January 27, 2019

Mommy's Khimar

We are in a period where it is critical that we expose our students to people who may look and live differently than themselves.  I found that the best way to do this is through literature.  I think that the basal has a place in the curriculum and that would be as a supplement (smile). 

Why not use a good picture book that can cover character education and diversity along with the reading strategies you teach?  

I was so excited to find the picture book Mommy’s Khimar written by Jamilah

 Thompkins-Bigelow and illustrated by Ebony Glenn!  It’s about a young 

Muslim girl who loves her mother’s khimar.  She’s full of imagination!  We have 

discussed the character traits Creativity and Appreciation of Beauty with this


Students walked around the grounds to write or draw
what they thought was beautiful.

We also learned about Ibtihaj Muhammad who was the first woman to compete in the Olympics wearing a hijab.  Many of my students had never heard of the sport fencing and thought it was extremely fascinating.  We read a biography about Ibithaj and the students wrote four facts in their reading journal about her.  They were able to put the little reader inside their personal libraries to read at a later date. 

I think most kids at this age love to draw and color!  They look forward to the directed drawing with each picture book we complete.  I usually have them write what they thought the theme was in the story or a summary.  It’s great practice for writing our response to literature pieces. 

I taught possessive nouns previously, but we needed a refresher.  We did a few activities where they had to identify the possessive noun and use an apostrophe to create a possessive.  They also wrote sentences with possessive nouns.

I LOVE teaching from a diverse picture book!  I can cover a variety of standards when I plan the lesson!  
You can check out the full unit here!

Happy teaching and dive deeper with diverse books!

December 11, 2018

Escape Santa's Workshop

If you’re anything like me, you’re always trying to find new ways to teach the same thing!  That’s what we do, right? 

We did a Halloween themed escape room activity and the kids loved it!  I decided I would give it a try and create my own. 

I knew I had to include a couple of problem solving and teamwork activities as well.  Cooperation is one of our focus character traits we are working on this year.   

The students made elf hats the day before.  They had no idea why they were making them,  but there weren't any complaints.  I told them it was a surprise!.

I really wanted to incorporate what we were working on in the classroom and what topics needed review.  Many of my students are still confusing nouns, verbs, adjectives, and adverbs.  I included the first three, but left adverbs for another day.  That has really been a beast to teach.

I have been teaching addition and subtraction math strategies and I wanted to see how they would do with regrouping.  I did differentiate the math for certain students.  I did not want the challenges to create so much frustration that the teams wanted to give up.

The last component was reading comprehension.  Students had to read a passage and then answer questions about the story. 

I think the prep time would have been shorter but I wanted to laminate ALL THE THINGS.  I  did want to make sure it could be reused next year.  I’m big on organizing supplies and materials for lessons and this was no different.  Everything had its place! 

 I initially wanted to go with groups of two but later decided on groups of three.  This helped with prepping materials as well as extra thinking power with the groups.  I didn’t let the children create groups, I made them myself.  This way I could make sure all the teams had a variety of ability levels included. 

They had to answer a clue  to advance on to a challenge.  Everyone in the team needed to agree on the answer and write it down on their own recording sheet.  They also came to me, the Head Elf, to get their answers checked.  One of my 2nd grade team members had the teams vote on one leader who would come up for the group.  I think I may do that next year.  If the answers were incorrect, they had to try again.  I did give clues to groups that I thought were struggling. 

The pyramid challenge (#3) was exciting!  It was funny watching the students attempt to make this pyramid without touching the cups.  They really worked together!  

The gift wrapping with one arm challenge (#5) was just as exciting!  The students figured out quickly that if they didn’t work together, the package was not going to get wrapped. 

It was fun for everyone!  I enjoyed watching them work together and laugh at their mistakes. 

You can find Escape Santa’s Workshop here.

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays!!

September 4, 2018

5 Tips For Back to School

It’s that time of year again! For many teachers around the country, school has already started or is on the verge of starting. There is so much to prepare for back to school. It’s likely that you’re already feeling overwhelmed and under prepared for the new school year. If you feel that way, don’t worry! You definitely aren’t along. However, there are some simple back to school tips that can help you enter into the new school year confidently. Here are four:

Start Fresh
It’s important to start fresh for the new school year. When you think “back to school,” you should automatically think about starting fresh. It’s the beginning of a new season, new school year, and meeting new students. There are several practical ways to start fresh. First, you should buy a new planner. A new school year means new school supplies! Clear out all of your old lessons, reorganize your classroom supplies, and remember that every class is different and deserves a fresh approach.

