Tuesday, January 12, 2016

Slice of Life - Why Taking Down Student Chairs is Important

The lights are off.  I'm moving about my classroom taking down chairs we turned over the night before to end our day and to help our custodian sweep underneath.  There's a rhythm in movement and sound as I take each chair down and I began pondering, why.  Why for over 20 years of teaching do I take down each student's chair when I arrive to the classroom?  

The quick answer is my mentors did this in my old district; but there is more as I keep asking why.  Yes, the chairs are heavy.  Yes, taking down the chairs can be a bit loud when it's more than one.  Those are just obvious reasons and if it's been a routine my whole teaching career there has to be more.   I keep probing deeper and realize, it's more inviting.  I want the students to feel the room is ready for learning and being together.  The room looks more open.  The table tops look more inviting.  I hope this brings a feeling of encouragement and a feeling of comfort.  

I then think about the end of the day when my students help put the chairs up for the night.  It's louder.  It's noisier.  It's quicker but I feel it's the responsible thing to do to help our custodian with his cleaning.  I'm wondering now if this is a signal, a routine to say our day is done.  Our tables are not inviting now.  We need to go home and rest.

Thank you to Two Writing Teachers for inviting teachers to write and share their writing with each other.  This community helps teachers and students grow in writing.

Tuesday, January 5, 2016

Slice of Life - Ease turned into Social

I received a tweet Sunday night asking me what I might be changing in my classroom to start the new year.  At first I wasn't sure I was going to change anything.  I pondered my friend's question and realized I had something I wanted to change and then it turned into three things and within a 140 character tweet x 3, I started getting worried.  I could feel the wheels turning and warming up to the idea that school was less than 24 hours away but I didn't want my friend to feel like I was off and running at the track so I clarified by ideas by saying we are going to ease back to school life tomorrow and this week.

Fast forward to the morning and my students are arriving and I was ready to ease into our day.  I knew I needed to create opportunities for talk right away because I hoped they would be excited to see each other.  We started our day with a Find Someone Who...people scavenger hunt.  It was so fun listening to my second graders ask friends different things on the search and learn about their winter breaks.  They were smiling and so happy to see each other.  

We gathered for our morning meeting and started to review our normal morning routines.  Some days our meetings include a question, Who has something to share?  However, after every break I want everyone to share so we can catch up with each other.  After we each shared something from our winter break, I soon realized they wanted to connect and talk about things they had just heard.  So we took a few moments to find a partner and talk before we were scheduled to be in PE.  While my students were in PE, I reflected on our morning and realized - they need more time to talk and wondered how could I fit that in with my ease back plan.

This is what that looked like.
- Turn and talk during our picture book read aloud.
- Allow little side conversations while doing a writing piece for our PE teacher.
- Turn and talk during our new chapter book read aloud.
- Talk while figuring out Which One Doesn't Belong?
- Play math games with a partner for math workshop.

Easing into our day combined with social interaction made it a great first day back!

Thank you to Two Writing Teachers for inviting teachers to write and share their writing with each other.  This community helps teachers and students grow in writing.

Sunday, January 3, 2016

One Little Word 2016

Happy New Year 2016!  I hope everyone has had a relaxing break filled with family, friends, and time for yourself.  I've enjoyed my time away at home focusing on things that make us happy and resting.

Instead of creating a New Years Resolution and always wanting to have many I've chosen to participate in the One Little Word project and ideas from scrapbooker/storyteller Ali Edwards.  If you haven't read anything by Ali, I highly recommend you stop by her blog.  The past seven years I have chosen enjoy, aware, discover, change, create, embrace, and nurture.

My word for 2016 has been percolating for the last month and I'm really excited about it.


As in I have stories to tell.  
I have stories to capture.  
I have stories to remember.

So, this upcoming year - 

I want to notice stories.  As I thought about the word story I realized much of life is made up of stories.  Sometimes stories involve people, sometimes stories involves the thinking behind an object, event, or action.  

I want to document stories.  I want to document our stories, my stories, their stories.  I want to document things in our family life and in my classroom.  I use to scrapbook regularly a long long long time ago.  I look back at those pages and see stories that fill my heart.  If you know anyone who likes to create/craft we tend to collect things.  I have the tools to document, I just need to do it.  My classroom record keeping is something I have found hard to keep up with and try to remember in my head. My students deserve better documentation of their learning and this can only help me plan and be a better teacher.  I need to share our classroom learning with families better.  I tried to use a new tool this fall and neither I or the parents are thrilled with it so I'm returning to what I love. I also want to document my stories professionally with more consistency.

I want to create stories.  I realized over break when I chose to sew or make things there's a story behind why or how or what I am using.  These are stories to share.  I also want to think create stories by spending time with people and doing things with people by choice not because of an obligation or a to do list.  I want to have stories happen within our home, locally, and hopefully as trips.  When I think about trips though they can be day trips and don't have to be grand.

I want to foster stories.  This one really surprised me as I discovered it.  I have three beautiful teenage daughters.  I want to help them foster stories for themselves and think intentionally about what they do and how they spend their time.  I want to foster stories for my students to rush home and share with their families.  I want to be intentional in fostering my own stories.  As I thought about fostering stories I realized not all stories are pretty or happy and those have a place in our journey.  They help us grow and shouldn't be overlooked or not documented in some way, sometimes.

I want to have story variety.  These are areas in my life I want stories to be present; fitness, food, family, classroom, friends, and surprises.

Thank you for joining me on this journey and hopefully cheering me along the way.  I know I'm enjoying reading other posts and thinking behind One Little Word decisions.