Sunday, January 28, 2018

Just One More Minute, Pleeeaaase!

Principal pondering...
Talk about some intense fun!
This weekend, we spent time as a family at Great Wolf Lodge.  I have to admit, at first, I was upset with my husband when he told me he booked this stay-cation.  It seemed like an expensive option and one that wasn't really necessary.  Yes, it was expensive, but now I realize it was definitely necessary.  We checked out of technology and checked into quality time together.  We swam, danced, laughed, played, and spent time together.  When we arrived home this evening, we were all tired, but when we looked back over the pictures and videos we took to capture some of the special moments, we certainly had fun reliving those moments.

No matter what activity we were doing, Emerson would say the same thing as we tried to finish up or go do something different.  "Just one more minute mommy, pleeeaase!"  And of course she would get several more minutes to play mini golf.  Or she would beg for one more time on the water slide, and you would end up sneaking in about five more trips down the slide.  Today, she went all day without a nap, and managed to stay awake for a full day of water park fun, arcade time, an indoor little kids rope course, mini golf, and even a mommy and me pedicure.  It was no surprise that as soon as we pulled away from the lodge, she promptly fell fast asleep for the quick 30 minute drive home.

It could be because I am a little waterlogged, but I can't help but make a connection between Emerson's begging for one more minute and our students.  What if during math class or at the end of writer's workshop, our students were begging for just one more minute, pleeeeaase?!  Great Wolf Lodge has figured out how to keep everyone engaged and begging for more.  So how do we do that in school?  How do we recreate that enthusiasm and engagement in our classrooms?  What if everywhere our students looked, their eyes were wide, eager to jump into every activity or assignment?  How do we get kids to want to read one more page or create scenarios where students are pleading to solve one more math problem?  I think it's possible; we just need to share our out-of-the-box ideas with each other, we need to push each other to create classroom environments, lessons and learning experiences that keep kids wanting and begging for more.
Love this graphic that I found from a few years ago.  Some good questions to consider and help us create our own version of Great Wolf Lodge at school...

One way to create that feeling is to continue to make learning fun.  When our students are playing games and having fun, I have heard them beg teachers to give them more time.  So how about a chance to do that all day?  Global School Play Day is coming up in another week.  Let's have another day of learning through play on February 7th!
I am glad that my husband planned this stay-cation weekend.  I definitely needed to hit the pause button.  In fact, just last week I wrote about my ongoing mental dilemma I struggle with everyday as a working mom.  Read that post here.  Don't forget to take time to hit the pause button every once in a while in your life too!

Currently reading:
I just finished listening to The Gift of Failure during my commute.  We have a few more book club chats coming up, but I couldn't stop listening to it!  I am looking forward to running a book club for parents with this book.  As soon as I finished listening to that book, I started a new book on Audible.  This is a book that I have a paperback copy of but just have not ever been able to read.  I started listening to Stephen King's memoir, called On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft.  Love that he writes about writing!  I have only just started it, but already enjoy hearing about stories from his childhood.

Events this week:
Will we actually have a normal, full week this week?!
Wednesday - Grade 2 chorus practice @ 2:20
Friday - Elementary only half day, 12:15 dismissal, no lunch served

Great things I noticed last week:

  • I just love starting my day with a 3rd grade WIN group!  Especially one that is focused on reading perseverance, setting reading goals and recording book buzzes! 
  • These K students were practicing some counting strategies while solving some real world math problems...will they have enough napkins and plates for a party? 
  • These K students are learning about capacity using rice and different containers. 
  • MakerSpace is an exciting place to be!  These 4th graders were eager to teach each other how to use different weaving methods. 
  • What a great concert led by Mr. Wiesner!  Way to go 4th graders! 

Check it out:
Here's a post that a principal friend of mine wrote, definitely want to learn more about the "genius day" that they are planning:

Did anyone see the cover of the latest Heinemann catalog?!  Recognize that amazing K teacher?

