Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Learning through Music and Movement

I love this picture.  Like, really LOVE this picture.  


Because I was able to capture a moment where our learning was not based upon a scripted lesson from a textbook but rather in an active and engaging whole brain method.

Something magical has happened as we've danced to  Blends are Letter Friends created by kindergarten teacher, Kathy Griffin.

At first, the class was just following the dance moves.  Dancing, listening and having fun.  Eventually, they learned the words to the song. That is when the "aha moments" began. Students transferred their new learning into the academic setting. They began to see blends in their reading, our shared writing, and in their names.  Suddenly, blends were everywhere.

Over the years, I have found that if I can incorporate learning through music and movement, my students are more apt to learn the concept at a faster rate and can retain the information for a longer period of time. I have also learned that it doesn't feel much like learning.  It feels like play and fun. And, we all know that our classrooms need that.

Here is a list of some of my favorite resources that use music and movement.

How do you think students learn best?  Do you have any other resources that I should try in my classroom?

Saturday, April 18, 2015

Self Portraits Made Easy

I love how children draw themselves.  Each is as unique as they are.  I like to have my students draw self portraits several times during the year.  It is amazing to see their growth and development.

Recently, I shared my students' self portraits on Instagram.  Several teachers wanted to know more about them.

I have a little secret that helps keep these self portraits large rather than small.  I give them a starting point by drawing a u-like shape on their paper. This makes a huge different in getting a good sized portrait.

We complete all our drawings in pencil first; no erasing.  Depending on the time of year,  I may model and coach them on how to draw different features.  For the one displayed above, I gave them the paper and they completed them independently.

Students trace with marker before coloring. I try to emphasize that they should press hard as they color to get a bold look.

Here is what our self portraits looked like at the beginning of the year.

I think these are the perfect anytime of the year.  

Happy Teaching!

Monday, April 13, 2015

Books that #CelebrateDiversity

I am honored to be able to spotlight Maria Dismondy's latest book, Chocolate Milk, Por Favor!

Maria is well known for writing books which #CelebrateDiversity.  As a former classroom teacher turned award-wining author, Maria creates books that make a difference by empowering children with courage and confidence.

Chocolate Milk, Por Favor! is no different.  In fact, it may be my favorite!  In this book, Gabe is a newcomer and learns to navigate through school despite his lack of English skills. Johnny, his classmate, doesn't understand why Gabe is getting all the attention. Learn how chocolate milk plays a role in Johnny's discovery that actions speak louder than words.

One unique feature of the this book are the Teacher Tips.  Personally, Your Name is Important reminded me of an experience that happened in our family. As a child, my sister had her name changed by the school. Yes, the school! When my parents enrolled us, they told them that her name was to hard to pronounce so that they could call her this instead.  Unbeknownst to them, my parents agreed.  It stuck and to this day, it is the name my sister uses.  Today, we would think of this as unacceptable but it does happen, in subtle ways; usually in our attempts to use the English version of one's name.

As a minority teacher and a teacher of minority students, I feel it is important to read books which have characters that not only look like us but share the message of acceptance and understanding.  I must admit that finding these types of books can be a challenge. Thankfully, there are authors like Maria Dismondy who strive to celebrate inclusion.

I am delighted to add Chocolate Milk, Por Favor! to my collection of Books that #CelebrateDiversity.  I hope that you, too, will add this book to your collection.  Maria Dismondy has graciously offered a signed copy of her book, Chocolate Milk, Por Favor!, to readers of this blog.  All you have to do is leave a comment. Perhaps, share how you celebrate diversity in the classroom or make a book recommendation.  I will select a person to receive this book on Friday, April 17th.

In the meantime, enjoy listening to Maria read, Chocolate Milk, Por Favor!.

Happy Teaching!

UPDATE: Comment number 1 was selected as the winner of Maria's book.

Thursday, April 2, 2015

Document Student Learning with #SeesawEdu

As a teacher, I like to collect samples of student learning.  A portfolio, in my opinion, is the best way to document student learning. Using portfolios allows me to keep samples of student learning at a moment in time but also over time.  I use them to help with grading, share with parents at conferences and to help me revise my instruction.

But, what if you could do this digitally?

Recently, I discovered an app that allows you to gather and collect student learning digitally.

Seesaw is a FREE app that can be used via your smartphone or iPad.  After watching this quick video, I was ready to create my class, add names and get started.

It is very user friendly. In fact, I began using it immediately in my classroom.  I taught my kindergarten students how to take a photo of their work using the iPad and record themselves.

Here is a sample of a child's work.  (Please excuse all the background noise.  We are busy learning.) 

Students and teachers are not limited to only taking photos and recording.  I think that Seesaw has combined some of my favorite apps features into one. You can take a video, draw and add notes. You are also able to use videos and images from any other app which has generated a photo or video onto your camera roll.


One of the features of this app is that you can communicate directly with parents.  Parents are give a unique link to their child's work via the Parent Access app.  I am currently testing this with one parent to see how it works for our classroom and school dynamics.

I also like that you can assess this app from any mobile device.  This means that I can view my students' work from anywhere and anytime.  This is very convenient.

I am so happy that I stumbled upon this app during my Twitter chat with my #TeacherFriends.  It  really is worth trying and experimenting with in your classroom.

Happy Teaching!

Thursday, March 12, 2015

New Osmo Game - Masterpiece

Kids Tech Device Osmo Launches Masterpiece


Using Osmo's reflective technology, Masterpiece will guide you as you draw line by line to recreate a photo or images of your choosing.  All you'll need is the Osmo device,  and Masterpiece app.

Watch this video to see how it works.

I love how you can combine images to create a unique drawing.   What's best is that this app is free for Osmo users.

Masterpiece has been created for people of all ages.  You are only limited by your own creativity.  I can't wait to take this into my classroom and see what my students create.

To learn more about using Osmo in your classroom, read my previous blog post.  

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Worksheets Don't Grow Dendrites: Strategy 4 Games

As a kindergarten teacher, I am lucky to say that my students love games.  We love to play while we learn.  As well as, learn while we play.

In our classroom, we play variations of the same game like this CVC game.  Usually, I introduce it whole group and then it becomes a center activity.  My students never seem to tire of these games.

I thought that this chapter really did a great job as to why games are so important.  I think that games are not just for little kids. Older children can benefit from games, too.  I think that sometimes that is just forgotten.

Here are a few takeaways from this chapter.

I think the thing that I would like to try is cross grade partnerships.  I would like to partner with one class and encourage them to come and play with us at recess or even during part of our center time.  I think that this would help as to develop as Glasser stated a sense of "belonging and love."

Thank you, Queen of the First Grade Jungle for hosting. 

Let's keep playing!