Helping Hands

Today we began considering how our actions can be helpful to ourselves and others or hurtful to ourselves and others.  We read the book Hands are not for Hitting to get some ideas on how we can be helpful with our hands. We then created our own helping hands posters as an empowering and motivating way to think of our own hands. The posters are hung around the room as a visual clue to use hands for helping! 

    
   

What is Writers’ Workshop?

Each day, the kids participate in Writers’ Workshop. Writers’ workshop has three main components: the mini lesson, independent work time with conferences, and sharing.

The mini lesson is a short whole group lesson that focuses on one component of writing. Sometimes we learn about the craft of writing, sometimes about conventions of writing. Some of our recent mini lessons have been about adding more, writing from our hearts,and labeling our pictures with one letter. At the end of each mini lesson the writers take a “think minute” to make a plan for independent writing time that day.

Independent writing time is just what the name suggests. The kids work on writing projects of their choice. Sometimes we will have focused pieces in which the children attempt a particular genre of writing. As the students work, I have individual writing conferences in which I talk with each child about their own individual needs in writing. I compliment something the child does well and give them one thing to try.

Sharing happens at the end of writing time. There are so many ways to share writing. At this point in the school year, I choose one student to share their work with the class and I model how to give compliments to someone else’s writing. Later in the year the kids will get to compliment each other. We will also do other types of sharing like sharing with a partner or sharing a particular aspect of our writing. Sharing provides motivation for students to work hard each day and also helps reinforce what students are doing well.
That’s Writers’ Workshop in a nutshell. Please ask you child what they have been writing about!

Empty = Possibility

When you first enter our classroom you may be struck by its emptiness. In fact, I hope you are. I hope adults are a little curious about what might adorn the walls in the future. I hope children feel as though there is room for  them in this open and calm space. Here is a post from last school year about setting up the classroom.  

    
     

This is a place for us all. One teacher, many children and their families. Let’s fill the space together with our thoughts, questions, discoveries, kindness, laughter and smiles.

It will be beautiful. It will be uniquely us.

Teacher Inspiration~ 6 Words to Say to Kids

We teachers are super mindful of our words. The sum of our words to kids over the course of a school year is a powerful factor in the mindsets kids develop. Our words mold kid’s thinking about themselves and about learning. So of course we strive for patient positive words that encourage kids effort and progress. We strive to correct and redirect gently and kindly. The sum of these words do have a positive effect on the mindsets of our children.
Here is a new phrase to add to our teacher repertoire of powerful words…

I love to watch you ______________.

I came across this phrase in this blog post.
What resonates most with me about this phrase is while the words are super loving there is a lack of judgement as well. When you say to a child, ” I love watching you + dance/run/write” you are not praising them or correcting them. I think this is a great phrase to help with creating space for mistakes in our classroom. Non judgment is powerful. Acknowledgement is powerful. Noticing is powerful.
And let’s be honest, kids love it when we watch them. Often that’s all they really want or need from us.

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“Leave room for the butterflies”

My teaching philosophy has been the concise, but unfortunately prosaic, “Over prepare, then go with the flow”. This mantra has served me well in teaching and in life but I stumbled across some new words to live by, or teach by, “Leave room for the butterflies.” I read this phrase in the context of a flower arranging tutorial in which it was delightful appropriate. But the more I think about it, “leave room for the butterflies” is an apt analogy to inspire those of us who facilitate learning opportunities for little ones. When planning, organizing and scheduling, always be on the look out for the butterflies that flit across the classroom. The butterflies might be the little learners themselves who tend to flit rather than walk. The butterflies might be a teachable moment, a joke that gets us all giggling, or a topic a child wants to learn more about. A butterfly might be that lightbulb moment when understanding flashes through a child’s mind and onto their face in the form of a lightning grin. Many an amazing learning or bonding moment was never part of my painstaking penned lesson plans, but flitted into our day unplanned but powerful.
I hope to always leave some room in my heart, my mind, and my lesson plans for the butterflies.
“Leave room for the butterflies”…words to teach by.

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Teacher Inspiration: How Bare Walls Show Kids They are Important

The weeks leading up to the First Day of School are a whirlwind of activity. Organizing, cleaning, laminating, labeling, lesson planning…the list goes on and on. Each task is its own special joy. Teachers pour their love for their new students into these classroom tasks.
One task I propose teachers take off the list is decorating.
Decorating.
Really?!
Decorating is important, right? How can bare walls show students they are loved and important?
To me decorating your classroom, filling every bulletin board with cute teacher store cut outs and informational posters does show kids they are important. It shows kids they are welcomed and cherished guests. It tells kids, “Welcome to my classroom.”
My classroom, not our classroom.
It is okay for students to be welcomed, honored, cherished guests. Guests who are awaited with much excitement and whose departure causes the host great sadness.
But maybe they could be more. Maybe each school year could be a true collaboration where each person has a voice. Our school community could have less hierarchy and more inclusivity. As the teacher and the adult I have the responsibility, but I can share the rights. And also a few developmentally appropriate responsibilities.
Bare walls could be a first step.
Bare walls say, “There is room for you too.”
Bare walls say, “This place isn’t complete without you.”
Tonight, when my students come to see the classroom they will see open spaces like this.

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With a sign like this.

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For the last 7 years I have welcomed a new set of guests each school year. Guests who were cherished while they visited and missed after they were gone.
But this year, I don’t want guests. This year I don’t want the classroom to be mine, I want it to be ours.