Saturday, October 3, 2015

Failure is a Good Thing

I have heard a lot about failure recently. Last year I was at a conference where the keynote speaker spoke about failure for his whole address. I have read articles and blog posts promoting the good part about failure. (When I say "failure" I don't mean academically failing, like having to repeat a grade, but failing at an experience and picking yourself up and moving on.) Imagine what a different world we'd be in today if innovators like Steve Jobs or Malala gave up the first time they failed.

This is something I have to agree we don't teach enough. In the past, maybe 10 years or so there has been such a change in our beliefs about children and their self-esteem. We have moved to be a culture where we feel we have to protect the feelings of our children and let everyone win. I have a friend who works at a daycare center where the only way they are allowed to play musical chairs is if everyone sits down every time the music stops-you don't take any chairs away so no one loses and has to get upset. I actually have a theory that this why we have so many kiddos today who give up super-easily. My sister has college students in her English classes who complain the books they have to read are too hard or have no problem copying parts of other people's work instead of putting in time on developing their own. There are kids who would rather quit the team than put the work in it would take to become a winner. I think fear of failure even ties the hands of colleagues and prevents them from trying new ideas. Luckily I have no problem falling on my face on a regular basis! :)

So what do we do about this. I told you guys that I'm using's lessons for my Coding Club, but what I've found that you can use these lessons with all students. This one we did this week was to take 10 toothpicks and 10 gumdrops and make the biggest standing structure that you can. Was it easy? Nope. They started out just putting toothpicks in gumdrops and making a big string-but now how do you make that stand?

The fact is you can do these kinds of activities throughout the year with any materials. Cups, marshmallows, popsicle sticks or any combination. Make a goal who can make the biggest, strongest or maybe give a certain height it needs to get to and see what it takes to get there, if you can get there. If you can't it's ok and we'll think about how to make it better and try again another day. We can learn a lot from our failures and I think that's an important lesson for our kiddos.

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Thursday, October 1, 2015

Why the Leaves Change Color....

We like to talk about Big Ideas in our class. We have been talking about fall and the changes in our seasons. I asked the students to make up a creative reason why the leaves might change color. We talk a lot about thinking outside the box and that was the goal of this writing activity. They watercolored a fall tree (which honestly in Texas is hard for them to visualize-our leaves are green or brown, that's it! :). Then they wrote about why the leaves change color using their imaginations.

because they want to.

That's what some teachers call it in their behavior system. You change your color for "bad" behavior-I like the idea that the leaves changed color because they were misbehaving! :)

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Monday, September 28, 2015

Grandfather Gandhi

So for the past few years we have had a few more students attend our school with an Indian heritage. I like my students to be able to find themselves on our library shelves so I have been on the lookout for books that either have Indian children as characters or are about their traditions. I found a book I  really thought was beautiful. It's called:

It's a little long for a read-aloud, especially with little ones, but I LOVE the message. The message is that everyone gets angry, it's all about channeling that anger into something effective. The book uses the metaphor of electricity. Lightning ranting and raving can be dangerous, but it can also be harnessed into electricity and be useful. I also thought the illustrations were breathtaking. Definitely two thumbs up! :)

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Thursday, September 24, 2015

I've Actually Been Reading....

Can you believe it?! I was slacking off a bit when school started back up again and I still feel like there are about 1,000 other things I should be doing-- but I have read a few good books recently. I'm going to write about these 2 because I think they are books I feel like others might enjoy as well.

A story about a very precocious 2nd grader with a very eccentric grandmother. After I read the book, I read the reviews people gave it and many were put off by the fact that they couldn't tell what was real and what was part of the girl's fantasy world. I couldn't tell either, but it really didn't bother me enough to dislike the book because of it. I listened to the audiobook and would be in the middle of the grocery store laughing out loud at parts of the story. It's funny and poignant all in one.

Reminiscent of The Fault in the Stars a bit, but still I think an interesting read. Madeline has a rare disease that affects her immune system so she has never left her house. She falls in love with the boy next door and takes some risks in the name of love. I read this book in 2 days which is really rare for me-I usually read pretty slowly.

Not at all what I expected. It's a mystery, yes, but the action mostly surrounds a bachelorette party (a Hen Party as they apparently call it in Britian). Not nearly as scary as the cover would have you believe. I did like the twist in the end, but I admit I did see it coming.

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Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Coding Club

I know what you're thinking-you have no interest in coding, wouldn't even know how to start doing this with your kids. I will confess that at one point I thought the same thing. Our school half-heartedly participated in Hour of Code last year (by that I mean about 2 teachers participated-it was supposed to be a school-wide initiative). But the kids LOVED it and picked it up very quickly. More quickly than I did in some circumstances. So I attended a training about it this summer run by

The lessons are very easy to follow and most of them actually have nothing to do with technology. You are having them give commands to a partner-take a step forward, another step forward, another step forward, turn right, etc. You are having them do a pattern of movement to illustrate a loop command.

Well, I held my very first meeting this week with the Kinder and 1st Grade students who signed up for my Coding Club this week. I have to do it early in the morning because my afternoons are already committed to my book clubs, Student Council and faculty meetings. I have not had success with morning activities because for many parents even getting the kiddos there on time regularly can be challenging. Asking them to come in a 1/2 early is a big deal. But I had about 20 kiddos attend! I showed them the following video (  I love that the narrator is a girl! :)

We have all heard that the jobs 20 years from now have not even been invented yet. If you think about it, when we were young we didn't have cell phones, the internet, ipods, ipads. People didn't check out at the grocery store with credit cards or read books on a Kindle. They were not even a possibility in our minds back then. Imagine what jobs these kids will need to be prepared for! Check out or other coding instruction sites and see how easy it is to include this in your curriculum.

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Sunday, September 20, 2015

Making the World a More Beautiful Place

I have always been a fan of the book Miss Rumphius.

I know the message may be a bit over their heads, but I like to share it with them all the same. We read the book and talked about how we could make the world a more beautiful place, other than planting flower seeds everywhere. I even shared with them the song Imagine by John Lennon as an example of an attempt at that. Then I asked them to write about what they would do to make the world more beautiful, here are their responses.

sharing books

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Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Collage for First Responders

My school has decided to make something each week of this month for the police officers and firefighters who help protect us every day. We were assigned to make a collage-which scared me a little bit at first because I couldn't really think of anything to make. We ended up doing a torn paper collage of a heart using red, white and blue. Then we brainstormed some words to describe these First Responders and glued those on as well. I was really happy with the result and thought I would share:

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