Lots has changed since I sat down to write here. While I still love this, my teacher voice has wavered a bit.
You see, I began the school year without a classroom. For the first time in over a decade, I did not have a class. If any of you have experienced this before, you know, the emptiness one feels. The first day of school was one of the most emotionally draining days of my career. I was now, a Teacher on Special Assignment.
A post shared by Mrs.Parker (@learningwithmrsparker) on Aug 29, 2017 at 6:30am PDT
Unbeknownst to me, this turned out to be a blessing in disguise. At home, my father-in-law was gravely ill. As a family, we spent the next six of weeks traveling to and from work, home and the hospital.
In October, I took over a fifth grade class while a teacher was on maternity leave. Unexpectedly, the teacher did not return. All of a sudden, I became a teacher of BIG KIDS.
What I've come to find out is that changing grade levels does not define who I am as a teacher. Rather, it has affirmed my teaching philosophy. Now, more than ever, I see how students need engagement, novelty, play, and choice in their learning regardless of grade levels. That's what I've tried to bring into the classroom. While not always perfect, I am learning.
Each day, I enter my classroom knowing that it is a blessing that I am their teacher. Perhaps, this was where I was meant to be all along; with them.
I hope that you'll join me in my journey as I share what I've learned as a fifth grade teacher this school year.
I don't know what the future holds. But, I do know that I can be the teacher kids need if I am willing to accept the challenge.
Okay, I know what you are thinking. Kindergarteners coding?! I must admit that I thought the same thing. I also thought how can I teach coding when I don't even know how? Coding requires computers, right?! Wrong! I learned that you don't need to be a coding expert to teach coding. You can learn right alongside your students.Coding can be fun and engaging. It helps students to think critically, work with one another and to problem solve. Isn't that what we want all our students to achieve?While I am not a coding expert, I do believe that my role as a teacher is to give my students opportunities to partake in learning that will help them in their future. Coding does just that.Here are a few ways we explored coding in our classroom. Computer Coding
Traditionally, we think of coding via the computer. Luckily, we don't have to need to know a coding program like Java to code. Today, there are many resources for learners young and old to learn to code. Code.org is a great resource and has a plethora of activities. In our classroom, we also use Kodable; a free resource for teachers and students. My students loved both of these. Paperless Coding
Paperless coding or coding unplugged is a great way to introduce coding to young students. Students learn the basics of coding such as sequencing, patterns, directionality and following directions. In our classroom, we used SitSpots and arrows. Students worked in groups to tell each other how to travel through the SitSpots.
You could easily modify this by using something like this or use a resource like this one to help you plan your lessons. What I liked about paperless coding is that students really began to understand the need for giving explicit directions. Coding with BotsOne of my goals this year was to go beyond the Hour of the Code in my classroom.
I knew that I wanted my students to code but I just didn't know how to fit it all in. I decided to incorporate coding into my math centers. We used this Code and Go Robot Mouse. It was perfect for partner work. Students created a maze/path for Colby the Coding Mouse to find the cheese. What I liked about this bot was all the mathematical reasoning that was involved. When I saw this Coji Bot which you code using emojis, I knew my class just had to have it.
This little bot can be used with or without the app or device. Coji performs a series of movements based on how it is coded. It also responds to your coding via different emojis. Students loved this component.
As I move forward teaching my students more about coding, I'd like to continue to incorporate new tools; thanks to Amazon Prime Day my Ozobot arrives soon, apps, resources and programs. I also want to set aside more time weekly to coding.
I'd love to help you incorporate more coding into your classroom, too. If you are a Follower of my blog via any platform (Bloglovin', Facebook, Twitter or Instagram), I am giving away to one lucky follower either the Code and Go Mouse or the Coji bot. All you have to do is comment below with how you would incorporate this into your classroom. Leave your email address and I will pick a winner 7/19.
Please note: This giveaway is not affiliated with any of the above companies. These are products which I used and like. Open to US residents only.
Coding is for everyone; even our youngest learners! I hope that you can incorporate one of these three ways to code with your students.
We are teaching digital natives. Our students come to us knowing how to take a selfie, swipe on a screen and much more!
It can be a mixed blessing. As our classrooms become more integrated with technology, it is important to be mindful and think about what we are teaching our students as digital citizens.
Last year, I had the opportunity to become a Digital Citizenship Educator. The experience helped to raise my awareness about the topics that our youngest learners can handle in regards to Digital Citizenship.
