Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Take a page out of our social skills book- Integrity

I'm nuts over social skills. Funny- because I'm definitely not the best at my own set of social skills, but maybe that's why I like teaching about them so much... it helps remind myself I'm a work in progress and there's always room to grow and become a better person than I was yesterday. I really try to integrate social skills into our academics and our classroom climate multiple times a day. Along with social skills, I try to emphasize certain character traits that I think are important. One of the major character traits I teach my students is integrity. We talk about it at the beginning of the year, but that's about it. I bring it up when I notice students are or aren't showing integrity in situations at school. Now that testing is winding down and we are down into the teens on days left in school, I was finding myself having to give a lot of reminders on doing what is right, because we KNOW it's the right thing to do.

My lil' talks weren't working.

I'm pretty sure as soon as I stepped on my soap box, kids thought, "Oh here she goes again..."

I had to change something.

So I went to what I know best (but sometimes forget about): scenario cards and letting the students do the talking. I whipped up some scenario cards and with some extra time in our schedule now, we made some time to review what it means to show integrity, why we choose to be a person of integrity, and all the times in the day when we have the opportunity to have integrity.

Thanks to A Sketchy Guy's awesome clip art to help protect my kiddo's identities :) And to Educlips for the speech bubbles!

I just quickly gave them a brief description of the activity and we did one together. We talked about our 3 questions before making a choice: Is it the right choice? Will it make me proud? Does it show honesty and responsibility? If we can say yes to these, we are on the path to integrity (saying it in a loud, superhero like voice of course). If we say no to any of them, then WRONG WAY! We picked a card and wrote down choices we could make. If we could answer yes to that choice, we put it on one side; if we could answer no, we put it on the other side. It showed us that we know the choices we could make in a situation... ok, now off you go kiddies!

We took out our white boards and spaced them around the room. We walked around and read the card at each set of boards. We brainstormed choices and put them on the board that was either the 'wrong way' or the 'path to integrity.' I let them walk around with a partner to bounce ideas off. They were very serious and focused during the 10 minutes while they explored the different scenarios. 

They stopped and read other classmates ideas (well... most of them) before adding their own.

I laid out extra mini-posters with the 3 questions and to help remind them what board is what.

Now it was time to reflect and take a look at all the choices we could make in one situation. Here are some of their responses.

Scenario: The teacher is working with a small group during reading time and you're doing independent reading at your desk.

Scenario: A substitute teachers is in your classroom.

Scenario: A friend is calling someone mean names at recess on the playground.

Scenario: A friend wants to copy your work and answers.

Scenario: Your family asks if you have homework tonight... and you do.
We had a lot of other scenarios too that applied to things outside of school, as well as inside of school such as finding money that doesn't belong to us or being in the classroom when the teacher is talking to someone out in the hallway. A lot of these things can be considered other traits as well such as honesty and responsibility, but we defined integrity as doing the right thing even if no one is watching... it's more about knowing the choices and choosing what is right.

Now that they had a lot of ideas in their head, we were going to have a discussion. 

"Can we do a grand conversation with talking chips?" one little one asked.

"Why- I think that's a great idea!"

They gathered in the circle, got their talking chips and we talked about these questions:

  • What does it mean to have integrity?
  • Why should we choose to show integrity?
  • What are the effects of showing or not showing integrity?

They held their own discussion while I took some notes at my desk about what they talked about, how they shared their ideas, and who was sharing. What I loved about this whole thing- I gave some structures and they created their own learning. I love times like that. Makes my job easy and makes their learning stick.

Throughout the week, I tried to give them more extreme opportunities to show they've learned something. I purposely will go into the classroom next door when we transition from the hall to the learning time and watch what they choose to do through our curtain (some kids have caught onto my little trick though and see me right away). Other times, I stay in the back of the line and just watch how they choose to conduct themselves when I'm at the other end of the line. We stop often at transitions where they have more independence and reflect on their choices.

Hopefully this will save my sanity with these last couple of weeks, while also teaching them a valuable life lesson.

Sunday, April 26, 2015

Build-A-Library Baby Shower

I was on a roll last year with this blogging thing... this year... not so much!

I just can't find the time! 
Sunday evenings: Hockey
Monday evenings: Girls on the Run
Tuesday evenings: Teach after school (one more day!!!)
Wednesday evenings: Plan with my Team
Thursday evenings: Usually some some committee meeting or school group
Friday evenings: asleep by 7 pm because this girl is t-i-r-e-d
Saturday evening: out and about for SOMETHING.

See what I mean?

I have lots of ideas and things to share about our classroom happenings...
it just ain't happenin'

Maybe this summer.


Last Sunday, I threw a baby shower for my older sister who is having twins! My mom and I hosted it at her lil' house (They just bought the house last year and many people hadn't been to it, so we did it there so people could see it. Good thing too- there's no way we could have gotten all the gifts home in one trip!). I've been spending a lot of my free time the last 2 weeks to getting stuff ready for it. 

I had the attitude: "Oh, I can make that." "Oh, I can find something like that." "Oh, that wouldn't be hard to put together."

Woof. It was super fun, and I loved creating everything for it, knowing it was for my awesome sister, but man, I overestimated the amount of time it would all take. Good thing I only have one sister.

Since she and I are both teachers, I knew I wanted to through a book-themed baby shower. Take a look into the special day for my sis!


