Friday, July 4, 2014

Big Time Blogging Challenge: Favorites

Today's Big Time Blogging Challenge prompt by Big Time Literacy is about favorite subjects and lessons to teach, here goes:

When people asked me about my favorites as a child, I could carry on forever talking about the reason I had multiple favorites of something.  Eyes would glaze over, or a look of regret for asking would creep across the face.  Never did it hinder me from espousing my list of favorites!

As an adult, I can't say that I've changed too much.  I have had very few moments in my classrooms that I haven't enjoyed.  I've taught a lot of lessons, and guided in a lot of inquiry that made my heart sing.  However, looking back over my eight years in education, I've picked one lesson that I've really enjoyed every time I've taught it.  I hope they are something you can be inspired by!

Martin's Big Words

I've always loved the I Have a Dream speech by MLK, Jr.  His passion is palpable as you listen to this words.  I've used the speech when talking about delivering speeches with my students.  I've used it when thinking about how they picture an improved society.  I've used it for one of my favorite lessons, big words.

When I teach the big words lesson, I always read Martin's Big Words by Doreen Rappaport (check out her other gorgeous books).  It tells the story of MLK in an accessible way, that is also engaging in upper grades.  This book introduces the concept of big words.  The students and I always have a discussion about what the author means by big words.  Does she mean length of a word?  No.  What does she mean?  She means the strength of the word, the size of the idea.  My kids have had some amazing ways to describe big words.

After this discussion, we listen to his speech.  Throughout the speech, students are listening for and writing down the big words/ideas that MLK uses as he addresses his audience.  This has been cause for some really engaged listening.  Once we've listened through, we discuss what he was saying.  What he wanted for the future.  Another amazing discussion!

We then use the words to make a word cloud.  I have the students look at their list, reflect on the speech, and choose the five biggest ideas they think he was conveying in his speech.  The students read their words aloud while I (or another student) plug the words into a world cloud generator.  I've used Wordle and Tagxedo in the past to make my clouds.  Once we've added our words and generate the cloud, we have a cloud where the big words that stuck out to the students the most are the largest.  They usually gasp with excitement when it finally shows up.  Here is an example of what we created two years ago:

Their excitement and their contemplation in this lesson are thrilling.  I usually display the word cloud on a bulletin board after I have students illustrate portions of the speech that they feel are a great visual.  

Overall it's a very powerful lesson, and I absolutely love it!

Thursday, July 3, 2014

Big Time Blogging Challenge: My Family

I'm back for my second day of the Big Time Blogging Challenge from Big Time Literacy.  Today's prompt asks me to share a post about my family, so here goes:

The family I come home to every night is my sweet husband, Jonathan.  We have been married for a year on the 13th, and have been together for more than six years.  He is my biggest supporter.  He's helped me move my classroom six times (not including all of the times he's had to move it to storage units in between classrooms).  He spends hours in my classroom helping me get it ready each year.  He's even been my room mother when I haven't had any volunteers.  He's more than I could have ever hoped for.  I'm so incredibly lucky.

Skating at a 5th grade party
Leaving our Wedding
Peterhof Palace, St. Petersburg, Russia on our honeymoon

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Big Time Blogging Challenge: Educational Experience

I'm back!  Well, I hope to be back.  I'm taking on the Big Time Blogging Challenge from Big Time Literacy.  I'm hoping that it will help me get into the groove of blogging.  I still read A LOT of blogs, but I never feel like I have much to contribute.  Hopefully some of her prompts will help me to feel like I'm writing some worthwhile posts.

Anyway, today is July 2, so the prompt is: "How long and in what capacities have you been in education?"  I've addressed this before, but for those who have never been to my blog here goes:

2014-2015 will mark my 9th year as a teacher.  I began my career in a rural school district teaching 1st-8th grade classes for gifted students.  I loved my small school, and the family I had created with my students, but after three years I felt like it was time to move to something bigger.

Over the last five years, I've been in a large (for Southwest Missouri) school district.  I've been through a lot in this district.  I was first hired to be a 3rd & 4th grade gifted teacher, but got RIFed when the program had some grade levels eliminated (darned budget cuts).

Next, I taught 5th grade for a year in an extreme poverty school.  I think this is where I learned the most, it really opened my eyes to the poverty in my town, and the needs of students in poverty. Unfortunately, that school was destroyed by an EF-5 tornado, scattering the already very transient student population to the wind.

Due to this disaster, there were not enough students to have two 5th grade teachers at the temporary location, so I was moved to a bigger elementary in the district.  I taught there for two years.  I had great teaching partners, great colleagues, and great students.

However, I decided to leave to pursue one of my passions: technology.  The district created an instructional coaching position with a focus in technology integration with 8th grade teachers and students as they implemented 1:1 iPads.  That is where I spent the last year.  Working with adults challenged me in ways that I have never been challenged before.  I loved it, but missed having my own group of students SO much.

2014-2015 will see me back in the classroom.  I will be teaching 8th grade reading and writing in a 1:1 iPad classroom.  I will be across the hall from one of my dear friends, and be on the same team as a great group of people I coached last year.  I'm looking forward to it so very much.

Well, that's my educational experience.  I hope that my background and experience can add to the blogging community.  We shall see!