Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Junior Doodle - Indefatigable

We're all caught up with our Junior Doodle posts for now.  Check out the first three words of the year!  I thought this word would be difficult, and it was.  I realized that the children definitely can understand and remember words more easily when we use visuals, but I wondered if they could create an image of a word that was not very familiar to them.  And, I wondered if this would help them remember and "own" this word as part of their personal vocabulary.  The word "indefatigable" is a word that's in a book we are reading (see the blog post on our Junior Doodle page for more information).  So, through reading the book they were introduced to the word and its meaning.  But, they needed several explanation of what the word meant as they tried to show in their own drawings a representation of "indefatigable."  At the end of the week, however, several of the students completed a drawing and shared it with the class.  It was the discussions along with these images that, I think, where the most effective in helping the entire class build this word into their vocabulary.  

Check out the Junior Doodle Indefatigable page as well as the other two pages to see some great 2nd grade work!

Monday, November 29, 2010

Junior Doodle - Conductor

Click here to find our second installment of Junior Doodle.  The word is CONDUCTOR.  This activity is fast becoming a class tradition, and I'm thinking of ways to make the most of the children's interest in it. 

Visual representations of vocabulary words are a tremendous help to children as they build their knowledge of words and work them into their memory. 

Here's another resource for using visuals to help children learn vocabulary:  http://www.literacyhead.com/index.php.  Check it out!

Monday, November 8, 2010

Junior Doodle

This is the second year I'm working with Junior Doodle.  I have connected to the Creative Juices blog and their What the Doodle posts and created our own primary-level version of this activity.  I've found this is a great way to build vocabulary, connect with some creative authors and illustrators, develop critical thinking skills, and have some fun.  Basically, you obtain a word from a random word generator or any way you'd like.  In our classroom, we start by thinking of the various meanings and uses of the word.  Then we discuss some of the possibilities for creating an interesting drawing (later the children might find other ways of representing the word that are not just drawings).  Then, at the end of the week, we share.

We have only done one word this year, and the second word was just introduced today - it's "conductor."  What can you do with conductor?

Find out more about Junior Doodle here - http://tinyurl.com/24x8lnr

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Too Much

As I drove around my neighborhood this Halloween night I was once again reminded of all the stuff we have, and I wonder if we will ever find peace with all the chaos around us.  While decorations are nice, do we need roof-high inflated pumpkins?  And, as it is just a couple of days before Election Day, I felt like I was traveling through a sign forest, and does bigger really mean better  - or just more annoying?

Think about the environments we create for ourselves, and our children.  Are they calming, peaceful places?  Does a drive through your neighborhood feel stressful?  Think about your classroom. Is it a place to escape the chaos of the world?  Do we discourage the materialism from creeping into our classrooms (Silly Bandz, I'm talking to you.)

There is definitely something to be said for some good books, some bits of nature to explore, paper (yes, paper!) and pencils, crayons, and scissors.  Computers, we like you too, but not just because you're there - you need a good reason to be opened up.

Just recently, I had a conversation about all the choices there were in our classroom.  I assured the class that they did not have to do everything in one day.  They had the whole year and would definitely get a chance to explore whatever they didn't get to on that given day.  One thing at a time...take it slowly.

ps - Don't even think about getting out the next holiday decorations yet...just enjoy a little bit of nothing for a while!

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Passive Collaboration...Poetry in Motion

Combine some emerging poets, some photographers and a musician willing to share and you get a great finished product.  The best thing is that not only were the children beginning to learn how to create haiku, but they were also beginning to analyze photos and font styles and colors and beginning to learn how to share their message most effectively.  (Even better is when they can use their own photography or artwork of course.) Enjoy!!

Friday, August 20, 2010

Little Me and Report Card Comments - Is It Too Late to Request a Conference?

Here is a reflection, as best as I can get it, of my report cards from elementary school.  I don't remember much about my report cards.  But, as I wrote about previously, luckily I have some saved documents to help with the foggy parts.  

I don't know about you, but in the elementary school where I teach writing report card comments takes a lot of work.  It takes weeks of reflection, review, and careful crafting of words.  But, I guess when you only have a five-inch line and a pen as your comment tools, there just isn't that much to say.  Here are seven years (my eighth grade report card seems to be missing) of report card comments.  I bet I can type them faster than it takes me to write one report card comment for one of my second graders!  I am not meaning to be critical of my teachers - only pointing out how different things are now.

