Wednesday, November 22, 2017

Gratitude

Thinking about where I was a year ago and where I am today, I can't help but feel blessed.  I am back home in Ohio.  Being close to my family and friends is special.  Instead of being 2 plane rides away, I am now a short drive.  I get to wake up everyday to teach at a school I absolutely love and have fun with a group of Kindergarten students that are eager to learn and share their learning with me everyday.  The community is hands down the best; I have felt supported from day one.  Working with and learning from like minded people adds joy.

In May of last year, I started my masters degree in literacy.  As I am putting the final touches on my research, it is hard to believe I graduate next month.  Receiving my cap and gown in the mail today made it so surreal.  Since starting my masters degree, my passion for literacy has grown immensely.  I am thankful to have many opportunities to learn more about a topic I love.  For years, I have wanted to attend the National Reading Recovery Conference, but did not have the means to do so.  I am beyond thrilled to attend in February 2018 with coworkers.  I continue to strive to create a community of passionate readers.

When I reflect on the past year, so much has changed.  Today my heart is full and I am excited about the future.  Thank you to those that have been a part of my journey and continue to support me.


Monday, October 16, 2017

Classroom Tour 2017-2018

I hope everyone had a positive start to their school year!  I am SO happy to be back in home sweet Ohio.  I love my new school and am so happy with everything.  I have a wonderful group of Kindergarten students and very supportive families.

My school is newly rebuilt (old school was torn down in June).  Since it is a new building, we ordered furniture this past spring.  I am very fortunate to have many flexible seating options provided to us.  It is also the district's first year doing all day Kindergarten, which I taught the past 2 years at my previous school.   It was fun to see everything come together!  Below are pictures of my  Kindergarten classroom:
This is what you see when you first walk into my classroom.  The shelf in behind my couch holds math games and math manipulatives.  
Stools at my kidney table are from Five Below.
View from my carpet.  The blue chair is where I sit during mini lessons.
Themed bookshelf and calendar
The black crate to the left is where students place pencil boxes if they are working on the carpet with a scoop rocker.
Took advantage of the small space below my whiteboard.
View on the left when you walk in.  I sure missed having a bathroom in my classroom!  
Classroom Library
Shelf below the television holds student book boxes and the shelves below the word wall are picture books sorted by theme/author/genre.  The student work above the tv is covered since it is a student name craft.  Sorry!
READ letters are from Target dollar spot this summer.
All of the beautiful cabinets and cubbies!
The posters on the cabinets are Zones of Regulation, which my grade level is doing with our school psychologist and occupational therapist. 
The is the far right side of my classroom, my writing area.  Each student has a writing goal they focus on.  To the right of that are monthly themed words.  The door leads to my teammate's classroom.  
Scoop Rockers: Originally purchased from Wal Mart over a year ago, but they can also be found on Amazon.

Thanks for reading!


Tuesday, August 8, 2017

Disrupting Thinking Takeaways

This summer I read a handful of professional books. Disrupting Thinking: Why How We Read Matters left the biggest impression on me. The book is structured by 3 main sections: the readers we want, the framework we use, and the changes we must embrace.  I was worried this book would be heavily focused on intermediate grades where students read to learn instead of learning to read.  However, I was pleasantly surprised how Beers and Probst illustrated how each topic or idea could be applied across grade levels.

What is the purpose of reading this book?
Beers and Probst challenge several classroom practices such as whole class novels, classroom libraries only containing leveled book bins, and reading to answer specific questions.  They want it to be better by helping students become responsive, responsible, and compassionate readers.  In order to do this, Beers and Probst say we need to be brave, open, connected and get uncomfortable.  Below are some takeaways that I had that can be applied to my Kindergarten classroom:

1. Creating Joyful Readers
The beginning of chapter 1 saddened me.  Although I was not surprised that children read less as they get older.  It also seems that as the demands increase, the purpose for reading changes and students refer to reading as "dumb" or "boring".  In today's society, students need to do more than answer questions.  Instead, they should be asking the questions.

"If the reader isn't responsive, if she doesn't let the text awaken emotion or inspire thoughts, then she can barely be said to be reading at all." (Beers and Probst, 2017, p. 28)  Responsive readers are the goal.

2. Choice
"Their choice will not have been guided by a reading level, but by interest.... choice means choice."  There are so many classroom libraries that only consist of leveled book bins.  While this is a strategy practical for guided reading, students can learn strategies such as the 5 finger rule to pick books.  As an adult, we do not go to a leveled section at a library.  In fact, I doubt many adults know their reading level.  Only reading books from a leveled bin will not create passionate readers.


