Five for Friday 11-27-15


Wow. It's been quite literally two months since I blogged. I decided for this post to highlight some of the decorations and classroom management strategies I've been using in my classroom. And to catch you up on my latest running adventures! 


First off, I want to introduce you to Mr. Smiley. Mr. Smiley is my teacher's assistant. And yes, Mr. Smiley is an emoji ball! With his tongue sticking out...
My kiddos this year are very chatty...and no matter how many 1,2,3 Eyes on Me; rhythmic clapping; If you hear my voice... tricks I tried they would not stop talking! (Clarify here that it wasn't ALL my classes, only about 1/3 of them). Talking about the importance of being respectful to others by listening worked for about...three minutes. After a while even my teacher look didn't help with certain students!
So in the beginning of November I was cleaning for the first time in about two months (cleaning at home...I'm surprisingly neat and organized at school) and I came across Mr. Smiley. I think I bought him as a joke gift for my sister? Anywho...into my teacher bag he went. 

Can I just tell you how crazy it is how having a solid representation of an abstract concept helps?? (And yes, not talking while others talk is abstract to six year olds!)

All I said to introduce Mr. Smiley was "This is our new friend Mr. Smiley. Here's how Mr. Smiley works. If you're holding Mr. Smiley, you can talk. If you're not holding Mr. Smiley it means your job is to listen and not talk or make noises." I have been saying this since September just minus the Mr. Smiley part!

Here's what happened:
1. They respected the job of Mr. Smiley. They would wait for it to be passed to them. It was also very concrete. You're not holding Mr. Smiley in your hands? Then it's time to listen because that means someone else is!
2. Participation went up - they all wanted to hold Mr. Smiley obviously! I knew that there were students before who had ideas and wonders, but weren't sharing them. This helped so much! 
3. Ms. K throws Mr. Smiley...you can throw Mr. Smiley...Uh how cool is being allowed to throw and catch a ball in a computer lab?
4. I started having the students pass Mr. Smiley on to the next person to share. They were now responsible for finding someone who was raising their hand, sitting criss cross, and waiting patiently. I loved having the students interact this way, because it makes it less the Ms. K Show and more the Students Show the Way Show - the students are becoming more aware of how they should look and peers are reinforcing, not just me. 

Another concrete example I have in my classroom is my clean up sign that has pictures next to each step. It's not just me saying clean up and listing the steps...the sign reminds everyone of the steps.

Another new concrete reminder I have is my pink cowboy hat. 

Wait...how in the world is a HAT a concrete reminder?

Let's back up.

I had my first formal observation in October and during my post-observation conference one of the topics that came up was: how do I make sure I get to ALL students to provide feedback?

You know those students who follow you around the classroom asking for help and asking clarifying questions? I like to think those students are advocating for themselves. They know they need help and they are going right to the person who they KNOW will help them and have the answer to their question. 

Sounds great...except I always feel like I am very reactionary and never have a strategy in place for making sure, yes, the students who advocate for themselves get the help they need, but also that they 
find other strategies for getting help.  I also was not able to help those students who were not advocating for themselves (or maybe not advocating as loudly as others). Or maybe they didn't even know they needed help!

That's when my evaluator said something genius! 

She told me a story about how a teacher she knew would wear a hat, and when she was wearing the hat, the students couldn't go up to her. She would use the hat during conferencing and it was a signal to the students that she would be coming to them, but don't come up to her.



Hence I went on Amazon and bought a pink, sparkly, sequined cowboy hat, with a princess crown on the front. It's the hat to end all hats.

And then I introduced The Rule of the Pink Hat: I come to you, you don't come to me.

That's it. Well...kind of. We also talked about what to do if they needed help: figure it out yourself, ask a friend next to you, look around the room for a clue, then if you're still stuck raise your hand. And when it was okay to break The Rule of the Pink Hat: if they were bleeding or nauseous or if it was a Very Serious Emergency.

I still had students who would come up to me and ask for help. When this happened I would ask the student I was currently helping "Hey, do you remember The Rule of the Pink Hat?" and then they would tell me. The student who was out of their seat would hear the other student say the rule and go back to their seat. It was super important I didn't break my own rule when wearing the hat. Otherwise students would think the rule wasn't really something I took seriously and maybe I just liked wearing pink cowboy hats.


Like last year, second graders put on a parade inspired by the Macy's Day parade. Below are the supplies we collected from awesome parents and volunteers. 


Here are students building the floats. I loved seeing the students working together and communicating to create awesome finished products. 

And here is one of the finished floats (I think it was Storybook themed) before it got attached to wheels.








As a teacher of inquiry, I always felt super guilty throwing away all the great wonders my students brainstormed together on our anchor charts. I decided instead to create a wonder wall. Instead of throwing away the stickies after each class, I can stick them up here. It's also a great solution for those students who haven't found an answer by the end of class: it's okay! We'll put it on the wonder wall and keep researching! And maybe another student will see your wonder and be an expert, or be able to help you find the answer! The wonders up there now are ones we brainstormed about Internet safety. 



I finally created my choice board for my early finishers! So excited! 

I was starting to have students who finished early come up to me and say "I'm done! Now what?" Then I would have to through the step by step process of checking and then deciding on the spot what they should do next: what was a logical extension? Did I want it to be related to what they just did? Or could I just have them go to any website like BrainPop? Sounds simple, but this would cause stress every class. One day I had to leave early and a student popped her head out the door as I walking down the hall and called "Wait! What if I finish early?" That crystallized my need to create something students could reference as well as guidelines for what it meant to be done early.

On the top under the heading is the criteria for being done: did you answer every question and complete each section? Could you add more detail? Could you move on to the next part? If they have completed each section, added details, and they can't move on to the next section, they choose one of the options attached to the choice board. I made multiple options and right now, I'm just going to have three up there at a time so it's enough to make a choice, but it's not overwhelming.

I've introduced it to some of my classes and I love how they are becoming more independent evaluating their work.




 I DID IT!! November 1st I ran the NYC Marathon. My goal was to run in 4:00 or under but I ended up finishing in 4:07. It was a 20 minute PR over my marathon last year and it was my second marathon but I was pretty bummed! If you ever run NY my advice is to do it for the experience, not for time. It was truly a great experience, from taking the train into the city on Halloween night, to walking through the city at 1 in the morning, to managing to sleep for a few hours to wake up to catch the bus to Staten Island, where we got to wait with our many layers (see above) for a couple hours before our wave got to run across the Verrazano Bridge (you can see it in the background in the picture above!)

I also got to debut my Oiselle Singlet (shout out to Oiselle's cow bell corner at mile 18!!). I run as part of Oiselle Volee (basically an awesome running group for regular runners like me!). 

The last four miles were ROUGH. The whole race was crowded but it was still crowded all the way to the end and I crashed at about mile 21. Yes I bonked. Hit the wall. Crashed. I was on pace for under 4 hours until then. 
Love the look on my face above (woah. Huh. Is really the finish line?? Did I really make it?) and below (oh. My. Lord. Thank you. I made it. This kind photographer is attempting to take my picture and I keep CRYING...okay hold it together...smile...).

I had a bit of a hard time the weeks after the race but it helped to focus training for a 5K coming up in January. Which is why I chose to do speed work Tuesday morning when it was 25 degrees...it's all about that dedication! (Yes, I am one of those crazy runner people.)

Happy Friday and enjoy your long weekend!!




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