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January 8, 2011

Hi everyone, my blog has moved: Please visit me at: Kelly Teaches

Family Traditions

January 5, 2011
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When I was high school one of my best friends was Jewish, and I am not. One year her parents invited me to her Passover Sedar. I got to sit at the table, participate in the rituals and her parents and grandparents explained the meaning behind much of what they are doing so I wouldn’t be confused at any point. Though I can’t remember the specifics of the meaning behind each ritual, I do remember the overall experience very well. That experience helped me grow as a person because I better understood a Jewish tradition, and it helped me become closer to my friend because I knew more about her and her family traditions.

In public schools these days most teachers are being encouraged (or forced) to help religion out of the classroom. Since religion and holidays are so closely connected, this often means that holiday traditions are left out of the classroom. In my district, parents have been known to immediately complain if students are “taught” about religion, complete any kind of project having to do with a religious holiday or are given small “religious” items such as a drediel or a candy cane. I believe this attitude does a huge disservice to our children, whether they celebrate the holidays of the majority or the minority.

This year I have many students who are different in my classroom, whether it is because of their special needs diagnosis, religious difference or a different culture and/or language in their home. I truly think it is a missed opportunity to simply pretend we are all the same and not begin to understand our family differences during classroom time. While some parents may provide learning experiences of this nature at home, most students go home on the weekend and have play dates with friends who speak the same home language or spend the entire Sunday at church with people of the same religion.

So, in December this year I decided to have my students; complete Holiday Traditions collages. In my letter to families explaining the project, I told families to keep in mind the following ideas in completing their collages…

Names of family members

Holidays we celebrate

Yummy foods

Stories we read

Decorations

Friends and family visits

Games we play

Clothes we wear

Songs we sing

Gifts we give

Trips we take

I also showed parents my example in which I focused on my family’s winter holiday traditions. I assigned each child a day (4-5 child per day) to bring their project to school and then each child had the opportunity to present their collage to the class. This activity allowed children to learn more about their friends and created a fantastic bulletin board in the hall.

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Not only was this a great opportunity for kids to practice speaking in front of the class and learn more about each other, but the kids also LOVED it. They were so excited to share their traditions and we got in some great conversations about different cultures and traditions. One of my children described in detail a special holiday in China kind of like our “Thanksgiving.” The kids had so many questions about what foods she got to eat!

If you’d like to use the letter I sent to parents: Dear Parents, You’ll have to made a few changes for your classroom though🙂

Stay tuned for my next post about Holiday Traditions Journals.


How do you address the holidays with your students?


Back in the Game

January 2, 2011

It’s the first Sunday in January and that means only one thing… back to school tomorrow!

If you are anything like me you sprinted out of the classroom in late December with only minimal organization and plans for the week after vacation. Oops.

This is what I do know: my kids are being DIBEL’d this week, I will be out of the classroom for a few hours a day starting on Tuesday because I will be DIBELing my friends class (because obviously the week after vacation is a great time to be out of my classroom, oh did I mention… never trust teachers to DIBEL their own class!), next week I will be assessing phonological awareness skills and letter/sound ID, my kids were insane before break and I need to reign them back in!

Yes, that’s right in Kindergarten we do not pay attention to the fact that kids have had 10 days without probably any learning at all, it’s assessment time! That means tomorrow I have to focus on reviewing letters and beginning sounds, while also reminding the kids of the rules.

So far I’m thinking…

Arrival- The kids will do calendar folders and math journals as usual.

Morning Meeting- Review of the Meeting Rules, Morning Message, Schedule, Favorite Part of Our Vacation Share

Writing Workshop- Regular Journal Time (I have a lot of new things I want to teach in writing, but I know the kids will be excited to share their vacation adventures so I’ll hold off for a day or two)

Reading Workshop

  • Play ABC Bingo. I’m going to give each kid a Bingo Board with lowercase letters. First I’m going to simply call out letters and ask children to place one cube on their board if they have that letter. Once they get fast with this version of the game, I’m going to switch it to a beginning sound/letter game. I’m going to call out words and if children have the letter the word starts with then they will place a cube on their board. Whenever I play Bingo in my class I always make the winner cover the whole board so it takes longer (they get more practice). Some of my students who are still working on fluency with letters and initial sounds will play this same game in a small group later in the week.
  • If time permits after ABC Bingo I will do “Daily Five” (I only do 2 stations per day in my class). I will not introduce anything new tomorrow but I will review anchor charts/expectations for each choice.

Recess- I’ll need to review the procedure for putting on winter clothes. You can download my visual for putting on Winter Clothes and my visual for taking off winter clothes when they come back inside.

