The other day I was in line at the grocery store and the young man ahead of me turned and said, “Best book. Ever.”
“Which book?” I said.
“That one.” He pointed at my shirt, which featured Harry, the Dirty Dog.
“Oh,” I said. “Harry.”
“Yeah, Harry. My mom? She read that book to me like 10,000 times.”
“It’s a great book,” I said.
“Yeah,” said the guy. “It always made me laugh. When he buries his bath brush, and then when he gets so dirty that they don’t recognize him and then they do. It made me happy. I should read it again.” He paused. “I should read it to somebody.”
“That would be great,” I said. I smiled at him.
And underneath, my Harry t-shirt, my heart was beating wildly saying, “Yes, yes, yes, do, do, do, read it aloud, read it aloud, read it aloud. We all need a story now.”
Can you tell I am a little obsessed with Kate DiCamillo these days? 🙂 She is one of my favorite authors and this particular post of hers made me smile. It’s what I hope for all young readers; fond memories of a particular book being read with someone they love, a true love of books and the written word and sharing that love and passion of good books with others. It’s one of the many reasons why doing book buddies is so important at our school. It’s also why we (the admin team) try to make it a priority to get in classrooms and read to and with students. This past week I visited some classrooms to read and it truly was the highlight of my week! If you see me pop in your classroom with a book know that I am there to read to your class, but if it is not a good time I am always happy to come back or set up a time with you that works better. Please don’t feel like you have to stop what you are doing. It is our goal to share great old and new literature with our students so that hopefully a certain story or book will help spark their love of reading.
As I visited classrooms this week I was a bit like the young boy that DiCamillo writes about, reminded of some old favorites, so I thought I would share them with you. Because, if you are like me I sometimes get caught up in the day to day hustle and bustle and forget about the little things that make our school special.
- games, games and more games…I saw one teacher in the upper grades have a chess board set up and students were playing this higher level thinking game during their free choice time.
- puzzles….one teacher had a huge puzzle set up in her room that stays out all the time so that the whole class can work on it together. She has it in a place in the room where students can come over and add pieces whenever they have a free moment. I have also seen those special mats where your can work on a puzzle and then roll it up if you are not finished and then get it back out again when you want to work on it some more.
- finger knitting…I saw lots of this going on in the lower grades this week, but remember this is something that all kids can enjoy. For some kids who need a fidget to concentrate this could be the perfect fit! If you don’t know how to finger knit ask someone who does, or ask me. I would be happy to come sit in your room and teach kids how to do this. It is a great way to work on fine motor skills as well.
- crab walking and wheel barrow walking in the hall….I saw teachers pulling kids in the hall to do this to help get students bodies ready for the next activity. Remember this is good for not only students who need to get some wiggles out, but good for EVERYONE! 🙂 However, please do remember that our hallways are also places where lots of learning takes place. I have noticed that sometimes our hallways can get a bit loud and can become a flurry of activity. If you notice groups of students in the hall working this might not be the best time to have your entire class crab walk to the bathroom. Let’s make sure that we are being cognizant of others in the hall and that we are not disrupting learning time. If you are working in the hall and a group of students is being too noisy make sure you address it with those students and let their teacher know. We want students to have the ability to do some movement and get their bodies ready for learning, however it may be that we need to find a different place or time for this if the hallways seem filled with small groups of learners. Also please remember that learning is going on in our special area classes so when students are using the restroom or in the hallway they want to use voice levels that do not distract from the learning going on in these classes as well. We are a community of learners and all students grades K-7 are our responsibility to teach, not just our own particular classes.
- liquid watercolors….I walked in one classroom this week and some students were writing while others were using liquid watercolors to paint about their final published piece. Do you have enough watercolors in your classroom? If not let us know. Remember, students young and old like and need to paint. Put these out at different times and allow your students to respond to a reading/writing with paints or to simply just paint for fun!
