Monday, February 12, 2018

Feel the Love

Principal ponderings...

Since it's the week of Valentine's Day, it makes sense to be feeling the love at Flo Ro this week.  There are many things that I love about our school.  Let me share the top 5 things that popped into my head...

1. I love that when I walk into a classroom I often see students collaborating with each other.  That collaboration can take different forms.  Sometimes it's table groups working together to solve a problem.  Sometimes it's small groups working on an informational unit project.  Sometimes it's partners working on writing and recording a book buzz with iPads.  I love to see students connecting and learning with each other.

2. I love that I see students help each other, both in the classroom and out of the classroom.  Students will volunteer to walk with a friend to the nurse after a fall on the playground.  Students will volunteer to explain an assignment to someone who was out of the room.  Students will help each other carry library books back to the library.  I love seeing students show that they care about about each other.

3. I love that our staff support each other.  We have had so many people battling the flu, colds, sickness, etc.  And staff have jumped in to support, whether that means taking on a different duty, covering a class, bringing a co-worker a coffee or any number of other kind gestures.  I love that FloRo staff truly cares about all of the members of our school family and finds ways to support everyone.

4. I love that when I walk into a classroom I often see teachers presenting the curriculum to students through multiple means.  One group might be practicing a math concept using manipulatives.  Another group might be working directly with the teacher.  Another group might be independently exploring a topic on a Chromebook and preparing a presentation about the topic.  I love seeing teachers get creative with how to present the curriculum and as a result, seeing all students benefit from creative teaching.

5. I love that when I walk into a classroom students are excited to share their learning with me.  They are proud of what they are doing, and they are often bursting with excitement about a book they just read or an opinion piece they just wrote.  They light up when you ask them to explain their thinking.  It's like I can almost see their brains growing!  I love that our students truly love school.

Now it's your turn to feel the love for FloRo.  What do you love about our school?  What do you love about your job?  What do you love about our students?  What do you love about your classroom?  What do you love about how you teach?  What do you love about how your students learn?  Take some time this week to reflect on these questions.  Write down your answers or tell someone how you feel.

Feel the love this week FloRo!

Currently reading:
Apparently it is "I love to read" Month.  How did I not know this?!  Probably because every month is I love to read month for me!  With Valentine's Day coming up, I reread one of my favorite Valentine read alouds...Somebody Loves You Mr. Hatch.  Mrs. West was looking for a good Valentine book, so I searched my library at home and found this one.  After an anonymous Valentine is delivered to Mr. Hatch, his life is completely changed.  It's a heart-warming story for this week!
I finished The Hate U Give this weekend, such a timely, tough, powerful read.  Definitely not for our elementary students, but you might want to read it for yourself.  And I picked up a professional development book that I began to look at over the summer but abandoned.  Lately, I feel like I need this book right now so I am diving back into it: Escaping the School Leader's Dunk Tank: How to Prevail When Others Want to See You Drown.

Events this week:
Monday - Grade 2 chorus rehearsal 1:25-2:55, Elementary curriculum leadership meeting 12:30-2:00
Tuesday- Grade 2 school show 1:30-2:05 @ PAC
Wednesday - 2nd grade chorus concert @ 7:00 - PAC
Friday - Elementary curriculum half day, 12:15 dismissal, staff meeting 1:00-1:45, team time

Great things I noticed last week:

  • 3rd graders in the library were eager to spend time reading their book choices. 
  • Mrs. Lanctot's 1st graders made a list of all of the things they love about 1st grade! 
  • Even though we had an early dismissal, global school play day was still a hit! 
  • We celebrated the 100th day of school!  
  • These kindergartners found me in the library and were proud to show me what they did not know 100 days ago! 

Check it out:
Check out this link.  It contains podcasts from the various 2017 Teachers of the Year where they share experiences that shaped them as educators, very inspirational!
When we return from break, it will almost be March!  I will share a post next week about the slice of life challenge that I did last March.  I will be preparing to participate again this year.  Anyone else up for the challenge of writing everyday in March?!  Check out this link here to read more about it:

Sunday, February 4, 2018

100 Books to Read!

Principal ponderings...

In honor of the 100th day of school coming up this week, I am going to give you 100 book recommendations this week!  I decided to try to make this task a little easier on myself by breaking it down into 4 different categories.  I have 25 picture book recommendations, 25 chapter book recommendations, 25 professional development book recommendations, and then 25 books for pleasure reading!  Some of these books I own and have read.  Some of these books I own and have not read.  Some of these books I have heard about and want to read.  Some of these books I have never heard about until I started researching for this blog post.

Here are 25 picture book recommendations to check out!

Here are 25 chapter book recommendations to check out!

Here are 25 professional development books to check out!

Here are 25 books for pleasure reading to check out!

Currently reading:
So considering I just shared 100 books to read...I guess I could have left this section blank.  But you know that's not possible for me!  I did manage to make a trip to a book store last week and bought some new books.  Some of them I listed above, but here are two that I did not include.  I read this picture book to my daughter for bedtime the other night and plan on bringing it in for 100th day if anyone wants me to come read to their class...
You just can't go wrong when gelato is in the title and the story is all about a summer in Italy...

Events this week:
Monday - Happy National School Counselor Week!  Maureen and Kristen...thank you for all you do everyday for all of our students!
Wednesday - Global School Play Day! Grade 2 chorus practice @ 2:20, Staff Meeting @ 3:30
Thursday - 100th Day of School! Grade 2 chorus practice @ 2:20, PTA Meeting @ 7:30
Friday - Liz and Melissa at SLT meeting from 8:30-11:00

Great things I noticed last week:

  • Melissa and I had a lot of fun Saturday morning attending EdCampMALeads.  This was a chance to come together and talk education with teachers and leaders across the state...always energizing! 
  • Nurse Natalie managed to step out of the nurse's office and teach wellness classes to kindergarteners.  She took time to teach them about properly washing their hands...definitely important with all of the sickness going around right now. 
  • Had fun working with 3rd graders to record book buzz commercials using the green screen and iPads. 

  • And Laura Taylor was not the only one how happens to be in the Stenhouse catalog.  Look who I found...Diane D on the cover of the online catalog!
Check it out:
There are just a few 100 pages on the internet that talk about ideas for the 100th day of school.  Here's just one:
Great post from Pernille Ripp about helping students self select books:
5 ways to make your math workshop awesome:

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: