We've been pushing in for centers and seeing all the fantastic centers those kinder teachers are putting together. The time and effort that goes into these is fantastic. Not to mention, the kinder teachers are pros at making them accessible and developmentally appropriate for all children. Differentiation at it's finest! Here is a peek at some of the incredible things Tana is doing with her centers. If we haven't seen yours yet, let us know! We'd LOVE to take a look. Thanks for always keeping us learning.
She can out run you AND she's doing a killer job with Literacy.
Kylie has set up her Literacy centers so students get the most opportunity to work on differentiated skills without her having to reinvent the wheel every week. This way she can spend more time planning reading groups and other fun opportunities. We can all benefit from this strategy. Here is a look at her system she has in place. Students each get a laminated copy where they can use dry erase markers to mark their project. Spelling groups are leveled and differentiated and students have some ownership and choice in their weekly activities. The other great thing is the kids develop routines and familiarity with some consistency in the activities, so there is little back and forth with directions, taking away from precious reading group time. When is all this happening? During intervention hour! Perfect!
Another fun resource from Kylie. Looking for a fun way to do vocabulary words? Try Vocabulary Rock and Roll. Kylie does all kinds of great things with vocabulary. Here her kids are acting out the word, "disgusting." Pretty impressive faces, right?
She has kids tackling big words in writing by working on stretching them out, taking away the intimidation factor and encouraging experimentation (did I spell that right?)
We all know how tough it is to teach kids about good fit books. They seem to always be interested in books that aren't their level. Students are often either picking books that are too hard or too easy. It's a real struggle in classrooms and in our reading room too! Kylie is working on teaching these kids about good fit books, and what that really means. Her students jacket is not a good fit, but her own jacket is a perfect fit. A fun twist on the Daily 5 "shoe" lesson. So concrete and easy for kids to relate to.
" Today we talked more about picking a JUST RIGHT book. It's harder than it sounds. First of all, there are a few ways to pick books. We pick books we are INTERESTED in. We pick books that we UNDERSTAND. And we pick books that we CAN READ (both the words and the pictures). Sometimes it's hard to pick a just right book though when our friends are all picking different books...so, here's how we talk about it to make it seem a little more equitable." -Kylie Collins, Grade 1 :)
AND...Gratitude is becoming a theme here at AES. Here's what Kylie is doing with Gratitude in her classroom...
"Research shows that actively showing and practicing gratitude makes us happier human beings! In first grade this year we will have our very own
Gratitude Journals where we can express how grateful we are each week for our very special lives in this very special place. Today, Miss Kylie chose what we wrote about...the sun. Next week we'll come up with our own ideas. It's amazing how just a little rain at recess made us miss the sun on our faces! "
-Kylie Collins, Grade 1
How can you not grow in an environment like this! Bravo Kylie :)
That's right, Kylie Collins. If you haven't checked her website out yet, prepare to be amazed.
"Sending thanks, love and other kind words the old fashioned way"
We're starting off strong with these first two Teacher Features. Fan favorite Kate Korn started The Gratitude Project with her students last year and the success and impact of this project is enough to give you goosebumps. That's right, if you don't know about this initiative already, prepare to be wow'd. In this fast moving world and the beautiful bubble we live in, it's important to take a moment every day to say thank you. Kate is teaching her students to do just that. Thanks for creating such a bright light, Kate. We admire you.
Tell us about the Gratitude Project. What is it and how does it work?
The Gratitude Project is simply “sending love, thanks, and kind words the old fashioned way”
Weekly, my students are handwriting a gratitude letter to someone they’d like to thank or show appreciation to. We start the year of gratitude letter writing to adults only and later kids can write to peers if they choose. I’ve seen letters written to parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles, teachers, close family friends...but my favorite letters so far have been those addressed to places like the Denver Build-A-Bear Store, The Bowl Lounge, Express Yourself, representatives, the president, coaches...from the mouths of babes!
What gave you the idea to start the Gratitude Project?
I’d been wanting to do something that really connected us (our class) better to others, our families, people in our community, and so on. Too much emphasis on “things” besides being thankful. I often had this conversation with one of my greatest friends who also happens to teach. She was also beginning to do some similar things with her 6th grade students in Indianapolis. Originally, I had been thinking of starting a volunteer club, but I hadn’t done anything to get that going. When the idea hit me for letter writing, I was pumped because it was something I could literally start the next day.
What do you hope your students can gain from this? (This may be redundant depending on how you answered the previous questions)
*need for more gratitude
*an appreciation for taking the time to send something handwritten
Of course, some school stuff like
Letter Writing Skills
*comma after person’s name, not after the word “Dear”
*how to address envelopes
*writing conventions, editing, using details and examples not just saying, you made me happy
Would you like to see the Gratitude Project grow? If so, how?
Yes! My hope is for those who have received letters to take a few minutes to do the same to someone they know (or don’t know). Can you imagine if the 18 people who receive a letter next week, did the same thing the next week, and then those 18 people did the same thing the following week?!?
Growing this year because not only are we doing gratitude letters, but we’re also going to choose different people in our community to visit and thank each month. We have lots of ideas of how to show kindness and gratitude to these people...
Did anything surprise you about this project?