Connect with other teachers
Having a strong support system at school is crucial for the new school year, In fact, it might be the most helpful back to school tip I have! Connect with other teachers in any way that you can. Follow them on social media, participate in school committees, strike up a conversation when you see them running around campus preparing for the new year...everything helps! When you have other teachers in your corner, it makes the back to school season exciting and much less scary.

Procedures and Routines
Classroom procedures and routines need to be drilled into students’ heads at the beginning of the school year so they stick for the rest of the year. Prioritize spending significant time in the first few weeks teaching (and reminding!) your students about your classroom procedures and routines. Every teacher is different and the sooner they get used to how you run your classroom, the faster they will adjust. Remember that the back to school season is overwhelming for them too! Routine and structure can help alleviate the fear of the unknown.

Make it fun
Make the first few weeks back to school fun! Yes, the whole year should be fun, but the first few weeks are the most crucial. This is the time when you are just getting to know your students and they are just getting to know you! You are likely a bit anxious about teaching a whole new class and the students are undoubtedly feeling the same way about having a new and unfamiliar teacher. So make the back to school season fun and exciting! Put in the extra effort to create engaging lessons that your students will love.

The last back to school tip is to relax. It’s no secret that preparing for the new school year is stressful and time-consuming. However, you need to get enough rest so that you can show up on the first day refreshed and ready to go. Don’t worry too much about the small back to school details. Instead, find a new and exciting routine that works for you- and stick to it.

Hopefully these tips can help you start your school year off with a bang! Whether you feel underprepared or ready to meet your new class, these tips can help you stay positive and feel supported throughout the year. While these tips are designed for the back to school season, they can help you at any point in the school year. Never underestimate the power of a few simple back to school tips!  

Happy Teaching!  

July 1, 2018


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The summer slide is real folks!  The Georgia Department of Education states that there is a significant reading loss that occurs for most children when they are not in a formal learning environment or not engaged in any form of educational activities during the summer. Students can have up to a 2-3 month loss in reading ability over summer and lower-income students may suffer most due to lack of books in the home and transportation access to public libraries. Rural area students also lack easy access.

When kids are out for the summer they tend to avoid anything related to reading!  We fill out End of the Year slips that document their reading and math levels.  We all know how it feels when we walk back into the classroom and our students are not where they left off.  It’s a great idea to offer fun educational activities throughout the summer that are FREE.

We know that most parents aren’t trained literacy experts and most kids aren’t interested in sitting through structured summer classes!  It ’s important for us to encourage parents to do the best they can to help their kids keep practicing the strategies they learned during the school year.

Partnering of schools and public libraries has great promise for solving the summer reading loss dilemma.  Most public libraries will send a representative out to schools to discuss the summer reading program to get the students excited about summer reading. 

Create a reading plan with a theme.  There are a few Read Around the World summer challenges’ going on this year.  Have students pick a book that showcases a different culture or continent.  Check out the blog_____.  She has set up a Facebook page and the reading structure is set up by regions.  You can offer a small token to students who complete the challenge and return the log the next school year. 

Have students read a pre-determined book and create a craft that correlates with the book.  Students could read the book Me on the Map then create their own map of their summer travels around the world, country, or neighborhood. 

Give students the opportunity to create their own stories.  You can collect them in the fall and have the students read to your current class.  You can send home premade books created from handwriting paper with a construction paper cover.  The Target dollar spot had pre-made books once upon a time.  However, you know you have to purchase items in the Dollar Spot when you see them because they tend to sell out quickly without being reordered. 

It's hard to keep up a reading routine in a season packed with distractions and diversions. These suggestions will fit into a families’ busy schedule and make reading fun!  

What did you prepare for your students in order to combat the summer slide?

February 1, 2018

Books for Black History Month and All Year Long!

I know for some teachers it’s hard to discuss slavery with students no matter what age range they’re in.  However, it is necessary. We can’t just leave something out of history because it’s difficult to discuss.   Slavery had and still has an impact on us as a country.  It starts in the elementary grades with false or fake history.  We can tend to oversimplify it and our students carry this misinformation throughout their K-12 education.  Teaching slavery in the younger grades can be done.  Like most subjects, it can be built on and layered each year of their education. 

