Tuesday, September 27, 2016

#sol15 Gyms: For People and Cars

Yes, from the mouths of a kindergarten student thinking outside the box this afternoon, come the invention we have all been waiting for!  A "gym" space were humans can run on treadmills, fast, and cars can go to learn to go on race tracks, fast!  That's how one little guy explained his block creation to me.  He then proceeded to demonstrate how that would work!  I smiled, as he eagerly explained his creation....while my mind raced to the possibilities of this creation! 
What if there were gyms where we could work out while our cars were cleaned?
What if there were gyms where we could work out AND get our laundry done at the same time?
What if there were gyms where people and their dogs could both work out at the same time?
What if there were gyms where someone would pay our bills while we worked out?
What if there were gyms where we could relax while the pounds and inches melted away?
Tangential thinking on my part; however, I am reminded of the potential to think outside of the box and shape their environment in creative ways every time I sit knee to knee with an eager young learner.  
If only we could "bottle" and save that imaginati

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Teaching Grammar: A TWT Share
From Anna Cockerille of Two (or more) Writing Teachers Fame. here are FIVE amazing mni-grammar-writing lessons.  These suggestions are TOO good to miss!

Ideas for teaching:

Punctuating Dialogue
Verb Tense
Sentence Fragments

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Good Morning to You or Happy Birthday to You:You Choose

This week, I'm singing "Happy Birthday to You," again and again as we celebrate two very special first birthdays in my family.  The "little babies" who joined our family last year just as fall blew in are now, I guess, technically "toddlers." Yet, they will always be my "miracles" who brighten my heart when they smile and melt my heart when they share a slobbery, open mouth version of a kiss.  
So as I prepare to sing Happy Birthday to You to them, I started wondering about the roots of the song.  I know, the CCS get to me again and I start wondering about the information behind customs and traditions! Here is what I found here:
In 1893, Mildred and Patty Hill, teachers, wrote Good Morning to All to sing to their pupils.  "Good morning to you........."  In 1922, "birthday snuck into versions of the song!  In 1931, the song made it into the musical, The Band Wagon and it was copyrighted in 1934.  it was not until 2015 that the song was "copyright free!"  Phew...'cause we;re singing it more than once at this point in time....and we may just add the "Good Morning to You"  origins to our singing routine just to break things up a bit!  

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

#sol201 We All Need Somebody to Lean On

"Do you know your way back?" I asked her after we read together, "or would you like me to walk back with you," I asked her at the end of my fall screening.
"Can you come with me?" she asked.

"I'd love to," I responded seriously.  She grabbed my hand and we headed back to her class.  It was not much of a walk, but as she grabbed for my hand, I was sure she was grateful for my guidance on her journey through a not-yet-familiar hallway.

I thought of that moment many hours later when I exited the unfamiliar highway and thinking I knew where I was going, turned right rather than left.  I spent 15 minutes or so, even though it felt longer, trying to find my way home, with several stops to access my GPS along the way. If not for GPS, I might be wandering through deer-and-bear-infested hills even now!

There are times in our lives when we all need someone to take our hand when we are lost on our journey through life.  That person can be our parent, teacher, partner, sibling, friend, pastor, GPS, or even a paid counselor.   

As the song says, "We all need someone to lean on."

Friday, September 9, 2016

Celebrating: When it is really hot!

It's been hot  and humid this week in these parts, and my school, like so many others, is not air conditioned. Most of us have abandoned our fall clothes in favor of our old linen shifts and long, loose skirts.  Most of us have splurged on an extra large iced tea or perhaps a diet coke to cool from the inside when we cannot control the outside.
It was certainly "hot" in the hallway as I walked one of my "customers" back to class and a colleague commented, "It is so hot in hear, we could fry an egg in this hallway."
I suspect I nodded, understanding the reference and agreeing it was hot; however, after we were down the hallway a bit, my reflective young reader offered her own perspective on the heat - or perhaps the lack of it.
"It's not really hot," she noted, "until your hair is sweating."  
I smiled as her comment did not require a response.  She was right, indeed.  Really hot is when you have been really working out at the gym, or running around the yard, or running a marathon!  You are working so hard, your hair becomes drippy from sweat.   Clearly, we were uncomfortable today, but we were not working THAT hard!
Perspective: an important part of reflection.

Wednesday, September 7, 2016

School Days

Back to school, 
Whether your first,
Your last first,
You're starting Kindergarten,
Middle School, High School,
College, Grad School,
Is a totally exhausting, 
Exciting wonderful,
There are lots of new notebooks,
Backpacks, lunch boxes,
Pencils, pens, and crayons 
Representing the excitement and
Potential of the new year.
Even for this lawn-art-statue,
I see each morning, 
Who is ready for school,
Complete with a lunch box,
Backpack, skateboard,
 and an ear-to-ear smile.
Even though the future holds
Late nights of lesson plans.
Homework and that dreaded alarm,
Back to school is pretty special.

