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I can be ANYTHING!

Growing-Up-Quote

As most often happens, my plan for writing goals for ourselves didn’t go according to – well plan.  We came back from winter break and needed to readjust ourselves to school by reviewing routines.  We came back from winter break just to have a late start to school one day. We came back from winter break and we just needed to get used to each other again.

So our goal setting conversations shifted to this week.  This actually worked out better because goal setting ties in well with our character trait for the month Commitment.  Our guidance counselor teaches a lesson each month about a particular character trait.  Monday, she spoke with the children about commitment and what it means to our goals in kindergarten and for when we grow up. Tuesday, we quickly reviewed commitment in a “little chat” about trying our best and doing our job as students in the classroom. 🙂 Wednesday brought our read aloud, I Can be Anything by Jerry Spinelli.

In this charming picture book, the little boy dreams of all the things he can be – from a make believe critter to a cheek-to-cheek grinner.  The kids loved all the things and giggled at many of the pictures. We talked about each of the things the little boy could be.  One student said “Um, he needs to pick one!” This led to a discussion of how each of us can be more than one thing.  I am a teacher, book lover, cupcake baker, etc.  To help prepare us for our writing, we used the app Popplet to create a web on the Smartboard of all the things we can/want to be now and when we grow up.

From there, we went into small group writing.  Students made the outline look like themselves as whatever they wanted to be.  We have many future police officers, a few doctors, a couple cheerleaders, and even a unicorn! We CAN be ANYTHING!

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Snippets – Take 3

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Maybe I’ve used this before, maybe I haven’t, but either way – I’m feeling crazy busy.  I’m running around like a chicken with her head cut off. Between the beginning of the school year, more responsibility at work, and planning a wedding – most days I feel lucky to be dressed and groomed to go to work.  Hence, the lack of blog posts in the past month or so.  Scatter brain doesn’t make for the most coherent of writing! Ha!

So, I bring you some snippets of what we have been doing lately in the lands of Kinder and Tutor Town….

 

 

Celebrating International Dot Day

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 Using students’ voices and choices during tutoring

In my experience, the most successful tutoring sessions involve working on confidence and using activities the student feels invested in.   The smallest things, like paper color for flash cards, help students feel in control of their learning.  The student I tutor each week loves dinosaurs, so dinosaurs are on the top of his flashcards.  We keep activities varied each week to keep it interesting.

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Indoor hopscotch and “SWAT” a word on laminated butcher paper that has been folded in half

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Hidden sight words – white crayon and watercolor paint

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Personalized flash cards – We play Memory and Go Fish

Literacy Through Play

I began taking a kindergarten literacy class that discusses how we can incorporate more play into our school day.  The class is relevant and exciting.  We are not required to read outside of the class, but I have found myself reading the books on my own time.  More to come from this class!

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Digital Literacy

21st century kid

 

As years go by, buzz words and terms come and go.  Currently – I feel inundated with 21st century learner, 21st century skills, and digital age. While attending iSummit earlier this month, I participated in a session about Digital Literacy led by Angela Maiers (see more love for her here). At the crux of her presentation is that literacy (of all types) is a HUMAN RIGHT. Devastatingly – a human right that is still not afforded to all.  To be literate means you have lifetime membership to the “reading club”.  You have access to resources, ideas, and even joys that nonmembers do not. There is confidence and POWER in literacy.  With our membership, comes responsibility – to members and nonmembers alike.

With Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat, Pinterest, et al our world feels in some ways more intimate.  We share everything, at times too much, and we get responses instantly. We get feedback – instantly. We become validated – instantly. We are insulted – instantly.  We are heartbroken – instantly. We realize the pros and cons of having an audience to our writing – instantly.

Friends of mine poke fun at me for correcting myself in the comments section of a Facebook post for a grammar error.  They wonder why I type out every single word in a text – refusing (for the most part) to use the lingo.  I do not speak BRB, TTYL, LOL, SMH, TY, IKR, ICYMI, YW… At times, I have to ask what an abbreviation means.

