Sunday, September 23, 2018

Glitch, Bummer, Disaster

Christine Hertz and Kristine Mraz are quickly becoming some of my favorite people. They are helping me beef up the social emotional ways I teach my kids. 

If you're unfamiliar with them, please please please read this post where I reference three things they've recently written that will likely transform your thinking and teaching.

This coming week I'm going to tackle problem solving in my classroom. I'll be using the following two charts that Christine and Kristine use.





Aren't those some brilliant charts? I'm going to combine them into one chart and build it piece by piece until we've learned about each problem over a three-day period. (I actually wrote three lessons that will hopefully help me do this efficiently and effectively.)

I love the language that Christine uses once the chart is complete and kids are having problems.

  • It seems like you're really upset about that. I hear you.
  • What kind of problem do you think that is?
  • Do you have any ideas of how you might solve it?

Have I convinced you to go read what Christine and Kristine have to say? Do it now.


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Saturday, September 22, 2018

Saturday Sayings: If He Could, He Would



"What's your mantra going to be?" That's what my secretary asked me the day I stood in the office and told my story - the one about a student's perplexing and frustrating behaviors. Haven't we all told that story a time or two? It's usually one that can't easily be resolved, but my secretary's question was the perfect response. She's heard my classroom mantra PD. She knows how strongly I believe in the power of words. And so began a quest for the words that would help me stay the course on behalf of this little person while hopefully preserving my own peace of mind. 

I turned to Kids 1st From Day One by Christine Hertz and Kristine Mraz who have been my guides on the side since day one of my school year. I'm in love with and challenged by the words they share from Katherine Reynolds Lewis. Can't behaving a certain way vs. not wanting to are two very different things. I can say from personal experience that the latter is an easy copout to embrace. 

Hertz and Mraz encourage teachers to believe that if a child could do something, he would. That mindset demands a different approach to challenges. Empathy and grace come to mind and maybe even a sliver of hope - hope that with the right scaffolds and supports, a child can be taught the skills necessary for social and emotional success, just like he can be taught to read or write. 

So my mantra? If he could, he would. 

I've been teaching long enough to know that five words aren't going to magically resolve any issues come Monday morning, but I know they have the power to change my mindset for the better. 

If he could, he would.


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Friday, September 21, 2018

Sensory Path #2

I'm here to say that a sensory path doesn't have to be expensive, elaborate, or hard. It can be cute, fun, and fairly easy. Today a crew from my school created our second path. Since we have two playgrounds, it seemed like the thing to do. Read about path number one and the finer details here







Happy hopping!


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Saturday, September 8, 2018

Our Sensory Path

Last spring or summer I saw a video on Facebook of a little person hopping his way along a colorful and creative path down a school hallway. The more I thought about it and the more I saw it reposted, the more I knew it was something that  my school needed. "We should do this," recently turned into "Can I do this?" and my principal gave me the thumbs up to take it on. 

I basically mapped out the path from the video I saw from Facebook on a piece of paper, which saved me a whole lot of creative thinking time. We only have one hallway in our school, and I can't imagine trying to walk my students to music or library in any kind of orderly fashion with a sensory path on the floor, so we put our path on the playground. Plus, all students can access it during recess time. I grabbed three teacher friends and this morning in about 2 1/2 hours we made it happen. I rolled. My friends followed and touched up my lines.

I think our students will love it. I can already imagine taking my whole class outside for a brain break. I also hope the path becomes a welcome break for those individual students who need a quick getaway from the world.








Grab some paint. Grab some friends, and you can have your own sensory path too!

P.S. FWI: It really wasn't that hard. I simply drew a map on a piece of paper. Then I used a small roller to roll it onto the ground. No taping or drawing the plan on the ground first required. (It helps that I have a very steady hand.)



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Sunday, September 2, 2018

Kristine and Christine

This post is a mishmash of resources that represent where my heart and head are right now in year 25 of my career. It's embarrassing and overwhelming to admit, but I've read some things in the last few months that have revealed some significant holes in my practice. Have I really been doing it all wrong all these years? Maybe I'm being slightly dramatic, but it's just confirmation that I must continually be a better version of myself. I'm confident the tools I'm about to share are going to help me get there.

