Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Lesson Learned from my Mother

On March 8, 2014 my world was turned completely upside down.  My mother died suddenly.  In an instant, I lost my best friend and role model. Throughout my life my mommy (which is what I call her) taught me so many valuable lessons.  One lesson in particular resonates so much with me that I wanted to share it with others.

My mom's school picture - P.S. 106 Queens

My mom was a New York City public school teacher.   The children she taught did not have everything that they wanted and definitely did not have everything that they needed but my mom loved these students as if they were her own children.  When entering her classroom, I always felt like I was in a magical place where dreams would come true.  Student work was displayed from wall to wall and even hung from the ceiling.  The children were actively engaged in their learning and were proud of their accomplishments.  I knew from a very young age that when I grew up I wanted to be just like my mommy.  I wanted to become a teacher.

Because I knew you, I have been changed for good.

 After my parents retired from the NYC public schools, they moved to Florida.  I was so fortunate to have the opportunity to work with my mom.  She became the substitute teacher at my school and the children adored her.  In fact, one year the fifth grade students voted her as a superlative for best teacher.  Teaching was not only a profession, it defined my mother.

My mom and I talked on the way to and from work.  One particular conversation my mom shared with me was more of a request.  My mom asked for the word “teacher” to be included on her tombstone.  To be honest, I was very uncomfortable with this conversation.  I didn’t want to think about anything related to my mom’s death so we never really discussed it again.  After my mom passed, I reflected on that simple request and realized that it was bigger than me.   My mom taught me that teaching is not a profession, it defines you and in essence, it is who you are. Educators have the ability to impact the future by helping children grow and learn.  Of course, my family honored her wishes and her stone reads loving wife, mommy, Gima (which is what her five precious grandchildren call her), daughter, and teacher.

Saturday, March 4, 2017

Bulletin Boards on a Budget

Is it possible to set up your classroom with construction paper, markers, crayons, tape, glue, and a few paper clips?  The answer is absolutely YES! I am so excited to share ideas that I have observed by a dedicated teacher at my school. I am always amazed by her creativity and how she uses very limited supplies to make her classroom come alive. 

Check out the word wall below. It was created by using different colored construction paper and a black marker. The letters and papers were laminated and will be used for several years. The word wall was taped onto the closet doors with easy access to add new words. Such a simple, yet smart idea!
Word Wall
View the simple and efficient way to display writing resources. These resources help students become better writers.  Synonyms for basic words are written on construction paper tombstones with a black marker.  Transitional words are also included to provide students with a variety of ideas to use in their writings.  These resources are taped onto the cabinet doors.  So easy to create and so helpful to the students!
Writing Resources 
Take a look at this bulletin board.  The background paper is recycled articles from Time for Kids.  The border is simply created by linking pieces of construction paper together.  Student work is mounted on black, red, and yellow paper which coordinates with the border.  Small pieces of construction paper are added to enhance the board.  What a wonderful and creative way to display the graphic organizers about the Seminole Wars.
Bulletin Board
Notice the student work that is displayed throughout the classroom.  It is all hand drawn which enables the students to have complete ownership over their work.  Below are samples of work that focus on figurative language.  It will definitely leave you tickled pink!
It's Raining Figurative Language!

Awesome and Amazing Alliteration!
Observe the use of sticky notes below.  What a great way for students to gather and display information.  Students can easily compare and contrast information by writing their text evidence on sticky notes.   By viewing the Venn Diagram, the teacher can easily assess which students have successfully mastered the reading skill of comparing and contrasting characters from The Last Egret and The Sign of the Beaver.
Comparing and Contrasting Using Sticky Notes
Analyze the student work below to see that there are a variety of ways to multiply including area models, regrouping, and partial products. Student work is written on construction paper and hung on the window blinds with paper clips.  This display can be used as a resource for students to review the different methods of multiplying two digit numbers.  What an excellent use of simple materials to display student work!
Math Display of the Different Methods of Multiplying
Notice how much information has been learned about the American Revolution and the Civil War.  Students enjoyed learning important historical events by created illustrations of the various topics being studied.  These detailed drawings demonstrate how students have taken ownership of their learning and have mastered the standards addressed. 
Understanding of American Revolution through Illustrations

Understanding the Civil War through Illustrations

View another use of a graphic organizer to practice a variety of reading skills.  This hand drawn organizer enables students to explain the author's point of view, identify text evidence, search for key details, identify the topic, and explain the key points.  Students also practice the important skill of summarizing.  I especially love the hand drawn illustrations that make the student work come alive.  
Graphic Organizer for Point of View, Text Evidence, Key Details, Topic, and Summarizing

Graphic Organizer with Hand Drawn Illustrations
As you can see from these photographs, teachers can decorate their classrooms with student work that will not cost an arm and a leg (great use of figurative language).  With just a few supplies, classrooms can become inviting places where students are actively involved in the learning process.

