Thursday, December 31, 2020

Classroom Resolutions

Well this has definitely been a year! We started virtually for the first month of school and then parents had the choice of whether to send their students to school or keep them home learning virtually. My class was split exactly in half. I learned a LOT this year. I feel like sometimes we get obstacles in our life to challenge us and make us better teachers.

Reflecting on this year so far, there are many things I will carry on in my practice even when we are fully face-to-face.

1) SEL-we start our day every day with a read-aloud relating to SEL skills-empathy, managing emotions, managing anger, friendship skills. My district put this into our schedule in the beginning and I can feel a difference in my students and the community we have been allowed to develop. If you have a membership to Kindle Unlimited there are so many options there.

2) Virtual field trips:

Not a great picture, I know but the stars represent everywhere we have visited so far. Every Friday we learn about a different country-we virtually visited:  France, China, Chile, Australia, New York, Disneyland, Pennsylvania, Hawaii, Brazil, India and the students read Easter Island on the map and requested a visit there. My favorite part is that I even learn new things about these places.

3) Pear Deck-I know I have posted about Pear Deck before but it has just been a lifesaver for me this year. I prepare my whole day's lessons-reading, math, writing, science and social studies in the Google slides. I can add a part where students can write/type a response. It has been a great way for me to easily get grades this year.  We project it on the Smartboard for students in class at the same time my students at home are following along. Students in class reponsd on dry erase boards, students at home on the Pear Deck. I LOVE it and will continue to use it in the future.

I resolve to continue to do these things moving forward. Choosing my One Word for this year (a word you will develop your year around) was difficult this year. I feel like there are a lot of things I could have chosen. But my word is "THRIVE". We will not just survive the school year but we will thrive. 

What are some of your classroom resolutions this year?

Saturday, December 19, 2020

Teaching Creativity

It is something contested by scientists-can creativity be taught or is it just something we are born with. I believe the former and I will tell you why. Teaching in early childhood, often students enter our classrooms not knowing what it means to be creative. They try to answer questions with what they think the adults want to hear. From day 1 (my first vocabulary words for them are creative and unique)--creativity is something I encourage.

When we do activities they are open -ended. I'm not a cut-out-all-the-pieces-and-the-kids-glue-it-together kind of teacher. I give them the materials and their products come from their vision. Skies don't have to be blue and grass doesn't have to be green in my class.

Another thing I do is an activity where I give students a task. Often I give them letters of the alphabet, split them up into groups and ask them to come up with: animals that begin with the letter s or foods that begin with specific letters. The goal of this activity is that they only get a point if their group came up with an idea no one else thought of. The most creative. So the automatic animal that begins with s for 1st Graders is of course, snake. But the lesson is to dig a little bit deeper. This applies to their work as well. You don't have to write the first thing that pops into your head-try to think of something no one has thought of.

We are in a unique situation this year. I looped with my students from Kinder to 1st. So I have had the opportunity to see them grow in this area. Yesterday we did an activity where I gave them a word and they had to say what came next. So for example: hot __________________. Now we just did a unit with the hot chocolate theme so I knew some would say that but some dug a little deeper. Then a student said Hot Cheetos and we talked about how hot can also mean spicy. How we can think about the different things words can mean.




I was a proud teacher yesterday hearing all the creative responses. At one point every student said something different for an answer. I truly believe creativity can be taught if we take the time to encourage it in our classrooms.

Thursday, December 10, 2020

Multiple Perspectives for Winter

I LOVE using multiple perspectives with young kids because I truly believe it helps develop in them the concept of empathy. Young kids believe the world revolves around them and that their experiences are the only ones that matter. These activities help broaden their horizons.

Here in Texas my kiddos have not seen snow first hand-we are learning about it though. I asked them to imagine being a snowflake. What would that feel like? What would you wish for? What would you see? Here is what my virtual students wrote in their Pear Decks:

Friday, November 20, 2020

#sorrynotsorry poems

Following our district curriculum, we are doing a poetry unit for 3 weeks. We have written all different kinds of poems.

I came across this book a few years ago:

These poems are based on the note William Carlos Williams left his wife. He apparently ate the plums she was saving and left a note saying "I'm sorry, they were so delicious and so sweet". The original #sorrynotsorry.

