Tuesday, September 30, 2014

September Recommendations

I typically do a terrible job of reading as much as I'd like once school starts.  I've been determined to fix that.  So far, so good.  Here are my September reads.  I'd highly recommend many of these, so do check them out or put them on your list when you can track down some extra reading time.

This one is kind of magical and kept me wondering to the very end.

This was one of my favorites of the month.  It's so very clever.

I'd give this one 3 out of 5 stars.  It was good but not great.

Attachments was a little bit slower than Landline but still clever and worth reading.

This is a quick, delightful read.  I thoroughly enjoyed it.

This one was also well worth my time.  It's a great story.

I can say the same about this book as well.  Laurie from Chickadee Jubilee gave me a great recommendation with Sarah Addison Allen.  Thanks Laurie!

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Saturday, September 27, 2014

Saturday Sayings: Good vs. Great

Yesterday Lauren shared her Me in a Bag with us.  After her presentation, I asked her what her audience did well.  She told the class she loved their smiles and the way they were able to appropriately comment at the end.  She also enjoyed the way they consistently nodded.  As a presenter, which is exactly what I called her, she had it easy.  I taught her audience to do all those things she noticed and appreciated.  If only all audiences were as responsive.  

But it's not always the audience's fault.  I've agonized for the presenter who didn't seem to notice they'd lost the crowd.  They obliviously plowed right ahead, dragging everyone else along.  Dave Burgess is right.  Some speakers or teachers, in this instance, have what seems like an innate ability to know when they need to take their audience to a different place.  

I have to be careful when I say this, because I don't want it to be taken the wrong way.  I only say it to make a point.  I've heard classroom observers remark that I make teaching look easy.  What they don't know is that I'm doing about a million things at once.  There's nothing easy about that.  One of the million is simply keeping a crew of little people engaged.  I'm a pretty Even Stephen personality type in real life, but in the classroom I can become someone else.  I can ramp up the enthusiasm for sure.  I'd like to think I've got some of the innate ability that Dave Burgess mentions, yet I guarantee there are moments when I'm simply good at what I do instead of great.  When my audience sends me signals I don't have the energy to attend to, and I plow ahead instead of taking them to a different place, I'm just good.  Dave Burgess claims to be "on" 100% of the time and I believe him.  Some might say that's all pie in the sky and impossible to achieve, but in my book it's a worthwhile goal to shoot for.

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Friday, September 26, 2014

Mustached Self-Portraits

Today my artists drew Salvador Dali-inspired self-portraits.  I found the idea from There's a Dragon in my Art Room.  

(The artwork above is from There's a Dragon in my Art Room.)

I switched it up by having my kids draw themselves instead of Dali.  I really love how they turned out.

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Monday, September 22, 2014

Doable and Durable

Anyone who has read my blog for any amount of time has noticed that we make a plethora of classroom books in my class.  We create so many that I try to vary how I make them.  I'm not sure that variety is the spice of my own life, but it comes in handy in first grade sometimes.  I thought I'd share one of my methods and the tips that make it both doable and durable.  

When making books with photos, sometimes I print two to a page and then fold in half.  It saves on cutting and gluing.  

Since these books are very popular with the kids, they need to be durable, but I don't have time to laminate them.  Plus, I think it's kind of a waste of money.  Laminating film is not cheap.  Clear packing tape makes books like this last so much longer.  Once the page is folded over, I place half of a strip of clear packing tape on the open side of one page and then fold the tape over to attach it to the other side.  It attaches the two open sides together and creates a durable edge that is then ready to be bound with all the others.  Again, no glue needed.

If you're interested in seeing more about classroom books, look on the right side of my blog under "labels" and look for "classroom books." 

May your classroom books be ever doable and durable!

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Saturday, September 20, 2014

Saturday Sayings: Legos, Barbies, and Video Games

There are benefits to teaching little people.  These are the students who repeatedly pester their parents during the late summer days about when the first day of school is.  For the most part, first graders want to come to school, although I've certainly met some who felt differently.  I'm not sure what would happen if we all decided they didn't have to be there but were more than welcome to come if they wanted.  Would I be teaching to an empty room?  It would make for an interesting experiment.  

