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Feb. 22, 2021: One of My Favorite Teacher Moments
Yesterday, I wrote about what I miss about teaching and it led me to remember one of my favorite teacher moments. There are a lot of them, but this one is such a powerful one.
I once had a student that had a lot of behavioral issues and several diagnoses including Oppositional Defiance Disorder, Reactive Attachment Disorder, Tourette’s and ADHD. When he was in my class, his family was still trying to get his medications figured out, so there were days when he would have to come to school without any – if I remember right, it was because they would be doing testing with him at the doctor so they needed him med-free.
When he came to school on those days, he would climb on tables and run around the room. He’d hit and kick paras. He’d threaten to burn the school down or kill himself. He’d say really nasty things.
One day, we were walking to the bus and I was holding his hand so he wouldn’t run. He says, “What would you do if I told you I had a glue stick in my pocket?” And I said, “I’m not sure. Why do you have it?” And he said, “So I can glue your lips shut!”
I mean, how do you not giggle (at least inwardly) at that?
His behaviors were difficult to manage at times, but I had such a soft spot for him. I just couldn’t imagine what it was like to be him with all these things going on in his brain.
Anyways, he didn’t like to be touched or really even talked to very often. But one day, we were having a Mother’s Day Spa Day, and after everyone left, we were cleaning up as a class. I was kneeling on the floor picking something up, and this little guy walks up to me and puts his arm around my shoulders. Just for a couple seconds…he doesn’t say anything and I don’t say anything…and then he walks away.
I tear up every time I think about it – that was the one and only time I saw any kind of affection from him. And I often think to myself how hard that may have been for him. Or maybe it wasn’t, maybe it was just natural. But it was this tiny little thing that the majority of other students do every day, and he never did. And that’s what made it so powerful.
It was one of those moments that I knew I was doing something right. And it’s moments like those that, when I remember them, make me wonder why I’m *not* teaching.
Feb. 24, 2021: My Thoughts on Inventive Spelling
I love inventive spelling activities! They’re not only powerful for helping students learn important phonics skills, but they also teach kids to have a growth mindset.
At the beginning of the school year, when I ask students to “brave spell” a word – just do their best to write the letters they hear, and if they don’t know them, to just write something down – many students say they can’t or they don’t know how. They’re afraid of not getting it right.
So I keep telling them, just write something down, and I promise it will be perfect! And when they do, I always make a big deal about how they tried even if they weren’t sure it was right, and they did exactly what I was asking for.
Because in the beginning, that’s all that really matters. And as the year goes on, it is INCREDIBLE to see their confidence grow. And how their learning shows up in their inventive spelling. All of a sudden, one day they write the beginning sound of the word(s). Then pretty soon they’re getting the ending sound. And then some of the middle sounds. It is SO fun!
I’ve always done a weekly journal using Lakeshore journals that our district provided. I type up a prompt and print it, then they glue it in the journal. For the first couple months, it’s a sentence starter – they just finish the sentence with one or 2 words. Then I change it to a question and they have to write the whole sentence. Not only does it pack a huge punch as far as phonics and writing, but it serves as a great keepsake at the end of kindergarten.
When students were finished with their weekly journal prompt, they would meet with me and tell me what they wrote, and I would write it in pencil at the very bottom of the page so their parents would know what it said (if it wasn’t easy to tell what they wrote). I also made sure they drew a picture that related to the sentence and that it had at least 3 colors. Later in the year, I would check for spaces between words and punctuation. Then they would read on the rug until everyone was done (they could read “just for fun” books with friends).
This was one of my favorite weekly routines, and at this very moment, I’m thinking to myself, “Gosh, I should go back to teaching so I can do this again…”
Feb. 26, 2021: Movement Break Ideas
As I’ve renewed my dedication to making YouTube videos, I’ve been thinking a lot about brain breaks. There are so many fun ways to incorporate a movement break into the day. And maybe that’s what I should be calling them instead – movement breaks – because my favorites still involve learning. Is it still a brain break if kids are still having to think while they do them? I don’t know.
Anyways, yoga is always a good brain break. I loved using Cosmic Kids Yoga videos after lunch, when students are all wound up from recess and chatting with their friends. I would put a yoga video on and have them do it as a way to calm down. Also as a way to keep them busy as they took a bathroom break & washed their hands.
I also like to do quick simple things when they get too wiggly during a lesson…like have them all get up and touch the letter A somewhere in the room. Or solve a math problem with jumping jacks.
My favorite brain break videos are from Jack Hartmann…he has so many great ones that involve fun movement and academic skills. Some of them are super cheesy, but the kids love them. I don’t see my videos being like his, since I can’t sing or write songs or play an instrument…and I have zero desire to be on the screen. But using clip art and animations in PowerPoint can create some pretty fun results!
I also like to do these brain breaks where there are 3 different poses – like seed, stem, flower. For seed, the kids roll up in a ball on the floor. For stem, they stand up. For flower, they spread their feet apart and put their hands out. Then you just call out “Stem!” and they make that pose, then call out “Seed!” and they roll up in a ball. Start out slow, then go quicker as they get the hang of it. Super easy and they LOVE it! Plus, you can cover lots of different concepts with it. I’ve also done hibernate/migrate/adapt, caterpillar/chrysalis/butterfly, and more…but of course I can’t think of any at the moment.
Feb. 27, 2021: Developmentally Appropriate Practice
As a teacher who has a degree in Early Childhood Education, I had the idea of developmentally appropriate practice firmly planted in my brain. A LOT. At the time, when I was still in school, it was kind of annoying how much we talked about it. But now I appreciate it so much because it gives me a different lens to see education with.
It’s amazing to me how many administrators and even teachers don’t recognize what is developmentally appropriate for little learners. No play time? No rest time? Make them work while they’re eating snack?
When you think of kindergartners, yeah – some went to a daycare center or preschool where they’re used to being in a group of kids and having to follow different rules and expectations than at home. But even then, they get to play! But there are many kindergartners who have spent their entire lives at home…playing and resting and having the freedom to choose what they do or don’t want to do (to some extent).
Then they get thrust into school, where they’re expected to be “on task” for 6 hours a day. Where they have few opportunities to play, make their own choices, or have down time. So that’s why I think developmentally appropriate practice is so important – we can’t change the fact that they have to be in school all day, or that they have so many things to learn…
But we CAN change how they learn it. We CAN control how much fun they have. And if we make learning so much fun, it feels more like play. Which is what they SHOULD be doing.
IAs far as rest time, I often hear people say, “They don’t need to nap anymore.” Well…some do…but no, not everyone does. However, their little bodies need some down time. That’s why I think rest time is so important in kindergarten, even if it’s just 10 minutes.
Thinking of the year I taught in a district where rest time wasn’t allowed…and the day I *did* let my students rest because one little girl asked if she could just lay down for a little bit. Then afterwards, they begged to be able to do it every day. So I let them. I gave them the option to read or rest for part of our independent reading time.
And guess what? They still learned what they needed to learn. By the end of the year, they were supposed to be reading at a level D or higher. And how many of them were reading at levels G, H, I, J?
Because here’s the thing, it’s just like adults….if you keep trying to work when you’re tired or burnt out, you stop being productive. We all need breaks. And I truly believe that when you have shorter bursts of focused learning with lots of breaks, you can actually get more done.
I think for tomorrow, I’m going to gather some research about productivity and write a summary for my free write.