Wednesday, October 31, 2012

I Get a Looooong Mad Out! What We Can Learn About Destressing From A Kiddo

My mornings are fabulous!
Each and every morning I am awakened by the sound of birds chirping. As I leisurely stretch and reach for my slippers, my coffee is brought to me on a platter set alongside a plate of freshly baked scones and flowers from my garden.
 (Can you hear the birds??
 Okay, back to reality!
Don't I wish that were just a smidge true. But I'm sure like yours, my mornings  more closely resemble a scene out of some screwball reality show than not!
(and why haven't I been called up to star in one? Oh yeah, I don't want to wear makeup all the time!)
 The alarm clock screams! The blankets immediately wrap themselves around me and hold me down.
(They grow arms you know!)
As I struggle and finally tear myself from the tangled mess I curse at the screaming clock!
( I curse in my mind of course... "Til tomorrow my evil nemesis!)
That's when I stumble into the bathroom greeted by the soothing yowl from a cat that cannot will not realize that the sink is not her personal drinking fountain!
Meeeow! Meeeow! Meeeeow!
That's how my mornings usually start and more often than not, time races by so rapidly I can barely catch my breath!
(pant! pant! pant!)
I know my mornings mirror those of gazillions of parents out there. And, I also know that it's morning like those that make you just want to pull your hair out, throw your body on the ground, kick, scream and throw a tantrum just like a toddler that doesn't get their way!
(hmmm...maybe I do, do that...maybe silently in my own room...I'll never tell! )
So why am I saying all this? Well here's why. On occasions like these, when I am scurrying around trying to catch my breath, when I am blasting through my morning, when I just want to give up, I catch my own kiddo looking so incredibly at peace and she teaches me a lesson.      
"Mom, when I create, I get a looooong mad out."
And...with those 10 words I learn that at some point in the day not only do I have to do that for me but also for my students. That along with all the "stuff" I have to teach that day that I have to infuse some creative outlet for them. It may be in the form of some spontaneous dancing, singing, coloring, writing, whatever, but I have to do it because being creative is the best way to let it all out and everyone, I don't care who you are, what you do,or where you come from, we all need to do it!
So if you don't think you're very creative, I have a suggestion from the experts of destressing, my students.
"Go to the store and buy a coloring book and some crayons and color a picture for someone you love!"
So, whattya waiting for??

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Teacher-Moms Don't Make Mistakes...It's All Just a Test!

The Initial Inspiration...
 I'm sitting in my classroom working on some thing or another, when I hear my good buddy-neighbor yell out, "Hey, how do you spell 90?" "N-i-n-e-t-y!", I yell back.
"Are you sure? It doesn't look right!" 
 "Yep, I'm sure!
 (She didn't see that I had to write it out to be sure.)
 I walk into her classroom and ask, "Whatcha working on?"
 " A chart for Math tomorrow", she says. 
 (I giggle.) 
 "Hey, n-i-n-e-t-y," I say pointing to the word.
 "Aaah@#$*!!! That's the third time I've made that chart! Dang-it!
"You want the Boo-boo tape?", I ask. "Nah, forget it!" she says as she squeezes the e in.
 (We laugh)
Fast Forward...
 I walk into another good-buddy's classroom and she points to her recently re-wallpapered focus wall. "Look-it!", she says proudly. Then she points to her chart. "Do you notice anything odd?" I have to read it again.
 (I giggle)
 "Yeah...I didn't notice my mistake until I heard two of my students giggling hysterically this morning. I ask them what they were laughing so much about and that's when they point out the fact that I wrote Rainbox! Ugh! Do you know how many times I rewrote that chart?? Of course I told them I did it on purpose just to see if they were really using the chart!"
(We giggle)
Forward to this week...
I go into my good-buddy's classroom.
 (I know what your thinking..."this woman likes to visit!...what can I say I like to get out!)
 She starts sharing how she is really enjoying teaching a new method. She loves how quickly the kiddos are responding and how they are truly engaged. She shares her charts.
(Yep! I start to giggle)
 And she knows exactly what she did. "Darn-it! Do you know how many times I rewrote that chart??" "Let me get the Boo-boo tape!",I say. "Forget it! I can't believe those kids didn't catch it!"
The lesson...
We do this outside of the classroom too.
Who can relate to sitting in a car full of kids. You drive up to the drive-thru. You order. You get distracted telling kids to get quiet. You pay. You drive away without your order. your kiddos begin to giggle you say,"Hey, didn't you hear the guy say that we had to wait for our order out here 'cuz they're making fresh fries?" They look at you, not completely sure if you're telling the truth.
 (What they don't know won't hurt 'em!)
 It happens to all of us! Not just teachers. It's those little moments where your head is filled with so much "stuff" that life hands you the Boo-boo tape and you get to do it over again! You don't have to get mad. This is the time to sit back, seize the opportunity and laugh at this crazy "stuff" filled adventure called life!
And remember most of all...
Nothing is a mistake! It's all a test to see if you're paying attention!
That's my story and I'm sticking to it!!!

