It takes a village

I am not a sales person.  I hate to ask anyone to help me do anything.  One year I was room parent for my daughter’s kindergarten classroom. I was assigned the task of creating a basket for a raffle.  Rather than asking parents for help, I ended up buying all of the stuff myself.  I tried selling Avon in college and lasted one month.  I love to drink Shakeology (a type of protein shake) and I can get just two people to buy from me, I can get it for free.  Let’s just say that I get my protein at Costco now.

However, when it comes to my classroom, there is nothing I won’t ask.  If you have something for my class, I am not above begging asking for it. For the past two years, I have had two separate wonderful humans enrich the lives of my students beyond anything I could have done for them.

The first is one of my best teaching buddies.  She retired and I swooped in to take advantage of it.  We do a project called March Book Madness.  Many students read books totally outside their comfort zone. There are 16 picture books in one category and 16 middle grade books in another.  Because this program is an add on, it takes extra work. I read all of the 32 books.  Students that are reading the middle grade books need time to book talk.  Because these books are complicated, it is helpful to have an adult with them who has read the book and can facilitate. That is where Ms Smith comes in.  Before the project begins, she take several of the books, both middle grade and picture books and read them on her own time.  She then comes prepared to book conference with the students.  She actually takes the group out of the room and spends over 20 minutes with each group. 20 minutes!  Could you imagine! She gives my class the gift of time.  She takes her time with each group and can really encourage rich discussions. She can spend the 20 minutes with each group and really pass on her love of reading and characters.  Because of her involvement in this program, students have reached new heights in their thinking and reading which would not have been accomplished without her.

The second person that has added something special to my classroom is my neighbor.  Over a fire one night, he was talking about all of the places that he travels for work. Hmm..and on that summer night, Where in the world is Mr. Feldstein was born.  We began tracking where he was.  When he traveled, he would email me pictures and a little description about the places he was traveling to.  We would look at the pictures and would color in the places on maps.  Then he began telling us about a project that he was doing to turn salt water into drinking water.  My students were completely fascinated.  They asked questions and he answered them.  This interaction made the students think more globally and outside of their small town.  It made them think of problems (clean drinking water) that is not on their radar. It also helped them to understand that there are many different kinds of jobs out there! Who knows whom he inspired by this interaction with my classroom.

Finally, I know I wrote two, but I would be remiss, if I didn’t mention my daughter Kelsey.  Last year, Kelsey traveled to teach in both Costa Rica and in South Africa.  When she was in both places, she would Skype with my class, answering questions about these foreign countries.  She kept it real when discussing South Africa and sent us video of the poverty.  She came in and did a lecture with my class and even inspired one young student to do all of her genius hour projects on different animals from South Africa.  Kelsey’s interaction with us  also encourage my class to do chores at home to save 3 Africa animals. She brought another country into our classroom, the good and the bad.  She wrote blogs on this site and we close read them to learn!

I cannot be all to all students.  I wish I could, but I know I cannot.  However, I am very blessed to have such wonderful people in my life.  People who will give to my students.  The impact that these three incredible humans had on my class is immeasurable.  Who knows what book a student will read because of Ms. Smith or who will become and an engineer because of Mr. Feldstein and create something as cool as drinking water from salt water.  Who knows who will travel because of Kelsey.  My students and I are very, very lucky!

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Then and now

This past week I completed my 30th year of teaching. 30 years. 30 years of smiles, laughs, frustration, parent conferences, Open House, first days, last days, tears, sorrow and smiles.  While the day passed seemingly unnoticed, for me it was a milestone. I honestly don’t know where the years have gone.  It is like I blinked around the age of thirty and here I am now with 30 teaching years.  It means..well, it means I am officially old.  It means that I can now be one of those teachers who talks about what life USED to be like. I have been kind of thinking of that, what life was like then and now.

30 years ago, I taught sixth grade in an open school.  No walls. I was only in that school for 2 years before heading across town to teach grades 2,3 and 2 again.  I then went back to the original school (no longer an open school) teach grade 4. Another grade change and by some twist of fate, I am now in the original room from when I started at age 21.  However, the room now has walls and a door.

30 years ago..

We had a row of 10 computers that I would take my math class into.  There were no computers in the classroom, only the media center. I used overhead projectors, filmstrips and record players.  There were no phones in the classroom.  At my second school, the phone only connected to the office.

