Saturday, July 23, 2016

I Teach 1st 2016: Day 4

The last day of I Teach 1st has come and gone.  I had an eventful 36 hours trying to leave Vegas after the conference, so please excuse the time it took to get this post written!

I attended a Guided Reading session with Tara West Thursday morning.  My biggest take-away from this session was the 5 minute whole group lesson she does at the beginning of her guided reading time.  This is something that everyone might need a mini lesson on (and maybe review for a few) so you don't spend time in your small group teaching on it.  I think, for me, this would be most valuable at the beginning of the year to practice things like one-to-one tracking, turning pages, book orientation, etc.

I also liked her "warm up" activities that she uses when her students come to the table. You can see some of these below.  My favorite is "sound around the circle" which you can see an example of below the wording on the slide.


The second session I attended was about incorporating STEM activities.  I don't have experience with STEM, but after attending the session, realized that I have done some activities that with a little tweaking would be STEM.  I liked the STEM characteristics shared in the slide below.
Throughout the session, she shared children's literature and different STEM activities that could be done relating to that book.  I think it is important to connect things for students as much as possible, so I though this was great!  At the end of the session, we got into groups and brainstormed books and activities to go with the book.

The final session of my day was back with Dan St. Romain about getting rid of clip charts.  We use the clip chart throughout our district, so it going away is not likely for me, but I learned some things I can try for behavior.


Dan talked about the importance of teaching life skills to our young students.  The more he spoke, the more I realized how much I could incorporate these more into my day  He talked about how punishment is generally not effective with behavior problems.  Behavior is generally a skill deficit and should be treated as such.  Just like you'd do intervention for an academic skill deficit, the same should be done for a behavior skill deficit. Students aren't being punished, they just need more practice with the skill.


It was a fantastic week of learning!  Thanks so much for following along with me.

Thursday, July 21, 2016

I Teach 1st 2016: Day 3

Today was an exciting day as I knew Mary from Sharing Kindergarten would be presenting.  I always learn something new in her sessions, so I was excited to attend 2 this morning.

The first session I attended was about technology.  She is a rockstar with technology, so I knew I'd get some ideas that I can incorporate into my classroom.  She shared the app "Good Reader" where you can open a PDF and the kids can write on it on their iPads.  Mary uses it for her phonics study and adds novelty to activities that might otherwise be monotonous.


A second idea I liked was how she makes Plickers more accessible to her students.  She adds the letters to the backs of the cards so students don't have to look at the front to find the letter then turn it around for her to see the answer.  She noticed that it caused some confusion and incorrect answers when students actually knew the answer but didn't hold up the correct side.  I haven't used Plickers because I thought I would be difficult for my students to manage the card, but this seems make it very accessible to K kiddos!


The next session I attended was about Science and Social Studies instruction. I've seen Mary's Print and Play packs when they post, but have never really looked at them.  I loved some of the great ideas in these!  She didn't promote these as part of the workshops, but instead, offered suggestions of how to do the activities cheap/free.  One example is living and nonliving.  She had a sheet where living things were colored one color and nonliving a different color. It was suggested that you take a magazine picture and circle living/nonliving in different colors.

I love how she incorporated literature into the suggestions for some topics such as Tops and Bottoms for plants.  I already use Tops and Bottoms but I love news ideas that I can add/change/adapt for things I am already doing!

The first session I attended this afternoon was about iPad apps.  One that I liked was Tell About This. In the app, you choose a picture, then you can record yourself talking about a prompt relating to the picture.  I could see this helpful in students using vocabulary and especially at the beginning of the year when writing can be more of a struggle.


My final session of the day was with Katie Mense from Little Warriors about fitting it all in. I loved this quote that she shared!


I would describe my classroom as "organized chaos" when it comes to my materials.  I start off really well, and I generally know where everything is, but sometimes it gets a little out of control.  The "paper trail" in my life can become overwhelming.  I thought the way she labeled this literature organizer/mailbox was great.  I think it would keep me organized and make the kids a little more independent.  I currently empty their folders for them, but this would free up some time in my morning as well!

Tomorrow is my final day here.  I'm looking forward to a few session before heading out.

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

I Teach 1st! 2016: Day 2

Another day of learning here in Las Vegas is complete.  I attended 3 sessions and presented 1 yesterday.

