Friday, December 16, 2016

4th Annual "State" Fair!

The fourth year already!? This year, like the ones past, went so well!! Because it has been a few years now, I can say there are some patterns/successes that will ultimately come with this project:

1. Students become Experts:  Since their work is meaningful to them, the students become knowledgeable about their state of study and are the experts of that state

2. Students find their work to be Relevant: Since students are immersed in the work in Reading, Writing, Math and even in Art, they make a connection with their state and the information becomes relevant to them

3. Students become Public Speakers: Because the students are experts in their state and put forth meaningful, independent effort in the part of their science experiment (completed at home with a syllabus), they are able to speak eloquently and specifically to the information they are presenting 

4. Student work is Original: Because one of their tasks was to create an experiment that relates to their state of study, their experiments are original 

5. Students feel Independently Successful: Because students are tasked with completing a science experiment at home, starting a month before the due date, they come in with their project feeling proud of themselves! They know they did this all on their own with support in keeping up with deadlines and work, but ultimately, it was all on their shoulders

Overall, it is a success each year! I am so very proud of every single one of my students!

Utah: Does salt affect the bouncy of an object? 

Arizona: Do certain liquids work better to clean a penny?

Maryland: Does the smell of Old Bay spice affect taste?

Maine: Do shrimp, squid or mullet catch more fish?

Nevada: Does the amount of water affect how a cactus will grow?

New York: Does the structure of a bridge affect the amount of weight it can hold?

Vermont: Which rocks are the easiest to break?

New Mexico: Does the climate and soil affect the growth of tulips?

Hawaii: Which is harder, a rock or a coconut?

Idaho: Which is the best conductor of electricity; potato, apple or orange?

South Carolina: Does the flow of water affect power?

Washington: Does different kind of water affect how onions will grow?

Florida: Does saran wrap preserve an unpeeled orange?

Thursday, December 1, 2016

Holiday Activity to Celebrate Diversity

Today I worked with my students to put together a Holiday Star! This activity is great because it teaches the VALUE of DIVERSITY. Something we need to bring to our students' attention all year long, in my opinion.

This activity gives opportunity to not only discuss the different holidays that are celebrated within your classroom during this time of year, but also gives everyone a chance to see the value in learning about each other. The goal of this activity is to teach kids that by learning about each other, we are far less likely to judge each other. I like to tell my students that when people judge, make fun of or act negatively towards someone, it is a clear sign that the person acting unkindly does not understand the person.

We made the star today and taped it to the whiteboard (very limited wall space in here) and when the students returned from Specials, they saw the star and gave it an applause! They are the cutest!

Monday, November 21, 2016

Turkey Disguise Project! A Thanksgiving Activity

Every year, I give my students a Thanksgiving activity that is for PURE FUN (though sometimes I add in a writing piece if I feel the students need the extra practice). There are many teachers who do this, and so I am sad to say that I cannot give credit to the original owner of the idea because I do not know who it is! I saw it one year and fell in love and kept with it each year since! I hope you like the pictures! This is an activity that students in Kindergarten up to Middle School have enjoyed!

I gave the students a turkey and told them that the turkey is worried he will be eaten for Thanksgiving, so it is their job to disguise the turkey so he doesn't become dinner!

A cupcake

A box of popcorn


camouflage turkey 

a flower in a meadow

 a math teacher

a pilgrim 

a unicorn

 a body builder

a peacock

a tree with falling leaves

an FBI agent

a tea kettle

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Now What? Post Election Life Lesson Plans

As upset as I am about Donald Trump being elected, I can't ignore the fact there is good that can come of it. Not because of him, but because there has to be. 

Disclaimer: By my stating all of the good that can come from this very unusual (I'm being nice) man in power, I am in no way condoning what he stood for and exploited throughout his entire candidacy and I am not in the least bit satisfied about him as our new President-elect. However, this is what we were left with. And I still believe in Michelle Obama's words, "when they go low, we go high". Well, 47% of the voters went low and now, I am trying to convince you to resist it and go high. 

HARD TRUTH: One thing that is for sure, if Hillary Clinton was elected, most of us would have sighed a breath of relief, and said to each other, "See? We didn't give people enough credit if we thought he was going to win. Love DOES trump hate and America IS good." November 9th would have marked the day in which we all went back to our normal lives with the added pleasure of having our first female president, seemingly putting this horrible election and all it dug up behind us.We would have picked up the broken pieces and made that our contribution. We would have felt the "deplorables" that came out of the woodwork were detained back to their baskets and racism, sexism, bigotry and the pure hate that we were constantly reminded of, now would soon have been a thing of the past....(for most of us). 

*Must be said: When I say "deplorables", I am talking about a small, sub-group of Trump voters, not anyone who would even read this post. I.e. the KKK freaks that are holding a victory rally 2 hours from my home in December, the men who think they can go around and just grab women now and this frighteningly odd group of white nationalists who now have a voice among us.

