Sunday, November 19, 2017

Developing Readerly Lives

"My child won't stop reading!" When I hear THAT parent complaint, I know that I've been successful!
One of my goals is for my students to view themselves as readers and writers. Based on student surveys at the beginning of the year, many of my kids read or write solely for homework or class assignments.  As I share my own readerly life, I show my class my "shelfie",  one of the many areas in my home where there are books. . . not to mention the side of my bed, piles on the floor, on dressers, in baskets. . . you know . . .

Sunday, November 5, 2017

Bartering for Resources

After students have learned about the regions of California, we connect each region to its natural resources and which Indian tribes had access to what. One of my favorite activities to teach the importance of natural resources and the barter system is a lesson on trading.
Students are divided into tribes (4-5 students per group work best). This is a great time to divide by learning modalities (put a kinesthetic learner in each group) or by Gardner’s Multiple Intelligences (put a visual/spatial learner & interpersonal skills learner in each group). Explain that each group is a tribe that lives on an isolated island. Each island has only 1 “natural” resource. Their task is to build a shelter using only their resource. Depending on what I can find around my classroom, resources might include a roll of masking tape, a stack of paper towels, straws, plastic cups, popsicle sticks or pipe cleaners. (It varies year by year) Set the timer for 15 minutes.
As tribes begin to finish their structures, I walk around to administer the Natural Elements Test: California earthquakes (shake the table) or wind (blow on the shelter). Personally, this is my favorite part of the lesson! :)

Saturday, October 21, 2017

DIY Room Environments

Well. . . this post was meant for the beginning of school, and here it is already mid October! This is a quick visual post of excellent uses of space in the classroom, something we never seem to have enough of! Many thanks to my amazing colleagues & teacher friends for their creativity, eye for design and use of space! This is NOT my strong point (as you may notice that NONE of these pictures are of my own classroom; lol). I get inspiration from other teachers all the time: for lessons, for ideas, and for creating a warm, welcoming, efficient classroom environment. Scroll on down & get inspired!
What classroom design tips do you have?

Sunday, October 15, 2017

Fresh Air & Exercise Grows our Brains

Feeling sluggish or frustrated about the lack of time to fit in all that we need to teach? Need your students to get their wiggles out? Selfishly, I love to get my class outside and moving so I can also get in some exercise! But did you know that walking and incorporating movement into your day not only lifts your mood, but it also makes you smarter?
According to Raise Smart Kid, "exercise increases the flow of blood to the brain. The blood delivers oxygen and glucose, which the brain needs for heightened alertness and mental focus. Because of this, exercise makes it easier for children to learn. . . According to John Ratey MD, an associate professor of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School, exercise also stimulates nerve growth factors. “I call it Miracle-Gro for the brain,” he says. People who exercise regularly have improved short-term memory, exhibit faster reaction time, and have higher level of creativity."

The Walking Classroom is one of the highlights of our week. You can read more about this fantastic program here.
To better utilize our precious time, here are just a few tips to help with keeping the walk kits organized. Label each walk kit with students numbers. This eliminates arguments about whose is whose.

Sunday, October 8, 2017

Math IS Fun and Games!

Classroom routines are FINALLY in place and automated (more or less. . .)  We spent the first three weeks of school developing a growth mindset in mathematics, based on the curriculum of Stanford University professor, Dr. Jo Boaler. The emphasis during those three Week(s) of Inspirational Math was on problem solving, the visualization of mathematics, and making connections between representations and ideas. All I can say is WOW! Students were empowered and refer to themselves as mathematicians. Be sure to check out YouCubed to learn more!
Math Workshop is now in full swing, and with that comes math games and task cards for students to practice and master concepts independently and with partners, while I work with small groups. We began with place value and rounding. I no longer assume my students come with number sense;  we play plenty of hands-on games to reinforce place value concepts. Be sure to follow me on Instagram to see math workshop in action! You can read more about differentiated math menus here and managing math workshop here.
One of the partner games my students love to play is a card rounding game. Unlike most games where the largest number wins, in this version, students draw cards then place them in any order to form a number. After spinning the spinner to determine which place to round to, a second spinner is used to decide whether the greatest or least number wins. Kids love the anticipation of the spinner! You can download your copy HERE.

