Thursday, September 25, 2014

Teaching with Intention: Chapter Five

One of the things that Debbie discusses int his chapter is how to teach so out students can remember and understand what they've learned. How important! And as she says, how often do we read something and then are unable to recall what we've learned from it? This chapter apple not only to our teaching, but also our learning.

I LOVE this quote. And oh how true it is!! I was blessed as a child to grow up attending a Waldorf school, where the teachers were able to ignite our passion for learning. I loved school and remember far more from my elementary days that those from my public high school education. This is NOT to say that there are not teachers who are able to teach with enthusiasm and ignite passion in public schools. I taught in a public school and will eventually return to this job. I do however feel that it is an ever increasingly difficult task to do so. As this quote says, if we can engage our students and get them excited and passionate about what they are learning, they are far more to learn it for life than to simply memorize it for a test, something I became an expert at in order to survive high school.

Some of the ways to help students remember new information is to relate it to things they already know. To make those oh so important connections! Another way is to make the learning "visible." Make charts, draw pictures of what you are teaching; have them partner up and discuss what they have learned. Explaining it to another student, one who may have an entirely different view and understanding of the subject matter than a teacher, can be a powerful learning tool.

As challenging as it can be, it is so important to remember that at the end of the day we are not, or should not really be, teaching to the test. We are teaching these little people to be excited about learning, to look at the world as a fun and exciting place that is just waiting at their finger tips, not a place where everything is about a test. I strive to remember this when I am teaching, and will be the first to admit that it is extremely challenging, especially when your school is under pressure to preform well on state tests to raise their grade. All I can do is my best.

Friday, September 5, 2014

Teaching with Intention: Chapter Three

Today we will be talking about classroom environment. This is one of those things that may not rank up there as being super important, but it really, really is!! If your classroom isn't organized well then it will be difficult for you to teach and for your students to learn. 

One of the things that I really love about this book so far is that Debbie always gives us examples from real classrooms she visits. It is nice to know there are other teachers out there who struggle with some of the same things I do! In this chapter she is helping a new teacher who has come to a classroom with a lot of existing material. This can be a challenge for new and veteran teachers alike ~ what to do with it all?! Debbie's suggestion, which is one that I have employed both in my classroom and at home (we are actually currently doing this at home!!!) is to make three piles. One pile has things that you need, NEED, not WANT, this is the really hard part for me! The second pile has things that are still in good condition that you think another teacher could use or that you can donate to Goodwill, and the third is things to throw away. For the third, don't even make a pile, just THROW IT AWAY! Right in the trash, and don't look back! This can be very hard for a lot of us, especially teachers I think, but it will really help to clear the clutter out of your room. Now comes the really hard part ~ don't start collecting more stuff and make sure to put things back where they belong after you've taken them out! 

The next steps are to think about the layout of your room. This is such an important aspect of your classroom. The space needs to be inviting, functional and flow smoothly. This is the part I always dragged (he was actually always happy to help) my husband in to help me with. I was one of those teachers who showed up as soon as they would let me back into the building to start setting up my classroom (mind you I didn't have kids at the time! I am guessing this may be different when I go back!). Together we would very carefully (don't want to scuff those shiny new floors!) move furniture around the room until I had it "just right." Sometimes after the students arrived and we were all moving around the room I would decide to tweak something to help with the flow of so many tiny little bodies moving around the space. 

Think about the areas that you will need ~ do you need a common meeting area, small group area, library? Do you have tables or desks and what do the children need to be able to see when they are seated ~ the white board? Word Wall? Promethean or Smart Board? What will you need for yourself and your students during centers? I always kept supplies around the room so that whatever I needed was (almost!) always within reach. 

As important as the classroom environment is, it is important to remember:
In the end it is about how you teach and interact with your students, and about what you do have in your room to work with and how you use it, not what you don't have

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Teaching with Intention: Chapter Two

This chapter is all about aligning your beliefs about teaching with your practices. This is not easy to do!! It can take time and work to define your beliefs and then set about trying to actually put them into practice, to align them with your teaching. Some teachers walk into the classroom with beliefs on day one, others may have thought about it but may not know exactly what they believe, and still others may have never given their specific beliefs about teaching a second thought at all. 
I was one who walked in with beliefs on the very first day. I knew exactly how I wanted to teach and what values I wanted to instill in my students, however then I hit the wall of time and testing and curriculum requirements, and it became harder and harder to teach they way I had dreamed I would. It is not an easy job being a teacher, but it is oh such an important one. We must try to and find some sort of way to rise above the stress of the what the district requires of us. Do I have all of the answers? Absolutely not! However reading this book has helped me begin thinking once again about my beliefs and values, and how I can make sure to pass these on to my students. 
Do you have specific beliefs about teaching? Have you aligned them with your teaching or are you still working on it? I would love to hear from you!

