Oops! …a Teachable Moment…

I, in my haste, planned a quick lesson on explorers for one of my classes. A link had been sent to me by a colleague to a site that was designed to teach about reliable resources. I quickly looked for the assignment on the site, read it, and determined that the assignment was appropriate for the group I was teaching. I scanned the links in the site without really reading through them. The result was that I had to think on my feet.
As the children began reading, the teachers and I started to notice some strange and false facts about the explorers. Then it dawned on us that the site purposely had false information on it to teach kids about finding reliable resources. Close to the end of the period, I asked the students if they read anything that didn’t sound quite right. Only a few had noticed. I had a conversation with them about content on the Internet and how anyone can write anything, even if it’s not true.
They were shocked. I explained that even I was tricked. They loved hearing that! In a way, the lesson worked out fine. Ideally, I would preface lessons like this with an introduction to what I want them to think about as they’re reading. Next time, this group will be comparing the text on the site with more reliable resources and finding the mistakes in the writing. After that, they will be writing blog posts about it. Can’t wait!

Teacher turned DJ?

One topic that continues to be one of the bigger questions that I have as a teacher is “how to motivate those most difficult to motivate?” I’m not one to jump to providing stickers and other seemingly meaningless “rewards,” so I have been trying some different, more internally motivating practices with my class this year. As with most things in my classroom, what works for some students doesn’t work for others. (Keep in mind the “others” fall under the more challenging to motivate group).

I’ve been looking for hints, starting more conversations, and looking out for any clue of what I could use as an additional behavior / motivation system for my kids.

One Friday afternoon, I had a light bulb moment. As I watched my students jump, dance, and belly laugh while enjoying a dance party accompanied by Kidz Bop radio, I realized I have a class of pop music loving children. They bond and converse about their favorite artists, top iTunes songs, and hum these, sometimes unfortunately, catchy pop songs.
Ding ding ding! Why not use this as a motivator? After some research and logistics, I have purchased an iPod shuffle for my class.

My next problem was developing a concrete, organized behavior system to go along with it. Here’s what I came up with:

goals for blog

Each child has an individual goal that they were a part in creating. Every day all of my students have the opportunity to earn one check towards that goal. The goals are completely differentiated and match exactly what that one child is working especially hard on right now.
At the end of the day I have a “check in” with each child. I let them know whether or not they earned a check for the day and then provide a specific and clear example of why they did or did not receive their check. This 30 second meeting has been meaningful, eye opening, and a safe place where that child and I can talk honestly about what they are working at becoming stronger with.
4 checks equate to the ability to request a song. In order to support their writing and reasoning skills, they must write their song request down. They include the song and artist as well as the reason why they want this song on the class iPod. Once teachers okay the lyrics and content, it will then be added to our iPod.
Now once they get 5 checks (one more than the requirement for a song request) they can earn iPod time in which they can listen to our class playlist.

ipod request for blog

So far this has been a great system. It feels great to completely differentiate their goals and have them work hard towards a fun reward.

Best of all the students who I typically am racking my brain over how to motivate are soaking this up. They are visibly working at their goal, seeking out teachers to help them achieve their goal, and eagerly engage in those end of the day check in conversations to see if they received a check.

And if it couldn’t get any better, my kids now help me stay on top of the coolest and most fun pop songs. Just another teacher perk. 🙂

Asking for Support

Dear followers, A fellow writer and educator is going to be running a 5k to raise money for her school. I agreed to be a team member to help reach as many people as possible to support the school and cause. 

Here’s a note from her:

Many of you have supported me in the past and some of you are new invitees to my circle of supporters. I will be running in two races in the near future for my cause. The first one, which will take place in less than two weeks, is the 13.1 mile race that many of you sponsored last year, but I became injured and sadly was not able to run. As promised, I am running in a half marathon on Sunday, March 16.

The second race will  be on May 10th and is a special run/walk dedicated entirely to the Lucy Daniels Center in honor of National Children’s Mental Health Month. It is for this special event that I am asking for your support.

Show your support here:

http://www.crowdrise.com/insideout5k/fundraiser/jenniferreid

I strongly believe that the combined efforts of many are what make the biggest difference in our world.

I guarantee that your help today will make a difference in a young child’s life.

Why do I ask for money for this cause every year?

Every year, I witness the pain a child feels when he is scared and doesn’t feel understood. I see what happens when children are overwhelmed with emotions that affect their capacities to make friends, learn, play, and do things that many of us have taken for granted… things as simple as venturing off for a day in kindergarten. This is what I do. This is my cause. Please help ensure that children receive the care they deserve.

Please make a donation today:

http://www.crowdrise.com/insideout5k/fundraiser/jenniferreid

More info from Lucy Daniels Center:

The Lucy Daniels Center has been working on the forefront of children’s mental health awareness, bringing positive emotional change to thousands of children and their families from the inside out. We are proud to be the largest and most comprehensive children’s mental health agency in the Triangle area of North Carolina. Join us on May 10, 2014 in celebration of National Children’s Mental Health Month as we walk to help ensure that help and hope are available for those in need. Please join us as we improve young lives and our communities one step at a time. Every journey begins with that first step!

Thank you for your time and your generosity.

 

 Please remember:

·         All donations are 100% tax deductible.

·         1 in 5 children in the US have a diagnosable mental health challenge. Most do not receive help and are alone with their troubles.

·         All levels of support and the generosity of donors help ensure that children receive help and services early in life. No donation is too small. It all adds up.

Thank you so much for all of your support! 

To Email or Not to Email?

Parents have been reaching out to me to ask about allowing their children to have their own email accounts. While email can be a valuable tool for children learning written communication skills, there are, of course, questions that need to be considered.

