Saturday, February 28, 2015

Book Study: Worksheets Don't Grow Dendrites Chapters 1 and 2


Happy Saturday!
Today is the first day of a book study a bunch of teachers and bloggers are participating in.  I'm super excited to be involved!  Even though I'm not currently in the classroom I feel like I can take this opportunity to reflect on my practices and continue to grow as a teacher for when I do return to the classroom.  Thanks to Elizabeth from Kickin it in Kindergarten for hosting the first 2 chapters of the book study.  Click the picture above if you are interested in joining in.

As I started reading Chapter one on brainstorming and discussion I felt reassured.  This is a strategy I used in the classroom.  How reassuring to know that something you are doing and feel is important is being confirmed as research based.  The last school I taught at was Title 1 with a huge percentage of our students qualifying as ELL and receiving free/reduced lunches.  Most of our students lived in poverty.  We were qualified as a "failing school".  One thing we all understood is that we needed to build our students vocabulary and get them talking.

We implemented GLAD a few years back in our district.  Many of the input strategies fall under brainstorming.  I regularly did KWL charts and can/have/are charts.  Marcia referred to a strategy she called "think, pair, share".  We called it turn and talk.  It is very similar.  Students would have time to discuss the answer to a question or their ideas with a partner.  They had to turn and sit knee to knee and make eye contact with each other.  When it was time to share I would often ask them to share what their partner shared with them.  This helped me gauge whether they were listening to their partner too, instead of just asking for their thoughts.

A couple of powerful GLAD strategies are use of observation charts and picture file cards.  Observation charts are real photographs glued onto construction paper with a blank piece of construction paper right next to it for students to record their observations.  For example, for our unit on communities we would have a chart with different community helpers, a chart with different forms of transportation, a chart with different homes, etc... Students would rotate in groups and write their observations on the blank pieces of paper.  I learned to laminate the blank ones and let them write with dry erase markers or vis-a-vis markers.

Picture file cards are photographs glued onto index cards.  Students form groups and discuss their cards.  They might try and sort them.  Then as the teacher you can visit the different groups, ask how they sorted their cards and why they sorted them in that way, and listen to the discussions going on.

I used literacy and math stations every day in the classroom.  I've been teaching for 15 years and remember when literacy stations were brand new.  I volunteered to be a pilot classroom in my school back then to try them.  How things have changed!

The other thing I ALWAYS did when I was introducing a new book was what I called a picture walk.  I did this in guided reading groups and in whole group.  This was the chance to look at the pictures, look for tricky words, formulate ideas and questions about the story, and "walk" through the book.

Can I just say that I pretty much had my students in groups whenever possible but never thought to call them families.  I use Responsive Classroom and it's all about building a classroom community.  Why did I never think to call my groups families???  I LOVE this idea!!!!!!!!  I will do this when I return to the classroom for sure!  How powerful to belong to a family in the classroom!

I have to admit I was a bit sad when I first started reading this chapter.  When I taught in Fairfax County schools in Virginia for the first 8 years of my teaching career we had an art teacher and had art every other week or every week for an hour.  It was so great for my students!  When I moved to Washington and taught there we didn't have art.  My first and second grade students didn't even get music and p.e.  They were dismissed at 2:30 every day.  The district just didn't have the budget to hire more p.e. and music teachers.  So music and p.e. started at 3rd grade. 

Reading the chapter and reflecting on my practices in the classroom I realized that I did incorporate some art.  I always had it as a choice for indoor recess or as a reward in my reward catalog.  I also always had paper and crayons at my cool-off table/desk for students.  My team did Friday rotations as a way to build community among our second grade students.  There were 6 teachers on our team and we wanted to get to know everyone's students and for them to get to know each other.  We would rotate the students through our classrooms every 30 minutes.  Each of us would plan a different activity.  We always had art as one of the rotations.  Our school also implemented Marzano's vocabulary instruction strategies.  We implemented vocabulary notebooks.  One section of the notebook required students to draw a picture of the word.

