Sunday, August 14, 2016

Your Class List: Whine and Wine

Do you get a class list before school starts? I don't know about you but I am always anxious to look at my class list to see if I will be getting the annoying sweet younger sibling I have heard stories about. My heart also skips a beat with fear joy for "that student" that I have been hearing about that is just a "perfect fit" for my room. That is when you run to your teacher buddies and start the WHINE of "You'll never believe who I have in my room!" or "Oh My Gosh!!! Let me tell you about this kid that's going to be in my room this year!" And when you go home that's when you pull out the BIG WINE glass!

Click on the picture if you want to check it out!

Now, I am giggling as I type this and trying to bring a little humor to thoughts you and I just might have felt before. My Firsties go to Kinder at another campus so I really don't recognize some of the names. But when you have taught for a long time you eventually DO HAVE siblings and cousins AND see names that bring flashbacks that cause you to twitch! There are times when I try and use my phonics knowledge to decipher a name that I am anxious I will not be able to pronounce correctly. And I already feel bad for the kiddo that I am sure will have to help me numerous times say his/her name correctly.

At Meet the Teacher, I have a special system of codes I mark next to the names on my list of students that I am meeting. There have been numerous times when I have watched in fear as child has hit his mother on the head numerous times with a HUGE pointer and did not stop when he was told to....or when a child seems so active that I am ready to tell the mom that I am happy to drive her to the doctor to see if the child might need a prescription for some calming "vitamins". And those 2 times were like the children had been invaded by the Body Snatchers because the kiddos that showed up on the first day of school were sweet, obedient, calm, and respectful.

There have been countless times when I have sadly been judgmental and let a bad attitude get in the way of seeing a child the way that God does...and the way He sees me. What gives me the right to judge a student on what they are not when I am so thankful and blessed that God does not judge me by my short comings??!!??!!??

We are always going to have students that challenge us. There have been years when that challenge has left me in tears, frustration, and a state of feeling completely helpless. There have been times when I breathed a sigh of relief when that child was absent because the entire dynamics of my classroom changed but at the same time felt horrible for feeling that way.

Many of these challenging kiddos come with more baggage than we have even carried as an adult. For some, school is their safe haven. And whether we realize it or not, these kiddos are often VERY perceptive and can pick up the vibes we give off.

I remember the child that completely changed my whine and wine. He was retained and put back in my class for his second year. I vented to a friend that I was very upset he was in my room again. I was going into my 4th year of teaching and was able to attend a Ruby Payne workshop that fall. It changed my teaching and my heart forever. God knew I needed that workshop so He could show HIS love through me to some of the people who needed it the most. She said something that I also learned again when I read about Conscious Discipline. Are you ready for this???

And this is another wonderful reminder...

The student I mentioned above completely lost it on the last day of school of his second year in my room. When I asked him what was wrong, he told me he was going to miss being around someone who loved him as much as I did. He gave me many, many, MANY opportunities for me to practice patience yet he still knew I loved him. At the time I saw his name on my list for the second time, I did not want him in my class but I am blessed that God gave him to me again.

I am not perfect and still feel frustrated and helpless when I don't know how to help a child that is crying out for love. I then have to remember God put each child in my room for a love that child with all of my heart and help that child be successful in every way possible. And in the end, it is often me that has learned a valuable lesson from God.

I pray that as we start a new school year that we remember this:

Thank you for stopping by for this week's Heart Start!

From My Heart to Yours,

Sunday, August 7, 2016

Sunday's Heart Start: Pause and Pray

As I get ready to start a new school year, I am overcome by so many emotions. The beginning of the school year is so exciting but also stressful. I know we sit in teacher meetings wanting to flee to our classrooms and mentally adding things to a To-Do List that seems to grow and grow and GROW! We are juggling our lives at home with our lives at school and we often neglect taking care of ourselves.

As much excitement as there tends to be, there is also a bit of negativity and complaining...and I raise my hand that I have been there and whined that! I often forget that my principal is being told a BIG list of things she must do with us and my complaining about it does not make it any better. I know when I have heard some of my kiddos in class grumble about something they have to do we stop and talk about our attitudes and about showing respect. Yet, as grown-ups we are horrible about it.

I know at the beginning of the year, doubt creeps into my heart. I stare at my new little group only remembering how I left my previous group in May. I wonder if they will ever behave, listen, learn to read, follow directions, and show helpfulness and kindness like my group last year.

I look at the kiddo that I know will try my patience and wonder if I am going to develop a drinking problem! Lol!

I get irritated with others I work with yet I forget to look at myself and realize I am irritating others by my own behaviors.