Our standards for Social Studies cover historical people like Thomas Jefferson, Abraham Lincoln, and Benjamin Franklin.  I have introduced slavery and how Africans were enslaved as part of those units.  There are a few books I like to use as well as some primary sources.  The following titles are a great resource to use in the classroom. 

This book is very poet and is based on Harriet's 'spiritual' journey.  She believed that God told her to free the enslaved Africans.  

A story of how quilts were used as maps for the Underground Railroad.

Dave was an artist, poet, and potter living in South Carolina in the 1800s.

A historical book describes Christmas on a pre-Civil War plantation from the viewpoints of the big house family and the slave quarters.
I like to use a couple of books about each topic when I teach.  I usually have the main or mentor text then I have another book that may complement the main text. 

Ruby Bridges was not part of the first grade Social Studies standards until this year however, I have always taught the history of Ruby because of her age when she integrated Frantz Elementary school.  That history is extremely relatable to my students.  Ruby Bridges is my main text but I like to include Busing Brewster and Separate is Never Equal.

I wish more books were made similar to Dear Mrs. Parks: A Dialogue With Today's Youth.  

My students have so many questions when they learn about African-American heroes who are still alive.  I love the structure of the book in that the actual questions/letters are included.  Biographies and autobiographies are great but I believe this format is awesome! 

No matter who you teach your students about this year, start with a good picture book!  You can Google book lists or check out Pinterest.  I happen to love the blogger 
She gives updated book lists on a variety of topics as it relates to diversity and children. Charnaie has an excellent post on having the discussion about race with your youngest students.  Click the link above to read more. 

Sweetpeagirls offers a subscription box with curated items of books and keepsakes for girls of color.  She also has an IG page with book reviews and information about new releases.  

Teaching Tolerance has a webinar that you can view along with great lessons and resources that relate to teaching hard history.  They have multiple lessons for  K-12  students.
It’s difficult to explain our history but we are charged to help students understand how the present relates to the past.

December 31, 2017

HAPPY 2018!

Nothing like a new year to sit back and revisit the things you accomplished or still need to accomplish.  I like flipping through my journal and reading the moments that I captured on paper.  The entries make me laugh out loud as well as reach for my box of tissues.  Going back and reflecting on the past year gives me hope for things to come.   I know research says that most resolutions won’t be maintained for any length of time, but that doesn’t stop me from trying! 

As I look back at my list of resolutions or goals for the year, I actually accomplished quite a few.   Everything was something that I needed to maintain every New Year.  I think it’s more about creating habits or replacing bad habits until it’s a way of life.  Creating a mindset should be the main goal then everything else falls under that. 
So let’s see…I completed the Daniel Fast.  I’m actually going to do that again this year.  I believe it’s a wonderful jump start to detoxing the body and tuning in to the Lord’s voice. 
I didn’t read a book a month.  I think the original challenge was a book a week.  That was totally unrealistic for me but I couldn’t pull off one a month either.  The majority of my leisure reading was during the summer.  I did read a total of four books this year.  

I did take on a new attitude that I’m happy to say has become a way of thinking.  I count it all joy!  Even when things look dark and dreary, I’m learning that there is a lesson to be learned.  It doesn’t mean that I don’t feel sad or disappointed but my response is that I realize that there is a bigger picture and like always, this too shall pass. 

I fell short of the goal of pampering myself this year.  That’s definitely going back on the list! I would like to take advantage of the time off and travel more.  I did, however, invest in myself.  Some would argue that investing in one’s self is more important.  I think we need balance in all we do.   I went to a teacher conference.  I also took some self-paced courses online, read blogs and watched videos on how to edit and create digital products.  I created a budget and increased my savings while paying off debt.  I have already made plans to attend more conferences this spring and summer. 

I did write down the things that I accomplished each day.  I would make a To-Do list but then found myself doing things that were not originally on the list.  It felt good to write it in and then check it off!  I know that sounds silly, but it brought me joy!
All in all, I did pretty well with my “resolutions”.  At least that’s what I’m telling myself.  I have a brand new journal ready to capture the moments and ideas of 2018. 

What resolutions did you keep throughout the year?