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Sunday, August 17, 2014

Globally-Connected Classroom: Parent Permission Forms {FREE for Facebook Fans}

I am beyond pumped to provide ways for my students to share with classrooms and students around the world this year!  I am specifically planning to start out using Twitter and Mystery Skype [<-- check out my Mystery Skype post here] to help us connect globally. 

I want the parents to be informed and excited about our use of these technologies in the classroom.  I also need to be sure that privacy is respected and that I have the necessary permission to include students in these online forums.


I created four separate permission forms that are generic and can be used by any teacher!  They contain places for specific information to be inputted by you where needed.
If you'd like to use these, head on over to my Facebook page and hit that little "Like" button!  :)  Then click the "Fan Freebies" tab and you can download any and all of these permission slips (plus the other goodies that live there).

I hope you enjoy!  Let me know how you plan to help your students connect globally this year!

Friday, August 1, 2014

Brown Bear Write-the-Room ~ A Giveaway where EVERYONE wins!

Giveaways are always awesome.  But even better - a giveaway in which you are guaranteed to be a winner!!

I have just added a Brown Bear, Brown Bear Write-the-Room pack to my TPT Store.
http://www.teacherspayteachers.com/Product/Brown-Bear-Brown-Bear-Write-the-Room-Perfect-for-Back-to-School-1361458 
The pack includes 4 versions of cards to post around the room, plus a blank set so that you can create any cards that work for you and your students.
 There are 8 differentiated student recording sheets so that all of your kids can be engaged and challenged!

If you like this, it can be yours for FREE!  Check out the post on my Facebook page to follow 3 easy steps (leave a comment, follow this blog, like my Facebook page), and I will send you the pack for free STAT!  Your kids will love starting the year with this fun Literacy Station. 

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Mystery Skype! {aka the coolest thing ever!}

You know that feeling you get when you're at a PD training and learn about the absolute coolest thing EVER!?  And you are bursting with excitement to get back with your students and put it into action!?!

EEK!!!!  Have y'all heard about Mystery Skype yet!?!?  It's seriously so much fun and all students of all ages will flip for this.

Here is the gist... You find/coerce/Twitter-stalk another teacher who will agree to Skype his or her class with your class at a set time/day.  Most Mystery Skypes use "What state are you in?" as the focus of the mystery.  The classes take turn asking yes/no questions to each other to determine and eventually guess where the other kiddos live.  This video is a great introduction to the concept.



You can make the Skype as simple or complex as you want.  Older students would benefit from having specific jobs during the Skype.  I think for my K kiddos it might just work best to put them in an order and let them take turns asking and answering.  In our training, we passed around an iPad.
Not only will your kids think that a Mystery Skype is incredibly fun and totally tech-tastic, but they will have to use serious critical thinking skills.  We adults learned the hard way that you "waste" questions if you aren't paying attention to what your peers ask!  (Don't ask if their state is in the Central Time Zone if you already know that their state is east of the Mississippi... Oops!)  Lucky for me I had the role of the "greeter," so I wasn't put on the spot to answer or ask the geographical questions!

Since I don't foresee the geographical concept of a Mystery Skype to work so well with Kindergarten students, I (along with the collective brainpower of the cohorts in my training) have put together a fun list of ideas to use Mystery Skype in other ways.
https://drive.google.com/file/d/0B4swUmD9LO1LOU1zRUxwWVY0OE0/edit?usp=sharing

If you click on the picture, you can download a copy of the ideas for free.  :)

My fab tech friend Nancy also put together an awesome PearlTree with tons of great resources for Mystery Skype and Virtual Field Trips.  Mystery Skype also has it's own website where you can find ideas and link-up with other educators from around the world who would love to Skype with you and your SuperKids!

I'd love to hear about your experiences with Mystery Skype or more ideas you have for using this activity in your own classroom!  Leave a comment!  :)

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

It's OK NOT to Share... Book Linky!

http://mrsjumpsclass.blogspot.com/2014/06/thanks-to-everyone-who-linked-up.html
I'm linkin' up today with Deanna Jump to share a parenting book that I have pretty much fallen in love with.  No I'm not yet a parent, but the "renegade rules" in this book are extremely applicable to life in the classroom.
http://www.amazon.com/Share-Renegade-Raising-Competent-Compassionate/dp/1585429368
This book is controversial, although it's not quite as controversial as the title may imply.  The author shares ideas that center around the concept of "letting kids be kids."  She is definitely an advocate of child-centered thinking, and she is very in-tune with the developmental stages of young children.  I don't agree 100% with everything in this book, and not everything can work in the classroom the way it might in a home setting, but I want to share my favorite ideas that I will take away from it and use in my teaching.