- art center….I had a discussion with some teachers this week about opening up an art center in their classrooms that is there for students to create. They may create about the learning topic, or they may simply choose to just create. Switching out art supplies in this center helps keep it fresh and helps students get excited about what they create. Ideas for things in your art center might include: fabric, buttons, beads, yarn, google eyes, jewels, feathers, etc. If you need more ideas or need things to go in your art center please let us know. We are happy to make sure you have these things in your classroom.
- play doh….it’s not just for K/1! 🙂 Older students often get more excited about play doh than younger students. Put some out on a table and sit back and watch. Squishing and molding play doh is often times just what the sensory doctor ordered! 🙂 Again, if you need some let us know. It’s also fun to make with your students. Adding scents to it or making it sparkly also adds an element of fun. Ms. Taisia is an excellent resource for this, as I remember one year learning about chocolate play doh from her. Mix chocolate powdered cocoa into your play doh when you make it and it turns the color of chocolate as well as smells pretty devine! 🙂
- science…are you making sure you include science learning into what you are teaching on a regular basis? Experiments can often be the hook that turn children onto learning. In our upper grades we do have science enrichment with Ms. Kim, but remember her lessons are an enrichment to what you are teaching about science in your classrooms. Setting up a station in your classrooms where students can learn and explore the topic you are learning about in science is a great way to spark students natural curiosity, as well as with your lessons on these topics. Again, if you need help with this don’t hesitate to ask!
- cooking…it was so fun walking into a classroom and watching students work at a center with their teacher as they made “puppy chow” to go along with their author study. It tasted pretty yummy too, as the students happily shared some with me as well as their recipe. A cooking center in your weekly center rotations (when it applicable) is always a favorite, and is a great way to teach math and writing skills through measurement and writing directions or recipes.
- art prints…we have lots…frequently switch them out in your classroom. Great pieces of art are stimulating to the brain! Have conversations with your students about what the artist may have been thinking about when he/she painted this great work of art. These should be out all the time, not just during an artist unit.
- The I Am Creed, Standing O, and the Shooting Star song….are you saying, doing and singing these things daily in grades K-5? If not you should be! Remember these are important pieces of CSD! I know in kindergarten teachers will often slowly ease into learning these, as they want students to have a solid understanding of what they are saying and its importance. Don’t forget to have these important conversations in the upper grades as well.
Like Kate DiCamillo’s, Harry the Dirty Dog shirt, I am hopeful that these ideas/reminders will spark something for you this week that you may have forgotten about or would like to try in your classroom. Know that when we see these things going on in your classrooms it makes our hearts beat wildly, saying yes, yes, yes, do, do, do! Please don’t feel overwhelmed by this list. Just know these are great things we have seen going on and we wanted to share them with you. Pick one of them to try this week and start from there. Remember no one is perfect, especially me, but when we learn and share with one another that is how we continue to grow. Have a terrific week!
PS~ Welcome back 5th graders from Barrier Island! Huge thanks to the 5th grade team, Marianne, Juli, Ms. Kim and everyone who helped make this important learning opportunity and tradition happen for our sweet students!