I get caught up in the emotions of situations and react instead of being proactive. I forget that God is using each child, parent, staff member and situation as a tool and moment to shape me into who He wants me to be.

We cannot go into our classrooms and be ready to face all of the overwhelming challenges without praying and without each other.

I have to remember that before I reach their heads, I have to touch their hearts I want each of you to know that Because of YOU, a difference is being made.

As you prepare to start a new day or a new week, remember to Pause and Pray.

From My Heart to Yours,

Thursday, August 4, 2016

Books for Building Your School Family

I kind of forgot I still had a blog over here! Blog posts constantly run through my mind but I seem to lose my way when I see the blank screen before me. After reading Teach Like a Pirate this summer for a book study, I remembered that I really do love blogging and sharing my heart for teaching and my kiddos. :)

As I see the days of August slowly fading away rapidly flashing by, my mind is thinking of those first few weeks of school. Those first few weeks are what I call BOOT CAMP (with love). The importance of those few weeks in establishing rules and routines is critical. You lay the foundation for your entire school year. These weeks are also when I start building Our School Family. Even though we jump into our curriculum week 1 day 1, I am more focused on bringing out the kindness and respect I want (and expect) EVERY member of Our School Family to show.

One of the best ways I start to build Our School Family is through literature. This really helps the kiddos because I can refer back to one of the books we read. I want to share some of these books with you. :)

My Mouth is a Volcano, Interrupting Chickens and Lacey Walker, Non-Stop Talker are all great books for talking about interrupting others. We talk a lot about how everyone's words are important and when you talk over someone you are not showing that person that you value what they are saying. We also talk about how students cannot listen and learn if others are talking or talking over the teacher. I tell my kiddos that my ears cannot catch everyone's words if everyone is talking at once.

Decibella and Her 6 Inch Voice is a great book for talking about the volume of your voice. Students learn about using no voice, a whisper, a 6 inch voice, table talk, a strong speaker voice, and an outside voice. This book is so cute and necessary because I ALWAYS have a screamer future public speaker. :)

There are so many voice meters that you can find on Pinterest that give the students a visual of where their voice volume needs to be during different parts of the day. It is good to remember though that talking can be GOOD if that talk is about learning. :)

After reading this book and talking about the volume of our voices, we also have a HUGE talk about the tone of our voices. Little kiddos often cannot pick up on voice tone cues. I like to turn with my back facing them and say something like "I am so happy at the choices you are making!" BUUUUUUTTTTTT I say it in a mean, angry voice. The kiddos have to tell me how they think I am feeling based on the tone of my voice. They LOOOOOVVVVEEEE this and like taking turns doing this too! We talk a lot about how the tone of our voice can communicate our attitudes and ALL of us have to be careful about this.

I LOVE Me First! Pinkerton Pig always wants to be first until he meets a Sand Witch. Pinkerton has to do many unpleasant chores for the Sand Witch and quickly learns that being first is not always best. I know you might (ha! ha!) have had a student before that always wants to be the first to line up or the first to finish their work. I think they think they will get a prize for finishing first and often don't do their best because of this. After reading this book, we practice slowly and safely lining up. We also practice different times when they can offer to let a friend go before them. This might be when I am passing things out or when I have a couple of students waiting to tell me something. We practice using sentences stems like You may go before me or Go ahead. I'll wait until you are finished.

Tattle Tongue is great for addressing the ever present issue of tattling. The book gives students a funny visual image of what happens when your tattle. I also love how the book gives students examples when it is okay to tell a teacher/grown-up what happened. When my kiddos come to tattle whine tell me something that happened, I usually ask them these 2 questions:
*Have you tried to solve them problem yourself?

*Are you being helpful or hurtful by telling me this?

Now, I only ask these questions after we have practiced, and practiced, and PRACTICED using sentence stems to talk to someone. Some of these sentence stems are:
* I don't like it when you ______. Next time please ______.
*I don't like it when you ______. Please stop.
*You accidentally ______. Please be more careful next time.

I never really even have to ask Are you being helpful or hurtful by telling me this? because usually they turn around and go talk to the person after I've asked Have you tried to solve them problem yourself?

If they have already talked to the person and there is still an issue, they ask me to help them solve a problem....and my ears don't have to hear tattling. Sometimes I joke around when someone forgets and starts to tattle by telling them I see their tattle tongue growing and changing colors. Sometimes being silly and getting that student to laugh helps me when I help them solve the problem.

