Sunday, June 13, 2021

Reflections on a Crazy Year

So we had our last day with students and I thought I would be more emotional. I taught these kiddos for 2 years and watched them grow not only academically but social-emotionally as well. When the regulations for our classrooms to protect from Covid were announced, I couldn't even envision how this would work. No books, no workstations, no collaborating in groups. Students would have to stay apart from each other and wear masks. But these kids were such troopers-they followed the rules without complaint.

Reflecting on this year I do have some things we did that I will keep in my practice. I loved using Pear Deck and Blooket-will continue to integrate those. Pear Deck I will even use to record activities for a sub in the future.

Virtual field trips-we went somewhere every Friday afternoon. My students learned about other cultures and even chose countries on the map they wanted to learn more about. They can still identify many of the flags. We also went to museums and planetariums. This I will continue with future classes.

The district had us begin our day focusing on SEL skills. I read stories that dealt with empathy, anger management, mindset, how to be a good listener. I could see the students really putting those tools into practice in their daily lives.

Parent meetings on Teams-I think it was good for parents to be able to login from anywhere and still attend our meetings. I plan to continue this.

I was always that student who worked hard for A's in school. I still have that mindset when it comes to evaluations. I worked harder this year than I have ever worked and got the worst evaluations of my career-and I have come to terms with the fact that what my administrators are looking for is not always what is best for my students-and I will always side with what is best for my students. Half my 1st grade class could already pass the 2nd grade high frequency word test. My kids learned a lot this year!

How did your year go? What things will you keep in your practice for upcoming years?

Thursday, June 10, 2021

End of Year Read-Alouds

It is very important to me that we build a passion for reading in our students. I put a lot of thought in the books that we read the last few weeks.

Here are some of my favorites:

An easy read about putting down devices and appreciating nature.

Great advice for boys and girls to hear.

This is a great book to use with an activity for the kids to illustrate your common sayings.

A beautiful story about what we wish for others.

Some of my students still have not mastered skills they need to master---yet!

This is my go-to book for baby showers. I just think it's a beautifully illustrated story about not necessarily following the crowd and forging your own path.

True story of Barbara Jordan and how she joined the civic world to voice her concerns and solutions.

What are your favorite end-of-year reads?

Sunday, June 6, 2021

This Has Been Some Year!

March of 2020 we found out very suddenly that there would be no in-class sessions for the rest of the school year. We were thrown for a loop. Didn't know even where to start with virtual classes. I recorded rudimentary videos that I posted with Google Classroom activities. I had about 3 students who logged in regularly to complete them. But I felt helpless in encouraging more participation-I work in a Title 1 school, my families didn't even all have devices or internet service. We treaded water for the last 3 months and made a pledge to figure out something better for the fall.

I was incredibly lucky because I looped with my students. Even though we were fully virtual for the first 6 weeks, I already knew the students and their families. Now that we were 1st Graders, grades mattered. I spent a lot of time over the summer watching webinars and playing with programs that could help my students submit work virtually. I discovered Pear Deck and Blooket-they were staples to help keep my kids engaged this year.

Many students worked hard. Many students made incredible progress. It was very difficult for me to keep my virtual students engaged and several would only login for an hour a day. My administration did monthly walkthroughs and we were sent e-mails with a list of things we were doing wrong. For the first time in my career my final evaluation had 2's (needs improvement). They didn't understand that we couldn't apply the same standards for in-class teaching to hybrid classes. I was very proud of the successes my students had this year. Their district test scores were above our campus and district average. They learned how to navigate digital resources and now can even take a screenshot and make it their background completely independently.

It was a tough year for sure. But in all the talk about gaps and learning loss, we need to remember there were huge gains as well. I congratulate all teachers who muddled their way through this year.

Wednesday, May 26, 2021

Making Bubble Maps More Rigorous

Bubble maps are a great way to have students describe a character. I don't give them templates because I want them to come up with as many as they are capable of coming up with-naturally differentiated. After they write their adjectives I have them choose one and write about the evidence for that in the story. It's easy to say a character is brave-but why? It generates great discussions. We described Swift from A Wolf Called Wander and one of my students asked can you be brave and scared at the same time? 

Here are some examples; 

Tuesday, May 25, 2021

A Wolf Called Wander

I participate in a district-wide reading program. A list is put together that is mostly Bluebonnet Nominee's and each year I have the wonderful opportunity to read a number of new titles.

This book was on last year's list:

My students love stories about animals and this one is a great example of a first person narrative. Based on the true journey of a real wolf in Oregon who left his pack and traveled alone over 1,000 miles. This story is one of resilience, determination and the importance of packs. There are parts that I skipped-even though we have learned about the food chain, they didn't like the detailed summaries of deer being killed by the wolves. But it's a story that resonated with my little wolf-obsessed students. They begged to hear the story every day and couldn't wait to find out what happened to our protagonist.

The activities that accompanied the chapters read daily had to do with cause and effect, talking about the difference in hearing the wolf's perspective and the arc of the character development.

There was also this great video from the author explaining her motivation and process:

And this site with other resources. We discovered a real wolf sanctuary only about an hour away. I'm hoping to write a grant so we can take a field trip.

Saturday, May 22, 2021

ABC's of Retirement

Our beloved nurse is retiring this year and we wanted to do something meaningful to let her know how much she would be missed. We created the ABC's of retirement-the students illustrated something she could do for fun with each letter of the alphabet. We did a few letters per day and used Pear Deck for the kiddos to illustrate their ideas. Some letters were harder than others and I didn't want all zebras for Z, etc. I wanted them to be creative. I think it came out really cute. Here are a few of their designs:

concentrate with zen

watch a beautiful wave

Friday, May 21, 2021


We did a unit on informational text and I decided to have the students write autobiographies. We did rough drafts-it was hard for them to write several slides about the same topic. I was so impressed with the details in their illustrations and how creative they were in the facts they included. We used Pear Deck (of course) and this was a multi-step, multi-day project. Some of them lost steam at the end but many really shined with this activity!