Sunday, October 23, 2016

Activating Prior Knowledge

Activating prior knowledge is an essential strategy that should be used in all subjects, at all grade levels. This past week in PLCs was ELL Thursday Thoughts ,we discussed the importance of background knowledge for not only ELL students, but all students.

When we tap into a student's prior knowledge, and make connections to their life experiences, it enables them to deepen their understanding, which in turn creates independent readers. A large percentage of our students do not have the life experiences to relate to, so we must provide them with academically enriched experiences to enhance their background knowledge. Field trips and mentoring programs would be ideal ways to enrich background schema. However, with today's shrinking resources it is mainly left up to the individual classroom teachers. We can build background knowledge through videos, read alouds, sharing our own adventures, and research projects.

I shared a few ways to activate student's prior knowledge: 

  • Using an old favorite, the KWL chart but adding an H: KWHL. What do you KNOW , What do you WANT to know, HOW will you find out more, What did you LEARN
  • Surprise Book activity: Choose a book that relates to the topic you will be introducing, cover the front and back with paper so the students can not see anything on the covers. Give them little hints about what they will be studying, each time tearing a small piece of the paper off until someone guesses what the topic will be. 
  • Smartboard activity: Post a picture related to the new topic, cover it with your shade, uncover a small portion of the picture each time you give a clue until someone guesses the topic

Each PLC group shared wonderful ways to activate students background knowledge too: 

  • Before introducing the topic ask the students three questions relating to the topic to tap into their knowledge
  • Read aloud a realistic fiction to introduce the topic 
  • Conversation
  • Relate the topic to the teachers life experiences
  • Journey writing
  • Using Brainpop to introduce a new topic 
  • Brainstorm
Tapping into a student's background knowledge, or building a student's background knowledge,  is a key component in the reading process. What strategies are you using this week to set your student's up for success? 

Mrs. Hime 

Sunday, October 9, 2016

It's a Balancing Act: Curriculum vs. Personalized Learning

This week's #EdSlowChat question is currently a "hot" topic in education... How do you balance "covering Curriculum" with "personalized learning"? 

I am no longer in the classroom, but I still remember the struggle to meet each student where they were and take them where they didn't know they could go. Before school began each year I printed the state standards for my grade level. I examined them and placed them in a three brad folder. Then I laid out the curriculum that my district had purchased for me to teach.  I began to "map" my year, looking back to my standards to clarify what the state said I should be teaching. If a standard or skill wasn't in my folder to be taught, and it wasn't foundational for another lesson I would "paperclip" it for a later date. As the year began, and I introduced a standard/skill I went back to my folder and highlighted the standard/skill taught with the date. 

The  most sacred teaching time for me was at my "flex table". That is the time of the day that I personalized the learning for students. I had three or four groups of four to six students at my table for 20 minutes each day, these groups changed depending on the needs of the students. This was the time that I explicitly taught the standard/skill. The resources I used at the table were not always provided by the school. I sought resources that I felt would assist the students to gain the knowledge they needed.  

I believe teaching is a balancing act, making sure you reach each child on their level while teaching the curriculum  and being authentic to your teaching style. Everyday should be an exciting learning adventure for each student. It requires teachers to know what they they are teaching and to know who they are teaching. Plan, Plan, Plan...

Mrs. Hime

Sunday, October 2, 2016

Creating a Positive Atmosphere in Your Classroom

Fostering a positive atmosphere in the classroom is one of the most important things an educator can do. It not only leads to happy students, teachers, and parents but it also helps in building relationships. When you have a positive vibe, and strong relationships, the "Sky's the Limit". 

As a  classroom teacher I would arrive in the gym (where our students gather in the mornings) at least ten minutes before the welcome began. I loved greeting my students, discussing their night, gathering notes etc., it sat the tone for our day together. Now that my roll has changed I think it is  still important to greet the students each morning, but on a larger scale. So, I arrive in the gym at least 25 minutes before the welcome so that I can say hello to each class and stop by the students that I feel need a quick hello or hug to start their day. I love the fact that our principal does this too, I think it sets the tone for the entire campus. 

After the morning welcome I walked with my class to our classroom, held the door open for them, said another quick hello or reminders as to what to do when they entered the room. Each Monday morning they would find a personal note on their desk from me. It might be as simple as, "Last week was awesome, let's make this one amazing" or "Hope you have a week as fabulous as you are".  I don't have a "classroom" anymore so I try to have a pen and sticky notes with me at all times so that if I see work hanging in the hall I can write a quick note to the student and stick it to their work. During our Dot Day celebrations there were so many things on the hall walls that I decided to write one word on the notes, all synonyms for awesome! 

I have also found that communicating positives with parents helps with our classroom vibe too! Phone calls, notes, blogs, SeeSaw, twitter, Facebook class accounts are a few ways to have positive communication with school families and build relationships at the same time. 

During the day there are many opportunites to say an encouraging word and listen to the needs of our students. I have always tried to treat each student as if they were my own, this worked well for me. 
I can honestly say that I didn't have many discipline issues when  the atmosphere in the classroom was a positive, uplifting one. Everyone wanted to be there and couldn't wait to see what exciting learning adventure we would embark upon each day! 

Attitude is a choice, choose a positive one! 
Mrs. Hime 

Sunday, September 25, 2016

Professional Development

Professional Development has changed throughout the years. Gone are the days that we have to sit in a room with our colleagues to watch videos, or listen to a guest speaker discuss blood borne pathogens. Thank goodness! 

The #EdSlowChat question last week was "How has professional learning/development changed in relation to your role as an educator"? When I sat down to reflect on this question I was amazed at how my PD & learning has changed over the years. 

