Monday, September 24, 2018

I'll huff and I'll puff and I'll

....Build a better house that won't fall apart. Does this sound a little familiar?  After reading The 3 Little Pigs we decided to build a house out of recycled material and odd pieces of scraps to construct a house that wouldn't blow down.  We had to work as table teams and we had 20 minutes.  We had to use whatever was in the box at the table. Oh, we used a powerful hairdryer instead of a wolf...just in case of allergies.

We are happy to announce that the houses could stand up to the force of the "wind'.

Then we visited Goldilocks and the 3 Bears. We surely could build a chair that wouldn't break with some weight on it.  So once again, we pulled out our boxes of odds and ends, decided to use an apple to be the test weight and worked together as a team to see if we could help Goldilocks with her chair repair.

We learned from these 2 challenges how to work with each other and focus on what the task was, not on what each of us wanted to do!

I wonder what Little Red Riding Hood is up to?

Friday, September 21, 2018

Goal for the Win!

This week, I asked the students to spend a few minutes doing something out of our routine in order to hopefully make a huge impact on their year. The students reflected on areas that could use some focus and attention.  These areas that need attention were worded positively and made into a goal for the students. I wanted my students to think about themselves as a student and classmate, but also as a person outside of school. They set an academic, behavioral/social, and personal goal for themselves.

I was so impressed by the reflective thinking that my students engaged in.  The goals were so specific to each student, that it was obvious that serious thought had been given.  Some students focused on a specific academic subject, while others chose to focus on a practice that will help across all academic areas.

In terms of behavioral and social goals, the students took this in many different directions as well.  Some students chose to improve on their use of the school-wide quiet signal, while some wanted to focus on including others throughout the day.  I also appreciated the thought that went into the personal goals that students set for themselves. Some students wanted to improve on their athletic skills, become more responsible, and others simply wanted to be more helpful around the house.  Regardless of what was written as a goal, the students seemed to take ownership of them.

The students will be revisiting these goals weekly.  They will be asked to discuss how they are progressing towards their goal.  The conversations will be structured in a way that is most beneficial to the students.  I expect some weeks will produce more progress than others, and that is okay! While I will be checking in with each student individually,  they will also meet with their “goal partner” from time-to-time. Participating in a discussion about their goal and progress is an integral part of their success.  I cannot wait to see the progress that these AMAZING fifth graders make throughout the year. I’m lucky to be a part of it!

Thursday, September 20, 2018

May the Force Be With You!

Very often, magnets are one of the first aspects of science that children discover. They can be found in so many everyday objects children encounter on a daily basis, from refrigerator magnets to magnets on the back of plastic letters found in their toy box. It's no wonder! Magnets are easy to use, safe, fun, and most importantly: surprising. One of the most fascinating things about magnets is the way they can attract metal objects and other magnets “at a distance”, invisibly, through what we call a magnetic field.

Third graders have been exploring the properties of magnets and forces during our science unit “Balanced Forces”. First, I introduced them to the phenomenon of a floating train in a mysterious town. They were then on a mission to determine what caused this train to rise off the tracks, float in the air, and then fall back down at the end of the trip.

After exploring different kinds of forces, we focused our attention on the power of magnets. The students had the opportunity to determine what types of materials were attracted to magnets, when magnets repelled and when they attracted other magnets, and how the magnetic force could act on objects without even touching the object (non-touching forces).

Today, students were presented with the challenge of trying to make a train (represented by a block of wood) move without anything touching it. After all the observations and experiments over the past few weeks, I was still impressed with how quickly the students were able to assemble the magnets to make the block move. Not only were they able to explain to their partners why the block moved without anything touching it, they also made the connection that this was also a similar situation to the floating train. I  feel so confident that these third graders now have a strong understanding of how magnets and magnetic fields affect other objects.

Wednesday, September 19, 2018

Reading is Everywhere!

Many students say I don't like reading!  Or I'm better at math!  But reading is actually in every subject including math.  The question is how do parents get their children to enjoy reading?  This can be an uphill battle for both parents and teachers.  One way is to read to your child everyday.  Somewhere parents have gotten the idea that kids don't need to be read to.  That's all wrong.  I even sat in on Mrs. Kraabel's read aloud time and I was mesmerized.  I wanted to know what was going to happen next in the book they were reading.  Even high school students like to be read to!  15-20 minutes daily is ideal, but even 10 minutes is helpful.  Parents should be reading too.  Kids will model what they see. So if you are reading, chances are good that your child will read too.  Just like if you spend lots of time on your smartphone your child will want to do that too.  The first few days, we played some getting to know you games.  One of the questions that came up was, "Who inspires you?"  A sixth grader said his Dad because he always does what is right and good.  So if your child sees you reading they will be more likely to pick up a book and read.  More to come....

