Sunday, March 29, 2015

How To Catch A Star

I love Oliver Jeffers and found this book:

Which is an endearing little story about a little boy's attempts to catch a star.

I asked the kids to tell me how they would catch a star and they came up with some incredibly creative answers! :)

One of the things I hear all the time from other teachers is how kids today just don't know how to think creatively. This is an example of how you can teach them that skill. At the beginning of the year, if we had done this activity my answers would have all been ladders and nets. This time when I did it, sure I got some ladders and nets--however I also got beanstalks, flying carpets and a bunch of cowboys. This does not happen overnight! This happens from almost daily doing activities like this that require them to think creatively and afterward sharing with the students the ones that I found to be creative. Nothing wrong with ladders and nets, but I encourage them to come up with something that no one else in the class thought of-that is the expectation I set.  I do not give up. And eventually, they actually start to do just that. I think it goes against any theory that says you can't teach children to be creative!

Saturday, March 28, 2015

Why I Like Open-Ended Questions

I know I've posted about this topic before, but I wanted to share something one of my kiddos wrote yesterday on her weekly assessment. We have been talking about technology in Social Studies and although most of them could name a kind of technology (which was my multiple choice question) I wanted to see if they could apply what they learned about it. So my question was "Technology helps us...." and they had to finish the sentence. Many of them who answered correctly wrote: learn, communicate, have fun. This was the answer I was most impressed by:

Out of the mouths of babes! Her mom said that she has that conversation with her all the time because the student doesn't want to put down the ipad and play with her. I never in a million years would have thought of that answer as a multiple choice question. That's my favorite reason for using open-ended questions-they always impress me with what they can come up with!

Monday, March 23, 2015

Compassion Vs. Violence

I've written before about the Kids Philosophy Slam:

This year the question was-what has a greater impact on society-compassion or violence. Now I did have to explain what those two words meant, however the students, even my Kinder students certainly understood the concept and could give examples of each. Overwhelmingly their answer was compassion. I think that's also what they've had the most experience with at their age. And that's a good thing! But I wanted to share their responses:

My favorite one. Makes me think of a video we watch often:

When you have teamwork, things get done faster.

Compassion....if everyone did that we would all be safe.

Saturday, March 21, 2015

Gratitude Projects

Gratitude is something that comes up a lot in our classroom. We talk about it when someone brings in cupcakes for their birthday and a student asks "where's the juice?". We talk about it when we have  Donorschoose proposal filled and need to be grateful for those new supplies. We have Gratitude Journals that we write in a few days per month. What are you grateful for in school? What are you grateful for in winter?

As a photoessay project I have them take home disposable cameras and take pictures of 3 things they are grateful for. We send home a clipboard along with it so each can write down what they chose (sometimes they don't remember by the time the pictures come back :). Then I get the pics developed and the kids glue them on a poster and write for each one, why that's something they are thankful for. Of course, sometimes pictures do not come out right (I do encourage the parents to let the kids take the pictures themselves)-so if we don't have a picture for one of their images I let them draw it on their project.

Thankful for my mom because some daughters don't have moms, myself beacuse some moms don't have daughters and my grandma because some people don't have grandmas.

for my mom because my mom is sweet.

My house, my teacher and my BFF

Food, clothes and a bed-because I need them.

My doll because it is cute, my dog because it is a good dog and we all train it, food

Food, house, mom

Thursday, March 19, 2015

Digital Portfolios

My admins and I have a difference of opinion when it comes to portfolios. To them a portfolio is a file where you store all the tests the kids have taken, including the formative assessments we give on a regular basis. We have to do running records every 2 weeks to assess reading fluency, test hfw lists weekly to see where they stand. This year they even recommended math facts tests because kids are coming to the upper grades without knowing their facts. I am all for assessment-I think it's really important not only to know where your kids are compared to the yearly goals, but also for the kids to know where they are and most importantly to me--how far they've come. But that's not a portfolio. A portfolio is pieces of work that are stored away throughout the year that shows what their skills were like in the beginning and the end. It also stands as a back-up for the "grades" I'm giving on the report card. For example, one of their objectives now is uses punctuation and capitalization-I can pull out the portfolio and show evidence of how I came to that score.

Now in the past we used file folders that we would send home the last day of school bursting with examples of work throughout the year. Who knows if anyone ever looked at it and I'd rather be able to send the actual work home throughout the year so the parents can see what we are doing in class. I now use digital portfolios to show growth (in addition to the charts and graphs). I think this is a very powerful tool. I can pull it up during parent conferences, I can pull it up to confer with a student on their next goals-particularly in writing. I am going to hold student-led conferences in a few weeks and that is going to be a big part of what I expect the kiddos to share with their parents. At least once a week I take photos of the kids' work on a piece of writing or a project. Now I use my class website on so I do not ever include names, I have to crop those out. I put their photos up in the beginning of a gallery and throughout the year I add pics of work.

Not only is this a valuable tool for me in my classroom, I always send it to the teacher the following year so they can see the growth as well. So when the 1st Grade teacher starts complaining about handwriting, etc. I can say, well, this is what we started with so he's actually made a great deal of progress already. Or I can say, I know on paper Sally may not look like a gifted student-but look at some of the ideas she has come up with over the year. This is an example of one-forgive the pics, my computer would not let me save the screenshots this morning.

I actually wish every teacher at our school would do portfolios like this. Can you imagine being a student and graduating to middle school with a digital overview of your whole academic career so far? What might this mean to those who struggle with their skills, to see how far they have actually come?

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Leprechaun Ethics

I love having ethical discussions with my kiddos-I learn a lot about them. 

We never get to celebrate St. Patrick's Day in school because it always falls on our week of Spring Break. I did do a lesson on it however, so they would know how the tradition started and how people celebrate. After a story about children trying to trick a leprechaun out of his gold, I asked them if this was the right thing to do. Was it right to try and steal a leprechaun's gold? Here are their responses:

Wrong because they own it, it's theirs.

(we always have to have discussions about how only grown-ups go to jail)

Wrong because you do not know if they are going to do a trick on you.

Wrong because it might be behind the gold pit.

Wrong because they will trick you back.

Right-because I want to be rich.

Wrong because you can trade instead.

Right because they have more.

Wrong because I would get in trouble

Wrong because stealing is wrong (yay, one who has morals! :)

A little conveluted-he got it first and your mom is at work.

Right because then moms can be rich.

Wrong because the leprechaun will be mad...very mad.

Wrong because stealing is not good.

Right because I want to be rich.

And my favorite answer---wrong because the leprechauns are going to be fired (she said their bosses would be very mad they lost the gold!)

So there you have it. Wrong because of potential consequences or right because you want to be rich. Gotta love the way their little minds think (my Kinders not the leprechauns! :).