Sunday, November 15, 2015

The 3 Hs

The 3 Hs are part of every morning in room 18. As I greet kids at the door, they have a choice of whether they want to give me a...

High five

Most choose the hug, but sometimes there's a handshake or high five in the mix. (And there are usually a few kids who aren't really touchy feely, which I completely understand, so of course I don't force anything upon them.)

I've been doing this for so long that I don't even remember where I found the idea. All I know is that I can't take credit. :)

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Saturday, November 7, 2015

The Jane Movement

My teaching life is an overwhelming one this year. I'm spending way too many evening and weekend hours grappling with how to best teach my crew of 26. I just purchased my 5th professional read since school started in hopes of finding something that will help me reach them better. I'm definitely being stretched by this young bunch with a vast range of abilities and personalities. 

In those moments when I'm feeling defeated and like a failure, I can see Jane, with the most beautiful eyes a first grader could ever have, but more importantly, with the most beautiful heart, walking around the corner of the building in the morning holding high for all to see the sign for "character" on her hand. It doesn't matter to her that other kids are running, because she takes my words to heart. "Character is doing what's right even when no one is watching." 

My Jane started a movement that day. Many quickly picked up on it and now come around the corner in the mornings holding up their character signs. Others make the shape of a heart which they hold over their own hearts. That's because I tell them to listen to their hearts. "Your heart will never let you down."

Last week I heard a boy from the room next door saying my name while I was letting my kids in one morning. There he was, holding up the sign for character. I doubt if he even knew what it meant, but the movement was spreading so I hardly cared.

Thank you Jane for reminding me that I'm doing something well. 

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Sunday, November 1, 2015

Name Envelopes

As all elementary teachers know, names are powerful tools for literacy learning. With the help of Patricia Cunningham I invest several days at the beginning of the year to celebrate and investigate every name in the room. Check out those ideas here.

One year I figured out that I could do something more with those cut-up names than simply send them home.

I put the name into an envelope.
I tape the child's picture to the front so that it can flip up.
I write the child's name underneath the picture. 

The envelopes become part of word work, and kids of all abilities love to put the names together and then check to see if they're right. Once the envelopes become less thrilling, I send them home.

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Saturday, October 24, 2015

Good Morning

We've been in school 40-something days, and I've finally managed to train most of my 26 students to reply to my daily morning greeting. I always tell each one, "Good morning" when I see them at the door. One would think they would know what to say in return, but they don't until someone like myself teaches them. 

I've said these words many a time: 
"So tomorrow when I see you at the door, your goal will be to say 'Good morning' when I say it to you. Let's all practice." 

I love it when some of them arrive and beat me to the words. Of course, I make a big deal about that, because it's a contagious kind of thing that spurs others to follow suit.

At this point, if someone doesn't say it back to me, I say, "That's when you say..." and they'll remember the appropriate reply. 

I just think it's important for little people to practice social awareness and respect. They don't know what that looks like until someone teaches them, and oftentimes that someone is their teacher.  

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Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Teacher Tweets

I recently put myself in charge of a staff development idea inspired by Twitter. First I got permission from my principal. Then I set up this display in our teacher's lounge. For the past few weeks I've put up little snippets to stimulate reflection and conversation. I've encouraged teachers to respond and even respond to the responses of others. When the conversation dies down, a new thought goes up. I've got a handful of ideas to put on the boards, but I've also made sure everyone knows this area belongs to the whole staff. I'm planning to leave some blank spaces very soon in hopes others will display quotes they've discovered. Hopefully this is a new tradition that invites busy teachers to join important conversations, reflect on pedagogy, and tweak practices when necessary, even if it means on the go while rushing through the teacher's lounge. 

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Saturday, October 10, 2015

National Learn a Word Day (freebie)

For a few years now I've been making an attempt (sometimes feeble) at "celebrating" national unknown holidays throughout the year. This coming Friday is National Learn a Word Day, and I'm asking my first graders to get involved. I was inspired by Miss Trayers at Not Just Child's Play in posts like this one. I like how she gets kids physically engaged in the learning and celebration of new vocabulary. 

Click on the graphic if you're interested in having your own copy.

I sent this sheet home with everyone yesterday. I filled out their name and gave each child a word. At first I thought about having the kids, with parent help, come up with a word, but I'm not sure of the results I'd get. Maybe that will come at another time. On top of drawing their word, I'm really hoping some of them take on the challenge of dressing up as their word, bringing an object that helps us understand their word better, or acting out their word. I'm hoping this goes well, not only so I can share the results here on my blog, but also so I can look for other ways to extend this kind of thinking and learning about vocabulary all throughout the year.

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Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Today and Every Day (Freebie)

I've known for a long time that conferring, though a powerful tool, doesn't automatically guarantee the writer will take what's given and consistently put it to use. I finally developed a tool that I hope will increase those odds ever so slightly. 

Since Lucy Calkins has taught me to say, "Today and every day..." to my writers when I'm leaving them with a strategy, I decided to name this tool the Today and Every Day Bookmark. 

When I confer with a writer, I draw the teaching point on their bookmark. (Drawing ensures access even after I leave them. Fluent readers obviously don't necessarily need pictures.) I made the bookmark nice and long so that I can add additional teaching points when the writer is ready to move on. By the way, the bookmark lives in the child's writing folder so it's always available during writing workshop time. It's also printed on cardstock for extra durability. Here are a few examples and a copy at the bottom just for you.  

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