Saturday, February 22, 2014

Saturday Sayings: Lucky You!

Last Sunday I had an interesting conversation with my friend Jenn from church about her dear firstborn son who is probably around 6 months old.  At his recent doctor's appointment, the doctor asked Jenn if she were reading to Winston at least 30 minutes a day but preferably closer to an hour, broken up into short segments.  Jenn said the doctor was as serious about reading with Winston and the language he'd be exposed to as he was about his eating or sleeping.  

Of course, the whole conversation made me smile.  It's an early elementary teacher's dream to hear that doctors are that explicit about the importance of babies and books.  Sometimes I wonder if my little people have ever seen a book or heard one read when they show up at my door.  I want to say, "What have you been doing for the last 6 years of your life?"  I know what Winston will be doing.  He'll be immersed in books and their rich language.  When it's time for him to step through the doors of his first school, he'll be ready for life.  If only all doctors impressed upon parents this responsibility and if only all parents listened.  This might sound melodramatic, but I'm fairly certain it would revolutionize our world.  For sure it would mine.  

Since most likely only a chosen few are going to hear this message and embrace it with their young ones, it's all the more important that I hook 'em while they're young, even though by the time I get them they've missed some integral years of reading development.  It can be done though.  The way I approach books and reading had better be more than just jumping through hoops of letters and sounds.  I must send the message, "Look what you've been missing out on all your life.  A life with books is the luckiest life to live.  Lucky you.  Welcome to the club!"

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Saturday, February 15, 2014

Saturday Sayings: Disguised as Weaknesses

My memory isn't great, but from what I hear, my mother did not enjoy taking me clothes shopping.  From a fairly early age, I stubbornly wanted nothing to do with what might have been fashionable. I preferred polos and pants.  (I'm not sure how they got me into ruffly tops that exposed my whole mid-section in the early to mid-70s.)  Some of that same stubbornness has followed me into my adult years.  How long have skinny jeans been back in style?  I just bought my first pair in November.  (But I refuse to wear them without boots.)  That stubborn streak, which seeps into other areas of my life, can be a weakness of mine, but could it also be a strength?

The quote I shared above could send me in one of several different directions, but my current situation is pushing me to one particular place of thought.  One of my newest additions brought with him many challenges.  One morning before school, a voice in my head and heart said, "You've got to find his strengths."  The mere fact that the thought made itself known proves the strengths weren't easy to spot.  

A few weeks ago I read a newsletter by Choice Literacy.  It shed some light on my search.  What seem like this child's flaws are also most likely his strengths.  So I have seen his strengths.  I just thought they were only his weaknesses.  I must change the lens with which I view him.  In fact, the same can be said for others in my classroom.  The bossy one has potential leadership skills.  The slow one is detail-oriented.  The one who's always trying to do things for those who need to be more independent has a motherly heart.  Their weaknesses are their strengths, as are mine.  I don't mind being my own person and coming into the fashions at my own slow pace.  I'm typically very comfortable looking and thinking like myself, even if I'm the only one.  The challenge is to focus on the strengths and be willing to acknowledge that they're sometimes found disguised as weaknesses.

The wonderful Choice Literacy newsletter I referred to can be found here. 

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Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Measurement Book

Young mathematicians fool us into thinking they know how to use a ruler.  I've seen a study that proves this is true.  Shown a ruler and object like the one below and most students, even into the upper elementary grades, will give a wrong answer.  Their understanding of measuring units is faulty.
This is why a year ago I started attacking this misconception and posted about it here (freebie included) and here.  This year we tried the same activities, but I decided to make a class book out of the concept.  We need all the additional practice we can get!

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Saturday, February 8, 2014

Saturday Sayings: Backpacks and Pockets

Backpacks and pockets can at times be loaded down with all sorts of items from home.  Sometimes I wonder, "Do your parents know you brought that to school?"  I rarely make a fuss as long as they don't become a problem in the classroom.  This year is different, and yet I can't really make a fuss, at least not in front of the kids.  I've had a parade of bulging backpacks and pockets in my room laden down with all kinds stuff from home - jail sentences, excessive moving from school to school, ODD, Bi-polar, visits from Child Protection Services, days without meds, changing of meds, little to no food at home, staying up too late, abuse, and the list goes on, and I only know a small portion of what weighs them down.  

To put it lightly, it's been a doozy of a year.  The above quote explains why.  The burdens of home cannot be separated from these little people and their ability to learn, think, focus, socialize, problem solve, follow directions, etc.  Those backpacks and pockets are so bulging that there's nowhere else for the stuff to go but out.  And out it does come on a daily basis, tumbling out around them at recess, in my room, at lunchtime, during PE.  There's no place in the school exempt from the affects.    

I can only control what I can control, and I have zero control over life at home.  I wish I had all the answers.  I know that trust and relationship make a huge difference for these kids.  Can I be completely honest though and say that hasn't been necessarily easy to establish?  Some little lives are so laden down, that the moment they walk into the room, you can tell they're not going to give you much of a chance.  At times, okay so most of the time, I don't feel qualified to lighten their loads and teach them at the same time.  It feels like a monumental task that's far beyond my capabilities.  What I'd really like to do is launch those backpacks into the creek behind the school, forever to leave these children, my classroom, and me alone, so we can simply and completely enjoy learning together, for once.  

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Monday, February 3, 2014

Snowflakes and Tongues

While it seems the rest of the educational world has gotten at least one snow day this year, I have yet to get mine.  (Did I tell you about the day last winter when every district in the valley had a snow day but mine?  The news channels even showed up to do interviews.  Sigh.)  At least we're making the best of it.  We recently drew ourselves catching snowflakes on our tongues.  I'd pinned the idea a long while back, but this was my first experience with the project.  I really love how they turned out.  If you decide to try this out, which you definitely should, please visit Artisan des Arts to see how this teacher's third graders created the original idea.  They did a beautiful job.

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Saturday, February 1, 2014

Saturday Sayings: Life Without Books

This one bothers me.  I'd like to think that all my students leave my room not only as readers but unable to live without books for the rest of their lives.  As their first grade teacher, I spend nine months on a love-for-reading campaign, but until I create more students who do read than students who can, I've got to step it up.

This week I was working with a student during Read to Self.  All my other readers were scattered around the room with their noses in books and their book baskets at hand.  About five feet away, I overheard one of my boys say to himself, "Yes!  I get to hang out with bees!" as he grabbed a nonfiction bee book out of his basket.  What a perfect moment to eavesdrop.  It gave me hope that I'm doing something right.  I've been stepping it up.  

My kids must know how absolutely lucky they are to be readers, so I'm repeatedly telling them.  I've been finding myself saying words like, "Look at the things you get to do because you're a reader.  You are so lucky.  People who don't read, don't get to do such things."  After Read to Self time, I've been asking them to share what they got to do during their reading time that day.  Here are a few responses: 

I got to play baseball with Pete the Cat.
I got to meet Hello Kitty and her friends.
I got to hang out with Fly Guy.
I got to swim with the dolphins.
I got to play with Dan the Flying Man.
I got to have a party with monsters.

Hopefully these responses are the beginning of a love for reading that launches them into lives that cannot be lived without books.  

P.S.  I've still got so much to learn about making sure that Richard Allington's quote isn't true for my classroom.

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