Friday, February 17, 2017

Mo Willems Family Literacy Night

Did you know World Read Aloud Day was observed on February 16, 2017?  As the literacy coach at my school, my head began to spin as I was thinking of a way to share this day with the students at my school.  I knew instantly that I had to create a celebration including my all time favorite storybook characters, Pigeon, Elephant, Piggie, and Knuffle Bunny.  I decided to invite the students and their families to an evening event spotlighting the best-selling author, Mo Willems.  So… if you are interested in hosting an event like this at your school, follow the steps below:

1.  Create a Save the Date flyer to be sent home to the parents announcing this exciting event.  You can create your own or use the one below.

   2.  Send home RSVP forms so you can determine how many students will be attending.

   3. Gather materials and items necessary for each station.
Station 1: Elephant and Piggie Read Aloud
·      Elephant onesie to be worn by person selected to read aloud book
·      Piggie onesie to be worn by person selected to read aloud book
·      Elephant and Piggie book to be read aloud (We chose I Love My New Toy! and used a colored plastic egg for the toy)
·      Carpet for students to sit on while listening to the read aloud

Station 2: Pigeon Read Aloud
·      Pigeon costume to be worn by person selected to read aloud book (a parent at my school made the costume for me)
·      Pigeon book to be read aloud (We chose Don’t Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus!)
·      Carpet for students to sit on while listening to the read aloud

Station 3: Arts and Crafts Activities
·      Coloring pages and activity sheets
Search under Teachers’ Guides & Event Kits – there are a variety of pages that you can print for your event.  I especially love the how to draw the Pigeon and Piggie direction sheets, coloring pages, mazes, and spot the differences activity sheets.
·      Glue
·      Scissors
·      Crayons
·      White paper table cloths (so students and families can also write on them)

Station 4:  Photo Booth
·      Photo booth (this was created by my talented School Psychologist)
·      Photo props (this was also created by her)
·      Camera (since my school did not have a camera/printer available for pictures, I reminded the parents to bring cameras for photo opportunities – perfect way for them to automatically have pictures of their children with no cost to the school)

Station 5: Elephant and Dance Party
·      Interactive technology – my school has a huge TV that also can be used as a tablet.  I had it moved to the stage in our cafeteria so the children would be able to interact with it
   Students touch the screen and select three dance moves for Piggie and three dance moves for Elephant.  Students have fun dancing along with Elephant and Piggie.

Station 6: Reading Area
·      Variety of Mo Willems’s books
·      Tables to place books so families can read together

Station 7: Cookies & Milk
·      Cookies
·      Milk
·      Cookies/Milk tickets to ensure that students get two cookies and milk
·      Table to set up the cookies and milk

4.  Advertise the event.  I went on morning announcements that week to remind students to return their RSVP forms.  My principal and I dressed up as the Elephant and Piggie and read the beginning of the book, I Love My New Toy!  I announced that the rest of the book would be shared at the event (more incentive to attend).

   5.  Set up the event.  Ask for volunteers to assist you.  Use the materials and items that you collected.  Examine the map below to find out how I set up my cafeteria. 

   6.  Open the doors to the cafeteria and invite families in to enjoy the literacy activities.  Distribute the flyer that lists the activities and the square ticket (posted above) to receive two cookies and milk.  

 Suggestions and Recommendations:

  • Let families choose the different stations that they want to visit.  Do not place a time limit on one station because some stations take longer to complete than others.
  • If possible, have a raffle with give aways.  Prizes can include books written by Mo Willems or plush toys of the different characters from books written by Mo Willems.  I did not have raffle prizes this year but I plan to at next year's event. You can also advertise before the event that prizes will be given away.  Children love winning and what could be better than winning a book?!
  • Our event took place from 6:00 - 7:00 p.m.  That was the perfect amount of time for the students to enjoy all of the activities.  
  • Encourage the students to wear their pajamas (parents too).  Children love wearing them and it makes the event different from a regular school day.

I also have created several TpT products that students can use if reading books written by Mo Willems... check out the links below: