Saturday, August 31, 2013

Saturday Sayings: Not One to Surrender

I once heard about a conversation between a secondary and elementary teacher.  In awe, the secondary teacher made a comment about all the things an elementary teacher is responsible to teach in a day, to which the elementary teacher responded with, "That's what scripted programs are for."  That response both dumbfounds and saddens me.  Indeed I have a mountain-load of material to daily teach my first graders, but I don't believe that's reason enough to hand over the professional decision-making process in my classroom to a collection of strangers who have scripted my teaching for me.  Even after starting my 20th year of teaching, I don't claim to be an expert at creative and authentic lesson planning, but I know the struggle and challenge is worth it.  I'm not one to surrender when I know what's right for my kids.  If I find myself in a conversation with someone who is in awe of how much I teach in a day, I'll smile, shrug, and say, "It's just what I do."

P.S.  I do use Lucy Calkin's Units of Study.  She's definitely onto something.  I don't use them verbatim though.  I tweak and use them as a guide just as she would want me to.

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Thursday, August 29, 2013

Can't is Illegal

I'm fairly certain in the six days that I've had my new crew that I've asked them to do things some of them weren't quite on board with.  The thing is, I'm not going to stop nudging.  We've got nine more months of nudges to experience.  Well, just in case anyone ever thinks of verbally backing out, we made a little poster for our room this week.

My inspiration was the version below that I found on Pinterest.  Click on the picture to visit its owner. 

So sure there are non-verbal ways of saying "can't" but my hope is that the reminder on our wall sends the message that at least speaking the word is illegal.

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Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Two for the Price of One

I love a good, cheap composition book, but I still don't like buying more of them than I have to.  I've seen how some teachers who need more than one per child cut theirs in half, which seems like a creative solution.  I've chosen though to use sides ends.  With a simple flip, one composition book can be both a math journal and science journal all in one.  I'll show you what I mean.



Voila!  Two for the price of one.

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Saturday, August 24, 2013

Saturday Sayings: Surrounded by Greatness

After two long days of introducing 24 first graders disguised as kindergartners into my world, I must admit that my brain is feeling the weight of tiredness more than anything else, but my goal is to eventually fill it with each one's special uniqueness.  Donald Graves has given me something to look forward to.

When my little crew arrived two days ago, I looked at all of them, borrowed a line from my pastor, and said, "I'm surrounded by greatness."  Even with my short explanation, I imagine the statement sailed over most of their heads, but I've come back to it since and plan on repeatedly revisiting the idea over the next nine months.  I seriously meant what I said to them that morning, but is it okay to admit that after two long, long days I might have to dig a little to find the greatness in some more than others?  I wish I could see it more easily.  I think I'm just distracted by other stuff, and I'm not looking in the right places yet.  As their teacher, I owe it to them to give it my best though.  I pray they give me a chance to find it.  I know the greatness is there.  I look forward to the day, soon, when I can carry the uniqueness of each child in my head.

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Wednesday, August 21, 2013

An Apple for the Teacher

I stole this very sweet idea from McKensie, who is a new teacher from my church.  

She posted it on Facebook, and I couldn't resist borrowing it.  Of course I asked for permission and told her I'd give her all the credit.  Not surprisingly, she found it on Pinterest.  Gotta love that place.  (Sorry, I don't know the original source.  If anyone does, let me know.)

Anyway, my parents are showing up tonight.  I'm looking forward to letting them know that they are their child's first and most important teacher.  That's a message I tell them throughout the year, but this apple is a perfect way to let them know right off the bat.  

Here's my version of the apple.  I changed it up ever so slightly.

Thanks again sweet McKensie for the idea  My parents will appreciate it!

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Monday, August 19, 2013

Calling All Tweeters

I've officially crossed over to the dark side.  I'm now on Twitter.  I'm not entirely sure how to use it, but I'm there.  You can find me if you'd like.

(Click on my picture to visit.)

My plan is to use Twitter for professional development.  So here's my question for all you veteran Tweeters.  Who would you recommend I follow?  Who are you favorite educational Twitter hot spots?  Thanks for the tweet tips.

