Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Why Technology?

I keep coming back to technology and its importance in the classroom. This article outlines some of the positive benefits of technology. I also realize how much work it takes to be able to properly integrate technology into a classroom. A lot of the time we may have the tools, but aren't sure (as teachers) how to use them effectively. It takes time and energy, but I do think the students benefit, which is what should matter the most. Technology isn't going anywhere...we need to be able to embrace it. Our districts need to invest in training for teachers to help figure out how to effectively use the tools we are given to aid in teaching and learning. It is time to reinvent the wheel. This article explains a few reasons why. Why Integrate?

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Looking for Inspiration

Today has been difficult. I need a project for my Master's program. I really am wanting it to be technology based. Technology intrigues me...I like learning new ways to use technology and I feel passionate about our students needing more technology.

Our world is vastly different now than it was even ten years ago. Technology is so important and just continues to increase in importance. Teachers today did not grow up with technology as prevalent as it is for our students. Our students are growing up in a different world and need to be taught differently as well. Technology is everywhere. It is changing the way we do things. I got the new IPhone 5 (thank you to my dear husband!) on Friday and now I don't need to print boarding passes when I get on an airplane...they just scan my phone using Passbook. Movie tickets, gift cards, coupons...all they need is to scan your phone. Twitter and Facebook has changed the way our children socialize. Google is a household name. There are few questions you can't answer without the use of technology. Siri tells me just about anything I would wonder about. I know our world is different. Why would we teach our students the same way we have always done it?

Now for my dilemma, I do not know how to put that thought and reflection into a project and now I am starting to panic a little (actually a lot) that I won't have a project that is worthwhile and close to my heart. I want to use technology in my classroom more. I want my students to learn using that method more then through the traditional method. I learned that way, but I want better for my students. I dabble in it. I try. But, I feel I could be better. I want my classroom to be more interactive for the students. I feel students learn more by doing. New standards are encouraging us to use technology more with students, even primary classes. But, I feel like I need more direction. I have been reading articles, searching for answers. It all seems so overwhelming. I am stressed!!! Hoping that tomorrow will feel better.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

How Many is Too Many?

I have been reading about the Chicago teacher's strike this morning and trying to figure out what was the last straw for them...that forced them to take to the streets versus their classrooms. As teachers, we (speaking for everyone although although it may just be me) get frustrated over the politics A LOT, the paperwork, the testing, all the blah, blah, blah when all we really want to do is teach...be there for our students and do what we were hired to do ~ help our students reach their full potential and learn a few things along the way. I LOVE seeing the lightbulbs come on for my students, love being in the classroom, love my students. BUT I do not love all the other stuff and it seems there is a lot more stuff every year.

As I was reading, I realized how large some of the Chicago teacher's class sizes were...40 students in kindergarten. I cannot imagine how much I would love my day if I had 40 I had to try and teach everyday. It gets to a point, once you reach a certain number of students, that it becomes behavior and class management entirely instead of learning and teaching. Today, they are back in the classroom without having resolved the class size issue. I hope that enough attention was brought to the forefront of class sizes that something happens. Every district, every school should think about how many is too many! You can read a little about the strike here.

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Technology in the Kindergarten Classroom

I found this article from a kindergarten teacher regarding using technology in the kindergarten classroom during writing time and felt this was something I am struggling with right now. Now with our new common core standards the writing standards for kindergarten are the one set of standards that I am finding it difficult to figure out how to manage in the kindergarten classroom. One of the common core new writing standards states "with guidance and support from adults, explore of variety of digital tools to produce and publish writing, including in collaboration with peers."
That whole statement scares me a little as I think about implementation. What does guidance and support look like? What kind of digital tools? What is considered a variety? Collaboration with peers? In kindergarten? Yikes! 
Then I stop and think about our day to day world and how much we all do together in the classroom and feel like maybe I do hit that standard more than I am realizing, but then again maybe not. This article shows how one extremely creative teacher uses it in her classroom. I am hoping that we have the software available at our school to try something similar. I am excited to at least give it a try…

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Parents Divided

Both articles I am posting tonight deal with free play in a primary classroom, but this article deals with the parent side of things a little more. Every year I have parents that are completely divided on what is best for the students' in the classroom. Every year, I am continuing to learn and grow about what is best for the young learners' as well. Some parents want more (of everything), some want less. Ultimately, I want these young learners to enjoy coming to school, to explore this new world they have stepped into, to create and to learn. Everything we do is and can be a learning experience!
So what is the answer? This article addresses one school where parents took action. A Push for More Play Time

Do we let them play enough?

