Sunday, December 9, 2018

From a Wanna Be Organizer

Okay, I admit it. . . I'm a wanna-be organizer. I'm envious of those classrooms (and homes!) that never have piles. (I'm mystified: where is their STUFF?!)  I have every good intention of being tidy and organized. I even read Marie Condo's The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up for my book club...
My days start off like this:

But somehow by the end of the day, I can barely see my table! I'm embarrassed to have even shared this picture but unfortunately it's a daily occurrence. . . (and that's not even the worst of it!)
A couple of years ago, I got rid of my traditional teacher desk. It was just another piece of furniture in my room that took up space (and became a place for piles).  A round table took its place, perfect for small groups and student conferences. However, where to keep all the office supplies? In came this teacher toolbox; the cute labels are from La Senorita Creativa. Now all my supplies are easy to find!
I do love labeling things! (Even at home, which is why I'm bewildered when my family does not put things away in the right places; sorry. . . I digress) Because my student desks are turned toward the inside (so students do not have access to the insides to put all their junk, but they do make GREAT storage for unused or extra textbooks),  they needed containers to keep their composition books and folders. I bought the perfect size cardboard Ikea Flyt magazine file boxes. With typically 30-35 students, these file boxes do not take up too much space; I have them stored in various small bookcases (like the ones below) around the classroom so there is not a student stampede to get materials. The file boxes are labeled with student numbers. The middle shelf is purposely tilted to store clipboards; this way they slant downward so clipboards are not falling out and onto the floor.  The binders on the bottom shelf are student portfolios.

Saturday, December 1, 2018

Healthy Kids, Happy Teacher

I'm blogging over at The Walking Classroom today! Hop on over to read about the benefits of walking while learning.
I share beginning the year with The Walking Classroom podcasts, as well tips for organization.
You can read about it on The Walking Classroom blog HERE. Take a look around the site for more information!  I'll be blogging there on the last Friday of each month.

Sunday, November 11, 2018

Preserving History

History books (& Hollywood) have often depicted Native Americans in very stereotypical and often degrading roles. The changing  of Christopher Columbus Day to Indigenous Peoples' Day was a step toward recognizing Native Americans, the first inhabitants of the land that later became the United States of America. Advocates for the switch to Indigenous Peoples' Day argue that Columbus did not “discover” America in 1492 but instead began the colonization of it. In California, our most recent state history framework takes the emphasis off of the role of the Spanish missions and how they "helped" or "civilized" the natives, and refocuses on the effects the missions had on Indian lives.
For students to most accurately gather information (other than the plethora of websites about Native Californians),  having books and print materials is crucial! I have a range of books available for students (and they make for excellent mini-lessons on accessing informational text).
While students are researching, teach them to take notes. Cornell Notes are a simple, yet effective way to gather information, then summarize it. Click HERE to download your FREE Cornell Notes template.
Once students have taken notes from at least two different resources, they think of how to best represent what they learned in a visual way. I'm an enthusiastic scrapbooker and I've seen how my daughters love to look over their own scrapbooks again and again. Writing index cards of information (already summarized from their Cornell notes!), is not as daunting a task as writing a "report" on a California tribe. Students decide what to draw to represent the information they learned.
Again, talking about non-fiction text structures lends itself to writing section headings, table of contents, labels and captions on pictures. The kids love using fancy scissors to cut out a frame/mat around their text boxes and images. Each group of students compiled their individual pages of information into a specific California tribe's scrapbook.  

Sunday, November 4, 2018

A Time to Be Grateful

Now that the hype of Halloween is over and everyone is crashing from their sugar highs, November always feels like a relief. I love shifting the focus to gratefulness and thinking of others.
This time of year provides many volunteer opportunities for students to participate in, as a class or with their families.  Each year my class, along with our second grade buddies, discuss how fortunate we are and how much we have. We collect new toys to wrap and deliver to a homeless shelter for families.
The Giving Spirit is an incredible organization that assembles and delivers survival kits, serving those on the streets in the greater Los Angeles area. I'm so proud that this has become a much-anticipated event that my school has participated in for the last 11 years. It is so great for our students to learn to think of others!
I can think of no better way to begin the discussion about gratefulness (that leads to action!) than to share picture books during Morning Meeting. Here are six books to start the conversation:
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When Mountain Girl says her family is poor, her parents describe to her the richness in the natural things around them, such as the desert hills and blooming cactus, which makes Mountain Girl realize that her family is more wealthy than anyone in the world. The Table Where Rich People Sit by Byrd Baylor is a simple, yet meaningful story of contentment and gratefulness.