Monday, September 5, 2016

Celebrating : Readers

"There is so much to do in our Balanced Literacy Block," she sighed, "what is most important for all my students"? How can I help the ones who are below grade level readers?"  

During "back to school" season, there are lots of teachers who find themselves with shortened/split/overprogrammed/RTI filled/writing intense/reader response filled/busy ELA blocks.  So much to little time.  There are also many teachers working outside their comfort zone. Sometimes it is a new grade level or sometimes it is a particularly challenging group, academically or behaviorally.  Most of us have been there at some point. I suspect Heinemann was thinking of that often asked question when they write this post.  The suggestions are certainly based on research based teaching practices.  No matter where readers are on the journey, we need to focus on MEANING.  Without meaning, there really isn't any real reading!  We need to value "read alouds" which serve as reading models and motivators, especially when they allow readers to "stretch"where they cannot yet go independently. Encourage, motivate, and value the reading experiences of your students.  Talk about books and encourage readers to talk about what they are reading.  Embrace whatever they will read! Remember, phonics is the key to understanding the code of print; however, it is not focused on reading as a meaning making process.  Writing, however, is the inverse meaning making process and activates the same centers of the brain, the meaning making. Check out the Heinemann page for the full article.  

Sunday, August 28, 2016

Celebrating Pedagogy

As we head back into our 21st Century classrooms, where Pinterest-worthy decor and research based programs are expected to co-mingle, there are voices on the horizon reminding us to think about the pedagogy of teaching and to consider not just what we do, but also how and why we spend precious classroom moments doing what we do. 

It's easy to get caught up in the "physical space" and how it looks to others in an era where teachers are "assessed" on their "use of space."  It's easy to focus on maintaining the "fidelity" of "research-based" programs in an era of responsibility and accountability.  Yet, at a recent meeting, I heard an administrator talk about respecting "pedagogy."  Then, in my PLN, there was a recent graphic on the pedagogy of teaching.  

Perhaps, with just the right "push" from those of us in the trenches, the pendulum may swing ever so gently back towards a balance between practice and pedagogy because our students are not simply "buckets" to be filled with knowledge.  They are individuals with diverse strengths and unique learning needs.  To meet the needs of all students, teachers must choose from the array of potential strategies and methods and differentiate their instruction, materials, practice and assessment. Pinterest-worthy classrooms and research based programs are not enough to assure learning for all. Teachers firmly grounded in the why and how learning occurs are the essential element in 21st Century classrooms everywhere.      

Saturday, August 20, 2016

Happy Day To You

Today I celebrate  
Coffee, scrambled eggs,
Gently used gloves, tried and true clippers,
A screw driver that is smarter than I am,
A rake that knows what to do,
And friends through thick and thin,
Good times and yucky times.
Over the years, I have celebrated 
With back to school shopping,
Folders, notebook, school clothes,
Swimming days, lobsters and mussels,
Yet, I have never felt more blessed,
Never celebrated with laughter and tears,
Never put my gifts to work before sunset.
Today, I celebrate the power of friendship
To unearth a hiding Mum,
Lost among weeds,
Found thanks to tools
That already knew what to do,
And friends who know what you need.

Thursday, August 11, 2016

The Chapter Where I Swam With Stalactites

I learned to swim in a tiny, poured concrete pool in the mobile home park where I lived.  I suspect "Ed Smith," who owned the lot where mobile homes were headed onto postage stamps, built the pool by hand.  I suspect that swimming the length of it was really no big deal: however, five year old me envisioned myself as nearly an Olympic swimmer when I first finished the distance. 
My mom did not swim, did not like water, did not like to be around the pool; however, my dad, whose swimming roots were in a tiny turtle-filled pond on a farm, had other ideas about the potential of swimming for his young daughters.  So, after he got home from work, we went swimming.  We jumped in off the rough concrete sides again  We laughed as the cool water licked our faces.  We had daddy -daughter time and pool-time almost every night in those days before we had TV, in those days before we could even read to ourselves on summer nights. 
Yesterday, however, I inched my way into a new and unfamiliar swimming venue.  Yes, there was a wee bit of "I'll do it but then you have to get in too happening." Yes, that's me swimming in an "invigorating" cave. Yes, it was cold and dark in that place where the sun doesn't shine.  

Yes, it was an experience I will treasure for a lifetime.  Cold, clear and captivating water envelopes your body as you descend the stairs.  Yet, after you adjust, the cave becomes your own God-made-stalactite-filled swimming hole! 
I suspect my dad and the one who made that swimming hole were smiling as we  paddled around

Ps Thanks to the stranger who offered to take a picture as there was no way you could get out and then face re-entry!