1. Stop Forcing Kids to Share
So imagine the scene.  A young couple in love, playing footsie under the table, quite sure they have found "the one."  The sweet girl bats her eyelashes as she reaches for a french fry on her date's plate.  SKERRRRRRTTTT.  The boy barely stops himself from slapping her hand and immediately declaring the relationship doomed to fail.  My food is MY food!
Why yes, that girl was me.  Luckily, I learned how to keep my stray hands focused on my own food, and we are happily married.  And now that I don't grab for his food without permission, he usually sometimes offers me a bite out of the kindness of his heart.

It is not unreasonable to allow someone to eat all of their food without sharing it.  So why do we expect kids to share everything?  There are plenty of my possessions that I am happy to share with others, but there are also several that I want all for myself.  And when I do share, I certainly don't do so because it's demanded of me.  I share because someone asks nicely, and I share when I am ready (i.e. not using it myself).
I know I'm definitely guilty of this... Bobby comes to complain that Susie isn't sharing the teddy bear.  Rather than talking them through the situation or hearing Susie out, I simply command - "Susie, share with Bobby."  But this isn't how sharing works in the real world and as Shumaker points out, it just causes Susie to now associate negative feelings with sharing.

Instead of forcing children to share, we should teach them how to take turns.  "Susie, Bobby would love the teddy bear.  Could you please make sure to give it to him once you are all through using it?"  Now Susie can continue her play with the bear and then decide when she's ready to share it.  In the meantime, Bobby can practice patience, or find something else to play with.

2. Don't Force Friendships
Shumaker titles this Renegade Rule: We're Not All Friends Here.  Throw 20+ adults into a room, and certain sub-groups are going to naturally form.  You and I are not BFFs with everyone we meet, and that's okay.  Children shouldn't be forced to play with other children just because they are all young.  Let students choose their friends, while maintaining respect for all.  

Another rule that goes hand-in-hand with this idea: You Can't Play = A OK.  We as teachers should not force kids to play with one another.  This is a common theme at recess.  Sarah complains that Mia won't play with her.  Instead of commanding that Mia play with Sarah, we can instead help Sarah find another playmate who will genuinely want to play with her.  The book gives detail scenarios for how to help students handle this rejection and say no to playing appropriately while staying respectful.

Bottom-line: I don't want anyone telling me who I must spend time with during my own free-time, so why should we force children into friendships that they aren't genuinely interested in!?  We can empower and guide kids to make their own decisions about friendships while showing kindness for everyone.

3. Let's Let Kids Play!
It's clear that this rule is very near and dear to Shumaker's heart - it's the very 1st Rule in the book: Don't Steal Play!
 
This one is a bit hard for me to embrace entirely, as she makes it clear that she believes modern-day Kindergarten is forcing children to learn in a formal academic setting before they are developmentally ready.  I do understand where she is coming from, although I know from my 8 years in the K classroom, that many children are ready and raring to go.

There are still many valuable lessons to be learned from this rule in regards to the early childhood classroom.  We must save time for play.  And not structured play - FREE play.  I feel so grateful to teach in a district that still values and supports "Centers" in Kindergarten.  They provide us with puppets, blocks, painting easels, toy furniture and play food, the whole nine yards.  Equally important to this precious Centers time - letting the kids freely choose where they play.  I do not assign students to certain Centers on certain days.  Children need to have the choice to play as they wish.

We also have to allow kids to move in the classroom and take frequent breaks.  Most 5 and 6 year-olds can physically not sit still for more than a few minutes at a time.  A child wants to stand or lay on his belly while doing his work?  Why not!?  A child rather walk around at the back of the room while you read a story?  What's the harm!?  We need to be flexible and remember that today's educational system requires young students to conform to a set of classroom norms that they developmentally are just not ready for.

