Sunday, January 29, 2017

A Hole is to Dig

I discovered this book illustrated by Maurice Sendak (love him!!!).

I think this book is just brilliant. Sometimes the hardest thing to do is to define what something means. This book does just that. "Arms are for hugging", "cats are for having kittens". So I read to them from this book and as part of our Writer's Workshop, I asked the students to choose something they wanted to write about and what that thing was for. I love activities like this that seem very simple, but it actually takes some thought. You have to decide what you want to write about and then what you want to write. I think some of them came up with very creative ideas!

One of my favorites!

Awwww, right?!

(buddies are stuffed animals they read to in class)

Aren't they though? :)

Stepping Out of Your Comfort Zone

One thing I always loved about my school is that PD was always encouraged. In my career, I have had the privilege of seeing Todd Whitaker, Timothy Rasinski, Dr. Jean and attending TAGT when it was in town. Unfortunately, my new administration does not feel PD is worth the financial investment. If you know me at all, you know I have to grow-I am always looking for new ideas, new ways to make sure I am an effective teacher. So this year I had to get a little creative. I applied to present at the Early Childhood Conference that I have always attended in the past. It was completely on a whim. I found out about the process from a tweet and submitted my proposal a week before they were due. But it got accepted and that conference was today.

Presenting was way out of my comfort zone. Last year Ian from Byrdseed fame asked me to present at an event he was having and I just didn't feel like I could do it. It was such a huge honor to me that he even asked, but I couldn't envision myself being able to speak coherently in front of a group of people like that. (One of my big regrets from this year, for sure). I have presented to my staff before but somehow sharing my ideas with other teachers is always scary. I could not physically hide my nervousness-my voice cracks, my hands shake. Your inner thought process is always working--what if I'm showing them things they already do? What if they just don't like the ideas? What if no one shows up to my session? What if I put everyone to sleep? Yesterday, I was just amazed that there were actually people waiting outside the room for the session to begin, I had to turn people away because it was completely full! I thought it went really well. I felt comfortable sharing my ideas, I felt like my passion came across and hopefully, some people left with ideas they can try out in their classrooms.

My advice today is this--do something to step out of your comfort zone! My zodiac sign is a Cancer-we do not like change in any way shape or form. We are fine with being homebodies and doing the same thing every night which doesn't usually involve even leaving the house :). I even like to use the same gas station every week to fill up my car. I know for some people talking to a big crowd is easy, it's never been that way for me. But I am sooooo glad I did it!  I don't even think I realized beforehand how beaten down my spirit has become this year. One of the attendees even told me she wished I had been her child's teacher-wow! That meant so much to me. I think I'm still on cloud nine from the experience. :)

So get out there and try something you haven't tried before-you never know how much you will be able to grow!

Sunday, January 22, 2017

Books to Help Raise Strong Girls

I am on Twitter probably more often than I should be. :) I knew there were marches planned this weekend. I knew there were many people going-but I was so amazed watching the footage at how many people turned out to express their opinions this past weekend. Amazon was sold out of posterboard. I have a friend in New York who when she was buying hers at a local store was asked if there was some city-wide school project because they were selling so many blank posters. I loved the creativity of the messages on the signs. But most of all, I loved seeing how many people took their little girls along. What a great message to those kiddos on becoming a strong woman.

So I was inspired to compile a list of books with strong girls as the protagonist characters. I believe that girls can benefit from hearing these stories, but that boys can as well. I will never forget an exchange my students had one year. This was way before Hillary ever decided to run-but I asked the kids if a girl could be the President and they turned to a partner to debate the answer. One of my boys said "no, because girls are not strong". And a girl raised her hand and said "Miss Trayers, can I ask Johnny a question?". Sure, go ahead. She said ïsn't Miss Trayers strong? Wasn't your Pre-K teacher strong--they are girls?" I wanted to say you go girl!

Here are some of my favorite strong girls in literature:

I love when I read books to my students and learn new things myself. I never knew the story of Alice Roosevelt who was kind of revered as the Princess Diana of her day. When she was little she said she wanted to ëat up the world!". She rebelled against what was expected of women at the time, although her father, Teddy Roosevelt didn't really approve.

I have always been a fan of Jane Goodall. This is a great story about a girl who loves animals and decides very young that her dream of working with them will become a reality. And she ended up changing how a lot of scientists viewed their subjects.

A story about a woman who delivered books to families in the Appalachian Mountains who did not have access to things like books.

This book about the actress hopefully can bring her work to the eyes of a whole new generation. She was class personified!

