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Wednesday, November 22, 2017

Gratitude

I believe in being grateful 365 days a year. I will often be driving to work in the morning and think about how thankful I am to be able to see the sunrise every day. Or think I lost my phone and be so thankful that I ended up finding it. Sometimes it's the little things. :) 

I wanted to write today about things I am thankful for professionally. I have not kept secret how unhappy I was last year at my previous school. I am in such a better place now (literally and figuratively). Here is my list of things I am grateful for:

1) I now work for an administration that is supportive and open-minded to trying new things. My principal is letting me do a graphic novel club this year that I am so excited about, he's letting me try things like project-based learning. Everyone in our administration is so present on our campus. I could not ask to work for a better leadership team.

2) I am grateful to new colleagues who have embraced me (and my big mouth :). The culture at my new school is very positive and I truly appreciate that.

3) I am grateful for my new students. I work in a school that is not in a very good area-100% of our students qualify for free lunch. But they come to school wanting to learn. I ask a lot from them, they don't back down from those challenges.

4) I am grateful for having had the opportunity to present my ideas this year. I presented in San Antonio (about 300 miles from where I live in Houston), I presented at an Early Childhood Conference and I presented to my colleagues at school. I love sharing ideas and have learned so much from others in that collaboration. 5 years ago I don't think I would have had the courage to do any of those things.

5) I am grateful for my public library system. I put books on hold every single week and every time I go in those books are there waiting for me. I have been able to share so many amazing titles with my students because of that access.

6) I am grateful to my colleagues who share their ideas, their and their opinions on social media free of charge!

I thank you for reading this little ole blog!

What are you grateful for this year?




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Monday, November 20, 2017

Comparing Past and Present

"The Past" is a very difficult concept for my little ones to grasp. They cannot even envision a world without cell phones or ipads much less one without cable tv and microwaves. Even though I often bring up the good ole days (when I was growing up we didn't have....) they just can't imagine it.

The day before our Thanksgiving break began I decided we would have our own little "feast". We put cream in a jar and passed it around our circle shaking it into butter. I have always wanted to do that with a class and was thrilled when we opened it and it had actually worked!


Then I read them this book: 


This is a story about different generations of people and how they made whipped cream. 300 years ago with a whisk, then the beaters that you grind, then with an electric mixer. (Disclaimer: in googling the image for this book I discovered that there is actually a bit of controversy surrounding the depiction of happy slaves in the story. I did not even think twice about that when I shared it with my students, but I can see how that might be considered controversial).

So we made whipped cream the old-fashioned way. Everyone had a turn-one pair of girls was very clever and thought they would try turning the bowl as the other was whisking to make it firm up faster. In the end I took the bowl and just channeled all those Top Chef episodes I have streamed to whisk it up fast. The students were all chanting "Go Miss Trayers"-it was pretty cool!





In the end we had biscuits with butter made by our own hands and some whipped cream on fresh strawberries. It was a really fun and eye-opening afternoon!







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Sunday, November 19, 2017

Making Native American Pottery

We listened to the Legend of the Indian Paintbrush on a Reading Rainbow clip.


It's the story of a young Native American boy who sets out to find the colors of the sunset in his paintings. The clip that followed showed a tradition of making pottery. Watching the women take clay from the earth and turn it into a beautiful etched vase or pot was really incredible. My students asked if they could make some. My first response was no-we didn't have clay, we didn't have access to a kiln. But then a student raised her hand and said "we have Play-Doh". Who could say no to that?

So using only our hands to roll the dough, the students made their own Native American inspired pots.
















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Saturday, November 18, 2017

A Plea for Open-Ended

I know we have a lot on our plates. This time of year in particular it feels like we are drowning in our to-do lists. I have a way to maybe scratch a few things off yours! :) Instead of buying a project off TPT or cutting out all the pieces to a project and letting the kids just glue them on --why not let the kids create the project themselves? I promise it will still look cute and they will take pride in the fact that they did it themselves.