Grade One
Maryann is a pleasure!!
Maryann is doing 100% work!!! (Notice how I improved as shown by the extra exclamation point.)
It has been my pleasure working with you and Maryann.

Grade Two
Maryann is a very good worker but tends to be too serious. (I'm pretty sure this isn't a good thing!!)
Maryann seems much more relaxed.
Everything is fine! Maryann is working very well.

Maryann has been a pleasure to teach.

Grade Three
Despite a few bouts with illness, Maryann has kept up in her work and is doing a very good job.
I am pleased with Maryann's work.
Maryann is a good student.

Grade Four
Marianne is a pleasure to teach. (And apparently I changed the spelling of my name.)
Marianne helped to make this year a pleasant one for me! (Glad I could be of service!)

Grade Five
Maryann is a joy to teach and to know. (Usually I'm a pleasure to teach, but OK, I'll be a joy this year.)
Maryann continues to do very well.
Maryann adds much to the spirit of the class.
Maryann has been a joy all year. (Whew!  I was going for a record - one full year of joy!)

Grade Six
No comments...Maybe they were on another piece of paper?  Or maybe I was just not that memorable!

Grade Seven
Maryann is a pleasant and industrious student.
God bless you, Maryann!  Happy summer :) (Two exclamation points and a smile - the original smile emoticon)

So, I didn't find much out about me by reading my old report card comments.  I did discover I got a "C" in religion in first grade - what is THAT?  I really don't get C's, but I don't think my religion teacher knew that during the first marking period of first grade (She switched to B's for the rest of the year.)  So I do have some questions for my elementary teachers.  I wonder where they are these days and if they're taking appointments!!

One thing I did learn is that I will NOT be using pleasure or pleasant in any of my report cards comments this year, for sure!!


Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Watch Out for Stupid!

It took me a while to realize that the "S" word to second graders is not the same as it what adults might think.  I used to be horrified when a student would report, "Mrs. Molishus, Betty said the "S" word!"  But now I know that the "S" word to second graders is "stupid."  To young children, this is a terrible word, an awful thing!  And, in education, for sure, they are right.  But, if the word fits...

Over the last few years I have gotten into the habit of doing a Google search for "stupidity in education" sometime during the summer, before the start of the new school year.  There's always something interesting to read.  It's a great way to reflect on what kind of teacher you want to be and what kind of teacher you don't want to be.  And, hopefully, it will remind you to be active in bringing about change when you encounter situations that are, well, stupid.

You don't have to agree with these pieces, but they will get you thinking...

Is Stupid the New Black? 

On Stupidity, Part Two  

Engineering in Elementary Schools (some harsh language)

Productively Stupid (a good thing actually)  

Have a great school year!

Saturday, July 31, 2010

More Summer Reflections of Little Me - A First Drawing

"Airplane"  by Little Maryann, Age 3

The last time I wrote about "little me" I shared a piece of writing from, most likely, third grade.  It was a piece that I don't remember writing at all (see "Hopes and Dreams...").  

Today, I am sharing one of my first drawings.  I drew this when I was three years old, and, surprisingly, I DO remember drawing this (or at least I feel like I do).  Not only do I remember drawing it, but I remember how proud I was of my amazing accomplishment! Luckily, my mother saved it and marked the date.  Otherwise, this might not be something I still remember.

I always tell my second graders how important it is to keep a record of what's happening in their lives, either in the form of writing, photos, video, or drawings.  I tell them they will remember some things about their childhood, but not everything.  I ask them to recall the first day of kindergarten, of first grade. Few can recall many, if any, details.  Fortunately, young children today have many opportunities to document what's going on in their lives, from the most basic of ways--writing it down--to a full video production.  It is up to us to help them develop the skills to be the recorders of their history and to help them be aware of what's going on around them.  

Later, when they find an old keepsake that sparks a memory, it will be truly priceless!  Even on the last day of school, when the second graders receive their year's worth of writing journals, they are amazed at what they were, and what they have become.  Priceless!

