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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#BeBrave and Use Your Teacher Voice

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The number one “rule” in my class is to Be Brave.  We talk about how being brave can mean different things.  Brave doesn’t always equate “superhero” brave.  In our class, being brave means doing something, trying something, or saying something – even if we are afraid. More and more, I find myself in a position where I need to practice what I preach with my students.

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Showing I can #bebrave – even though I’m afraid of heights

Many times, teachers are afraid to say things.  Afraid to stand up against a policy.  Afraid to disagree with a colleague.  Afraid to confront a parent. Or, even – afraid to say something that has worked for them. For many teachers, it is difficult to share accomplishments in their classrooms or professional lives.  I am one of those.  I never want to come across as bragging. “Tooting my own horn” is not really my style. Yes – I write this blog, and some could consider this blog as horn tooting.  In my mind though, writing is something that comes naturally to me.  My process isn’t to do something in my classroom to write about.  I write about what I’m doing in my classroom.  There is a huge part of me that takes a deep breath every time I click publish.  A part of me that isn’t sure someone will read it – other than my mom or sister! And then, someone does.  Someone reads it.  They like it or leave a comment or share the post. The validation feels good.  What also feels good is that I can share these things and not feel bad about it. I’m not bragging – I’m sharing.  Thank goodness for others that have shared along the way.  I have learned so much from them.

In my classroom, and perhaps your own, I encourage my students to feel confidence and pride.  To be proud of themselves when they accomplish something. To be proud of yourself = #bebrave.  Be brave and say “I’m proud” or “I worked hard” or “I did it”!

Today, I am choosing to #bebrave and use my teacher voice and say “I’m proud” and “I worked hard”.  Beyond the Stoplight reached out to me regarding my experience doing away with “stoplight” behavior management system in my classroom.  The interview was just published last night.  I am honored – and humbled – and proud to share it with you.

http://beyondthestoplight.com/2014/09/06/stoplight-spotlight-one-teachers-tells-how-she-moved-beyond-the-stoplight/

Use your teacher voice and share something you’re proud of!

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Fantasy Draft

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It’s that time of year friends – FOOTBALL! On Saturdays (and some Thursdays) you will find my television and attention focused on College Gameday on ESPN.  You may hear me yelling all the way from Charleston while watching my beloved Georgia Bulldogs.

Also during this time, I become the “commercial breaks” for my fiance and his Fantasy Football shenanigans.  The TV on Sundays and Mondays (and sometimes Thursdays) becomes his domain.  He bogarts all the internet bandwidth doing research and preparing his teams for the various leagues he has teams associated with. You may hear him yelling all the the way from Charleston while watching several different games across several different devices.

Yesterday was the first draft of the fantasy season.  Our evening was planned all around it. While I watched him focus on creating the best possible line up from the best possible players, I began to wonder about a different kind of fantasy draft.

If you could draft the ultimate group of people to work with – who would you choose? The available draftees could be anyone from history, literature, or your real everyday life.  Perhaps years experience would be taken into account but, stats would probably be things that cannot be measured with numbers, but with feelings.

So, here is my Fantasy Draft – I encourage you to share your own.

Extraordinary People from my Ordinary Everyday Life: Former and current colleagues that inspire me

The creativity of these three bring joy to school
Laura Bashaw
Crystal Mills
Katie Jones

The professionalism, integrity, and downright grit of these people keep me working hard
Kristi Meeuwse
Adriana Jarrard
Meghan Driggers
Johne Cobb

UGA’s finest mentors and people I strive to be like
JoBeth Allen
Andy Plemmons
Thomas VanSoelen

Characters I Wish Were Real People:   My favorites who serve as reminders of greatness

Atticus Finch – To Kill A Mockingbird
Scout Finch – To Kill A Mockingbird
Fern Arable – Charlotte’s Web
Charlotte A. Cavatica – Charlotte’s Web
Mufasa – The Lion King
Ellie and Miah – If You Come Softly
Professor McGonagall – Harry Potter
Mary Poppins

Authors/Illustrators I Wish I Could Talk to Everyday:  If only I could plan lessons directly with these people!

Mo Willems
Jaqueline Woodson
Frank McCourt
Kevin Henkes
Kadir Nelson
David Catrow
Patricia Polacco

People I Follow on Social Media: People I’d love to actually see each day

Matt B. Gomez
Pernille Ripp
Amy Night
Angela Maiers

 

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#Kinderblog14, Week 4: The Personals

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#Kinderblog, Week 4 Challenge: 

Write about a relationship (either personal or professional) that challenges you, or is maybe difficult for you. What makes it hard? What are the ways that it makes you grow? Is it worth the difficult-ness? Why do you think that relationship came into your life? What are you learning from it?

Before coming to Charleston and teaching Kindergarten, I had not worked with a teaching assistant.  I had experience co-teaching with ESOL, EIP, and SPED teachers – but had no experience having someone in my classroom all day long.  Someone who was meant to help me in all aspects of the classroom. And this relationship my friends – challenges me everyday.

I will be the first person to tell you I am a control freak. There are certain things that I like certain ways – things that may seem trivial to others (name tags, labels, folders, etc.).  These things, in my brain, are not trivial. My tendancies toward organization and neatness ride that fine line of Type A/OCD, with OCD winning out. I have difficulty letting go of some tasks (laminating, copying, cutting items out) just because I am used to doing them myself.  So while I am challenged to let go of some control, I also realize I am difficult for my assistant to work with.  It is not that I tell someone no, or fuss that something isn’t right, I just never give the other person the chance to do it.  In school, group projects were always difficult for me – I usually did most of the work (which at times I resented, but brought on myself). My concern for having things perfect or “just right” makes the setting up my classroom challenging.  It makes welcoming the help of others challenging.  It makes trying to help me challenging.

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My first year with a teaching assistant, I had substitutes until the end of October.  By the time Mrs. Jones and I found some sort of a groove, the school year was over.  This past school year, we had the ENTIRE year to be together.  She, bless her sweet heart, figured out how to “take” tasks away from me.  Small things, such as putting up the lunch choice, she would just start doing. Each morning, I would come in and see something she had taken over. Thankfulness would fill me.  I was so grateful she had become comfortable enough to take initiative and also realize what I was able to let go of – without asking her, because I am not very good at asking for help. I am also not very good at telling someone what I need done.

The professional relationship of teacher/teacher assistant is also challenging because I am somehow like her boss.  I am a teacher, I’m in the business of supervising children, not adults.  Taking on the role of supervisor to another adult was unexpected and something I hoped to always avoid due to my lack of desire to ever go into administration. Add to this the fact that I was raised super Southern, with heavy emphasis on respecting your elders.  Mrs. Jones is my elder, so how dare I tell her something to do? Many requests would be worded something like this: “Mrs. Jones, do you mind…?” To which she would respond, “Of course I don’t mind… You don’t have to ask!” This was our dynamic – my cringing discomfort with telling her what to do combined with my cringing discomfort letting anyone else do anything. However, we made it work.

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Which brings me to this school year, beginning with pre-planning August 11 and A NEW ASSISTANT! Y’all this brings me so much anxiety.  Mrs. Jones and I had found our groove.  I was just beginning to adjust to having an assistant – and now I have to start over. So my biggest professional relationship challenge right now is now even more challenging. Deep breaths!

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#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:

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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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#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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