Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Guest Teacher Tip

I can count on one hand the number of sick days I've used in my 19 years of teaching.  Thank you God for a healthy body.  I'm also a bit stubborn though.  I have to be in pretty bad shape to miss school.  I have missed days for professional reasons, but I try not to be out of the classroom if I can help it.  

Any teacher knows that it's a whole lot more work to be gone, especially when preparing for a guest teacher.  I'm in the midst of all that work right now, because I'll be at a math workshop on Thursday.  Fortunately I've got an amazing guest teacher lined up, so I know some learning will take place while I'm gone.  One of the things that I always leave behind for guest teachers, which I do believe helps them do their job more easily, is a document called "Who's Who in Miss McMorrow's Class?"  

For obvious reasons, I blurred most of it out, but it has the pictures and a little summary of the kids I'd like her to know about.  Hopefully this information will give her a leg up if problems arise, and I'm thinkin' they most likely will.

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Sunday, January 27, 2013

Math Kid Snippets: A Must-See Video

Have you ever felt like this when trying to teach a young person math?  I'm pretty sure I have, blank stares and all!  

Warning:  If you've never seen a Kid Snippet, you need to know that a girl was asked to teach her sister how to do math.  The kids talk, but the adults act.  It's pretty funny.

Funny, yes?  Yet all too real.  Anyway, that's all I have to share, unless you're interested in more Kid Snippets.  I've included links below to my favorites!  Prepare to giggle, and let me know if you have a favorite.

(Thanks Lori J for getting me hooked.)
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Saturday, January 26, 2013

Saturday Sayings: A Trail (Plus Some Guests)

Even though I love this quote, I've been avoiding it for several Saturdays because of its sensitive nature.  It won't leave me alone though, so I'm forced to acknowledge the need to let it find its way into a Saturday Sayings.  I promise not to dwell on it too long.

Whether worksheets are used by choice or are mandated, I worry that our young readers might associate reading with filling in the blank, multiple choice, etc.  As Donalyn has so wisely expressed, worksheets are not able to connect readers to books.  I'm afraid they might do quite the opposite.  I simply don't believe a trail of worksheets will lead us to readers who have made a lasting and loving relationship with reading.  Sigh.

After that uplifting post, you'll definitely want to visit my guests.  Meghan, Jenny, and Kerri are joining me today with their own Saturday Sayings.  I know they'll have some wonderfully thoughtful things to add to your day.  Let's head on over!




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Thursday, January 24, 2013

Thinking of Peace (Freebie)

My kids thought about peace this week in honor of MLK Jr.  This question was my inspiration.  

I found it on Pinterest but couldn't find its owner.

I made this simple little sheet, which we used in addition to Writing Workshop, not in replace of.  (Writing prompts are used rather sparingly in my classroom.  In fact, this is the first one of the year.) 

I see people picking trash.
I see reading.
I see sharing with my friends.
I see people praying.
I see people helping each other.

Click on the picture for a copy.

This wasn't easy for all of them by any means, but they didn't let me down.  I really enjoyed seeing what peace looked like in those brains of theirs.  I think Martin Luther King, Jr. would be proud.

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Tuesday, January 22, 2013

The Name Wall

A first grader's name is about the most important word in the world to them.  The names of their friends are up there as well, and of course they want to know how to spell each and every one.  Instead of integrating all 23 names into my word wall, I have a name wall.  (Okay, so it's not really a wall.  It's more like a poster.  Nothing fancy.)  I think separating names from the word wall makes them easier to locate, especially for those who get overwhelmed by the presence of numerous words.  Location is really important too.  Our name wall is displayed by our writing station, and the kids frequently use it as a reference during the Work on Writing portion of Daily 5 if they choose to write notes and letters to each other.  What's more, I've added the names of our principal, secretary, PE teacher, music teacher, and librarian (as well as my own) to the name wall, so kids will at times choose to write to them as well.   

It's a handy and easy-to-use resource for kids who love to write!

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Saturday, January 19, 2013

Saturday Sayings: A Little Messy (Special Guests Too)

I really like this quote, especially the second half. "One could say, in fact, that the first goal is for children to write bad persuasive letters - and to do so with with confidence, zeal, purpose, pleasure, and above all, independence."  Like she said, this is true of any new writing unit, not just persuasive writing.  

We writing teachers have permission to put pens into our writers' hands before they even know what they're doing, with the expectation that it won't be pretty.  If the expectation is that their first attempts will be bad, then there shouldn't be any fear of jumping right into the midst of things.  I believe we do a disservice to writers if we wait until we've taught all the finer points of a genre before letting them try or we give them artificial writing experiences with handouts or worksheets before they're allowed to write in context.  Writers learn to write by writing, so the goal should be to get them writing from day one of any unit.  We needn't fear for the kids' sakes.  They don't know it's messy.  We as teachers are the ones who fear the start of a unit and the bad pieces that will fill their writing folders for a few days.  We must let go, and let them write.

I'll be starting my persuasive writing unit soon.  I've no doubt that when I send them off to write after my first mini-lesson, the majority of them will write rather bad persuasive pieces, but they'll do it with confidence, zeal, purpose, pleasure, and independence.  Goal accomplished!

I am thrilled this morning to send you off to visit some of my favorite blogs.  Lori, Barb, Jenny, and Laurie are joining me today with their own Saturday Sayings.  I know that you won't be disappointed when you take a few minutes to pay them a visit.  Be prepared to love what you read!