The Share - Constructing Modern Knowledge '10, Part Two

I attended an education conference with my 20-year-old daughter (a junior in college majoring in communications - not education) in the summer of 2009.  We did not attend any sessions together the first day.  When we met up later, she was a bit confused..."Why don't the teachers talk at these conferences?"  And, apparently, she had no problem at all asking questions, giving her opinions, and disagreeing with the presenters during the sessions she attended. And, she thought it would be ridiculous to have it any other way.

While attending Constructing Modern Knowledge (CMK) this summer I found myself once again reflecting on "THE SHARE" part of learning.  

Young children, though there are exceptions, have no trouble sharing their thoughts, ideas, problems, items from home, or what they ate for lunch. At times there's a sense of urgency to their need to share an accomplishment.  And they'll share it with an individual, small group, whole class, or the class pet.   Don't try to postpone an excited sharer, either, because it's like waiting for Christmas - "Can I share now...how about now...it is time...what about now...?"  And young sharers, try as they might, don't always need their share to be related to the topic.  At our school, I've heard that some of our youngest sharers have taken to beginning their unrelated sharing with..."I know this is off topic but..."  Well, at least they've put some thought into what they're about to say!!

A learning environment where children can share is such a valuable part of their growth as learners.  It helps to create a respectful community, and it helps ideas to grow. Learning to share and to respect the sharer are important skills.  And, "THE SHARE" will flourish unless an environment develops that makes the children feel their ideas are not worth sharing or risks are not worth taking.

So what about the adults?  We've all been to a workshop, conference, meeting, where there is a lack of discussion or interaction.  We know what the feels like.  

I left this year's Constructing Modern Knowledge with a renewed sense of the power of sharing. There were many ways of sharing during the institute, whether it was as a speaker, asking questions to the speakers, joining in a small group discussion, exploring what others were working on, appealing for help or providing help, having a conversation, or by presenting a finished product. While not everyone shared in every way, it would have been nearly impossible, or a waste of money at least, to attend and not interact in some way with others.

As I planned a workshop for the week following CMK, I was excited to have "THE SHARE" built into the day.  I have reserved time during my workshops before for participants to share, and usually there's a reluctance.  This time I felt more optimistic.  The work session was collaborative, and I noted lots of good ideas that would benefit the whole group.  At the end of the session, however, there was that initial reluctance to present finished projects or works in progress. With some encouragement, presenters came forward, and it was a great part of our workshop.  Once the presenters began sharing, they were amazing!  

We have opportunities for teachers to present, places for teachers to post resources, and we've had events where teachers can showcase their work.  Each time, teachers (many of them) have been been hesitant, for a number of reasons, to "show off" what they know or what they've done, even though they have so much to offer. 

So why are teachers so reluctant, in some situations, to share, but in others, very willing to share? Or, another way to ask the question would be:  Why are SOME teachers so willing to share and others so reluctant, especially when the same teachers know how valuable it is to have collaborative learning environments for children.

Here are some of my thoughts, but I would love to know what you think...

Why do some conferences or conference-like events have a better SHARE than others?
  • There are events that some people go because they want to share - so THE SHARE is better.
  • The design of some events attracts those who have had experiences with sharing at events.
  • Certain events at conferences attract those who want to share - and THE SHARERS attract one another.
Why is there a reluctance to THE SHARE?
  • Not everyone shares in every way - whole group sharing is intimidating to some adults; there needs to be some small group opportunities.
  • Encouragement is sometimes needed - presenters/organizers need to recognize this.
  • A change of culture is needed.
  • Taking risks is not encouraged.
  • Some people need to be asked.
  • Adults don't feel a sense of trust.
  • Adults need to practice - in an environment where they feel safe
  • Too many of the same "give it to me" presentations.
Here's to an exciting year of sharing, both within your classrooms with your students and with your adult colleagues as well!

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Step Out - Constructing Modern Knowledge 2010, Part One

I love those moments when someone enters the classroom and can't find me.  There's this certain look the person gets--adult or child--same look for everyone.  They are thinking..."Everything seems to be in order--the children are working, there is a busy hum and no one's screaming, there's not a sense of chaos--but there doesn't seem to be an adult in here."  And then they spot me huddled in a corner somewhere working with a small group or something like that, and their look changes...relief and amusement!  These are the times I am fully engaged with a student or small group.  We are working together collaboratively on a project, or I'm helping the children with their assignment.  Aside from the "find the teacher" moments, there are also times where someone might see whole class direct instruction, read alouds or presentations.