Friday, September 14, 2018

More Than Just The Fonz

"Aaaaayyyy!" If you grew up in the '70's (I know, I'm older than most of you. . .), you grew up watching Happy Days and know Henry Winkler as the Fonz. (I'm a little embarrassed to admit this, but my favorite exhibit at the Smithsonian Museum of American History was seeing Fonzie's leather jacket. . . )  But did you know he is also an author and has written over 30 books?! We had the joy of meeting Henry Winkler as he spoke to our students about perseverance, despite having dyslexia. He began with, "You are all powerful people. Every one of you has greatness inside you. Your job is to figure out what that greatness is."
Winkler was so real and honest, as he shared about his own struggles in school. He was called "dumb dog" in German by his own parents and his teachers did not expect much from him . . . until Mr. Rock. This was the teacher (below) that discovered Winkler's dyslexia, yet believed in him. This was THE teacher that made the difference.
Winkler shared about his dream of becoming an actor, despite his family and friends laughing at him and discouraging him. He told our students, "Nobody can tell you, you can't meet your dream. If you put one foot in front of the other, you will be amazed at what you can accomplish."
Winkler wrote the series: Hank Zipzer, the World's Greatest Underachiever. He advised our students to "write what you know. Write 10 minutes a day." My kids love this series because Hank Zipzer is such a relatable character.
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Winkler encouraged our students, "No matter how difficult school is for you, it has nothing to do with how brilliant you are." Talk about having a growth mindset!  Having an author visit always motivates students to write, especially when they see and hear that authors are real people. Which authors have spoken to your school?

Sunday, September 9, 2018

Info, Info, Read All About It!

We've been without a social studies textbook for YEARS so I've always had to supplement my history curriculum. (Although I had to roll my eyes laugh because last week a huge box was just delivered to my room with over 80 social studies workbooks published in 2006!)
Before teaching anything about California, I always do a quick pre-assessment, often with INTERESTING results! You can read more about that HERE.  Since I did not know those old workbooks would be arriving, I used our state standards, several old textbooks by various publishers (all out of print now. . .) and photos to write and create California Regions information cards. Included are specific facts that I wanted my students to understand about each region, particularly about natural features and industries (these were hard for students to find when researching on their own).
Students were divided into 4 groups (the 4 regions). They took notes on graphic organizers while reading the information cards (printed double sided and laminated for durability). To assist my students who needed more reading support, they used dry erase markers to circle or underline key facts.
After introducing the regions, we began to delve deeper. Students were divided into regions groups to do more research. Along with the info cards, some of the picture books we used were: Mojave (desert) and Sierra (mountains) by Diane Siebert, A Day's Work by Eve Bunting (Central Valley), Redwoods by Jason Chin (mountains) and Celebrating California by Marion Dane Bauer.
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I have not found any appropriately leveled books for the coast yet. There are many gorgeous books with pictures of the coast, but there's not enough meaty information about the LAND. If you know of any titles, please let me know!! After groups gather information, they present their facts to the class while students take notes on a graphic organizer. You can download a copy of the organizer HERE. After gathering enough information, students used Chromebooks in Google Classroom to work on a Google Slides trifold travel brochure. 

Sunday, August 26, 2018

3 Tried & True Picture Books to Begin the Year

You're never too old to be read to and who doesn't love a good picture book? I always begin the school year reading picture books to my class, rather than jumping right into a novel. (And I continue to read them throughout the year!) There are so many great themes in pictures books, as well as starting points for meaningful discussion.
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First Day Jitters by Julie Danneberg is such a fun first day book! Sarah Jane Hartwell doesn't want to go to her new school because she won't know anybody. All my kids can relate to the anticipation and anxiety of the first day and it quickly eases my students who are new to our school. The best part of the book is the twist at the end (SPOILER ALERT!) when readers discover that Sarah Jane Hartwell is the new teacher! The perspective of the illustrations keep the readers believing she is a kid until the last page. I always love hearing the gasp from my kids when they realize Sarah Jane Hartwell is the teacher; then I tell them about my "beginning of school" butterflies and "can't sleep" moments.