Friday, 18 April 2014

Play, for the sake of it!

I am so serious when I teach.  I really need to loosen up.  One way I try to laugh more is reading funny books.  Right now I'm reading The Trouble with Chickens by Doreen Cronin.  There is a ton of sarcasm which requires a lot of inferring.  So, it's a great interactive read aloud.
    Lately, I feel like all the joy in learning is being sucked up by data analysis and close reading.  Don't get me wrong, these teaching tools have a place.  But, like anything else in education, once a shift has been made we educators, and our community, tend to beat a dead horse with the latest educational practice.  In protest, and just to play it up on a Friday, I decided to turn on a song that reminded me of the characters and tone in this book.  The song "Ain't Nobody Here But us Chickens"  is a jaunty tune that requires one to shake a tail feather just a little while listening.  Some students just sat there or hid under a table, because they were literally floored by my behavior.  Others relished the opportunity to dance and celebrate a little. If you need a happy little tune to lighten your mood, try listening to this forgotten gem.  If you are teaching second grade or higher, I recommend this book for some clever writing and mysterious twists.  The characters are simply hilarious.  

Tuesday, 15 April 2014

Secret to Success: Keeping students motivated at the end of the year

My lesson plans were complete.  But, I just couldn't predict how productive my second grade kiddos were going to be on the first day back from break.  After attempting to write the schedule on the board twice then erasing it, I came up with an ingenious plan.  "What if I told them all we had to get accomplished today, but let them talk out the schedule?"  I was completely honest with them.  I told them I wasn't sure what their stamina for learning was going to be like, so I decided to ask them what they felt like they could do in each subject.  Their eyebrows went up.  Some of them even sat up on their knees, they were so engaged.  Truly, I saw a physical change in the group.  I even asked about the amount of time they thought was a good amount of time.  Since these second graders are just starting to grasp the concept of time and how long something takes, it was perfect and relevant learning!

Then today when the math lesson didn't allow for enough time to spend on two step story problems I tried the schedule strategy again.  "How many of you feel like you need more time with these two step story problems before the review? Lots of hands went up in the air. "So, looking at our afternoon schedule, what can we take out or move to another day?" Kids just started talking.  Lily said, "We should get rid of word study.  "Why?" I asked.  Most kids chorused, "We don't like it?"  But, I explained their opinions needed to have reasons more convincing.  So, Lily tried again, "We could skip word study for today because we have it for homework." That one made sense.  But, here is the most crazy part.  As soon as I said yes, I would prepare some math two-step story problems instead of word study, they actually cheered!  I glanced slyly over at the Hope College student who practically had her mouth hanging on the floor in total disbelief.  That's how it's done, baby!

Sunday, 13 April 2014

You can do it, teachers!

This is my cheerleader post!  We know its going to be busy.  We know it's like starting all over at the beginning of the year.  Kids get excited, with longer days, more time outside to play.  Thank goodness.  With the winter we had, should there be any complaints?  I think not!  What if we were as thrilled to welcome the spring and the warm weather as our students?  So. . . let's take on this time of the year with joy!  Let those little minds fill us with the energy we need to make it fun!  Relish the creativity and the wonder.  Learn along side them.  Pull up a chair and ask questions, "What made you think that?"  Guide their wonder.  Use all the energy we saved up during this long winter to let our learning communities explode with enthusiasm.  We are the experts.  Don't let the masses discourage you by picking apart the joy in learning to diagnose every little test question.  Yes, reflection is important.  Yes, we need to look at data.  Let's make sure we focus our energy on the right data, the data that will give us the biggest bang for our buck!  There is still so much yet to discover.  Instead of going out with a fizzle, go out with a bang!

Thursday, 27 March 2014

From the mouths of babes

Sometimes teachers have those magical moments we witness in the classroom.  Words of wisdom spill out of the mouths of our students articulating an idea in a golden way.  Yesterday was one of those video-worthy moments.  I even had a college student present in the room.  After modeling some thinking during an interactive read aloud, I invited the kids into the idea that we might come back to the text the next day and get more meaning, read more closely.  "But we already read the book!"  Then, Alena, with all her 8 year old wisdom said, "Like getting the juice out of it?" in reference to the text. "Yes, Alena!" I encouraged her further.  "Say more about that."  She explained how thinking was the juice you get out of a text while reading it." Next, I gave more shape to her idea to make it more accessible to the other students, "You're suggesting that a book can be like an orange.  We can read and squeeze out the thinking, like juice.  When you come back to the book another time, there can still be more juice there to squeeze out if you think more deeply, squeeze harder."  The lightbulbs went off over many of the kids' heads.  A collective, "Ooohhh!" escaped their lips.  Smiles spread across faces as the understanding sunk in.  These are the moments we treasure.

Saturday, 22 March 2014

Twisted

The Lion,
   drags His paws,
         across the sand,
                 making tracks.

The mouse,
         looks behind her
               for the snake
                 But does not see
                        the Lion

                 Then
Horizontal and vertical paths
                 cross
                 He
                feels
                 the
                brush
                 of
                her
               feet
               like
                the
               wind.

Once she has noticed the paw,
Panic ensues!

She is frozen!
                          He is still.

She hears the snake approach!

                          He sees, too.
                          He knows.

Toiling, she hesitates,
       Before she can choose
             The lion gently laps her into his mouth
                      Tightly protected
                           She is safe
                                from the snake.
                       

Thursday, 20 March 2014

Time: A Plea

Layer upon layer
you circle back
on yourself,
Moving away,
Out of my grasp.

Help me let go
of the reins
I claim to hold
on you

Pull me in
To the beauty
Of your accidental present
Your surprising future

Release me
from your ticking line of history
Drawn by so many
Accepted by few

Ease my ride
through this
(oh so short)
slide through
time.

Tuesday, 18 March 2014

In it

You know when you are in it - living life fully during whatever it is you are experiencing?  Well today, I was in it.  It wasn't very good.  It wasn't fun.  It was sad and heartbreaking and real.  But I let myself be in it.  I didn't wish it away.  There was a lot of grief and darkness there.  Accepting the pain felt different though.  Safety was part of the dark place, oddly enough.  Later, when circumstances changed, as they often do in lives with teenagers, there was freedom from the darkness and light.  The lift was palpable.  There was even some happy dancing.  You bet. . . I let myself be in it.