But Hillary didn't win. And so I see that as a much needed wake up call. For some reason or another, those things Trump stood for on his campaign trail either didn't matter as much to people who voted for him or people just didn't care about what he said. Either way, it doesn't make a difference to me right now because it all leads to the same outcome. Donald Trump will be our President. This is where we are as a nation. I know I don't typically spend my days around deplorables, but I do spend some days among people who voted for him despite all of the moral disgust he represents. Therefore, I believe we need to rise up and subtly convince those people that it does matter. 

So what can we do, you say?! Hillary didn't win and so that means we actually have even more work to do than what she talked about at the debates, speeches and rallies. And I think this is a perfect opportunity for us to ask ourselves, "Am I doing enough?"

If not, think about what inspires you and the things that feed your soul. Is it the environment, social justice, politics? What makes you excited at the possibility of a real change, within your world?

Most of us can only really change the immediate world that we live in. By that, I mean, our community, our everyday lives. You don't have to go out and change the world, but whatever you decide to do, might just change someone's world. And that is a really special thing.

What I Plan to Do
I found myself living my very own dream about 4 years ago and I am so thankful for the opportunity. I am at a Friends School teaching fifth grade and I love every minute of it. Prior to coming here, I worked within inner city schools in Baltimore, Harlem and Philadelphia. As tough as my days were, I felt a sense of purpose and comfort in knowing that I was sometimes the only light in a child's day. I believed I was inspiring them, on some level, to believe in themselves and their own dreams. It fulfilled me in a unique way and I often regret leaving behind that community. 

1. Throughout my time at Friends School, once in a while, my conscience would nag at me about this move I made. I finally decided that I will continue the work I did with at-risk kids where I am living now. I kept thinking about where I could start and what to do. Tutoring after school, doing fun activities with the kids on the weekends, things like that. I haven't settled on what exactly yet. However, I knew that I needed some guidance. I remembered when a lady came to our school to speak about this kind of work that she does in Wilmington. I searched for her on the internet and found the contact info. to email her, and we are meeting for coffee in the coming days! Maybe you are thinking of doing something, but not sure if you should reach out. Don't be shy. Trust me, when you say to someone that you want to help, they will embrace the idea. It is so great for anyone to know that someone else is willing to be a part of the good things that are happening. So if you are wondering where you can start with getting involved, think about any type of connection you might have. Ask around to see if people you know have a connection. Chances are, you will find someone who can point you in the right direction. 

2. I am also working within my classroom to continue to teach the concept that love and kindness are at the heart of being the best version of yourself which, happens to be, my 5th grade curriculum's overarching goal. At first, I wondered how I could still teach my students that love "wins" after this election. That was (and some ways still is) a difficult question. I felt like a sham, a fake and a fraud. How could I teach them that love drives out hate when there up on their screens every night was a real-life battle of Love vs. Hate/Fear/Anger? Whether we like it or not, the campaigns fell into that order and hate won the election.

So, now what? Well first, the popular vote was won by Hillary Clinton (right now by about 800,000 votes which means about 61 million people voted for her and another 7 million for another candidate, so all in all about 68 million people did not vote for Donald Trump. These numbers also beg for a lesson on the importance of voting when there are about 219 million people eligible to vote in our country) The other fact is that it takes more than one fight. When I teach about Human Rights in the winter, I will remind my students that there were plenty of times when love lost and we got up and fought again. We still have fighting to do and it is only when we lose hope, that we can say hate won. Until then, we power on. 

More Ideas: When I told someone that I wanted to do more, he said, "You're a teacher. You're already doing something great." And that's true, but that doesn't mean we don't have other passions, too. Maybe volunteering at a hospital or working with an environmental group is something you would look forward to every Sunday. If you are looking to relocate, a colleague suggested that teachers should go to a Red state and teach, I would say also consider a Red county. Maybe you want to work in a school that better reflects what you believe and you feel would allow you to make more of a difference. Maybe you are a retired teacher and you always thought it would be fun to work in a cafe or bookstore. Take a percentage of your paycheck and donate it to a charity or foundation or use it to buy books for a new teacher. If you are a teacher in the classroom, there's plenty more you can do. Form an after school club that volunteers somewhere that the kids are interested in helping. High School teachers can teach students how to navigate falsehoods on the Internet and promote learning the facts and forming opinions based off of your own independent research. There is literally a never-ending list of things we can add into our lives to make our community a better place. I encourage you to even try lending a hand in a part of the community you are unfamiliar with. The more we experience, the more we learn, the more objective and empathetic we become. If this election season has taught me anything, it is that there is always work to be done, no matter who is sitting in our White House. 

Friday, November 4, 2016

Thanksgiving Activity for Grades 1-3

Hi Everyone! I usually stick with 5th grade material on my blog, but this season I came up with a super cute idea for the younger grades and really wanted to share!

I call it "Noun" is the Time to be Thankful! Students get to practice what a noun is by writing about a person, place and thing they are thankful for! The booklet is in the shape of a turkey which makes it even more fun for kids!

To guide students in their writing, I included an outline of questions for them to plan their paragraphs.

