Friday, February 25, 2011

Death and Dying

Why do 5 and 6 year olds seem so obsessed with death and dying? When teaching famous Americans, the first bit of information that my class -- every single year -- immediately fixates on how that American died. And it's not because that's what I teach, that's the very first thing they ask. "Did they die? How did they die?"

Martin Luther King, Jr. and Abraham Lincoln are BIG DEALS because THEY GOT SHOT AND KILLED.

George Washington and Rosa Parks? Eh... they're okay, they just died.

Friends, why is Martin Luther King, Jr. important to us?

"HE GOT SHOT."

Exhale.

Here is our comparison of George Washington and Abraham Lincoln. Luckily, the standards were learned, I think:
  1. George Washington was the first president and called The Father of Our Country.
  2. Abraham Lincoln was a president and called Honest Abe.
Any guesses what the first fact written on the chart was?
First - they died. Second - Lincoln got shot (and then a student later added WHERE he got shot).

Friday, February 11, 2011

Morning Share

"My baby cousin farts like a grown up."

Thursday, February 10, 2011

All About Winter

My kids wrote an All About Winter book and we made an All About Winter Photo Story for our school's writing celebration today. I am so darn proud of them, I needed to share.

First, we made a list of all the things we knew about winter. Then, we went outside and took pictures to match our words.


Then, we put our pictures on paper and added our words. Here is the beautiful cover.



Finally, we made our own movie, complete with sound effects. Amazing job little ones, you guys are awesome.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Pandora

If you like to use Pandora, the Children's Folk Songs is a great station. Located under Genre Stations. My kids are now being exposed to all the songs I grew up with!

You are my sunshine... my only sunshine...

Message to Education "Reformers"

In a recent meeting, our school district's principals indicated that there has been an increase in managing difficult behaviors. Among many other strategies, the district has 16 Behavior Intervention Specialists, hosted a Behavior Solutions Conference in which 1000 teachers attended, and is running parent workshops in individual schools.

So, in all the conversation about bad teachers, low test scores and ineffective teaching, will the issue of inadequate parenting also be addressed? Because I know I spend a heck of a lot of time managing difficult behaviors. A lot of time. Some of these behaviors are not the result of parenting, but many many are.

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Teacher Parents

Even though I've only taught in one school, I've come to accept that where I teach is an amazing place. Collaboration, innovation, creativity, reflection and passion seem to come naturally to the staff. The administration knows this and supports us in every way possible. The school district seems to know what we are about and seems to trust us to do what we're doing. We strive to do the best by our children, each and every day. (If you are a regular reader, you know I have bad days, but I wouldn't do what I do if I didn't deeply care about my students.)

My son is two years old and I'm already thinking about his future kindergarten experience. I don't live near the school where I work, and I don't even live in the school district. Our neighbors attend our neighborhood public school so I am always pumping the kids for information. "What did you read today?" "What did you learn today?" "Oh you studied worms? Did you get to touch them?" I let them empty their backpacks and show me when they're bringing home. Unfortunately the answers and examples are never what I hope for. I've checked the school out online, studied the demographics and what is highlighted as achievement, and also had the opportunity to attend an evening event there. It was a specific group of students and their parents but it gave me a sense of the school.

I don't feel like going into all that I feel our neighborhood school lacks in comparison to my own, and there are certainly aspects of it that are great, but my nagging question is... what to do with my kid when it's time for kindergarten? For him to go to my own school, we would have to pay some sort of tuition since we don't pay taxes into that school system. I have no idea how much it is and keep putting off inquiring. I also don't think it's the best thing to have your child in your school let alone your own grade, but there are benefits as well.

I was talking with a colleague this weekend and she's experiencing similar feelings about her own neighborhood school. She said that I, and maybe we, are going to have hard time when our boys go to kindergarten.

Am I? All I want for my child is the same I strive to give my students.

I'm not passing judgement on the teachers in the classroom of our neighborhood school, after all, how could I? I haven't been in their room to see what they're doing.

My thoughts swirl around the environment. Do I want my child to go to school where everyone looks like him and talks like him? Where the library, despite how wealthy the neighborhood is, was shockingly sparse? Where the high school has the highest drop out rate in the state?

Do other teacher parents struggle with this?

Friday, February 4, 2011

Crafty Boys Rock

We are in the middle of our big project for I HEART Writing Day and I can't wait to share it with you, but for now, I wanted to share how three little boys excitedly asked to make snowflakes for the cover of our project. No gender bias here!


