Saturday, April 30, 2016

Our Mother's Day Tea

I know, early to be thinking about Mother's Day. We have standardized testing in our upper grades in May and when we test, parents are not allowed in the building-so I wanted to make sure I set it on a safe date. The kiddos dressed up in their Sunday best. When their mom entered they took her by the hand and led her to her seat, they served their moms what they wanted to for breakfast (some kiddos first foray with tongs! :). We made some activities for them to peruse while they were waiting. And then we played our digital stories which I had previous blg

Two of my favorite pages from stories this year:

Very high praise indeed! :)

He didn't know what clip art to look for-I suggested since he was writing about love that he look for a heart. He is a scientist at heart so this choice was soooo him! :)

It was such a wonderful morning! I had 100% of moms in attendance. There were some teary eyes as they read and heard their children call them angels and heroes. It was a really nice activity.

Now the kids did all the decorating. 

In a few weeks we will honor our Dads in the same fashion-because you know, equality and all! :)

Monday, April 25, 2016

My Poets

To sum up our Poetry Unit, I ask my students to write their own poems. I tell them to think about something they are passionate about or a message they want to convey. Some of them wrote some deep poems-they used similes and onomatopoeia. Our plan was to read our poems to an audience; we had a field trip planned to a local college. We were going to read the poems to education students there and show the kids what a college looked like up close. Unfortunately, Mother Nature thwarted our plans a bit when she sent torrential rains our way. School was actually cancelled because of the flooding, so we missed that opportunity-best laid plans!

But here are their poems (I typed them because they had trouble reading their own handwriting and phonetic spelling):

Sunday, April 24, 2016

Reading Just For Fun

We talk a lot in my class about why we have to learn how to read. It is good for learning new words, learning new facts, seeing things from another's perspective. It is also sometimes just for fun. I look for books to read on Fridays that I know will make them smile.

These are some of our favorites:

I often tell my kiddos to line up like ninjas-because ninjas are silent. I have a student who (unintentionally) sneaks up on me like a ninja-he will stand there and wait until you turn around to address you. So my kids love the ideas of ninjas. They never considered a Ninja Baby! A very cute little story.

Jon Klassen has such a strange sense of humor. This book shows that. The fish has had the unfortunate experience of discovering that he has someone else's hat on his head.

We know kids love underwear! This story gives you a clue to what animal would wear the underwear and the children can guess what it is before they turn the page to see if they were correct.

A story about farm animals who like to jam-what can get more entertaining than that! The website for the book has the recording of the Funky Old MacDonald (of course) song they sing.

I love signs that tell you what to do-although the stubborn part of me wants to do the opposite. Press Here is a series of things to press-I usually call kids up one by one to do what the  book says. They enjoy it!

This is a classic! The King just won't get out of the bathtub and his court has to try lots of different things to get him out. Has a great rhythm to it.

I think we get too hung up on always having an objective in mind to teach when we read a book. I mean most people who read do so because they think it's fun. They choose books they know they will enjoy-I think we have to give kids that experience as well.

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

My Recent Reads

I know I am not as voracious a reader as some people (ahem, Tammy! :). But the goal I set for myself this year was to read 50 books and so far I am on track for completing that. I'm up to 21 that I've read since January and I'm very proud of myself!

Because I think the best part about reading books is sharing and discussing them with others, these are my latest reads. 

I don't like to read reviews of books online until after I've read a book. I've noticed a trend recently where many of the books that I've read have really split reviews-they are apparently love 'em or hate 'em books.

This is a really amazing story-and it's based on true events surrounding the last female executed in Iceland. Extremely well-written.

I am usually not a fan of apocalypse-type stories, but this one intrigued me. The protagonist is one of the people not stricken with an illness that is taking the world by storm. Memory is affected and eventually people lose all brain function. She was adopted and is focused on finding her biological mother to see if she survived the illness. Reviewers who panned this book did not like the disjointedness of the story. It was really more like 3 different novellas woven together. But I think maybe that was purposeful on the part of the author-that memory is a very disjointed phenomena to begin with.

And in looking for an image to use I just discovered that they have already made a movie of this book and I have it my Netflix queue! Did not make the connection at all. This is a story about 3 classmates growing up in what seems like a private school. But there's a big twist to their real purpose in life. I actually found the book very enjoyable.

Sunday, April 17, 2016

Books for Teaching Poetry

I love poetry! I always have. I embarrassingly admit that at one point in my life I had journals filled with poems that I would learn in class and then write down so I could keep them forever. I remember Nothing Gold Can Stay and Richard Cory, Shakespeare's Tomorrow monologue from MacBeth (which I can still recite by the way). I wish I could find those journals.

Anyway, when I teach poetry (it's one of my favorite units) I begin with talking to them about e.e.cummings and his knack for never using capital letters. How poets, like Kindergarteners, do not always follow the rules. In fact, there are no rules when it comes to writing poetry. 

