Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Activating Schema

Good readers and writers--well good learners in general, bring a "backpack" of prior background knowledge to school each day along with the backpack that holds their lunch, homework, and so on.  This knowledge is what has been coined the "fancy-smancy" term schema by Piaget.  We all know that what children learn is based on their adaption to the world as we present it through books, inquiry-based learning, read-alouds and technology.

Assimilation occurs when our young learners use their background knowledge to learn something new.  Accommodation occurs when the background knowledge doesn't fit in the right way so things have to be adjusted.  We do this through reading all the time.  It's our job to explicitly teach our young readers this skill.  

Since the best ideas I get are often the ones I learn from other teachers, I saw this idea from Erica's Ed-Ventures (check out her blog by clicking HERE) and had to use it.  Here's her photograph that was my inspiration.  She used this anchor chart to activate her students' schema on bats.

I decided to type up these headings for myself because my first and second graders are well into our Weather Unit, specifically studying about rain.  We discussed our background knowledge to kick-off our study.  We did some science experiments, and I read aloud several books on rain.  My favorite book is Down Comes the Rain by the Let's-Read-and-Find-Out series.  All of these are AWESOME, by the way.

Here is what our Schema Map looked like.  Notice in these two pictures how we started to move the stickies along as our schema was assimilated and accommodated--what a powerful visual to trace our learning.

The possibilities for these headings are endless, and I'm sharing them with all my followers by clicking HERE.  Enjoy and please share how you plan to use them by leaving me a comment--share the love!

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Thanking Those in Our Armed Forces

Each year in honor of Veterans Day, I read a few of my usual readalouds including The Wall by Eve Bunting, Pepper's Purple Heart by former Miss America Heather French Henry and Veterans Day by the Rookie Read-About Holidays Series.


More importantly, my kiddos do their parts to thank those who served in our Armed Forces by making Veterans Day cards.  We mail them to a local Veterans Hospital, The Soldiers' Home.  I was so happy to be able to continue this tradition of mine in my new school with my teaching partner and the kids we share.  The words on the cards are so heart-felt and inspirational I wanted to share some.  The Veterans in my family, my Uncle Lenny and my NoNo would have been proud of our first and second graders.

Dear Veterans, Thank you for helping keep our country safe
and free.  We love you.  We appreciate you keeping our
country free.

Dear Veterans, You guys did a great job when you were fighting!
Thank you for keeping our country safe and free.  We love
you guys!
Thank you for keeping our country safe.  I love you.

Dear Veterans, Thank you for saving us and helping us.
We love you so much and we are celebrating Veterans Day
just for you guys.  But thank you for helping us.

Thank you Veterans for making our country great!

Monday, October 28, 2013

Cooking Up a Delicious Resource on Equality

I put together this set of activities to go along with my teaching of equality.  Way too often I have seen things like this:

6 + 5 = 11 + 3.

Look familiar?  Yes, 6 + 5 does equal 11, but that does not balance this equation properly.  Throw in the less than and greater than symbols and you get a double yikes!  

Using a bowl of "spaghetti and meatballs," students create equations, and fill in a missing number that finishes incomplete equations (like you see above).  If you pick a meatball labeled "al dente," you get to pick whatever you wish to make the equation true.  My young mathematicians had a blast with these activities.

Serve up a bowl of spaghetti and meatballs by visiting my TpT store by clicking here.

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Teacher Week '13 Day 3 ~ Organizing for Instruction

We are "Blog Hoppin'" our way through Teacher Week '13 in the blog world.  Today's topic is one of my favorites...organization for instruction.  I've decided to put together a Top Ten List of some of my "tricks of the trade" for classroom organization.

1.  Class Rules:  Use a pocket chart to organize them so that they can be taken out easily.  When a cherub of mine breaks a rule, I bring the card to him or her to reread the rule and to discuss what we can do to fix it.
2.  Check In:  Start the day off right with an organized check in system.  Here is what mine looks like.  Everyone starts the day off as being absent.  I use numbers instead of names so that I do not have to write them over year after year.
3.  Bins, bins, bins!:  I never put anything on a shelf that is not in a bin.  It makes things look organized, maximizes the space and keeps things tidy.  Also, I always label my bins.
4.  Hardware Holders:  This handy dandy organizer is perfect for keeping tiny things organized.  I use it for my student banks (a form of positive rewards), magnetic letters, calendar pieces, etc.  I suggest that you always glue an item on the outside for easy ID.  Oh, these are fairly inexpensive--BONUS!

5.  Portable Clothes Hangers:  These are way sturdier, less bulky and cost tons less money.  I use one to organize my charts for instruction.  This way they are easily accessible.  I can put one up using the hanger and do not need to fuss over tape.  Easy up, easy down.