I had to share my chart... it now resides somewhere else...'cuz I made a mistake was trying to see if my students were paying attention!

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Cluck, Cluck, Cluck! We Love Minerva Louise! Part 2 Comprehension

Minerva Louise...We Love You!!!
Retelling-Rewriting...Getting it all on paper!
We took some newprint, folded it in half (hot-dog style) illustrated, labeled on the outer flap and rewrote on the inside.
(That was one... and I just realized I didn't take any photos of the inside...snore...)
See how she's starting out at the farm!
Not much is happening...she's getting set to go explore.
 (I love kid writing...and why isn't farm spelled f-o-m???)

Sometimes we like to add ourselves to the retelling. Well, why not? If the story's good enough shouldn't it make you feel like you were there??
( Which story makes you feel like you were right there? hmmm...)
And there she goes...back to the henhouse with a whole bunch of decorating ideas floating around in her head!
(I can relate...can you say... Pinterest!)
But, wait!
We're not done until we've added artwork!
(It isn't complete without that!)
The Example
This is all I show them!
I give them all the materials and let them create!
I am always amazed at how resourceful the kiddos can be. They help each other, they problem solve, they have great conversations and they figure it all out together!
How'd she do that?



The Completed Projects!
(Well some of 'em...All their very own!)
I hope this inspires you to invite a chicken into your classroom (or any animal for that matter) and get your kidlets excited about reading and writing!
(and yes...of course we did The Chicken Dance! Just in case you were wondering!)

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Cluck, Cluck, Cluck! Minerva Louise Pays a Visit! Part 1Teaching Comprehension

Minerva Louise does eventually pay us a visit, however, there are so many things to do before she actually shows up!

Part One

The Anchor Chart

Our Comprehension Focus was... you guessed it!
Story Structure with an emphasis on Beginning Middle and End
(okay, you may now giggle at my fabulous art work! No really don't hold back!)
Explaining the Anchor Chart
You don't see the car here, however, I use a car and tell my kidlets that a story is like a fun trip This is how I do it. I hope you can take something away from it.
The Title is probably going to have something to do with where you're going, how it made you feel or something very cool that happens on that trip.  
The Setting is the place you'll be spending most of your time at, where most of the excitement happens and the most memorable part of that trip. That's why it's so big! 
The Characters are the people who will travel with you for most of that trip. Even though you may meet new people or you may drop people off during your trip, those that stay with you until the end are usually the main characters. They seem to get that.
The Beginning is where you're packing, planning it out but not much happens there until you get on the road! This is when I usually stop and say something like, "For example, Cindy and her dog got in her zippy car." Then I'll stop.
 (blink, blink, blink...wait....blink, blink, blink...wait... stare at them...blink)
That's when they usually can't stand it anymore and pipe up and say something like, "What happened??".
(I like torturing them like gives me joy!)
That's when I ask them if a good story would ever just stop there? Of course not Teacher! Then I go on and explain...
The Middle now that's where the action happens! That's where all the fun really starts! That's where you get on all the rides, eat yummy stuff and take pictures with the Big Mouse!
(Where's my lipstick??)
The End is the tricky part to explain. I usually stop right at the base of the hill and pause for a bit.
 (yawn...stretch...rub my tummy... drink some coffee...check my e-mail...just kidding! More torture...muahahaha!!)
By now they want to know how it ends. This is when I'll ask them, "Well, how do you want it to end? Do you want a happy ending or a sad ending? What would make sense?" Of course they realize that this is a happy ending story and our end should reflect that.
After explaining the chart I go back with my car, point to each part of the chart and re-tell the story. It sounds a little like this:
Title: The Most Wonderful Trip Ever!
Character(s): Cindy
Setting: The Happiest Place On Earth
Beginning: One day Cindy wanted to go on a trip. She packed her favorite clothes. She packed some snacks and she packed her dog. She got into her zippy car and started off to The Happiest Place On Earth!
Middle: When she got there she ran straight for the carousel. She rode the flying elephants. She took pictures with all the princesses. She watched the parade and the fireworks show. When she got hungry she ate yummy pizza and had ice cream for dessert. She had so much fun all day long.
(Dramatic's all the same)
End: When the day was over, Cindy got back into her zippy car, hugged her dog and went back home. It was a great trip to the Happiest Place on Earth! 
Actually, just the beginning!  