After they have written their paragraphs, each on a separate turkey, they color in the cover page and cut them each out. Finally, they place all the pages together and share their book with their family during Thanksgiving dinner! If you do this with a few weeks before Thanksgiving, you can make a bulletin board with them! They would be so cute hanging up around the classroom!

Saturday, October 15, 2016

Bring Kindness into Your Classroom

There are so many fun ideas for kindness that all grades can bring into the classroom! To me, I think taking the time to circle back to being kind throughout the school year is something we can do fairly easily and has a long-term impact on our students. Try out my #KindnessIsContagious year-long idea to use as a touchstone of sorts to keep the conversation going and inspire students to look for and take part in random acts of kindness. Bonus is that it will also decorate your classroom quite nicely!


To Begin
Share a time during the week when you (the teacher) either saw a random act of kindness or performed a random act of kindness. Tell students the story and explain to them that when you were getting ready for this project, you started to notice a lot of different ways people were being kind. Then share with them the thinking that when people see acts of kindness, it is an inspiration for them to do something kind.

You can choose to read a book about kindness. I like Ordinary Mary's Extraordinary Deed by Emily Pearson.

Next Step
Tell students you all are going to try to inspire EVERYONE who walks into the classroom to do something kind when they leave. You decided that by creating a chain of kindness and hanging it up in the classroom, people will see it and be inspired by the stories. The chain will be called #KindnessIsContagious. (Kids LOVE hashtags!).

Write the act of kindness you described earlier on the strip of paper and then tell students you are waiting for someone to write on another strip so you can begin making the chain. Ask if anyone has something they did or saw that they could write. If not, that is fine. I would tell students to be on the lookout and that you will check in with them at the end of the day to see if anyone has done or seen an act of kindness. (Be sure to leave enough time at the end of the day). I collect the strips throughout the day and after students pack up for dismissal, we meet in a circle and students share their links with the class. When they leave, I staple them to the chain and the next day, they see it and get all excited! It's great!

Final Product!
Students will get a kick out of the chain growing longer and longer! Ours was about to touch the ground on Friday and the kids were excited to see it on Monday after I will have added the 15 strips we collected this week!

Strips of paper (I used the colors of my classroom)
Sharpie or Marker
Bin for Strips of paper labeled "#KindnessIsContagious"

Set Up
Place the strips, Sharpie and bin in an easily accessible area of the classroom. Establish a clear time when it is appropriate for kids to write their acts of kindness on the strips. I say during read aloud, lunch, snack, before and after school or if they finish an assignment early. 

Where in your Curriculum Can you Sprinkle in some Kindness?

Take a moment and look over your curriculum. Find areas where you can tie in being kind or how kindness or not being kind has effected an outcome of a situation. Teachers of younger-aged students can use books about kindness, anti-bullying and making friends to teach how to read and/or comprehension strategies.

Teachers of older-aged students, when teaching history for example, can find out about the groups of people who supported troops or countries through nonviolent acts of peace and tell your students about it. This article tells about Quakers who fed children and helped those in Germany after WWII following the principle that every person in need has to be helped. Math teachers can use the example of helping others and the cost of natural disasters. Make a graph for the types of supplies you collected for victims!

An 8th grade student himself came up with a kindness project that involves challenging middle school students to be kind. It has now been used in over 4600 different middle schools! Maybe it is exactly what your school is looking for or something you might want to adapt and use in your own classroom! Bonus: All the resources are free!

Reestablish Classroom Unity and Togetherness in the Middle of the School Year

Click on the picture to check out the lesson plan and puzzle pieces for this really amazing and super important student activity 

Sometimes bringing students together in the middle of the school year with a project or lesson is a good idea because it reminds students that they are all on the same team and need to look out for each other. I never assume that my students are always on the same page as each other. There is almost always trouble in paradise among friends at some point or another and unfortunately, I am not always aware of it. Therefore, I want to make sure I am not only teaching the skills to deal with conflict, but also fostering a sense of unity in my classroom even after the beginning of the school year. Using games where success can only be achieved if they work as a team is a great way to show the value in teamwork and trust. There are so many good ideas in the book called Great Group Games. This book also offers really great ideas for challenges, trust building, and get-to-know-you games. I use this a lot at the beginning of the year and then pull it out a few times a month thereafter. 

Classroom Discussions Can have a Wonderful Impact

Sometimes just talking to students about what peace means to them can be really empowering. Through discussion, students will start to see that being peaceful can mean so many different things! When I facilitate this type of discussion in my classroom of 5th graders, I like to allow students to really guide each other in seeing that there is no one, correct answer. For younger grades, you might want to pose questions for students to think about. Such as: What would peace look like in your neighborhood? What would peace look like in our school? What does peace feel like? 

Kindergarten - 2nd Grade Book Suggestion for Conversation 
The Peace Book by Todd Parr

3rd and 4th Grades Book Suggestion for Conversation
What Does Peace Feel Like? By Vladimir Radunsky

Click on the picture to check out the lesson plan and activity 

Building Kindness into your Curriculum can only ENHANCE the learning and opportunities for your students to practice one of the most valuable life skills! 

09 10