Thursday, November 12, 2015

Shut Up and Dance With Me

Image from here, edited by me!
I can imagine what you must be thinking....

"A song title?  One that says shut up?  What in the world?"

I'm right there with you, but there is an educational related story in there, I promise! :0)

My students were working quietly on a fun activity.  They had been quiet for so long, that I put on Kidz Bop Radio for them to listen to.

"Shut Up and Dance With Me," started playing.  I didn't say a word.  Any of them could tell you that shut up is not a nice thing to say.  "It's a bad word, Mrs. Lynch!"

I wanted to see what my kids would say / do.

They started singing along and I just waited patiently.  They get to the shut up part and one of my girls sings quite loudly, "BE QUIET AND DANCE WITH ME!!!!!"

I lost it!  I laughed so hard - she laughed too and continued singing it with "be quiet!"

Then I sat back and thought about it.

In her mind, "shut up" is  a bad word. 
She knew she shouldn't say it. 
She knew that we only say nice things in my class.  (We're bucket fillers, not bucket dippers.)
She knew she wouldn't be singing the correct lyrics, but she didn't care.  She took a risk.
She wanted to make it more friendly, so she did. 

You go girl!

Teaching involves more than just teaching curriculum.

We get into things like life skills, manners, and respecting others

Teaching is also about creating an environment where students feel safe enough to take risks.

This girl wanted to use her manners.  She wanted to show respect to me and her classmates.
She wanted to take the risk to say the right thing, even though no one else might say it with her.  She didn't care.  

I'm proud of her. :-)
Plus, it was an adorable moment! :-)

I guess I'll be singing "Be quiet and dance with me" from now on!

Until next time! :-)

Sunday, October 11, 2015

Reflections of a Deskless Classroom

Image from here

The above graphic is so me when it comes to my classroom.  
I left my comfort zone.  
I challenged assumptions.
I stepped out of my shoes.

For two weeks now, my classroom has been a deskless classroom.
Yes, that’s right, DESKLESS!!! :-) I had *most of* the student desks and chairs removed from my room!

One month ago yesterday, I  submitted a proposal to my principal about going deskless.  First, I provided a definition of a deskless classroom.  I  explained why I wanted to go deskless.  Then I informed her that I would need some things to replace the desks and chairs.  In order to get those items, I would create a project on Donors Choose with the items I needed .  I said that I would love her permission to go on this journey.  She thought the idea was fantastic and gave me the thumbs up!!  I am so lucky that she supported me and believed in my idea!

That afternoon, I submitted my project to the Donors Choose website.  It was approved three days later, and funded four days after that!!!  

One week later, on a Thursday, my new floor seating and cubby unit arrived! I showed my students everything that came in and explained what would be happening.  They were very excited!  That following Monday, we began our new deskless adventure!

There were some quirks to work out at the beginning, as one would expect.  But we’ve been working through and learning from them.  In fact, I’m seeing so many more benefits than I originally thought!   In my proposal, I stated the following: “Teachers reported that their students were more focused and that they loved the different seating options!”  My students are definitely more focused and more relaxed! I have to tell you what else I’ve been noticing!

This deskless classroom arrangement is teaching my students some organization skills! They keep their unfinished work and supplies in their cubbies.  They put their take home folders in a magazine holder on top of the cubby unit.  Their writing journals are in another magazine holder next to the cubby unit. They have their handwriting packets in a basket in our writing corner. They know where the pencils are kept and where they can find additional supplies.  They have done a great job of adjusting to not having all of their items in one spot!

Personal Space:
I still have three student desks and two reading tables in my room.  My students are free to sit there OR on the floor with my soft seating.  (I have soft puzzle pieces and sit upons for them to sit on.)  My rule is that they can sit wherever they want as long as they can work quietly and / or pay attention to me.  I also tell my students that if they are sitting near someone who they might talk to OR if that person might talk to them, they should make the good choice of finding another spot around the room.  My students spread out all over my room.  They definitely have enough space to work and are making great choices about who they are sitting near!

Patience didn’t even pop up into my mind when I was thinking of the benefits of this deskless classroom but it is definitely a benefit!!  I have my cubby unit in one area of my room, my sit upons in another area, the puzzle pieces in another area, and the clipboards next to the puzzle pieces.  I certainly can’t have 20 students running to each place trying to get what they need at the same time!  

