Sunday, September 21, 2014

Friday, September 19, 2014

Morning Meetings: The Most Underrated Way to Build Classroom Community


Last June, I asked my students to complete a brief reflection on their school year and to evaluate the job I had done as their teacher. The questions consisted of things like, “How well does your teacher know you?” and “Were you able to learn about your interests?” In the blank space at the bottom of the page, students could indicate what they’d enjoyed most during the year. Overwhelmingly (and much to my surprise), the majority of students mentioned our morning meeting as their absolute favorite thing about 4th grade. I was stunned. It’s true that we’d had a fantastic year together, but I'd never considered how integral our daily meeting was to this success. What began as a simple morning routine of greeting each other, sharing the little (or not so little) moments in our lives, and having an actual dialogue with each other ended up having a huge impact on their ability to develop friendships, relate to others, solve problems, and to be risk-takers in their learning. My students were inquisitive, funny, caring, and thoughtful. Our classroom was indeed special, and at the end of the year I was heartbroken to say goodbye to this group of young people. I am quite certain that our morning meetings contributed to their academic and social-emotional development in ways far beyond anything else we did.

Now, as I begin another school year (this time with younger students), my goal remains clear: I want my students to talk to each other, listen, feel empathy, push themselves to see from another perspective, develop the language to express themselves, and feel safe in our classroom community. Our morning routine won't accomplish these things by itself, but it is an excellent starting point. I’ve seen what it can do, and I believe in it. I look forward to the day when this group reflects on how much they’ve learned and grown.   

You can learn more about morning meetings and the responsive classroom here: https://www.responsiveclassroom.org/morning-meeting-components

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Sunday, September 7, 2014

The Sunday Scoop

I'm so happy to find a weekly linky that I can participate in at the beginning of the school year! (Many of the others are just too time-consuming for me at this point.) Teaching Trio has begun "The Sunday Scoop" as a quick way to share with each other at the end of the week. Here's my scoop:


I'm also going to begin Word Study with my students this week. You can download this freebie from my TpT store if you're looking for some new word sort ideas. :)
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Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Back-to-School Bookstore Treasures


One of the great things about where I live is the abundance of independent bookstores. Although I do almost all of my personal reading on a Kindle, I absolutely love to peruse bookstores in search of new classroom treasures. Going through the books on those shelves is such an escape, a way to travel to other places and meet new characters. Not to mention, I will end up buying and using many of these books in my classroom numerous times throughout the year. They will become beloved read-alouds, inspiration for reading lessons, and books for independent reading time. Picture books have so many benefits for children of all ages, and they have a special place in my heart.

As the end of my summer approaches (actually it’s here--teachers go back tomorrow!), I made my final trip to the bookstore yesterday, and found a few treasures that I couldn’t resist adding to my shopping cart the stack of books sitting on the floor next to me.
Here are some of my favorites so far:

I Want My Hat Back by Jon Klassen
Told entirely through dialogue, this is Bear’s story of looking ing his lost hat. After asking many forest creatures if they’ve seen it, he finally discovers what actually happened to it....

This is Not My Hat by Jon Klassen
This adorable narrative tells the fish’s story about the hat he just stole. He thinks he’ll get away with it, and while the author narrates from the fish’s point of view, the reader sees what’s REALLY going on around the fish. I will definitely be using this book to teach point of view this year!

Journey by Aaron Becker
A beautiful story told entirely through pictures. A lonely girl draws a door on her bedroom wall, and we are taken into her new world, traveling by boat, balloon, and a flying carpet. Beautifully illustrated.

Rosie Revere, Engineer by Andrea Beaty
One of my favorite book finds so far, this book has a loveable, ingenious young girl whose talent lies in making gadgets and gizmos. Although she dreams of becoming an engineer, she fails at her first big attempt. This message has a wonderful message about the importance of never giving up, and I especially love the message it sends to girls not needing to conform to “girly” things, but instead encouraging them to cultivate their creativity.

The Day the Crayons Quit by Drew Daywalt
I have to admit, this book is not new to me. I introduced it to my 4th graders last year and it was an immediate hit! I actually had to start a signup list because so many students wanted to read it during independent reading time. This book is GREAT for teaching voice since each crayon is on strike due to his/her own set of grievances.

My Teacher is a Monster (No, I Am Not) by Peter Brown
Another great book for teaching point of view, this one tells the story about Bobby and his horrible teacher... Until one day he begins to see things from a different perspective. This would be a great book to read during the week back to school.

I hope I've inspired you to share some of your own book store treasures! I would love to hear what you've found! Happy back to school reading!

Monday, August 11, 2014

Meet the Teacher {Linky}

What a perfect opportunity to introduce myself... especially since I’ve been blog stalking so many fantastic teachers for so long! I just started blogging a few weeks ago, and I already love it! However, I have to admit that I’ve spent WAY too much time figuring out formatting, HTML code, etc. I hope that’s (mostly) behind me! 

