Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Student Led Phys. Ed.

We are doing a “Sport Education” model this year with 6th grade.  In a nutshell, this is a curriculum and instruction model designed to provide the students with more authentic experiences through sports.  Not to mention that it has created a student-led learning environment!

The class is divided into teams for each “season” (formerly known as units) and each team member has a job, on top of being a player.  They are taking control of the P.E. classroom and are more responsible for their education.  The “jobs” each team member takes puts them into a different leadership role.

  •          Coach – Assists all players.  Organizes team’s practices and games/matches. They also work with teammates to find ways to best prepare for upcoming games.  Organize players before and during a game with substitutions
  •       Captain – Team captains are important team builders.  They help make a group of players into a team.  They lead by example, help teammates to do their best, and motivate them to want to get better.  Assist their team’s coach or fill in other roles if someone is absent.
  •          General Manager – Team managers organize and support the team, helps the equipment manager as needed.
  •        Fitness Trainer – Leads warm-up activities every day.
  •        Equipment Manager – Is in charge of the team’s equipment needs. 
  •        Publicist – Communicates relevant information about your team to the teacher and possibly to the rest of the class.  Taking attendance, organizing any paperwork, gathering the team’s performance data.

By running P.E. this way, I am putting more responsibility and ownership on the students.  They are holding each other accountable to make sure all jobs are done correctly and efficiently, so the team can be successful.
So far it is going great! 

The publicist comes in each day, takes attendance and the Fitness Trainer gets them moving with their warm up.  The Equipment Manager is fantastic – for one, it makes my job way easier when the kids are moving the equipment around!  And secondly, there are designated people who spring into action when their coach needs something.  No one fights over who got to carry what. They have a job and everyone respects who is doing it!  

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Try, Try, and Try Again

“Mistakes are proof that you are TRYING!”  

This quote is something I have been emphasizing daily in my Kindergarten classroom. Since it has barely been a month since school started, my students are still adjusting to what is expected of them at school, let alone learning academics. Most students in my class are starting completely fresh learning how to read and write, so it has been difficult to get them to see that learning something new takes time! Writing especially has been something we are struggling to find confidence for in Kindergarten. Many get frustrated quickly and say things like, “I can’t spell any words!” or, “I’m not good at writing!” These statements are very hard to hear as a teacher, as I want ALL of my students to believe in themselves and try their hardest when any obstacles are thrown their way.

Because of this, I’ve tried to find new ways to make writing more engaging and exciting for my students. We practice as a class how to sound out words that we don’t know how to spell. At this point in time, I am not looking for words to be spelled correctly, but rather just looking for them to TRY! This is a hard concept for them to understand, as they want their writing to be perfect, so frequently students are asking, “Is this right?” Rather than making sure our writing is “perfect,” I am encouraging students just to try and express themselves! If at this point they are more comfortable just drawing a picture of their ideas, that’s great! Spelling will come with time and practice, but I just want my students to understand right from the start that writing is about expressing your ideas, NOT about being “right.”

Something that is extremely important to building confidence in my little writers is allowing them to share their work. Students gain so much pride and confidence from being able to share their hard work with others, especially their peers. Knowing that they’re going to be sharing their work with their friends pushes them to try their hardest, and helps teach them to encourage each other in school. My favorite part about writing so far has been letting students present to the class in the “teacher chair.” Everyday, I have students either share their work with partners or in a small group, but every once in awhile, there is a student who really impresses me with either their hard work, determination that day, or their overall writing. When that happens, I allow them to sit in my rocking chair in front of the room and read their writing piece to the class. The student who gets to present just beams with joy, and the other students love to watch and enjoy the presentation. It makes me smile from ear to ear when I hear the encouraging words the students have for each other when one of their classmates gets to present their work. We are learning to be PROUD of our mistakes here in Kindergarten!

As a first-year teacher, sometimes I worry if I'm doing enough for my students, if they're succeeding like they should be, etc. Sometimes I feel that way, but then I receive writing pieces like these that remind me that I must be doing something right.

Monday, September 18, 2017

The Doctor is In!

Teaching the distributive property to third graders is often a very complicated topic. Students are easily confused with how multiplication can be divided into two separate equations. I recently found the idea of the ¨Distributive Doctor” at and this technique has been a lifesaver!!

First, students created an array using base ten blocks. They have gotten very proficient in arranging their counters into neat rows and columns. In small groups, students worked with me as the ¨Surgeons of the Day¨, equipped with protective face gear and scalpels in hand.

They each chose any way to ¨surgically¨ separate the array into two smaller parts.

Once the arrays were separated, the students recorded the new matching equation and solved the smaller parts before adding them to determine the total product. They absolutely LOVED being the doctors and being able to decide how to break each ray apart. They then compared their two new arrays with their neighbors to see which ones were alike and which ones were different. This helped them to see that the arrays could be broken up in many different ways.

