Sunday, April 21, 2013

Sunday's Words for the Week

Words to think about this Earth Day.

Seven Reasons for Choosing a Simpler Lifestyle:
1. As an act of intentional living performed for the sake of personal integrity and as an expression of a commitment to a more equitable distribution of the world’s resources.
2. As an act of creation care for ourselves and especially for our children and grandchildren against the earth destroying results of over-consumption such as pollution, climate change, and resource wars.
3. As an act of solidarity with the majority of humankind, which has little choice about material affluence.
4. As an act of celebration of the riches found in God’s creation, and the riches of community with others, rather than in the "poverty" of mindless materialism.
5. As an act of spiritual discipline ordering our lives to reflect the values of simplicity and just living taught by Jesus and teachers in other world religions.

-Simple Living


Sunday, April 14, 2013

Sunday's Words for the Week

Thanks to those who emailed regarding last week's words.
Marla says that whenever she speaks a negative comment she forces herself to follow it up with a positive.  I love that idea.
Debra sent me this....
Words of truth. Isn't it easy to get caught up in grumbling and complaining? But all it really does is make the miserable more miserable.  

 Along those lines I want to share these two books written my Michael J. Fox.  He has been living with Parkinson's Disease for some time now.  My mother suffered from this for many years before she lost her battle and died with this disease.  I was particularly interested to hear how Fox is able to maintain such a good attitude while facing such a hard situation.  Parkinsons is a chronic, degenerative neurological disorder.   Loss of the brain chemical dopamine causes neurons to fire without normal control, leaving patients less able to direct or control their movement. Parkinson's disease is one of several diseases categorized by clinicians as movement disorders.Once easy daily routines can become difficult tasks for the Parkinson's patient.
In his two books, Fox writes about how his life was impacted by Parkinson's disease, how he coped with it, accepted it and how he wants to help others. He tells an inspirational story.
Check these out if you get the chance.

Wishing you a joy filled week.

Sunday, April 7, 2013

Sunday's Words for the Week

I love this time of year and had a great spring break week.
I totally enjoyed every minute and was so thankful for a bit of rest. I intended to get more house and school stuff done but sometimes you have to do what is most important and more work,...well, that is just not it.  Instead I hung with family and friends and made great memories. It came at just the right time for me. I am grateful for each day I had.
It is back to work tomorrow.  The final stretch is always the most stressful.
I will be working my hardest to get students prepared for testing and and their move to fourth grade.
There is much to do in a short time.  It is easy to let negative feelings take over right about now.
But I learned a wonderful lesson a while back and it has allowed me to live a more joy filled life.
What I discovered is that although much of what happens to me is out of my control, what I can control is how I react to it all.  With that truth comes great freedom. No longer must you be a slave to your emotions.

I grew up in a beach town and spent a good part of my summer in the water. We loved surfing the waves and I remember how we would sit on our boards waiting for just the right waves to ride. I'd feel the effects of each one as they would lift me up and down but I'd only surf the fun ones.
Feelings are much the same way. I can acknowledge  them all but I don't have to ride the rough ones.
I can make the choice to let the feelings of stress, discouragement and disappointment pass right over me. I don't have to dwell in those feelings-I don't have to surf that wave.
Wishing you all a fabulous week.

Saturday, April 6, 2013

Biographies, Traits and Timelines

We recently finished a jam packed unit on biographies. I incorporated a study of time lines, character traits and famous Americans to maximize my time. Whew...I get tired just thinking of it all. But  I do find the teaching of character trait words fits in beautifully with a study of Famous Americans and biographies.

 I had certain character trait words in mind that I wanted to teach my students. Knowledge of words like honest, dependable, curious, intelligent, etc. are necessary when analyzing characters and go a long way in helping expand a student's vocabulary. These words are easy to teach through people like Benjamin Franklin, George Washington and Abraham Lincoln. My sequence was to read aloud a biography of one of the Famous Americans third graders are required to know about and then teach the character trait vocabulary through the book. There is no shortage of great biographies to read.  The problem becomes which to choose.  I left many biographies out as recommended reading for students to choose during readers workshop time.   

I found books besides biographies on some of these characters too.  Here is a cute one called, Abe Lincoln Crosses a Creek.  This was a good one to identify character traits through.

After reading a biography, we created bubble maps that described the American's character traits and then identified the proof.  Students explained what the character did or said that proves the trait.

Here is an example of a bubble map we created that identified Franklin's character traits and the evidence from the book.  I made a large sized class poster of this as my students created it for their journals.

Along with biographies we covered a study of timelines.   We glued an explanation note sheet into our reading journals and found many examples of time lines in the biographies we were reading.

My students need to know a series of Famous Americans and what they are known for.
I created famous American picture cards and most important point cards.  Using a piece of yarn for a time line, my students practiced matching the person with the important facts.

Placing the cards in chronological order helps them link people of the same time period.

This became great daily practice for in school and at home.
They started asking me to time them to see how quickly they could get the cards arranged.


I put into practice another engagement "hook" from Teach Like a Pirate by David Burgess.  His suggestion is to use props whenever possible.  Lucky for me our school library has a set of famous American dolls that we can check out.  My students loved these and I used them for review and for encouraging good behavior.  Students loved "hosting" a Famous American at their desk for the day. 
The catch was that these Famous Americans only wanted to visit students who were respectful, responsible and productive. 

We must remember that although we expect a lot from our third graders they are still kids and
Check out my TPT page for resources to help you teach biographies, famous Americans, character traits and time lines.


Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Famous American Paper Bag Book Materials and Printables

Wise words from Abraham Lincoln!
This quote reminds me of a man who used to be a sign holder along a busy road nearby.  He was one of those guys who was hired to hold an advertisement sign in an attempt to get people to come to a particular store. He used to make me smile because of the way he took his job so seriously.  He would dance and wave that sign like his life depended on it and I'm sure people did stop just because of him. He did his sign holding job with such passion and enthusiasm and people just loved him for it.  He got so much attention that a local newspaper ran an article on him.  He no longer holds that sign and I'm guessing some other employer grabbed him up and he's working for someone else now. I'm sure he is good at that too.   
How about you? Are you still passionate about teaching?  Here is what David Burgess says about passion in his book,  Teach Like a Pirate:
Light yourself on fire with passion and don't worry if it is not a controlled burn.
David Burgess
Hah...I love this quote and happy to hear him say it. I've been called "emotionally intense" before and at times I do allow my feelings to take over.
Check out his book if you are looking to regain your passion for teaching. I know that it has helped me.
Now onto classroom stuff!
We recently studied Lincoln's life as we worked on a biography and famous American unit.
As always, we were faced with too much to teach in too little of a time period.  I planned cross curricular just to get it all in.
I will be back later this week to share how I worked a reading unit on biographies and character traits into my social studies time.
For now I wanted to let you know that I FINALLY got the Famous American paperbag book file put together.  I know many of you were requesting it and I've now added to my TPT store. Thanks for your patience!
I included all the famous Americans that Virginia teachers need to cover from K-3.  I'm guessing it may work with my common core friends as well.
If you use the search bar at the top of this page you can see an older post that goes over how I use these books.  Type: Famous Americans into the search box.
Here are some pics of the finished product:

Students and I fill out missing words after reading a short biography, listening to a read aloud or watching a video clip on the famous American.  They glue the note page down into their book.

Students are given a Famous American picture card that they glue onto an index card. They draw symbols and label that American's most important points on the back.

Cards get matched with pages in the book and they insert the card inside that bag.
Students take this home and use it as a study guide.
Interested in having your students create one of these?
Click the link below to find it in my TPT store.


Monday, April 1, 2013

Pirate Readers and the Drama Hook

I love books. 
Some of my favorite places to kill time are libraries and book stores. I especially love used book stores and have spent quite some time at Riverby Book Store in Downtown Fredericksburg.
This store is three levels full of amazing old books. 

The building is old just like the books it holds and there is something magical about it all.
It is all just steeped in history and I can only imagine all the people who turned the pages of these books before me.
I will be heading here sometime during this spring break for sure.
Here is a lovely little spot in the store to sit and get lost in a book.

Books have inspired me in so many ways. They have influenced  the way I think, the  manner I live my life and how I do my job.
Tori from "My End of the Rainbow" asked if I would post on a teacher resource book that has inspired my teaching.  That was a no brainer for me..  I quickly thought of this one - my newest teacher favorite: Teach Like a Pirate by David Burgess. I am book clubbing on this one with a few other teachers and we all agree it is worth a read.
I started Teach Like a Pirate one morning as I was running on a treadmill and before I knew it I was almost an hour into my workout.  It captured my attention and I didn't want to stop reading it.  This is a great book to read if you are feeling burnt out and unfulfilled as an educator.  And it is ok to admit  we all get that way from time to time. Turn to this book to get you out of your teaching slump. 
Here is what David Burgess has to say:
"Teaching is a job filled with frustrations, trials and tests of your patience.  Use your passion to soar over obstacles instead of crashing into them and burning out.  Your passion will also help you become absolutely relentless in the pursuit of excellence.  With a focus on professional passion, teaching is no longer about relaying the content's about transforming lives.  It's about killing apathy. It's no longer about memorizing facts; it's about inspiring greatness."
Oh my goodness, he speaks my mind throughout this book! Love so much of what he has to say.
He goes on to write about immersion, rapport, questioning, transformation and enthusiasm in Part 1.
Part 2 of his book is devoted to ideas on crafting engaging lessons.  This was of great interest to me as I am always looking for ways to increase student engagement. David goes over different presentation "hooks" that spark student interest and keep them tuned in during instruction.  I recently incorporated his "Drama Hook" idea with great success. The drama hook provides a creative outlet for your students who love to be "in the spotlight and on stage". 
David Burgess poses questions throughout these "hook" chapters to get teachers to think out of the box as we plan for our presentations.  For this one he asks us to ponder this question: "Can I provide the opportunity for my students to do skits related to what we are learning?" "Can they reenact historical events?"

I was reading this chapter at the same time I was teaching about our nation's founding fathers so I thought why not try out David's idea.
 We were learning about famous Americans and in particular, George Washington, Ben Franklin and Thomas Jefferson. Students were supposed to remember that Jefferson wrote the Declaration of Independence but I knew without some background on the causes of the Revolutionary War it wouldn't make any sense.  I decided to write a super simple skit and ask for volunteers to perform it.  We met for lunch that day and we ran through it a few times.  I gave them super simple props and costume pieces (mostly just hats) and we went with it. No memorization required, no stress.  It went off beautifully and I must say all students were fully engaged and it served its purpose of giving them some background for this historical  time period.  It was fun for them and for me.

 Because of the success of our first skit, I searched out for other little plays students could perform on other famous Americans. We ended up reenacting a few scenes from Susan B. Anthony's life as we learned about Americans who helped stand up for equality and justice for all.  Again, simplicity was key.  No fuss, no muss makes for happy teacher and kids. 

Here are some resources available from Scholastic Books.  Heroes in American History includes some short and simple read aloud plays that cover many of the Famous Americans that Virginia teachers need to cover.  
So how about it? Do you already use this  Drama "hook"?  Might it be something you are willing to try? 
I would love to hear about it!
I would also love to hear from other "Pirate" readers out there who are trying some of David's approaches!
Will be posting on others in the near future so check back.

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