Friday, July 29, 2011

Out of My Mind by Sharon Draper

I facilitate for a book club for our students. We have 2 different levels one for K-2 and one for 3rd-5th. We receive a list of 30+ book titles that the kids (and I) have to read over the school year and then we have a competition in the spring. I've tried to get a jump start this summer on reading the stories. My dog Ruby and I go sit out in the yard and I read while she watches the world go by-so she loves book club too!

Anyway, one of the books I have found very interesting. It's called Out of My Mind and I'm only about halfway through it but I think it's a really good book for teaching kids (and teachers) about students with special needs. It's told from the perspective of a little girl who suffers from cerebral palsy. Her parents are wonderful, but of course, frustrated with not being able to properly communicate with their child. She has good teachers and ones who are not so good-I've always been a proponent of being able to learn from both.

When we introduce this story I'm going to contact our local agencies and see if they can bring in someone to talk to the students about the disorder. I think it's a great opportunity to learn about the life and struggles of kids and parents with special needs. The story probably isn't for very young students, but if you were reading aloud there are parts you could certainly edit a little bit. Overall it's just a very endearing story.

Friday, July 15, 2011

Article on Creativity over Test Prep

still incorporating creativity

I thought this was a really interesting article. Sad that it's the exception instead of the norm; but a battle I've had to fight myself. We take Stanford testing from K-5th Grades and those tests (even though unaligned to our curriculum) drive our instruction. We are given the compendiums that are published by the testing companies that show what subjects are tested during pre-service week before school starts.

I'm a true believer in teach them to think and they'll do fine on the test. We incorporate a lot of projects and the arts and I won't lie and say I don't have to justify that from time to time. We have an incredible principal who let us be creative in our lessons, however, the bottom line always comes down to test scores-which is unfortunate. Year after year I have had students who were so incredibly bright-but not in any way it would show up on a test. It's sad we have to "sneak" these things in, but as an advocate for genuine learning I will continue to honor my kiddos by doing just that!

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Poetry for Fluency

This is another goal I have for the upcoming year. I tried this out with my summer school group and it worked really well. I just hope it's something I can keep up with throughout the year.

We have a poem or song posted that contains sight words as well as new vocabulary (I'm very much looking forward to having a Smartboard in our new school and not having to write these out every week :). The students read it chorally in our whole group reading exercises. Each song/poem stays up for a week-we read it once every day. The first day we identify any unknown vocab to add to our word wall. The last day they  add it to their poetry journals and comment on it. My summer school group really liked the activity and would even do it spontaneously themselves during workstations. I think it really helped them with their fluency and not reading so much like robots. We did songs like the "Grand Old Flag" and "Star-Spangled Banner" as well as one like "Take Me Out to the Ocean" and the poem "My Dog Rags". There are literally hundreds of options out there depending on what you are studying.

Poetry Journals Kinder

Did you like the poem?
What did you like about it?
What is the poem about?
What did it make you see, hear, feel, taste, smell?
Make an illustration of the poem.

1st Grade

What was the main idea?
What were some words the author used to create a picture in your mind?
What sound words did you hear?
What does the poem remind you of?
Make an illustration.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Educational Buzzwords

I had a dream last night that Javier Bardem interviewed for a job teaching with my team next year. I was so torn because his answers were all buzzwords, but he was Javier Bardem!

My principal sent me some resumes to check out for the positions we are filling. Maybe it's just me but the use of pure buzzwords bother me. I think there are many different definitions for each word and who knows what the speaker/author really means by it. I guess that's why we actually interview though.

Anyway, some buzzwords that bother me:

Rigor-I think I watch too many crime dramas-it makes me think of "rigor mortis" every time I hear it.:) Now don't get me wrong, read any post almost any post on this blog and you can see I believe in incorporating rigor-it's just not defined well. To some people rigor means a double packet of worksheets or teaching a 1st grader 2nd grade material. Rigor is more incorporating depth-making the kids think harder, not more work for them.

Authentic Assessment-shouldn't every assessment be an authentic assessment? Shouldn't we be always giving kids opportunities to show what they've learned in a genuine way?

Value-added - ok, you really don't want to get me started on this one. Why is it the powers-that-be are so good at naming things to make them sound positive. We are adding value, right? Yeah!!! Kind of like No Child Left Behind-who's going to vote for kids to be left behind? Good at naming....

Peer Tutoring- ugh! When an applicant brings this up in an interview I always put them on the spot and ask them exactly what they mean by this term. I have no problem with an after school program where 5th Graders tutor 2nd Graders, but if you are talking about partnering kids during class so the advanced kid can teach the struggling kid-sorry, that's my job. Kids shouldn't be spending class time tutoring other kids.

