Friday, May 27, 2016

What? No I'm Not Done Teaching! There Are 4 days Left!

Wow!! What a week, a great week.  I know the perception is that teachers stop teaching at the end of the year, but ask your children if that are true!  They had better say NO!!! We started our week on Monday with R day read around the room.  We read on devices, in our book boxes, in the pod, with other classes, with our buddies and well, everywhere!  We also front loaded all the skills for this week and new spelling topic, which we rocked out both tests today with AWESOMENESS!! That was just Monday! 

On Tuesday we watched the big kids amaze us with patriotism in their All About Indiana Musicale!  It was awesome, a lot of facts from our Indiana social studies unit were recognized and we felt super smart!  It was S day and we had a Science experiment day.  Since we talked about the Wright Brothers all week and the importance of the inventions we have like the airplane, we had a paper airplane challenge.  We learned about paper airplanes and how to experiment to make them better.  We also created blueprints for a personal flying device.  We were being visionaries, just like Benjamin Franklin, Alexander Graham Bell, The Wright Brothers, and Thomas Edison.  Are you tired yet? I am just from telling you about 2 days this week.  

On Wednesday we started out T day with twins and triples day.  We worked more on our flying invention blue prints, started and amazing writing project on Google Slides and did some collaborative idea churning to remember all the awesome things we have done in first grade since August. 

 On Thursday we had U day and used books came in to be donated!  We read for almost 45 min. playing Musical books, we would read, evaluate, rate and then start over.  When we stopped they were like,"NO”!!!!"  Did I mention we were just reading used books, apparently this idea goes back on the countdown next year, and it was one of my favorite days so far. We also visited the Wax Museum of Mrs. Aldred's 5th grade class!  If you have not heard about this ask your child, it was so COOOOOL!


 So now we get to today.  Well... We started at 8:30 with the spelling and the reading test, as soon as we finished we high tailed it to 2nd grade for V Day, visit a real live 2nd grade classroom.  Mrs. B had her students share their bare books, their research writing and how 2nd grade works.  Then we came to the classroom sat down and started our Farm Bureau lesson!! We first planted flowers that keep away mosquitoes and attract honey bees, we learned about the honey bees last month. Then we created bird feeders to help our animals in their back yard habitats.  Next we reviewed the 5 food groups on a high five hand then got our newest Agriculture Magazine (Ag Mag) addition!  Finally we went to learn how to make butter from heavy whipping cream by just shaking it in a closed container!  Then we ate our butter on grain crackers!  Next we got ready for lunch, yes it was that much that fast!  After lunch we took our blue prints for our personal flying devices to the maker space and we brought to life the ideas on our papers.  Then off to music.  After music we celebrated Layne's summer birthday while we watched an interview with a real astronaut.  So when people think teaching is done.... I say you're not at the right school, here we are using every min. to grow our brains!

Just a Deck of Cards

Well this post is very specific.  Unlike my normal ramble to stumble on a thought, today I am writing about some amazing learning that both surprised and excited me.  My students are winding down and getting towards the end of the school year.  They are very energetic and can be restless.  That being said, a week ago my small idea became an exciting adventure.  We had a challenge to build a house of cards.  Each day there were specific rules.  I was blown away by the collaboration, conversation and motivation to do well. The video is a slide show of our challenge, a few buddy reading pictures snuck into my challenge video at the beginning.

Saturday, April 23, 2016

I Teach My Heroes!

Well I haven't posted in a while.  With state testing, spring break and end of year rushing upon me I had been putting writing to the back of my mind.  So many things have been popping up as inspirations I finally need to take the time to stop and just get the pen to paper.  

So, I received a really cool t-shirt from  my husband and when I wore it had tons of comments. Some cheesy but some people also saw the thought behind it. The shirt read "Most People Only Dream About Meeting Their Heroes, I Teach Mine!" There was a lot to say in that shirt.  What would happen if educators stopped looking at our clientele as "students" but instead we see them as our " future heroes"?  By thinking this way we change our way of approaching the hard times. Instead of letting the frustration of behavior, grades, homework, test scores, and all of the daily grind get to you; instead look at those hard times as opportunities to mold the heroes of the future.  Show them how to make better choices, explain why we do things a certain way, reason with them to teach patience, and encourage them to be a copycat of good habits they witness. 
This week we will start our ABC countdown to the end of the year.  Instead of counting down the days until we are done or get out of here, I am asking my kids to count how many days we have to learn as much as we can until we have to learn on our own through summer.  This keeps their excitement up so they will be encouraged to continue learning through the end of year and on through summer. Then it also puts a positive spin on the countdown.  We updated the days to meet the newer technology uses. For example we have A day, in the past it has been Animal Facts Day or ABC order day.  This year it is App Day.  Throughout the day we will learn a new app, play an app of choice, vote and graph our app of the year, and come up with an app we would create if we could and what we would use it for.  There are 29 days left to learn as much as we can from first grade, my class is going to use each moment to maximize our learning potential! Climb out of the negativity friends and find a way to have fun, be excited, and encourage your heroes of tomorrow! 

