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Jumping In With Both Feet

Jumping in with both feet ….

That is how I approached starting a new teaching position this year (although I did lots of research and thinking before jumping) …

So I guess what I mean is that I am choosing not to start slow …

I started a teacher read aloud of Wonder by R.J. Palacio on day 1!

This has been such a great classroom community building experience.

Not only do I get a chance to model fluent reading and how I think while I am reading, but this book has also prompted my students to ask good questions, notice details, make inferences, and start discussions.

And all without any worksheets …

I have gotten a chance to observe and share my love of reading!

Students will ask me, “When we are going to find out what is happening to Auggie today?”

I remember reading a blog post this past summer from a teacher who mentioned a character in the bookthey read aloud in class seemed to become a member of their class … and I absolutely loved that, so maybe that is what is happening here too.

And I am just reading aloud and sharing my thinking about what I am reading …

I having such a great time!

Another thing that I started doing that first week of school was math centers or stations.

I started with some back-to-school math centers to help me do some preassessment of students but in a way they didn’t realize.  

We talked about expectations for how many people should be at each station, voice levels, and amount of focus needed.  

In my early years as a teacher (this is my 15th year but I still feel like a first year teacher at times), I liked to be in control and know what everyone was doing at all times … and actually I wanted everyone to be doing the same thing and at the same pace.  I know that is not possible, but part of me wanted it to be …

And there are times that part of me still does …

But since I know that is not going to happen, I am trying to provide enough structure in the math stations while still allowing for flexibility and differentation …

It also frees me up to work with students who need some extra encouragement and/or enrichment.

I think my past experiences doing Problem Based Learning helped me get to this point

I have heard other teacher say they just aren’t ready to start centers yet, and that works but for me, I jumped in with two feet ….

That could be due to the fact that I am afraid I might have talked myself out of it if I had put it off too long …

Vocaulary is another area where I am jumping in …

Right now I am using picture books to review, reinforce, and introduce reading skills.  The inspirations for these lessons include 6 vocabulary word a week … not 10 or 15.

I introuduce one new word at a time, and we do a type of Frayer Model that includes a definition, illustration, sentence, and example. As a class we talk about ways the word can be used. Students and I work together to give lots of possibilities for each of those categories for the word. Each student creates his or her own Frayer Model for each word in their notebook.

Although we do one word at a time, we generally do two words a days. I have the words listed in the top corner of the board at the back of the room, so they are in view and I can try to use them throughout the day and week.

I am trying to promote the usage of these words in conversation rather than just a word and definition on a vocabulary list …

So here are 3 of the many things I have done in my classroom the first few weeks of school that I hope to continue throughout the year …

But I do recognize that I can’t be afraid to make changes that are needed to benefit student learning …


photo credit: Been Here Before? via photopin (license)


What questions will you ask and inspire today?


Creativity can't be rushed ...


Storytelling With A Twist!


Purple Sticky Note?

Imagine you walked into my classroom and I handed you a yellow sticky note.

You took the sticky note but wondered what I was going to ask you to do next …

I asked you to put the sticky note on the wall

Even when you asked me how high or where, I repeated my direction to put the sticky note on the wall

So you followed my direction and put the sticky note on the wall

You still were not too sure what this possibly crazy teacher was really asking for you to do …

After you and your classrmates all sat down, I put a purple sticky note on the table or desk in front of each of you.

I asked you this time to place the purple sticky note as high on the wall as you could.

Some of students sat and thought about what to do while others quickly stood up and followed my instruction.

You may have asked me if you could jump or stand on something. I answered by repeating my initial instruction to put the purple sticky note as high on the wall as you could.

Once you followed that instruction, you sat down.

When the whole class was seated, we just looked at the yellow and purple sticky notes on the wall fo a minute.

That’s when I started asking questions!

How did you decide where to put your yellow sticky note?

Did that require much thinking?

Most of you just simply walked over to the wall and stuck the sticky note on it. You didn’t really pay attention to the placement of the sticky note. You just did it to get it done.

Now look at your purple sticky note

How did you decide where to put it?

What did you do to put your sticky note as high as you could?

Did anybody jump?

Did anyone stand on their tiptoes?

Did anyone ask someone else to help them?

Did anyone lean against the wall and stretch?

How much thinking did the placement of the purple sticky note require?

What kind of thinking do you think you should do in this class?

Yellow or Purple Sticky Note Thinking?

When I started meeting with groups of students this year, the scenario above is how I started class.  I saw an activity similar to this done with teachers at a training a few years ago and used that as my inspiration.  

So far the purple and yellow sticky notes are still on the walls as a visual reminder (except for a few that have fallen).

Instead of reminding students to work harder and do their best, I ask what color sticky note is the thinking that went into the assignment or answer to the question or even just poing to the sticky notes on the wall.

At times, I just say Purple Sticky Note …

And they know what that means!