Thursday, October 30, 2014

Using Colorful Duct Tape to Bind Printed Books



Aesthetics affect me, and I think they affect my students too.  I find a sloppy, crowded classroom really disheartening.  I know that it's not exactly direct evidence of how much learning is going on, but I still think students deserve to learn in a bright, cheerful environment.  I'm always trying to spruce things up or add elements that I think my students will enjoy.  At my school, we use a lot of printed books to differentiate learning.  In general, this is great! Students are all reading from different texts at their own levels rather than reading from one standard text that could be far above or below their own levels.  That being said, I hate seeing flimsy black and white, stapled together books everywhere.  I've started printing some books I know I'll use over and over in color and then laminating the front covers for durability.  That helped a lot, but they still looked a bit sad with their exposed staples.  I copied this pin and bought some patterned duct tape to use to bind the edges.  No more sharp exposed staples and they look a lot nicer too!

Sunday, October 26, 2014

Recommended Listening: Is This Working?


I first heard episode 538 of This American Life: Is This Working? in the car last Friday night. I started halfway through, and my google maps directions kept cutting the audio off, but I could tell that the episode was talking about one of the subjects I'm most passionate about: discipline in schools. I listened to the whole thing on a run a couple days later, and I highly recommend it.

It compares a "zero excuses" charter school with harsh punishments to a community school with a restorative justice policy.  Thankfully I don't work at one of the many zero excuses-style charter schools in Chicago, but many of my friends do. For more on my views on school discipline, see my post on Alfie Kohn's Beyond Discipline here

Stream Is This Working? here, or you can find it in iTunes by searching for the This American Life podcast.

Monday, October 20, 2014

Our Classroom


I love this circle map that my kindergartner and first grader created about our classroom.They're with me for an hour a day, and sometimes they exhibit behaviors that I know they never would in their general education classrooms, so I used this circle map as a kind of "re-set."  I wrote the words, but they dictated everything on the map.  My initial prompting questions were about behavior, but I LOVE that the first things they listed were all academic-- practicing our sounds, practicing my letters, reading books. "Don't be scared" really tugged at my heartstrings, as it came from my little guy that is frightened by everything-- the cacti on my desk, pictures of snakes or spiders in a book, and even flies! 

Have a fantastic Monday! 

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Movement in the Classroom

A blog I follow on Facebook recently shared this article: The right- and surprisingly wrong- way to get kids to sit still in class. It is a follow-up article to another piece the author wrote in which she explained the dire need for movement and exercise during the school day. This new article details all the "wrong" ways teachers are trying to incorporate movement into the classroom, such as short movement breaks, sitting on exercise balls, or working while standing instead of sitting.  She states that students really need to play, not just get a little bit of movement here and there.

Photo: AP Photo/Matt Rourke

I absolutely agree that students need to move more, and that doing so would improve many students' attention spans.  However, I think that integrating movement into the classroom rather than always separating it (as seemingly recommended by the author) is a fantastic idea! I actually think this builds healthy habits they can carry with them later in life. When they're college students cramming for an exam, they'll know they need to take periodic breaks to refocus because they've been doing "brain breaks" since they were in elementary school.  I personally LOVE brain breaks and am definitely guilty of using that terminology when I need a break from lesson planning! The author disparages such alternative seating such as exercise balls or seats with bicycle pedals, but again, I think this is a great idea! I always allow my students to stand if they prefer, and I've recently looked into getting pedals for their desks.

All that being said, I think it's critical that students be allowed a full recess, enrichment classes, and extracurriculars.  However, I think we should be encouraging movement in the classroom too, not just taking an all or nothing approach. What do you think? Do you build in movement throughout your classes?
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