Monthly Archives: July 2014

#Kinderblog14 Week 3: Homes and Gardens

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This week, I am prompted to write about my school home or my home home.  I think I’ll dabble in a little bit of both.

I live in Charleston, SC – perhaps one of the most beautiful places on Earth. It ranks in the top of various lists about travel destinations, wedding destinations, places to live, etc.  Coming to Charleston was somewhat of a big move for me.  I spent my entire life living in the same house in the same small town. People I still keep in touch with from my hometown I have known since kindergarten. My parents house is nestled in some woods about 20 minutes from “town” – Augusta, GA.  Growing up, we went to “town” every Saturday to shop.  The house I grew up in was the first on the road that was made of Georgia red clay until after I graduated high school. Deciding to go away to school, to the University of Georgia (an hour and a half away from my parents) was a pretty big deal.  However, my decision to move to Charleston was bigger – be it the extra distance/time away, the fact that I was leaving Athens and not going back to Augusta, or my leap of faith I was taking.  Charleston has been a welcoming city.  Hospitality is something the city prides itself on. I am pleased to be a “transplant”.

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 My home here is in the “burbs” about 10 miles outside of the downtown area.  Once I accepted the cost of living here, we were able to find a comfortable place for us and our 2 cats.  We are able to enjoy the weather with a screened in porch, walks on trails, and various ponds to catch sight of herons, egrets, and gators.  I am able to weave my way through the neighborhood maze to my school each morning.  I see my students on their bikes, at the pool, or at the store.  History is around every corner – even on the outskirts of town.  Our school is two miles from one of the few Southern rice plantations from before the Civil War. Our field trips include that plantation as well as the beach! When we talk about the ocean and pirates there is real, tangible history here in this town.  It is amazing!

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When it comes to my school home, priorities in setting up my classroom tend to be pretty OCD.  Getting in to my classroom before I am “required” to be there is of utmost priority.  I cannot think if furniture is still in disarray and tables are strewn about.  When I taught upper grades with desks, they never remained in the same formation for the entire year.  We always found it necessary to switch things up the mood came over us.  With my huge circle tables, where they land tends to be where they stay. Last year, I believe I found a layout for centers that worked both for the students (space/organization/noise) and also for the teachers (also space/organization/noise).  Organization is tied for first with getting into my classroom ASAP.  I have found that when particular things have their places, students are able to build their independence.  ABC/Math are color coordinated so activities can share one shelf but also be put in proper places.  Books in the reading center are organized by author or subject with basket and book labels.  We talk a lot about how our school library is organized and why.  We discuss why books having a home is an important  technique for organizing the library. Last year, a students suggested consolidating some books to one basket or separating others out to be easier to find.  My OCD tendancies do show some wiggle room every now and then!

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Classroom decorations are minimal.  I strive to keep my giraffe obsession in check.  At the beginning of the year, our classroom walls are pretty much empty except for the alphabet.    95% or more of what hangs on our walls, from our ceilings, and on our windows is student created.  At first, keeping the walls bare was a little difficult for me, even though I whole-heartedly support why I do it.  I want the students to walk in and the space feel homey and comfortable, not sterile and cold.  I’ve opted to create more “cozy” with movable objects.

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Before the students arrive, I have ideas for cozy places and safe places.  The locations may change or stay the same.  There are bean bags, cushions, and various stuffed animals (Thank you Kohl’s and your $5 Kohl’s Cares deals!). Reading spaces are not limited to right near the reading shelf, but in that general vicinity.  When discussing how we want our classroom to be, space inevitably comes up and staying within our space at center is a huge deal.  A designated place for “time out” or “chilling out” is not labeled.  That spot is different for every child and possibly every day.  An idea I came across that I’m thinking about for an option this year is:

               take a break station pic  Linked to website/blog55e68a52f2f4950ba7e1588cf0bfb40e

Other ideas for coziness – reading space with mats

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All my plans and ideas aside – once my littles walk through the door, I want them to feel love, warmth, and welcomed.  I want them to feel a part of the classroom and a part of the school.  I want them to take ownership and responsibility in their educations.  Our classroom should be their home away from home.

