Tuesday, August 28, 2018

Recess Workshop

Recess "workshops" are one of the many new things I'm trying out this year. I wish something like this had come my way before year 25. It's kind of brilliant.

This summer I read Purposeful Play by Kristine Mraz, Alison Porcelli, and Cheryl Tyler. They recommend setting aside time for an additional period of recess where the teacher teaches a mini-lesson, the kids go play with that lesson's focus in mind while the teacher monitors, and then the class shares afterwards. 

I'm using the book's ideas a guide... 

On day one we learned that we all have feelings that make our faces and bodies look certain ways. This chart comes directly from the book. 

On day two we learned that faces and bodies tell us how other people are feeling. We use that information to help us act differently. Again, I borrowed (and slightly modified) the chart below from the book. We sorted pictures and talked about how a person's face and body show us if that person is fine with how we're playing or if we need to stop.

There's more to come, but I wanted to share the beginnings of what we've been up to. I know it will take a lot of repetition, practice, role playing, etc. but I do believe this kind of intentional teaching will help kids not only on the playground but in life. I'm excited to see where this goes.

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Sunday, August 26, 2018

The First 20 Minutes

Mrs. Barker sends me the best kids in the whole school.

I loved you before you even showed up.

I'm surrounded by greatness.

Within the first 20 minutes of the first day of school my students have heard me say these significant words about them. I hope these words set the tone for the classroom I have visions about long before I've met the little people are on my roster. Calling out the greatness in the room before I've even seen the hand I'm dealt is an intentional move. 

They are words I'll repeat often, not only during the first few days of school, but right up until the very end. But in order to help my new friends remember these momentous words even on day one, I say each important statement with an intentionally chosen object in hand. I actually pull them out of a bag, because bags make everything more exciting in first grade.

 Mrs. Barker sends me the best kids in the whole school.

 I loved you before you even showed up.

 I'm surrounded by greatness.

By the end of the first day of school, my young friends can recite the meaning of each object. (I like to imagine the possible conversations at home that night. Guess what Miss McMorrow told us today?) The ease with which my students can remember my words reminds me to thoughtfully consider strategies for making my teaching stick, and an intentionally chosen object can certainly do the hard work for me. 

Words are powerful, and it's never too early in the year to say what matters most. Every teacher has a surplus of things that could be said during the first 20 minutes of school. Why not choose the most important ones first? 

To sum up, intentionally choose your message and purposefully make your words hard to forget. I'm not sure there's any better way to start the year.

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Saturday, August 25, 2018

Character Speaks Podcast

My teacher world sure grew when I started this blog. Even though I've never met a single one of them, I find it pretty cool that I have blogging teacher buddies from all over the country. Barbara Gruener from The Corner on Character is one of those friends. When I reminisce about how amazing it would be to have a counselor at my school, I think of Barbara. She's definitely the standard. 

She recently started a podcast called Character Speaks, and she and I spent 30 minutes chatting about some of the ways I teach to the heart, not just the head in my classroom. I'd be honored if you listened in. I know Barbara would as well.


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Saturday, August 18, 2018

Saturday Sayings: In the Margin

School starts in exactly six days, which reflects why I've spent the last week furiously creating a comfortable and welcoming space for 23 new first graders. With that huge task crossed off my list, this morning I found myself ready to ponder lesson plans. As I opened up last year's plans to the first week of school, I was greeted with a list typed in the margin: "Things I Say." Reading through my list left me feeling not only inspired, but greatly satisfied.

I believe effective teachers are well planned. They don't show up on day one or 100 unprepared. They plan spaces, materials, activities, and lessons - all essential tools for a powerful learning environment. But what about words? I'm convinced effective teachers are intentional and strategic planners of words, which I will argue are just as important as all the other areas we plan for.

Words wield a powerful influence, and it's obvious from Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram that they're on the minds of teachers everywhere as they prepare themselves for a new and fresh opportunity to literally transform the lives of students. I might suggest that we find ways to document those words and hold ourselves accountable for saying them...repeatedly. 

With satisfaction, I added "Things I Say" to the margin of this year's first week of plans. I even added a few new things I intend to speak into the atmosphere. I'm bound and determined that my words will make a difference.

What's in your margin? 

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