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Wednesday, May 29, 2019

Summer Book Reading

I love learning and trying new things in my classroom. I really love learning from teachers!!!

As part of my district's Personal Professional Development, I decided to read and study Reggio Approach to early education this summer.

Reggio is a way of thinking, not really a script. I spent hours mulling over questions that the book offered, and then the questions that popped into my head. This is the book that I read, it's copyright date is 2005, but still a good read.

Here are a few of my thoughts as I read, reflected and revised my thinking:

1. How do I view the children? I really would like this to be reflective in the way I teach and structure our classroom. Can I view the children as valuable and competent? Not someone who needs my protection, but as someone who is smart and safe. Help them to be aware of their well-being and take responsibility for it.

2. Does management of the children take precedent over the development of the child? Many times yes, but how could I revise my thinking and day to place a bigger importance on the child?

3. What does the amount of care and cleaning say about how we feel about our school? Is this a chore and done unwillingly, or am I willing to create the clean space that I desire for me and my students?

4. Stay present in the environment, observe and reflect on whether it works toward creating my educational vision. (Oh, right, what is my educational vision???)

5. Look at my school schedule. Where does it flow? Celebrate. Where does it feel rushed? Revise.

6. I super LOVED the chapter on Projects. It really helped me think about the theory of this, not just, here are the steps, create a project. 

7. And I really LOVED the chapter on Observation and Documentation. I get so overwhelmed with so much information coming at me during the day, that documenting just does not happen. But, again. Theory and a couple of practical ideas to try, make this seem possible. 

I also came across a video that is short, and tells a bit about a Reggio preschool. The cool thing is that it was published in 2018, in the big city near where I grew up. 

My way of teaching takes a bit of this and a bit of that, so as you watch the video, know that I take a bit of the book, a bit of the video, a bit of a previous book, a bit of observations of teachers, a bit of conversations with my teacher tribe and a bit of lots of other things to make a classroom that works for me and the children that live in it with me.


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Monday, May 27, 2019

Summer Plans

Ahhhhhhh. Summer Vacation.

Summer goals:

Two-a-days. (naps, not workouts)

Sew three blankets and two wallhangings, and maybe dabble in clothes. First blanket...



Read and reflect with books these books...



Check back later for my first reflections from Reggio...
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Friday, February 15, 2019

Valentine's Day 2019, Part Two

This party was tiring and awesome and left me smiling big.

And needed some centers. 8 or so. Plus, I liked the idea of kids just rotating as they wanted, not required to do any of it, just open to make decisions and do what their spirit decided, as long as there was space at the center to do it. (Check out yesterday's post, Part One, for the why I did what I did.)

I was fortunate to have 8 (or was it 9, it's a blur now) amazing adults help me run the centers, so I was able to monitor the whole situation and help out in a spot if needed or play the game if I wanted to. :-) 

Many of the kids whose grown up was there tended to go to their parent's center and hang out there for about 10ish minutes, and then ventured out to see and do other things. I LOVED that they could do that and not have me saying, nope, you have to go somewhere else and do something else, not with your beloved adult. It made me feel responsive to what the students wanted. (We are working on responsive culture in our district.)

Now, what were the options??

1. Frost a cookie, add sprinkles, and eat it. Definitely a favorite. (This was a one time center.)


2. Candy heart stack (directions here). As the time went on, the mom was able to change and adapt the activity as students came and went. I loved that.


3. Play dough that smelled like red hots. The kids wrote their name on the bag and got to take it home. Or play with it again. And then take it home.


4. Tweeze me (directions here). Again, the mom kept the game fun and fresh.


5. Bingo with our high frequency words. The prize? Stickers. I had one student who collected 5 stickers, she was so proud. (A little content at the party is ok, I tell myself)


6. Q-tip painting (template found here). Next year we will practice Q-tip painting before (like with a different picture), then this will be easier and look better. (Also a 1 time center.)


7. Sewing. I found these cute heart sewing kits from Target. It was so much goodness to watch this happen. We need to do it again this year. So many proud kids!! (1 time center, and somehow I didn't buy enough :-(  I must do better at math next year.)


8. Bean bag toss with some emoji bean bags that I found at Hobby Lobby. (Sorry, no picture of them)

And I also sat by the bags that had bagged popcorn and grapes for another snack as they worked their way around the room.


It was sort of like field trips, where I try to not make me be in charge of a group, so that I can enjoy all the kids, and allow the grown up volunteers the fun of interacting with their child and other kids from the class. 

Really. I loved this day so much!


I hope the kids have good memories, I know that I do.

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Thursday, February 14, 2019

Valentine's Day 2019, Part One

Parties Scare Me.

My own kids did not have real birthday parties, they were lucky to get a cake. 

And now I feel compelled to at least attempt a class party for my kinders.

I've been eyeing some "friends" and how they have handled parties in the primary grades. It looks like FUN. But I could not get my head around it.

Until I read A Teeny Tiny Teacher and her Christmas party post. It made so much sense. During my Christmas break I created a rough draft of a Valentine's Day party based off of her Christmas party and shared it with my teaching besties.

They thought it was good. (I thought it was GREAT.)

I've worked and gathered materials. Sent home a request for items for the party (snacks, play dough). And arranged for parent volunteers to help me do this Party.

I may have primed the kids just a little bit, by telling them that this was going to be the best day ever, and since they haven't had THAT many days, it was easy to convince them.

Here's how today (2-14-2019) went down in my classroom:

Arrive.

Students hand out Valentines (to the jugs that we decorated yesterday), with a grown up making sure that every jug got a card and none were skipped.


Making ten math lesson.

Special class (science).

Recess and snack.

Phonics lesson and Lexia time.

Lunch.

Eat one piece of candy from jug while moving pencil boxes to a safe space (away from the approaching party).

Recess.

PE and Library. (It was during this time that I rearranged tables and geo everything set up, and prepped the 8 volunteers for their tasks.)

Party.

Dismissal.

Maybe it doesn't sound like we did much today (and it doesn't), but they are 5 and 6 and we did what we could.

Their smiles, joy and red cheeks at the end told me I had done good. They had a good time, and perhaps made memories.

That party was epic. I will do another party. Next year. Valentine's Day 2020. Not before. I am tired and need to rest.

Part Two: What Happened at the Party?

Coming soon...
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Wednesday, January 2, 2019

What I Read this Break

Personal Professional Development

Long story short--I needed to do something, on my own (or with a group), on my own time, and reflect on it to meet a district requirement, by January 6, 2019 (I knew about this for many months, but kept putting it off).

And it had to be approved by my principal last September (see, I have known about this for quite some time). Good news is that I have wanted to read a book for about 6 years and just never took the time. This Christmas Break was the time.

Since I didn't want it to be a chore, I created some space to do this first thing in the morning with my hot drink. As soon as the rest of my family emerged, I put it away until the next day. It was a good plan.


Much of the first 3-4 chapters was review (and I did need the review), but with some added new things for me. I wrote a lot of notes, because that is the best way for me to learn. 

I could summarize my notes, but they are really about me and my journey. 

I could list some of the steps that are outlined, but that just takes one of the pieces out of context and simplifies the journey.

My district has worked at understanding trauma, and how to teach students who have dealt with trauma in their very short lives. It's good to understand. 

But for me, there has been a gap between understanding trauma, how it looks, etc and how to really teach new skills to the students. The skill of managing the anger that comes bubbling to the top of them in the middle of the wonderful lesson I am teaching on the letter s. Or the fear that comes during recess. Or the frozen student that just cannot pay attention to the math lesson.

Yes, I teach social skills to the whole class (using many resources), and yet I was still missing something.

Yes, we have a safe place in our classroom, but how to really use it to teach calming and solving skills?

Yes, we have a Zones of Regulation check in area, but what does that really do for me or them?

What I love about this book right now is that it helped me close this gap. I have a couple more tools in my toolbox to teach the students to manage their upset. And I had my review session on how I could manage my own upset. 

