Monday, July 11, 2016

Creativity in the "Real" World: Inspire Kids in School

Creativity isn’t just needed in the “real world,” it is the real world.  Creativity is all around us—it’s almost impossible to miss!  One can observe creativity in something as simple as their commute to work or school: the song or radio show their listening to, the billboards they pass, bumper stickers, vehicle design, clothing… the list goes on and on: even the road and intersections are a product of someone’s creativity. Ultimately, creativity is what got us into teaching

Creativity is needed in the real world because we’ll need it to succeed in the future.   

Society has depended on the creative solutions of individuals and collaborative groups since the dawn of time.  Our ancestors created simple tools, learned to farm, created cultural traditions and literature, and these things eventually got us to our modern way of living. 

The goal we should have as a society is for children to be able to grow up to become independent, self-reliant, free-thinking adults able to empower themselves.  Encouraging creativity is, in my opinion, the best way to secure the success of our future generations. As teachers, we play a crucial role in drawing students in to new ways of producing

Yes!  So, I'd love to share with you some examples  that could inspire older students:

-        Apple commercial “Powerful” ( the theme of this commercial is that the ability to be creative is completely accessible and fits in the palm on your hand. Most kids today can't even fathom life without instant gratification in the form of phones and tablets.

-        Go Pro:  How it is changing the advertising business ( Skip hiring an ad-agency… User-produced content is a huge thing in selling products or experiences. Check out the video on this page about teaching a pelican to fly.  It's incredible!

-        The World’s Biggest 3D Paintings (!  This is incredible. Kids can stare at this in amazement for hours.

When 14-year-old Nick Wilkins' leukemia resisted chemotherapy, radiation and a bone marrow transplant, his doctors turned to the real pros: Nick's own immune cells. Using an experimental treatment, the doctors taught Nick's immune system to attack his cancer in much the same way he'd fight off the common cold. Two months later, Nick went into complete remission.
-        Could this be the end of chemotheraphy? (  Scientists are looking to find other ways to fight cancer. Maybe you'll have a student who will find a cure.

Friday, June 19, 2015

Reading Log: The Giver by Lois Lowry

The Giver, by Lowis Lowry

Summary:  While The Giver is about a supposedly perfect society, it becomes more of a dystopia as the story progresses.  The citizens are not free to choose the lives they live, in fact, they live in “sameness.”  Everything is determined by the Elders, and the world is experienced in black and white.  Before Jonas receives his Life Assignment, he sees color in an apple.  Soon his perception of the world changes as he receives memories from The Giver of times before (or outside of the world of) Sameness.  He seeks to save Gabe from being released—or rather, killed.

Opinion:  I think the author created this story because she wanted us to realize how much we should appreciate our life and freedom.  It's very important to remember how lucky we are, and that there is nothing more valuable than our individuality and freedom.  This book brings up so many questions about society, family, conformity, and censorship, among other values.  I remember reading this book in the 7th grade and feeling profoundly depressed afterward.  After reading it at 25 years of age, I found myself feeling similar, but on a deeper level.  I would share this with students in 5th grade and up.

Themes:    Modern Fantasy: Compassion, families and social structures, leadership and responsibility, power, authority, and governance.

Sunshine State Standards:  
L.A. – The student will determine the main idea or essential message in grade level text through inferring, paraphrasing, summarizing, and identifying relevant details.
L.A. - locate and analyze the elements of characterization, setting, and plot,  including rising action, conflict, resolution, theme, and other literary elements as appropriate in a variety of fiction.
L.A. - locate and analyze an author’s use of allusions and descriptive, idiomatic, and figurative language in a variety of literary text, identifying how word  choice is used to appeal to the reader’s senses and emotions, providing evidence  from text to support the analysis.

ESOL Considerations and Accommodations and Supportive Techniques:  
Discussing the themes within The Giver, I would have students place themselves in Jonas’ scenario.  ESL students and LD students could get a book on tape to read along with the book for extra help at home and within the classroom.

