Here I go again.

I have to say that one of the hardest lessons I’ve ever learned was that I am (surprisingly) not perfect.  I learned this in elementary school, after time and time again, I came up short of my own extremely high expectations. As a child, I was so hard on myself.  For what reason I don’t think I can really explain or even understand now.  As an adult, I’ve come to understand (and graciously accept) the beauty of flaws in human nature.  The learning moments- the TEACHING moments- are the moments when something doesn’t go quite right; something doesn’t go as planned.

Recently, in my personal life, something didn’t quite go as planned.  I won’t go into the details, because, truthfully, they don’t matter.  What matters is what I choose to do now. I stopped writing on this for awhile- partially because of the busy tail-end of the school year, and partially because I just didn’t have words that seemed important enough to share. Summer and time have rejuvenated me and I think I’m ready to begin again! I have made mistakes, I have learned from them, and now it’s time to share some of my knowledge and summer plans with you (whoever you are).

A small group of teachers, administrators, and specialists from my elementary school are attending a week long professional development on Universal Design for Learning (UDL) at Harvard in July. I just happen to be one of the lucky teachers who will be in attendance! I say lucky because I really do feel that way. UDL is something I’ve learned a little about before during my undergrad at Penn State, but I do believe that my practice could be amped up with a little more information, discussion, and development. This is going to be a pretty rigorous week of learning…in fact, we have assignments to complete before we even get there! The book I’m reading now is called Effective Inclusive Schools: Designing Successful Schoolwide Programs by Thomas Hehir with Lauren Katzman.

Pre-reading for Harvard's UDL Workshop

So far, I have really enjoyed reading about the three schools these authors followed throughout their research. It is so easy to think of a list of excuses why “my school could never be like that,” but, in many ways, the school I work at is already a lot like these schools. We have a very large Hispanic population. We have a very large free/reduced lunch population. We have children arriving from various countries at various times throughout the year who have never been in school, let alone have any knowledge of our language. Yet, it is our job to find ways to help them be the best learners they can be. In no way is this easy, but I believe it is possible because I know other schools have excelled in teaching learners of all races, religions, abilities, and interests. I am excited to share the things I learn at this workshop here with you! I will be there from July 7-11 and plan to have a few nights where I can debrief my learning here.

As for the rest of my summer day, I plan to continue scrubbing the kitchen floor, walk up the street to see a movie, and (of course) read a little bit more about these great schools! I’d love to hear any thoughts or knowledge you all have about UDL or similar approaches to reaching all learners.

Advertisements

Liebster Award!

liebster4

Well, my good friend and colleague Heather from http://thelandofican.blogspot.com/
nominated me for a Liebster Award! So, I’m here to explain what that means…

The Liebster Award is an award for new blogs. Liebster is a German word that means: BELOVED, CUTE, LOVELY, DEAREST, & WELCOME! (I took German in High School…it’s finally paying off a little..)

Here are the rules:
To accept the nomination I must:
1. Link back to the blog that nominated me
2. Nominate 5-11 blogs with fewer than 200 followers
3. Answer the questions posted for me by my nominator (Sarah)
4. Share 11 random facts about myself
5. Create 11 questions for my nominees
6. Contact my nominees and let them know that I nominated them

Here are my nominations:
1.

The Teaching Bug

I just happened to stumble upon a bunch of cool blogs recently and this is one of them. She has a great idea and freebie called “Caught Being Terrific”…something I think my class needs. With the group I have this year, it’s really easy to catch them being not-so-terrific..so I’m thinking about giving these a shot!

2.

Welcome to Munchkin Land!

I first clicked on this blog because I loved the name! Sometimes, “munchkinland” just seems like a perfect name for the place we call Kindergarten. Gotta love those little munchkins! I love her name Chicka Chicka Boom Boom trees. I have to remember that for the beginning of next year. It would be a great bulletin board!

3. http://abcprimary.blogspot.com/
Love the anchor chart ideas on her site! She’s got a ton of them. Anchor charts are definitely something I’m looking to make more of/get better at making more effective!

4.
Keeping it Captivating
She makes and sells some really nice materials over TpT…looking out for her freebies so I don’t spend my whole paycheck!

5.
Photobucket
This blog has been an inspiration to me recently! I am participating in a Teacher Leadership Project this year through my school district which is technology based. Lately, I have been feeling like a bit of a slacker on all things related to that project. This blog has given me some of the motivation I’ve been lacking to start thinking of some new ways my students can utilize technology in the classroom.