I really wanted the Feeling Buddies dolls, but do not have a school budget for that. So, next I am on the hunt for creative ways to bring feelings to life for my students who are 5 and 6 years old and very concrete learners.

Here's to a great 2019 where I am able to find the pause between trigger and reaction for me, and see the call for help from my students. 
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Tuesday, August 28, 2018

BTS 2018

School seems to be going well. 

--I'm ahead in planning.
--We seem to be settling into a good routine.
--No tears (yet).

And over the weekend I asked my husband if I am doing it (school) wrong. I mean... I'm not exhausted in the evening and I'm leaving school at a decent time.

Reminds me of something I wrote 2 years ago. Am I Doing It Wrong? 

Perhaps I am finding the sweet spot of experience, confidence and curiosity. This sweet spot allows me space to try new things.

Today we tried something new. It was day 7 of kindergarten. And we painted with watercolors.

When I told the class what we were doing, another grownup in the room looked at me with wide eyes and pointed to the white pants she was wearing.

"It'll be ok, I have a great plan!"

Our wonderful art teacher taught me last year to use paints in order from light to dark. The only problem is, I cannot for the life of me remember that order (or figure it out for myself!!). Thankfully she is kind and will always help me with the order, because she likes that we are reinforcing what she teaches.

It was completely directed by me (as far as what color to use and how to use it--how to get a puddle of water, how to brush back and forth, not crush the bristles). But the results were amazing!!!

I, of course, was modeling, and when my fish was done, I commented (several times), "This is so much fun! Let's do this again!" The other grownups laughed at me, or maybe they were smiling about the joy that was bursting out of me.

The project is now hanging proudly in the hallway. Stop by to see the fantastically painted fish sometime, I'd love to show you!

If you can't make it... here is mine.


(And if you want to use watercolors, or any painting, and want to paint from light to dark, remember, do not go back! and use this order...


(My scribbled note of the order, just moments before the great painting began.)
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Sunday, July 15, 2018

Trends and Band Wagons

I'm a good one to jump on a trend or band wagon.

When I read about something that sounds interesting or good for my classroom, I jump right in.

Sometimes I am concerned that I do it right. Sometimes I just do what I think is right for me.

Lately I've been reading about flexible seating in the FB group I belong to. And teachers are wondering what seating options they need to buy in order to do it.

Here's what I think:

Flexible seating is a mindset, not a set of seating options.

When I started to change my classroom, it started with adding some standing desks (by cutting PVC pipes to add as extenders to the desk leg). Why did I do it? Because I had some wiggly first graders that needed the option of standing to work, and this was an easy way to meet their needs.

Later I added cube chairs and Hokki stools (both funded by Donor's Choose), because I saw these on blogs.

At first I thought I needed them (chairs and stools) in order to say that I am using flexible seating. But the more years I am in the classroom, watching students choose the seats, I see that it is more than equipment.

Flexible seating is a mindset, not a set of seating options.

The last two years I have been immersed in Trauma Sensitive practices. But it wasn't until April that I read in Fostering Resilient Learners that some kids NEED a home base in the classroom. 

(Yes, I am mashing three ideas together: no desks, flexible seating and no assigned seating, and I feel like I can, because I have done all of it.)

Actually, that was a relief to me. I had dabbled in no assigned seats, taught kids how to choose, but it was just never smooth or good. Perhaps it was me and my need for order, perhaps it was the kids and their need for a home base.

As I plan and prepare for another school year, I am so hopeful.

**We will start with assigned seats. And reassess as the year moves forward.
**We will have options for seating as I recognize who needs what and try out choices.

What is a flexible seating mindset?

Be open to the non-conventional. Be able to recognize that each student may learn best using something other than the standard chair and desk. Try out some options. Some work for a bit, and then need to be switched. Be open to changes. Be open to growth and that preferences may change over time.

If you decide to adopt a flexible seating mindset, good luck and best wishes; and I'd be happy to hear about your journey with flexible seating!!!


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