Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Tattle-Tale Management: They Can Be Taught

Not all classroom teaching happens in the four walls of the classroom. Recess is a perfect opportunity for plenty of teaching too. If your recess runs anything like mine, the first few minutes are spent in blissful happiness. Students run to the playground structure, jump into the sandbox, look for ladybugs in the tall blades of grass, or they grab a ball and begin playing a game. You can almost do a count down and be guaranteed that within about ten minutes, students will suddenly show up in little packs to tattle-tale on each other. 

The tattle-tale process almost always runs the same as well. At least one of them is yelling something indecipherable over another one's cries. Often times, the one crying is louder, so you hear, "He is going to telllllllllllll on meeeeee!" The other one is either yelling, "Nooooooo I'm nooooooot!" or tries to shout over the crying to tell you what the alleged infraction is. Does this sound familiar to you? If it does, I have some ideas that have worked well for me.

I look each child in the eye and in a calm voice, explain to them that I would like to hear what they BOTH have to say. It seems that when both students know and learn to trust that they will both be guaranteed a time to voice their hurt, it helps to calm them down some. I usually suggest that they sit with me on a bench. For some reason, moving them from an aggressive stance where they can use their body language to continue a silent form of frustration to a separated chance to sit next to me also adds to helping them to calm down. 

In my classroom, we talk A LOT about how we work together and are on a team together this school year. When I sit down to have these feuding students talk, they are tempted to cut each other off and continue the yelling. If this happens, I calmly remind them that each of them will have a turn to talk and to remember that they need to work together with their teammate. This also helps to diffuse the frustration.

Before I give my suggestions to them for how to solve the problems, I explain to them that I will take a moment to think about what they have said. The next step is to suggest that they take a moment to discuss things between themselves to see if they can come to a solution on their own before I come up with one for them. I stand close enough by so that I can over hear their interaction and intervene if necessary. Many times, they can successfully come to a solution before I have to become involved. I hear out their suggestions, give accolades to the good ideas, and sometimes suggest a few more ideas as well.

If they do come up with a good solution, I ask them to tell me what they think they might be able to do next time so this does not happen again. Unfortunately, there are times where both parties are stubborn about wanting to work things out. If that happens, I ask both of them to sit in a separate place for a few minutes to think about some solutions and we have another group meeting and I walk them through some suggestions. 

Prior to excusing them back to the play space, I ask them if they have anything they'd like to apologize to the other person for. Usually, at this point, everyone has calmed down enough to think of something appropriate to say to the other person.

I can't say that every step of this process will work immediately. It takes awhile for the students to trust that the teacher will take the time to actually LISTEN to BOTH of them, regardless of who causes the infraction. It takes time on your part. If you consistently and calmly teach your students how to work out their differences with each other, they can be taught, by you, to work things out.

How do you deal with students who have difficulties working things out with others?

I'd love to hear!

Friday, March 20, 2015

Reading and Writing is FUN!

This week has been one of those weeks where I have had a number of entertaining moments as a teacher. I feel like someone could have put up a sign that says, "You know you are a teacher when...."

I mean, how can you argue with that? Birds DO do that in the spring. (Yes, I just wrote Do do....and it wasn't meant to be a Freudian slip, but it works.) Needless to say, I'm not so sure the parent would be pleased to see my little genius's work of art up with everyone else's, so we discussed option number two and went with that.

The next day, I came to school and collected homework. One of the parents had a cute story to share with me. Her son had rocked his reading homework so well, he started with a bunch of "one-liners". 

His lines are so hilarious! "Man, Mrs. Aronen will be so IMPRESSED!" "I'm on FIRE tonight!" The best one...."Mrs. Aronen so loves guys who can read by themselves!" Oh.my.word. How cute is that? It made me feel so happy that he thoroughly enjoyed the activity with his mom. To make it even better, if you love those cute kid voices from the Welch's Grape jelly commercials, that's his voice. To a "T"!

And now for what REALLY made my week. Thanks to an AMAZING product created by DeeDee Wills, my students were BEGGING to write this week. I'm really not exaggerating at all. I came across her March Writing Station by way of her blog post. I set up her station in my room and showed the students how to make their writing choices. I made a big deal about the fact that it was something they could CHOOSE to do when they finished their work. Ummmm....LOOK HOW POPULAR IT WAS IS!!!!