Saturday, March 19, 2016

Can I Really Make a Difference?

Well it is Saturday night and I am sitting to reflect on the last month.  I have been busy doing so much and just like everything else when you are busy going in all directions you don't get to stop and see the good. I spoke to a colleague this week and voiced that I felt like I can't make a difference.  I get so caught up in the fine details that I sometimes can't see the big picture.  It got me wondering...Am I making a difference?  We give so much and sometimes we can't see the light in the darkness, that is when we have to remember that we have to be the light to help others find their way. Tonight I am reflecting on the good.  Tonight I am going to stop and see if there are a few things that I can shine some light on. So I shall dig in my heart and see what I can find. In the last month I have watched the "I think I can " speech team of our state push past the biggest teams and win on a one to one level. I have watched a student who could not pass a spelling test get a 100% for the first time.  I saw a child give a speech on a habitat and leave me speechless at how amazingly knowledgeable he was.  I witnessed a child with a stutter and lisp successfully speak for three minutes straight forgetting his speech issues as he read about something that excited him. I heard a child tell another that he had the best teacher ever and was talking about me.  I got a letter from a child thanking me for teaching them to read. I got a hug from a child who said they waited to tell me to kiss my brain because I was doing some good thinking.  I was thanked by 24 first graders for showing them a new creating app.  I was asked if I could stop to take a selfie with a student who then used a new app to send the selfie to me.  I watched a group of boys talk through a problem and find a solution, the same group of boys who argued who got the next turn until they were yelling at the beginning of the year.  I heard a student say hey wait I forgot something, and then turn around to run back to tell me thank you for the new reading book I passed out. I had a student tell me that I was awesome and their hero.  So when I start to think that I can't make a difference I need to stop looking at the things that don't matter but remember the important things, the students.  They are why I do what I do.  I may not be able to fix all the wrongs on the state wide scale, but I can make a huge difference in the moment of at least one child each day.  Those moments add up and at the end many moments will make a huge impact.  I think I will thank my kids on Monday for making a difference for teachers by showing us all they do learn.

Friday, February 12, 2016

It Wasn't Just a Fluke!

I always start off a post with a general ho hum approach, not knowing exactly where I am headed.  Today is different.  I am on a mission to post awesomeness!  Not my writing but my message.  I have had many opportunities to see awesome lately, I think other people may need some awesome, so here goes.  It started way back at Christmas...
I have a classroom of 6-7 year olds.  They are your run of the mill high energy, very inquisitive, chatty, did I mention high energy, group of kiddos.  Now, that in and of itself, leads me to question hourly, "Did they hear me? Do they know I am here? Have they learned anything?"  The answer to all of these questions is yes!  I would never have believed it until I saw the proof though.
I got my kids some goodies at Christmas and a book.  Nothing fancy.  Every single child at different points throughout the day told me thank you.  This is a big deal, because I had never seen the level of true thankfulness that I witnessed that day.  I went home shocked and told my husband.  Then I felt compelled to email parents and thank them for the manners their children displayed.
Well, this isn't a Christmas post, it is a Valentine's Post.  We had our classroom party today.  Every year it is the same old thing, bag of candy, kids dig through to get the sweets and toss the cards to the side.  Not this group.  They sat and meticulously read every single card and every single name (No one asked for help to sound out words!!!! Significant if you have ever taught reading to young children).  Then as if it were Christmas all over again, they would read a card and walk over to a friend, "Hey, thank you for my card, how did you know I love alligators?"  Or "It was so cool that you wrote me a card, I knew I was your friend." One student in my room was missing a card from a friend. The friend rushed to me to let me know it was not OK that her friend was upset that she couldn't find her card.  She professed that she knew she had made her one.  So, we all calmed down and looked the area over, yes, in fact the card was on the floor.  They both smiled and squealed.  Then they turned and thanked me for helping.
Sometimes I get so caught up in the demands of the job I don't stop and look at the blessing of my job.  I realized  that listening to all of these little thankful voices once again, it was not a fluke at Christmas.  They were not just minding manners, these little people are thankful and it is 100% genuine.  Our data wall may not look perfect, and our behavior logs may have rough days but I am happy to say at the end of the day, when a child in this classroom says "thank you" to a teacher, it is a gift and it comes straight from their heart. So, there is my awesomeness for today.  I hope you got as much of a lift as I did.  Kids really are amazing.

