Duck into Third Grade

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Bridging the Gap

My third graders loved Twenty-One Elephants and Still Standing! We connected it to Little Elliot in the Big City because of the pachyderm potential but one smart cookie connected the bridge in the background of Little Elliot to the Brooklyn Bridge…WOW! We are learning to notice the world around us and not be thwarted by the curse of knowledge. In a world that is now saturated with information, some tend to think they know more than they actually  do and miss something important. Kids can learn to make connections and notice their surroundings by using powerful picture books as tools. Next week, we will be sharing Pop’s Bridge and I’m sure my class will go connection crazy! A bridge is a symbol to me not to carry my kids but to scaffold them in such a way that each one can be successful. I need to drop just the right kind and just the right amount of bread crumbs in just the right places to nudge them in the direction that leads to agency and engagement and enlightenment, they must have ownership of their learning! This takes time.

Wait for it… This is a code phrase I use to teach my ultra-curious and lively grandson as he explores this world with great gusto… sometimes he must s-l-o-w down and… Wait for it…not something he wants to hear, but a fact of life…We must wait for many things. The bridge books show my class that important things take time. Nothing worthwhile happens overnight. If my precious grandson can grasp this idea then I know my precious class can as well. I just hope their teacher can …Wait for it…give them time to develop from second graders into third graders as they are stumbling and falling along. Wait for it…praise  effort over  result. Wait for it…working together comes much easier for some than others. Don’t give up on group work. Wait for it…they are growing and changing every minute, I must notice and listen to the learning that is going on! My goal must to bridge gaps and celebrate growth!


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Who IS Doing the Work? Scaffolding vs Carrying

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Teachers tend to talk and talk and talk. Why? We know we can’t learn anything by talking. What should we be doing? LISTENING! Step back and listen…listen to your kids intently and get ready to learn LOTS of things.

Hector was a shy little guy that taught me it was okay to read tough books. Somehow he managed to plod through all of Avi’s Poppy series only because his desire was on fire. I wanted to suggest an easier read but he was in love with Poppy and he would have no substitutes. I was blessed to watch him evolve as a reader. Thank you, Hector, because of you, I will let my students grapple with texts they are passionate about.

Mandy was a struggling disinterested reader until she got hooked on Cam Jansen mysteries which jump started her reading! She taught me that it was possible to be a lopsided genre reader and still get advanced on the state assessment! She had been filling in her genre boxes at a snail’s pace but Can Jansen saved the day! Thank you, Mandy, because of you, I will let kids explode the genre box of their choice, an expert is a good thing to be.

Andrew was a voracious reader but he read easy texts and never pushed himself. He loved reading but he was a pajama reader, comfortable was his code. He taught me if a reader is reading, let them read. Was it easy, NO! Did I introduce many various texts in class, YES! Thank you, Andrew, for reminding me that choice is vital! Extremely tough lesson for this teacher to learn.

Burkins and Yaris have written a fantastic book! They remind teachers that there is a big difference between scaffolding and carrying students. Carrying is often done by conscientious educators every day when we do so much prompting and reminding students don’t even have to think. The result is learned helplessness, which does not help prepare kids for the real world. A talented cook adds just enough salt to make a tasty dish, we need to give just the right nudge to inspire our students toward success. We must let learners do the work because we do not want to deprive any student the joy that comes from learning something new. Burkins and Yaris call this the Grandmother method, “Wow! How did you do that?” followed by “What will you do next?”

Knock Knock My Dad’s Dream for Me by Daniel Beaty is a mentor text that illustrates why we don’t want to do too much for our kids. This is a beautiful story about a boy struggling to deal with his father’s absence. He doesn’t give up even though times are tough. The author’s note is powerful! Kids must be problem solvers in life, literature provides a safe place to practice!


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Summer Reading Rocks!!!

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“Encouragement works, not so much through persuasion, as it does through jogging the right memory at the right time.” -Hattie & Yates
“Failure gives valuable feedback that we use to address our regretable actions and improve our situation in the future.” -Schwalbe
“You cannot force the leaves to fall and the seasons to change, jsut as you cannot force stamina and get engagement. To that end, stamina is not a goal; engagement in learning is.” -Mraz & Hertz (authors)
Those were a few of my favorite quotes from this little jewel. The authors did their homework! They gave the latest research along many examples illustrating these traits in action in classrooms so each and every student that is under the tutelage of today’s busy educator can be enlightened. Yes, this information will help your class be better students but more importantly, it will give them the tools to help them be better people. If you read only one professional book this summer, let it be this one. The authors illustrate teaching traits that will equip students for growth mindsets vs fixed mindsets. I rearranged the order of the traits to help me remember them. F-ROPE… Here’s a quick overview of the traits.
Flexibility-try different ways to find a solution
Resilience-learn from failures and bounce back
Optimism-say good-bye to fear and get ready to learn something new (this is the trait those kids that are bored need a healthy dose of)
Persistence-don’t give up even when the task is hard
Empathy-learning to put oneself in another person’s shoes

The authors give literature picks to go along with each trait and loads of ideas to put these puppies into practice. One of my favorites was the storytelling aspect. Students tell stories illustrating real-life applications of the traits in their lives. The example given in the book about a fifth grader climbing Mount Washington is priceless.

Do your students a favor and dive into this well-written read!


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Uncommon Connections & Compass Points

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My class comes up with unusual connections. I wanted to write today’s down before I forgot it. I noticed one of my deep thinkers was about to explode as I was reading from Weasel. He could hardly wait to share his epiphany with the class. He connected Mr. Ocax from Poppy to Weasel because both Mr. Ocax and Weasel hurt those they were suppose to be protecting. When kids see connections across genres it wows me! He amazed his peers with his insight and promptly received the ten-finger, “Woooo!” Golden moment!

