Monday, April 30, 2012

Mother's Day Activities and Writing Inspiration

If you teach older students, it can be difficult to decide how to handle Mother’s Day.  I felt like I should have my students do something for their moms, but I did not always have time to do a big project or craft.  There are lots of websites with cute crafts for younger students to complete.

One of the nice things about older students is that they are pretty independent and creative at the same time.  Sometimes I found if I gave them some construction paper, colored pencils, and time, they managed the rest on their own.  I have had students design elaborate cards and make a paper flower bouquets.  I also had one student whose mom had passed away the year before so I was worried that it might upset her if we did a Mother’s Day activity.   I encouraged her to make a card for her grandmother, but she actually still chose to make a card for her mom.  

If you are going to do a Mother’s Day activity, it is important to just be sensitive and encourage students to also make things for grandmothers, stepmoms, aunts, or any female who has played an important role in their life.

A basic timeless activity to complete with students is to have them make a card or write a thank you letter to their mom.  A note from the heart is always appreciated. 

Some other ideas:
When I was in middle school, I did some different crafts with my big sister with Big Brothers Big Sisters.  One of the crafts we did was take old or inexpensive picture frames and cover them.  We used wrapping paper to cover some and decorated others almost like a collage.  I cut out pictures from old magazines and calendars and glued them to old wooden frames (with good old Elmer’s).  The pictures could overlap or be at an angle.  The idea was that the frame itself was a collage of favorite things.  I made one frame with pictures of horses, one with cats, and one for my Nana with pictures of different kinds of jewelry. 

I think this would be a fun activity to do with students.  You could take pictures of your students and put the picture inside the frame or frame a poem written by the student.  The frame itself could be the gift.  (I am going to try and make an example to post).  You also could just have the student make a collage of family pictures or of the parent’s favorite things.  Students could also draw pictures to be used in the collage. 

I used a writing lesson last year from to go with the book I Love You the Purplest.  They have the lesson and printables for you to use.  Following the story, students write poems for their moms following the example from the book.   Laura Candler has some printable coupons students can make for their mom.  (I also think it would be cute to have students make like a little coupon book for their moms.  Things like a promise to babysit younger siblings or vacuum or for a “free hug.”)

I was also thinking it might be fun to have student think of a personal award for their mom (sort of like some teachers do for their students at the end of the year).

Mother’s Day is a good opportunity to get students to think about why it is important to show others that we care.  You can encourage them to appreciate their parents and reflect on why.  You can download the award and than you note stationary here.

Writing Inspiration for Mother's Day

Poem:  "Lunchbox Love Note" by Kenn Nesbitt
Students could talk about if they have every received a note from their mom.  What would they put in a love not to their Mom?

Quote: "Mothers hold their children's hands for a short while, but their hearts forever."

Picture:  This is the cover of Love You Forever by Robert Munsch. 

I think this would be a fun story to read for Mother's Day.  This was one of the few books my mom read to me and it was always special.  You could have a class discussion on when students may have done something that felt unlovable, but their moms always loved them. 

Word Games to use in Teaching

I know a lot of teachers play Scrabble or Hangman in their classrooms.  Many of you may even have played Apples to Apples or the junior version.  The other day I was at Barnes and Noble, and I was amazed at how many word games there are now.  My first thought was how awesome it would be to have so many different types of games to use in the classroom.  They would be fun for a game day or stations.

I saw one game called Literati that I think I want to buy.  I thought this might be fun to use with high school or middle school.  I purchased the Origins game.  It was fun, and really made you think.  It reminded me a little of Cranium.

This Book Lovers Memory sounded fun, too.

Have you ever played any of these?  What games do you use in your classroom?  Laura Candler has some ideas and directions for doing a Scrabble challenge.   The end of the year seems like a great time to have an educational board game day. 

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Research Project Freebie & Five Star Blogger Challenge

I know this time of year some of you may be trying to squeeze in a research paper or wondering how it got left out.  Even if you choose to have students do an oral report, poster, paper, or PowerPoint, it is good for students to learn how to do research.  It teaches them about note-taking, paraphrasing, quoting, pulling out main ideas, and deciding between important and unimportant information. I believe students are never too young to learn why it is important to not plagiarize.  Often in Elementary classrooms, students turn in research reports with copied sentences from a book or a website.  More often than not, if it is an oral report students cannot pronounce half the words!  If you decide to do some sort of research project, here are a couple of items I created awhile back. 

I hope they are helpful.  If you find them helpful, please leave me a comment.  Have a blessed day!

Also, I am happy to announce that I meet OC Blog's requirements for the Five Star Blogger Challenge. 

