Monday, January 16, 2017

I Have a Dream...

My students watched MLK's "I Have a Dream" speech. "This is real life?" they asked. Usually when we watch videos about the past it's a re-enactment or even a cartoon. "Yes, that's really his voice". They were enamoured with it. They couldn't believe there was a time when all children were not allowed to go to school together. I explained what it meant to have a dream-not like when you sleep but more like a goal and I asked them to think about our world today and what their dream was for the world.

Here's what they wrote:

We read the book My Brother Martin where his sister says she remembers a young Martin telling their mother that he was going to "turn the world upside down"-I think he's making a connection to that.

.....the world was happy.

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Sunday, January 15, 2017

The Benefit of Open-Ended Questions

I am a big believer in using open-ended questions. It's harder with younger students-I often have to call kids up individually to explain what they have written or drawn. But that extra work is worth it! I love seeing how they can apply what they are learning. They sometimes come up with things I didn't even think of. Learning how to choose a multiple choice answer is important, but it's also important that the students can show what they are learning without those prompts.

This was one of the answers I received on our weekly test this week. I LOVE her perspective. We watched MLK's I Have a Dream speech and read several books about him. This answer just knocked my socks off!

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Saturday, January 14, 2017

If Martin Luther King Jr. Were Alive Today...

My brain is always full of what if's. What if I didn't choose to take this route to work and got tied up in that traffic coming the other way? What if I had decided to stay in Pennsylvania and not move to Texas? I read all the time about actors who turned down a certain role only to miss out on stardom or the other way around-they took a role that turned out to be the role of a lifetime.

I ask my students to ask "what if?" often as well. Yesterday we wrote about what would have happened if MLK had survived the 60's. What if he were alive today. I was just reading about how John Lewis was going to boycott the inauguration for the first time in his career and our President-Elect was calling him out on it. Imagine if we had someone like MLK to speak out about rights that seem like they may be in jeopardy in these upcoming months. Of course, I stayed out of the politics side of it with my students, but I did ask them the question-what do you think he would say or do if he was alive today?

he would say everyone should go to school [together].

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Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Snowman Civil Rights

Civil rights are a tough thing for little ones to wrap their heads around. I introduce the stories of Martin Luther King, Jr. with books (Martin's Words is my favorite). Then I ask the students to pretend they are snowmen-what civil rights would they be fighting for. Usually when I do this activity many of them will write that they do not want to melt, etc. But I think this group really applied what they learned to the snowmen's posters.

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Sunday, January 8, 2017

A Joyful Classroom

We have a version of PLC's every week. The main focus is our data. How many words per minute are the kids reading (our goal for the end of Kinder is 40). How many high frequency words can they read? Are they adding yet? In my class I prefer to count off other kinds of progress my students have made. My class got 7 new students that were transferred from other classes 4 weeks into the school year this year. This made for a pretty stressful class dynamic. I suddenly had more behavior issues to deal with (my administrators let the teachers decide which students they wanted moved out). Students who would say unkind things to each other completely unprovoked every day. Students were stealing from each other, laughing when someone fell down.

I read them lots of stories about kids making the choice to be kind. We learned about bucket fillers and once a week in their writing stations they can write them to each other. I consciously complimented when the students did nice things for each other. I modeled for them what they could do instead of being mean. If someone fell I immediately would ask äre you ok".  And slowly, positivity began to take over.

I wanted to do something fun and joyful for them when we returned from the break. I know a lot of teachers complain about having to come back and the students hear that attitude and often adopt it for their own. I wanted them to know how excited I was to come back and to see them again. So I did a very last-minute decoration job on our class.

When we came back from break, I saw a student help another open a trash bag he was having trouble with. I heard them tell each other that they missed their friends. I heard them complimenting each other's work. I rarely have to deal with mean behavior at all anymore. It's something that can never be measured by data and will never get recognized by my administrators-but to me, that's HUGE progress!!! I will continue to give them the tools to be nice to each other and whether they can read 40 words per minute by the end of the year or not-to me, that is a success that I am proud of.