We made turkey vests and hats this week. I literally handed them the grocery bag and gave them access to construction paper. What  I love is watching them put so much effort into doing their projects. They would complain that they couldn't draw circles. So I suggested finding something in the room with a circular base and tracing that. They all got pans out of our kitchen center and traced them-look problem-solving too!

Here is some examples of their finished projects:










They can do it if you just give them the opportunities!




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Saturday, November 11, 2017

Unit on Homes

This is kind of an awkward time of year to teach for me. I realize Thanksgiving is a national holiday and everything-most Kinder classes are dressing up like Pilgrims and Native Americans but I want to be very careful not to continue stereotypes that may be hurtful. So we do talk about Native Americans-not only their past traditions but also how they are just like you and me today. I know a lot of teachers also focus on turkeys but that also feels weird to me-have the kids write a persuasive essay on why they shouldn't be eaten? Maybe it's the vegetarian in me, but I can't bring myself to do that either. So I teach about the origins of the holiday and we focus on other things in our big unit activities.

One of my favorite units to do is about homes. There are lots of great stories about different kinds of houses:


My students were so surprised and intrigued with the homes on the water and in caves!




This is a great way to get those creative juices going. When we designed our own houses after reading the story one of my students suggest a Ball Pit House--now who would not want to live there! :) 


This is a great story for some of the vocabulary like foundation and carpenter. I skipped around a bit because it's a bit wordy for my little ones-but they did not realize the work that goes into building a house!


After talking about houses all week, we built our own. We talked about what is was to be an architect and what things would be mandatory to include-like a door. My goal was to put out a bunch of different materials and have them just go to town. But when I opened the box of squares that I thought were going to be tissue paper-they were textures of all kinds. They had brick and stucco and mud-looking prints so we just used those. A student asked to use yarn-so her table of houses had that added. They worked with such focus and concentration-it was amazing to watch. They begged to take them home even though they weren't entirely dry yet.

If I did it again I'd probably let them use sticks or something to actually make a foundation themselves-but I think they got the concept and I know they had fun creating!
















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Monday, November 6, 2017

Gratitude Specified

As we enter the month of Thanksgiving we are working on putting into words what we are thankful for. Gratitude is something we practice in my class all year long. I try to be grateful every day for even the little things (we got an extra hour to sleep in yesterday and it wasn't as dark for my drive to work, for example). We have gratitude journals where we document maybe once per week what we are thankful for.

Now quite often I get frustrated with my students because they all have the same answers-I am thankful for my toys, for my playstation, etc. I want them to dig deeper-to think about the every day things they could be thankful for. So this year I gave them specifications-what are you thankful for that doesn't cost any money, what are you thankful for that you can't see, what are you thankful for at home/at school? We did it together as a whole group-I read the first column question and they wrote it and then we all moved on to the 2nd. Not bad for our first gratitude project! :)















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Saturday, November 4, 2017

New Uses for a Crown

One of my favorite creativity exercises comes from S.C.A.M.P.E.R. It's called New Uses for Everyday Things. I introduce this in the beginning of the year with a pencil. What do we use a pencil for? The students answer to draw, to write, to erase. Yes, but what else could we use the pencil for? To draw, to write, to erase. They can't get outside of that traditional use box. So I use it to put my hair in a bun, I show them how you could use it to open a can of soda. Then throughout the year maybe twice a month I give them an different object to think about a new use for. This time of year I can really see that most of them can now think outside of that box a little bit. We were doing a fairy tale unit so we wrote new uses for a crown.

Here's what they came up with (now I left in the ideas where they said crown-related ideas or the ones like a ball that really didn't make sense- because I want you to see that some students are still working on this skill):















to open my Cheerios


as a spork




Now quite often a colleague will say that they tried this activity with their kids and it didn't work-they just weren't creative at all. Don't give up! If you include this activity in your curriculum a couple times a month-they will get better at it. You just have to be persistent and patient.



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