And then there are the "step-out" times, which are some of the most valuable moments for me as a teacher, but, for someone who was only just peeking into my classroom, might not at first glance seem to be times when a teacher is making good use of her time (so please come in and find out what is happening!!) The step-out times are when I can take on the role of observer, stepping in only minimally as needed and usually with questions to the learners.  It takes some practice to get young children to the point where they can work independently (especially if you are the only adult in the classroom), but they are certainly capable, and, with the right environment and support, they will gladly take ownership of their learning, allowing the teacher to be the observer, the questioner, the one who is documenting learning. 

Click on this link and you will see a short video of our morning time. (Sorry, the video is probably going to run a bit choppy and it only shows a bit of the activity, but it is worth taking a look.  It is part of a comic web site I am building.)  During the first part of the day, the children were in charge of their learning for most days.  For some of the tasks, they made up the rules of who would be in charge. In the video, the children are acting out an online comic. (They became HUGE fans of Sticky Burr, and there are books and an online comic featuring the Sticky Burr characters.)  Briefly, there were two children each week who were the "technology leaders."  They were in charge of this morning activity.  They would choose the actors and control the technology.  They decided if the room lights needed to be off (they stopped asking for permission to turn them off), for some reason, the technology leaders always chose to manipulate the laptop instead of the Smartboard even though the option was there (I don't know why - didn't ask because I didn't want them to think I was wanting them to use the Smartboard for this.), the class does not appeal for help from me at all (even when the camera was off).  They settle all disputes themselves.  Some of the noise you are hearing is from the hall, but when the class gets noisy, they "shush" themselves.  In short, they barely notice I am there.  And, every morning this activity occurs, I am left with an opportunity for valuable observation time.  I gathered some amazing information, including information about reading comprehension, how these children cooperate, and how these children problem solve.  I was able to use this information to build lessons and am now using this information to plan for next year.  If the children didn't feel capable of being the leaders and if they didn't have activities designed to allow them to work together in interesting ways, these opportunities to step out might not be available to me.

It was last year, at Constructing Modern Knowledge 2009, that I made a commitment to build more observation into my days.  As I reintroduced myself to the practices of Reggio Emilia, I was reminded how powerful observation and reflection is.  It is not a luxury or a way of disconnecting from what is going on.  It is a way of connecting the learning to the learners and of building a solid learning environment that is directly linked to the learners that are present in the environment at the actual moment.  And, with the current technologies we now have, we can document the learning and share it with the children, parents, other teachers, administrators, and the community.  

It might feel a little unsettling to sit and observe, especially if someone, such as an administrator, comes into your classroom to see what you are doing.  Just be prepared to share what you are doing.  Post to a web site the progress of a class project and include your observations when appropriate, share your notes with colleagues and discuss, hand out an extra camera to guests and have them join the fun! It definitely gets easier the more you do it.

So, when I returned to Constructing Modern Knowledge for 2010, I came with a sort-of plan in mind.  I did have about 25 projects that I wanted to complete.  I will say that I did dedicate time to learning and improving my skills with Scratch and Animation-ish, and thanks to the CMK participants, speakers, and faculty, I have a solid structure for a classroom project I have been working on for three years (my main goal for the week). You can see a draft/sample of one part of it here. I was looking forward to listening to some interesting speakers, and they did give me a lot to think about and process and share when I return to my district.   And, I definitely wanted to spend more time observing.  Last year I was able to observe because I was working on a video that documented what others were doing at CMK.  This year, I planned to observe for the sake of observing.  I spent much more time watching the process of project development, how adults interact with one another to problem solve, and how learners were reflecting on their learning and making plans to apply the process to their own school environments.  For me, this time to observe was just as valuable as the time I spent with conversation and on project work and learning new skills.   And, as in the classroom, even more important than observation is processing what you have observed and doing something with what you have learned from the observations.  I think many educators know that giving children time to work on projects, collaborate, problem solve, mess up and try again, and share their work with others is essential to learning.  But, we also have to give this time to adults so they can become better thinkers themselves. And if it looks like a waste of time, try stepping out and sharpening your observation skills and see what you discover!