I made a hot-air balloon mobile to go over the cake (you'll see later). Pinwheels were made out of a book one of my students "accidentally" ripped up. They spruced up her flower bed right by her door. I also made the party sign. You can't see because it was windy and rainy, but there were balloons tied to it also. I made it from all wood-like things from Michaels and a lil paint + gorilla glue. I didn't go too crazy on decorations as a) it's a small house b) we were planning on 25+ guest coming= space issues and c) time.

My sis kept saying she wanted a onesie garland... but I wanted to keep the book theme. So I made up these little onesies all book inspired. She loves Harry Potter so I had to include some of those. And because they are twins, you know they had to have a Thing 1 and Thing 2 set. I made a few others too to complete the garland.

Strega Nona's Pasta Salad and Stink Cheese Man Cheese Plate
I scoured Pintrest to find book themed menu items. I literally was so rushed that I barely got any pictures before guest arrived (or even during it because it went so fast). So these are literally the only pictures I got of the food. Not the best. Still learning how to be a hostess and all (I need my own house so I can practice).

Cloudy with a Chance of Barbecue Meatballs and Veggies from Peter Rabbits Garden (sitting in flower pots)

Very Hungry Caterpillar Fruit tray (more like fruit bowls), Popcorn Favor Popcorn Bar, and the AMAZING cake inspired by Oh, the Places You'll Go.
My teammate Kate (McDee's Busy Bees) creates cakes as a hobby. Isn't she ridiculous?!?! This is the front and back of the amazing cake... and it tasted delicious as well!
I told you I struggled with getting pictures- check out the nearly empty lemonade haha. On the left is the "Fizzy Lifting Drink" made with raspberry lemonade, pink Moscato , and Sprite... it was delicious! Note to self: Don't put little frozen berries in these containers- they love to get stuck in the spout and make it difficult to dispense liquid, thus having to use  a ladle in a make-shifty way.
Shower Time!
 Again, I barely got any photos of the actual shower. :( Oh well... the memories will stay either way!

My sister and I, and My mom and sister. She's 25 weeks here.
Side note: Good thing we did it last weekend- 2 days ago we had a little scare. As of now, everything is fine, but I'm glad we got to do a little celebrating before! You never know with twins!

It was sad to cut into the beautiful cake- put totally worth it.
Because it was a book theme, I asked guest to bring a book for the babies. Here are the invites (Again, I thought it would be cheaper to make my own... yes, it was cheaper... but super time consuming!). I painted this crate from Michaels to match the babies room. Once we know their names, I'll add their first initials to the front of the crate too. For now, it just has a big ampersand on it. And I kinda like it. People were so gracious with the books- we filled the whole crate!

Guest were also gracious with the gifts. We ran out of space to put them so we started to pile them into the cribs for now. Car seats, strollers, clothes, and toys... these little ones are all set! I'm so excited for my sister and brother-in-law!

And I'm excited to just be a guest at the next shower next weekend... this one pooped me out!

Thursday, April 9, 2015

Strategy Seminars: Revising Edition

We are powering through our last major unit in writing- a fairy tale unit. It's fun, allows creative juices to flow, and builds off of skills from earlier in the year... a perfect unit while we wrap up this test prep in reading and prepare to take our big state test for the year. Today we started the revising process. We haven't done a whole lot of it this year- largely due to just learning the basics of writing to begin with. And sometimes, the revising techniques are great for some of my writers, but not for all. I had to think of another way to give them more opportunities for revising that fit their needs and now that they are more independent than at the beginning of the year; I had an idea: enter strategy seminars.

I looked at my students writing over spring break and noticed some reoccurring areas that could use some improvement. I wrote down some "glowing" things as well as some "growing" ideas to each of their drafts to help give some feedback to lead them down the revising path that could benefit them. 

I created 4 different seminars and prepared some station materials. Each station had the station name complete with a teaching point. On the back side of the frames, was the revising poster to remind them why we revise. We noticed that these different strategies help us revise in different ways, so it was nice to have this reminder.

Students got one of these half sheets to help them plan and record which seminars they attend. Why do I call them seminars? Because students ultimately have the choice. Really, most of them would benefit from any and all of the strategies, so I like that they have some choice- it gives them power and makes them invest in the work.

Each one had a teaching point tied to a revising strategy in my Editing and Revising Strategy Poster set. I included a small reference card of these posters to go with each center to help provide support for the group. I prepared some guided note pages for 4 different strategies.  On the front, students were to notice and discuss from a 'sample' of a student's draft (I just wrote one to fit my need). There were discussions prompts to have at the end with others at the seminar to help them realize the problem this writer faces. On the back, students then had a chance to practice a strategy to help this writer accomplish the teaching point. Plus, it serves as a reference for them to keep and look at when they do it in their own writing.

Students then got to pick their first seminar. Only 5 were allowed at each one (6 for 2 due to our numbers). Surprisingly, they split up pretty well. They worked together to read the sample text, carried on their own discussions based on the prompts, collaborated on the practice activity, and most importantly, stayed engaged and created their own learning with their peers. It allowed me to float around, check in with groups and guide. 

After about 10-12 minutes, students went back to their desks and applied the strategy with their own writing. My teammate (who also used these today on a last-minute whim... she said it went GREAT) had a genius idea I wish I would have thought of! Each station had a different colored pen. That way, she can see what types of revisions her students made! I wish I would have done that! Next time...

Many found the strategy they worked on to be helpful! And they were able to apply it to their writing. Tomorrow, we will continue again and hopefully get in 2 different seminars depending on time (since we had to take time to model expectations today). I can't wait to make some of these revising seminar practice pages for our other units for next year!

How do you deal with the revision step of the writing process? I'd love to hear!