Monday, January 18, 2016

Dreading the Interruption of a 2 Hour Delay!

 I finally sit down to take a reflective moment on the last couple of weeks.  I feel like I have been grasping at something to reflect on that has power, purpose, or encouragement.  As you can see I have been at a loss of ideas obviously, by my lack of posts lately.  Then I remembered the best posts come when I sit down and just start writing about the things I notice.  So here goes.

Like many schools in my part of the country there is snow and cold.  This year has been very mild with the amount of snow, even the temperature has not been terribly cold this year.  However, we have now hit the subzero and some snow has been trying to wreck my lesson plans.  Today was one of those days, negative temps so 2 hour delay.

I realized the delay is a perfect interruption.  While I have my plans laid out and my ideas ready and organized, delays make me rearrange my whole day.  Today instead of coming in and being like "Oh man, now nothing will be on schedule, kids will be loud and hyper, I can't just follow  my plan!"  I will insert here, I hope I am not the only teacher who does this, but sadly that is how my 2 hour delay often begins.  I decided today would be different.  I would not freak out, have worry or frustration because it wasn't as planned and I would seize the interruption I had been given to change my own ideas.  I did not race into my room to quickly decide what would be cut and what was important to stay in the plan.  I also need to add it was a day that I had already squeezed in a special treat and reward time because my students had earned this time for good a behavior incentive.  When I say I that I came with no worries, this was WAY out of the box for myself.

I stopped to look at the day, not the plans, the kids.  They came in smiling and eager to learn.  Yes  a little more chatty than normal, but excited to learn something new, cool, interesting today.  So I decided we would learn sequence for our reading a bit differently. I talked a few minutes about using sequence when we tell a story, and seeing sequence when we read a story.  They all agreed this was VERY important, especially if you were giving directions in your story. Next, I had them get their iPads and we used popplet app.  Now we have used this app many times before, but today we used it in a new way.  We put our popplets in a straight line to show order and sequence in our story.  We always write about our weekend, but today we would tell a story in order using these little boxes and transitions words.

Honestly, this is so insignificant, the amazing part was that I slowed my pace down, not rushing, no scramble to squeeze it all in and we did something different. At one point I looked up at my kids and they were engaged, ready to start their story and use sequence.  It was then I realized something I know, but now I KNOW.  Students love to use things in different ways.  I did not have to explain how to use the app just a new thing we could do with it.  I know common sense, right? Sometimes the biggest ideas are right in front of us the whole time.

This was in reading where I was going to teach sequence.  After lunch we were looking something else, a math story.  "Hey when you read this the sequence matters, or it won't make sense."  This was said by one of my firsties.  My smile on the outside could not have possibly been as big as the explosion in my heart.   They were listening, they did get it, and were applying it in an area I hadn't thought to pull it in.  Text to Text connection, math and writing.  Yes, not the way the curriculum laid it out, but in a way that mattered to them today.

So a delay has a new meaning for me.  Pace is my focus word, I keep telling my students to slow down because slow and steady wins the race.  I slowed down and just had a fun moment to teach a simple lesson to my students and they responded by learning.

Saturday, January 2, 2016

A New Perspective
The new year begins fresh, all baggage can be dropped at the door and then take a step into the new, untainted year. I look around at the goals my students set all the way back in August.  I see accomplishments that all of the children in my classroom have already reached.  I want to raise the bar, not because I have to, or the state says so, or that there is an evaluation tied to the goal, but because I am a teacher.  I want to push them to set a new goals, to reach higher than they thought they could do.  This is the best time of first grade.  1/2 of the school year has almost passed us by and I am ready to read with them to see the growth.  They will decide where we go from here.  My personal goals are to continue reflecting on my blog, bring excitement and a stress free environment to learn everyday from my students, and to bring something cool each day to push the thinking and creating level in my room. Problem solving is my new year focus. Present a problem on Monday. Give some time to think.  Tuesday collaborate a solution.  Wednesday try it out. Thursday reflect on why it was successful or what is another way to attack it.  Documenting in a journal they can go back to record ideas that come to them later. The idea may sound simple, but it is a stretch for me, to break out of my routine and look at thinking in a new way.  I am pushing my boundaries and realizing that my comfort and stretch may be completely different than anyone else.  I also realize that is ok.  My students do not all accelerate at the same speed and intensity  so why should educators that are also learners be any different?