As I was reflecting I realized I didn't do a lot of art with math or science, unless it was a craftivity.  I think this is an area where I can grow.  In this time of high stakes testing and all the pressure to teach everything students need for the test I feel like sometimes I just need to take a step back and let them draw.  I bet I'd be amazed!

I'm excited to keep reading and learn more!  How about you??

Friday, February 27, 2015

Five for Friday!

Happy Friday!
This week, actually the whole month of February has flown by.  All of a sudden it's Friday and the end of February.  Where did the time go?
I'm linking up with Kacey from Doodlebugs Teaching for her Five for Friday linky party.  Click the pic below to join in on the fun!

Here are my 5 random things from this past week...
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TPT Conference 2015 
I'm registered for the conference!  I'm so excited!  I'm going to see 2 of my favorite people, Lindsey and Kristin from 2 Literacy Teachers.  Lindsey and I taught together for 5 years next door to each other (and are best friends) and Kristin is her mom who also teaches at our school.  We share a room and have the best time!  Now that I'm in the Bahamas, it's our reunion.  So excited!!!  Ooops!  I said that already.  :)
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We went to the Greek festival Sunday afternoon.  The food was delicious, the weather was gorgeous, and we all had a great time.  Blog post with full details coming soon!

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Did you read Angela's blog post this week?  If not, you should!  Click the picture below to head over to her blog and read it.  I read it and immediately removed tagged pics of my kiddos from instagram.  I'm going to be a lot more careful from now on.  To top it off, this was a feature story on The Today Show this morning.  They are calling it digital kidnapping.  It's happening to a lot of people.  Here's the link to the story on The Today Show.

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Stay at home mom humor 
Last night our book club met to discuss The Thirteenth Tale, our February read.  We started at 6pm and I didn't get home until after midnight!  Needless to say, we talked about much more than just the book.  We had so much fun talking about the realities of being moms, stay-at-home-moms, our husbands, and life here on this island.  It was comforting and reassuring to hear my other friends share similar struggles to adjusting to being a stay-at-home mom or working from home mom.  One evening I won't ever forget!

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Are you participating?  I am!  I'm excited to link up and share what I'm learning with some amazing teacher friends and bloggers.  It's going to be fun!

That's my week in review.  Not much on the agenda for the weekend.  Right now my son and I are enjoying a lazy day as I am nursing a very sore shoulder.  Not sure what's going on.  I've tried ibuprofen, aleve, tens therapy, and ice.  The tens therapy gave me the most relief but it's still bugging me a lot.  If you've got any suggestions, I'd love to hear them.  At this point I'm willing to try almost anything.  :(  So it's going to be a do nothing kind of day.  I'm lucky to be able to do that.  Enjoy your weekend and stay warm if you're in the "snow belt".

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Junkanoo Museum

 Greetings from the sunny and warm Bahamas!
Yes, it is sunny and warm somewhere!  We are happy to have our warm weather back after having had cooler rainy weather last week.  I'm hoping this weather is ready to stick around.  We are ready for the pool to start warming up so we can swim.  Last year we swam all year.  Not this year, the water is freezing!!!

Last week was my daughter Suri's midterm break.  She had the whole week off.  We started the week with celebrating her brother's birthday with his party with friends.  I blogged in detail about that here.  On Monday we headed off to the Junkanoo Museum with several friends.  What is Junkanoo?  Junkanoo is a huge celebration here that happens over Christmas and New Years.  At the Junkanoo Museum we learned that it was started by the slaves a couple hundred years ago.  The slaves would have a couple of days off around the holidays and would sneak away in the middle of the night and celebrate by dressing up in costumes, playing music, and dancing.  Junkanoo is still celebrated during the middle of the night.  Friends of ours went last year and the parade started at 1am.  Here's a clip of this year's Junkanoo parade.

At the Junkanoo Museum we got to make hats or a conch shell wall hanging.  Here's my family working on theirs.

Then we got to try out some instruments and have our own little Junkanoo parade.  The kids blew whistles, played drums, and rang cowbells.

At the end we got to try on some of the Junkanoo costumes in the museum.  My husband and daughter had some fun.