Yes, I am SHOCKED at how many kids don’t know their home addresses! Seriously!
I knew the students would write great letters, but what has surprised me is their ability to put their real, honest heart and soul into gratitude writing, sometimes to people they don’t even know well. I can’t even tell you how many times I cried standing behind them reading what they’d written.
We couldn't be more excited about our first Teacher Feature, 4th Grade Teacher, Denise Vetromile!
If you didn't know already, Denise has started a Newbery Book Club for 4th Graders here at Aspen Elementary School. With the help of a grant from the Aspen Thrift, she has rolled out an impressive method for getting "good" books in the hands of kids (and teachers!) Learn all about it below and if you see Denise, go give her a high five. This is something to celebrate.
Tell us about the Newbery Book Club. What is it and how does it work?
The Mock Newbery Book Club is open to any 4th grader that would like to participate. We meet in my classroom during lunch and recess every Friday from mid-September until late January when the “real” Newbery awards are announced. Students choose from a selection of 12-15 titles, bring their lunches to my classroom, sit with their friends and discuss books. We celebrate their accomplishments with a plastic charm. This year you will be seeing students and teachers wearing lanyards to display their charms. (Ask about the books they’ve read, okay?) Since they are potentially reading different titles, adults start their discussions with broad ideas: theme, character traits, genre, etc. We vote twice (once to narrow the field in December and again before the official announcement), awarding an AES Newbery Award to the winner. We have had a winner and two runner-ups each year. Each year (two so far) we have had 45-50 students participating!
What gave you the idea to start this club?
When attending CCIRA in 2015, I heard a Denver librarian share her experiences with her club. I got really excited about the idea, wrote a grant to get money from the Thrift Shop to buy books, and enlisted the help of three colleagues (Jeff, Lisa May, and Julie Wille) to help me read and vet books over the summer. We started our first book club that fall (2015).
What do you hope children and teachers can gain from this?
I believe that the key to creating lifelong readers is providing choice and social interaction around reading. I think that this is part of the success of the Diary Of A Wimpy Kid series - everyone is reading it and talking about it! By providing different literature, freedom of choice, and an arena for talking to friends, we are moving students beyond Diary Of a Wimpy Kid.
In addition, I really believe that we, as teachers, need to be reading or have read the books that we are putting into children’s hands. This allows us to have rich discussions with students about the books that they are reading. As the book club has matured, the number of teachers helping to vet books has increased. As a bonus, at the conclusion of the book club, the titles are being placed into 4th grade classrooms for students to enjoy in coming years.
Can you explain a little the process behind how the books are chosen?
I have several resources that I use for finding potential titles. First, I belong to a Goodreads discussion thread specific to potential Newbery titles. I also have teachers that suggest titles. I then check out the descriptions on Amazon to see if a title seems age/content appropriate. If so, I order a copy. I end up ordering anywhere from 25-35 titles in order to select 12-15 for our book club. The titles are then made available to anyone who is interested in giving me feedback. (This past spring/summer I had 15-20 teacher readers!) It is so important that the books be “vetted” as age and content appropriate by teacher readers! I/we have read some fantastic literature that doesn’t pass the “Is this appropriate for 9-to-10 year old readers?” test.
Taking this feedback into consideration, I look at creating a selection of titles based on genre, a variety of reading levels, and a variety of topics. I am always on the lookout for titles that I think will appeal to our boy readers, knowing that girls will enjoy them, too. This year we will be offering a graphic novel for the first time (Fishgirl), life advice (The Playbook: 52 Rules to Aim, Shoot, and Score in This Game Called Life), science fiction (Last Day on Mars), dystopian fiction (The Last Panther), as well as several realistic fiction, historical fiction, and fantasy titles.
Do you have a favorite book you’ve read over the years as a result of the club?
Several! But if I had to choose one, it would be A Night Divided by Jennifer Nielson. It is historical fiction about a family divided when the Berlin Wall went up in 1961. The story takes place four years later (1965) and the protagonist, Gerta, is a 12-year-old girl in East Berlin. I was 12 in 1965 and the comparisons I made of our parallel lives touched me deeply. I did not have a very good understanding of this event until I had the opportunity to visit Berlin in 2013 and this book gave me another perspective of this period in our world’s history.
I know it sounds like a heavy topic (and it is!), but the story is engaging and totally appropriate for a 4th grade audience. Students love this title!
How can a student or teacher join?
Anyone is welcome! This year we will be starting on Friday, September 15th. We meet from 12:25-1:15. (Did I mention dessert? We serve popsicles and ice cream sandwiches!) Please join us, even if you just want to pop in to see what it’s all about!
Is there anything else you’d like to share?
This book club has far exceeded my personal hopes and dreams. I love hearing teachers and students discussing books with each other, not just during our book club meetings, but in the halls, before class, on the playground. Last year, there was a group of boys that didn’t want the book club to end, so they continued to meet with Mr. White on Fridays, expanding their reading choices to classics and this year’s potential Newbery titles! And, there was a group of girls that heard about the boys and did the same thing with Katie Fox. How cool is that?
I also really need to put in a plug for the Thrift Shop. They have been incredibly generous in their financial support of this project.