Sunday, May 6, 2018

Our Classroom Reading Nook "Starbooks" Style

Recently, one of the education classes from our local community college donated an AMAZING reading nook for our classroom. The college students collaborated with each other to design, create, and build this fabulous new place for our students to read. 

 It has been such a wonderful addition to our classroom, and we are so grateful for the college students for their thoughtfulness and talent! Their professor was my professor once and it is such a treat to see her continue to help shape college students for their future careers. 

I am so excited to share the photos with all of you! The students love this special place. 

The box is actually a recycled refrigerator box. 

 The students had a plan for assembly before they got there, and I was so impressed with how well they worked together. They put the whole thing together in about an hour while the kiddos were gone to specials. 
 The "Starbooks Cafe" sign is a vinyl sticker!

It fits perfectly in the cove between our huge air conditioning unit and our computer space. 

How adorable is this menu of play on words as well as the genius lights for the nook? The lights are one of my favorite features and the students love turning them on and off each day. 

The finished product! We LOVE it!

Also, I made a video explaining all of the different parts of the reading nook. 

Thursday, November 9, 2017

Open Your Teacher Heart

For the past seven years, I have had the honor of being an educator.

Yes, it is an honor. It is a privilege, and it is a true blessing.

Teaching is fun. It is rewarding. And, it is also hard, humbling, draining, exciting, and every other emotion in-between.

My students have broken my heart. They have stomped on it, beat it up, played the drums on the poor thing, and left me so raw and open that I felt like I didn't know what to feel next. And, in that very next moment, my students-the very ones who just tore me open to my core-have filled my heart and soul back up more full than it ever has been before. They have taught me some of my most important lessons in life, and they have made me a better person. 

You see, teaching is funny like that. For many of us, teaching is our life. It consumes almost every fiber of our being. And, that can be challenging because many of us have families at home that need those pieces of us, too. I have long said that balance is impossible when you are a teacher.  Some days(most days), my school kiddos get the best of me that I have to offer which leaves the husband and my family getting the scraps. But, I am fortunate that I have family who understands and is there to keep me in check and reel me in when needed. They understand my "why" and they support my path in this amazing profession. For that, I am forever grateful.

Over the past seven years in the classroom, I have learned a lot. I have made mistakes, I have grown, and I acknowledge that I still have so much more learning and growing to do by the time I turn out the lights and close the door on the teaching profession.

However, there is one lesson that I hope always remains on the forefront of my teacher heart--LOVE them first and LOVE them hard.

Every year, my number one goal is to build relationships with the students that I am privileged to teach. There is an occupational hazard when you make this your number one focus, and that occupational hazard is the broken and rebuilt heart that I mentioned above. Our students go through so much trauma, turmoil, and transition within their K-12 educations. I don't care what type of demographics or socio-ecomomic status your schools have; the students all need the same thing.... LOVE. Sure, the way in which you love kiddos will be different depending on what they need, but every single one of our students need something from us. They need to know we care about them. They need to know that WE believe in them, that we SEE them, that we believe that they MATTER, and that we are there for them no-- matter --what.

I had an amazing conversation with a colleague of mine this week after I shared this article on Facebook. She had just attended a conference where the focus was relationships, bullying prevention, etc. and we spent some time talking about different ways that staff members in our building could continue to strengthen our relationships with our students and "check in" with ourselves to make sure that we, as teachers, were really taking the time to know EVERY single one of our kiddos. She shared an idea that challenged me, and I wanted to share it with you here.

Take your class list, and write down a non-academic fact about each student in your class. Can you do it? Were there some that were harder to write down than others? Were some of your facts way more detailed that others? If so, spend time learning more about the students that you don't know well enough. Make the time to learn something new about them. It is never too late to start this activity. Do it now! It is eye-opening! 

Sure, it takes time. Sure, its not always easy, but it--is--WORTH--it. Our students are worth it. They deserve to have educators who KNOW them.

So, the purpose of this blog post tonight is simple. If you are stressed about assessments, worried about scheduling, over writing lessons plans, getting exhausted with grading papers, just pulled a 15 PLUS hour day because you had morning bus duty then after school parent teacher conferences;just remember that while all of that is important, what is truly important is that EVERY single one of our students know that we care. They know that we love them, and they know that we SEE their hearts, their struggles, and we are going to be there for them no matter what.

Open up your hearts to them. Give them the control. Let your students change your life. All they ask in return is that you care.

Thursday, September 14, 2017

GoNoOdle Plus Launch Week

I am so honored to be teaming up GoNoOdle to help them promote their new features on GoNoOdle Plus. I have been a self-proclaimed "GoNoOdle Groupie" since 2014, and I am so honored to continue to use GoNoOdle with my 5th graders daily. 