Thursday, February 3, 2011

Should I have said something?

Every other afternoon I spend the last 20 minutes of my day at our Kiss & Ride. As a kindergarten teacher, I need to make sure that each of my kiddos, and my neighbor-teacher's kiddos get in the correct car.

There are many problems with our Kiss & Ride operation, the biggest being that there are too many parents picking up their kids. The line is long, parents are grumpy, the staff is grumpy and the language barrier often presents problems.

Today, as a car was waiting for a student, I saw a mom in the backseat holding her infant baby in her lap. No seat belt. The student hopped in the back and as I pointed it out to a colleague, the car drove off.

The roads are covered in snow and ice, accidents happen all the time, and this family made the decision that holding an infant on a lap in the backseat was a good choice.

Maybe I should give them credit, at least the mother wasn't in the front seat like colleagues have seen before, but come on, not only is that dumb and unsafe, it's illegal.

I suppose I should check in with my administration and ask if we should report that. If not report, do I say something? "Excuse me sir? I hope you know that it's against the law for a child to be in the car without a car seat?"

Car seats cost money, trust me, I get that. But this isn't one of those optional expenses is it? I know our Parent Center helps out with things like that, and I can only assume there are other organizations that do as well... right?

I know our students go without seat belts on a regular basis, I have unfortunately seen it and my pleas go unheard, but an infant? I can't get past that.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Eerie...

My class was in the middle of noisy production. They were making their monthly calendar and I had Raffi radio playing on Pandora. It was noisy, but they were working and that's all I care about. Then a Hole in the Bottom of the Sea came on by Sara Hickman.

SILENCE.

I looked around, was I missing something?

SILENCE.

"Ummm... do you guys like this song?"

Nodding heads. Twilight Zone weird.

Try it, let me know if you have the same response.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Google Docs: Not Just for Sharing

EduCon came and went and I am still trying to organize my thoughts on everything, but what I do want to do is share what came out of our conversation, “Google Docs: Not Just for Sharing.” My fabulous co-presenter and I originally thought we would lead a discussion about our use of Google Docs focused on three areas: collaboration, management and assessment. We were hoping to share what we do, but more importantly, learn what others are doing. CHA-CHING! That’s exactly what happened and more. (And equally amazing was that we scheduled for the last session of the day and people still came! They came!) Below is an electronic version of my whiteboard notes, hopefully explained in a helpful way. Our original three areas were expanded to six.

Assessment. Teachers are using Google Docs as a tool to…
  • track IEP goal progress
  • collect measurable data (specific checklists)
  • create unofficial report cards to share with students
  • create student reflection/learning journals where the teacher can see and leave comments
  • create e-portfolios where students put work in folders and share with teacher
  • color code data.
  • pre-test prior knowledge "self-grading test" in google docs. Here are some great sites to help:
http://planetoftheweb.com/components/promos.php?id=534
http://haroldappseducation.blogspot.com/2010/11/self-grading-test.html

Management. Teachers are using Google Docs as a tool to…
  • survey students. Some teachers are embedding on Blackboard or a Wiki
  • do their morning message and graph responses
  • survey teachers
  • group students
  • create private channels between teacher and student

Learning. Teachers are using Google Docs as a tool to…
  • design writing prompts such as sentence starters or drop down menus
  • collect data from survey in excel, then mail merge to create script
  • design and administer attitude surveys

Collaboration. Teachers are using Google Docs as a tool to…
  • journal between teachers
  • plan instruction
  • reflect
  • share access to folders, and guess what?! They can be color coded! I’m in heaven.

We also have our hopes and dreams for Google Docs (Google Friends, are you out there?) Teachers would like…
  • more drawing tools
  • a chat feature on iPad
  • a public, sharable iGoogle

Other Great Ideas That Deserve Mentioning:
  • Teachers are setting up classroom with google site homepage with gadgets relevant to curriculum. They give students edit privileges (this is geared toward our older students.)
  • Some schools are using Google Apps for K-12 http://www.google.com/a/help/intl/en/edu/k12.html
  • Teachers also use Drop Box (another tool for sharing files)
What was clear as our conversation unfolded is that teachers of all stripes are using Google Docs. I want to sincerely thank everyone that attended our conversation and also hope that we can continue to add to this amazing list of ideas!