Category Archives: Literacy

The Great Disappearing Act

Remember that one time you started a blog, kept it up for a few years, and then ghosted it for a few more? Just me?

Is it ironic that my last post chronicled all that was going on in my life as a person, professional, and teacher and all of those things contributed to my not adding a SINGLE post since?

It’s been a ride friends! A lovely, hectic, surprising, confusing, and fulfilling ride. To recap since my last post:

  • I had that baby mentioned. She is now 3 and all things amazing.
  • Upon returning from maternity leave that year, I ventured into the world of four-year olds and prekindergarten. I prepared long-term sub plans for KINDERGARTEN just to then dive head first into a new grade level. My long term sub was great and took the change in plans best she could. I had an amazing team that helped her transition and kept me in the loop the entire time. I walked into a classroom of little strangers. I had visited my kindergarten class a few times while on maternity. I did not meet my four year olds until the first day. We survived our first day together! Working with that age group taught me so much more about child development that made me a better teacher (and momma).
  • After finishing that school year, we moved! We left Charleston behind and began a new adventure in Raleigh (well, close by), NC. With this move came a big decision. I would take a break from the classroom and enjoy these fleeting years with our then one year old. It was such a tough decision. On the one hand – it was excruciating for me to leave Genevieve each day to go to a job I genuinely LOVED. Once I got to work, I was immersed in all things preK. We had fun. I saw so much growth in my students. On the other hand – I LOVE TEACHING. Thankfully, I had not reached a burned out state like so many of my friends. Watching my students blossom was like watching dreams come true. I felt so much guilt deciding to take a break. Walking away from my incredible school was only made easier by the fact that I HAD to leave for the move anyway. (lol)
  • We were settling in to North Carolina. School was in session for about five seconds before I started to miss it. I missed making connections with students, watching them interact, and learn. BUT, I wasn’t missing it enough to give up what I had going on at home with our toddler. I had front row seats to so much of HER learning and development. We were making friends, going to play groups, and enjoying creating our own schedule. While talking with a friend who also had recently left the classroom, I expressed that teacher heartache I was having. She told me about an online platform for teaching English to students in China. At first I wasn’t sure about teaching in this way, but I checked it out. I’m so glad I did!
  • I’ve been teaching English to students in China online for almost two years. I LOVE IT! It reminds me so much of the tutoring I did with students when in the brick and mortar classroom. It took some adjusting – video, online classroom, pacing, scheduling, etc. – but I’m thankful for this experience. The lessons are already created so prep time is minimal once you get acquainted with the lessons. I can still be my goofy teacher self with songs and randomness.  It gives me the best of both worlds. My teacher heart and my momma heart are fulfilled at the same time.
  • In February of this year, we welcomed another sweet girl to our family! Learning to care for two (plus hubby and myself) has been a balancing act. An act that I do better with some days than others. There are times I catch myself being overwhelmed by being able to be home with Rowan from day one, not have to prepare sub plans, not have to find child care, not have to cry on the way to work. But even still, that teacher heart keeps beating.I was able to take as much time as I wanted from teaching my kiddos online. Yet, even while on “maternity leave”, I accepted just a few classes from a sweet student I teach regularly.
  • Even with ALL of this going on these last few years, my mind has wandered back to this blog. I have ideas on sticky notes in planners and notebooks. I have recorded opening lines on my cell phone. Things I see or do with the kids get filed away in my brain for later. Now – I hope the mommy brain will grant me access! So while the actual blog appears abandoned, I never truly abandoned it. I’ve spent the last few weeks really thinking about recommitting to the blog, how I will manage the posts (plus family), and keeping the content relevant and informative.

My focus for the blog remains the same.  It is simply shifting, for now, from literacy in the classroom to literacy in the living room (or any room in your home). I hope to share with you about literacy development from the perspective of a teacher mom, ideas for simple activities you can do at home, and a funny anecdote here and there. The threenager has an endless supply! I’d love to hear some ideas from you about what you’d like me to post about. Drop a comment below!

So, if you’re still following me – I’m back! If you’ve never read my blog until today – welcome!

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Filed under Literacy, Snippets, Things That Matter

April Showers bring May Flowers

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If you’re like me – you’re wrapping up your Spring Break.  Or maybe, you’re just about to begin.  Or, maybe, you’re like some of my Georgia friends and Spring Break was week ago – before Spring had even started.  No matter your finishing point on the break scale, you may be searching for new and fun ideas to keep your students engaged these last few weeks of the year.  Testing is about to begin for upper grades.  Class schedules will be altered.  Recess plans may have to move from outdoors to indoors because of noise.  I’ve been using Google, Pinterest, and blogs to find creative ways to enhance our last nine weeks of school.

SCIENCE EXPERIMENTS!

