about how only grown-ups go to jail)

Wrong because you do not know if they are going to do a trick on you.

Wrong because it might be behind the gold pit.

Wrong because they will trick you back.

Right-because I want to be rich.

Wrong because you can trade instead.

Right because they have more.

Wrong because I would get in trouble

Wrong because stealing is wrong (yay, one who has morals! :)

A little conveluted-he got it first and your mom is at work.

Right because then moms can be rich.

Wrong because the leprechaun will be mad...very mad.

Wrong because stealing is not good.

Right because I want to be rich.

And my favorite answer---wrong because the leprechauns are going to be fired (she said their bosses would be very mad they lost the gold!)

So there you have it. Wrong because of potential consequences or right because you want to be rich. Gotta love the way their little minds think (my Kinders not the leprechauns! :).

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