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Furry Friends Linky Party

I heard (a little belatedly) about a linky party for those with Furry Friends by Sandy with Soaring through Second.  I do not have kids and my pets are my babies, so I am excited about sharing about them.

1. Nala

Nala is my 2 year old Australian Shepherd. She is the joy of my day and always gives me reasons to smile.  She has taught me to take more joy in being active and getting outside consistently. She has taught me to have a good attitude.

2. Princess (Leia)

Princess was my main fur love for a long time.  She was the first thing I thought about when I woke up and last thing I thought about when I fell asleep.  This was because she was usually laying on me.  :)  Princess has taught me the importance of beauty rest.

3.  Luke

Luke has taught me that never missing a meal is important.  He also has helped me to aspire to have the life of a cat when I grow up.  He also shares my ability to fall asleep anywhere.

4. Ghost

Ghost has taught me patience.  My love-hate relationship with this cat has taught me patience on a daily basis.  He demands and demands...loudly.

Monday, April 23, 2012

Asking the right questions about education and "Weekly Inspiration - Facing Failure"

Listening to the radio today, I heard a reference to a story about a woman in Texas who purchased a billboard for her daughter for prom queen. This sparked a discussion about parenting today. They discussed the way some parents are living vicariously through their children and also how many young children’s sports are doing away with score keeping. If you have ever watched the reality shows Toddlers and Tiaras, Dance Moms, or Big and Rich Texas, you can see the lengths people will go to turn their kids into stars, athletes, or pageant queens. Parents will shove their children right out of childhood and at the same time go to great lengths to shield their children from failure. The result can be a scary combination of emotionally-handicapped miniature adults with a lack of imagination or sense of responsibility.

All of this discussion really got me thinking about kids in our society today. At one time, society had much more clearly defined roles that guided the way people lived. In an ever-changing globalized society supposedly marked by a postmodern lack of guiding principles, how do the roles of child, parent, and educator get defined? As an educator, how many times have you been frustrated because a parent basically expected you to both educate their child and parent them as well? Educators have the ability to make the world of difference in a child’s life, but if a child by 5th grade or 7th grade or 10th grade has not been taught right from wrong or common courtesy, how do we teach those things on top of everything else that is expected to be taught?

Education is one of those topics that everyone seems to have an opinion or a solution. Everyone has an answer, but are we asking the right questions? I was visiting my grandparents and family in Orlando this weekend and had some interesting discussions on education. Education is important in my dad’s family, and as someone who has taught and loves learning I absolutely believe in the importance of a good education. At the same time, are academic lessons enough? In one discussion, I expressed frustration that with most colleges you can graduate with a business degree with a good overview of business, but no skills to help you land and keep a job. To really be successful, you need to know how to write a resume and cover letter, how to interview and follow up, how to manage time and prioritize, and how to deal with people. Are academic skills enough or do we need life skills as well? Where are kids to learn these life skills? Is it the role of parent or educator or both? Can a teacher in a few hours a day make up for the life-skills not being taught at home? Some parents go too far, but some parents do not go far enough.

I’m not sure I have the answers, but I do think as a society we need to focus on asking the right questions before assuming we have the solution.

Here is what I do believe kids need as part of their education from parents and educators:
A sense of right and wrong
Treat others the way you want to be treated
To be thankful and have hope
To be respectful but not a doormat
Learn to accept the consequences of choices you make and live with them
The ability to read
The ability to do math and work through it even when it is hard
The ability to think critically
The ability to make choices and be creative
To ask good questions, but also the ability to believe with faith
Learn to form your own opinions and support them.
The ability to work within a structure
The ability to manage your time and personal space
To be flexible and adaptable
The ability to work with others
To be able to be alone
To understand the world around you
To foster an appreciation for history, economics, government, and geography – to prepare people to become thinking citizens capable of forming their own opinions.
To embrace technology but not always believe everything we are exposed to at face value.
To fall and get back up again
To accept disappointment and failure with grace and dignity, but at the same time be motivated to come back harder, stronger – winner.
To know the satisfaction in earning it instead of just being handed it.

In correlation with the above thoughts, my weekly writing inspiration will focus on facing failure and making choices:

Quotes: I found many quotes I liked this week.  Click on the link to the left to download Freebie posters of these quotes:

"The successful man will profit from his mistakes and try again in a different way."― Dale Carnegie

“Anyone who has never made a mistake has never tried anything new.” ― Albert Einstein

“The greatest mistake you can make in life is to be continually fearing you will make one.” ― Elbert Hubbard

“Mistakes are the growing pains of wisdom.” ― William Jordan

"As I said there is nothing wrong with failing. Pick yourself up and try it again. You never are going to know how good you really are until you go out and face failure." ―Henry Kravis

“The greatest barrier to success is the fear of failure.” ―Sven Goran Eriksson

“There are no secrets to success. It is the result of preparation, hard work, and learning from failure.” ―Colin Powell

“I didn't fail the test, I just found 100 ways to do it wrong.” ―Benjamin Franklin

Poem: “The Road Not Taken” by Robert Frost

I have always loved this poem. I would discuss the imagery of this poem. This is a great poem to talk about extended metaphor and the meaning of the poem. What is the road not taken? What does it mean to take the road less traveled? When we reach a fork in the road, how do we decide which path to take?