Conversations in Literacy


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Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Bubbles on a Cold Day

My part of the world has been way too cold lately, leaving all the children stuck inside during recess.  These little people really need their fresh air.  We're making it work, but it is not the ideal teaching situation for sure.  I find myself pulling some extra tricks out of my sleeve.  Have you heard about self-control bubbles?  Go here if you're interested in knowing more.  The bubbles have been coming in handy this week.  This morning I even drew a bubble on the board and throughout the day asked students who were showing self-control to sign it.  What first grader doesn't love writing their name on the board?  What teacher doesn't love students who are showing self-control?  Now if someone could do something about the temperature.

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Saturday, January 12, 2013

Saturday Sayings: Parts, Wholes, and Special Guests

Don't you just love a good Donalyn Miller thought?  This one reminds me of something I learned years ago in my Reading Recovery training.  It's managed to help shape much of how I teach reading.  It's that whole-part-whole concept.  The parts don't necessarily drive instruction as much as the whole does.

This concept determines how I use my daily shared reading of big books.  It all starts with engaging and quality literature.  There's the whole, which we read daily and enjoy first and foremost.  The parts come from right off the pages of the book.  I find myself asking, "What parts does this big book offer that fit the needs of my students and the curriculum?"  We take the parts out.  We investigate and work with them and very importantly put them right back into the context of the whole as Donalyn has suggested.  It's all about real reading experiences, which seems to allude to the fact that there's such a thing as fake reading experiences.  Hmmm.

Before you go, pretty please take a few minutes to visit some special Saturday Sayings' guests of mine.  I'm really excited that three very sweet ladies are sharing quotes and thoughts this morning too.  I, for one, can't wait to read them.  Ready, set, go! 


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Tuesday, January 8, 2013

You're Too Close!

(This post will not revolutionize anyone's life, but it might possibly be slightly ever so useful...maybe.)

My children are pretty good at finishing my sentences.  There are lots of things I continually say but purposefully don't finish,  knowing they will instead.  This post is about one of those Miss McMorrow sayings that comes in rather handy at certain times of the year before sending them off to recess.  Depending on the situation, I can easily change it up.

I'll be saying this tomorrow when yesterday's snow accumulation starts to turn into mushy messy puddles all over the playground.  It's something I say when rain has left its mark on our school too. Yesterday, it sounded like this.

Teacher:  If you're close enough to touch the ice, you're...
Kids:  ...too close!

When the irrigation pipes are hanging out by the fence, it goes like this.

Teacher:  If you're close enough to touch the pipes, you're...
Kids:   ...too close!

When it's raining and our old gutters can't keep up, I say this.

Teacher:  If you're close enough to touch the waterfalls, you're...
Kids:  ...too close!

It's a rather useful saying and easy for the kids to grasp.    Maybe it could come in handy for you and your circumstances.  You're welcome to it!

(Speaking of puddles and being too close, you've got to watch this.  It's so adorable.)

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Saturday, January 5, 2013

Saturday Sayings: The Gift of Choice

To be completely honest, I'm a little nervous about this one, specifically the part that says "they override directives."  I don't want to sound like a rebel, because I'm a big ol' rule follower.  When it comes to my classroom though, I have to go with my heart or as Regie would say, my professional and moral knowledge and judgment.  Fortunately, I've been blessed with administrators who believe in my professional and moral knowledge and judgment and let me do my thing.  That, I know, is not always the case and is the reason for this quote today.  

I spent some time shaking my head this week as I read of one teacher's experience in a school where she has little to no professional autonomy.  It's a scenario that makes me cringe and reminds me of how thankful I am to teach where I teach.  Here are some things that some teachers deal with.
  • Strict pacing guides that require teachers to move on, even when kids don't understand concepts.  Everyone is literally on the same page.
  • The amount of time spent on each subject is defined down to the minute, so there's not always time for what matters most to kids and teachers.
  • There are even rules to what can be displayed in the hallways.
I sincerely feel for teachers who are in situations like this.  It must feel as though they have to teach with their hands tied behind their backs.  Their stories remind me of a quote that I've shared before but this time in a different light.

"Purpose + choice = motivation."  
Gail Boushey and Joan Moser, The Daily 5 21.

As much as our children need motivation, so do we as teachers.  My administration has allowed me a lot of choice.  I'm guessing that if the opposite were true, I would not be very motivated.  So today I am thankful for professional autonomy.  The gift of choice in my classroom is one that I cherish...and all the more reason to make sure my students are afforded that same gift.

(Next week I'll have some guests with me for Saturday Sayings.  Come see who it is!)

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Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Show and Tell Tuesday (OLW)

Today I'm linking up with Denise from Sunny Days in Second Grade.  She's asking teachers to share New Year's ideas and activities.  I'm not back in school yet (not to brag or anything), so I'm going to share what I did last year and plan to do in the coming weeks as well, with a few modifications I'm sure.  

(Click on the pictures to see the original post with in-depth info and more pictures.)

Basically each child thought of their own OLW.  We displayed them in our cubbies and left them there all year long as reminders.  

We also created a classroom book.  

If you're looking for some New Year's ideas or have some of your own to share, head on over to Sunny Days in Second Grade.  The link below will take you there.  Happy New Years!

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