Grades for Read-Alouds:  5-8  Grades for Independent Reading:  6-8

Enhancing the Literary Experience:  Students can connect this story to so many areas (see:  “A Web of Possibilities” in Charlotte Huck’s Children’s Literature).  
I also found this Utopia project online, where students would create their own Utopian society and share with the class, through presentations, information about their “perfect” society. (
Since this story closes with an open-ending, students can also create their own ending (“Chapter  24”).

Monday, August 4, 2014

10 Books Every Child Should be Read before Kindergarten

As a kindergarten teacher, I am often asked to share suggestions for books for five-year-olds.  These are great books to be reading and discussing with little ones before they enter Kindergarten.
1. Love You Forever- a very sweet story about a parent’s unconditional love
2. Goodnight Moon- a classic bedtime story that any child will enjoy
3. Brown Bear, Brown Bear What Do You See?- a fun, patterned book that toddlers love
4. The Little Engine that Could- a great story about not giving up
5. Corduroy- a sweet story about a little bear searching for a home
6. Where the Wild Things Are- a book that ignites the child’s imagination
7. Harold and the Purple Crayon- another great story using the imagination
8. Caps for Sale- a classic book that will bring a smile to your child’s face :)
9. The Very Hungry Caterpillar- another wonderful classic from Eric Carle
10. The Giving Tree- a tender story about the gift of giving

Monday, July 1, 2013

Preparing for Your Elementary Education Teaching Internship

You're almost finished with your college coursework and your pursuit to earning a Bachelor's Degree in Elementary Education.  Now here's the big test--your internship!  Whether you're beginning your junior (part-time) or senior (full-time) internship, you need to make sure you're going into it with your head screwed on straight--after all, your goal is to make the best impression, graduate and get a job! Here are some helpful tips that worked for me.  I know they will work for you!

The biggest thing to remember during your internship is this:

Be Thoughtful and Proactive!

Tip 1:  Talk to the teacher you are going to intern with as soon as you find out who he or she is.
E-mail your internship teacher a friendly letter, letting her know that you are excited to be working with her and are looking forward to growing under her guidance.  Be sure to ask if you can meet with her to observe the classroom and talk about her routines, procedures, and expectations.  When you meet with her, be clear about what your program requirements are and what you hope to accomplish by working together.  Taking this initiative will help you to make a great lasting impression.

Tip 2:  Get real.  You need to know what you're getting yourself into.
You're going into education because you're passionate about teaching children.  So are the teachers you will be working with.  There are some teachers who are unfortunately not the "ideal" candidate for you--everyone has a different style of teaching, after all.  As an intern, you should never take things too personally. Some teachers are the nurturing/mentoring type that let you test the waters while they guide you along the way.  Some teachers see interns as personal assistants and run them ragged.  And of course, some teachers feel that the "sink or swim" approach for interns helps to build character. No matter what type of teacher you have, just be true to yourself, do what you can to best help the students you're serving, and never forget to be proactive.

I can't emphasize how important it is to go into the process with a clear understanding of what the teacher expects from you.  Interning is opportunity for you to use and develop skills and techniques before becoming a full-time teacher. Some of the things you can expect to do are the following:

  • Working with individuals or small groups during classes. Often a teacher will gladly have an intern to work directly with students while they are doing group or general classroom work.
  • Developing and/or collaborating on weekly/unit lesson plans. While the classroom teacher is still responsible for the daily lesson plan, they may enlist your help in developing one, or give you the task of doing specific portions of it. Your college program will have similar requirements for lesson planning.  Your task here is to have your teacher guide you, NOT supply you with a ready-made lesson.
  • Checking work, grading papers, or writing tests. Yep.  It's inevitable that you will do this.  If things are slow in the classroom and you don't have a required task, you can always keep busy by doing one of these things. In fact, your internship teacher will love you for it.
  • Developing special projects. Seasonal, school- or grade-wide, or as required by your college program, special projects are an opportunity for you to play an active role in what's important for the students.