Now to answer Heather’s questions:
1. What grade do you teach and why do you love it?
I teach Kindergarten and I love it because I get to experience the first year of school over and over again! Seeing my students become students is amazing. I love love love seeing the very beginning of a student career blossom.

2. What is your favorite book to read to your students?
I like to read It’s Mine! by Leo Lionni. I get very into the character voices in that book…and it teaches a great lesson about sharing, too!

3. Which do you love more: sticky notes, hole puncher, or dry erase markers?
Wow. This was a tough one. My first instinct was sticky notes, but then I thought about how good it feels to hole punch papers and organize them neatly in a binder. Hole puncher wins-only if it’s the 3-hole kind, though.

4. What is your drink of choice to get you through the day?
Water! Tea if I’m not feeling so well.

5. Favorite school lunch that your cafeteria serves but you might not actually eat?
The tacos always smell really good…but I think my days of chancing the cafeteria food are over.

6. How long have you been blogging?
Hmmm…only about 4 months.  That actually makes me feel a lot better about this whole blogging thing.
7. What is your favorite TPT product?

Anything free that I can use right away…
8. What holiday do you look forward to most during the school year?

Thanksgiving is one of my favorite holidays.  My family loves to cook together and it’s always just so fun and relaxing.  When it comes to holidays to celebrate in school, I think I like Valentine’s Day…in my experience it’s a week long “celebration” (at least for the kinder kiddos) and I always feel so loved.
9. What do you do with your summers?

This past summer I organized a lot of my school stuff that I kind of just threw places last year.  I golfed, swam, read books in the sun.  It was wonderful!  This summer I think I might have to get a job…if anyone in the NOVA area is looking for a tutor for kinder/first children, I’d be more than happy to chat!
10. Do you pick out your school outfit the night before or the day of?

I always have an idea in mind the night before, but I almost always change it in the morning.

11. What do you wish all your students would know before coming to your class?

Their alphabet letters!  It would just make reading so much easier:-)

Here are my 11 random facts:
1. Some of my family members still spell my name wrong (Kristen instead of Kristin).
2. I pole vaulted in High School.
3. I just finished my first half marathon and have signed up with a team for the Ragnar Relay DC in September!
4. This is my second year teaching.
5. I love candles.
6. I enjoy cooking and baking new things.
7. I knit…very simple things.
8. My favorite color is green.
9. If I could live anywhere right now I would want to be somewhere in California…San Diego, San Francisco, Los Angeles.
10. My parents are both teachers.
11. I always lose chapstick before it’s all used up.

Here are my questions for my nominees:
1. How long have you been teaching?
2. What grade/grades have you taught?
3. Which grade has been your favorite and why?
4. What is your funniest memory of a student or experience with a class you’ve had?
5. If you could change something about education as it is right now, what would it be?
6. What is your favorite read-aloud book?
7. What is your favorite part of your school day and why?
8. What do you do on parent/teacher conference days between conferences?
9. When you’re not at school, where are you?
10. What is your favorite summer vacation?
11. What is your professional goal for 2014?

Books for my kiddos

Hello!

I have decided to use donorschoose.org to ask for the base of a leveled library for my students.  If you’d like to check it out (or help me out) you can follow the link below.  My kids really deserve to have a nice classroom library where they can find books that they can practice new skills and strategies with.  I’ve finally decided to ask for some help.  My roommate just got a bunch of stuff for her students through donorschoose, so I’m hoping I have the same luck. 

 

http://www.donorschoose.org/we-teach/2230709?rf=link_siteshare_2014_36_teacherid_2230709

New Year, New Projects!

I am finally feeling (almost) back in the swing of things at school.  This past week was a crazy one due to the cold weather conditions and this coming week I won’t be in my classroom very much due to testing and other obligations…regardless, the show must go on, right?

My kiddos have been religiously drafting new posts in their blog journals.  Some have even taken it upon themselves to write new drafts during indoor recess.  I adore this motivation, but not all of my students are equally infatuated with blogging, and I’m also very accepting of that.  Some are still struggling with letter formation, which ends up being a little bit of a roadblock when drafting.  We’re working on it every day, but, hey, that’s just the nature of the job, right?  Not all people progress at exactly the same pace, and that’s quite alright!  I am, however, loving the fact that my students who have taken writing and run away with it have somewhere that they can always put their thoughts.

