Tuesday, February 27, 2018

Ethics and the Cat in the Hat

Ethics is one of my favorite concepts from Kaplan's Depth and Complexity to teach. I can see so much progress in my students' thinking and their ability to make an argument for their opinions. Dr. Seuss books are full of good ethical situations to discuss.

We read the Cat in the Hat and at the end of the story the question is posed would you tell your mother about the Cat's visit? My kiddos were pretty split-those who said they wouldn't tell had that opinion because they didn't want to get in trouble. Those who would said it was the right thing to do.

Saturday, February 24, 2018

Books About Making A Difference

I have been home sick this past week and have spent more time than I normally would following all the protests and speeches being given by the school shooting survivors in Florida. I am always impressed when kids stand up for what they believe in-but it helps when they are articulate and passionate as these students are. No matter what is thrown at them they are holding their own. This generation sure knows how to use social media to influence others. Many people are surprised at their political acumen-but I am not. When I did Student Council, one of my favorite aspects of it was seeing these youngsters ask questions and develop understandings for concepts I didn't comprehend the first time I voted. I am embarrassed to admit-I could not tell you the difference between a Democrat and  Republican the first time I pulled those voting booth levers. I think this generation will be different. 

Literature is the foundation of my lessons. If I want to help model courage and risk-taking for my students-I read them stories about characters with those qualities. I want my students to grow up and stand up for what they believe in-so I read them stories about others from history who have done just that.

Because of the efforts of Silvia Mendez' family, Hispanic students were no longer relegated to segregated schools.

She wouldn't even give in when they tried to prevent her from being left-handed. From a child RBG stood up for what she believed. My all-time favorite quote from her is about how she has had a successful marriage - ÿou have to be a little deaf sometimes". :) 

Alice Roosevelt was her own person. She wouldn't conform to what others wanted her to be (much to her father's chagrin). But she was also influential and became a darling of the people.

Imogene stands up to save a historical monument in her town. Protesting at its finest!

I like this story because it shows that just taking a little step can help change the world. She creates a bit of a sanctuary in her yard that grows and grows.

The true story of a town's efforts to save their sea turtles. The kids went door-to-door to ask people to keep off their external lights so it wouldn't confuse the babies. A community effort started by children!

I knew about the sit-ins from this time period, but I never heard the whole story. These college students endured threats and having food thrown on them to stand up for what they believed needed to be changed. And it worked!

Chapter Books:

Tua does not like the way the elephant is being treated by its trainers. So she helps it escapes and gets it to an elephant sanctuary-with a little help from their friends.

A girl goes back in time to help save her father from death row. It's a story about standing up to corruption in the name of justice.

Standing up to racism and segregation, the protagonist puts herself on the line. She knows changes are important, even if that begins with allowing all children to swim in a public pool. It starts with a letter to the editor and goes from there.

I am in awe of all the student protesters out there today. I hope they can be strong and hold out for the changes they are asking for.

Wednesday, February 21, 2018

What My Dog Taught Me About Teaching

My friend Terri over at: posted pics on Twitter of their new rescue and it made me a little nostalgic for my Ruby's rescue story. I don't think I've shared it here for a while.

I adopted Ruby when she was 3 months old. She had already been at the shelter for a month and she was kept isolated because she had respiratory infections that they first thought might be distemper. I played with her for little while and then immediately decided she would become part of our family.

 Many people talk about how rescue dogs are awesome (and they are!) because they are so grateful that you gave them a family. Ruby did not get that memo. She bit and scratched me the whole way home. Once at our house she paced around like a shark. If I sat on the floor to play with her and cuddle, she nipped at me. I grew up with boxers and we never had any kind of behavior like that before so I asked my vet for a trainer recommendation.

The trainers came out to our house, met her, observed her-asked questions-she doesn't ever cuddle in your lap?-- and proceeded to tell me that "she will never be the kind of dog you want her to be". I was so appalled at that response. First of all, I made a commitment, I wasn't taking her back. Secondly, if you don't believe she can learn, she's not going to learn. As a teacher I couldn't even imagine making that judgement about a student-oh, they're never going to be able to learn.

So on to trainer #2. He was very nice, called her "Little Alligator"because she liked to chew on his shoelaces. He was all about the alpha dog approach. Yeah, Ruby never got that memo either. She was just really stubborn.

Trainer #3 called himself a Dog Whisperer. He immediately pulled out a dog collar with teeth. I refused to use it with Ruby. He told me if I wasn't going to do the program correctly it wasn't going to work-I told him if he couldn't train her without hurting her, then this was not the right program for us.

Now Trainer #4 was a great match. She was very zen and knew from the start that Ruby was misunderstood. She was an agility trainer and right away Ruby showed a fearlessness for the tunnels and jumps that she said all dogs did not possess. She taught me techniques to use with her and we practiced and practiced. There was blood, sweat and tears put into that process.

Today she is such a great companion. She makes me laugh, protects me (from anyone even walking down our street). I look forward to coming home to take our walks and sit out in the front yard watching the world go by.

What does this have to do with teaching? First of all you have to believe a student will learn or they will not learn. I was in a training once where they asked "do you believe your students will grow up and go to college"-every teacher at my table said no. I do believe that. We start talking about college in Kindergarten for that very reason. Even if they are not getting the best start in life economically, I believe in that for them.

Secondly, all techniques do not work for all students. You have to try different things until you figure out how a student learns. We fill out inane paperwork every year for permanent folders-but nowhere is there a place for a teacher to say anything specific about what works for that student when it comes to how they learn. Most teachers have to figure that out for themselves, which can be frustrating.

Don't give up! Every child (and dog ) deserves a chance to be successful.

Wednesday, February 14, 2018

Rules for Valentines

Sometimes I forget my little ones haven't really experienced much in this world yet. We talked about Valentine's Day and planned our activities, but the reality for them was so much more! They were beyond excited-"this is the best day of my whole life". :) 

After we passed out our valentines, I asked them to look at them and see what was always true about valentines. This is one of the concepts of Kaplan's Depth and Complexity--Rules. What rules can we state about valentines. I think some of them really came up with some creative answers!

It's always true that love spreads.


Friday, February 9, 2018

Conversation Heart Sentences

Writing sentences is one of our objectives and it's a tough one for many of my kiddos. Even if they can sound out their words, they usually don't have the stamina to write for very long. We talked about all the different ways writers get inspired and this time we were going to be inspired by conversation hearts. I gave each student a heart with a word or phrase and they had to use that in their sentence. (By the way, someone should do a study on how much the phrases on these heart have changed over the years--on fleek? LOL? ).

Here are there sentences:

When I was a baby my mom called me Beauty Queen.