I can't remember the last time my students were this engaged during a math activity! They couldn't wait to get back to meet with me to practice this skill! Best of all, when they had to independently practice the distributive property back at their seats, They all did a fantastic job without even using the manipulatives!


Friday, September 15, 2017

Creative and Ingenious Thinking

"The world needs your creativity and your energy and your vision."-Mark Zuckerberg (Founder of Facebook)

We all know that technology is advancing and computers are replacing more and more jobs. Consequently we may be thinking, "what skills will my child need to succeed in this computer/machine driven future?" Well, one thing a computer cannot do is think creatively/flexibly; a computer cannot solve problems in which the rules do not currently exist. Therefore, these skills are imperative for students to develop for the future.

In art, I strive to teach these creative and ingenious thinking skills through a choice-based art curriculum. Students are working on something called a W.O.W. project (wonderful, original work of art). These projects teach our young artists to think for themselves and develop artistic behaviors, like creativity, ingenuity, collaboration, perseverance, and communication. Each class was taught an art technique that they have to apply to a project they invent. Students are expected to:

  1. Form their own art concept that incorporates the art technique they learned
  2. Fill out a plan sheet to practice their art idea
  3. Students then gather their own materials to set up their work space
  4. Create their unique artwork 
  5. Engage and persist (work on an idea for more than 2 weeks for younger grades, 3 weeks for older grades)
  6. Reflect on and revise their artwork
  7. Explain their artwork, thinking, and artistic process in an artist statement and during share time

First graders are creating projects that must include different types of line in the background. As you can see in the picture below, students chose to add clowns, people, and animal faces on top of their line paintings.

Second graders are creating projects incorporating shading from the painting center or the drawing center. Below are progress pictures of a few second grade paintings showing creativity and shading.

Third graders are planning projects with space in them. Third grade got to choose between the drawing center, painting center, and collage center to create a unique work of art showing space (Larger objects in the front, smaller objects near the back, along with overlapping objects). Their progress can be seen below.

Fourth graders are working on projects with texture emphasized, choosing from the collage, painting, or drawing center.

Fifth and sixth graders have included shading and one-point perspective in their choice projects. Their unique works in progress are shown below.

You can follow more of our art progress on Instagram or Twitter @good_meadow_art

Thursday, September 14, 2017

Building Relationships in Kindergarten

There is an educational blog by Michael Linsin that I follow, that is all about classroom management. I read a post over the summer that really struck me. He said, "My number one goal at the end of the first day is not that they know the rules and consequences. It's that they're excited to be part of the class. That they run home to their parents and say, 'Oh my gosh, I have the best teacher. I have this awesome class. It's going to be great.'" This quote has really stuck with me and reminds me of the reason that I went into this profession. My ultimate goal as a teacher is to build strong relationships with and between my students that in turn leads them down a path of endless learning. I want to create lifelong learners that collaborate well. This journey starts in kindergarten.

This year, we have already started building those strong relationships in the classroom. We have worked together to accomplish challenging tasks and we have encouraged one another to be brave and take risks! One challenge the kids worked on together was called "Rabbit Hole." They each had their own cone that they had to place strategically on the ground to hold up the hula hoop. They worked together and talked about where to place the cones so that it would work. Once they got the hula hoop balanced on the cones, they all had to get inside without knocking it down. They cheered each other on and posed for a picture when they all got in!

Another way we build relationships in the classroom is to get to know our classmates on a deeper level. We do a lot of teambuilding activities to get to know each other and to find similarities among us. One teambuilder we did involved rolling the dice and talking about our favorite things. It was cool to see so many things they have in common!


We will continue to develop these relationships as the year progresses. It is so important for these kids to learn at an early age how important teamwork and collaboration truly is. Learning these skills is a huge part of our SEL plan.


Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Screen Time: How Much is Too Much?

Screen Time: How Much is Too Much?

Have you ever wondered how all the technology we (and our kids) are exposed to is affecting our ability to communicate? It’s hard not to be absorbed in the shift towards electronic communication and entertainment. We all use it to streamline work, keep in touch, and now it’s the more comfortable option for kids and teenagers when they interact with their friends. Technology absolutely has it’s place and it’s important that kids are proficient in typing and navigating devices, but there will be time for that. When they are acquiring language in the preschool years, let them be kids.

The most critical ages for avoiding screen time, and handheld screen time in particular (think phones, handheld games, tablets), is from birth to 18 months (Handheld Screen Time Linked to Delayed Speech Development, The ASHA Leader, August 2017). The exception is video chatting with family or friends, which should still be limited at this age. The research within this article suggested that expressive language delays were more prevalent with greater amounts of screen time. Even when you introduce some educational shows or handheld interactive games to your toddler or preschooler, it is really important to watch the show or play the game with your child, so that you can comment and ask questions to encourage deeper thinking. Now I know what you’re thinking-who has time for that all of the time? I get it, and believe me, I have to use tv so I can get dinner cooked sometimes too, but it’s a guideline to aim for that will help your child’s language grow more in the end.