Math- We are going to start Patterns this week. Most of my students have some idea of what a pattern is so tomorrow I’ll ask students to start brainstorming what they think a pattern is. Then I’ll have students create patterns using math materials at each table: unifix cubes, colored links, pattern blocks, digi blocks and colored tiles. A few years ago I took pictures of a bunch of patterns I made to get students started if they are having trouble. It’s also helpful for kids who are ready to extend a pattern, but cannot create their own pattern yet (or can only do AB only).

Lunch- Yay🙂

Read Aloud- I think I want to start a new chapter book tomorrow, but I’m not sure what yet. Perhaps My Father’s Dragon?

Physical Education

Recess again- ah nothing I love more than the clothes process twice in one day. Though I’d never give up recess, ever.

Choice Time

Then it’s time to organize myself so the rest of the week is a bit more planned. According to my calendar I actually don’t have a meeting tomorrow afternoon which means that the powers that be actually considered the difficulty of coming back from a vacation. I’m going to go ahead and guess I made an error in my calendar because that seems way too unlikely!
What are you up to in the classroom tomorrow? Any good Chapter Book recommendations for Kindergarten?

2011 Goals for She Teaches

January 2, 2011

It’s officially 2011, which means it’s almost the 1 year anniversary of “She Teaches.” However, there will be no celebration, because let’s be honest I have not posted enough on this poor neglected blog in the last year. This year I really want to change that. I want this to become a true resources for teachers and parents working with primary grade children. Therefore, I have several goals in mind:

1. Post at least once per week. I’m aiming for Sundays right now since that’s a day I tend to have the most time. But I’ll settle for once a week any day🙂

2. Become more active in the teaching blog community. I only read a couple of teaching blogs consistently and I want to read at least 15-20 on a weekly basis. I know I will gain a lot of great ideas for my own classroom from reading the blogs of others.

3. Gain a strong readership consisting of both other teachers and parents.

 

I don’t blame you if you don’t believe me yet. After all, didn’t I have high hopes for She Teaches when I first started? Absolutely. But, this year will be different.

 

A Brief Preview of What’s To Come:

-Holiday/Family Traditions Collages and Journals

-Reading Strategies for Children

-How to Prepare Your Child For Kindergarten

-Parent Communication Tips and Ideas

 

Stay tuned and check back soon🙂

Games

November 20, 2010

Check out my new tab at the top. I posted a bunch of the games I use in small groups or 1:1 tutoring. I hope they are helpful to you!

A Parent’s Guide to Being Teacher’s Pet

September 1, 2010

Let’s face it, sometimes parents can be more of a pain than the kids. I know I cannot write a book how to parent, nor would I ever claim to be able to. But I COULD write a book on how not to piss off your child’s teacher.

Here is a brief list of what NOT to do if you’d like to stay on the teacher’s good side. Most are taken straight from my open house today.

1. At the beginning of the year there is a form to fill out which says, what would you like your child to be called? Do NOT spell your child’s name wrong and then act as though I am the one who has spelled it wrong when you see it around the classroom (yes, I will show you the original form, while acting confused so you will see YOU are wrong). Also, do NOT list a nickname here that your child does not actually like to be called. If there is any confusion about your child’s name, please note that.

2. Do NOT get upset with me when your child’s name is not on every possible thing in the classroom when you just registered for kindergarten ONE day before school starts. Frankly, you are lucky it is on SOME thing in the classroom cuz I have better things to do than run around making up for you taking your sweet time registering your child.

3. If your child yells at me within 2 seconds of meeting me, do not giggle and make excuses for them. It’s not normal, even if a child is tired (or nervous) for him or her to act rude during introductions. At least pretend you are embarrassed or disappointed.

4. If I ask you to refrain from having your kids buy lunch the first week of school, please actually listen. I don’t make up rules just for fun, there is a reason. Also I don’t really care if your older child buys lunch, pack your kindergartners lunch for one week. To be honest, I think you should pack it as much as possible considering the nasty stuff they charge you an arm and a leg for, but whatever happens after the first week, I won’t judge.

5. If your child has any kind of issue, PLEASE tell the school. I will not get the appropriate support if you lie and say your child is an angel when in fact they are not. I will find out your lying within 5 minutes and it will be too late then.

Want Extra Credit? Here are some things you can do…

1. This one is hard (that’s why it’s extra credit). If your child is having trouble separating, go go go go. Did I mention go? Never had a kid be upset for more than literally ONE MINUTE post parents leaving. Please go. I promise to send you an email in five minutes when your kid is happily playing. Promise.

