Periods of Reflection

Just random musings from an elementary perspective. Views are my own.

Month: June, 2015

Genius Hour!

I am super honored to have my Genius Hour posted featured on Angela Maiers’s blog.  Please click the link below to read it.

Genius Hour: “An intrinsic motivation to learn and grow.”

Do You Say I’m Sorry to Your Students?

The other day was one of those days.  Let’s be real.  We, as educators, periodically have them.  A number of requirements can trigger a reaction of frustration, resentment, or negative energy.  Over the years, I’ve learned how to deal with a multitude of “issues” that arise in the classroom or directives from the district.  There are some days, no matter what you do, it’s hard to shake.

This led to me being “short” with my students.  It was obvious to them that it was one of those days.  Every little action made me frustrated.  Some students kept trying to push the limits and this made me more upset.  My students have a significant amount of “freedom” in my class, but when that is pushed or abused, I will create a more controlling environment.  This goes against my educational philosophy, but it’s essential from time to time.

So after repeating simple directions and students not following them, my patience was waning. I realized I needed to take a break and a few deep breathes outside of the classroom.  This simple, yet effective, strategy goes a long way to calm the nerves and refocus your energies.  It gave me a few moments to gather my thoughts and decide what to do next.  It became obvious, that what I need to do was apologize to my students.  Now, were they at fault for not following simple directions.  Yes, no question about it.  But my reaction was a bit harsh for the situation.

I reentered the classroom and called students to the carpet.  I said “I’m sorry.”  I’m sorry for being short with you, I’m sorry for reacting how I did.  I’m sorry I took learning time away from you. I admitted my fault.  I showed them I am not perfect.  I showed them that teachers make mistakes, too.  I showed them that it’s important to take responsibilities for your actions, learn from your mistakes, reflect, and move on.  This apology led to an interesting conversation because a few students said they never had a teacher who apologized to them.  This statement was quite surprising to me. This led to powerful conversation about how everyone makes mistakes, even teachers.  A student approached me after class and said “I’m sorry I was not following directions and it won’t happen again, but thanks for apologizing and being honest with us.  This is why we love your class.”  It was a comment that was real and from the heart.

We have all been guilty of having one of those days and probably reacted to students in a way that was not the norm.  Isn’t this a chance for educators to be real and honest with students? Are teachers too proud to say I’m sorry? How often do you say you’re sorry when your wrong in the classroom? I’ve heard teachers say apologizing shows weakness in the classroom. I have to respectfully disagree with that! It can go a long way to create a positive, loving, honest, and real environment in your classroom.

I am a passionate teacher in Stamford, CT. I teach fifth grade ELA/Social Studies. I am proud to be an active member of the Twitter educational community. I am an organizer for #EdCampSWCT, a moderator for #ctedu, technology professional develop leader in my district, and a believer in a high tech/high touch blended learning approach to teaching.  I am nominated for the Bammy of 2015 Elementary School Teacher of the Year. I am a certified administrator. I believe in taking risks and working collaboratively to augment student achievement. I love children’s literature and strive to become better everyday. I am a husband and father. Follow me on Twitter @mrsapia_teach

Why Reading Aloud Matters

Photo by Shelley Davis

Why Reading Aloud Matters

One of the most important times in my classroom is our read aloud time.  It is known to my students as a non-negotiable time.  It’s a time to summon your alter ego and get lost in the story.  It’s a time for students to find a comfortable spot in our classroom.  It’s a time to celebrate the written word by demonstrating passion, admiration, and respect for it. Reading aloud is a lost art in many schools, and it’s time to resurrect this sacred time.

Let me be blunt, contrary to popular belief, read aloud time is instructional time.  A teacher can purposefully weave and scaffold many strategies and skills taught throughout the year.  This takes systematic planning and focus on the teachers part. Have a pacing guide? No worries. You can find a chapter book that aligns to standards being taught. Books used as a read aloud should be chosen with great care and as closely aligned to your student’s interests as possible.  Exposures to various types of genres is imperative, as reading aloud is a chance to open up new worlds of language and knowledge for our students.