3. Helping Kids Spot Fake News
Responsible reading is a critical skill.  Many adults get their news from social media when they need quick access.  If we don't teach students to read responsibly, then they could harm others by sharing inaccurate information.  With all of the comments and likes, readers assume it is the real thing.  Beers and Probst encourage us to teach readers to do 3 things as they read the news:
--How does it look?
--What does it say?
--How does it make me feel?

4. Book, Head, Heart framework
This direct and simple framework keeps kids focused on their thinking.  Learning to pay attention to the text is a necessary skill.  I plan on using this in my Kindergarten classroom, but modifying it a bit to meet their needs.  I love this section because Beers and Probst provide examples for various grade levels, which makes this framework relatable for educators.
Book:
--Notice and Note signposts (this is another book they wrote)
--Somebody Wanted But So
--Sketch to Stretch
--Fix Up Charts

Head:
--What surprised you?
--What did the author think you already knew?
--What changed, challenged or confirmed your thinking?

Heart:
Elements associated with the text such as values, attitudes, and beliefs.
--What did this text help me learn about myself?
--What did this text help me learn about others?
--How has this text changed my thinking about the world?
--How will my actions or feelings change as a result of reading this text?
--Does this text offer me any of my own Aha moments?  Any tough questions?  Perhaps my own words of the wiser?

I can't say enough positive things about Disrupting Thinking and hope all educators take the time to read this book.

Friday, June 30, 2017

Areas of Focus Next School Year

I recently read a post by Starr Sackstein on Education Week.  As a connected educator, I am always reflecting, questioning, and thinking about changes I can make.  Starr's blog post had 5 areas of focus, which I will also use to guide my thinking about next school year.

Next school year brings a lot of excitement for me.  Most of you know I spent the past 2 years in Raleigh, North Carolina.  Although I learned a lot in my experience, I am eager to move back home to Ohio.  I will continue teaching Kindergarten at a brand new building.   Below are my 5 areas of focus for my new chapter:

1. Build Relationships - "We are better together" is a saying that never escapes me.  From day 1, I make it a priority to build relationships with students, families, and staff members.  I find that building a positive partnership with families leads to optimal success in the classroom.  I look forward to working with a new staff and team to see what we can do together for our student's learning experiences.

I always like gaining new ideas.  Comment with 1 idea you use to build relationships with students, families, or staff.

2. Ask Questions - With teaching in a new school, district, and state, there will be a lot for me to re-learn since I haven't taught in Ohio for a few years.  As Starr mentioned in her post, adults need to model this behavior.   I will ask questions to clarify, learn, stretch my thinking, and encourage.

3. Take Risks - I am not a teacher who does the same thing every year.  While there are some structures, routines, and lessons that remain consistent over the years, I believe in making changes to fit my student's needs.  This upcoming school year, I am going to continue trying new things or refining what I am doing.   I have recently read fantastic professional reads such as Disrupting Thinking that had some bold messages for educators.

4.  Lead - That one word has a lot of associations involved.  When I say lead, it does not have an authoritative meaning attached to it.  I want to lead by embracing change, lead with positivity, lead by collaborating, lead by communicating, lead with kindness, lead with a willingness to learn.....  All educators should aim to lead with intent in their classroom, school, and community.

5. Balance - I will graduate with my masters degree in literacy this December.  I have a lot of pride with this because I am earning my masters degree from the college I attended for undergrad.  I absolutely love what I am studying, but I look forward to having more free time on nights and weekends.  Completing a 30 credit masters degree in 18 months had come with many late nights and not much free time.  Fall will be very busy as I complete my research, but the finish line is in sight.  Throughout the school year I will work on taking more time for myself so I can be the best version of myself for my students.  Each school year I continue to work on balance.  Since I am living closer to my family and friends, I plan to make balance even more of a priority.

Sunday, April 23, 2017

Recharging My Batteries

I had spring break two weeks ago and it was the first time having a day off since January (thanks snow days...)  Teaching Kindergarten and completing my literacy intervention practicum this semester kept me busy.  Once spring break came, I was very eager to relax and take the time to slow down.

One of my hobbies is traveling (within the United States) to see friends, explore a new city, or relax at the beach.  I fly many times a year and I find it so relaxing to unplug and enjoy the ride.   I typically travel over any break we have from school.  Spring break was no exception.
I hadn't seen my college roommate/sorority sister in 10 months.  I met her at North Myrtle Beach for   2 days.  

I flew to Cincinnati to look at apartments then spent the weekend in Columbus for Easter with my parents.
The girls pictured above were a roommate and sorority sister in college.  Both currently teach in the Cincinnati area and I am beyond excited to live in the same city as them.

