Friday, March 14, 2014

Trust Reflection

One of our assignments was a reading about Trust from Houston and Sokolow's The Spiritual Dimension of Leadership.  Every time that I read something from that book, I'm always connecting it to something in my life.  It "brings me back to me"...I reflect upon my purpose here on Earth.  I love this book!  Below are just a few points that resonated with me:
  • "The very act of trusting people unleashes a powerful force that empowers them and brings out the best in them" (p. 131).
    • My thoughts: I thought that this was a powerful quote.  On a professional level, it reminds me of a gradual release of responsibility for my students.  When I trust them to be responsible learners, they seem to take ownership and do a better job with a task rather than when I delegate and make decisions for them.  Same is true on a personal level, as a parent to a child who is let's say is "free spirited," I often find that when I don't trust her with certain things, she gets sad about it.  However, when I do trust her, she takes a sense of ownership and wants to prove me right.  I can also see that she feels good about herself, which leads into the next quote. 
  • "One of the keys is letting people know that you are placing trust in them or trying to build trust with them, then inviting them to live up to the trust that has been given" (p. 133).
    • When I give my "free spirited child" the opportunity to do certain things, she feels like she needs to live up to the hype and becomes more responsible and independent.
  • "You can't do anything for someone else that you can't do for yourself first" (p. 136).
    • I think that this is one area that I myself struggle with.  I don't always have a lot of faith in myself and am always second guessing my decisions. I wish that I could trust myself more and know that if I make a mistake that it will be okay.  If I trust myself first, then it will be easier to trust others.  I need to know WHO I am & believe in myself. 
  • "You are what you are.  Therefore, you have to accept what you are at any point in time--and part of what you are is a work in progress.  Nobody's perfect" (p. 136).
    • I love this quote.  I need to print it off and keep it in a place where I see it often.  Like I said earlier, I am always second guessing my choices.  I need to be confident in knowing that mistakes are okay and that I'm only learning from them.  I wish it was easier, but I am a perfectionist and I like things to be perfect. 

March Glow & Grow

I am so excited about my students' handwriting!  My final Mini-AR was on teaching handwriting.   Since I've implemented this, their writing is so unbelievably neat and legible!  I also went to a local teaching store and stocked up on pencil grips because I was noticing that some of my Little's were still holding their pencils funky.  They seem to like using the grips (probably because of the novelty) but they are working.  For my AR, I created a "Handwriting Station" where the kids were offered various ways of practicing their handwriting.  Their favorite was to use the iPad (the app Letter School) and then make their own letter book.  Anyway, it is a fun way for them to practice & I'm glad they are transferring their knowledge over to other aspects of the school day (like Writer's Workshop!)

This is more of a personal grow for me this month as I have been so unorganized! I'm typically extremely organized and well prepared, however, lately my piles have been stacking up and clutter is being stacked on top of more clutter.  I'm noticing that my mind is more cluttered and it is difficult for me to plan activities/lessons when things are not where they are supposed to be. I can't seem to find the time to go through my piles to put things away...ugh!  Maybe I can just let it stack up in my closet until I'm done with grad school-yeah right! 

Sunday, March 9, 2014

Technology in my Future

I remember the first time that I saw a computer.  I was in 4th grade and I had just moved to a new, larger school. Or, at least I thought it was large since there were only 11 students in my previous class-thus no technology! Anyway, I thought that it was the coolest thing that we could play "games" on a computer, my personal favorite: Oregon Trail.  Then, I remember the first time that I went "online"; I was over at a friends house and she had just gotten the Internet. Yes, it was dial up...oh how those sounds used to annoy me!  Now, I look around my own house and can not even count on both hands how many forms of technology that my children are exposed to-every day. We have iPads, iPods, iPhones, cell phones, tablets, DSI's, leap pads...I could go on and on! My how times have changed!

Technology has been a huge focus during the last 18 months that I've been in Grad school.  I've come to realize that it can be completely awesome and sometimes it can be not so awesome!  I love the fact that I can turn my computer on, use my document camera, and demonstrate specific concepts to my students all through the use of the SMART Board. I also like that I can download some pretty great apps onto my iPad and demonstrate how to use them through the Air Server, which again, shows up on the SMART Board large enough for everyone to see.  I like the fact that I don't have to go to the library to do all of my research,  much of what I would find in the library I can find online.  I like that I can follow blogs to get connected to the outside world.  There are so many advantages to technology, many of the advantages help make life a little easier...most of the time.