Tip 3:  Apply what you've learned through coursework to your internship. Your internship is not only the place where you can observe what you've learned through your college classes, it's also a great place for you to test those new techniques you've learned about and use them in the "real world."  Making connections to what you've learned about to what you're practicing "in real life" is the reason for your teaching internship.  No matter what classroom you're in, you'll be able to shine if you can talk about teaching techniques, behavior theories, or even use education "buzzwords."

Tip 4:  Be considerate of your teacher, other teachers, volunteers, faculty, staff, and YOURSELF. As an intern, you should never, ever publicly question or challenge your teacher about their method of teaching.  If you don't like the way your teacher presents information or manages the classroom, don't speak to anyone within the school about it (unless your teacher is emotionally or physically harming a student).  Privately you may discuss problems with your college's internship coordinator.  In fact, this is the best thing you can do.  If your teacher has annoying quirks, or you feel she may not approach teaching something as effectively as you might,  you may have to grin and bare it--you do not want to increase tensions with your teacher.

Being mindful of what you say and who you say it to is also important because some individuals you may encounter in the school (or your college program, etc.) may try to get you to play the "gossip game."  Engaging in gossip is not a healthy option for you as an intern.  If you feel you're being pulled into a situation where other teachers, staff, or volunteers want you to give your opinion on others or talk about a specific situation, you must resist!  Simply smile and listen to what others say or change the subject. The pod, work room, or teacher lunch room could be a dangerous place for you to share your two-cents. Your principal may not want to hire you if they catch wind of you talking poorly about someone or something going on in the school.

Tip 5:  Repeat these mantras:  Just Be Yourself and Do It Now. These two sayings helped me through the most difficult portions of my internships.  Students respond better to a teacher/intern who comes in with positive energy, so show off the best parts of your personality.  Being timid or appearing to lack confidence will not help you in teaching, and being too "in-your-face" or showy won't help you, either! Remember that you are into education because you want to make a difference in the lives of children.  Find your balance and let your personality shine!

Just being yourself and "doing it now" actually go hand-in-hand.  If you do what you can as soon as possible, you'll be too busy to be nervous or over-the-top.  I'm not saying that you should drown yourself in too much, but take care of what is happening in the moment and follow through with your commitments.  Often, we respond to stress by retreating into ourselves (by being shy or holding back) or we go on the other side of the spectrum and try to overcompensate for shortcomings (by bragging or being overly expressive).  Don't try to be something you're not. Just remember that no matter how hard it is, you can take everything as it comes and keep a level head. Also, the obvious: if you take care of what you can ASAP, you'll prevent things from piling up and becoming even more stressful!

Tip 6:  Dress the part.  Self-expression is a wonderful thing, and thankfully the acceptance of individuality is becoming more common in the workplace; however, education can be a little old-school, so it is in your best interest to wear "conservative" clothes, cover tattoos, and remove excessive jewelry as an intern.  Your college should have a dress code for interns, and you need to follow it.  I have heard too many stories about interns who dressed inappropriately and received poor marks, and in a few cases, were asked by the principal to leave.  I once heard about a girl who was expelled from the program for repeatedly ignoring professional dress code requirements.  If you don't want a job teaching, wear your workout clothes, low-cut tops or dresses, and flip-flops.  If you really don't want a teaching job, show off your bra straps (ladies) or the top of your boxers (men).  Use common sense when you are getting dressed for school.  Your appearance will be under the scrutiny of not only the school staff, but students and their parents, too.

