Monday, December 30, 2013

Authentic Work

I am very careful not to get up on my soapbox too often here! :) But I know many of you are in the midst of making resolutions for your classroom in the upcoming school year and I urge you to consider adding this one. There are so many easy ways you can incorporate this into your work products-especially in writing! It doesn't have to be messy projects (although I do believe kids should do those every once in a while too) but just give them more of an open-ended assignment. Let them come up with their own way to show their learning. Don't box them in with only giving them one way to respond to the question. It will give you a better idea of what they can apply as well when you are assessing their work.

Sometimes other teachers and administrators have told me that I take it too far and I do understand that. We are preparing them for STANDARDIZED tests after all-they don't measure creativity in any capacity. (Do you know we do not even have a curricular objective to cover creativity or critical thinking--I have to tie it into whatever subject area I'm teaching when I want to incorporate them). Worksheets and workbook pages do have a place, I do know that, I'm just not a fan. :)

 When I attended TAGT earlier in the month (a GT conference) I left instructions for activities with the sub that we would normally do, but I also left a good supply of worksheets-just in case. I worked as a sub when I was just starting out, I know that panic that sets in, when you have 10 minutes left before lunch and you don't know what to do with them. So this was one of the worksheets-you are supposed to copy the sentence over with correct punctuation. Over 1/2 of my students answered the questions! Now I know, they should have read the instructions and been able to complete it correctly, however, I did have to chuckle. They just aren't used to worksheets, can you tell? :)

Ran out of room on how to make a flower grow! :)

Where do the stars go? With us! My little poet! :)

Many of them thought birds sing for people to wake up--too cute!

Just an idea for you to keep in mind as you do your planning for last semesters!

Friday, December 27, 2013

What Are You Reading Over Vacation?

Yeah, I have internet-access again! All is good with the world (maybe not all, but I can finally get some work----or, if I'm being honest, some Facebook updates done :).

Like everyone else, I have a long to-do list this break. Besides entering grades and doing lesson plans, I also made a promise to myself that I'd read! I still have too many books for my student book club calling to me, but I did manage to finish one just for myself. One of the things that struck me from reading Donalyn Miller's new book Reading in the Wild was that part of the fun of reading is sharing books that you enjoy, discussing them with others. It's something I'm trying to encourage more in my classroom, so why not model it myself here as well.

I don't remember how I heard about it, I think it was a suggestion based on another book I was buying on Amazon (they always sucker me in with those). I stayed up last night to finish it, something I can't remember the last time I've done.

It's called: 

I thought it was exceptional. Probably not for everyone (although what book is), I read the Amazon reviews and there were some who thought it was boring. But if you like reading something deep and thoughtful-I think you'll like it. It has a 14-year old protagonist who wishes she had been born in a simple medieval time, and I'd summarize it by saying it's about all the different ways you can love people. And it's set in the 80's--I loved all the details from that era that the author throws in-things I had forgotten all about.

So, not that I need any more books in my Amazon cart right now :), but I'm curious to see--if you are reading over the break, what are you reading? Let me know if you have any good suggestions for my ever-growing to-be-read pile! :)

Monday, December 23, 2013

Angels for the Staff

I looked at so many craft ideas for us to do for our administrators, paraprofessionals, cafeteria workers and custodians. I needed something easy but also that allowed them to be a little creative. I ended up doing a version of paper plate angels.

                                                                    I hope they like them!

Friday, December 20, 2013

Grateful For Me

I saw so many amazing crafts that the students were making for their parents, but none of them really jumped out at me this year for this group. I was running out of time, so yesterday I took pics of them showing the different sides of them themselves.  Then I asked them to write about why they were grateful to be themselves. Here's how they came out:

                                     I am grateful because I love being a little girl and being good.


I am smart and a Superstar and I love to go to school and I am responsible.

I love being the little sister and have my Mom and having my Dad.