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Hopes and Dreams...and Dash of Criticism??

I have been digging through some old papers, photos, etc., as part of my summer cleaning. There are old reports, standardized tests, report cards, class photos - some I haven't seen in many, many years. So I stumbled upon a piece of writing that seems to have been written in third grade. It was tucked away in my report card. It is my plans for the future, and I don't remember writing it at all. It appears to be a draft, and I am hoping a copy never made it to school as I apparently had some big dreams for the future but also had some serious criticisms for my current teacher built into the text. It does make me think...I know young children are dreamers...I know they have ideas about what they want to learn...I know they love to love their teachers. I know that when you ask young children how to make things better, they will tell you, but are we all willing to ask? Or, are our student's ideas going to be tucked away in an attic for 30+ years? (And, no, I'm not scanning in a photo!!)

My Future
(as planned by Me, probably in third grade)

     I have a lot of plans for the future.  I would like to live on a farm because I like all kinds of animals.  I like planting food and then picking it.  At my farm I would like to have a big pond.  In it there would be ducks, fish, geese, and swans.  I would have a giant barn with horses, cows, and in the hay maybe kittens.  I would want to be a teacher.  I wouldn't be mean like you.  I wouldn't be the boss all the time, and I wouldn't give lots of homework.  I want to teach kindergarten, first, second, or third grade because I think I will be small, and I don't want to look small.  If they are small, I will look bigger than I really am.  I kind of want to be a model or a movie star because they get paid a lot.  I might just want to be a mother with about three children, but I'll never know until the time comes.  I hope you liked the story of, you guessed it, me.

Monday, June 28, 2010

All You Need Is a Story (and Some Skill)

"I hate social studies!" a certain anonymous person recently said. I answered, "It is impossible to hate all of social studies! Do you even know what social studies is - history, economics, geography, culture, psychology, sociology, religion. Do you really hate all of that?"

I really do believe that it is impossible to hate everything that fits under the category of "social studies." But, it is not impossible to be unable to make connections to current events, to have a difficult time with a reading assignment, or to be bored out your mind by an assignment or lecture. If I took the "big books" that are part of our social studies program at used them to teach social studies to my second graders, I don't doubt they would think they hated social studies too. But I wouldn't do that!

I set off this year to find social studies in the world - the interesting kind - wherever I could, just to prove that it is interesting. For example, one day, anonymous and I were stuck in a long line of traffic. The train barriers were down and obviously broken, so what do you do when the barriers are down and you know for sure there is no train? Ahh...human behavior. Some cars that could, turned around and left, but not us social scientists! We watched and observed...What would happen? How long would people wait? Then, the first person decided to go through the barriers...what makes a person decide to do that? Then, the next car and the next went through...we waited...who would be the person to stop and let the other side of traffic have a turn, etc. Was this interesting to watch. "Umm...I don't know (that means yes by the way)." Imagine that this is your career - to observe people and how they behave and find out why people do what they do. Did you know that's a career?

Another "test" came in what might be considered an unusual place to find an interesting history lesson. As anonymous and I scurried to church, running late as always, it was obvious that anonymous was again thoroughly put out by having to spend an hour at a Sunday Mass. But, as we sat in our pews and the priest began his homily, I was feeling thankful that we have good speakers at our church. This week the priest became storyteller. Without notes or fumbling, he told the story, as if he was there, about Sir Thomas More (a powerful story if you have never heard or read it). I could tell by looking at anonymous that she was trying not to be interested but couldn't help herself. Later, I asked her if she had ever heard of Thomas More before. She hadn't. I asked if she thought the story was interesting. "A little (that means yes)," she replied. That is part of history, you know!

A good story, an interesting situation, some meaningful connections...these are the things that make learning "unhated." We in the classroom spend a lot of time talking, but we could use our time more wisely if we converted our talking to storytelling. How can we fit our message into something people want to hear - or, how can others be the storytellers guided by us? We need the knowledge, of course, a bit of skill in telling our story (plain old speaking works, but we have so many other resources for storytelling now, such as the written word, images, video, etc.)