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Why am I this way?  Am I an officer of grammar law? Not really.  Am I snobby?  I try not to be. Am I just a little crazy? Most definitely.  Mainly, though, I feel a writer’s responsibility when putting  my words into the world through media. People are reading what you say – even strangers.  Haven’t you seen the fun Buzzfeed has with texts, comments, and posts?

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Part of being literate in the 21st century means you are able to learn, process, share/teach others, and – if necessary – relearn and unlearn.  When you blog, you’re speaking to more people than you imagine.  Blogs are not just online diaries to unload your thoughts.  After you unload your thoughts – someone reads them.  That someone may have a comment for you.  Then, it becomes your turn in the conversation again. Our members of the “club” need to understand this.

Since blogging, tweeting, and commenting are becoming the new form of written expression, we as teachers have a responsibility to create opportunities for students to practice these skills OFFLINE first.  Essentially, they are prewriting. Pretty sure they fits in a standard somewhere!

Resources for building skills offline:

http://purposedriventeaching.net/2013/09/29/connecting-your-students-with-authors-with-twitter/

http://www.teacherstechworkshop.com/2013/08/6-amazing-facebook-templates-to-use.html

http://conversationsinliteracy.blogspot.com/2014/02/twitter-tweets-graffiti.html

http://langwitches.org/blog/2010/04/11/skype-jobs-for-students/

http://www.scholastic.com/teachers/top-teaching/2014/03/pinterest-inspired-project-and-hallway-display

http://www.pinterest.com/pin/526147168938992093/

Happy Blogging-Tweeting-Chatting-Hashtagging-Commenting-Pinning!

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As the pages turn…

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Around this time last year, I posted about ending the year with a BOOK!

This year, I have found myself automatically gravitating toward books that leave the impact of making memories.  At first, it was completely subconscious – I chose a book I love and had not yet read aloud for one reason or the other.  And later that same day, I chose another book.  And the next day another… Looking at the selections – left on my easel for students to enjoy – I realized there was a theme.

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Thoughtlessly, I was plucking books from my shelf that captured my mood – nostalgic, retrospective, idealistic, hopeful, inspired, and that bittersweet feeling of finishing a chapter in life.  Our year is coming to a close – and while summer looms on the horizon filled with trips, family time, and a small moment to breathe – I’m not quite ready. My year has been challenging.  Challenging in all the ways you don’t appreciate at first.  Challenging in all the ways that exhaust you.  Challenging in all the ways that remind you why you love your job. When I’m left without words of my own, I turn to the words of others.

Our last books of school:

Our Tree Named Steve

Our Tree Named Steve by Alan Zwiebel and David Catrow

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The Hello, Goodbye Window by Norton Juster and Chris Raschka

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Someday by Eileen Spinelli and Rosie Winstead

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The Relatives Came by Cynthia Rylant and Stephen Gammel

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Miss Rumphius by Barbara Cooney

For our end of year celebration:

(We read First Day Jitters on the first day)

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Last Day Blues by Julie Danneberg and Judy Love

And some I can’t help but read once again:

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Stand Tall Molly Lou Melon by Patty Lovell and David Catrow

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Wilfrid Gordon McDonald Partridge by Mem Fox and Julie Vivas

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Progressively looking backward

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In the after school program today, I saw a sign that said 21 days left of school.  21!  It seems crazy to me that just 21 days are left with my kiddos. We have learned so much – and yet I feel we have so much left to do!

As often happens, I got caught up discussing a student that one of the after school workers helps each day.  We were wondering about all of this hard work and whether it was continuing to show benefit.  Some days he gets it, is into it, remembers it.  And others – he just doesn’t.  The road to working on sight words,etc. at home is paved with good intentions.  We are left wondering if the help he gets at school is all there is for him, and so we continue to squeeze in every extra second we can.  Both the worker and I have a concern for him and his success – which is so nice!