Week At A Glance:
The week ahead:
Oct 3rd – NO SCHOOL – Holiday
Oct 4th – Parent Advisory 9:00 a.m. at HS; Robinson to Oaks
Oct 4th – Bullying Book Study 7:00 p.m. at K-7 Media Center
Oct 5th – K-7 Staff Meeting; Posey to Oaks
Oct 6th – Love and Logic Parent Workshop 7:30 at K-7; Godwin to Olde Knox Commons
Oct 7th – Elementary Spirit Friday/Kindergarten Teddy Bear Parade
Oct 7th – CSD Homecoming
Oct 10th – Teckenbrock to Oaks
Oct 11th – CSD Kickball Tournament and Family Festival
Oct 12th – No School; Teacher Workday
Oct 13th i- Love and Logic Parent Workshop – 7:30 at K-7; Washam to Olde Knox Commons, Webb to Oaks
Oct 14th – K-11 Tentative Picture Make-Up Day
Oct 17th – Carr to Oaks
Oct 18th – K-7 Lottery Open House 9:15 & 6:30; Coppola to Laurels
Oct 19th – K-7 Staff Meeting
Oct 20th – Love and Logic Parent Workshop – 7:30 at K-7; Westbrook/Sharp to Olde Knox Commons
Oct 24th – Holshouser to Oaks
Oct 27th – Love and Logic Parent Workshop – 7:30 at K-7
Oct 28th – Parade of Fiction
Oct 31st – No School; Teacher Workday
Nov 1st – No School; Teacher Workday
Nov 2nd – K-7 Staff Meeting
Nov 3rd – Elementary Day of Dead Celebration (Spanish)
Nov 3rd – Love and Logic Parent Workshop – 7:30 at K-7
Nov 4th – Elementary Spirit Day
Nov 4th – 7th Grade Africa Day
Nov 8th – Love and Logic Parent Workshop – 8:45 in 6th Grade Art Room; Schultz to Laurels
Nov 10th – Fisher to Olde Knox Commons
Nov 13th – K-7 Lottery Open House 9:15 & 6:30
Nov 14h – 7th Grade Africa Day
Nov 11th – NO SCHOOL – Veteran’s Day Holiday
Nov 15th – Love and Logic Parent Workshop – 8:45 in 6th Grade Art Room; Hoover to Laurels
Nov 15th – K-8 Cyberbullying Parent Workshop – 7:00 in MS Black Box
Nov 16th – K-7 Staff Meeting
Nov 17th – Godwin to Olde Knox Commons
Nov 18th – 6th Grade Greek Day
Nov 21st – Davidson Walking Tour – ½ of 2nd Grade
Nov 22nd – Davidson Walking Tour – ½ of 2nd Grade
Nov 22nd – Love and Logic Parent Workshop – 8:45 in 6th Grade Art Room
Nov 23rd – Nov 25th – NO SCHOOL; Thanksgiving Holiday
Nov 29th – Love and Logic Parent Workshop – 8:45 in 6th Grade Art Room
Nov 30th – Band Concert – 7:00 pm at PLP’s new auditorium
Dec 1st -3rd – Christmas in Davidson; Washam to Olde Knox Commons
Dec 6th – Hoover to Laurels
Dec 8th – Westbrook/Sharp to Olde Knox Commons
Dec 13th – Coppola to Laurels
Dec 16th – 2nd Grade Art Gallery
Dec 16th – 3rd Grade Charlotte History Performance
Dec 19th – Jan 2nd – Winter Break
Jan 3rd – Classes Resume
Thanks to Jen and Shane for beginning the CSD Power of We Podcast Series! Please be looking for opportunities to participate! Enjoy their first segment investigating “Why We Teach!” See Shane’s message below and please take time to subscribe and listen! Share it with your friends, too!
Jen and I had a blast recording our first episode of the CSD Power of We Podcast! Many of you will hear familiar voices, and we hope it’s an opportunity for us to reflect, share, and grow as a school community. If you get the chance, subscribe and rate us on iTunes so we can share CSD’s story with a wider audience! Happy listening!
Check out the first episode: https://itunes.apple.com/us/podcast/csdpower-of-we/id1158621626?mt=2&i=375747608
From Sarah Hoff: I have updated and published your class lists in Jupiter for the 2016-2017 school year. While grades are not due until October, I need you to go ahead and log in to verify that all information is correct. When you have a minute, please check to make sure that the students in Jupiter accurately reflect your class list. Please let me know if you need a student added or removed so that everything is ready to go when you begin to enter grades next month. Elementary teachers, please also check to make sure that parent email addresses are up to date for each student in your class. Otherwise parents will not receive access to report cards when they are emailed out. (When you log in, click the “setup” tab in the top right hand corner and choose “students.” Then click through each of your students and verify the parent email addresses.) Elementary teachers, you have the ability to change or add parent emails as you check each student’s information. You can make email address changes yourself and just let me know if you need students added or removed from your class. Middle school teachers, I have done this for you since not all advisors are on Jupiter to verify parent emails. Thank you for taking a few minutes to attend to this. Please send me a quick email to let me know when you have verified your class lists and parent email addresses (if applicable).