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Saturday, August 17, 2013

Saturday Sayings: A Fan of Independence

Three years ago one of my boys dropped his whiteboard marker under his desk and didn't know what to do about it.  Needless to say, I didn't recover it for him.  I'm such a fan of independent first graders and have been for years.  Janice Sullivan, one of my favorite mentors, told me ages ago never to do something for a child that they could do for themselves.  It's almost like she and Regie were comparing notes.

Unfortunately, I've noticed an increase in the number of helpless little ones who don't know how to do things for themselves.  I'm guessing they've been hanging out with well-meaning adults who do most everything for them.  The lunchroom alone is proof that this problem is on the rise. Not a day goes by that I don't see several milk bottles, bags of chips, and other miscellaneous items being held in the air, waiting for an adult to come to their rescue.  There are adults who run to and fro doing just that, but I am not that adult.  I'll either say, "You give it a go" or show them how to get started and then expect them to take over.  "Aren't you glad I didn't do that for you?  You would have never found out the amazing things you can do all by yourself."  And of course their proud smile sends the message that I was right.  (When it comes to the small plastic cups of fruit, it's a different story.  Those are hard for even me!)  I could go on with examples of the ways adults teach children to be dependent on them (even in the classroom) but in the end, I believe it's a great disservice that can eventually leak into the way children approach learning.  

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Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Not Just Any Old Glue

My classroom supplies showed up yesterday.  (We don't have  community teacher supplies.  Instead we each get $250 to spend on whatever we'll need for our own classrooms.  Works for me!)  One particular item that arrived has got me excited.  Actually, I bought ten of them!

 It's not just any old glue stick.  Notice what kind it is.

Yep, it's restickable.  Go ahead and move things around.

Basically, you can make your own post-it notes from whatever paper you'd like, large or small.  I never knew such a glue existed until I read Smarter Charts.  (I posted about the book here.)

Here's a picture of how the authors used the restickable glue to help them create one of their classroom charts.

I'm looking forward to the joys of resticking in my room this year!

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Monday, August 12, 2013

Where is Miss McMorrow?

On the first day of school, I'll be passing this picture around.

Miss McMorrow was in first grade once upon a time.  Can you find me?  That's what my little ones will try do to.  They can't always spot me, but that's not the point exactly.  The point is that they'll enjoy getting to know this person who will be trying to win them over and teach their little hearts and minds for the next nine months.  

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Saturday, August 10, 2013

Saturday Sayings: Relevant

That's an extra long quote, but I couldn't help but include every last word.  It's probably because as I'm gearing up for a new year, my thoughts are lingering on such things.    

  • Is what I'm teaching important to students?  
  • Is it something that will apply to their world outside of school or is it just a school thing?  
  • How has this skill or strategy been useful to me as an adult?  
  • What stories do I have to share about my own learning that will help my students connect with this skill better?

For example, I'm currently juggling all these questions when it comes to my calendar area.  Mardelle from Weeds in the Garden has got me rethinking how I use it.  I know the feeling of being stuck in the middle of calendar time and thinking, "What's my point here?  Why am I spending time on this?  How is this moving children forward?"  Mardelle has challenged me to use the calendar in a way that honors how time is relevant to the kids and their day-to-day lives.

Click on the picture to read Mardelle's post.

No matter the subject area, I'm feeling moved more than ever  to consider Debbie Miller's quote.  If what I'm trying to teach isn't important and relevant to kids and their real world, I've got some reflecting to do and some changes to make.

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Thursday, August 8, 2013

My First and Last Throwback Thursday

Oops, I didn't plan on posting twice today.  Sorry about that.  This is my first and probably last opportunity to join up with Cara from The First Grade Parade for her Throwback Thursday linky though. :)

Originally posted on May 18, 2013

For many years I've given end-of-the-year gifts to my kids that were sweet and given with love but not long-lasting.  I've been wanting to make an upgrade to something more sentimental and worthy of keeping for years and years to come.  I think I found it.  I merged two great ideas from fellow bloggers to create these.

