Monday, June 26, 2017

Teacher Book Talk Tuesday– Play and Centers

It's time for Teacher Book Talk Tuesday!

It's Monday.

Am I coming to the party early this time?

Nope. Today my book talk ties in with Monday Motivation, the link-up by Teacher by the Beach. Today's topic is Managing Centers. Let's go!

Purposeful Play
by Kristine Mraz, Alison Porcelli, and Cheryl Tyler

Today I'm going to talk about why I LOVE this book– Purposeful Play


I hear you say, Kathleen, you are confused. You said you are doing a teacher talk about purposeful play, and yet the topic is also CENTERS. Whaaat are you doin'??

Stay with me here. The two do go together. 

Purposeful Play is written by Kristine Mraz, Alison Porcelli, and Cheryl Tyler. In addition to the title of the book drawing me in, two of the authors were a hook for me. Kristine Mraz is half of the duo who brought you Smarter Charts K-2. She and Marjorie Martinelli wrote this TERRIFIC book about the importance of anchor charts which included wonderful ideas for making them. I was always a chart person, but this book made me think in new ways. It even helped me draw people, a useful skill I didn't know I had or needed. If you don't know about Smarter Charts, make sure you check it out later, along with the two other books Kristi coauthored. 

And Alison and I go way back... though she probably doesn't know that. snort. I became a follower when she lead the kindergarten sessions at Teachers College Reading and Writing Project, Summer Writing Institute many years ago. She REALLY knew her stuff– not just her writing stuff, but her kindergarten stuff. It was wonderful learning from a master teacher who was ingrained in Lucy Calkins Unit of Study for Writing AND knew kindergartners' developmental needs and what that means for the kindergarten writing classroom. Now, in teaming up with Kristi and Cheryl, that knowledge is shared with us again, this time by discussing how play is crucial to learning, all learning. 

When I got this book last summer I poured over it. I carried it around with me even as school started up again in the fall. Much of it is what I already believed– I didn't need to be convinced that play was important– but there was more. The research behind play and the results that happen when it is carefully and purposefully incorporated into the school day was so well laid out. Data from longitudinal studies and brain science was shared clearly. Great tips for structuring play, teaching into play, and making the most of play filled the pages of this book and I believe every Pre-K, kindergarten, and first grade teacher MUST read it. 

Let me forewarn you in case you think play is just nice fluff. Or it is only for preschool. Or it is easy. Play is not.

Imagine! A kindergarten teacher laying on the couch eating bonbons... hahahaha

Kristi, Alison and Cheryl point out the four types of play kids need and why– rough and tumble play, fantasy play, construction play, and games with rules. They describe how using a workshop structure at play times, including a mini-lesson and share time, works to teach many things– learning how to use tools and materials, learning about sharing, collaboration and negotiation, problem solving and planning– all skills that will help kids be "college ready" and successful in life. They talk about infusing play and joy across the day in both small and big ways– by letting student interests inform teaching; creating playful charts, tools and props to support both class and individual goals; and using inquiry as a method of teaching. Some of these ideas you can use immediately in your day. 

They also talk about how play can help children build a growth mindset... we've all heard a lot about that! This is real nitty-gritty stuff, people. The stuff great teaching is made of. And I am not going to lie, there are some ah-ha moments and quick tips that can be used tomorrow, but most of it takes real thought and work to do. For me it is a journey. I am reading the book again, and making notes to myself on new things I'm going to put into place this coming year.

Ah, now you say, Kathleen, play is all fine and good, but our district has rigorous standards and highly structured schedules for kindergarten. We have benchmarks, and teach to the Common Core State Standards. We simply can't fit play in, and we'll be in trouble if we do. 

What a sad state of affairs when teachers who were taught the developmental needs of children in order to become teachers are put in this situation, where we feel we cannot do what is right, where we get in trouble for doing so. I say, this is the book for you! You need this information about play in order to be able to articulate what you do and why. And you need the practical suggestions for implementation. You also need the time you have this summer to creatively think about how to incorporate play into the parameters in which you teach– maybe in small ways, maybe in large. But do know, there are ways, and the most highly effective among us will find ways to persist until it works for our admin, ourselves, and most importantly, our students. 

