Monday, July 29, 2013

 Planning for the Implementation of an Inspiration

This Spring while teaching my fantastic first graders I was hit with an inspiration! I decided that next year ~ well now this year I would teach most of my first grade curriculum through animals and their habitats. I am doing this for 2 main reasons. First, I noticed whenever animals were mentioned all little ears in the classroom were tuned to whatever was being taught at the moment. Second, my children live in an urban environment and have very little knowledge of animals and their habitats. So I began reading, studying, dragging my ESOL teaching partner along, making phone calls..........

I found the pushes I needed to go forward in the two books above. 
From Ron Clark: think big, be persistent, and make it happen. In his book The End Of Molasses Classes, my favorite chapters are: Create Moments That Will Have A Lasting Impact On Children's Lives, Make Learning Magical, Open Your Doors To The Parents, Make the Most of Every Moment! There Should be an Urgency in Education!, and Reach Out To the Community to Build a Powerful Network.
Dave Burgess in Teach Like a Pirate gave me many things to think on. This is the quote that keeps me jumping...
"Jump on creative opportunities that come your way, and then implement them! Be proactive in your pursuit of your vision for your classroom and life."

So by now you are probably wondering, "What exactly is she up to?"
Here's the plan:
I will divide my classroom into four areas. An area for animals, one for wetlands, one for vegetation and the last for humans. The area types will remain the same all year, but what is in them will change. 
In the first quarter they will reflect the forest and then rainforest. In the second quarter the Arctic and Antarctic. The third quarter Australia and Safari. The last quarter we will learn about farms and life cycles.

A few more thoughts from Dave Burgess. 
He has a whole chapter titled, 'Find A Crew.' I am lucky to have found many great crew members. First, is my dear husband, he listens to all my ideas, helps me develop them, and scale them down so they are workable. He also goes on many missions with me to collect objects and pictures for the classroom. We have collected turtle shells, acorns, sticks chewed by beavers, and various other items. I couldn't do this project without the blessing of my Principal, Supervisor of ESOL, and Assistant Superintendent for Education. My ESOL teaching partner is fantastic at organizing and planning. She has helped to write a grant that looks promising and has made contacts and arrangements with two local environmental agencies to provide programing for our students. The crew will continue to grow.

"Determine to intentionally control your environment and all the presentational elements in play. Everything matters." That's a heavy one from Dave. I began working on this one this week. I have called many foundations and agencies that provide educational programs about animals and the response has been amazing! I will soon be receiving awesome posters and other education materials to use to turn my room into the habitats. 

The above two books have been my inspiration for math this year. Rather than use traditional math manipulatives I plan on using things like acorns, pinecones and stones for counting, sorting, etc.

Reading and writing will have a new look also thanks to the above 3 books. Reading all of your blog posts on Daily 5 and CAFE have helped me enormously in my planning. Thank you :)

Last, but not least I am planning a technology piece where my class will communicate with classes in all of the habitats we are studying this year. This is the piece I am currently working on. If you are interested in participating please let me know. As soon as I put this idea carefully together I will post more details.

Thanks for reading to the end. I hope you too are inspired to step outside the box and plan an innovative program for your class!
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Tuesday, July 16, 2013

 Looking For a Teacher Binder

I am asking for your help. This year I'd like to use several teacher binders ~ one for lesson plans, one for Daily 5/CAFE and one for a substitute. I went to Teachers Pay Teachers and found there are thousands - yes over 2000 to choose from, I spent more time than I'd like to admit looking through the first couple. So I am asking if any of you have created and are selling one, or you have used one that you love, PLEASE let me know so I can go check it out. Thanks :)
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Sunday, July 7, 2013

 Sunday Smorgasbord

Today I am linking up with Michelle from Fabulous in First ! I have a whole bunch of random today so this is just perfect. Thanks Michelle:)

This morning's 7 mile run was HOT and sloooow. I couldn't complain though my husband ran 18 - crrazzy! He is preparing for a September marathon. I think my marathoning days may be over.

This is my new favorite drink. I used to drink Coke, but it is not good for a runner or for weight control. I then moved to chocolate milk - better for me. A week ago my neighbor introduced me to this ~ Dark Chocolate Almond Milk. It is delicious, less calories than a glass of regular milk, and has more calcium. How could I go wrong? Yummy!

I did a bit of school shopping this week. Found some great polos on sale, sale, sale at the Talbots Outlet, perfect for those first hot days back to school. Yes, I bought more than 2. Also, after reading all your great blogs their were some teacher books I just had to get and read. So I placed an order with Amazon. Can't wait for them to arrive. This is my last week teaching summer school, the books should arrive just in time for me to dive in.

These are our two beautiful daughters. Sorry this is a picture of one of my favorite pictures of them together. They will be 25 and 23 this summer. Boy am I getting old. Happy Birthday Girls! Dad and I love you very much.