They LOVE the station because the "I Can" statement posters show them that they CAN make lists and they CAN label pictures and they CAN make a book and they CAN write a story and they CAN make a card for someone. Look at all the beautiful picture cards with vocabulary they have in one place to use to write. I was a bit blown away by the fact that my MOST RELUCTANT writers actually CHOSE to write a story!! This product really empowered my students and has given them a boost in their writing self-esteem. If you want to see this much enthusiasm with your young writers, head on over to DeeDee's store. She has a writing station for EVERY month. She even put them together in a bundle at a discount if you'd like one of each.

I hope your week ends great. We've had a terrific one.


Sunday, March 15, 2015

Buddy Reading and Writing Activities

Building a strong community between groups at school can be done by pairing younger students with older students. At our school, our kinders have fourth grade Reading Buddies. Once a week, on Fridays, the fourth graders come to our room to work with our students. It is wonderful because both groups look forward to this time immensely. Since they started to work together, they now look for each other outside of the classroom (like at lunch or recess) as well. They love to be together and are disappointed to miss each other on scheduled days off.

When an older student gets to work with a younger student, it increases the confidence of the older student and both students feel an immediate sense of value in their school. The younger students look up to the older students and are thrilled to see them in passing on campus or at school events held outside of school hours. The parents feel their child is more engaged in the school when they have a meaningful connection to other students.

Ten years ago, as a new teacher, I was told I had fourth grade buddies and that I needed to plan something for them to do with each other once a week, for a half hour. I was a bit intimidated. I thought, it is hard enough to engage 24 little five year olds, how was I going to do it for those 24 five year olds, plus about the same amount of fourth graders? I found out that it doesn't have to be too complicated and no matter what you try, it will benefit all students.

The older students read the younger student's library books to them. They also read their weekly phonics books to them. The younger students treat their buddies just like their parents and lean all over them while being read to. When they read the little phonics books, here is a list of ideas I give to them to go over. I encourage the older students to see if the younger students can read any of the words on their own. Each student is given a small white board, marker, and wipe to do activities with their book.

Extension Ideas for Reading Groups

*Read the story through once more. Allow students to read different pages than they did the first time.
* Think of a comprehension question you can ask for each page.
* Discuss vocabulary on each page. Don’t assume children know the meanings of each word.
* Look at each word. Have them tell you how many sounds are in a word.
* Look at each sentence. Have them tell you how many words are in a sentence.
* Focus on punctuation. Have them identify when they see a period or question mark. Discuss what purpose each one serves.
* Look at each sentence. Focus on where the spacing between words is. Have them identify the space.
* Choose a word from the story and write it on your whiteboard. Have them identify what letters are vowels and what sound that vowel makes. Repeat with consonants.
* Use the whiteboard to play “Hangman” with words from the story.
* Use the whiteboard to play “Guess the Missing Letter” game with words from the story. You write a word, but leave out one or two letters.
* Focus on blending in words. You write a word from the story on the whiteboard. Touch and say the sound for each letter slowly. Run the marker under the word slowly and have them read the words slowly. Then run the marker under the word and have them read it faster.
* Pick a word from the story and write it on the whiteboard. See how many real words they can think of that rhyme with that word. Keep a tally on the top of the whiteboard.
* Allow them to choose a different ending for the book. What do they wished happened in the end of the story? Compare how that would be different from the real ending of the book.
* Discuss whether the story is fact or fiction. Could it really happen? What parts of the story could really happen? What parts could not?

Sometimes, we do hands-on reading and spelling activities with playdoh or paint. You should see the kids when we do this. I can't tell who gets more excited, the kinders or the fourth graders. I I give them each a ball of playdough to use with their buddies. 

I give them a word family list. I tell them that the ball of playdough represents one word at a time. They teach the kinder buddy how to break the word into individual sounds by pinching a piece of playdough for each sound. They line the sounds up on their desk. After breaking the pieces apart, they poke their finger into each piece and say the sound for that piece of playdough. 

For example: with the word "at", they get one ball of dough, but break it into two separate pieces to represent the two sounds /a/ and /t/. 

If the word has three sounds, they would break the playdough into three sounds.