Play works for me. It does. I have been through changes in administrators, changes in curriculum, changes in classrooms and grades. I usually have classes of more than twenty students, with one third to one half of them as English Language learners. Over the years my school has shifted to a Title One status. But I have always incorporated play. And I don't mean a mere ten minutes of play, either. I mean a chunk of meaningful time and meaningful choices. Play is not the only teaching strategy I use, but it is a vital strategy for TEACHING children, and ninety percent of my kiddos meet the district and state objectives. Play helps me see each student as a whole child, not just a child who I do guided reading with here, writing workshop with there, and guided math with now. When you teach the whole child, you can't help but see results.

Without even having to read the book, you can begin to think and plan for more play. How? You can download the free sample and listen to the webinar on the Heinemann site. Yes, it's free. The trio's words will convince you more than I ever can. Click on the Purposeful Play book cover up above to go. Once there, click on "Full Description" then "Samples" and you'll find a chapter of the book and the webinar that Kristi, Alison, and Cheryl did. There are also "Related Blog Posts" listed that will help you learn and grow. I really cannot recommend the book highly enough. I believe you will find it worth every cent you pay for it and every minute you spend reading and rereading it, for once you get a taste, you'll want to know it all.

Whew! Now, I said centers were going to come into this post. Although Purposeful Play does advocate for large portions of play in the day, I say, a little is better than none. If you truly feel right now that you cannot put free choice in your school day, then here is a way to use the center structure you already have in place. 

No matter how you organize your centers, whether you have four, eight, or twenty in a week, some of those centers can be for play. Most kindergarten teachers believe that hands-on activities are best for young students and incorporate manipulatives, games, and various fun worksheets into center work. Good. But we all know that in those independent centers there are some kiddos, hopefully only a small group, that cannot do the task. Some of them get good at watching their classmates for clues on what to do at the center and this is not all bad. Children do learn by watching others and it is a valuable coping skill throughout life... even if we don't realize that is what children are learning at centers. The best teachers amongst us know that the objectives of each center and the practice we intend are not always reached. We might get the time we need for doing our guided reading this way, but the "work" at the independent centers is not happening. 

So I say, make sure at least some of that center time is spent in play. Think of ways to incorporate choice as you can. Even if the center is only in one area with one set of materials– be it the dramatic play area, blocks, loose parts, small world, the fine muscle/sensory table, etc– make sure there is choice within that center and the "task" is open ended. Concepts like counting, sorting, patterning, measuring, spatial awareness, physics, cause and effect, problem solving, social awareness, leadership skills, and social studies learning like sharing, collaborating, planning, using empathy, and MORE will be learned through the PLAY.  

I know of teachers who have been very creative in incorporating play into center time. Some make one center a day a free choice center. I know of one who does eight centers in a week, and two or four are free choice centers.

Some have put two centers "together" to allow for greater uninterrupted time in their free play centers. Half the class does free choice, while the other half of the class takes a rotation at both task centers. Then each half of the class flip flops from free choice to task centers. 

I know of a teacher who simply makes her free choice time the entire time she pulls students for guided reading– she found kids happier and less likely to need her help during guided reading when they were playing then when they were doing structured centers. This same teacher found another block in the day for "centers" when she would teach a literacy or math center, and she found she was more available to help those that needed help at the other centers this way, too. 

Remember to teach into the play time with a mini-lesson before you start. Allowing for free play during centers does not give you the time for the observation that helps you make free choice most valuable, as outlined in Purposeful Play. You can get some idea of what went on if you have a share time afterwards and I encourage you to plan for this. My ideas for incorporating play into center time do not come from Purposeful Play per se, but I suggest them for teachers who say they can't do free play at all. It might be a first step at seeing the power of play in action, and realizing that students who love it so much are indeed doing powerful learning because, indeed, humans are wired to learn through play.  