Monday, January 22, 2018

Have You Tried Discussion Mapping?

Principal ponderings...

This weekend, I was reading about writer's workshop, in particular, I was reading about the use of the "Author's Chair."  One point from my reading that stuck with me was the thought that as you are having students share their writing in the author's chair, we can be using different methods to document what is shared and reflect on what the students are actually teaching us during that time.  When students share their writing, the purpose should not be just to share their writing.  We can use that time as another way to assess the writer and the student audience members.  In the book, When Writers Drive the Workshop, I like that the author, Brian Kissel, shared one way that he documents the important discussions happening during share time.  He included a picture called an audience response map.  Here's the picture included in the book:

When I came across this visual and read over the section that talked about documenting student responses this way, it made me think of a great session I attended at a conference back in the fall.  The session was about focusing on speaking and listening before doing science lessons.  The presenters had people pose as students and sit in a circle.  While the "teacher" led a conversation about the science topic, someone else drew a circle on a paper and recorded the conversation and questions that happened around the circle by drawing arrows from person to person on the diagram and noting some of the comments and questions.

I don't think I have seen anyone at school using this method of trying out a version of an audience response map.  If you have tried this out, let me know.  I would love to discuss this further.  If you have not done something like this before, I encourage you to figure out a time when you could observe the conversation going on in your class and create your own audience response map.  Maybe when you have everyone sitting around the edge of the rug and they are responding to the student who just shared a piece of writing.  Or maybe your class is at the rug discussing how they solved a particular math problem.  Make a map of where everyone is sitting and take a few minutes to listen to the conversations happening.  Use lines and arrows to show the various connections between students.  It will be great information to just see who is speaking, who is responding, etc.  You will also want to record some quick notes about what is being shared.  Who is applying what you have taught them?  Who clearly has not internalized the concepts?

If you are looking for a new way to informally assess your students and encourage more student-led conversations, try doing some discussion mapping.  Or if you want help doing this, let me know, and I'll come be your recorder for you!

Currently reading:
While shopping at Target this weekend, I discovered a great picture book!  It's called Words and Your Heart.  I know last week my post was about the power of our words.  Well this book is all about the power of our words!  I love the description from the publisher: "A universal message, for a world that always needs a little more kindness."  Feel free to borrow this book from me!

Events this week:
Tuesday - Grade 4 chorus rehearsal @ 10:45
Wednesday - Tyngsborough teachers visiting FloRo to see co-teaching classrooms, Grade 4 school concert @ 1:30
Thursday - Grade 4 evening chorus concert @ 7:00 in the PAC
Friday - Melissa and Liz at SLT @ 8:30-11:00

Great things I noticed last week:

  • 1st graders were working together with Mrs. Gribi to practice making 10 with 8. 
  • I had fun helping more 1st graders choose their #oneword2018! 
  • Mrs. Potter and Ms. Schumaker's class were listening closely to the story Kizzy Ann Stamps; I loved hearing them talk about their thoughts on the different characters in this historical fiction book. 
  • These 3rd graders were proud to come show me their animal research and writing that they had completed.  I learned some new facts about elephants and walruses! 
Check it out:
Check out the latest video post from Jessica Lahey, the author of The Gift of Failure:

Monday, January 15, 2018

Love and Hate are Just Words...and Words are Powerful

Principal ponderings...
We remember Martin Luther King, Jr.  We remember his words.  We remember his dream.  It has been 55 years since Dr. King gave his 'I have a dream' speech.  So much has changed since 1963.  And yet, so much is still the same.

Martin Luther King knew there was power in words.  He knew that he needed to write down the words in his head and share those words with others.  Words are powerful.  More powerful than anything.  Words, like hate, can bring us down and words, like love, can lift us up.  Since so much has changed and so much is sadly still the same, it is crucial that we are teaching our children about the power of their words.  We need today's children, who are tomorrow's adults, to write down the words in their heads and share those words with others.  Just like Dr. King did.  We need to remind them of the "fierce urgency of now" just as King did in his speech.