6.  High Storage:  Utilize the tops of cabinets to store even more teaching supplies.

7.  Magnetic Shelves:  These are a great way to organize and to display holiday, theme and content books.  I got these from Calloway House.
8.  Shelf Benches:  I turned these shelves on their sides and made an instant bench.  They are a great way to give fun reading seating for buddy reading.  They also, yup you guessed it-- give you MORE storage.
9.  Easter Baskets:  I am a bit obsessive when it comes to these baskets.  They get really cheap after Easter.  They are definitely fun looking.  I use them to organize books, learning tools, etc.  I spy an Easter basket in this photograph...
10.  Centers on Wheels:  I use these rolling cart shelves to store centers.  This way I can turn any area into an instant center by rolling it over.  Here is my fluency center as an example.  This saves time.  I never need to search for my timers, flashcards, etc.

Well I hope you have scored some terrific tips.  I'm off to start checking in with you bloggers to see what inspires me.  Good luck!  Be sure to check out other bloggers by clicking HERE.

Teacher Week '13 Day 2 ~ Check Out My Classroom

As you may have heard, all this week I am joining Blog Hopin' in celebrating Teacher Week '13!  Each day this week is a different topic.  Today is all about classroom digs.  I have to say that setting up a classroom is my favorite thing to do.  I love the bins, bulletin boards, name tags, bins, new supplies and did I mention bins?  My goal in this post is to make you all feel better if your classroom is currently a work in progress.  As you may know, I moved schools after a whoppin' 15 years of accumulating junk teaching tools.   

My new first and second graders do not start until after Labor Day.  Here are some pictures of what I have managed to do in a matter of two days.  WARNING!  Scary classroom alert.  Be prepared and forewarned.  Here is my home away from home early this morning.  Believe it or not, it's a huge improvement from yesterday.

Check out a finished section of four shelves.  I use curtains with tension rods to cover up materials that we don't need everyday as well as materials that look a little on the messy side.  Underneath I have cut up magazines, random supplies, newspapers, etc.  See- through containers are the best; no labels needed here.

Here are my cabinets.  I have more clear bins (to make the contents visible).  I always suggest to utilize as much storage space as you can.  Think of adding bins in those highest of places and be sure to invest in a nice and safe step stool.  

Here is a close up of my math manipulatives in BINS.  The labels are part of my All in One Mathematics Center that you can get by clicking HERE.  I really like how all the same type of bins gives off a uniform look.

Here you see a tiny "glimpse" of my classroom library.  I'm a book fanatic.  I had help all day from a good friend getting this part of my classroom together.  I will be making huge strides tomorrow in the AM.

Please check out a slide show of clips from my old classroom in the right hand margin.  Come back to visit for a tour of my new room once it is all done.

Now I'm off to check out your wonderful classrooms.  I can't wait to be inspired.

Monday, August 12, 2013

Teacher Week '13 Monday ~ Let's Talk About Me

All this week I am joining Blog Hopin' in celebrating Teach Week '13!  Each day of this week I'm joining many talented teachers out there in celebrating all that we do and picking up some great ideas along the way.  Here's the schedule of blog topics for the week.

I'm excited to get to know a little bit about the many bloggers out there that keep me inspired.  I have an "About Me" page on my blog that has a Top Ten list of interesting tidbits about me already.  Click HERE to view it.  In keeping up with the schedule, though, here are ten things that come to mind.  Sorry, for the overlap.  I'll try to be different.

1.  I'm going to be beginning my sixteenth year teaching and after fifteen years, I have decided to move schools.  I'm still in the same district (Salem, MA), however.  Salem is the place to be.  Also, I teach at Salem State University.  I'm a busy bee!

2.  I'm a coffee-holic!  Yes, I do like me some Starbucks, but I usually go for Dunks.  My preference, even in the winter time, is always a large iced coffee, extra milk, two sugars.

3.  Currently, I'm in the middle of unpacking my things and setting up a my new classroom.  Here is what I walked in to this morning. YIKES!

4.  Tax money this year was spent getting a lawn--thank you landscapers at GreenPro Landscaping Company. Yippee!  I also planted a perannual flower garden.  I did this part myself.  Can you believe that all these rocks came from the dirt?  Oh, I also do not like birds.  They are bad luck.  I do have a birdbath though, I feel bad.  MA had a major head wave this summer.

5.  Seems like these days I have become addicted to Candy Crush--anyone else relate?

6.  I enjoy cooking.  My favorite food to cook is Italian style.  I don't eat pork or red meat however, so my meatballs are always turkey.  Oh, and I say GRAVY, not sauce too.

7.  I just got certified this summer in Early Childhood education.  Maybe someday I may teach kindergarten?

8.  I think anyone thinking of getting a dog or cat should consider adoption.  We adopted our dog Winston two years ago this March.  There are so many perfect pets out there that need us.  He came all the way from sunny CA to enjoy his first New England winter.  The incredible Tobias is on the right.

9.  Teaching can take over your life.  Sometimes, I'm convinced that it does.  I try to make time for my family and for my friends.  I love 'em! 

10.  I definitely enjoy being a blogger and learning from other teacher bloggers!  I have only done this for a year now.  It's changed how I teach and has given me so many ideas.

Tune in tomorrow for some pics of my classroom set up, day two.  I'm off to learn more about other bloggers.  Join me by clicking 



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