A little girl in Cuba wants to play the drums but that's a "boy"thing. She defies the odds and paves the way for female drummers everywhere!

How one woman can change things. Isatou did not like how many plastic bags were being dumped in her beautiful country. So she found a way to recycle them and bring meaningful work to her community.

How many little girls love history like Imogene does?! She works to save a historic landmark in her town.

I love this book for many reasons (great for teaching similes too!). But it is about a little girl who wants to catch a chicken and does not give up until she does.

Sally Jean loves to ride her bike! But when she outgrows her little bike she sets out to make a new one. 

This is a graphic novel. I know many are familiar with Rollergirl, I think this little girl paved the way for her! I love seeing strong female characters in comic style books.

Another woman in the late 1800's who bucked the whole girls should stay home and sew trend. The first public libraries had books for children locked up in cabinets because children were not to be trusted to take care of them. She was responsible for making cozy reading areas in libraries just for children!

And for your older kiddos-I'd say the 4th-6th range.

A little girl in the midst of Civil Rights Movement days writes a scathing editorial to her local paper about how segregation is wrong.

This is another story I had never heard until I read this book. There was a town that Hitler decided to just wipe off the map. But Eva had blue eyes and blonde hair and it was determined that she would be saved and turned into the kind of girl Nazis wanted. It's a haunting story, one that proves the truth can be scarier than fiction.

I think this is a great story about two strong girls who become friends. Drita is an immigrant and is taken under the wing of a street-smart companion. 

There are many, many more but I tried to choose titles that you may not have heard of before.

Saturday, January 21, 2017

Fairy Tales and STEM Skills

I was shopping at Lakeshore at the beginning of the school year and found kits they sell combining these two elements. So you are building sturdier chairs for Goldilocks and a more rugged home design for the 3 Little Pigs. I was intrigued. I think it's a great way to not only get those all important STEM skills into your daily lessons, but it's something the students can relate to.

We read the 3 Little Pigs and I decided to let the kids think like architects and build their own wolf-proof home. We watched sped-up videos of a home being built-discussed the importance of a foundation and then I split the kids up into groups to create. I decided to use marshmallows and the shorter stirring straws-gave each group the same amount. Then I stepped back and watched them create.

Now working in groups is not our forte. We still have groups where each individual student is creating their own design and I have to remind them that they should only have one house for each group. Some students sit back and don't help out. Some tell everyone else what to do--I guess it's kind of like most teams. :) So that is something we are still working on.

But when their time was up, we had some sturdy structures. I went around and played the Big Bad Wolf trying to blow them down. This one was our winner:

Here are some pics of the kiddos in action:

It's something I'm still playing with and have some other challenges in mind as we go through our different fairy tales.

Friday, January 20, 2017

I Dissent: A Book Review

I read this book to my kids yesterday:

I love when I read a book to my students and even I learn something. I knew Ruth Bader Ginsburg was one of the first woman on the Supreme Court. I know she believes in equality for woman and minorities. What I didn't know was that she was "dissenting" against the establishment her whole life. She was a lefty and in school they tried to force her to be right-handed-but she wouldn't conform. She was on of 9 women in a law school class of 500-and excelled.

I know today is a big day in our history, but also a scary day for many of us. It warms my heart to be reminded that there are still people out there who will "dissent". Who will fight for what's right in this world, even if it's not popular. I love sharing books about strong women with my students-and this is definitely an example of that.

Monday, January 16, 2017

I Have a Dream...

My students watched MLK's "I Have a Dream" speech. "This is real life?" they asked. Usually when we watch videos about the past it's a re-enactment or even a cartoon. "Yes, that's really his voice". They were enamoured with it. They couldn't believe there was a time when all children were not allowed to go to school together. I explained what it meant to have a dream-not like when you sleep but more like a goal and I asked them to think about our world today and what their dream was for the world.

Here's what they wrote:

We read the book My Brother Martin where his sister says she remembers a young Martin telling their mother that he was going to "turn the world upside down"-I think he's making a connection to that.

.....the world was happy.

Sunday, January 15, 2017

The Benefit of Open-Ended Questions

I am a big believer in using open-ended questions. It's harder with younger students-I often have to call kids up individually to explain what they have written or drawn. But that extra work is worth it! I love seeing how they can apply what they are learning. They sometimes come up with things I didn't even think of. Learning how to choose a multiple choice answer is important, but it's also important that the students can show what they are learning without those prompts.

This was one of the answers I received on our weekly test this week. I LOVE her perspective. We watched MLK's I Have a Dream speech and read several books about him. This answer just knocked my socks off!