However, lately I've been feeling that technology is not always awesome.  Sometimes it can be so overwhelmingly frustrating.  For example, when it is not working correctly, especially when you need it most! Many times I've gotten my computer all ready with all of the things that I plan to teach, only to begin and it crashes. Or the times where I have my iPad all ready to go, but then the Air Server doesn't work!  In addition to these frustrations, I think that one of the most frustrating aspects of technology is that it is addicting!  It seems like every time I turn around someone is asking if they can use any of the forms of technology.  Yeah, sure it is highly engaging and definitely appealing (totally not arguing about that), but how much are my students (and my own children) actually learning from it?  Is Kindergarten too young to be forcing so much technology on them? Is it in any way hindering their brain development?  Where does real-live-play come into the picture?  Then the question of how much do they get to use technology out of school? Somethings gotta give!  Lately, I've been reading articles stating that technology could actually be hindering student learning.  Not sure if it is all true, but I have noticed that my own children are relying more on technology keeping them busy than their own imaginations.

Here are a few of articles that have made me more aware of how I allow my students and my own children to use technology:

How much technology should you let your child use?

The Impact of Technology on the Developing Child

Technology and Young Children

How Technology is Changing the way Children Think and Focus

Technology, A Fundamental Change in Child Development

This past few semesters during grad school we have been encouraged to implement as much technology into our lessons as possible (like a new tool weekly). However, I've had conflicting feelings about this assignment and throughout I've been wondering if this is truly the best thing to do to/for my kindergartners. Yes, this blog post was an assignment of mine: "Articulate a loose or structured future plan/vision for continued integration of tech after you complete the program...  Include why and how technology should be a part of learning in your classroom as well as how you will continue to learn about new tools, etc."

So, here it is...
My future plan:
I plan to use what I have implemented thus far, because it is definitely engaging.  I plan to keep educating myself about the effects of technology and the developing brain.
Why/how technology should be a part of learning in my classroom:
I don't want to leave my students without the necessary skills to use technology, and I will teach them the basics that technology has to offer, however, I will not compromise the skills that they NEED to be successful, deep, and independent thinkers.
How I will continue to learn about new tools:
I am subscribed to many blogs, news feeds and I seek out scholarly articles concerning this topic.

Friday, February 7, 2014


Persistence Reflection

This was the picture that I saw when I logged in to my assignments page and I thought to myself..."Oh, My...I have a feeling homework is going to be heavy this month if our vocabulary word is persistence!" Well, here are the questions that were asked for this particular assignment:
1) How you have been feeling the past two weeks and why - be as general or as specific as your comfort level
To be completely honest, I have been feeling a bit overwhelmed. With my plate being full- a wife, mother to 3, hockey season, housework (oh, the poor laundry!) report cards & conferences, and just teaching 5 & 6 year-olds! Not to mention Grad School homework and the anxiety of the upcoming Spring Conference...yikes! Needless to say, the weather has NOT been helping! I've been trying to weed out the things in my life that are unnecessary- like the little pebbles! I'm trying to focus my attention on the BIG BOULDERS!
2) How has reflecting upon “persistence” challenged your thinking
I've been trying to stay positive and keep reminding myself all the good that will come from all of my hard work! Soon I will be done with Grad School, summer will be here and I will appreciate all of the "Extra" time on my hands. I'm daydreaming of all of the fun that I will get to have with my family this summer and not feeling guilty for abandoning them because I have homework to do.
3) How has reflecting upon “persistence” broadened your thinking
It has helped me remain focused and it has also reminded me that I need to stop my negative self talk. I am proud of all of the hard work that I have put into myself and my teaching.
4) How has reflecting upon “persistence” improved (or not) your mental state and attitude to life in general
I have actually felt that the end is near and that I'm finally close to graduating! It has been a long year and a half and I now feel like I am better because of it! Not just a better teacher, but I am also better at making the most of my time. When I spend time with my family it is very focused on us being together...I am proud of that! I have learned how to juggle many tasks at once and feel like I've done a good job because I know in my heart that I gave it my all!
5) What have you learned from this two week process of “thinking about your thinking” (metacognition)?
That it takes TIME, for me anyway! Looking back at where I was to myself now I have learned a lot about ME! I've learned what type of learner and student I am. I am now able and more willing to be flexible when it comes to my students. I'm more open to having fun, playing and getting to know WHO my students really are!

Exploration of Haiku Deck

For class we were introduced to a new presentation platform.  It is called Haiku Deck.  Hiaku Deck is an online tool to help people create presentations.  While I was exploring this new technology tool I was thinking about ways that this could enhance student learning.  I'm not sure that it would be completely beneficial for my kindergarten students to create their own slides, however, I do see the benefits of using it as a teacher and for older students.  I think that any piece of technology will improve student levels of engagement and learning.  So, this is just another platform, almost a modified PowerPoint.  

