Thursday, June 27, 2019

Books to Model Grit

I know the word "grit" has been warped into something that the original researcher even regrets. I saw certificates at Lakeshore to give kids for having grit! Grit is the ability to work towards a goal, to practice, to learn and not give up simply because you are not good at it. It's something I do not see often in kiddos from this generation and try to help instill in them.

When I was growing up computers were a new thing. We had one in our house and would sit for hours with a book on how to code it to play Hangman. If you made one mistake-one space out of place, one capital letter that was supposed to be lowercase the program would not work. I truly believe this helped develop resilience in us. Something I believe coding in schools helps to do even today.

I LOVE discovering stories where characters do not give up even though reaching their goal is hard. Here are a few:

One of my all-time favorite stories! A penguin has the soul of an eagle and wants to fly. He doesn't give up until he can do it.

Humpty Dumpty had some anxiety about heights after his fall, but he worked on that and now can climb back up on the wall without hesitation.

The chickens are asking a lot of what if's that could prevent them from escaping the wolf. But they buckle down and do what they have to do for their own survival.

I LOVE this story! Eugenie Clark was told her whole life that she couldn't do what she wanted to do. Girls did not become scientists. People did not study killer animals. But she worked and worked and eventually met her goals and made a true difference in this world.

One of my all-time favorite story characters! Molly is short, has the voice of a bullfrog and buck teeth but with the advice of her grandmother she continues to try and eventually dazzles the world with her talents.

Saturday, June 22, 2019

Vocabulary Activities

I think teaching vocabulary is one of the most important things we do. Studies have shown over and over and families are just not talking to each other like they used to. Some parents are working and only spend a few hours with their kids on weekdays. Some families all have their own devices and are not having "real" conversations with each other. And we also know from the research that our Title 1 students are being exposed to a far less quantity of words than students who are growing up in more affluent neighborhoods.

So how do we close those gaps. Because if you don't know what a word means when you are reading or listening to a story, your comprehension will be limited. I believe vocabulary has to be both explicitly taught and used daily. People have made fun of me because I say we are working "independently". Or that is a "privilege". Or it is "imperative" that we do this. They think I am talking too far above my student's level. But you know what, they learn those words and begin to use them in their own conversations.

1) Explicitly teaching the words: every day we do a whole group reading warm-up which includes a new vocab word and a visual to help them remember.

2) Poetry-poets have to use a very succinct set of words because they do not have the amount of text that a book author has. We read the same poem every day for a week and go over any unknown words. 

3) Frayer Models: if the word lends itself to this model I can demonstrate it on the Smartboard or some years I made vocabulary journals which had blank models for them to fill out. My favorite part of this graphic organizer is the non-examples-you have to understand what a word means well to give examples of the opposite.

4) Vocabulary Runway Show: I assign a word to each child and they dress up as that word. We perform this for parents. What I love about this activity is that we practice during class so students are not just learning their own word, but everyone's word. They have that visual of their costume in their minds

5) Vocabulary Block Party-students are each assigned a word and they are that word as they mingle at our block party. So "affluent" and "wealthy"may meet up and discover they are antonyms. Again, they learn many different words in just one activity.

What kind of activities do you love to use in teaching vocabulary?

Monday, June 17, 2019

My Favorite Reads So Far This Year

One of the things I love about my new campus is there are so many more people who read! I actually started a staff book club this year and people actually joined. I have enjoyed having colleagues to discuss books with. 

Because I think teachers should also be readers, I want to share with you my favorite reads so far this year.

Chapter books for read alouds to the kids:

My favorite new discovery this year! Written in the voices of an evil mastermind who happens to be a guinea pig and a corgi who thinks he is a superhero. The students LOVED listening to this story and I LOVED reading it to them. We laughed out loud and they begged me to read the rest of the series to them.

I am always looking for stories to promote empathy with my students and this is one story that does just that. The father brings home a baby donkey who lost its mother and probably won't survive. The boy in the story not only nurses it back to health but makes Winslow the donkey part of the family.

For older kids:

A wonderful story of friendship and compassion for others. Their teacher wanted them to bond with each other so every Friday they spent the last hour of the day just talking. Each of them had issues they were trying to deal with and having friends there made it easier.

This story just about broke my heart. A story that details the struggles of growing up in poverty. It truly made me think about all my students face daily. 

