Five for Friday! {September 25, 2015}

I'm happy that I'm finally getting back into the school routine again! I'm waking up a few minutes later and leaving school a few minutes earlier than I was at the beginning of the year.

I'm really happy with my new bulletin board. I laminated the speech bubbles so I could leave it up for the entire year and update them according to the most recent reading and writing lessons!

We've been learning all about how to express ourselves by referring to these posters (available HERE in my TpT store). I've made them 2 per page so they take up less space, and I love adding these to students' notebooks so they can refer to them during reading or writing time. They make conversation about characters much more interesting! Plus, I always get so thrilled when parents come to me with stories about how their children are using words like "elated" or "distraught" at home. ;)

This week I saw the need for a little discussion about how to choose books from the school library. It can be quite overwhelming for these young kiddos to select a few books from thousands! I made my own selections and then talked with students about what I look for in a good book. (Of course I had to make a little mini anchor chart. ;))

I started the week with my favorite treat: Chocolate Chip Cookies. The original, homemade version from Toll House is the best I've found. And I've tried a LOT of cookies. ;) Dunk these babies in your morning coffee, and the day is off to a sweet start!
Favorite Chocolate Chip Cookies

I stumbled upon a book that is just perfect for bringing science into our morning meeting discussions. It answers scientific questions in a very kid-friendly, straightforward way and includes fun illustrations too!


What about you? Do you have any fun morning meeting routines?

The Homework Myth

As a teacher of many different age levels through the years, I've always struggled with homework. Not just giving it, but also grading it, keeping track of it, differentiating, and assigning relevant work to do after school hours. After reading Alfie Kohn's book The Homework Myth, I felt vindicated, relieved, and more than a little frustrated with the homework situation in most schools (and certainly in my own).

I've struggled for years with the homework dilemma. Most parents think it's a necessary "tool" to ensure their child is keeping up with a certain workload, or even helping that child get ahead. From kindergarten through grade 5, I have heard many arguments for homework, but not one of them has changed my mind into believing it's healthy and important for our children to do school work outside of the classroom at such a young age. I don't blame parents for not being familiar with the research, but it's a delicate subject that deserves attention and more than just anecdotal justification.

Since we all know the arguments for homework, I will list three arguments against it. (These are relevant for elementary-age students.) You can read more about the following arguments in Alfie Kohn's book.

1. Homework provides "practice" that is either too easy or too difficult. If it's easy enough for students to breeze through, why do they need to practice that skill? They already know it. If it's too difficult, why are they being asked to do it outside the classroom, where they are more likely to struggle on their own or to begin practicing incorrectly? Not to mention the feeling of dread that ensues from the school work being too difficult.

2. Homework doesn't foster independence or responsibility. It fosters obedience, maybe, but not responsibility. Responsibility means students have a choice... in what they're doing, when, and how. Let's face it, most homework assignments don't offer any of these options. Not to mention, if homework truly helped students develop independence, we would see fewer incomplete, forgotten, misplaced, or mangled homework as the year progressed... right?

3. Students spend the entire day at school, for the most part doing as they're told and following the instructions of someone else. When they leave the building, they should be doing the things they choose. After all, why am I so presumptuous as a teacher to tell anyone what they should be doing outside of school with their family and friends? We all need down time.

Having said these things, I do acknowledge that some practice outside of school can be beneficial... and even necessary. For example, reading outside the classroom has a positive impact on fluency, accuracy, expression, and comprehension. Although I encourage a love of reading throughout the school day, I also provide books for students to take home and read. Reading is similar to playing the piano or practicing a sport--the more often you do it, the better you get.

I know homework is a very controversial topic, and we're constantly striving to meet the needs of all of our students. I'm only suggesting that we take a close look at our practices and have discussions about the types of homework we assign (if we must). I would love to hear your thoughts!

Five for Friday!

It has been a very busy few weeks! With how tired I am, it feels like we've been back in school for months already. But the kiddos are still learning many of the routines... and we're practicing A LOT.

But here we are, brainstorming our writing ideas and beginning to draft our first personal narrative after recently launching the writing workshop. Each student uses his own personal mini-dictionary, which I LOVE! It's similar to an individual word wall, but in dictionary form. If a student isn't sure how to spell something, he underlines the word and keeps writing. Then at the end of the class I add those words to their dictionaries.  


I'm always looking for an quick, healthy breakfast that will keep me going until lunch time. I love overnight oats for their ease and versatility... There are tons of delicious combinations and toppings you can use! I keep it simple with a little bit of brown sugar and fresh fruit.

Overnight Oats from Our Best Bites

Students have been learning how to ask questions while they read, then discuss their ideas with reading buddies. This year I'm using the lined Post-Its because last year my students' handwriting on Post-Its was horrendous. So far they're working out much better!

Those of you who take public transportation can relate to the utter annoyance I'm feeling these days. There has been some sort of drama every day this week, from a homeless man yelling at all the passengers, to my train breaking down on the first rainy day since who knows when... you get the picture. Anyway, I'm thinking VERY seriously about getting one of these!

We had a great Back to School Night tonight! All of the info can be overwhelming, especially when you teach multiple classes, but everyone seemed to enjoy getting to know the teachers and other parents.
I am SO ready for the weekend! I have a few fun plans that I'm going to post about very soon. What are your plans for the weekend? Happy Friday!