Depending on your school, things may be more laid back--you may see some teachers with visible tattoos, brightly-colored hair, or the occasional nose piercing.  This is okay for them--not you, intern!   I myself have plugs, piercings, and tattoos, but made sure to cover them up every day as an intern (what a pain it could be!).  After my wonderful principal hired me, I gradually got more comfortable.  Instead of wearing terribly painful clip-on earrings, I wore wood or stone plugs.  When it got hot, I traded in tights and mary-janes for nice sandals or flats, which revealed my foot tattoo. I never did put my nose ring back in. Anyway, I tried to play it safe and not bring any extra "negative" attention to myself. I did not want to reduce my chances of getting a job at the school I interned at because I did not follow something as simple as the dress code.

Tip 7: Be healthy!  Plan ahead, get plenty of rest, and eat the right foods.    Your overall mental and physical health is crucial to becoming a teacher.  If you don't plan, you will stress over the possibility of not being able to complete assignments or commitments.  If you don't sleep, you will be tired (maybe even a little cranky). You could even get sick.  If you eat garbage, you will feel like garbage.  Pack your lunch, eat a good breakfast, and do what you can to make the best of your evenings.  There will be some days when you go home exhausted by the day's events, only to be greeted by a school project that is due  in a few hours.  If you don't have one already, buy a planner.  Use it religiously.  It also helps to have friends who are also completing their internship. Connecting with others will help you to gain a broader understanding of the internship experience, and what an experience it will be!

Please feel free to share your thoughts by providing a comment below!

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Saturday, November 17, 2012

Web Spotlight: Our Class Web by Karen McDavid

A veteran 3rd grade teacher from Georgia, Karen McDavid has graciously been compiling lessons, teaching tips, and tools to share--free of charge--with other teachers. My only question is... when did she find the time?

On her website (Our Class Web), Karen involves students, parents, and educators.  This website is a must-view resource for the elementary teacher.  I am so grateful that she has shared her take on classroom management and provided hundreds of ideas for learning centers.

All pictures belong to Karen McDavid of

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Classroom Management

I wanted to write a post about classroom management because I'm feeling as though I've run into some new situations for me as a senior intern in an elementary school. I borrowed many of these from the site  The information you'll find here includes strategies and skills notes that I've found to be incredibly helpful while participating in my internship experience.

Discipline "Do's":

  1. Focusing - Do not begin teaching until you have the attention of the entire class.  
  2. Direct Instruction - Uncertainty increases the level of excitement in the classroom. The technique of direct instruction is to begin each class by telling the students exactly what will be happening. The teacher outlines what he and the students will be doing this period. He may set time limits for some tasks.

    An effective way to marry this technique with the first one is to include time at the end of the period for students to do activities of their choosing. The teacher may finish the description of the hour’s activities with: “And I think we will have some time at the end of the period for you to chat with your friends, go to the library, or catch up on work for other classes.”

    The teacher is more willing to wait for class attention when he knows there is extra time to meet his goals and objectives. The students soon realize that the more time the teacher waits for their attention, the less free time they have at the end of the hour.
  3. Monitoring - The key to this principle is to circulate. Get up and get around the room. While your students are working, make the rounds. Check on their progress. 
  4. Modeling - Teachers who are courteous, prompt, enthusiastic, in control, patient and organized provide examples for their students through their own behavior.  
  5. Non-verbal Cuing - Consider flipping the light switch, keeping a clicker in your pocket, or establishing a clapping pattern that means "pay attention." Non-verbal cues can also be facial expressions, body posture and hand signals. Care should be given in choosing the types of cues you use in your classroom. Take time to explain what you want the students to do when you use your cues. 
  6. Environmental Control - A classroom can be a warm cheery place. Students enjoy an environment that changes periodically. Study centers with pictures and color invite enthusiasm for your subject.

    Young people like to know about you and your interests. Include personal items in your classroom. A family picture or a few items from a hobby or collection on your desk will trigger personal conversations with your students. As they get to know you better, you will see fewer problems with discipline.

