Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Brain Breaks

Brain breaks will help kids recharge and refocus!
I was chatting with a good friend (and colleague) of mine about the things we want to try next year. One idea of hers was to periodically give her students a "brain break" throughout class time when she sees they are dragging, or if they have been working diligently for extended periods of time and just need a quick breather. I think this is a great idea for all children, but I also know it will greatly benefit those with attention disorders such as ADD or ADHD. Not only will it let them get rid of some of their energy that they struggle with during lessons and work time, but it will also give their brains a mini-vacation from school (which we all know they desperately need from time to time).

It might also be a good tool for classroom management. If one were to come up with enough break ideas, they could be written down and placed in a jar. Perhaps a student who stands out as doing an excellent job could pick the next break from the jar and lead it. Or, perhaps they could just name a favorite. With the idea of taking several a day, it's a great way to recognize more than one student as well as provide them with something that isn't gimmicky (like candy, prize box items, etc.). ]

Here are some break  ideas we talked about so far:

  • Yoga- do a quick pose or two to help students refocus
  • 1 or 2 minute dance party- throw on some kid friendly music and jam
  • Silent ball- spend a few minutes playing a quick game where students sit on desks and pass a foam ball around the room. As the name suggests, students don't talk during this game or they are out. 
  • Doodle- Kids love to draw, so let them! Give them 5 minutes to whip out some paper and doodle like crazy. 
  • Simon Says- Play simon says and practice those listening skills! Even though they won't admit it, I am pretty sure the older ones will enjoy this.
  • Play a game on the white board- not sure what games could incorporate the entire class, but I am sure we'll come up with a few.

That's all we thought of so far. It's a good start, but I would like a lot of ideas to choose from to keep it interesting. 

Please share any ideas you have, and I will compile them into a list and share it with you at the end of the summer for you to try in your classrooms. If you know anyone who is a creative thinker, or already uses this strategy in their room, please pass along a link to this post...I would love to hear form as many people as possible!

Monday, June 18, 2012

It's Monday! What Are You Reading? 6/18/12

A weekly meme hosted by Teach Mentor Texts

This week I finished reading Insurgent by Veronica Roth. This was the second book of the DIvergent Trilogy. I feel like Roth really hit her stride with the second book. While the first one was very good, this one was, in my opinion, much better. The only downside is the cliffhanger ending...because now I have to wait with bated breath for the third book to hit shelves. I highly recommend this series if you enjoyed The Hunger Games Trilogy (the BOOKS, not just the movie). However, I think it is more appropriate for an older crowd as it is definitely YA and above in terms of content.

This week I am going to start working on The Lost Hero by Rick Riordan. This book is the first of the Heroes of Olympus series. I am told that although there are new characters, Riordan refers back to the Percy Jackson series and ties it into the new series. I did not finish reading all of those books, so I may have to abandon it if I feel lost...we'll see! What great books are you reading?

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

It's Monday! What Are You Reading?

A weekly meme hosted by Teach Mentor Texts

Last week marked the end of the school year, which meant I was VERY busy. Cleaning, packing, working on report cards, etc. Needless to say, my reading life took a hit. However, this weekend we threw in a day trip to NYC, so I got a lot of reading done on the bus. I read Out of My Mind by Sharon Draper. I really enjoyed this book. I saw a lot of similarities between this and Wonder by R. J. Palacio.I appreciated the novel's take on students with disabilities, and how much we as educators may underestimate their true abilities. I also enjoyed the realness. Overall, a great read.

Monday, June 11, 2012

Summer Treat for My Bookworms

Just wanted to write a quick post to share what I gave my students as their goodbye treat. I sort of tweaked and combined ideas from Pinterest. Each student got a bog of "bookworms" (a.k.a. gummy worms), two freeze pops, and a bookmark. My parent helper made up the labels for the bookworms which read "Have a cool summer, bookworms! Love, Mrs. P."She also assembled all of the little goodies, and I think they turned out great! I usually don't give "goodbye gifts," but this was a particularly special year for me, so I did. I will definitely be doing this again next year!

Original bookworm idea
Do you have a summer gift you typically give students? I'd love to read about it!

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Summer Reading

It is so hard to say goodbye to our students. We spend so much of our waking hours with them for so many months that they become like family. This year, I decided my teaching wasn't going to end at the sound of the dismissal bell on the last day of school. After chatting with some of my Twitter faves, I decided to facilitate an online  Summer Book Club through Edmodo, a popular educational site than can be likened to Facebook for the classroom.

I launched the book club by first talking to my kids about how much they can benefit from reading just a few books over the summer. I started cautiously by recommending two to three. Their response was "We can probably read more than that!" Then, I shared a book list that I compiled for them. This list is made up of books I have enjoyed, books I have watched some of them enjoy, and recommendations from my fellow educators. I tried to stray from "classics" because, let's face it, those don't always get kids excited about reading. I wanted books they could relate to and really enjoy.

Here's my list:

Next, we talked about how to find out more about the books on the list. I showed the students two great sites for book reviews written for kids: Spaghetti Book Club and KidsReads. I had them look up a few and start making some plans for their summer reading.

After that, we logged into Edmodo and set up our student accounts. This is really easy for both the teacher and student to do. They were so excited! We made sure to go over some guidelines, first, and then I set them loose! Here are the results so far:

I can't wait to chat with them over the summer about their books. Turns out the last day doesn't mean goodbye forever!

Sunday, June 3, 2012

To Fail, Or Not to Fail...

Ever since my first year as a teacher, I have been assigning students grades for their class work, homework, tests and quizzes. It is logical to do so, right? After all, I received grades for my work growing up. However, as I do more and more professional reading and networking, my views on the traditional grading system are beginning to shift. This is not a small shift, but an epic, monumental, cosmic shift. One in which I feel like beating my head against a wall and exclaiming "What have I been doing to these poor children for all of these years?!?!?!?"

If you follow some of the same people as I do on Twitter, or have joined many educational blogs, you may have had the same seed planted in your own brain. The two questions that are battling it out in my brain are these: Are the grades I assign truly providing feedback and inspiring students to learn, grow,  and improve? OR Am I simply punishing them?

These are difficult questions to not only think about, but to try and find answers to. Many teachers that I have spoken with have a very hard time understanding why I am questioning this system. Not only that, but something I often hear is: "But if you don't give grades, how will parents know what their children are struggling with?" What I wonder is this: Do the grades we give really provide parents with accurate information about their child's learning?  Not only that, but am I alone in feeling like my time would be better spent giving written or verbal feedback about content of work instead of busying myself with trying to assign a numerical value to it? Not to mention the hours spent entering grades!

I am not saying this system is "wrong." I am just wondering if it is what is "best" for our children. I dread passing back papers, handing out progress reports and report cards. The look on the faces of some of my students is devastating. If I feel this way, how do THEY feel? 

I don't have the answers when it comes to solving this "problem." However, I do have the desire to think more about it find out as much as I can from others. I encourage you to do the same. If you haven't thought about the way you grade before now, just spend some time reflecting. I am not criticizing anyone. In fact, as my principal often says, "teaching is one of the hardest do well." But in order to make sure we are doing the best we can for our students, I think this topic deserves some attention and careful consideration.

Resources I have found helpful:
The Case Against the Zero