Wendy, our greyhound turned 11 this week. We rescued her 9 years ago. Greyhounds make great pets. They are big, but also very calm and loving.

This is Bubba (nickname), our grandson, he is now two and lives way too far away.

Here's his sister Roo (also nickname), our granddaughter. She will be 7 months soon. We will be visiting them in August. Can't wait :)

The coneflowers are in full bloom. They bring in goldfinches and butterflies :)
Have a great week ~ thanks for reading!
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Saturday, July 6, 2013

 A Reality Check

Well I got stuck on this post. Ever since I read Little Bunny's Sleepless Night by Carol Roth and Valeri Gorbachev (way back in the beginning of May) I've been mulling around what I wanted to say about the discussion that took place that morning with my fantastic bunch of first graders whom I already miss. 

This is a great story for making connections, predictions, sequencing and teaching the 5 senses.
I started this read aloud like I do most, by showing the cover of the book and telling the children, "This story is about a Little Bunny, and he has trouble sleeping one night." Then I asked the question, "Why can't you sleep?" I didn't realize this would be a loaded question. I expected answers like... my mom sends me to bed too early, I'm not tired, I want to stay up and play, I'm excited about ~ but those are not the answers I got.
A little background is needed here. Each day, my wonderful first graders bounce into the classroom ready and eager for the day. They are clean, dressed nicely and loved by their families. It is, at times, easy for me to forget their homes aren't like what I,  or many of us know. You see my school is next to a housing project and low rent housing. Over 91% of my children live in urban poverty and many are second language learners. Yes, many enter my classroom with a variety of needs, but they are first graders and its my mission to fully prepare them for any second grade classroom they may enter. Often they arrive at school tired. Never did I think to ask them why, until I pulled this book off the shelf for our read aloud.
Here are the answers I received, # of children who agreed out of 18:
*14 said they were too cold ~ small PJ's, no blanket or thin blanket, sleeping on the floor or sofa
*16 said outside noise kept them awake ~ gunshots, fighting, loud music, noisy cars
*16 said they had nightmares ~ no explanation needed
*14 said it was too noisy in their house ~ fighting, loud TV or music
*10 said brothers or sisters in their room kept them awake
*12 said they were scared
*9 said they were too hungry to sleep
Not a single child said they weren't tired or were sent to bed too early.
Why did this bother me so much, and why does it still weigh heavy on my mind. Certainly deep down I knew this was their reality. I like to hope/think that in some small way I am making a difference in their lives - but I think this set it straight, I cannot change what I cannot change - and that hurts. These are innocent children who will forever be effected by their living situation.
It also reminded me to talk less and listen more. This class needed to talk about their lives and I listened. I learned more than I wanted this year, but hopefully I will be a better teacher because I asked and I listened.
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Thursday, July 4, 2013

 West Virginia State #15

School ended in a flurry and running season began. 

The Run by the River, Shepherdstown, West Virginia
On June 8th we ran a 5K in West Virginia, our 15th state on a quest to run in all 50.
This had to be one of the friendliest, nicest runs we have ever done.
If  you are near Shepherdstown, WV the beginning of June I strongly suggest you sign up! 

Upon arrival we were greeted with a table of yummy foods and happy people. They gave us our race packets (seen below) filled with great treats for runners ~ including chapstick, sunscreen,water bottles and chocolate. You will notice the chocolate is missing because it didn't last long.
The T-shirts were colorful, soft and made of 100% recycled materials. I love how the race logo is on the front and back of the shirts. All these goodies came in the signed bags.
In addition each runner was also given a handmade card created by a child at the Day Care the proceeds benefitted :)

The race was advertised as an out and back course, downhill out and uphill back. Well when the race started with two quick up and down hills I began to worry, because if this wasn't what they were calling the hill then I wondered what the hill would bring. Well I soon found out. It was long and at times steep. Of course the down part was easy, the up took some work. At the finish line they had someone taking every runner's picture. Upon arriving home we found that we had each received an email with our pictures and another personalized email. How thoughtful!

After the race there was nice cold water and plenty of tasty snacks to refuel on. In addition to the 5K, there was a 5 Miler, and a Kid's Fun Run. They followed the races with a nice awards assembly. My husband and I were both pleasantly surprised to find we had won our age groups! For this we were given an envelope that had written on it, "Congratulations on Your Speedy Run!" Inside we each received a gift certificate to Mellow Moods Cafe and Juice Bar.
We decided to head up to the cafe for a quick bite before hitting the road again. What a great place! Delicious, healthy food. If you are ever in the area do stop in.
We also made a stop at Two Rivers Treads a natural running store. They will do a gait analysis for free.
All in all it was an awesome race, a great town filled with wonderful little shops and friendly people, and a just plain great day!
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Tuesday, July 2, 2013

 Blog Lovin'

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Just getting set up!
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