    Just as you may want to enrich your classroom, there are times when you may want to impoverish it as well. You may need a quiet corner with few distractions. Some students will get caught up in visual exploration. For them, the splash and the color is a siren that pulls them off task. They may need more “vanilla” and less “rocky-road.” Have a quiet place where you can steer these youngsters. Let them get their work done first and then come back to explore and enjoy the rest of the room.
  7. Low-Profile Intervention - Most students are sent to the principal’s office as a result of confrontational escalation. The teacher has called them on a lesser offense, but in the moments that follow, the student and the teacher are swept up in a verbal maelstrom. Much of this can be avoided when the teacher’s intervention is quiet and calm.

    An effective teacher will take care that the student is not rewarded for misbehavior by becoming the focus of attention. She monitors the activity in her classroom, moving around the room. She anticipates problems before they occur. Her approach to a misbehaving student is inconspicuous. Others in the class are not distracted.

    While lecturing to her class this teacher makes effective use of name-dropping. If she sees a student talking or off task, she simply drops the youngster’s name into her dialogue in a natural way. “And you see, David, we carry the one to the tens column.” David hears his name and is drawn back on task. The rest of the class doesn’t seem to notice.
  8. Assert the roles of students and teachers- The teacher is the boss and no child has the right to interfere with the learning of any student. Clear rules are laid out and consistently enforced. 
  9. Assertive I-Messages - A component of Assertive Discipline, these I-Messages are statements that the teacher uses when confronting a student who is misbehaving. They are intended to be clear descriptions of what the student is suppose to do. The teacher who makes good use of this technique will focus the child’s attention first and foremost on the behavior he wants, not on the misbehavior. “I want you to...” or “I need you to...” or “I expect you to...”

    The inexperienced teacher may incorrectly try “I want you to stop...” only to discover that this usually triggers confrontation and denial. The focus is on the misbehavior and the student is quick to retort: “I wasn’t doing anything!” or “It wasn’t my fault...” or “Since when is there a rule against...” and escalation has begun.
  10. Humanistic I-Messages - These I-messages are expressions of our feelings. Thomas Gordon, creator of Teacher Effectiveness Training (TET), tells us to structure these messages in three parts. First, include a description of the child’s behavior. “When you talk while I talk...” Second, relate the effect this behavior has on the teacher. “...I have to stop my teaching...” And third, let the student know the feeling that it generates in the teacher. “...which frustrates me.” 
  11. Positive Discipline - Use classroom rules that describe the behaviors you want instead of listing things the students cannot do. Make ample use of praise. When you see good behavior, acknowledge it.  
Discipline "Don'ts":
  • raising my voice
  • yelling
  • saying “I’m the boss here”
  • insisting on having the last word
  • using tense body language, such as rigid posture or clenched hands
  • using degrading, insulting, humiliating, or embarrassing put-downs
  • using sarcasm
  • attacking the student’s character
  • acting superior
  • using physical force
  • drawing unrelated persons into the conflict
  • having a double standard — making students do what I say, not what I do
  • insisting that I am right
  • preaching
  • making assumptions
  • backing the student into a corner
  • pleading or bribing
  • bringing up unrelated events
  • generalizing about students by making remarks such as “All you kids are the same”
  • making unsubstantiated accusations
  • holding a grudge
  • nagging
  • throwing a temper tantrum
  • mimicking the student
  • making comparisons with siblings or other students
  • commanding, demanding, dominatin
  • rewarding the student with tangibles (use sparingly)

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Common Core Math Made Easy

IXL has come up with various Common Core math resources for teachers and homeschoolers.  While you will need a membership to access all of the site's features, much of the information is still extremely useful--and free!  Need to look up a standard on the fly?  Need an example to get you started?  Simply select a grade and roll your mouse's pointer over the specific standard and a sample will pop up!  This is great for those who are getting acquainted with Common Core Math standards.

You are able to find state and grade-specific information:

Here's an instant sample problem:

I'm interning in a second grade classroom, so I found this to be extremely helpful in my planning for a Teacher Worksample requirement.  If your class does a Problem of the Day, this site can help you to make sure you cover all of the Common Core Math requirements.