2. Try to read all the crap that goes home at the beginning of the year. Again, I don’t just spend time in the summer writing information just for fun. If you want to skip stuff, don’t skip anything I write. Thanks🙂

3. Might as well us how great we are as often as possible…

PS. It should be said that for every annoying parent I have had, there is always an amazing parent. Not only are they wonderful with their child, but they are also always willing to help, 100 % supportive and understanding, and will wake up early to bake cookies for me on the last day of school (or the last day of tutoring as the case was last week). Those parents are out there too. Just for the record.

Behavior Management

August 29, 2010

It’s back to school fear time and this year I have two:

1. For the first time I have two aides in my classroom, one classroom assistant and one 1:1 aide. I’m worried I won’t get along with one of them, or they won’t get along with each other, or that they’ll get along with each other TOO well, or that they’ll get along with each other and hate me… etc haha

2. I’m worried that I forgot how to manage really tough behavior last year because my class was really good. Sure, there were a few annoying behaviors here and there, but there were NO behavior problems, and I’ve never had a class like that before. Merging the two concerns, I’m worried that my aides will have trouble managing behavior if the class is really tough. I hate coming back from a meeting or lunch to hear how miserable the kids were.

In preparation for the year ahead, I bought Setting Limits in the Classroom and Positive Discipline in the Classroom. I’ve read about half of the first book, and the second seems like more of a resource- it has a bunch of different classroom behaviors and suggestions for dealing with them.

In Setting Limits, they basically outline 3 ways of responding to negative behavior. The first approach is called permissive. For each response I will tell you the extreme version so you’ll get an idea of the type of teacher we are talking about, and then the version that I am guilty of myself…

Extreme Version

Teacher: Bobby, do you think it’s a good idea to sit in your chair like that? It might not be safe.

Bobby: I think it’s okay. I am being careful.

Teacher: I don’t know, I don’t really like when you do that, I wish you wouldn’t.

My Version

Me: Girls, please stop talking.

Girls: Okay (stop for 5 seconds, start again)

Me: Girls, if you are going to talk you will not be able to sit next to each other anymore

Girls: Okay (stop for 5 seconds, start again)

Me: Girls (teacher look inserted here), remember what I said…

The second behavior management approach is the punitive approach.

Extreme Version

Teacher (very annoyed/angry): BOBBY!!!! WHY DO YOU ALWAYS HAVE TO GET IN TROUBLE? CAN’T YOU EVER BE GOOD?

My Version

I don’t tend to get annoyed immediately, but I am guilty of being this type of teacher where I don’t enforce my consequence immediately (example above) and then get so annoyed that I implement a harsher consequence than necessary. This is technically called the Mixed Discipline Approach, but it’s a mixture of the permissive and punitive approach, meaning I display attributes of both when I do this.

The third behavior management approach is called the democratic approach. This is the approach we should strive to use. For example:

Child: Tosses eraser at his friend across the table instead of doing his work.

Teacher: Bobby, we do not throw things in our classroom. If you continue to throw things and are not able to get your work done at your seat, you’ll have to move to a table by yourself.

Child: Okay (throws eraser the next minute)

Teacher (still matter-of-fact): Bobby, you continued to throw your eraser. You will now work at the back table.

What I love most about this approach, besides the fact that the kids learn quickly that you mean business, is that it’s all done in a very matter of fact manner. I know that it’s easily enough to SAY you are never going to get annoyed when a child does the wrong thing, and much easier to follow through with. But, at the same time, it really benefits me just as much as the kid to stay level headed about the whole situation.

For me, the key is to manage the situation before I am annoyed by it. I have a pretty high tolerance for annoying behaviors, but eventually they do get to me. Instead of waiting for that to happen, I am going to immediately deal with any “rule-breaking” behavior.

In addition to my plan to take the democratic behavior approach (not sure why it’s called that by the way…), I will also do my normal behavior “tricks” including:

-Teaching the Rules at the beginning of the year. The kids make a “rule book” the first week of school after we decide what the rules will be. Each day we talk about a new rule, I model it, the kids demonstrate the wrong and right way to follow this rule, and then they draw a picture of themselves following the rule in their book. I got most of this idea from the Daily Five book, though that’s more about teaching reading (which I also use it for). I also do “guided discoveries” of materials in the classroom so I can teach how to use them as well- this is from the First Six Weeks of School book.

-Use a lot of positive reinforcement. Kindergarten kids love to be praised (for something real, not just general praise) and tend to continue to do the right thing if they see someone is noticing. I try to make it more beneficial in my classroom to do the right thing instead of the wrong thing, in terms of both getting attention from the teacher, and having classroom privileges.

-Communicating with parents when I have an problems. Sure, parents are often no help at all. But sometimes, maybe 1/2 the time, just knowing that I am chatting with their parents is enough to tame the behavior.

What kind of behavior approach do you take in your classroom? What are your weaknesses when it comes to behavior management? What are some goals you have for the upcoming year?