Oct 11, 2018

Using Diverse Books as Educators

Using diverse texts in the classroom is not a new concept, by any means.  I remember having an entire class on the use of multicultural books back in college (ummmm...20 years ago); however, as we grow and change, as educators, the way we utilize books in the classroom and in our lives may have evolved.

Diverse Books for Educators

Last year I joined a Diverse Book Club with some teachers from my school district.  There were eight of us and we were on a mission to read books that would help us to be a bit more empathetic, a bit more sensitive, a bit smarter, a bit more aware to the lives of others, especially the students and families we work to support.

What happened is...it changed me.

Before Reading

It starts with the construction of a book list.  The diverse stories chosen need to be...well...diverse.  Not just about skin color or race.  But also socio-economic status, gender, mental illness, incarceration, immigration, etc, etc, etc...  Each one of our students has a unique story.  As educators, we want to understand their background (or possibly their future) the best that we can.  I have included two pages of diverse book choices.  The book, topic, and supportive texts have been listed.

Diverse book list for Educators

Once the books are selected, a bookmark can be made to ensure everyone in the club knows what to read.  Here is the bookmark from our first year.

Diverse Book Club for Educators

You can create your own bookmark with this editable bookmark.  Just insert your images, print, and laminate.

Editable book mark for a Diverse Book Club

During Reading

Everyone reads in their own way.  E-Books, purchased book, library book, or audio book are all options, but you have to find what works for you.  Some people like to Post-it note their books, write inside them, take notes, or just mentally soak up the story.  None of these choices are wrong.  But here is a sheet that may help you to formulate your thoughts as you read these diverse texts.  It can also prepare you for your club meeting.

Diverse Book Club form and book ideas

K-Sometimes we think we may know a lot about a particular topic.  Jot these ideas down because you may soon learn through reading that there was still so much to learn.

H-Many times you will grow through the feelings that these diverse books generate.  Writing down these feelings may help you to sort through what you've learned.

L-The language used by the author or some of the content mentioned may be new or significant to you.  That can lead to a great discussion in book club.

Q-Write down any questions that come to mind.  This will greatly help support a strong conversation when meeting with your book club friends.

And finally, at the bottom there is room to write down any books that come to mind that may follow up on the diverse topic.

After Reading

Now it is time to meet!  It is helpful to choose a fun (but quiet) place.  You can even change it up each month.  Try coffee shops, outdoor patios, wine bars, or take turns going to each others' houses.  It really helps to choose one person to bring a list of book club questions or ideas for discussion.  This keeps the conversation going.

A few other things that we have done as a book club:
  • Watched the adaptation together
  • Attended an author's talk
  • Exchanged diverse books (Christmas in July)

One Final Note

I was really excited to join the book club that my teammate decided to start.  Meeting once a month to talk about books and our students sounded like so much fun to me.  But I would have never guessed that it would have actually CHANGED me.  It is nothing visual that you can notice on the outside of me.  But it is certainly something that I can feel on the inside. I smile a tad bit more at strangers.  I am a bit more patient with my students.  And I, for sure, have more empathy for fellow humans.

If you have any books that you would like to recommend to my book club, we are always looking for suggestions.  But I hope these freebies can help you get started.  Click on any of the images to utilize the freebie, or pin for later.

Diverse Book Club for Educators freebiesDiverse Book Club for Educators

Head on over to the next stop on these diverse book blog tour!

Oct 1, 2018

Gold Frame Work

Our first Gold Frame piece of work went up today!

If you need an easy way to recognize your students, this is the one for you! Find some frames, spray paint them gold, put them up in your classroom, and VOILA.... a beautiful way to celebrate your kiddos!

Sep 30, 2018

Opinion Writing with Miss Turie's Magic Creatures

I have seem many lessons out there on opinion writing about pets.  There are some great mentor texts to use that support students in this writing process
  •  The Perfect Pet by Margie Palatini
  • Cats Vs. Dogs by Elizabeth Carney
  • One Word for Sophia by Jim Averbeck
  • Can I Have A Stegosaurus, Mom? Can I Please? 
  • I Wanna Iguana by Karen Orloff
 But I recently had one sent to me from Innovation Press.


Miss Turie owns a pet shop and she has one guarantee: to find the right pet for you!  A young boy comes in to find his perfect pet and Miss Turie shows him around.  Each creature is mythical and magical, but not right for him.
This book is colorful and fun.  It is full of speech bubbles and curious magic.  One of my favorite parts about this book are the last four pages.  One these pages, the author shares a little history about each of the mythical creatures within the story.  This lends itself really well to opinion writing :)

This freebie includes images of each "pet" within this book.  Students pick the pet that would be best for them.  Then they explain why.  There are differentiated versions of the webs and paper choices.