Next week, October 16th - 20th is Digital Citizenship Week. So, I thought I'd share how you can help create Digital Citizens in your classrooms.
What does Digital Citizenship in Kindergarten look like?
In my classroom, I kept the format simple. We usually watched a video on an element of Digital Citizenship. The Educator section on Common Sense has many to choose from. Afterwards, we had a class discussion. If possible, I created extension activities and anchor charts.
I found out a lot about my students' interaction with social media, the internet and how they use their devices during our class discussions. This was truly eye opening. Their candor helped me with follow up lessons.
If you think that teaching Digital Citizenship in Kindergarten is too soon. I'm sorry to tell you, it isn't. These discussions and lessons are important. I hope that by teaching this sooner rather than later, we will help alleviate the problem we see now with teens and social media. We are creating habits that can have a lifelong impact.
If you'd like to learn more lesson on Digital Citizenship for young learners, here is a Thinglink I created. I highly recommend CommonSense.org for both educators and families. It has a wealth of resources for all ages.
When I began this blog six years ago, it was fun. It was carefree. It was easy.
But, then, it became complicated.
I began to question myself. Is my content worthy? Do teachers like me? Am I good enough?
This in part is why I have blogged less and less.
But, I miss it. I miss sharing #thegood that is happening in my classroom. I miss having an outlet to tell my story with my students.
So, I've decided to tell #mystory.
This blog will be my outlet to share my teaching journey. It may not be picture perfect or Pinterest worthy but it will be real.
And, if you are still reading....Thank you!
Thank you for spending a bit of your time here. I hope that you find something that inspires you in some way because that is what you have done for me. I am a better teacher because you. So, thank you! One last thought.... #BeYou
Have you ever wondered how to create a video using a green screen? Do you consider yourself a novice when it comes to some aspects of technology? If you said, yes to either of these questions, I felt the same way.
For the past few weeks, my class has learned all about the weather. I knew that I wanted my students to become meteorologists. I saw many creations like this one on Twitter that inspired me to stretch myself as a teacher and learner.
Using the app DoInk, I was able to layer a video and image with a few easy steps.
A video posted by Mrs.Parker (@learningwithmrsparker) on Apr 18, 2016 at 9:14pm PDT
First, I found an area in my room to film. I choose a small corner which did not interfere with our day to day learning. It was a large enough area where I could hang my green screen which I created by using this. Then, I filmed my students in front of the screen using my smartphone.
The app will merge your video and an image together to create the video.
Ta-da! You've just created a layered video! Save and your done!
I wish I could show you the videos my students created. They are as precious as they are. We had a viewing party of Friday as a conclusion of our learning. It was a great way to incorporate technology in a meaningful way.
Please note: DoInk did not ask me to write about their product.
I just wanted to quickly share how I used this Star Wars based day to teach force and motion to my class.
We dedicated the entire morning to exploring force and it how it works via hands-on centers.
First, we talked about our science vocabulary:
force motion push pull
The objective at each center was to discover if and how you used force. They also explored what was the reaction based upon the force used.
Launch Star Wars Angry Birds using various catapults
Build a domino maze and knock it down
Give stuffed animals a ride on a train
Car races using different ramps and types of cars
Use Playdoh shapes to push and pull
We also went outside and pushed each other on the swings and tried to do a pull up on the monkey bars. Had time permitted, we would have pretended to ride on a roller coaster using the fun GoNoodle video.
It was a great day of learning. How do you teach force and motion to your kindergarten students?
It is with great pleasure to have Barbara from Corner on Character here to share her expertise on helping children heal. Having read her blog for years, I know that I can trust her when it comes to educating and nurturing the whole child.
Hello from Barbara at the Corner on Character. Thank you, Sylvia, for inviting me to share some reflections on healing and hope. Children come to us in all shapes and sizes, from all different backgrounds, with a variety of experiences from their formative years. Some will come to school healthy and happy, but others will be navigating sensory issues, be dealing with attachment issues, or be recovering from stress, trauma, or abuse. They all bring a story as unique as they are. As care providers, we have the awesome privilege and responsibility to help shape, nurture, support, mentor, stretch and grow alongside of the learners in our class families as we step into their stories and give them skills to soar.
The children whose stories are riddled with problems and pain, sadness and sorrow, tragedy and trauma, anxiety and angst will need a lot of our tender loving care. Yesterday alone I walked with students through the sadness of losing a pet, the heartbreak of a relative who is battling cancer, the anger of a family that is going through a divorce, the stress and pressure of high stakes testing, the worry of an impending move because dad lost his job. The list could go on and on as it becomes increasingly clear that we’ve got our work cut out for us. If we can’t reach them, then how will we teach them?
