Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Bunny Launch: Math Center

Happy Spring!  Well, we are back at it.  Spring Break flew by and now it is time to put the pedal to the metal.  This year, I have put a lot of focus on the math workshop model and using interactive notebooks.  At the same time, I have worked my tail off to solidify number sense with my kiddos.  As a way to practice number sense during centers, kiddos worked on estimating and, well, having a blast.  They got to launch stretchy bunnies, from the Target Dollar Spot, into "cages."

We are all about problem solving and being inquirers.  Kiddos not only estimated and launched their bunnies, but they conversed with their classmates to figure out ways to get more bunnies into their "cages."
I loved listening to their giggles as the bunnies landed in their "cages."  Seriously, is there anything better than authentic learning?!?!
Click on the image to grab a copy of this activity.

Images by Creative Clips.  Fonts by Kimberly Geswein Fonts.

Monday, March 28, 2016

Your Support System

As a new mom talking to other moms was sometimes the only thing that helped me get through the day.  There were times when I was convinced no one understood what I was going through.  That was until I attended my first mom group.  As we sat and introduced ourselves and our littles an immediate calm fell over me.  I was with my people.  "They get me," I thought to myself.  I made it a point to attend these weekly groups while I was on maternity leave and boy do I miss all the mamas I met. 
Since being back to work and taking on the role of a teacher mama, I have learned that I still rely on a different support system.  Now, I fall toward other working mamas.  They have shared the misery of sleepless nights and feeling like you are being stretched to your limits. 
As we search for balance in our lives it is so important to have a support system.  We all need someone or a group that we can trust, talk to, vent to, commiserate with. 
 I saw this sign recently; I am convinced that every moms' group needs this on the door of their meeting place.

Do you have a support system?  I am here for you if you ever need to vent.

Thursday, March 24, 2016

How We Express Ourselves: Part 3

During the last chunk of our inquiry unit, my kiddos applied their knowledge of feelings and character expression through their own stories and Readers' Theater. 
Before I let my kiddos loose into their learning, we spent some time reviewing our character posters and discussing Shades of Meaning. 
Through our lesson, we started with one character's expression and discussed other words that meant the same thing.  The language that my students were able to generate, thanks to Mo's books, was incredible.  I wanted to see what students learned so with a partner they had to create A Shades of Meaning Card (thank you HomeDepot).

You can see that students started with the weakest of emotions and worked their way to the strongest.
Kiddos continued their learning during writing by starting new books.  Instead of just handing each student a book, they had to Draw It Out to plan their story.  Students we required to choose two characters, a setting, problem and solution.  They spent several days drawing out their ideas.  Once they had their plan I was able to give them their book during writing conferences. 
I am so proud of the writing they created; more importantly, they were proud of themselves as they shared during Author's Chair.
This inquiry unit took us through many stories, characters, emotions, and discussions.  In true inquiry form, each kiddo applied all of their learning into not just their book, but Readers' Theater. 

For over a week, students read and practiced their scripts (different Piggie and Elephant books).  They spent time making props, critiquing each other, and being loud!  I loved watching them interact with one another.  My favorite was seeing my struggling kiddos shine in their learning! 
After tweaking, rethinking, and planning this unit for the third year, I can say this year was a success!  I am so proud of the learning that took place.  The books and acting that my students did proved that it worked!

On a side note...
The Reading Strategies Book provided so many supporting lessons to our unit.  If you don't own this book, order it NOW!  You won't be sorry.

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Being a Teacher Mom

Last night, as I was up nursing, at 2:30 am, I came across this article.  Since then, I have seen it all over social media. 

As a new mom who recently returned to work, from maternity leave, I get it!  Before I was even pregnant, I was searching for balance in my life.  Now, with an 8 month old that search is FAR from over.  
What do you think?  Can you be a present parent and educator at the same time?

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Rainy Day Busyness

There is nothing like being cooped up inside with an 8 month old.  Mind you, my 8 month old is a maniac!  He is into, in, and on everything.  One of his favorite games right now is to crawl over to the window, stand up, and pound on the glass. 
This new found game inspired me to create a version of a busy bag.

All you need is...
hair gel,  ziplocks, tape, glitter, and confetti.
I highly recommend using quality ziplocks and double bagging them (baby nails are no joke)!
Once you gather the materials, just add a generous amount of hair gel into the bag with some glitter and confetti.

Seal up the bag and tape it to a window or the floor.

Obviously, your child should be under adult supervision at all times while playing with this busy bag.

Little man loved squishing the confetti around!
And making faces at me while I tried to snap some pictures.
What have you created to keep your little one busy on a rainy day?

Monday, March 21, 2016

*$%!@ Kind of Day!

Yup!  You read that right!  It was one of those days.  You know, the first day of break when you have a To Do list a mile long that you are ready to make a dent in, and then the world happens.  I didn't know about these days in their entirety until I became a mom.  These days are no joke!  That phrase "go with the flow" was designed for days like this.  Well let me tell you, my Type A self has a hard time going with the flow
So after a sleepless night with a teething 8 month old, I am here to tell you 5 things I wish I knew before becoming a teacher mama...

