Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Fraction Clip Art Product - Free to First 5 Comments

Hi everyone! I can't tell you how excited I am about my newest product! Fraction clip art!

Now, instead of explaining to kids that 1/2 is just like the one half you write on the board you can insert these clip art files!

Follow the link on the picture!

The first five people to comment on this post will get it for free :).

Asking Questions

We all know how important it is to teach kids to ask good questions, but how often do you do it in class? If you are like me, not enough. However, in our recent social studies unit on the Native people of Washington I had a great opportunity to have my students ask the questions. They did a great job - take a look!

Saturday, December 14, 2013

Exercise in the Classroom

My first year teaching I attended a talk by John Medina, the author of Brain Rules. In his talk he suggested that schools might be more successful if everyone wore workout clothes and every hour or so took part in some physical activity.

He suggested this for two reasons. First, several studies have shown that our brains work better after exercise. Second, in order to remember something our brains need to hear it over and over again, but not all at once. So, by taking a break to exercise our brains have the time needed to process and store new information over time.

I fell in love with this idea, but being a new teacher I didn't feel comfortable asking for permission to do it. Three years later, I am feeling brave.

I also have quite a few students with ADHD in my class this year. They are, invariably, the students who are struggling the most in my class. They have also struggled in every grade. Not to say they aren't making progress, they are. Unfortunately, they are still very far behind their classmates.

I was talking to my husband about this fact, and he asked, "You know what the definition of insanity is, right?"

I said that I did know that it is crazy to try the same thing over and over again and expect different results, but that I (and the other teachers) am constantly trying new ways to get through to these kids.

His words stuck with me though. Am I really doing anything that different for these kids? What if it would take a radical change to get to them?

Then, I remembered John Medina. I wondered if there was any research on exercise and kids with ADHD. I know that I always feel better and more focused after exercise - is it possible that this was the case for kids with ADHD too?

A quick Google search confirmed my suspicions. There are pages of studies that show that exercise increases the ability of ADHD kids to focus and check their work for mistakes. Pages. From real scientists.

Why haven't we explored this connection already?

So, I am going to come up with a proposal for my principal, and see if we can implement a trial program in January, 2014. For one month we will take a break every 45 minutes to exercise for 15 minutes. We don't have anything fancy so I am thinking jogging around the school or jump roping - just something to get our heart rates up. After exercising, we will get right back to work.

There are three other fourth grade classes so I think we would have some good data to compare the two groups.

What do you think? Will my principal agree? Will I see positive results? 

The Magic of Collaboration

I am so lucky to be a part of a team that includes very different, but very helpful people. We all have a different way of teaching, but we also appreciate what others do. This combination creates an amazing work environment and gives students the best of what we all have to offer.

I have been thinking about how much we share in the lens of the additional licenses on Teachers pay Teachers. I do like getting the extra money from the additional licenses, but is it was is best for teachers and students? If one of the other fourth grade teachers found something amazing, would I really go back and pay for the additional license? Or maybe I just wouldn't use it because I didn't want to be unethical, but I didn't want to (or couldn't) pay for the resource... Plus, I am sure there are tons of teachers who just share because they don't know about the additional licenses.

This has been spinning in my head for a while, and I think I have come up with a solution. I am going to make all of my products available to all of the teachers at one school for the price of one license. I think I am allowed to do this since I own the copyright. If it turns out I am not allowed to do it, I will change it.

I believe that sharing resources makes all of us better teachers. Plus, I don't think that this will cost me sales. In fact, I think it will increase my sales. More people knowing about what I do can only be a good thing. I have tons of products available (and I am always adding more) so people will always have something more they want or need.

What do you think? What is your experience with sharing resources at school? What have been your experiences with selling extra licenses?

Sunday, December 8, 2013

Why I Love A New Trimester...

Okay, so I have to admit something. I have a little bit of ADD. I have never been tested, and I don't want to take anything away from people with an actual diagnosis (so, please, don't think I am doing this here). I just have the attention span of a mosquito. In school, I was a straight A student, but my mom did have to come in for conferences every year because I wasn't doing my homework or completing my work in class. How did I still manage an A? I have no idea. I just didn't like to do things that I didn't find interesting.

