Monday, August 26, 2013

Classroom Set Up

Setting up my classroom for a fresh new year was always one of my favorite things to do. I felt a sense of responsibility and happiness in creating a space for learners that allowed them to be both organized and innovative. It is a lot of work but it pays off to have a great space. Fact is, you spend a lot of time during the school year in that space, so you need to feel innovative too.

Smaller writing tables and areas allow students flexibility during writing time and supports them with their current writing needs. I always seemed to over hear writing conversations at this table and witnessed how writers at a very young age are open and reliant on good feedback for their writing. Writers of all ages are capable of editing along the process, it takes practice and quality feedback.

 Nothing like a table for 4 when sushi is on the menu. How much fun is it to set up the table in the housekeeping center? Please never stop advocating for dramatic play /housekeeping centers in early childhood classrooms. Hopefully the research on the academic and social value is being read by policy makers.

  I can only find old pictures of my kindergarten classroom. Why are my photos hiding when I want to share them? I'll post photos of my 4/5th grade classroom and library spaces later when I have the patience to search longer and harder for them. In the meantime, Check out the silks covering the harsh lights. I love them. I put my life in danger on a tall ladder alone in my classroom at night, trying to hang the things the same height! Not so cool.

This photo of my traveling lioness sculpture bench does not do it proud. It is such a beautiful and functional piece of art that demands the attention of everyone who enters into the space it owns. Over my nine years at the Pemetic Elementary School, students played with wild life animal toys on her, stretched out across her and read, named her, told her secrets, wished her good night and good bye, drew her and wrote stories where she stared as the heroine. 

A cooking word wall with interesting words that might not be on your typical word wall. When students wrote stories about cooking they could take the word cards off the pocket chart and to their table (they could copy the spelling). An interactive word wall can support emerging writers as they experiment with word choice and build their vocabulary around topics of interest and relevancy.

The Secret Pool

What do you get when you put a naturalist and science writer with an illustrator who always reveals the shining light of all mother nature's creatures? Throw in some interesting facts and empathetic energy and you get -- The Secret Pool by Kimberley Ridley and Rebekah Raye. From fairy shrimp to wood frogs, the wonders of ecology are abundant in vernal pools. For a budding 21st century ecologist, I couldn't imagine a more relevant and mysterious book to nurture their curiosity and inquiry. I'm now in love with every smiling critter in the vernal pool and armed with information that could help protect their crucial habitat. Every home with children and every science classroom would benefit greatly by adding this treasure to their book shelf. Brilliant topic to address with children and a validation to their natural tendencies to discover what is there in their world and to imagine what the eye can't see.

Friday, August 23, 2013

Early Math Center


I love this activity as a independent math center. The building of the towers begins with spatial and fine motor skills as well as building aesthetics. Putting the pencil to the paper to copy and draw the tower has participants practicing drawing shapes and requires revisiting, editing, and experimenting throughout the process. You will witness the skill of one to one matching, which transfers to reading text. Of course the coloring is also beneficial to fine motor skills and also the learning and talking about colors and patterns. The counting provides an extra math challenge for the builder. The best part is the happy smiles that cover the faces of the students engaged in this independent math center. It is times like this I really miss being in the classroom and creating meaningful activities that children love and learn from.

Thursday, August 8, 2013

Gary D. Schmidt

I have had the pleasure to once again hear Gary Schmidt talk about his writing and how he shares his passion and talent with kids. This guy just knows how to tell a story to any audience and have them inhaling every syllable that is released from his heart and soul. A talented writer who writes books that make you want to slow down your reading a few pages in ; already dreading the moment when you finish a book and have to live without the characters you are deeply invested in, and a setting you feel part of, as if you are there yourself. All his books are winners, but I will say that Okay for Now is in my top 10 favorite books read. I'd love to know what you thought of it or if anyone is using this book with students? It would make an ideal book club read or a present to a middle school or older reader in your life who is always up for a new book to read and love!

He does have an educator's guide off his website too...

Thursday, August 1, 2013

Kunu's Basket

Kunu's Basket: A Story from Indian Island by Lee DeCora Francis 

Kunu and his family live on the Penobscot Indian Reservation in Maine. When Kunu starts learning how to make a traditional Penobscot basket, he begins a journey of discovery and connection to who he is. His grandfather is right by Kunu's side. Basketry is part of a Penobscot's family's history: basket-making has been passed down from grandfathers and fathers in the tribe throughout the decades.This is an important read aloud about the value of family, culture, tradition, and perseverance leading to discovery and sense of self.