Friday, August 22, 2014

Teaching with Intention: Chapter One

I am so excited to be participating in this book study hosted by Amanda Wilp from The Primary GalThis will be my second year staying home with our amazing little guy, and while I love and adore it and am so very, very thankful that we have made it work, I do still miss the classroom {however this feeling pales in comparison to my desire to stay home with the babe}. I hear this will fade after being out for a few years but that's hard to imagine. It is especially hard now, when I would be setting up my room, getting ready for a new group of eager young minds. This book has been a wonderful way to help me feel connected to the classroom still and really has me thinking about some things that I would like to change when I do go back.

We are reading Teaching with Intention: Defining Beliefs, Aligning Practices, Taking Action by Debbie Miller. In chapter one she describes walking into a 3rd Grade classroom in Ohio, and oh does it sound like a lovely classroom. Here are some of the things she focuses on in chapter one.

My ideal classroom is full of bright, warm colors, full of children's independent and group work, full of engaging images and print. It draws you in and makes you want to look around at what we are learning and exploring. Every year I tried very hard to do these things in my classroom. One of the things that I will strive to be better at is organizing the literature for the students. 

When I first started teaching I was always worried that my kids were too loud when administration would do their classroom walk throughs. I knew my kids were learning and talking about academics (for the most part!), but would they? During one formal observation I apologized to my principal, and he said "Why are you sorry? These kids are being loud because they are so excited about the lesson. I would much rather hear noisy children who are learning than quiet ones." Of course there is absolutely a time and place for quiet learning, but I understood what he meant. It was a wonderful moment for me! My ideal classroom is one where the sounds of learning ebb and flow and create music of the room. 

I just love this quote! I have had little moments like this in my room, but so often I felt rushed, especially when I taught 1/2 day Kindergarten. We still taught all the academics but had no play time. Personally I strongly disliked this and felt terrible for my little babies. While I often felt rushed, I tried very hard not to let my students feel that. Of course there were times when we were so focused on our lessons/centers that I lost track of time too (aah the times I would forget to set a timer), and we would have to have "super speedy pack up!!" :) 
In a perfect world I would love to have more time ~ time to play, to explore, to learn, to chat about things, to share ideas. It is, of course, up to me as the teacher to facilitate these moments, and is something that I look forward to tackling once again when I go back. 

While I have only read a few chapters of this book so far, I am definitely loving it!! I would LOVE to hear your comments about how your ideal classroom looks, sounds and feels!! 

Monday, August 18, 2014

Markdown Monday!!

Good morning Friends!

I am excited to be joining Kelly and Kim's Kindergarten Kreations for their Markdown Monday Linky Party!! This week my Fill in the Missing Letters (Print Version) will be marked down from $3.50 to $2.00 until FRIDAY August 22nd!! 

This is a great product for students in Kindergarten, or Firsties who need a quick and easy way to review letter order. Use as Morning Work, Literacy Center work or Homework! Enjoy! Here is a look at the product. 

Diggin' Series Giveaway WINNERS!!

Woohoo!!! What a thrill it was to pick the winners for our Diggin’ Series giveaway! It felt so rewarding  because this random little thing was going to make somebody’s day. It is just as wonderful, if not better, to give than to receive! 

These are our winners:


We thank you for participating, for reading our Diggin’ Series blog posts, and for following us along the way! We are so happy and excited to have you all as new blog and TpT store followers!! 
To all of you:

Have a great, rewarding, joyful school year!!!

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Back to School and Welcome New Friends!

Hello and welcome to all my new friends!!! 
I am so excited to have you join my blog. 
Be on the look out for a little surprise after the HUGE giveaway by Where the Magic Happens is over on the 17th :)

Have you started back to school yet? I am holding a poll on my Facebook Page to see how many of you have already began teaching your new group of kiddos and how many still have a few sweet summer days left. I'd love to hear from you :) 
{Click on the picture below to vote}

Monday, August 11, 2014


I am so excited to have been a part of this awesome series, even though I was only able to post a few times. There are some AMAZING giveaways below!!! Thank you SO much to the incredible Laura from Where the Magic Happens for putting this all together and to all the teachers who participated to bring it to life!!
Now, are you ready?!

 We could hardly wait to end our Diggin’ Series with the BEST giveaway of the season!


Just in case you didn't hear these are our awesome prizes:






Come and join us, as  this is our way to THANK YOU for all your support and friendship! Make sure to share this amazing opportunity with your friends!!

a Rafflecopter giveaway