Sunday, January 19, 2020

Speaking Up for Justice

Along with honoring Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., this week is our union's one year "strikeversary". What a perfect time to reflect and teach our students to stand up for what is right.
January 2019 was one of THE rainiest winters in years. I live in Southern California, land of perpetual sun and beautiful skies. When it even begins to turn a tad bit cold (time to wear a sweatshirt) and sprinkle a little, we avoid going outside and people forget how to drive. THAT is why the commitment and support during this strike was incredible. It was POURING rain, yet teachers, school staff, parents, students, and even the general public showed up day after day to picket and march with us. . . over 60,000 strong. There was such energy, unity, and strength in the crowd. It brought our staff closer; we're usually so busy at school, that we wave a quick hello. During the strike, we were together 6 hours a day for 6 days. I am blessed to teach with such a dedicated, passionate and fabulous staff! Our collective voices proved that we were willing to speak up for justice and do whatever it took to fight for better conditions for our students. It was fabulous for our students to see their teachers standing up to make a difference!
In the bottom left photo above, is one of my former students. She was a student in my first grade class during our 9-day strike in 1989. I fought for her and my other students and for better working conditions. She grew up, became a teacher and this time we walked the line as fellow educators! (Yes, I feel old. . .)

Picture books about real-life heroes are such an inspiration! I especially love sharing the stories of children who are not too young to make a difference!
(This post contains Amazon affiliate links. This means that Amazon sends me a little pocket change, at no cost to you, if you purchase through one of these links. This helps keep my site running and fund giveaways for you!)
Martin's Big Words by Doreen Rappaport uses parts of  MLK's own speeches as the narrative for this beautiful picture book.
Did you know that children also played a role during the Civil Rights Movement? In Let the Children March by Monica Clark-Robinson tells the true story in 1963 in Birmingham, Alabama. Thousands of African American children volunteered to march for their civil rights after hearing Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. speak. They protested the laws that kept black people separate from white people. Facing fear, hate, and danger, these children used their voices to change the world.

Sunday, January 12, 2020

Showing Our Love

Love. It seems like such a timely theme to showcase… a new decade! What better way is there to begin 2020 than by showing love, kindness and compassion for each other. Just think, if we all did one kind thing for each other, imagine what a wonderful world this would be.
(This post contains Amazon affiliate links. This means that Amazon sends me a little pocket change, at no cost to you, if you purchase through one of these links. This helps keep my site running and fund giveaways for you!)
Hair for Mama by Kelly A. Tinkham is a sweet and heartwarming picture book about the power of love between child and mother.  Eight-year-old Marcus claims that hair is important to the Carter family, especially Mama's crown of hair. It’s family picture time for the Carters, but Mama does not want to be in the photo this year because she has lost all of her beautiful hair due to chemotherapy treatments for her cancer. She is sad and doesn’t want to be remembered without hair.  Marcus comes up with a plan to find her some hair and make her better. Even though the plan doesn’t work in quite the way Marcus expects, he comes to understand that “hair is nice to have, but not as nice as me having Mama and Mama having me.” The warm and inviting watercolor illustrations will bring comfort and hope to readers and children will relate to Marcus' desire to do things for a family member out of pure love.
BEFORE reading the book, brainstorm, What is love? Many kids initially think of love as mushy, boyfriend-girlfriend romantic love in movies; lol.  Hair for Mama is a great springboard to revisit this initial discussion.  Have students list and categorize types of love: love for our family, love for our pets, love of nature, love for our friends, etc. This will naturally lead into conversations about caring for others and how to show love toward them.
My class (& fabulous student teacher!! Shout out to Ms. Bellman!!) came up with the brilliant idea of showing love and caring for other staff members around our school. They wrote the following poem together (and my student teacher insisted they not type it using cute fonts or else the recipients would know that it was from our class; LOL!!) 
We discussed how giving "junk" laying around the house is not showing love (think of donating expired canned goods for a food drive!). Showing true caring is getting to know a person; discovering details about their interests and likes. Students brainstormed a list of staff members they wanted to show appreciation for such as our nurse, counselor, PE coach, custodians, secretaries. They came up with a list of questions they wanted to know about each person: favorite snacks, hobbies, color, etc. Next, pairs of students were to subtly engage in conversations with a particular staff member as they "ran into them", then record their findings in our Positive Pranks notebook we kept in our room. Oh my goodness, I have never seen my kids so excited! Once they knew enough about their staff member, they would assemble a gift bag with goodies and attach the poem to the bag. Students brought in items to donate: cute pencils, hand lotion, Starbucks gift cards, fancy bandaids, books, lanyards, granola bars, bottled water, mugs, colorful office supplies. Over several weeks, at random times, students would knock on a door then run away to watch the recipient read the note and take the bag inside. Other times they left the bag on the desk or in their office. (Think ding dong ditch or "You've been Boo'd" surprises at Halloween) Since only a couple of students at a time could deliver the gifts, one of them would attempt to film the pranking on an iPod then the class would watch it. They loved these James Bond-type stealth moves!

Thursday, January 9, 2020

The Importance of Character

Happy New Year! January is the perfect time to incorporate goal setting; both academic and character development. This is a quick round-up of some not-to-miss books, ideas, and activities to teach your students about character.
Bullying. It has become such a buzz word that is often casually thrown around. Picture books are the perfect way to elicit conversations and to teach students how to stand up for others. Click HERE to read about ideas to teach anti-bullying.

"This is too hard!" "I don't get it!" What makes certain people easily give up when encountering a challenge, while others persevere, determined to solve problems and succeed? Years ago, the buzzword in education was GRIT.  Click HERE to read about teaching perseverance
HONESTY. What a timely topic, especially in light of our current times! Once again, picture books to the rescue to teach theme and character traits! Click HERE to read about teaching honesty.

Character education is more important now than ever! Check out these other free ideas for your upper elementary students and let us do the planning for you!

The Importance of Character // Tried & True Teaching Tools

Classroom Kindness Challenge // The Stellar Teacher Company

Sunday, December 15, 2019

Holiday Edition: Virtual Progressive Dinner

With all the hustle and bustle of December: school holiday shows, class holiday parties, staff holiday parties, volunteer opportunities, holiday gifts. . .  All good things, but this time of year often leaves me feeling ragged and gasping for breath! But we're almost there: Winter Break!!  This is a reposting from December 2018 of favorite ideas for the holidays!

Not that I need the holidays as a reason to gather, but there's nothing I love more than spending time with good friends, eating good food, and talking about good books! That's where this idea of a virtual progressive dinner comes in!
As I was chatting with my We Teach So Hard podcast partners, we were bemoaning the fact that we are spread out around the country. We all love dinner parties and talking good books,  so although we are in different time zones, we can pretend to be together, as we enjoy the following drinks, meals, and books! Welcome to our virtual progressive dinner party!

Who doesn't love a cheery party drink? This poinsettia cocktail is a simple, yet pretty cranberry punch with a hint of orange that’s fun and festive for the holidays! (It can be made for adults or  it can also be made individually in a cocktail shaker and served straight up; chilled with no ice. Garnishing with fresh cranberries and orange slices or an orange twist also makes for a fancy drink.  Freezing cranberries or cranberry juice into ice cube trays keeps this cocktail cold, yet they won't dilute the drink.  Click HERE to download the recipe card!

If fruity is not your thing, then nothing says the holidays like candy canes. . . candy cane-infused vodka, that is! Super simple: pour vodka or vanilla vodka into a quart size mason jar. Crush 5-7 red and white candy canes in a ziploc bag (crush with a rolling pin) or use a food processor. Add the candy cane crumbles to the mason jar and seal with the lid. Place mason jar in a dark pantry for 2-3 days. The candy canes will have dissolved, but if there are any pieces still left, strain through a cheesecloth. Now what to do with this jar of tastiness? Click HERE for a peppermint vodka martini recipe from Delicious Table; it sounds amazing! Or if you want to serve a warm drink, add the candy cane-infused vodka to hot cocoa!

Thursday, December 12, 2019

Favorite Classroom Tool

Looking to treat yourself to a classroom tool this holiday season? (I know. . . probably not what you were thinking about. . .) Or are classroom parents asking for a wish list? Okay, this is not a spa gift card, but this tool will make your life SO much easier!
I literally could not live without my long-arm or swing-arm stapler!! I used to use the long-arm stapler to staple booklets, although it is very long to store in my cupboard. I now use the swing-arm stapler for the same purpose, and it is smaller to store.  I use one of these staplers at least once week!
(This post contains Amazon affiliate links. This means that Amazon sends me a little pocket change, at no cost to you, if you purchase through one of these links. This helps keep my site running and fund giveaways for you!)
Step books need a long-arm or swing stapler. They're perfect for any size paper, for organizing information into categories for note-taking or multiple solutions to math problems . Click on the images below or HERE to read more and learn how to make them!

Sunday, December 1, 2019

Books to Teach Honesty

HONESTY. What a timely topic, especially in light of our current times! Once again, picture books to the rescue to teach theme and character traits! (Not character as in a book, but character as in one's true personality)
(This post contains Amazon affiliate links. This means that Amazon sends me a little pocket change, at no cost to you, if you purchase through one of these links. This helps keep my site running and fund giveaways for you!)

Although this looks like a children’s book,  The Lying King  bears an uncanny resemblance to our current adult times. This parable portrays the King as a bully who is so full of himself, he claims to be the “greatest.” He taunts and torments other animals to make himself feel good, but few of those animals are willing to speak out and call the king on his lies. The other animals remain silent, doing nothing to stop the warthog from becoming king. He even turns his loyal subjects against one another until they didn’t know who they could trust. The king insults and calls animals who are honest, “cheaters.”  His lies became so bold and outrageous, that eventually no one believed a word he said. However, this book ends with hope: no one, not even a king can forever keep an ill-gotten crown. In many ways, this tale reminds me of a cross between The Emperor's New  Clothes and The Boy Who Cried Wolf.  Your students will immediately feel the injustice of the king's words and actions.

Honesty is a great topic for morning meeting! Brainstorm as a class and chart:
  • Definition of honesty 
  • Why is honesty important to: society, in friendships, with family, and  teachers?
  • Should one always tell the whole honest truth? (This question alone will prompt MANY real-life examples and enthusiastic discussions!)

Sunday, November 17, 2019

For the Love of Bookmaking

November . . .  the time of year when students are starting to get antsy for Winter Break, yet it's still not close enough. Teachers are tired, parent conference time and report cards are here, the time change has made it darker earlier. . . Bookmaking is the perfect solution for reinvigorating your students' writing in any content area! For some reason, when students know they are making a book, the quality of their writing improves and they are excited and motivated to do their best work.
Former students (and parents!) often return to reminisce about all the books they wrote in fourth grade. While random papers and notebooks often are thrown in the trash after school is out, I've been told that the student-made books are saved in their "school boxes." Here are eight types of books to reenergize your teaching and student writing!

A Poof Book requires only one sheet of paper. For some reason, kids LOVE mini books. Once you have taught them how to make this book, you'll have parents start to comment that their kids are using all their printer paper to make books at home! Read more about how to use poof books HERE.
This "slit book" is one of my favorite books to make with students! It takes 3 sheets of paper (or more, if you want more pages). It is a book made without using staples or tape! After learning how to fold this book, many of my parents begin to send me messages, "I don't know what you're doing in class, but my child is using up all the paper in our house to make books and write!" To get your kids excited to make this book, click HERE.

What's the best way to teach notetaking or paragraph writing? There are so many methods, but one of my favorite is a step book! Learn more HERE.

For this book, all you need is a hole punch, a stick (craft stick or real stick/twig) and a rubberband. Because of the simple binding, it is easy to add in additional pages if necessary. Click HERE to read more.

Here's an oldie but a goodie: the pop-up book. Kids (and adults) never get tired of making these because there are so many options for creativity. Click HERE to read more about using pop-up books with your students.

There are no other words to describe this book, but MAGIC. Your students will gasp in delight when they first peel open the magic or hidden section. Click HERE to learn more ways to use magic books!

I love bringing in my electric drill and watching my students' eyes light up! LOL. Don't let the drill scare you; it's actually easy to use (and I'm not all that handy) and makes for stunning books!  Click HERE to read more about hand-sewing books.

Bringing a sewing machine into the classroom is amazing to kids: it's a machine!! Plus having a hardback book with pages that are sewn makes it valid as a "real book", just like the hardback books in our class library! Read more about sewing books HERE.

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