We used chalkboard, chalk and erasers had to clapped together to remove the dust.  Parents were kept informed by possibly weekly or monthly newletters.  Grades were letter grades and report cards were hand written.

We had Xerox machine, but it didn’t copy in color and I don’t remember needing it so much.However, the year before at college, I did use a ditto machine, with its blue ink!

I was evaluated and observed once a month.  There was no standardized testing.  We did not track students by data. Teachers evaluation was not based on student data. However, students were grouped for math and language arts according to ability.

As a class, we would write to a friend in Florida’s class.  By hand, through the mail.

I would spend my Saturdays at the library digging for books and trying to find teaching ideas.  My Sundays would be spent in my classroom making games.  Professional development books were hard to come by and very EXPENSIVE.  I subscribed to Teacher Magazine and our school library subscribed to Mailbox.  I would comb these issues cover to cover and examine back issue to find great ideas.

Now..

I don’t have a chalkboard. I have a Smartboard that is like a huge computer screen.  I can access anything on my computer and show the class on the Smartboard.  I have two white boards that I use marker to write on.  There is no chalk in my classroom. To show student things up close, instead of a project, I have a document camera.  Anything I put under the document camera will be enlarged on my Smartboard.

Because of the computer, we can Skype with other classrooms from around the world.  My students have had the opportunity to “visit” Canada, Alaska, and Hawaii to just name a few. We also “talk” to other states by Kidblog, Padlet and google documents.

I have access to a class set of laptop computers and my program is dependent upon them.  Students take standardized test several times throughout the year.  There is the MAPS test taken three times a year and SBAC once.  Students need to have more than just basic understanding of computer skills for theses tests.  The scores from these tests are part of my evaluation.  They are also used to determine if a student needs extra help.

I have a desktop computer in my room on my desk, which is essential.  I also have a smartphone and an IPad that I use on a daily basis.  I couldn’t imagine life without any of these.

Report cards are standards based.  Grades are 1 – 4.  They are completed on the computer. I also keep parents up to date almost daily through an app called Remind.  I send emails out with our events.

Professional development is easy to find.  Twitter, Facebook and lately even instagram have tons of PD.  Books are less expensive to buy.  Podcasts are free.  Where my younger self craved all of this learning, my old self has to tell me to stop.

 

Some things never change..

I started my library that very first year of teaching and it has grown over thousands of books.  I could never imagine a classroom without books for the students.

My students still sit in groups and not row.  They work in projects and can sit wherever they want.

My math manipulative collection that I stared 30 years ago, I still have and use in my math class because base 10 blocks, pattern blocks, tangrams etc. never go out of style.

I still work hard; like I did 30 years ago.

Reading aloud is still the most important part of my day.

My father told me 30 years ago, “Teaching and coaching are the greatest jobs in the world.  It is all the other stuff that will kill you.”

Second Annual Iwanicki Book Awards

We completed our second annual Iwanicki Book Awards this year.  I had the students come up with the categories.  We added all the books that they thought should be nominated in each category.  We voted by google forms to narrow down our choices to 4 – 6 books and then we voted, again by google forms.  We had an Iwanicki Book Award party where the kids had created word searches and puzzles with the nominees.  Students dressed fancy or like the nominated characters.  Every time I announced a new book, I played music from the Oscars.

I thought I would share the winners.  There are some really, really good books there.  My favorite new books are Restart, Refugee and Grump for chapter books.  I also loved It’s Not Jack and Love for picture books.

I am running this as a slide show, which I have never done before, so I hope it comes out okay.

 

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Grump

I have been pretty outspoken on this blog and on social media how amazing I think middle grade books and their authors are. As technology has boomed, authors are more inclined to interact with the students. It has been amazing.  By simply liking a tweet we send, the author has done more for my students love of reading than I have all week.  Their words and responses are power for my third grade learners.

This week, we had such amazingness happen in my classroom.  It started a couple of weeks ago.  I set out several books that were a choice for my next read aloud.  Two were by the same author Liesl Sturtliff; one Rump (I have read this as a read aloud in previous years and the students love it) and the the other Grump and then two other books from two other authors. I did book talks on all the books.  I read all the blurbs.  My students were immediately drawn to Grump, because I had an advanced reader copy and they LOVED the idea that the book wasn’t published it and they may be the first third graders to hear the story.

