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Wednesday, July 29, 2015

How To Be a Risk-Taker

This is one of the first lessons I teach my kiddos when they start with me in the Fall. I clarify the difference between taking a risk by jumping off a roof on your skateboard (not what we are encouraging) and raising your hand to say something you are not sure is "right" (what we ARE encouraging). We read several stories the first couple of weeks where the characters definitely take risks:

Stephanie wants to be different which mean coming up with a new hairstyle every time her friends copy hers.


Molly is short, has buckteeth and a singing voice like a bullfrog-but it doesn't stop her from taking risks to be herself.


This is my new go-to gift for baby showers. It's all about taking the road less traveled and that being ok.



Monique finds cool clothes in her mom's attic and wears them to school. Much to the teacher's chagrin she really tries to find her own style.



Seems like an odd choice right? She explored the world, lived by the ocean and left her own legacy. Miss Rumphius took risks that definitely paid off for her.

And for the older kiddos:


Imogene is taking a stand to preserve history.


I actually have another post in mind about this book. Zinkoff is a risk-taker and doesn't even know it. He is oblivious of the fact that he doesn't fit in and it really doesn't matter to him for much of the story.

I think I model this for my students myself. We try new things all the time-whether it be a new kind of technology or a new science experiment. I wish more teachers would have the inclination to take risks themselves. I was literally in a meeting the other day where a teacher said "why reinvent the wheel", um because the wheel was invented over 100 years ago!


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Monday, July 27, 2015

Be a Marigold

Last Spring I got an e-mail from our district asking for applicants to be a kind of liaison for our new teachers on campus. The job entails tracking mentors and doing an orientation for them before school starts. There's some craziness right now in my administration, our Principal just got promoted so 2 weeks before teachers return back we are interviewing for a new one. I know! But it turns out I am going to have this position this year.

I'm actually pretty excited because the last 2 years we have had a lot of turnover on our campus. I'm not sure why. Last year we hired 15 new teachers, this year I think we are up to 8. Many of the teachers who left were only there a year. Our admin does have pretty rigorous expectations for us and we have issues that I think many campuses have like a lack of communication or feeling unappreciated--but it surprises me that so many people feel the need to leave. So I've been looking at resources to share with these incoming teachers to create a more positive feel.

That's when I came across this article: http://www.cultofpedagogy.com/marigolds/

What an amazing analogy! I very much try to be a marigold. It really makes people mad sometimes that I won't join them in those negativity sessions, but I won't do it. I'd rather leave the conversation. I'm not saying I never complain-certainly there are things the students or even parents do that may be topic of conversation one day. However, it's usually asking for solutions to the problem-what would you say to this? I have never once said "I hate my job" or "I hate this school" or "I hate these students" as I have heard my pecan tree colleagues utter. I think if everyone was a marigold, maybe we wouldn't lose so many teachers every year-not just at our school but in our profession in general. That is a renewed goal for me this year, I will be a marigold, especially to these brand-new teachers!






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Thursday, July 23, 2015

Summer Reading

Oh I have just been pathetic this summer when it comes to reading! I haven't felt much like doing it at all. Unfortunately, it has not stopped me from buying books so my nightstand overfloweth. :)

I have managed to finish a few that I will share with you guys.


I know what you are thinking, Stephen King cue the eye roll. One thing I really think is misunderstood about him is he doesn't always write about supernatural monsters-sometimes his monsters are human, and sometimes they aren't even technically monsters. This book brought up some very interesting questions. If you could go back in time and change events, would you? Would you be able to kill someone you knew was evil to say prevent the assassination of JFK? As the main character of this story finds out sometimes when you try to do better and change history, it changes other things as well. I listened to this story on audiobook and thought it was narrated very well, with Maine accents and everything. An interesting, thought-provoking subject.


Now I'm not usually one for apocalyptic stories, however I found this one very interesting. The title was included on a list of books you couldn't put down and I found that to be very true. I don't usually like to start a series because I know I'll have to read the other books to find out what happens, but I will be continuing this one. I don't think with everything going on in the world today that something like this is out of the realm of possibility. I was right along with them as they prepared, especially their last minute shopping trips when the end of the world was coming-I took notes! :)


Unfortunately, I think I accidentally read somewhere who the killer was in this book so it kind of spoiled it for me a little bit. There were really 2 mysteries ongoing in this story and only one really got solved. I do think it was very well-written for a mystery novel, dense but well-written.

Any good titles that you have found this summer?



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Saturday, July 18, 2015

Higher Level Questions for Back-To-School Read Alouds

I know, I know, in the beginning you aren't really thinking about rigor in your lessons. But I think it's important not only to set the tone for your year, but also to do a quick assessment and see what they can do.  So these are some books I think people commonly use for their beginning lessons and questions that you can use to accompany them.




1. Why do you think all the letters wanted to go up the coconut tree?
2. Why did they want to go back up again after they fell down?
3. How do you think the coconut tree feels?
4. What are some other places you think the letters would like to play?
5. What is the relationship between the letters?
6. How do you think the author came up with the idea for this story?
7. Why did their parents come running?


1. What do you think Chester is afraid of when it comes to going to school?
2. If you were a parent, what would you do to reassure your child the first day?
3. If this story was written using different animals as the characters-giraffes for example, what details of the story would change?
4. Did Chester's mom do the right thing or should moms do something different when it comes to the first day of school?
5. What can teachers and schools do to help children feel safe on the first day.


1. Why do you think the kids listened to Viola Swamp and not to Miss Nelson?
2. Why do you think the police officer did not take their call seriously?
3. Was it right for Miss Nelson to trick her students?
4. Which teacher do you think the ideal teacher should act like?
5. What do you think the principal would think if he saw how Viola Swamp acted with the children?