Another fun activity we have done is to have the older buddies give the younger buddies a finger paint spelling "test". All words on our word wall are words that my students have been exposed to and should be able to spell by themselves at this point in the school year. Students spread finger paint all over their paper. The older buddies choose and say a word from our word wall. The younger student spells that word by unblending the word into individual sounds and "writing" those right onto the finger paint paper. If they make a mistake, they just rub it out and try again. If they get it correct, they rub it out and do another one.   

The older students loved this so much that one said on her way out the door, "I vote that we write our next essay using this method!"

If your school uses "Buddies", I would love to hear about what they do together at your school!


Tuesday, March 3, 2015

March Art, Science, and Spraypaint

Hello! Marissa from The Inspired Owl's Corner and Lisa from PAWSitively Teaching are opening their monthly pick 3 Linky party for all of us to share some great ideas for you to use in your classroom in March! Thanks, Ladies!!

Here are some ideas I have for you.

My students really enjoyed creating the oil pastel and watercolor reindeer from ARTventurous in December, so when I saw that the author created a cute version of a bunny rabbit using the same medium, I saved her lesson immediately to my Pinterest board. I seriously love that even though the students all follow the same directions, each creation turns out with an entirely different personality! In most of her posted creations, the students painted with one color of watercolor in the back. I kind of liked the one that showed two colors kind of mixed. This made me think about trying this project on our watercolor paper. I found a bunch of it on sale sometime back, so I am going to try it out. I bet it really makes the background turn out cool!

Please click on picture to be taken to original Pinterest link,

In our class, we do have science lessons on matter. We don't get to talk a lot about viscosity of liquids in kindergarten, but with a big focus on rainbows in March, this would be a really great science project to do. One aspect I really enjoy about teaching kindergarten is that most of them don't come in with any idea of what could happen when you mix liquids such as honey, light corn syrup, dish soap, olive oil, rubbing alcohol, or water. Watching their eyes bug out and hearing them yell, "Boooooyaaaaah!" when something really cool happens is just pure fun. I saw this experiment done on a few websites and one of the authors mentioned that it was REALLY IMPORTANT to add the ingredients down the side of the jar S-L-O-W-L-Y and that more was not better when adding drops of color. The more color added, the more difficult it becomes to differentiate the colors in the rainbow experiment.

Please click on picture to view original Pinterest link.

Finally, this is a project that Debbie Clement found at a conference created by a teacher named Cindy Tuisku. I was drawn to how beautiful each picture was and then amazed that they were created by a kindergarten class! Debbie does suggest that you read the directions carefully three times. If you scroll to the bottom of her post and read Cindy Tuisku's response to Debbie's post, she tells more about how she managed her class while creating this project using real spray paint.

Click on picture to view original Pinterest link.
If you like these ideas, check out what some others have found for you by clicking on the linky below. If you'd like to join the linky it will be open for the next month.

I love to collect pins for things that can be done in my classroom. If you are interested in seeing those, click on For My Classroom.


Friday, February 27, 2015

Create a Free Avatar for Fun!

Avatars are so fun to create. Today, I created an avatar for myself. I have naturally curly hair and the site I used didn't really have an option for what my crazy hair can look like on a bad day, but it did have an option for what my hair might look like on a pretty good day when I straighten it out.

Created by Christina Aronen on mybluerobot.com

If you'd like to create your own avatar, you can do it using something offered by a company called My Blue Robot. It is free, though they do ask at the end if you'd like to make a donation to Take Steps for Crohn's and Colitis.

Though the website is fairly user-friendly, I have a tutorial for you here:

This is what the main page looks like.

Choose what gender you'd like to create.

Choose a face shape. 
Choose a skin color.

Choose what you'd like your iris to look like.

You can also choose the color and shape of your eyes.

Choose your hairstyle.

You can alter natural hair color if you wish.

Choose an eyebrow shape.
Use the directional arrows to tilt eyebrows.

Choose a mouth.
You may tilt or widen it using directionals.

Choose a nose.
Use the zoom to enlarge or make smaller.

Choose an ear shape.
Some hairstyles do not show ears.

Choose a clothing style.
Use the color swatches or wheel to change color.

Glasses can be added.
Styles and color can be chosen.
Use directionals to lower or raise glasses.
Use zoom to make smaller or bigger.

Choose a background.
Or leave blank if you prefer.

Backgrounds can be colored as well.

