Friday, January 30, 2015

Would You Want Junie B. Jones in Your Class?

I had a request from one of my students to read a Junie B. Jones books as our next chapter read-aloud. I have read her before, but it's been a long time. I had forgotten how funny those books are. I especially relate to the teacher's perspective. We are reading Junie B. Jones and the Mushy Gushy Valentine. Junie is in Kindergarten and there are perfect lessons for inferencing when she asks question after question and her teacher has to close her eyes, put her head down or take some aspirin. :) We can inference that she obviously has a headache caused at least in part by the protagonist in the story. That happens quite often. :) In the chapter we just finished Junie wanted to know if she had to even give valentines to the big, fat stinkyheads in the class!

So my question to them was: If you were a teacher, would you want Junie B. Jones in your class and why? I knew most of them would probably say no (even the ones who remind me of her a lot!)-but I was really looking for the reason they would give. I think it's very ironic that they say they wouldn't want her in their class because of behaviors they exhibit! I personally would rather a student who was more brash and honest than one that you have to pull answers out of all the time. We certainly do get all kinds. Definitely would make things more interesting! Sometimes that trade-off is worth it! It was also interesting to me that the kids think we get to choose who is in our class. I guess the good side to that is they think they were all chosen for our group.

Anyway, here are the responses:

No...because she would be cra cra. :)

No...she is going to give me a headache

No...she argues with you too much

No...she will play around with the boys and girls and not listen.

No because she will bother me while I am doing my work and interrupt me.

No because she makes the teacher go crazy-yells crazy.

No because I don't want to scream.

No.. because she might argue with me

No...because she calls us a big fat stinkyhead.

I would want Junie B. in my class so I can teach her. 

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Teaching Big Ideas

I have been really trying to work with my kiddos on understanding Big Ideas. They just are not wired to think outside the world that revolves around themselves. :) So every once in a while I want to throw them a curveball and ask them to explain in words what a big concept means. This time is was love-how do you explain what love is? How do people show love? Here's what they came up with:

...when you meet someone at the mall--is she ready to be a teenager or what?!?

when you give something when your cheeks turn red.

The illustration to this one cracks me up! I guess maybe he's seen love in comic books.

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Consider Homogeneous Grouping

I went to a PD this weekend and sat through a session where the presenter was explaining the "right" way to group your students as they work in workstations and you do guided reading. She said that you have to put one high student, with 2 middle level students and one low. Because you can't put just high or low students together in a group. Now, I am not a very bold person by nature and usually would have just sat there quietly wallowing in my own anger. However, I raised my hand and asked why-"why would you HAVE to do it that way"? Her answer-because you have to have a high student to lead the group. Someone has to help the other kids. One teacher said, "I train my kids how to teach the other kids".

This is one of my BIGGEST pet peeves! First of all, I have seen workstation experts like Debbie Diller who have said put low with low and high with high-it's not a novel idea. If you put a high kid in with low kids-you are expecting them to do your job for you. You want them to help the kids learn their high frequency words when they are reading on a 3rd Grade level. What are they learning that's new? When do they get to work on the skills they need to work on.

The other excuse I hear is-you learn things better by teaching them to someone else. Actually, I don't believe that is true. I recently taught a friend to drive a standard stick shift because she really wanted to buy a car, but had never driven a stick before. I have been driving a standard shift car since I learned to drive at 16 years old. I don't drive a standard any better now because I taught her. Why would a fluent reader have to review sight words they already know over and over every day?

I know this is controversial to some people simply because it's not the way they do it. But if you think about it I think you'll realize it's the best way for all kids to be practicing the skills they need to practice. Give the low kids an activity they can accomplish independently (that's what the purpose of workstations is actually) and let the high kids be challenged during their workstation time! Consider grouping them homogeneously!


Sunday, January 25, 2015

The Power of Poetry

I used to be such a good teacher! :) I used to do poetry journals-and keep up with them, not just put them together and let them sit on a shelf. *sigh* The good old days! I have slacked off a bit in that area this year. My kiddos were not ready for it in the beginning (even watching them try to cut out the poem and glue it in the proper place was giving me gray hair). Now that I think they might be ready, I just haven't been able to find the time to get it all together.

I do still use poetry in the classroom. I think it can be a great way to introduce new vocabulary-poets have to be very succint. I also think it's a good way for them to apply their listening skills, to really visualize what the poet is saying. One of my all-time favorite poems is Mother to Son, by Langston Hughes:

One of the first observations they made was that it sounded like an "old-fashioned" way to talk. Which brought up the discussion-why do you think the poet wrote it that way? A word you think is a simple word like "tacks"-they didn't know what tacks were. Every day for a week we read this poem together in our reading warm-up. On Friday, I asked them to illustrate the poem. Here's what they came up with:

Saturday, January 24, 2015

Reading to Young Kids Above Their Grade Level

I heard on the news the other day that they are doing a study of heart attacks based on stories people's anger level when they read stories on FB and Twitter. Their theory is that people who get mad at what they read and respond to will develop more cardiac problems. I can totally see that! I feel my blood pressure going up some days. Sometimes I wonder why I even read things, because it does make me angry. Especially comments to articles about teaching--grrrrr.

I read a FB exchange about how a teacher uses chapter books as a read-aloud in Kinder and the responses just blew up with vitriol about how wrong that was. Well, I disagree! I think we should be reading to kids about their grade level, just as my mother did with my sister and I when we were little. 

1) It helps introduce them to new vocabulary 
2) It helps with their listening comprehension skills-no pictures to rely on 
3) It makes them think more deeply about characters because you really get to know them 
4) They lend themselves to higher-level activities.

I read different books each year based on the personality and interests of my kiddos. In the past I have read:

I think reading books to them while guiding them through the plotlines and character development is a great model for them to learn how to do that themselves.

Right now, I am reading:

It's definitely a book with big ideas. It lends itself well to activities about ethics, patterns, and changes over time. Edward changes more in this story than I think than any other character in any other book I've ever read.

We are only a little more than halfway through, but since his heart has grown and he is starting to love people-I had the kids write about the change over time he has seen-from the beginning of the story until now. Here's what they came up with:

Regardless of other people's opinion on the topic-I will keep reading to my kids. Selfishly, my number reason is it's the favorite part of my day! I love reading while seeing them really listening and hanging on to every word. I think it's important!