Friday, October 19, 2012

Today My Teacher Turned Into A Duck! Getting Kiddos to Self Monitor

Okay, I know you've had those days where you swear that:
 *The school cafeteria served bowls of sugar with a side of coffee that morning!
(ooh, yum!)
*The walls and floors in the hallways are made of steel and your kiddos have become magnetized!
*They have become telepathic because they break out in hysterical giggles just by looking at the person's head in front of them!
( tee,hee, hee, hee, hee!!!)
.* And for no apparent reason they trip over invisible obstacles that send your whole entire class tumbling down like little human dominoes!
(ba-boom, boom, boom...boom...boom.........boom!)
*It doesn't have to be picture day, early release week or the bizarro effects of the full moon to set off kiddos and make you ask your fellow rock-star teachers if they know off hand how many days until your next break!
(Oh, no!)
*And, don't go searching for the hidden cameras. You're not being filmed for a new reality show!
It's just kiddos, being kiddos and it's on those days that one of your students may pipe up and say,
" Today my teacher turned into a duck."
(quwalk, quwalk, quwalk, quwalk!!!)
So, don't turn into a duck. Try this instead.
Get yourself a Walking Stick and a Student Teacher
And... have them do the work for you!
The Walking Stick
Write your kiddos names on clothespins and clip them onto a yard stick painted three colors:
PURPLE-I caught you doing a great job!
 GREEN-You're doing okay keep it up!
ORANGE-You need to check yourself!
Leave a little space at the bottom for absent kids.
Those kiddos who are having a super challenging time end up clipped on the lanyard!
The Student Teacher
See, she's all offical-like with her own lanyard and identification badge!
From the classroom...
Turn around and fold those arms please!
Thumbs up, good to go!!

Move that line!
Safely down the stairs and ready to move again!


Good job friend I'm moving you up!
We made it and not a single clip on my lanyard!
Now, I have to share a funny with you.
When I initially start teaching my students the rules and routines of the Walking Stick, there's a lot of exaggerated Teacher talk to the students. Words like:

"Oh, I'm so sorry Christopher is not folding his arms and I'm gonna have to move him down! How sad!" Or encouraging words like,
" Oh, there's Alicia walking so quietly! I'm moving her up! Good job!"
Now here's the funny and a truth about the Walking Stick.
One of my fellow RS (Rock-Star) teachers asked if it really worked. I responded, "Oh, yeah and all it really is,is a visual that reminds them to monitor themselves." I started to giggle and then showed her how I didn't even look at the names anymore when I moved the clips.
" Look, Janessa is on orange and she's not even here today!"
We busted up laughing!
Hey, what those kiddos don't know won't hurt 'em!!! If it gets them to self monitor then I have succeeded!
So, whattaya waiting for??

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Buddies Forever: Helping Create a Positive School Environment

Rockstars/Mentors?? It's all the same!


