We are back from Spring break, and entering into the last phase of first grade. Many teachers refer to this time as ” The Final Push”. It’s a time where we push our students, our teammates, and ourselves to reach goals, meet deadlines, and prepare to move on. It’s a time of year where we all need some inspiration to run that marathon, one leg at a time, to reach the finish line and finish strong. So what inspires us to finish strong, and not give up on the road?
Its the kids.
The kids we’ve been moving forward all year. The kids we know can do it if they put in some “umph” and grit. The kids who want to try something new and are figuring out how. The kids who struggled earlier in the year that finally have that”A-ha” moment.
This past week, when I observed students in my class helping each other figure out how to show they know about sequencing, I was inspired. This is our goal this week in literacy. While two students worked together to create a storyboard, another team of students was using our Dash robot to move along a map of the story. Some may call it arguing, some may say they were discussing how to do what they wanted to do. I would say they were using critical thinking – finding solutions to problems, and using perseverance – not giving up when it didn’t work the first time.
This was inspiring. After showing them how the robots work, they were figuring it out. After talking about critical thinking and what it was, my students were demonstrating it. They had applied their thinking skills to learn something new, together.
When I met with other students to work on writing a how-to book, I was inspired. I have students that have fabulous ideas in their heads, but need help organizing those ideas on paper. These students had detailed ideas on how to build something, and how to win at Dart Wars. They knew how to sequence them in order, but struggled with this skill when we started the year together. They were applying what they knew.
I am inspired every day by my kids and what they can do. I am inspired by colleagues who also try something new in their classrooms because they believe its best for kids. I am also inspired by people who take risks to make the world a better place. It is finding that inspiration from people around me that will guide me on this last leg of the marathon. Look for the inspiration on your journey. What inspires you?
Happy New Year! I just finished reading a great book by a fabulous author, Small Things by Jodi Picoult. Her quote got me thinking that we do small great things every day! So this year my quote is going to be “Do small things in a great way.”
Working with the “little guys”, I am inspired every day by their ability to do great things and think big things. Six and seven year olds are courageous and dream big! They look for solutions rather than problems, and this is one reason why I love working with first graders. Each day they show how they can be better than they were yesterday. In reading, we take small steps to learn the process of reading. Then, by the end of the year, they are reading chapter books! If we focus on the small steps, one at a time, we will reach the end goal!
A teacher friend of mine always says ” go slow to go fast.” She, too, is working toward that end goal by taking small steps, doing small things to make a bigger impact.
This year, my class and I will be focusing on doing small things in a great way. We will focus on those small steps to reach our personal goals in the end.
It’s that time of year again! Time to head back to the classroom and meet my new kids’ crew! I’ll be back in first grade this year, and I am looking forward to seeing their eager faces and hearing about their summer adventures. So here it is! My classroom has bare walls, flexible seating, and a lot of room for the personalities of my students. My classroom offers tables at low middle and standing height, it has different types of seating from pillows on the floor to crates covered with cushions, to Hokki stools and chairs that rock slightly when you sit in them. There are covered benches for reading together and giant bean bags to lounge in the cozy corner. There is a Wonder Wall, full of great books right now, but waiting to be filled with all of the things the kids wonder about.
We will spend the next few weeks getting to know each other, and finding out how we need to work together in our learning space. Together, we will create our learning community, adding to it the artwork and messages we want in our classroom. This happens with structure and routine. We will most likely redesign the space a few times throughout the year, once we know how we learn best and what my learners need to be successful. We will have many chats at our Town Hall meetings each morning about our learning community.
There is so much more than the environment to build a learning community in our classroom. We will begin this week by looking at how we are connected, and finding how we are all alike, and how we are different. We will read books by Kevin Henkes to learn about getting along with others, and we will also use the book Do Nice, Be Kind, Spread Happy by Bernadette Russell to help us work on compassion and kindness in the classroom.
I hope that my students are as excited as I am to come to school!
There is so much to do , and I can’t wait to get started!
January: a month to reinvent yourself. And reimagine your classroom. We begin tomorrow with 2016, the second half of the school year. My theme this week is Review, Reflect, and Reorganize.
REVIEW: Together, with my students, we will talk about our first half of the year, and review expectations, routines, and how our classroom feels. We are going to review our book boxes – clean out the old stuff and re-introduce what’s there and how to use the tools we have in front of us. We will refresh our minds by cleaning out the clutter and refocus on what we want to accomplish by the end of the year.
