Monday, September 30, 2013

A Morning of Inspiration From Ron Clark

Getting my fangirl on for Ron Clark!
Today I took the day off so I could see Ron Clark in person. I have been a fan of Mr. Clark's since I started teaching 5 years ago. I read all of his books, saw the movie, and have made every effort to use some of his techniques in my classroom. My principal also heard him speak several years ago and since then, every morning she reads one Essential 55 rule during the morning announcements.  The Essential 55 are simple but effective guidelines to help guide behavior and instill a sense of pride and responsibility in students.  The Essential 55 has become part of our school culture.

Some of the advice he gave to the packed room full of teachers today was not over-the-top or unreasonable techniques, but just good strategies for keeping our kids engaged and challenged:

1.  Keep them moving - for every 45 minutes of instruction, take a few minutes to get the blood flowing to their brain. Songs, dancing, or just plain old jumping jacks will do the trick. He even suggested giving them 20 seconds to find a different seat to sit in!

2.  Use music to help teach. He is really good at changing words to popular songs to fit what he is teaching (and he can bust a move), but there are also tons of songs and videos on YouTube that you can use without ever having to come up with your own.  A few years ago, I changed the words to Michael Jackson's "Beat It" to fit the Daily 5 and Good Fit Books and called it "Read It". The kids even helped me with some of the wording.

3.  Don't teach to the lowest, don't teach to the middle - teach to the highest and have expections for the lowest to learn and achieve as much as the others.

"When you put a label on a kid (person) - you lower expectations." 
Ron Clark

4. Don't let the highest kids chill out and make easy A's - challenge them and raise the bar because when they enter the real world there are no easy A's.

When you push the gifted kids everyone's scores go up. Ron clark

6.  Make lessons exciting and engaging - go outside, do math problems on balloons, make it rain in your classroom by turning down the lights, playing recorded rain sounds, and putting up umbrellas.

7.  Make your kids work for their rewards - make rewards meaningful!  He used the example of doing math problems on balloons: The kids come to class and there are balloons everywhere - they have to grab one and do a math problem on it. The kids who get it right get to pop the balloon - the kids who get it wrong don't...even when they say "please". The next day, have the balloons again. This time, more kids may get it right and get to pop the balloon. Don't just stick with balloons though, because the kids who have already popped them will be ready to move on - mix it up and keep it fun and challenging.

"We have wussified America and education; why do all kids have to get trophies?" Ron Clark

8. Know who your students are - demand eye contact, learn their culture, and don't pretend that you're color blind.

8. Go the extra mile FOR YOUR KIDS - not to make other teachers feel bad or inadequate.

"Don’t take the stairs in life. Use the slide. Try something unusual. Be a disrupter. Do something. Be someone." Ron Clark

Tomorrow when I go back to school, I probably will not be jumping on top of desks, but I will definitely be making more of an effort to reach and engage my kids through songs, physical activity, and high expectations!

Thank you Mr. Clark!

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Wednesday, September 25, 2013

International Peace Day

We celebrated International Peace Day with a few books and writing activities.
First, we read Todd Parr's The Peace Book and wrote in our writing journals about what peace means to us.

I also write in a journal while the students write. One of the ways I bring peace and calmness to my classroom is by doing mindful breathing. We take time to stop, listen, breath, and smile. It is amazing how this can settle a busy classroom in just a few short minutes. My journal entry is about the 4x4 breathing activity that our principal has us do during morning announcements.  I also drew a picture in the style of Todd Parr.

Next, our counselor visited and read How Full is Your Bucket? by Tom Rath and Mary Reckmeyer. 

The students spent time writing notes on paper "drops" to their friends, teachers, and staff. It is so fun to see their faces light up when they receive a drop. It is also nice to see how excited they are about giving the drops with kind words and encouragement. I have set up a basket and a stack of drops in a central location in my room and have designated our morning settling-in time as the time they write and deliver drops. I am planning to keep this a positive, ongoing activity in my classroom.

We have taped baggies to our desks for easy delivery and storage of our drops!

Low Tech and High Tech Dot Days

This is the first year that I celebrated International Dot Day in my classroom.  We actually celebrated it on two days: Monday September 16 and Friday September 20.

The Monday celebration was very "low-tech". A guest came and read The Dot by Peter H. Reynolds and discussed how we can encourage each other and make our mark in the world.  Then we painted with our never-before-used-paint-sets. The students really enjoyed creating their own dot and making their mark. The dots made a beautiful hall display.

On Friday, we went "high-tech" by inviting guests to bring their Apple and Android devices so we could bring dots to life using the augmented reality app ColAR.  The students colored dots on special color sheets printed from the ColAR app site. When we aimed the devices at the color sheet, the dots became spinnng, bouncing spheres that multplied and changed sizes!

Use these two images to check out ColAR app. Just go to the site and download the app to your Apple or Android device.  Once dowloaded, click on play, aim it at one of the images, and watch it come to life! Make sure the whole image is in your screen. It will turn purple and then come to life!