Here's our finished products...

Such a fun trip!


Sunday, February 22, 2015

Sunday Scoop

Happy Sunday Morning!
I'm linking up with the Teaching Trio for their weekly Sunday Scoop linky.  Click on the picture below to join in on the fun.
Here's my scoop...

My son and I just finished watching an episode of Curious George.  It's still his favorite.  It was the one where George and Allie learn how to make maple syrup.  So now there has been a request for pancakes for breakfast.  :)  I need to gather the materials the toddlers need for Sunday School today and make sure I have everything ready to go.  Suri has been off all week for term break.  She is back to school tomorrow.  Time to do laundry and make sure her uniforms are all ready to go.  If you read my post a couple weeks ago about her skirt and my inability to sew, I have good news to report.  The hem tape worked great!!!  It's my new best friend.  I honestly went around looking for anything else that needed fixing after I finished her uniform skirt.  Sadly, I didn't find anything.  :(

Good friends of ours are going to be moving back to the states.  They have been here 4 years.  My son and I are going to be losing our best friends.  The movers come to start packing them out on Tuesday.  Their youngest is my son's best friend.  Tuesday will be his last story hour with us.  I'm looking for a fun and cute goodbye project that we can do so that he will have something to take with him to his new home.

We are hosting a goodbye party for the same family with just the small group of us that have been close.  It's Tuesday evening so I need to get to the grocery store.

This week was Suri's term break.  We went to the Junkanoo Museum on Monday (blog post coming this week) but didn't do much else.  My husband is off today so we're going to try and do something together as a family.  Not sure what yet, but we'll figure something out.  Might be as simple as a trip to Dairy Queen.  Might be an early dinner at Johnny Rockets on Paradise Island.  We'll see.

Happy Sunday!

Friday, February 20, 2015

Five for Friday!

Happy Friday!
I'm watching the Today Show right now and apparently America is "on ice".  They are showing all the freezing temps around the country.  Brrrrrr!  Here in the Bahamas it's colder than usual.  Even the tourists are staying out of the water.  We drove by one of the popular tourist beaches yesterday and all the tourists were not on the beach but rather huddled around the drink shacks.  Talking to the locals, we are having a cooler and longer Winter season here than usual.  Last year at this time we were already swimming in the pool.  Not this year!  The water is freezing! 

Now onto my 5 for Friday.  Thanks to Kacey at Doodlebugs Teaching for hosting this linky every week.  Click the picture below to join in on the fun!

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I woke up this morning to Suri telling me this:
Luckily it wasn't all over the laptop and the laptop was closed!  Phew!!!!

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We celebrated my son Levi's birthday with family and friends on Sunday afternoon.  I blogged in detail about it here.  Here's one picture.

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We had the cold front roll through here.  It made for stormy seas.  I don't think my iphone accurately captured the amazing deep turquoise blue of the ocean on Wednesday but I tried.

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This week is mid-term break for most of the private schools on the island.  We headed off on a fun trip to the Junkanoo Museum on Monday with friends of ours.  "What is Junkanoo?" you are probably asking.  I plan on blogging about this, so stay tuned.  Here is a sneak peek though.
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 For all of you who are sick of winter... this is for you! 

Happy Friday and stay warm!!

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

ARGH Mateys! A Pirate Party!

Ahoy there!
Levi turned 4 last week and we celebrated his birthday with friends on Sunday.  He chose a pirate theme this year.

There were so many great ideas on Pinterest so I had to reign it in a little and decide what I could pull off easily and do for cheap here in the Bahamas.  Wait!  Silly me, you can't do much here for cheap in the Bahamas.  :)  Luckily we were in the states in January and we made a stop at Party City.  That way we only had to buy a few items.

Levi requested a pirate cake.  Ummm....HELP!  I can bake a cake and frost it.  My decorating skills are minimal.  So I requested the help of my good friend Paula and she was able to help me create a pirate cake.  Voila!

