Monday, October 22, 2012

Be Nice to the People


October is Down Syndrome Awareness Month, Celiac Disease Awareness Month, and November is Diabetes Awareness Month. That is a lot for one girl to deal with. Yet everyday, my daughter Tessa does, and each day we celebrate her life. All of those things are just a small part of the dancing, singing, watching movies, going bowling, eating at Outback and Chickfila, while hanging out with her friends. She is so much more. Tessa captures our hearts and inspires us to live without complaining or to let those "other things" in life get you down. She is our hero. On Sunday, Tessa was an ambassador at the Tulsa 2012 Buddy Walk. Here's to 20 years of learning life lessons from "our girl." 
For every picture on this collage, there is a personal story attached.  Each picture is special for some pivotal point in Tessa's life.  Some are stories of great success, some are stories of struggles Tessa was facing (even while wearing a smile), and some were turning points in my career.

When Tessa was born, I was heading back to college to complete my teaching degree.  I will never forget that Sunday afternoon when I thought my teaching dream was over, and I would never become a teacher.  Little did I know how much I would learn from Tessa and how much she would impact my own teaching.  What did Tessa teach me?


*She taught me that imagination, hands on activities, and play are the cornerstone foundational pieces for increasing cognitive skills along with increasing language skills.  

*She taught me that it may take a lot of practice and humor before she masters a skill, and I need many motivational activities to help her do it.  
*She taught me that we are teaching, not testing.  Sometimes we get that backwards.
*She taught me that singing helps her retain information.  Put it to a song, and she can remember and recall information with a smile. 
*She taught me that she learns best with real photographs of concepts being taught.  
*She taught me that there are no gray boundaries.  There is only black and white.  Giving into the gray areas makes it hard for her to learn to make appropriate choices.
*She taught me that I can expect her to make appropriate choices on behavior, but I needed to teach her how to get out of a negative situation as much as learning how to prevent one.
*She taught me to think outside the box when trying to reach children who struggle to learn.
*But most importantly, she taught me that it's the little successes in life that are sometimes the most important to families of children with special needs.

I started presenting at conferences when Tessa was 4 years old (picture of her standing holding onto the bars).  I was asked to speak, from a parent perspective, about what I expected from her teachers.  That was also my first year to be a classroom teacher.  It was a small conference with just a few teachers, and I was very nervous doing it. But it changed my life forever and helped lead me down this path of presenting at teacher conferences all over the United States. 


So October is our month of reflection on the different struggles Tessa has faced medically and cognitively.  But it is also a time for celebrating the young lady she has become, and the impact that she will always have on me as a teacher and presenter and on the people that hear her story.


Tessa wants everyone to get along.  She wants everyone to be happy. Whenever her father gets impatient with other drivers, or her mom gets impatient waiting at the pharmacy counter or with people who "just don't get it", she always says the same thing. And instantly, she calms me down.  And in honor of her, I would like everyone to think about the quote that she wants us to all live by, "Be nice to the people." -Tessa


Thanks for stopping by.  Happy Monday to everyone:)


Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Words Sorts and Reading

I am a HUGE word sort fan. I believe word sorts help children make sense of a sometimes unpredictable English language. Since our brains like to look for patterns and order, word sorts help children notice how words are the same and how they are different. And I feel they are more effective when the students already have the cards ready to sort instead of having to do a cut and paste activity.  We want children to use their time sorting and reading not cutting and pasting.

I made a new Monster Word Sort Games packet just in time for the last 2 weeks of October.  And yes, I did put it to a song with the tune : 10 Little Indians.  Click on the picture to see the words to the song.  It's very simple but will help teach the skill of sorting.  Always focus on how they are the same.  Then focus on how they are different.
This packet includes activities for whole group, guided reading or small groups, and independent literacy centers.  
Pictures of some of the activities.  There are 56 cards  (same color within word family) and 56 cards (mix colors within word family) included to sort along with sorting mats and a recording sheet to apply the skill.  Choose which cards will work best with your students' age and reading ability.  
To purchase the 70 page resource, click HERE.  The graphics are by: www.thistlegirldesigns.com

I also included the Common Core State Standards for ELA Reading Foundations for Kindergarten and 1st Grade Phonological Awareness and Phonics.