Grump is a delightfully humorous tale of the story BEFORE Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs.  The dwarves live underground and are minors.  As the story progresses, we learn that all the dwarves are named for rocks. I have a student who takes that and runs with it.  He begins doing research on all the characters names and what rocks they could be associated it.  In the middle of class, I call on of my very closest friends because she knows a lot about rocks to help us!  She enlists the help of her husband..and the search is on! Meanwhile, there is a character call Herkimer. My friends mine Herkimer diamonds so I also ask if they would come in to talk about them! Unfortunately, we no longer study rocks as part of my science class.

My student then begins to make this amazing PowerPoint with all the characters, the names in the story, the possible rock they could be named after and information about that rock/mineral. He gets stuck on a couple.  So, he begins research the original stories of Snow White, hoping to find some hidden clue there.

Meanwhile, we decide to email the author.  One never does know how that is going to go.  Will she even get it? We first email her just asking about the name of the characters my student and friends cannot figure out.  We send that.  Then I sent her the PowerPoint.  Still the research continues in my class. I continue reading aloud.

A day later, I get an email from Liesl saying she got the email and is working on her answer. I get this email when I am at the gym.  I email it to my student and his parents because I cannot wait to share it with him.  He was out of power because of the terrible storms, but at 8:00 PM..I get an email back, he was so excited.

Yesterday, we get a full 5 paragraph email describing each character and the story behind their name. I am not going to share it because I want you all to get the book and read it!  I printed out the email and gave to each student.  They were just in awe!  I wish Liesl could have seen what she did for my young readers.  It was beautiful, just beautiful.

My students love this book. I read every day right before lunch. They are totally engrossed in the plot line.  Often when it is time for lunch I am met with NOOOOOOOOOO!  However, Liesl involvement in our classroom has made this time even more special.  They are more attached to the story than before. As they believe they know the author.

Other books in this series by Liesl are Rump, Jack, Red and and now Grump.  By coincidence, I came home an Kelsey, who is long term subbing in grade 6, is reading Jack!  I went on Amazon and ordered Red and Jack. I have Rump as I have read it aloud before.

As a teacher, I am so beyond grateful to authors like Liesl who go above and beyond for our students.  What it does for my student is indescribable.  They are totally invested in this series. I know when the books I ordered come in, they will fly off my shelf and I am positive they will be taken out for the summer.  Thank you so much Liesl for helping to reinforce in such a big way, that reading is fun and amazing and incredible. You have made lifetime followers from me and my students!A52A3FA1-D27D-4A5D-B787-FFF1A15F75DB

 

To My Students before testing 2018

My students will find this on their desks tomorrow morning.  I have prep them for the SBAC test in April, and haven’t spoken of it since.  I did not want them to be worried or anxious about it. Their first test is tomorrow.

Dear Boys and Girls,

Today is the day!  You have all been working hard for this. You are ready, but I do not want you to stress over it.  This test does not show everything about you. It is just one test of many that you will take in your life time. That is all. This test should not define who you are as a person.

There is a lot that this test will never show.  It will not show how we participated in Pajama Day to raise money for sick kids or how you did chores at home so we could rescue THREE animals.  It won’t show how kind you were to someone who needed it or how you made sure that everyone is always included in every activity.

This is the problem with tests.  They measure only one part of you.  They only measure how you answer questions that the test makers feel important.  This test does not measure your heart.  It does not measure things that are so important to being a good person, like kindness and caring. This test does not show the many wonderful things about you!  But I know. I get to watch that every day.  I see how you help each other learn and grow.  I watch how you make sure everyone is included.  I get to see that. The test does not.

So when you take this test today, just try your best. That is all.  You have all worked so hard this and I am so proud of all you. If you get frustrated, just remember, that I have faith and confidence in you and no test is ever going to change that.

I love you!

Mrs. I.

 

The Wild Robot Escapes

Today I spent 35 minutes reading aloud.  35 minutes! Oh my! I just couldn’t stop! The short humans wouldn’t let me! You ever get to a really good part in a book and you just can’t stop?  That is what happened today.  As a reader, I just couldn’t stop, so I didn’t.  I kept reading until the book was done.  Isn’t that what I would have done if I was home?  Read until it was over.