Teaching Tips with Marianne:
Have you ever plunked yourself down in a staff meeting where some of your colleagues were, for lack of a better phrase, not paying attention? Grading homework? Having private conversations? Texting?
As we know all too well, kids aren’t a whole lot different than adults: If they aren’t absorbed by what’s going on, they’ll find something else that interests them.
Getting all your students focused, eager, and on task at the beginning of class is challenging enough. Equally problematic, once you have them locked in to the lesson, is watching them zone out. There’s nothing unusual about that. After all, anyone who has to sit through a long routine — including a teacher’s presentation — is bound to drift off at some point.
Still, unless you manage to capture and keep students’ focus, whether at the beginning of or midway through class, the engine of student learning that you are trying to drive simply isn’t even in gear.
From Dead Time to Active Learning
I call this lack of engagement dead time. Dead time interferes with students’ learning, and it is contagious. It lures those who are on task into wondering, “Why should I pay attention if others aren’t?”
I have come to feel that dead time is so pernicious that I will do everything I can to prevent even the hint of an outbreak. If you strive for maximum learning for all your students, then allowing kids to be stuck in dead time feels like a small betrayal — to yourself and to them.
Active learning and active listening — in which students are thoroughly and thoughtfully engaged with each other or the teacher — represents the opposite of dead time. In their book Inspiring Active Learning, Merrill Harmon and Melanie Toth present a ladder thatdescribes four levels of student motivation.
They call students at Level 4, the lowest level, the work avoiders, and on level 3 are the halfhearted workers. Near the top are responsible students, and, finally, come the fully active learners.
As a teacher and a project-learning consultant, I’ve always paid close attention to these levels of student engagement. I’ve discovered that it’s difficult to keep students focused when the lesson comes from the teacher. But it can be equally difficult when they are engaged as project-learning teams, especially when the independence demanded by project learning is new to them.
Sometimes it’s an individual on the team who can’t seem to get involved; other times it’s the entire group. Over the years, I’ve come up with a range of strategies to eliminate dead time and move students up the active-learning ladder.
Building Your Arsenal
Eliminating dead time starts with creating an arsenal of routines and activities. They can be general-purpose activities that apply to various subject areas or styles of teaching, or specific content-oriented activities that allow your students to learn by tapping into multiple intelligences beyond the usual listening and recalling.
Some are physical activities that help kids unleash pent-up energy, while others create private thinking time that encourages reflection. Or they can be well-managed student-to-student communication to guarantee that they are all thinking about the work.
Developing these activities initially takes time, but the payoff — in terms of classroom management and overall learning — is more than worth the effort. By building a storehouse of activities to draw on, I’m rarely at a loss to implement one of them to get kids back on track.
Not surprisingly, too, students get to know these strategies and look forward to them. I find they work at the beginning of class to calm kids down or any time they need an energizing way to refocus.
10 Rules of Engagement
1. Start Class with a Mind Warm-Up
A classic warm-up is to ask students to find the mistakes planted in material written on the board. (You can use this idea in any subject area.) But instead of asking them to work silently and alone, and then debrief in a classic question-and-answer session with one student at a time (while many sit inattentively), use a mix of collaboration and competition to eliminate what could potentially become dead time.
Here’s how: Organize teams of three students and ask them to work together (quietly) and raise their hands when they think they have found all the mistakes. After the first team signals it’s done, give a bit more time and then have teams indicate with their fingers — together on the count of three — the number of mistakes they found in the work. The team that found the most describes its answers until another team disagrees politely or until they are finished.
