Wednesday, August 19, 2015

*Together We Are Stronger

I believe that as a classroom teacher, together we are stronger.  For this reason I create a classroom climate where students support each other with their learning, and where student ideas are listened to and valued. When a classroom supports the learning of all, then all are able to flourish.  But it takes more than just fostering a supportive classroom environment, parents need to be equal partners too.
As part of  The Top 12 Global Teacher Bloggers”, each month we are asked to share our views on a specific question.  This month’s question is “What are the best ways parents can help teachers and that teachers can help parents?’ 

I see each of my students as unique learners with unique needs so I'm leary to give "advice" that will be of benefit for every student.  However at the most basic level parents can help teachers by being there for their children.  It is far less about what I need as a teacher, and far more about what their child (or my student) needs. It's about making the child's learning a priority.  This does not mean I expect parents to be on their child's case all the time because learning in a toxic environment doesn't benefit anyone. 

What I'd love to see is a family who creates a home learning environment  that is encouraging and supportive.  A family that makes time for a child by being interested in their learning.  And yes, I realize that many families are very "busy"  but if a family it too busy for quality time with their own children, then maybe what's keeping everyone "busy" needs to be looked at again.  Quality time together doesn't have to take a lot of actual "time" but it should be  meaningful. 

As a teacher I appreciate when I am provided information about a child that I might not already have.  However it's usually not ideal for a parent to show up unannounced or try to share this important information  during school pick up or drop off.  It's best if we can prearrange a time to meet and discuss, or if the information could be put into writing so that when I have a spare moment, I can give the information the attention it deserves. Open communication between the home and the school is crucial.

As a classroom teacher,  we can help by providing a variety of ways for parents to connect with us and to see into our classroom.  What we do in the confines of our classroom walls should not be a secret. One way I am open and transparent is by maintaining a class blog.  I also provide my students with their own individual blogs.  In addition each child in my class has their own digital portfolio housed in Fresh Grade which highlights individual student learning and includes feedback from myself, the student, and ideally the parent too.  Other ways teachers might share student learning wih families might be via a daily agenda messages,  e-mail updates,  Remind messages, and/or traditional  newsletters.  Social media sites such as twitter, facebook, or Instagram could help keep the communication open between home and school.  The tool is some what irrelevant, what is important   is that teachers and parents have clear avenues for ongoing communication.  With authentic relationships and open teacher-student-home communication all children should have the opportunity to flourish. 

Together we are stronger.

*This post is part of a series of monthly questions that Cathy Rubin is asking several education bloggers to respond to.  This month's question was "What are the best ways parents can help teachers and that teachers can help parents?"  It is an honour to be a part of this group.  Please check out the complete list of posts here  . 

Monday, August 10, 2015

Celebrating Picture Book 10 for 10 #pb10for10

Today marks the anniversary of the picture book celebration #PB10for10.  It is a day where fellow educators share some of their favourite picture books with each other.  You can find many links to their blog posts (with some really great book recommendations) by checking out #pb10for10 on twitter.

It's been a couple of years since I first participated but it's something I've always hoped to get back to.  Thankfully this year I am back.  Below you will find 10 pictures books that are near and dear to my heart for one reason or another.  I didn't really follow a theme, like many do, but instead I went to the small pile of books that are sitting in my apartment right now as most of my classroom library is packed up tightly in boxes in my brand new school for the 2015/16 school year. (A blog post on this change is still to come).  So I guess I could say my theme is... books that I just couldn't leave packed up in boxes over the summer.  In no particular order here are my ten books...

The OK Book - By Amy Krouse Rosenthal and Tom Lichtenheld

There is something about a book that celebrates us not for being the best at something but for being okay.  I love the message this book shares and I love how everyone I've ever shared it with can relate.

The Most Magnificent Thing -  by Ashley Spires

 I love that through things going wrong (and don't they for all of us at one point or another) something new and exciting comes out of the mistakes.

Good News Bad News by Jeff Mack

This book in nature is really quite simple. Something good happens, then something bad happens, then something good, then something bad and that's how the story goes.  But what I like about it is how most students can connect with this story and can usually come up with their own version of this book.  It's a great book to inspire writing in the early years (and most likely beyond).

Stuck  by Oliver Jeffers

There is something about Oliver Jeffers that I can't get enough of. What a great author writing such crazy stories.  Here a boy gets his kite stuck in a tree and a whole bunch of silly activities follow.  I love the giggles that come with this story when I share it with my class, and the guess they  make about what might get stuck next.

Hey Little Ant - by Phillip and Hannah Hoose Illustrated by Debbie Tilley

Another older book but one that always brings up good discussion and writing with the students I've shared it with.  Everyone has an opinion around what should happen in this book.

Lilly’s Purple Plastic Purse -  by Kevin Henkes

How can you not like Kevin Henkes. What stands out for me with this  book (and in all honestly all his picture books could make this list) , is that it's another story both my students and I can easily connect with. Waiting is hard, and sometimes, we just don't want to do it. I also love how creative she gets when she's angry.

Anything is Possible  by Giulia Belloni and Marco Trevisan

Such a great book to keep our dreams alive.

The Day the Crayons Quit - Drew Daywalt illustrated by Oliver Jeffers

I love listening to stories, and every time I share this book with my students they get right into the crayons stories too.  When given the chance to write their favourite crayon back the writing is always passionate and purposeful.  A keeper for certain. 

This Plus That: Life’s Little Equations by Amy Krouse Rosenthal Illustrated by Jen Corace

This is the sweetest book ever and really gets you thinking about how things all aroud you are connected.  My students have always loved coming up with their own "Life's Little Equations" each time coming up with something different. It's the book that keeps on giving. :-)

My students and I are huge Todd Parr fans.  There is something great about the topics he writes about in such a child friendly manner.  His illustrations are super colourful too.  This book always brings about great discussion around reading, and it helps me build that love for reading to my students.

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

What's Your Students' Ideal Workspace?

I strongly believe that we all learn in our own unique learning environments.  I tend to do a lot of my writing while sitting on my couch with my feet up.  I often prefer to stand instead of sit. And just like me, my students work best in different environments too.  It's kind of sad that many teachers expect children to sit in desks (or  tables) with little or no say around where they can do their work.  I wonder if it's a control issue (I'm pretty sure that's what it was for me when I had assigned seats for my students), or if it's the only furniture that's available to them.  In either case, for the sake of our learners ,shouldn't we be creating the best learning environments we can to help our students be the best that they can be?

Now don't get me wrong, I'm not about to run off to the nearest furniture store (or thrift store) to buy what my students need.  I'd be broke before I started and personally I'd much rather spend my money on good children's books. But I can be open to letting my students work around the room in spots that are best for them.  And the thing is, when you let them choose where to work, they will surprise you with where they want to work.  For some that has meant always standing up, and learning against a higher piece of furniture.  For others it's meant taking a plastic TV tray and finding a quiet place to get things done.  Some students love to work on bean bag chairs, while putting their writing on a hard surface.  Some love to be under a desk, or inside an inexpensive tent.  Some work on their belly's, some work on their backs. But the thing they all have in common, is that wherever they chose to work, they DO THEIR WORK! Crazy right?!

So as you set up your classroom for the 2015/16 school year be sure to think about how you can let your students work in environments that are best for them. You'll be surprised to see where they chose to work.

Curious about some of the places my students have chosen to work? It's nothing mind shattering, but perhaps it might give you a bit more confidence to let your assigned seating plan go.   Here are a few of their favourite learning spaces...