If you would like to check out this book, just click on the image above.  And grab this companion product (FREEBIE) by clicking on the image below!  Hope you enjoy the books!


Sep 25, 2018

Substitute Service Project: Empathy in the Classroom Part 2

Empathy is the ability to share and understand the feeling of another being.  This can be a challenge for some children (and adults).

Back in July, I wrote a post about why I was working on empathy more in the classroom this year. This is part two.

One hot summer afternoon, I was chatting about service projects with my friend Stephanie, plus thinking about the empathy in the classroom.  And it hit me.  Why not combine the two?  So what was born from this thinking, was a school wide project to help substitute teachers feel more welcome in my school.

First step...get students to understand how substitute teachers feel about coming into a classroom that they have never been in before.  So we brainstormed how that must feel.  As we discussed these feelings and why they may feel that way, I wrote the feelings down.

Then I read them a book.

Dear Substitute actually hits upon the feelings of this little girl when her teacher is absent for the day.  It is written in a series of letters to things or people in her classroom.  Here are a couple of examples:

 As we read about how this little girl is feeling, we went back to our list of emotions that the substitute teacher may be having.  We realized that many of the feelings are the same.  And how this is true in our school, as well.  We may feel uneasy having a substitute but the guest teacher is feeling just as uneasy.

This led to a brainstorming session to answer the question...What can we do to make substitute teachers feel more welcome at our school?

 It may look messy...but it was our work in progress.  We wrote down any ideas that we could think of and then we sorted them out to make our plan.

Once the plan was established (you can see it on the right side of the yellow paper), I needed a team of kids to help pull it all together.  So I put out an application.  Students could apply to make the bulletin board or to assemble our welcome bags (plus hand them out to subs when they come).  The first and second graders in my building could apply and it was a simple application.  "Why do you want this job?"

The teams were established.  And it was time for the hard work to begin!

We started with the bulletin board.  I asked what they thought.  They told me.  And I gathered all the materials. The rest was up to them (except stapling...they were not tall enough).

Then it was time to make the bags.  First grade students decorated brown paper bags.  Second grade students wrote thank you cards.  The team of students assembled the bags.  Each bag had a mint, water bottle, pencil, and thank you card.

Once all of it was put up and stuffed in, the final product looked like this:

Now we wait for substitute teachers to enter our school.  But the foundation for empathy has been laid.  And now we build off of it.

Sep 9, 2018

Starting With the Why

Did I tell you?  I have a new math teammate this year.  It has been a lot of fun to share ideas, listen to ideas, and learn about new resources.  I can be awfully opinionated when it comes to math because for so long I had no knowledge, no deep understanding, and no confidence.  Because it took me until my adulthood to have a foundational understanding in basic math, I now have opinions.  Our students deserve the best math instruction.

And when there is a new teammate on board, I have to be sure to listen.  Then share my thoughts.  But listening is key because I have more to learn.

This year Ryan started off his year like we have done in first grade previously, but with some added twists!

But let's back up, just a bit.

Many times at parent teacher conferences we hear, "they don't have a math brain."  Or, "I wasn't good at math, so they are not either."  Basically, there are already preconceived notions about math.  Very often we have found that young children do not understand why math is important in everyday life.  So we have to take time at the beginning of the year to start with the why.

Ryan did just that this year.  He started with a simple web.  It posed the question, "Why do we need math?"  There may have been some cricket noises, but a couple of reasons were given.  This is to be expected and perfectly okay.  Because now the brainstorming can begin!

why do we need math powerpoint

This Powerpoint has slides within it from around my neighborhood. Phone numbers, speed limits, gas prices, and addresses are some of the images included.  Once you display a slide, just ask the students to talk about it.  Share their thoughts about how it relates to math and why it is so important to us. Just click on the image to grab it for free.

Ryan also used a video this year.

why is math important
 As the powerpoint focuses on signs and symbols around the community, this video focuses on professions and actions you take to utilize math skills.  Sports, construction, shopping, and driving are all included.

So what did the kids come up with?  Remember that web that Ryan started with the students?  They came back to that and added to their thinking.  This picture speaks louder than my words.  The blue is before the Powerpoint and video.  The purple is after.