Is this child where he should be in the fast track of kindergarten these days?  Not exactly.  I worry for him so much in first grade next year.  I worry if will he feel successful.  Will he struggle?  Will he remember anything from kindergarten?  Before even speaking to the worker this afternoon, I had my own moment earlier in the day.  It was writing time and I am encouraging more independence (he has a behavior plan just for independence)  and more details.  We were struggling to pull ideas from his head and put them through his pencil.  Finally, I sent him off on his own.  He returned with one legible sentence that he could read and one string of letters.  The child just handed the paper to me and shrugged.  The kind of shrug that says – ok, this is all you’re getting.  He walked away and I just stared at the paper.

Did I feel frustration?  Yes!  We have worked so hard all year on using sounds and sight words when writing. The worry for him washed over me.  Then the memory of him from the beginning of the year smacked me.  When he entered kindergarten, he could not hold a pencil or crayon.  He did not recognize, spell, or write his own name.  And yet, he just gave me a paper with his name and 1 whole sentence that he could read.  This was success!  Not failure!

Writing Sample September (tracing highlighted words)

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His independent sample from today

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The pressures of teaching today can try rob of us of true victories in our classrooms.  The miles that our students have already run can be overshadowed by the miles left to go.  The light at the end of the tunnel becomes the focus – while the flashes of light along the way go unnoticed.

Our year is progressing on – and yet I’m wanting to look backward and remember where we all started.  Many of my students have made immeasurable leaps and bonds – emotionally and academically.  There may not be an assessment for that, but I do have my memories.

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Onomato-what? A snippet

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Sometimes, I just want to share a quick idea or activity from our class.  This is one of those times.  Here is a snippet for you!

In Kindergarten, we brush upon many subjects that are above grade level.  Rather than toss those to the side by saying, that’s for — grade, we embrace these topics.  During our pond unit, we discussed all aspects of pond life.  One of those aspects is the sounds heard around the pond.

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After spending a few days adding to our Pond chart, we focused on the sound column.  All week, we had been using the term “sound words”.  What gets their attention for a new vocabulary word?  I make it sound super secret, and let them know they are going to hear a third grade word (or fourth, fifth, etc).   This group is very excited when they learn something they think they aren’t “supposed” to yet.  We connected “sound words” to the literary term onomatopoeia.

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I said it, they tried it, we laughed, and tried again.  Fifth time’s the charm – they were able to say that mouthful.

Our writing activity for that day was to create pop up sounds at the pond. The pop up is created by cutting a slit in an index card folded in half.  My model was displayed and they created their own during the writing rotation for the day.

My model

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Some of their work

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Our class display

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All Work and No Play (pull out your soapbox)

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An article featured by the Washington Post has been making its way through social media lately.  The article, “A Very Scary Headlines about Kindergartners”, can be found here.

What this article, and the several (listed later) it references, brings attention to is the effect Common Core and academics has had on kindergarten in recent years.  This is my second year teaching kindergarten.  I am teaching skills and strategies that I remember from my first grade lesson plans five years ago.  Expectations are high.  While that can be a good thing – students always surprise you with their capabilities.  The negative side to high expectations is that five and six year olds begin experiencing the “stress” of school from the very beginning, possibly fostering a dislike for school and altering their academic careers.

I love what I do – absolutely, positively.  But, let’s be honest – teaching kindergarten is a HUGE responsibility.  More often than not, my classroom is the first experience children have with the public school system.  My classroom is their first chance to “do school”.  Many come from day care programs, but they are not the same.  Their little brains become overwhelmed with routines and socialization – and then we throw academics on top of that.  I sincerely believe that kindergarten in my classroom can factor in to how a child feels about school.  I take that to heart.  I want my students to LOVE school!  I want them to feel successful and confident and proud.

