Saturday, May 13, 2017

Kindness Mantra

This has been on my board for the last few months. Obviously it needs no explanation. It's one of the smarter sentences I've created, and it's certainly one of the most repeated in my classroom, as any first grade teacher can imagine. 

I understand this phrase requires a lot from little people. Let's be honest. It requires a lot from adults, me included. That's all the more reason to provide our youngest citizens the opportunities to regard kindness as a crucial, even more important than their own way.

It doesn't matter if you only have a few days left with your students. I invite you to write this on your board now and repeat it often. 

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Saturday, April 8, 2017

Saturday Sayings: With Urgency

My kids take an end-of-year state reading test in April. I was recently reminded how easy it would be for a teacher to think her job is finished once students take that test -- to finally breathe deeply and fill up the remaining weeks of school with fluff. This kind of thinking is erroneous. Teaching with a sense of urgency means I will give them my best teaching up until the very last day.

All the countless hours of effort, time, and energy I've dedicated to this year do not culminate in the ten minutes a student spends attempting to prove himself proficient for the state. What a waste of time if that were true. The past seven months of my life do not hinge on a test, and the same can be said for my students. So why would I use a test as an indicator that my job is done? 

Secondly, the end of an official testing period is not the end of my influence. Minus the last few days of school when I wrap things up, I plan to use every last minute to joyfully teach every student. I'm not finished messing with their hearts and minds until they walk out my door on the last day of school,  Then, and only then, will I breathe deeply. 

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Tuesday, March 21, 2017

10 More 10 Less

We're working on ten more and ten less. Today I took the kids through an activity with three levels. It went rather well.

Level one: 
Each partnership was given a large poster of sorts with twelve boxes and one numeral written in the top box. Their task was to repeatedly add 10 until all boxes were finished. In the end, each poster looked like a column from a 120 chart.

Level two:
Their second task was to cut their column apart into boxes. Then each partner got to travel around the room to other "puzzles" and put the pieces together in the correct order. 

Level three:
I borrowed the premise from another game for this phase. With the use of a +10 and -10 spinner (which can be seen in the picture below) and counters, the pairs raced to the bottom of their column of numbers. 

I love how this activity was easy to prepare. I also love that it progressed in levels. It allowed for lots of practice but in a way that kept things fresh. 

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Friday, March 17, 2017

Picture Rubric = A Game Changer

I'm new to picture rubrics, but now that I've used my first one I can't believe I haven't been using them forever. I've found mine to be an invaluable tool, and I see possibilities for many others in my future. 

The picture rubric below is one I created for my dental health unit. Since students would be creating a poster about their learning, I wanted them to have a standard and one that was easy to understand.

This rubric was our guide at the end of three separate lessons on brushing, flossing, and healthy eating. It touched on content, grammar, punctuation, capitalization, spelling, handwriting, details, and coloring. I loved that it made expectations explicit. Students could identify what made their work a 3, and they took more ownership. It took me out of the equation, because they pushed themselves. (That's what we call a game changer.)

I haven't created another picture rubric yet, but I've used the language in many other situations. I do look forward to the possibilities! 

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Saturday, March 11, 2017

Saturday Sayings: Learn, Not Pay

Due to my involvement in The Idaho Coaching Network this year, I've had to miss several days of school. I can count on one hand the number of sick days I've had in 23 years of teaching, so being gone once a month is atypical and extremely hard on me. 

I shake my head when I think about what my students will or won't do in my absence. If I were a fly on the wall, I know I'd be disappointed. Maybe that's my ever-present control freak nature. Maybe it's because I teach my students that character is doing what's right even when no one is watching. Likely it's both. Either way, I returned from my most recent absence to hear that the guest teacher and my class had a rough day.

Honestly, the news was immensely frustrating and even hurtful. I'll admit I took is personally. I wanted to apologize on behalf of my people. Yeah, they're only six or seven and far from perfect, but they know better. Doing the right thing when Miss McMorrow isn't watching is not always easy but it's important. (They hear this from me often.) In the early stages of my frustration, growth mindset wasn't on my mind. I came around. 

While scrapping my original plans for the following day and wondering how I was going to fix a moment gone bad, I found inspiration and direction in some words that magically and unexpectedly overtook my thoughts. 

I don't want them to pay. I want them to learn.

I don't believe I've ever specifically thought about this before, and I mourned for the times when I've subconsciously led with a you-will-pay-for-this mindset. I don't recall ever intentionally doing this, but at some point in my career, I've no doubt had a moment, or several, when paying took priority over learning or paying was disguised as learning. I think it's so easy to unintentionally slip into this mode.

So I went into the day with a plan -- a plan to learn, not pay. Every conversation and activity would send a clear message about who we want to be, intertwined with these and other similar words: "Remember on the first day of school when I said I loved you before you even showed up? That's still true and nothing can change that."  

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Thursday, March 9, 2017

Tattling Scenario Sort

My guest teacher didn't enjoy the deluge of tattling while I was gone one day recently. I don't blame her. I wouldn't either. The day after my absence, we sorted scenarios to help the kids think about when it's appropriate to tell an adult and when there are better options. There obviously are appropriate moments for reporting, so we don't want to silence kids. We need to keep the channels open, but they need strategies too. Simply telling them to stop tattling or "Take care of yourself" (which is one I've said a thousand times or two) is really not enough.  

By the way, I changed up the scenarios on another day for added practice. This could happen repeatedly and could parallel popular tattling situations that arise in the classroom. I do believe the sorting activity made sense to my kids. I just hope it still makes sense on the next day I'm gone.

If you're interested in knowing more, I found this idea at the Responsive Classroom. It's a great post.

P.S. Be leary of breaking into the chorus of "Let it go." If your boys are like mine, they'll be covering their ears in agony.

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Wednesday, March 8, 2017

Chain Gangs

The day after a guest teacher left a report that wasn't so great seemed like the day to try the chain challenge, because kids who drive the sub crazy by tattling probably aren't using their best teamwork skills.

I didn't make up this task, but I've seen it all over the internet. Each team got a piece of 9x6 construction paper. As you can see in the picture, the colors were all different. Besides prepping them about the importance of teamwork, the only directions were to make the longest chain out of that one piece of paper, because they weren't getting more.

While they were working, it was the perfect chance to highlight teamwork skills as timely issues and opportunities presented themselves. I found myself reacting with saying things these:

  • Teams never give up, even when they can tell they won't win.
  • Teams stay focused on the task. Otherwise they'll never reach their goals.
  • Teams would never dream of making another team feel bad.
  • The winning team isn't necessarily the one with the longest chain. It's the one that works well together.
  • Teams clean up after themselves.

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