REFLECT: We are going back in our portfolios to look at goals we set for ourselves at the beginning of the year, and reflect on what we did to work toward that goal. We will set new goals, and one goal I have for my students is to design digital portfolios. We will reflect on what we’ve learned and reimagine what we want to learn.
REORGANIZE: or redesign, or redecorate. Whichever term you prefer. We are going to reflect on what is working for us, and make revisions, and refocus our minds on what matters most. I am excited to hear the input of my students and see what they think is important to be the best learner they can be.
It’s the most wonderful time of year, but for teachers, it is like running a marathon to get to the finish line. Teachers are required to complete progress reports, evaluate their students’ achievements, conference with students about progress, teach their lessons, and maintain some control as the students enjoy the excitement of December. As I begin to question, “Is this all worth it?”, it is my students who remind me, with messages of love and care, and random acts of kindness, why I chose this life.
Our last day before break was Friday, and as I was driving home, I realized how important it is to have a relationship with your students. During our last day, one student asked me if he could take books home over the break. He wanted to do “school” at home since we would be off for two weeks. I also received a lovely gift from one of my students, with a note tucked inside from his mom saying that he wanted to spend his own money on a special gift for me. At the end of the day, I sent my students on their way, and quickly followed them out the door to get to a teacher workshop. I was spotted by one of my students who ran up to me and said, ” I miss you already!”. I know many teachers have similar stories of students who appreciate all you do for them. They are the reason I chose to continue on this journey.
In my classroom, we have asked questions and looked for answers, we’ve learned how to work together, how to lead, and how to be flexible. Most of all, we’ve learned how to take care of ourselves and each other. We realize that it is the little things that remind us how to do good things. Our class worked on sharing notes of appreciation, handing out treats, encouraging each other with words and actions, and thanking people that helped us out along the way. I am humbled by my students’ kindness, and through their words and actions, I know I have made a difference in their lives. Always remember the little things and the importance of small gestures.
This year, my mantra is “Believe in yourself!”. I am taking some advice from a singer my daughter love, Shawn Mendes, and celebrating the mistakes we make and being extraordinary. Our theme song is “I believe in you” by Mendes, and the learners are moving and grooving as they sing along. We have a Wonder Wall in our room that is a place to share things we wonder about. I have added some thing to get it started, however, it didn’t take long for the learners to bring in things they wanted to share. Many are interested in rocks and fossils, while others have brought pictures to share. It will be a great place to add things we are learning more about as the year evolves.
We worked on collaboration this week, and I’ve been putting up a question each day for the learners to answer ( How do you act when you are working with another person?; Who do you show someone you care?; What are your talents? ) The answers they come up with and the discussions we are having about character development and how we act are amazing!
I am learning how to build their knowledge of reading, writing, and math skills alongside lifelong skills of collaboration, creativity, communication, and critical thinking. We worked in collaborative groups this week on a Box Project: There were so many creative ideas they shared, and they came up with their own set of rules for collaboration, and they could describe what creativity looks like! I walked around and could hear the conversations they were having about how to improve their project. I loved listening in on how their projects evolved! I am looking forward to working with this class of learners this year. We are off to a great start!
An army base out of boxes
Where do you find your inspiration for your classroom? It’s the time of year where I am mentally preparing for the new school year. I am reflecting on the previous year, thinking of what worked well for us, and what needs tweaking. I’m thinking of how my students have inspired me to look beyond our lessons and focus on ourselves.
Many learners who have come before us have left their thoughts and ideas as their legacy. For example, Walt Disney, an innovator who made his dreams come true, has inspired me. On a recent trip to Walt Disney World with my family for a much needed vacation, I discovered his quotes all over the parks. He is still building dreams and inspiring others to follow their dreams.
Walt Disney is my inspiration, and his words are becoming my mantra. I want to get things going in my room.This year, I want to create a more flexible learning environment for my students, so that they have ownership of their learning because every student needs time for personalized learning.
I also find inspiration in colleagues who share my vision of student directed learning. This year, I am making a change in me. I am redesigning my teaching and reflecting on the process. So find your inspiration, and join me on my journey through rethinking and redesigning curriculum using 21st century skills, focusing mostly on the 4C’s – communication, collaboration, critical thinking, and creativity.