Tuesday, September 18, 2018

Kindergarten Authors

In kindergarten our writing block is full of firsts for many of our students. Kindergarten students are used to listening to stories or drawing pictures of their favorite things but many of them have not been asked to plan and write a book about a topic that teaches the audience something new. For the past week we have been working on our teaching books. Students began by choosing a topic that they knew a lot about and wanted to share with their classmates. They were able to share their topics with a partner as well as with their table mates. Next students began planning what information they were going to teach on each page of their book.

To begin our teaching books we drew pencil pictures on our first two pages of our book. Next, students were asked to share their book topic with their team and their team took turns asking questions about the books. This allowed each kindergarten author to see what their audience understood about the pictures they had drawn and where they needed to add in more details to their drawing or add in a label to help the reader better understand the book. As an author in kindergarten, students do not always think about what the audience already knows about their topic. Using the questions from their team allowed the kindergarten students to be able to focus on adding more to their pictures to help the reader better understand what they are learning about when they read the teaching book.

Working on teaching books has allowed students to share and receive constructive feedback with one another. Students also needed to think of a topic they know well and take the initiative to plan their pages in order to ensure they are teaching the audience something new. We worked on stretching out sounds in order to add words in to our pictures as well. Students were challenged to write beginning sounds as well as additional sounds they heard in the word while stretching out the sounds.

As we finish up our teaching books students will be able to share their books with the class. It has been wonderful to see how proud students are of their books and I cannot wait to celebrate their success as authors as they teach their classmates something new!

Monday, September 17, 2018

2 Teachers - 3 R's (Reading, Responding, Routines)

For the third year, I have had the pleasure of co-teaching Reading with Mrs. Hall in 1st grade. We plan our lessons together and discuss our daily roles to maximize the benefit of having 2 teachers in the classroom. Our English Learners benefit because they are exposed to grade level reading instruction while getting support from the EL teacher.

1st grade reading skills establish a foundation for reading fluency and critical thinking. Instruction is implemented through the Reading Workshop model. This model ensures that all language domains are addressed during the reading block; speaking, listening, reading and writing.
Mrs. Hall reviews word endings with whole class.
Mrs. Hall and I alternate presenting whole group mini-lessons.This is when we introduce some aspect of literature or a reading strategy to the entire class. While one teacher is presenting the lesson, the other might be creating an anchor chart or informally assessing students' work to determine what needs to be explained again.
Informal assessment of student work by Mrs. Gamez

Next, students move onto Independent Reading. They can whisper read to themselves or read silently. Each student has a journal and responds to a prompt. It’s during this time that they apply the strategy that was taught in the mini-lesson or describe their favorite part of a story. During this time, Mrs. Hall and I confer with individual students or small groups.

Students then share their journal entries with each other. This encourages collaboration, feedback and inquiry.


As you can see, students transition from one component of the reading workshop to another. They are aware of the expectations for transitioning.  We practice how to gather materials and put them away; how to move from desks to reading spots, how to work with a partner, etc.  They are learning the importance of routines to be safe in the classroom, responsible for their own learning and respectful of their classmates' learning.  After all, that is the #GatorWay!

Friday, September 14, 2018

Olympic Sports

The Olympics can act as a catalyst for unifying countries through a peaceful competition. The purpose and goals of the modern Olympic Games is to bring political enemies together to promote peace and unity. They promote and encourage peace among nations.

In sixth grade we are studying the Olympics through an lens of inquiry. Students were shown images that showed athletes through the years from the first Olympics in Greece to the most recent summer games of Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. This helped them to formulate questions about those locations, events and people.

Through this line of wondering each student was able to choose one sport to research. They answered questions about the number of countries that play the sport, the number of spectators and the popularity of the sport. This led to a tournament to determine which sport is worthy of being in the Olympics.

The tournament began with one to one competitions where both partners had to agree one was more worthy. As sports were eliminated the students joined the winning team. Ultimately, we came down to four sports that are part of the final bracket. The final four will compete next week to determine the winning sport! We can't wait to see who wins!

Thursday, September 13, 2018

Sharing Cultures and Making Friends!

Sharing Cultures and Making Friends!