For example, I would go home and take notes out of our Encyclopedias (yet, no Google back then) and write my own reports. However, I wouldn't complete the two page spelling assignment I had for homework.

Of course, I have come a long way from then. I do a lot of things that aren't particularly interesting or fun now. I guess that just comes with growing up.

Anyway, the reason I love a new trimester is that I can change things in my classroom and look like I had planned on that change all along, but really it is just my ADD kicking in.

And actually, the changes I am making on Monday (new trimester for us) are not really ADD related at all.

On Friday I had a great talk with one of the veteran teachers at my school. We are so different, but get along really well.

Here are some examples of how we are different...

Her students come in silently and get right to work. My students have a little chat and then (with my reminder) get to work.

Her class is super quiet. My class (while always on topic) can easily get a little loud.

Okay, I think you get it. Most of these things are noise related. Although, I also let my students move around the classroom more. Her kids are always in their seats.

Well, we were talking about this (and other stuff, I don't remember how this part came up exactly) and she said that her students have to earn the right to go to the bathroom any time they want. Not that she doesn't let kids go to the bathroom - they have seven opportunities throughout the day to go. Going any time you want is being in the middle of a lesson and getting up to go to the bathroom.

You all know what I am talking about, right? There are the kids who never ask to go to the bathroom, are always working, and are very polite in the way they ask. If one of these kids say they have to go to the bathroom it means they have to go to the bathroom.

Then there are the kids who ask to go to the bathroom every hour on the hour. When they ask to go to the bathroom it means, I want to go for a walk, I am bored, I wonder what is going on in the hallway right now, this work is too hard, or any number of things that have nothing to do with going to the bathroom. These also tend to be the kids who can't afford to miss a chunk of a lesson.

This idea of earning a privilege was really interesting to me. I have been trying to treat my kids as little people, not children. I let them chat in the morning because who doesn't like to check in with their friends in the morning? Teachers are the worst at this - have you ever been to a conference that started on time?!

I let them go to the bathroom whenever they need to because isn't that what most people do? My husband does not have to prove to his boss that he really does have to go to the bathroom. Plus, even if they just need a little brain break, isn't that okay?

Well, I do still believe all these things, but that idea that adults have earned these privileges is something I hadn't thought about before. Teachers and business people have proven that they can get their work done and make choice about what they do in the morning or when they go to the bathroom. I don't walk out in the middle of class and go to the bathroom. I wait until the kids are at recess or lunch.

There are some adults who do have to ask to go to the bathroom while they are at work. (Or if they are going to much, they might be fired.)

The freedom that I enjoy isn't given to me just because I am an adult, it is because I have proven that I can handle it. By giving this to students who haven't earned it, I have been doing them a disservice. I have four students in my class who are currently "Below Standard". I have been doing remediation, scaffolding, tutoring before and after school, and calling home, but am I hurting them by giving them freedom they can't handle?

I try to run my classroom using Love and Logic, but I forgot one important part. I need to treat them as individuals. As much as I don't like the idea of gluing kids to their seats, maybe this is what some kids need. They just aren't mature enough to make the choice to work with their friends on the carpet. Of course, many of my students can handle this and are doing amazingly well.

So, on Monday morning I am going to tell them that our first trimester was a glimpse at how I would like the classroom to run. I don't want kids asking if they can go to the bathroom or get a drink of water etc... But, in the real world you aren't just given this freedom; you have to earn it.

They will earn their freedoms back by showing me that they can think and work productively on their own. Everyone will have to ask to go to the bathroom, get a drink of water, sharpen their pencil etc... (Only during instruction time - they can do all of these things at our transition or free times.) I will say yes to the kids who have shown me that they can handle it and no to the kids who have shown me that they can't. It will be the same way with working in groups or working around the classroom.

I think this will be a difficult transition for a lot of the kids, but in the long run I think it will be good for everyone. I am excited to report back in a few weeks.

I just have to remember - treat them as the individuals they are :).

Wow - that was a long post. Thanks for sticking with me!