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#Kinderblog14, Letters to the Editor

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I had a difficult time with this post – which was surprising to me.  Through my Pinterest browsing, I stumbled across another teacher’s blog post about getting her second graders to write more.  Although she made some good points, she also left me with an “uh oh” feeling and had my mind buzzing with questions.  Surprisingly, I used the Common Core as a basis for one argument, despite my issues I have with them (discussed here).

This is my comment:

http://theappliciousteacher.blogspot.com/2014/07/5-easy-tips-for-improving-student.html?showComment=1405613217196#c3138247443664768969

There is always a little hesitation for me when commenting on another blog, especially if I disagree with something.  So much can be read between the lines, whether it is meant or not.  Tone doesn’t always come across appropriately in comments, texts, posts, and emails. So this #kinderblog14 challenge was just that, a challenge, for me!

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Filed under Kinderblog, Literacy, Writing Workshop

#Kinderblog14 Week 1

My friends over at Kinderchat have started their summer blog challenge.  This is the topic for week 1: Write the post that has been in your head (or your drafts folder) for a while now. You know the one. The one you write while you drive to work, or while you are in the shower. What is the question, or issue, or opinion, or emotions, you have been chewing on for a while now? Alternatively, what is the post that you have started a million times, picked away at, edited and re-edited, and almost trashed?  Did you read an article or a Facebook post that provoked a reaction, and that you can’t stop thinking about? 

For me – the post I am always thinking about, yet have difficulty putting into words that aren’t overshadowed by my loud stomps up on the soapbox, is DAP: Developmentally Appropriate Practice.  My teaching career has seen 3 shifts in standards in eight years.  When I began teaching in Georgia in 2005, the standards used were called QCC’s – Quality Core Curriculum.  A couple years later, the QCC’s transitioned into the GPS – Georgia Performance Standards. And then came Common Core.

My questions regarding DAP and standards did not really begin to arise until I moved from fifth grade to first grade.  I was reading standards that were laughable to me.  Standards that expected six and seven year olds to be able to explain the historical significance of and positive character traits demonstrated by Harriet Tubman, Abraham Lincoln, and a few others deemed important for that grade level.  Combine this with the expectation that students be able to name all seven continents and UNDERSTAND that they live in a city, state, country, continent… Well this left me reeling.  What knowledge of child development do standards writers have?  Do they not understand that children of this age are still egocentric?  To understand that someone has the same name can blow their minds. And we want them to understand a world that is not tangible to them just yet? I believe in global education.  I believe in students learning about places far away, people from those places, how we are similar and how we are different.  I do believe in global community.

Don’t get me wrong – I fully support there being some sort of “standard” for grade levels.  Goals that we want to reach.  Content that is important for children to learn at a particular time.  What I take issue with are standards that are completely inappropriate for students developmentally. So much of what is taught in the first few years of school is social.  That is why there is a poster you can buy about everything you need to know, you learned in kindergarten. When I see students struggling with social cues or how to “do” school – the last thing I want to do is force an academic standard on them that they aren’t ready for.

Coming into my third year teaching kindergarten, this issue feels more important than ever.  If you google kindergarten news stories, several different opinions pop up. Huffington Post has pages upon pages of stories about kindergarten success and concerns for early childhood practice.

My main concern is for the children I teach.  I teach CHILDREN.  Yes, I am a kindergarten teacher, but I teach CHILDREN.  Yes, I am expected to teach the common core standards for my grade level, but I teach CHILDREN.  At the end of the day, I find the responsibility of being a child’s first teacher – showing them how to get along with others, guiding them as they explore and learn things at their own pace, providing a safe environment where a love of school is grown – to be the most daunting. Yes, I want them to learn how to read.  Yes, I want them to learn how to count and use numbers.  Yes, I want them to learn about history and science.  But more importantly, I want them to LOVE doing those things.  I teach CHILDREN.  Children are people too.  The foundation of my teaching philosophy is that a child will know I love him and see him as a person first.  With that knowledge comes a connection.  And with that connection comes learning.  Standards or no standards.