As King said, "Again and again we must rise to the majestic heights of meeting physical force with soul force."  Soul force.  I choose to believe that Dr. King was speaking of the power of our words when he was talking about "soul force."  And how lucky are we educators who are able to work with the most beautiful souls...children.  We need to ignite the fire; we need to make sure that our students recognize their soul force, the power in their voices, their words.

I choose to not watch the news.  But even without watching the news, I still hear about and read about how hate seems to be spreading throughout our country...even possibly seeping out of our nation's capital.  Maybe I am naive.  Maybe I am still hopelessly optimistic.  But I choose to watch the events and happenings that unfold in our school and other schools across the nation.  I listen to students who still see the good in people.  I hear kids talk about how they will make the world a better place.  Dr. King had a dream about mankind.  Although I have the reality of today which is not too much different from 55 years ago, I do have faith in our kids.  They have a lot to say.  And their words are powerful.

Here's a great clip I came across where students imagined what a Dr. King campaign speech might be like today:

And my new favorite weekend activity is listening to several of these NPR clips that contain Kwame Alexander interviews.  In this short seven minute clip, Kwame and another amazing poet, Nikki Giovanni, talk about the importance of using language to protest.  They especially focus on protesting through poetry by sharing some powerful poems.  Whether it's poetry, persuasive writing, writing important, informational pieces, or writing narratives, we need children to embrace the power of their words.  We need them to understand that what they say is important, that they have so much to share with the world, and it starts with putting letters together to make words, and then words together to make sentences, and then sentences together to make a difference.
Yes, let's remember Dr. Martin Luther King.  Let's remember his words.  But let's also keep focusing on the little humans in front of us each day.  Let's make sure we are encouraging them to share their words.  We need their "soul force" to be heard loud and clear.  We need more word warriors.

How will you empower your word warriors today and the next day and the next?

Currently reading:
Although it's a tough read, I am glad I recently picked up a book I had started at the beginning of the school year.  I have not been able to put The Hate U Give down.  While it's not a book I recommend for elementary aged students, it is a book that people need to read.  It is current.  It is raw.  The author forces us to read about and not look away from racism and police brutality which is unfortunately a part of our world today.
Mrs. Wallace and I covered 3rd grade last week so they could plan their WIN block activities.  We had fun doing one word brainstorming and creating with the 3rd graders.  Of course the books I ordered to go along with our plans, did not arrive until the afternoon.  However, this picture book is still the perfect read aloud to go along with the idea of words being powerful and choosing one word to guide you throughout the year.  We have been going into 1st grade classrooms, and the students have enjoyed hearing My Special Word read to them.

Events this week:
Monday- MLK Day, No school
Wednesday- SST Meeting @ 8:00, grade 4 chorus practice @ 2:20, Staff meeting @ 3:30
Friday- District-wide half day, 12:15 dismissal, multi-part series and committee meetings

Great things I noticed last week:
  • 1st graders enjoyed trying out the new light table that the PTA bought! 
  • Students in Mrs. Nissi's class were discussing perpendicular and parallel lines. 

  • Students in Mrs. Potter and Ms. Schumaker's class were diving into work with all sorts of angles. 
  • Mrs. Devereaux's 1st graders were moving and grooving to some GoNoodle before they got started with reading and writing. 

  • Be sure and check out the bulletin board in the lobby.  We have been filling it with #oneword2018, words that students have selected to guide them this year. 

Check it out:
Here's the story of Martin Luther King, Jr as told by Kid President:

Sunday, January 7, 2018

When It Rains (through your ceiling), It Pours

Principal ponderings...
So I was working on some different kinds of posts, but then something happened to change my plans.  What happened?  Well, it started my kitchen...through the light fixture in the ceiling.  Actually it wasn't really like it was raining.  It was more like it was pouring, dumping a ton of water right in the middle of my kitchen.  This episode came after a day of dealing with a frozen pipe.  Yep, it was a fun weekend.  I said my one word was moment.  I definitely had a few moments...just not exactly the ones I was thinking of when I chose that word.

