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Welcome to kindergarten! Join me as I share my experiences in the classroom, my professional learning and reflections and my love of teaching. Teaching is an exciting journey - come along as I share mine!


Thursday, August 23, 2012

What a Wonderful World

I'm going to be very honest and say that the all-day early childhood professional development day planned for today, though it is something I feel very strongly about, wasn't high on my list of want-to-do's for today.  School hasn't started yet but the last two weeks have been a whirlwind of getting the classroom prepared, teaching a summer program for incoming kindergarten students and ending today with this pd opportunity.  Next week starts district pd days and open houses and preparing my own children for returning to school.  Like I said, it wasn't high on my list of wants today.  But, I went anyway like a good little soldier and I was very happy to listen to an excellent presentation.  

Linda Jordan's presentation, Neuroscience and the Preschool Child, didn't grab my attention from the title, but as soon as she opened her mouth, I was hooked.  She is a dynamic speaker, knows her material and is able to share it in a way that made me want more, more, more.

Here are just a few snippets that tickled my ears today:

  • The muscles in our bodies have more memory capacity than our brains.
  • As a child, I learned things in order to do things.  Today's young children do things to learn.
  • Vocabulary should be taught by handling and seeing the actual objects, not by talking about them.  Not a new concept, but a good reminder.  She said she believes that each book should have a box of objects that accompany it in the classroom. 
  • Teachers are brain sculptors.  We impact our students' brain growth (dendrite growth) by teaching them and then providing at least 20 minutes of actually doing/working with the skill to commit it to memory.  We are responsible for providing a safe environment so that students can learn and grow dendrites, not shut down.
  • You can only talk to/teach a child for 6 minutes maximum before they need to move and you need to move, they need to talk about what they are hearing.  After that, you can begin another 6 minutes of teaching.  This includes read alouds!  Begin a story on one side of the meeting area, stop to talk and process thoughts, then continue reading on the other side of the meeting area.  Have students turn their bodies around to face you again to promote physically being in a different position and looking at different surroundings...good for the brain!

My personal favorite thought of the day: Our brains are not wired to read.  According to Jordan, reading is the single most difficult thing that our brains learn to do.  It is so difficult because we aren't wired to read. Our brains are instead wired to tell stories.  I couldn't help but connect this idea to Ruth Ayres.  I had the opportunity to see Ruth this summer at the All Write Institute and she presented about the importance of story.  Our story.  Sharing our stories with others.  Turns out, it isn't just something we think is important.  Now there is scientific proof!  Sharing our stories is good for our brains.  

Even the children who come from the worst situations at home can be positively impacted by us.  We can provide a safe environment and help them make connections in their brains while they are at school with us.  You may think that one teacher can't make enough of a difference to that child, but think about the impact of having good teachers who do this year after year in school.  That impact alone could be enough to get that child out of a bad situation.  If we teach children to think and problem solve, they will have the capability to make the kinds of choices that would remove themselves from the negative situations in their lives.

Linda ended her presentation with a photo slide presentation of kid-drawn pictures set to the song "What a Wonderful World."  Indeed it is and thank goodness we have people to teach us and remind us about what we can do for the children in our world.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Broken



I tried a new app called Poetry Magnets to create this poem! It's a cool app that lets you choose from a stream of words in various categories to create poetry.  I didn't set out to create a sad poem, but those were the words that jumped out at me as I scrolled through the stream of choices.  Interesting!

Sweet Maddie


Sweet Maddie

I can't believe how you have grown
When just last night 
As I tucked you in 
you were a small baby

I kissed your fuzzy head
I nuzzled your neck
You babbled sweet nothings
pudgy fingers on my cheek

But look at you now
Growing so fast
Preschool starts tomorrow
Your bag is all packed

No longer my baby
Now a young girl
Out into the world
To share your heart of gold



My third child starts preschool in two weeks.  It's no easier this time around either!  It's exciting and scary to send my baby out into the world!  Here we go!



Sharing your heart of gold

Friday, August 10, 2012

Ten for Ten!



Today is the day for Ten for Ten!  I've given my book list a lot of thought.  I thought, at first, that it would be easy but the more I thought about it, the longer my list of contenders became!  Even though there were several newer titles on my long list, I noticed that I kept returning to the older titles more often.  That is how I narrowed my list.  Every time I thought to myself "but what about..." I would know that it was an important one to keep on the list.  Eventually, I had a list of ten (in no particular order).

1. Llama Llama Red Pajama by Anna Dewdney.  I had a hard time with this one because I love all of the Llama Llama books.  I use them often with my kindergarten writers because Dewdney's illustrations show such great facial expressions on Llama and his Mama.  It shows how important illustrations can be to a story.  And, let's face it, what mom can't relate to Llama Llama Mad at Mama?  I love little Llama's dramatic breakdowns in each story! It's funny when you aren't the Mama in the situation! 