So how do we reach them? Ah, the million-dollar question. First and foremost, students have to be able to trust us. We build trust when we deliver on our promises, when we do what we say we’re going to do, when we show up and listen to understand before we respond. We build trust by showing empathy, compassion and kindness. We build trust with people of all ages and stages by letting them know that they matter, that they are important to us, that we are there for them. Always. No matter what. As caregivers, we work with intention to connect with their hearts by honoring their feelings and helping them feel that they are valued and valuable.
One super easy way to make those connections is standing at the door and greeting students as they come in to your character building. I like to stand at the entrance, hold the door opened, and give high fives. I often put my opened hand high above my head and challenge students to reach higher. They have to jump a little to connect palm to palm. I can easily get an emotional barometer from this simple activity so I know whom I might need to check on before the day is out. Our teachers stand at their classroom doors to give handshakes, high fives, or hugs. Students can choose which way they want to be greeted, another way to empower them. For those who may be recovering from a trauma or abuse, or those who have sensory issues, hugs might not be appropriate, so we give them a choice and take their lead.
Once inside the classroom, starting the day with a class meeting will be like serving breakfast to their hearts. Check out what this Trauma-Informed school in Missouri is doing to connect its students. Rose Park Elementary in Salt Lake City is also working purposefully to honor feelings and help students recognize and regulate them. Many schools use the Responsive Classroom Morning Meeting model, others use the R Time program, still others have created their own grass-roots version of the sensitivity circle to help reach all students.
As the minutes turn to hours, we owe it to our children to be sensitive to the social and emotional needs of all students throughout the day. This can be accomplished by being in touch with individual needs and using strategies like conflict resolution wheels like Kelso’s Choice, designating safe-place areas as suggested by Conscious Discipline or simply by providing a calm-down corner with permission for a student to use it as needed, no questions asked. Put some fidgets, stress balls, sensory bottles, a journal, some crayons or markers and coloring sheets, maybe even a weighted blanket in there and let them choose how they’ll self-soothe. Talk about empowerment and trust!
Once relationships are in place, there’s no limit to the places you’ll be able to take our children, our future. Thank you for being the hero that you needed as a child for that next child who is fortunate enough to come into your life and share his/her story with you. Cape up and keep on crusading for good.
For additional resources on recovery and restoration, check out these posts:
How do we help our students who come to school living in or with trauma?
When I read this article, I felt as if it had been written for me. Then, I thought, I must not be alone.
You see, I have had students like this. Students who at such a young age are overwhelmed by circumstances, often beyond their control. Students who are hurt.
Each person handles these circumstances in different ways. As a child, I too, came to school hurting; wishing for better. How did I cope? Well, I retreated. I tried not to stand out but blend in. Hoping that no one would see the emotional pain I was in. As a result, school became my safe haven; a place where I could escape from my childhood trauma.
Today, as a teacher, I see my students act upon their trauma in different ways. While some may retreat like me, others, escalate, meltdown and go into fits of rage. What I have learned is that the child is not purposefully acting out. Instead, it is a cry for help.
There are some things that I can do to allow for success and to help.
Although, not an expert, here is some advice that I have learned over the years.
First and foremost, be mindful. Show respect and love for the child. Be willing to listen. Create a calm environment. Keep calm. Seek help. Show unconditional acceptance. Be willing to be vulnerable with the child. Forgive. Trust. Nurture. Be a champion. Advocate. Let them be little. Repeat.
Only, then, can you begin to teach strategies to handle one's emotions.
As a teacher, you may never see the "effects" of your work but know in your heart that you did good. Children in trauma need us. I know. I was that little girl.
Have you tried the Explore Tool in Google Docs or Slides with your students? If not, you must! What I like about it is that it is so easy to use; even a kindergartener can do it!
This smart tool uses the content within your document to help determine the topic, related research and images as you Explore. This allows young learners, like mine, to research and/or add images safely from within Google Docs or Slides.
My students have used the Explore tool primarily to insert images. They type or use Voice Typing; another favorite, to create their document. Then, they simply click on the Explore icon and related images appear. My students find the one they like and press insert. The image is embedded into the document.
Integrating technology doesn't always have to be hard on you or your students with tools like Explore.