[Off my soapbox now]

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The New AR

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In the beginning of my teaching career (not that long ago), the acronym AR was not my favorite thing.  It was associated with Accelerated Reader – and probably still is for some.  Hearing someone speak about AR used to elicit feelings of annoyance and often resulted in me hopping on a soapbox (which I am trying desparately not to get on now).
Recently, I have been reconditioning my brain to associate AR with Augmented Reality. My reaction is the complete opposite of what is used to be.  Augmented Reality makes me excited!  Excited for where technology can lead us – especially in the field of education. Excited for the possibilities AR gives our students to learn in different ways.

If someone asked me six months ago about AR, I wouldn’t have been able to explain it.  I’m still not so sure I can do so correctly now.  Simply put, most of us use some form of AR everyday and we don’t even realize it.  If you scan a QR code, check in with FourSquare, or workout using wiiFit – you’re using AR.  AR takes our reality and enhances it (augments it) to give us the information we need, shows us more than we are able to see at once, or lets our friends know what we are up to.

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How does AR impact education? In any way we want! While attending iSummit last month, I sat in on a session all about Augmented Reality and how teachers are using it with their students.  To say I was blown away would be an understatement.  I was energized and motivated to begin exploring and creating foundations to use these apps and websites in my classroom.  From enhancing field trips to creating scavenger hunts for test review to manipulating the Mars Rover – the possibilities are astounding.

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Here are some user friendly apps that I have been testing out the past few weeks:

Screen Shot 2014-03-24 at 11.42.29 PMMy class began getting to know Chromville at the end of the school year.  They enjoyed creating their 3D world and then writing about it.  After coloring a world downloaded from the website, students then open the app, select the appropriate world, and their coloring comes to life!  It does take a little practice to manipulate the character on screen – for example, it is easier for the students to put their paper on the floor and stand over it to get a good scan. The camera feature is easy to see and for students to use.

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icon_340 Spacecraft 3D brings Nasa to the palm of your hand!  After downloading and printing the marker, students can manipulate a 3D version of the Mars Rover, Voyager, or 14 other spacecraft.  Using the animation features, you can rotate the craft, move parts, etc.  By shifting the angle of your iPad, you also shift the way you see the craft.  I took screen shots of my rover, but within the app settings you can select the camera. I love that the marker target image is a sand sample taken by one of the spacecraft.

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iTunesArtwork402x Shape Quest by PBS Kids offers 3 games (2 non AR).  To play the AR game, you need to download the game board marker (black and white or color).  Once users open the app and aim the camera at the game board, their game begins!  I found this a little more difficult to maneuver, but I’m also sure my students would have any easier time with it.  Students are able to use shape knowledge and their bodies to work through levels of the game.

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Screen Shot 2014-07-06 at 7.41.10 PMPerhaps the AR app/website combo I am most excited about is Aris. Using the website, the creator can drop pins on the map of a specific location (school, field trip destination, classroom) and add fun facts, videos, or trivia questions.  When students/users open the app and begin the project, they are notified when they arrive at a destination that has been pinned.  They are then able to scan the QR code (or other marker) and learn more.

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Imagine scavenger hunts around campus to review content, book trailers on a library tour, welcome videos from school staff for visitors – – – if you can dream it up and find a map, you can create it!  It is advised that you practice the project first to make sure characters/pins are dropped in the exact place.

To learn more – surf on over to  arisgames.org for demos, to play projects that are already created, or to create your own.

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Additonal Resources:

http://www.edutopia.org/blog/augmented-reality-new-dimensions-learning-drew-minock

http://www.twoguysandsomeipads.com/p/meaningful-integration.html

http://www.kleinspiration.com/2013/05/using-augmented-reality-via-aurasma-in.html

http://www.teachthought.com/technology/32-augmented-reality-apps-for-the-classroom-from-edshelf/

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