At the start of the school year, I give students this interest survey.  This has been modified from the many surveys I’ve found online from my PLN on Twitter.  By giving this interest survey and using the information, it provides me with a road map for the books I will be reading aloud throughout the year. Can this change, absolutely, but I highly encourage you to have a “soft” scoop and sequence with regards to books and the places you want to take the kids through the magic of a read aloud.

For the spirit of honestly, I usually start the year off reading picture books. Why? Because picture books rock! Many picture books have significant messages, themes, character development, etc, that can be used to deep a students understanding of basic skills, as well as modeling the importance of how powerful a picture book can be for instructional purposes. This year I read Pete and Pickles, What To Do with an Idea, The magnificent Thing,  Bluebird, and Thank You Mr. Falker to name a few. This is a springboard which leads perfectly into The Global Read Aloud.  Here is my post from the 2013 Global Read Aloud, as well as a post from our building wide read aloud.  Suffice to say, The Global Read Aloud is one of my favorite projects each year.

Every year, without fail, I have the majority of my class either borrowing or purchasing the GRA book to read in school and/or at home with their parents.  Nothing makes me happier as an educator than students who are genuinely stoked to read a book because they are intrinsically motivated too, not because they have to.  Some of the chapter books I’ve read this year were Fish in a Tree, One for the Murphys, Terrible Two, The Crossover, Locomotive, and Lincoln’s Grave Robbers.  Each book provided some very rich, meaningful conversation that is inspiring to watch, especially when we get out of our students’ way and let them share their voice.  But that’s a whole different topic.

So, without further adieu, here are just SOME reasons why I read aloud to my students.

  • builds community and nutures a love of reading
  • exposure to complex vocabulary
  • improved syntax
  • improved listening and written comprehension
  • improved predicting and inferring skills
  • shared experience that “equals” the playing field
  • stop at key points of the text to build suspense
  • opportunity for discussion and students working collaboratively
  • exposure to a variety of different genres
  • introduce a range of high quality books
  • FUN!
  • creates a community of readers and foster loves for written text
  • models a love of reading
  • immersion in language, text structures, themes, etc.
  • integrate technology purposefully and connect globally to discuss books using Skype, Kidblog, and Edmodo
  • can lead to parent engagement – Post books on Shelfari Widget, classroom website, Remind, Instagram, Twitter
  • increased fluency, expression, voice inflection, rate, accuracy
  • visualization and creating a movie in their mind
  • Can be very low tech, too. It’s all about bringing passions and enthusiasm as you read.

I’d love to hear from you.  What are your books favorite books to read aloud? Why do you read aloud?

I am a passionate teacher in Stamford, CT. I teach fifth grade ELA/Social Studies. I am proud to be an active member of the Twitter educational community. I am an organizer for #EdCampSWCT, a moderator for #ctedu, technology professional develop leader in my district, and a believer in a high tech/high touch blended learning approach to teaching.  I am nominated for the Bammy of 2015 Elementary School Teacher of the Year. I am a certified administrator. I believe in taking risks and working collaboratively to augment student achievement. I love children’s literature and strive to become better everyday. I am a husband and father. Follow me on Twitter @mrsapia_teach

How I Use Idea Paint in my Learning Laboratory

Updated: June 1st, 2015.  

In my ever present chase to push the limits of what’s possible in the classroom(please read my learning commons post), I decided to paint most of my desks white using Idea Paint.  I was fortunate enough to receive a grant from our amazing PTO at my school, so because of this, the paint was bought for me. I applaud their efforts to support re-imagining what a 21st century classroom can look like.

