Thursday, October 19, 2017

Project Celebrate


From the books I've read, to the book club conversations I've had, to the time I've spent in the Boise State Writing Project and Idaho Coaching Network, I'm consistently reminded that it's time to celebrate. It's time to notice. It's time to encourage and thank. Celebration is pivotal to a healthy culture.



With permission and encouragement from my principal, I created this bulletin board for my school's workroom and invited my colleagues to join me in Project Celebrate. The challenge is to write a note to each staff member before the end of the trimester (and repeat that two more times during the remainder of the year). There's a basket of colorful and inviting paper and cards on the workroom countertop, and each staff member received a list of names just in case they want to check names off as they write. 

This is the kind of place I want to work at.



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Saturday, October 14, 2017

Parents as Teachers


I have twenty-four students so far this year, and I wouldn't be surprised if I gain a few more by May. This teacher to student ratio is not ideal. There's literally not enough of me to go around, which is why I cherish my parent volunteers and choose not to send them off to the teacher workroom to make copies, use the paper cutter, or do myriad other menial tasks. My parent volunteers work one on one with children. 

I understand, as well as any other teacher, the amount of prep work that's required to do this job, and it adds to the daily stress and strain. But the children in my care are my first priority. Their needs are more important than my long list of projects that need attention. I can manage to get those things done, but I honestly can't always manage the many needs represented in my room. 

So unless my children are at recess or a special, you won't find my parents in the workroom. You'll find them doing the most important thing that a parent at school can do. They'll be teaching.

What are your parents doing?


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Wednesday, September 27, 2017

Brain Growers: Persistence

Have you read A Mindset for Learning by Kristine Mraz and Christine Hertz? It's a brilliant growth mindset resource for elementary students. I'd highly recommend it.  

I've been sharing brain growers here on my blog for several weeks now. Last week we learned about persistence.

Day one: We read Almost by Richard Torrey. It helped us learn about and define persistence. We also told stories of persistence from our lives.


Day two: We read Can I Play Too? by Mo Willems. We looked for persistence in the story before practicing the brain grower with some extreme sour Warheads. If that doesn't take persistence, I don't know what will. (I learned this trick from a blogging friend.)



Day three: We read Flight School by Lita Judge and then used persistence to build houses of cards.



Day four: We can You Can Do It Bert by Ole K├Ânnecke. We also made a crown to celebrate moments of persistence.



These brain growers are lifetime skills. I'm honored to teach them to some of our youngest learners.






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Friday, September 22, 2017

Saturday Sayings: Heart and Soul



"Writers...show me the colors of your eyes. You've got to hear the poem Noah just wrote. 'Sharks are like a man-eating beast with razor-sharp teeth that tear fish apart. Duh duh duh duuuuuh.' Don't you just love how he used words like 'man-eating beast' and 'razor-sharp teeth?' Oh, and the end. 'Duh duh duh duuuuuh.' It gives me chills! I'm sure you want to be just like Noah and make smart decisions about the words you choose in your poems, too. I know you can. Go for it!"


Regie is right. I do my best teaching when I celebrate students, and Noah's story is one of my favorite celebratory moments to tell. (And I wish you could hear me share it in person. Though it sounds flat on the page, it's actually special to hear what it sounded like to a first grader's ears.) As you can imagine, Noah was on cloud nine when I interrupted writing workshop to share his poem, and the rest of the students were motivated to pick up their pens and try out some of Noah's awesomeness. That kind of celebration can change a writer...forever.

"Celebrate. Celebrate. Celebrate." These are the words typed into the first few weeks of my lesson plans this year. As the Idaho Coaching Network has taught me, there is something special about consistent corporate celebrations, and my goal is to infiltrate my days with more of them.


I'm challenged to "make them all feel famous," as Todd Nesloney and Adam Welcome suggest in Kids Deserve It! The mathematician who taught us a more efficient drawing strategy, the non-writer who demonstrated how to brilliantly think through the pictures in his story, the writer who showed us how much more powerful she is when she uses her new reading skills in her writing, the reluctant reader who told me he could read a book all by himself and then showcased his reading for the whole class. They were famous this last week. I can't help but believe the trajectory of their learning paths was positively affected without much effort on my part. All it took was celebration — my best teaching.

P.S. Have you heard of Gatekeepers: Let's Talk About Teaching? It's my new book. I'd love to share it with you. It's on Amazon.

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Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Mystery Doug

Both my PE teacher and instructional coach brought Mysterydoug.com to my attention this year. My kids and I are loving it. Here's how it works.


  • Mystery Doug invites elementary students to submit their questions on his site.
  • Each week Mystery Doug answers one of those questions.
  • He emails his video on Monday. 
  • At the end of each video, he shares three new questions and asks his audience to vote on the one he should answer next.
  • His videos are short, kid-friendly, and engaging. 

We've watched two so far. A conversation with my instructional coach about science and writing inspired me to ask my students to hypothesize before watching the videos. Here are two examples from "How do they turn wood into paper?"




I can envision eventually asking my students to write about what they learned from the video afterwards. I think Mystery Doug has lots of potential though. It definitely encourages curiosity and lets kids know that it's smart to ask questions!

P.S. If you didn't know already, I published a book for teachers this summer. I'd love to share it with you. Check it out here.


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Monday, September 18, 2017

Number Sense Videos

I recently stumbled across a brilliant math teacher leader who  you will want to hook up with. Her name is Christina Tondevold from Build Math Minds. You can find her on Facebook, twitter, and her website buildmathminds.com. I really can't say enough great things about her.

She's sharing a lot about number sense right now and is offering a four-part free video series on the topic. Two of the videos are available now, which I've watched and LOVE. The other two will be available soon. The catch is that they won't be available forever. If you're going to watch them, and you should, you'll want to start watching soon.

So go here and get busy. 



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Saturday, September 16, 2017

Brain Growers: Resilience

I'm back with another view of growth mindset in my classroom based on the book A Mindset for Learning. This week we learned about resilience. (We've already learned about optimism and flexibility. You can read about those here on my blog.)

Day 1
We watched this video. The kids loved it, and it was a great example of resilience. After the video, we learned the definition of resilience, and kids told stories of their own resilience.



Day 2
We read Everyone Can Learn to Ride a Bicycle. The kids were asked to find resilience in the book.

Day 3
We read The Most Magnificent Thing. Then the kids worked in partners and used dominoes to practice resilience. 


Day 4
We read Little Owl Lost. We also created a chart to house future resilient stories on post-its notes.

Day 5
We read What To Do With a Problem and created our resilient crown.


I think this stuff is sinking in. It's a process and there are ups and downs, but I'm feeling good about what I'm depositing into their lives.


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