Saturday, May 31, 2014

Future 1st Graders

I love to see the advice my students want to pass on to the students coming up next year:

He remembered this quote that I gave them one day for their quote journals. It's from the book Wonder "remember if you have a choice of being right and being kind, choose kind".  They do pay attention sometimes! :)

I love that! They did have the same teacher that they had last year, so I guess that is possible for everyone! :)

You will have fun with water balloons on Field Day-one of their favorite memories.

This was one of my students who really struggled with reading.

My advice is have fun in doing new things in class and when you step right into class, show gratitude.

When you make new friends, make sure they are good.

I had several students who just would not complete their work--ever. They weren't fooling around or doing off-task things, just sitting there "thinking" forever. I didn't know what to do with them or how to do grades their incomplete work. I started telling them that I was going to call their moms to sit next to them so they could see they weren't doing their work-that turned out to be pretty effective!

First Grade is cool-in math you learn regrouping, reading-inferences, science-landforms and in social studies-environment.

Thursday, May 29, 2014

End-of-Year Slideshows

Photography has always been a bit of a hobby of mine. When I was 5 I took a perfect picture of my parents at the public pool we went to every summer. My sister tried to take the same picture and ended up with a perfect picture of the shoes on the edge of the blanket! In high school I took a really cool photography class where we developed pictures and everything. I would go to photography exhibits all the time in college. It actually makes me think of maybe taking another class.

Today, I take a lot of pictures of my kiddos. Group photos, individual ones, pics of them working together, working in workstations, reading. Every year I sit down and go through those pics to make a slideshow for my parents. Usually I just group them into different activities, but this year I highlighted each student with adjectives and pics of just them. I had some really great shots!

Then came the hard part. The music! Last year I used "Time of Our Lives" by Tyrone Wells. When I teach Kinder I often use "Let Them Be Little" by Lonestar.  (Anyone ever wonder why so many country songs seem to be perfect for school slideshows?!). I wanted to use something different this year. I must have listened to at least 100 songs, I wanted to find the perfect one for these kiddos. This is what I ended up using:

They know it by heart now, we've watched that slideshow sooooo many times. I was really happy with the way it came out-I think the kids were too! :)

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Reading Incentives

I know this is a controversial subject. In an ideal world, kids would read for fun. My sister and I did as kids. Unfortunately, we don't live in an ideal world. I read recently that 70% of our middle and high schoolers do not read for fun. I even hear kids in upper elementary lamenting having to read for class-it's not something they enjoy doing. Every year I run a student book club that I am very proud of. We have 2 sections one for K-2 and one for 3rd-5th. I've built it up from about 12 students in the beginning who participated total in both groups to about 80 this year. I don't discriminate, anyone can join. As a matter of fact, I've had parents tell me that because their child who doesn't usually do well in reading participated, they seemed to enjoy reading more and guess what, that translated into higher performance on the standardized tests. I love walking out from meetings and seeing so many kiddos with their noses firmly planted in books! One year a student joined and at the first meeting I was explaining the plan and she said very loudly "you mean we have to read!?!?". Yes, you are supposed to read in book club. She didn't come back.

Some kids need incentives. Some kids are very competitive and just the thought of reading more books than someone else will make them read more. We started using AR (accelerated reader) this year and I do have mixed feelings about it, however I can tell you one thing-kids read more books than they ever have before.

Ok, so long story short. Every year I bet my kiddos that if they read 1,000 books as a class then I will color my hair pink. This is the first class who has done it! So I was obliged to do this:

They are up to over 1,800 books that they've read in 1st Grade. Some I've read-aloud to them, but most they have picked up and read themselves. Chapter books, picture books, wordless books, biographies, fiction and non-fiction-they have read a huge variety. They have time to just read independently every single day. Some kids will opt out of doing a workstation-"can I just keep reading"--how can you say no to that? I go to the library every 2 weeks to check out new books for them to read. I change out our classroom library books every month. They make wishlist for me for the library trips which consists of authors and characters that they want to see more of. I bought each one some books to get them started this summer and you would have thought it was Christmas! They were so excited-I was bombarded with thank you's. For some, these are the first books they will own.

So I believe you have to do whatever works. If they need incentives then give it to them. I saw a principal on the news the other day who slept on the roof of the school overnight because the school read 10,000 books. I've seen principals kiss a pig or shave their heads because reading goals were reached-whatever it takes to get them started with reading and maybe it will inspire them to do more on their own. If nothing else this year I can say that my students have definitely read a lot! They have that passion for reading--I hope it's something that can stay with them throughout their academic careers.

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Advice for Graduates

I love watching commencement speeches! Weird, I know. My favorite part of this time of year is watching famous authors, poets, actors with their quotable moments of advice. I have favorites from over the years but shared this one with my kids:

Partly because it's a short one and partly because I knew they would relate to the last piece of advice about friendship. They are always complaining that someone will not be their friend and my response always is-"then find another friend". We know that no matter how hard you try sometimes people just won't like you.

I asked them to write their advice for graduates going off into life, here's what they came up with:

look for inspiring things that will help in your life and everything you do. (Don't you just love the illustration! :)

Monday, May 26, 2014

Exit Tickets in Song

During testing season we adopted an upper-grade classroom and retooled songs like the "Wheels on the Bus" to motivate them to score well on their big tests. We used a bunch of different songs and made the lines for syllables, trying to come up with new lyrics that fit.

I like to do a kind of year-end exit ticket. This year I tried something different. I had the kids break up into groups and write a song detailing their experiences in First Grade. They chose the song themselves and wrote all the lyrics. Now, they didn't come out exactly like I had envisioned, but I do think they did a great job. Of course, there's a Let It Go parody!

Sunday, May 25, 2014

Summer Bucket Lists

I have my own summer bucket list. This is the first summer in 12 years that I am not teaching summer school. I'm a little bit afraid I am going to get bored, however I do have a long to-do list.

1) Taking Ruby to walk in the park every day.
2) Taking a sewing class (I'm finally going to sew like Project Runway! :)
3) Reading
4) Writing
5) Lots of professional development sessions (even some GT ones *yeah*)
6) Clean!
7) Getting appointments like the dentist done.
8) Planning for next year.

I'm sure there will be more to add as we go along. But that's what I have to keep me busy so far.

I had the kids make their lists as well. They always make me laugh-apparently I need to prepare for visitors this summer! :)