Resource #1:
If you teach elementary children, read Kids 1st From Day OneDon't wait until your next break. Read it now. It is literally life-changing. I should probably reread certain sections of it before going to bed each night until the ideas become second nature. It's that good.



Resource #2:
Read this short post, Life After Clip Chartsby Kristine Mraz, co-author of the book you're going to read soon. I've never used clip charts, yet found this post to be another text that needs to be part of my nightly reading. She's challenged me to think about what I believe and to look closely at the practices that simply don't match up. Ouch.

Resource #3:
Read this post, Three Essential Social-Emotional Practices for the New School Year, by Christine Hertz, also co-author of your future favorite book ever. This post is meant to follow up Kristine Mraz's post, so do read them in order. It's enlightening, practical, and necessary and is already affecting my lesson plans for Tuesday.

Resource #4:
The first of Christine Hertz' three essential social-emotional practices is how to build awareness in our students of their social-emotional needs. The first step to building awareness is teaching children about their brains. She refers to Daniel Siegal's hand model. In Kids 1st From Day One, Kristine and Christine also talk about Siegal's analogy of the upstairs and downstairs brain. Both the hand model and brain analogy are concepts I want my students to know and understand sooner than later. So I've written two mini-lessons based on the resources mentioned. I want to offer them to you here. I'm not sharing because I think they're all that great. I haven't even taught them yet, and they're likely to need revision. I'm sharing because I think Kristine and Christine's work needs to influence more people. Period.

These two teachers and authors understand children in a way that inspires me. I'm humbled by their work and can only hope that my practice develops as a result of their influence. Please do take the time to seek out their wisdom. I think you will find their thoughts enlightening and worth your while.



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Saturday, September 1, 2018

Saturday Sayings: Three Questions



This summer I heard pro golfer, Ben Crane, talk about his daily reflective practice on a podcast I listen to. Without fail, he asks himself the following three questions.

1. What went well?
2. What did I learn?
3. What will I do about what I learned?

I couldn't help but make connections to my life as a teacher. I have this bad habit of allowing the tough moments of my day to play over and over in my head on my way home from school. It's amazing how many times I can relive the worst part(s) of my day in 15 minutes and yet find absolutely no peace or solution to my problems. After hearing Ben talk about his three questions, I was convinced his daily reflective practice would be much more productive than mine.  

Question number one forces me to celebrate first. At the end of a tough day, sometimes the last thing I have mental energy for is acknowledging the good. When in actuality, the best thing I can do for myself is reflect on what went well. 

Question two is phrased in a way that forces me to attack issues with a different mindset. What went wrong? vs. What did I learn? are two very different questions that require very different responses. Ben's question offers an opportunity for growth instead of despair.

Question three puts me in solution-mode. I have a plan for what I can do differently heading into the next day. My plan might not be guaranteed to work, but at least I have one. And maybe even more importantly, I have hope. 

So on my way home from school, I've been thinking my way through these questions, followed up by writing my answers in a journal before going to bed. I'll admit day seven's commute was a challenging one. The questions were pushed aside by the competing thoughts in my head. I will though get my answers written before returning to school on Tuesday, because this teacher needs to celebrate, learn, and plan for how to push towards excellence, one day at a time.

What questions are on your list?



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Tuesday, August 28, 2018

Recess Workshop

Recess "workshops" are one of the many new things I'm trying out this year. I wish something like this had come my way before year 25. It's kind of brilliant.

This summer I read Purposeful Play by Kristine Mraz, Alison Porcelli, and Cheryl Tyler. They recommend setting aside time for an additional period of recess where the teacher teaches a mini-lesson, the kids go play with that lesson's focus in mind while the teacher monitors, and then the class shares afterwards. 

I'm using the book's ideas a guide... 

On day one we learned that we all have feelings that make our faces and bodies look certain ways. This chart comes directly from the book. 



On day two we learned that faces and bodies tell us how other people are feeling. We use that information to help us act differently. Again, I borrowed (and slightly modified) the chart below from the book. We sorted pictures and talked about how a person's face and body show us if that person is fine with how we're playing or if we need to stop.


There's more to come, but I wanted to share the beginnings of what we've been up to. I know it will take a lot of repetition, practice, role playing, etc. but I do believe this kind of intentional teaching will help kids not only on the playground but in life. I'm excited to see where this goes.



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