Picture: At the end of a road...

Friday, April 20, 2012

Spend Earth Day with Patricia Polacco

This will be quick because I have to get up in 3 hours to hop on a plane to go visit my grandparents for the weekend. Yay, Grandmom hugs! I have been thinking about Earth Day and how a lot of discussions focus on recycling. I was trying to think of ideas to discuss reusing. One of my favorite picture books is Junkyard Wonders by Patricia Polacco. It is an amazing story that always makes me a little teary. Actually, the first time I read the story aloud to my students I was being observed. I kept having to pause to choke back the emotion. It demonstrates the power a teacher can have with her students in helping them see themselves as treasures. They call their class "the junkyard." In the story, the class embraces the idea of project based learning and jets off to the junkyard to find scraps to create something new.  While they create their masterpieces in tribes, their teacher reads them poetry and Shakespeare.  The students grow and learn and the reader gets carried away with them...all the way to the moon.

I think this would be a wonderful story to bring about a discussion of how we can reuse old things.  You could show pictures of how people repurpose furniture or use things in new ways.  I actually think this would be a super fun way to get the family involved.  Have students look around their house for things that are being used in new ways or reused.  They could take pictures and do a sort of show and tell in class.  Or you could have them do a collage.  Maybe you have something in your classroom being used in an original way.  I have seen pictures of teachers using shoe organizers for storage in the classroom.  What are ways you reuse things at home or in the classroom?

I have two unusual door stoppers at home that started out as temporary fixes and 2 years later...Oh, well.

Patricia Polacco also has a book that is cute for Spring called In Enzo's Splended Gardens.  It reads very sing song and is fun to read aloud. It is a funny story of cause and effect.  I think this would be great for Earth Day because you could have students discuss cause and effect.  What happens if we recycle and if we don't recycle?  Talk about consequences of our actions.  Students could write their own little poem or story on cause and effect.

She has another sweet story about an orphan boy and a little blind goose called I Can Hear the Sun that I think could be incorporated for Earth Day or Spring.

I am linking this post up with Sunny Days Earth Day linky party.  Better last minute than never. 

Have a great weekend and a good Earth Day!

Monday, April 16, 2012

Writing Inspiration - Gratitude and Spring

This week I decided that the theme for the writing inspiration should be gratitude.  Thanksgiving is long gone, and sometimes we forget to stop and think of reasons to be thankful.  I have been keeping a list of things I am thankful for the last two months, and it has really changed my attitude.  I was actually thinking that this would be fun activity with students.  (Especially, this time of year).  You could have them keep a gratitude journal for a week, write poems about thanks, write an ABC book of thanks, focus on things they are thankful for about the school year, or make a giant list as a class.  I made some Spring themed graphic organizers on thanks to get them thinking:

Best Buds: Write about why you are thankful for your friends.
Drops of thanks:  Count your thanks on raindrops.

Sunshine smiles at school:  Find reasons to smile at school.

Now this week's writing inspiration:


Poem: "April Rain Song" by Langston Hughes

Since April is half-way over and I was thinking about counting drops of thanks, this poem seemed appropriate.  This poem would be a great chance to talk about personification.  What types of human actions does Hughes give to rain?  Consider the imagery and the tone of the poem.  We often think of rain as dark and gloomy, but does this poem seem dark?

You can play a little video where Langston Hughes is reading the poem aloud.

Picture: I am including a picture I took when I was out driving one night right before a big rain storm.  (The picture is a little blurry.)  Even though it was very dark, I thought the sky was beautiful.  I would discuss with my students how nature even when dark and fierce can be beautiful.

Have a wonderful week full of gratitude and inspiration!

Parent Communication and Student Responsibility

Lorraine at Fabulous Fourth Grade Froggies is having a linky party on Parent Communication. 

I think this is a wonderful idea.  I know a lot of teachers do newsletters.  I think whenever possible giving the parents the newsletter directly is probably the most effective method of making sure they receive the communication.  Why is that?  Students are irresponsible or forgetful or sneaky.  Depending on the motives or lack of thought. 

Images of lost papers in lockers, hallways, backpacks, cars, recess areas, bathrooms...dancing in my head.

