Monday, September 5, 2011

I just might bend but I won't break

Flexibility: The quality of being adaptable.

There is a song that is popular now with the line "I just might bend but I won't break". I had to think of this line as my final year of college has begun and everything seems CRAZY! My peers and I were given several changes in the week before school started. Even if this all seemed a bit stressful (especially when you are a planner!) it really gave me a taste of what my career will be like. I know that as a teacher I will have to continually be flexible. Many teachers get reassigned in the weeks before school begins and no matter how much I try to plan ahead, my instruction will have to be flexible based on the abilities of my students.

I will be flexible; I will not break.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

What to do when a truth is full of lies...

True: Consistent with fact or reality; not false or erroneous.

This week a report came out about Greg Mortenson and his book 3 Cups of Tea. Apparently there are some inaccuracies in his stories. No matter what our personal feelings are on this issue we must think about our students. If you have used this book, its story, or the Pennies for Peace program you must have a conversation with your students. We can never lead our students to a false knowledge and if we do, even if by a mistake that is not our fault, we must be the ones to clear it up. This is a great time to have a conversation with your students about what truth is and about what it is not. Truth is consistent with the facts it does not contain inconsistencies, exaggerations, or created ideas. This is a teachable moment that must not be neglected. It is a chance to teach about real life and the decisions that we make.

To see a video clip of the story click here:

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Making Rules

Classroom Rules: Define acceptable behavior withing a classroom and provide clearly defined expectations.

Everyone knows the importance of having clearly defined rules for children. We know that they are necessary to make children feel safe and give them security. A good system for rules and consequences will allow things to run much smoother for you and the students. But how do you go about creating rules that everyone understands?

Begin by having a conversation with your students about what things would make school really awful. Make a giant list on the board so that you can refer to it later. Then make a list of things that would make school great. Go back through the lists with the students and cross out the things that can't be controlled by you or the students because of school policy. Then talk through the other things on the lists. This is your chance to explain your expectations for them and what they can expect from you. Afterwards create a list of classroom rules. Make sure that you keep these few and simple. A great list would be: Be Respectful, Be Responsible, and Follow Procedures. It is important to go over the meaning of these big words. Every child's idea of respect will be different and you must make sure that they understand what you mean by respect. Make a list with them of what respect means. You can refer back to your lists that you made previously to help fill this in.

Friday, April 1, 2011

States Project

Tourist: Someone who is traveling for fun.

Have your students become tourists for a week. Assign small groups a state to study. You could combine this with other teaching such as the 13 colonies or Lewis and Clark since you won't have 50 groups of students in your class. Or if you are in a big school make it a grade level project and have all of your grade level doing it at once that way all of the states are studied. Give students a rubric so that they know what they are looking for when researching. Things could include date of entry into the United States, state bird, flower, flag, major tourist attractions, famous people born there, etc.

If time permits, allows students to request visitor information from each state. Usually they will send packets of information to tourists. See if you can connect with a school in each of the states and ask that they would send you information about what they like to do in their free time there on a postcard from their city.

This can be combined with math as well. Have students decide on where in that state they would like to stay for a 3 day vacation and figure out how much it would cost including hotel, travel, meals, and local attractions.

After giving students plenty of time in class to do the project set it up in the gym and invite the rest of the school to come and travel around the country. This is another great way to get parents involved in education!

Decades Project

Decade: A Period of ten years.

What a great way to learn about history! This project was easy to pull together and allowed all of us to really learn a lot. Complete the project by assigning groups of students a decade in American history. Have them research about pop culture, clothing, news events and interesting facts that happened. Have students create posters with the information, bring in artifacts, and dress according to their decade. Students can also learn dances or bring in food that was famous of the time.

Assessment can be done in two ways or a combination of both. Give students a rubric so that they know what they are expected to gain from their research and on the day of presentations check off the rubric. You could also do interviews with students as you walk around and see their displays. This can be set up in your school gym or lunchroom and invite the other students to come and check it out.

You will need to make sure that students have opportunities to do research at school and to work on putting together their posters. Also make sure that you have clothing for students who are unable to find some. This would be a great opportunity to get parents involved, too!

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

3 Cups of Tea: Young Readers Edition

One man's journey to change the world... one child at a time.

This is the inspirational story of Greg Mortenson's journey to build a school in Pakistan. There are several things that can be taught with a unit on this book. Geography is the obvious thing but there is so much more. Using this book is a great way to open up discussions about Muslim culture. One misconception that gets squashed is that women should not be educated. In village after village, Greg finds that the tribe leaders are longing for schools so that they can educate the girls.

The end of the book has a question and answer section with Greg's daughter. Among other things, she talks about the Pennies for Peace program. This program offers students a way to make a difference in Pakistan. The website actually has a full curriculum that teachers can use.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Trade Fair

Barter: To trade by exchanging one commodity for another.