I am grateful to be me because I am competitive and an athlete.

Because I play 3 sports and I am athletic, funny, smart, charming, creative and me! :)

And I am grateful to be me because I have the best job in the whole world. I don't even feel like it's really work most days! :)

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Inventing New Holidays

One of my idols when it comes to ideas for challenging students is:

I could spend hours looking at these ideas and watching the ByrdseedTV videos.

His idea for this month was to have students invent a new holiday-keeping in mind what we value as a community and what should be honored. Some of them were really thoughtful:

Invention Day-to celebrate how inventions were invented and decorate with pictures of people who made our life easier.

                                                  Play Day-because we need more exercise.

Vegetables Day

Pet Day-people can spend the day helping pets

Money Day-giving money to homeless people, try to be nice, help people and have fun.

Safety Day-everybody be safe with their family.

Homework Day-(I asked if that wasn't every day, it feels like it is for me! :)  We can learn more math problems.

At least it got them thinking a little bit! :)

Monday, December 16, 2013

Ethics and the Velveteen Rabbit

So my internet at home has been disconnected for a whole week now. I feel so disconnected! I can't believe 20 years ago we lived without the world wide web and now it's hard to even function without it. Anyway, that's why I've had difficulty posted more regularly and have had withdrawal from not being able to read other blogs.
I shared one of my favorite classic stories with my kiddos this past week, The Velveteen Rabbit. I asked them to think about whether it was right or wrong that the rabbit was made real. Here were their responses:

                                                  right because if he wasn't real he would still be in the nasty bag.

                                     right because he deserved to be free and that is his real family.

                                            right because the rabbit tried to help the kid when he was getting red because
                                                                 the rabbit was trying to be nice.

"there are many dangers to being a rabbit"--one of my favorites!

Gotta love boys! "because he can get revenge on the boy and the other rabbits who made fun of him"--a future Hollywood screenwriter! :)

                     I like this one too-"the other toys might be jealous".

                       wrong because it's a toy rabbit and it don't move or smile

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Video Clip Response

I read too many blogs! :) Admitting you have a problem is the first step, right? I love finding new ideas and am constantly inspired by fellow bloggers.

One of them is Terri over at Engage Their Minds. If you are looking of ways to challenge kiddos-she is your gal! This was one of her ideas. She blogged about this video clip and gave examples of some activities you could do that were rigorous in response to that video:

Now I loved this idea! Both because I like to give my Little Dragons challenges but also because they are such digital learners! I can read them a story and have maybe 90% engagement from them, but if I play the same story on the Smartboard-they are all paying attention! And I love using video clips because I really think it can be good for their comprehension skills-you have to make many inferences with this one.

I played them the clip (which they immediately asked be played again....and again!). Then I took Terri's idea and asked them to write about what the Bear would give the Hare as a gift in return. This is what they came up with:

This one was my favorite-how thoughtful! Don't you just love the illustration of the elderly hare!

I knew I would get at least one carrot! :)

I think this may be the students' own Christmas list! :)

A collector's item


the words thank you and Christmas love

She said since the bear was done with the alarm clock , he'd give it back. I explained the concept of regifting! :)


Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Baby-A Book Review

I facilitate for 2 student book clubs on our campus-one for K-2 and one for 3rd-5th graders. It's a competition our district has every year. We get a list of books-many of them Bluebonnet nominees, the rest simply classics teachers and librarians had suggested. It means I have to stay after school for this club two days E.V.E.R.Y. week. It means I usually buy too many of the books myself, because I want to get a jump-start reading over the summer. I also buy them awards at the end of the year and t-shirts for those who can't afford one. We have over 90 kiddos participating altogether this year! It's time-consuming and expensive, I am often asked why I do it....