Throughout the next few weeks, my class is going to begin to film a handshake video for a class in Australia who we’re going to partner up with for the second half of the school year.  I am beyond excited about this!  This initial video will serve as an introduction to our class, classroom, and our town to the students in Australia.  After this, our project will consist of rehearsing and filming readers’ theaters for our partner class (and of course watching their performances, too!).  I haven’t told my class about any of this yet- just waiting for the right time!  Just like they enjoy writing for an authentic audience through their blogs, I know they’ll get a kick out of practicing and performing some of our favorite books for a real audience, too! 

So, there you have it…my newest plan for 2014.  I am back in action in the classroom and will do my best to keep you all updated on our progress!  For now, I’ll leave you with some screenshots of the most recent posts on our class blog:

 

Image

Image

Image

 

My Hiatus

Well, hello there!

I have been bad at keeping this up to date recently…but so much has been happening! I promise there will be lots of fabulous new posts and technology related projects in the new year!

For now, I’d like to tell you about a give-away my wonderful friend and coworker is doing on her blog. It’s an after-the-holidays surprise! We both teach kindergarten and the things she’s been making are great for small group work and centers. She’s giving away 3 of her products and I highly endorse them all! Check it out here http://thelandofican.blogspot.com/2013/12/winter-product-giveaway.html?m=1.  I entered, too…so good luck to all!!

I have a room full of writers!

20131123-080835.jpg

Above, you can see that all of my students have now had the chance to publish at least one blog post. Below, I’m posting some pictures of posts and comments. I showed a few students how to comment on each other’s posts yesterday. We also got some comments from the paraprofessional who works with me, my mom (a reading specialist in PA), and a few other teachers I work with! Thank you all for your support! The proud and accomplished smiles on my students’ faces is so wonderful to see.

20131123-081251.jpg

20131123-081318.jpg

20131123-081331.jpg

When I showed Alexa how to comment on her friend’s posts, her reaction was the best. She whispered in my ear what she wanted to write. She got to work typing, and after that, all day Alexa and I had this secret. When I showed the students the blog and all of the comments we received at the end of the day, this child was sitting up on her knees, rocking back and forth in pure anticipation of our grand surprise. It was adorable.

My plan for now is to have my students continue to draft posts. Our production of published posts will most likely slow down a little bit, but my goal for them is to always have a post available to publish when it’s their turn on the computers. Eventually, I’d like for them to be able to post products they’ve created with other forms of technology. We’ve still got many school days ahead to explore our new-found love of blogging!

Author Visit & Parent Conferences

I want to begin this post by saying that I work with the most amazing people! The faculty at my school is doing amazing things in their classrooms. Each day I am at school, I learn something new or get a great idea from one of the many wonderful people I work with.

The best part about this is that the children in my class benefit from their greatness, too. On Tuesday this week, our kindergarten team had an author visit by the one and only Debbie Clement! Previous to her visit, we all got her book, Tall Giraffe, and learned the song and sign language that goes with it. Our students absolutely loved singing the song and learning the signs. Each class even made a giraffe project in honor of the book! When our special author came to visit, we displayed our projects in the library for her to see. Here are some pictures of our author friend with some special helpers:

20131120-192539.jpg

20131120-192533.jpg

My colleague, Heather VanKuiken, (find her at The Land of I Can) put the whole thing together for all of our kindergarten students! Each child even walked away with his/her very own book and CD!! Thank you, Mrs. V!

All of this excitement prompted my class to draft up some blog posts about our author experiences. Those will be published on our class blog in the next week or so. Having a true purpose and audience is really helping my students’ written communication take flight. I am truly amazed by them already. I had the chance to show some parents our blog work tonight at conferences and they were blown away. I showed them how to log in as a guest and make comments, so I am hopeful that some check back in and comment. How exciting! My students will be able to get positive, motivating feedback from home through their parent’s comments.

School is a whirlwind right now and I am loving it. When we finish our posts about Debbie Clement’s visit, I’ll post some screenshots for your viewing pleasure. If you’re curious about our author, you can find out more about her here.

To add one more thing… Here is Debbie Clement’s blog post about her visit at our school: Rainbows Within Reach. Enjoy!