So I will save some of the other posts that I have begun to write, and I will share those at a later date.  Instead, for this week I am going to include some positive quotes and images...selfishly...I need some motivation to shift my mindset and "look on the bright side."

Here's a start at thinking positively...I have never really liked the light fixture in my kitchen, so now I can get a brand new one...along with a new ceiling!

If you or your students need some help looking on the bright side this week...these images and quotes are for you:

Currently reading:
I started listening to a new book on Audible this past week.  It's called Braving the Wilderness: The Quest for True Belonging and the Courage to Stand Alone.  The author is Brene' Brown.  I have heard a lot about her and her writing and have been wanting to read her books for a while.  She is a research professor and has spent many years studying courage, vulnerability, shame and empathy.
I am also working on finishing a book so I can write a review of it for Principal Magazine.  It's called When Writer's Drive the Workshop: Honoring Young Voices and Bold Choices.  I'll let you know what I think of it!  
Emerson got some Elephant and Piggie books for her birthday, along with the stuffed animal characters.  We enjoyed reading There is a Bird on Your Head! the other night. 

Events this week:
Tuesday - School Council Meeting @ 8:00, Dr. Chesson visits FloRo from 9:30-11:30
Wednesday - Grade 4 chorus @ 2:20
Friday - Melissa and Liz at SLT meeting from 8:30-11:00

Great things I noticed last week:
We were only in school for two days last week but I did manage to get into most rooms to welcome students and staff back from the holiday break!

  • It was exciting to see our new water bottle fountain that was installed over the break.  Thank you to the PTA for purchasing this!  Very cool that we can keep track of how many plastic bottles we are saving. 
  • I thought it was a new student because this 2nd grader had a major haircut.  Turns out he had donated his hair.  And his big smile told me he was super proud of what he had done.  Way to to go! 
  • Clearly the temps outside have been a little frigid!  But Mrs. Miln and her students know how to stay warm and toasty in their classroom.  
Check it out:
Some great suggestions for embracing social emotional learning:
This weather graphic is one that I definitely loved finding...

Monday, January 1, 2018

Moment #oneword2018

Principal pondering...

It's the start of 2018, and that means it's also time for a new #oneword2018!  You may remember that I have written about the #oneword movement before here and here.  Last year, my word, create, came to me during vacation week.  The same thing seemed to happen this year.  I had been reading other people's posts about the words they were selecting, and I had been making a mental note in my head about possible guiding words for me.  At the same time, I have been listening to an amazing book on Audible - The Power of Moments: Why Certain Experiences Have Extraordinary Impact.  I have also been participating in a virtual book talk with teachers and school leaders from across the country who are also reading the book.  I loved this book so much that as soon as I finished listening to it, I promptly ran out to the book store and bought a copy of it so I could reread and highlight so of my favorite parts...and there are lots of favorite parts!

This past week, it became very clear what my #oneword2018 needed to be: MOMENT.  This will be the word to guide me throughout the year.  And now I will use the word moment to explain how I hope to live up to this word in 2018.

M - Meaningful and memorable.  It's meaningful experiences that we remember.  I need to think about how I can create meaningful experiences for students, staff and parents throughout the year.  I also want to think about creating these meaningful experiences for my family, especially my daughter.  Our lives are made up of all kinds of moments.  I want to focus on the meaningful experiences, the moments that will not be forgotten.

O - Observe.  I need to make sure I take time to observe what is going on around me.  Not only do I want to create moments, but I want to observe the moments happening around me.  Don't want to miss anything!  I need to be in the moment.