Every morning in our reading warm-up we read poems. I introduce them to funny poets like Shel Silverstein and Jack Prelutsky. I introduced them to serious poets like Robert Louis Stevenson, Langston Hughes and Robert Frost. I find it to be a marvelous tool for teaching vocabulary-in poems, the writer has to be very succinct in their word choices. I also think it helps develop their listening comprehension. We keep Poetry Journals where they can illustrate what the poem means and then go back and read their favorites themselves.

With April being National Poetry Month, my focus for read-alouds revolves around books of poems. These are some gems I discovered this year:

This is such a fun read-aloud with a great message-never judge a book by it's cover or a Prince by his wardrobe.

Poems using the fairy tale characters.

My kids this year can't get enough of science-so this one was right up their alley. They take poems like "Stopping By the Woods on a Snowy Evening" and make it "An Astronaut Stopping By....", etc. Very cool!

The title poem is the best one! Great for a lesson in making inferences. The new kid is a bit of a bully and the last line tells us, not as we expected-she's a girl! :)

What a beautiful, profound book! I'm on book-buying probation right now (got our copy from the library) but I may have to spring for a copy of this one. Loved it!

Poems to describe the cars of the future. Very entertaining! Could lead to great discussions on the students' predictions of cars yet to be invented.

Friday, April 15, 2016

Reflection with Your Students

If you know me at all, you know I'm a very reflective teacher. I will reflect on a particular lesson at lunch or on the way home. I will reflect on the past year over the summer. I think it's important to bring your students into that process. Every year about this time, I give them a survey. Some of the questions are a little silly-like what does your teacher eat, what's your teacher's favorite color. Some are very open -ended--what does your teacher like, not like. And this year I added one that I was a little bit afraid to add: what would you change about your teacher if you could change one thing?

I gave that survey to my kiddos today and man, what an eye-opener!!! Let me preface this explanation by letting you know this has been a pretty difficult year for me. I was undergoing treatment for cancer from the week before we started pre-service activities until mid-February. So my energy was not always there the way it should have been. Habits that should have been nipped in the beginning weren't, not very effectively anyway. Add to that the fact that my class is 85% boys! I have definitely had to change some of the ways I handle classroom management and to be honest, there are days I throw up my hands and say I just don't know what to do with them.

Well, the responses I got certainly reflected the fact that I feel like I have to fuss more this year than usual. Where it asked what their teachers liked about half the students named kids in the class. This broke my heart because I like all my students-I really do. The challenging ones even often have a big place in my heart. But to these guys me saying "Mary is doing the right thing, thank you Mary" has translated into Miss Trayers must only like Mary. Heart-breaking and something I need to work to correct in these last couple of months. When I asked what does your teacher always say-I expected them to say "what's up Buttercup" or "Aloha". One student wrote a student's name with all exclamation marks-because I'm always having to redirect him. *sigh*

Here are some of the responses:

She wishes I would speak Spanish. :) My favorite illustration of me!

I like hearts and books
do not like them being loud
 eat fruit
 says funny jokes (at least someone thinks my jokes are funny)
  on the weekend I read books
 and she wouldn't change anything because "she is perfect". Hmmmm.

Like books and jewels (who knew!?). 
Does not like broken stuff (true).
Eats soup.
She would change that she'd make her teacher be cute. Hmmm.

Likes Ruby and the Smartboard
Favorite color: rainbow
Eats: cucumbers
One thing he'd change: food (because he doesn't like cucumbers). Gotta love 'em! :)

Does not like meat
Eats: mints

Likes me and we (he said that meant him, the student and we-the class)
Eats: vegetables
What would you change: all 

Likes: tea and salad
Does not like: soup (who knew)
On the weekends: play with Ruby (my dog)
One thing he'd change-he'd make my eye color brown

Eats: veggies
Weekends: sleeps (scary how true that is! :)
One thing she'd change: nothing

So I am glad that I asked the questions because I will definitely come in Monday with a game plan to change their ideas while I still have time. I will also have the summer to read up and plan how to avoid those pitfalls next year. I certainly never want any of them to think they are unliked-because they truly aren't

Hey, at least I'm setting a good example for them with the healthy food part! :) 

Saturday, April 9, 2016

Digital Stories

One thing I want my students to come out of my class knowing is that there are many different ways to publish their thoughts. I love using digital stories with them as one of those ways. I use the program Pixie, which I know may be outdated as technology goes-but I know how it works and find it's very easy for the students to manipulate as well.

We use them to make stories about Moms for Mother's Day (which is why I'm posting about it right now). If it's something you wanted to try, you still have time. All I do is open 6 slides and save them with the student's name. The kids do all the rest of the work! They write the text (and learn text is not just something you do on a phone), they draw the illustrations, they record themselves narrating and they choose the background music (I think some of my parents must be Miami Vice fans-that's the type of background music their child chose for them :). The program puts it all together as a movie that you can easily share. I ask moms to submit a picture of themselves, that way I don't have to use names. I do have a class website where I upload them after our presentation and I don't use any names on there.

These are some examples from last year (I don't want to give away the surprise yet for this year).

Even if you didn't use them for Mother's Day-there are tons of things you can do with them--the kids could write poems, or their own fairy tales. The possibilities are endless!