Tuesday, February 21, 2017


Our class book this month is all about inspiration. We discussed what the word meant and I sent the kiddos off to write about who inspires them. I LOVE the variety of different answers I received:

Shawn Mendes....because I listen all the time.

My teacher...she is nice.

J.J. Watt...he plays for the Texans and we live in Texas.

Ruth Bader Ginsburg...she says "I Dissent".

And I know we need to work on proper spacing and punctuation--but all 25 of my kiddos are writing!!!! :) 

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Sunday, February 19, 2017

Character Court

Every year my class has an annual tradition-we call it Character Court. We do a unit on fairy tales, reading different versions comparing and contrasting. One of the things we pay particular attention to are the ethical dilemmas--because they are full of them! Was it right for Little Red Riding Hood to talk to a stranger and tell him where she was going? Was it right that Goldilocks is basically guilty of breaking and entering? Should Rapunzel's stepmother had kept her in a tower away from the problems in the real world?

After we explore these concepts, I assign roles to the students in partners. So we will have a Baby Bear and Goldilocks, Jack and the Giant (from Jack and the Beanstalk). I try to vary the pairings so they are not all princesses with their princes-so Cinderella may debate her stepmother or stepsister instead. The students come to me in pairs and write a little debate. It was wrong that you...... but I wanted to ....... And in the end they come to some sort of a solution to their problem. Little Red says she will share her muffins with the Wolf if he tries to be a Big "Good" Wolf instead of a bad one, etc.

They also work together to paint a backdrop which is 2 tri-fold boards taped together. I really let them have creative vision over that board. Some of them came out very abstract or impressionist this year-but they are authentic! On the big day they come dressed in their costumes and recite their debates for their parents. A lot of work goes into it, but I think it's really a successful performance assessment.

Here are some examples from this year:

Gingerbread Girl-they took so much time painting the details of their kitchen.

Cinderella-this was the ballroom.

Goldilocks and the 3 Bears

Hansel and Gretel-they painted things like spiders to make the witch's house scary.

Jack and the Beanstalk

Little Red Riding Hood

Peter Pan (are those the cutest alligators you have ever seen!)


Snow White

The Gingerbread Girl and the Old Man who made her

Goldilocks and Baby Bear

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Wednesday, February 15, 2017

My Latest Reads

I have not been reading as much as I'd like to. According to Goodreads I'm already behind on my Reading Challenge for this year.  I had a bunch of holds come in at the library at the same time, but just ended up returning most of them unread. One of the teachers on our team had to take an extended leave (we don't know for how long or if she is even going to come back) and my principal decided to save money on a sub and just split her class. So a few weeks ago I got 7 new students putting me at a class size of 25. Long story short I go home really exhausted most days.

But I have been able to get some reading in.

I just adored this book. I am one of those people who talks about my dog like she's my child. Lily is also a very loved pup. The Octopus in the story is the cancer she ends up developing. The author so perfectly captures the voice of a dog-the excitement of seeing you when you come home, of getting a rare treat. This book made me laugh out loud (I listened to the audiobook so the people around me probably wondered what was so funny). And it made me bawl. The relationships we have with our pets are so special.-this is a perfect example of that.

I will admit-I am not a Trevor Noah fan. I stopped watching the Daily Show when he took over-nothing personal, just I knew he wouldn't be Jon Stewart. I had no idea the turmoil he grew up surrounded by. This is a heartfelt, charming memoir of life growing up in South Africa where laws precluded mixed race relationships. The stories he told about his relationship with his mother were so endearing and hilarious. I learned a lot about the politics of the country as well. I certainly remember Apartheid and learning about it in school, but I never realized how much it affected families and the next generations. I listened to him read the story on audiobook as well-I highly recommend hearing it in his own voice. Noah has an uncanny ability with languages and that comes through so adeptly as he reads his own words. Highly recommend this one (and I started DVRing his show now. :).

I had read a great review of this book-the next exciting thriller Meh. I wasn't uber-impressed. It was a typical story, 4 friends decide to take a vacation river rafting and drama ensues. I thought towards the end it got pretty ludicrous. I can see them making this one into a Lifetime movie.

Another one that I read great reviews about-- teenagers who fall in and out of love with each other over the course of about a decade. I absolutely could see what the author was going for with this book, but I'm not sure she got there in my mind. I found one of the characters to be just really unlikable and I think that soured it for me. I wouldn't give it more than 3 stars.

Read anything great lately?

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Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Hink Pinks

I LOVE wordplay! I cannot remember where I learned about these but my kiddos really like trying to figure them out and I do think it stretches their thinking a little bit. Hink Pinks are two words that rhyme and describe something-like for example-Fat Cat, or Cool School. What I do is draw a picture on the board (my students think I'm a great artist-but believe me, I have no delusions of grandeur!) and have the kids try to figure it out. When they get one of the words, I do confirm that is right so then they try to figure out the rhyme.

Now this one I was going for "fox blocks" but a "fox box" which is what my kids said works too. If you have older kids you can give them the word clues-zaftig feline (fat cat), (hilarious rabbit), etc.

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Sunday, February 12, 2017

Pigeon Rules

Sandra Kaplan has a concept in her Depth and Complexity called Rules. This one always stumps people because many see it as actually making rules. I interpret it as organizing information. So on a Kinder level, I do it as "what is always true" about a character, concept, idea. This week I read my students all the Pigeon books by Mo Willems.

I asked them to write about what was ALWAYS true about the pigeon. This activity is much more challenging than it looks. Many of the students will write for example-it is always true the pigeon takes a bath, but that is not true-he only took a bath in one book. There are patterns and characteristics that he shows in all books.

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