Social media has enabled me to have an online PLN (Professional Learning Network) which has broadened my contacts. Twitter has been huge for me in this area, I have specific hashtags and people that I follow and chats in which I participate. Facebook also has groups that has been a huge help. If I am seeking information on a particular subject I can "google it" and many resources become available, which includes online courses or webinars. I have attended Edcamps in several states, making connections  and receiving the latest updates in technology, innovation, and creation  have been crucial to my growth as an educator. 

One of the biggest Professional Development opportunities is right under our noses, the educators that we work with day in and day out! We each have something to offer, it's just having the time to share with each other. A few of the ways our campus is able to connect, share, learn & grow is allowing teachers time through Wireless Wednesdays, Lunch & Learns, and a new "Pineapple Chart". 

21st Century Professional Development should be "Out of the Box", it isn't one size fits all anymore! 

Mrs. Hime 

Sunday, September 18, 2016

Academic Vocabulary

Academic Vocabulary is important in all subjects and all grade levels, and to all students. Last week my ELL Thursday Thoughts during PLCs were on the importance of having common vocabulary across grade levels. It not only benefits the ELL students, but ALL students. 

Can you imagine being an immigrant student, or having been in the United States for a few years and hearing several different terms for essentially the same thing. An example might be:
(5 take away 4 is 1)  then the next year you learn (5 minus 4 equals 1), or maybe it is the same year just in different classes (pullouts, specials etc.). I know to some this seems minor, but when you are just learning a new language, or you are a slow learner, it becomes jumbled in your brain. We need to teach the correct terms so that the struggling student can learn it correctly the first time. It is ok when explaining a new term to use words that the student can relate to in order to build upon their background knowledge, however we need to quickly introduce the proper vocabulary.  

Having a place to keep academic vocabulary words so that a student can refer back to them is important. A few ideas are using the Marzano Method (write, define, illustrate) in a notebook, or have an ongoing Interactive Notebook. Interactive Word Walls are also important in a classroom, you may have two or three going at a time

Revisiting Academic Vocabulary in a center or even a whole class game, after explicitly teaching them, is a wonderful way to review. Using SeeSaw to define or illustrate a word would be a way that parents can see the words the students are learning, or using the Tellagami app to build a character then define a word from the Academic Word Wall.  Playing Bingo or Password would be two whole class ways to review. 

Students learn by doing, hands on activities will make academic words concrete. Expanding our student's vocabulary should be one of our top priorities, let's make sure it is the correct vocabulary. 

Mrs. Hime

Sunday, September 11, 2016

Teaching on 9/11/01

During conversations about the attack on the World Trade Centers (Twin Towers) and the Pentagon, I am always asked "Where were you on 9/11/01?".  My answer is always the same, I was teaching at a small K-8 school in Idabel, Oklahoma...

The morning began the same as any other  in our third grade classroom, with excitement to see what amazing learning adventure we would take on that day. Shortly into the third hour of the day the principal came to our classroom door and asked to see me in the hallway. I remember walking out my door and seeing  every other teacher that worked in my hallway, standing with curious looks on their faces. I couldn't imagine why Mr. Austin wanted to take us out of our classrooms...  As he  began explaining the tragedy that had happened in New York City, we were speechless, a second grade colleague of mine became emotional. As we gathered around her she explained her daughter was in New York City, it would be several hours until she knew her daughter was unharmed.

Mr. Austin directed us to remain calm, carry on as normally as possible, and not to discuss any of the day's events with our students. Fifteen years ago I didn't have technology in my classroom, no ipads, laptops, or smart phones. I don't remember what time of the day my students went to specials (Music or PE) however I do remember sitting at a small rectangle table that was our classroom listening center.  It had a boombox that had a cassette player and a radio. I sat at the center while my students were out of the classroom and listened to the news. I still remember the feeling as I was finally able to hear the details as they were coming into the news station.  

I also recall  the end of the school day. We had a quick faculty meeting to discuss how we would proceed the following day. When the meeting was over no one stayed around to chit chat,  the parking lot emptied quickly. We all wanted to to be with our families, recount our day, and watch the news.  

Six years later I traveled to New York City with my daughter, Erika, and my sister Shawna. As we stood on the observation deck overlooking the massive hole where the Twin Towers had once stood, I thought back to that day in my classroom, how I was very sad and nervous on the inside, but how I was an actor that day for my students. They were so innocent and didn't have a clue how their  lives would be forever changed. 

One of the heroic stories that came out of the 9/11 tragedy was that of Todd Beamer. His words "Let's Roll" became a popular phrase, I read the book and wore the shirt.  I have thought about his widow and children each year on the anniversary of his fateful flight. As an educator I hope that I can be an example and role model for my students, as Todd was for our country. 

May God Bless America, 
Mrs. Hime 

Monday, September 5, 2016

Digital Citizenship

What was I thinking, volunteering to do Digital Citizenship with  twenty-three second through fourth grade classrooms, well this is what I was thinking...

Our school district has made a huge technology movement over the past five years. With that movement came many awesome technology tools that has enriched our district. But, it has also left, as do so many things, more on the classroom teacher's plate. 

Each year our classroom teachers have to find thirty minutes at the beginning of the school year to squeeze in Digital Citizenship. This year I volunteered to do the lesson with each classroom and take them on a tour of the Makerspace. This was actually selfish on my part, I would get to be around the students, we could meet each other up close and personal, while giving the teachers a little time to breathe. 

So, five days later I am through! During the week approximately five hundred students met me at different times in the Explanation Station. Each group watched a slideshow and two videos, shared and discussed what they learned, then toured the Makerspace. It turned out exactly as I had wanted it to, I was able to meet each new student and get reacquainted with others. 

Life is good, I love my job! 
Mrs. Hime