Sunday, August 28, 2016

If I Were a Parent....

Well, it has been a very interesting first week of school for us. We have a whole new administration team, so lots of changes to get used to. I actually only have 11 students in my class right now. My principal has been moving them out of my class all week and since they are new, I no longer have an inside track to what their plan may be. I've been on pins and needles all week waiting for them to say they were going to close my class, however in the meantime we are just having a blast! We have gotten so much done already-every activity takes half the time it used to. We have our workstation routines down, I'm almost done assessing them. A very interesting week indeed!

I read them the Kissing Hand. And I introduced them to the concept of multiple perspectives. I literally get up on the table and look around the room from that perspective-how different the world looks from up there. Then I ask them to pretend they are a parent. If they were dropping their child off at school for the first day and he/she was nervous--what would they do. Our first writing activity of the year....

Thursday, August 25, 2016

Digital Portfolios

I have been looking for a new platform for my digital portfolios for a long time now. I think I found it! :) For several years I have been using my class website on Weebly and uploading the pics in slideshows for each student. I didn't particularly like doing it that way, but didn't know of a better one. This year I started playing with Seesaw:  .

It's very easy to make personalized portfolios that the parents can access. You simply create an account for each student. When they write something I take a picture and upload it. Right away I have the student record what they wrote. The parents are notified that something new was added and they can see it on the app on their phone.

I just started using this app with this new class, but so far I really like it and thought I would share.

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Assessing Creativity

If you read Carol Dweck's book about Mindset-it talks about how the way we thought about I.Q. for many years, that it was a fixed concept is now turning out to be wrong. That people can raise their I.Q., can be taught to be stronger thinkers...I feel the same way about creativity. I do think many people have a natural affinity for thinking creatively, but I also think it's a skill we can be taught to apply better. Often times, even with my GT kiddos, my Kinder students have not really been taught to think creatively. They often write the first response that comes into their heads or copy what their neighbor's idea was. One of my goals for them is to teach them how to be more creative. "Creative" and "unique" are the first words on our Word Wall.

So the first thing I have to do is to see how creative they are. I give them a kind of assessment by using a shape or a squiggle and having them turn it into something. It's called Divergent Art and it's been used since the 70's in research on creativity. This year I gave them a squiggle-I demonstrated using a triangle on my white board-what can we use this to make? The roof to a house? Make it into a tent? Then I give them their line and ask them to come up with a creative idea. Quite often I get a bunch of snakes and the letter "S" but this year I was very impressed with what my new students came up with!

This is the line they were given.

I love to give these challenges to them monthly with different shapes and watch their creatively just grow and grow!

Saturday, August 20, 2016

My Summer Reading Continues

I did not read as many books for fun as I wanted to this summer, but here are my latest reads:

I am trying to broaden my horizons and read more non-fiction. I am a huge fan of the Princess Bride and can quote lines quite fluently. I found the stories from behind the scenes very interesting. For example, the writer came in as they were setting Buttercup on fire in the Fire Swamp and he started screaming "she's on fire!"--he didn't realize they were filming. There were parts that were kind of dull but also parts where I laughed out loud-so I think it's worth reading if you are a fan.

This book really perplexed me. I could tell when I started reading it that this had to have written by someone who actually experienced treatment for cancer (the author's wife had to endure that process) because it was pretty realistic in the descriptions of the frustrations you face. I couldn't follow the story though-it went back and forth between past, present and I think even the future. I wanted to read to the end (it's a pretty long book) to find out what happened to her and I'm not even sure how it ended. Very confusing to me-I would not recommend this one.

This was a quick read. A couple is taking a road trip with their dog and have to face some issues they are working on in their relationship. The ending pretty much crushed me as an animal lover-but I thought it was an interesting character study.

I really liked this book. I thought it was incredibly well-written and loved the philosophy of languages that is found throughout. It's the story of a girl during the Holocaust who is taken care of by a stranger. I don't read reviews until after I read the book and people are very torn with this one-they either loved it or hated it. Many people did not like the ending, thought it was a strange plot, etc.--I liked it.

Have you read anything this summer that you would recommend?

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

A Variety of Journals

I am a big believer in beginning to introduce Kinder students to a variety of different journaling practices. We have our regular Writing Journals where we do mostly freestyle-creative writing, not necessarily from a prompt. In addition to that I use:

Poetry Journals-we read the same poem together during whole group instruction for the week and then on Fridays we add the poem to our journals and draw an illustration of what it means. I use funny poems like Shel Silverstein and Jack Prelutsky and then classics like Robert Frost and Langston Hughes.

Inquiry Journals-this is going to be new for me this year. I am going to start having the kiddos keep a journal where they can write maybe once or twice per week, recording what they wonder about. I wonder.... Maybe a jump start for some project-based learning or genius hour type activities.