To help with this issue, I put duct tape down in front of each of those spots.  The students line up behind the duct tape line. Since I have two piles of puzzle pieces, two students at a time are able to get a puzzle piece.  They need to wait their turn to get their puzzle piece.  To get items from their cubby, again, two students at a time can retrieve their things.  For the sit upons and clipboards, one student can go at a time.  The duct tape has helped cut down on the chaos.  Students are waiting their turns without me having to tell them.  They are actually reminding each other!

Side note:  When my students get their floor seating, I tell them they must take from the top - not from the middle or the bottom.  They understand that “They get what they get and they won’t get upset!”

Respect / Behavior / Following Directions:
My students seem to have a higher level of respect for me and our rules.  They did a good job of following directions and rules before we went deskless, but that seems to have gone to higher levels now.  I can't explain why, but they are so incredibly well behaved.  They do what I ask of them without complaining.  They are listening to all of the adults they encounter in the building - even subs they might have not have met before.  They are just AWESOME!  I'm so proud of my students. :-)

Responsibility and Cleanliness:
I had to put these two items together.  My classroom is much cleaner - and I’m not talking about the job building service has done.  (Although I must say, they LOVE my deskless classroom as it makes clean up time a BREEZE!!!)  

My students are taking a lot more responsibility in taking care of our room and the things in our room.  Greeting my students at the front door is a mat that I purchased from Bed, Bath, and Beyond.  I didn’t even give my students warning that I would be buying one.  I just put it down there on the first day.  Without my saying a word, they started wiping their feet on it before entering the room!  They’ve done it every single day.  Sometimes, the kids will wipe their feet for 30 seconds, just because they feel like it and want to keep the room clean!  Sometimes I have to tell them that they can stop! :-)

My students are now much more aware of trash on the floor. They love cleaning up so much, that several times throughout the day, they all ask me if they can take the broom and sweep the floor!  If one student has it, five kids will go up to them and ask if they can have a turn!  It’s VERY cute! :-)

They also love to clean our floor seating.  Luckily, the puzzle piece and sit upons are easy to wipe down!  This makes cleaning fun!  We wipe them down once a week, sometimes twice, and on rare occasions, three times a week. (I did the same thing when I had desks.)

If we're doing a messy art project with paint, liquid glue, pastels, etc...I put tablecloths on the floor for those who aren't sitting at a table. 

My school offers free breakfast in the morning.  Any of my students who eat breakfast sit at one of the tables or desks.  I wipe down those areas before they arrive in the morning and again once they are done eating. 

Focus and Posture:
I’ve let my students know, that when they are working independently, they can sit / lie wherever / however they want, as long as they are quietly getting their work done.  The amount of space combined with with them working where they want to has definitely cut down on the noise level in my room.  Plus, my students are MUCH more focused on their work!  This is leading to them working more efficiently. 

When I’m up at the front of the room teaching a mini lesson or giving directions, they must sit up and face me.  This has really helped with their posture!  I am amazed at how well they are sitting up straight and tall!  When I thought about it though, I realized that this is because they don’t have a desk to lean forward on or a chair to lean back in.  It’s fantastic to watch this transformation!

Due to the amount of space we now have, this arrangement has helped us become more of a family.  Everyday after lunch, my students come in, grab something to sit on, and sit in a circle with me.  We take a few minutes to do some deep breathing and stretching.  

Once we’re relaxed, we have sharing time, but this is not your typical show and tell.  I’m allowing my students to talk.  They talk about things that happened during lunch and recess.  They talk about how those things made them feel.  We work out problems that may have occurred.  We figure out ways to handle situations that might happen another day.  Everyone LOVES sharing! Even my shy and quiet students love sharing!  If I let them, they would probably share for 20 minutes.  For that reason, I limit sharing time to five minutes.   

After sharing time, my students turn to the person next to them and say nice things to each other.  After 30 seconds, I have them find someone else to say something nice to.  My students all wanted to say something nice to me! (Aww, so sweet!!!)  After a few days of that though, I told them that while I loved that they all wanted to say nice things to me, they needed to talk to their classmates.  

My students absolutely LOVE our after lunch routine!  There was one time I wanted them to finish up their project from the morning and had completely forgotten about our routine.  My students kept on reminding me about it all afternoon until we finally did it! :-)

My students have more room to work.  
My students have more room for our brain breaks.  
My students have a relaxing spot in which to learn.
My students are learning skills that aren’t found in textbooks or curriculum guides.  

I am so glad that I left my comfort zone, challenged assumptions, and stepped out of my shoes.  I can see how my students are benefiting from it and *even though I said this already,* I am so proud of them! :-)

Here are a few more pictures from our deskless classroom!!!

