Tuesday, October 27, 2009

A Touching Moment

So, Friday appears to be one of those days to either be forgotten or more meaningfully to learn from.  I must conclude that it was far from my best day as a first grade teacher mostly because I had a child who was having a very difficult day and demanded my attention and challenged my direction. By the end of the day, I was exhausted, and I am sure he was too.  But we ended the day with a genuine hug and with the agreement that Monday was going to be a new and better day.  As we were lining up to exit for the day, one of my other boys came up to me and asked if he could hold my hand. I must say that his request, gratefully granted, made my day.  Whether he sensitively felt the angst of the day related to the conflict with my first little guy, or he wanted to assure me that all was well in his corner of the world, I cannot know. But what I do know is that he gave me a gift that reassured me that life was OK, and we, with strength and connection, will move forward.  This little boy is a joy who has cautiously, slowly, but assuredly grown more comfortable and relaxed with our classroom family with each passing week. I don’t know if he wanted to hold my hand because he is finally at the point where he feels at home in our room or if it were because he just intuitively knew that his request would be something that I needed and would love. Whatever the reason may be, he made my Friday wonderful.  He gently but powerfully confirmed that even on days that are very hard and depleting, he reminded me that no matter what, we are all joined together as a school family and will be here for one another. 

Monday, October 5, 2009

Binky the Space Cat

Haha. My fellow cat lover and friend, Cathy, just shared a new graphic novel with me- Binky the Space Cat by Ashley Spires. It is a silly story full of cat humor but I am confident even those not so fond of cats will chuckle a few times while reading. According to Binky- he is a space cat. In reality, he is a house cat that has never stepped paw outside of the house. However, he is determined to protect his humans from the aliens (aka houseflies). He secretly makes plans to go to Outer Space to destroy the enemies. However, at the last minute he remembers that he has forgotten something really important. This is the first in a new graphic novel series. I can't wait to read more about this fun character!

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Have I Got a Book for You

Yay! I found a new Melanie Watt book. And for those of us that love her silly, playful and totally fun books (Scaredy Squirrel, Chester, etc.) - she doesn't disappoint with Have I Got a Book for You. The book reads like an infomercial. Al is a salesman that can sell anything. And since we are book lovers- Al is trying to sell us a fabulous book. And the one you're holding is just for you. Al is pretty tricky in the end as well. Melanie Watt creates another humorous story with engaging illustrations and a character you can't help but like. Hurry- go read it!

Sunday, September 13, 2009

I'm Back!

I am still here! I do believe one of my many goals this year is to try and write once a week. I am thrilled to say that the beginning of this year has gotten off to an amazing start. I am teaching first grade. What is even more exciting is that I hope to loop with this group and have them for second grade as well. I can tell already that I will thoroughly enjoy spending many hours with this group of twenty first graders. They are bright, talkative, and always wanting to share. I am so excited about this year, and I can’t wait to share their thinking and mine with you this school year.

Friday, September 11, 2009

Kids Say the Darndest Things

Is that how you spell darndest?? Anyways- today in class one of my students had me cracking up laughing. Our conversation follows:

Me: Darlings- you are all crowding me a bit. I am feeling a little claustrophobic.
Max: Does that mean you are afraid of Santa CLAUS?

Poor guy was being serious. It ended up leading to a super conversation about phobias but his original, smart, yet funny comment is the part I enjoyed the most. I love my job!

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Catching Fire

I'm back. Although it looks as though I dropped off the face of the earth, I was still very much part of the blogging community over the summer. I religiously check my favorite blogs and did my best to comment on entries that really caused me to think and reflect! Now- it's time for me to share and document my summer reading, thinking and reflections.

What better way to start than to share my thoughts on my favorite read of the summer, Catching Fire, by Suzanne Collins? It is the second book in the Hunger Games trilogy. I read Hunger Games late last winter and LOVED it and I have to say that I enjoyed Catching Fire equally as much. It has it all- GREAT characters, vivid imagery, action, horror, and love. The cliffhangers at the end of each chapter prevented me from putting the book down. I finished it in about 4 hours and my heart was pounding every second. One thing I have to say, I was more satisfied with the ending of this book. The first book ended in such a way that I was bothered by it and itchy for the next book. With the end of Catching Fire, I felt a little more comfortable with the conclusion (however, the story still leaves you with many questions). My only complaint- I have to wait way too long for the third book (Hurry Ms. Collins!!)