2.  The Very Hungry Caterpillar by Eric Carle.  This story is just a classic, great story.  I remember reading it the first time and just getting caught up in the pictures.  I loved the bright colors, the way they were created, the layers of depth in each one, I could go on and on!  My students love it as well.  We always read it at the beginning of the school year and then again in the spring and usually several times in between because it is highly requested each year.  There are so many teaching points in the story as well: the life cycle of the butterfly, collage, instant gratification vs. waiting to find just the right thing, days of the week, word choice, etc.


3. Read To Tiger by T.S. Fore.  I stumbled upon this book because my daughter received it in the mail as part of the Dolly Parton Imagination Library program.  To be honest, it sat on the bookshelf for a while before we read it.  She wasn't all that interested in it at first, but then we read it and we both really enjoyed it.  It has so many onomatopoeia words that it is just a fun book to read.  Again, many great teaching points can be found in this story as well but most of all, any child that I've read it to has loved it.  That says a lot.

4. Wilfred Gordon McDonald Partridge and I Went Walking by Mem Fox.  This was just one pair of books that I just couldn't narrow down.  I love them both for different reasons.  Wilfred is a sweet story about relationships that so many can related to in some way that old and young both enjoy it.  Walking is a story that is fun to read with young children.  It reminds me of Brown Bear, Brown Bear by Bill Martin Jr. in that it has repetitive lines, colors and animals.  Each year my students enjoy this story and we typically make our first class book using this story as our model.

5. The Little Mouse, The Red Ripe Strawberry and The Big Hungry Bear by Audrey Wood.  Again, this is an author that I had a hard time narrowing down the choices.  Wood has so many great books that I use every year in my classroom and that my own children have enjoyed at home.  This story is a favorite because of the illustrations.  I love that you can read the words and enjoy the story but you can also read just the illustrations and enjoy the story.  When you combine them both, it's amazing!

6. Pete the Cat, I Love My White Shoes by Eric Litwin.  Honestly, I love all three Pete books, but my favorite is this one.  I love the rhythm of the story, the colors, the illustrations, Pete's attitude and of course, the moral of the story.  I have the song downloaded and on the desktop of my computer because my own children and my students request it so often.  We enjoyed this story so much last year in the classroom that I wrote my own version of the story/song when I got a new pair of plaid shoes!

7. Chicka Chicka Boom Boom by Bill Martin Jr.  Is there anyone that doesn't love this book?  I use it in my classroom all year long.  I have a chicka chicka boom boom tree in my classroom.  We do art projects surrounding this story.  We sing the song version of the story.  We use the small chicka tree and velcro letters to act out the story.  We make our own chicka books that go into our book boxes.  I love it!




8. No, David! by David Shannon.  David is one of my very favorite story characters.  Kids relate easily to him and all of the troubles that find him.  My students this past year really enjoyed the fact that David Shannon wrote this story about himself as a child and they were very motivated to learn that Shannon wrote his first version of the story as a young child.  It's a great mentor text to use in the classroom!

9.  Tulip Sees America by Cynthia Rylant.  Again, it was a tough debate between this book and Rylant's When I Was Young in the Mountains.  Both are fantastic but the illustrations in Tulip Sees America are what tipped the scale for me.  I love that there are pictures that are close ups, some are scenic illustrations and some are drawn in a way that so clearly shows the vastness of some places in America.  The page that always gets to me is the one with the stormy sky in one of the plains states where you can only see fields for miles and it feels so lonely and isolated that I can't help the catch in my breath each time I read it/see it.

10. Mo Willems might just be my favorite children's author.  He is a master in this arena! His characters are hilarious and so easy to relate to.  I love Elephant, Piggy, Trixie and Pigeon!  His illustrations are geared toward the artistic abilities of children. He has said that he tries to draw his characters in such a way that children can try to duplicate them.  In fact, he has published a step-by-step instruction sheet showing how to draw Pigeon.  You can't help but smile when you read a Mo story!



Tuesday, August 7, 2012

A Birthday Slice

Well, today is the day!  It is the day each year when I get a little older.  It's the day I think to myself, hmmm, I don't feel that old!  Yep, it's my birthday!

My morning started at 7 a.m. on the dot, as usual.  My 51-week-old alarm clock/daughter (I have a hard time believing she's going to be ONE on Monday!) woke up right on time.  We started the day with a bottle and a snuggle...always a peaceful way to ease into wakefullness!

My co-workers (yes, we did curriculum work today) provided me with a yummy baked potato and salad lunch, followed by equally yummy brownies and ice cream!  It made working today much easier.

After work, my hubby took me out for dinner and we enjoyed a meal together where we didn't have to get up to refill anyone's glass, didn't have to tell anyone to sit up in his/her chair and we didn't have to negotiate how many more bites anyone had to have of dinner.  That's right, it was a dinner for grown-ups only!

I guess I don't mind getting older when it means I get to have a nice day like today!




For more Slice of Life stories, head to the Two Writing Teachers blog, hosted by Ruth Ayres and Stacey Shubitz.  Enjoy!