Dave Burgess' question spurred my own question.  What exactly are the qualities of a classroom that would trump all the other facets of life that beg for our students' attention?  It seems only natural to answer from the standpoint of my own experience as a student.  What would keep me coming back even if I weren't required to?

I feel loved.
I'm important.
I'm noticed.
I feel successful.
I'm interested in the content.
I have a personal connection to the content. 
The content is relevant to my life. 
I have choice.
I have a chance to shine in a way that fits my personality.
There's time to apply and practice what I'm learning.
My attempts and approximations are accepted.
I'm celebrated.
I get to do, move, and take breaks.
My instructor believes in me.
(I could continue.)

The student in me is probably not much different than the 23 students in my class.  This list, although nowhere near exhaustive, sure does make me stop and think about whether my classroom offers my kids the chance to experience something they could not live without.  Would they show up if they didn't have to or would they be overwhelmingly drawn to their Legos, Barbies, and video games?

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Monday, September 15, 2014

Classroom Inventory

I spent the first three days of our number sense and place value unit getting the kids counting up a storm.  It's called Classroom Inventory.  "Hey kiddos.  I need your help.  We have so many tools in our classroom, and I've no idea how many we have.  If another teacher asked to borrow our unifix cubes, wouldn't it be nice to know that all of them were returned?  So you get to help me inventory or count some of the tools in our room."  It goes something like that.  

Classroom inventory allows them to practice counting strategies.  It also gives me information about many facets of their counting skills and number sense.  After I pair them up and get them started with objects, blank paper, and clipboards, I meander.  I observe, question, prompt, and cross my fingers that someone will invent a useful strategy that must be shared.  A simple strategy might simply be moving the objects as they're counted.  As soon as I observe something worthwhile like this, I call everyone over to see the strategy in action and be challenged to try it too.

The strategy I'm really looking for is grouping by tens though.  Here's a picture of what I found on day two.  

Yea!  Alex and Hyrum grouped their cubes by tens.  I called everyone over to see what they'd done and hear about it too. We dubbed it "The Alex and Hyrum Strategy." It spread like wildfire and by day three, I was seeing this:

I've shared just a taste of what classroom inventory has to offer.  If this intrigues you in the least, you should check out this short article about it.  It will fill in lots of holes that I just don't have time to talk about.  Click on the graphic to get your own copy.

Lastly, I just have to share what Alex wrote on his clipboard when he and Hyrum grouped and counted 194 cubes.  He's one smart cookie!

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Saturday, September 13, 2014

Saturday Sayings: My Own Version of Status Quo

My cousin Laurie and I recently had an email conversation along the lines of what Dave Burgess is talking about.  I explained to her that I feel like my feet are dangling these days.  Maybe my feet are always in a dangling state, but I'm just now realizing it.  Or maybe they're just dangling more than usual.  My head is consumed, but not in a bad way, with the whirling of questions about my practice.  

How can I make _____ better?  
What does better even look like?  
Should I even be doing _____?  
What would _____ look like in the real world?
How is my passion for literacy obvious in all I do?   
How can I balance immersion with structure and routine?
How is everything I do somehow connected to their interests?

At times the questions that pursue me can, in the moment, seem so difficult to wrestle with.  It can be tempting to let them go and move on, especially if my plate is already full.  It's in the wrestling though that I often find myself with the most creative solutions to my questions and the best changes to my practice.  Living in a state of ambiguity is never a waste of time.  I've really no idea where my feet will land.  Neither do I know how I'll eventually get there.  My only worry is that I'll miss the boat and continue on with my own version of status quo.   

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Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Onions and Books

How is a book like an onion?  My kids recently found out.  My goal was to introduce them to the idea that books have many layers.  It might seem like Hooway for Wodney Wat is about a rodent who can't pronounce his Rs, but when you peel off the layers, you discover it's really about the kind of person you should strive to be.  The more layers you peel off, the closer you get to the real message or heart of the book.  