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http://www.education.com/activity/kindergarten/science/

I also blogged about other fun experiments a couple of years ago: https://withliteracyinmind.wordpress.com/2013/05/22/snippets-2/

If you have them – iPAD PROJECTS

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http://iteachwithipads.net/2015/03/31/building-early-literacy-skills-with-ipads/

https://withliteracyinmind.wordpress.com/2014/05/15/kindergarten-and-the-writing-process/

http://barrowmediacenter.com/tag/kindergarten/

SHOW and TELL

This one is pretty self explanatory – create a schedule and fill some time blocks with Show and Tell.  The kids have been sneaking toys to school anyway! (Well, mine have!)

GUEST READERS
(featured below, my hubby)

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Again, create a schedule for parents, community members, or even other teachers.  My kids love being read to and when someone else comes in – it is extra special. You can easily create a google doc that can be emailed out for sign up.

RECYCLED CRAFTS/ MAKER SPACE

I automatically save tissue boxes, shoe boxes, and toilet paper rolls.  Let’s put these items to great use!  The Pinterest board below has so many great ideas.

https://www.pinterest.com/susanmomof5/kids-crafts-recycled-materials/

Aren’t sure what a maker space is?

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http://kindergartenmakerspace.blogspot.com/

NATURE WALKS

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We have a green way near our school as well as plenty of trees.  If you have the beauty of nature around you – and the parental permission necessary – take your kiddos for a hike.  Document your walk with iPads or other hand-helds, pictures, or science journals.

GO NOODLE

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It’s FREE, engaging, and FUN!
https://www.gonoodle.com/

HAPPY SPRING!

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Filed under iPads, Literacy, Read Alouds, Science, Technology

The Power of Three

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In Harry Potter, the Deathly Hallows are three super powerful magical objects believed to give the owner invincibility.  How awesome would it be if we armed our students with 3 magically powerful skills that enabled them to be “invincible” when it comes to reading?  Research on the Generative Theory has shown that there ARE 3 powerful things that create successful readers. Without these three things, readers are unable to self monitor and try strategies to help them succeed. Reading becomes a chore rather than something that comes as natural as breathing.

The Generative Theory of reading is born of the research of Diane Stephens on what matters when helping students become successful readers and writers.  Her “What Matters” framework places heavy emphasis on meeting students where they are and using assessment as a way to know more about how students learn and shape lessons accordingly.

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According to Stephens’ theory, if the following 3 things are in place, the reader will automatically self monitor.  They will stop themselves when something does not make sense and will apply a strategy to help.

  1. The reader understands that reading should make sense. Does the reader understand that reading is about more than just getting the words right?
  2. The reader believes in his/her ability to make sense of text. Does the reader see reading as an attainable goal everyone can achieve rather than an ability a person is born with?
  3. The reader sees reading as an enjoyable event.  Does the reader see reading as fun?

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As teachers, we need to look for and at times create situations for the students to show these 3 things.  To start, here are some activities for helping students understand that reading should make sense.

  • Use easy to read books that are fun and enjoyable and have high interest for students
  • Have students look at a picture and ask them to tell you what is happening in the picture.  If the student is just pointing to objects in the picture and naming them (labeling) rather than crafting a scenario for the picture, he/she does not understand that reading should make sense
  • Tea Party Strategy:
    • Show the students the front/back cover of a book and jot down words they think the author may use in the story.
    • Talk about why the author may use those words.
    • Categorize them.
    • OR Show students various pictures (some actually from book, others not) and have them sort the pictures into 2 groups – Pictures they think will be in the book or will not be in the book.  Discuss reasoning behind the categorizing.
  • Use wordless picture books  to practice telling stories
  • Use 3 pictures, tell a story, and write the story together
  • Teacher talk – think aloud as you read a story to model how a reader self monitors and the meaning making process
  • Oral storytelling
  • Interactive read alouds
  • Performance Literacy:
    • Student draws favorite animal
    • Teacher writes the name of the animal
    • Ask the child if the animal has a name
    • Write 2-3 words that could form the problem of the story (ex: lonely, hungry, or lost)
    • Ask questions: What problem do you want your animal to have? When the lion was hungry what did he do? Where did it go? What did it eat?
    • Write down the student responses to the questions
    • Tell the story back to the child filling in details when necessary.  Use plenty of sounds and movement.
    • Ask the child to tell the story back to you.

As I explore this topic more in my Literacy Beginnings class, I will share more with you!  In the meantime, check out this article:

http://www.debaronson.com/node/94

Or Diane Stephens book:  Reading Assessment: Artful Teachers, Successful Students

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Filed under Literacy, Reading Workshop

Goal Setting and Picture Books

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As the return from winter break approaches, I am thinking of how I can continue to motivate some of my reluctant readers and writers.  Before we said goodbye for the holiday break, I had conversations with a few of my students to see where their minds were at.  We talk a lot about our interests in the classroom and I try to provide as many resources as possible to supplement these interests.  And yet – I still have a couple students who have the knowledge they need but seem less than motivated to use it.  They are still relying on teachers and others to help with unknown words.  They still need a little hand holding.