Balanced Literacy-this is another one that has many different definitions depending on who you talk to. Some think it's giving equal time to the different subjects within language arts-vocab, spelling, etc. In our district it's a combination of phonics and whole language approaches. There are probably more variations out there.

New Math - correct me if I'm wrong, but we have an old math now? I know, it's teaching the processes differently, which by the way really ends up confusing parents. Trust me, I was a kid who did not do well in math, with a father who had degrees in engineering. New Math reminds me of something he came up with when he was showing me the 6,000 different ways to do one problem.

Project-Based Learning-again, love the concept! Use it in my own class-I just think people are confused as to what it really means. For example, I was on a website the other day where they were displaying this concept-the teacher passed out the pieces already cut out and the children glued it on paper. This is "craft"-based learning-I truly believe there is a difference.

Classroom Themes

I frequent several different teaching forums and it amazes me that this concept is so controversial. I guess there are many out there who think having a theme  is just "fluff". I've always had themes to decorate my classroom with, if nothing else, it gives me direction. Changing things up each year gives different kiddos different experiences and honestly, I get tired of looking at the same thing all year. You can also make it educational-I've done China as a class theme, this August it's going to be New York City (is it sad I've had the borders in the trunk of my car already for about 4 months? :) What can I say, I get excited for a new batch of kiddos!

We've had Hollywood, the Ocean, Pirates as well-I do have some pics.

This was China-we had a "Great Wall of Writing" as well:


Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Top 10 Favorite Books for the 1st Week of School

So usually I'm posting pics of what my kids do in class--that might prove difficult right now-being July and all. One of my all-time favorite things to do is make lists. I've been doing since I was a kid. I'm going to share a few education-related top 10 lists with you:

Top 10 Favorite Books to Use the 1st Week of School:

1) Chrysanthemum-lends itself to so many activities using their names, which is a big 1st objective in Kinder.

2) A Place Called Kindergarten-my Mom found this book for us and I have read it every year since, the farm animals don't know where their boy went because they never heard of this "Kindergarten" place.

3) Molly Lou Melon-great advice on being yourself. Someone says she sounds like a duck--Molly's response: "Quack!". Love it.

4) David Goes to School-the kids love this one and believe me you always have a "David"! :)

5) Officer Buckle and Gloria-teamwork and the reasons for rules covered in on swoop.

6) I Am Absolutely Too Small for School-the kids are already familiar with Charlie and Lola

7) Miss Bindergarten Gets Ready for Kindergarten-the kids are shocked you actually have to get a classroom ready for them-in their minds it comes out of the box that way.

8) Have You Filled A Bucket Today-it amazed me how much the kids warmed up to this concept this year. We'd even read stories and the they would say "she wasn't filling his bucket". One of my students was talking about a teacher they wanted to have next year who is kind of known for being a bit of a drill sergeant. When I asked why she wanted to be in that class the little girl responded "I don't think many people fill her bucket, I could do that every day!". Awwww. I will use it every year.

9) Hooway for Wodney Wat-a story about a child with a speech impediment and a class bully-great discussion to be had about how to treat each other in class-even if we're a little different.

10) Miss Nelson is Missing-Love this story. I've always wanted to dress up as Viola Swamp one day and pretend to be their substitute-just to see what happens.

Sunday, July 3, 2011

Dear Kinders,

Dear Abby's got nothing on my kiddos! We did this activity on the last day of school. I asked the students to write some advice to the Kinder students coming in to my class next fall. I thought some had some really good advice. I'm not sure where all the "don't talk back" comes from. I think maybe they respect me and don't want others to disrespect me? I don't know. They make me seem like a mean old ogre! :) I love the opening of "Dear Random Person"-that's a warm greeting isn't it? I love the one where she talks about learning poems too.

Anyway here are some examples-Dear Future Kindergarteners....

Social Contract

(I know I cut it off because I didn't want their names to show-but the last 2 are "Follow the Rules" and "Care About the World".)

This was the first year I implemented one of the these and I just love how well it worked for my kiddos. I even had the kids make one up for the summer school class I took.

The first week of school we are discussing rules and procedures. We sit down as a class and write the contract together. The kids make the suggestions and I write them all down. Then we go through and see what we can condense. Saying "Be Kind" instead of no hitting/kicking/fighting, etc. Then the kids take turns writing the poster and signing it. Each person who comes into our room also has to sign that they will abide by the contract. We had everyone from our administrators to teaching aides to even our School Board Representative. Whenever we had a new student it gave us an opportunity to review the classroom standards. One of my students even wrote about the contract at the end of the year-how it inspired her to be a better person. It was a very helpful tool in my class this year. I think it's something families can even make to use at home as well!

Website for Ideas

I love this site: show me the strategies site

I can't imagine how long it must have taken to compile all those ideas! I use it often for ways to change things up a bit-new ways to open a lesson/close one, etc. The techniques hit so many different styles of learning!