I started off with a session by Renee Cooley about using theme days in the classroom.  She had so many fun ideas for using the  novelty of theme learning to engage kids.  She talked about using theme days to either kick off or wrap up a unit of study.  I'm looking forward to giving a few things a try next year.  One of them that i really want to try is the school-wide post office she does.  I'm not sure that I can do school-wide, but I'm thinking possibly my floor.



My second session was with Brittany Banister about research with kindergarten kids.  She talked about different sources kids can access for research and some project-based things she has done with her students.  We worked in small groups to do a project of creating a habitat for the ducks from the story Make Way for Ducklings.  I loved the idea of connecting literature and a project and will give those a try this year.


The last session I attended today was with Dr. Bill DeMeo about reaching traumatized students.  Students with trauma are becoming more and more prevalent in our classrooms, and this session shared some strategies for building trust with students and reducing their stress.  We talked about deep breathing.  A couple activities I thought would be helpful in my classroom were blowing the biggest bubble (takes slow breathing) and practicing blowing out candles as it encourages deep breathing.

I presented on high-ability during the last session of the day.  I had a great little group of attendees.  Thanks for letting me share with you!

Last night was the blogger meet up.  No pictures, but lots of fun and met some new people!  Off to day 3 I go!

Monday, July 18, 2016

I Teach 1st 2016: Day 1

I had a great first day at I Teach 1st!  I attended the keynote and 3 sessions today.

The keynote session was Dr. Debbie Silver.  I read her book Drumming to the Beat of Different Marchers 2 years ago and really enjoyed it.  It is about modifying what you do to meet the need of your kiddos.  Today, she was engaging, funny and worked to remind us of the joy of teaching.  She had me laughing and relating throughout.

My first session of the morning was with Laureen Reynolds about shared research projects. She shared some insight on the Common Core standards in this area and a few ideas that I am excited to try with my kiddos!  The ideas were ones that she has used successfully with students.  She also talked about short term and long term projects, which I never gave much thought to the duration of my projects.

The first idea that I thought my kiddos could absolutely do is a graphic organizer to share their research.  We used graphic organizers to organize our research but never as the actual "product" of our research.  Why not?!?  If information can be found in different places, why can't the products be varied too!


Another idea she gave was to make an A-Z book about a particular topic.  She mentioned that her favorite topics were her school/community/state.  I think my kiddos would love making an A-Z book about our school, so I'm hoping to give it a try this year.

My second session today was with Eliza Thomas about "Ten-ness".  The session focused on games that can be played to practice making 10.  I'm hoping to incorporate more math games next year, so this session was great.  

While I liked the games she shared, and I will absolutely use them, I think my favorite thing was she talked about how to write easy, visual directions for the kids to be independent.  When we wrote our directions, we practice in this way.  I love the idea of making it as easy for me and as user friendly as possible to make the kids independent.  

My final session today was a half day session with Dan St. Romain.  I attended one of his sessions last year and knew I needed more. He spoke about behavior management.

I ended up buying his first set of 10 lessons about social-emotional development.  I have known that social-emotional development is important, but I realize that I need to spend even more time on this.  Students need to have the opportunity to try to work out their differences without my interference.  They rely, many times, on adults or adults step in and solve it for them rather than letting students try to work it out.  I'm very excited to intentionally incorporate these ideas in my room.

One idea he shared was showing students appropriate behavior through puzzles.  He took pictures of students making positive choices and cut them in half to make a puzzle. These puzzles were then part of a center where students could put them together while reinforcing positive behavior choices.

I also loved the picture book suggestions he gave to teach different social-emotional skills.  I had not heard of many of them, so I'm looking forward to checking those out as well.

I'll be back with more learning soon!


Sunday, July 17, 2016

Back for More

You’ve been hearing crickets if you’ve visited my little blog here in the last couple months.  I took an unexpected break during the last month or so of school and this summer.  Ideas weren’t flowing and others things took priority.  School has not been at the top of my list this summer as it has been many past summers, and it was a welcome and relaxing change!

I just arrived in Vegas for SDE’s “I Teach” National Conferences.  On the way, I made good use of my time and read Reading Wellness, Lessons in Independence and Proficiency by Jan Miller Burkins and Kim Yaris.  Adventures in Literacy Land will be hosting a book study on the book next week, so be head over there and check it out.