I had my students write their own versions of these poems.

Tuesday, November 17, 2020

Mom Cinquains

Continuing with our Poetry Unit the students wrote cinquains for their moms.  We used the common cinquain format-noun, 2 adjectives, 3 verbs, 4 word phrase about feelings, different noun. This was a great review for them on the parts of speech as well!

I am sharing the Pear Deck responses:

Sunday, November 15, 2020

Writing Poems with My 1st Graders

I LOVE using poetry with my students. We analyze real poems by poets like Frost, Langston Hughes and Shel Silverstein. Each week we read the same poem daily and then the students add it to their poetry journals on Fridays. We review the vocabulary and literary devices the poet used. Poetry is often very succinct in its word choice and rife with great vocabulary words. This week I asked my students to write their own poems about any topic of their choice. I was very impressed !

Leaves fall donw like a waterfal and it is warm and I feel cozy and fall makes me feel happy.
It makes me feel happy.

                                                   A little stream of consciousness. :) 

Saturday, November 14, 2020

You Are Not Alone

So I usually just post activities, books that I use in the classroom but I felt a need to write this post today. 2020 has been a crazy year to say the least. I am active on social media and daily read posts from teachers who are not okay. They are stretched thin and have to deal with feeling ineffective every day. There are so many TikToks of teachers just crying on their lunch breaks it really is heartbreaking. Every time I see a post telling teachers to remember self-care I want to scream! When?! I don't even have time to read anymore. :(

In our district we are still doing a hybrid model. Half my students attend face-to-face and half attend virtually. I am expected to teach all those students the same way at the same time. It has been a challenging adjustment. I spend about 3 hours every evening and about 7 hours on the weekend planning-creating content to include my virtual learners, contacting families to answer questions, grading the work submitted and creating assessments. I create my entire day's lessons in a Pear Deck so my virtual kids can also check for understanding throughout the day. 

Then this past week we were required to administer what we call "Snapshot Tests". These are tests that the whole district gives so they can compare your class to other classess around the community. We had to again do this in person and virtually-reading, math and even writing (the rubric said to look for capitals and punctuation-they were typing responses, they are not skilled in making captials on the keyboard. *sigh* ). My 1st Graders had to login, click 4 different buttons to submit. We are also doing high frequency word testing at the same time.

It has been a week! Then yesterday I received feedback from admin's walkthroughs and it was literally a checklist of 12 things-I only got like 2 checks. I don't have enough anchor charts and sentence stems posted. I don't have enough student work posted. My word wall is not caught up with the vocabulary we are teaching. *sigh*  I am not an emotional person but I cried on the drive home on Friday. I just feel like I am doing so much and it's still not enough.

Now please don't just dismiss this as someone complaining. It's not. I started a Sunshine Committee at my school (which is going to be a 2 person committee because I couldn't get anyone else to sign up) and I am planning morale booster activities. My point is if you are feeling overwhelmed, frustrated, not good enough--you are not alone. If you are an administrator please, please take it easy on your staff right now. What you should be asking them is how can I support you? What do you need from us? Not you are not doing enough. This is not sustainable. We will not survive at this pace if there is no support.

Thank you for listening and I wish you calm, support and encouragement as we navigate these waters. Our students need us.

Friday, November 13, 2020

Culturally Sensitive Native American Units

I have always been fascinated by Native American Culture. I've actually considered looking into teaching on a reservation someday.

I have to say that I am just appalled by some of the units and activities people buy, sell and complete this time of year.  We have to be more sensitive in what we choose to use with our students.

My favorite go-to is literature. Here are some books I recommend:

Higher level activities: Compare the different kinds of homes the various tribes built. Design your own home using materials from nature.

Storytelling-how has it changed over time

Patterns-in Native American music and art

New uses for mud.

Tuesday, October 27, 2020

Wild Thing Ethics

I think my all time favorite book to read aloud to students is Where the Wild Things Are. After reading it we discussed how the Wild Things felt when Max left. Then I asked the students to write about whether it was right or wrong for Max to leave. Here are their responses:

right because it was wild things

Max should love

wrong because everyone was sad.

right because mom, food.