In class I've been teaching my students about Reader's Workshop Strategies.  I created a Haiku Deck to review the strategies that I've taught thus far. Click Reading Strategies to see what I created.  It was a good way to review the strategies and my students seemed to be engaged.  I used it as a presentation tool (like PowerPoint.)  However, I wish that I could have figured out a way to put in pictures of our strategies without taking an actual picture.  I tried to upload an image but it didn't fit well, so I just choose some pictures that they suggested.  It was fun to learn that there is more out there and I would definitely use it if I taught older students or for professional presentations.  

Thursday, January 16, 2014

January Glow & Grow

For my current AR cycle I have been researching Learning Centers (I call them Stations).  I have had Stations in my room since I began teaching 9 years ago and each year have been trying to perfect the "craft".  I'm not quite sure if it's the group of kids that I have this year, or if it's all of the things that I've changed about my implementation, but they are going so AMAZING!  Anyway, before Christmas break I noticed that my students' handwriting was getting a little too "relaxed" (i.e. messy!) So, after they got back from break I opened up a new Handwriting Station.  At the Station I have an iPad where the kids have to practice correct letter formation through an app called Letter School, then they have a handwriting sheet to complete.  I have to say that it is going well as it has improved their handwriting tremendously!  I've also noticed that they are more often than not start at the top when writing their letters.  They seem motivated to complete the handwriting sheet more neatly after they have practiced correct letter formation on the iPad.  I just love technology...I'd love to hear how do you use the iPad in your classroom?

Okay, so one of my favorite subjects for as long as I can remember has been Science.  A few years ago I purchased a piece of furniture that would serve as my "Science Station" and it contains a lot of interesting artifacts and what the kids like to call "fun stuff."  However, what I am finding difficult is periodically replenishing it with new resources.  My kids are totally engaged and discover and explore at the station, but sometimes it feels more like a "play" question then is: Should it be just (and discovery)???  Or, should I somehow have them provide some type of evidence to hold them accountable for their learning?

Monday, December 23, 2013

Marzano Summary

After reading Marzano's chapter entitled Instructional Strategies from his book What Works in Schools: Translating Research into Action,  we had an assignment to choose 3-5 strategies to implement into our teaching.  Below are 3 instructional strategies that I chose to implement :
1.  Setting objectives
       What I did:
Before beginning a new unit of study or a new topic/concept I was strategic in my explanation on why we were going to be learning what we were learning.  As a class we discussed and posted what we would be learning and why.  We made up a chart that we posted in our room and we were able to refer back to it often.  After awhile, the students were referring back to it on their own when
       Why I felt the need to implement it:
I think that it is important for the children to know why we need to learn.  I think that by setting objectives and talking about them first, it gives the students a goal or a purpose to learn.  Furthermore, by setting objectives I think that it helps them make connections to their own lives.
       How it went:
It was nice to have a "big idea" in mind throughout the lessons and I think that the children were able to clearly see an end goal (or objective) and make personal connections throughout the unit.
We were able to have a big idea the whole time (success).
We referred back to it often (success).
It would be difficult to do this for everything that we are learning (challenge).
2.  Identifying Similarities & Differences (through Graphic Organizers)
        What I did:
While reading several versions of the classic tale The Gingerbread Boy, we created a Venn Diagram comparing the stories.  We used a graphic organizer (which Marzano notes gives students a 22% academic gain) to compare and contrast stories (which Marzano notes gives students a 45% academic gain.)   
        Why I felt the need to implement it:
According to Marzano, by identifying similarities and differences students can make a 45% gain in student achievement.   I decided to do this through the use of a graphic organizer to help students see connections between stories.
        How it went:
It was easier for the students to remember the characters in each story as well as making comparisons between the stories.  They referred back to them when they were retelling the stories in pairs.
The students seemed to be able to make connections between the stories easier when we used a Venn Diagram. 
3.  Homework
        What I did: 
For kindergarten, there is not much homework assigned.  Our grade level however, sends home a generic homework packet with the students each week targeting the kindergarten curriculum in general.  To streamline the homework, I decided to make the homework packet reinforce the specific content that we had been working at in school during each week. 
        Why I felt the need to implement it:
After reading Marzano's chapter, it prompted me to take a closer look at homework.  According to Marzano, by assigning homework students can make a 28% gain in academics.  That was a huge number compared to all of the other suggested strategies. 
        How it went:
I figure out what I was going to teach each week and compiled a packet of activities/games/worksheets that corresponded with the content that I was planning on teaching.  I did not take any specific record keeping, but I did notice that their work at school was increasing in quality and content.
Since I haven't been strict on homework coming back, I had a difficult time with enough students returning the packets.  I think that if I were to do this next year, I would make my intentions clear that I wanted the packet to be returned so I could see what families were actually doing the homework.