Teacher Tip #4

December is filled with gifts.

It’s the end of the semester, most likely. It’s the end of the calendar year. We are inching towards a long break.

With all of this in mind:

Figure out what to say and do about gifts–NOW.

Ideas for the classroom:

  • Create a center for card-making, picture-making, etc. Extol the merits of a handmade gift, after all there is nothing else in the world quite like it.
  • Be creative. We live in a materialistic world, and it can get extra materialistic around this time of year.
    • Gifts I “gave”: homework passes, extra recesses, no shoe hour, bring a stuffed animal to school day
    • Favorite responses when asked what I wanted:
      • in kindergarten: “Greatest gift in the world is knowing all your sight words.”
      • “I have everything I need.”
      • “A clean desk.”
      • “Tissues.” (or some other school supply for the classroom)

Advice for the rest of the school environment:

  • No one says you have to attend the party
  • No one says you have to contribute to a potluck, a gift card for administration, etc.
  • If you can afford it great, but if you can’t then do not feel you have to buy anything (treats, clothing for spirit days, decorations, etc.)

Gifts are beautiful. However, they are not expected–not from you, and not from your students. Just make a plan–figure out what you can say and do to be kind, gracious, and generous in your own way.

 

 

Monthly Advice–December

Sometimes less is more.

Sometimes inquiring about something unknown leads to a great discovery.

***

As you know, in the United States, the Christmas market is overwhelming.

Before you plan and execute two to three weeks worth of Christmas festivities, insert Christmas-themed worksheets, and read a Christmas-inspired novel each day, consider the following:

  • Not everyone celebrates Christmas. Although considered a Christian holiday, even some Christians do not celebrate Christmas.
  • Christmas celebrations vary wildly. Ethnicity, race, income, religion, are just a few meaningful and highly influential factors that determine any holiday celebration.
    • Is what you do, or include, reflective of your worldview, or many worldviews?
  • There are holidays all year long–why emphasize this one over all others?
    • If the same amount of time is not spent on other celebrations, what exactly gives this holiday added merit in the curriculum?
  • Is spending one lesson on Hanukkah and ten on Christmas really inclusive and meaningful, or does it merely provide a way to assuage guilt?
    • Someone once told me that they knew Christmas well, so that’s why there’s more of it in their classroom. If that’s your rationale, is there anyone to help you? Is there anyone to teach you, and your kids, about other traditions?

This is an ongoing discussion I have had for 11 years in my classroom, and with my coworkers.

I have always taught in public schools, which requires the separation of church and state. I understand that private schools and other forms of schooling may not need to consider religious-based questions in the same way I do.

However, the reflection aspect, thinking about why we do certain things in our classroom, even with the best intentions, is always beneficial.

This month, before you plan anything, I encourage to think critically and plan mindfully. More happens in December than we realize . . .

Mathematical Discussion Topics

Last week I discussed the importance of math-centered literature.. I realize my list of books is small. Since I’m still building my math library, I make it a point to “speak math.”

The opportunity to “speak math” is unlimited; therefore, in addition to books, when can I ask mathematical questions? When can I practice mathematics?

I plan purposefully for mathematical discourse. My questions, my plans, apply learning and make real-world connections.

I have made plans and written suggestions for my classroom and for my students’ families. I have even used some of my ideas with close family and friends. It can be fun and learning-filled, I promise!

The following are questions and ideas I have shared and used:

  • Cooking: thought process and calculations
    • How many cups?
    • How long will it bake?
    • What’s the temperature?
  • Shopping: price estimations and sales reductions
    • The price is $20.99, if it’s 50% off it’ll be about $11.
  • Driving: signs
    • The sign says 45 MPH, that means 45 miles per hour. How long, approximately, will it take to drive 20 miles?
  • Zoos, museums, and parks: number specifications
    • How much does the animal weigh? How much does the animal eat?
    • When was this painting made? How long ago was that?
    • The park costs $10 to enter, I gave them $20, how much change do I get back?