We read the Wild Robot as part of the the Global Read Aloud in the fall.  The Wild Robot Escapes came out a few months ago.  Until this point, I hadn’t read more than one book in a series before.  I learned that the students really loved hearing two books about the same characters.  They were immediately invested in the characters and story line.

After I finished reading, I had them go back and blog about it.  Below are some of their responses.  I hope you enjoy them as much as I did! Please keep in mind that these students are in third grade.  They are 8 and 9 years old.  I am going to get a throat lozenge.

(I copied these straight from their blogs, so the spelling and grammar is what they did).

Synopsis of the story according to Amazon: Shipwrecked on a remote, wild island, Robot Roz learned from the unwelcoming animal inhabitants and adapted to her surroundings–but can she survive the challenges of the civilized world and find her way home to Brightbill and the island?

The book was amazing when I first saw Dr.molovo I knew it would not be good but It was amazing. I want another book about Roz Because I love hearing about life on the island. Roz and brightbill are amazing but I do not think she should have gave up. I love how Dr.Molovo only pretended to deystroy Roz.

I didint really like that ending because they got on the island but they dident have 1 or 2 adventures. and if Dr.Molovo didint put Roz back together i would of did something like screamed i dont  know what i would do but i would of done something. Now i like Dr.molovo

MY FEELINGS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! I AM MAD,SAD,EXCITED,SCARED, AND DID I SAY MAD!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!????????????????????????????????????????????????????MAD I AM MAD!?!?!?!?! I WANT ANOTHER BOOK!!!!!!

  I am so happy for Rozum unit: 7134! She made it back home! I am so happy. When Dr. Molovo turned Roz off In my notebook I wrote:  DR. MOLOVO IS THE WORST CHARACTER IN THIS BOOK! I was so mad! Then when she moved her to a bigger, stronger body I wrote:    YES!!! I LOVEDR.MOLOVO!!!!    I was so happy! I wrote yes so many times! I also wrote no so many times.

I am so HAPPY! The wild robot has returned! Roz is back at the island!!!! Dr. Molovo was mean at first but now she is awesome. I wonder why Dr. Molovo let Roz go! I am glad she did though. I guessed how Roz would escape. I thought she would go away on an airship.  It was an again and again. I LOVE The Wild Robot Escapes.
May 4, 2018, 1:09pm (72.10.120.161)

 

I think she let her go because Roz might want to go to her son because she might have wondered about the ? that Roz asked!

My first thought is that Doctor. molovo if she turned him off why did she turn her on again well I think she did that because because she new how Roz felt in the inside and she feels the same way.

My second thought is that brightbill should know what happend he saw the fight happenb  so he should know that he had to get fix.

Woah!  I am so happy that the animals and Roz got reunited in the end! Roz was meant to live on the island! I am very happy that Dr. Molovo faked the video of Roz getting destroyed! I want another book to hear about Roz and Brightbill and all of their adventures on the island! I loved this book!

Ok so first i thought this lady was crazy mean and evil i absolutely hated her. but then when i heard wake up Roz i was totally confused so when she explained i was like that its she is so awesome then when Roz asked for a favor i was like no way she is nice enough and she said yes and i said BEST LADY EVER! 

 

A Picture is Worth a Thousand Words

08981BBF-6993-4EC5-B142-714734E0CA6FMy cousin recently posted this amazing photograph of my great grandparents, her grandparents.  At my first glance, I was like Wow that is cool. I never knew they had a grocery store. They later had Maroni’s Cafe in the same spot (which is what I remember)  However, a friend and historian wrote that the picture was incredible.  He said that pictures from that time showing work or daily life was rare. He went on to say what else that he noticed in the photo.  Embarrassed that he looked more closely at the photo than I did, I began to examine it.  Then, being the teacher that I am, I put it up on the smart board for my third graders to notice:

The students began talking:

the wheels on car are as big as some of their bikes; the car didn’t appear to have windows; what did they do if they had rain?; how fast did the car go?

the dress of everyone; my great grandmother in a dress to work at a grocery store; the man and the young boy in the tie

it was a grocers, not a supermarket

the black and white of the photo was done because that is how photos were taken back then and comparing it to the photos we took last week where we used black and white for artistic purposes

comparison of the way we take pictures now versus the way we took them then

I had never thought to closely look at a picture before. I don’t know why the idea hadn’t come to me before.  There was such rich discussion. I am glad for facebook and the comments of a friend to help me see how valuable this can be.