After some days, I wonder if every child left feeling that way.  Fountas and Pinnell have had to change their reading level chart.  What was once considered on or above level at the end of kindergarten (level B) is now considered below level after the second nine weeks.  To be on grade level at the end of kindergarten, Fountas and Pinnell (and my school system) say that students should be reading at level D.  You and I both know that some kiddos just aren’t ready to read in November, December, or January.  They may jump on the reading train in March and as a teacher, you’re ecstatic.  And as students, they are ecstatic because they can finally read all by themselves!  But some of that joy gets stolen when at the end of the year, all of their hard work still doesn’t seem good enough.  They end the year at level B and you’re worried they will struggle in first grade.  Common core says teach them how to decompose numbers into tens and ones.  Well, Sarah can only count to ten with confidence.  How will she feel after a day of working with numbers larger than ten in a complex way?  High expectations are not all bad, but what gets pushed to the wayside is the developmental appropriateness of standards.

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The designers and writers of assessments and standards do not seem to take into account the age of the child – and where he or she is at developmentally – when putting forth requirements.  One of the first classes of my teaching program was on child development.  Obviously, this stuff is important!  For example, five and six year olds are very egocentric still.  Everything is about them, their families, their lives.  The entire world is their world.  Anything outside of their bubble is foreign.  So if Piaget and others taught me this in undergrad, why am I being asked to expect my students to understand the concepts of states, countries, and continents at ages five, six, and seven?  Do I love to teach about these concepts?  Do we love exploring about other places?  Of course!  The difficulty lies in ASSESSING these developmentally inappropriate skills.  I could go on and on about this – but I’d rather focus on play.

Play is losing its place in our kindergarten classrooms.  We all try to play.  We play to learn.  My students have voice and choice in the classroom and learn through a variety of ways.  We go off on tangents to answer questions.  We play hands on games, explore, ask questions, research, build, create, use iPad apps, write, color, stamp, cut, sort, and experiment.  Currently, I’m making a conscious effort to provide more opportunities to play for play. 

We play at recess, yes.  In the past couple weeks, I’ve hung up my “whistle” and loosened the reins a little.  Unfortunately, I have been worried about injuries on the playground and have come to realize I was making recess less fun – for me and the students.  “Make safe choices” is our new philosophy on the playground.  So if a student is running up the slide or throwing sticks – he might get hurt.  If he gets hurt, then we will have a discussion about the safety of his choices.  My reflections on recess and play led me to see that recess was not always a break from the classroom if I had to continue redirecting behaviors on the playground.  Tattling has decreased and students are getting more energy out.

We are also fortunate enough to still have “nonacademic” centers in our classroom.  Students are able to invent and pretend in the home living, block/cars, and art centers.  The kitchen is a kitchen, a barber shop, a store, a house, an animal shelter.  Students are moms, dads, babies, and pets.  Blocks become airplanes, rocket ships, bridges, ships, and roads.  Construction paper transforms into robots, hats, gifts, and decorations for our room.  The noise level during choice time is louder than other times in our classroom.  This is an adjustment and also a fine line.  Our class if filled with friends who take a mile when you give them an inch.  We talk about procedures and what being at a center looks like and sounds like.  We sit in time out when we can’t respect the space of others.  We make messes – and then learn we need to clean them up.

Through play, for the sake of playing, we take care of our emotional selves.  We develop life long skills that will make us happy human beings, successful human beings.  We form friendships and develop talents.  We find out our likes and dislikes, our strengths and some of our weaknesses.

We gain so much – and none of it can be assessed.

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How do you incorporate play into your day?

 

Referenced articles:

http://www.oregonlive.com/opinion/index.ssf/2014/01/kindergarten_test_results_a_so.html

http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/answer-sheet/wp/2014/02/01/the-trouble-with-calls-for-universal-high-quality-pre-k/

http://curry.virginia.edu/uploads/resourceLibrary/20_Bassok_Is_Kindergarten_The_New_First_Grade.pdf

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