The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) has released updated guidelines for screen time. You can check them out here for each age range. Their recommendations parallel the initial research that was discussed in the article above for infants to 18 months. As a speech-language pathologist, I recommend avoiding screen time until at least 2 years of age, because it’s such a critical period of development for communication, and all of that language that’s building up during this time through engaging and social experiences is the foundation needed for all future academic skills. For 2-5 year-olds, the AAP recommends no more than 1 hour of screen time, which should still be educational and experienced together, when possible. Kids age 6 and up should have limitations on screentime, and most importantly, it should not interfere with sleep and physical activity. There are lots of apps available to limit screen time. Find one example here.

Quality time playing with your child, especially when they are toddlers and preschoolers, is the most important thing you can give them in regards to helping their language development. Explore, be present, read, play, get dirty, be outside, and discover!

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

Kindergarten in the Library

With the advent of full day kindergarten there have been changes to the use of the library. One of those changes is that the students are engaged in learning here four times a week! One of those times is a library time where the students listen to a book. At this time in the year we often talk about the jobs of the author and the illustrator. We recently read a book called Only One of You by Linda Kranz. This book highlights the unique qualities that each of us possess.

We discussed what makes us different from our classmates and while we may make mistakes it's okay to circle back and make a better choice next time. To follow up on this theme the students were given a rock and paints to create a piece of art that shows how unique they are.

These stones will be put on display outside of the school to show how we are each beautiful by ourselves, but when we are all together we are amazing! Look for the display outside of the student entryway doors soon.

Monday, September 11, 2017

History helps us understand events of today.

Given the natural disasters going on in our world right now, not to mention the upheaval in the news all the time, reviewing 9/11 for kids who were born many years after the event is difficult. How far do I go? Elementary students are a wonderful blend of bravado and vulnerability, so I want them to understand how the 9/11 events shaped America’s history and changed how we, as Americans, view the world.  But I also don’t want to scare or distress them.
I have been covering major historical events in my classroom lately so that I can give them perspective when they hear about actions going on today. I gave them WWII in 15 minutes (seriously?) in order to try and explain the tension we are experiencing with North Korea. Kids need the background knowledge of historical events in order to try and comprehend what is happening in the world today.
That is why it is so important for my students to learn and understand the events on 9/11. An excellent tool that I use to introduce/review the events of that day is the video made by Nickelodeon on the tenth anniversary of the attacks. Journalist Linda Ellerbee narrates the sequence of events, leaving out the scariest visuals, and then young people ask questions and receive answers from historians. We then have a class discussion answering questions and correcting any misinformation that my kids may have. The video can be found at:
After the events on 9/11, Americans drew together as a result of this shared tragedy. If I teach this effectively, my students will realize that we need to understand that while history may explain why people act the way they act, we need to have the heart to embrace diversity in our population and stand together against injustice.

Sunday, September 10, 2017

Two Teachers in the Classroom

Whatare two teacers doing in the classroom together? They are co-teaching  Co-teaching is when two or more people share the responsibilities of teaching a class. The teachers involved plan together, instructs together and evaluate student growth together.  Co-teachers spend quality time planning around the following practices: flexibility of teaching modes, learning styles, assessment and grouping. They provide appropriate challenge by using interesting and engaging learning tasks and take students where they are to where they need to be.

Students in a co-taught classroom receive expected grade level content, using grade level curriculum.  The content is the same as any other class, but co-teaching allows for a change to content delivery.  These delivery models allow for differentiated instruction.  Differentiated instruction is crucial for success across varying types of learners.

Many grade levels are experimenting with a new teaching experience.  Some of your students may have come home already and said they have classes with multiple teachers in the same room.  Mr. Schrom, Mr. Meisl, Mrs. Frontera, and Mrs. Gamez may be names you hear in addition to their classroom teachers.  All the above mentioned teachers have gone through training with Dr. Patrick Schwarz.  Dr. Schwarz is author to the book which Goodrich had for the parent book group last year.

 Throughout this year on this blog I will document the progress of co-teaching with examples of things happening in the classroom comments from teachers and students.  Tune in next month for our 

Thursday, September 7, 2017

Zearn can help us Learn!

Now that first grade is in full swing we have learned procedures, rules and met many new friends, we are ready to roll! First grade is off to a great start. There is so much to learn and discover in First grade, and one tool that we use to learn is the Chromebook. We have practiced logging in on the computers. Last week we were introduced to a very engaging program that helps us practice the lessons in math that we have just worked on in class. This program allows us to relearn a concept if we made a few mistakes, or go on and practice something else once we have mastered our assignment. This program is called Zearn! We love the name and the time on Tuesdays when we can use it.

I asked a few students to tell me what they liked the most about using Zearn. One student in my class said, “I like it because I can practice what we JUST learned!”

Another student stated, “I like doing math on the computer!”

One student said, “Why does time using our chromes go SO FAST?!”

I love watching my students try something new, and I love when they feel success. This program will really help guide us through the curriculum this year. I’m excited to see my students grow as mathematicians!