Sunday, September 30, 2012

September 11th Interview

One of the most amazing things about teaching is how, as time passes, our students come in with a totally different understanding of history. When I first started teaching in 2005, my students had a vivid recollection of the terrorist attacks of September 11th. That horrible day was just as much a part of their life as it was mine. We shared the feelings of the day and could talk about how we all felt.

Now, in my eighth year of teaching, things have changed. The students this year, when asked about September 11th, have no recollection at all of the event because many of them weren't even born yet or were just newborns. As teachers, we must respond to these changes in student memory and adapt our instruction/discussion of important historical events.

What I have done in recent years is have my students interview someone close to them, a parent, family member, or neighbor about the events of September 11th. As I was creating this interview, it was clear that the discussion of these events should come mainly from those closest to my students - not me. Knowing how everyone's life was so affected by this awful event, I knew my students could learn more in a face-to-face interview than any other activity I did in the classroom. The September 11th interview, which does take some time to complete, has been one of the assignments I receive the most positive feedback on - from students and parents alike! (I have attached the interview form I used for the tenth anniversary of 9/11 last year.)

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Inferring Box Project

We had such an exciting event last week in language arts class. The event was inspired (a.k.a. stolen) from @donalynbooks and her fabulous book The Book Whisperer. I asked all students to bring in 10 items that represented who they were as a person. I was BLOWN AWAY by the interesting and creative items students brought in. I loved one student who brought in an ice-cream scoop to represent his sweet tooth. I loved the student who brought in a pair of headphones to represent her love of music. There were the two students who brought in items to represent their love of their pets - a leash and a dog bone in a plastic baggie! More exciting than anything were the several students who brought BOOKS. Books were an item that described who they were as a person. nHow awesome is that?!

I set up all of the items on random desks and put post-its with numbers on them. Then, the students did a museum walk. We discussed as a class what environment a museum should have and I played classical music as the students perused. Their goal was to guess as many of their classmates items as they could. It was a testament to the students that so many guesses were correct - it means that they listen to one another and respect each other. After the guessing, each student described several of their items, which revealed so much. I would encourage all teachers to do something similar - both the students and the teachers were able to learn so much about each other. Fun and productive - a classroom winner! (I especially loved the students who kept saying, "This is hard!")

One tip: Encourage students to not bring in any item that is automatically identifiable, like personal pictures, etc.

Enjoy some pictures of our museum walk:

Monday, September 3, 2012

First Read Alouds of the Year

Wonderful video below with many teachers' first read alouds of the year. If you look close enough, you may spot me towards the late middle! So exciting to be part of a great reading PLN on Twitter. Thanks go to @colbysharp!

Check out large size video: First Read Alouds!

New Ideas!

It has been an exciting first full week of school, especially due to some new things I've/we've been doing/trying.

1. We are now doing a video newsletter for our grade level! Not only was it fun, but it saves SO much time! We plan to still send a paper one home for those without internet. My teammate and I wrote a grant for two video cameras last year, so this is one way we will be using them. We would like students to participate in the newsletter by showing their families their learning, instead of sending home a written newsletter. If you'd like to check out our first attempt, go to this link:

2. I have already had the students decorate and begin using their reading and writing notebooks. In the past, we've waited, but I am not sure why we did. Many of them have completed more than 1 book (some 2, 3 or 4) towards their 40 book challenge! I think they are realizing that it is fun and doable.

3. We've been reading, reading and reading. For the first time, I showed book trailers in class. Basically, they are like movie trailers but for books! In the past, I have shown Book Talk videos from Scholastic, but now I am adding book trailers. The kids enjoyed the videos. Here are the links to two great book trailers: Drama and The One and Only Ivan

4. After showing the book trailers for Drama by Raina Telgemeir and The One and Only Ivan by Katherine Applegate, I decided (after inspiration from @mrschureads) to have a book raffle for the kids to enter. The winner of each book raffle will be the first person that gets to borrow these books. It is interesting how presenting new books this way is really getting them excited! Plus it solves the problem of kids saying they want to check out a book that I just recommended and me getting in trouble by double-booking ;-)

Off to a great start!


I got this wonderful caricature of myself (at least I think that's me) from one of my new students this year. I love it! I love reading just as much as this young lady and I hope she's gotten that message after the first full week of school ;-)

Do you think she's captured me?