M - Make it happen! I have the ability to make moments happen, and I need to take every chance I get to create moments.  Here's a direct quote from The Power of Moments book: "Moments matter.  And what an opportunity we miss when we leave them to chance!  Teachers can inspire, caregivers can comfort, service workers can delight, politicians can unite, and managers can motivate.  All it takes is a little bit of insight and forethought."

E - Emotional.  When I am thinking about creating "defining moments," I need to make sure that emotion is part of the mix.  As the book says, these moments look like "a burst of magic--thoughtful, playful, emotional."  What do I hope to do throughout the year?  I want to "defy the forgettable flatness of everyday work and life by creating a few precious moments."

N - Notice.  I hope to notice when and where defining moments are needed, both at school and at home.  I want notice when to create moments.  I want to make moments happen.  What will our students remember about this year?  What will my daughter remember about this year?  I have the ability to create those memorable moments.

T - Time.  I need to take time to live in the moment.  Be in the moment. Enjoy the moment.  Celebrate the moments that will stick with us.  I need to remember to step away from social media and technology to focus on the moments happening in front of me.  I need to take time to step away from work and be in the moment with my family.  So glad I started doing this over the past holiday break!

I am excited about what will happen in 2018.  I am eager to start making moments.  I can't wait to be in the moment and build momentum throughout the year!  What moments will I create this year, and what moments will I look back on and remember at the end of the year?

I encourage all of you to think of one word that will guide you this year.  What will your #oneword2018 be?

Currently reading:
On the first day of my vacation, I learned that my amazing Aunt Jo Ann had suddenly passed away, cancer quickly stole her from us. It seemed timely that I had decided to read the book Ms. Bixby’s Last Day. As I spent the last few hours of 2017 quietly on my couch, and started 2018 finishing the last chapters, one of the final paragraphs stuck with me...
“The truth is—the whole truth is—that it’s not the last day that matters most. It’s the ones in between, the ones you get the chance to look back on. They’re the carnation days. They may not stand out the most at first, but they stay with you the longest.”
And now, on my last day of vacation, I am grateful that I took time this week to create some carnation days, some days that I will someday look back on. While I am sad about the loss of my aunt, I am grateful for so many special moments with family.  I was unable to fly out to Wisconsin for the service this past week, but I did write some words for my father to read.  I referenced this book and how the teacher in the book was labeled as "one of the good ones" which I felt described my aunt as well.  The teacher in the book shares many affirmations about life, and one of them stood out for me and will be how I choose to remember my aunt: "To be yourself in a world that is constantly trying to make you something else is the greatest accomplishment."  This book was a tough, but timely read for me this week.  Love that it was about three, quirky, awkward 6th grade boys who truly love their teacher.

Events this week:
Monday - Happy New Year! Hope everyone enjoyed the first day of 2018!
Tuesday - Welcome back!
Wednesday - Grade 4 chorus practice @ 2:30, Staff Meeting - Dr. Novak will be presenting, 4th graders doing the pledge @ School Committee Meeting, 7:00 pm
Friday - Elementary half day, 12:15 dismissal

Great things I noticed last week:

  • Kindergarteners were on the hunt for the gingerbread baby!  They found some clues in the office...crumbs to be exact! 

  • Scooter City in gym class was a huge hit!  Students had a chance to check out several different "places" in the city and even do some shopping.  Ms. Kinneen--we love your creativity! 

  • I think the "lettuce" celebrate the holidays was a great day!  Loved all of the salad options to help balance out the holiday sweets. 

1st graders were talking...and dancing...about how to say goodbye.  Sadly, we had to say goodbye to our guidance intern, Amy. 
  • Our last day before the break was a little crazy with the weather and an early release.  But at least we were able to have fun in our jammies and celebrate a play day! 

Check it out:
I have posted this video clip before, but here is Jon Gordon talking about the concept of one word: 
For those staff members that read this whole blog post, and then decide on their one word and email me what it is or send me a picture of you with your just might get a surprise!