Math is everywhere. It sounds cliche, but it’s true. If we can remind ourselves, and show our kids, how often we apply math in our everyday life they will not only see its value but they will also see themselves as mathematicians–which is a most positive and beautiful way to see themselves.

Teacher Tip #3

The theme of my last “Things I never knew . . .” post was sickness. Why?

It’s November–cold and flu season is upon us.

This time of year, I cannot stress this enough: stockpile tissues and paper towels.

Got a 6-pack of tissues? That’s not enough, get more. Got a 12-pack of paper towels? That’s not enough, get more.

Go to Costco, go to Sam’s Club, go wherever there are large packs and good sales. Ask families for more of these items–even if you have a few on-hand. This stuff goes fast!

Cold and flu season is here. Kids will come with coughs, fevers, and runny noses. Your co-workers will have the same. You may be afflicted with illness. You never want to run out, so start asking, and start stockpiling, immediately.

Whatever you do, make sure to have lots of tissues and paper towels.

Monthly Advice–November

November is a short month.

In the United States, in November, we have Veterans’ Day, which sometimes turns into a 4-5 weekend. Then, we have the Thanksgiving Day holiday, which is increasingly turning into a whole week vacation. In addition to these days, there are staff development days, maybe furlough days, or perhaps you already have a 4-day work/school week.

So, in November, while we have 30 days in the month, we have very few actual instructional days. Therefore, my greatest advice is review. Before the semester ends, this is probably the best time for review and extension. Instead of trying to cram a new concept, especially a complex standard or new set of standards, insert review lessons and extensions.

As we know things are forgotten over a weekend, let alone a long weekend or a week-long vacation. So it makes sense, in a month filled with multiple gaps, to insert lots of review (and a little less new).

Suggestions:

  • Bring back a center–their favorite one.
  • Bring back a center–one that was “too hard,” and give it another chance.
  • Add another layer to learning–modify a previously completed experiment, add another component to an existing center, etc.
  • Create a make-up hour/day for students that have missed assignments or want to redo assignments.
  • Have students re-imagine, or reapply, an existing assignment to another text.
    • example: if a student was required to research the time period of a text that you assigned, this month have the student pick a different text/time period to practice those same research skills

This month: review and extend. Your students will benefit, and you will be providing them a much deserved opportunity for added success.

 

Gallery

One of my favorite things in the classroom is listening to a student read. Not for assessment, not to monitor them–just to listen and give them an opportunity to learn for learning’s sake.

Not every moment needs to be fast-paced, data-driven, or assessed. Take a short break from being in charge, or being in full teacher-mode, and just appreciate that reading is learning, that reading should be enjoyed, and that giving a student your undivided attention is beautiful.

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Monthly Advice–October

In September, hopefully, some time was taken to document and catalog initial impressions.

In October, it’s time for an added focus on grading and assessment data.

  • Go over your gradebook and make sure every child has grades in every subject.
  • Make sure your pile of grading is low, if not complete. If necessary, start making daily goals for grading.
  • Go over your roster and make sure every child has taken every diagnostic.

This may sound ridiculous but it’s a good reminder.

School has been in session for nearly two months, but the first couple of weeks are hectic. Then, some kids start late, some have already left, some have switched classes, and some have been absent. It’s easy to get lost in the shuffle. Not to mention piles of grading grow–faster than anything else.

So in October, make it a point to go through each subject and each student’s profile.

  • Create a schedule and stick to it.
  • Take notes on what’s missing.
  • Get to that pile of grading.
  • Start writing some report card comments.
  • Send home progress reports.
  • Revamp small groups based on assessment data.

The gradebook is a databook. The gradebook is the book for kids, families, and supervisors.

Assessment data is worthless if it’s not used. Use it. Grading needs to get done. Get it done.

This month, take the time to look over grades and data, make sure it’s neat, ordered, and caught up because November and December are filled with events, breaks, and vacations. Do more now so you’re not rushed or stressed later.

In October: focus as much energy as possible on grades and data.