This book was just long enough to get me excited about the conference and get my head back into “school mode”.  I got a couple ideas that I can’t wait to try in my classroom and look forward to building on that with my learning this week.


I’m looking forward to sharing my experiences with you this week!

Monday, May 30, 2016

The Countdown Is On...Or Is It?

The time has come when many kids and teachers around the country are counting down to summer vacation.  The countdowns were on throughout my building before we finished up last week.  A couple years ago, I stopped counting down. Why you ask?  This post was inspired by the child who informed me the day before the last day he "is NOT going to first grade."  It was a very matter-of-fact statement that he meant.

Reason 1:
It is really upsetting to some students to know that our year is coming to an end.  Summer brings the unexpected for many of them.  The majority aren't looking forward to vacations or special activities as these aren't typical for my students.  They won't be around their friends and the summer brings many unknowns.

Reason 2:
I've found that some students do not like the lack of routine that comes with summer break.  When they come to school, they know where 2 meals a day will come from and they know, generally, what our day will look like.  This, for many of them, is missing in the summer.

Reason 3:
One word: Behavior.  Since I stopped counting down, I have seen less severe behaviors at the end of the year.  Yes, I do have "spring fever" in my room, but there is less of the acting out and just kids who are ready to enjoy some of the great outdoors; nothing a little recess or GoNoodle can't fix!

Reason 4:
I like the routine and structure of the school year!  Don't get me wrong, I like the flexibility of summer, but I enjoy a "purpose" that comes with the school year.  My summer routine includes things I can't do during the school year like an early morning walk around my neighborhood.

In the process of packing up for the summer- there is still work to be done when this was taken!

Reason 5:
I find it stressful to know how much I need to do at the end of the year without that number looming over me!  I always have a general idea, but I don't really need countdown.

Yes, there are always students (and staff) who count down and let others know how many days are left.  I tell the kids to let me know when tomorrow is the last day!  I keep things as normal as I possibly can until the last day as this is comforting for many.

These are the summer sights on my morning walks since by break began late last week:


If you are finishing up, may your days be a "normal" as possible.  If you are finished, I hope you are enjoying your summer!

Do you do a countdown with your kiddos?

Thursday, April 21, 2016

Eggs, Eggs, Everywhere

Last week we read Chickens Aren't The Only Ones with the Guiding Readers April unit.  My kiddos loved learning about eggs and anything to do with animals, so I wanted to incorporate more.  I saw this on Pinterest and decided we were going to try something similar.

I already had a few other books about nests and eggs: Whose's Nest?, Whose's Egg?, The Egg Is Quiet, and Guess What Is Growing Inside the Egg.  We read these books throughout the week during our science time.

After reading Whose's Nest?, students were each given Crayola Air Dry Clay to create their nests.  I didn't give them a whole of instruction other than the nest needed to hold an egg and keep it safe. I wanted this to be their project!  Each child was given a ball of clay.  Warning, this clay in the "terra" color turned everyone's hands orange.  It all came off our skin by the next day. Each child created his/her nest on a piece of wax paper or aluminum foil with his/her name on it.  When the nests dried, they did not stick to either type of paper.  The newly formed nests spent a few days drying on a table. Meanwhile, we continued to read about eggs.



I turned to the two-page spread in The Egg Is Quiet of various eggs for students to choose the egg they wanted to make.


Each child chose 1 egg to create.  We used eggs from WalMart that I purchased in the Easter clearance.  They came in an open "carton" and were meant for dying, but they were perfect for this. All of the eggs ended up being the same size and shape, but there was not worries about students breaking their egg if it was dropped as there may be with clay.  We mixed paint to create colors similar to those in the book.  I rolled small pieces of cardstock and taped them for the eggs to dry on.


Once dry, the eggs were placed in their nests and students made a little label stating the type of bird that would lay that egg and the child's name.  I had one child who insisted on painting the "king salmon" egg.  I explained that this was a fish egg and he said that was ok, that was what he wanted to do.  Once we transferred it to the nest, he thought maybe he should have made a bird egg instead but decided " at least it will be safe in the nest I made."




My kiddos have received a lot of positive feedback from staff members and other students walking by their nests and eggs in the hallway.  This is a project I'd definitely do again next year, but maybe try it with allowing students to try to create their own egg to make them different sizes like real eggs would be.