Sunday, October 8, 2017

Kindness Week

It's been a rough one in Vegas this past week.

However, it was also kindness week.

Here were some of our activities:

We made a kindness chain.  I modeled a sentence stem:

Gave them the time and space to discuss kindness:

Then hung it outside our door.

We took those same ideas to create leaves, which went on our school kindness tree:

(Our art teacher made this because she's amazing.)

We read:

We made:

They wrote compliments to one another to be bucket fillers:

I took home enough to make each kid a compliment from me:

We dedicated an entire bulletin board to our bucket filling:

It will stay up for about a month.

We watched this {Respect Rap} and made posters for Friday's respect march and pep assembly.

We all wore blue on Friday.  Not only did it symbolize our grief over the last weekend's events, it also serves as a stand up to bullies color and helped our school feel unified.  This was a district wide spirit day.

Saturday, October 7, 2017

Kindness Week and Healing

I'm not sure if it was solely for our school district or a national event, but we celebrated Kindness Week.  It was pre-planned, but coincided with our local tragedy last week.  There is a lot of frustration surrounding conspiracy theories (which don't help the healing process), but there has been an amazing outpouring of love and support from people all around the world.  I truly hope no other city has to experience the hysteria, grief, chaos, and raw emotions that follow a mass shooting, but until gun reforms and mental health reforms are in allowed to occur, I fear Vegas won't be the last.

Unrelated to our tragedy, a mile from my house three teenagers were killed walking down the street when a car was racing another, lost control, and hit them.  There is a growing memorial on the sidewalk and these were innocent children who were doing nothing wrong.  As a teacher, that eats me up inside. These weren't my students, but they were neighborhood kids who went to the middle school across the street from my elementary school.  It hit far too close to home.

However, like many, I was in a unique bind.  I was processing my own emotions, but needed to put on a brave and stabilizing face for my students.  All but one showed up on Monday.  We discussed the event, focusing on the healing efforts and the actions of the heroes (not the murderers).  I did not allow space or time for discussion on the terrorist or his actions.  That is glorifying the madman.  I reiterated that they were safe and loved.

 We made cards for first responders and victims:

They've been delivered to the local fire station, police headquarters, and UMC hospital.

Wednesday night, social media exploded with rumors of shootings that were set to occur on Thursday.  The school district released this statement:

A 18 year old was found to have been making the threats and was arrested.

I had three kids miss on Thursday. I reassured their parents that I understood and respected their concerns.

We keep our doors locked at all times now.  Granted, they are propped open and I have a magnet in the door so it doesn't fully shut, but can be quickly removed in if necessary.  Part of our back to school teacher training was on active shooter protocol.  I'd hope we never have to use it.  After this week, everything feels so personal and too close to home.

We gather as a school on Friday mornings to do the pledge, hear announcements, and sing the monthly song.  In honor of Nevada Day, October's song has always been "Home Means Nevada."  This week it took on a very different meaning.

Many of the teachers, myself included, choked back tears.

I'm glad it was kindness week.  Having several pre-planned activities that focused on spreading love was needed to survive this difficult week.

Friday, October 6, 2017

Stuff and Things

If you're a frequent reader, you may have noticed my new blog header.  Welcome to the revamped version of my blog.  

This year marks a significant chance in my teaching career.

This year is my first year in third grade.

This year is my first year with a predominately male team. 

This year is my first year as a mentor to a student teacher (from BYU-I).

This is a year of changes and firsts.

While I still firmly love my polka dots, flip flops, and novels, it was time for a change.

Several years ago, I had the opportunity to meet Dr. Frey (of Fisher and Frey).  My students had just returned from a magnificently educational field trip.  We'd studied various scientific concepts and this was a well planned, efficiently executed culminating learning experience for the fifth graders.

However, they are also hormonal ten year olds.  So when we encountered Dr. Frey in the hallway returning from my field trip and they were asked what they had learned, one of my snarky students simply replied "stuff".  Dr. Frey politely probed for more information (as we teachers do).  Another student piped up "things".  Dr. Frey shot me a disapproving look, said "well then" and turned to walk down the hallway.

That's right, they learned:

I have never been more embarrassed and simultaneously amused by my students.  With all the preparation in the world, children still say the most ridiculous things.

In respect to these unpredictable moments, I shall rename this blog in their honor.

In teaching, we cover stuff and things.  In life, we deal with stuff and things.  Cheers to the unexpected moments.

Thursday, October 5, 2017

Let's Taco About It

Yesterday was one of my favorite national holidays:

Okay, it's not really an official holiday but it's certainly one of my favorites.  

In honor of this awesome day, I decided to sneak in a mini math lesson on surveys, data analysis, and asking questions.

I posed three simple questions:

1) Where is your favorite place to get tacos?

2) What is your favorite filling?

3) Do you prefer hard or soft shells?

I had my students vote with a simple raise of their hands while I tallied the data on the smart board.  I modeled making predictions about what I thought would be the most popular answer and asking questions about the data.

Here are our results:

Afterwards, I asked them what the purpose of the lesson was.  Here's a sample of their responses:

-To let us practice having a voice
-To show us that it's okay to disagree
-To help us learn more about one another
-To practice asking questions
-To show that we don't all have to like the same things

Not bad for a fifteen minute mini-lesson.

Oh, and not to worry, I did participate:

Wednesday, October 4, 2017

Vegas Strong

Things are far from fine.

First, I was not at the event. I was at home.  That doesn't make this any less devastating.

Second, I had friends who were there.  Friends who literally ran for their lives.  Thankfully, they all escaped physically unscathed.

Third, not all were so lucky.  Las Vegas currently holds the new title of most deadly mass shooting.  As of the publication time, 58 innocent lives were lost with over 500 more in the hospital.

Monday was a very difficult day to be in the classroom.  We talked about the event briefly and tears were shed.  All but one of my kiddos showed up that day.  It was the last place I wanted to be, but I needed to be the face of stability in a time of crisis.  I gave a lot of hugs that day. 

Instead of glorifying the terrorist, instead I'll share how amazing the first responders and heroes were.  Story after story is emerging of people helping others.

B and I took boxes of non perishables and toiletries down to Sunrise Hospital Monday afternoon.

Churches were full of donations.  The Thomas and Mack was full.  Millions have been raised for medical costs and funerals.  Lyft and Uber are waiving drive fees.  People are taking strangers to the hospital and opening their homes.  Airlines are giving free flights for victims' families.  Hotels are waiving fees.  

Prayers are great, but so is action.  

Sunday, October 1, 2017

Writing Lessons

For me, writing is one of the hardest subjects to teach.  We don't really have a writing curriculum to follow (we don't have any curriculum, just standards), so we make it up on our own.

Luckily I have a great team and we work together well to share the responsibility of lesson planning.

Last year, I wasn't thrilled with my writing plans or instruction.  I was okay with writing, but it was the subject I'd often skip on days we had assemblies, project based learning lessons, counseling lessons, etc.  I think that dismissive attitude rubbed off on my students because they didn't seem to value writing either.

So instead of keeping with the status quo, I decided that this year I would be teaching writing first thing in the morning and do a more explicit job with modeling all steps of the writing process.  

I also made sure that if we skipped a day in writing, we skipped math or reading the next time.  More importantly, I verbalized this skip and why to the students.  I think there is value in them hearing me state that all subjects are important and that's why we take turns skipping them when other things arise.  

I also am explicitly teaching language mini-lessons instead of having them sprinkled throughout the writing instruction.  Fifth graders could handle these sporadic truth bombs, but the third graders (at least my group) need a more systematic approach to language.

At seven weeks in, here's what we've covered:

They just finished their first papers (autobiographies) and we're transitioning into personal narratives.  We'll do a few short writes, focus on conclusions, character traits, adjectives, and more typing mini-lessons.

We'll also be doing the Monster Project, but more on that later!


Teacher Tip: The Roster

Apparently I shared my love of "the roster" a few  years ago with this {post} but it was worth revisiting.

This weekend, I sat down to grade their autobiographies.

I made the rubric with the kiddos:

(They self-assessed in pencil and I scored with the highlighter.  It lends itself to a good discussion and helps the students be reflective of their own work.  They get the rubric before the editing and revising process so they know exactly what I'm looking for when I grade their work.)
I am looking at eight different standards with this assignment. We spent a month on it and specifically practiced each different component.

However, eight grades for 25 kids is a lot to keep track of.

Enter the roster:

I simply put the standard at the top and fill in their grades for each of the scored standards.  Then when it's time to put the scores in the grade book, I simply type down the list (because it's already in alphabetical order). 

Hooray for time savers!