Saturday, September 5, 2015

Bright Lights

Fifth week of school in the books.  The heat and humidity in the classroom have been overwhelming, making learning difficult but there have been many bright lights.  

On Friday afternoons we have a dedicated time for p4c (philosophy for children).  Notice that philosophy is intentionally written in lower case.  Have you ever tried to have a philosophical conversation with 2nd graders?  Sometimes I just shake my head and try not to laugh but on Friday, we had an amazing conversation.  

Our guiding question was, is it true that kids are always nice to each other?  The children talked about differences, arguments in the lunchroom, being mean and being nice, etc.  They also brought up some of what I have been teaching them.  That made me feel good, like I wasn't talking to a wall, some of them are actually listening, even if it doesn't feel like it or if the behavior doesn't reflect it.  We work on listening with empathy and having collaborative conversations.  I learn so much about my students when we are in circle.  These are the moments that fulfill me in a way that a paycheck doesn't.

I think I am expecting too much, too soon.  We are only five weeks into school and I feel like I am behind.  Our conversation on Friday reminded me that they are learning, it just takes time.  I am going to look for the bright lights and enjoy the journey in 2nd grade.  After all, they are learning and we are making progress, we need to have some fun!

If you do p4c in your classroom, I would love to hear what you do in your classroom.

Friday, July 10, 2015

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It's been a long time since I've logged in and blogged!  I'm going to start again.  There is nothing like starting over.  I'm excited to start the new year in 2nd grade!  After several years teaching 5th and 6th grade, I am ready to move to lower and work with the little ones.  I have been looking at my curriculum, picking out a variety of read alouds, and trying out a new strategies to teach 2nd graders!  I know that its going to be a challenge because I have been spoiled teaching older students who know what to do!  (although I did have several 5th graders who didn't know how to use glue last year... sigh...)

I am heading to my classroom today to work on unpacking and setting up.  It's hot and humid but I need to get organized and I'm running out of time.  The first required teacher work day is 7/23, I have a workshop on 7/21.  In between I have a lot of FUN planned.  Headed to San Francisco tonight for a mini-reunion with my high school friends.  It's been way too long since we have seen each other.  Next week I will see my granddaughter, if only for a few days, as we are going to Maui for a family reunion.  The days are going to fly by so I need to get organized before the craziness begins!

I am looking forward to a new adventure and am excited to share my learning with you.

Friday, August 16, 2013

Wow!  It's been awhile since I sat down to write.  Today is a holiday - Statehood Day!  I really needed the holiday to catch up on my sleep and the unbelievable stack of paperwork that has accumulated.

I have an energetic, talkative bunch this year!  They are excited to learn but don't have the skills to be student just yet.  We have been practicing staying on task, speaking in 6 inch voices, and completing our work.

On Friday, the student's presented their reading timelines.  This is a fun activity that I love doing!  I model my timeline for the students, gathering books that I remember reading.  The students are gathered on the floor and when I hold up Curious George as my first book, they all squeal with delight!  I hear shouts outs of "I remember that book" or "My mom read me that, too."  Then I read a passage from Madeline, Snowy Day, and others.  The kiddos are so engaged by these books and the memories of the books.  As I pass through the years, giving them a little taste of various books - Ramona the Pest, B is for Betsy, All of a Kind Family, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, Little House in the Big Woods, and Phantom Tollbooth, they start to have conversations about their own memories.

I send them off, with a stack of post it notes, and a Timeline from Really Good Stuff.  Some are completely engaged in this activity, drawing on their memories and talking through the timeline.  Others remember one or two books, they get ideas from other students, adding to their timeline.  Some say that it's so hard to remember all the way back to pre-school!  I tease them, telling them that it's much harder for me to remember back when I was in pre-school than when it is for them!!

They have been working on their timelines in their independent work time.  I will post pictures later.  The best part of this exercise is after the students present their timelines, I have the students analyze their timelines, reflect on the timelines, and set goals.  I read through the reflections and some of them were very reflective!  I look forward to working with them to reach their goals.
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Friday, June 21, 2013

These Hands

I'm linking up with Andrea from Reading Toward the Stars for Book Talk Thursday.  

This week I am reviewing a book recommended by my mentor teacher, These Hands by Margaret Mason and Floyd Cooper.