Moving to a new school can be very difficult to any student and if we think about moving to another
country with a new culture and language that could create a huge amount of stress and uncertainty for
anyone. That is why it’s so important to make all students feel comfortable and valued in our schools.
All of our students come with a story and it’s important to hear them when there ready to share it.

One of the first activities that we are working on this year in the ESL classroom is making
autobiographies of our students. While working on this activity the students use Cooperative Kagan
Structures of Learning to make sure that everyone gets the chance to share who they are, where they
are coming from, share information about their family and friends, what they are interested in and future
plans. While using Cooperative Kagan Structures of Learning the students  learn a second language
without even thinking of how they are covering the four components of language learning (Listening,
Speaking, Reading and Writing).

The students had a lot of fun learning about each other’s autobiographies. They even started asking
questions that were not in the autobiographies to know more about each other’s cultures and interesting
lives. A very important part of this project besides covering all four components of language was that by
sharing their biographies they found out that they have so many things in common even though they are
from different parts of the world. After this project I felt that the students were able to view each other as
someone they can relate to and see everyone as a friend, because now they know that someone cares
about their stories.

I am very excited for the upcoming lessons because I know that the students want to learn more about each other’s cultures, traditions, and values. It’s going to be amazing to see how we are all different but very similar in so many ways.

Block Play in Pre-K!

For the preschool classrooms school is only 2.5 hours a day and the kids stay busy the whole time! Part of our day is center time where students can independently choose and play in the centers of their choice. One of the most popular centers is the block center. In that center there are big wooden blocks, small wooden blocks, small foam blocks, cardboard blocks of various sizes, and tons of other materials to extend their block play. During block play students are little engineers and practice and learn a variety of skills that they will need for their future educational and life endeavors.

What do preschoolers learn from block play?
  •          Demonstrate persistence and creativity in problem-solving
  •          Important math concepts and skills are practiced and strengthened including length, measurement, comparison, numbers, estimation, symmetry, and balance.
  •          Science concepts such as creating and testing a hypothesis, cause and effect, stability, and balance are explored 
  •          Develop positive relationships with peers interacting verbally and non-verbally
  •          Engage in cooperative group play by helping, sharing, and taking turns
  •          Act out familiar stories and events
  •          Use hand-eye coordination
  •          Increase the child’s attention span

Students in preschool have already begun to make some awesome block creations this year!

One student is learning about balance and stability as he builds his tower on a slanted block.

At a young age students are also learning about the relationship between energy, force, and motion without even knowing it!

Tuesday, September 11, 2018

We remember...

Today is September 11, a day that America will never forget. Patriot's Day. A day that these fifth graders were not alive for, but a day that they desire to learn more about.

We started our morning by discussing what we already know about the attacks on September 11 and what lingering questions we still have about that day.

It was an amazing experience as a teacher, to hear all of the kids talking about that day and clearing up misconceptions. Some questions were answered by their teammates and some questions will always remain unanswered. The kids were so invested in this activity that they wanted to know what was going on in the minds of the hijackers, and what the passengers of the planes were feeling. 

After this discussion, we watched the CNN 10 video about September 11, 2001. It was incredible to see the students' reactions to the video. We had a deep discussion about heroism and the way that many average people stepped up in a time of turmoil to help their country. We talked about the obvious heroes, the firefighters and first-responders. But we dove deeper to talk about the passengers on the plane that crashed in the rural town in Pennsylvania, the citizens that carried people out of the rubble, and community members that donated clothes and water to those involved. 

In reading, we analyzed newspaper headlines from different states and talked about the reporters' different perspectives. Some headlines were more positive than others, focusing on the survivors more than the attack. It aligned so well to our reading unit which focused on analyzing the perspective of a story. 


In writing, we reflected on a quote from Sandy Dahl, "If we learn nothing from this tragedy, we learn that life is short and there is no time for hate." With this quote, our discussion quickly turned from solemn to motivated. We talked about the acts of kindness that came out of this horrific tragedy, and how we can honor those who lost their lives. As a class, we have already committed to a year of random acts of kindness. This day has given us more of a reason to live out that mission. We have planned for our next act of kindness to be in honor of the victims of September 11. 

We recreated the twin towers using pictures and quotes to remember this day. It is our visual to remind us of the commitment we have made to serving our school and community through random acts of kindness. 

September 11, 2001 was a tragedy that America will never forget. It is important for these kids to learn about their country and see how we came together as a unified nation.