Reading Purposeful Play will help teachers choose play, give many ideas for putting play in the day, teaching into play, and getting the most out of play opportunities. Kristi, Alison, and Cheryl believe that "play is one type of environment where children can be rigorous in their learning." That when children play "they are able to achieve things at the farthest edge of their zone of proximal development (Vygotsky, 1978)" Also, "play allows multiple opportunities and modes to reach various (Common Core) standards." Giving your children time in free choice is not just fluff, but providing the best opportunity for learning that you can, especially when you incorporate the philosophy of play and implementation steps that are found in Purposeful Play. I truly encourage you to give play in your classroom some thought with the help of the wise words from this author trio. 

Now click on back to Monday Motivation with the button below. You'll find some great center organization tips. Thanks to Jen for the link-up. I look forward to checking out teachers' word walls next week. 

Pin it to remember! 

And thanks for stopping by today. Bloggers grab this button and link-up your book review posts– remember they can be for kids books, teacher books, like I did this time, or books for your own sweet pleasure... I'll be doing that next time. Gosh what would we do without books... the internet will never replace them! 

See you next time. Remember I'll be sharing info, pics, and a tour of my classroom featuring storage, alternative seating, and brain compatible elements later in July. Hope you'll follow so you won't miss it.

Pin to remember!

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

The Book Nook

Oh, happy Wednesday. I am happy because I found a new linky hosted by Teacher by the Beach, and it's called Monday Motivation.... err... I guess I am a bit late to the party this time. But I do have some book ideas to share for this week's topic of Classroom Library Organization and Tips.

Any discussion of a classroom library needs to start IN my classroom library, or Book Nook as we call it.

Yep, that is our Book Nook. I'm sorry this photo is a bit blurry. I am doing a whole series on classroom design this summer, and this photo was taken from the video. If you like what you see in this post, be sure to stop back in July for the full video and discussion. Here you see the couch a bit more, peeking out from behind the book buddy basket there on the left.

Ummm.... THERE it is.

The couch is only one of several seating options in the book nook. There is a rocking chair, a wicker chair, a tuffet or footstool, Bilibos, which are a kind of rocking seat, a small set of steps, and the window seat. Then if you were to swing around to the right of this picture you would see our fireplace.

I LOVE our fireplace... built and installed by the DH, of course. I tell you it is a very fun spot to hang out in. And in the winter when the snow is coming down, you swear our little LED twinkle lights are giving out warmth.

The blocks on the mantle say three different messages through the year– We all have stories.

This launches our year with storytelling, both of traditional tales and our own stories. Remember reading starts with the oral piece first and kids need to hear language and use language. Then comes– We live in books.

Because we really are a book-loving bunch and all those little stuffies on the mantle are characters who really do live in books... heehee. Then in the last third of the year I have to change it to– We love to read– because by this time in the year we are reading.

Those three messages can be made from two sets of classic alphabet blocks, by the way. Be on the lookout as Target's Dollar Spot starts getting in the back to school stuff. That is where I found them last year for cheap.

The other great thing about the Book Nook in addition to the fireplace, couch, comfy seating and collection of books, is the window. Here it is in the glorious fall.

But it is even more fun to sit up and look out.

And reading is always popular during free choice time when they could choose anything.

Our Book Nook really sets the stage and gives a daily focus on pleasure reading... even to the Littles who aren't reading yet. The kids really love to be in there and I build in multiple times in the day when they can go in to both work and play.

So what about the book organization part of this post. I am a big believer of all sorts of collections. Collections from which I teach, collections that the kids can choose from, collections that give focus to our current studies. I mean lots and lots of collections. Here is the list of book collections in my classroom.