Quote Journals-I think interpreting quotes really tests our critical thinking abilities. I give the students a quote to glue in and they illustrate in the beginning with just a picture and then as the year progresses with a sentence to describe the poem.

Gratitude Journals-I started doing this myself a few years ago and find it to be really soul-nourishing. I ask the kids to write about things they are grateful for. Sometimes I give them direction-something you are grateful for that you can't see (past answers included freedom, the wind, the Tooth Fairy, God). Things you are grateful for that are small, at school, etc. I just LOVE reading the things they come up with.

Data Journals-yes, I know many Kinder teachers cringe when they talk about kids tracking their own data. However, I have found that it helps show the kiddos the growth they have made over the year and I love doing Student-Led Conferences in the Spring where they go through that data with their parents like experts.

Do you have any creative journals in your class to share?

Saturday, August 6, 2016

My New Classroom

So it's still under construction, but I went into school every day this week to work on my room. I know a lot of schools do it differently, but when I return after the custodians have cleaned it, this is what it looks like:

So after a lot of sweat and even a few tears-here's what I ended up with. I was going for a Where the Wild Things Are theme:

A former student did the drawings for me.

My word wall and math bulletin board area. The words will be on the cutouts and then they can un-clothespin them and take them to their seats to use in their writing.

My library (that's my favorite part)-I wish the seats weren't so little-I'd sit there and read! :)

And the bulletin outside my classroom. That was my favorite border that I found.

Still going through closets and trying to make room for supplies, etc. I've discovered I have way too many books which is something I never thought I would say. :) Have to figure out a better storage system for them. But I do feel like I got a lot done. We have 2 weeks of pre-service activities and very limited time to work on our rooms-so it's a lot less anxiety for me to worry if I go in early and get it done. Although it was very hard to give up that last week of vacation for it. ;) 

Wednesday, August 3, 2016

Books for Teaching About the Election

Part of me can't wait for this election to be over in November. Part of me is really worried about the outcome. I've been thinking about the election unit I will do to talk about this historic election.

Here are some books that I recommend:

It took me a long time to understand how our election process works-the two-parties and the differences in what they stand for, the electoral college. Bad Kitty for President breaks it down into a way that's pretty easy to understand. The best part for me was the way the book's issues related to current events. They are deciding whether or not to help the stray cats or to kick them out of the community. They also talk about things like SuperPacs and primaries. A great way to breakdown a very complicated subject.

I truly love this book-its one of my all-time favorites. Alice Roosevelt (Teddy's daughter) was a bit of a handful. Teddy once said he can run the country or take care of her-it was too hard to do both. As she grew up she gained a Princess Di-like status. Paparazzi (or the facsimile they had back then) followed her around just trying to capture a pic of her doing something unsavory. It's a very endearing portrait of a little girl who wants to ëat up the world".

I never knew this story. The story of Silvia Martinez and her family's fight to attend a school with other children and not to the Mexican school. It's a great story to show the process of fighting something in the courts that is unfair.

I love that Malala's name means Warrior With Words-does that sum her up or what. There is one illustration I skip when I share this book with students because it's pretty unsettling, but other than that this book breaks down the fight for girls to get an education-a fight that is still going on.

I like this book because it also illustrates how the electoral college process works. Grace's class actually competes with another class to have an election and the kids representing the different states give their votes to the candidate of their choice. It explains a complicated process pretty well.

This is a book about poems, one for each president we have ever had. It's a little more challenging text for the younger ones, but if you teach older kids or you want to challenge your kiddos this one is pretty perfect. I even learned some new things about presidents of the past.

Monday, August 1, 2016

My New School Year Resolutions

At this time of year my thoughts turn to reflection. What am I going to do differently this year? Last year, as many of you know was a tough year for me. At this time last year I was going through my first chemo treatment and I had a roster of 15 boys in my class! I haven't seen my roster yet for this year, however I do know that I definitely have more energy going into this process. This is going to be my year! I am going to be on fire this year! So what's going to be different:

1) I am going to implement Inquiry Journals. I read a lot about inquiry this summer and am going to have the kiddos be more conscious of asking questions and making them good questions. We are going to record them in journals this year.

2) I am finally going to jump into this Maker Movement. I have wanted to do it for years, this year it's definitely on the menu. Every Friday afternoon will be committed to have the kiddos create, invent--make something.

3) Coding-I did a lot with my little Coding Club last year and I'm going to continue that, but I'm also going to try to put it into my regular classroom curriculum more often.

4) STEM skills-I am going to do a better job of not only doing more science experiments, but engineering activities as well. I have a ton of blocks that I am going to utilize to have the kids build bridges and create cities with.

5) Celebrations-as I posted before I plan to do a lot more celebrating this year. We will celebrate National Hot Dog Day. I have a list of cheers to use with them. We'll play music as they enter the room in the morning so we can start the day dancing. I want them to really enjoy their school experience.

There are more, but those are my Top 5 for this year.

What are some of your resolutions for this upcoming school year?