Friends arrived and everyone was happy to play together for a few minutes in our backyard.  It was sunny and 75 degrees!  That doesn't happen in February back home in Seattle.  So outdoor time was enjoyed by all.  We had a treasure dig that was very popular.  We filled a tub with sand from our sand volleyball court across the street.  (Thrifty, eh?)  Then I put rings and fake gold coins in with some shovels for the pirates to dig for the buried treasure.  We had kids ages 18 months to 7 and this was a hit with everyone.

Then we gathered all pirates and had them make a pirate hat (found a pattern on Pinterest), pirate hook (super cute project I found here), and put on a pirate eye patch.  After everyone was dressed as a pirate it was time for...

My husband put on his hat he bought in Disney World back in September and taught the kids a few words in pirate lingo.  Favorites were
*dungbie: your bottom


*poop deck: bathroom

Throw in anything potty oriented and you're all set.  :)

Next it was time to eat.  Pirate school was exhausting.  :)  For the kids I made pirate ships.  I cut hot dogs and buns in half, stuck a paper sail on a toothpick, and stuck it in the hotdog.  Sorry I didn't manage to get a picture.  Here's some other items I served...

Then it was time to open presents.  No pictures of this.  It's too busy and I wanted to be present in the moment.  Levi got some wonderful gifts and he was so sweet the way he got excited over every gift he opened.

Finally we served cake and ice cream.  His friend Johnny looks like he could be Levi's twin.  If you see either of them from behind you can't tell who's who.  He asked Levi if he could help him blow out his candles.  Levi said sure and pointed to which one Johhny could blow out.  Well, then his sister decided to get in on the action and she and Johnny blew out his candles for him.  My sweet boy just shrugged his shoulders and smiled.

Such a fun party!  Happy Birthday Levi!

Friday, February 13, 2015

Five for Friday!

Happy Friday!
     It's Friday and that means it's time for my favorite linky party... Five for Friday!  I love linking up with Kacey from Doodlebugs Teaching and reading what everyone has been up to this week.  Click the picture below to join in on the fun.  Here we go...

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Meet my new best friends.  
I've been so healthy.  I've seen everyone else getting sick and I just kept washing my hands, using my hand sanitizer, and taking my vitamins.  Well, it finally caught up to me.  I'm so thankful that my friend Tory brought me this delicious Yorkshire Tea from England when she came to visit 2 weeks ago.  It's so delicious and just hits the spot about 3 times a day.  So I'm still coming down with it and I am fighting it with everything I've got! 

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This happened this week.  My daughter took a Valentines project meant for us, her parents, and instead made it for a boy.  She's 7.  I'm not ready for this!  At least she thinks he is a good friend.  Let's leave it at friends.  I'm good with friends.

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My baby boy turned 4 yesterday.  This is him with his breakfast cinnamon roll yesterday morning.  I can't believe my youngest is 4.  He was 5lbs 5oz the day we got him.  He was the tiniest baby we'd ever held.  As you can see newborn size clothes didn't fit him.  We had to run out and buy preemie clothes.
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Here he is with the one toy I could get him to hold still for a picture with.  Then it was playtime!  A new pirate ship, the imaginext rescue helicopter, and a paw patrol blanket are the new faves.

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The northeast is getting hammered again with snow.  A couple of Levi's friends were recently home on vacation in Michigan.  When he saw the picture of them playing in the snow he asked me to ask them to bring him some back for his birthday.  If only they could...  All the snow gave me the inspiration for this new product...

This mini-unit is meant to engage students in persuasive and how-to writing as they brainstorm ways to make all that snow go away.  I should have it finished and uploaded later today.  I'll be giving a copy away on my facebook page here.  It will be 50% off through the weekend.  I hope you and your students have fun inventing, creating and writing all that snow away!

Well, today is my daughter's sports day at school.  I'm taking a couple of her friends out to the field as well.  Tonight is Anti-Valentines Day bowling.  Sunday is Levi's birthday party.  It's a pirate theme this year.  Argh ye mateys!  It's going to be a busy weekend.  I'm going to go make another cup of tea and keep fighting off this bug.

Happy Weekend and Happy Valentine's Day!