Factual books
Puzzle books
ABC/Word books
Author study collections
Animal books
Math books
Science books
Social studies collection
Nursery Rhymes
Fairy Tales
Poetry books
Fae collection
Art books
Wordless books
Spanish books
KLP books (Kindergarten Literature Program)
Rainbow books (leveled)
Book Baggies (leveled)
Big books

Yep. A lot of books. New teachers don't despair. It takes a long time to build up your classroom library, but needless to say, I think it is a very valuable part of teaching. 

Do we get all these books out at once? Noooo. Are we using several collections at once? Yesss. They all have their own specific purpose in helping kids become immersed in literature so we are using different groups of books all the time. If you came into my classroom would you "notice" all these books? Nope, probably not. They certainly don't all fit in the Book Nook! I am a big believer in keeping the visuals of the classroom as clean as possible... a big dilemma for a teacher who has been teaching a long time, has a lot of stuff, and has a small classroom. Most of my books I keep in bins and that is so they can be stashed under, over, and behind... well, everything. Even my couch is on sliders so I can get to the shelves behind it. 

As I said earlier I am doing a series of posts on classroom organization. So if you are interested in keeping not only books, but lots of materials organized and accessible, and keeping an eye toward the elements that make an attractive, brain compatible, and comfortable classroom– color, lighting, alternative seating, creative storage, making spaces do multi-duty... stop by in the coming weeks. It will all be right here... look for my NEW classroom design button. Thanks, Jonathan!

Hopefully taking a look at my Book Nook gave you some ideas on setting up your comfy reading area. And hopefully I'll see you again soon when I talk further about how I store and use my book collections. Here is the list of topics for Jen R's Monday Motivation yet to come.  

Look for some more Monday posts from me, and check out By the Beach each Monday to see what others are posting. You can click that pic up there to go right to the linky now and find more book tips. Big thanks to Jen for hosting the linky! And thanks for stopping by today! Don't forget to Pin the ideas you liked... what would I do without my Pinterest! 

Monday, June 19, 2017

Teacher Book Talk Tuesday– Farts, Butts, and Dads

Today I post to two linkups– Teacher Book Talk Tuesday AND Forever in 5th Grade's Show & Tell Tuesday.

I hope you are in a lighthearted mood because I am... in case you couldn't tell from today's title. Maybe this has something to do with it.

All wrapped up... or should I say covered up

Although my last day was Friday, I spent some time Saturday, Sunday, and Monday sorting and packing, covering and shoving everything into one half of the room so they could clean and wax the linoleum floor which is usually covered by carpeting. sigh. But at least it is done now.

And this poor teacher husband helped.

Yes, that's him there in the middle. He was SUPPOSED to be putting the Bilibos away, and instead I hear a strange sound and this big-headed, helmeted creature was bumping around in the book nook area. sigh. again.

But it was Father's Day after all... yes. How bad am I?? My DH was in the classroom on Sunday. He had a rather poopoo Father's Day, but we did go to the movies afterwards, where his super dad fantasy came to life.

I love photo prop movie promos

See that shirt? It came from our eldest, and it was a perfect Father's Day gift for her to give him. She would call him to come all the way to Seattle to kill a spider if she could. And he would go if it wasn't so expensive.  How did I find such a lovely, goofy, accommodating man, always so tolerant of his arachnophobic daughters (yes, both of them) and his workaholic wife. Here's to all the classroom helper, spider killing men in our lives! May we remember to appreciate them every day and not just Father's Day.

Here's what my students took home for Father's Day this year.

What are those?? Well, they are dads in beds. And inside the cute decorated paper bag beds was a muffin so each child could serve their dad breakfast in bed on Father's Day. We made muffins on the last Thursday before school was out, going into the teachers' lounge right after the morning bell– I was afraid we'd be scolded for heating up the lounge with the oven as it was a hot day. But there is AC in the lounge, one of the few rooms in the building with it, and it wasn't too bad. We had morning meeting in there while we waited for the baking... and of course, we made a few for our own snack... Banana Chocolate Chip, if you please. A little baking to round out our last crazy week was just what we needed and the kidpeople loved it.

