Saturday, September 14, 2013

Remembering the Beginning

For Aunt J
May the Lord hold you in the palm of His hand

Recently, I was standing in the copy room at school making my copies for the next week.  I tend to do my copying and prep after school so it was probably about 5 o'clock.  I copied, folded, assembled and stapled my booklets.  

We have a new Kindergarten teacher who teaches at a different school in the morning and our school in the afternoon.  She's a first year "newbie" teacher.  Miss Kindergarten walked into the copy room with some papers and started inserting them into the laminator next to the copiers.  

I smiled at her and asked how things were going with her. We chatted for a while and she told me she was hanging in there.  I told her I remembered my first year of teaching and how exhausting it was.  I told her to just keep on going, to take it a day at a time, to keep good files on what she found to be successful and that next year would be SO much better!  

She looked at me for a long time and then finally said, "Thank you.  Thank you for remembering what it was like when you first started teaching.  I wish other people were like that and could remember when they were a first year teacher."  

I thought she was going to cry for a minute.  But then she got a big smile on her face and thanked me again.  

You know, we all need to remember what it was like when we're first starting something new.  We need to take the time to reach out and encourage someone who's new.  When I first started teaching thirty years ago (yes, I am a veteran teacher), my Aunt "J" was ready to retire from elementary teaching. 

I visited her at her farm and she said to me, "Come on.  I have something for you."  

She went into a room at the front of her house where she stored things and came out with a large box.  She handed it to me and said, "Here. I know you're starting out and I think this will help." 

I opened the box and found lots of bulletin board items and seasonal decorations.  Many of the bulletin board items were hand drawn and colored!  (I was quite amazed at my aunt's artistic talents!)  I remember a very cool Tony the Tiger, a funny Christmas Elf, a big lion head, a jack-in-the-box and several others.

I was able to use many of them for a number of years before they finally wore out.  And...every time I used one of them, I thought again of the kindness of my aunt in sharing her teaching supplies with me.

So, today I challenge you to find someone new and take some time to go and talk with them.  Encourage them and show a little kindness.   

It's worth it.       

Sunday, September 8, 2013

Shhhhh...don't say "common core"!

There are several ESL(English as a Second Language) or ESOL (English to Speakers of Other Languages) blogs I follow.  One is Fun to Teach ESL.  The author, Lori, posted a good link to a TESOL publication about Common Core Standards.  Here is the brief Lori linked to:

Overview of the 
Common Core State
Standards Initiatives for ELLs

It is well worth reading, especially for anyone involved in teaching English Language Learners.  Thank you, Lori, for posting it.

If you are not familiar with the Common Core Standards, here is a brief statement on what they are from Defining the Core:

"The Common Core State Standards (CCSS) are the culmination of an extended, broad-based effort to fulfill the charge issued by the states to create the next generation of K-12 standards in order to help ensure that all students are college and career ready no later than the end of high school. This is one of the most important changes in education in the United States in the last fifty years and stands to positively affect students, parents, teachers, communities, and the workforce as we take a firm grasp on what 21st century learning truly means."

And, here are a few more links to general information about Common Core Standards


Common Core State Initiatives

and a blog entry from Patte Barth at the Huffington Post, The Common Core Standards:  Truths, Untruths and Ambiguities.

I don't have a problem with the Common Core Standards.  It makes sense to me to expect more rigorous educational standards for all students and I will do whatever I can to help my English Language Learners.  I served on a district third grade English Language Arts standards revision committee last year. We went through the third grade English Language Arts Common Core standards and mapped out a suggested pacing guide for each quarter of the school year for our third grade teachers.  Common Core is everywhere in education.  I see it cited on professional books from teacher stores, on items purchased  from Teachers Pay Teachers, and new textbooks, etc.

What really irritates me, though, is after several years of talking about the Common Core standards and how to use them, NOW we're told at school that we aren't supposed to call them the Common Core standards!!! Yes, we have curriculum night coming up on Wednesday evening, but we aren't allowed to refer to Common Core standards in our discussions with parents or on our handouts for the evening.  Our district leaders have informed us that we have to call them "[insert the name of my state here] New Learning Standards".

You say "Common Core Standards";  I have to say "Blank State New Learning Standards".

You say "Tomato";  I have to say "To-MAH-to".  Sigh.

Thursday, September 5, 2013

Earth Science Vocabulary

Last year, I tried to help my third grade students with Earth science vocabulary.  It was difficult, but I tried to come up with some sort of visual organizer to help my students understand the vocabulary used by the regular classroom teacher.  Of course, I also brought in realia (hands on/touchable examples) of as many of the items as I could.

I'm sharing what I did, in case you have to do the same thing for your students.  They say a picture is worth a thousand words....

Monday, September 2, 2013

Write, Write, Write

One of the things I do daily with my students is WRITE!

Many times my class periods are limited to 30 minutes and I have a lot to do within that short time frame.  I try to get in some guided reading as well as vocabulary front-loading and practice, etc.  However, we always write, write, write.

We use Writing A-Z and the Write Source for ideas, but every student has a writing journal for their daily writing.  Frequently, we use blank composition books, especially with the older students, but I found a great writing journal with prompts for my first grade students.  It is called "My First Writing Prompt Journal" from Lakeshore. 

 My primary students LOVE these!  I started using them second semester with my first grade students last year and sent them home at the end of the school year with the directions to finish the journals over the summer.  This year, I distributed the journals to my first graders on our first day of ESL.  One of the girls in my class actually squealed when she saw her journal because she was excited to get one of her own!  (Her older sister brought her journal home in May and completed it over the summer.)

What I like about this particular journal is the interesting and child appropriate writing prompt on each page.  We read the prompt together and then talk about the choices in the word bank below.  After a brief "thinking" time, I direct the students to trace with their pencils over the blue writing prompt words and then finish the prompt with a word from the word bank.  I also expect a period at the end of their sentence.  After they complete their sentence, then they may draw a picture to accompany their sentence.  Each child reads their sentence to me as they complete it and they may tell me about their picture as they draw.

I know the writing prompt journal doesn't allow for a lot of creativity, but my students do other journal writing in their classrooms as well.  Using the writing prompt journals in my ESL class time allows me to squeeze in some writing every day.  Plus, my students really enjoy writing in these journals and will ask me for them if I forget to pull them out.  You can't beat that, in my opinion!  I love it when my students have a positive view of writing...whatever it takes.