I found 4 1/4" x 4 1/4" tiles at Home Depot for 16 cents a piece.  (Um, wow!)  I used profile pictures, scrapbook paper, Mod Podge, and a Sharpie marker.  There you have it.  Simple, cheap, cute, and sentimental.

Like I said, I merged two ideas from blogland.  K. Mo makes profile pictures for Mother's Day, and Natalie gives picture tiles to her kids at the end of the year.  Thanks gals for inspiring me!

Natalia at Teachery Tidbits

I hope my little ones hold onto these little gifts for a long time.

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To Tweet or Not to Tweet

I'm clueless about Twitter.  I pretty much know zilch about it.  For example, hashtags look like pound signs to me.  So here's my question for anyone who is willing to answer.  How can Twitter help me be a better teacher?  I'd love to hear what you think about this.

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Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Song Shopping

I've been shopping for a class theme song.  It's just another something special that I want to share with my little family of kiddos.  I think it will contribute to the right kind of class culture.  Now thanks to many of you, I have all kinds of great songs to choose from.  I'm looking forward to sharing a few with my kids and letting them vote on their favorite.  Anyway, this is picture of all of you who left me songs.  

And here is the winner...Julie!  I'll be chatting with you soon about the teacher sign I'll be making you.

Julie from Lighting a Fire

For those of who would like a classroom theme song, here is a list of all the songs people suggested.  Maybe you'll find yours here.  Happy shopping and singing!

(Feel free to click on the song and take a listen.)

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Monday, August 5, 2013

Hurtin' My Brain

I'm happily joining Kimberley from First in Maine today with more thoughts about Catching Readers Before They Fall.  Click on the graphic to see what she's got to say.  Her thoughts are always worth reading.

Chapter 8:  Comprehension 
What got me thinking...

"There is a danger in focusing too narrowly on each strategy for six to eight weeks with the entire class."

"Itemizing strategy instruction can be just as ineffective as teaching phonics in isolation." 

"The teacher needs to begin with a desire to make meaning of a particular text, always keeping the focus on meaning, and then present the strategy as something that contributes to his or her understanding of the piece."

Reading this chapter hurt my brain a little, and I'm not sure one reading allowed me to completely take it all in or make it my own.  The authors got me thinking though about how I incorporate comprehension strategies into my instruction.  I'm not sure how to articulate the crux of the chapter, but that last quote is pivotal.  Does my comprehension instruction start with a strategy ("Today kiddos, we're going to learn about...") or does it start with a text and my desire to make sense of it?  I suppose there's a fine line between the two and one that some might find hardly worth mentioning, but I consider it important to ponder.  

Chapter 9:  Spotlight on Inferring and Summarizing
What got me thinking...

"Inferring is the heartbeat of comprehension.  It is fused together with almost every other strategy.  Children need to learn that readers think as they read - and that thinking can go far beyond what the words on the page actually say."

This chapter helped me realize that inferring is more important than I'd ever realized.  It's pivotal to the way early readers comprehend and something worth thinking out loud about from day one.  If it's the heartbeat, I need to treat it as such.  

P.S.  I also need to reread these chapters once school starts.  

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Saturday, August 3, 2013

Saturday Sayings: Proficient, Confident, and Independent

If I could follow Regie around for a day (sigh) I don't think I would see overlong assignments.  I imagine her keeping things pretty simple but very relevant.  I doubt she'd ask her kids to engage in lengthy activities that were more cute than highly educational.  I think she'd incorporate a lot of fun but very purposeful work into her instruction.  I can't imagine hearing her waste time with wordy and complex directions.  I believe she'd balance demonstrations and modeling as well as sharing the process together with her students before sending them off to try on their own.  Basically, I see Regie protecting her limited time by avoiding things that would not make her students more proficient, confident, and independent learners.  I need to ask myself if what I'm doing in my classroom each day achieves the same purpose.  Am I protecting the limited time I have for the benefit of my leaners?  In some ways I am and in others, not so much.  I've got some work to do.      

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