Read-Aloud is a treasured time. It levels the playing field. All kids can participate in discussions and grow as readers. My class begs for a daily non-fiction tidbit. Thanks to Anne Claybourne and her 100 Most Disgusting Things on the Planet I can easily make that happen. Now they are enthralled and eager to listen to informative text. This excitement is contagious! A class across the hall and one down the hall are also reading non-fiction! When kids are enthusiastic learning comes much easier. Rapport comes easy when you are learning about eyelash mites and earwax: )

The class thoroughly enjoyed using compass points to show their thinking. We just finished Charlotte’s Web and it was the perfect book for compass points…Needs, Excitement, Solution, and Worries. First, students drew a pig in the middle of a pink large piece of paper. Next, they drew lines from each corner to Wilbur. Then, they labeled each section like a compass and responded. Their answers were telling indeed! The next compass point activity they got to choose between Charlotte or Templeton. The class was engaged and the room was abuzz!


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Pinwheels, Ponies, Perfection

IMG_4510IMG_4289IMG_4385Take time this holiday season to do something you’ve never done before. Don’t think big (climbing Mt. Everest), think small-something you can do right where you are, with what you have on hand, right now…something  you’ve never done before. My challenge was to make pinwheel cookies. My dear friend said they were easy peasy,  I guess she was right but she neglected to mention they were time consuming which was a stretch for me because although patience is a virtue it is one I struggle with on a daily basis. Any who, the cookies turned out cool and my class enjoyed knowing I forged into uncharted waters.  The pinwheel cookies went along with our class read-aloud Fig Pudding. Last year I ordered stollen from Germany to go with the book, who knows next year I may attempt to make it. Dare to dream.

This season has been busy because we were blessed with a new family member who decided to make his debut a week early. Little Jonas’s first book was The Giving Tree because  all the board books were in his brother’s room and I didn’t want to risk waking up the little dynamo. One can never start reading too early to a child. This will become a treasured time for adult and child. His brother’s first book was Brown Bear, Brown Bear, which Jonas heard the next day. They are blessed with a mom that reads to them daily which makes this Nana happy, happy, happy!

The pony in the picture was created during an inside recess by one thrilled artist. She grabs the clay right away each and every inclement day. I had orginally purchased the clay for a student with dyslexia to form words and objects. All my years of teaching and this little smartie taught me something when she pleaded to use the clay during an indoor recess. Duh, how had I missed it? She had been longing to get her hands on it for quite some time, who knew? (Obviously, not her teacher LOL) Now the clay is standard operating procedure for recess along with Legos, puzzles, checkers, and games…Choice is a gift we can easily give our kids. Unfortunately, what is easy to do is also easy not to do. I learned that in 2015!

Enjoy this holiday season, embrace the uniqueness of each and every day, remember to take time to appreciate the blessings God has sent your way!

 


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Baffling Ball Battle

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Recess duty was a bit different today. I witnessed a group of girls grabbing greedily for what appeared to be a wish flower from afar. As a neared the battle scene, I noticed the ball in question was a bunny’s tail instead of a dandelion seed factory. Yes, we do have playground balls, new one in fact, but to these girls the tail of a bunny held more appeal. The beginning of a school year really keeps us hopping (pun intended-I’ve always wanted to say that 🙂 Read the book Punished by David Lubar for puns galore!
Great beginning of the year books to jump start a kindness kick and help students with feeling good about being unique:
Ish, The Invisible Boy (have cookies ready to share), Ninja Cowboy Bear, Edward the Emu, Each Kindness, Don’t Laugh at Me, Enemy Pie and The Golden Rule to name a few.
Our chapter read-aloud has been How to Be Cool in Third Grade which will probably be followed by Roxie and the Hooligans, both show bullies breaking free from their brutish behavior!
May your year be filled with a class full of kids that love to learn, happily wait their turn, speak kind words instead of those that burn, and appreciate that their teacher is worth far more than she will ever earn! : )


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Mighty Morning Glories vs Ready to Give Up Roses

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Let’s do the one word response…Rose-? Did you say thorn? Since I just got stuck with one that was my response. Roses are beautiful but they do pack a punch! This being the first cool day we’ve had in a coon’s age, I decided to check to see if the morning glories were surviving (weeds had almost choked them out earlier). Not only were they surviving they were thriving way beyond the boundary of their trellis. The beautiful creepers were choking the life out of the rosebushes!
This made me think of those students that have a few thorns… whenever anyone tries to help…someone gets poked. Why? Do they feel like they are getting choked out by the mainstream because they are different? I had a student like that this year. He made a porcupine seem cuddly. The more the class tried to help him, the bristlier he became. After my battle this morning with the morning glories, I’m pondering what was going on in the mind of my little rebel. Did he fear losing his identity? Did he just not know how to act? Did he want to stand out? Or was he just being himself, bristles and all?
This is one of the many reason why teachers should teach WIDELY! Getting out of our comfort zones to teach reading, writing, and math in many different ways while we sprinkle in science and social studies along the way. Integrating all the subjects will ignite students and help them gain success in life by showing them how everything is connected. Their interests will be sparked and much will be gained by all! Believe it or not my little rebel loved writing reports on anything from presidents to pandas! He also loved writing his own math problems and sharing them with the class. Did he lose his thorns? Let’s stay in the real world. Did he poke less, oh yes! Isn’t that what we are all about…growing each student and yours truly into the best me I can be!