Wednesday, August 31, 2022

Vocabulary Journals

One of my favorite parts of teaching young children is all the new words they learn in their year with me! We learn a multitude of words to replace words like "pretty" and "big". We learn adjectives they can use in their writing and words just because they are my favorites (yes, I have favorite words, yes I am a nerd :) .

We have Vocabulary Journals where students can document the words we learn throughout the year. I mostly use Frayer Models where the students write a definition, illustrate the word, give examples and give non-examples. But I also include other pages where they can write about words we are learning. Here are a few examples:

Sunday, August 28, 2022

Invent a New School Supply

At least once a week, I try to give my students an opportunity to invent something new. This is challenging for them-they have difficulty in the beginning seeing past what already exists. So if I ask them to invent a new holiday for example, they want to do Christmas or Valentine's Day. But as with a lot of higher level thinking activities-the more we do it, the easier it gets for them.

This time of year we are all familiar with school supplies. I asked them to think about how they could improve an existing school supply or to invent a new one. What is not working now or what could work better. They came up with some exciting responses-especially for their first time doing an activity like this.

Friday, August 26, 2022

Tracking Creativity

There is a lot of controversy in the research as to whether or not creativity can be taught. I think everyone has some innate creativity and we can teach students how to tap into that. When we set the expectation that we want them to think of a unique answer, something different from their friends and we give them many opportunities to put this into practice-we see growth in how creative their answers are. How do I track this throughout the year? I use divergent art.

Divergent Art is giving students a squiggle or shape and asking them to use that in a picture. You "grade" their response as to the level of creativity you see. How unique was their idea? How detailed was their picture? I start with something simple, this year just a straight line. Here is the baseline for my class this year-lots of cones and triangles:


very creative!!!

Every month we do about 2 of these. I share the ideas afterward that I thought were creative and unique. The more we do it, the less simple their answers become. We can see their creativity blossom.

Tuesday, August 23, 2022

Our First Vocab Word is "Creative"

Creativity is an important goal for my kiddos. Many of them have never been taught what being creative means-often I have whole tables who write or make the same thing. By the end of the year that will not be the case. We learn what it is and I give my students ample opportunity to practice being creative.

The first day I want them to make a self-portrait-but using food! I put together a number of snack foods that can be used for hair, eyes, nose, mouth and some even did eyebrows. :) Their canvas is a tortilla.

Wednesday, August 17, 2022

Banning Books

So I don't get up on my soapbox often, but this is a post that's been brewing for a while.

Believe it or not, I grew up in a pretty conservative, strict family. We had early curfews and did well in school because that was the expectation. However, my mother was a big believer in freedom to choose what we wanted to read. She literally used the Banned Books list to shop for our Christmas presents. She knew I liked horror books so after she read Carrie by Stephen King, she passed it along to me. I think I was in 8th grade and my teacher was horrified-she confiscated the book and called my mom. "Do you know what she was reading?!" And my mother calmly replied "I do, I gave it to her. Can you give it back?". Right now parents are protesting certain titles they want removed so all kids will no longer have access. I believe this is so unfair. Especially because there is nothing wrong with these books. They offer insight into diverse perspectives and history we need to learn from.

Books have the power to broaden our horizons, give us insight into history, into other perspectives, other cultures. It just boggles my mind that people think they can keep their children from learning these things simply by banning books. Districts in Florida are being sued by parents left and right. Their district policy is now no read-alouds. No Scholastic book orders. No Epic reading program. No classroom libraries. Can you imagine trying to teach reading with no books. 

But they can still get books from the public library right? Well, just wait. Virginia has a bill pending that will ban books completely from their state. Bookstores can't sell them, it will be illegal to own them when this passes. If that doesn't scare you, I don't know what will. Has anyone read the book Educated by Tara Westover? What this book told me is you can't keep ideas from your children. Especially with everything on the internet.

So what can we do you ask. Vote. I know you hear it all the time, but it is so important. PAC's are being formed by parent groups to fund people running in school board elections. These people have no experience in education, their motivation is to take over boards and put policies like these in place. Local elections matter. Research the candidates and see who will help maintain freedoms in education to teach what we know students need.

1776 PAC   -This well-funded PAC has placed half the people they have backed for school board races. These people have no experience in education, simply an agenda to whitewash education.

It is a rough time for teachers who believe our classroom libraries should reflect our students. Who believe in teaching diversity and inclusion. But hard as it is we need to stand up for our students. They need to learn how to be inclusive and tolerant of views that differ from their own.

Saturday, August 13, 2022

Consider New Back-To-School Reads

I completely understand having books that you are familiar with-that you see as classics. But I also wanted to give you some suggestions of books that are more recent, more diverse and help us represent our students and their families. Now I want to be clear-I am not saying don't read First Day Jitters, No David or The Kissing Hand-what I am saying is think about adding some more modern stories to your read-alouds for the first week. There are many new titles that feature more diverse characters and stories.


Our names are part of our identities-we need to make sure we call people what they prefer to be called.

A beautiful story of a little girl learning the meaning of her name.

Love this one to introduce Multiple Perspectives. School is so excited for school to begin until the students come and hate school.

A message I think every school should make sure students realize.

A book in English but with some Spanish words. Fun story about Isabel and the problem she has the first day.

Another book about the importance of learning how to correctly pronounce people's names.

I LOVE this fun story about the power in ruling the playground.

Everyone is nervous the first day of school, this reassures students it will all be ok.

Saturday, August 6, 2022


I always have a handful of students who are perfectionists. It is actually very common with GT students. Students who do not want to paint because you can't erase. Students who shutdown because they can't think of an idea.

So how do we combat this? I always like to go to literature. Here are a few suggestions for read-alouds that will help create a safe space for your students to try new things.

This book reminds me of the time I was probably 6 years old and helped my dad make a cake for my mom to celebrate Mother's Day. I was reading the steps and my dad was measuring. We put it in the oven to bake and it was in there maybe 15 minutes when we realized we never added the flour or baking powder. We took it out mixed it in and when I tell you that was the BEST cake ever! Like we wanted to write in the new steps in the cookbook. :) Mistakes can often take us in a good direction.

I know at this point everyone and their mother knows Peter Reynolds but I would be remiss if I didn't include his books here. I have often had students blank when I ask them to do something creative-we have to just let go let those creative juices flow.

Ish allows us to give ourselves a break. It allows us to get close to the goal but if we don't meet it that's ok.

Beginning reader here about a bear who keeps adding and rearranging his sand castle to make it "perfect". 

This book is probably a 3rd grade and up book regarding the length and vocabulary but I still use it with my firsties. The brain research is really fascinating. The only way to grow our brains is to try hard things.

Cupcake tries to be perfect for everyone-and learns she can just be herself.

I've seen students grow and try new things over the years. It can be difficult when they feel that pull to be perfect, but the more opportunities we give them to make mistakes and see that it's not the end of the world, the more they are willing to step out of their comfort zones.