Checking in with parents about their concerns about their child’s use of email helps to figure out what may be the right approach. Is a concern that they can sign up for things (Facebook, Instagram, etc.)? Is it about who might send them messages? Is the concern about the child’s ability to filter information? Is it about what the child may put in writing? Is it about knowing what children are writing?

Based on each child’s situation, there are options for email accounts. Parents can create an account that is monitored by having the incoming emails forwarded to them. This can be just to be ready to have conversations about links you shouldn’t click, what to do if a stranger writes, how much information to give online, etc.

Children are learning in an increasingly digital world and what they need are the skills to navigate it. If filters are so strong that children aren’t exposed to any questionable material, then they won’t learn how to problem-solve or react once they are on their own in the digital world.

There are a number of companies that provide services for children’s email accounts. These services are a great start for teaching email basics. Once children begin to understand the ground rules, it’s always easier to move them to a less restrictive platform.

While it’s necessary to know what your child is doing online, it’s even more important to talk to them about situations they may encounter. It’s also important to consider how much privacy your child deserves in terms of communicating with friends and relatives. Think about how important it was to write private notes to friends and family when you were young.

As nice as it would be to be able to give a blanket response to this question, there are so many considerations that come into play. I hope that some of the questions raised in this post will help parents make the decision that is right for each child.

Image Libraries for Digital Citizenship Lessons

Working to integrate technology into classrooms has been so incredible. With the fifth grade group, I’m working on building general computer fluency skills as well as a deeper understanding of the integrity of their work. Through mini-lessons and research assignments, I’ve taught them how to legally find pictures that can be used for their projects.

Here are the image libraries I used:

Wikimedia Commons is great for finding photos to accompany written work.

Find Icons is a fun site with great icons for free.

Edupics is great for coloring pages for younger grades and images for lessons. I have also used this site as a visual dictionary.

Pics4learning is also great as an image dictionary and great for finding pictures for presentations.

Next time this group is in the computer lab, they’re going to find images related to the curriculum and related to their interests. They have demonstrated that they can easily find pictures on their own online, but they had no idea that there were laws surrounding pictures. This is such an important skill for them to have; I’m looking forward to seeing how they do with this project and how well they are able to generalize the idea.

Meet Katherine

It’s been a long road that led me to a career in teaching. Throughout college, and for several years after graduation, I sought the answer to that elusive question of “what I wanted to do with my life.” After several unfulfilling jobs, I felt the desire to do something more meaningful with my time. As a result, I began volunteering as a tutor at an after school reading program. After years of searching for the right profession, the meaningful moments I found when tutoring were when it finally “clicked” that teaching children is what I wanted to do with my life.

Wary of making yet another career change, I began taking classes at Bank Street College of Education, just to test the waters, but it wasn’t very long until I was hooked. Nearly three years later I find myself with a Master’s degree in General and Special Education from Bank Street. For the past year and a half I have been teaching 2nd grade at The Parkside School, a self-contained school for children with a variety of speech and language impairments.

I was drawn to Parkside because of its philosophy to educate the whole child. I aspire to create a learning environment that supports the diverse learning needs of my students. I believe it is crucial to play off of students’ strengths in order to provide the ideal learning context for each individual student. I feel so lucky to be teaching at a school with so many amazing students; every day I am awed and inspired as my students rise to overcome the challenges they face. I hope that I can continue to grow in my practice, as well as find new ways to engage and support my students. I come to the blogging world with hopes to both reflect on my experiences, as well as learn from the experiences of fellow teachers.

What It Takes to Be A Teacher

When I tell people what I do and who I teach, they say, “Wow, you must have a lot of patience.” I nod and smile and say, “It’s understanding I have.” There’s an article I read in graduate school that has had an incredible influence on who I am as a teacher– I even remember the professor who assigned it. “Food for Thought. Patience or Understanding?” was written by Nancy Weber-Schwartz in 1987 with the conviction that good teachers aren’t patient, they understand the whole child.

I follow this, as is evident in a few of my previous posts– it’s my mantra as a teacher. Don’t get me wrong, I have felt frustrated working with children. When I do, I step back and reflect, sometimes catching eye contact with another adult in the room to indicate I need a minute away. In these times of frustration, finding different ways to approach the situation is imperative- I make a visual for the next time, chat with the student when he or she is not upset, or make an incentive plan based on the child’s goals. Knowing exactly what impacts a child’s ability to complete a task or follow a direction is key to providing the necessary support for the child to be successful. Providing the support is what makes a good teacher.

Good teachers who work with toddlers understand that they touch everything because they are curious and discovering their world, so they give them the tactile input they need. Good teachers who work with teenagers understand that their rebellion is something to be embraced, so they ignore the fact that they were late and instead give them a reason to be on time. Good teachers who work with children with special needs discover patterns of behavior, so they can preempt behaviors with necessary support. All of these good teachers have something in common; their work is centered around understanding the child.

Stemming from what can sometimes be crippling compassion and understanding, there’s a high level of dedication and follow-through that good teachers have. Sometimes this follow-through means dreaming about the classroom, not being able to sleep at night, working late and early hours, needing multiple venting sessions in a day, and needing someone else to tell them it’s time to take a break from school. If school schedules didn’t dictate vacations, teachers would rarely take the time for themselves. Most of the teachers I know drag themselves to work when they’re sick because they are overridden with guilt if they miss a day.

I think about the perspective required to understand teachers, and there are few outside the profession who have it. Unfortunately, the ones who really don’t understand are the ones making decisions in schools. Successful teachers aren’t measured the way they should be. Schools get graded based on text scores and test score improvements, not on actual growth of the children. What will it take for our system to recognize what we’re doing to both teachers and students?