I tell parents that January starts our “crunch” time  – meaning we really put to use what we learned those first few months. With the application also comes to relinquishing of responsibility from teacher to students.  More and more independence becomes encouraged and required of our sweet kinders.  Don’t get me wrong, I don’t drop them in to the deep end of a difficult assignment and yell “Swim!”.  But I do release their hands, little by little, until suddenly they find themselves accomplishing it alone.  For my littles who still aren’t ready, they stumble a bit.  They become frustrated and sometimes down right upset that “no one” will help.  Then….

The light bulb goes off.  The fire catches.  The connections are strengthened and extend beyond their wildest dreams.  They realize they are doing it – all by themselves.  And. It. Is. Amazing.

To help get us ready for the “CRUNCH”, I’m calling on a few of my favorite picture book friends:

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After reading and discussing what we would like to accomplish, each student will create a GOAL board.  I’m not sure of the format yet, but I’m sure Pinterest has tons of printables if I decide to go that route rather than using their iPads. Goals can be easily incorporated into data notebooks if those are a part of your classroom.

What’s your goal to make it through the CRUNCH?

Happy 2015!

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Filed under Literacy, Mentor Text, Read Alouds

Once upon a story…

“Children need to be immersed in a listening and storytelling culture where their voices are valued and heard.” – Lucy Calkins

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From the beginning of my teacher training, I have been in love with and identified with the works of Vivian Paley.  Her books line the shelves of my personal library.  Repeatedly, I turn to these books as reminders of what my kinders are capable of and the importance of teaching them the ways they are meant to learn.

This school year, I am fortunate enough to take part in a literacy cohort just for kindergarten teachers in my district.  Upon entering this professional development, my expectations were cautiously high.  We all know that sometimes PD is just not what it should be.  Fortunately – I have hit the mother load of PD.  The instructors are knowledgeable, enthusiastic, and realistic.  This is a PD worth writing sub plans for!

The focus of the class is literacy – with a heavy emphasis on play. Yes, PLAY!  It is alarming how PLAY has become a nasty four letter word in our classrooms.  Before we all start asking the “How can I fit this into my day with this assessment and that assessment, etc.?” question, let me share one of the best parts of this PD.  We embrace what is natural!  Play is natural – not something extra that should be fit in to our days.  Standards are being met through play – each and every day.  I know that we all know the benefits of play.  But should you need a reminder, or documentation to prove the benefits:

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We are given time during each session to read (no homework) from several different books that are ours to keep!
We are reading:

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The most recent session, we focused on storytelling and creating thinkers in kindergarten.  We were reminded that the standards (Common Core) are not what we teach, but where our students are heading this year. Storytelling a grand vehicle to get our students where we need them to be.  We started off with an activity that asked us to created characters for a story – any characters we wanted.

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The next step was to join with a partner and create a story with both of our characters.  This was challenging – and fun.  We then shared our stories out to other partnerships.  What a fun time!  So many aspects went into the creating of the story:

  • talking about story elements
  • the relationship between the characters
  • sequence of events
  • dialogue of characters
  • addition of props depending on setting and mood

How many standards do you see addressed above?  So many!  The speaking and listening standards are obvious – but many reading standards are also addressed.  We then highlighted the standards we thought were addressed during the activity.

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Our instructors then used their characters and told their story.  After they were finished, we extended the learning by participating some word activities using language of the story.  Again, we were asked to highlight standards we thought were addressed during the extension activity.  Boom – foundational skills!

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Our children are natural storytellers – with or without props.  How many times have you chosen to stop a child from sharing a story for the “sake of instructional time”? Instead of stopping her, incorporate her story into the lesson!  Doing what feels natural and right for our children can be challenging when the expectations are increasing and we are made to feel like what is natural and right does not mesh with academics.  Arm yourself with these benefits of storytelling:

  • Students attain meaningful vocabulary
  • Students are exposed to cultural diversity
  • They play with the sound of language as they repeat rhymes and chants
  • Ability to visualize increases
  • Ownership increases – students become emotionally attached to what they are listening to, in turn producing motivation for remembering and retelling
  • Students motivation to read increases
  • As students learn to tell stories, they hone oral language skills and build self confidence
    • Oral language skills developed through storytelling lead to better reading comprehension
      (Generative Theory of Reading):
  • Children must understand the point of reading is to make sense
  • Children must become confident of their ability to make meaning
  • Children must recognize that reading can be fun

  • When these 3 things take place – comprehension takes place

 

Go forth and tell stories!

Want to incorporate technology?  Check out this post by Matt Gomez:
http://mattbgomez.com/33-great-apps-for-storytelling-and-creativity/

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Filed under Literacy, Things That Matter

#Kinderblog14, Letters to the Editor

letter-to-the-editor

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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Filed under Kinderblog, Literacy