I worked at a school where many of the parents didn't have email.  The school sent home a school newsletter on Wednesdays.  Most of the parents expected the Wednesday newsletter so including anything else you wanted to go home on Wednesday worked pretty well.

I started thinking tonight about the issue of helping the irresponsible and forgetful students do better at managing their time and reminders.  I started thinking why not have a message posted on the board or somewhere in the room and have them copy it down.  Newsletters are great, but whenever possible students need autonomy and often respond well to it.  The most successful round of literature circles I ever had was when I handed the students a calendar and said "You have three weeks to read the book.  You decide as a group how much you will read each day."  They used the calendars to track their progress and most of the groups finished in 1 or 2 weeks and had lots of time to start projects. Some groups started a second book. 

Anyway, I digress.  I decided to create a planner type weekly reminder sheet where students could write down homework, reminders, and messages from the teacher.  Maybe if they are invested in the process, they will help in the parent communication process instead of hindering it. 

Enjoy this weekly reminder handout.  Have a great week!

Monday, April 9, 2012

Writing Inspiration - Friendship

I thought that this week friendship would be a good topic for writing inspiration.  As we get closer to the end of the year, sometimes kids and even us as adults need reminders of the value of friendship and treating each other well. 

Quote by Ralph Waldo Emerson
"The only way to have a friend is to be one."
This quote would be a great way to prompt a conversation on the importance of friendship, how we like to be treated as a friend, and how we can be a better friend.  I would probably make a 2-column chart as a class with an anchor chart and individual ones. 

Picture on Friendship
Here is a picture from my calendar. I liked this picture and saying on friendship. I would ask students to consider how friendship is like a garden.  This would be a great opportunity to review simile.
You could have students write their own similes comparing friendship to something.  You could have them illustrate the idea of friendship as a garden.

Poem by Ken Nesbitt: "I taught my cat to clean my room."
I liked this poem because it is funny, but also it would be an entertaining way to discuss how animals can also be our friend.  It could also lead to a discussion on how we as friends can do things for each other.

If you are looking for resources to help your students analyze poetry, check out my packet at my TpT store on analyzing poetry.

Thursday, April 5, 2012

National Poetry Month - Analyzing Poetry

April is National Poetry Month, so I thought I would share some good resources on poetry.
Online Resources
Here are some great resources from Scholastic for National Poetry Month:
Here are some Poetry Resources from Read Write Think: 
Poetry 180 is for highschool students, but it does have some great poems.

I remember celebrating National Poetry Month as a kid and during the month of April we would write different types of poems. I always really enjoyed writing poetry. In fact, I wrote lots of poetry as a kid. I found it to be an authentic way to express my emotions. Somewhere along the way I stopped writing unless it was for an assignment or necessary. One of my goals this month is to try and open myself to writing more poetry again. I would challenge you to try and do the same.
As you ask your students to write, try to open yourself to the same possibilities. Sharing and modeling writing is powerful. Sharing what you are reading helps your students see that you read just like you ask them to read.

Students need opportunities to write and read poetry.  Check out your Juvenile Nonfiction section at the library.  You can find lots of great books on poetry.

Here are some taskcards I created to use for analyzing poetry and incorporating grammar.
Check out my resources for analyzing poetry. Included is a Tic-tac-toe menu, graphic organizer, poster, and taskcards. 

Monday, April 2, 2012

Weekly Inspiration: Hope

I decided to focus my inspiration this week on hope. I would probably start my discussion with the question: What is hope? I would draw a web with the question in the middle and have a class discussion on what they think hope is. This may be a good opportunity to have students write about examples of hope, times they have felt hope, things they have hoped for, the power of hope, etc.

Quote: By Mark Twain

Consider the imagery of this quote.  Imagine a hope tree where each leaf is someone's hopes. What would happen if the tree stopped generating those leaves?  What role does hope play in our lives and in our society?  Would we want a world without a hope.  Ask you students to consider the quote and how it makes them feel. How does hope inspire them.

Poem: "'Hope' is the thing with feathers" by Emily Dickinson
This poem is an extended metaphor.  Ask your students to consider what hope is being compared to.  Metaphors create great imagery and offer great discussion about visualization. This poem also offers a chance to discuss personification, slant rhyme, and rhyme scheme.  I have also created some questions to go along with the poem that focus on slant rhyme, personification, rhyme scheme, visualization, and message. You can purchase the questions at my Teachers Pay Teachers store.
Picture:  Rainbow

I would ask my students to consider how they feel when they see a rainbow. How do rainbows inspire them?

I am also working on some graphic organizers and task cards to use when analyzing poetry.  I will post these later.

I hope your week is full of hope,
Pin It button on image hover