This was recommended by one of my favorite fellow teachers Tammy. And it did not disappoint. A mix of fantasy and drama that I believe kids 3rd grade and up would appreciate.

And for adults:

The Marsh Girl is the stuff of legends. A little girl abandoned by her mother and siblings raises herself after her father mysteriously disappears as well. A story of survival and community but also a mystery. I did not see that ending coming!

I know this book has been on my to-read pile for a long time. I think this was a very well-written story of the experience of a slave and her owner. At the end the author explains that many of her characters were actually based on real people. I have read a lot about these sisters who supported abolishing slavery at all costs.

(Pronounced cer-see)-I have always loved Greek mythology and really enjoyed this story about one of Titan's daughters and her relationship with Odysseus.

Have you read anything lately that you enjoyed?

Saturday, June 15, 2019

Comics Club

One of my favorite extracurricular clubs is our Comics Club. Graphic novels are a genre which has really gained momentum over the past few years. We see more and more quality books being published. You can read about social justice ideas, bullying, tolerance, history and even classic literature.

We have a large LEP population at our school. These books with so many visuals make comprehension as they read in English more palatable for them. It also inspires reluctant readers to read more because these are books they can really get into.

We meet once a week. We discuss stories and identify qualities of these books such as speech bubbles, narration. There are videos of authors describing how they create these stories and we have even communicated with graphic novel authors through Twitter. After we really get a feel for the attributes in graphic novels, the students write one of their own. They illustrate it on a tri-fold board and then present their story at our annual Comic-Con. It's exciting to see their ideas come to fruition. At first they want to write about Pokemon or Batman-I let them know it has to be an original story. They ended up with some very creative tales!

Now their projects this year look a bit unfinished. We meet on Fridays and we just ran out of time this year. School was closed for 2 Fridays because of holiday/bad weather day and then we also we not allowed to meet after school during STAAR testing. I would have liked to see their final projects get fleshed out a little better.

Thursday, June 13, 2019

My 2 Cents When It Comes to Word Walls

Word walls are an important part of any classroom, particularly with the primary grades. However, I don't think word walls are the most useful unless they are interactive. My students rarely use materials just stapled to the walls, no matter how much that is encouraged. Many Kinder teachers create walls of sight words-this does not work for me. I want the students to take the words and use them in their writing, in their workstation activities. Having pictures accompany the words so the students can find them more easily is also important to me. I use vocabulary words-particularly focusing on adjectives they can use in their descriptive writing. 

For summer school this year I am not in my own classroom, so I made a portable word wall. The words are attached to a tri-fold board by velcro. The students can practice spelling the words in their stations, sort the words by number of letters or beginning/ending sounds. Easy to make and easy to take to whatever table the students are working from. I plan to do this more in my classroom making walls based on certain themes. The rest of the examples are simply clothespins on bulletin board border. Students can remove words and use them in their writing.

Portable word wall-summer words

Beginning of the year pic from my art themed word wall.

China theme

Hollywood theme

Wizard of Oz theme

Forest theme

Alice in Wonderland theme

I usually only take pics before the school year begins, so that's why there aren't a lot of words. We add them as we go. I don't believe in posting more than 15-20 words a time-it gets overwhelming for my little ones.

Saturday, June 8, 2019

College Ready

My whole career has been spent working in Title 1 schools. Over 90% of our students qualify for free and reduced lunch, which means they are growing up in poverty. I was in a professional development session once where the presenter asked-do you expect your students to go to college? The question stuck with me. Of course, I'd love to see all my students graduate from college, but did I realistically expect that to happen? Gave me something to think about.

Now every year, after we do our awards ceremony, I give my students a bank that I label with their name and "College Fund". I want the students and their parents to know I believe this is something they can do if they work hard. Even though they are Kinder students, we talk a lot about college. (They don't want to go because they don't want to leave their parents :) . I share pictures of my college and we talk about how they can choose what they want to study. I think they leave me knowing that could be in their future.

Thursday, June 6, 2019

Getting to Know You

We spend 9 months with our students. We get to know each other very well. I asked my students to write about what I was going to do this summer.

Ruby is my dog.

Yes, hopefully a few.

My students ask me about my family all the time and know I spend time on the weekends with my father quite often.

Look at those nails! :) 

I think that's more the student's plans.

Ooh la la!

I actually will teach summer school. :)

Yes! See they know me well.