I got the idea from Dr. Jean. She includes a cute little poem, which I put on the tag along with directions to refrigerate or freeze until Sunday morning. Then the kids wrote I love you on the tag. I took two pieces of crumpled up scrap paper to help fill up the bag and make them more bedlike. You can read Dr. Jean's post if you click on the picture up above or Pin to your Pinterest board to remember for next year.

Now on to a book or two.

Jurassic Farts by P.U. Rippley and Evan Palmer

P. U. Rippley. snort. Okay, so this is not the typical book I read to the kinders. I found it last summer while on vacation and knew that I would be big hit with the kiddos. There is some factual info, with great pronunciation guides for saying dinosaur names, and some goofy info about dinosaur behavior and farts... but hey, as I tell the kids, every living thing needs to eat, every living thing needs to poop, and every living thing probably needs to fart. Scientists make a lot of educated guesses about dinos, so why not details of their farting, too.

And see those ten little red buttons on the book there? Well, those are fart sound effects, and some of them are very good. We were awarding them titles by the time we were done- the longest fart, the juiciest fart, the scariest fart, the most humanlike fart... you get the idea. Fun and giggles were part of this story session. When is there time to read fart books if not in the last week of school? We ARE supposed to cover all book genres, after all. I gave this book a four star rating, the kidpeople gave it a five.

Whose Butt? by Stan Tekiela

No animal unit is complete without this book. It contains the MOST interesting details about animals. And the book is set up to keep you guessing who each butt belongs to. 

I tell you sometimes it is tricky to know an animal by its butt. My kiddos are experts at it, even if we don't test them on it. And it certainly is a very engaging topic. No one is going to snooze through this book. Even my English language learners were highly participatory– lots of good animal vocabulary was gleaned. Better add this one to your wishlist... don't forget to check out sources for used books, too. I am all about having millions... well, thousands of books in the classroom, but I am sure not all about spending my millions.... hahahaha, thousands, on them.

And you thought I was joking that fart and butt book reviews would be in the series. snort.

Now don't forget to keep cruising by in the coming weeks. In addition to the Teacher Book Talk Tuesday Linky this summer, I am also going to post a series on classroom design complete with plenty of photos and a video. Just gonna take a few weeks to morph into summer mode now that school is finally out, and give myself some time for video editing. The posts will come out over the month of July.

Now click Stephanie's button for more Show and Tell links, and do scroll down and see if other bloggers have linked up some book talks. Bloggers, remember we are talking about kid books, teacher books, and books just for fun. Grab the book talk button and link on back here.

Thanks for stopping. Be sure to Pin books you want to pick up. And if you want to be sure not to miss a post this summer, click on the Bloglovin' Follow Button to the right over there and get notice of new posts in your email. Or there is an email option, too.

See you next time!

Friday, June 16, 2017

Funny Kid Friday

Happy Friday, for lots of reasons. It's a half day for me! It's the last day of school!! AND I have a funny kid story!!! I actually have lots of things to post about, but I am so darn pooped, I will just share this.

We have several quick rituals that we do each time someone has a birthday. The birthday kid wears the birthday cake top hat. We sing Happy Birthday, of course, spelling Y-O-U after we say you each time. The three beats fit in there nicely. There's even time to finger spell it with American Sign Language. We clap the number of years they are old. We give three hip-hip-hooray cheers, like in England. We "throw" the birthday kid up in the air the number of years they are old like they do in Israel... actually we don't, but I hold their waist as they jump that many times. And one chosen person gives the "lucky ear tug" like they do in Spain.

To tie in science we also talk about how the earth circles the sun once a year, so if you are five years old the earth has gone around the sun five times. I have a paper laminated sun that goes on the floor and the birthday child walks around the sun that many times.

Well, yesterday was a birthday. We went through the whole nine yards... heaven forbid you forget one single step of the routine. We got to the part where I put the sun on the floor and said,

Me: "Remember, each year the earth goes around the sun one time. You are six years old now, so that means if you have been on the earth the whole time, you have traveled around the sun six times. You haven't left the earth at all, have you, Liz?"