Have You Filled a Bucket Today? is one of my favorite books. I love the mental image it gives kiddos about filling a bucket with kindness or dipping into a sad bucket when someone is being hurtful. We have a class bucket that we fill with helpful hearts. You can read more about that is this ancient blog post...This is when I first started blogging and was taking pictures with an ancient cell phone! Happy to see how far I've come. :)

You Get What You Get...and you________??? I know we finish that sentence with AND YOU DON'T THROW A FIT! After reading this blog post by my sweet friend Holly, I too changed what I said. We read this book and then discuss how we are no longer 2 and we are big, smart, kind, and respectful boys and girls. We can feel disappointed when something doesn't go our way but we can take a deep breath, calm down and know it will be okay. Our new saying becomes YOU GET WHAT YOU GET AND YOU APPRECIATE IT! :)

The Recess Queen is a fun book to talk about being kind and safe on the playground. It is also helpful when talking about bullying. I love this craftivity from Smitten in First!

Chrysanthemum is hands-down my favorite Back to School book because it is our anchor lesson for talking about hurtful words and behavior. From this book we talk about our Heart Word and Heart Promises. You can read all about those in this blog post.

These are just a few of my favorites. There are so many more! I have found some AWESOME books this summer that I am soooooo excited about! I cannot wait to share with you how I'll be using them. :)

It has been FOREVEEEERRRRRRR since I shared a *freebie*! So, here is a little activity I will be using at the beginning of the year for letter recognition.

Thank you for hopping over here today! Wishing you an awesome year full of blessings!

From My Heart to Yours,

Saturday, January 23, 2016

Magic Snowball Fun with Tens and Ones

Hello again Sweet Peeps. I am working really hard to blog more consistently this new year. I really do love it and have missed it. This is a fun little activity we did a couple of years ago but I never blogged about it.

Several years ago we started following the Envisions textbook scope and sequence pretty consistently. This meant not really digging deep into place value until much later in the year than I like. For some of my struggling sweet and lows, this makes understanding place value and tens and ones more difficult.

I am sure you have had a student or two who will count a stack of Unifix cubes even though you've told them there will ALWAYS be 10 in the stack. These are the same students that often count to be sure there are still 5 fingers on each hand. Because of this, I knew I wanted to create a hands-on way for them to understand to value of a ten, we needed to use some Magic Snowballs to help us. :)

The first step is to make the Magic Snowballs using small white pom pom balls, spray glue, and white glitter. All you need to do is spray the pom pom balls with the glue and sprinkle them with the white glitter.

After that, we receive a package from a friendly snowman containing the Magic Snowballs, craft sticks, number cards, and a poem. We also received a cute snowman bag to hold everything in.

Here is a closer look at the poem.

Students then help make the 10 rods we will be using to build numbers. Students glued 10 Magic Snowballs onto each craft stick.

I had my struggling students help create and build several 10 rods so we could talk about how many they had as they were building them. This really helped them to be able to know and understand that 3 rods=30 Magic Snowballs.

Here is a peek at the cards. I included all of the teen numbers because those are often tricky for some of my kiddos.

After making a huge set of 10 rods, students were able to start building numbers.

Since we made a lot, I sent home some snowball tens and ones so my struggling students could practice at home.

You can grab the cards and poem by clicking on the picture below. :)

I hope your kiddos enjoy this activity as much as my kiddos do. :)

From My Heart to Yours,

Saturday, January 16, 2016

Where are the Snowflakes? A Little Preposition Fun

Hi Sweet Peeps. I wanted to share a quick and easy activity we did to work on prepositions. I know for my ELL kiddos this can be very tricky. Since we do not get snow in East Texas often, I have to bring in the snow in fun ways...not as fun as real snow though. :)

We started with a fun little poem I wrote that was full of prepositions. After listening to the poem, we acted it out because movement and gestures help our brains learn better.

We then read the poem together again as we colored the prepositions.

Students were then given their own snowflake to decorate. We used some of these directions to discuss where we put our snowflakes.

The kiddos LOVED this and it really showed me who might still be struggling with prepositions. Here are a few pictures.

Here is a little assessment you can use as well. :)

Click here to grab this *freebie*.

I hope to be back sooner than the last time to share some more ideas from my head and my heart.

From My Heart to Yours,

Thursday, September 10, 2015

The Rotten Apple Hunt: A CVC Reading Adventure

I LOVE creating engaging learning experiences for my kiddos. One of my favorite ways to do that is to have "special visitors" come by our classroom. Little kiddos have hearts that are so open to believing in magical people and animals. Whether it be Santa Claus, The Easter Bunny, or Clifford the Big Red Dog, little kids believe in them.

