Wednesday, December 7, 2016

Including all students in the classroom...

Hey blog, it's been a while. I feel like I've been saying that a lot lately.  There have been so many posts that I've wanted to write- but life beckons and calls me away.  Today, though... there is something weighing on me that I want to really challenge you to think about.

We're in holiday season and hitting the end of the quarters at schools all around the U.S..  We're nearing winter break and with the coming of winter break, out come the holiday activities!  Now, I don't want you to get me wrong- holiday activities can be great.  My issues come for in these 2 events:

1. We only do activities that relate to Christmas (or the non-religious Christmas-even just how many celebrate here in America).  Elves, Letters to Santa, gifts, the Grinch and all of those things we see with the commercial form of Christmas.

This gives kids the impression that everyone celebrates Christmas and that no other traditions or celebrations matter.  It tells them that Christmas is the most important because that's what "we" celebrate when in fact, there are so many other people who have other holiday traditions.  It gives Christmas a sort of "superiority" to all other holiday traditions and as teachers, our job is to teach diversity and how to include everyone.  We want our students to be citizens of the world.

2. When we have students who cannot participate because they do not celebrate these holidays and we find other things for them to do.

Many people will find alternative activities for those specific students to do during the times when the rest of the class is doing these holiday activities.  Teachers have even mentioned sending that specific student to another classroom during their "Grinch Day" or "Polar Express Day" or any other holiday centered day.  What does this say to our students?  When they ask where that student is going, how do you respond? I believe what students see is:

  • He is different.
  • She does not celebrate holidays like we do, therefore she is not included in our classroom during this day.
  • His beliefs are not as important as everyone else.
  • She is not as special as us because she can't participate.
I truly believe that is not the message you are trying to send, but when we disinclude kids in activities because of their beliefs (or anything else) , that's exactly the message we are giving our students. 

Now, I am not here to shame anybody- I promise.  We are all human beings....teachers...trying to do the best we can for our students.  I just beg you to please ask yourself these questions.

What am I accomplishing with this activity that I cannot accomplish with something else that includes this student?  How would I feel if I was this student who was asked to complete a different activity than everyone else or was removed from the room because I celebrate different (or not at all) than everyone else? What am I teaching my students by not including even just 1 student in our room? Is this the message I want my students to understand?

And remember: all of our students are equally important and should be representing in our classrooms as so. 

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

Habits of Math Teachers that Value Productive Struggle

Today, we were fortunate enough to attend the Triangle High 5 Elementary Math Summit at SAS World Headquarters!


 Not only did we get to attend, but we were even asked to present! It was exciting to share our knowledge with teachers across the Triangle about how to engage students in productive struggle...and even though we didn't finish, we hope session goers left with an idea or two.

Anyway, one of the activities we did in our session focused on habits of teachers that value productive struggle.    As session goers filtered in, we asked them to take colored dots and place them on posters that showed a habit that they themselves have used in their math class or they've seen used in their schools/county. These habits came from an article we read on the Mind Research website.  You can find that article here.

We asked those attending our session to think about, "Why/How does this practice prevent our students from growing as effective problem solvers who can persevere through problems?" and "What habits can we replace these with that would better foster a productive struggle classroom?"

Everyone had fantastic ideas and we started a few really great conversations.









While we know that sometimes changing our own mindset can be difficult, time consuming, and stressful; we also know how important this is for our student's success.  When we shift our old habits and mindsets, we create classrooms that foster a culture of learning through struggle and mistakes, students are more open to being "math people," and we witness our students being able to work through challenging tasks without getting frustrated or throwing in the towel.  We create more effective, efficient problem solvers who are overall, more confident in themselves as mathematicians.

After we shared, we pulled up a great graphic that is on the bottom of same article mentioned above. It focuses on the 8 Habits of Math Teachers Who VALUE Productive Struggle and help us understand exactly HOW we can change our habits and mindsets to promote this type of learning environment in our classroom.  While, again, changing our mindset is certainly a struggle in itself.  In the long run, our struggle, to help students struggle, can only help them make tremendous gains as they develop a math and problem solving mindset!


Thank you to Triangle High 5 for the fantastic summit today and for allowing us to share one of our passions!  

Monday, July 25, 2016

Choosing Good Fit Books

It's been a whole week in the land of 3rd grade for the 2016-2017 school year.  The first week was CRAZY and I'm already behind.  Go figure.   I was supposed to do this lesson last week...Unforseen, air problems that caused us to have to move classrooms prevented me from doing so... SO, here I am sharing it with you today! :)

I love using "big" words with my kids to build their vocabulary.  If I don't get a hand raised at some point during the day asking me what a word meant... I know I need to step up my game.  The other day,  I said "genre" and they had NO idea what I meant... Holy canoli, we have some work to do.

Today was choosing books that are going to help us grow as readers.  We first analyzed the reading profiles of 3 students: 1 who read 100 easy books last year, 1 who read 3 really hard ones, and one that read 42 that were sometimes a little tricky but they could figure out what the author was trying to say.  The kids discussed with a partner who they thought was going to grow the most.  Nobody said the 100 book kid - I was pretty surprised, a few said the 3 book kid, but we fixed that one pretty quick. Most said the 42 books and they had great reasons why!

Then we compared choosing books to riding a bike.

I'll let the anchor chart talk for itself.  Notice the uphill bike sweating, ha.


Hope you got an idea or two! I'll be back with some more ideas as I begin my 5th year with this new group of sweet, sweet 3rd graders.  

