Monday, August 3, 2020

Not Your Average First Week Read-Alouds

So anyone who knows me knows I am a bit of a rebel in the classroom. My word walls are not sight words-they are vocabulary. Decorations are sparse as I believe what we hang on our walls should be meaningful. You get the gist. 

My first week read-alouds tend to be different as well. I want the students to hear a story they have not heard before and although No David and the Kissing Hand are cute stories-there are others out there that I think work just as well and give students a different perspective.

Here are some examples:   

A classic story but great for opening a discussion into being who you are no matter what anyone else thinks.

This penguin has a soul of an eagle and doesn't give up on his dream of flying. Great for introducing the concep of grit.

Another one that marches to the beat of their own drum. His parents are very concerned Woolbur doesn't act like the other sheep. LOVE the ending of this one!

Another classic about loving yourself for who you are.

Molly is my all-time favorite picture book character. She has the singing voice of a bullfrog and buckteeth you can stack pennies on but her grandmother teaches her to love herself for who she is.

Amazing story about a little girl dealing with some big issues and father doing the best he can to help her get through it.

Wordless book about being kind and accepting of others.

Tuesday, July 21, 2020

Books To Inspire Change

It's been stressful to watch the news or read social media the past few months. I can't imagine being a little one and trying to understand everything going on in the world right now.

These stories show how one person can make a difference. How someone can help change the world.

A community works together to make a wall beautiful.

Another neighborhood transformed.

Sofia literally fights City Hall to get a park in their town. I like that it goes through the process of petition and a vote. She reminds me of a young Leslie Knope. :) 

Barbara Jordan used her voice to enact change for her community. I can't wait to share this book with my students because she comes from the same city they do!

I feel pretty hopeless about what is going on today. What can I do? I can help instill in a new generation a feeling of citizenship and standing up with their voices. Hopefully children are our future!

Monday, July 13, 2020

Books to Teach Ethics

I am participating in a book study for the book by Ian Byrd and Lisa Van Gemert:

If you haven't read it yet, it's a great introduction or refresher for Kaplan's Depth and Complexity. I've been a fan of Ian Byrd's for a long time. His ideas revolutionized how I taught and this is a great guidebook to activities and questions you can use in your classroom to step up the rigor.

My favorite concept is Ethics. Teaching students to choose a side and make an argument for it. Pro/Con, right/wrong. I do a little turn and talk with a question almost every day. When my Kinder students begin the year, they will give you the answer they think you want to hear. When they leave me, they are better at making an argument to support their opinions.

Some great books to use (besides fairy tales and Dr. Seuss books) :

A boy catches the huge fish that is a local legend-should he take it home and be a hero or throw it back and let it continue to thrive.

Was the boy right? Was the tree right?

A father tells his son to stay by the lion he drew in the sand. The boy draws a very long tail on the lion and goes to the other end of the beach. Was that the right thing to do?

Was it right for the letters to go back up the tree after they fell down.

Was it right for Max to leave the Wild Things and go home?

Friday, July 3, 2020

Challenging Advanced Students

I am going to get up on my soapbox for a minute. ;)

I was looking at some blog posts and it led me to one where a teacher was very proud of how she challenges her high level readers. They read independently and then fill out a packet about the story they read. *sigh* Students who read above grade level deserve to learn new skills as well. The one way to make sure a child loses a passion for reading is to give them packets of work their classmates do not have to complete.

Do's and Don'ts for working with advanced students:

*Do differentiate classwork. Please don't simply give them more work to do. If they are finishing the classwork too quickly then it is not challenging enough for them. It's ok to give students different versions of the same activity and to have different expectations for them. In Kinder some students are still learning how to write their names and some can write a complete sentence. The paper I give them to write on looks very different. Spelling lists can be differentiated, homework. Is this extra work on your part-absolutely, but so worth it!

*  Do literature circles and book studies with them. Even if you just have one student, you can read a book with them during reading groups. It breaks my heart when I hear teachers say they don't meet with their high students for guided reading-every student deserves targeted instruction at that time.

* Peer tutoring does not mean students who finish their work help others. That is your job, not another student's. I've heard teachers say if you teach someone something, you learn it better. That is just not true. If a student can already read their sight words, helping a low student read their sight words is not helping them become better readers. They need focused instruction on fluency and comprehension strategies.

* When pairing your students for workstations, consider pairing high with high. If you pair a high and a low-the high student does the work and it's on a lower level than they need. I've seen this happen in many classrooms-a student who can read fluently is doing and activity to identify letters. Teachers justify this by saying low students just cannot work independently-you have to set those expectations just like you would for any other students. Give them tasks on their level. I have baskets with different animals on them (my students do not know they are grouped by level)-they can choose activities from their bin to work on with a partner.

* Have projects and independent studies that the students can work on when they finish their work. Let them choose what they want to learn more. You can print articles from Scholastic or other sources and let them create a project in any way they want to present the information. They can watch videos on Discovery Education or Brainpop and then synthesize that information into a a presentation. It can be an ongoing activity they are allowed to get out and work on when they are done with their independent work. And when they are done they can present it to the class. This is a much more exciting solution that "go read a book".

I don't want this to sound preachy, but I see students who are full of potential not grow the way they should because a teacher assumes they already know what they need to know, these students are not a concern. The "low" students get the attention, but in actuality ALL students deserve to have that attention. Everyone can better at a skill no matter how well they already do it!

Thursday, June 4, 2020

Diverse Titles Not Social Justice Themed

So much going on in the world right now. I am infuriated by the way protesters are being treated, and inspired by the dedication of particularly the young people to make a change. In my Kindergarten class we don't shy away from big ideas-in fact, I encourage those discussions in my class often. This past year we talked about themes of social justice and read about famous people like Rosa Parks and Harriet Tubman. And those are important discussions.

However, I also think it's important to include diverse titles in your classroom libraries and read-alouds that portray diverse families doing every day regular things as well. The past few years we are thankfully seeing more and more books featuring more diverse characters. It's important for our students to see themselves in the books we share-not just protesters and slaves.

Here are some of my favorites:

A new baby is expected and she isn't sure she wants a sibling.

An adorable story about how the library works.

A great story when you are using the theme of families.

A common game of peek-a-boo-the students often relate to playing with their baby siblings.

A self explanatory title-I love to share this one the first week of school

Jabari is nervous about jumping off the diving board and dad is very understanding.

Ezra Jack Keats wrote a number of books but this one is my favorite.

Also about a new brother that is not entirely welcomed at first. He messes up the toys and insists on watching his own shows. But his brother soon warms up to him.

Thursday, May 28, 2020

D & C Frames to Sum Up Kindergarten

Frames are a great way to sum up what students have learned about a topic. These are from previous years but I plan to post one for my students to complete as their last online assignment this year. They are writing Unanswered Questions about Kindergarten, write from the Perspective of a Kindergartener, Rules-what is always true about Kindergarten and the Big Idea of Kinder.

Sunday, May 24, 2020

Books To End the School Year

Usually the end of the school year is emotional but even more so this year. I am grateful that our principal is having a time for us to see our students one last time before their summer vacation officially begins but it is going to be hard to stay stoic with them. I did get some good news-I am going to be looping up to 1st Grade with my kiddos next year! What a perfect year to be able to start off knowing exactly where they are academically and already having a relationship with parents.

So as we wind down our online learning I have several last read-alouds that I will be doing with my students. I wanted to share the titles because you may be looking for a good way to end the year as well: