Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Tribes reflection

This past weekend I read the book Tribes by Seth Godin.  I cannot urge you enough--read it!  It really doesn’t matter what your profession…this book applies to YOU.  It's not a "how-to" book.  It's a motivational, realistic, "chat" about what our world needs more of.
Tribes: We Need You to Lead Us

The book is about finding a tribe of people that believe the same things you believe.  A tribe of people that is passionate about what you are passionate about.  A tribe of people you can belong to.  And tribes, typically not individuals, can initiate change. 

But tribes need leaders.  This book digs deep into the fact that we can ALL be leaders.  We can all, at some point…lead change.  Lead an idea.  Lead a movement.

Of course I was internalizing the words of this book and doing some rapid-fire reflecting on how this applied to my life and my place within education.  But I was also thinking about how this applied to my students.

We should be teaching ALL our students in a way that allows them to develop as leaders.  We need to be teaching them in a way that they can grow up not being afraid to take risks.  It’s the risk-takers that change the world my friends!  (lots of examples of this in the book)

There are many risks that even our littlest kiddos are faced with in our classrooms.  I’m talking about the risk of “getting shot down.”  Or the risk of getting the wrong answer.  Or the risk of getting made fun of.   Or the risk of failing.  Or the risk of people laughing.  Or the risk of criticism. 

We start now…with our tiniest citizens…creating an environment in our classrooms that allows them to take these risks.  This will instill the idea that taking initiative is worth it.  So as they get older and tasks/ideas/beliefs get bigger, they won’t be afraid.  They’ll go for it. 

One line from the book that I really loved was this: “Almost all the growth that’s available to you exists when you aren’t like most people…”  We can’t leave our classroom an environment in which it is deemed best to have a bunch of sheep.  Seth Godin defined “sheepwalking” as the outcome of hiring people who have been raised to be obedient and have enough fear in them to keep them in line.  These are the people doing exactly what they are told, when they are told, and how the manual says to do it.  

Teaching children to be little sheep is a lot neater and quieter, and probably easier.  But then who would we sending off to be the future of our world?  We’d be sending off people who are afraid to respectfully speak up, people who can’t make rational decisions, people who are afraid take initiate to change things that become obsolete.

A classroom where students are praised for taking risks, where students are taught to share and listen to ideas, where students have the opportunity to make decisions--these classrooms are undoubtedly “messy.”  But these are the classrooms where students are learning how to be contributing leaders of our future.

And it most certainly can start in Kindergarten.

Monday, January 2, 2017

Teachers are Learners

One thing I can say has always been true about myself is that I can't get enough of school, reading, research....I love learning.  I believe this is the case for most teachers. It's probably part of what steers us into education in the first place.  We love learning SO much we want to share that love with others!

Over the past year, something I have been learning a lot more about are the Google Applications for Education.  Theses applications have a lot to offer in regards to how I teach, collaborate, share and reflect.  I've been mostly learning these applications through osmosis, experimentation, and trial and error--which is not wrong!  But a couple of months ago, my principal passed along information about Google's Training Center. The training center offers a self-guided study through all of Google's applications for Education.  HELLO! Right up my ally!

While I had been using many of Google's features for quite some time (example:  this blog), I did learn a lot by taking the Level 1 training course.  I feel more equipped to apply this knowledge more intentionally.

So I spent MY Christmas break studying for the Level 1 Google Educator Exam!  The exam was a pretty intense 3 hour performance exam.  I felt pretty accomplished when I passed!  Starting off the new year I can now add "Google Certified Educator" to my title!  :)

Happy Learning!

Monday, December 5, 2016

Visit the Library!

I have heard from several families recently who are utilizing the local library.  This makes my heart so happy!  It takes me back to when my daughter was younger.  Her and I spent so much time at the library.  Just being surrounded by books, magazines, posters, games..... it does the body good!  Making a regular visit to the library each week showed my daughter that books/reading was a priority, that is was fun, that is was important! 

Of course there are many ways to show children that reading is important.  But I do believe that the library offers an easy, fun way to do it.  All the work is done for you!  All you have to do is show up.

Allow your child to pick out books that interest them.  Find a cozy corner to read together while you are there.  And pick out a few to check out and take home with you!

Our own William Durr Branch Library in has a LOT going on each month if you'd like to participate in an organized activity.  There are movies, reading incentives with prizes, craft hours, and concerts. 

Over the winter break, they are showing a movie on the 27th, 28th, 29th, 30th!  Click here for the library's schedule and more details.

Friday, November 4, 2016

Those Tricky Teens!

This is the time of year when students are beginning to count groups past 10 and are required to recognized written numbers of greater values.      Thus entering those Tricky Teens!

They trick all the kindergartners it seems.  The reversal of place value is common (calling the number "14," "forty-one"...for example).  Our little guys haven't grasped the concept of place value yet, so for many of them, the fact that a 4 in the tens place represents "forty," doesn't quite make sense just yet. 

Until then, it is important to gain lots of exposure to help them identify these tricky teens by sight.

Often, the students will hear me chanting this catchy song when they need a little help identifying a number that is a Tricky Teen.  Feel free to let it get stuck in your head too!  ;)

Saturday, October 29, 2016

Play Games!

Report Card time is coming soon!  After Report Cards are sent home, I will always have parents asking me "What can I do to improve on _____________?"  I LOVE this question.  It shows a parental interest and collaboration.  And I'm really not sure there is anything I love talking about more than how to make kids more successful.

No matter what a child's specific weaknesses or strengths are though--one of my answers to that question will be the same for everyone:  PLAY GAMES.

Do not underestimate the powerful benefits of playing games.  Games (board games, constructive games, team games, partner games.....) have outstanding benefits for young minds.  Please allow me to go on and on about the benefits of playing games.  Games encourage children to:
  • consider the concept of rules
  • practice following rules
  • take turns
  • reason about moral problems
  • win—and lose—with grace
  • detect patterns 
  • plan ahead
  • predict the outcome of alternative moves
  • learn from experience
  • increase fine motor skills/hand-eye coordination
  • increase memory
  • consider new strategies
  • see patterns
  • increase number sense

....I really could go on.   
When playing games with your children, first of all, ENJOY IT.  :)  This is uninterrupted, precious times with your kiddo.  But also, talk with your child about WHY they decided to make a certain move.  Talking about their strategies and hearing your own reasoning for your moves is also beneficial.  Children are often unable to explain their thinking, and board games offer a wonderful opportunity to practice this.
Some of MY favorites for our primary-aged kiddos:

Chutes and Ladders


Connect Four

Candy Land


Go Fish


Guess Who?

Scrabble Jr.



Spot It

Saturday, October 22, 2016

Supporting learning at home

My students' parents and families this year are the bomb-diggity.  :)  The great majority of them are communicating with me on a regular basis, offering to volunteer, getting involved, and BEST OF ALL--asking questions!!!!  It makes my heart so full to know that I am part of a team helping these kiddos be their best selves.  

I love answering parent questions about my students and sharing my expertise in ways they can help their child in areas they struggle, or in ways they can be challenged.   

Each child is different and has different strengths and weaknesses.  I do love getting down to the nitty-gritty--really being able to share with the specifics about what their child can and cannot do.  That way we can work together to help them improve.  

But no matter what your child's test scores say....these 5 activities are all-encompassing and support ANY kiddo's education.



--adapted from On Our Minds@Scholastic

Talk about books, especially the great ones!  We all know that reading ANYTHING is great for kids, but they should be exposed to great writers and challenging content too.  Lead by example--Let them see YOU enjoying a reading!

Ask you children questions about what they’re reading.  Try asking questions that require your kids to talk about the content of the books they’re reading—like having them give examples for why a favorite character was heroic or clever or forgiving.  (This includes books you are reading aloud to them!)

Push your kids to read non-fiction.  Reading fiction is still critical and wonderful, but non-fiction or “informational text” is equally as important.  Does your child love bugs?  Get him a book about cockroaches and let him dig deep in to a topic that interests him.  You might have a future scientist in your house!  Nonfiction can be a little more difficult to find at a Kindergarten level--but they are out there!  (Let me know if you need help finding something.)

Encourage your kids to write, write, write!  There is a link between reading and writing.  Encourage your child to keep a journal, write a letter, or type an email!  Learning how to spell and use correct sentence structure is important and has its place, but do allow time for them to just “write” and not worry about being formally correct.  You just provide the materials and let them go! 

“Talk math” with your kids.  Try talking to your kids about mathematical practices they use every day.  For example, how much time it takes to do certain things, the price of products at the store, or counting the toys in their toybox!  So easy to incorporate into your regular schedule at home.