Expecting a no from her and a chuckle from a few of her classmates, I paused.

Liz: "Well... um... yeah, I have... I've been Up North."

Gotta LOVE this job!

Now you GOTTA come back here TUESDAY for Teacher Book Talk Tuesday linky party AND I'll be linking up with Show and Tell Tuesday, too. LOTS going on. See you then!

Happy, happy summer to you... and to ME, too!

Monday, June 12, 2017

Teacher Book Talk Tuesday for June 13

Hello Teachers and Book Lovers everywhere! Today is Teacher Book Talk Tuesday!

Teacher Book Talk Tuesday is a weekly post running through August 22. Each week you'll find favorite kid books, teacher books, and books just for pleasure and a bit of escape. This is a blogger linky, so join up and share your books, too! Here we go.

Master Pieces by Will Lach

This is a way cool book. I got it to teach the concept of portraits. The book is large and easy to see, and includes some of the most important portraits by the art masters.

A bonus is that you can have some fun with it. Each portrait is cut into thirds making it possible to turn sections of the page to mix up Mona Lisa with George Washington and Vincent Van Gogh. The pages are extra thick so they can withstand the handling.

Here is one possible progression:

You get the idea. The kids have great fun with it. And it is amusing to hear them talking about Mona Lisa as is they knew her. Hee.

And why do I want to teach the concept of portrait to five year olds, you ask? Well, in addition to exposing them to art masterpieces, it helps us with our self portraits.

This particular style of self portrait starts with a photo... well, half a photo... and as we create our other half with a bit of directed drawing, we truly learn the concept of symmetry. Those photos were from last year. Here are this year's. 

I just love our hallway display this year. Each year I define a space for each student and then change out their work or creations. Look for a tutorial on the photo bobblehead kid display coming up in a couple weeks. You might want to use the idea on your bulletin boards next year. They has been a hit with all who visit our hall.

But I digress... this is supposed to be book reviews!

Learning with Lego, 100+ Inspiring Ideas by Danielle Buckley, et al. 

I LOVE this teacher book! Talk about a source of hands-on, engaging cross-curricular activities... WOW! Some of those 100 ideas you will have heard about, but most of them will be new. It opened up new and easy ways to not only use Lego, but THINK about using Lego.

Like with water:

Or for math like this:

All of a sudden adding and subtracting with the number line becomes VERY popular.. snort! We're talking science, math, reading... all in this book. And even if you were to already know every idea inside... you don't... the book makes an easy way to remember and use them all... sort of like a Lego Pinterest page in your hand. Oh, and lots of the ideas work with the Duplo size legos, too... yes, I KNOW every kindergarten boy says they love Lego, and only LEGO, but sometimes, some days, the ease of the bigger size is better for that fine muscle development, which makes it even better for some kindergartners. Just sayin'.

As time goes on, more and more "curriculum stuff" is heaped into the kindergarten. I just want to scream STOP!!! But if hands-on learning can be a regular part of center work, with Lego no less, it makes it so much more appropriate. If you feel like play is getting harder and harder to work into the day, then I HIGHLY recommend this book to you. Gold mine, people, gold mine!

Well, for this number two post in the series you only get two books! You see this is the LAST week of school for me... you know all those teacher memes about no tired like end of year teacher tired? Well, I'm trying not to be those one of those meme teachers, even as I can relate. I want to give my all to my kiddos in our last week together, so that is why I sign off and head to bed.... BUT just. you. wait. until next week, when I'll be on summer vacay and as free as a bird to blog all I want. I'm lining up books along my window ledge to snap photos of before I pack up the classroom... including the fart and butt books I promised last week. Hee!

Oh, and while I have you here, if you are interested in classroom design, hidden storage, flexible seating, brain compatible learning spaces... well, you gotta stick around. This summer I'm doing a series... photo and video... with LOTS of ideas.

Thanks for stopping by and see you next time!

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