Thursday, November 15, 2018

Loving Them All

I wanted to share an anecdote with you guys. I have a difficult class this year. Our enrollment in Kinder is actually down-we don't really know why. I only have 16 students so it should be an easy year for me. 11 of those students are boys and just little balls of energy. One of  our admins calls them fire ants-just always moving around. Even at lunch they are just always moving, spinning, running around, flossing. Just teaching them to sit quietly for a read-aloud took weeks and we still struggle with it sometimes.

I have several boogerbears who have definitely given me gray hair this year. We use Conscious Discipline which is a system of teaching students about dealing with their emotions in an appropriate way. We are not supposed to use rewards and consequences. It's a difficult adjustment for some students who come from homes where the correct behaviors are rewarded. I have tried since Day One to develop a classroom community but it's been difficult. They argue about everything! I dread cleaning up after an activity because they just fight with each constantly. No one can help anyone else clean up-they have to do it themselves. In line they just argue with each other-she said something mean to me, he touched me. I feel like I waste so much time redirecting and asking them to be ready to learn.

We have tried using Morning Meetings, having them greet each other and share their feelings. We watch videos about kindness which they laugh at. I even did the activity with them where you pass the heart around and show how your heart hurts when people say mean things-they would yell at each other to "pass it"  and argued with each other throughout the whole activity. 

I've tried to model for them how to cooperate. Compliment cooperation when I see it. Today I said "thank you sweetie".  Another student said how can she be your sweetie-she never listens. We had a whole conversation about how I loved all of them and how I always would. That we all have good days and bad days but that they would always have a place in my heart. My student was really surprised by this. I wrote letters to all their parents to say why I was thankful they were in my class.

I think maybe this is karma because my sister and I used to argue incessantly the way these students do. We can only do what we can while we have them but I hope they will learn how to cooperate and solve problems that arise. We will keep working on it!

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Tuesday, November 13, 2018

Our Thanksgiving Poems

We wrote poems about the family celebrations over the holidays. The students wrote an adjective/food. They came up with a suitable title and a sentence to sum up their thoughts. My students are really starting to sound out their words to write which I LOVE to see! Some people find teaching writing in Kinder frustrating-and I completely understand that because it is a process that really does take time. Only 2 students knew their letters when they started with me 12 weeks ago. When you start seeing results it makes it all worth it! (I included a translation).

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Sunday, November 11, 2018

Keep Teaching Weird

In Austin, Texas they have bumper stickers everywhere that say "Keep Austin Weird". I feel the same way about teaching.

We had a planning session with district personnel the other day and their idea of planning was just to find a bunch of activities on Teachers Pay Teachers. I am actually not a fan (and believe me, I know that is an unpopular view). I feel like teachers need to be more creative in what they plan for their students. How many teachers this week are doing Pilgrim hats (which are teacher-made) or hand traced turkeys? Think outside the box, do something different.

I am not saying that I am an expert by any means but here is what we are going to do.

We are doing a Native American unit where the students will try their hands at storytelling to show how legends were passed down. We will look at the cave paintings Native Americans made and recreate those by drawing on paper taped underneath the tables (to create caves). We are writing Thanksgiving poems and we are making placemats that will be delivered with Meals on Wheels during the holidays. We are also reading non-fiction stories about turkeys and comparing them to other birds (turkeys are survivors in the winter-they do not migrate).

Stretch the perspectives of your students. Do activities with them and read stories with them that they haven't already heard from other teachers. Don't just rely on Pinterest and TPT for ideas-take a risk and try something new. Stay weird!

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Thursday, November 8, 2018

Our Staff Book Club

I worked at my previous school for 13 years. My favorite part of  reading is sharing what I read with others-especially if it's a book that moves me. I tried for years to start a staff book club. I would stand up at pre-service and ask people to sign up and no one ever would. Once an e-mail went out about "book club" Thursday after school and I got really excited--but unbeknownst to me, that was their code for Happy Hour.

When I started at my new campus last year I was struck by how many people were readers. People were actually talking about books! So I asked my principal if I could start a staff book club this year. I spent hours reading reviews trying to decide on a first book for us to read. I didn't want it to be fluff but didn't want it to be too deep either. I landed on :

It has themes of cultural heritage, mental illness and immigration. It's a mystery and considered YA so not too challenging.

I sent an e-mail to my colleagues inviting them to join me in reading and was just astonished when almost 20 people replied! We had our first meeting tonight and I think it went really well. There was a great discussion of the characters and I was really happy with the way it went.

I think it's really important for kids to see adults reading. And if they don't see that at home, they can see us as readers. They hear us talking about the books, they see us enjoying reading. I'm glad I took that risk in putting the idea out there! :)

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Friday, November 2, 2018

A Kindergarten Opinion on Refugees

With the midterm elections coming up next week, we have been learning all about the voting process and being good citizens. I like to use the book:

It's a long book and I usually only read parts of it, but the gist is that Bad Kitty is tired of all the stray cats in his neighborhood. He runs for President so he can get rid of them (sound familiar) ;).

We talked about what a refugee is and talked a little about current events and the "caravan" from South America. I asked them to consider whether or not we should let refugees into our country. I am very neutral when talking about anything political-my students do not know my feelings on the subject and I do not criticize their opinions, regardless of whether I disagree or not.

Most of them have big hearts and talked about letting them in, which is heartening for me because our children are our future after all. 

yes because we can change their mind.

This student changed his mind after he heard the other students' answer.

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Sunday, October 28, 2018

My Favorite Monster Books

I love doing a monster unit for Halloween. Here are some of my favorite read-alouds:

Leonardo is terrible at being a monster. He's not scary at all. A great story by Mo Willems.

Love this book about sorting your emotions.

A re-write of several different fairy tales including Princess and the Pea with monsters.

Love using this book to compare monster families to our families.

Monsters don't say "I love you"-they say "I loathe you". I read this story and then have the kids write about what another creature might say to express their love for one another.

He thinks his teacher is a monster until a very human moment happens when they run into each other outside of school. My students have a hard time with metaphor, so this is a great way to introduce it.

I remember reading this book as a child. I like when I can get excited and do different voices.

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Friday, October 26, 2018

Words Matter

I read a book years ago and I wish I could quote it, but I don't remember the title. The author was talking about how our students pick up on our words. There are ways to frame things in a positive manner. One of my pet peeves is how everyone on campus goes around on Fridays saying "thank goodness it's Friday" or "it's finally Friday". That happened today and one of my students asked me why teachers care so much about Fridays. How do I tell this child that it's because they can't wait for the weekend when they don't have to be here. 

Since I'm airing my pet peeves, I'm going to talk about another one that bothers me. Let me preface this by saying I have never been a run out of school at the final bell type of person. I actually do several after school clubs, I volunteer to help out with Literacy Nights or programs in the evenings. And when I do leave shortly after dismissal it's because I have to go to the library before it closes or to the grocery store before it gets busy to get what I need for tomorrow's science experiment. I have had teachers make comments to me like "you are always leaving early" or "oh I didn't think you would still be here". First of all, my leaving at the allowed dismissal time doesn't affect these teachers at all. It's not like they are stuck with my students or something-everyone is gone. And secondly, your implication is that I am not as dedicated as you are because I am leaving before you are. Personally, I'd rather sit on the couch with my puppy and my laptop and work on lesson plans instead of sitting at school on my computer. I also get less distracted that way.

I think we judge each other too much in life and also in a school building. Our words can build people up or it can tear them down. I think we should be setting a positive example for our kiddos.

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