Thanks for stopping by.  We are having fall break in our state starting today.  Hurray for fall!  And it actually is starting to feel like it.





Sunday, October 14, 2012

Tell Me More About the Common Core






Hello to the Fox 23 viewers visiting my blog today.  What's today's topic?  We are discussing the Common Core State Standards.  The Common Core  initiative is a state led coordination by the National Governors Association Center for Best Practice and the Council of Chief State School Officers.  These standards were adopted in 2010 with a projected date of being fully implemented during the 2014-2015 school year.  Each state/district/school has set their own timeline for implementing these standards ensuring their school is ready by 2014.  So what this means is that your child's school has already begun to develop and implement these standards in the classroom while many are providing teachers with professional development, training, and collaboration time to align their teaching with these standards.

The standards are not a curriculum, but rather a clear set of goals and expectations for what knowledge and skills our students will need to be college and workplace ready.  Think of them as steps on a staircase where skills seamlessly build upon each other so there are no gaps in learning.

As a parent and educator, it's great to have tools to help us navigate this newer terminology. And with technology - comes the tools.  If your preference is to have the standards and information at your fingertips, check out the FREE Common Core Apps for the iPhone or iPad and Android below.  If you prefer to view items on your desktop computer, visit the Common Core State Standards website below or look on the right side of this blog and click on the Common Core gray bar.



For more information on the Common Core App for the iPad or iPhone click HERE.

For more information on the Common Core App for the Android click HERE

To visit the Common Core State Standard website click HERE.
You can search by grade level and subject area.  You have all of the Common Core standards from K-12 right at your fingertips.  If you have a child who is struggling on a 1st grade level, click on the same heading under kindergarten to see what prerequisites are needed to build up to this skill.  If you have a child who is ahead of the skills you are teaching in 1st grade, click on the same heading under 2nd grade to see what you can do to bump it up a level.  Think of it as a way to differentiate instruction.

So let's take a look at one area of Language Arts and see how it fits on the "staircase" of learning.

All children and adults have "opinions." Writing an opinion piece is now part of the Common Core State Standards.  Instead of introducing it in 5th grade, expecting them to master all 4 of the higher level thinking skills needed to write an opinion paper, we are providing young children the opportunity and exposure to learn this standard in a developmentally appropriate way in kindergarten.  How many times has one of your children or your students given you an opinion about something?  Probably all of you have experienced this.  So I am going to break it down and apply it to:

Common Core State Standards under Language Arts Writing

Text Types and Purposes

Kindergarten
1. Use a combination of drawing, dictating, and writing to compose opinion pieces in which they tell a reader the topic or the name of the book they are writing about and state an opinion or preference about the topic or book (e.g., My favorite book is…).


First Grade 
1. Write opinion pieces in which they introduce the topic or name the book they are writing about, state an opinion, supply a reason for the opinion, and provide some sense of closure.


Second Grade
1. Write opinion pieces in which they introduce the topic or book they are writing about, state an opinion, supply reasons that support the opinion, use linking words (e.g., because, and, also) to connect opinion and reasons, and provide a concluding statement or section.

Third Grade
1. Write opinion pieces on topics or texts, supporting a point of view with reasons.
a.  Introduce the topic or text they are writing about, state an opinion, and create an organizational structure that lists reasons.
b. Provide reasons that support the opinion.
c.  Use linking words and phrases (because, therefore, since, for example) to connect opinion and reasons.
d.  Provide a concluding statement or section.

Fourth Grade
1.  Write opinion pieces on topics or texts, supporting a point of view with reasons and information.
a.  Introduce a topic or text clearly, state an opinion, and create and organizational structure in which related ideas are grouped to support the writer's purpose.
b.  Provide reasons that are supported by facts and details.
c.  Link opinion and reasons using words and phrases (for instance, in order to, in addition).
d.  Provide a concluding statement or section related to the opinion presented.