  I used this book in January to teach civil rights in connection with Martin Luther King, Jr. Day.  This story is told from Joseph's grandpa's point-of-view.  He speaks of all the things he can do with his hands.  And then, he speaks of all the things that he couldn't do with his hands.  The message is powerful.  Yes, we can!

My students were spell bound.  They couldn't understand why those brown hands weren't allowed to mix bread dough in the factory.  Hmmm... it was real food for thought, brown hands?  In my classroom, they all have brown hands - many of my students are Native Hawaiian or Asian American, they all have brown skin.  Could it be that their hands might not be able to mix bread dough?

The students had very serious discussions with their friends about this topic.  We used our schema to think about all that we do with our hands.  We used our schema to think about things we can't do, or wouldn't be allowed to do with our hands.  Then we talked about how we might feel if we weren't allowed to do something just because of the color of our skin.  Then we wrote.

I'm not ready to post cute worksheets and lessons.  I'm so in awe of all of you who do that!  When I gather my confidence and feel like I can come close to what I see out there, I will share as well.  

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Thursday, June 13, 2013

I'm linking up with Andrea from Reading Toward the Stars for her Book Talk Thursday.

The book I am going to review is one of my favorite books from my childhood.  I remember my teacher reading this book to us and then asking my grandmother to buy me the series!  

Little House in the Big Woods

I loved reading about Laura and her family.  To me, living in Hawai'i, the Big Woods of Wisconsin could have been on the other side of the world.  I loved the idea of pumpkin chairs, corn husk dolls, creating snow angels, and making maple syrup candies on the snow.  This book pulled me in when I was in grade school, it became one of my favorites and I read the entire series.  When my children were young, I pulled it out and read the series to them as well.  Now, when I have a reluctant reader who isn't sure what to read, I introduce him/her to Laura and her family.  This book interests both boys and girls who are fascinated by the life in the Big Woods.

This book is also a great read aloud.  I read the first chapter to my 5th graders and sent them home with summer reading.  They were completely entranced by the book.  My students were lost in the butchering process and the idea of playing with the pigs bladder like one would play with a balloon.  In 6th grade they will start the year with Westward Movement and read Little House on the Prairie.  It seems like a simple read but it helps the students to understand the life of the settlers.  I also like it because the students can read the book independently and we can have great discussions.

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Wednesday, June 12, 2013

There is a lot of professional development going on this summer.  For me, I planned to read some of the books that the 5th and 6th graders read.  I used to read a lot, whatever my own children were reading and I can make recommendations based on my own reading.  However, now I am not quite up to date with my students.  

I headed over to the public library and borrowed a few books:  The Red Pyramid, Sisters Grimm, Little House in the Big Woods and Little House on the Prairie, and a few fun books for me.  Summer is the only time that I read what I want to read!  I'm even going back to re-read The Great Gatsby so I can have that discussion with my daughter as she was determined to re-read it after seeing the movie.

But then...  while blog stalking, I noticed the discussion on The Book Whisperer.  I love this book and tried to incorporate the ideas into my teaching.  My biggest problem is that every time my schedule changes, and since I teach upper, that happens more often than it should, I take time out of the student's reading time to make up for that missed time.  I am back to re-reading The Book Whisperer so I can re-think my reading/writing block and make that dedicated time for reading. 

After reading The Book Whisperer, someone asked me to read Nancy Atwell's book, The Reading Zone, which truly helped me to streamline my reading program and validate giving time for students to read.  It also helped me to release my students from the drudgery of the reading response to a weekly letter and book talks.  

Off to my summer reading that now includes professional development reading, The Book Whisperer and The Reading Zone.
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Monday, June 10, 2013

New Design

I'm so excited!!  I just love this new design, it makes me feel so happy and sunshiny!  It has the exact feel that I wanted when I filled out the questionare.  A big shout out to McKenna at Project 3 Designs ( for creating this design for me.

During this process I realized just how OCD I am.  I just couldn't feel good about blogging until the background was right.  Now that I have the right feel, I want to write!  While I was waiting, I started to think about my classroom, my curriculum, my lessons, etc.  All of that is kind of in a similar state.  So, I decided to make some mental adjustments like deciding that this school and grade level is where I want to be.  With that in mind, I can start to organize and purge what I don't need.  I can stop collecting material for primary because I'm not going there right now.  Making these mental adjustments has helped me to focus on what I need to do this summer!

Thank you, McKenna for designing the perfect blog and helping me to release all this creative energy!

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