I purchased both of these at the Simply Vague store at a mall in Columbus.  
Shirt: This is Home
Mason Jar: The Heart of it All
I love the meaning behind both items, as Ohio is my home.  

Now I have a 3 week break from grad classes before my 3 summer classes start.  I have been enjoying the time at night to work out more frequently, catch up on tv shows, and go to bed earlier.    


Tuesday, April 4, 2017

Coming Back Home

I recently read my friend, Brendan Fetters' blog post and it had my thinking about my journey.

When I think about risk, I think back to the end of my 2nd year of teaching.  Up to that point, all of my life experience pretty much revolved around Central Ohio with the exception of going to college at the University of Dayton, which was less than hour and a half away from my parents.  I was enjoying the beginning of my teaching career, but I was eager for a change from the comfort and familiarity of the past 24 years.  If you follow me, I frequently use the terms lifelong learner, collaboration, growth mindset, and risk taking.  I believe we are better together and learn by making mistakes or taking risks.

In 2015, I had an offer in Raleigh, North Carolina to teach full day Kindergarten at a creative arts and science magnet elementary school.  After teaching half day Kindergarten, I dreamed of someday being able to teach full day Kindergarten.  Although half day Kindergarten has its benefits, I always felt rushed and that I wanted to do more with my students.  However, I was uneasy about taking the offer.  I would be 2 plane rides away from family and college friends.  I knew 1 person from my PLN who worked in the district and also happened to be from Ohio.
'No matter how far I roam, Ohio will always be home sweet home"

On August 5, I made my way to Raleigh with my car and moving truck loaded.  I came from Central Ohio to the unknown of Raleigh, North Carolina.  Since that moment, I've had no regrets about my decision.  I immediately fell in love with the area.  With the weather and being a short drive from the beach or mountains, Raleigh became comfortable to me.  I was also fortunate to make a solid group of friends within a month.

While I have made the best of my experience the past 2 years in North Carolina, I am thrilled to head back home to Ohio in August.  I will never regret this experience.  I am so excited to be close to those I love and start a new chapter that is a great fit for me.  I am continuing my journey as a full day Kindergarten teacher.
The 6 schools I've worked at added value to my career and life.  In fact, there is a past principal I keep in touch with as well as former teachers from those schools who taught me many lessons.  I am so grateful for those who helped me grow in my professional journey.  After reflecting on the past school years, I can see how everything happens for a reason and that things work out the way they are supposed to (even if I was not sure at the time).

Ohio: the heart of it all.


Wednesday, March 29, 2017

How I Implemented Flexible Seating

In 2015, I started seeing classrooms being transformed through flexible seating.  I loved the learning spaces and the number of benefits for students, but I was nervous to try it in my own classroom for many reasons.  My biggest fear was that I would lose control of my class and there would be a lack of structure.  I was wrong.  Once you get started, you will never go back!  I feel students are more engaged due to having various work spaces.

What seating options do I have in my classroom?
-Hokki Stools (5)
-Crate seats (5)
-Floor table
-Standing table
-Scoop rockers (6)
-Lap desk (2)
-Wobble cushions (4)
-Regular table with chairs

I tried bouncy bands and stability balls in my classroom, but my students were not a fan.

I am fortunate to work at a school that supports and encourages flexible seating so I did not have to spend much.  On my own I purchased the crate seats, scoop rockers, and lap desk.
Hokki Stools
Scoop Rockers.  I recommend Kindergarten or First Grade students using these.
Wiggle Cushion.  I love these because there are many uses: on a chair, at floor table, or working/sitting at the carpet.  You can purchase these on Amazon.
Crate Seat.  I have 5 at my kidney table.  I love that they can also double as storage!

How to get started in the classroom
Purchase HERE
This product also contains mini anchor chart with expectations for each type of seating.

I used this clip chart for the first month of school.  I had clothespins with each student's name so they could make their seat choice.  At the beginning of the school year I went in alphabetical order and students select their seating option for the next day.  You rotate so everyone will have the opportunity to pick first.  Once everyone had the opportunity to pick their seat first, I gradually released and took away the clip chart.  
I wanted to make sure students could experience all types of seating to figure out where they could do their best learning.  I taped a picture of how to use each seat correctly, which was a great way to involve students.   Take a picture of students using the seat the correct way and use as a review throughout the school year.  

How did I explain flexible seating to parents?
At Kindergarten meet the teacher night, I provided a brochure that contains information about flexible seating and what it looks like in our classroom.  From my experience, I received all positive reactions from families and families touring my school.  I never had a parent express uncertainty.
Purchase editable brochure HERE

How did I set up rules for students to follow for appropriate use?
This photo was taken from inside the brochure.  (same as shown above)

If you use flexible seating in your classroom, what other options do you have?