Monday, April 20, 2009

Authentic Teacher

After reading (and loving) the Twilight series- I discovered that I am a huge fan of teen/young adult literature. Yesterday, I started reading Wicked Lovely by Melissa Marr after reading wonderful things about it on several blogs. I have not finished yet (I will blog when I do) but I LOVE it so far.

Anyways- Franki and Mary Lee at A Year of Reading always take note when they come across a special teacher in literature and Wicked Lovely has got one!! I am currently taking a class where we always end up talking about the possibilities of the workshop model at the high school level. I am absolutely an advocate for it and was blessed to have experienced it myself with my senior level literature course. It sounds like Sister Mary Louise (High School English Teacher in Wicked Lovely) has the right idea. Here is an excerpt on why Sister Mary Louise is Aislinn's (the main character) favorite teacher:

"It was one of the reasons the class was Aislinn's favorite: Sister Mary Louise didn't simply launch into a lecture. She got them talking, and then she slipped in her points, revealing every bit as much information, but with more style than any of the other teachers."

Student led discussion and learning is powerful whether the student is two or seventeen.

I'll keep you posted on Wicked Lovely. So far- it is a WOW!

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Let's Talk Writing

Today during writing workshop, I overheard a wonderful conversation between two authors in our classroom. They are writing a story together called- The Defenders of Earth (The First). It was so amazing to listen in on their thinking as they discussed how it should begin ("Make sure we hook the reader."), the characters ("Should we web them first?") and the sequence of events. They also talked about dialogue and other aspects of the story- here's a snippet of their conversation:

Student 1: Then he said, "It's coming down to earth.
Student 2: How about we tell the reader WHAT is coming down to earth.

Student 1: Let's add ALL OF A SUDDEN before he says it to make it more suspenseful.
Student 2: Hey- we used a suffix....haha.

Student 1: What should happen next?
Student 2: Maybe we'll find a way to make this part come back up later in the story.
Student 1: Yeah- like we can make a Part 2- kind of like Tale of Despereaux.
Student 2: Cool- a mentor text.

Unbeknown to the students- I was quietly sitting at table behind them- listening- proud as punch. Not only was their knowledge of the writing process and the words they chose impressive- their love for writing and creating stories was clear. They we so excited!! Another great day doing the best job in the world.....

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Hunger Games

" Each Year in the ruins of North America, 24 teenagers are forced to enter the Hunger Games. Only one survives. Every moment is televised." -Scholastic on Hunger Games

I just finished reading Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins. WOW! I absolutely loved it. Great story, unique idea, thoroughly thought provoking and beautiful writing. I highly recommend it to all! It is the first in a trilogy but we have to wait for the second, Catching Fire, until September 1st (can't wait!!).

Franki (at A Year of Reading) talks about Hunger Games here

It is also the Cybils Young Adult winner. See complete list here

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Out of the Mouth of Babes

We are blessed to have Dr. Meredith Melragon learning with us for the next couple weeks to help take our learning digital. I will be posting about our adventures as they happen! In addition to volunteering in our classroom, Dr. M works at Apple. So yesterday when she was not here I had the following conversation with one of my students:

Student: Where's Dr. M today?

Me: Oh- she is at the Apple store but she'll be back tomorrow.

Student: Really? (confused look)

A couple minutes later.....

Student: What exactly do you do at a store full of apples? Taste them or something?

Me: (trying hard not to giggle) Actually- it is a store full of computers, iPods and technology stuff?

Student: Oh.

I am so lucky to have a job that makes me smile so much.....Happy Thursday!

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

A Teacher's Prayer for Snow

Oh, Lord, let it snow.
Let it drift and let it blow.
In the morning, no real fuss,
Just enough to stop the bus.

