Monday, December 30, 2013


My class did 15 Random Acts of Christmas Kindness this December.  This year I took pictures of each one and created a book.  Most anything can be made into a classroom book, and this one is pretty special.  I'm hoping it's a reminder of how we changed the world for 15 days.  Maybe it will inspire them to continue their world-changing ways.  (Go here to read about our RACKing.)

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Saturday, December 28, 2013

Saturday Sayings: What Matters Most?

As we know, all professional development is not created equal.  I've sat through a few here and there during the past 20 years of my career that weren't as easy to latch onto as others.  Sometimes the speakers weren't engaging, but depending on the subject matter, I could usually look past that issue.  More often than not, I wasn't as involved because the topic lacked importance or relevance for me.  My students are really no different.  That's why at the beginning of the year, I take the time to spotlight each child's name and learn whatever we can about reading and writing from them.  Their names are at the top of the list of what's important in life.  

The above quote certainly challenges me though.  If I don't start with what's most important to them, I'm fighting an uphill battle and dragging them along behind me.  Surely, there will be many who are predisposed to love every little thing we do.  There will also be many who are simply normal and will give their best effort when the focus is on something that's important to them.  I'll admit that it's not always easy to pull off.  Bridging the gap between the types of things that are important to 6 year olds and the long list of items I need to teach them in 9 months takes purposeful and thoughtful planning.  I'll also suggest that there's an essential difference between importance and cuteness.  I'm not implying that cute is bad.  I just know that we teachers like to cutesify things in an effort to make them appealing.  Even though it's much easier to add cuteness to a lesson than to focus on what's important to the child, I believe Regie Routman would want us to start with importance more than anything else.  She's of course right.  

"What matters most to this child?  Start there."  Regie Routman, Teaching Essentials 57

Before you do anything else, you should visit Laurie.  She's sharing her own Saturday Saying this morning, and anything Laurie shares is worth reading.

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Thursday, December 26, 2013


Have you met Barbara from The Corner on Character?  She is a true gem.  I haven't had the privilege of meeting her in person, but several email conversations have convinced me that I'd love to steal her away from Texas and make her work at my school.  She inspired this post over a year ago with one of her random acts of kindness suggestions.  I quickly incorporated it into my classroom RACK (Random Acts of Christmas Kindness) activities we do during the month of December.  Look here if you're interested in hearing more.

We made get well cards, and I delivered them to the local Walgreen's pharmacy to be handed out with prescriptions.  Here are a few pictures.

This is what we wrote on the back.

When I made my delivery to Walgreens the other day, the pharmacist happily responded, "Oh yeah.  We had these last year!"  I'm glad my kids and their kindness left a mark, and I hope they leave many more in the future.  (Thank you dear Barbara for the inspiration!)

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Monday, December 23, 2013

Christmas Place Mats

Back in November, I read a post by Miss Trayers at Not Just Child's Play.  Her kids made Thanksgiving place mats as a form of community service.  I loved the idea so much that I incorporated it into my RACK (Random Acts of Christmas Kindness) days that I do with my kids in December.  Go here to read more about RACKing.  

My kids made Christmas place mats for some local senior citizens.  They did such a beautiful job.  I was proud to share them with our elderly community.  Here are just a few, but they were all wonderful.

I hope these place mats create some smiles and change some worlds this Christmas season!  (Thanks Miss Trayers for the wonderful idea.)

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Saturday, December 21, 2013

Saturday Sayings: A Positive Disposition

Overall, I don't remember much about my young disposition about math, but I do remember as I progressed later through the grades, probably even into high school, that I did not appreciate problem solving.  I didn't get story problems, and most of the time, they seemed so irrelevant and removed from my own experiences.  I might have wondered, "Who cares how many miles So-And-So traveled?"  I would have never verbalized those frustrations or given less than my best effort, but I'm certain that I didn't take away from those situations what my math teachers expected. I'm really hoping for better with my young mathematicians.  