My name is Erica and I’ve just returned to San Francisco to teach 2nd grade after living in Europe for the past seven years. While I was there I taught 4th grade, 2nd grade, and spent two years as a full-time Literacy Coach for Kindergarten-5th grade. I was incredibly lucky to work with some extremely dedicated and talented teachers there. I can’t wait to meet the new group of educators (and students!) I’ll be working with this year.


THESE ARE A FEW OF MY FAVORITE THINGS...
Coffee and cake in the morning, yoga, reading and napping on the beach, traveling to new places, wine tasting, learning from my mistakes, going shopping by myself (think: taking all the time you need to go down every aisle at Target!), talking on the phone with my sister (we only see each other once a year), decorating, finding new solutions to problems.

IF YOU WEREN'T A TEACHER, WHAT WOULD YOU WANT TO BE?
I would want to be a newspaper reporter/writer. Old school, with the notepad and pen, traveling to the places with breaking news.

THREE LITTLE WORDS THAT DESCRIBE YOU.
Determined. Reflective. Open.

FINISH THE SENTENCE, "________,  SAID NO TEACHER EVER!!"
If only I could add to my responsibilities, said no teacher ever!!

Q: IT'S YOUR BIRTHDAY AND YOU CAN INVITE ANYONE {DEAD OR ALIVE} TO THE PARTY. WHO ARE YOU INVITING?
Jane Goodall

Q: IF SOMEONE WROTE A BOOK ABOUT YOUR LIFE, WHAT WOULD BE THE TITLE?
 It Just Gets Better

Q: YOU GET TO PICK ONE SUPERPOWER. WHAT IS IT?
It would be tough to choose between being invisible and being able to fly. I think... being invisible... as long as it wasn’t all of the time!

Q: WHAT'S YOUR FAVORITE QUOTE OR SAYING?
“It’s not what you look at that matters, it’s what you see.” Henry David Thoreau

Q: IF YOU HAD TO SING ONE SONG ON AMERICAN IDOL, WHAT WOULD IT BE?
Ha! I would NEVER sing in public... let alone in front of millions of people!

Q: ARE YOU A MORNING PERSON OR A NIGHT OWL?
I used to be a night owl until recently. Now I’m more alert and productive in the mornings.

Q: WHAT'S YOUR FAVORITE RESOURCE THAT YOU'VE CREATED IN YOUR TPT SHOP?
I really love my Fractured Fairy Tales reading & writing unit because my students had SO much fun with it. And the same goes for my Perspective Poetry Mini-Unit. Who doesn’t love poetry told from a dog’s perspective??


Q: SHARE SOMETHING WE MIGHT NOT KNOW ABOUT YOU:
Well, since I’m new to the blogging world, I guess almost anything I share about myself will be new. J Most people don’t know that when I was in high school I wrote for the school newspaper because I had a huge crush on the teacher. (I can’t believe I just shared that.) 

This linky is a great opportunity for teachers to come together and get to know each other at the beginning of the year. Click to link up! :)
-Erica

Thursday, August 7, 2014

Fig Season!



Not too long ago, I had no idea what a fig was. Since they’re only in season a few months out of the year, I never really paid attention to them. Then one day, my boss brought in a giant bowl of figs from the Ficus trees in her backyard, and begged me to take some. I looked at the strange fruit, unsure how to eat it or what it would taste like, but picked up a few anyway and took them back to my classroom. They sat on the edge of my desk until after lunch, when I decided to try them. WHAT HAD I BEEN WAITING FOR?!! These things were delicious!! I couldn’t believe this mysterious little fruit had been hiding from me for my entire life. Not long after I finished them, I tiptoed back to my boss’s office and grabbed a few more from the bowl, my hands still sticky from the first two. It might sound like I’m exaggerating when I say that I practically count down the days from the end of fig season until the beginning of the next one, but it’s (almost) true. If you have never experienced the joy of eating a fig, please do so immediately. If you already know the joy of figs, this little post serves as a gentle reminder that the clock is ticking on fig season. And remember, after you bring them home they only stay fresh for a few days... but who could keep them around for that long??

Monday, August 4, 2014

Book Review: The Book Thief by Markus Zusak


     Set in 1939 Nazi Germany, this book has a dark side, but is illuminated by a spirit of hope and resiliency. Beautifully written, this author makes you care about each character through the eyes of the protagonist, a 12-year old girl named Liesel. Along with Liesel, we develop relationships with her accordion-playing foster father, her rough-around-the-edges foster mother, her adoring neighbor Rudy, and especially the Jewish man hidden in the basement.
     This book is captivating in so many ways; the way the author weaves in words (from a dictionary Liesel steals) that foreshadow events in the story; the way people come together despite the threat to their safety and livelihood; the evolution of friendships and families during a time of violence and war. The symbolism and imagery within this book are both beautiful and haunting.
     I finished this book two days ago, and I’m still thinking about it. It’s rare to read a book this heartbreaking and inspiring. I give this book 5 out of 5 stars.