Click "download" on lower right corner.
It will go straight to your downloads folder.

Finished product!
Have fun with it!

I uploaded mine to Microsoft Publisher and added words to mine and a border too. I forgot to add that you can also zoom the actual picture in or out and tilt the head either direction as well if you'd like.

I hope you have fun trying this out! I did.


Monday, February 2, 2015

Valentines Day Math and Writing Activities

How fun was it to start the week out on Ground Hog Day? Our students loved it. I showed them some PowerPoints about the day and they were so funny. They thought it was ridiculous that a ground hog looking at his shadow could tell us that there would be six more days of winter!

As we look at February and have only 11 more days until winter vacation, I've been looking for some great ways for them to enjoy integrating Valentines Day into our activities. I found some great ideas and I'd love to share them with you!

Click on image to view original Pinterest link

Cathy Wolfram at Adore Your Place is an interior designer and a mother of three children. She created this beautiful picture for the teacher as an end-of-the-year picture. In our class we make a memory book and if I could possibly get my classful of kinders to stand still for two seconds, I think I would LOVE to make this to include in each of their books. I think I will do our picture on a red paper background. It would be really cute with patterned paper too.

Click on image to view original Pinterest link

Littlebins has some really terrific Valentines Early Learning hands on math activities. This pin will take you to some really engaging math fun.
#1: Counting by 10's
#2: Patterning
#3: Math Game
#4: Graphing
#5: Water Bead Math
#6: Number recognition, 1:1 counting to 20

All of these great activities use some really cute math manipulatives!

Click on the image to view original Pinterest link

Finally, Mrs. T's First Grade Class has some sweet Valentines Day activities. I thought this writing project was terrific. She offers a free printable with the prompt that states: "I once was a candy heart and now I am a....." The idea is that you take a candy heart from the conversation heart candy box and create a picture around it. In this example above, she turned her heart into a cat nose. For younger students, you can simply have them write the name of what they turned their heart into. For older students, encourage them to add some adjectives, adverbs, and prepositional phrases to make the sentence sound more interesting.

If you'd love to find some more excellent February Fun Finds, check out what these bloggers have found for you to do!


Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Do You Have a Digital Story to Tell?

Kristen, Juliet, and Cassie over at the Teaching Trio host a linky called Technology Thursday. It is a weekly linky dedicated to all things technology related. Teachers can share reviews of websites or apps you've tried, tech tips that make your {teaching or personal} life easier, and helpful tutorials. Their hope is that this linky provides a place for teachers to share and learn new ways to use technology and engage students!

Be a rule follower!
Rule #1: Include the image above and a link to their blog somewhere in your post.
Rule #2: Be a good blog reader...visit the two blogs who link up before you and leave some love on their pages!
Rule #3: This linky is not intended for product promotion. You may include products you've created in your posts, but they should not be the sole focus of the post.

Today, I have an amazingly easy way for you to tell your story. You can use still pictures, text and embed videos right into the story. This program allows you to create a timeline and use a Google map to help take your viewers along on your story. The program is called MEOGRAPH. One of the nicest things about it, it is FREEEEEE!

I can think of a number of ways you can use this program with your class.

1) Students can create a meograph to tell a story about a biography and to show the different places the character travelled to in a lifetime.
2) Students can tell their autobiography.
3) Students can use this program to create their own lit trip through a book such as done with Google Lit Trips.
4) Students can create a Meograph to share their vacation or field trip stories with the class.
There really are numerous ways you can use this program.

Not only is this program free, it is easy to use. I am including a tutorial for you here.

Begin by opening the website and click on the "Try!" button to begin.

Add a title and then click on "add a moment".

Choose whether you would like to add a photo, video, and even narration. Next, click on "More" to add the location and other information for each "moment" you add.

Next, you can add links, text, where, and when the "moment" happened. I love that by doing this, a Google map is added. As you enter each "place", a line moves from the previous to the new place on a Google map. You can adjust the size of the map as well, by zooming in or out up at the top of the map. You just repeat this process over and over for however many "moments" you want to include in your story.

Click on the picture above to be taken to a Meograph I created to tell the story of a mission trip I took to Mexico. It has still pictures, text, narration, and even includes an embedded video.

If you like this tech tip, click on the button at the top of this post to visit the Teaching Trio for some other ideas!



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