The other day I was sitting with the three second grade teachers from my school.  They all agreed that the kids coming from our first grade are not intimidated by problem solving situations.  They have no trouble attacking a problem and trying out different strategies on the same problem.  They're positive and flexible.  Of course, I was happy to hear such news.  I believe this comes from allowing them the chance to solve problems in ways that make sense to them, instead of teaching them to memorize steps that the teacher has ordained as the right way.  They trust themselves and their abilities.  I also believe they benefit from learning from the mathematicians around them.  The learning that results from constant math talk coming from their peers can nudge and transform their thinking oftentimes better than I can.  If I could have had these same experiences as a young mathematician, I'm fairly confident my disposition towards math, specifically problem solving, would be a much more positive one.

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Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Counting Classroom Books

If you haven't noticed yet, I'm a classroom book addict.  My tub of classroom-made books is practically overflowing already.  I recently added two new books.  These are ones that I haven't made in a few years.  I'm glad I brought them out again, especially in light of the CCSS Math standard of counting to 120. 

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Monday, December 16, 2013

New Christmas Tradition

For 19 years, I've relied on Scholastic bonus points to provide me with books for my kids' Christmas gifts.  This year I couldn't find the right book, so I went on a search for another option.  This is what I came up with.  My best friend Paige helped me think this through.

I made scarves.  These were my 6 fabric choices.  

After my dear Aunt Pat cut the fabric for me and my sister-in-law, Tammy Jo, reminded me how to use a sewing machine, I sewed pockets at both ends of each scarf.

I also sewed their names on the underside.  

I'm obviously not an accomplished seamstress.  I managed to graduate from high school without ever taking a home-ec class.  Surprisingly, I've made a few quilts in my day, even though I really don't know what I'm doing.  Here's my favorite.  Look closely and you'll see several embroidered Nike swooshes.

Anyway, even though I love giving away books as gifts, I think these scarves have become my new Christmas tradition.

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Saturday, December 14, 2013

Saturday Sayings: Caution

I've been sitting on this quote for a long time, waiting for the right moment to share.  I've come to the conclusion that said moment does not exist.  The odds of stepping on someone's toes are high no matter the timing.  I don't know that Allington ever worries about such things, so I'll let him take all credit for inspiring this post.   

This last week one of my girls left town for three days.  Her mom asked that I send home any work that she would be missing.  I had to tell mom, "So much of what I do is hands-on.  It's too hard to replicate, but thank you for asking."  I couldn't supply her with worksheets or reproducibles of various shapes and sizes.  I did tell her that I'd love for her to read and write.  That's what we do, and that can be done anywhere.  When I spy random worksheets left behind in copy rooms, I'm often struck by the thought, "Is there a better way to teach and practice that skill?"  I don't have all the answers and Alllington would surely have some concerns about my own classroom practices, but I do believe there's a better way.  And I don't think it's just because I teach little ones.  I think there's a better way for 2nd and 3rd and 4th and so on.  Allington's thoughts seem to imply that more books and less stuff is what is best for our readers.  I would agree.  So as a parting thought, maybe we should all ponder what goes home with our kids when they're absent.  It sounds like something Allington wouldn't be afraid to ask.

Sandy Hook, you are not forgotten.  May you have strength for today and bright hope for tomorrow.

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Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Shared Reading Turned Classroom Book (freebie)

I've been gradually creating a classroom book document.  I've already shared 10 pages worth.  (Go here and here if you're interested.)  Today I'm sharing a few new pages.  These particular classroom books are based on shared reading experiences, mostly with big books.  I've wondered how helpful it is to share these kinds of classroom books, considering not many teachers are using the same big books I am or even use big books at all.  I came to the conclusion that I want others to see the possibilities for how most any shared reading experience can be a springboard for classroom books.  Any text that the kids are reading together, basals even, that has a repetitive pattern is perfect for this.  These types of repetitive patterns are also typically built around important sight words, that when put into a class book, are read over and over again.  The benefits of these kinds of books in our readers' hands is worth considering.  Be on the lookout for the possibilities!  (Click on the each picture for your own copies.)

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Monday, December 9, 2013

Santa Art

Last Friday I needed a quick and simple Christmas art project that could still bring out the uniqueness of each artist.  I found it at Art Projects for Kids.  We drew up some wonderful and unique Santas.  You can find the step-by-step directions at Kathy's site.

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