Sunday, September 10, 2017

I Love You, California

If you live in California, you know the beauty and diversity of our state. Luckily, my husband is always up for an adventure and he gets just as excited as I do about experiencing the various regions of California. So it's not unusual to find us taking road trips to the mountains, desert, and beach (or even driving through the Central Valley; lol)
Labor Day weekend found us driving up the coast to Lompoc, to visit La Purisima Concepcion Mission, California's 11th and most restored mission. We battled the traffic to get there, but it was fantastic once we arrived!  Although I love that Hubby indulges my love of history, our youngest daughter  (7th grader) was not exactly excited about being dragged along . . .  "MOM, 4th grade is over! I already know all about missions" (or at least the 10 we had already been to). "See?"  (pointing) "That's the campanario, the bell wall. There's the church with the pulpit that the padre talked from. We've already seen the blacksmith shop and the weaving room in every mission . . ." (imagine all this being said with a roll of the eyes and in a whiny tween voice; LOL) I have to admit, however, I was impressed she remembered all her mission architecture!
Anyway, the point of that story was that the different regions of California are easily accessible, so I'm always surprised when my students seem to not know much about their city, let alone the state they live in.  A terrific way to assess what your students know before you begin to teach geography is to ask them to draw their state and everything and anything they know about it. They are encouraged to label cities, attractions, bordering states, etc.
Hmmm. . . this is a great pre-assessment and gives me a lot of information about prior knowledge. 
The range of knowledge and experience amongst my class also becomes evident by this simple drawing. I save the maps and have them repeat the assignment at the end of the school year.  It's always amazing to see their progress and understanding of California!

Tuesday, September 5, 2017

3 Tried & True Tips to Keep that Summer Feeling

Happy September! Wow, where did summer go? Well, I’ve actually been in school for the last three weeks, but it never fully feels like school is really here (at least in my head) until Labor Day! How to keep that summer feeling? Read on!
What is it that makes summer such a sweet time of year? It's that feeling of relaxation and lazy days. . . now that's hard to do when there are lessons to plan and papers to grade, but. . .
Always keep a good book on hand! I tend to get so caught up in reading only professional books about education or read only children's books during the school year! I truly have to force myself to read "just for pleasure" books for me! I don't have much extra time to read once school starts, but I keep books loaded on my iPad to read on the go (and on the Kindle app on my phone), as well as an audiobook loaded on my phone through the free library app: Overdrive.  I continuously update my Goodreads "to read" list, so I'm never out of book suggestions!

Here are few that I read (or listened to) over summer: (You can see they're a mix of adult fiction, memoir, young adult fiction, and non-fiction)
 Make time to exercise! In the summer, I'm so good about taking early morning walks, or practicing yoga, or getting out to bike ride. Once school starts, however, I'm back to bad habits of not having enough time making working out a priority.  (Now mind you, I am in no way imaginable, a hard core fitness fanatic, so forcing myself to spend 30-45 minutes sweating is a CHORE!! And I hate sweating!)  Having a good audiobook or podcast on my phone makes me eager to get outside to walk and listen, even if just for half an hour (because that's all the time I have!)  I feel so much better and start off the day with a clear head.

Another fantastic and QUICK tried & true tip is pilates! I discovered The Balanced Life with instructor, Robin Long, an online pilates community. First of all, Robin is absolutely adorable. She's positive (but not too cheery, especially in the mornings!) and encouraging and all her workouts take only 10-30 minutes! That's it! I've noticed a difference in my strength & flexibility, and it's such a great start to the day that I don't mind getting up earlier. (And if I'm being truthful, I EITHER walk OR do pilates, but not both unless it's the weekend. . . sigh. . . I wish I was one of those people. . .)
I'm such a visual person; my last tried & true tip is to keep those summer memories alive through pictures and images! I keep favorite summer pics on my phone and I've turned a few into my phone home screens, so I can breathe and smile at the calming scene. Download one (or all!) of the home screens! Just click on the image below (and obviously the image will not have all my screen shot info: time, date, wi fi, etc. LOL)
Remember to take care of YOU and make time for yourself! If we're grumpy, our students quickly pick up on our bad mood! Happy teacher = happy class. You can check out more great ideas on my Teacher Care Pinterest board or check out my 4-part blog series on The Well-Balanced Teacher.
Here's to keeping that summer feeling all year long!