2. Use Movement to Get Kids Focused
Ask all students to stand behind their desks and join in simple choreographed physical movement. Because most kids find it invigorating and it’s easy to monitor full participation, it may become one of your favorite ways to get kids focused and kill dead time.
Here’s how, for the primary grades: Teach hand-clapping patterns to accompany a chanted verse or a set of math facts. Add foot stomping or hand clapping with a partner to create variety.
Here’s how, for the middle grades: Create a rhythm with finger snapping and hand clapping, which you model and they echo back. Vary the rhythm and pattern in intervals of 15-20 seconds to challenge them to pay attention and join in.
Here’s how, for any grade, including high school: Offer a seventh-inning stretch, or the cross crawl. To do the cross crawl, stand up and begin marching in place, raising the knees really high. As you raise the left knee, reach across your body with your right hand and touch the left knee.
Then do the same for the left hand on the right knee. Continue this pattern for a minute or more. (You can also vary it by, say, having kids clap their hands over their heads between each set of knee touches.)
3. Teach Students How to Collaborate Before Expecting Success
Doing project learning and other team-based work without prior training can lead to lots of dead time. You can nip much of it in the bud by teaching collaboration skills before projects get started. You don’t need to use an activity related to your subject area to teach teamwork.
Here’s how: One way is to give teams of students a pair of scissors, two sheets of paper, ten paper clips, and a 10-inch piece of tape, and ask them to build the tallest free-standing tower in 20 minutes.
Prior to the activity, create a teamwork rubric with students, which reviews descriptions of desired norms and behaviors. While half of the teams are building the towers, have the other half of the students stand around them in a circular “fishbowl” as silent observers.
Debrief afterward, and train the observers to give a positive comment before a critical one: “I liked that they [blank], and I wonder if they could have also [blank].” Switch the observers with the tower builders and see if they can do better, then debrief again.
4. Use Quickwrites When You Want Quiet Time and Student Reflection
When interest is waning in your presentations, or you want to settle students down after a noisy teamwork activity, ask them to do a quickwrite, or short journal-writing assignment.
Here’s how, for primary-grade students: Ask, “What was most interesting about [blank]?” “What was confusing about [blank]?” “What was the clearest thing you understood?” “What was boring about [blank]?” “What did [blank] make you think of in your life?”
Here’s how, for intermediate-grade students and above: Try prompts such as the following, or develop your own: “Summarize what you have heard.” “Predict an exam or quiz question I could ask based on this material.” “Defend one of the positions taken during the prior discussion.”
Teachers often avoid giving this type of assignment because assessing them regularly can be overwhelming. Manage this load by having students use a green (or other color) pen to circle one entry from the week you guarantee you will read.
Occasionally, have them write a few sentences next to their entry explaining why they want you to read that particular one. Let them know that you will read the passages marked in green and that, time permitting, you might read the rest if you have time.
5. Run a Tight Ship When Giving Instructions
Preventing dead time is especially important when giving instructions. There are a lot of great ways to ask for your students’ attention, but many succeed or fail based on how demanding you are of the final outcome.
Whichever method you use, before you begin speaking, it is critical to require (1) total silence, (2) complete attention, and (3) all five eyeballs on you (two eyes on their face, two eyes on their knees, and the eyeball on their heart). I’ve done this approach with every class I’ve ever taught, and it makes a big difference. Knowledge Is Power Program (KIPP) middle schools include detailed SSLANT expectations: Smile, Sit up, Listen, Ask, Nod when you understand, and Track the speaker.
Here’s how: When you introduce this routine to students, do it five times in a row: Announce that in a moment, you will briefly let them talk among themselves, and then you’ll give them a signal (you can count out loud from one to three, ring a bell, and so on) and wait until they are perfectly ready for you to speak.
In the first two weeks after starting this routine, remind students often what’s expected. To hold everyone accountable for listening the entire time, make it clear that you will never repeat your instructions after you have finished going over them.