In September, we get a visit from the Crazy Apple Bunch Friends. This is a group of apples that want to get children reading and thinking. They try and trick kiddos by seeing if they can find the Rotten Apple words...words that are non-sense and silly! After stopping by our classroom to leave us a letter explaining our mission, we head off to find this crazy bunch!

Their apple words have placed words all around our school AND the Crazy Apple Bunch Friends have words written on THEM!!!

Do you see those round, red balls by these Crazy guys??? That is APPLE POOP!!! 
And the kiddos get to eat the apple poop!
Shhhhh...It is really cherry sour candy.

After collecting all of the apples in a basket, we must sort those crazy guys by whether they are yummy apples (real words) or rotten apples (non-sense words).

The Crazy Apple Bunch also leave us several activities that we can use in our Daily 5 Word Work. These activities help us work on rhyming, sorting words by their short vowel sound, and more practice reading CVC words. Take a peek. :)

I think this activity might be one of my favorite adventures because it was so easy to set-up. All I had to do was hot glue some googly eyes on the apples and write CVC words on them with a Sharpie. The apple poop just added to the excitement and engagement. My kiddos just went crazy nuts over this adventure and I know your kiddos will too!

Happy September sweet friends.

From My Heart to Yours,

Sunday, July 19, 2015

Sunday's Heart Start: Snapshots of the Heart

This Sunday's Heart Start is one that I think all teachers need to hear. This past year was a struggle for me. Not because I had a difficult class but because there were so many moments that just showed the sad direction I see teaching heading sometimes. But then my heart remembered...

...My heart remembered Little Warrior from years and years ago. Little Warrior was not in my classroom for very long but I will never forget her smile, her laugh, and her perseverance. Little Warrior's story was very sad and to protect her privacy wherever she might be I won't share it. God placed Little Warrior in my room for a reason...just like each child He places in my room and in your room every year. Little Warrior taught ME more than I know I taught her. The snapshot of her in my head has nothing to do with her scores or grades but her heart.


At the end of this year, I looked at my classroom snapshot and compared the scores and achievements of my kiddos from the beginning of the year to their scores in May. My teacher heart was so proud. When I turned it in to my Principal and Instructional Coach, I joked that it was stained with all of the blood, sweat, and tears everyone in our room shed. And that was true because many of the assessments caused my little Firsties to cry. There were also tears from me because I felt so pressured by testing this year.

We give the STAAR test 3rd and up in Texas. My district gives CBA's (curriculum based assessments) for 1st and 2nd. We have given CBAs before so that was not new but it just seems like more and more eyes look and question your scores, your lessons, and your schedule when your scores don't show enough growth. 

I don't think it is a questioning of what we are doing wrong...everyone just wants to help our kiddos do their best. I think the frustrating part is often the steps we have to take to get to a place where our kiddos may not be developmentally ready to be.

Teachers already pour their hearts and souls into helping our kiddos. We see huge growth all of the time that often does not show up in those scores. I think because we are so passionate about what we do that we tend to feel a little hurt when someone thinks we may not be doing a good job because of what some score shows. They are not in the trenches seeing the moment by moment growth we see and celebrate daily.

This post is not about testing because our scores already show the difference a teacher makes. Yes, most of the time that snapshot is not a true picture of that child and his/her capabilities. Heck, I cannot think of anything in my life that I would like for someone to take 1 snapshot of and be judged by that snapshot.

But I started to think of snapshots that SHOULD be in our classroom each day. Snapshots reflecting laughter, music, games, play, art, hugs, friendships, ah-ha's, collaboration, science experiments, engagement, and many other things that SHOULD still be a part of a young child's day and life. Those are the snapshots that will make a difference in the hearts of our kiddos. Those snapshots won't fade from our kiddos hearts.

I can take no credit for any difference I might be making in the classroom because I just pray for God to use me how He can. Even after 15 years in 1st grade, I still worry about not being good enough. I get so inspired by my friends out in the teaching world. I LOVE how much passion I see out there in social media but it sometimes seems that passion gets lost when I step on campus. I think that doubt is when I lose my focus because I am worrying about scores or other stressful burdens that teachers try to carry alone. I have to remember to create those snapshots that will make a difference in more than a score. Because I need to remember that before you reach their heads, you have to touch their hearts.

One hug can make a heart smile.
One giggle can heal a heart that has been hurting for awhile.
One song can comfort the silence at night.
One teacher can be God's beacon of light.

YOU can be God's difference of One...Because when YOUR passion shines through, you will ignite that passion in the hearts of others.

From My Heart to Yours,