1. Why do you think teachers do so much to get ready for their students?
2. Compare our classroom to the one in the story-what is the same, what is different?
3. Would you like to have a teacher like Miss Bindergarten-why?
4. Would you like to be a teacher when you grow up-why or why not?


1. Why do you think Emily was writing letters to her teacher?
2. Was Arthur real? How do you know?
3. Emily asked a lot of questions, what do you think made her do that?
4. Would you want to be friends with someone like Emily-why or why not?
5. What do you think will happen next year?


1. Why do you think the author chose to write this book in a loop the way she did?
2. What about the book is real and what is make-believe?
3. What do you think a real mouse would ask for?
4. If you changed to mouse to a Kindergartener, what would they ask for at school?

1. Most kids want to fit in with their friends, why do you think Stephanie wanted to be different?
2. Why do you think the kids and even the teachers began copying her?
3. If you were a parent and your child was like Stephanie, how would you feel about that? Would you want to have a daughter like her?
4. Is it right to try and be different from everyone else?
5. What was the pattern in the story?
6. Why do you think Stephanie tricked everyone at the end?









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Thursday, July 16, 2015

Teaching Young Kids Coding

I know very little about coding. When I was a teenager, computers were just really becoming something people used-mostly for word processing. We had a little TRS-80 where my sister and I would spend hours, a book on our lap, copying directions for the computer to create a game. Hangman took us several hours and one mistake in the typing and the program wouldn't work. Guess what--we were coding! We could have been trendsetters. :)

Last year our district advertised the Hour of Code. I participated because I love trying new things, particularly in the technology realm. I really didn't know what I was doing. So this summer I signed up for a training where I could get a little bit more direction on how to implement activities to encourage coding in the students. 


I was impressed not only by the activities online that the kids can do, but also the "unplugged" activities. You can practice the concept of learning with dancings. There are activties where they can use arrow cards to lead their friends on a scavenger hunt. I'm adding this to my list of resolutions this year! Who knows maybe one of my kiddos will name an app after me one day!






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Saturday, July 11, 2015

There's No I in Team

I came across this article the other day and thought it was very interesting:


I have been teaching for a while now. I have looped twice and for some reason our school has a pretty high turnover rate-so I have worked with a LOT of different kinds of teams. I have worked with people who only cared about themselves. I have worked with people who never contributed at all. And unfortunately, I have worked with people who shut me out-I was on my own island for the year.

The team I work with now is just amazing. We met for lunch yesterday (yes, on summer vacation!) and plan to meet again to iron out some more planning ideas before we go back. Everyone contributes, everyone collaborates. Looking at the list of the characteristics in this article I think we get an A+ (although I do interrupt people to much-I'm getting old now and am afraid I will lose my thought! :). I think it takes just the right balance of personalities and patience to achieve what we have achieved. The hard part is interviewing now for our new member. It has to be someone who will be positive and collaborative to continue our success.

Just as an example-our school is adopting Global Learning this year. Each grade level had to choose a continent to incorporate into our lessons throughout the year. Well, they lumped Pre-K and K together (as they often do) and a Pre-K teacher just chose the continent-there was no discussion. I thought about it all night and came in the next morning. I went to each of my team members and said if our admin lets us do it, why don't we do Antarctica instead? We could do explorers, penguins, glaciers, ice, weather, arctic animals. I mean it's not like we could Skype with anyone there or anything, but I think we could make it work. Every single one of them not only agreed, but was excited about it! So refreshing to work with people who are open-minded and who don't back down from a challenge!

Anyway, how does your team rate? Are you lucky like I am to work with people who inspire you to be better?





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Thursday, July 9, 2015

My Resolutions for This School Year

August is like our New Year's holiday. This is when we start over and begin again with a new group of rugrats! It's a time to correct our mistakes from the past and reflect on what we can do better. I have a pretty long list for myself, however, here are a few things I'm working on this year.

1) Daily 5 implementation. My district has decided to implement aspects of this program. We started last year for the first time. My kids got very bored with "Read to Self" and "Read to a Partner"-especially those who were emergent readers. Plus I just didn't have enough books fitting the levels the way our program levels them. About 75% of my kiddos start out in level A. They want us to have at least 4 different titles for each child to read in their book box each week. That means the first week alone I should have had 80 level A books to accomodate this. That did not happen. I even had trouble finding them at the library-I mean Biscuit is like a level E! So I am now trying to shop around at thrift stores and garage sales, hopefully I can fix this.

2) Technology. *sigh* This is always something I am trying to get better at implementing. We have 2 ipads and 3 desktop computers. I always have high hopes of getting the kids blogging and tweeting and try new programs all the time (I'm not one of those who believes technology is just them playing on reading apps). But it takes a lot of work. Many students begin day one not knowing how to work a mouse (they are ipad babies) or type on a keyboard. It might take 20 mins for a student to write on our blog "I lk boks". A lot of one-on-one time sitting down with them, guiding them. But I vow to get better at that.

3) Do more science experiments! The kids love them and I found a lot of easy, cheap ones that we can do on a weekly basis. I have trouble always fitting in what I want to do with our district curriculum (sometimes we do a ramp experiment when we are supposed to be studying plants for the 10th week--shhh~). But the kids love it. I already picked up their comp notebooks at Walmart so we can do Science Journals again. I liked how that worked out this past year, we just didn't use them enough.

I know there are more, but that is going to be my main focus. What are your classroom resolutions this year?



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