Fifth Grade
1.  Write opinion pieces on topics or texts, supporting a point of view with reasons and information.
a.  Introduce a topic or text clearly, state an opinion, and create an organizational structure in which ideas are logically grouped to support the writer's purpose.
b.  Provide logically ordered reasons that are supported by facts and details.
c.  Link opinion and reasons using words, phrases, and clauses (consequently, specifically).
d.  Provide a concluding statement or section related to the opinion presented.

And you can continue all the way up through 12th grade seeing how each skill builds upon the other.

So what can be some topics to help your children learn about writing opinion pieces.  Consider the many times your students or your own children ask you these questions.
  
1.  I need an iPhone.
2.  I need a dog.
3.  Can I spend the night with my friend?
4.  I want _________ for Christmas.
5.  Can we have extra recess?
6.  Can I go to the movies with my friends?

Using the standards above, get your children talking about their opinion or question.  Talking and verbalizing their thoughts is the first step to getting them writing.  Writing is an organizational tool adults need in their everyday lives.  Yes, you may end up with some lawyers on your hands, but that is what the Common Core is about . . . preparing our children for college and the workplace.

Here is a video that a first grade class made about Mo Willem's pigeon series books.  I think they did a great job giving their opinions on why the pigeon should be the principal.


Mo Willems' Pigeon books are fantastic for learning about opinions and supporting details/reasons for doing things.  His books are very comical, dramatic, and theatrical as to why the pigeon should get to do something.  And if you want to meet Mo Williems in person, he will be in Tulsa on November 16, 2012, 7 p.m. at Central Library, Fourth Street and Denver Avenue to speak, answer questions, and sign copies of his books. 


Click HERE for a link to Don't Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus at Amazon Books.

Thanks for stopping by.  Check back soon and follow my blog to learn more ideas about the Common Core State Standards.

Authors: National Governors Association Center for Best Practices, Council of Chief State School Officers
Title: Common Core State Standards (insert specific content area if you are using only one)
Publisher: National Governors Association Center for Best Practices, Council of Chief State School Officers, Washington D.C.
Copyright Date: 2010

Friday, October 12, 2012

Monster Reading & Math Fun

I love this time of year.  It's time for parent-teacher conferences, the children are settling into their routines, the weather is getting cooler, and next week is FALL BREAK.  I LOVE FALL!

One of my favorite units to do with my students is "Monsters."  We read all kinds of silly monster books, sing monster songs, and play monster games.

I've created a Monster Reading & Math Fun activity packet just in time for the festivities that await us during the last 2 weeks of October.  Our little ones are excited about Halloween, so this activity pack will fit right in with all of the fall fun.

 I've created 2 new books that should be easy to remember.  Monsters Everywhere is to "Oh My Darling Clementine."  This book has 2 sizes.  One 8 1/2 X 11 for whole group reading and a 1/2 size book for the children to put in their book boxes or to use as homework reading.  You can print the 1/2 size books front to back to save paper and print in grayscale to save on the color ink.  The other book is Our Silly Monster Book which is sung to "The Farmer in the Dell."  You can see a copy of my cute great-niece and great-nephew making their "BOO! Faces for my book.  The clip art is from www.thistlegirldesigns.com  
I included a craft activity that focuses on shapes.  The students may use the monster pattern or they may create their own monster out of the shapes pages.  We used dot markers to paint our monsters.  If you use dot markers, make sure to copy the monster template on card stock.  Regular copy paper will curl when used with dot markers.  You can also copy the monster template on colored construction paper or card stock to make a bright bulletin board.  Use the words from Our Silly Monster book to place on the bulletin board.  The children will enjoy lifting the monsters' faces to reveal a picture of themselves.
I love to use pocket charts for building sentences and learning concept of print.  The cards for the pocket chart are color-coded to help young emergent readers build the sentences. The art activity can be made using the monster template or there is a blank sheet for the students to design their own monster.  Use the words from Our Silly Monster to highlight your bulletin board.  What fun for parents to open the monsters and see their children making "Boo Faces."   

BOO! It's me!

BOO!  It's me!

Click HERE  to view Monster Reading & Math Fun.

Thanks for stopping by.