Pages

Tuesday, January 5, 2016

The Curious Garden

I am very fortunate to be part of a community focused on improving student literacy. This is from the web site for The Learning Alliance-
" Scientists study the brain, but teachers shape it. The Learning Alliance is committed to training teachers to understand the basic neuro-psychological processes involved in reading and reading development. A foundational knowledge of language structures and how they are processed in the brain allows teachers to analyze, evaluate, and deliver instruction to meet the individual needs of all types of readers.
The Learning Alliance provides quality professional development followed by individual and group coaching and mentoring. We want to arm our teachers with knowledge, tools, and opportunities to practice in collaborative and supportive ways. Awkwardness is normal when learning anything new, and it is our intention to give teachers the time and support to learn, model, and practice so that finally this knowledge will be internalized, and they, in turn, will be able to do the most important job of all, teach all children to read."   ---- see SO lucky!!!

I participated in professional development around the book The Curious Garden . I brought the new visual thinking, literacy, and comprehension strategies I learned into my classroom for this unit. This book tied in really well to our fall unit on plants and harvest and it also fit with our essential question "How are communities helpful?". I was able to hit almost all of the first quarter reading, language, and listening & speaking standards in this week long unit. One of the standards was to identify the major events in the story. The students worked together looking back in the text to decide which events they thought were the most important when retelling the story.  Our culminating activity was this paper cut out garden inspired by the work of Molly Bang How Pictures Work. I gave students the construction paper and scissors. They couldn't draw to plan out their garden, they just had to cut. I think they are amazing! You will see the text the students pulled out of the book displayed with our garden.

 
 




Thursday, December 24, 2015

Authentic or Real Art

Through a book study of Teaching With Intention  and sitting in a Writing Workshop training discussing asking kids to write in the way that writing IS in in the world (to be read by others not just daily journaling) made me examine the way I use art in kindergarten. I love a cute turkey handprint but what am I really teaching kids about art when I press their cubby little fingers into paint? This year I have been trying to incorporate real artists or mediums into our kindergarten art. I am NOT an artist and I don't remember much from my works of art class in college but I excel at scouring the internet for ideas. At the beginning of December it was time to take my Thanksgiving Family Turkey projects down and that left the windows bare - I didn't want to display anything Christmasy - I figured the kids are nutty enough without the constant classroom display to remind them of Santa. I called on my good friend Pinterest for art ideas - specifically the alphabet since I had just finished introducing all of the lowercase letters. Pinterest never disappoints! I found information about an American Modernist Painter named Stuart Davis. We looked at his work and I read the class a little about his life. We studied how he layered his paintings and that sometimes it looked like the art was popping out. The first day the kids just painted letters in white. I told them to turn the page so the letters would be in different directions. The second day they filled in the black space with color. The third day they added foam sticker letters for the pop art look.



Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Writing like Scientists

This is the second year I have used Lucy Calkins Units of Study for writing. I absolutely love it! I was lucky enough to have additional training this summer from the Teachers College Reading & Writing Project. The trainer suggested that I try the unit Writing Like Scientists that is in the If/Then unit. It fit right along with the Core Knowledge plant and harvest unit as well. I loved teaching this unit. The students LOVED it and really got into collecting nature items. They brought in things to write and learn about as well.

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Antarctica Unit



Our culminating activity to our kindergarten Antarctica unit. We went through the performance cycle from the book A Reason to Read - the students picked out the major events in 4 information texts about the Emperor Penguin and created storyboards and monologues from the penguin (or krill, squid, & seals) point of view. They included facts and vocabulary they had learned and designed and constructed puppets. Through much trial and error, reflection, and revision I am proud to show off their work!

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Walker Texas Ranger

Kindergarten life has been very busy the last few weeks.. and I keep thinking that it will get better.. but it really feels like I've hit the ground running this year. But when I think back to the last 16 Septembers I've spent as a teacher.. I think they have all felt like this! The beginning of the year is like child birth.. you forget the pain... and inevitably repeat the experience and remember why you vowed never to do it again! I am really enjoying getting to know my class and we are really starting to "gel" and get all of the routines and procedures down.

A few days ago I left my lunchbox on the counter. I didn't realize until I was already at work so I called my husband Mr. Lewis in a panic. I didn't have cash or check to buy my lunch in the cafeteria and I was staying after school for professional development until 6:00pm. Thankfully, Mr. Lewis was able to deliver lunch to my classroom. The kids were very excited to meet him and had many questions for me after he left- the biggest most intriguing question was - "why do we have the same last name"? I explained that when women great married they can change their last name if they want  and have the same last name as their husband. Well, the boys were kind of miffed, so I told them that they too could change their name... (we had to get started on our math lesson after all!)

From the back row I hear a little voice say, "awesome- I am going to change mine to Walker". I smiled at him and asked why he picked that name? And in the cutest just turned five sweet kindergarten voice he said, because I love Walker Texas Ranger. Totally made my day! And I was quickly reminded exactly why I choose to return to my kindergarten classroom year after year.

Monday, September 7, 2015

I LOVE BOOKS



Whenever I am asked what I love about teaching I always reply that I LOVE reading books to children. This year I am using Units of Study in Reading for reading workshop and I am trying to find multiple copies of story books to add to my library. As much as I LOVE books - I can't afford retail. I hit up three thrift stores this Labor Day weekend and found some great reads for my classroom. I didn't really find the story books I was looking for but I got a killer deal on these! I think the most expensive book was .79 from Goodwill. I also troll Amazon looking for deals but the shipping $$ usually kills it - even when the books are a penny the shipping is always $3.99. I love a good bargain almost as much as I love children's books.  

Thursday, August 27, 2015

The Dot and Growth Mindset in Kindergarten

I just spent the last 4 days meeting all of my new students. I am so happy my school lets kindergarten have a staggered start the first week of school. It is a little like the movie Groundhog Day but I really like getting to know my students and teaching rules and routines to a small group. They all come tomorrow and I am looking forward to bringing everyone together and starting our year!

Over the last two years I have had some professional development around the theory of  growth/fixed mindset. I am pretty lucky that nearly all kindergarteners come to school with a growth mindset. It seems to be what happens after they enter the school doors that changes their mindset. When I was planning lessons for the start of the year I came across this book and art idea on Pinterest. It is about a student who believes she can't draw but her art teacher encourages her by saying, "Just make a mark and see where it takes you." When I read that line, I knew I had to make it part of our kindergarten day. I read the book The Dot 4 times this week. Each time the students were able to see where the art teacher encouraged the student to try. We had some pretty great conversations about not giving up and never saying "I can't".  I was very impressed with my brand new kindergarteners. I plan to reference back to this lesson throughout the year when things get tough.
The students were so excited to get to paint on their very first day of kindergarten. I prepared the paper ahead of time by attaching a circle of to clear contact paper to the middle. In The Dot the art student explains that she once even made a dot by not making a dot at all. The students were pretty wowed by me peeling the circle on their papers.





It is so interesting to me that all the art is so different. I hung the art up right away so by today the Thursday group had many samples to look at but they all did their own thing.
For more information about Growth and Fixed Mindset you can watch this or visit this website.