One final observation - even reading a story (a book) can be converted to an adventure. During the last week of school, my second graders were "listening" to a good story. They seemed somewhat interested but not all the way involved. Until...I changed to a storyteller! In the middle of a book about animals playing music and taking rides on riverboats (the main purpose being to enjoy a story and to read a book with a setting in Louisiana), as I noticed some fading focus, I inserted, "Oh, by the way, this is a true story. I know, I was there." Everyone sat up - what did she say, this is true, this isn't true, you were there? So, for the rest of the book, I told the story of what I saw. Of course, they didn't believe me, but they played along. So, which of those trees were you in? How did you get in the house? What was the name of THAT alligator? Same book, different story. Way different experience, for the children and for me!

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Butterflies - From Science to Social Skills, History to Art

It seemed to be all about the butterflies this year.  Second graders usually have a heavy dose of insects because they study the live version of several in the classroom and research and report on insects as part of an end-of-year presentation, "The Goodnoe Garden Association Presents...Insects of North America." Along with their spring project, the children really enjoy watching the life cycle changes of the painted lady butterfly, one of the insects they study.  At this time we were able to use the butterfly for some great math lessons, such as to help reinforce the idea of symmetry. This part of their science program has been a great way for them to learn about how insects grow, change, and behave and to work on some great observation skills.

As you might know, butterflies have significance aside from that of an interesting and beautiful insect.  To some, butterflies symbolize rebirth, change, and transformation.  There are so many ways to incorporate this into the school year. For us this year, we began the year by using the butterfly to discuss the differences among those in our learning community.  By reading the book, The Wings of Epoh by Gerda Weissmann Klein (and a related video I'm Here by Peter H. Reynolds/Fablevision), we were able to reference the butterfly and the caterpillar to connect to what children might be feeling, how to appreciate and understand differences (the obvious and unnoticed), how wonderful each of us is in a unique way, and how we can help others feel like they belong.  We used the activities in the accompanying Wings of Epoh/I'm Here teaching guide to help the children talk to one another, get to know one another, and to have a chance to explore what it means to feel different.

Then, somewhere in my online exploring, I happened to find another butterfly reference that added not only to our idea of the butterfly but also to two other themes that ran through our classroom this year.  The first theme was that of recycling and using up "trash" for other projects. The second was to learn about those who have made a difference in the world and to think about how we can make a difference in our school, community, families, and in the world.  The butterfly this time came in the form of another book, entitled, I Never Saw Another Butterfly, a collection of poetry and artwork of children from the Terezin Concentration Camp in Czechoslovakia.  One artist/teacher in particular, Friedl Dicker-Brandeis, helped the children learn to draw and express their feelings, and many of their work was saved after the war.  Years later, the work was discovered and exhibited.  It creates a story of young children who were taken away from their homes, their families, and everything they loved during the time of WWII and the Holocaust. Because of the background the children had in learning about those who had made a difference, we could reference some qualities of those who helped others, those who were cruel to others, and how it feels to be treated unjustly as well as with kindness.  The children spent many months this year learning about such people as George Washington, Jackie Robinson, and Milton Hershey.  They even read a book, as part of an author study, about Queen Esther, and I remember how shocked they were to discovered that in our history (a while after learning about the time in history of Jackie Robinson) there was yet another entire group of people who were treated unjustly.  This was a great time to return to some of the lessons that took place with Wings of Epoh and I'm Here to discuss with the children how those who are different can become the target of teasing, exclusion, or unfairness, even in school. We talked about how they can be the ones who help make a difference, even for one person.

So now, I carefully thought about the words to use to explain the history linked to our new butterfly project, but, fortunately, I was able to call on one of my students to help share this story.  Coincidentally, her dance school had used this story as the theme for their dance production, which was performed just a week or so before I was presenting it to the class.  She was eager to explain the story and did so in a way that was perfect for this age group. Other children shared connections they had, such as information they had learned about the Holocaust or of family members who fought in WWII.

After some discussion, the children each received a poem from the book (carefully chosen for this age).  They read it silently and then some of the children volunteered to share their poem and their thoughts about it.  It was astonishing to hear their readings and to listen to their thoughts on these emotional poems - they seemed so grown up!  Although I am sure they were not coming from the same place that an older child or adult with more knowledge of history, they were definitely touched by and connected to the children and their words.