Yes, GoNoOdle is awesome sauce, but did you know that GoNoOdle PLUS has a lot of amazing features that make classroom learning so much fun!

Check out this video to learn more!

GoNoodle Plus is the most academically comprehensive version of GoNoodle. It offers 100s of ways to
deepen student learning with additional curricular videos, learning games, and printable activities!

With GoNoodle Plus, you will have access to the follow exclusive GoNoodle Plus features:
• Suite of Interactive Learning Games: Move and play while practicing math, ELA, science,
social studies and more!

• Question Sets: Personalize learning games with your own custom question sets to meet specific
curriculum requirements and student needs. Or, pick from hundreds of questions sets created and curated by education experts and teachers.

• Learning Extensions: Printables turn your favorite GoNoodle videos into engaging learning tools with
GoNoodle worksheets and activities.

• More Movement and Mindfulness Videos: 2x the amount of new videos, with an emphasis on academic content.

Want to give GoNoOdle PLUS a try? Click here and enter code: 
TryPlus17 for an EXTENDED 60 day free trial. I promise it will be worth it!

Saturday, August 19, 2017

Diverse Books for a Diverse World

Two years ago, I had a teacher friend make a post on social media challenging teachers to take an honest look/walk-through their classroom library and look for books that offered diversity among the characters, discussed difficult topics, or highlighted individuals who represented specific races and cultures. I took on the challenge and quickly realized that the books in our classroom library were severely lacking any sense of diversity, and I took action. 
I began researching about books that would help our students navigate hard topics, talk about diverse issues, inspire great thinking and writing, spark creativity, and create a reading community in the classroom.

As teachers, I believe that it is feverishly important that we acknowledge and reflect on the important role that picture books, chapter books, and nonfictional resources can and will play in our students' lives. I feel passionate about helping students ignite a desire for reading and foster a love for the stories and information found within the pages of books. Our students deserve the opportunity the learn in an environment that supports and encourages reading as well as uses stories to help them make sense of the world. ALL of our students also deserve to see themselves represented in the pages of the books in our libraries. 

"Reading can help all of us write a different story."--Donalyn Miller
Books can help students make connections with others who are experiencing the same life obstacles that they are. Books let our students know they are not alone. Stories make them smile, laugh, hope, and dream.

 Our students deserve access to books and texts that are culturally relevant, diverse, and provide opportunity for understanding.
Here is a list of  books that I recently received through a Donors Choose project centered around diversity as well as others I have recently added to our classroom collection. These books can be used to help share ideas, learn about life lessons, discuss complex and difficult topics, dig into diverse issues, help our students relate to characters whose lives and events may mirror their own, and better understand the world around them. 
This post contains affiliate links for your shopping convenience. I earn a small commission each time someone makes a purchase through one of my links.  I use the commission to buy more books for our classroom. 

*I have a growing selection now, so the small list above are some recent additions. If you are interested in finding resources that highlight other diverse books, please check out the links below! They will give you an excellent starting place. 

This post contains affiliate links for Amazon. By purchasing an item on the Amazon site using these links, I will receive a small commission on your purchase. For more information about my Disclosure Policy, please visit this link.

Sunday, July 16, 2017

Accountable Talk

Accountable Talk is "talk that is meaningful, respectful, and mutually beneficial to both speaker and listener. It stimulates higher-order thinking which, in turn, helps students to learn, reflect on their learning and communicate their knowledge and understanding."- Education Bureau of Hong Kong

A few years ago, the district that I teach in really started to focus on the importance of student-led conversation and the power that reflecting on and communicating one's individual learning can actually have on individual and peer learning experiences. When accountable talk was first introduced to me, I immediately fell in love with what it represented-student ownership.

Teachers are really good at talking. Talking means we are the ones in control. However, when students take over the conversation, they are the ones in control of their learning experiences, and that is something that I have been so proud to support and watch unfold in our classroom over the past few years.

I like to use visuals to help introduce accountable talk each year and to use as a reference for us throughout the year. Talking about what we are thinking does not always come naturally so we often use the visuals of sentence stems to help get our conversations going or support them when they are stalling.

These are by no means the only sentence stems out there, but they are a good starting place. Feel free to use this resource that I created for our classroom! Some ways that you could use it in your classroom is to print, laminate and cut in the smallest size and attach to a binder ring so that can be passed out to students during group talks or post on the wall for easy reference. I updated it to match the popular "cactus" theme that seems to be floating around the education social media sphere this year. Hope you can use this, and happy talking!


If you want to learn more about Accountable Talk, this website has some great information!