Enough to make the County say:
"There will be no school today."
Let the radio report: "Snow's deep!"
And I'll roll over for more sleep.

Then later on, say maybe ten,
I'll turn the radio on again.
Just in time to hear them say:
"It's strange; the snow has gone away!"

And then I'll know, You made it stop,
So I can go to Cover to Cover and shop.
Please, Lord, just hear my teacher's plea,
And make it snow for the kids and me!


Monday, January 19, 2009

What I am learning...

My mom’s background is Child Development. So, pretty much since I was eight, I knew about Erikson, Piaget, Vygotsky, Montessori, etc. with conversations about child growth and development and learning theories becoming the back drop to many pursuits and inquiries. How children learn best is a huge part of my background. While by no stretch of the imagination am I even close to an expert, I have had many conversations with my mom regarding the significance of the first five years of a child’s life. My mom has always stressed how vital this time is in establishing the child’s sense of trust and security, knowledge of unconditional love, and unwavering high expectations. One aspect of our many conversations centered around the child’s ability to learn to delay gratification. While I know that by the time our children arrive in our classrooms, they are beyond the crucial first five years, but many have never come close to mastering the ability to delay gratification. But I still feel we as teachers can and must make a difference in this critical learning. One of the things I have learned this year in teaching first grade is that too many of my kids do not have or are they even close in mastering the ability to delay gratification. This made the beginning of the year a little rocky and even now because of this issue, some days are most challenging. I guess I never really realized how important it is to challenge children to honor and take responsibility for the management of the social and teaching day until my first graders presented me with this ongoing dilemma. In today’s society when it seems as if we are constantly moving and doing something and pushing forward (at least we think it is forward progress), we can’t lose sight of the groundwork that makes present and future learnings possible. Amidst my mom’s research and readings, she often quoted a piece of research that contended that the single most important milestone in child growth and development for a child to master to secure and predict academic success is to master the ability to delay gratification So, for me while I know there is a lot to cover in one year academically, I also feel I must give them a firm grounding in daily living the life of a strong student in all aspects of what this means today and over their lifetime as students and as citizens of the world. This is a vital part of shaping who my kids will be. Therefore, in my class we have spent a lot of time slowing down, articulating issues and conflicts, waiting and respecting the actions and words of others, patiently seeking the thoughts and opinions of others, routinely delivering kind and helpful messages, considering the rights of others in decision making, and patiently and routinely taking turns. For me, I have grown to realize that there are going to be days when there are things I planned that I just don’t achieve with them, and that is okay. (I am still working on accepting this.) I realize that my day should not be a race against time, but rather using the time I have to make whatever we are doing meaningful and relevant and not rushed for the children I am teaching. Maybe my ongoing modeling of the fact that we are a family together, not one of us more important than another, will slowly but surely bring them to a comfortable free choice of automatically seeing another’s rights and considering his ideas, With the goal of academic success for all my children this year and for many years to come, it seems undeniable that I invest energy, time, and thoughtful pursuit in doing all that I can to assure that my children will be successful in learning to postpone gratification, which will give them their best shot at ongoing academic success today and for their future, Teaching them to be patient with one another, learning to share, communicating compassionately, and helping each other along the way-if they master this and with the support of a new administration moving in this same direction, the world should certainly be a better place. Celebrate a new era!

Monday, January 5, 2009

The Uglies

This book has been around for quite a while, however I was just introduced to it and had the pleasure of reading it over winter break. After finishing the Twilight series I was a bit concerned that it would be a while before I found another series or book that would touch me in quite the same way. My sister is a fifth grade teacher and her students recommended The Uglies by Scott Westerfeld. Although I must say that it didn't quite hit the same chords as Twilight (which is meant more for older teenagers- if not adults in my opinion- but that is a whole different blog)- it was well written, entertaining and a quick read. The book explores the pressures of today's society and some of our societies foolish thinking and habits. The characters are relatable and engaging. It would make for a great literature circle book for middle school grades. It is the first in a series of three (Pretties, Specials). I will not go into much detail on the review as I am sure many blog readers have already read the book but I wanted to pass along my recommendation just in case you haven't had the chance to read it yet.