Thursday, December 18, 2014

The Best Parent Activity

I feel like a Grinch when it comes to this time of year in the classroom. I still ask my kiddos to do work and try to avoid the fluffier activities. I also don't like to have holiday parties. They don't need all that extra junk and we always have so much leftover food which is not only wasteful-- I'm afraid it will attract critters!

So this year I decided to do something different. I invited my parents to come in and set up rotations at each table. (I made the mistake of walking into Lakeshore at the time of year where you stop counting how much you've spent). I left everything very open-ended-they could paint their hands and make it into whatever they wanted. They made a snowman snack, decorated picture frames, decorated Gingerbread Boys/Girls, used watercolors, designed polar bear puppets and made designs using colored pasta.

The ultimate best part was seeing the parents roll up their sleeves and paint right alongside their kiddos! One of my kids summed it up for us "this is the best day ever Miss Trayers!"

Here are some examples of what they made:

My room looked like a craft store exploded!!!1

My favorite one-how creative-that's her handprint!

A pasta power ranger!

I'm so glad I decided to forego the usual tradition and try something new this year! I think I will make it our new class tradition! :)

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Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Being Readers

I faciliate for a student book club with some of the older students on our campus. It gets kind of stale this time of year. The ones who read a lot have read most of the books. The other ones are getting bored with it. So I had a party with them this week. We went around the room and discussed our favorite book so far and our least favorite (the district librarians make the list, mostly Bluebonnet nominees). Most of them would say this is my favorite-but couldn't tell me why other than it was "good".

I shared with them my Goodreads account, which honestly isn't much. I do track what books I've read and rate them with stars. Sometimes if I feel strongly about a book, I will write a review. Especially if I disagree with a lot of the reviews. For example, I read a book this summer called The Kept-which I do agree isn't for everyone, but many of the reviews commented on how depressing it was. I actually didn't see it as that at all. It was dark and disturbing, but also a tale of survival. I mean if you read the summary, you can tell it's a dark story! Every story, in my humble opinion does not have to have a happy ending.

 I showed them how I'm listening to an audiobook right now (I know some people don't actually think that counts as reading, but it gets me through the traffic of my commute, and sometimes the voices they do are even better than the ones I'd do in my head). I'm listening to The Road by Cormac McCarthy. At first I wasn't sure I was going to be able to comprehend the dense language auditorily, but I got the hang of it. I only had 30 minutes left and was dying to find out what happened. To me, that's the sign of a good book. That and characters that stay with you. I read a book years ago called Fall On Your Knees-not my usual fare, an epic story, crossing generations (in other words it was also long). Again, probably not for everyone but the characters in that story haunt me to this day. What a great thing for an author to achieve.

So I told them about The Road and how it was a story about an apocalypse. They said-oh, I know, like zombies? And I said, no there were no zombies. And they said "oh, a people apocalypse"! Now that should be a section in Barnes and Noble! I told them how we the author never really shares with use what happened and that actually made it more interesting to me.

Anyway, my point is that the students should see us reading and discussing books ourselves. It really surprises me how few teachers read! We had an outsider come in to do a training this year and she asked us to discuss the best book we read over the summer and the teachers were like-does People magazine count? I don't necessarily love physically reading books-because I read pretty slowly and so it takes me a while to get to the ending, but I do LOVE having read books and had that experience with the characters. I also enjoy talking about books with others and getting their opinions, even if it's different than mine.
We model reading to the kiddos all the time, I think we should model being readers as well!

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Monday, December 15, 2014

Gift Class Book

So we survived our week-long standardized testing! The kids were good sports about it and I'm very glad my room no longer looks like this:

I had to laugh. One of my students was absent and they came to get her for a make-up test. Well, about 10 minutes later her friends asks, "where's Mary?" and a boy answered "oh, she's getting a makeover". LOL! I guess they have never heard the words "make-up test" before and took it quite literally.

So we do a class book every month as an example of publishing their work. I take writing from each student on the same subject and we copy it, sending it home to share with parents. This month is my FAVORITE topic! I have each child write about their peers. The question is "Johnny is a gift to our class because.... " and several students (and I) respond. I love how the final product comes out, especially because we do bucket fillers and I am tyring to get them beyond "she is nice" or "she is pretty". My favorite one this year is "she opens her heart to everyone". That is a gift. I took out the students' names, but they do sign their comments.

She does Girl Scouts with me.
She is nice.
She is kindful. ( I love when they make up words! )
She shares.
She thinks about me.