As a kindergarten teacher it is often difficult to find the balance between too little and too much play. I can definitely see the benefits of play in my classroom and love my housekeeping area, my block section and reading corner for the students to use their imaginations. It is incredible how much they can learn from those free play moments. More and more primary classrooms are removing all of the play areas in their classrooms to make room for more literacy and math centers as we have begun the transition to common core standards and a required 90 minute literacy block. I think sometimes we lose sight of the fact that they are coming to us as five year olds and creative and imaginary play is still a very large part of their world. Are we stifling that too soon?
This article addresses those issues briefly. The Value of Play 

Friday, September 7, 2012

Finally Friday

This was a short week with Labor Day on Monday and then we had a district professional day on Tuesday so only had three student days, but for some reason this week felt exceptionally long.
I started home visits on Thursday and am so eager to go and visit all my students. Kindergarten home visits are not common in our district and in fact, I think that Walton may be the only school that they are done. They are an opportunity for me to get to know my little student one on one in their own element. I come over for a 30 minute "play date" and they get to "run the show." They show me how they ride their bike and where they sleep at night, I get to see where they keep their toys and I get to know so much about their personality in that short amount of time. That short period of time helps us form a bond that lasts for months and years to come. I have high school students that remember when I visited them in kindergarten. I learn so much from my home visits and couldn't imagine giving them up even though it does make September difficult for my family. It is truly a wonderful feeling after a long day, to pull up to a kindergarten students' home and see their little faces waiting at the door for me! I love my job!

So this weekend I will relax and recharge. Tonight we have home football, tomorrow I will work on homework and spend the day with my girls and Sunday, we are headed to the Kansas State Fair because our little girl is a state tractor pull qualifier (placing first twice in our county!) GO BROOKLYNN!!!

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Is Project-Based Learning Possible in Primary Grades?

I teach at a charter school that integrates agriculture into our project-based curriculum. We have a barn, chicken coop, greenhouse and a wind turbine. A lot of our learning is centered on projects. There are lots of challenges and it takes some work, but the students seem to thrive in this learning environment. This is a brief article regarding this wonderful way to educate young learners. I am sure this will be one of many posts I will make about this topic so close to my heart!


Monday, September 3, 2012

My Philosophy

As I set down to write my THIRD posts of the day, I began to worry that people reading this blog (if anyone is) are going to think I am boring, that this blog is boring and then I started to panic a little about how I am going to jazz this up so I can have followers. I then quickly remembered that this is not the point. The point is that I am getting my Masters and this blog was a part of the process. So bear with me and I will try to get better at this as I go.
Today, I took a short online quiz to determine what they thought my philosophy of education was. After taking the quiz, I wasn't surprised with the results. I most closely aligned with the philosophy of Progressives, but Existentialism wasn't far behind that. I teach in a charter school that is project-based, I teach kindergarten students, and I am very passionate about my job. The word that I kept reading over and over that summed it all up for me was "whole child." Well, of course I teach to the whole child. They have an entire world beyond the confines of our classroom and my job is to make sure I understand that, so that I can reach them where they are and with what matters to them. But, as I was reading article after article defining what it means to be a progressive teacher, I realized that there are a lot of misconceptions of what it is (and isn't). I am a very organized person so a lot of times that carries over into my classroom, but ultimately if my students have a desire to learn something we will go that direction that day. I enjoy structure and routine, but it works differently in my classroom. I have standards to teach and they do get taught, in a way meaningful to the students in my classroom.
For example, last week, the students caught a frog on the playground when another teacher was on duty. They brought it in and put it in an unused aquarium and then we needed to decide what to do. In my class, we took a little of the afternoon off from our traditional lessons to learn about frogs. Needless to say, the frog was let go. We read way too many sources that said a wild frog in captivity would die and the students did not want that. We learned a lot that day, just in a non-traditional way. Did I know that frogs was the direction I would go that day? No...but the students had a desire and a need so that's the direction we took.

Digital Native vs. Digital Immigrants

Technology is often something I struggle with the most in my classroom. I teach the youngest kids in the school, but often feel that should not exclude them from anything. Technology is something that intrigues me, that I am anxious to learn more about, interested in and always trying to help my students experience since it is such a major part of our world. 
This article was emailed to me by a friend & co-worker and I was amazed at how much it resonated with me. Definitely worth the read!


The sunset at the lake was a beautiful distraction!
I knew I had homework that needed to be done. I also knew that I had a long weekend due to Labor Day. So I have plenty of time to get it all finished...right? WRONG!
Friday was our first home football game. So the girls and I headed to that while my husband worked late. Distraction! 
Saturday, my girls and I loaded in the truck and drove to SE Kansas to see my family. My baby brother has been in Japan for a year and just got back with his new girlfriend so we all met at Elk City Lake to reunite. So spent the day at the lake, the night in a hotel and most of Sunday at the lake again. Distraction! 
Drove home Sunday and decided to go to the movies with the family. Distraction!
Today is Monday and I am trying to get motivated to work on homework. Read through articles, took a quiz, took lots of notes...but something that should take a couple of hours at most has so far taken me most of today. Why? Because of distractions. My children have not quite figured out that mom has homework and needs to focus and not only that, but my husband has also not quite figured that out either. So now I am realizing that this is not just a learning process for me, but for my family as well. Come Wednesday everything will be completed and prepared for class...well because that's just how I am, even if I do stay up all night the night before making sure of it!! Bring on the distractions :)

My girls with their cousin Brock and
my little brother's girlfriend, Miyu from Japan.