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Sunday, January 1, 2017

Being a Reader

Reading and I have not always been on good terms. I read voraciously as a kid. It started with books by Beverly Cleary and Judy Blume. Then books like the Lion, Witch and Wardrobe series. As a teen I discovered Stephen King and every time my father traveled for work (which was like 4 times a year) he would bring me home a book by him. I will never forget my 8th Grade teacher confiscating Carrie from me because she thought it was too mature for someone my age to read. She called my mother and asked her if she knew I was reading that and what it was about. My mother replied that she had already read it and passed it on to me-so yes, she knew I was reading it.

After college, reading was no longer fun for me. I felt like I was reading so much for work that my literary life consisted of mostly magazine articles. Several years back I read the Book Whisperer by Donalyn Miller and I realized what I had been missing out on. First of all, how can I be a good reading role model for my students if I am not reading? Secondly, there was this whole world of books that I was missing out on. A way to connect with people through the stories we read. So I made a conscious effort to read more.

Now, I'm a pretty slow reader. The fact that some people can finish a book in one day is awe-inspiring to me. It takes me a while to finish book. That's one of the reasons I like mystery/thriller type stories-I have to keep reading to get to the end and on occasion have stayed up late to finish a book or even got up early to read. :)

I track my books on Goodreads really so I can set a goal for myself and see if I can reach it. This year I surpassed my goal (thank you Winter Break) and I hope to keep increasing it year by year so I can read the myriad of books I have on my bookshelf right now.

My parents took us to see the play Harvey when we young and I LOVED that story. Instead of a rabbit the protagonist in this story sees a large, surfer cat. It's a touching story about dealing with things we don't want to deal with. The kid's family has been homeless and on their way to be again. I really liked this book.

 I know, I know--that last teacher on the planet to read this book! It was assigned for our student book club so I had to read it. I think in a post-Survivor reality show world some kids might do even better surviving. But I liked this story, I liked the focus on one character and the changes he made. It's about a boy who is on a plane that crashes and he has to survive in the wilderness with basically nothing but a hatchet.

I read the reviews of this book after I read it and many people didn't like how dark it was. I thought it was a great suspense story. Two girls are taken back to their father after years of living in the woods with their drug-addicted mother. The story follows the family trying to build relationships again and the girls' trying to fit in when they have never seen a cell phone or microwave before.

This book was recommended to me by Tammy over at Forever in First. I was a little worried because often animals stories like this end up with me in tears. But I really liked this book. It follows both the boy and the pet fox that he was forced to abandon. The ending was perfect, in my opinion.

 I am trying to read more non-fiction and memoirs, just to try and expand my range. This is a very interesting story about a pair of African-American albino brothers who were kidnapped (or possibly sold by their mother) and forced to work in the circus for many years. It profiles that era of prejudice and different laws for people of different races. Parts of it were hard to read, the brutality some people had to endure. And about 3/4's in it got kind of boring and drawn out. I really just wanted to find out what happened to them in the end. But I think the story is fascinating and one I had never heard before.
This book was very different from what I thought it would be. The synopsis says WWII era setting-but that history didn't have much to do with the actual story. There is a little girl who is being bullied by a new girl in school. There is an incident that sets many others into motion and the little girl is put in a situation where she just does not know what to do. I liked her family a lot. I was a little bit shocked by the ending, but thinking about it more I feel like that was the right way to end it. It's advertised for middle school students but I think the themes are a little more mature than that.

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Wednesday, December 28, 2016

My One Little Word for 2017

Instead of doing resolutions, I do the whole One Little Word thing. I have done this for a while now. Some of my past words were things like: bold, forgive, heal.

I put a lot of thought into my word because it's something I will refer back to often. My "bold" year for example, I started volunteering to share my ideas in training our staff. When that voice started saying "that is outside your comfort zone"-I would think of my promise to be more bold and step up to the plate.

My word for 2017 will be JOY! As I am presented with options, I will go with the one that brings me the most joy. I will also do what I can to bring more joy into our classroom. That was one of my goals this year but I feel like I'm slacking in that respect. We are starting off our mornings dancing to songs like "Happy" and "Walking on Sunshine" --so that's a start. 

That's my plan for this year--to choose joy. :)

Do you have a One Little Word resolution this year?

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