It's kind of an abstract concept for youngsters, so I was hoping the onion would create a concrete connection for them.  As I peeled off the layers, I talked about the layers in Hooway for Wodney Wat, one of my favorite books to read over and over at the beginning of the year.  They were very intrigued by the whole thing and aware of the smell as well.  (My world smelled like an onion for days.)  Even though the peeled onion is long gone, and thankfully so, I can now refer to the layers of the books we're reading.  The kids are beginning to remove the outer portions and give input about the most important message.  It's still a new concept, but I'm pretty sure after repeated practice, the smelly onion will have served a great purpose.

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Monday, September 8, 2014

My First Grade Self Math Lesson

This is a little something I share with my kids during the first week of school.  I too was once in first grade, and this picture is proof.  Of course the kids try to find me.  Some do.  Some get close.  Some not so much.  How about you?  (I borrowed the idea from my wonderful mentor teacher who I student taught with many years ago.)  

By the way, I've turned it into a math lesson led by the questions, "How many boys and girls are in our class?  How could we find out?"  Someone typically suggests getting into groups.  Then someone says that we should get into lines.  After lining then up and creating a graph-like situation with bodies, we make the information permanent on paper in the form of a graph with their pictures.  This is followed with the question, "There are 10 boys, 13 girls, and 1 teacher in Miss McMorrow's class.  How many people are there altogether?  Solve it in a way that makes sense to you."  And they've been launched into their first math journal experience.

P.S.  I've shared the picture of my first grade class here on my blog before, but I hadn't shared how it turned into a math lesson.  I decided the math part was worth mentioning.

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Saturday, September 6, 2014

Saturday Sayings: The Business of Selling

I've never had any sales or marketing experience, and I'm not sure I'd be all that great at it.  I'd probably feel bad about convincing or encouraging people to buy things they might not really need or can afford.  I've realized over the years that I really am in sales though.  It's not something I necessarily understood at the start of my career.  It took some time to fully realize and take on the persona of a salesman, but it's something that has become part of my classroom culture.  In fact, it's part of my job description, and I feel no guilt whatsoever.

When I first came to the quote above by Dave Burgess, I began thinking of all the ways I turn into a salesman during the first few weeks of school, since that's where I currently am.  The beginning of the year is especially like one big sales pitch in my room, and my audience hears many of my pitches over and over again.  

"Did you know that Mrs. Snyder sends me the best kids in the whole school?"

"I'm surrounded by greatness."

"You're all full of greatness."

"What are you full of?"  They all say, "Greatness!"

"I loved you before I even met you."

"I'm so glad that you are all can-doers.  I know none of you would dream of throwing your pencil on the floor, crossing your arms, and crying like a baby."  (A demonstration that evokes laughter always accompanies these words.  I say them often when we're about to do something that will require some risk-taking.  I rarely get tears anymore.) 

"Mrs. Palmer, it is your lucky day.  The best kids in the school have finally arrived.  You're the luckiest librarian on the planet."  (The music and PE teachers hear the same speech.)

"I know you all love it when you get to work on another challenging math problem."

"Reading is one of my all-time favorite things to do."

"Have I mentioned that I love to read?"

"I don't know if I told you this before, but I really love to read."

"I know you guys have been dying for another book."

"Why does reading make you feel good?"  (I use "Why" instead of "Does.")

"That's when you say, 'Ugh!'"  (When I ring the chimes to bring writing workshop or read to self to a close, I say these words, training them to dislike the fact that writing and reading  have to stop for the moment.)

Reading the Burgess quote and making this list heightened my awareness of the ways I sell my product.  More importantly, it sparked a conscious need for other sales avenues in my practice.  What part of my product line needs better promotion?  How can I sell these products even more successfully?  Simply put, I'm in the business of selling, and this is the most important product any of these kids will ever invest in. 

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Thursday, September 4, 2014

Lazy Mom's Day on the 5th (freebie)

I just realized something.  Tomorrow, Friday the 5th, is National Lazy Mom's Day.  I threw a little something together for my kids and their moms.  With the right sales pitch, they won't be able to handle waiting until after school to see their moms and hand them a little something.  That little something is below.  Like I said, I threw this together.  You're welcome to it if you don't mind how uncutesified it is. 

Click on the graphic for your copy.

P.S.  Sorry for the late notice.

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