Before I sign off, I must give a HUGE shout out to Greg at the Kindergarten Smorgasboard, for he inspired ME to go deskless!  Thank you so much Greg! You are amazing!
Hope you all have a super day! :-)

Saturday, September 19, 2015

Mini Pirate Week 2015!

Ahoy there me mateys!

If you remember my Pirate Day post from last year, then you'll know I put together an awesome Pirate Day with 15 hours notice!

I wasn't going to let that happen this year!  I've been (over) planning this out for awhile.  Knowing that Pirate Day would fall on a Saturday, I decided to do a mini-Pirate week!  We celebrated Pirate's Day Wednesday-Friday!

I started off on Wednesday by showing them a bunch of pirate books I checked out from the library.  As I held up each book, I asked them to tell me if it was a fiction or an informational book.   Then, I read How I Became a Pirate!

Next, we made pirate telescopes out of toilet paper rolls, black paper, red paper, and a skull / crossbones picture.

Then we made our hooks!

Take a red cup, carefully cut a hole in the middle (ADULTS DO THAT STEP), take a sheet of tin foil, roll it up and insert it.

We also decorated parrots.  They could choose between two:

We attached the parrots to cardboard and the kids put them in their hats when they worn them on Friday.

We also made a pirate hat (although it wasn't your typical pirate hat!)
Sometime that afternoon, we watched "The Magic School Bus Takes a Dive."  (Short version is one of Ms. Frizzle's ancestors was Redbeard the Pirate and the kids followed a treasure map to a coral reef.)  The video was actually two-fold in purpose:  1)  The pirate connection of course.  2)  Eventually my students will be choosing our big research project for the year - rainforest, coral reef, or zoo project. :-)

Thursday, we read a short story about a pirate named Mark.  (Story and next activity taken from here) There are many -ar words in the story, which talks about how pirates like to eat chocolate bars for breakfast.  So what did I do?  I bought little miniature Hershey bars for them to eat! :-)

Afterwards, we did an activity about -ar words (From the same SUPER ADORABLE PACKET ABOVE!!!!!!) They read / cut out the -ar words, glued them on a piece of paper, and turned it into a map!

The students were SO focused on this activity! It was amazing!

That afternoon, we discussed things that float and sink.  We experimented with objects I had in my art  bin.  Most of what I had floated - the kids couldn't believe it!!!!

Then I told them that they would be collaborating in order to make a boat.  They had to decided if they were going to make a boat that would float, or a boat they could try to sink.  I made a quick flipchart page to let them vote and then we interpreted the data.  The students compared the numbers using greater than and less than statements.  Then they gave me the 2 addition sentences!

Boat that floats is the winner!

I split the class up into 5 groups and gave each group a bucket of stuff!  (Popsicle sticks, yarn, qtips, masking tape, glue, and more!)  I let them go to town!  They worked for close to 2 hours!

This sweet boy below, wanted to make an anchor and figured out how to do so!  Then he went to each of the groups and showed them how to make one!

Friday!  Definitely dressed up!
The kids LAUGHED so hard when they saw me! :-)

We started off our day with a pirate themed photo shoot! Props came from Oriental Trading! Here are a few of the pics!

My best dressed pirate!  (It was individual student picture day!)

I added the smiley face.

My co-teacher! :-)
After the photo shoot they created their own treasure map.

Then we made pirate faces!

Then it was time for a TREASURE HUNT!  First we put on all of the things we made on Wednesday!

Argh mates! 

If you want to see your treasure, you’ll have to follow my directions!

  1.          Go to the courtyard and look for the clue.  Remember:  Don’t make any noise when you look for the clue!

2.      Go to the room with many colors for the next clue!

3.      Go the room with all of the books.

4.      Go to the room where you go when you don’t feel well.

5.      Go to Mrs. Lynch’s best friend’s room.

6.      Go to Mr. Johnson’s office for a clue.

7.       Tiptop into the office and say, “Excuse me, do you have anything for us?"

8.       Follow their directions to receive your treasure!'

I had this printed out on regular paper which I then sponge painted with watered down light brown paint to give it than old look!  The clues were spread out around the school.

The students had a BLAST on the treasure hunt!  After we found the treasure, we went back to the room, explored the treasure a little bit, and then celebrated by eating pirate's booty!  I had planned on doing a sensory writing with the pirate's booty but we ran out of time.

We had a fantastic Pirate's Week!  Thanks for reading all about it!

Until next time!
~Captain Stacey~

Center Rotations

Hello everyone! My name is Stacey Lynch and I’ve been teaching for thirteen years now.   For several years I was good about meeting wi...