If you have some free time this summer, I highly recommend reading this book.  Despite some of her unconventional or "old-school" advice, she maintains the rule that what children do is okay as long as it doesn't hurt people or property.  Respect is a common theme - not only in the child's actions and words but in how we treat children as well.  I'd LOVE to hear your feedback.  Leave a comment and let me know what you think about the ideas I've shared and how I plan to use them in my own teaching!

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Kindergarten Memory Book

My students will be busy during our last few days together reminiscing as they write and draw in their special Kindergarten Memory Books!
http://www.teacherspayteachers.com/Product/Kindergarten-Memory-Book-1256675
Not only do these books keep the students nice n' busy, but they lead to fun end-of-year discussions.  They make a great little keepsake for the students to share with their families over the summer.  I still can't believe we're almost there!  As hectic as this time of year can get, don't forget to enjoy every last second with your precious students!  :)

Friday, May 23, 2014

10 Day Balloon Countdown!

Today was #10 on our countdown for the year!  I'm freaking out a little bit!  I don't want it to be over!!!  The last 10 days of school are always absolutely crazy a bit hectic, so I decided to just add to the madness with a balloon countdown!
I typed up 10 surprises for my students and printed them on small pieces of paper.  I rolled up the papers and shoved them inside 10 different balloons before they were inflated.  I then labeled each balloon with its countdown number!
The surprises are mainly activities... class picnic, dance party, bubbles & chalk, etc.  I labeled the papers with the appropriate color so we wouldn't accidentally pop a balloon announcing a popsicle party on a day I didn't bring the popsicles!  [I made sure to plan out the 1st day of each week with something I wouldn't have to remember to bring or buy.  I'm so not a Monday person...]

I had the balloons inflated with helium last night, but this happened when I took them out of their bag this morning in my classroom...
#BalloonFail  I mean really!??  I know helium doesn't last forever but I was hoping for at least 12 hours... 

Despite the helium disappointment, the balloons were still a total HIT!  My kids squealed the minute they walked in the room this morning.  I hung them from the ceiling and created a balloon chandelier over our learning rug.  (Thanks, ceiling tiles!

They were so excited to pop the first one this afternoon.  I can't wait to see their excitement as they pop each one over our last 9 days together.  I'm also looking forward to the experiences we will share as a result of what's inside each balloon.

Are you doing anything special during these last few days!?  I'd love to hear your ideas!

Monday, May 12, 2014

Fish Frenzy: Literacy Resources + a Rainbow Fish Freebie!

The weeks leading to summer seem like the perfect time for fun, ocean-themed activities!  The weeks leading to summer are also filled with testing, so I've got to keep my non-testing students quiet busy and engaged.
http://www.teacherspayteachers.com/Product/5x5-Ocean-Animals-Literacy-Printables-1242517

This pack contains 29 printables (I added 4 bonus pages) that are perfect for station work!
http://www.teacherspayteachers.com/Product/5x5-Ocean-Animals-Literacy-Printables-1242517

http://www.teacherspayteachers.com/Product/5x5-Ocean-Animals-Literacy-Printables-1242517http://www.teacherspayteachers.com/Product/5x5-Ocean-Animals-Literacy-Printables-1242517

If you're feeling up to a little cutting and laminating, the Fish Frenzy pack contains 5 literacy games that your students will LOVE!
http://www.teacherspayteachers.com/Product/Fish-Frenzy-Ocean-Animals-Literacy-Games-1227255


I blogged previously about our use of The Pout-Pout Fish in the Big, Big Dark to learn about similes.  The students wrote their own again this year, and I just have to share a few.
"I'm as tough as a giant."

"I'm as silly as a clown."

"I'm as brave as a ninja."

"I'm as pretty as a princess."
"I'm as lazy as a teacher."

SAY WHAT!?!?!  Good thing the cutie that wrote this one assured me it was a joke.  And ya gotta love the Whole Brain Teaching speech bubble... "CLASS!"

An ocean unit wouldn't be complete without Rainbow Fish!  Here's a coloring and writing FREEBIE that you can download in my TPT Store.  



 
And if you love thematic snacks, this ocean on a graham cracker is an easy, crowd-pleaser! 

If you'd like a chance to win the Fish Frenzy Literacy Games Pack, head over to my Facebook page and leave a comment!  =)