What came next was their chance to connect to a project being created by the Holocaust Museum Houston, which has created The Butterfly Project. The web site says,
"1,500,000 innocent children perished in the Holocaust. In an effort to remember them, Holocaust Museum Houston is collecting 1.5 million handmade butterflies.
The butterflies will eventually comprise a breath-taking exhibition, currently scheduled for Spring 2013, for all to remember. The Museum has already collected an estimated 400,000 butterflies."
I asked the children to create a butterfly that represented the child who wrote the poem and the feelings they could connect to the poem.  As it was the very end of the school year, we would use "leftover" materials to create the butterflies.  These butterflies would be sent to the museum to become part of their display.  One thing that was certain was that the children took great care in planning and creating their butterflies.

As this was our last week of school, I had lots of work to get finished and cleaning up to do.  But, I found myself enjoying being an observer in this special moment.  I had a group of young children who, for the most part, worked as a team to create these butterflies. And then there were a few who truly enjoyed finding a quiet corner to work alone - and that was great too!  They didn't ask me for much help, but they helped each other.  I put a huge pile of materials on the floor, and they sat with the materials and shared, gave suggestions, and commented on the good work of their peers.  At one point there was a silence that I don't think I will ever hear again with a craft project during the last week of school - just children cutting, gluing, passing things around.  Amazing!  It wasn't so much about the theme of the holocaust or the power of the poetry as it was about a group of children who had spent a year learning to respect one another, to enjoy learning, to appreciate the value in cooperation, and who really did seem to understand they were part of something outside their classroom.  It was a perfect butterfly symbol  - a group of children who had transformed into an amazing learning team!

(If you would like to be a part of The Butterfly Project, the deadline is not until June 2012, so you actually can do this for two years.  There are guidelines and lesson plans on the web site. You will have to use your judgment as to the appropriateness of the lessons for your age group - to me, they are quite powerful and emotional.  I struggled all year as to how I would make this work, but it somehow came together, albeit at the last minute, in a way that was perfect for young children.  Another interesting connection is that the author of The Wings of Epoh is herself a Holocaust survivor.)

Thursday, April 22, 2010

The Second Grade Dictionary

Sometimes second graders have their own language, and sometimes the create their own meaning for "grown up" topics. I am thinking of compiling a dictionary so everyone who is not involved with second graders is sure to understand this unique language. If you are involved in kindergarten, first, and perhaps third, you might already be proficient in "second."

Here are two entries I am considering:

Graduate School - "The school you have to go to before you are allowed to get married."

Opposed to - something you are required to do. Example: "Are we opposed to put away our math books when we are finished?"

Saturday, April 3, 2010

Author's Showcasing Their Work

Here is our second grade class's new Web site designed to showcase student writing and illustrations. Some are finished products and some are works in progress. Enjoy and share in the discussions...

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

C'mon Girls!

I attended PETE&C 2010 this week in Hershey, PA. I learned, shared, collaborated, and enjoyed many thought-provoking discussions.

But what I am taking back as my biggest WOW moment is this: A colleague and I attended a concurrent session. We lingered after the session, finishing a task and discussing what we had learned, not noticing the next group coming in for the next session. But, as we got up to leave what I did notice is that the large room was now filled with just about guys - barely a girl in the room - not something I was used to seeing in the sessions I attend!! Jokingly, I said to my colleague, "This must be an IT-techy session coming next." Sure enough, as we looked at the display outside the room, it was some "network, safety, security, I-don't-get-it" session.

WOW! I teach second grade and I think gender equity is something that exists in our classrooms. I see a mix of abilities in all areas for both boys and girls, whether it is reading, math, technology. Our elementary school has many strong technology-savvy female teachers too. But, something isn't right when the "techy" room is filled with guys (sure there were some women in the room - maybe more came later - maybe they were still in line at the ladies room).

So what I am taking back is an eye on the girls. What are they talking about? What are they interested in? What are they doing in the computer lab that might look different from what the boys are doing? Are there differences? I don't know. But I am going to find out...

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Media Festivals - Join the Discussion

Many teachers and students have better access to digital media and the tools needed to create their own projects that are enhanced by digital media. A media festival is a way to showcase quality media projects and to celebrate the wonderful work being done in our classrooms.

Join the discussion at Pete&C 2010 - Birds of a Feather, 8:15-9:30, Monday, February 22, Magnolia A. Or join via CoverItLive from wherever you might be.