Hope you guys are surviving these busy, busy days before the break. I know we have Winter Program rehearsals, a field trip to see Madeline's Christmas and a parent craft activity. Somewhere in there my assessor is going to come do an observation for my evaluation--should be interesting! :)

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Thursday, December 11, 2014

Gingerbread Ethics

I use the concept of Ethics from Kaplan's Depth and Complexity in my classroom quite often. I think it's important for kids to be able to form an opinion and back that opinion up. We started a unit on Gingerbread stories--there are so many of them! We read many different versions of the story (I will post about those later on this weekend).

In many of these stories the food runs away and chased down to be eaten. Sometimes that protagonist falls for a trick and turns into a snack, sometimes it gets away. But my question was-is it right or wrong that they are all trying to eat the Gingerbread. I was actually very impressed with some of their answers.

Wrong because people want to eat him and he does not like it.

Right because it's delicious--very true!

They had the right to cook it. 

You need them to celebrate Christmas

Right because it may be the only food you have to eat.

Right because other people do it.

Right because (and I'm paraphrasing here) ---hello, it's a cookie!

Right because it's meant to be-- my future philosopher!

(please ignore the fact that they think they can write in cursive! :)

Wrong because the Gingerbread has the right to live. --A future civil rights attorney right here.

Wrong because, let's face it....he's cool!

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Monday, December 8, 2014

Hour Of Code with My Kinders

As I'm sure many of you have heard this week educators are bringing an international focus to coding. Now when I hear about things like this, I usually write them off-how can I do this with my little ones? But after playing with some sites I saw that it really isn't a complicated concept to teach.

This video shows the importance of kids at least knowing what coding is:

There are tons of resources out there, we used the ones from today.

I introduced the games they had whole group. They had one with Elsa in it, so it wasn't too hard to get them on board. They told her to step forward, to turn right, etc. in order to make a design. The puzzles got more challenging as we went along.

Then I had them partner up and write a code for their classmate to follow. They used arrows to make a path through the room to lead them to a destination.

I learned a few things today: 1) coding is not as challenging a concept as I once thought 2) Kinders can do anything!

We will continue different games throughout the week to drive the importance home. It was funny, one of the videos we watched talked about how literally millions of high-salary jobs will go unfilled because we are not teaching this to our kids. And one of my students asked "do people who do this make more than doctors?". Priorities! :)

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Saturday, December 6, 2014

The Many Faces of Me

We did self-portraits the first few weeks of school and I wanted to revisit those with the kids. Originally they wrote things about themselves like "I am pretty"--which was fine, but I wanted them to expand those thoughts a bit and write about the different ways they can feel. I took pictures of them with all sorts of different expressions-some were really playful with it. I felt like Tyra Banks for a minute asking them to give me a happy pose, sad, mad, surprised and my favorite---rock star! They took those pictures, glued them to a big sheet of paper and then wrote about the different ways they often feel. Then I asked them to make a border around the outside to give their projects a little more panache!

Here are a few examples to show you  :).

I can be super-crazy.
I can be the rock-and-roll girl.
I can be super happy.
I can be shy.

I can be shy when I come to school.
I can be sad when I come to school.
I am happy when I do not go to school.

I can be silly when I get my way.
I am sad because my  mom don't give me my toy.
I can be happy.

I feel mad sometimes when someone hits me.
I can be happy when it is not raining.
I feel silly when I am with my friends.

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Friday, December 5, 2014

Papa Is A Poet

One of my favorite poets is Robert Frost. I know that's a cliched choice, but I really love so many of his poems. I think he uses very simple words to create very deep meaning. I came across this book and thought it would be a great way to reinforce biographies with my kiddos.

This is my Papa (with Ruby pretending to be a lapdog--she adores him!)

Now don't get me wrong, of course I love my father, however he was a graduate of Virginia Tech with an engineering degree. I can tell you right now living with him as someone much more comfortable in reading classes than math was not always fun. He'd give you probability problems to earn your dinner. Homework help from Dad was a punishment. He'd show you 8 different ways to solve for x until you were thoroughly confused. And never could understand why you couldn't get it--the problem is just so easy.

I think it would have been interesting to have a poet for a father. According to the story lots of time was spent observing nature and playing with words. Certainly a different way to grow up! So I asked my kids to write about what it would be like to grow up with a poet for a father, here's what they came up with:

My Dad always takes off when I have vacation,  if my Dad was a poet my Dad wouldn't be able to stay with me.

I would thank him for that. (love the detail of the little sign on the house saying 'poet place')

My house would have a poet office and my Dad will always have to work 24 hours.

I would ask to put poems on the house.

It would be a different life for me.

He would be smart and he writes books.

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