Tuesday, June 30, 2015

What I Would Bring Back From the '80s

Someone asked the other day, if I could bring back one thing from the '80s, what would it be.

My first thought was a dear friend of mine who tragically died in a car accident in 1989. He was really more than a friend; someone I had hoped to spend my life with. But, as I considered bringing him back, I realized my life would have taken a much different direction, and I wouldn't have the most precious thing in the world...my son. So, I decided, no matter how much I have ached for him over the years, I wouldn't bring this friend back.

Then, I considered bringing back my innocence; the ignorance I enjoyed before life knocked me down, over and over! Again, as I ruminated this option, I realized I wouldn't bring my innocence back either because then I wouldn't realize how strong I am. I wouldn't know how many times I would get back on my feet after life-altering blows. I wouldn't know how to truly enjoy the peaceful, quiet moments that settle in between the challenging ones. While I wouldn't mind being a little less cynical, I don't want to bring back my ignorance.

So, what to bring back then? To be safe, I think I would bring back the carefree beach days I enjoyed in the '80s. Still living on the coast, I don't take the time to really enjoy the beach like I used to when I was in high school. I want to walk on the sand every single day, sun-shining or fog creeping. To hear the ocean waves and smell the salted air takes me back to the '80s, a time before I learned the burden of adulthood.

And then I realized, I don't have to bring these carefree beach days back from the '80s; I can enjoy them right now!

Just out of curiosity, what would you bring back from the '80s?

After sharing, go on over to the Two Writing Teachers website and share your own Slice of Life!

Saturday, June 27, 2015

Super Hero Sounds: Lowercase letter identification and sound recognition

 To make learning meaningful, all you have to do is tap into your child's interests. Taking our children, and students’, interests into account, we create learning environments that are “rich in learning materials and opportunities” and have far-reaching implications for children's academic, emotional and social growth (Sousa & Tomlinson, 2011, p. 118).

So, marrying my son's love of super heroes with letter sound recognition seemed a match made in heaven.  

I started with lowercase letter tiles and a slew of my son's Imaginext figurines:

Once I had the letters and figures lined up, in random order, my son matched each figure to its first letter using sound recognition:

Of course, after he was all done matching the characters to their corresponding beginning letter, we had to embark on an epic battle, during which I was the bad guys and the good guys triumphed!

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

How We Speak to Our Children: Exchanging negative words with positive ones

I came across this quote the other day: "The way we talk to our children becomes their inner voice".

As someone who is in constant battle with my own inner voice, this quote struck a chord deep within me, so I wrote it on a rock and placed it on my kitchen table where I can read it every day!

It also got me to thinking about the words we use when talking to or describing our children and students. When I was in the classroom full time, I made a concerted effort to use positive words instead of negative ones. I have tried to remember as many as I can to share here, but there are myriad others to consider:
  • Instead of "bossy", we might describe a child as a "leader"
  • Rather than "nosy", we can describe this child as "inquisitive"
  • Instead of "hyper", we might describe a child as "athletic" or "active"
  • Rather than "lazy", we can describe this child as "meticulous"
  • Instead of "distractable", we might describe a child as a "multi-tasker"
We also have to be conscious of positive labels we put on children. Just because we think a descriptor is a compliment, does not mean they will agree. 

Or, when all we focus on is one aspect of a child, this can quickly become a stigma. 

One example of this was a Vietnamese student I had a few years ago. Traditionally, people view individuals of Asian descent as being "smart", and this boy was no exception. Sadly, he grew so tired of having to live up to this expectation that he began to purposefully fail his classes. Realizing what was happening, I tried to recognize and nurture other aspects of his personality, such as his humor. To tap into his humorous side, I put him in charge of choosing a weekly idiom for which he and two other classmates would act out in a skit. Being recognized for something other than his intelligence, my student forgot he was trying to fail and, once again, performed to his ability.

These reflections came at the perfect time for me to share my ruminations with the Slice of Life community over at Two Writing Teachers. You can visit their website to read more slices or to share your own! Before you do, though, feel free to share any word changes you can think of to help us speak more positively to our children...

Monday, June 15, 2015

Preschool Math Lesson: Caterpillar Cut-out Number Sense Activity

I saw this fabulously and fun number sense activity over on F is for First Grade and decided to create my own version :-)

I found all the materials I needed in our school supplies:
  • Caterpillar cutouts
  • Stickers
  • Sharpie
  • Scissors
I started with the caterpillar cutout and cut it into four pieces: the head, the belly, the back, and the tail. 

Tuesday, June 9, 2015

After 18 Years in Education, I am Discovering the True Educator in Me

Depth & Complexity and Bloom's Taxonomy Matrix
After 13 + years teaching at the upper elementary level, I have learned more about myself as a teacher, and a learner, working with my preschool-aged son in just two years! This is not to diminish my time in public education, at all; however, the confines of working within the established parameters of the public education system seemed to stifle my true calling as a teacher and, subsequently, as a learner.

When I first began teaching, back in 1999, there was still much autonomy to the profession. Teachers were given their charges and left to mold them as they saw fit. I wasn't a big fan of this model and craved peer interaction. As luck would have it, I entered the profession at the changing of the guards, so to speak, as there was a shift in the tides that brought waves of collaboration and accountability.

Sunday, June 7, 2015

Exploratory Science Unit: A Plant's Life Cycle

For the final activity in our preschool plant unit, we investigated a plant's life cycle. In our first activity, Flower Anatomy, I opted to give my son authentic, hands-on research with flower parts before we read any books; but for today's lesson, I flipped my approach and began with a book:

In this book, we learned about the four phases in a plant's life cycle: seeds, sprouting (or germination), full-grown plant (or, as my son likes to say, "Flowers and leaves"), and pollination. As a cycle, once a plant is pollinated, new seeds are produced, starting the cycle over again.

Monday, June 1, 2015

Letter Sound Scavenger Hunt: "W" and "Y"

As my son and I have been working on beginning letter sounds, it has become evident that he confuses the sounds for "W" and "Y". When I hold up an item, or a picture of an item, that begins with "w", he will make the correct "wuh" sound, but he most often identifies it with the letter "Y". I can only speculate as to why, and that is the answer I came up with. The word "why" makes the "wuh" beginning sound and sounds like the letter "Y", so I think he is confusing the two for this reason. 

In keeping with my belief that authentic, meaningful activities, as opposed to structured, sit-down lessons, will help my son practice identifying the letters for each of these two sounds, I created a scavenger hunt. Turns out there are very few "W" and "Y" items in our house, so I had to be creative.