6. Use a Fairness Cup to Keep Students Thinking
The more you can manage your classroom to be a supportive environment, where students are encouraged to take risks without fear of being put down or teased, the easier it will be to use your fairness cup regularly, without feeling that you are setting students up for failure.
Here’s how: Write each student’s name on a Popsicle stick and put the sticks in a cup. To keep students on their toes, pull a random stick to choose someone to speak or answer a question. Important: When you begin using your fairness cup, prepare a range of questions, some of which all your students can successfully answer. This strategy allows the bottom third of your class to get involved and answer questions without being put on the spot.
7. Use Signaling to Allow Everyone to Answer Your Question
To help ensure that all students are actively thinking, regularly ask questions to which everyone must prepare at least one answer — letting them know you expect an answer. Then wait for all students to signal they are ready.
Here’s how: For example, in math, you could ask, “How many ways can you can figure out 54-17 in your head? (Subtract 10 and then 7, subtract 20 and then add 3, and so on.) Or, to review a presentation, ask, “How many key points of this presentation are you prepared to describe?”
By asking questions that allow for multiple answers or explanations, you are differentiating instruction; everyone is expected to come up with at least one answer, but some may come up with more.
To convey the number of answers, students can use sign language, such as holding a hand to the chest (so their hands aren’t visible to their neighbors) and displaying one or more fingers to represent how many answers they have. This technique precludes students from bragging about how many ideas they thought of or how quickly they are ready. You can then call on volunteers who want to share their answers with the rest of the class.
8. Use Minimal-Supervision Tasks to Squeeze Dead Time out of Regular Routines
Tasks that require minimal supervision add purposeful activity during moments that might normally revert to dead time. They come in handy when passing out papers, working with a small group of students, handling an unforeseen interruption, addressing students who didn’t do their homework, or providing work to those who have finished an assignment before others.
Here’s how: While you pass out papers, ask students to do a quickwrite (see #4) or to pair up and quiz each other on vocabulary words. Also, train students to fess up if they didn’t do their homework. That way, during class homework review, these students won’t automatically be in dead time. Instead, they’ll immediately move to these prearranged minimal supervision tasks.
For example, you can ask them to study a review sheet, summarize a reading passage, read the day’s assignment ahead of time, or create and study vocabulary words or other content. You might find students suddenly doing their homework more often rather than face this extra work.
9. Mix up Your Teaching Styles
To keep students involved and on their toes, try to move from teacher-centered learning to student-centered active learning, and vice versa.
Here’s how: Introduce a presentation by having students pair up, talk to each other about their prior knowledge of the presentation, and generate a list of four questions for which they’ll want to know the answers. Make quick rounds to remind all students to stay on task.
To encourage active listening, provide students with a list of important questions in advance. Interrupt the presentation with a quickwrite (see #4), and then have students “pair-share” by asking them to compare their entries with a neighbor. Pull sticks from your fairness cup (see #6) to choose pairs of students to present their thoughts to the class.
10. Create Teamwork Tactics That Emphasize Accountability
By insisting that students “ask three before me,” you make it clear that they are expected to seek assistance from all members of their team before they turn to you.
Here’s how: To reinforce this rule, when a student on a team wants to ask you a question, you, the teacher, always ask another person on the team whether she knows what the question is. If she doesn’t, politely walk away, and the team will quickly understand what you expect.
Another way to emphasize accountability might be to say, “When you think your team is done with the task, find me within 30 seconds and tell me.” This strategy shifts the accountability to the team for being on task.
Read another article from Tristan de Frondeville, “Ten Steps to Better Student Engagement,” with ten strategies to increase student engagement.
TRISTAN DE FRONDEVILLE, A FORMER TEACHER, HEADS PBL ASSOCIATES, A CONSULTING COMPANY DEDICATED TO PROJECT LEARNING AND SCHOOL REDESIGN.
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