1. Tomorrow is a new day!  As a teacher, I know that when my lesson flops I can try again tomorrow.  As a mama, I have to remember the same thing.
2. To Do lists take time.  I have always been one that loves checking things off of my list.  It makes me feel good.  I have learned that it just takes longer to get things done and that is OK.  Really, it is OK.
3. Breaks are no longer about getting stuff done.  Well, they still are to some degree.  But, breaks are for soaking up time with the babe.  There will be time to check things off of that To Do list later.
4. Love ALL the moments.  Yes, all of them, even the cruddy ones where you want to curl up in a ball and cry.  These moments fly by and you don't want to miss out on any of them.
5. SMILE!  This is one of the hardest ones for me.  I get in the thick of the chaos and I forget to smile and be present.  As a mom, your child is always watching you.  They see and sense all of your emotions.  So even when you are exhausted, just smile.  This goes for dealing with your students, too.

These may seem like no-brainers, but I really wish someone would have mentioned them to me several times while I was pregnant; no promises I would have remembered them then. 

What words of advice do you have for when your day isn't going as you planned?

Thursday, March 17, 2016

Joy Cowley Characters [and a contest]

I am a sucker for great text for my kiddos.  I guess that is one thing that makes me a teacher.  Yet, text that is accessible to my emerging readers is absolutely vital in my classroom.  I absolutely love Joy Cowley's books for this reason.  Her stories are fun, engaging, accessible, and contain adorable characters.

Hairy Bear is one of her endearing characters.  Throughout the Hairy Bear stories, he encounters problems that be must fix.  From a leaky roof to helping sad friends, Hairy Bear uses his problem solving skills to get the job done. 

Another one of Joy's characters is Miniboy.  He and his mouse are extremely adventurous.  According to my students, they are serious risk-takers. Miniboy and Mousie set off each day in the kitchen of the giants.  They have to keep their eyes open for problems they may encounter.  I love how Joy includes action in this character series, and that Miniboy and Mousie return to their home safely at the end of each story.
The Joy Cowley Collection is packed with so many fabulous characters, Miniboy and Hairy Bear are just two of them. 
 Right now, you can enter to win her collection packed with over 90 books.
Don't wait this contest is only going on until April 13, 2016.  Click on one of the images above to enter.

Who is your favorite Joy Cowley character?

Tuesday, March 8, 2016

How We Express Ourselves: Part 2

We are in it!  We have fully immersed ourselves in all things Mo Willems.  Last week, our inquiry unit on How We Express Ourselves was spent looking at character traits and how they relate to our PYP life.  If you are not familiar with the Learner Profile and Attitudes you can read about them here.
My kiddos read the Knuffle Bunny series, several Pigeon books, plus as many Piggie and Elephant books as they could get their hands on.  As a class we then created these three posters:

The posters are being used as a resource for books my authors are writing.
The discussions around each character provided a great knowledge bank for my students as they started planning out their next story.  Throughout the week they sketched the ideas that were floating in their heads.  This is similar to Mo and how he draws a cartoon every day. 

This week we are building our robust language banks, channeling the characters through readers' theater, and taking our pencils further on our papers.  Stay tuned!!!

Do you work at a PYP school?  I would love to connect and learn about your inquiry units.

Thursday, March 3, 2016

KooKoo for the 100th Day

This year's 100th Day was a hit!  My teammates were total rockstars and agreed to be "KooKoo" with me.  
I LOVE my teammates!!
We spent the day doing all things 100.  It was different than our normal schedule, but all of the kids enjoyed the change of pace.  Take a look at what we accomplished...

Secret codes and crown templates were waiting for each kiddo.

What can you build with 100 cups?

Spin and color 100 race.
What can you build with 100 cubes?

Roll and tally to 100
Build a sentence.

Flip a coin
Our art project was probably my favorite activity...what can you make with 1-0-0?

100 days down, still plenty of learning to go!

What are your favorite 100th Day activities?

Tuesday, March 1, 2016

How We Express Ourselves: Part 1

I have officially launched our How We Express Ourselves PYP unit.  This year's central idea was slightly tweaked to read, "Authors and Illustrators use character relationships to portray a message".  For the last week, we have tuned into what this central idea means.  Here is a peek at what my firsties have accomplished:

  • "What is an author?" discussion and share out.  Our conversation produced this anchor chart:

  • What do you know about Mo Willems?  My kiddos explained that he is not only an author, but also an illustrator.  We read about him using the same Close Read as last year.  We also watched this video segment.
    • Very quickly after reading and listening to Mo himself, my students started telling me that they too were authors and illustrators (WOOHOO!)  My teacher smile has become huge!  I am so excited that they are already realizing this.

Stay tuned for Part 2 as we dive into Mo's characters and their relationships with the reader and each other.

Do you teach at a PYP school?  I would love to hear about your Units of Inquiry.