Sunday, July 17, 2016

We Feel Better When We're Learning - Song Share!

Before I share this new song, I just need to get this off my chest...

SCHOOL STARTS TOMORROW, Y'ALL!

Oh em gee.  I cannot even believe it.  Didn't we just end like...yesterday? No 6 weeks ago? Ay.

Excited. Scared. Butterflies.

It's sad knowing I won't have the same kids that I had for the last 2 years but so exciting to know I have a bunch of new kids ready and anticipating their #bestyearever.  Send me your energy, I'm gonna need it!  I imagine this will be me tomorrow afternoon...


Onto the reason for this post--

Every year I love to have a sort of "theme song" for the year.  Last year was Best Year of Our Lives.  You can find that post here.  I LOVED that song and so did my kids.  Everytime we were listening to music and the real American Authors song came on, they'd sing our song and remind me how much they loved it.  It was and always will be our song.

This year, we needed a new song...and so I began brainstorming and one day it hit me when I was dancing with my class to Meghan Trainor's, "Better When I'm Dancing".  That's when,  "Better When We're Learning" was born!

Here are the lyrics. If you click one of the pictures, it will take you to a file that you can download.




And here is my horrible, no yes, that's what I meant...horrible recording of it :).  Sorry the music is so loud.  That's probably a good thing. It's drowns out my non-Meghan Trainorlike voice.  Hope you enjoy and that maybe you'll sing with your class!






Font Credit: Hello Fonts
Background Credit: Roxie's Creations
Border Credit: Graphics from the Pond

Thursday, June 23, 2016

Welcome Letter!

Believe it or not, I am just 2 weeks away from teacher work week and 3 weeks away from the start of the new school year. It's hard to believe.  It feels like we just ended... although teaching reading camp for the last 3 weeks doesn't exactly help in the rest, rejuvenate, and energizer department either.

Anyway, I like to come by and share my welcome letter each day.  I really feel that it's so important to create a great first impression on my students to get them excited about our year together.  This year I decided to create my "theme" around superheroes...so my letter is centered around that.  Hope you enjoy it and it gives you some ideas!

I'll stop by soon to share pictures of my room.  I'm hoping to blog a little more this year - let's see how that goes, ha!

Side note: Justin creates our headers with graphics we purchase- he's super graphic designsy and stuff (Yes I made that word up) and I love him for it!

 

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

10 Reasons teaching ROCKS



1. Unexpected hugs from that kid.

via GIPHY


2. The funny things our kids say and do.  

Because seriously, who else can tell you that a kid looked them up and down, head to toe, and then asked if you were having a mid-life crisis at the age of 26 because you are wearing green pants?

Oh and also that when you are pregnant you should not eat Mexican food because it's spicy and it will make the baby explode out.

Or when you tell a kid that he was a small baby because he was premature and he responds by saying, "Yeah, I know I'm mature, I'm the most mature one in here!"

Or you put on a song to sing about the water cycle and a kid covers their ears and screeches "Ooohh, my ears are bleeeding."

I could go on for pages.

via GIPHY


3. It's one of the few professions where dressing in character is completely and totally acceptable.  


4. Seriously huge, undestroyable bladders. You won't see us doing "the dance".


5. You always have flair pens laying around.  In you purse. In your coat pocket. Behind your ear. In the car.  You never know when you'll need those suckers.  


6. Immune system of a beast 


7. Weekends and breaks- cause we earned them, dang it.



8. Pinterest counts as professional development... or wait, maybe it doesn't.


9. When you're a teacher, you always have craft supplies on hand.


10. Principal Gerry Brooks



Why else does teaching rock? 

Monday, January 18, 2016

Standing for Change in the most Challenging Moments


Happy MLKjr day, everyone! A day that we remember the amazing contributions and changes that were brought about by the help of a man who refused to stand aside and allow injustice to happen before his very eyes.  Today, I'm stopping by because I'm joining in a blog link-up in hopes of bringing attention and hopefully relief to some deplorable conditions that the teachers and children of Detroit Schools work and learn in.  Each blogger is choosing a favorite MLKjr quote and interpreting it in a way that address the current crisis in schools in the city.

I have a lot of favorite MLKjr quotes but this one really spoke to me in relation to this situation:


I think this quote spoke to me because, as teachers, we deal with much controversy and challenge.  Whether it has to do with CC Standards, standardized testing, the fact that we are trained professionals, pay- whether fair or unfair... and this is no exception.  The children and teachers of Detroit need us to help their voice be heard, to help them shine light on the deplorable conditions they are surrounded by in their schools everyday.  Those who do not work in Detroit, those without the uncomfort or inconvenience of working in these schools, cannot knowingly stand to the side and say "Well, it's not my school so I don't have to worry about it."  We as teachers must stand together and feel the pain these kids and teachers feel going to work in this incredibly unsafe building and we must unite for change.

Borrowed from  Rainbow City Learning: Please let the teachers of Detroit know that you stand with them and will continue to stand with them. Look for and use the hashtags: #supportDPSteachers and #dpsteachersfight back. Search for photos, articles, and videos of Detroit Public Schools online. I promise you'll be shocked at what you learn. Sign the petition .
Write letters, send letters to the editor of your local paper, or whatever you can to add your voice. The sea is so wide and their boat is so small. (paraphrased from Marion Wright Edelman, of The Children's Defense Fund) It's your boat too.


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