Conversation in the classroom is so powerful.  Just look at what it did!

Aug 20, 2018

Classroom Spaces

The space we inhabit on a day to day basis is important.  We all have our own styles, comfort levels, and quirks.  It can make sharing a space with little ones easy or hard.  It can make sharing a space with other adults easy or hard.  Regardless of all of this, one thing is pretty clear...starting the year off with a fresh start is essential.

This does not mean you buy all new things or you have a new "look" to your room each year.  Nope.  It just means that you feel fresh, organized (whatever that means for you), and ready to welcome a new batch of faces.

I no longer have a room since I teach in a smaller group format.  But my little corner is an important one to me.  So it is clean and ready to be added to by the readers and writers that I will work with.  As I walked around my building today, everyone was working so hard to make our students feel welcome.  And I found that there were special parts to each room that I walked into.

When I walked into both of these second grade classrooms, there was an inviting feel. The soft greens and browns of this room felt calming.  The cute cacti hanging out around the room give it some fun pops of color! I loved her empty boards around the room that were ready to be filled up by students.

The other room is splashed with pinks, yellows, and greens.  The colors are fun and engaging.  This small centerpiece hangs over a round table, giving it a feel of importance and excitement.

Our third second grade teacher has been working to integrate flexible seating into her classroom.  When I walked into her room this year, I found a small picnic table.  I was drawn to it immediately.  The students are surrounded by many different seating options to fit their diverse needs!

As I moved into the first grade classrooms, I found different parts of each room that I gravitated towards.  Our newest first grade team member, had freshly painted boards eagerly awaiting to be filled by students and a ready to use calming corner.  This little area has books, a stuffed buddy, and a cozy chair.
One of my favorite spots in Maria's room is her golden frames!  These quickly get filled up by "golden" work completed by students.  It may be a well constructed hook or an illustrated picture that is showcased within the frame. But it means so much to a firstie to be "shown-off" in one of these frames.

In our third first grade classroom, I seek out all of the stations.  Each one is filled with a variety of books to be explored.  This is the listening station.  But as you can see, there are baskets and baskets to be rooted through once the listening is through.  There is no place in these classroom walls that is not within arms length of a basket of books.

In each of our kindergarten classrooms, my eyes immediately darted to certain parts of their rooms.  Each classroom offers places for these new little learners to explore.  I could not stop checking out all the books on display in this bookcase.  I love to see books out in the open and ready to be looked at and read over and over again.  It is especially important for the children that may be receiving their first experiences with books.
Along with all the books, I found more play in each of the kindergarten classrooms.  Yay!!  It was so exciting to see a kitchen set, grill, doll house, tool set.  For so many teachers, this type of play had to be removed from the classroom for more "academic" purposes.  But we know so much learning is acquired through play.   It is back!  And I am so happy to see it.

In our third kindergarten classroom, I found a rather inviting circle.  This is the whole group area.  But I really liked the way it was set up.  It felt inclusive.  There was no open sides to the area.  But rather, the circle had seating, an easel, and a wall surrounding it.  To me, it felt like a place where everyone would fit, everyone would belong.

Each classroom has such different things to offer because each classroom is constructed by a teacher alongside their students.  Our teachers and students hold the heart to the classroom and the environment within it.
I am excited for a new year.  And we are ready for our students.

Aug 15, 2018

Organizing...Many Pieces!

As we head back into our classrooms (or spaces), we clean, purge, organize and prepare the best we can for the little humans that will be with us for the next 10 months.  It is a fresh time.

Puzzles have been a staple in our first grade classrooms the past couple years when we realized that it was becoming a lost art.  It provides great critical thinking, problem solving, and organizational skills for out students.  But many did not know how to complete one.  So we worked on this.
This year my teammate has added memory games.  These help to support student concentration and visual memory. Not to mention, it is a way for students to ease into their days calmly.

organizing many pieces

One problem...both games require many pieces.  And we are talking about little kids-pieces get dropped, lost, misplaced. (Okay-let's be honest-I'm an adult and do the exact same thing to small pieces).

My teammate has put each of the memory games and puzzles into small plastic containers.  They are clearly labeled with the picture of the game/puzzle on them.  Students know exactly what they are working on because they are so clearly marked.

organizing many pieces

She also added a number to each piece and container.  This means when a piece does end up on the floor, a table, or another box--it can easily be placed back into the correct plastic box.

organizing many pieces

Sometimes it can be these small changes that add calmness to a classroom.  And that calmness might be just what a student needs.