There is, of course,  the reason of seeing kids leaving book club with their noses in books and being able to discuss this literature with them-that is very rewarding in itself. There's nothing like suggesting a story to a student and having them come back and say they loved it or it made them cry (Wonder was one of our books this year)! But also every year I discover gems that I would not have found otherwise. This is one of those books. It's called:

 I had put off reading it because when I read the summary, it kind of seemed like Lifetime movie. I wondered how this would be something kids could relate to. You see, in the description it says it's about a family who finds a baby on their doorstep and take care of it as their own. But, in my humble opinion, that's not what this story is about. I think it's about words. How words can hurt or comfort. How sometimes a lack of words is more difficult than hearing something you don't like. The main character's teacher often refers to "wondrous words"-I may just have to steal that. The beginning has a quote from an Edna St. Vincent Millay poem, which I of course, looked up before I began the story and that is now one of my new favorites as well. I love the grandmother character in this story-totally how I want to be when I get old! :) Overall, I thought it was a touching story and although it's not very long, I stayed up on a school night to finish it-which I am not usually one to do!

I haven't decided yet if it's something I am going to share with my 1st Graders, but if you teach older kids I would definitely recommend checking this one out. :)

If you have read it already or end up reading it-I would love to know what your opinion of it was!

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

My Little Poets

I had a proud teacher-moment yesterday. Let me preface by saying, if you don't know this already, I am a big fan of poetry. I think it can be such a great tool to use in the classroom-for comprehension, for vocabulary, for fun! Needless to say we use poetry often.

Yesterday, I decided I wasn't in the mood to do what I had officially planned for our writing lesson :). With the weather the way it was everywhere, I wanted the kids to write poems about snow. We looked at some pictures from the news reports and of me when I lived in Pennsylvania (because these Texan babies have never seen actual snow beyond maybe a few flurries):

                                                         Me at our house in PA
                                                Real ice skating! :)

Then I asked them to write their own snow poems. We are working on using the writing process more and I didn't make them revise and rewrite, however we did share them with each other and the students made positive comments about what their classmates wrote "it had good rhythm" or "they used lots of describing words" before they published their work. I was even impressed they all had titles and they were a variety of titles--not just "Snow".  So cool! (no pun intended :).

This is what they came up with:

                                           The White Snow
                                           The snow is deep and soft
                                            It is as white as a white horse.
                                            It is nice.

                                                   The Snow Falls
                                                     The snow falls like a leaf
                                                     and the snow feels like fur and snow
                                                     is deep for a baby.

                                                 When Snow
                                                      When snow falls today and tomorrow it gets deep
                                                        deep and deeper
                                                       When it falls it feels like meatballs
                                                        When it melts you never see it again.
Odd Snow Thing
2 feet snow is like a pool
snowflakes are like falling stars
blizzards are like strong rains
snow is as cold as a freezer.

Show of the Snow
The snow falls like rain it floats
like wind it is cold like the

A Triple Snow Blizzard
When I was in bet something
opened the door and the
snow fell in my room.

                                                      My Snow
                                         The snow is soft and
                                          cozy, a little pillow
                                          a frozen bed.

                                               The Beautiful Snow
                                          When I went outside I felt
                                           snow on my nose when I felt
                                                          it felt ticklish.

                                                             I went outside
                                                           it was full of snow
                                                          when I layed in it it's
                                                       Snow is the sound when you hear it this is like
                                                       a snow globe and when people look at a snow globe
                                                      you wish you was in that snow globe and you feel like you
                                                       have joy.
                                           Snow Is
                                Snow is what as paper
                                Snow is as small as a bug
                                Snow is as fun as school
                                My house was covered in ice.

                                           The Very Sick Snowman
                                        One day is was snowing on their block and then
                                         Santa came
                                        You have to be quiet

                                     The Snow in a Rainy Night
                                        They day when the sky turned gray
                                        Then the next day the rain was alone.
                                           The Snow Senses
                                      The snow falls like cotton and white paper
                                        and it feels like I'm sinking in
                                        and it feels like marshmallows
                                        and tastes like cotton candy.