Wednesday, August 9, 2017

A Fresh Start!

Today marks the end of our first full week of school in the 2017-2018 school year!
So what have we been up to with this new crop of kiddos? Glad you asked!

On the first day, we read The Kissing Hand and went on a scavenger hunt around the school searching for Chester Raccoon.
We didn't find him.  The kids thought we should check every backpack when we got back to the room!  Then they wanted me to check the ceiling tiles!

Of course there was a lot of practicing how to walk in a line, how to come to the carpet, what to do when we need help, how to unpack, etc.  They've gotten the procedures down quickly.  It doesn't matter that this is my 8th year doing this (my mom asked me today if it was my 6th year teaching or 7th... #gettingold) I always forget how exhausting it is to teach procedures at the beginning of the year.  "And this is how we walk to the carpet!" "And this is how we sit on the carpet!" "And this is how we line up!" "And this is how we use a pencil!" "And this is what we DON'T do with a pencil!" 

We went over expectations for use of pencils, crayons, scissors, & glue.  Which meant we had to practice cutting...

And coloring... and gluing... and after a little practice with each, we combined all those tasks in one with our No, David craft:

The most remarkable thing happened with this group. We don't have anyone saying "I can't" or "I won't."  Everyone is willing to try.  When you have a class full of kids with that mentality, the sky's the limit!  So we've already started reading response journals. I read a story, and they "write" about a prompt I give.  Students draw a picture to show their favorite part of the story, or the problem in the story, or how they're like the characters.  It's never to early to get children to write in response to a text! 

Students have also had independent reading time:

We've also practiced making letters, words or names with kinetic sand and counting with buttons (which are just some of the materials found in each student's toolkit).  The toolkits allow immediate hands-on practice during lessons and provide a perfect engaging activity for early finishers!

We've also been learning some nursery rhymes and illustrating them (below left), and today we read Ten Black Dots and made pictures using varied amounts of black dots (below right).

So the focus this week has been as follows:
-Writing: Drawing a picture and orally telling a story (who was there, where you were, what happened)
-Reading: Caring for books properly and looking at pictures in non-fiction books to learn about the world, writing in response to a read-aloud
-Math: Exploring manipulatives, counting ten objects

I can't wait to get into small-group work with this group of students.  I can already tell they have so much to offer!

Wednesday, February 15, 2017


We've been working on our second shape unit in math, which focuses on combining shapes to form larger shapes and pictures.  In science, we've been learning about the sun and how it provides light and heat.  What better way to combine science and math than making a sunprint with shapes!?

I first learned about sunprints when my sister ordered a little stocking stuffer for me from Restoration Hardware.  They always have the coolest stocking stuffers.  I had a ton of fun making them using items I found in nature, and I figured the kids would be intrigued by the idea, too.

First, students had to design a picture using attribute blocks.
Once they set their blocks on the sun-sensitive paper, we carefully took them outside to expose them.

The part exposed to uv light changes from blue to white.  

When we came back inside, we had to rinse the paper in water.  This step is like magic!
The white part turns a dark blue and the part that was blue (where the shapes were) turns white.

As the paper dries, the part exposed to the sun turns darker and darker blue.  
Once dry, we matted the prints and let the students sign their art!

If you're interested in doing this at home or in your classroom, you can click the first picture above (super sunprint kit) to find the kit for sale on Amazon.  That's the same one I used and includes everything you need!

We also explored how sunscreen and sunglasses protect us from UV rays using some sun-sensitive beads.

The beads change color when exposed to UV light, so properly working sunscreen or sunglasses will prevent the beads from changing color.  You can find the beads here!

This week, now that the sun is in full force again(!), we'll experiment with a solar oven!

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Passing the Positive

I was reading about this idea over on Simply Kinder and immediately knew I wanted to implement it and what the special item was that would be passed around!  A few years ago, my mom bought me a little owl carved out of stone that sits on my desk.  I think he's so cute!  And I knew that the kids would enjoy having him perched on their desks, too. 

So today, I brought up the idea of Passing the Positive during our morning meeting.  We talked about how I would start by giving the owl to someone I saw displaying positive behavior, but how the student who has it should pass to another child if they see him/her doing the right thing.

I was so impressed with how well this works!  The kids really want to get the owl, but even more importantly than that, the kid who has the owl really wants to find someone else to celebrate!  This builds great peer support in the classroom. 

The child who happens to have the owl on his/her desk at the end of the day gets the prize box!  It will change each day, and we talked about how you can't "hoard the positive" and not pass it because you want the prize box.

Sophia said, "I think we should call it 'Passing to the Positive' instead of 'Passing the Positive' because we are passing it to the person we see being positive."  So precious.  We talked about how it could be accurate either way: we are passing the good feelings as we pass the owl to someone else, so that's passing the positive, but we're also passing to the positive by passing it to someone who's doing the right thing.

The owl can't leave the room (we don't want to lose him in the trash at lunch or get him germy in the bathroom), but I am going to start a similar reward system at lunch with a light-up tea light.  Someone was talking the other day about how those displaying good behavior in the cafeteria could "let their light shine" so everyone knew they were doing a good job.  Basically, one student will be chosen each day for good behavior at lunch and get to have the tea light in front of them as they eat.

I just love positive behavior incentives!

I was working with a student today on pointing with one-to-one.  His concept of word seems to be hit and miss - he's able to point to poems and he's able to isolate a word in the text when you ask him to find a certain word.  But he definitely gets confused the more words there are on the page.  Sometimes he gives up and just makes up entire sentences.  We've tried the dots under each word to press as you go, and we've tried cut-apart sentences, but the thing that's been working the best is using unifix cubes (or any concrete material) to move as he says each word.

You just have to keep working with students until you find something that clicks for each individual child!  Teaching is never a one-size-fits-all job.

And since the kids had something to pass the positive today, check out what my sister sent me for my birthday!  She's living in Korea right now, and she knows how much I love Asian stationary after visiting Japan and spending way too much in their stationary stores...

Tell me how you cannot use these things and smile every time you see them?!

The adorable emoji binder clips and post-its! The fancy Kate Spade gold owl push pins!  The gold paper clips!  I forgot to grab a picture of the little owl and chick stickers which are just too cute! 

She definitely passed me the positive. What a teacher nerd. :) 


Sunday, January 15, 2017

Meet Miss White!

Y'all. I have wanted a student teacher for such a long time now! When my assistant principal came to me and asked if I was interested, I could NOT CONTAIN MY EXCITEMENT.  I love teaching, and to teach future teachers is such a blessing!  I feel like this pairing was a match made in teacher heaven.  Miss White and I are on such a similar page in our teaching styles and demeanor, and I know we will learn from each other and our students will benefit greatly from having both of us in the room.  

Here is an introduction letter from her to parents!

As I was sitting with Miss White and her professor, I remembered what it was like to be on the other side of the table.  Wanting so desperately to have my own classroom, but feeling nervous about teaching a lesson for the first time.  It's funny how time flies. This is my seventh year! Goodness gracious. My enthusiasm and passion for teaching are still as fresh as ever, but having Miss White and seeing her excitement certainly reminds me how fortunate I am to be in a job that I love.