How Will I Use the Idea Paint:

I teach a Humanities course, which falls under the academic subjects of Social Studies and English Language Arts.  My immediate thought was to use it a place where students can;

  • write down vocabulary words and use them in a sentence in context
  • making predictions/inferences about characters, plot lines, etc
  • write down character traits from independent reading and read aloud books
  • work collaboratively as a table to answer essential questions of lessons
  • share work by participating in a “gallery walk”
  • use as formative assessment tool to quickly check for understanding
  • exit slips to check for understanding after a lesson
  • have students write written response to text – After response is written, they can upload to Evernote to place in their digital portfolio (goal for next year)
  • take a photo of their work, individually or collaboratively, and use Airserver to mirror to IWB
  • fun and engaging way for students to learn
  • draw their visualizations
  • creating timelines of historical events
  • fosters creativity
  • brainstorm for writing
  • paperless and saves trees 🙂
  • note taking

  

   As you can see, these are just a few ideas of what’s possible.  Of course, some ideas will work better than others.   I am sure, based on feedback from students, there will be many new ways to use Idea Paint in the classroom.  I am a proponent of student voice, so their feedback is invaluable for me.  Rest assured, when the Idea Paint is used, just like purposeful technology integration, it will be used to enhance the student’s learning. Please let me know what creative ways you use Idea Paint in your classroom!

I am a passionate teacher in Stamford, CT. I teach fifth grade ELA/Social Studies. I am proud to be an active member of the Twitter educational community. I am an organizer for #EdCampSWCT, a moderator for #ctedu, technology professional develop leader in my district, and a believer in a high tech/high touch blended learning approach to teaching.  I am nominated for the Bammy of 2015 Elementary School Teacher of the Year. I am a certified administrator. I believe in taking risks and working collaboratively to augment student achievement. I love children’s literature and strive to become better everyday. I am a husband and father. Follow me on Twitter @mrsapia_teach

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NOTE: This original post from 2014.  It’s my old classroom.

I first heard about Idea Paint from a couple of teachers in my professional learning network.  Idea paint can transform many surfaces into a dry erase surface.  Simple premise, with an enormous amount of potential to revolutionize how students can work collaboratively in a classroom.

I moved forward with my vision and created a Donor’s Choose project.  Before I knew it, I was fully funded by the generous donations from parents in my classroom, as well as other parents of students who attend my school via a post on our PTO Facebook page.  In addition to the Donor’s Choose donation, another parent from my building caught wind of this project and donated an addtional can of Idea Paint! Score!!

How Will I Use Idea Paint?

As I stated above, I am looking to augment how scholars work collaboratively in my classroom.  Looking around my classroom, I realized that there was so much valuable space in my room that was under utilized.  This is our time to think outside the box of what a traditional classroom can look like.  Check out the photos below for before and after examples of my classroom.

BEFORE:

ImageImage

AFTER:

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Throughout my years of teaching, I’ve learned an unbelievable amount of information about how to run a classroom.  The list can go on and on.  One of the most important lessons I’ve learned was to talk less and allow scholars to work collaboratively in a purposeful, concise manner.  The impact of such a collaborative classroom has impacted my scholars because I have more time to work with groups and individuals to meet their specific needs, leading to greater academic success.

My scholars are changing by using this model because, as I stated above, scholars learn by doing, not just by listening. I have started to use this model with math, because I use a centers based approach, so scholars can learn and help each other because of the increased collaboration and flexibility of the model. Scholars collaborate with different types of learners, which will benefit them as they proceed through their educational career and into the workforce.

I am also using Idea Paint during Reader’s Workshop and small group instruction.  After modeling a specific skill that day, scholars are asked to demonstrate that skill during the work period.  If the lesson calls for group work, Idea Paint is the way to go.  I can easily monitor scholar’s progress, while working in small groups, because of the size of the surface.  I can provide easy redirection to get scholars back on track, if needed.  I can then snap a photo and upload it into their digital portfolios using Evernote for future reference, when I remember.

Here are a couple “Vine” videos Demonstrating the use of Idea Paint.

Solving Multi-Step Word Problems

Identifying Author’s Point of View

While this is only my second week of full implementation, my scholars and I feel really enthusiastic about its potential.  My hope is that with the second can, I will be able to paint many desks in my classroom, with administrative permission of course!

As a proponent of student voice, I have heard and listened to my scholar’s feedback about how to best use Idea Paint.  I look forward to continuing to look for creative ways to use Idea Paint in my classroom.  If you have any feedback or suggestions, I’d love to hear them.

If you’d made it this far, feel free to follow me on Twitter @mrsapia_teach