     Picture this.
     You're walking down the hall. You're kidlets are quiet and all you hear is the shuffling of their little feet. You feel victorious because you think (think...) they've finally learned how to walk in the halls. When suddenly, a group of rock stars approach them from the opposite end of the hall and all of your hard work goes up in smoke!
But, it's okay!
     Because... the rock stars are 6th grade girls and boys. They know the names of these little kids. They smile at them. They ask them how they're doing. They give them high fives and tell them to do their best and that they look forward to seeing them at the end of the week. And finally, as they pass them they give them the universal Ssssh! signal and that helps you out too!
     So if you can picture that, I encourage you to find a rock star teacher in your school that you would like to collaborate with. Discuss what you're learning about and how you can support each other. Set up a time to have your classes meet and start creating a school environment where all kiddos and teachers have a vested interest in their school community. Because really, aren't they all "our" students??
   So whattaya waiting for???

Saturday, October 6, 2012

The Lost Art of Letter Writing: Candy Corn Kernels of Inspiration!

   The cost of a stamp in                                      The cost of  a massage in

                           1992                                                                                         1988 


The cost for the inspiration, the joy and the memory it gave me...well, you all know the answer to that one!
Like the heading of my blog says, I get my inspiration from all sources. This week I got two kernels of inspiration from two totally unrelated events and like most wonderful surprises, they were awesome! 
The first kernel came on Friday. My classroom neighbor and good friend came over in giggles as she shared letters she had received from former students. Anyone who has ever received a note from a former student loves them. They make you giggle and feel like the best teacher in the world. It's very gratifying to see how they've grown and remember you. Who doesn't like validation like that!
The second kernel came today as I was helping my youngest clean her cave.
(Kernel...? I think I'm on a candy corn kick right this minute! anyhoo...)
I overheard her reading something I assumed was an old Tooth Fairy letter until I heard, "She wants $60! Man, she wants a lot!" Well, I immediately knew that the author of that letter wasn't her greedy big sister but rather my greedy youngest brother David!
Now 27, that letter was written to me over 20 years ago while I was living almost a full state away, married and going to college.
( Yeah, we marry early and are child prodigies in my family 'cuz I was only 10 then... yeah... that's it...)
Not only did that letter bring back the bittersweet memory of leaving that sweet kiddo at 3 to go off to college, but also the pestering I got until I paid up at his high school graduation! 
("I want my three dollars!" name that movie...) 
Looking at that letter got me thinking. I have to get my kiddos writing more letters because I cherish those little notes my own daughters write to me. I cherish the card written by my dearly departed Nana. I cherish the hilarious letters written by my buddy Heidi and I definitely cherish the letters and cards written on pages cut out of spiral notebooks  in the made up language of my kiddos. If I don't teach them and give them the opportunity now, one day someone they love or they themselves may not have those everlasting memories!
So with that, next week I will bring back that 'ol letter writing center. I will give them time to compose little stories to whomever they want and I will bring back the lost art of letter writing. It isn't lost anymore! I hope you join me.



Wednesday, October 3, 2012

We Call It Kitchen Science! Some Call It States of Matter

How do you get kids excited about Science?? Well you let them explore I say!

We are lucky enough at my school to have yummy nutritious snacks delivered daily through two different sources. Well, some of it isn't always the yummiest. For some odd reason broccoli and sweet potatoes aren't the most popular...hmmm.... gee, what a mystery!(Yes, that would be sarcasm...I apologize to all jicama and sweet potato lovers out there!) The way I've finally gotten my kiddos to try something new is to play with it. Linking it to what they are already learning, writing about it and letting them make connections... Well, it's learning fun in a box!

So, get dirty, get noisy, get those inquiring minds working and play with your food! We call it 


This is how I do it:
1. Start with your standards: We're working on Properties of Matter
2. Frontload the Five Senses: Kiddos may not know the vocabulary and I always assume they don't. So we do a mini-unit on them.
and our Test Object/Subject
4. We look at it

5. We take it apart
6. We smoosh it

7. We record our findings


 And all this time we are learning!
Yes, it's noisy, it's messy, it's busy, but, can I tell you something??
The kiddos make connections, they discuss their discoveries, they write about what they are learning, and ssshhh... don't tell any one... but they're having fun too!!