Looking for ways to teach kids about the economy? Why not have a trade fair! This can be done many ways. You can have students bring in "garage sale" items from home (with parents permission) or give them time to make items in class. They can create artwork or crafts to trade or bring food or items from home.

This lesson can be linked to many social studies standards. You can easily talk about supply and demand as well as needs and wants. A trade fair can also be used when studying colonial America since this was the way early Americans got their supplies.

Saturday, March 5, 2011

Picturing the Neighborhood

Neighborhood: An area with distinctive characteristics. The people who live near one another in a particular area.

There are several things that can be learned by having students bring in pictures of their neighborhoods. Students can discuss the things that are similar and different about the area where they live. This will also provide the teacher with a good opportunity to teach some vocabulary. Possible words to discuss include: neighborhood, cul-de-sac, intersection, street, road, lane, apartment, and duplex. Using students own pictures will allow them to feel connected to the activities. This can be extended by having students write stories about their neighborhoods using some of the vocabulary that you have introduced.

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Colonial Life Resouces

Here is a list of resources for teaching about Colonial America:

DeFord, D. (2004). Life in the thirteen colonies Pennsylvania. New York: Scholastic

This book covers the history of the founding of the Pennsylvania colony up until the time it becomes a state. It also gives information about the way of life for the colonists. Life in the Thirteen Colonies is a series of books that would be useful for students to use for research. The book ends with a recipe, an activity, a time line, a further reading list, and a glossary.

Bowen, G. (1994). Stranded at Plimoth plantation 1626. New York: HarperCollins Publishers

This book is written as a daily diary of Christopher Sears. While this is a fictional story, it is based on historical accounts from 1626 and 1627. It provides the reader with a look at life in Plimoth.

Carlson, L. (1997). Colonial kids. Chicago: Chicago Review Press

This is an activity book filled with art projects, games, and recipes from colonial times. Each activity explains how it was used or was important in colonial times.

Fradin, D. B. (1990). The Connecticut colony. Chicago: Children’s Press

This is one book in a series on the colonies. The book discusses the Native Americans who lived in the colony before Europeans came, the first colonists to arrive, and the colonial wars. There are also several biographies of important people in the colony. The book ends with a timeline.

Walker, S. M. (2009). Written in bone. Minneapolis: Carolrboda Books

This book follows archeologists as they uncover skeletons and artifacts from Jamestown and colonial Maryland. It also shows the foundations of a church and pictures of its restoration. The book ends with a further reading list and a timeline.

Warner, J. F. (1993). Colonial american home life. New York: Franklin Watts.

This book is all about daily life of the colonists. It includes chapters on homes, clothing, food, work, and school. The book is full of prints that had been created during the time. The end of the book provides a glossary and a bibliography.

This website, created by the Library of Congress, offers children information about the history of America. The section about Colonial America offers several stories of famous people and events from the time period.


This website is full of useful information on topics including history, geography, government, holidays, time lines, religions, languages, and more. This website would be easy for students to navigate to find information for several purposes. The section on Colonial Times offers pages on each specific colony as well as characteristics of the colonies in general.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Using Historical Fiction: Chains

Historical Fiction: The genre of historical fiction in the field of children’s literature includes stories that are written to portray a time period or convey information about a specific time period or a historical event.

Chains is an emotional book about the life of a slave girl during the time of the Revolutionary War. The author weaves in real events and historical figures to create a story that is interesting and educational.

However that does mean that teachers need to be aware of what is fact and what is fiction. As you read this book with your students have them keep a list of things that are fact, fiction, and things that they are not sure of. This will give you opportunities to branch off into research topics.

Beware: this book is a bit heavy! There is a lot going on all at once. Make sure you have plenty of discussion and writing opportunities. It may be a good idea to do some drama with the scenes and discuss what the characters are thinking and feeling.

Monday, February 7, 2011

Cultural Artifacts

Cultural Artifact: a term used for anything created by humans which gives information about the culture of its creator and users.

If a picture speaks a thousand words, how many words are spoken by an object? We are not defined by our possessions however they do say a lot about who we are. They speak of our beliefs, our passions, and our way of life. When we look back at artifacts left from ancient civilizations we see their cultural remains, remnants of a life once lived.

How can we take this experience of exploring a past culture and make it a modern day exercise of discovery? Having students bring in personal items that have true meaning to them can be a great way of sharing who they are with their classmates. This can also give them an opportunity to reflect upon what is important to them and what things speak of who they are and what they believe.

Above you see a picture of the items that were brought into my college class when doing this exercise. Can you see something about who we are as a group? Do you see our similarities and our differences? What are our objects speaking about who we are?